Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Off Season Reading List

Come summer, we start to see a lot of reading lists. Summer is when kids and collegiates get to catch up on all the heavy reading they can't keep up with during the school year. You know when else is a good time for reading? Now. Winter, Spring, Fall

Most adults don't have the luxury of allowing seasons to dictate their reading schedule. I, at least, no longer get the luxury of summers off. For those that do: reading isn't just for summer! Just because the seasons change doesn't mean you have to put down the books. Here are some books to work through during your down time:

I've tried to cover a variety of categories and, for your convenience, have included links to corresponding Goodreads pages.

  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver - This coming of age story follows Taylor Greer, a twenty-something trying desperately to get out of doge. Having foresworn parenthood, Taylor neverthless finds herself the adoptive mother of a young Native American daughter and begins navigating her own ancestry and parenthood with the child.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary - Originally written in French, the English translation of this novel maintains steady levels of beautiful language, ideas, and characters. Renee, an ugly old concierge, and precocious pre-teen Paloma find solace in a unexpected friendship. Hedgehod will make you see beauty in the everyday world.
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons - If you took Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, mashed them up with a crime drama thriller, and set the story in a beautiful built sci-fi world, that would be the closest you could get to Hyperion. There's nothing quite like Hyperion, but it's depth and scope hold something to appeal to a variety of readers, though is is especially a must read for Sci-Fa fans.
  • On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony Follow Zane, who, after accidentally shooting the Grim Reaper, takes up the mantel of Death himself. While expertly mixing magic and science, Piers Anthony balances heavy moral discussion with entertaining word play and characterization. The first book in Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series, On a Pale Horse also works perfectly fine as a stand alone book. 
Graphic Novels and Comic Books:
  • Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn - Comic book/Graphic Novel -Vaugh's Saga has been receiving a lot of well-deserved attention recently, but Y: The Last Man is still one of my all time favorite series and a worthwhile read for new fans of Vaugh, or a good introduction for readers who haven't played in any of his worlds yet. In a tragic, world-wide event all beings on Earth which a Y chromosome are slaughtered, leaving only Yorick and his pet monkey behind. What's left of humanity is coping with losing brothers, sons, and husbands and friends, while doing what they can to rebuild. Some communities flourish without their men while others dwindle; extremist groups thrive on being freed from the patriarchy and destroy masculine monuments and try to great a new Amazonian regime. Yorick, with the help of a government agent and some friends along the way, tries to navigate it all while looking for other men, the cause of the "plague," and all the while searching for leads to his girlfriend Beth (stranded in Australia before the plague).
  • Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis - Comic book/Graphic Novel - Bendis' 2008 run of GotG predates the movie, but carries the same tone and basically the same line up that James Gunn brought to the big screen. If you want to get an idea of how GotG fits into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, loved the characters and want to see more without waiting for GotG2, or just like some good writing, this is a must-read. Bonus: Iron man hangs out with the GotG gang for this one. Two trades currently available with a third due soon.

Feel overwhelmed adding reading on top of the rest of your to-do list? Carrying a book with you wherever you go makes it easier to read in small moments between things. Standing on line at the grocery store? Pull out a book. Lunch break at work? Pull out a book. Waiting for the ATM? Pull out a book. Pumping gas? You only need one hand to hold that gas nozzle. You know what your other hand could be holding? That's right. A book.

Do you have any suggestions I should add to my list?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why condemn those who chase a fantasy?

Just because something is grounded in fantasy and therefore unattainable, does that mean we should give up on trying to make it a reality? Why not get as close as we can? Just because you can't have the whole pie, should you give up on even having a slice?

Why have we as a culture attached such a negative connotation to pursuing or trying to construct a fantasy?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thanks, Bro: Thoughts on Being a Nerd in the Here and Now

I just read a really great interview with Brian Michael Bendis from Vulture.com.

"I think that a huge problem is people who read comics and don't understand the point of superheroes, which is to be the best version of yourself. You love Captain America? Well, you know what Captain America would never do? Go online anonymously and shit on a girl for having an opinion.

I would like there to be more of a connection between why people read these stories, and how they act. You should see Peter Parker and then want to act like Peter Parker. You shouldn't want to be Peter Parker because you want to sling webs and punch people. It should be because you want to be someone who lives with the idea of "with great power comes great responsibility." And that means that the power of the internet and the power of your ability to interact with people, should be treated like a power. You should treat it like a responsibility."

 I've noticed a recent trend in nerd culture. For every comic book nerd eagerly awaiting the next movie adaptation of his favorite character, there's one griping about comic book universes getting appropriated by pop/mainstream culture.

I don't necessarily agree with this feeling, but I understand it. And I'd be lying if I said I never cringed when I saw some bro who has clearly never read a Thor comic in his life talking about how totally HOT Jamie Alexander was as that armor lady (sorry Sif, so sorry) and how he can't wait for the next movie.

I think we all get those cringe moments. You know why? Because nerd culture has primarily been a stigma. As a kid, I got made fun of for carting my gameboy around wherever I went. In middle school, I was discouraged from reading comics because they weren't "Real Books" (that I also read "real books" apparently didn't matter). In high school, reading for fun meant I was weird (okay fine, reading textbooks for fun probably was a legit indicator of weirdness). In college, going off on tangents about why it's important to include the "-" in Spider-man's name (it's his web, damnit) made even fellow nerds take a step back. My first editorial job after college involved some heated discussions about the differences between "Which" and "That," and let me tell you: most people just don't care.

So, if all of these things caused us nerds to become so ostracized, then why do we cling to them? As Bendis succinctly summizes: Superheroes let us envision the best versions of ourselves - and others. And of course superheroes are the gateway drug to everything else the world of comics has to offer. I read Archie like everyone else. But my first real foray into comics? X-Men. I wanted to be just like Rogue. I identified with her because I also struggled to relate to people, but here she was having adventures, kicking ass, and making friends. And she was just. so. cool. I thought - if Rogue has this great, but terribly debilitating power, and even she can still connect with people - I can too.

Comics and nerd-dom were the backbone of who were were and who we are. We saw the strength and wonder in them. They are how we learned to relate to the world. We suffered the stigma of being a nerd because in these comic book universes we found role models, friends, and adventures.

And now the cool kids have become adults. The worry of being labeled a nerd is no longer an overwhelming problem. So they are free to drop by the movie theater and watch The Avengers, even though they've never picked up a comic book or heard of Joss Whedon (or suffered the cancelation of Firefly). They don't have to worry about name calling, sitting alone at lunch, or getting thrown in a trash can. That's really what the anger comes down to - they get all the fun without all the suffering. And it's just not fair.

However, "It's not fair" is a phrase we're supposed to have left behind in childhood. As adults we know that life simply isn't fair. But the anger is still there. So we make excuses - we impose our own assumptions on people. That bro at the theater talking about the hotness of Lady Sif? I have no proof he's never read a comic. I decided that in my head because, in his "YOLO" wife beater and Pacsun board shorts, he doesn't strike me as what a nerd should be. Maybe he really hasn't, but his enjoyment of the MCU movies might mean he will in the future. At the very least, his support of movies based on comic books means we're going to continue to get movies based on comics.

And that's a good thing.

Honestly? It's a great time to be a nerd. Each year, for the past several years, the highest grossing movies have been based on comics. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America are household names. TV shows and mini-series based on comics (and other nerd fandoms - I'd be remiss if Game of Thrones didn't get a nod here) are booming. How great is it that we live in an age where we have the technology to create totally badass, not at all hokey, TV versions of Daenery's dragons? And that the show is successful enough to warrant it?

How great is it that The Walking Dead and Arrow exist? That a movie with a talking raccoon has a huge budget and cult following despite NOT EVEN HAVING PREMIERED YET (looking at you, Guardians of the Galaxy). How great is it, that 17 years after the first Harry Potter story was published (and 3 years after the last movie premiered) the Harry Potter fandom continues to enjoy enormously huge staying power. Using the ComiXology app on my phone, I can gift the next Kid Beowulf comic to my 5 year old niece, who will receive it that day - even though she lives across the country.

Our stories are just going to get better and better from here on out. Our universes are going to grow. The technology at our disposal for sharing the characters and stories we love is just going to continue to improve. And if some bros spend some money to see the things we love without suffering what we suffered, at the end of the day we still win.

So let's stop nitpicking about whether fans are "real fans" or not. Let's acknowledge that, nerd or not, every person who bought a ticket to Winter Soldier was giving studio execs further incentive to continue creating the movies and shows in the universes we love. And if they are buying tickets, they are identifying with or enjoying these movies on at least some level. Are they upset that the new Flash TV series is going to feature Barry Allen instead of Wally West? Probably not. In the grand scheme of things, is that going to ruin anything for you? Probably not.

Don't get mad. Don't try to tell people they aren't real fans because they haven't read the comics. To quote Wil Wheaton, don't be a dick. Be the best version of yourself; just say "Thanks, bro."

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strong, Ugly Women in Literature

Buzzfeed recently posted this article by  Erika Johansen about the lack of unattractive and unattached women in literature. While I agree with her that the norm is to write about pretty girls and their love interests, I disagree about the complete absence of them in literature. Especially in the realm of Sci-Fi and Fantasy which I find to be more progressive than other fiction. Most of the major players out over the last few years have starred conventionally unattractive heroines. That these heroines have been morphed into beautiful women for their Hollywood movie adaptations is not a fault of the books.

For anyone looking for more identifiable characters in their reading list, I decided to copy my comment from the article in whole, as I listed a number of recommendations. Any book listed as an honorable mention at the bottom didn't make the main list either because the prose was not as good as other stories, or the heroine(s) did not meet all criteria (female is either not main character, not ugly, or has significant love interest)

My comments and recommendations:

Hermione Granger is described in the Harry Potter books as not attractive. She is a mousy looking, bushy haired, big toothed, loud-mouthed, know-it-all, etc. Love storylines do involve her later in the series, but they are minor and not one of the main themes of the books by far (and other characters insinuate she must have used love potions to snare her love interest because how could someone so ugly ever be loved?).

Tris Prior from the Divergent books admittedly is more involved in her love storyline, but it is still the secondary plot. She is repeatedly described, even by her love interest, as not physically attractive. Admittedly, I don't think these are the best books ever (first book is readable, but not very strong. Story hits its stride in the second book, but the third book wavers a little again) but they are worth a read and they have the kind of protagonist you're looking for.

Katniss Everdeen may not be outright ugly, but she is also not conventionally attractive. The nature of the Capitol demands she be groomed, cleaned, and upgraded for its citizens - they cover her scars, shave her, design her nails, change her eyebrows, beautify her hair, change her clothes - at points they talk about wanting to surgically modify her body to make it more conventional and womanly. The author here is making a point exactly in line with your article - the society's beauty standards are ridiculous. So, not quite sure how you managed to use that as an example trying to support your argument - unless you haven't actually read the books?

These are three hugely popular book series - maybe you were making comments based on the movies? In which case, Hollywood - not the authors - is to blame. Which shouldn't surprise anyone.

Other noteable ugly/not conventionally attractive/badass women in great novels (sci-fi/fantasy and otherwise):

Brienne of Tarth, from George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire books - She is one in a number of strong, badass women in the cast of characters. Admittedly she is one of the few ugly ones, but for strong, independent, and diverse women - this is actually a great series. Arya is also not conventionally attractive, but smart and totally awesome. Sansa is conventionally pretty, but has to deal with some inner ugliness before becoming one of the most complex characters on the show - while also being allowed to keep her femininity. The latter is the main reaosn I mention Sansa. A lot of stories think you need to sacrifice being feminine to have a "strong, female" character. You don't.  Better yet: Brienne and Arya are mostly allowed to keep their book descriptions in the TV show and haven't been totally Hollywooded.

Taylor Greer from Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees - described as slim, but not pretty. Her story is independent of any love interest. She's strong, independent, and getting the hell out of dodge. One of my favorite books for 10+ years - highly recommend.

Renee from Muriel Barbary's Elegance of the Hedgehog - Exceedingly "ugly", smart as a whip, and one of the most intricate characters I've read in a long time. Another long time favorite. Both main characters are female (Renee is an adult concierge, Paloma is a young girl, daughter of one of the families in Renee's building), smart, and very different from most female protagonists. Male characters have very little to do with this book. There is one small undercurrent of a love story line here, but it is extremely secondary.

Briar Wilkes from Cherie Priest's Boneshaker - Not conventionally attractive. Hard woman. Totally badass. Story follows her and her son during what is basically a localized zombie apocalypse. There are discussions about her ex-husband, but no love storyline (admittedly I haven't yet read other books in the series so can't guarantee that doesn't happen later).

Lamia Brawne from Dan Simmons' Hyperion - Admittedly the only female of several main protagonists, and her storyline does involve a love interest. Still, she's not conventionally beautiful, and her love interest does not dictate her character (though it does dictate some of her actions - but that's also situational. Hard to explain without giving away plot). She's an extremely capable woman, and there are a handful of other great women in this book (and series) even though they are not main players.

Susan from Terry Pratchett's Discworld books - She's Death's granddaughter. Fearsome in her own right, frizzy haired, stern, and she won't take shit from anybody. She is the main player ina number of these books.
Any of the Witches from Discworld - All badass, old, gnarled women. Totally badass. They are also main players in a number of these books.

Violet from Lev AC Rosen's All Men of Genius - despite the title, this lady is the main protagonist. She's not described as ugly, but she passes as a man for most of the book. Her physical appearance is just not really described. Again, there is a love interest sort of, but it's secondary to HOW BADASS SHE IS.

Iris from Gergory Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. The story is a retelling of the Cinderella storyline, but following the "Evil" (maybe not so much) step sisters. The whole story focuses on family hardships, and Iris' life as the not conventionally attractive one. Not nearly as kitsch as it sounds - story is really beautiful. By the same author who wrote the more popular Wicked, but I actually think Stepsister is his best novel.

Honorable mentions:

Hazel Grace from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars - short hair, chubby, sickly face. Body all out of sorts from chemo and cancer treatments. Dealing with illness and love story are both major plotlines. Self-described as not pretty, ill, etc. Love interest thinks she's pretty. Movie version Hazel is also basically pretty - Hollywood. Still, for a love story - very non-conventional. Deals with real issues, no sugar coating. I guess you have to make your own choice about her physical appearance.

Audrey Mapes from Darrin Doyle's The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo - I honestly don't remember her physical description. She is the main protagonist, though I'm not sure if she can be described as a heroine. No love interest. Follows some family drama. Quirky, dark, and fun read.

Earnest Cline's Ready Player One - No real conventionally attractive female players. Honorable mentions because main protagonist is male and is largely unaware of the physical appearance of his female friend(s?). Nature of the story is we don't actually know what most of the players really look like for most of the story. Still, maybe that's not a bad thing. However, at least a few of the characters are described as fat or chubby, have serious blemishes, etc. And though male, the main protagonist is decidedly not conventionally attractive - though he is an overly stereotyped nerd.

Lola from Kit Whitfield's Benighted - somewhat conventionally attractive, but covered in scars and not the prettiest personality at times. Also, really interesting story that raises a lot of heavy moral questions. But the execution isn't perfect. Good read though for fans of the werewolf genre looking for something different. (Werewolves are the majority here - non lycanthropes are a minority, often forced into undesired jobs, at high risk for getting disfigured on full moons, follows a non-lyco who works for the government - kind of a pseudo werewolf detective story exploring the treatement of non-lycos and lycos)

Morgaine from Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon - she's attractive or ugly depending on how she feels, which character you ask, or what's going on in the story at any given moment. I don't know. I loved this book most of the way through, but for me it tanked at the end. Worth reading if you're a fan of Arthurian legends and mythology. All the main players are women (Gwen is of course lovely lovely lovely, as is Igraine. Morgaine goes both ways? Some women are ugly. Who knows).

Friday, June 6, 2014

Let's talk about mental health.

One of the scariest comments I've read about the UCSB shootings. "Had Rodger been more closely monitored, institutionalized, and forced to take his medication by law, we would not be talking about this tragedy. "

Let's take a minute to talk about mental health.

The majority of people with mental health issues do not think they are entitled to women. They do not shoot up schools, or malls, or military bases.

Suggesting people with mental health issues be forced to take medication or get institutionalized scares the crap out of me.

As important as it is to not marginalize women, it is also important to not marginalize mental health issues. There ARE news sites pinning the shootings on mental health issues and I think that's a bad move. Was Rodgers' mental health involved in the shootings? Probably, yes. For sure. But the few sites who are covering it from that angle (as opposed to the misogony problems) are doing it WRONG.
By focusing on the mental health issue and claiming those problems are why someone decided to shoot up a bunch of women, you are making it harder, not easier, for anyone with mental health problems to step forward and seek health. If terrorists, bombers, and mass shooters are what we associate with mental health, of course no one is going to be able to openly and comfortably talk about dealing with those issues.

Could some of his problems with mental illness have led to the kind of violence tendencies that would lead to rationalizing a mass shooting? Maybe. Could a culture of misogyny and rape lead to him rationalizing a mass shooting against women who refused to give their bodies to him? Yeah.
So if anything, a combination of the two may be to blame.

But suggesting people with mental health issues be forced to take medication or get institutionalized scares the crap out of me. People with mental health issues still have rights. Are you familiar with any of the most popular drugs for bipolar, depression, or anxiety/obsessive compulsive disorders?
I'm not saying I have a viable solution. But I think it's worth noting that dealing with mental illness is a VERY slippery slope. Saying anyone should be legally mandated to be institutionalized or legally mandated to take medications is horrifying to me.

And yet, how can you want anything else in the light of recent tragedies?

And yet, consider how many people would be adversely affected by such mandates. Consider how many people will have their rights revoked by such mandates.

There is a lot we don't understand about mental illness and mental health. There are rampant misdiagnoses, and bad prescriptions.

Do you know that most bi-polar and anti-depressive treatments actually increase the behavior they are supposed to treat?

God knows we need better treatment programs and more supervision. And there are certainly some people who function better under medication. But I think more and more evidence is showing that a majority of people don't. Or, at the very best there are a number of people who are merely "stabilized" by medication (which is nice talk for "Feeling nothing at all." Something I wouldn't wish upon anyone.)

We need to talk about mental health. It needs to be something our society is okay with. But the stigma? The stigma needs to go away. In order to really address these issues and their relation in some in stances to mental health, we need to not blame mental health. And we very much need to not insinuate that anyone with mental health issues needs to be locked up and or forcibly medicated.
How do you decide at which degree of mental health someone needs to be medicated or institutionalized? How to you create standards for different degrees of mental illness? Some are obvious, some are subtle, and many are anywhere inbetween on any given day

What about all of the high functioning people with mental illness? What about the people who are NOT high function, have the same problems as Rodger and have never tried to shoot up a sorority full of women?

What is so wrong about discussing misogyny in this context, and acknowledging that maybe someone without similar mental health issues might have realized that rationalizing shooting a group of women was not okay, but also acknowledging that someone who didn't grow up being taught that women are men's property might have opted to obsessively collect pokemon cards instead of dead women who wouldn't sleep with them.

We need to be able to talk about mental health. And it needs to be in an open environment where people aren't ashamed to talk about their experiences or afraid that someone will lock them up or medicate them because of mental illness.

And the UCSB shootings are a hard subject to talk about, because two hot issues are intertwined into them. And maybe in this case it was a combination of things. But we need to set a positive precedent for discussing these issues going forward. And blaming all men is not the answer. And blaming mental illness is also not the answer.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writing Out of Sequence - Yay or Nay?

I've always been a stickler for writing the story as it's told. I need to know how the characters get where they're going as much as the readers too. I know where the story is going, but sometimes there are moments that build, or change things, and that makes me weary of "Writing ahead."

And yet - lately I find myself breaking from that pattern. Sure, if I've got nothing in particular in mind, I'll sit down, scroll to the end of my Google Doc and run with where I last left off. But sometimes a moment comes to me so vivid and I'm learning to have no qualms with breaking from the current moment and jumping ahead.

I'm finding that these scenes still help me understand where a character is going, and very often help me set goals to get her there.

What are your thoughts on writing ahead? Do you do it? Does it work for you, or no? Why or why not?

Monday, November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 - What's Making a Difference this Year?

This was going to be a short - mid-length post about the changes in my approach to NaNoWriMo over the past few years, and the differences that are making me feel confident about my run this year. But I think I just might be too damn excited to keep it short, and I'm just not feeling apologetic enough to say sorry for that. And, let's face it - if you're here, you're here to read, right?

I have something to admit.

I have tried to write the same novel for almost every NaNoWriMo.

All common sense says I should drop this novel. Clearly something isn't working - I can't get the content out, I get frustrated, I give up. I restart the novel every NaNoWriMo. Einstein defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, call me crazy, because I'm giving this novel one more try. Here's why:

I have learned how to write. Let me clarify - I have always been a writer, but a writer who struggles to churn out content. I could never sit down on a schedule and just write. Neil Gaiman is a huge proponent of saying (I'm paraphrasing here) you can't just write when the inspiration strikes - you need to be able to sit down and write if you have a deadline, you need to be able to sit down and write when you need to meet your wordcount. You can't rely on inspiration as a guide for when to write or not. In the past I have been very guilty of doing the opposite of that.

I have always cared too much about what I've been writing, and that has made writing much harder for me. I have given up when the words didn't come out just right, or if I wasn't "in the right mindset to write." So what's changed?

Goal setting and accountability: I never had trouble getting assignments in on time in college. Having a deadline wasn't a challenge for me, it was a goal. I struggle with setting goals for myself, however, since there's no one but myself to hold me accountable. Post-college, writing became more of a struggle. I had no external factors demanding I turn something in on time. I tried joining writing groups where we were all responsible for sharing word count goals on a regular basis. My friends, (sorry guys, I love you) crapped out just as much as I did, however, and the whole system became less than effective. "Ah, well, if he's short, then I can be short as well..."

But I realized that wasn't the problem. I needed to learn to be accountable to myself. If I set a goal, I need to reach it - for personal satisfaction. My goals can not depend on outside sources, though they may be influenced on them. This was a huge kick in the butt that I needed to realize.

What also helped: Being a technical writer (I write and edit content for a web media firm that handles several large travel and tourism sites) helped me remove emotional investment from the equation. I've always considered myself a creative writer, but discovering a competence and enjoyment for technical writing as well has also allowed me to learn a wealth of new things by approaching writing from a different perspective.

When you care too much about what you're writing, it becomes harder to write. Don't get me wrong, you need to care. You need to be invested for your story to have meaning. But while you're writing, you can't get stuck on the details, and the fixing, and the "that just doesn't sound right." Get the words. Fix them, nurture them, make them better when you edit.

And then I changed the process: In past years, I approached +NaNoWriMo! with gusto. I had my story perfectly in my head. I knew these characters. But my outline was thin, at best, and if I was not diligent about writing and making word count in the days prior, setting new writing habits in November was impossible.

This year I re-evaluated every step of my process:
  • For work, I was churning out an average of at least 5,000 words a day. On top of that I tried to write at least a little bit at home every day, whether it was a journal entry, short prose, or poetry.
  • I spent all of October "Pre-Gaming." I outlined, I wrote character bios, I collected all the old outlines and short scene descriptions I had ever written about this particular story. I compiled them, reworked what I thought should stay, and trashed what didn't.
  • I upgraded my writing system. To be honest - I prefer to write by hand. That's just unrealistic for NaNoWriMo though, and for longer pieces makes a lot of things harder and less organized. Plus, I have really terrible hand writing. In the past I've tried special writing programs that lock out distractions - these were great in many ways (Social Media is a hugeeee distraction for me - whoops), but it also made things harder. I use a desktop at home, and so if I was writing while out I was constantly emailing myself files. sometimes forgetting to send them, or not sending the most recently updated. This year I decided to try Google Docs. I have the same collection of documents available wherever I go with internet access. This means I can work on my novel on my break at work, or at the Starbucks on the way home, or at my desktop without worrying about transferring or sharing files. I was unsure about this, as I don't really like doing a ton of writing on my laptop, but -
  • Getting out of the apartment to write has helped a great deal too. There are lots of temptations at home: adorable cats, snacks, TV, and just - the mentality of plopping down to unwind with Facebook, or Twitter.

Another key difference for me: Music. I've always preferred to write in silence, or with soft classical music on. When writing at the office however, I have adopted wearing headphones to block out distractions, give me an energy boost, and just get me motivated. It has helped a ton - why has nobody made me do this before?!

Here are some of my favorite songs to write to (at this particular moment):

Sea Wolf - Middle Distance Runner
Passenger - Caravan
Whitely - More than Life
Jukebox the Ghost - The Spiritual
The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love
Radical Face - Welcome Home

What about you? Have any favorite "music to write to," or any other tips/tricks of the trade?

I know we're only four days deep into the NaNo, but so far I'm just ahead of word count, and confident about carrying on. Here's to continued progress!