I’m working on my first (novel-length) piece of historical fiction right now (history stuffed with plentiful fantasy and fairytale shenanigans, of course…). Sometimes, delving into history leaves one feeling a little starry-eyed about the past: something about the slow pace of life compared with the modern rush, perhaps, or maybe a degree of sentimental attachment to the days when people used to write long, thoughtful letters to each other instead of dashing off three-word texts during lunch break.
Not this time! Much as I am enjoying skipping around in Regency England, the effect is more the opposite overall: I find myself reflecting on all the things I’d miss about 2013. Here’s my top ten–in no particular order, honestly, because I couldn’t decide on a system of relative values. I love them all more or less equally.
1: My Smartphone
I was a relatively late adopter of the smartphone. I only got my first one in 2011, and I quickly began to wonder why I’d waited so long. At the moment I have a Galaxy Note, and we are the best of friends. Completely inseparable. How could I not love it? It does everything. EVERYTHING. From communication through to music, audiobooks, games… I could go on, but I’ll stop there.
2: Online Communication
I wasn’t sure what to call this because it’s quite a big bucketful of stuff. I’m talking about Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter… all things I particularly learned to appreciate after I moved away from my home country and all the family and friends I had there. These things keep me in the loop, deliver me the home news every single day, and allow me to share just about anything I’m doing with my sisters at any time (and vice versa). Also, I have quite a few friends in far-distant parts of the world, and I remain electrified by how easy it is to send notes and pictures to anybody, anywhere, anytime. Okay, sometimes I miss the long, thoughtful letters thing, but mostly I just love the ease of communication we have right now.
3: Online Games
I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid (though it was harder to accomplish in those days, since I often wasn’t allowed anywhere near a computer). For the last ten years–eh, more than that even–I’ve played games a lot, especially online text-based games (commonly known as MUDs, MUSHes and many other similar titles). These have impacted my life in so many ways, I don’t even know where to start; but I can certainly say they’ve had a lot to do with my becoming a writer. I’ve also had a lot of fun with graphics-based MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and Everquest II. Who knows what the next generation of online games will be like? I can’t wait to find out.
4: Digital Books
Given that I now make my living out of selling digital fiction, this had to appear in my list, right? Although I’m not just speaking as a writer here. I got my first e-reader in 2010, and I was completely enchanted with it the moment I realised two things: firstly that I could download just about any piece of classical literature for free, and secondly when I realised that people were self-publishing their own fiction. I was at that time growing very bored with the same old stuff being published every month, so when I found the highly unusual book Confessions of a Gourmand by Tom Bruno, bought it, read it and loved it, I realised right away that my options as a reader were about to explode. And they have. Keep it up, world! I like this!
5: My Elliptical Trainer
For various reasons into which I shall not venture, I have seriously been advised to get as much exercise as possible for the foreseeable future. But gym memberships cost a fortune, and I live in a country with less-than-ideal weather for outdoor sports most of the year round. What can I possibly do? Why, dust off the slightly creaky elliptical trainer I have lying around in my own house of course. We are spending some quality time together almost every day, and I look forward to feeling much better in all possible ways quite soon (I hope). Me and the trainer and my Note make a fabulous team altogether.
Five years ago, I had hardly even looked at a blog. Then I discovered such various magics as Google Reader (soon to go the way of the dodo, alas) and Delicious, and suddenly it became viable to follow loads of blogs, all the time. I still do. Then, of course, I began blogging myself. A couple of years down the road, blogging is a major part of my life; while I do sometimes neglect my site (see: last November through to about February), I can’t imagine abandoning it altogether. I even started a new baking blog this year.
7: Digital Photography
I like taking pictures. I like having pictures. Tons of colour and shiny at my fingertips, any moment of the day. I have a decent camera on my Note, but I recently upgraded to a proper digital camera and it is FABULOUS. Teamed with things like Picasa and Irfanview, the thing is unstoppable. It does give me yet another gadget to drag around with me practically everywhere, but it’s worth it.
I never used to watch TV much, if at all, but in the past few months that’s changed. Anytime I feel homesick, I switch on the BBC–especially if there’s anything to do with cooking going on. It works. I do it a lot. And that’s not to mention such occasional gems as the Great British Sewing Bee, which reminded me why I love to sew, and the brilliant programme a couple of weeks ago wherein a number of intrepid souls recreated the Netherfield Ball with all the historical details. This stuff brightens up my life. Really.
As things go (you know… in the world), the distance between here and home isn’t that bad. At least, it isn’t when it’s 2013 and a flight home is short and reasonably affordable. Not to mention the ease with which one could (and will) dash off to the other side of the planet, say, just to have a look around. There are downsides to this–how small is the world all of a sudden? And how shockingly environmentally costly is air travel?–but some of these downsides will improve in time, and others… well, the upsides are great.
10: Sewing Machines
I’m somewhere in the middle of making a set of Regency-era short stays right now. It’s quite hard. Fiddly and full of traps and pitfalls–like most sewing, only magnified. Imagine if I had to make them the way people used to make them two hundred or so years ago! By hand, every single bit! Heavens, no. Gimme my lovely electronic sewing machine, that sews anything–anything at all–in its smooth, enviably stylish way with never a whisper of complaint.
11: On a related note… the sneaky, hidden 11th item on my 10-item list is computers in general for one particular reason: the ease of typing a novel as opposed to writing by hand. As you may remember from a previous post, I started writing Miss Landon and Aubranael by hand. It worked beautifully for a while: I appreciated the relaxed pace, gliding through about 25k words over a period of five or six weeks. And then I got impatient. I’m used to typing–and typing very quickly, due to all those hours spent playing text-based games–and the relaxed pace finally began to feel… slow. Slow. So I’m back to typing, at the rate of about 4-5k words a day right now. And the book will be done much sooner because of it, which will leave me free to move on to my next project and and… and so on.
I could go on, actually, but I won’t because I’ve said enough for one post. Maybe your list is similar to mine, or maybe it’s a lot different; share thoughts, if you feel like it, below.
Disclaimer: I know there are lots of crap things about 2013. Tons of them. I could rant all day about that, in fact, but I’m trying to be more positive here (not just here-here, on my blog, but in general), so we aren’t going to do the “10 things I hate about life (in 2013)”. At least, not this week.