Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/12/17

I typed the word “snigger”. Apparently, I have never done that before. At least not on this version of Word.

“I'd never do that,” he sniggered.

Makes sense to me. Spell check wanted me to change “snigger” to a much worse word with a very different meaning.

I generally ignore any and all spell check programs. That might be dangerous. No one types every wrod properly every time. But typos should reveal themselves during the editing stage. And if I mix up homophones, spell check will never notice. “He new he wanted to where his Christmas Satan hat too make his skin Les pail.” None of those words are spelled incorrectly. There is not a single squiggly red line.

So Microsoft developed their own grammar check. It is terrible. Just for fun, I ran a grammar check. It wants me to change “Is this a miniseries?” to “Is these a miniseries?” I don't want to change that. Some differences are a matter of opinion, but this is just wrong. It also wants me to change “Is this a different battle?” to “Is these a different battle?” Come on. That's just illiterate. Maybe you can argue that since “miniseries” ends in S, grammar check thinks it is plural. But even so, it thinks “is these a” is correct. Is these a? Be these a? No blue lines.

Most of the spelling “errors” are proper nouns that Microsoft has never heard about. I had to add “Angeles” to the dictionary because it kept underlining Los Angeles. I would never expect them to know every city in the world, but is Los Angeles an obscure little village?

Sometimes, the spelling suggestions are just crazy. It wants me to change “campout” to “cam pout”. Compound words can be a matter of opinion, but then why not suggest “camp out”?

One of the flight attendants quietly approached Alicia during the pre-flight safety video.
The top spelling corrections are “per-flight”, “ore-flight” and “pee-flight”. Pee-flight? What kind of book does Microsoft think I'm writing? And what is an ore-flight? This is not a book about miners.

“Are you trying to sniff out if I'm a lesbo?”
Lesbo is slang, so I can understand it not being in the dictionary, but the options are “boules”, “bootless” and “boneless”. Who accidentally types “lesbo” when trying to type “boules”? That's some serious, and seriously Freudian, dyslexia. But “boneless” is appropriate.

“She doesn't do walk-ons.”
The top corrections are “walk-nos”, “walk-ins” and “walk-obs”. I've never even heard of walk-nos or walk-obs.

When Tyler lotioned Cheryl's back in turn, Cheryl felt goose bumps running up her neck.
Spell check suggests “motioned” or “lotion ed”. I can see people typing “lotion” when they meant “motion”, but “lotion ed”? “When Tyler lotion ed Cheryl's back in turn, Cheryl felt goose bumps running up her neck”? That's wrong in any universe.

They saw DVDs of the Maddie O'Laine movies, but that was like watching someone else.
The corrections are “DVD” and “DVD s”. I realize that people don't seem to understand apostrophes anymore and will type “DVD's” when they want it to be plural, even though that is possessive, but spell check is supposed to know more than some teenager on Facebook. “They saw DVD...” and “They saw DVD s...” are as wrong as wrong can be.

Her first date was with a young sommelier, played by a struggling actor and graduate student at USC.
The top corrections are “isomerism”, “somewhere” and “slimmer”. Sommelier is a French word, so maybe it should be changed to freedom server, but isomerism is the arrangement of atoms. I can assure you that her date was most certainly not with a young isomerism.

They all went to Gracias Madre, a popular Mexican restaurant in West Hollywood.
“Cadre”, “Madge” and “Padre”. Gracias Cadre might be a good name for a restaurant, but it definitely changes things. The interesting part is that padre is in the dictionary, but not madre. Maybe Microsoft thinks madres should stay in the kitchen, but not have any acknowledgment in their efforts.

Cheryl nursed her niçoise salad and sat silently during most of the conversation.
“noise”, “nisei”, “Nisei”. Spell check knows Nisei but not niçoise. So it hates the French but not the Japanese. I guess that's a step in the right direction. But what is a Nisei salad? Maybe I don't want to know. Now, maybe “Cheryl nursed her noisy salad and sat silently during most of the conversation” works, but that is not what I want to say.

She was Anita Lickalott, a young coed at BJU.
“Allotropic”, “Littoral”, “Glottal”. I can see it not knowing Lickalott. Obviously, that's a joke name. Allotropy is another chemistry term, but this book is not about anthropomorphic chemistry characters. Anita Glottal fits, although that would be far more esoteric than I intended. Anita Littoral has nothing to do with it, unless the implication is that she is always wet. But again, Lickalott is better. The scene in question is not supposed to be subtle.

If you ever write an educational cartoon about chemistry, feel free to use Anita Allotropic.

It might be a few generations before computers are ready to replace a human proofreader.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/11/17

Sometimes, during early drafts, I will put placeholder dialogue where I know I will go back and fix it later. Later is now. I'm going through all the dialogue and fixing whatever needs fixing. It is not just placeholders. Sometimes a character says something that makes sense in the first draft, but after some changes, it simply does not work anymore.

Editing is almost like time travel. What you change over here can impact what happens over there. When you make the door in chapter 10 red instead of blue, you have to go back and make sure it is always red. Maybe someone casually mentions the blue door in chapter 3.

I read a book two or three years ago where one of the characters was named Emma half the time and Anna the other half. It was definitely the same character. The author obviously changed it at some point but forgot to change each mention of the name. I don't know how their editor never noticed. Maybe they relied on Microsoft spell check.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Great Wall of China
29. Side Effects

According to everyone, I will recover somewhere between 6 months and 2 years. Most of the bigger milestones happen in the first 6 months. That is when they decide if you are going to come back all the way or if you better get used to something that will never be the same again. Generally speaking, at the 2 year point, that is the way it is going to be.

Except seizures. I never had any, and they took me off the anticonvulsants pretty quickly, but – this is the fun part – they could pop up at any time in the next 4 years. So you know all those jobs you can't have if you are susceptible to seizures? Those are all off the table. I will not be a truck driver, crane operator or military explosive ordnance disposal specialist any time soon. My dream of juggling chainsaws on a tightrope over a ring of fire at the Olympics are no more.

Some of the side effects that may or may not pop up in the next 6 months to 2 years include headaches, seizures, dizziness, depression, anxiety, irritability, emotional instability, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, hormonal disturbances, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, electrolyte abnormality, loss of motor control, loss of range of movement, formation of aneurysms and meningitis.

I am also at risk for changes in personality – disinhibition, apathy, impulsiveness, hypersexuality, loss of initiative, rage without provocation, inappropriate humor, poor social interaction, excessive swearing, lack of empathy, compulsive gambling, drug use; cognitive deficits – distractibility, impaired conversational skills, reduced processing speed, disrupted insight/judgment/train of thought; executive function deficits – problem solving, planning, multitasking, abstract reasoning. Further down the road, I am at greater risk for diabetes, stroke, epilepsy, brain tumors, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.

So there's always something to look forward to.

I have already had plenty of headaches. Fortunately, they are not nearly as bad as I expected. During surgery, they cut nerves. As they grow back, it feels like tiny knives. It comes and goes, and a little ibuprofen goes a long way. Sometimes just holding it makes a big difference. Nurse Xihua in Beijing gave me a great tip for dizziness. Whenever I get up from lying down, I turn sideways and lift my head up slowly. This is supposed to be better than rising like Dracula. I'm also supposed to avoid roller coasters for a while, but we don't have any of those outside of Ocean Park, which I'm boycotting anyway.

Dr Chen said I had a pretty good attitude. Maybe he was being sarcastic, but sarcasm is rare in China. I remember doing a lot of bitching and moaning in the hospital, but he seemed to think I was optimistic. I was always highly motivated to recover. I want to go back to work. The longer I wait, the harder that will be. Dancing is like playing a sport. The less time on the sidelines, the better. You want to get back into the game as soon as possible.

If the lack of empathy, disrupted judgment, rage without provocation and problem solving deficits ever kick in, I can always go into politics. As far as apathy and excessive swearing, fuck it. I don't give a shit about that.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pearl Harbor

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

“The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

“It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

“The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

“Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine islands. Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island. And this morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island. Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

“As commander in chief of the army and navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.

“I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

“Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.

“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

--President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 12/8/1941

John Lennon


You can shine your shoes and wear a suit
You can comb your hair and look quite cute
You can hide your face behind a smile
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside

You can wear a mask and paint your face
You can call yourself the human race
You can wear a collar and a tie
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside

Well now, you know that your cat has nine lives, babe
Nine lives to itself
But you only got one
And a dog's life ain't fun
Mamma, take a look outside

You can go to church and sing a hymn
You can judge me by the color of my skin
You can live a lie until you die
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/7/17

I'm a little concerned about the structure of the book. Most of the chapters take place in multiple locations. Rather than set up each new scene with an expositional "one day later" or something that spells out to readers that it is a new scene, I simply move from one to another. With different characters in a different location, it should be obvious that it is a new scene, but obvious is not what it used to be. Online, what used to be called obvious is now considered subtle. Subtle is now mass confusion.

My instinct is that anyone who reads books will easily understand. I'm hardly the first person in the history of the world to do this. But what kind of books are people reading these days? If you are used to Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, my books are never going to tax your brain. But a lot of people read a lot of crap. Modern authors dumb down far more than they should. It is not their fault. Modern publishers insist that everything has to be dumbed down because they don't have much confidence in their readers. Maybe they see books like Fifty Shades of Grey on the bestseller list and realize that Austen and Dickens had a very different audience.

It is all serials about vampires and zombies now, or books designed solely for a movie adaptation. If the great American novel is written today, it probably won't even be published. It won't test well with teenagers.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/6/17

During the first draft, I toyed with the idea of using movies about Los Angeles as chapter titles – like Sunset Boulevard, Chinatown, that sort of thing. The city is almost a character in this story, and it is more or less about life in Los Angeles. Movie titles made sense. The only problem is that most movies about Los Angeles have nothing to do with this story. A lot of them are noir private detective movies, and something like Boyz n the Hood would never work.

Before the second draft, I decided to title each chapter with wherever most of the action takes place – “West Hollywood”, “Santa Monica”. There is still a “Sunset Boulevard”, but it refers to the street, not the movie. Sunset Boulevard, the movie, is mentioned, but in the “Santa Monica Boulevard” chapter. That might sound confusing, but it makes sense in context.

Chapters do not have to have titles, but I have always used them. I will do something sooner or later without titles, but I don't think this is the book.

These are the movies I was going to use:

Chapter 1 – Slums of Beverly Hills
Chapter 2 – Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Chapter 3 – Rebel Without a Cause
Chapter 4 – The Player
Chapter 5 – Mulholland Drive
Chapter 6 – Real Women Have Curves
Chapter 7 – Short Cuts
Chapter 8 – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Chapter 9 – The Day of the Locust
Chapter 10 – To Live and Die in LA
Chapter 11 – Double Indemnity
Chapter 12 – The Big Sleep
Chapter 13 – LA Confidential
Chapter 14 – Less Than Zero
Chapter 15 – Valley Girl
Chapter 16 – Sunset Boulevard
Chapter 17 – Barton Fink
Chapter 18 – LA Story
Chapter 19 – Boogie Nights
Chapter 20 – In a Lonely Place
Chapter 21 – The Long Goodbye

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Great Wall of China
28. Doctor's Orders

Both of the main doctors in both parts of China agreed on the long list of things I was supposed to do and not supposed to do.

Get plenty of sleep at night and rest during the day when tired. Naps are highly encouraged.

This is pretty easy to follow. Everyone assumed there would be some sleep disturbance and irregular patterns, and I would probably need some kind of medication at night, but falling asleep was never really a problem. I had some funky dreams, but dreams mean you are sleeping. Lack of sleep is the enemy. Naps were never really my thing, but the more I pushed myself physically, the more I started to appreciate a quick siesta in the afternoon. I have become a fan of flooding my room with music, getting lost in rock and roll and drifting away.

Short walks around the block are good. Increase distance and duration as tolerated.

Other than having my head cut open, lying in bed all day was the worst part of the hospital experience for me. I like to get up and move around. I want to go for a run every day. I need to exercise. I am at the height of my professional powers. Stopping now is career suicide. In the hospital, dancing was out of the question. They let me take short walks as soon as I knew where I was and what was going on. At home, I took longer walks, but energy was never on my side. Lately, Lily and I have been partial to walks around the Kowloon MTR station or King's Park if I'm feeling adventurous.

Walking is such a simple thing that most of us take for granted, but when I got back from Beijing it was a lot harder than I wanted it to be. There was nothing wrong with my legs. I simply got far too tired far too quickly. Lily was a blessing every step of the way. She was my personal trainer, nurse and cheerleader. I could have walked alone, but there were too many risks in the beginning. I never had any seizures, but she protected me from the dangers of a big city and my own inability to concentrate. She also encouraged me to rest often. I probably would have pushed myself too hard. When you want to get back to normal immediately, it helps to have someone around to keep you from hurting yourself.

No alcohol or spicy food until approved.

This was always going to be easy to follow. I have never been a big drinker. I might have a drink or two at parties or a glass of wine on the rare occasion I'm at a fancy restaurant, but I never keep any alcohol in the house.

I love spicy food, and I live in a place where it is easy to find, but without a sense of smell, nothing tastes the same anymore. My appetite is gone, but I can't tell if that is because nothing has flavor or because I am not exercising as much. I used to eat like a horse because I was physically active. Now, I'm slow and plodding. I force myself to eat, not out of hunger, but because it is time to eat.

No sexual activity for at least 6 weeks.

This is funny and/or ironic given that one of the risk factors is hypersexuality. It goes in the same category as being given a million drugs and being warned not to become an addict.

This one was also easy to follow since I no longer have a boyfriend. No one had to wait around for me because there was no one to wait around. When you get exhausted just walking around the block, feel like you might vomit when you lie down flat and your boot camp haircut shows off a horror movie scar, feeling sexy is not a priority.

No driving or flying for 4 weeks.

I don't own a car. Hong Kong is not a good place to drive anyway. I like to drive, but I usually only get to when I'm out of town. I did, however, fly a week after surgery. That was mostly unavoidable. I suppose I could have stayed in Beijing for a month or taken a combination of trains and buses to Hong Kong, but that was never going to happen.

No strenuous activities – jogging, bicycling, aerobic exercise – for 4 months.

This is one of the hardest of the doctor's orders to follow. I like strenuous activity. Sitting on the sofa and watching TV all day is to me what jogging is to Chris Christie. Ever since I was knee high to kneehighs, I have needed to move. The best news I ever got was when the doctors said I should walk around a little rather than stay in bed all day. If the opposite were true, I would have gone insane.

We have a small gym in our building. I have used it off and on in the few years we have lived here. Given a choice, I would much rather go outdoors to run, bike or swim. Per doctor's orders and my own lack of stamina, walking was really the only thing I could do outdoors. The gym finally made itself useful. Lily made sure all the machines were at lower settings and kept an eye on the clock. In my opinion, anything less than 2 hours is pointless. She preferred the other side of 30 minutes. She had to kick me out every day, and we always argued about it, but the most important thing is that she went with me every day. I could never find a better trainer.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hailey's Novel Diary – 12/4/17

You might think that a car accident in a foreign country and emergency brain surgery would slow me down when it came to writing this book. You would be absolutely right. I went from writing almost every day to forgetting that there was anything to write. I had a pretty good plan and schedule for the second draft, but everything flew out the window. Turning on a laptop was not a priority in Beijing, even if I had one handy. Reading would have been too difficult at that point, and anyone who has ever written a book can tell you that you read far more than you write.

After I got home, I eventually started thinking about the book. The more I thought about the fictional characters, the less I thought about how physically limited I was. Spending time in a hospital really slowed me down, but since I can't go back to work for a while, my calendar was suddenly wide open.

Sitting in front of a computer for more than a few minutes was difficult at first, but there are ways around that. There is no law that says everything must be written while seated. And, here's the shocking part, plenty of books have been written over the years without any computers at all. Shakespeare had to dip a quill in ink. Imagine how long it took to write Hamlet that way. With more modern writing implements, I worked through the next few drafts quickly.

When I started back in March, I wanted to detail every step of the writing process. People are always asking me how I write books. This was supposed to give a little insight. After Beijing, writing the book and blog posts about it would have been too draining. Editing and rewriting was more important than describing how I was doing it. A full documentary of every step from first draft to publication is no longer an option. That ship was scuttled. But I think I might go through whatever is left. Maybe it is pointless to detail the first and final drafts while skipping everything in between, but shit happens. When plans don't work out, you adapt.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, which makes you wonder why I moved to Hong Kong. This is not a pumpkin pie kind of place. My roommates are Canadian, so their Thanksgiving is in October, but we always do it in November, as it should be.

Thanksgiving – proper American Thanksgiving – is about family and food. My roommates are my family, so they are always invited, whether we like it or not. I have not seen my biological family in years. They would say that is my fault. I say it is their fault. I'm in regular contact with a few people in Minnesota and they know about the recent bump on my head. So I can assume that my family knows as well. None of them have made any attempt to contact me. I would be genuinely surprised if they did.

Hong Kong has plenty of food. Maybe not traditional Thanksgiving food, but if you plan enough in advance, it can almost come close. This year, I can't taste anything. I can't tell the difference between a Birchwood caramel apple streusel pie and Chinese 湯圓. I could have had Thanksgiving dinner at McDonald's for all I knew. But we did not. We are not masochists. A quiet dinner at home was much better.

My boyfriend and I decided to take a break. Our second date was on Thanksgiving last year, so I suppose the timing was not too bad. Our problems have nothing to do with Thanksgiving, however. It was more selfishness than anything else – on both of our parts, but I'm going to go ahead and blame him.

And Thanksgiving was the day after my birthday this year. I've had better birthdays.

With no family, no boyfriend and flavorless food, I suppose I could sink deep into depression, but I have a lot to be thankful for. Not the least of which is that I live in a country where no one would point out that you are not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition. Paul said it's getting better all the time. John said it couldn't get much worse. I agree with Paul. It could always be worse. In my case, it could be a million times worse. John was clearly a pessimist.