Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Build Your World

Filed under: Fun,Life Goals,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now you have a story and the characters in it, but what about the rest of your world?

Most people think that only fantasy or science-fiction writers have to create a world for their writing, but even writers who create contemporary stories create their worlds. They just create a fictional world based more closely to our real world, which is pretty subjective in any case.  I’ve been assuming that you are following these posts in order this month, but there’s certainly no reason that you should start with a story and not your world.  I know that I often start with a setting when I’m thinking of stories and, especially when I’m thinking of fantasy stories, a map is often a great place to start.  In fact, in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card writes about starting a novel by essentially doodling a map.  And, thanks to the internet, there are an almost endless number of pages about making maps.  Let’s start with A Guide to RPG Mapmaking.  It’s focused on fantasy role-playing games, but everything in the guides and tutorials are applicable to other kinds of fantasy maps.  And, if you like that, check out Observations of the Fox: Map Tutorials for even more details on creating detailed maps.  Most of the techniques there are pretty applicable to any tools you might use, and there are many to choose from, but if you’re serious about making maps and aren’t a professional artist, I highly recommend ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer.  It’s not incredibly expensive, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but I think it’s worth the investment in time and money for some of the results.  To see what some of those results can be, with practice, as well as Campaign Cartographer specific tutorials, be sure to visit Ralf Schemmann’s site Maps and More.
And, if you just want some inspiration, check out Fantastic Maps or Fantasy Cartography by Sean Macdonald.

Of course, you may not need a map at all, but want to create some other details about your fictional world to make it seem more real.  For that, I humbly submit Fantasist.net’s own World Building resources for your use, which includes, among other things, an on-line Timeline Generator to create a little history that your characters can refer to in conversation.  It also has a link to the incredibly complete Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede, who covers pretty much every detail you could ever ask yourself about a fictional world.

As much as I love worldbuilding, in recent years I’ve realized that I can easily get so lost in world and setting creation that I never get around to actually writing fiction!  Don’t fall into that trap!  Make enough world to get your story going and then let the world create itself as you go.  For some more helpful worldbuilding ideas along those lines, take a look at Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding.  It’s a very up-to-date approach and I found it quite helpful!

So, now you should have characters, setting and plot nailed down and you can start letting that marinate before actually starting National Novel Writing Month in November.  But, come back next week to see what final tools I have for you before you launch your NaNoWriMo project!

This post originally appeared at The Fantasist’s Scroll.


Create Your Characters

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Now that you’ve got a story idea, who are the people in it?

Often, a story is centered around a single, strong character, and you’ve already answered that question. But, what if you haven’t? Well, then, maybe I can help.
First, if you need to flesh out an entire character, including a bit of family tree and a biography, I’ll send you back to a site I referenced last week, albeit at a different page. They call it the Name Generator, but, really, if you choose the right options, it will make a pretty complete character sketch.
But, maybe you just need some specific details to fill in parts of your character sketch that seem light or are missing entirely. Again, I’ll send you to a site I’ve referenced before, Seventh Sanctum, where you can find an entire page of character-related random generators. They have everything from complete, generic character generators to genre specific character generators to name and naming specific generators. In fact, they have a full page of random naming related generators, if you’re having trouble in that regard. But, if you want to pick something more specific, you can check the Most Common Given Names, according to Wikipedia. Or, for last names, the Most Common Surnames. Surely, something there will suit.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include our very own Funny Name Generator!

Also, if you want to fill your character’s pockets with some random things, Fantasist.net has the Daily Carry Generator, for modern settings, and the Fantasy “Pocket Litter” Generator, for, well, more magical settings. And, contrary to my normal habit of hiding my source code, mostly because I’m a very, very amateur programmer and my code is generally junky, I’m giving you all a download link to grab the PHP files for those last two generators, which is available at the original post on Fantasist.net only. No warranty is expressed or implied by offering that code! Use at your own risk! (But, it’s pretty simple and shouldn’t cause you any grief.)

Come back next week for more world building tools!

This post originally appeared on The Fantasist’s Scroll.


Story Ideas

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Need a NaNoWriMo story idea?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this for a long time and you’re ready to start writing. If so, you’re golden and this is post is all academic for you. If not, this post is all about helping get you started.
First of all, you have time before everything kicks off, so if you haven’t read it, get No Plot, No Problem, which was written by the creator of NaNoWriMo and serves as a guide for a month-long novel writing experiment. Getting through this book will help you get focused on what kind of fiction you want to write and what you feel makes that genre great.
Secondly, I completely sympathize with you if you’re having a problem nailing down a story idea. When I was in school, my favorite exercises were the creative writing exercises. Why? Because when the teacher gave me a title or a theme for the story, those constraints automatically gave me a direction, a framework on which to build my story. Now, when the story ideas are totally open-ended, I find myself floundering lost in the vast ocean of possibilities. One way to help reduce those endless possibilities is to go back to some external constraints. And, that’s where the internet’s vast collection of random generators comes in handy. Some of those are what I’m actually sharing with you this week, to help you get started.

The first place to check out is the mother-lode of all random generators, Seventh Sanctum. They have a whole section especially devoted to writing. It’s pretty awesome. They have everything from simple story ideas to whole writing exercise challenges to plot twists and a whole lot more besides. They’ve really got your bases covered and I’ll most likely mention them again in this month-long series of posts.
If you’re writing science fiction, you definitely want to check out SciFi Ideas – Ideas and inspiration for science fiction writers. They seriously have the most amazing collection of random generators with a science fiction theme to them.
And, if you want to generate both a book title and section titles to help inspire your science fiction novel and keep you writing, hop over to the Space Adventure Title Generator and you can almost outline your entire book, albiet pretty randomly. Still, having those constraints and guides to keep you moving forward might be just what you need to keep going when the writing gets tough.
Finally, if those aren’t enough, you can check out Fantastist.net’s very own Story Starter random generator, which is based, in part on an exercise from the great book The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Judy Delton. If it makes any difference to you, that generator was at one time heavily featured in several grade-school creative writing curriculms. It’s pretty simple, but effective.

I know those links were a little heavy on the science fiction, but that’s just where I am with writing right now. And, the other stuff I’m going to share this month will, I hope, make up for that geeky focus.
Stay tuned!

This post originally appeared at The Fantasist’s Scroll.


Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Filed under: Fun,Life Goals,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I thought I’d try something new this year; early preparation.

To be clear, though, I’m not going to attempt NaNoWrimo this year, because I’m way too busy right now. However, in previous years, I would often post things to help people who were doing NaNoWriMo during the month of November, when the event occurs and this year, I thought I’d start early to let anyone who was writing get their prep out of the way. So, here in the earliest stages of planning, you hopefully have an idea what you may want to write and, while you’ve been thinking about it for weeks or months, maybe you haven’t captured those thoughts. In the past, I’ve used dozens of notebooks of every shape, size and description to scribble down every stray thought I may have had about whatever project I had in mind. The only problem is, I could never seem to get the ideas all gathered together and into a useful format. That’s where Evernote came in.
I started using Evernote because of the Getting Things Done method for staying organized. It’s a great system and, naturally, it gave me a way to collect all my ideas so I had easy access to them and one tool that people used in the GTD system was, Evernote. (For some more details on that, and a great introduction to the GTD system, check out David Allen’s setup document for Evernote. It’s well worth the $10!)
Once you’ve checked out Evernote, then go read their article Prepare for NaNoWriMo with Evernote. It’s got some great ideas for how to capture your story and character ideas via Evernote, which you can then reference on your writing computer or your smart phone. It’s pretty awesome!
And, if that wasn’t enough, they even have some great creative writing templates you can integrate into your personal creative writing notebook.

Trust me, it’s never to early to start planning and you will not regret using Evernote once you start!
So, let’s gear up for a month’s worth of creative writing resources in preparation for National Novel Writing Month!

This post originally appeared on the Fantasist’s Scroll.


More Free Music for Projects

Filed under: Fun,music,On Creativity,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

I can’t believe I didn’t include this last week.

Okay, so this may be a little boring for people who aren’t thinking about creating videos or setting their home movies to music, but, boring people with this blog has never stopped me from sharing something before, so I won’t let it now.  This free and mostly unrestricted resource requires a Google account of some kind to access, but I think it’s worth setting up a Gmail account to get to this amazing collection of audio.  It’s the free, YouTube Audio Library.  Notice, though, that I called it an audio library, not a music library.  That’s because half of this is music, much of which you can use without restriction.  But, the other half of it is a collection of relatively high-quality sound effects.  Now, I wouldn’t want to make a whole movie with this library, but, conceivably you could.  This has everything from music for every kind of emotion and scene, but also pretty much every generic sound effect you could ask for, from bullets to kids to Summer nights to pocket change hitting a wood table.
As free audio libraries go, it’s pretty complete.

Also, it’s been kind of a long week and y’all are lucky to be getting anything at all from this blog this Friday.  Maybe next week will be better.  Maybe not.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Project Music

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Full Moon

Or, more specifically, music for your projects.

Clearly, I’m not talking about a manufacturing project here, but, rather, music for your creative project.
Maybe you have a dream project that you’ve filmed on your iPhone and want to add some cool background music to your creation before uploading it to YouTube.  Or, maybe you need a little musical intro for the background of your podcast credits.  Or, something cool to add ambiance to your artisanal website.  Whatever you need, Music for Makers probably has you covered.  You can sign up for free and get limited numbers of tracks, sent to you one at a time on a daily basis.  Or you can pay and get more access. Just remember, you can use their music in as many personal and commercial projects as you like without paying royalties or including attribution, but you can not sell or redistribute that music in its original form.

If, however, you really just want some background noise to distract you from the hum of the fluorescent lights above your cubicle, try the free Zenmix, instead.  With this webpage, you can mix together various looped ambient sounds, like a waterfall or birdsong or rain, to create your own custom blend of white noise distraction from the terrible sounds your co-worker’s lower intestine is making after lunch.  Or whatever you may need a distraction from.  (And, all the tracks on Zenmix are from Music for Makers, which gives you an idea of what you can do with those tracks.)

So, there you go, that’s two free things for you this Friday.  Enjoy!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.


Sandwich Book

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Hmm, who doesn’t love sammiches?

Seriously, sandwiches are the best.
I particularly like peanut butter sandwiches, though my wife thinks the things I combine with peanut butter are mildly insane.  Frankly, I think if she would just try the peanut butter and sweet relish sandwich, she’d see just how sweet and savory combine to make something totally delicious!  Though, I completely understand her aversion to my much more experimental peanut butter with bleu cheese slices on pumpernickel.  It’s pretty fantastic, but not for the faint of heart or the peanut butter sandwich neophyte.  It’s pretty advanced sandwichery.
On the other hand, it’s not like I’m the first guy to make some wild combinations of flavors in a sandwich.  It’s been a pretty radical idea from the very start, but I think we’ve lost some of the art of sandwiching with our modern conventions surrounding food.  So, this week, I’m sharing a link to a public domain book from 1909 on the art of the sandwich; The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich.  It’s brought to you via the Public Domain Review and, while you can read it online, you can download the complete PDF for your own sandwich experiments.  There are some great ones in there.  I can’t say that the “Texas Sandwich” sounds all that traditionally Texas to me, or like something I’m eager to try, but the “Tip-Top Sandwich” just a few pages later sounds like a delicious culinary adventure.  And, “Peanut Sandwich No. 4” sounds quite interesting, if not exactly a part of any diet I’ve ever heard of.

How about you?  Have a favorite?  Or is there one from the book that sounds like something you’d try?
The weekend is about to start and the comments are open!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.


Building Resumes

Filed under: Career Archive,Geek Work,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

No, I’m not talking about building the skills that go on resumes, but the resume itself.

For reasons that are best left unexplored, I’ve been thinking about resumes lately.  Specifically, writing them and formatting them.  It’s a chore.  And, it’s hard to do well, frankly.  For example, I’ve been using the same basic resume format since I made my first resume almost thirty years ago.  Granted, I’ve moved some things around and dropped some of the earliest jobs, especially those that don’t relate to my current field, but the basic resume hasn’t changed.  I’ve started to wonder if that works against me, making me look antiquated and out-of-date.
So, I nosed around a bit and found two resume-building tools that might help me reformat all that, and, of course, I’m sharing them with you so you can get the advantage of my research.  Besides, let’s be honest, it’s about time to update your resume any way, isn’t it?

Well, no matter how you feel about your resume, here are the tools.
First, there’s Standard Resume.  It’s a free web-based app, but it does require a login which collects your email.  The interface is pretty simple and about like every other job search or resume related form you’ve ever filled out.  What’s nice about it, though, is that when you’re done you’ll have printable PDF copies of your resume, a web-based version which you can link to from a webpage or email to an interested party, and they even make the web-based version mobile friendly for viewing on the go.  For free, that’s pretty impressive.  I’m not sure how they’re paying for all this, so I’d expect they’ll be either advertising to you directly or selling your information to someone.  Still, it might be worth it for the super nice looking resume that’s consistent across print, web and mobile.
The other tool is Creddle, which is similar to Standard Resume, but with some important differences.  For example, while Creddle used to have a direct import from LinkedIn that no longer works due to changes in the LinkedIn backend, they can still take your exported LinkedIn resume in PDF form and import that information, saving you the hassle of retyping it.  The interface is a little more challenging, also, but gives you much greater control over your finished product.  Creddle also adds cover letters to the mix, to help you get started with that as well.  Frankly, I find the prospect of writing cover letters almost as daunting as trying to sum up my entire career in two pages or less, so that’s real added value to me!  Finally, just like Standard Resume, Creddle requires an email to set up an account and will also give you a link to a easily sharable webpage of your resume.

So, there you have it, two helpful resume building and formatting tools just in time for a long weekend of revamping your work life.
I hope they help!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.


Windows 10 Tips

Filed under: Fun,MicroSoft,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

My wife and I officially upgraded our laptops this month, which means we’re now running Windows 10.

Personally, I like Windows 10. I think it’s got all the best features of Windows 7 with a minimal amount of new junk that Microsoft threw in to justify a new version, and charge for it.  Now, my wife is just happy that it’s brand new, and runs smoothly, while giving her access to her old files, thanks to our Western Digital My Cloud NAS, and is pretty.  Okay, so she may like it mostly because it’s pretty, but also fast.  I like the quick start and the fact that they haven’t made it impossible to find things, like other updates and upgrades have.  But, the thing is, I’m pretty much what you’d call a “power user”, even at home.  I don’t feel comfortable unless I can get down into the guts of the system and make it work the way I want it to work.  To do that takes a little extra effort, but, thanks to the first tip in article linked below, I have most of what I need via “God Mode”.  The rest of the tips cover everything from improving your privacy to controlling the look and feel of everything from your desktop to the menu.
It makes some really interesting reading, if you’re a geek like me, and if you use or are moving to Windows 10 at work, you can actually claim you were studying not goofing off!

Windows 10: The best hidden features, tips, and tricks


More, Hey Siri!

Filed under: Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

So no more map posts this month, but some good stuff anyway.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post titled Hey Siri, which had all kinds of tips and tricks to using Siri, the personal assistant on the iPhone.
I’m back with more.  In fact, I think this very well may be the definitive guide to what you can get Siri to do or answer for you.
Everything from posting on Twitter to getting directions to converting miles into meters.  Siri can do a lot of amazing things for you and all via voice command.  We live in an age of miracles.  And, over at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?, they’ve collected pretty much everything you can think of in one, searchable, website for you.  It’s nothing short of miraculous.
Want to know how many seconds are in twenty-three years?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, convert twenty-three years to seconds” and you’ll know.
Want to know how many days until Christmas?  Just say, “Hey, Siri, how many days until Christmas” and she’ll tell you.
Want to add milk to the grocery list? All the commands you need are at Hey, Siri! What can you do for me?
Seriously, they’ve got everything you might want to do. Go look!  But, I’m not responsible for your co-workers getting annoyed at you talking to Siri all day.  That’s on you.

And, again, for those of you who don’t have Siri, you can still enjoy Shit Siri Says, which is funny no matter who you are!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

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