Today’s guest for Poppy’s Birthday Bash is none other than the amazing Xara X. Xanakas. When I first dipped my toes in the murky waters of M/M writing, Xara was one of the first friends I made. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent the last few years making her crazy (or is that crazier?)! Why, you ask? Well, because Xara is a super geek and I’m widely known for my technologically challengedness!! (Yes, that is a word. No, I can’t prove it.) So for Xara’s 12 things, I couldn’t think of a better post than 12 geeky things every writer should know! Here is her list:
1. First and foremost: BACKUPS! Back up your manuscript. Back up your notes. Dropbox. Carbonite. External hard drive. Jump drive. Sign up. Buy them. USE THEM! Attach the USB drive and click-and-drag your files over to it. It's that simple, and it can save you a world of heartache should your computer decide it's time to take a permanent nap.
Poppy: Oh yes, I do this. I mean, I didn’t used to do this, but then Xara found out. Boy howdy, did she go all Texas on me! Never fear, I now have Dropbox, an external hard drive, AND a jump drive. And I use them. Oh yes, I do! I promise, Xara!
2. While we're talking about backups, take a minute to check out your bookmarks. Look at all those links. How much would it suck to have to try to rebuild that list? Back those bad boys up. Usually it's as simple as going to the bookmarks menu and exporting the list as HTML. I'm sure you know what I'm going to say next...copy that file to your jump drive/external drive/Dropbox... wherever you are saving your data. If disaster strikes, you can import the HTML file back into your browser of choice and find your perfect leading men again.
Poppy: Oh…I haven’t done this in a while. Probably ought to do that since I’m bragging about my backing-up skills.
3. Ever get midway through your masterpiece and have your character suddenly decide his name is really Mark instead of Tim? I had one character decide his name wasn't "Dom" any more. No worries. Global replace can be your best friend when that happens. Unfortunately, it can be your worst enemy too. One of my guy's brother became "Sammy", but they also started using 'conSammys' and had sculpted 'abSammyens'. Yeah. Ooops. Take an extra minute and make sure you're selecting "Match Case" and "Match Whole Word" to help minimize those little gotchas, or take the time to replace one at a time rather than replacing all in one fell swoop.
Poppy: “conSammys”…Snickersnorts. Did he rip open the conSammy package with his teeth before rolling it on?
4. Keyboard shortcuts. Learn them. Use them. Love them. Whether you're on a Mac or a Windows box, they do the same thing and make your life so much easier. There are the standard ones: Control/Command+X/C/V for cut/copy/paste. Control/Command+S to SAVE (early and often as you're working). Control/Command+W to close. And Control/Command+Z to UNDO that delete. Did you know you can use the Shift+Arrow keys to highlight text? And if you hold down the Alt/Option key at the same time, you can highlight the whole word? And Shift+Alt/Option+Delete will delete a whole word at a time? That can certainly cut down time when you want to move whole chunks of text.
Poppy: Hey! You never told me that last one. I’d practice, but I don’t want to delete anything in this post by accident. You have met me…it would happen.
5. You may be sitting at Starbucks, drinking your latte and using their free Wi-Fi to read this. But if you don't like the smell of coffee roasting in the afternoon, you can find free Wi-Fi almost anywhere. How about people watching at a hotel lobby? Even some parks have free Wi-Fi these days. Get out of the dark hipster hovel and look around.
Poppy: Mmm. Latte. Wait….what were you saying?
6. BUT don't check your bank account while you're doing it. Or pay your bills, or add money to your PayPal account out there. Hackers come in all shapes and sizes, and the more information you put out there on an unprotected network, the more vulnerable you make yourself. It is easy for someone to sit in the corner and collect your network traffic to find your unencrypted Gmail passwords. I appreciate that you've found the perfect penis enlargement medication, but I really don't need that. Thanks anyway. And I'm sure someone is saying something bad about me somewhere. You don't need to tweet me the links.
Poppy: Yes, Xara. My home network is now secured. I won’t let my neighbors use my internet out of the kindness of my heart anymore! But are you *sure* you don’t need to look into that penis enlargement medication? Jeff and Brad might be amused. J
7. What can you do to help cut down on someone snarfing your passwords? Enable your firewall. It's built in to your OS. Use it. And check it periodically to make sure it's still enabled. Some nefarious software downloads will disable it, and some OS updates will turn off the firewall by default. Protect yourself by making sure your firewall is enabled, especially when you venture out into the big, bad world.
Poppy: Um, Xara? How do I check my firewall? Oh, and I know that OS means Operating System. Just in case there are any others out there like me who don’t know some of the abbreviations. Xara has taught me well…for the most part. I like to think I’m a geek-in-progress.
8. While you're at it, you might want to enable Private Browsing. This stops your browser from storing your history and cache locally. If you hop on your parent's computer while you're visiting, you might not want your mom to find those pictures the next time she launches her browser and manages to bring up her history window. You can also change your settings in your browser to keep it from storing any cache or history. This can save you some embarrassment when you ask your computer guru neighbor to help you out. You never know what they're going to find when they start digging on your system.
Poppy: I don’t have to worry about this one. Xara is my computer guru…and she usually likes what she finds in my history. J Heck, who am I fooling, she’s given me most of the links!
9. If you want to know more about any of these suggestions, Google them. The answers are out there. You can find out almost everything about anything out there in the webverse. It's a powerful tool to help make your writing stronger. Avoid glaring errors (like driving through Portland on your Seattle to Vancouver trip) with a simple search. The truth is out there somewhere…
Poppy: Google-fu is strong with Xara. It doesn’t matter what random question pops into my wildly random mind, Xara finds the answer for me before I’ve even opened a google window. She’s just that good. One of these days, I should make a list of the weird stuff she’s found for me. I think I’ll start doing that…I’ll make a bookmark! Which I will back up!
10. Which reminds me: Wikipedia is a great starting point for information. Just beware - it is community driven content. That means that anyone can add anything to a wiki page, regardless of accuracy. Simply put, trust but verify anything you find on Wikipedia. Do a quick crosscheck of the information you find out there. News reports don't rely on a single source when the report breaking news. You shouldn't either.
Poppy: Yep, yep. This is great advice. I’ve found some fantastic information through Wiki, usually by checking the links at the bottom of the post. Other books to read, articles, and the like. Hey, did you know you can make a “book” of Wiki articles? It’s a great trick for researching huge topics! I like to gather all of them into one “book” and download it as a pdf. That way, I don’t have to worry about losing track of something that interested me. (Over in the left column of Wiki, under the print/export tab, you’ll see “create a book”. Give it a try!)
11. So now you've outlined your story and now you're all set to write, but it's time to take the kids to practice. You don't want to have to pack up your system and lug it out in the bleachers. What can you do? Go portable. Dropbox is available on all smartphones and tablets. So are any number of writing tools. I use QuickOffice on my phone, Kindle Fire, and iPad, and Dropbox to sync the files. I can start writing on my tablet, pick up where I left off on my laptop, and review it on my phone in line at the store. Your App Store will have a writing program that will suit your needs and budget. GoogleDrive is available online across all your gadgets.
Poppy: Oh…Xara! We need to discuss! My Kindle Fire just arrived and I haven’t had a chance to explore it yet. You mean I can *write* on my Kindle Fire? What? What what? I’m soooo going to talk to you about this just as soon as I get this posted.
12. Or, if you want something even simpler, there’s always paper and pencil. Low-tech and old school, sometimes unplugging is the best option. There’s something to be said for the feeling of words appearing on paper as they tumble out of your head. Your writers’ block may be caused by information overload. Remove all powered implements of mass distraction and go back to your wooden #2 pencil and connect with the paper in a tactile way.
Poppy: My absolute favourite of all your geek-tastic tips! Bust it out old school. I love it. J
I hope these tips helped you. Now, go get your geek on and spin me a story! I’m waiting...
After you do your backups.
Need inspiration? Here’s a few questions Spouse had for you:
Poppy: Hey now! I never said Spouse could ask questions! Doggonit! You know he’s got an evol streak, right? Oh wait, of course you do. You’ve been married to him for a decade or two…oh well, here goes…
1. What is the meaning of life?
42? No really, Spouse, that’s a question for a better geek than me. I do know that having friends like you and Xara are one of the most important things. Oh, by the way…Thank you! Ha! I got you again!
2. Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?
Jimmy Hoffa. Wiki told me so it must be true.
3. Speaking of buried, where the heck is Jimmy Hoffa?
Is this a trick question?
Xara X. Xanakas decided years ago to embrace her weirdness. A friend first described her that way to the man who’s been her husband for over twenty years. That formula fits her, and she figures if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Being Texan, her crush on cowboys comes natural, but the techie in her loves to show nerds a good time. She relishes all things different, and brings saucy style to her writing. Whether wrangling a wayward ranch hand or adding another critter to here were-menagerie, Xara strives to make the outlandish appealing. She’ll make you quirk a brow and snort with laughter, and that’s all right by her. Xara believes that unique is best and happily ever after is the icing on the cookies.