Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nostalgia: Why Do We Keep "Stuff"?

       I wrote this after being inspired by Jack Urquhart's post "My Life in a Box."  It really struck a chord.

       My mother and I lived together almost my whole life.  Her stuff was my stuff.  And she had a lot of stuff.  She was a high school teacher of Spanish and English, and she taught in a lot of different schools when I was growing up (hence, I attended a lot of different schools).  She always called herself a gypsy -- she enjoyed moving around.  She said working in different places was the only way she got to see anything new.  However, she always said that every family ought to have a big family house with a big attic where all the possessions of generations could be stored forever.
       During our peripatetic life, she left most of belongings at my grandparents' house, in the basement.  Well, grandparents don't live forever.  After my grandmother died in 1957, my uncle continued to live in the house and my mother felt obligated to remove her stuff from the premises.  And she may have gotten rid of some things during that process, like a lot of my baby clothes.  I really don't know because I was a freshman in college and didn't have much time to help her.  She didn't need help at that point.
       But she was still left with a large hoard, and she rented storage space for it.  It included her college textbooks and various mementos from her earlier life, along with quite a few of my grandmother's possessions shipped out from Missouri in the early 1920s.
       A few years later, the storage space was going to be torn down, so she was faced with finding another alternative.  That was about 1963.  I had my first library job and we bought a house.  Yay!  We had a basement and an extra garage at the back -- a place to store things!
       Then in 1966 I decided to go back to grad school and continue working on my Ph.D. with the intention of becoming a rare book librarian.  We sold the house.  And that's when we started hauling all that stuff around the country with us.  When your possessions are out of sight in a basement or garage, there is very little inclination to rid anything out, and then when you're faced with a move, there's no time to do it.  It's easier to just box everything up and ship it.
      We had a whole roomful of boxes and wherever we moved, we always had to rent a place with an extra bedroom so we could store the stuff.  And my mother never ridded it out.  She got older and everything gets harder as you get older.  Besides, you acquire even more stuff as the years pass.  She had her stroke in 1983 and after that it was hopeless.  After we bought the house where I live now (in 1987), I tried once to make a beginning.  I hauled out a box and opened it and took out items and showed them to my mother and I would say, "Can we throw this away?  What about this?  How about getting rid of this?"
       The answer was always "No, I want to keep that."  It took forever to look at the things and think about them, and I just didn't have time.  Finally, in considerable impatience, I just put everything back in the same box, sealed it up again, and returned it to its niche in the spare "bedroom."
       So my mother never got to go through her things, but she would have kept everything anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter too much.  My grandmother had something of the same experience.  As she got older, she would say to my mother, "Genevieve, I've got to get out on that sleeping porch and go through some of those things."  My mother would offer to help her.  But the older you get, the harder it becomes to accomplish anything.  My grandmother never got around to looking through her stuff either.
       I try to learn from vicarious experience.  After my mother died in 1997, I spent the next two and a half years ridding out that bedroom.  It was like opening up a buried treasure -- it was fun, actually.  I never knew what interesting thing was going to emerge from the next box.  I had at least half a dozen yard sales (and by then this included all my uncle's stuff as well), and I sold things to an antique dealer.  I made about $3000.  At the end of all that, I actually had a guest bedroom!  But I kept quite a bit myself, like my grandmother's Indian head, and a lot of really old family pictures, many of which I framed and hung on the walls, and my grandmother's jewelry (like cameos and jet beads), and also a lot of nice china and glass pieces (I did sell some of that).     
       Now I'm considering getting rid of more stuff, although I'm reluctant, because everything I kept has sentimental value.  Books are a serious problem.  I never get rid of books, except maybe a few textbooks and some mysteries and other things I'm not attached to.  But I also tend to keep magazines.  I have Smithsonians dating back to about 1990.  They are such a good resource, but I have no index to them, so I can't access them.  I'm trying to psych myself up to putting a small number of them in recycling every week (I could sure use the shelf space for the books I've been buying lately!)  So far I've recycled the Nature Conservancy magazines and the Consumer Reports, and all my gardening catalogs, and I'm starting on the calendars from Smithsonian and Nature Conservancy and American Museum of Natural History that I kept because they have such nice and informative pictures.  Sigh.  The best way to get rid of printed material is not to look at what you're throwing away - just stick it in the recycle bin and forget it.
       So I guess after all is said and done, I'm my mother's daughter -- she was a mama packrat and I'm a baby one.  But I'm a sadder and wiser packrat for surviving all the hassle caused by "stuff."

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Quickie! How by Becoming Addicted to the Internet, I'm Betraying My Roots!

       Over on my other blog, The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head, I'm in the process of writing the first on a series of posts on Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion Tetralogy.  I'm working right now on The Prince of Annwn.  Walton added a couple of adventures, basing one of them on (according to her author's note) a "mysterious relic of the mainland Celts: the so-called 'Monster of Moves.'" 
       I wanted to identify the Monster and find a picture to put on my post.  Could I find anything?  No!  Google drew a complete blank, beyond giving me references to Celtic Moving & Storage and the Celtic football team and stuff from video games, and loads of information on monster movies.  I sent requests for help to various people that I've gotten acquainted with.  I was highly frustrated!
      Then while I was taking my afternoon nap just now, I thought, Hell, I'm a librarian.  And I'll just bet I can find it in ...

       I happen to own a print copy of the Britannica that I picked up at a yard sale in the late '90s for $50.00.  I've mainly used it for the maps, and frankly I think it's been several years since I used it at all.  Google and the internet are just so handy! 
       So I looked up "Monster of Moves" in the index and ... lo and behold!  Context is magic!  "Monster of Noves" just popped right out at me!  On Google, you never get alphabetic context.  In both editions of The Prince of Annwn that I own, it's misspelled.
       Even "Monster of Noves" is obscure on the internet.  There is no Wikipedia article.  I really should write one!  And I won't tell you where I found a few references.  I want to put the picture in my post on my other blog and talk about it there.
       Just goes to show -- it pays never to forget your roots!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars, Ch. 5

Here is yet another installment of my unfinished novel, "The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars," a fictionalized biography of Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, the starship Captain who made the first contact with extraterrestrials in the 28th century (some 2.5 centuries before the time of "The Termite Queen"). I already posted the Prologue to that book, as well as Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4. In keeping with my method of alternate flash-backs and flash-forwards, Chapter 5 chronologically follows Chapter 3.  Robbie had just learned from his holier-than-thou Assignment Officer that he had been selected to fill in for the Captain of the Mars ship the Red Planet, who had suffered a concussion while playing darts, much to Robbie's amusement.


Chapter 5: The Captain Takes Command of the Red Planet

(23 July 2766, aboard the Red Planet)
There was nothing unusual about a voyage to Mars in the year 2766; Earthers had been sprinting among the planets of the inner solar system for over a century.  The current space program had been established about the same time that the Proposition for the Creation of a Pan-Terrestrial Government was formulated; the movers of the time had correctly believed that an All-Earth Space Project would help heal social discords.  Another forty years had passed before the Earth Unification Charter had been ratified by two-thirds of the era’s political entities and still another forty before the final hold-out, the Union of Ind, had signed on, but all during that time progress in space had proceeded at a steady pace.  Advancements in plasma/ion technology had reduced the duration of interplanetary voyages to a matter of months rather than years, and the Asteroid Belt was now routinely mined for metallic ores.
       A colony had been established on Mars in the year 2660 – a controversial issue at the time of its founding, since the economy of mid-27th century Earth was much shakier than it would be a hundred years later and Earth had no population surplus.  A decision had been reached early on that the environment of the Red Planet should be altered as little as possible.  Therefore, even though the existence of the Mars Colony depended on extracting water from the subsurface ice layer, the Martian lithosphere had never been exploited for minerals.
Thus, the settlement’s only practical function was to serve as a research base and a contact and supply point for the asteroid mining operations and the occasional exploration of the outer solar system.  In fact, the Colony had contributed significantly to certain scientific and technical advancements, especially in the areas of soil-free agriculture, low-grav biomedical research, electromagnetic field generation, and the techniques of living comfortably on minimal resources in a hostile environment.  The biodomes, protected by lead shielding and particle deflectors, could sustain only about 1200 residents, but by now whole generations had been born and had died in the Colony.  It had become a symbol of humanity’s rise from its 24th century nadir, and to abandon the Colony after such a long and successful record was simply unthinkable.  Human natives of Mars called themselves Humartians; they were an independent and proud lot, with their own delegation of representatives in Earth’s Global Council.  As a matter of fact, in the year 2766, the President of Earth was a Humartian.
*          *          *
On 23 July Robbin Nikalishin boarded a Lunar shuttle as a passenger for the first time since the beginning of his sentence, duly arriving at the Launch Facility at Luna Base, from which all Mars missions departed.  There, he boarded the Red Planet; it was a moment of great emotion for him, for he had never believed that he would ever command a ship again, even on a one-time substitute status.
       Robbie decided to call a crew-muster.  Unsure what reaction he might evoke, he stood for a few moments allowing his glance to pass slowly over the assemblage, careful to engage the eyes of every member of the 40-person crew.  He saw pretty much what he had expected:  Some faces were grim (undoubtedly they belonged to those who would have agreed with Maj. Nwinn that he shouldn’t even be allowed to walk an Admiral’s dog) – some looked neutral or even bored (the jaded long-termers whom nothing could faze) – and then there were the ones who were so awed by the presence of the legendary Hero of the Darter Disaster that they could hardly keep their mouths closed.
        At last Robbie stood back a little, hoping his demeanor expressed confidence and reassurance.  “At ease, gentlemen and ladies.  I’m Capt. Robbin Nikalishin, in case some of you didn’t know the identity of your substitute commander.  I want to state right off that I’m fully aware that I’m an interloper, and I have no intention of attempting to undercut your regular commander, Capt. Emil Kastens, or to meddle with any of the systems or routines he has instituted on this ship.  I’m happy to be able to report that Capt. Kastens is on the mend and undoubtedly will be fully recovered by the time the Red Planet flies its next mission.  Now, my style likely won’t be like his – I can say that without even knowing what his style is … ”  And he thought with an internal chuckle, I might put somebody’s eye out playing darts, but I certainly hope I’d never get a concussion doing it.  “… but I will do my damnedest to make sure my tenure aboard your ship is tolerable.
       "Our sister ship and flagship for this run is the Vigilance from Delta Squadron, under the command of Capt. Magda Markova.  We’re set to rendezvous with the Martian Chronicle in about 25 days – it’s coming two-thirds of the way – whereupon we’ll transship our cargo.  The Vigilance is loaded with food and medical supplies, while our vessel is carrying envirosystem components and parts for a new drilling rig – nothing hazardous.  Then we’ll turn around and chase Earth back across the solar system for some 75 days.  The trajectory will take us within 80,000 klicks of Venus, so we’ll get a pretty good view of that planet.
       “We also have 28 passengers aboard, mostly Humartians returning from visits to Earth, along with some scientists and technical assignees.  Let’s all work to make sure they take only pleasant memories away from their voyage aboard the Red Planet!
       “I want to thank all of you for your faithful service to Flight Command and I want you to know that I’ll need your cooperation and unfailing hard work if this voyage is to go smoothly.  If you have any problems or questions during the trip, my door will always be open whether I’m on or off duty, but my guess is that I’ll have more questions for you than you will for me.  Thanks again for making a newcomer feel welcome.  I’d like the Senior Officers to stop by the Command Office after the conclusion of this muster.  Dismissed!”
       Nobody had questioned him and nobody had complained.  However, the Senior Officers might be a knottier problem.  Robbie stood behind Capt. Kastens’ desk as the eight of them filed in – the Second and Third Officers, the First Pilot, the Ops Chief, the Com Officer, the Chief Engineer, the Security Chief, the Medical Officer.  “Gentlemen and ladies, be seated, please.  I have a little problem:  I’ve studied the crew manifest, but I haven’t put names to faces yet.  Please oblige me by identifying yourselves.”
       They went around the circle.  Robbie scrutinized each face, trying to label it hostile, neutral/resigned, or favorable.  To his relief, he couldn’t discern much hostility, so he decided a candid approach was in order.  “Certainly you’re all aware of what happened aboard the Solar Wind during my last command of that ship.  As you might imagine, I’m as surprised to find myself here as you must be; I expected to be consigned to Lunar shuttles for the whole year of my sentence and maybe even after that.  But apparently I’ve done enough right during the last three months to glean a little redemption for myself.  However that is, I hope you can set aside any conflicted feelings you may have and remember that we have a job to do, and that I have flown a few ships before that last mission without causing any problems worse than getting sick from a bad gall bladder.”  Robbie let himself chuckle, and then he decided, What the hell, make a real joke …  “And, fortunately, for this mission there’s nobody on board with a rank higher than my own, so I won’t have to punch anybody out.”
       A tiny giggle escaped the Com Officer; who was female and quite young.  Rather nice-looking, too, Robbie noted.  He always seemed to be attracted to Com Officers.  But that was neither here nor there; he made a point of never initiating intimacy with a subordinate while he was in command.  And he took the giggle as a favorable sign; he was cracking their rather embarrassed deferential rigidity.
       “Ens. Purify, I believe you were accorded Second Honors for flying skills at your Wings ceremony three years ago.”
       The Pilot’s mouth fell open.  “Yes, sir.  If I may say, sir, how could you possibly remember that?”
       "I didn’t.  I looked up all of your records before I left Earth just so I could impress you with the depth of my knowledge,” said Robbie, with a big grin.
       Everyone was chuckling now, and Robbie continued, “I’m always interested in the Pilot when I assume command of a ship – not only because I started out in that capacity, but because he or she is the person a Captain depends on most to keep the ship out of tight situations.  And I mean to depend on you more than usual, Ens. Purify, because … I’m not going to hide it from you people … my ship, the Solar Wind, was ST-70 Union Class and I’ve never set foot in an ST-90 before this day.  I realize that two days’ worth of study and sims isn’t going to make me an expert in the differences.  So if I should issue a command that misses the mark, I want to be corrected – I don’t want you, Ens. Purify, or you, Cmdr. Cheddle, or any of the rest of you, to stand on protocol.  The first duty of all of us is to get these passengers and this cargo safely to the transshipment point and then to get ourselves back to Earth – and the privileges of rank be damned.  Are we in agreement on that point?”
       To a person they said, “Yes, sir, Capt. Nikalishin!” and Cmdr. Cheddle, the Second Officer, added, “We’re looking forward to serving with you, sir.  You can rely on us all.”
       “Thanks so much for your understanding.  Now, if somebody could show me where I’m supposed to bed down, I’ll stow my gear and then come see if my Bridge is as fancy as it looks from the specs.”
       The Captain still had it in him – the Senior Officers were his, heart and soul.  If certain members of the Board of Command are expecting me to fail in this endeavor, Robbin Nikalishin thought, they don’t know me nearly as well as they think they do.
Coming next!
Chapter 6: Crises and Decisions

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Be Afraid of the Big, Bad Smashwords!

       It's come to my attention that some people aren't familiar with Smashwords or are daunted by its somewhat complicated downloading procedure.  Today I'm going to try to make some of that clearer.
       Smashwords is a perfectly respectable and safe venue for self-publishing e-books that has several advantages over publishing only on Kindle.  It processes the submitted text so that it can be downloaded into a number of different e-reader formats: Epub (which includes Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, others); PDF (for reading on your PC or any other computer equipped with Adobe Reader); and Palm Doc (for Palm reading devices).  Last but not least, it can also be downloaded into Kindle.  I'll get to that in a moment. 
       Another advantage of Smashwords is that once you buy the book, you can download it as many times as you want, into any device.  You could put it on your Kindle, your iPad, and your laptop, so you can read it anywhere you like, on whatever device you happen to have with you.  And an advantage for the author is that once you have satisfied Smashword's undeniably complex upload procedures and gotten your book into the Premium Catalog, it will be published on Barnes & Noble (for Nook), and in the e-stores for Apple, Sony, Kobo, etc.  And moreover, Smashwords pays the author a better royalty percentage than Amazon does for Kindle!  Therefore, I would really like to see more people buy my books through Smashwords.  Once you learn the ropes, it isn't that hard!
       Once you buy a book at Smashwords, you return to the page for that book and scroll down to the line that says "Available e-book reading formats."  Below that is a link that reads "How to download ebooks to e-reading devices and apps."  Click on that and spend a little time reading through it.  You will know which device you plan to use to read the text.  Find the right one and follow the instructions (I'm working with Windows Vista and IE here).
        I'm going to focus my attention on how to download to Kindle, because that's the only one I've used.  I do it through the MobiPocketReader, which you can install on your computer here (it's free):
Once it's installed and you've bought your book on Smashwords, return to the book's display page, scroll down to "Kindle" and click on "Download."  (I think it will also give you the option of downloading a sample as well as the full version.)  The book will move automatically into the MobiPocketReader if it's installed in your computer.
       Now plug your Kindle into a USB port on your computer.  Navigate to your Desktop and click on the icon "Computer," which will include a listing for the Removable Drive called "Kindle."  Open that drive and you will see a listing that includes "Documents."  Double-click on that, and you will see everything that is contained in your Kindle.
       Now arrange the screens so that the MobiPocketReader and the Kindle documents list can both be seen (The Kindle screen will be smaller than the Reader, so the Kindle screen needs to go on top).  The book you just purchased will display its cover on the Reader.  Click on that and drag it across to the Kindle documents list.  And voila!  The book moves by magic into the Kindle, yet also remains in the Mobireader!  You can unplug your Kindle now and the book is ready to read.
       After you do this a few times, it becomes second nature, like most things you do repetitively.  Believe me, it isn't as difficult as it may sound.  But you do have to have the MobiPocketReader. 
       So now nobody has any excuse not to buy my books on Smashwords!  I think you'll be glad you set up this option!  Once it's done, it's done!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I Began My Writing Career Fascinated by the Concept of Immortality


       After I read Tolkien back in 1969, I thought about his Elves and how they were immortal, and I became fascinated by the question, "What would it really be like to be immortal?"  If you belonged to a race of beings who never died, or who could die only under certain circumstances?  And I began to write about an imaginary world where this situation existed.  It was a Tolkienesque type of high fantasy, realistically portrayed; it included sorcerors and paid little attention to scientific realities.  However, the world wasn't ruled by magic but more by supernatural occurrences or qualities, and it wasn't very well thought out.  I'll discuss what I tried to do in these stories in a later post.  Suffice it to say it became overgrown and I rewrote the original story two or three times and got absolutely confused and didn't know what I was doing any longer.  However, I did produce a couple of novels laid in the world of the Demrai, Epanishai, and Siritoch that weren't so bad, and might be worth resurrecting.  I'll talk about that world in a later post.
       After I gave up on that neophyte undertaking, I still couldn't get the concept of what it would be like to be immortal out of my consciousness.  So I invented another fantasy world -- Ziraf's World --where Ziraf the god of the world (the Ultimate Dreamer) appoints seven subordinates (called the Zem'l, Ziraf's Dreamers) to create the world.  This world had a predominant color -- slate-blue or slate gray -- and it contained animals, humankind (mortals), and Troil (shape-shifting spirit-beings who didn't die, who had no flesh-bodies, and who inhabited many different aspects of creation such as streams, trees, stones, the wind, the clouds -- just about anything you can think of).  These Troil (sing. Troi) were always hanging around, sometimes simply observing, sometimes behaving mischievously or at times beneficially, and sometimes communicating with humans and giving them advice (dubious on occasion -- you should never completely trust a Troi!) 
       Into this world emerged Gilzara, the aging Shrine Guardian who has the ability to summon the Zem'l and ask for answers to questions or present petitions.  And someone puts the idea into the old man's head to ask Krozem the Dreamer of Humankind for immortality.  After all, the Troil are immortal -- why shouldn't humans also be so favored?
       I wrote a novel called The Blessing of Krozem about this world.  It was to be the first volume of a series called The Wizards of Starbell Mountain.  Just now I looked at the manuscript (typescript).  It was about 87,000 words and began with a preliminary chapter or prologue called "The Gift."  I also turned this prologue into a short piece, 8500 words, which can be called a novelette, I used it to send to publishers as a sample chapter.  I got a little encouragement, but not quite enough.  Then my life situation changed and I stopped writing. 
       Now I've published the prologue, retitled "The Blessing of Krozem," as a 99-cent ebook on Smashwords.  I'm hoping that some of you would decide to buy it and give it a try.  I don't have a scanner (will I ever get one?  Who knows?)  If I do, then I will scan some of my early books into the computer and decide whether they are worth publishing.  So please do read the opening novelette and let me know if you would like to learn more about the world of the Kairam and about what happens to the Priest Gilzara after he receives "The Blessing of Krozem." 
       Above is the cover to the novelette.  That's the Troi Wagmi sitting on his stone in the middle of the Mistgel River.  He's a water Troi, with weedy eyebrows.  His head is hollow -- you can see the background through his mouth.  I don't particularly like the way he came out -- I'm not good with any kind of figure drawing, even of creatures who lack bones or prescribed forms.  That's a rock Troi at the lower left and the wind Troi Murush at the upper right, against the trees.  And that's the Starbell Mountain in the background and Emtash's fastness at the upper left.  Click on the picture for a better view.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ye Olde Grammarian, No. 3: Pesky Punctuation Problems

       In her peregrinations around the blogosphere and the self-publishing community, Ye Olde Grammarian has noted some anomalies in the use of certain punctuation marks that she felt ought to be addressed.  They involve the use of commas, periods, colons, semicolons, and question marks when combined with quotation marks and parentheses.  There are lots of websites out there where these rules are addressed, but still people seem to be confused.

Where does one put the closing punctuation when quotation marks are used?  Is it inside or outside the quotation mark?
Periods and commas always go inside the quotation mark, whether it's single or double. 
Correct:  He said, "I won't be home until evening."
Incorrect:  He said, "I won't be home until evening".
Correct: He said, "I heard her say, 'There's no one here.'"
Incorrect:  He said, "I heard her say, 'There's no one here'."
Incorrect:  He said, "I heard her say, 'There's no one here'".

Question marks can be tricky (the same rules apply to exclamation points).
Correct: He said, "When can I come home?"
Incorrect: He said, "When can I come home"?
Correct: Did I hear him say "I'm not coming home"?
Incorrect: Did I hear him say, "I'm not coming home?"
Incorrect: Did I hear him say, "I'm not coming home."?
[In this case, the whole sentence is a question and the quoted part is a simple declarative sentence, so the mark goes outside the quotation mark.  The third example demonstrates that you don't duplicate punctuation.]
BUT ...
Correct: I heard him say, "Aren't you coming home?"
Incorrect: I heard him say, "Aren't you coming home"?
Incorrect: I heard him say, "Aren't you coming home?".
[Here the whole sentence is a declarative statement, but the quoted part is a question unto itself, so the mark goes with the quotation.  And again, you don't duplicate punctuation.]
Colons and semicolons go outside the quotation marks. 
Last year about this time I was engaged in copyediting a novel for someone and in the process I double-checked things I wasn't sure about. That's when I discovered this rule.  I confess I had always thought semicolons went inside the quotation mark and had always used them that way in my writing.  I had never thought about colons, since that situation would occur rather infrequently.  Anyway, I know better now and here are my examples:

Correct: I suggested he use the common name "Mary"; he refused with a scornful twist of the lip, remarking, "You have no imagination!"
[Note that the exclamation point goes inside the quotation mark because it pertains only to the quoted sentence.]
If the sentence had read like this, with a comma instead of a semicolon, the comma would go inside the quotation mark.
Correct: I suggested he use the common name "Mary," but he refused.

Correct: pai| is the Shshi root for "war." "Warrior": pai'zei|; the noun "fight": pai'zi|; "battle": pai'pai'zi| (literally, "fight among many")
[This second example is similar to material in the footnotes from my "Labors" series.  You can imagine how much difficulty I had copyediting them!  Getting all those colons and semicolons and quotation marks placed and spaced right was devilish, to say nothing of keeping the italics consistent!  And note that I omitted a closing period because the succession of words is not a complete sentence.]

The same basic rule applies to parentheses that applies to quotation marks.
Correct: After we went to bed (and there was really nothing else to do), a storm came up.
Incorrect: After we went to bed (and there was really nothing else to do,) a storm came up.
Incorrect: After we went to bed, (and there was really nothing else to do), a storm came up.
[Since the parenthetical material belongs with the opening subordinate clause, you don't set it off with an initial comma.]
Correct: After we went to bed, a storm came up (hadn't I said it would?)
Incorrect: After we went to bed, a storm came up (hadn't I said it would)?
Correct: After we went to bed, a storm came up (and it was a real thunder-boomer!)
Incorrect:  After we went to bed, a storm came up (and it was a real thunder-boomer)!
[In these two examples, the question mark or the exclamation point pertains only to the clause in parentheses.]

Never duplicate punctuation.
Incorrect: After we went to bed, a storm came up (hadn't I said it would?).
[If a mark of punctuation is used inside the closing parenthesis, you don't add a period at the end.]

Correct: I wrote a long term paper (actually, it was a bit too long).
Incorrect: I wrote a long term paper (actually, it was a bit too long.)
[Here, the parenthetical material is treated as part of the basic sentence, so the period comes outside the closing parenthesis.]
Correct: I wrote a long term paper. (Actually, it was a bit too long.)
Incorrect: I wrote a long term paper.  (Actually, it was a bit too long).
[If the parenthetical material stands alone, place the punctuation within the closing parenthesis, just as you would with quotation marks.]
Are you thoroughly confused?  I know I've managed to confuse myself!  But I think I know these rules and apply them automatically.  If you want to see an expert's simpler exposition, go to