On A Rainy Tuesday

No Review Monday, I wasn't able to dig out any books in time.  I have started a new one, Stephen Deas' debut novel The Adamantine Palace.  I have at least a bookshelf's worth of books that I've yet to read, no better time than now to get on reading those.  Review Monday will be up next Monday, this is an amazing book.

What an icky day.  Ever since we finally got that big snowfall that lasted a few days, we've been going through cycles of snow, melt, mild weather, cold weather, and snow again.  Yesterday and today has made the biggest mess of it though.  It was cold all last week and weekend, then overnight between Sunday and Monday it snowed.  It didn't even last the day as it was slushy by Monday afternoon with the temperature already climbing some.  Today we've had rain almost constantly all day.  My backyard has become a swamp!  Dalila can't even use it really to do much of anything, and she hates the rain so getting her outside is already a challenge.  Such a mess.  Of course the last big melt made a mess as well.  When we went to report the accident a couple weeks ago there was a young man also reporting an incident.  It turned out he hit a flooded road at night and didn't find out just how deep the flood was until he was stuck in it, and the flow carried him into a tree.  He was fine thankfully, but his car was considered 'totaled'.  As in no point trying to save it.  Hopefully there's been no repeats, because I'm sure all those hotspots are flooded right now.  There's quite a dozen around here.  Some good news, Mom's car has been fixed now.  Total damage amounted to $3000.  Apparently there was more than just the external damage.  Insurance paid most of that, but a hefty price tag.  I still think those deer had been spooked by something in the trees, dashing out into the road at night (one they're familiar with, by the way, and aware of the traffic) is just not something deer commonly do.  Not like that.

Anyway, I decided to spend the night up in my office, finally putting it into order.  I've been avoiding it, admittedly because all these boxes and disarray seemed so daunting but the only way that'll disappear is to tackle it.  So here I am.  I feel like crap up here though.  This overhead light is way too bright, and coupled with the modem/router...great unpleasantness.  I can't wait to get all my candles out and lamps and turn the overhead light off.  One thing I can't stand is too much light, even at night.  Goodness it's such a mess here.  Time to buck down and get to sorting this stuff out.

One day, I'll have an office that looks like this

Weekend Again?

I kind of feel like I lost a week, this just flew by.  It was one of those something's always coming up sort of weeks.  Last Friday my mom came home with a busted up car, after having a run-in with some deer.  Four, to be precise.  The first one she managed to avoid, but the second and possibly third and fourth unfortunately struck the car.  They were running too fast to stop in time and she had slowed down to avoid hitting the first one.  They all managed to run off so hopefully none of them sustained any serious injury, but something must have spooked them in order to dart out at night.  The damage was all over the passenger side door, took out the side mirror and scratched up the window.  They left some dents, too.  All in all, $3000 worth of damage.  I'm just glad that's all it was, because it truly could have been a lot worse.

I've been busy at work at a new project that just wouldn't get out of my head.  I love and hate those sort of projects because they just absorb your attention, starting small and blooming into something massive.  Unfortunately it's put things on the back burner a bit, but that shouldn't be for too long now.  Inspiration really does come from the strangest of places.  A friend shared this song, which is responsible for said new project:

Damn you Lilith for you great taste in music! *shakes fist*

Oh who am I kidding, it's turning into a deliciously wonderful tragic tale.  But I'll give it a happy ending.  Maybe.

I will say though, that I've got one bad-ass lead:

P.S. - if anyone knows the artist, please share!  I can't seem to find a name to go with this amazing image and I dearly want to give credit!

Monday Review: Hand of Isis

Hand of Isis, Jo Graham

Hand of Isis is a riveting historical fantasy story centered around Charmian, one of Cleopatra's handmaids.  It begins in the Halls of Amenti, the Egyptian place of the dead where it was believed a soul traveled to when the body died.  Charmian stands before Serapis and Isis, to stand for her judgement at the hands of Ma'at.  For her failure she begs them to condemn her, but they insist on hearing the tale of her life and so the story begins.

Charmian's mother was a Thracian slave girl who died when Charmian was born.  From her mother she gained blue eyes, brown hair and pale skin - a very Greek appearance.  She was nursed beside Iras, born to Asetnefer who was a slave born in Elephantine.  Iras was Charmian's opposite with dark skin and dark hair looking very much Egyptian, and so the girls grew up together as sisters.  At five years old the two girls meet Cleopatra, a fifth daughter and third princess of a queen who had now died and was succeeded by another.  As a result, Cleopatra was of no worth except as a suitable exchange for a strategic marriage.  That day changes their lives.  Asetnefer returns Cleopatra to the Royal Nursery and ends up returning at night.  She tells Charmian that her and Iras' father is Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes (something Charmian has always known because Asetnefer has always told her) which makes Cleopatra their sister as well.  And they will now begin lessons together, given to the young princess as companions and belong to her now.  The girls get along well and grow up together closer than friends, enjoying lessons and plays together until the realities of the politics invades their lives.  Murders for the throne, Auletes bargaining his throne with Rome, and Cleopatra's plans to become Queen of Egypt.  It is no easy rise, and even when she succeeds it is to a throne of a now bankrupt kingdom, with Rome knocking at its doors for a promised debt.  Charmian documents the journey as seen from the side of Cleopatra and her position of running the Royal House, as well as the trials and tribulations of her own personal life.  The stress of events that threaten their safety, love gained, love lost, battles that threaten to steal all she loves, the birth of her daughter and ominous dreams and thoughts that she is leery of trusting in.  For Charmian is also an oracle, a gift that has followed her through many lives.  It is she who brings Ceasar to Egypt, she who sees the loss of Cleopatra's second child, and the fall of Egypt.  Her gift however cannot save the Black Land from its inevitable fate, and the story winds down with her death and that of her sisters'.  Again she begs the gods for her punishment, to which there is none for they find her heart worthy of the Peace of Amenti.  And she is offered a choice: to remain in Amenti and be healed of the hurts of life, or return and possibly have a chance to save those few of her loved ones that remain in the world.  Charmian does not hesitate with her choice.

Why You Should Read this Book:
Jo Graham is a gifted storyteller who never leaves even a small lull in her tale.  First person narration is notoriously difficult to write but it is flawlessly done in this book.  As a historical it's not heavy in detail, just enough to create the setting for the story takes place.  It's very real, focused both on the people as much as the events that affect those peoples' lives.  And just enough magic to draw in the avid fantasy reader.  If you love fantasy and especially if you love the ancient mythology of Egypt like I do, you have to pick up this book.  You're missing out if you don't!

And hey if you want to check out Jo Graham, you can find her here at her Livejournal.

Of New Computers and Familiar Games

I’m still playing around with my new laptop that I got for Christmas (when I’m not playing WoW *shifty eyes*).  I was just getting used to Windows 7, now I have a whole new OS to get used to.  Windows 8 is quite a trip with its layout but I’m also having quite a bit of fun playing around and customizing it.  The battery life is fantastic, lasting about three and a half hours or so.  And the laptop doesn’t burn my lap after five minutes like the old one.  IE 10 still crashes like IE 8 though, sorry IE.  However I’m having a hard time getting to the firewall settings to allow League of Legends finish installing.  App fever has hit Windows, haha.  I still have to transfer all my files and photos and such, as well as Liquid Story Binder.  It took me a couple of days to find something that will replace the free version of Office on the other laptop, since this one didn’t come with it.  Which I found odd, really.  ZenWriter is fabulous, but is too simple for what I used Word for.  Kingsoft Writer seems to be a hit, if it works out I’ll blog about it.

I’ve been back in Warcraft for about a week now, I believe, and I’m having way too much fun with the new pet battle system.  It was implemented in 5.0 I believe, with the Mists of Pandaria expansion (which I still have to get).  Fortunately you don’t need Pandaria to use the system.  In a matter of days I went from 50-something pets to now 153 since pet collection has gotten ridiculously simple.  This is so bad for my collecting tendency!  Battling, leveling and collecting rare pets is pretty much all I’ve been doing.  It does feel good to be back in though.  I know a lot of players, usually older players, now are dropping out saying the game isn’t worth paying for any longer.  I don’t think they’re wrong.  With games like this, it’s always a personal choice whether you continue playing with the game as it goes through its growth or whether it’s time to go.  For me, as long as I can find enough elements that I enjoy about WoW that make it worth the subscription I’ll stay.  Yes there are things I miss, changes I don’t agree with and a slowly growing number of players too lazy to do things themselves, but the things I still enjoy about this game outweighs all that.  I still enjoy my favourite races and classes, the storylines, flying mounts, the different zones and the community interaction.  I’ve met some fun people over the years, guilds are a good way to do that but even through groups I’ve met them as well.  The beauty of a game like this is it’s so dynamic and it really appeals to a wide variety of players – raiders, PVPers, casual players, dedicated players, those who like to play solo and those who prefer groups.  It doesn’t matter which way you prefer to play, you can enjoy yourself in this game.  Sometimes I think certain players forget that.  My favourite is seeing players come onto the servers I’m on (primarily RP servers, one is normal) and complaining about the lack of PVP.  Congratulations, you stated the obvious!  It’s not that PVP never happens on non-PVP servers, it’s just not a focus.  PVP servers are labeled as such for a reason, and if you don’t want to constantly be looking over your shoulder for a member of the opposite faction then you play on a different type of server.  Some players have too much time on their hands.

I am glad though that Blizzard has finally recognized that many players have multiple characters.  Now pets and mounts are available to all characters, certain achievements count for all characters, and the ease at which you level now compared to vanilla makes it easier to get low level characters up.  Now if they could just make a similar mechanic to Diablo III’s stash, perhaps one large bank stash per server so I don’t have to constantly try and mail things between characters.  I like the instant mail, but sometimes it’s a pain in the arse.  Just being able to empty my bags and then continue questing is far more convenient than spending ten minutes playing the mail shuffle.  Then again, my banks could all probably use a good clean-out.

Speaking of Diablo III it’s actually as good as I thought it would be, gameplay-wise.  Leah is still a bit of a twit, but well can’t do much about that.  Getting through Act II was insane.  Belial, the Act’s final boss was a b*tch to finish off.  It’s a three phase fight; phase one you fight his guards, phase two you fight him and his guards (annoying as hell, even with a companion) and finally phase three is full-sized Belial.  I failed that fight about five or six times before I finally beat him.  The Enchantress was a far more valuable companion in that fight than the Scoundrel was, I haven’t yet tried the Templar but because of the nature of the fight ranged seemed a better idea than melee.  But to get through the fight I had to stop trying to keep both the companion and my own health up since the companion respawns after a few seconds.  The fight is enough without worrying about them.  Attempt two was most annoying; I got Belial down to a sliver of health, probably a good shot or two away from death and I just couldn’t get to a health globe before he gave me a smackdown.  I cursed badly (I ordinarily don’t anymore, mostly because I now have a very young nephew with very perceptive hearing) and my mom gave me that oh-so-familiar ‘and you wanted this game because why?’ look.  She’s so tolerant of my vices and I do enjoy them.  Even when I’m cursing at them.

I’ve finished Hand of Isis, and I’m going to go do a Monday Review now for it.  It was really quite good, and I’ll tell you why in that entry.  Later I’ll have to crack open the box with all my books and pick a new read.

That unpacking thing?  Yeah still haven’t finished it.

Now that my back is healed I feel more at ease about carrying boxes upstairs than I was before.  So glad that fiasco is over.  Today I’m diving back into my exercise routine so this never happens again.  Not that I needed a reason, but this gives me that added motivation to just do it and stop waiting for a perfect moment.

Last Day of the Year

It seems no sooner did the holidays come around that they're gone again.  I blame moving in December, and the snow coming late.  And now it's the last day of 2012.  What a year.

Christmas time I always look forward to.  There's a kind of warmth to the season even though it's winter that you can only feel in this time of the year.  Seeing all the houses decorated with Christmas lights and decorations - there's honestly nothing more fun than living in or near a neighbourhood where a majority of houses are decked out with lights.  I wonder how many nights I can go walking around and enjoy it before they all get taken down.  This was also the time of year when I got to see most of my relatives, especially those who I didn't see any other time of the year.  Those were always such great times and memories.  Sometimes I look back and miss them but not with any kind of regret that they're over.  I'm happy that they're there for me to look back on, now that the family's grown on and apart.

Now with year's end here my focus is on the new year ahead.  This year there are no resolutions for me, I'm not going for that perspective.  There are plans and goals to be sure, I plan on being very busy in the new year.  Instead I'm starting my year with something that's been floating around Facebook.  An empty jar, which you fill throughout the year with notes about good things that have happened throughout the year and at the end you open it and look back on the great year you have.  I like the idea in being open to whatever good comes your way and not just what you plan to accomplish in the year.  After all:
The road to success is a journey; it twists and turns, sometimes things are unexpected.  It may not be the path you expect, but if your eyes are always down on the road you'll miss all the unexpected blessings that tend to come along.

Today I'll be doing some prep and planning while I continue to try and heal this back.  I strained it badly last week and it's been pain central ever since, though I've made sure to keep any length of bed rest to a very bare minimum.  The pain at least has started to subside and the more I do the quicker the swelling goes down, so hopefully a week?  Or two?  My New Year's Eve will be pretty quiet, just my mom and I.  Some of my friends will be ringing in the year playing video games, I'll likely follow suit.  I got Diablo III and a World of Warcraft time card for Christmas as well as a brand spanking new laptop all my own, but that can wait for another entry.  Because I can ramble on about those all day long!

Enjoy your New Year's (safely!), and here's to a brilliant 2013!

Break Time Update

My whole November and the first couple weeks of December can be basically summed up like this:
  • - start NaNo
  • - get two days ahead
  • - put in moving notice
  • - house hunt
  • - struggle with word count
  • - find house, start packing
  • - more struggle with word count
  • - lots of packing
  • - pack and send out NaNo swap packages
  • - finalize new house
  • - packing?  Yep still that
  • - word count finally caught up
  • - NaNo ends
  • - call utilities
  • - packing done
Yes I'm moving again.  The place we're heading to is a really nice place and I'm way excited.  I'm more excited about where we're moving to than when we moved here.  Don't get me wrong, this house is a nice house and it's in a nice area, there's just something about this new place we're heading to.  I'm hopefully going to take pictures, providing I can get a camera.  My goal this time around is to have a less stressful move than the last one - so far about 95% achieved.  The truck is booked, we have friends to do the heavy lifting (some of this furniture is pretty freaking heavy, no lie) and the place is for-sure.  And we have a move-in date, we'll be able to celebrate Christmas there.

NaNo so far can be easily summed up like this: I got ahead a few days, fell one day behind, caught up, fell behind some more, lost a couple days' of writing and managed to just make it on the 29th.  Rewarded myself for managing it, Magnum ice cream is the most amazing thing ever.  I had a hard time about week 2 with this story, I started hating it.  And it wasn't even like it was work-through-it-fix-later kind of hate, it was I-don't-want-to-be-here hate.  Normally I'd take a break to something else but I wasn't going to allow that during November.  I ended up rewriting chapters 2-4 until I got them going in a way that made me like the story again, and I created a dump file for everything I've written but decided is not going to go into the story.  That way I hadn't lost words I fair and square wrote and managed to preserve my chapters.  In eight chapters my two M.C.s had three bad spats and a new character materialized around chapter 4 with some timely conversation.

Well I needed the word boost.  Dialogue is good for that.  Besides, it's not the first time a new character has shown up out of nowhere, and won't be the last either.  We'll see how he shapes up as the story progresses.

I realized what a tricky main character I've designed here, though.  She had some of her memories locked away and starts the story that way, but along with those memories she's forgotten two significant things: the man she loves and the reason for the whole thing in the first place.  She's reunited with said love interest in chapter 2 and has to deal with emotions her heart remembers to a man her mind can't recall.  Pinning down what that would make one say, do, feel and think is interesting, although difficult because it's something I'm having a hard time connecting to.  I've never been in such a situation so what would be a realistic reaction?  When would you follow your heart and when would you follow your head?

It's a challenge.  And I love it.

I'm going for a story with some didn't-see-that-coming kind of twists near the end, and the whole truth of the situation comes out.  Everyone has their piece of the story, or what they think is the story, and with my M.C. acting as sort of a catalyst for the truth it's going to come together nicely.  Plus her mother's going to get into some serious battle action.  It was a topic in the Fantasy forum on the NaNo boards, I think the pet peeve topic, and one commenter's peeve was about how older women never seem to do any of the 'fun' stuff (fight, have adventures, love story, etc).  I didn't add it with a specific goal of bringing that to light, but the point kind of stuck in my head.  Because you know what?  It would be rather fun to see the 'mother' figure kick some butt here and there.  And I was kind of taken by Rene's role in Thor and the scene when she picks up the sword to defend her husband.  I was a little disappointed that she only got one strike off before being knocked aside; I mean come on, this is Lethal Weapon's Lorna Cole and the character comes from the Norse mythology and gods.  Let the lady kick some ass!

Goodness, what a mess I'm surrounded with.  Guess break time is over, I should get to cleaning house.  Again.

Monday Review: Syncplicity

What is it?
Syncplicity is a cloud-based file storage system designed to back up, store and sync your files.  Syncplicity LLC has both personal and business solutions with an eye toward security, flexibility and seamless ease.

How it works?
Install Syncplicity onto your computer by signing up on the website and going through the process.  When the program is installed it stays active on your computer, and the chosen files will sync between the devices you register on Syncplicity.

The Basics:
For the personal edition there are two editions: free and personal.  The Free Edition is actually a pretty good deal with:
  • 2 GB of storage
  • syncs between up to 2 computers and mobile devices
  • unlimited files and folders
  • works with PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Google Docs
  • community support forums

The Personal of course is a better deal and well worth the money especially if you've got a lot to store:
  • $15 per month
  • 50 GB of storage
  • syncs between up to 5 computers and mobile devices
  • unlimited files and folders of any file size
  • works with PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Google Docs
  • priority support
The Business Edition is a free 30-day trial with various options after the trial, depending on what suits your business needs.  You can see the full comparison here.

The Pros:
Syncplicity is really easy to use and really seamless.  It's very easy to switch it to a new computer if you're upgrading, add or subtract a device.  The 2GB of space is plenty for backing up writings and Syncplicity automatically re-syncs when a file in the designated folder changes.  Once it's installed there really isn't any kind of further user effort to keep your stuff updated or to make sure the program does its' job.  It works quite well on its own, it's very seamless.

The Cons:
I can't really think of any cons.  The business edition looks pretty customizable, the personal edition looks plentiful enough for the average user, it doesn't even take up much memory in the background.  If you have memory issues where you can't have too many programs running in the background at once you may have to manually turn it on and off to back up your files.  It's not one of those programs where the free version makes you wish it was a little jucier while not making the paid version worthless.

My Thoughts:
I love it.  I love that it's so seamless, I love that I don't have to fuss with it much and I love how easy it is to use.  When I got my new computer and had to bring Syncplicity onto my new machine I had no issues.  Everything syncs, well seamlessly just like it's supposed to.  Plus I like that if it has a hard time connecting to the server or if I go offline and a file changes it keeps the updates and immediately sends the update to the server as soon as connection is re-established.  I can't recommend it enough, it's a great addition to your back-up plan.