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Happy Anniversary to me… ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

One year ago to the day, on 28 February 2014, I wrote my first blog post, Introductions are in order.

So… Happy Anniversary to my blog! Yay! 🙂

Happy Anniversary

‘Cause baby you’re a fiiiirework… (Though I don’t actually think that makes much sense, but anyway. Image from wikimedia commons.)

Over this past year, I published 90 blog posts; most of them about writing or writing-related, some about miscellaneous things such as my pets, a few rants, rather fewer technologyrelated ones than I’d planned, one about my favourite game, Guild Wars 2, and once I may even have gotten a little political, though I reserve the right to deny that if asked directly.

(Actually, looking back through a whole bunch of my post topics, I just realised I should probably clean up and re-tag/re-categorise them before someone notices… sshh!)

The busiest time was probably in April, when I participated in the A-Z Challenge, which I spent more time on than I’d anticipated but it ended up being a good blog-baptism-by-fire, I think. One of the highlights was probably meeting Nicholas C. Rossis through blogging and getting an older short story published in his anthology.

I’ve met and followed some great fellow bloggers, am honoured to be followed by some in turn (though some of my followers are those silly I’ll-follow-you-even-though-I’ll-never-read-your-blog-and-hope-you-follow-me-in-return type people for whom I have very little respect; if I’m following your blog, it’s because I’m interested in what you have to say and try to keep up with reading it when time allows), and am now getting a decent, though by no means high, amount of regular traffic.

From the beginning, I’ve made it clear (I think) that my blog isn’t my primary concern, but I wanted to have a go at it so that I know what I’m getting into if and when I later set this up as a promotional platform for my writing. I’ve learned heaps about blogging (and writing), followed some good advice, and ignored plenty of other good advice because my blogging currently isn’t about getting many followers or maximising traffic to my blog. It’s more like a mixture between my personal soapbox and the quiet corner where I can go to get things off my chest by writing about them. My regular readers are relatively few, but I’m ok with that, because I feel I know them quite well and treasure them all the more for that.

One-year anniversary

My blog is one year old today!

As I continue on my journey of trying to get my book published the traditional way (a goal which I may never reach, or I may at some point have to reassess and consider self-publishing), I will most likely carry on in a similar vein. Family (my wife and three kids) has to come first, work has to be up there because it pays the bills (and with three kids in private high school this year, those bills are astronomical), writing, researching and editing gets most of the time left over (except when I indulge in playing GW2), and blogging… well, when I have time. But 90 posts in a year isn’t that terrible, is it? (Ok, maybe it is – I really don’t know.)

Thanks to anyone and everyone who’s ever managed to read through one of my 90 blog posts! I’m even more thankful for anyone who’s ever liked and commented on any of them (hint-hint!). 🙂

Cheers,

AMC

I believe…!

(*clears throat and climbs up on his soapbox, manifesto in one hand, microphone in the other*)

I believe...

… that there are a few things I need to say at the start of the new year, 2015.

General

  • … that people who wonder about the meaning of life either don’t have kids or don’t pay enough attention to them.
  • … that love, humour and hope are the three main ingredients for happiness.
  • … in happy endings in real life. (In stories, they sometimes make me cringe, though. Even if I did silently hope for them.)
  • … in the importance of people being able to talk to each other… non-electronically.
  • … that you don’t need to drink alcohol in order to have fun.
  • … that smoking should be outlawed except for people willing to wear a permanently sealed-off helmet, and that the influence of tobacco lobbyists and the like are despicable. We all know what it does… why is it still around?
  • … that America and the UK need to stop hanging on to their confusing versions of the imperial system of units and finally go metric (your medical and military people are doing it… no, not with each other, I mean they use the metric system). Also, the US need to stop insisting on formatting dates with the middle value followed by the smallest value followed by the largest value. WTF? Oh, while you’re at it, guys, fix where punctuation goes on quotes that are less than a “complete sentence”.
  • … that bullies are almost always cowards too weak to stop doing to others something similar to what’s been done to them.
  • … that the most wonderful sound in the whole wide world is that of my kids laughing uncontrollably.
  • … that I’m the luckiest guy alive because my awesome wife, best friend and soulmate gets me and loves me including all my faults.

Politics

  • … that religious extremism of any sort makes this world a darker place, and that the rest of the world should take heed of how Australia handled her first real encounter with it. #IllRideWithYou
  • … that Australia needs to get rid of its current village idiot, climate-change-denying leader to start moving in the right direction again. We’re the joke of the world, being pretty much the only country in the world that is moving away from actively doing something about global warming, and it’s a friggin’ disgrace.

Software

  • … that OSS (open-source software) is the way to go wherever there’s a choice.
  • … that DRM (digital rights management) is wrong.
  • … that I couldn’t live without some of my favourite pieces of software (sounds like a future blog topic to me!).
  • … that installing a piece of software on my PC or an app on my phone doesn’t give it the right to do things like collect data about me without my explicit agreement, to not give me a choice of when it can dial home or check for updates, or to access any information on my system it doesn’t absolutely need to function. Worst offenders being companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe, but also increasingly “do-no-evil” Google. (I love Cyanogen!)
  • … that it’s a crying shame that Smalltalk isn’t more widely used as a programming language (try Pharo and Seaside if you like to tinker, you won’t want to go back).
  • … that I am fully within my rights, when I see an email from someone that ends with “sent from my iPhone” to add to my own response, “Sent from my 64GB/3G Snapdragon 801 2.5GHz Quadcore OnePlus One with Cyanogen 11S that kicks your iPhone’s arse (and costs less than half as much)”.

Work (in IT)

  • … that programmers shouldn’t have to wear business clothes.
  • … that software architects should have the guts to recommend the right software for the job, not based on which sales reps can throw more money at decision-making board members who still believe that more expensive must mean better.
  • … that IT recruiters are right up there with lawyers and other blood suckers. The fact that they charge between 10% and 40% (or even more) on top of a developer’s rates without really knowing anything beyond buzz words is just appalling.

Blogging

  • … that I should take the time to blog a bit more. (Yeah, like that’ll happen. *sigh*)
  • … that there are too many good, honest blogs out there to read – how I wish I had more time to invest in being a good follower!
  • … that following another blog without really being interested in what it’s about, i.e. just to get them to follow you back, is akin to lying. Thanks to all those who do occasionally read my humble scribblings, and I hope to find more time to read all your blogs. (I _am_ interested in those I follow! I just roll my eyes whenever someone new follows me whose blog is about “making money by blogging” or the like.) For now, though, my aim is simply to have (not necessarily build) a platform while I focus on writing my book. Building my platform will come later, when I have more time for that sort of thing….
  • … that WordPress is great, but they should finally accept that I like the “old” stats page better and stop asking me to vote in their silly survey every time I load it.
  • … that WordPress needs to finally find a way to fix the “invalid certificate” bug that causes security errors. I keep forgetting that certain things only work in certain browsers because of it, and that it sometimes causes my “likes” of other blogs to be lost. Not cool!

Writing

  • … that I’ve had enough of distopian future stories whose premise I don’t buy, or whose premise I buy, but they then make ridiculous assumptions about human nature that I just can’t swallow (might be another future blog post).
  • … that everyone should take grammar seriously. Not just grandpa. All jokes aside, don’t let our language decay because people have to fit everything into 140 characters. Do your part, write things out, learn how it’s done right without needing a spell checker, and gently educate those who fall short. Or, like, mercilessly correct them, or… whatever.
  • … that my story is worth telling.
  • … that 2015 will be the year I finally finish my story. Watch this space. #amwriting

Conclusion

  • … that you should all have a Happy New Year! All the best for 2015 (and beyond).
  • … that it’s about time I stepped off this soap box. Ahem. Sorry for ranting, but occasionally it’s nice to get this sort of stuff off my chest. Now somebody give me a hand getting down, it’s higher than it looks. Huh? What do you mean, the microphone wasn’t on?!?

‘Tis the Season to be… Writing

Oh yeah… holidays! Time off from work! Time to finally write more than a few disjointed hours per week! I can’t tell you how much I’ve been looking forward to this.

Santa Writes

Image shamelessly merged from two free-to-modify images of Santa and a feather pen. No, I didn’t add the weird jester doll.

Admittedly, there’s also that little thing called Christmas to get through, but that will be so much easier this year… because all my kids are now old enough to know. We’ve kept the magic alive as long as we could; this year, all three of them will be in on the magic. Maybe that’ll take some of the excitement out of it, but I think it should still be fun. Just in a different way.

I finally found the time earlier this week to post a topic I’d been working on for a while (the GuildWars 2 bounties post; just taking, picking, cropping, uploading and inserting all those screenshots took forever), and may get around to posting on one or two other non-writing ones I’ve been meaning to do, but I do want to get back to the reason I created this blog in the first place, i.e. my own writing.

If I don’t quite finish writing the ending to my work-in-progress before I have to go back to work, I’m hoping to at least get close. Then, next year may find me writing about going through the long, boring, exciting, depressing, scary process of eventually submitting my work. Reading up on potential agencies to submit to, writing/honing my query letter, agonising over picking the sample chapters to submit, and so on. Wish me luck! 🙂

But first, I have to get there, and write my ending. I’ve only got a rough outline thus far, but at least I now have a chunk of time to dedicate to it. (I hope.) Also, I have to complete my timeline (nearly done!) so that I can make sure that everything is logical and coherent. Not such an easy task in the fantasy genre and in my tropical setting, where I need to know exactly when the rainy season needs to kick in so that it all makes sense.

Oh, plus I need to get over this nasty chest cold I’ve caught… I think it’s been around a year and a half since I’ve had a real cold or the flu, so maybe I was overdue. All this coughing is exhausting, but you don’t need that much (physical) energy to sit and write.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

A heartfelt “thanks” to anyone who ever read my blog, I’ve learned heaps this year (not least of which was to adjust my expectations time-wise of what’s involved in blogging) and look forward to blogging more next year. And an even bigger “thank you” to my wonderful wife (she reads my blog and my scribblings) for putting up with me sitting in front of my computer for large chunks of my “spare” time and for supporting me in my crazy dream all the way!

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday Season or whatever you prefer…) to all writers. Oh, fine, to all non-writers as well.

A to Z Challenge – Reflection

So… the A to Z Challenge 2014 is over, and it’s time to reflect on my experience in the Challenge!

A to Z Challenge 2014 - Reflection

Overall, I throroughly enjoyed the experience of my first challenge of this kind. I only decided to participate a few days before it started, which was less than a month after I began blogging. There were a couple of minor things I didn’t like about it, but for the most part, they had to do with my own inexperience and my inability to estimate how much time I’d be spending on this.

Reading what the challenge was about, I initially thought, “A post a day, six days a week, visiting a few other blogs to check out what they’re writing – sure, I can do that.” I thought it was a good chance for me to get into my blogging existence and learn to swim by throwing myself in the deep end a bit. To some extent, that worked really well.

Naturally, I picked writing as my main topic, though, as haven’t written much worth writing home about (pardon the pun), at least not enough for 26 posts, I thought I’d share some of my favourite authors, books and characters during the challenge, and throw in some writing concepts and even one slightly technical post, ending with something personal and (hopefully) a little humourous.

If you feel like reading any of those posts, see the “I is for Index” one, or use the menu at the top of the page to get there directly. Alternatively, here’s a summary:

Out of these, the (slightly) humourous ones were: Douglas AdamsTerry PratchettHobbitsMarvin the Paranoid AndroidQuestsYours Truly, and Zzzzz….

What I didn’t anticipate was just how much time I’d be spending on all this. I admit I’d planned to “just do short posts” if I got into trouble time-wise, but I’m not so good with doing things half-baked. I ended up spending way more time than planned, both reading other people’s blogs and writing my own. I had fun doing it, and learned much in the process, but it cost me a few hours of sleep and, ironically, time away from my passion – writing.

Towards the end of the challenge, I was really looking forward to “having a few days off” from blogging and getting back to my own writing, i.e. working on my book. Notes I’d made while reading my own work on the train rides to and from work had piled up (electronically speaking) on my mobile, and after the challenge, I finally had time (or took the time?) to catch up.

So now, I’m actually looking forward to doing the occasional blog post – on topics I feel like writing about, not on topics that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. 😛

What I’ve learned? Mostly, that next year (yes, currently I’d say I’ll be doing this again), I’ll be taking some good advice and preparing at least some of the posts before the challenge

I feel I should mention at least some of those challenge-related blog posts I read and enjoyed in case you’d like to check them out. I’m sure I’ve left out a few worth mentioning (I’ll keep notes next time!), but these are the ones I remember off the top of my head:

North of Andover – the link goes to a post of Thomas Weaver’s I especially liked, about a well-done interview.
Princess of Dragons – blogging about, you guessed it, dragons!
The Wannabe Writer Life – Allison’s blog is always fun and interesting
Janice Heck’s blog – Janice’s posts are usually quirky, fun, and teach some of the finer points of grammar
A Writer’s Life For Me – though she didn’t participate in the challenge, I’d feel bad not mentioning Mishka’s great blog; her comments are always cheerful and supportive – thanks! 🙂

I started following a bunch of blogs in April, despite my reader being too full already. Stop writing good blogs, people, seriously. People have to manage their time for crying out loud!

Congrats to all fellow bloggers who attempted or even survived the A to Z Challenge!

Zzzzz… – A to Z: Z

Z is for Zzzzz…. which is the sound I’ll be making over the next few days as I catch up on what seems like a month’s worth of sleep. It’s been… interesting doing the A to Z Challenge, fun for the most part, slightly distracting at times, and overall a great learning experience for a new blogger like me.

My sleepy pets

Zzzzz… my four pets doing what they do best: sleeping and looking cute. Awwww! (At least they’re not spreading hair everywhere while they’re being lazy!)

I wouldn’t say trying to keep up was stressful, but it did add a little pressure to get those blog posts out in time. I found I didn’t have enough time to read as many other blog posts as I wanted to, though I discovered some wonderful blogs to follow that I’m sure will continue to post interesting things even after the Challenge is over. Also, and more importantly, writing a blog post a day took up a fair chunk of time out of my own writing time, so I’m looking forward to two things: reading more of other people’s posts (I’m following a fair few and can barely keep up with them in my reader), and having more time to work on my book.

My followers have multiplied (still not many, but hey, my blog is only two months old), some whom I’m following, some I probably should follow (I’ll be reading more soon!), and some who, I suspect, just followed to get me to visit strange sites without intending to ever visit my blog again. (I can actually live with that!) I’m still getting a handle on the intricacies of blogging, so be patient with me. 🙂

One thing that was really interesting was seeing the variety of countries of my visitors in the stats – the majority were from English-speaking countries, but there were also some from around the globe that had me thinking how great it would be to meet all of them. It’s a small world!

Apart from one day (Good Friday – family was more important that day, so I posted twice on Saturday to make up for it), I managed to stick to the A-Z schedule every single day. As commenters and other blogs have pointed out, it makes sense to pre-write at least some of your posts before April and then publish them on the right date. (Nobody told me that when I started, but I’ll try to do that next year!)

Anyway, I’ll leave it there, get back to working on my book for the rest of the night, and hope you were able to enjoy some of my A to Z posts. If you’re interested, I’ll leave the “three-part-menu” up at the top of the page for a while longer, or you can jump to my I is for index post and see if you spot anything interesting.

Congrats to all other fellow A-Zers, and many thanks to every single visitor to my blog!

Yours Truly – A to Z: Y

Y is for me. I mean, for Yours Truly. Which is me. In other words, I’m going to be sharing a few little things about myself. It’s something I’ve mostly avoided thus far, apart from a post about my pets, an introduction, and my about me page.

If I count correctly, this will be my 50th (public) post on this blog. Yay! The A to Z Challenge has definitely helped get that count up, and in the coming weeks and months, I’m sure I’ll be posting closer to one post per week than one per day, but that way, I’ll get back some more time for what I really want to be doing, which is working on my book. Not that I don’t like blogging – I do, more than I expected I would – but the Challenge has taken up much more time than I’d anticipated. I’m not very good at just writing quick 100- or 200-word posts and leaving it at that; I tend to rave on and check my facts online more than I probably need to. I spend time looking for images that I don’t end up using (I don’t get to use images when writing my book, and while I know blogs are different, it sort of feels like cheating to insert images not my own) and getting side-tracked in facts and details.

My blog-writing is a little different from my book-writing in that I’m more informal here, but I guess that’s not unusual. Either way, I’m still a stickler for details, I hate making mistakes (so if you see any, please feel free to point them out in the comments!), although I have some strong opinions that may be very different from what seems to be the “conventional wisdom” many writers and editors follow. Some of these I’ve mentioned in my posts or in comments I’ve left on other sites; for instance, I don’t like people speaking in absolutes, or blindly following “rules” that were meant more as “don’t overuse” advice than iron-clad “you must never” laws. There are so many writers trying to find the perfect formula, and too many sites give advice that would make all their writing boring, in my opinion. Be different, be bold, be unique, just don’t fall into certain traps and overuse certain patterns that seem to raise some editors’ hackles.

About me personally? I’d still like to keep my “author persona” largely separate from my “private self”, but some things about me that make me who I am are these: I grew up in three very different cultures, speaking three different languages, moved around a lot as a “missionary kid”, had lived in three countries by the time I was one year old and moved 18 times before I was 18. Most influential were formative years that I spent in the tropical jungles of Papua New Guinea, something that has most definitely influenced my writing.

I met my wonderful and amazing wife when we were both teenagers in high school, and we have three great kids, two of them now teenagers themselves. I’m a family person above all else: above my job which I really enjoy, and even above writing, which I’ve come to enjoy so much I dream about doing it for a living (while realising that the chances of achieving that dream are frighteningly slim, even if I were the most brilliant writer on the planet – not that I’m claiming to be that). Two dogs and two cats allow us to share a beautiful house in Perth’s northern suburbs with them, though the tenancy agreement has several clawses clauses about things like feeding, grooming and walking them. I also have a great sense of humour, which even allows me to see the irony in stating that.

I think all this gives me a unique perspective on things like culture shock, racism, being an outsider, and cherishing one’s family, all of which I’m channelling into my writing. I look forward to learning more about my fellow writer-bloggers, to learning more about creating an online presence, and to being able to share the ups and downs of my writing adventure with like-minded people from all walks of life.

Truth be told, I’m also looking forward to the end of this A to Z Challenge and to being able to blog at a slower pace (so that I can spend more time writing). 😉

Index – A to Z: I

I is for index. I’m going to be sharing my plan is for the A to Z blogging challenge throughout the month of April. A through H are done and dusted, today (10 April 2014) is I’s turn, and from tomorrow I’ll be blogging about topics beginning with J through to Z.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, or had a peek in the menu at the top of the page, you have probably figured out that my theme for the challenge revolves around my favourite books, authors, characters, and writing concepts.

Here are the dates (apologies if I confuse any Americans by using the properly ordered date format), letters, and topics:

I’ll attempt to update this post to link the above topics to their corresponding articles as I post each day (Sundays off).

Many thanks to anyone who has read, liked, and/or commented on any of my posts to date, please feel free to drop back in to view topics you might be interested in 🙂