Music, Quebecois Music

And now, a fiddle report!

I’ve mostly been talking about this on Facebook as of late, but for those of you who don’t follow me there, I wanted to do a post to get caught up on where I am with the fiddle lessons!

The biggest news here is that since I got promoted at work and got a lovely bonus to go with that, I went ahead and bought the 3/4-sized fiddle I’ve been renting for the past several months. Which of course means that I now need to update the official list of the Murkworks Household Instruments! And this fiddle also needs a name. I’ve been half-jokingly calling it “Rental” for a while, but now that I actually own it, not so much? I dunno yet. Unless I can come up with an amusing pseudo-French word for “Rental”. ;D

I also invested in a much better bow, a process which took rather less time than I anticipated–in no small part because Kenmore Violins had only four 3/4-sized bows immediately handy. (The rest of the ones they had in stock needed to be rehaired.) And the first one I picked up just sounded so very delightful, so I went YES PLEASE and bought that one.

Brought the new bow home and the jump in sound quality was immediately apparent to Dara–who, although she has hardly any fiddle experience either, does have an excellent ear. I am still very much a fiddle newbie myself, but oh my yes having a much better bow makes the experience of playing so much nicer.

Materials-wise, the new bow is a wooden one, vs. the carbon fiber one I’d been using. And I would not be surprised if it had better hair on it. Sound-wise, it produces a tone that’s much richer, smoother and… creamier, I guess. I don’t know if that’d make sense to people with more fiddle experience than me, but that’s what it sounds like to me!

I’m also much more able to just hold this bow. I’d expressed frustration to Lisa, and also to the owner of Kenmore Violins, that one of the issues I had with the CF bow was that when I tried to hold it properly, my pinky kept slipping out of place. So far this hasn’t happened with the new one.

I’ve used the new bow only a couple of times so far, but so far it seems like I don’t have to flail so much to find the proper amount to tighten it, either. Which I daresay will help with my consistency of general sound. The other frustration I’d had with the CF bow is that I was having a hard time determining exactly how much it should be tightened for play–because I was trying to go by what Lisa had advised during our lessons, except that it seemed like that bow wanted more tightening than that. I kept getting a scratchy, airy, overtone-laden sound, and I couldn’t tell whether this was because the bow was sub-par, my technique was sub-par, or a little bit of both.

But now I have a new lovely bow! So I can work more on my technique! 😀

As to what I’ve actually been learning: Lisa’s got me working on arpeggios at this point. I can more or less reliably produce the G, D, and A scales, and I’ve been working on the arpeggios in those keys as well, going through several simple exercises to practice the finger placements. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I also work on simple tunes. Mostly that’s still “Frere Jacque” and a bit of “Road to Lisdoonvarna” as well, just because I’m still not too good yet at doing string transitions at anything resembling proper speed. I’m still having to work on what Lisa has called “stop, drop, and roll”–the sequence of individual small motions necessary to jump from a note on one string to a note on another.

What’s made this more fun though is that Dara has started jumping in on practicing with me. Since I have specific exercises Lisa’s given me, Dara’s doing those with me, since she does have her own fiddle and a non-zero level of “whelp I might as well learn a bit more about this thing” interest. Dara’s also better than I am at string transitions–she can whip out a closer-to-credible “Lisdoonvarna” for example. But I’ve been sharing with her tidbits that Lisa’s been teaching me, such as the proper way to hold the bow, and what’s supposed to happen in terms of what angle you keep when you’re bowing. (You’re supposed to keep a straight angle. I don’t yet. I keep curving a lot and need to work on that.)

And yesterday when we practiced, we derped our way through the C and upper octave G scales. I wanted to do this in no small part because I wanted to see if I could pick out the opening notes of André Brunet’s lovely waltz “La fée des dents”. Which is in G–so I need C naturals in there. So I clearly need to expand the scope of my scales! But happily, C and second octave G use the exact same fingerings, just jump over a string. So that’ll be easy to practice.

I will also need to think about other keys suitable for session tunes. E minor, A minor, and B minor all come immediately to mind. If I can build up my list of scales, I can get closer to what I still do on the flutes to warm up to this day: i.e., work my way up through progressively higher scales. And I still have flute exercises ingrained into my subconscious that involve first doing a scale for a given key, and THEN doing the matching arpeggio. So I want to do that on the violin as well.

Relatedly, I’m finding that one of the very first exercises I remember playing in sixth grade band is popping out of the back of my brain again! That exercise works like this:

(Side note: WHOA there’s a WordPress plugin that does ABC notation! Which is how I did that bit of music up there! \0/)

The fun thing about that exercise is that I have a distinct memory of my sixth grade band playing through it like that, but then doing it again staccato. And boy howdy am I not prepared to do staccato on the violin yet. That’ll be for getting ambitious later!

ANYWAY… this is all exciting and I am now a fiddle owner as well as a fiddle student! I continue to have wonderful fun learning from Lisa Ornstein, and I do heartily recommend her for anybody in the Puget Sound region who wants to learn violin, particularly if you have an interest in Quebec trad or Old-Time music.

AND! Dara and I both will be heading up to Qualicum Beach this coming weekend for a fiddle workshop. Y’all may recall that last year I had an amazing time at the Andre Brunet workshop there. Well, all parties involved had such a lovely time that we’re doing it again this year. And this time I’m bringing Dara, because it’ll do us both good to hang out in a house full of musicians for a whole weekend. And this time?

This time I can come with a few more clues about the fiddle. Stand by for a full report, Internets. It’ll be AWESOME. 😀

Television

R.I.P Richard Hatch

Just a few minutes after Bleeding Cool originally broke the story yesterday, I saw it showing up on my Twitter feed that Richard Hatch had passed away. And for me, it was an immediate punch to the gut.

I’ve posted a lot about my Star Wars fandom, and in particular about my long-abiding love of Han Solo. I have not, however, posted nearly as much about my affection for the original Battlestar Galactica–or how in particular, Apollo as played by Richard Hatch totally was duking it out with Han as to who I was fangirling over harder, back in the early 80’s when I was a tiny young tween.

But it’s true. I like to put into my author bio that I was writing fanfic before I even knew the word. Some of that fanfic was Raiders of the Lost Ark fic–but some of it was Battlestar Galactica. Thinly veiled BSG fic, as I was trying to make up a setting with my own names, but it was totally BSG with the serial numbers scraped off. I no longer retain a copy of that fic, but to this day I have a very clear memory of writing about my own versions of Starbuck and Apollo.

Especially Apollo. Because while Starbuck was the flamboyant one, I always found Apollo more appealing. He was the one who had more of his shit together–or his felgercarb, as the case may be. I was at the exact right age for the romantic angst of his losing his first love interest Serena, and later getting close to Sheba, to send me into flurries of teenaged swooning. Dark-haired soulful brooding romantic pilot hero? Hell yeah, said teenage me, sign me up.

Let us also talk about how my affection for Apollo also led me, in those days, to watch Richard Hatch in the movie Deadman’s Curve, a made-for-TV movie about the history of the singing duo Jan and Dean. It has been ages since I saw that film, but I have a lingering memory of the impact of watching Hatch, as Jan Berry, portraying the man’s struggle to recover from a horrifically debilitating accident.

Later on, though, Hatch came back around to impact my affection for the reboot Battlestar. I’ve written a lot about that in the past, and to be sure, Hatch’s turn as Tom Zarek was amazing. But a great deal can be said as well for how his Apollo influenced Jamie Bamber’s in the reboot–and, in fact, Tor.com has an excellent post up today about that very thing, calling Apollo the moral compass of Battlestar Galactica. Teenage me really only understood that Apollo was dreamy. Grownup me very, very much appreciates Hatch’s pivotal role, so excellently described in that Tor.com post.

The Mary Sue has a lovely tribute post up as well.

I’ve been having the strains of the Battlestar theme echoing in my head off and on ever since the news broke. And really, the entire opening credits.

Not to mention the excellent “Colonial Anthem” version of that theme, from the reboot. I can think of no better tribute music for Captain Apollo’s passing.

Viper squadrons, form up. Present arms. Fire in salute.

RIP, Captain.

So say we all.

Books

First book roundup of the year

Catalyst

Catalyst

A bit delayed on this, but it’s taken a while to get enough titles queued up as acquisitions to actually make it worth doing a post! I’ve been focusing lately on reading the books I actually own versus buying a whole lot of new ones–and as a result, I’ve actually built up a sizable credit balance on Barnes and Noble’s website. Which is kinda funny, given that I’ve stopped using them as my major source of ebooks!

But ANYWAY, here’s some recent titles I’ve picked up.

Acquired in print:

  • Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, by James Luceno. This is exactly what it says on the tin. More specifically, it’s the prequel story to the events of the movie Rogue One, getting into the backstory of the Erso family, and how Galen became involved in building the Death Star. I felt this sounded like fun, and to my pleasure, Dara gave me a hardback copy for my birthday.

Acquired in digital from B&N.com:

  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor. SF. Grabbed this because it’s the sequel to Binti, which I enjoyed quite a bit.
  • Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, by Seanan McGuire. Grabbed on general “because it’s Seanan McGuire, duh” grounds, but also because a) I’ve been enjoying reading novellas lately, and b) I liked the base concept of this, a ghost who’s working on a suicide hotline.
  • Passing Strange, by Ellen Klages. Another Tor.com novella (see previous commentary re: enjoying these lately), which I have grabbed because why yes, a story about queer women in San Francisco in 1940 has my attention.
  • The City, Not Long After, by Pat Murphy. SF. Got this on the strength of James Nicoll’s review of it. It sounds like a surprisingly pacifistic post-apocalyptic scenario, and given the times we live in, that feels strangely reassuring. This’ll be the second thing of Murphy’s I’ll have read and while I was ambivalent about her Hobbit pastiche, I liked it well enough that I’m willing to try another book of hers.

This’ll make five so far for the year.

Warder Soul

Oh hey look a cover rough for Warder Soul!

YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS.

Dara and I are deep in working with artist Nicole Cardiff on the cover for the forthcoming Warder Soul. And as of tonight, I am delighted to report that BEHOLD! We have a color rough!

This is going to be developed as Nicole adds a lot more depth and nuance to the coloration. But this is now a real good rough idea of what y’all can expect on the cover of this book. Book’s not remotely close to done yet, but having a cover being developed in conjunction with the actual story is exciting, y’all!

And now I give you Christopher MacSimidh!

Warder Soul Cover Rough

Warder Soul Cover Rough

I may not be the only fantasy novelist in the world with a bouzouki player in an urban fantasy series, but I think I can now make a solid case for being the first one with a bouzouki player on a cover. 😀

Warder Soul

Status check on Warder Soul, and a new Here Be Magic post

It was my turn to post up on Here Be Magic again today, and it was only a couple of days ago that I realized this meant I’d be posting on Inauguration Day. Given how the election had kicked my creativity in the teeth and how I’d run out of reasons (at least for the time being) to post about Star Wars, I was genuinely stumped as to what the hell I could actually post about.

But then I realized that I had legitimate things I could say about the necessity of listening to your muse, even if your muse is telling you you need to chuck 20,000 words into the bin and start over. I had to do this with Warder Soul, and I’m pleased to say that so far, I feel a lot better about the results.

Go check out the Here Be Magic post for what I had to say about the benefits of listening to your muse.

And here. For NO PARTICULAR REASON OR ANYTHING TODAY, I felt compelled to share with you all this new version of the first scene in Chapter 1 of Warder Soul. In which my young heroine of color is going to the wedding of her two gay housemates. There are fairies. The fairies are demanding cake. I feel like we could all use a bit of consolatory cake today. (Also vodka, but that’s going to have to wait till I get home from the day job.)

There’s a brief excerpt of the scene in the Here Be Magic post, but if you want to just read all 2,000 or so words, I’ve put up a PDF here. This is a direct export from Scrivener (which, OH HEY, does indeed export nicely to PDF)!

Also: I have officially decided that this story will in fact remain titled Warder Soul, while the story previously known as Queen of Souls is going to be renamed Queen of Ghosts, just so that I don’t have the titles sounding too much like one another. I wanted to keep the Persephone story Queen of (Something), and am a bit chagrined that it took me this long to think of a one-syllable word that could still fit the tenor of the tale. The relevant pages on my site will be updated to reflect this title change shortly.

Also #2: I am very pleased to note as well that I have secured a new cover artist for Warder Soul, since my previous artist, the excellent Kiri Moth, is no longer available. The new artist is Nicole Cardiff and you can see her stuff here. She’s got a sketch in progress already and I hope to be sharing some glimpses with you soon of what Warder Soul‘s cover will look like!

Nanowrimo, Writing

What do you do when sick of a work in progress?

For those of you who didn’t see this on my social networks today, I was very pleased to announce that I’d been invited to send in a post for the Nanowrimo blog, now that they’re doing a series of posts on the general theme of “Now what?” for folks coming out of doing Nanowrimo this past November.

My post went up today and can be found here! (The Nano blog is hosted on Tumblr, so if you’re a user there and you feel so inclined, reblog it, won’t you? Thank you!) If you’re coming to my blog from that post or from places it got shared today, hiya and welcome!

This post, though, is in response to a question that I got asked on Twitter:

This, I felt, is an excellent question. So here’s a post about that.

First, at least in my experience, there are a few different variations of “sick of your novel” that might happen. So I’m going to talk about each, and what I’ve been able to do about them.

Oh god oh god I have been trying to pull words out of my brain for this thing for MONTHS NOW and they’re just not working and AUGH.

If I’ve been pounding my head against a work in progress for what seems like forever, and it feels like the words just don’t want to flow, this is usually a warning sign that something about what I’m doing isn’t actually right for the story. What I have to do for this is take a step back, see if I can figure out what is not working, and come at it from a new angle.

This is in fact something I’m wrestling with on my current work in progress, Warder Soul. I got about 20,000 words in on it, but with this lingering sense of discontent with what I was doing. But after talking it out some with my wife (who, while not a writer, is an EXCELLENT refiner of my ideas), I decided to try the beginning again with a new strategy.

I am unbelievably stressed out right now and the sheer thought of looking at my word processor is making me want to pitch my computer out the window.

There are times, though, that the failure to produce words isn’t necessarily the fault of the story. If I’m too stressed out by external causes, this can kick my creative productivity in the teeth and make pulling words out of my brain about as fun as pulling teeth out of my mouth.

I’ve got a stupidly complicated medical history for somebody my age, and as a result of this, I’ve had long stretches in the last 12 years in which it was impossible for me to get any creative work done due to having to recover from assorted medical things.

Similarly, I have come to learn that if I’m stressing out about other sorts of things (like oh, say, the election that just happened), this can also kick my productivity in the face.

What I have learned to do about this: give myself permission to not write. Which might seem counterintuitive to the whole “but I’m stressing the fuck out about not writing to begin with” thing, sure. But the thing is, for me, a certain level of pressure to get a novel done can be useful. Too much pressure, on the other hand, is setting myself up for creative burnout. I have had to learn to tell myself that it’s okay if I need to take a creative break. Even if it’s a long one.

In times where it would stress me out almost as much to not actually be writing, I compromise with myself and set a stupidly low daily word count goal. Say, two hundred words. Something tiny like that which doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating as, say, five hundred or a thousand. And if I can achieve a much smaller goal like that, sometimes the sense of satisfaction I get from it is enough to make me want to keep going.

But again, it’s also important to tell myself that if all I have in me for a day is two hundred words, it’s okay if I stop.

I have been revising this novel SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME AND I CANNOT STAND TO EDIT YET ANOTHER WORD.

Any writer who’s gotten past the first draft knows this pain, boy howdy let me tell you. Editing can be deeply satisfying for me sometimes–digging into a scene or a chapter, and finding little nuances I can change about it to improve it. On the other hand, if I go six or seven drafts (and I HAVE), this can get really tiresome really fast. Particularly given that I do also have a full time day job, and I often just don’t have enough brain left over after a full day at work to come home and beat a chapter’s worth of edits into submission. (This, by the way, would be why I haven’t been able to finally edit Queen of Souls yet.)

And sometimes, if I go long enough editing a given book, I just start missing actually creating brand new words.

Which is exactly why I have multiple works in progress. If I get sick of editing something, I can go throw words at something else for a while. Which does help.

Non-writing-related breaks also help. For me, that’s usually a) getting on the treadmill, b) picking up an instrument and practicing tunes, or c) playing games.

I’m doing Nanowrimo as fast as I POSSIBLY CAN and oh god oh god I can’t stand the thought of one more day of this AUGH.

Nanowrimo demands you write at least 1,667 words every day of the month to hit that 50,000 word goal. And y’know what? That’s frickin’ hard for a lot of writers, even people who have been writing for years. It’s okay if you start feeling burned out by the pace.

When I’m trying to do Nano, it helps immensely to remind myself that while hitting that 50,000 word goal is fun and all, at the end of the day (or the month, as it were), the actual end goal is to write a novel. And even if I don’t manage to do the 50,000 words in November, if I keep going and eventually wind up with a book, I still win.

And part of what I learned from my very first Nanowrimo is that, in fact, I usually can’t manage a Nano-level daily word count. My much more standard goal is 500 words a day.

If you try Nanowrimo and find that that daily word count is too much for you, it is entirely okay if you pull back to a pace that better fits your creative speed. Every single writer has different capacities. Every single writer has different ways they’ll need to do things. Find the pace that works for you.

How about the rest of you?

Those are the major ways I’ve found to date that I can get sick of a work in progress, so now I’ll turn it over to my fellow writers and Nanowrimo regulars out there: how have you found yourself getting sick of works in progress? What do you do about it when it happens? Tell me about it in the comments!

Editing to add: The writer who sent me that tweet above now has a post up about this! Check it out!

Main

Starting off the new year by solving problems

Dara has been on a big kick with the turn of the year to get rid of a lot of things we don’t need anymore, and this has rolled over onto me a bit to make the first week of 2017 one of solving a bunch of small problems.

Problem #1: Backups weren’t working correctly on our servers.

How this was solved: Discovering that rdiff-backup wasn’t going to create a directory for me in the backup location if that directory didn’t already exist, unless I gave it a –create-full-path argument. Also discovering that scripts in cron.daily, cron.weekly, and cron.monthly should not actually be in cron format, unlike anything you put in cron.d. Once I figured out both of these things, I was finally able to get backups working properly.

Problem #2: My older laptop got unacceptably warm after a few minutes of use, particularly when booted into Windows 10.

How this was solved: Taking Winnowill apart, which let Dara not only give the inside a good cleaning, but ALSO let her discover that the goop that’s normally supposed to provide some insulation conductivity between the CPUs and the heat sink had dried out. A lot of it had in fact crumbled away. So she ordered some new goop and put new layers of that on the CPUs, and then we put the machine back together.

This made the machine much happier when booting into Windows 10 and actually trying to do things in that OS.

Meanwhile we’re also updating the hard drive from its current 500GB one to a 1T, and going from a Western Digital Blue to a Western Digital Black. Which, Dara tells me, should mean an increase in hard drive performance and hopefully another reduction in the likelihood of it overheating.

In general this should also hopefully increase the lifespan of this machine. Given that I got it way back in 2007, and this box is still chugging along, that’s still a pretty impressive lifespan for a laptop. I was thinking of selling it, but Dara says she’d like to keep the box around just for the sake of having an older and still functional Mac. Eventually it might become our new Time Machine server if Elda gives up the ghost.

All of this did at least also give me a chance to take a picture of what the inside of Winnowill looks like!

Winnie's CPUs

Winnie’s CPUs

Problem #3: The cushion on the left ear of my Bluetooth headphones split a seam.

Apparently this is a thing with Jabra move headphones? A couple weeks ago I noticed that there was a split seam on this ear cushion, and when I googled for it, I found quite a few other users complaining about the same thing. This has happened often enough that Jabra sells replacement cushions, and the replacements are supposedly sewn and not glued. I ordered a pair of the replacements and got the new one for the left ear on there okay with Dara’s help. Keeping the cushion for the right side in reserve on the assumption that this will eventually happen on that side, too.

There are other things I’m in the middle of doing that are more domestic–replacing old bras and old jeans–and Dara and I will also be looking into replacing our mattress. But the techie problems are more interesting, so the post is about those!

Any problems y’all have solved so far with the new year?

Editing to add: By “goop” on the CPU I actually meant, of course, conductivity rather than insulation. Oops! Many thanks to userinfoalinsa for pointing that out.