September 29, 2006

Breaking out as a novelist

I’ve been reading "Writing the Breakout Novel" for a while now and have been meaning to talk about it. But till today, I didn’t have the perfect opening. And the opening was provided by the book itself.

We didn’t buy "Writing the Breakout Novel" – somebody was kind enough to send it to Laurie as a gift 🙂 I had heard about Donald Maass (of course :p) but wasn’t really interested in the book at the time we got it. I was in the middle of editing my novel "Honest, the Martian Ate Your Dog" and a book on writing wasn’t going to be much use to me (or so I thought – shows how much I knew :p) But then I began thinking about restructuring my novel again and that was when I decided to come back to Maass’ book.

I read some reviews of the book online and most of the people who blogged about it seemed to be rather negative in their opinion. They thought that Donald Maass was giving a by-the-numbers solution to writing and that it wasn’t a workable solution. Having read the book (or at least the first three chapters) myself, I don’t see it as a checklist approach. Sure, Donald provides checklists at the end of each approach but I don’t believe he actually wrote the book thinking that you’d take the checklist and check each item off as you wrote the book :p I take the book more as a reference work – take out of it what is useful and don’t worry about the rest. So far, it has proven to be pretty useful to me and I might even write a blog entry or two about the most important things that the book taught me.

However, what I wanted to comment on was something that Donald mentions towards the end of chapter three. He asks, "Why do you write? If it is for money or fame, you are writing for the wrong reasons." (I’m paraphrasing him here.) I agree with the sentiment (to an extent) but can’t help thinking cynically whether all agents do the same thing – do they represent a client only if they are utterly convinced of the worthiness of the project or do they also look at how well the book will do financially? If all agents and publishers took on projects just because they loved them, I have a feeling that we’d wouldn’t have so many truly terrible books published :p

Sure, I love my work. I am so lazy that I probably wouldn’t write unless I had to write. Most of my novels start because the characters get in my head and keep doing stuff and I have to put everything they do on paper or I won’t have any rest :p But I’ve also discovered that what they do isn’t terribly interesting – that I might have to spend some time in beating them into shape and getting them to do stuff in a fashion which is more literarily satisfying 🙂 So why would I go to all that work if all I wanted was to write? There has to be something else – whether it is the desire to have other people enjoy what you’ve written or a desire for fame or money or for beautiful women (or men depending on you inclinations) to fall at your feet or to offer various body parts (hopefully still attached to the rest of the body) to be signed. There has to be more. At least for me. I just can’t see myself writing just because the characters are so compelling. Well, I can, but then there is no impetus for me to do anything more with the story – to polish it, to refine it, to make it actually ready for publication. At least, that’s how I see it 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 8:08 am  |  No Comments

September 16, 2003

Back at last, back at last …

Yes, I’m finally back … actually, I’ve been back for a while but there have been problems but where to begin? 🙂 Guess I’ll begin at the beginning itself and then go on till the end as I think the White King said to Alice :p I initially was away from SM, my other blog and general coding due to the fact that I’d met somebody online and I was spending every moment I was online with her 🙂 Then she decided to move to Sri Lanka in August and we got married soon after she got here and then there was a whole heap of other things to do. My wife Laurie is not a Muslim nor is she a Sri Lankan and so, my parents were dead set against the marriage – but to be fair by them, I didn’t tell them of the marriage beforehand. I sprung it on them after the fact so that they wouldn’t be able to guilt trip me into reconsidering – cowardly? Probably :p Anyway, my parents wanted to have nothing to do with Laurie or I and so we had to find our own place.

I’d anticipated this and had already rented out a house and had also gotten time off for two weeks from work and so Laurie and I were able to spend the time setting up house and attending to the hundreds of little things that needed to be attended to. The daily nitty-gritties are probably going to be way too exhaustively detailed for me to go into right here but if you are interested, you could always take a look at Laurie’s Sri Lanka blog since she has detailed everything that happened every day since she got to Sri Lanka 🙂 Anyway, since we were at a new house and had no telephone (except for my cellular) let alone dial-up access, I was again offline for several weeks except for the brief periods I had to come into work to attend to various things.

Then I finally got back to work around two weeks ago but still was not able to attend to my blogs since I had so much piled up work that needed to be attended to – among other things. In addition to that, I discovered that SM had a problem – I could not rebuild old entries and I wasn’t sure what was wrong. The network at work in the meantime had become extremely slow (I am still trying to figure out what the cause is – whether it’s a file sharer or one of those all too frequent worms) and so I was unable to do much online stuff such as trying to debug my Movable Type installation for SM. I tried replacing all the Movable Type files in case I’d made some sort of a mistake when I switched hosts (which I’d done just before Laurie came down BTW), I tried moving the Movable Type scripts to a different location on my server, I tried playing with different configuration options, I referred to the MT forums for days on end on an extremely slow connection – all to no avail.

I had installed Norton Personal Firewall just after I’d gotten back from vacation/marriage but I had not thought to test out rebuilding SM without the firewall. Or at least, I’d remember when I wasn’t at my computer that I should test without the firewall but never do it. Finally, I hit upon an MT forum entry which specifically mentioned that rebuilding and other activities on MT get affected when Norton Personal Firewall is on and how to get around it – disable the popup ad prevention feature in Norton Firewall. I did that and finally I was able to use my MT installation fully again – and this was on Sunday 🙂 Incidentally, the reason that I needed to rebuild all my old entries was because somebody kept on leaving strange and apparently pointless comments on one of my entries. I still have no idea what that was about .. unless they wanted people to visit their URL and while the comments and the URL’s were usually the same, the IP the comments came from was always different. Anyway, I deleted all these comments but could not rebuild the old entries due to the problems I had but now all that is done.

And yes, I’m back and hopefully will be posting more and will also start working on all those coding projects too but since I will not have Net access except from work, things are still going to be a bit slow – I still need to find a way to update my main site since that’s updated via Blog – I guess I should move my Blog installation to my work machine … So many things to do .. so little time :p

April 28, 2003

Look and learn?

I was talking to Jordan yesterday and she made a remark in talking about little girls dressing up in revealing clothes that made me start thinking along a completely different track. What she said was (and I quote) "Men will always look. Period. Always. It’s a thing with you guys – you are visual creatures. Many years of study and porn have proven this." But what started me thinking was not so much the "little girl" angle as much as the "men will always look" bit. I told her at that point that as a person who does not *always* look, I resented her remark and no, I’m not trying to sound holier-than-thou or to say that I’m some kind of a saint (far from it :p) but I was curious as to how others looked at this particular issue – both men and women.

Now when I’m in love with somebody, I just don’t look – it’s automatic … not something I force myself to do consciously. And to me, that seems natural – if you love somebody, you obviously should be happy being with that person, want to be with that person – so why would you go looking at anybody else? Of course, I too look at a pretty girl if I’m not otherwise attached and as Jordan said, I think that bit at least is natural – it’s just the *always* look part that bothered me 🙂 Incidentally, this is something that I’ve noticed about other people – that they might be in love with somebody but that does not stop them from drooling over somebody else. Is that normal? Is that how everybody else behaves? I don’t know … I’m just confused and trying to understand. I can always argue on the other hand that there is nothing wrong in just looking – it’s just that I don’t know how a majority of people look at this issue.

Now I’m not talking about being possessive and not wanting your partner to look at anybody else. I’ve gone through that in my own time. I have been in a relationship where I was faced with both extremes – this girl didn’t want me to even talk to any girl online (let alone look mind you) while she wanted to be free to do whatever she wanted to do – including go out to bars and dance with other guys … all this while claiming passionate love for me mind you. I never could reconcile that attitude with love. And of course, in my time, I’ve been guilty of being extremely possessive so I certainly can’t claim to have been so innocent myself but again, this is not what I’m talking about when I talk about the "looking" thing. I’m not talking about not doing something because your partner does not like it or because it is considered bad form – but rather, not doing it because you naturally don’t feel like it. But again, this might simply be a matter of individual preference and if so, all I can say is each to their own 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 8:18 am  |  8 Comments

April 12, 2003

Of love and other matters of the heart

I just finished watching a Tamil (Indian language, also one of the three major languages used in Sri Lanka) movie that moved me and also made me travel back in time. It was about this guy named Hari who is loved by a girl – Sapna – and who rejects her because he doesn’t love her but is in turn rejected by the girl he loves – Raji – because she doesn’t love him in return. Sapna is bitter and wants revenge but Hari is not bitter at Raji but instead wants to continue his life but says that he will always love Raji and want to see her happy. Added to this mix is Raji’s childhood friend (I forget his name) who also loved a girl but was rejected and is now slowly wasting his life away thinking about her. Hari advices this guy and tells him that the best respect he can show his love is for him to live his life with his head held high but the guy commits suicide because he can’t face the fact that the girl he loved is getting married. (Yes, committing suicide on the failure of your love, or even because your parents oppose your love, is fairly common in this part of the world …) Hari says that he cannot respect that guy because he took the coward’s way out. And of course, this being the movies, Hari finally does win the love of Raji but that’s another story …

The movie evoked a lot of feeling in me because I was in Hari’s position at one time in my life and I do understand his stand and agree with him. I loved a girl once for around ten years but in my case she loved somebody else. I did tell her that I loved her (after ten years), or I think I did but am not too sure since I wasn’t very coherent :p Anyway, she and I continued to be friends since I felt the way that Hari did but maybe I wasn’t as strong as Hari and so needed an excuse to blame the girl anyway or maybe it really was so (I can’t be objective since I am involved in it ..) but I felt that the girl took advantage of the fact that she knew that I loved her and would do anything for her still. Be as it may be, I left the country and lost all touch with her and so don’t know how things are with her anymore, even after my return.

I’ve loved others since then but have yet to find the kind of love I seek. I often wonder if this is because I expect too much from love – I expect it to be the way it is portrayed in books and the movies (at least some of the movies – probably not the Hollywood ones <g>) where love is not a passing infatuation and an excuse to jump into bed but is rather a strong bond, a true understanding between two individuals. Almost a linking of minds you could say. A union between two individuals who understand each other totally and want to spend their lives together because they can’t imagine living life apart from each other.

Of course, that does beg the question of what would I do if I found such a person but she didn’t love me? I guess the only thing I could do would be to cherish that love and go on, maybe things will change in the future and she might love me or maybe she won’t. Either way, there is always the memory of what you had and if you stay friends, you at least have a good friend even if you might not have a lover. Of course, I just have no idea if such love exists or if I’m just chasing a pipe dream. I know that such love exists from my end but is it just limited to me? Or are there others who feel like me? Others who search for such a love? Or is the rest of the world just jaded people who know that all such things are just fine confections woven for our entertainment and I am the only naive fool around? :p I don’t know and to be honest, I don’t think I care either. What I feel and what I dream of will always be real to me and even if I don’t find the kind of love that I look for, there is at least the hope of finding such a love to keep me going …

January 10, 2003

I see you …

I don’t know where I heard this story but I heard somewhere that when a hunter comes at a monkey with a gun that the monkey closes its eyes because it believes that the hunter can’t see it since it can’t see the hunter. Jen seems to be in the same category since she has redirected both the domains I pointed to yesterday to her other domain – probably in the hope that if the evidence isn’t there, then she didn’t do it :p OK, this is the last time I’m going to drag up the subject of Jen (hopefully, unless she finds somebody stupid enough to hijack this domain – as she has been trying to do …) but since she took out her sites, most of what I wrote yesterday probably makes no sense – so I’ve updated the entry for yesterday with a link to a page which contains the actual entry that Jen had up on her site – along with a screen capture in case she claims she never wrote any of it (you never know with her :p) That’s it about Jen … No more 🙂

Thank you all for your kind support and comments yesterday 🙂 As I’ve remarked before, it is great to have such good friends and none of you have even met me! It can never be a bad world with people such as you in it 🙂

As I think I mentioned a while back, I’ve been reading "The Early Del Rey" and while his work reflects a lot of those times (it was around World War II), it has such a lot of characters that I liked that I found myself drawn into the stories over and over again. It makes me wish (again!) that I could write like that or that I lived in those times – though I probably would have hated it since I wouldn’t have had access to computers :p I’m reading a set of five short novels by Lester Del Rey now called "Gods and Golems" and that too seems to be very, very interesting. I’ll probably write more about it eventually 🙂

I’ve decided to switch over the tagboard to my own installation of QBoard since I do love the features of QBoard and I might as well make use of the QBoard installation since I’ve spent so much time on it already :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:58 am  |  3 Comments

January 9, 2003

The old order changeth …

As you may have noticed, all things Jen have disappeared from these pages except for her old entries :p I was going to remain silent about her departure since I would have had to talk about somebody else in here if I were to talk about the reasons and the events behind her departure. But now Jen has seen fit to publish a set of lies, half-truths and slander at her site [Update: guess she doesn’t like it when somebody else talks about her :p Here’s what she originally had to say] about me and I am getting tired of her doing this whole oh-look-poor-Jenni-all-alone-in-the-world-and-so-put-upon shtick and am going to say my side of the piece 🙂 Incidentally (this is for Jen’s benefit :p) she might see fit to revise certain bits of her entry after reading this (she has a habit of doing that but more on that later) to make herself look good but I have to warn her that I have screen shots and copies of her page as it stands now and will publish them here if she does do so :p

First of all, I didn’t need to "run a script for my password" as she says because she gave me her GoDaddy password to do name server setup for her hosting business since she couldn’t figure out how to do that herself – I have no idea why she needs to lie about me having her passwords, unless of course, it makes her statements look stupid and a blatant bunch of lies :p Secondly, she gets so drunk at night she can hardly remember what she did towards the early hours of morning (such as asking me to transfer over to my own name since *it’s my domain that she bought for me*) and incidentally, she does not stay up for my sake – if you really want to know why she stays up, you might want to go over to her other domain. It’s just interesting that somebody who keeps on saying that she hates liars, turns out to be such a big liar herself but then again maybe she just hates the competition :p

I realized she was lying about almost everything during the recent *hacker incident*. She had originally plagiarized an entry from an online source and the hacker caught her at it (read the comments). Then she goes and edits the entry to look as if she had had the link to the original entry all along. I would have been taken in myself except for the fact that I was using BlogMan and had the original entry (without the link) on my machine and I asked her casually if she’d had the link there originally because I didn’t remember seeing it and she tells me brazenly that yes, she’d always had the entry there. I then realized that I couldn’t trust her to be truthful and when she wanted to move and wanted me to pay for the UHaul (knowing full well that I didn’t have a credit card) and then got angry at me for not paying, I decided that it was time to get out. Weirdly enough, my credit card arrived the next day and I got my own hosting and moved my domain over to my new host since I knew she would be vindictive enough to shut down the domain if she could.

True to form, she sends out an e-mail (ostensibly to all her hostees) saying that anybody who uses MT on their site will have their account deleted on Wednesday (today over there in the US) if they don’t remove MT or move – and I was the only one who was using MT on her server (or at least she thought I was still on her server :p). Then she sends out the same e-mail again a couple of days later *in case somebody didn’t get it* – probably because she saw that my site was still up. She must have gone to delete my account today and found that she couldn’t get offline and then gets even more vindictive and starts a whole bunch of lies. Ah well …
They have a saying here in Sri Lanka that "if you lie with dogs, you wake up with fleas" – I guess the same holds true for the female of the species … I’m just glad that I never did :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:57 am  |  6 Comments

December 16, 2002

Sons and relationships …

I really hate talking about other people and/or washing my dirty linen in public but I guess sometimes you have to do what you believe is right and this is one of those moments. Jen has seen fit to comment on something which involves my son in response to something my ex-wife posted on the tagboard. Yes, Jonathan is not my birth-son but I’ve known him since he was about six months old and I am the only father he has ever known. I’ve seen him grow up to be a four year old and I’ve washed him, fed him, taken care of him, played with him and comforted him when he was sad or hurt. (OK, my ex- will say that I did none of these enough but the fact remains that I did do all of these things :p) Through all that time, I was the only father he knew and still I am the only father he knows and the fact that I am his Dad will never change because *he* considers me to be his father. The day that he says "you are not my father" then maybe it will change but even that I am not sure of because to me he probably will always be my son even if he doesn’t consider me to be his father.

So that might bring up the question as to why I left him if I consider him to be my son and he thinks of me as his father. I guess I can give many answers but none of them would really make any sense to anybody at all without all the background information and the background information cannot be given because it involves too many people and too many of their own stories that they might not be willing to have me reveal here. Suffice it to say that I felt that the reasons were justified at that time … But just because I left him does not make him not my son – he still is my son.

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Posted by Fahim at 11:47 am  |  1 Comment

December 7, 2002

Meeting of minds and clashing of souls

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this page but my only excuse is that I’ve been fairly busy with so many other things – but that really is no excuse since this is supposed to be a reflection of my thoughts and I shouldn’t put my thoughts on hold <g> Anyway, I’ve been busy and then I was in Kurunegala and now I am finally back. Even though it’s a Saturday, I went to work since dial-up costs are prohibitive here (you have to pay for even local calls) and Net access is cheap at work since it’s free and I was missing Jen since I’d been at home for the last couple of days with very brief forays online to talk to her. So I rushed to work so that I could talk to Jen and catch up on all that had been happening in her life.

While I was talking to her however, I heard some great news from another friend of mine. Since it is something personal about somebody else, I will not go into details here but suffice it to say that I have been vouchsafed the power of prayer once again 🙂 I have always known that God is listening if you pray to him but sometimes it is nevertheless surprising when you receive a response so quickly – does that mean you have no faith or just that you don’t expect God to respond quickly? I don’t know … But I just know that God is listening.

Jen and I talked through the day while I worked on a variety of things – including installing SP1 on my notebook machine which I took to work with me. How well do we know anybody around us? Sometimes we think we know everything about somebody and then a casual remark opens up a whole new area of their lives that we never knew about and we find ourselves pleasantly surprised (or shocked/horrified etc. but this particular instance was a pleasant surprise – nothing negative at all :p) to find that there is a meeting of minds between yourself and the other person on a subject that you thought they wouldn’t be interested in at all. I treasure such moments of discovery about any of my friends. Maybe it’s because it’s just another cementing of the bond between them and me or maybe because it reaffirms that I am not alone in this world in the way I think or look at things – then again, it might simply be because I’ve found something else to talk about with them. Whatever the case maybe, I do cherish such moments and now that I look back at this entry, I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this :p

November 17, 2002

Now you see it, now you don’t!

I moved out of my main site for years (Tripod) yesterday and it is possible that some people got the redirection notice and then today you’ll notice that I am back at Tripod :p Well, that’s called the quick change trick :p I moved over to Jen’s domain since she agreed to give me a sub-domain of my own but she didn’t realize till I’d moved in that my site takes close to 20MB :p She wasn’t too happy with that and bought me my own domain at Only problem is that I didn’t want to move to a new domain – the only reason I’d moved in the first place was because I would be hosted by Jen. So I picked up and moved back to Tripod :p Jen is adamant that she’ll even pay for hosting the domain but I really don’t want her to go to all that expense and so am back at my free site plus the mirrored ones by kind courtesy of KuhnDog and Lyon. So that’s the story behind that 🙂

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Posted by Fahim at 1:18 pm  |  No Comments

November 9, 2002

Life’s a merry go round :p

No entries for the past few days – for one thing, it was the fasting, for another work, for another I was too busy talking to my baby, Jen and for another I had a job interview to attend :p Speaking of Jen, she’s been busy setting up her domain and hosting other people and building a network of sub-domains and services around her domain. The latest thing she’s done is to set up a Link Exchange and I’ve just signed up for it myself 🙂 It’s pretty neat since it’s a system which runs off of PHP code and a mySQL database – it rotates button ads for people who sign up. Kinda like the webrings but one at a time – OK, so more like banner ads but instead of banners, it’s buttons :p

What else have I been up to? Nothing much actually … doing a fair bit of tech support for various people for some of my software but that’s about it. Oh yeah, the job interview – I got called up day before yesterday and went for it yesterday. The company is set up along the lines of Microsoft in that they have a huge campus where all their people work etc. Of course, unlike MS, I don’t think anybody lives on the campus itself but I heard the figure of US$ 30 million bandied about as the cost for setting up the place and in Sri Lanka that’s a *lot* of money! They do a lot of Solaris development but they actually wanted a guy who could come up with solutions rather than a hard core coder. Somebody who could tell them how to do something that they want done. I don’t even know if I’ll get offered the job but since it will probably mean that I won’t get to talk to Jen as much (or not at all – which is worse) I have decided that I will not take up their offer.

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Posted by Fahim at 3:01 pm  |  1 Comment

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