Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Month: July, 2014

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 3

Summer has got to be the most miserable time to be writing. In this heat, I don’t want to do anything. Anyways, here’s the archived post for the Week 3 @NaNoWordSprints prompts for anyone who missed any of my previous sprint sessions.

July 15, 1:30pm-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Bedsheets

  • Thread count (30 min)
  • Flat (15 min)
  • Cotton (30 min)
  • White (30 min)

July 15, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Pencil Brands

  • Lion (10 min)
  • Four star (20 min)
  • Yacht (30 min)
  • Acorn (20 min)
  • Exchange (15 min)

July 16, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Mystery Tropes

  • Absence of evidence (5 min)
  • Eureka moment (15 min)
  • I never said it was poison (30 min)
  • Red herring (10 min)
  • The suspect is hatless (30 min)
  • Stakeout (15 min)
  • Public secret message (20 min)
  • Curtain camouflage (15 min)
  • The butler did it (30 min)
  • Hidden in plain sight (10 min)

July 17, 11:00am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: The Crazy Sauce

  • Crazy survivalist (10 min)
  • Monster clown (20 min)
  • Genius ditz (30 min)
  • Mood swings (15 min)
  • Crazy cat lady (15 min)
  • Nervous wreck (30 min)
  • Mask of sanity (5 min)
  • Pyromaniac (15 min)

July 17, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
Types of Gears

  • Cage (10 min)
  • Magnetic (15 min)
  • Worm (10 min)
  • Skew (15 min)

July 17, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

  • He hadn’t meant to Fall. He’d just hung around with the wrong people. (5 min)
  • I think the maggots were a bit over the top, myself. (15 min)
  • Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men. (30 min)
  • You see, it’s not enough to know what the future is. You have to know what it means. (15 min)
  • There would be other summers, but there would never be one like this. Ever again. (30 min)

July 18, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fake Band Names/Strange Cat Behavior Mashup

  • Blushing Agency/Sniffing your face (10 min)
  • Butterball Vampire/Kneading paws (20 min)
  • Pod Tentacles Keynote/Laying on your things (30 min)
  • Fabled National Bootleg/Twitching ears (15 min)
  • Roadblock card/Rolling in the street (20 min)

July 19, 10:00am-2:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Towns

  • Curry, Alaska (10 min)
  • Anchor, Louisiana (20 min)
  • Miner’s Delight, Wyoming (15 min)
  • Gold Hill, British Columbia (30 min)
  • Lost Channel, Ontario (5 min)
  • Snag, Yukon (10 min)
  • Broad Arrow, Western Australia (10 min)
  • Red Water/Czerwona Woda, Poland (5 min)
  • The Pyramid/Pyramiden, Norway (30 min)
  • Tide Mills, United Kingdom (5 min)
  • Deception Island (30 min)
  • Port Famine, Chile (10 min)

July 19, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Food Idioms

  • Acquire a taste for something (10 min)
  • Fine kettle of fish (15 min)
  • Make someone eat crow (30 min)
  • Turn beet-red (20 min)
  • Pie in the sky (20 min)

July 20, 2:00pm-4:00pm (UTC -7)
Anti-Hero Tropes

  • Gentleman thief (10 min)
  • Good is not nice (30 min)
  • Unfazed everyman (30 min)
  • Rebellious spirit (30 min)

July 20, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Seashells Used in Culture

  • Currency (5 min)
  • Musical instruments (30 min)
  • Tools (15 min)
  • Art (30 min)
  • Personal adornment (15 min)

July 21, 3:00pm-6:00pm (UTC -7)
Same Letter Triplets

  • Vanguard, viewfinder, vanity case (10 min)
  • Resident, robot, racket (20 min)
  • European, electronics, espionage (15 min)
  • February, farrago, floodgate (30 min)
  • Tango, tender, typical (20 min)
  • South, sharp, sardonic (10 min)
  • Inhibitor, irascible, ivory (5 min)
  • Blood, bowling, burgle (30 min)

July 21, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Rhymes with a Body Part

  • Foot, soot, caput (10 min)
  • Arm, charm, farm (30 min)
  • Head, shred, dead (5 min)
  • Eye, spry, pie (30 min)
  • Hair, pear, scare (20 min)

Pruning the Personal Library

Is anyone really ever excited about moving? The process itself, I mean. The prospect of living in a new place can be exciting, but all the mundane and stressful details that need to be overseen in order to make that happen? I could live without those.

For an inveterate bookworm like myself, pruning my personal physical library is one of those details. I would not be exaggerating if I said that my library is one of my treasured possessions. I couldn’t care less about furniture or clothes–those things don’t hold any sentimental value for me (it might be different if I had any antiques). Books are a lifestyle, a philosophy, a way of being. If I had any choice or had an impractical personality streak, I wouldn’t get rid of any of my books. I like the thought of having a sprawling collection of books, of books that I have read, have yet to read, and maybe will never read. I have slight book hoarder tendencies because I like the possibility a gigantic pile of books presents. Once in a while, I organize the book collection by author or by subject or by genre but they soon shuffle around, getting mixed up and piled up into a mini-labyrinth of words. Maybe that’s why I often dream of mazes. I’ve inadvertently created one of my own at home.

But I must prune that library as it would just be a pain to lug all those boxes across the country (from north to south, that is, not west to east). There are several types of books which I find fairly easy to get rid of–books that I’m pretty sure I will have no interest in, books I’m sure I’ll never read, books that I have read (or partially read) and did not like, novels that I sort of like but also already have an ebook copy. The books I have no problem putting in the “keep” pile include favorite authors, favorite books, book series I have been meticulously collecting, and any non-fiction and reference books I currently or will be using.

Where it gets angsty is my to-be-read pile. What should I prune? Should I keep all of them since I’ve planned to read them all at one point or another? Or should I donate/sell them all off with the philosophy that if I didn’t read them right away, they might not be interesting in the first place? My to-be-read pile isn’t just a handful of books. It’s huge. At the moment, part of my to-be-read pile is literally a pile, but before I started pruning, all these books were on the shelves adding mystery to my library–adventures waiting to be discovered. But now I’m stuck deciding which of these unknown adventures to take with me to my new real life adventure.

Due to genre or author or plot synopsis, some of the books in my to-be-read pile I suspect I will enjoy greatly once I get around to reading them. For those, I’ll probably pack away with the rest of my core keepers. There’s a subset of books I feel guilty about because someone had recommended the book to me or it was an advance reader copy from eons ago which I have yet to get to. Those I’ll also keep because eventually the guilt will become so great that I will read them after all (and possibly write a review for the trouble). And then there are those to-be-read books that I know I would have no trouble getting rid of once I’ve read them once. For this third group of books, I’ve set myself a goal of trying to get through as many as them as I can before I have to leave. And for the ones I don’t get through, I’d have no trouble giving them away. The remaining books make me feel ambivalent. They could be great books, but I simply don’t have enough information to know for sure.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been converting to ebooks for the past year. I have no doubt that if I had not started to do so, my book pruning situation would be even worse. In some ways, ebooks have enabled my book hoarding tendencies. Thousands of books could be stored in almost no physical room at all. Now, I don’t have to throw away any of those books. Instead, I can make backups of those books and have access to them whenever I wish.

If all of my books were in electronic form, I wouldn’t be having this angsty pruning process ahead of me. Then again, I doubt I would be having all these stronger feelings about these books either. There’s something intangible and unreplicable that comes with the physicality of books which ebooks lack. Of course, I feel that a novel can be fantastic in either physical or electronic form–when I read, it’s for the story, not the container that holds those words. And if I were a pure reader, I wouldn’t care about the paper and the pulp, I’d just ditch them all in favor of the electrons. But I’m not just a reader. I’m also a writer, a thinker, someone who has a significant internal life. The intangible thing that physical books possess is a state of mind, an atmosphere where I can just reach out and find something fascinating at random. It’s discovery. There’s not so much of that when you’re just pushing buttons on a device.

I’m not a die hard advocate of either side of the physical books and ebooks debate. I think there are merits to both sides and I suppose I will continue to keep both physical and electronic libraries. But unlike my electronic library which is bloated with everything and anything, the items in the physical library are deliberately curated. If the library is like an external brain, I would say that the electronic version archives the facts while the physical stores the emotions and the heart. That choice–of what I keep and what I give away–would become a conscious act of deciding what to remember and what to forget. And while the forgetting might not precisely hurt, there is the uneasy feeling that I’ve let go of something–an intangible creative spirit, perhaps–that could have been important.

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 2

Here’s the archived post for the Week 2 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know! (Or if there are any prompt themes you absolutely hate, also let me know so I don’t do them again.)

July 8, 10:30am-12:30pm (UTC -7)

  • Cold shoulder (10 min)
  • Fit as a fiddle (20 min)
  • Spill the beans (30 min)
  • Sleep with the fishes (10 min)
  • Take the cake (30 min)

July 8, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

  • She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me. (10 min)
  • To yield without conviction is no compliment to the understanding of either. (30 min)
  • And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody. (15 min)
  • Laugh as much as you choose, but you will not laugh me out of my opinion. (30 min)
  • We do not suffer by accident. (10 min)

July 8, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Victorian Headlines

  • Trying to steal a crocodile, extraordinary affair in Paris (10 min)
  • A stranded elephant (15 min)
  • A funeral without a corpse (30 min)
  • Shocking incident at a masked ball (15 min)
  • Cured by lightning (10 min)
  • Escape of a polar bear at Dundee (10 min)

July 9, 10:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Gothic Novel Tropes

  • A murderous tyrant with scary eyes (10 min)
  • A character prone to fainting (20 min)
  • A spooky castle or stately home (30 min)
  • In the olden days (20 min)
  • Bad weather (15 min)
  • Something grotesque (10 min)
  • Creepy housekeeper (5 min)
  • Ominous chanting (30 min)

July 10, 11:30am-1:30pm (UTC -7)
Romance Cliches

  • Revenge (5 min)
  • A sham betrothal or marriage (30 min)
  • A reformed rake (15 min)
  • Boss and secretary (15 min)
  • Stranded in a cabin together (30 min)

July 10, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Pet Peeves

  • Noisy eaters (5 min)
  • Driving slow in the fast lane (15 min)
  • Stubbing your toe (30 min)
  • Paper cuts (15 min)
  • The hot water running out when you’re running a bath (30 min)

July 10, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Methods of Divination

  • Overheard words/cledonomancy (5 min)
  • Pearls/margaritomancy (30 min)
  • Chewing gum/styramancy (15 min)
  • Frogs/batrachomancy (30 min)
  • Wood/xylomancy (15 min)

July 11, 9:00pm-1:00am (UTC -7)
Cake Folklore

  • Longevity/mooncakes (5 min)
  • A wake to honor the dead/dead-cakes (15 min)
  • Gingerbread/Johnny-Cake (30 min)
  • Tortoise/red tortoise cake (10 min)
  • Wheat/wheat cake (30 min)
  • Twins/Biddenden cakes (10 min)
  • Walk/Cakewalk (20 min)
  • Almond/Tarta de Santiago (20 min)
  • Evil spirits/apple cakes (15 min)
  • Coffee/coffee cake (30 min)

July 12, 12:30am-3:00pm (UTC -7)
Ghost Sprinting: Stephen King Novel Titles

  • The Dark Half (10 min)
  • Misery (20 min)
  • Needful Things (30 min)
  • Insomnia (20 min)
  • The Talisman (30 min)
  • Firestarter (10 min)

July 12, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Speculative Fiction Tropes

  • Absurdly sharp claws (10 min)
  • Grey goo (30 min)
  • Portent of doom (10 min)
  • Blind jump (30 min)
  • Talking in your dreams (15 min)

July 13, 1:00pm-2:30pm (UTC -7)
Quotes from “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare

  • That was laid on with a trowel (5 min)
  • My pride fell with my fortunes (15 min)
  • Live a little; comfort a little; cheery thyself a little (30 min)
  • Let us make an honourable retreat (5 min)
  • He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends (15 min)

July 13, 6:00pm-7:00pm (UTC -7)
All About Watermelons

  • Moon and stars (5 min)
  • Sucking blood (10 min)
  • Snack (15 min)
  • Helmet (5 min)
  • Splitting (10 min)

July 13, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Neuromancer” by William Gibson

  • The damage was minute, subtle, and utterly effective. (5 min)
  • Not if I remember to take my pills. (30 min)
  • Iffy… It’s all looking very iffy tonight. (10 min)
  • He had began to play a game with himself, a very ancient one with no name, a kind of final solitare. (30 min)
  • An angel passed. (5 min)
  • Measure twice, cut once. (15 min)

July 14, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Quotes from “Darkness” by Lord Byron

  • The bright sun was extinguished (10 min)
  • Men forgot their passions in the dread (30 min)
  • Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea (10 min)
  • Shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands (30 min)
  • A chaos of hard clay (10 min)
  • And they were enemies (30 min)
  • An enormous city did survive (10 min)
  • The wild birds shrieked (30 min)
  • Immediate and inglorious (10 min)
  • Extinguished with a crash (30 min)

July 2014 Camp NaNo Prompts for Week 1

Yep, here’s the archived post for the Week 1 @NaNoWordSprints prompts. (The archive for all the previous prompts is located here.) If there are any particularly prompt themes you’d like to see in the future, just let me know!

June 30, 10:00pm-1:30am (UTC -7)
Opening Tropes (Handwritten)

  • Dramatic chase opening (10 min)
  • Boy meets girl (15 min)
  • Flashback (20 min)
  • A hero is born (15 min)
  • The magic comes back (20 min)
  • Morning routine (10 min)
  • It began with a twist of fate (10 min)
  • Naive newcomer (20 min)
  • Recruit some teenagers with attitude (15 min)
  • Main character is out of a job (30 min)

July 1, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Stolen Paintings

  • Poppy Flowers by van Gogh (10 min)
  • The Just Judges by van Eyck (10 min)
  • Girl in Front of Open Window by Gauguin (30 min)
  • The Boy in the Red Vest by Cezanne (15 min)
  • The Scream by Munch (30 min)

July 1, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Camping Disasters

  • Disaster (10 min)
  • An attack turns out to be fake (15 min)
  • A cheap device that breaks (30 min)
  • Someone disappears (10 min)
  • Supplies are lost (10 min)
  • It starts raining (15 min)

July 2, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
All About Fairs

  • Archaic (10 min)
  • Outrageous food (20 min)
  • Contests and competitions (20 min)
  • Public spaces (10 min)
  • Riots (30 min)

July 3, 5:30pm-7:30pm (UTC -7)
Character Traits as Metro Stations

  • Fearless (10 min)
  • Drama queen (30 min)
  • Reluctant warrior (10 min)
  • Mad dreamer (15 min)
  • Bookworm (30 min)

July 3, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Unusual Words That Start With “T”

  • Tantalus (10 min)
  • Toran (15 min)
  • Tumescent (20 min)
  • Tetchy (30 min)
  • Thermoplagia (10 min)
  • Toft (10 min)

July 4, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Independence Day Film Quotes

  • “You can’t just drive up and ring the bell.” (10 min)
  • “Now that’s what I call a close encounter.” (15 min)
  • “You knew then! And you did nothing!” (30 min)
  • “All I’m saying is that they have people to handle these things.” (10 min)
  • “I have a confession to make.” (10 min)
  • “Didn’t I promise you fireworks?” (15 min)

July 5, 2:00pm-5:00pm (UTC -7)
Heroic Bloodshed Tropes

  • Blood brothers (10 min)
  • Disturbed doves (10 min)
  • Betrayal (30 min)
  • Spin, roll, and dive (5 min)
  • Blown across the room (15 min)
  • Hitman with a heart (30 min)
  • Honor before reason (15 min)
  • Sympathy for the devil (20 min)

July 5, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Chick Lit Tropes

  • The plucky office girl (10 min)
  • Makeover montage (20 min)
  • An accidental public confession (30 min)
  • Backhanded apology (15 min)
  • Little black dress, man in a kilt, and really bad puns (20 min)

July 6, 8:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)
Fairy Tale Tropes

  • Wicked stepmother (15 min)
  • The big bad wolf (30 min)
  • Damsel or dude in distress (20 min)
  • An impossible task (30 min)
  • Be careful what you wish for (15 min)
  • Fairest of them all (10 min)
  • Secret identity (30 min)
  • When the clock strikes twelve (10 min)
  • Shapeshifter showdown (30 min)

July 7, 10:00pm-12:00am (UTC -7)

  • Learning your letters (5 min)
  • Posting a letter (15 min)
  • A red letter day (30 min)
  • The letter of the law (10 min)
  • Following instructions to the letter (10 min)
  • Love letter (20 min)

Writing, Reviewing, and Rambling about Women in Science

Yep, it’s the beginning of July and you all know what that means: Camp NaNoWriMo. I will be working on a novel project which I had already outlined in May. At the moment, I’m not particularly happy with the beginning. I want to keep the scene–it just needs to be rewritten. In any case, onwards. I’m still excited about the story, particularly with the puzzle-like nature of fitting the different time lines together. It’s been a while since a story idea has also engaged my more analytical side.

I’ve also been invited back to lead writing sprints over at NaNoWordSprints. I kicked it off with a handwritten tweet session which was partially inspired by the fact that I am currently conducting a week-long project on my personal Twitter account where I’m handwriting tweets for a week. Anyways, I don’t think I’ll be doing another handwritten tweet session for the sprints any time soon, especially since that kind of thing takes a while to set up. I will also be archiving all the prompts this month on this blog in case anyone has missed one of my sprint sessions.

And speaking of writing projects, I (possibly foolishly) made a bet to get a short story ready for submission in a month. Specifically for Fantasy & Science Fiction because they’re opening it up for electronic submissions. At the moment, though, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic. I’m still in that funk where I think all my ideas for short stories are crap. I don’t think my writing skills and craft and style are up to “professional” standards yet (where “professional” means “whatever the editors find awesome which could be anything”). It doesn’t mean that I won’t try, but I’ve had enough “close but no cigar” moments which have made me think that it’s pretty much a waste of time to hope for anything.

* * *

I have a book review out over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books on the paranormal romance novel Diamond Dust by Vivian Arend. I’ve been a long time follower/lurker of SBTB. I really like the blog’s snarky style and its serious commentary on a much maligned genre (the podcasts are highly recommended), so I thought it would be very cool to volunteer to do a book review for them.

* * *

Today, I found out the real reason why I had a really unpleasant episode many years ago which had royally screwed my career path for a while. At the time, I had thought the failure was my fault, but now I know it was probably something I couldn’t have done anything about.

It doesn’t make me feel any better about it, though. It just makes me feel sad. All I’m going to say is that even though there are constant cries for more women scientists, there are women scientists out there who do not like other women scientists because they think they are the only exception.

I personally think it’s better to nurture relationships with other female scientists (all scientists, actually) and to mentor students (of any gender) who have an interest in science. To do otherwise and burn bridges, well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that it’s a bad idea.