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Review: The Princess Diarist

The Princess DiaristThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s hard to know what to write, with Carrie Fisher’s death still so recent in my memory. I didn’t like “Wishful Drinking,” one of her earlier books, though know my scathing feelings towards the book feel sour and wrong somehow, and I have to resist the urge to go back and revise that old opinion. And I know that instinct is wrong, because it goes against my core belief that all books should exist independently of their authors and that, even for a memoir, it’s nothing personal. It’s just the book.

Fortunately, I’m happy to say that I enjoyed “Princess Diarist” much more. It’s a trim little volume at just over 200 pages (and several of those pages are diary excerpts, so it’s even shorter than you might think), but it broaches on a subject that I’ve been eager to read about and was, in my opinion, conspicuously absent in “Wishful Drinking,” which is how Fisher felt/feels about Star Wars. This is a book largely dedicated to that question.

It also has the benefit of having been written post-Episode VII, which saw a return of Leia as a character . . . one that I think Fisher, had she lived, would have been even more proud of. General Organa is an evolution of Princess Leia, an older, wiser, grizzled veteran who’s been fighting wars her entire life, who matured away from the metal bikini sex symbol eye candy role into a tough, capable leader. It’s a good evolution of the character and it’s a profound loss that we’ll never get a follow-up book to hear about that evolution in Fisher’s own writing voice.

So, if you’re wondering, should you read this book? Yes, you should. It’ll give you a lot to think about with Star Wars, character, and fandom, and it was already a great book even before Fisher’s death. Now, it’s a chance to hear her voice one more time and appreciate the insight she’s gleaned over her life and the perspective that she had.

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Review: Saga Volume Six

Saga, Volume 6Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, what I wouldn’t give for a recap page at the start of this volume. Even just a reminder of where everyone was at the end of the last volume, because the plotline has become a thick and tangled web of who wants to kill whom and who is allied with whom to prevent the afore-mentioned killing. But that’s all just a quibble. You can always go back and read volume 5, after all.

Volume 6 is great. It’s a bit lighter than previous ventures, a bit more hopeful, and I think that’s due in large part to the presence of Hazel, now old enough (albeit still in kindergarten) that she has her own voice in the story, not just that of the narrator. There also a few new interesting characters as well, which is great considering how high the body county for this series is.

Otherwise, what is there to say? The art is beautiful and weird, there’s so much non-hetero-normative sexuality that it’s all a delight to my progressive heart, especially when it’s juxtaposed with ideas about family and parenthood.

Mild spoilers for previous volumes: most of all, though, I think I’m happiest to see Alana and Marko working together again. The timeline jumps make it a bit tricky to determine if Hazel’s foreboding narration in a previous volume “that this is the story of how my parents split up” means that the split is still coming or if the troubles they encountered in the previous books were that split; it’s hard to say, but I’m pleased to see them here, working together, even if it’s not going to last.

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Review: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every TimeThe Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time by Maria Konnikova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must read. “The Confidence Game” is one of those books that you’ll find yourself referring back to, over and over, reflecting on the lessons contained within and how you can apply them to your own life. But far from being a self-help book or a guide on how not to get scammed, it’s also intensely fascinating and full of history and psychology. It’s very likely that you’ll experience a bout of intense cynicism after reading it, however; I couldn’t help but reflect on the times when I might have fallen for a scam myself (usually the “I need a few bucks to get home” variety). And of course, I wonder about all the possible scams that I might have encountered without even realizing it, which is more than a little troubling.

Regardless, “the Confidence Game” is as alluring and engaging as any good con artist might be. It’s the kind of book that stays with you, that keeps you thinking long after you’ve finished it, and that’s as much a testament to Konnikova’s good writing style as it is the importance of the subject itself. And if it helps you avoid a scam in the future; well, that’s just a bonus. Even if the research suggests that overestimating our abilities makes us more likely to fall for a scam, so it’s possible you might actually be more likely to be scammed after reading this book. Such is the dark web that the con artist weaves. Regardless, you should still read the book.

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Review: Tomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of Serpents

Tomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of SerpentsTomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of Serpents by Rhianna Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I continue to be impressed with the comic series since Rhianna Pratchett took over the writing. It should come as no surprise, as she’s the main writer for the new Tomb Raider games, so it makes sense she keeps the storytelling smooth and seamless between graphic novel and game.

I like that this volume focuses on the deteriorating relationship between Lara and the “normal world” as a result of her experiences. One of the best moments of the 2013 Tomb Raider game was Lara’s horrified reaction to her first human kill; it was a deeply traumatizing and emotional moment and an excellent piece of storytelling. Eventually, the needs of the game mean you’re mowing down enemy mooks with all the concern of a video game character (which is to say, none), but that’s the result of it being an action game.

Here we see that Lara’s experiences continue to evolve her as a character. She’s trying to stay connected to the normal world despite the fact that she’s done and seen things that make her more and more removed from it. It sets things up nicely for why she’s continued to, ah, tomb raid and put herself in dangerous situations despite no longer being trapped on the island from the first game.

A very solid read for anyone hungry for more adventures with Lara. If you have a chance to read this one before going into Rise of the Tomb Raider, I recommend it, but even if you’ve already played Rise, Queen of Serpents is a fun, well written graphic novel that manages to have some surprising emotional depth. I quite enjoyed it.

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Review: The Last Wish

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After spending almost two months enmeshed in the video game “Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” I wanted to explore more of Geralt’s world. While the game itself was made very accessible to a newcomer in the series (despite being based on a book series and being the third game), I knew there was so much more going on that deeper fans would understand that I was missing out on. So here I am, having finished the first book, which is a collection of short stories.

“The Last Wish” made me realize how narrow my world can be sometimes. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? It makes it sound like this was a bad book. But it’s not.

“The Last Wish” was written in 1992. It’s been out there, all this time, and yet I was wholly unaware of it until it gained enough fans to warrant a translation into English. How many other wonderful worlds are out there that I’m oblivious to? How many amazing stories are there to discover? I’ve heard constantly that the fantasy genre is shackled to the formula set down by Tolkien, but it wasn’t until “the Last Wish” that I realized what a breath of fresh air it was to be in a different style of world.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still elves and dwarves here, but the core of the Witcher’s world, the skeleton of it is based on dark fairy tales. It’s not the same old fantasy, but it reminds me of the early days when I’d first discovered fantasy novels and that feeling of diving headfirst into a mythical world. I’ve grown jaded and bitter in my grizzled old age, having read so many stories that followed along the well-worn path. But “the Last Wish” proves that there’s more out there, more to be discovered. It’s a good feeling and a great reminder.

And the book itself? You don’t need to play the game to read this book; if you like fantasy AT ALL, it’s worth your time. But there’s a very good chance you’ll want to pick up a controller after spending even a little time in Geralt’s world. Either that, or the next book in the series. Either way, it’s worth your time.

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Review: Skipping Towards Gomorrah

Skipping Towards GomorrahSkipping Towards Gomorrah by Dan Savage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My fellow liberals: remember the Bush years? We were at the mercy of the “Moral Majority,” the theocracy seemed inevitable, our LGBT friends (or selves) were criminals, and everywhere you looked, another blonde Republican lady author was scrawling a book that we were traitors or monsters or traitor-monsters. It was a dark time. Dan Savage wrote a book lashing out at the perceived “immorality” of the times. “All things in moderation,” he writes, “even moderation itself.”

And although I’m writing this review during the odious rise of Donald Trump and all that this entails about a certain percentage of the electorate, it really has gotten a lot better. Gay marriage is the law of the land (although like abortion rights, it’s under assault and will be for a long while), DOMA is dead, and the “Moral Majority” as a political entity to supporting an obvious lizard-person in a human skin suit (Cruz) or a blatant opportunist who so obviously doesn’t give a shit about that “moral majority’s morals” so long as they vote for him. It’s been a long, hard fall from the Evangelical’s pinnacle of power in the early 00’s. We have an African American president now. We (hopefully) will see the first female president. Pot is legal in a few states, including mine! Concern about climate change has gone from being a punchline on South Park to a real thing that many reasonable people are seriously concerned about. In short, it’s a different era.

But it’s good to remember what it was like, not too long ago. “Skipping Towards Gomorrah” isn’t timeless; it’s rooted deeply in the political landscape that was the Bush years. But that’s precisely one of the things that makes it so compellingly readable today. It’s a chance to remember what it was like before. It’s a chance to compare what we railed against then to what we rail against now. And while we’re certainly not living in liberal utopia (and might soon take a hard right turn to dystopia, if we’re not careful) . . . it has gotten better.

Aside from the trip down memory lane, Savage’s writing style is crisp and wonderfully funny. He writes with clarity and self-awareness (but not self-consciousness). It’s unlikely that you’ll read this book if you’re not already drinking deeply of our liberal gay hippie kool-aid (it’s organic and locally sourced, yo) but Savage will surprise you. He doesn’t always do what you’ll expect for a sex columnist who is also a gay man. Look for the chapters on wrath (guns) and pride (gay pride) to see what I mean.

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Review: The End of Nature

The End of NatureThe End of Nature by Bill McKibben
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are more comprehensive books about climate change out there. There are books with facts and models and hard science. There are scarier books, too, with more dire predictions about what will happen. It might seem hard to imagine what this little book’s niche actually is, its role in the ecologist’s reading canon, until you remember that it was written in 1989. It was written years before an Inconvenient Truth, years before Gore, years before Bush dismantled the Kyoto Protocol, and years before the age of global terrorism. It was a time when “global warming” was still more often referred to “the greenhouse effect.” This book was written in an entirely different era.

And for that reason alone, I feel it is required reading.

As author Bill McKibben notes in his new introduction (itself now ten years old, having been written in 2005), this book is a product of its time. It is uneven in places, alternating wildly between talking about the facts of global climate change and more poetic musings on the nature of, well, nature and humanity’s role within it. And yet it’s undeniably fascinating to look back on the state of environmentalism in the late 1980s and compare its predictions to what has happened in the almost 30 years since then. Unfortunately, there’s a strong feeling that we’ve been asleep at the wheel for too long. We knew about this stuff in the 1980s! How the hell did we late it get this bad?

And yet we’ve also seen some victories: Keystone XL, of which the author himself was a leading protester. Everyone knows about climate change now, even if many deny it. We’ve come along way from the fringe environmental movement, when this book was written. We still have a long way to go and it’s easy to feel despair, especially after seeing what we knew in 1989. Nevertheless, this book is a testament to environmentalism’s history and for that reason alone, it’s worth reading. Beyond that importance, it’s still a good read on its own merits; the idea of the end of nature might more accurately be described as the “end of wildness,” the end of nature as an untouched force, and regardless of whether or not you agree with the argument, it’s still interesting to consider.

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Review: The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only was this a great, well-written read, but it’s full of information you’ll want to keep in the back of your mind at all times. If there was an emergency at your work, how would you respond? What would you do? Can you visualize what might happen? Would you be embarrassed by overreaction if the fire alarm goes off? Would you know what to take with you from your desk?

Ripley covers a wide variety of disasters, scenarios, and topics, from physiological responses to the nature of heroism, those who risk their lives for strangers. Most evocative are the narratives provided by survivors of various disasters: 9/11 survivors, embassy hostage survivors, human stampede survivors, and more.

There’s a tendency for self-aggrandizement in these stores, but author Amanda Ripley never indulges in such things. It’s a very appreciated aspect of her writing.

Most importantly, Ripley doesn’t lead her readers to a feeling of helplessness or fatalism. Throughout the book, her research and writing emphasizes that survival is affected by many factors, and some of the most important factors are mental preparation and readiness.

Having recently moved into the path of a future major earthquake, it’s on the back of my mind that a major disaster may occur in my lifetime. Reading this book helped me come to terms with that and it made me think more about what I will do, should that happen. This is a book that I think should be a must-read for everyone, because there is nowhere in the world that doesn’t have some sort of disaster to contend with, even if it’s something as local as a housefire. As a survivor of a housefire myself (albeit a small one), I give my stamp of approval on her work.

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A Moving Diary, Moving Day

The long-awaited (maybe?) conclusion to my move from Tucson, Arizona, to Issaquah, Washington. For those who don’t know where Issaquah is, just substitute “Seattle” instead. It’ll give you the basic idea.

My original intention was to blog daily during each step of the journey. That was wonderfully naive. Long distance moving is like backpacking; when you’re doing it, your entire focus shrinks until there is absolutely nothing in existence other than the road (or trail) ahead of you. During the journey, I didn’t care about anything except for how many miles a day I was clearing and whether I’d make it to the end before I exhausted my music collection.

Emotional fatigue kept me from writing the first few days after I arrived. There was a lot to get done, including settling two houses and carrying many, many heavy things. Even though we arrived on Wednesday, we didn’t return the moving truck until Friday. Then there was a weekend of unpacking and then two days of pure sloth on my part and then . . . holy shit, it’s already Wednesday and I realize that I have to bang this out before we pass the point in which anyone will care. So, without further preamble, let’s wind back the clock and I’ll take you through the process of packing up four lives and all relevant belongings and transporting them to the great Pacific Northwest.

Our cast includes your humble author, my girlfriend Jenn, and my good friends James and Ashley. The final member of our team was Bob, James’ father, who came along for the ride and to help out with getting his son and daughter-in-law moved. Which also extended to his helping carry many of my ridiculously heavy boxes when the time came, which was supremely cool of him to do.

Jenn was the trailblazer and pathfinder of our team, having moved to Issaquah a month before me to take a great job with the local library system. We decided that she would travel fast and light and rent an SUV to tow her motorcycle and carry enough boxes so she’d be able to live for a month until I could bring the rest of her stuff. This plan hit its first snag when we learned that no rental place ever in the world would allow us to put a trailer on the back of their precious rentals and threatened to execute us if we did. My assumption is that there is a rental policy book somewhere that states that people who don’t own tow-capable vehicles are too stupid to know how to tow things. So that meant that both motorcycles (hers and mine) were now in my care when the time came.

This brought us to snag number two. I was desperate to avoid working with a Uhaul truck and really wanted to go with Penske or Budget or one of the other options out there. Unfortunately, only Uhaul would rent out the kind of trailer that I needed to tow two motorcycles. It was briefly discussed putting the bikes in the back of the truck but I vetoed that idea, believing (correctly) that we’d need every foot of space for stuff. So we rented a 26 foot Uhaul and an open-air trailer, and I confidently assured everyone that I knew exactly what was doing and that I had “tons of experience” towing stuff.

Let it be said that I have towed a trailer. Once. It was when I still had an SUV and I borrowed a jet ski from a family member. I towed the jet ski to the lake for the day and succeeded in launching it without driving my car into the lake. This, then, made me the only qualified person to wrangle roughly fifty feet of moving truck and trailer through cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Seattle! Fifty feet is also the length of an adult spinosaurus. I pointed out this fact several times during the trip.

Why did I need such a monstrous rig? Well, when Jenn took the job in Issaquah, there was a different plan at the time, but of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy. At the time, we decided that she would move first because she had to start her job and I would move in June with the truck and the stuff because my brother’s wedding is in May and it would be silly to move all of our stuff and then get back on a plane to fly back to the city I just left. Right?

That lasted until I priced the cost of a truck, trailer, and fuel. Ouch. Suddenly, I was very eager to consider any possible alternative. I saw an opportunity when I learned that my friend James had decided to do his move at the end of April to be with his wife Ashley, who’d been in Seattle since January (if you’re confused, just realize that no couples in our generation move simultaneously these days. It’s very passe to do such a thing; staggered relocations are much more in vogue.)

“Hey, James,” I said on the phone immediately after learning about his move and not bothering to congratulate him on his new future or anything decent like that. “I would desperately like to share the cost and burden of moving with you, so let us intertwine our fates and move together and ignore the fact that this now doubles the workload for both of us and focus on the sweet, sweet fact that we can each save $2,000.”

“Goddamnit!” he cried, but only because he was playing League of Legends at the time and had just gotten ganked by an enemy jungler. (I think all those terms are correct, but I don’t really know).

“Oh, yeah, sure,” he said after a pause. “Sounds great.”

And that was my solution! I would move up my own plans a month, share the move with my good friends, be reunited with my lady a month early, and make everything beautiful and wonderful along the way. And even though I will now be flying back to Tucson literally two weeks after I moved away from Tucson, I still saved money since plane tickets cost considerably less than $2,000.

The other weird thing was that my farewells to friends and family became a little odd. “Goodbye, my beloved family,” I said during my farewell dinner with my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law to be. “I will never forget you. You will be in my heart always. I will see you in . . . two weeks. Which is actually less time than if I was still living here, because we usually only do this about once a month.”

Then there was just the packing, which I’ve already detailed. And then came the big day.

Sunday, April 26

We got an early start and picked up the truck and trailer. I learned how to attach the trailer, which I already knew how to do but I made an effort to pay attention anyway. I had my first experience driving the monster vehicle and quickly learned that a 26 foot Uhaul truck and a Kawasaki Z1000 are very different driving experiences. But on the plus side, my motorcycle riding experience has made me an intensely paranoid driver and that served me very well over the next few days.

I drove the truck over to James and Ashley’s house first. Ashley had flown back from Seattle to help with the move; Jenn wanted very much to do the same but she was already taking time off to come back for the wedding in May and couldn’t get so much time off so close to starting her new position.

We loaded their boxes and furniture first, since my stuff would have to be unloaded first. Oh, yes, that was another little wrinkle: we would be arriving in Seattle on Wednesday, but they weren’t able to get the keys to their place until Friday. So we’d be roommates for a few days! But all of that meant my stuff was going to be last in, first out.

I went back to my house after James’ parents and brother arrived and I realized that I still wasn’t quite ready. Whenever you’re packing, there are always the easy boxes first: all the books go here, all the electronics go here, etc. But eventually, you run out of stuff that goes together and you get the “fuck it” boxes that include things like two screwdrivers, a thing of Pinesol, and the Brita Filter you forgot about until the last moment.

The loading of the truck progressed well, except that very quickly, we realized that even with the largest truck available, we weren’t going to have enough room for everything. Cuts would have to be made. This wasn’t an unforeseen outcome, but it still meant a few bookshelves had to be left behind. Worst of all, though, I had to choose between my recliner and my couch. The recliner was my gaming throne and although it was worn, torn, shredded by zealous kitties, falling apart, and really just the ugliest thing ever, it was comfy. Although I think it was the right decision to leave the recliner behind because when I told my mom I was keeping the couch instead of the recliner, she said, “oh, thank God.” So there’s that.

Monday, April 25

Jenn had already bought a new bed in Issaquah, so I hadn’t packed the old one, which gave me a place to sleep for my last night in Tucson. It’s a very surreal experience, sleeping in your mostly packed up house. But surreal or not, suddenly it was time to go. Farewells were said. Tears were shed (but really, it was just dust in my contact lenses. It was very dusty, you know.) And we were off! James would be riding with me in the truck, while Ashley and Bob were driving their Prius. We would rotate drivers between the two groups the next few days, although I did solemnly and sincerely promise Ashley that I would not ask her to driving the monster truck at any point. As an infinitely more reasonable and sensible person than me, she was not keen on driving the spinosaurus-truck.

So it was me and James in the truck cabin. Well, actually, it was me, James, Maize, and Morrigan. Maize and Morrigan are my two snakes and they were along with me for the entire ride. I’d bought little plastic carrying cages for them a few days before and I set them up in the middle seat of the truck. They were my constant companions for the entire journey.

And if you’re wondering how much snakes love to be in a loud, vibrating truck, the answer is that they do not love it. They were rather miserable the entire time. Poor babies. But it had to be done and I did the best that I could taking care of them. That was Team Truck. We were ready to go!

Except maybe not. Almost immediately after firing up the truck, the Check Engine Oil light was on. We called Uhaul Customer Service and they told us, after some discussion, that “yeaaaaah, that truck was already overdue for servicing.” Which, you know, no big deal. It’s not like they knew we were going to be driving it 1,500 miles based on the reservation I’d made a month in advance, a reservation which required all relevant destination information.

I really didn’t want to switch trucks after it had taken us an entire day to load this one, so we popped the hood, checked the oil, saw that it was low, and added oil in ourselves. The light went off which was good enough for me. As long as the truck survived all the way to Seattle, it could implode on itself afterward for all I cared.

And then we were off! Except once again, not really, because we had to get gas since the tank was only half full.

Here’s the thing about driving a motorcycle daily. You get really, really used to the fact that a week’s worth of gas is $10. But in a monster Uhaul? $10 doesn’t even get you a tick mark on the gauge. Filling up that thing caused me actual, physical pain every time we had to stop and that was with the knowledge that I was splitting all fuel costs 50/50. Had I done this on my own, I’m sure that fueling the truck would have given me a brain aneurysm.

And then, finally, we were off! We hit the road, ready to roll out for new adventures and new lands. Except that the first part of the drive was Tucson to Phoenix up I-10, a trek that every southern Arizonan has made so many times you can do it in your sleep. And based on the driving skills of my fellow travelers that day, I think at least a few were attempting to do exactly that.

Once you get past the Phoenix and Tucson corridor, though, you break into the long, uninterrupted stretches of wild desert and mountains that make the Southwest what it is. Outside of Alaska, the Southwest is the least densely populated region, particularly Nevada, and believe me, you feel that isolation when you’re out on the road.

There wasn’t much to report from this leg of the journey. We stopped and ate lunch in a town called Wikiup. Which isn’t to say that we bought lunch there; there didn’t seem to be any actual restaurants in Wikiup. Instead, we ate food I’d brought along myself: cold pizza and sandwiches. We parked the truck at a pull-off for a “historical marker” monument that earned my vote for the most bullshit metal plaque ever. Here’s a tip: if you’re going to enshrine a historical event forever, don’t write on your bronze metal plaque that “Spanish explorers were probably the first people to settle this area.” You’re writing this down in metal, people. Don’t say “probably.” You really should know.

Our destination was Las Vegas and our route took us past Lake Mead and over the Hoover Dam. All I have to say is holy shit and not for the reasons you’re thinking. The dam was fine. Easy, even. It’s the lake that had me freaking out. Everyone in the Southwest has been hearing about the catastrophic drought for years but to actually see how low the water is and to realize that shrinking lake is the majority of Tucson’s water . . . it’s freaky. I’m honestly surprised that more people aren’t freaking out about this the way they are in California. I guess it’s because Arizona is still more than a year away from complete water catastrophe. Regardless, it chilled my bones. I’d advise stocking up on water. You know, just in case.

Onward to Las Vegas.

Las Vegas sucks.

The roads are nightmarish, the drivers are ferocious, and everywhere, you see the kind of excess that makes you wonder, “wait, you guys know this is a desert, right? And the lake over there that supplies all of your water is dangerously low?”

We stayed with James’ friend’s sister and her husband for the night, which was interesting. Their house was lovely with plenty of space for everyone to crash. The reason it was a little less pleasant (and why I’m not mentioning their names nor planning on sharing this post with them) is because she was absolutely terrified of snakes. I didn’t want to leave the snakes in the truck overnight and I was too tired to consider other options, so while James provided a distraction, I brought the snakes in under a blanket and quietly set them up in the corner of one of the guest rooms and kept the door shut. It worked out fine, but all evening and throughout the night, I kept having nightmares that they would escape and end up killed by our well-intentioned but uninformed hosts.

This post is running far, far longer than I expected, so I think this is where I’ll pause for a bit. I suppose this is the downside of saving the entire story for the end rather than posting as I go. Ah well. We’ll continue our tale tomorrow! Thanks for reading!

How I Write (These Days)

Let me take a moment to say what this post is not. It’s not a discussion of style or process. It’s not going to be a long navel-gazing about “where I get my ideas.” There are a lot of posts and books and things already out there for people interested in those topics and I guarantee they’re written better than what I could come up with here. Also, I think the topic is somewhat boring. Most writers love to talk about writing. Just pick your particular favorite writer and you’ll be able to answer those particular questions.

Instead, I’d like to talk about the actual physical mechanics, such as they are. Let’s talk about what I write with in terms of programs.

There are writers out there who write longhand. Some still work on typewriters. I actually do own a typewriter, although I’ve never used it for anything serious. I typed a story up on it once and then looked at the pages in my hand and wondered, shit, now what? Do I scan these into a PDF or something?

There are a lot of writing programs out there. Scrivener seems to have the most vocal disciples, although I’ve never used it and generally, the more vigorously someone evangelizes something, the less I want to try it. I’m a Microsoft Word user these days, although I didn’t get my start on Word.

My first computer was purchased in the halcyon days of 1998. Instead of getting the current version of Word, we ended up with something called “Student Writing Center.” It was an absolutely bare-bones program with very little in the way of frills or features, but I liked it ’cause it was all that I knew. I wrote my first manuscript on it, as well as the incomplete sequel I abandoned somewhere around 70,000 words. I’ve copied and uploaded those files from machine to machine over the years; even though they’re both “trunk novels,” I can’t let them go. And it’s not like they take up much storage space.

My first laptop was a Dell purchased in 2004 and somehow, I purchased WordPerfect instead of Word when I bought it. It took me years to realize that WordPerfect was created by a different company (Corel). I thought it was a Microsoft product and probably figured it was the “better” version of Word. It had “perfect” right there in the name, after all! Despite this, it wasn’t perfect. I wrote a lot of papers and short stories on WordPerfect and kept working on my novels, but I never finished anything big.

My next computer in 2009 was an HP desktop and I finally had my own version of Word. (2010, I believe). In fact, I still have this version of Word and it’s still my main writing platform the majority of the time. I’ve done the vast majority of six NaNoWriMo successes on this version of Word and this computer and I finished the manuscript that I’m currently trying to publish.

Finally, there’s my current laptop, also an HP, purchased last year along with Word 2013. Originally, I was really hesitant about buying Word (shit’s expensive, yo) and tried to use Google Docs or OpenOffice as my main writing platform for that machine. It never took, though. After so many years, I’m basically acclimatized and anything different distracts me too much for comfort. I’ll probably continue buying versions of Word until I’m in my grave and even my corpse will insist that my tombstone and funeral programs be typed up in Word (and probably using Calibri as the font).

The only major change in how I go about handling my work is where I save my master files of my manuscripts, which is what I call the version of the document that I actually work on. I’ve been perpetually terrified of having a hard drive failure or house fire destroy all of my work, so I’ve tried various things over the years. Originally I burned copies to CD, but this was such a slow process that I never kept them as up-to-date as they should have been. Eventually I switched to using USB thumb drives but this was also unsatisfying as I was afraid of losing the sticks or having them get destroyed in a fire.

My current system for backing up my work is one that I’m really happy with and it happened pretty much by accident. Early on, I started using Google Drive to make digital copies of my manuscript files. The problem was that I didn’t like writing in Google Docs but at that point, the only way to go from one machine to another and use Word was to download the file from Google Drive, work on it in Word, and then upload it back to the Drive.

This wasn’t too bad, except for the fact that I very quickly had dozens of copies of my files and had a very hard time remembering which ones were the “master” and which were back-ups or transfers. What I wanted was a single file that I could open with Word and access regardless of which machine I was using and still exists in the cloud to prevent data lose if my house burns down.

OneDrive ended up meeting all of these needs, so these days it’s my main platform, which is especially convenient since Word Online is actually pretty good. So now I have my main file in my OneDrive, which I can work on with both my desktop and my laptop (or even a borrowed computer if need be) and I don’t need to keep transferring or downloading files. Since I ride a motorcycle or a bicycle everywhere, carrying a laptop isn’t overwhelmingly convenient, so instead I can log onto a library computer on my lunch break and still have access to my master files. It’s improved my personal productivity tremendously by having those files so conveniently accessible, which I suppose is the whole idea of cloud storage in the first and which Google already did and would have worked for me anyway if I wasn’t so picky about the whole Google Docs thing. Anyway.

I keep backups of my files on both my desktop and my laptop in case Microsoft crashes, although I suspect if that ever happened, I’d probably have more to worry about than just my data. But I still like to be redundant.

So that’s my current approach to my precious writing files. For those nerds out there who are interested in this stuff that you read all the way to the end, what’s your approach to managing your files across multiple computers?