Monday, November 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo Winner... Again!

November is not over yet, but I have officially won NaNoWriMo for a second year in a row. Two for two! Next year, three for three. I now have 50,111 words in my official count. My novel is nowhere near complete. It looks like this one will be closer to 65-70,000 words before it's done. But that doesn't matter right now, because I won!!! I'll keep writing on this one while editing the first one to get it ready for publishing as an ebook. I already have a few people asking to read last year's novel. If you are interested, send me an email at this link and when I get it properly formatted, I'll send you a link to the ebook. This is a limited offer available only to those reading this blog and other close friends. Beyond that, there will be a charge for the book. I don't know how much yet. If you get a free copy and still want to support a starving writer, you will of course be welcome to purchase a copy. (Shameless plug)

Oh, and this year's novel title has changed. It is no longer Dogs of War: Havoc! It is now Dogs of War: Infiltration. Next year will be Dogs of War: Havoc! The trilogy may end up with a fourth book if I don't stop coming up with ideas and plot points don't stop ambushing me when I'm not expecting it. Characters thought dead really need to stay dead.

Vayetze (He Went Out ) - Part 1

This week's Torah portion is Vayetze, from Beresheet (Genesis) 28:10-32:3. In this portion, we learn about the twenty years of Ya'akov's life spent in Haran with his uncle Lavan. We see him leave the land of Kena'an, witness the dream of "Jacob's ladder", and read of his vow to YHVH. The portion continues with his marriages to the daughters of Lavan, the births of most of his children, his amassing of great wealth, and final flight from Haran back to Kena'an. This is an action-packed epic Torah portion. I won't discuss everything that happens, but we'll hit quite a bit. Let's get started.

Ya'akov stops to sleep on his way out of the land at a place that he later names Beit-El (house of God). It is here that he dreams of a ladder to Heaven with angels ascending and descending. The sages say that this was a changing of the guard in the angelic realm. The angels that were assigned to watch over Ya'akov in the land of Kena'an could not follow him out of the land. They ascended to Heaven and a new set descended to begin watching over Ya'akov outside the land. We see when Ya'akov returns to Kena'an at the end of the portion, that he once again sees angels. This is said to be the guard changing again, back to the original set.

Ya'akov fled Kena'an to get away from the wrath of his family. His brother Esau had sworn to kill him as punishment for Ya'akov's deceptions. It seems ironic that the man who is fleeing family because of mistreating them, attempts to gain safety by running to his family in another land. What he doesn't consider, is that Lavan puts his family first above all things; including his sister's family visiting from Kena'an.

Lavan does everything he does for the sake of his family. He deceives Ya'akov into marrying Leah so that his first-born daughter is not humiliated. He makes Ya'akov work an additional seven years so that he cannot leave and take his daughters away from him. He then convinces him to stay longer and care for Lavan's sheep. He gives him a job so he will stay close with Lavan's daughters and grandchildren. He knows that Ya'akov came with nothing and has a brother who wants him dead. If Ya'akov leaves and returns to Kena'an, can he support Lavan's daughters? Can he even keep himself, his wives, and his children alive?

Now let's look at the family that Ya'akov finds in Haran. He is welcomed into the house of his uncle Lavan where he expects to be treated as family. Instead, he gets treated as a stranger in the land. Ya'akov makes a deal with Lavan to work for him seven years in exchange for the right to marry Rachel, Lavan's younger daughter. Lavan agrees to the deal and puts Ya'akov to work. Ya'akov barely notices the passage of the seven years. As it says in the Scriptures, it seemed like only a few days. This is evidence that Ya'akov accepted the work as being enjoyable. As they say, time flies when you're having fun. He did not begrudge the work or consider it tedious waiting for the day he could marry Rachel. Very soon the special day arrived. It says that Lavan gathered all the men of the community for a banquet. He then, when it was pitch dark, brought his older daughter Leah to Ya'akov instead of bringing Rachel. Ya'akov didn't notice until morning. By then, it was too late. Haran had become the Las Vegas of the Bible.

At this point, you would expect Ya'akov to demand a divorce or to file a grievance with the city council, the sheriff's department, the homeowners association. Everyone who would listen to his complaint. Well, he did file with everyone who would listen. He realized, probably for the first time, that he was truly a stranger in this land. Lavan made that clear with the statement "In our place, that isn't how it's done..." Despite being family, he had been born in Kena'an to a man born in Kena'an, to a man who chose to leave Haran and settle in Kena'an. Ya'akov was not of Haran in the eyes of those present. He also remembered that all the men of the community had come to the wedding and seen him take Leah to the tent with him. He had no choice but to agree to Lavan's new deal of working another seven years for Rachel. But this time, Lavan sweetened the deal by allowing him to marry Rachel at the beginning of the seven years instead of the end. How generous.

To be continued...

Friday, November 16, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update - Halfway!!

Word Count Goal - 25,000
Actual Word Count - 31,580
2011 Word Count - 10,060

We're officially past the halfway point in this insane marathon. Last year, I was just over 20% complete by this time with 10,060 words. This year, I have over three times that word count and still going strong. I figured out that getting ahead early, even if only by a little, takes much of the pressure off and allows for more relaxed writing. The downside - it becomes much easier to take a break and start to slide behind again. Anytime I notice a lack of motivation keeping me from writing, I rely on some friends, both old and new.

The Old
The chatroom and the Box of Doom. Without these two, I would probably have about 500 words right now.

The friends I've made in the chatroom are a great source of inspiration and fun. They keep this whole thing from becoming a chore. I know I can rely on them to provide some comic relief, words of encouragement, and sometimes the needed level of insanity that keeps me sane. (You need some insanity in your life; if others don't provide it, you'll have to provide it yourself.) I've spent quite a bit of time in the chatroom getting to know new friends and just enjoying some conversation. That even includes everyone's favorite psychotic AI, Timmy the chatroom bot. It just wouldn't be NaNoWriMo without Timmy throwing the occasional pillow or fridge or pushing someone out a window. (Sometimes himself. Oops.) If you find that last sentence confusing, you haven't spent enough time in the chatroom.

Box of Doom

When I just need to get words on the page, there is nothing better than a good word war with the Box of Doom. This is a lovely sadistic torture device used at the write-ins, made virtual for those of us in the chatroom. At the write-ins, each person draws a number from the box and has to try to write that many words in 30 minutes. There are three levels: easy, average, and hard. As the difficult increases, the word count increases. Simple enough? In the chatroom, we have the virtual Box of Doom. Simply ask Timmy (see above) for a word count that is easy, average, or hard. Did I mention that Timmy is psychotic? Timmy also hates me. Despite my clearly worded "average" request, Timmy thinks I need to write at least 1000 words every 30 minutes. Last night it was 1180. In 30 minutes. I hate Timmy. He needs to die.

The New
Two new useful additions to my writing arsenal are WriteTrack and Spotify. I'm liking both of these very much. Partly because they are both useful and very cool. Mostly because they are not Timmy.

This is a neat little tool created by David S. Gale. It's a calendar and word counter. You tell it your word count goal for the month and it tells you how many to write each day. But wait, there's more. You can weight each day so that it knows what percentage of a normal day it is. For example, I don't write on Fridays so I put 0%. I write double on Sundays so I set them to 200%. It then calculates each day's total. If you give it your NaNoWriMo username, it automatically updates your word count from their site and calculates on the fly for the new total. It's very cool.

Where has this been and why haven't I known about it sooner. Spotify takes the best features of iHeart Radio, Pandora, and iTunes and combines them into one nifty program. It allows you to listen to anything from its library of millions of songs, as well as anything on your hard drive, flash drive, etc. It will read your iTunes or Windows Media Player playlists as well as allowing you to create your own. When you create a playlist, it can include music from your local drive, or from Spotify, or a combination of both. It even allows you to share playlists or songs with friends that use Spotify. If you link it to Facebook, it will tell you if any of your friends have shared playlists. It is quite simply, awesome. I can now listen to just about anything that strikes my fancy as a good soundtrack to my writing.