Saturday, November 2, 2013

Of poltergeists and files that come back from the dead

I spent most of yesterday morning crying over something only other authors would understand. And before you whisper in fear, "Oh, no, her computer crashed and she lost (insert irreplaceable work here)," that's not it. This is a happy story. So if you're looking for gloom, doom, and failure, get lost.

You see, I've been writing for a long, long time. Long time. Lots of material. Lots.

But since I started writing, technology has changed. When I first started, we didn't have computers. The daisy wheel IBM Selectric was a new thing (crap - I probably shouldn't have told you that). My first computer had no hard drive, and every time you started it you had to insert a 5" floppy (or whatever size those things were - it's been so long that I've forgotten). From there, I graduated to a computer that actually had a hard drive. I also had Internet service and, for $19.99 per month, I got 20 hours of Internet time per week. And who would ever use all of that up? Right?

By 2000, I had a computer that had about a gig of hard drive, 256K RAM, and a internal modem. I was high-tech, baby. I was saving things on 3.5" floppies like you wouldn't believe. Had cartons of the things; all colors too. Then along came the ZIP drive. I had to have one of those bad boys because I was doing so much graphics work that I couldn't store some of the files on a 3.5". Stuff got put on those disks which, for the record, were insanely expensive.

So in 2000, while my daughter was in Europe briefly, I wrote a novel. It poured out so fast that I almost choked on it. I spent four days and three nights with no sleep, trying to get it out while it was still in my head, not to mention that I knew life would come crashing down on me when she walked back through the door. I thought the novel was pretty good. It still needed some work but, hey, what novel doesn't? Then something tragic happened.

Life got in the way. I was busy all the time. I didn't get back to the novel. Oddly enough, I wrote other things, really good things, and didn't think a lot about the novel. I even started writing another novel. It was pretty good too; same thing, needed a lot of work.

In the meantime, the 3.5" floppy became a thing of the past. I moved work from 5-inchers to 3.5-inchers and from 3.5-inchers to ZIPs. I bought an external hard drive to back up everything; it was 140M, which everyone knows should be more than enough space forever, right? Gig? Terra? Nah. No one would need anything that large.

Fast forward to last week. My partner and I were talking about my writing - I was getting ready to launch my second novel, the third book in that series. I was telling him about these novels that I had written some time ago. I had looked and looked for them and they were nowhere to be found. In the shuffling-around of technology, they were lost forever. I told him that I wished I could remember enough of them to recreate them, but I didn't think I could. Sad.

I launched the second novel in my series on 30 October to be up and live on 31 October. That's not how it worked. At nine o'clock on Halloween night, we were still waiting for the novel to go live on the biggest retailer's site. Finally, a little after ten, it was there. I could rest . . . and stop biting my acrylics.

I performed my usual rituals at bedtime, the washing of the face, the brushing of the teeth, the taking of the medicines. And I hooked up my brand-new external hard drive (1.8 terrabytes - now who will ever use all of THAT space?) and started backing up  my files. When it was done, which is a forever three minutes, I did something I hadn't done before: I checked to see if all of the files had transferred. I went in through My Computer and physically checked the hard drive. To my dismay, my updated files weren't there - anywhere. I started to panic. Sure, I had them on my desktop, but I wanted them backed up. So I went back into the external hard drive again and entered the word "writing" in the search bar.

When it all came up, there were some weird files I couldn't identify. Out of curiosity, I clicked on one of them. And the universe cracked open.

There they were - ALL of them. Huge files. Both novels. Probably seventy-five short stories. More poetry than I could even believe. Things that were complete. Things that were barely started. Things that weren't, for which I only had files with outlines and sketches, scenes, parts of paragraphs, things that I'd intended to go back to. I could see them listed, but were they there?

It was late and I was exhausted. I decided that the next morning I'd check them out. I went to bed and slept the sleep of the dead.

And so yesterday morning, after I'd checked all of my email accounts and all of that daily crap, I went back in to look. Most of them were in WordPerfect documents (see, I told you they were old). I went to the first chapter of that long-lost novel, changed the name to a .DOC extension, and opened it.

Unless you are a writer, you can't imagine how I felt in that moment. Words truly are inadequate. The opening paragraph struck me right in the face, its words cutting straight into my heart. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't speak. All I could do was weep. It was there, all of it, right in front of me. I'd found it - on a drive that hadn't had anything on it two months ago, hooked to a laptop that I've only owned for a little over a year.

Where did it all come from? Where had it been? I have no idea. I don't know how it found its way back to me. I don't know who decided I needed a break. But whoever you are out there in the great big wonderful Universe, I thank you. You have no idea what this means to me. Or maybe you do.

So I spent last night poking through the manuscript, and it appears that I could have it ready to publish in as little as six weeks if life stays out of my way. But it won't. And I have other projects to work on. Even so, I've already printed out the pages from it that I will help me figure out what's missing and how to finish it. It won't take long. And I'm more than excited. I'm stoked.

Over the last few weeks, I've wanted to quit. Now I can't. In the immortal words of Nikki Walters, Tony's wife, in my newest novel, Tearing Down Walls, "Fuck you. No way."

Thanks, Nikki. That's my sentiment exactly.


  1. I remember back in '99, you were hooked to the computer. I always wondered what you were up to in that little room! LOL So glad you have found your writing! ~Jennifer

  2. Karma!!! What more can you say ?


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