W.O.L.F. Sector
Worlds Of Lesbian Fiction

News Archive for February 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010

I Quit Blogger

Written by Kodi Wolf at 2:01 AM

Yet again, I've been reminded why I really shouldn't put my trust in external services when it comes to running my site (see my "I Quit Mambo" post).

On February 2nd, I received an e-mail from Blogger telling me they were discontinuing FTP (File Transfer Protocol) publishing from their list of services effective March 26th (that's less than two months' notice, by the way). Publishing via FTP was the main reason I went with their service in the first place, so I was a little annoyed by this news.

For those of you who don't know what Blogger's FTP service is, let me explain.

Most people who sign up for Google's Blogger service simply choose a unique name for their blog and then Blogger creates a subdomain of their domain, so you end up with an URL like "myblog.blogspot.com" (sort of like any free Web hosting service where you end up with www.hostingservice.com/~yourusername/). You don't have to purchase and register a domain name or pay for an ISP to host the domain, so it's really easy to get started, not to mention free. This is great if you don't already own your own domain and intend for your blog to basically be the full extent of your site.

However, for someone like me, who already owns a domain name and pays an ISP to host my site, Blogger's FTP service still fit the bill. Basically, their FTP service allowed me to use their blogging software, while hosting the pages on my own site. That's where the FTP part came in. I filled in the post form on blogger.com and it FTPed the post, along with any other affected files, to the directory I specified on my own server (www.kodiwolf.com/blog). I was able to very quickly and easily create a template based on my site's template to wrap the blog code in, so it looked seamless. A reader never left my site and my content stayed on my own server.

Well, Blogger is dropping FTP and their only solution is to use their Custom Domains, which amounts to you creating a subdomain of your domain (ex: myblog.mydomain.com) and then have Google host it on their servers, while the rest of your site (ex: www.mydomain.com) stays on its current servers. They even came up with a migration tool to help you move your blog from its current location to the new one and... Oh, wait, that won't be ready until sometime around February 22nd, which is about three weeks from now, so you can either try to do it manually and probably screw up your site in the process or you can wait and pray the tool actually works, since you'll only have about a month to fix it if it doesn't... Are you starting to see why I might be a little upset?

Basically, they're saying, "Give us all your blog pages or your blog dies."

Well, I came up with another option. I've just spent the past several days recoding my blog pages so they're now completely under my control. Everything is hardcoded (as opposed to automated), but it's still fairly flexible, since I use PHP. (Oh, that was another thing. Google's servers won't let you use PHP, which for me was a complete deal-breaker, beyond the whole "they want my content" issue I'm having with them.) It won't be as simple as writing text into a form box and hitting "Post", but I'm satisfied that my system will be easy enough.

Basically, it works like this (I'm mostly writing this out so I have something I can reference if I get stuck later, so you can skip the following geek-speak if you want).

Create a new post:

  1. Open post_TEMPLATE.html

  2. 'Save As' now, so you don't accidentally 'save over'

  3. Enter the long date, post title, and .php file name in the post's permanent link (come back and enter the current time just before you're ready to upload all the files)

  4. Write the actual content of the post

  5. Save file

Create the post's .php file:

  1. Open TEMPLATE_2010_01_01.php

  2. 'Save As' now, so you don't accidentally 'save over'

  3. Enter the date in the title and the name of the post's .html file in the PHP include

  4. Save file

Update the News index.php file:

  1. Open the index.php file

  2. Delete the last post's PHP include

  3. Cut the post_border div above it and paste it above the first post's PHP include

  4. Copy the new post's PHP include from the post's .php file and paste it above the post_border div

  5. Save file

If it's the month's first post, create the month's archive .php file:

  1. Open TEMPLATE_archive_2010_01.php

  2. 'Save As' now, so you don't accidentally 'save over'

  3. Enter the month in the title and the main content box title, and the name of the post's .html file in the PHP include

  4. Save file

If the month's archive .php file already exists, add the new post to it:

  1. Open the archive .php file

  2. Copy the post_border div from the index.php file (or within the archive .php file, if there are already two posts) and paste it after the last post's PHP include

  3. Copy the post's PHP include, either from the post's .php file or the index.php file, and paste it below the post_border div

  4. Save file

Update the News Archives menu:

  1. Open the NEWSarchives.html file

  2. Copy a previous month's link (or a year section if starting a new year) and paste it into the appropriate position within the list

  3. Change the newly pasted link to point to the new archive .php file and enter the correct month for the link's text

  4. Save file

Update the site:

  1. Upload any image files used in the new post

  2. Upload the new post's .html and .php files

  3. Upload the archive .php file

  4. Upload the NEWSarchives.html file if a new month/year has been added

  5. Upload the index.php file

You know, written out like that, it looks like a ton of work, but except for the actual writing of the post, it's mostly just opening files, typing in a couple characters (or copying/pasting), and then saving.

For example, to make this post, I wrote my post using my template file, which I renamed 2010_02_07.html (writing took me several hours, but I was also working on the site intermittently). I then created the post's .php file using the template for that, which I renamed 2010_02_07.php (took me maybe 10 seconds). I then created the archive for February using the archive template file, which I renamed archive_2010_02.php (took maybe another 10 seconds). I then edited the index.php file to add the PHP include to the new post at the top and remove the last post at the bottom in order to maintain the 5 most recent posts on the main News page (about 20 seconds). Then I added the new year and month to the NEWSarchives.html file (maybe 30 seconds). So, by my calculations, minus the actual writing time, adding a new post shouldn't take me more than a couple minutes, max.

Anyway, if you want to get an idea of how others have received this news, check out Blogger's FTP Info blog and start reading the comments. All I can say is I'm glad I only had one blog and plenty of time to focus on fixing it. (I just keep thinking of the line from Galaxy Quest when Gilligan's Island is mentioned to the aliens... with heads solemnly bowed, "Those poor people.")

By the way, because I'm not using Blogger now, I don't have the commenting option for my blog anymore, so if you want to comment on any of my posts, you'll have to e-mail me directly. I won't post them to the site (that takes a lot more work), but I will read them and respond to them the way I would any other e-mail (meaning probably not, unless you ask a question). I have, however, preserved the comments originally posted through Blogger, so those haven't been lost.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stuck On a Scene for The Trine

Written by Kodi Wolf at 3:30 AM

I've been doing a ton of research for The Trine, reading books about hackers for the character Robyn and interviewing a detective friend of my wife's for the character Karen, as well as reading more books about police procedure and forensics. It's all been very interesting, not to mention useful, since part of a scene I had initially envisioned was completely wrong where police procedure was concerned.

But now I find myself really stuck on a fight scene. It involves a mutant dog pack attacking one of my main characters and her mother. They both have superhuman strength and are masters in multiple martial arts, but they've been caught without armor or weapons and one of them has just been injured, making her slightly disabled.

For some reason, I just cannot figure out how to write this scene. Everything I come up with sounds overly detailed, so that the time flow of the scene is ridiculously drawn out, when it should happen in what feels like just a minute or two (maybe less). Yes, I could write it in such a way that having it feel drawn out works, but that's not how I want the scene to flow. I want it to be BAM, BAM, BAM! (Great, now I sound like a Flintstones character; at least Bamm-Bamm was my favorite, after Dino.) I want the reader to feel the same sense of suddenness that the characters do, with no time to think, just react.

I've considered doing a cheat, where the main character blacks out and misses the action and just wakes up to the results, but I don't think I really want to go that route.

I've also thought about leaving it and writing the scenes that come after, but this really is a pivotal scene for the main character and I feel like the following scenes sort of hang off this one; whatever momentum or tone that I end up with at the end of the fight scene will directly lead into those next few scenes. I need to know how that scene plays out before I can really continue with the next ones.

I guess my biggest problem is that I'm having a hard time actually visualizing the attack/fight. I have multiple ways it could go... Okay, I just wrote a long-ass paragraph that was far too detailed. I'm trying to talk about this without giving serious spoilers for a story that hasn't even been posted yet.

So anyway, I think I need to do a search for dog attack videos. I've already researched techniques for stopping a dog attack, which was useful, but I think I need to see something in action, and the movies I have that show dog attacks (Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Extinction, True Lies) either don't show multiple dogs going after a single prey or they don't look very realistic regarding dog behavior... Hey, maybe I should search for wolves taking down prey. That might get me better results.

Here's hoping.

...A little while later...

Well, it's National Geographic and YouTube to the rescue. I found a really cool clip showing how different dogs attack. I just wish it had shown how they might behave as part of a group. That seems to be something I can't find. Well, I have found several videos that show multiple wolves hunting and taking down prey, but it always seems to take place as part of a long chase or pacing next to the prey until it becomes too weak to continue, and that's not the same as an immediate direct attack.

Oh well. I think I'm going to give this a rest. I've been sick since I woke up Sunday afternoon, and though I was feeling better enough today to be up at the computer again, I'm still pretty washed out. It kinda sucks, since I was sort of looking forward to maybe going out to dinner with my wife tomorrow, since it's my birthday, but I think we're going to push that to Saturday (not Sunday, since everyone will probably be out for Valentine's Day, and I hate crowds).


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Not Stuck On The Trine Anymore

Written by Kodi Wolf at 10:05 PM

I'm happy to report that I'm no longer stuck on the fight scene for The Trine. I not only finished that scene, but I also finished the following scene and am geared up to write the next one after that, so I'm quite pleased with myself. :)

I'm also quite pleased with what I came up with. The fight scene flows the way I wanted it to, giving just enough detail to get the visuals across without necessarily sounding like a step-by-step training manual on the subject (at least I hope not; my wife seemed to like it anyway). And the following scene has all the emotional impact I was going for, which I was a little worried about, but it made Corene cry, so I think it's good. She's my test when I'm trying to create a really happy or really sad scene. If she tears up, then I know I've done my job and had an emotional impact. So I'm on a bit of a high, being all impressed with myself for getting all that written in a single day, especially after struggling with it so much over the past month. In fact, being that it's my birthday today (I'm 34 now), I think getting those scenes under my belt turned out to be a pretty good birthday present to myself.

I also realized after my last post that this is the kind of stuff I want to be posting about and it's actually what I'd originally intended. I mean, yeah, I expected to write about personal stuff happening in my life, but mostly I wanted this to be a space for me to talk about what I'm working on, what I'm struggling with or trying to figure out, and what I've learned in the process.

Of course, I think the problem with that has been that I've just been doing snippets here and there, and that's not really conducive to any kind of constructive discussion. There's only so many times I can depress myself (and probably my readers) by writing about how I'm not writing as much as I want to, before I (and probably my readers) tune out.

But I really enjoyed talking about what I was stuck on and working through it enough that I was able to get the scene written the next day (well, I enjoyed the end result; the struggling, not so much). But I know that only works if I actually have something solid I'm working on, as opposed to notes and such.

So here's hoping this little trend continues. I like being able to report good news for a change. :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Family Visit

Written by Kodi Wolf at 4:19 PM

The Vermont side of my family came to visit on Monday and Tuesday. It was my sister (the High Priestess of my handfasting) and her two kids (her husband had to stay and work). They hadn't seen the house since before we started the renovations, so Corene and I were very excited for them to see everything we've done. Unfortunately, the house hadn't really been cleaned since before the New York side of my family came by in August for a quick visit on their way back home from the beach vacation we spent with them at Emerald Isle (I kept getting sick or my fibro would act up or I'd rather work on my stories, etc.), and the house was still a wreck from Winter Solstice, so we spent the previous week cleaning. The house looks great now and was actually presentable to my family, so I'm glad Corene and I put so much effort into it. The first thing my sister said when she saw our bedroom was, "So you've decided you're royalty now." :) She was mightily impressed, but we feel that way every time we go in there, so that was cool.

Anyway, they got in Monday afternoon and we spent the evening hanging out and talking, which was great. I even got some really useful tips for The Trine. My sister is an EMT, so she was able to give me those little extra details that I think will make certain scenes more believable and visceral (I love that word). Actually, we spent most of the night talking about the stories we're each working on (my sister and her daughter, who's 15, both write fan fiction, as well as original fiction), so it was a pretty cool night. Of course, it only makes me miss them even more now that they're gone.

Then yesterday, we went to the zoo, which was fun, and it was a great day for it too, mostly overcast and in the 60s. Then we went to McKay's, a local used book store that I love, and that's when I noticed I had some kind of blurry spot on my left eye (this was around 5pm). That scared the crap out of me, since my ability to see clearly is rather closely linked to my ability to read and write. So, we came home and I looked up the symptoms on WebMD and my sister checked the Mayo Clinic's site and we both came up with retinal detachment, migraine with auras, stroke, or optic neuritis as possibilities, but none of them were exactly right.

I have a history of dry eyes with scratches and scarring on outer areas on my eyes, so they've never gotten in the way of my sight, and I have several floaters that I know so well I can practically draw them, but when they get in the way of my vision, I just look around really quickly, and they move out of the way. I've also been diagnosed with chronic migraines, but I don't get auras, I just get nauseous and extremely sensitive to light.

This blurriness was like an oily thumbprint with the tip of the thumb right at the center of my focus and the rest of it going down diagonally to the right. Everything else seemed clear in my peripheral vision. I even drew a dot with concentric circles around it to figure out the shape of the blurriness (that's how I came up with the thumbprint shape).

Retinal detachment would probably come with a sudden increase in floaters and there would be flashes and a shadow over part of the field of vision, none of which I had. Migraine with auras would probably show halos around lights, flashes, and there would be pain, but I didn't have any halos or flashes, though I knew I was working on a migraine, so it was a possibility. Stroke would have other indicators too numerous to mention, but I could smile evenly, I repeated a phrase my sister said, and my eyes were tracking and dilating evenly, so we could pretty much rule that one out. Optic neuritis is basically an inflammation of the optic nerve and its main symptoms are pain and loss of vision. It usually develops due to an autoimmune disorder that may be triggered by a viral infection. Again, I didn't have pain in my eyes, but I do have a twitchy immune system, so it sounded like the most likely candidate.

Well, even though going to the ER was recommended for some of those, I figured I probably wasn't going to die immediately from any of them, so I decided I'd spend the rest of the evening with my family, and then go to the ER afterwards. I took a Naproxen for the migraine I knew the trigger point in my neck was trying to bring on and then did my best to relax and enjoy the visit, since I knew my family was leaving early in the morning and I wouldn't be seeing them again for a while.

So, we hung out at their hotel room, watched a couple episodes of Teen Titans, then a documentary about vampires on National Geographic, and talked, while I curled up on Corene and tried to keep my eyes closed to rest them.

Well, around 11pm, it was time to say goodbye, so I decided to check how my eye was doing and found that the blurriness had just about completely cleared up (there was just a little left in the lower right area). I could focus on stuff and read things clearly, so I was very happy. We talked about it a little and came up with two theories. One, it was just a dry patch and with my putting half a dozen drops in my eyes every few minutes after I first noticed it and then keeping my eyes closed most of the night allowed it to remoisten and clear up. Or two, it was the optic neuritis and me taking the Naproxen, which has anti-inflammatory properties, calmed down the inflammation and allowed my vision to clear. Either way, I'm just happy I can see okay (I don't seem to have any residual blurriness now).

If it happens again, I'll definitely go to the doctor, and I do have an eye doctor appointment in April, so I'll mention it then and see what the doc has to say.

All in all, it was a great visit (except for the minor medical scare) and I can't wait to see them again.