Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Kid Stuff

We went shopping.  It's amazing (and cool) how much of an event shopping can be when you haven't done it in a while.  We took advantage of some great sales, and we didn't have to fight crowds.  Yay!

On the way home we got to talking about religion and enlightenment.  O is reading Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing.  That book provides heaps of material for discussion.  (I also enjoyed reading it because I felt like I was spending time with my husband.  Make of that what you will.)

I'm in a weird position, as far as I can tell.  I don't consider my beliefs 'faith.'  I don't have a book I follow.  I have direct experience, and I have history.  History is the more suspect of those two.  As a former Catholic, I understand how beautiful faith, any faith, can be.  Having said that, I think part of the reason why the book, and my son's insights into it, resonate and work for me is because it focuses on work, thinking, and getting at reality.  It has nothing to do with woo woo experiences.  Not that they don't happen.  They just have nothing to do with enlightenment.  Aura visualization, seeing/hearing/feeling ghosts, being thrown into states of bliss or alternate realities, astral projection (I've done all these things, btw) are more of a distraction than any proof of spiritual advancement.  I've suspected this, but I've never put it into words, never completed the thought for myself.  So I'm indebted to Jed McKenna for pointing that out to me.

I'm not planning to head off on a path toward enlightenment.  It's just fun talking about how to avoid getting caught up in fantasies and avoid getting distracted by things that can make you less, rather than more, functional and/or happy in this world, assuming that's your goal.  If I hear about someone who has to consult a tarot deck before heading out to face the day, and that person is doing no better or (more usually!) worse than your average Joe or Jane, the tarot deck is a distraction no matter how accurate it might be.  

You can guess the direction our discussion of religion went.  If it works for people, helps them get through life better, if it's helping, then yay!  I would be the last person to say don't believe.  But if you feel like you're in jail and life is nothing but suffering, you know, the door is open.  Seriously.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Things My Kids Talk About at Dinner

I let my kids watch Robot Chicken.  I know this automatically means I'm a bad parent, but it's not like I could hide this shameful fact.

For example, at a holiday dinner table, Robot Chicken has to come up.  It's required to do something like this before you can progress in the Embarrass Your Parents course.  No other people need be present at the table.  It's sufficiently embarrassing that other people will just instinctively know that it happened, and will give you the look when you next go shopping or for coffee or whatever.

"You let your kids watch Robot Chicken, don't you," the kid at the expresso machine says.  "I don't think I should sell you this hot caramel apple cider with extra whipping cream.  It wouldn't be ethical to support you in any way."

Anyway, there's a skit on Terrorism in the first season.  Kids say innocuous things, and then a booming voice accuses them of "Terrorism!" and then terrorists use the innocuous thing to charge in and shoot everyone.  "Now is the time to strike!" they cackle.

So the kids came up with "Divine Wrath!"

A gaming nerd from Muncie, Indiana stops in the middle of a convenience store in horror.  "Oops, I forgot to make a sacrifice to Poseidon."  A tidal wave comes in and floods the city.  "Divine Wrath!"
A kid in a blue suit carrying a Bible is smoking with his friends behind the school.  "I skipped Church this Sunday."  A lightning bolt shoots out of a clear sky and strikes him dead.  "Divine Wrath!"
An emo girl complains to her friend at school.  "Thor sucks!"  A giant hammer smashes her into dust.  "Divine Wrath!" the voice thunders.
A tourist draws a mustache and glasses on a statue of Kali.  The statue becomes the animated embodiment of Kali.  The avatar hoists him into the air on the end of a spear.  "Divine Wrath!"
A novelist confronts her critique group.  "You know, I don't think J.R.R. Tolkien was that good."  Boromir smashes through the door, cries, "For Gondor!" and slices her in half.  "Divine Wrath!"

This blog post has been sponsored by Mothers Against Atheism (MAA.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The New Year Approacheth

I'm not a big New Year's Resolution gal, but I do review the previous year and try to do some planning.  As we approach January 1, 2009, I'll be thinking about where I've been, and where I'd like to be by January 1, 2010.  As radical as 2008 has been, 2009 has the potential to test me even more.  I hope I pass those tests.  Skating along is great, but facing challenges, meeting them, even surpassing them, is something I look forward to even though they're intimidating.  I'm not dreading 2009.  I'm hopeful, and I'm gearing up.  

2009 won't just be a big year for me.  We'll have a new President, and the Democrats will be in charge.  Will it be chaos, or choreography, to quote Heather Alexander?  

The woodstove warms the downstairs and the cats lay, molten, in cushioned nooks.  The house is soft and comforting.  It's an illusion, but I do feel sheltered and safe here.  Snow may sift endlessly from towering clouds, I may demand more of myself as a writer, face the possibility of O going out into the world to make it on his own as best he can, dream bigger than ever while downsizing as much as I can, get caught up in storms of political and economic change (hopefully they'll be awesome rather than awful) ... but I'm starting from a place of wellness and comfort.  Thus rested, hopefully I can handle just about anything.

I hope everyone has a great winter, and that the lengthening days will lift your spirits to new heights.  Happy Holidays!

To my beloved far away, blessed be.  We're going to have crazy fun this year.  Are you ready?  I am.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Food: Everywhere but here

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays.  It's still snowing up here and my car is buried (again) so we won't be going to my mom's place today either.  We'll meet up sometime this weekend, I imagine.  

Moody mentioned in comments that some folks on the coast have lost access to some perishables because trucks can't make it over the passes.  I had a report from Bend from my sister-in-law that grocery stores had run out of some basics like sugar.  It makes me wonder how long a city system can be supported by local warehouses.  

I know during the reign of communism in the Czech Republic, running out of things was usual.  The system of supply was notoriously poor, and some things like fresh produce were horrendously expensive (possibly because they were difficult to ship.)  I remember the package of four peaches, carefully wrapped, with a price tag of (U.S. dollar equivalent) $40 on it.  Yikes.  So, how much do you like peaches?

There's a price to pay when you don't have a direct local supply.  Can the Tillamook dairy sell directly to grocery stores?  They're still milking and bottling.  I'm betting that they're required by contract to ship in certain quantities in certain directions.  To change that would be a breach of contract.  It's just a guess, but that may have something to do with the lack of milk in coastal grocery stores right now.  Contracts.  

I don't expect that the way we handle contracts and shipping will change very much.  There are some buy local movements out there.  Fuel costs have pressured a rethink of how we do business.  Why do I find foreign-grown oranges in the store instead of Californian or Florida oranges anyway?  Why can't I find a single brand of canned Hawaiian pineapple at any price?

Don't get me wrong.  I like the bananas I get from Ecuador.  I'm a little iffy about the pesticides some foreign countries allow, but hey, bananas have thick peels.  The point is, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with buying stuff from overseas.  I do think that as a nation we should give preference, or at least make available, products that are closer to home.

If anyone knows where I can get Hawaiian pineapple, let me know!  Maybe the Whole Foods Market has some ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shelter, Water, Food

I took survival classes in college.  Yes, multiple.  You may or may not be surprised that it would fill an entire college-level course.  The extension service stuff was more hands-on.  Like deciding in advance what you will and will not fight for (or against) it's important to figure out what you're going to do well in advance of a survival situation.

Not that we're in a survival situation, but I do daily inventories on food and water to make sure we don't have to ration before the so-called weekend thaw.  I've also got a plan if we need to get into town for whatever reason.  It's called hitching a ride.

It wouldn't exactly be a plush holiday vacation, but we would actually be fine for a whole 'nother week, and we'd be whiny but sustainable beyond that on sausage, ramen, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, bread made in the bread machine and cookies.  We also have enough brownie mix to make several batches of brownies, which as we all know make the whole world better.  But, even though we're not in trouble in any sense of the word, I thought I'd blah blah about survival strategies.

The reason survival classes order shelter, water and food in the order that they do is priority.  Exposure to the elements is usually your worst enemy, whether it's desert sun, rain, cold, wind, drowning, etc.  Most people lost in the wilderness are killed by exposure first.  Now, putting together a reasonable shelter is different than hiding in a panic.  Lots of people panic and then hide.  If you put yourself in the mindset of constructing something that will keep out the worst of the weather using the natural terrain as much as you can and then setting up some sort of marker that will clue in searchers to your whereabouts, you'll be better off (in most cases) than wandering around trying to find your own way out until you freak out, go animal and hide.  At that point you won't be in control of your emotions and you won't be rational--lost people have failed to respond to searchers calling their name because they become so fearful.  If you know for an absolute fact that no one will be looking for you, or looking in the wrong place, or will absolutely for certain not find you in time, and you need to navigate out, you'll have to put together mobile shelter, aka clothing.  Hats and insulation from natural materials suck, but they're better than nothing if you're not dressed for the weather.

Second is water because dehydration is a quick killer too, just not as quick as exposure to the worst Momma Nature has to offer.  Most people worry about water in the desert, but it's easy to get dehydrated in rainy or snowy conditions too.  In snow it's bad because your sources of water sap precious body heat.  In cold rain often the thirst mechanism is suppressed, so you don't start to feel thirsty until you're in trouble.

Food, although hunger is miserable, is last on the list because it's the slowest of the killers.  People quickly weaken from hunger, but having done a five day fast while continuing my normal activities including karate and archery, I can tell you from personal experience that you won't weaken as quickly as you think assuming you're able to stay warm in a cold environment. You'll weaken faster in the cold because your body burns so much more energy trying to maintain proper body temperature.  This is a similar problem to sweating away precious water reserves when you're in hot/desert situation and you're low on water, though it's still slower than dying from exposure or thirst by quite a large margin.

More information is good.  If you know the whys of an order of importance you can modify that order based on your particular circumstances.  But do think over those circumstances before you walk out the door (or before the storm rolls in.)  Once you're in the middle of it, it'll be that much harder to get by if you haven't planned ahead.

Be safe out there!

Monday, December 22, 2008

No End in Sight, Yet

353 PM PST MON DEC 22 2008
353 PM PST MON DEC 22 2008




Sunday, December 21, 2008

Still Doing Great

The weather outside is intense, but we're doing well.  O. and I crawled (literally at some points) over deep drifts of snow to truck water and firewood to the appropriate places during chore time today.  A. went out too to feed the animals, but she couldn't manage bringing stuff back in the weather.  Definitely three layer weather outside, and the outside dogs are inside.  The bunnies are covered in two layers of blankets.  So far so good with the goats, though I worry about them in this sort of weather.  

Regional weather reports say we have temps in the twenties, but our thermometer reads in the teens.  Today it got as warm as 20˚F, and then dropped back down to 15˚F (-10 C)  That's without windchill, and it's blowing out there.  At least we haven't seen any ice.  Yet.  It's supposed to arrive.  Regional weather also tells us that the storm warning period has been extended until 10am tomorrow, and to expect another 2"-4" of snow.  Well, it looks like a lot more than an additional 4" out there to me, but it's not like the conditions are significantly tougher out here because of the added accumulation.  That may change if the deck or roof decides it wasn't designed well enough to hold the snow load.

Living on a hill with few neighbors is definitely not for the faint of heart.  We've been in touch with all three of our neighbors and everyone is doing well.  The across the road neighbor has a light four wheel drive vehicle with chains and has been commuting okay.  The uphill neighbor is fine.  The downhill neighbor was out of town until recently and called about road conditions.  I gave him the skinny, and he decided to go for it since we didn't have any freezing rain and he's a very experienced snow driver with a four wheel drive vehicle and chains at his disposal.

Lights flicked off several times today, but came right back on.  We're snug and fed and not worried despite the fact that our vehicles are buried.  I hope everyone is doing okay.  Hang in there!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Winter Nagland

We're preparing for the big snow dump.  I now officially forbid anyone from even trying to come up here, as we're going to have both snow and freezing rain.  The image is from yesterday.  The snow is deeper today, and it's colder.  When the freezing rain comes (if it comes) it'll go from iffy driving to crazy.

This is the kind of weather where it's essential that all y'all with heating systems that absolutely must have clear venting to keep your family safe (like wood heat) need to check those vents, just in case.  I went out this morning early-ish to make sure our wood stove still had a clear chimney exhaust.  Looks good from here.  We've kept the heat up for long enough and hot enough that it seemed unlikely snow and ice would stick there, but since the fire goes out overnight every night, it pays to check.  

While I'm in mother hen finger-shaking mode, when's the last time you backed up your computer?  Don't forget to back up, me hearties.  

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Our Solstice preparations have been overshadowed by storms.  I don't know if we're going to thaw out enough to lure company over, but one way or another we'll have our usual vigil.  We stay up all night waiting for the sun to rise after the longest night of the year.  This year the party starts on the morning of December 21st and continues until the morning of December 22nd.  I allow myself naps during daylight, but at sunset I meditate on the last rays of sunlight, and I won't sleep again until the sun crests the horizon in the morning.  

First light can be a rather ambiguous situation if its cloudy, especially if it's snowing.  Luckily we have resources online to tell us, to the minute, when the sun will rise.  I use local flight info in case I can't tell when the sun is up--pilots have to know exactly when first light appears, when the sun actually rises, and all that.  On the shortest day of the year, pilots who aren't permitted to fly at night will be severely curtailed.  I guess they'll have to stay home and drink hot chocolate.

Friends are welcome to come over.  We have both modern and traditional goodies on Yule.

Why Yule instead of Christmas?  I left the Catholic faith a long time ago.  Even as sanitized and de-Christianized as many Americans make it, it's still a Christian holiday.  I both respect my Christian friends, and my decision, too much to celebrate a neutered version of what was in turn a neutered (and then put in funny clothes) version of a pagan holiday.  

Much of what informs my spiritual practices comes from what I've learned about the cycles of day and night, life and death, and the seasons.  Celebrating the solstice fits with that.  We do the whole shebang--open gifts, call friends, and sometimes I even get holiday cards out on time (not this year, though!)  It's the yay, the sunshine is coming back party, rather than the virgin birth thing or the B&E saint thing for us.  Whatever your faith, I hope December 21st is a good day for you, and that you have a peaceful and hopeful night.  Come the first light of December 22nd, the days will get longer and will eventually snowball (ha ha) into spring here in the northern hemisphere on our gorgeous, jewel-like planet surrounded by the stars of our home, the Milky Way Galaxy.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Public Service Message from Brrr Hill

Headache, feeling achy.  I hope I'm just slow at adjusting to the very dry cold and dealing with a disruption in my sleep schedule rather than coming down with something.

If you're in dry cold, remember to drink on a schedule.  The thirst mechanism isn't triggered as reliably in cold weather, and dry cold (especially with lots of wind) dehydrates people shockingly fast.  I haven't been drinking on a schedule, and I suspect that may have something to do with how I'm feeling.

Dehydration can cause headaches, nausea, diarrhea as well as the more usual dry mouth/throat/fuzzy tongue.  In fact, if you need something to help you remember the less usual symptoms of dehydration, just think about how it feels to be hungover.  

And don't forget to check your pee.  There are grosser things to do.  No, I don't want to hear about them.  :-)  If you're not going, or not going often enough, or its dark, you could be in trouble.  Seriously.

Stay safe and warm out there.  It might not be as cold as it is in, say, Montana, but it's no joke.  In fact, those of us who aren't used to this really chilly weather are generally less prepared, and more likely to suffer from a cold injury like frostbite or lung damage than our more savvy cold-weather neighbors.

Happy Brrr Days!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Winter Shiverland

The storm is here.  It's pretty bitter out there, enough that we've had the outside dogs in a couple of times to warm up, and they'll be spending the night in the garage with the heater on.  The heater is in an inaccessible place, plus it's the kind that turns off automatically if it's tipped over, and its on the solid cement ground.
Eventually I want to build the dogs a permanent room in the garage accessible through the side garage door.  I even have a dog door for it.  I just haven't had time.  So the poor things are shut in.  They'll get to go out to pee in about another hour or two, and then I get to set the alarm early to let them out in the morning.
There's a bat in the garage as well.  We disturbed it setting up the dog sleeping quarters.  I hope it's doing okay in there.  Do they eat dog food?  I dunno.  Bats hibernate in our garage every year, but this is the first time I've seen one actually flapping around.  I've found them before snuggled up inside of bedding in the garage, but they wouldn't do anything except shift a little bit around.  Maybe it's because the weather has been relatively mild until now.  It hasn't had time to get groggy.

We're going to prep as if it's a school day tomorrow, but I suspect it's going to be cancelled.  Fog is predicted for the wee hours tonight, and freezing fog means nasty roads in the morning.  Just as well.  I like having my kids home.  We can bake brownies and have a movie fest and, if the wind dies down a bit, build snowmen.

I hope everyone's staying warm. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's Alive!

Every year for a long stretch now, we've gotten a live tree for Yule.  

Live trees are trickier than the cut ones for lots of reasons.  One of them is dormancy.  Even evergreens are dormant in winter.  The difference they have from their deciduous cousins is that they retain their leaves.  In order to do this they employ a number of tricks--coated leaves, more compact leaves with an overall greater thickness than most deciduous leaves (to help resist frostbite) and specialized sap.  This doesn't make them invulnerable to cold, though.  They don't put on new leaves, which isn't tough enough to resist the cold, all winter long.  They just maintain.

Contrary to appearance, they do shed their leaves like all other trees.  They just do it like we shed hair.  Sometimes they'll have precipitous loss from stress, but they usually let go of leaves only when those leaves are too old to do a good job.  No pension plan for those leaves, I'm afraid.  After they're shed, many varieties of evergreen leaf also serve as a chemical mulch that makes the soil inhospitable to most seeds.

Anyway, opinions vary on how long it takes for a tree to break dormancy, but opinions are universal that it's a bad thing.  The tree will lose an entire flush of growth that was meant for spring.  So it loses an inch or two of ground at the start of the year, you think.  No big deal, right?  But it's not just height it's losing.  Remember, it loses its leaves fairly continuously.  If it loses its entire spring flush of buds, its going to have to spend extra energy to try to recover.  It needs to produce more leaf mass to make up for what it lost to frost in addition to what it naturally loses, plus it still needs to add on a little more length on its limbs (they prioritize height because it helps them claim valuable solar space and helps choke out competing weeds.)  The tree can also go into shock.  Since transplant shock is pretty well a given for trees anyway when you plant them in your garden, the additional shock of breaking out of dormancy, getting tossed outside back into cold weather and losing all its new buds, and then having to come up with extra growth just when its energy reserves are at their lowest--you can lose the tree entirely.  As in it may die.

So although having a live tree is really, really neat, we have to plan around it.  First of all, we try not to keep it in the house more than ten days.  Second, it can't be downstairs where the woodstove is running continuously.  In addition to that heat being very drying, it's so extreme that it may break the tree out of dormancy even sooner.  Last, we have to be careful about the lights (as low heat as we can find and keeping them on only when we're actively enjoying the ambience,) ornaments (not heavy or hung in a way that will damage branches) and how often we water (can't just 'top it off' like a cut tree--having it be too wet is just as bad as too dry.)

The fuss is worth it.  When I stroll through the garden, I recognize all our Yule trees from years past.  Some of them have grown a lot, like our variegated cedar, while others, like our variegated holly, are still compact (and are supposed to be that way.)

BTW, this is a Moonglow juniper, in honor of my DH, who loves junipers.  The link leads to a reasonable description, but there's an error--these trees can mature up to a height of 30 feet and can be wider (up to 12') so planning for 15'x5' is asking for trouble unless your climate naturally dwarfs them.  Planting in rocky soil will also probably dwarf them, though junipers aren't as stymied by rock as some other trees.

All this started with some good friends of ours (hi Sondra and Rick!) who gave us a miniature Christmas tree one year to plant in our yard.  It's still tiny, but easily three times as big as when we got it.  It's a dwarf alberta spruce, and you can usually find them very inexpensively at most stores this time of year in a variety of sizes.  Even people with very, very small gardens can plant this tree outside.  They grow only a fraction of an inch each year, and maintain a tidy shape without pruning.  Treat them more like a shrub than a tree.  By the time they get 'tree-sized' your grandchildren will be enjoying having their grandchildren over to decorate the outdoor Christmas tree.

Have a happy holiday!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Q: Why did you agree to this interview?

It's Friday and the forecast is promising snow in waves--this afternoon, again Sunday, and probably a third wave next week.  I'm wishing for that snow, though it'll torpedo my weekend plans.  Maybe because it'll torpedo my weekend plans.  I do like going out and accomplishing Stuff and Things but it's been a while since I've holed up in my house for days and days.  I've got good reason to hole up, too.  I've been working on the grass widow book--it's up to 13,000 words now--and I don't want to stop.  
Speaking of which, if anyone out there is a grass widow or knows someone who has a spouse overseas (soldier or contractor, doesn't matter) who is willing to be interviewed for the book, contact me: kamila at easystreet dot net.  I'd like to hear all about it.  I'll even make the interview super easy and painless, and folks can choose to have names mentioned or remain completely anonymous.
Which brings me to an anecdote.  Chatting with a non-fiction author about the quirky situation of writing about real life (with such topics as how real is real, different accounts of the same event and how they relate, etc.) the subject of using real names and interview materials came up.  The author said that after a short interview one subject of his book asked how much he would get paid for the use of his name.
Um, nothing?  
The author changed the name rather than feel beholden, even though the person had no legal right to demand money for the use of their name in a creative non-fiction work.  He didn't want to deal with the emotional and possibly legal fall-out should this person come after him in the event the book was actually published and, heaven forbid, did well in the marketplace.
The thing about writing and selling books is that unless you're super lucky, super famous, or established, or--er, I don't think there's a fourth option--it's unlikely you can pay for groceries with what you make, much less a mortgage.  If most writers paid themselves the federal minimum wage for the hours spent on their projects, they'd go bankrupt in no time.  In fact, they'd go bankrupt if they paid themselves only a dollar per hour.  Assuming a part time schedule with two weeks vacation, I'd have to pay myself around $1500 a year at a buck an hour.  This year I've earned about $150.  If I sold a book and got a $2000 advance on it (no guarantee of that advance, especially if it's published through a small press,) I'd be about $500 ahead.  I could pay my taxes with the extra cash!  Yay!
Er, boo, actually.  And the book may not even sell.  Plus, I write closer to full time.
So the folks that participate through interviews or share ideas or critique or what have you to be a part of a writer's process should help out because they want their information out there, or out of friendship, or professional courtesy or in exchange for similar services, or maybe as a promotional opportunity if the book relates to a commercial venture.  You can do it for the oblique gratification of being included in the acknowledgements, or because it feels good to contribute to an art form.  Maybe you just would like to transmit important information to the world community on a non-fiction topic.  Maybe you've succeeded at something, and you'd like to help someone else succeed--paying it forward.  Regardless, even if an author is financially able to compensate you, is there a reason why they should?  There is one.  If it's your book, and you're paying them to ghost write for you.
Sure, if I make a gizillion dollars on a blockbuster, I'll do something nice for the people who contributed.  If I can't even buy groceries, I'll still try to arrange for a free copy through the publisher, or spend money out of my own pocket (assuming I have two dimes to rub together and I'm not eating cat food and living in my car,) to get a free copy of the book to interviewees, signed if they like, with my profuse thanks.  But getting interviewed is not a way to make money, and the use of your name in a book doesn't imply you ought to be compensated.  
End of rant.  Where's my snow?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Take it up with management

"MmmMMMmmm!"  It-Runs-In-Front-of-Me whines with her mouth closed, getting underfoot as I move around the house.  When I settle, she whines some more until I give her an invitation, and then she leaps onto my lap.  She's the lickiest kitty we've had.  Yesterday we got into a pattern of her licking my fingers and I'd rub her face and she'd lick my fingers and I'd rub her face--kitty face washing via a human.  Not sure what it means in the language of the cat (other than I'm clearly her slave) but she liked it.

We've been back from Victoria for a couple of days, but we're short my DH, who's gone back overseas.  The household is back to 'normal,' normal for us these past months.  Email and Skype contact, quiet during the day while the younger humans are at school, the stack of projects deep enough to keep me busy until the next R&R.  I have to add another entry in my grass widow book.  There aren't very many, and there won't be much to work on if I don't make these timed entries.  It's too difficult to recapture the day to day experience of being a grass widow; there's no going back and doing it later.  At the same time, daily entries would be too much.  That would smell like wallowing, and I'm not big on the ol' wallow, not when there are dirty walls left to paint and novels to edit and short stories to market and manuscripts to critique.  Besides, I suspect that it's bad for my hair.

It was good, really, really good, to have him home.  We talked a lot, and a lot wasn't quite enough to get somewhere with this whole 'what next' question.  Education is a no-brainer, but when a person becomes a contractor, the job thing isn't a no-brainer anymore.  Saving, planning, contingencies all become critical.  

I heard a story about someone who withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from a 401k in time to save it from a stock-worth plunge, but then spent it.  All of it.  Even with amounts that border on an incredible windfall, the money bleeds away unless you're careful.  There's no inheritance, no lottery, no lucky break in the stock market big enough to save your ass if you can't manage your money.  Which brings me to management in general.

There isn't enough money in your imagination to give you financial independence if you don't know how to get by day to day with what you already have.  So with that firmly in mind, I get to prioritize expenditures over the next several months and save as much as I can for that day when he gets to come home and stay more than a short breath.  And I've decided to 'live the dream' which in reality is more like eat the stress muffin--make a serious go at pulling in my part of the total household income through writing, an incredibly tough thing to do these days.  It means non-fiction articles as well as short stories.  It means in ten minutes, I start my work day, so I'd better get dressed and eat breakfast right quick.  

I've deliberately set a high goal for myself, partly to contribute in a more income-y way to the household, partly to stay sane, but mostly because I know I can't succeed until I try.  All my dreams of becoming a successful writer aren't worth shed dog hair if I don't make the attempt when the opportunity to write without starving is now, and tomorrow, and a whole line of tomorrows that seem boundless but just like money, can bleed away to nothing.  After that sometime tomorrow, if I'm not making enough money to even buy groceries, it'll be too late to build a career in time, and I'll be back to looking through the wanted ads, or contemplating a major downsize, or some other measure in conjunction with what the market will bear on my DH's side of work-related endeavors.  Managing time is even more important than managing money.  The time to continue, or begin again, is now, and every day from now until time runs out.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


Attempts began to salvage a recent wreck near Tofino, Vancouver Island B.C.

View from our deck of a Christmas parade of ships in Victoria, Vancouver Island, B.C.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Indoor and outdoor lights combine at a waterfront restaurant

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The land of inlets

Beautiful territory up here.  Mostly forested, ferries taking shortcuts over water where bridges can't span, moist ocean air, seagulls, calm water, silver skies.  We visited with a favorite aunt last night.  Good food, conversation that spanned the usual (for us) gamut from the artistic to the animal.  We're just outside the region where the sun shines more often than not.  There's a hole in the rain, a weather pattern that shelters Sequim from constant drenching.  I wonder if it's seasonal or year-round.  Anyway, we're a few miles away, lit by a cloud-diffused sun. 

It's cold, colder than I'd guess from looking at the thermostat. It might be the damp, or that I haven't acclimated yet.  Anyway, it's coat and sweater weather.  So naturally we can't find swimsuits for sale anywhere.  The girl is growing too fast and not swimming often enough to keep her in swimsuits.  It's like needing shoes for a child that runs around barefoot everywhere.  When you go someplace where shoes are absolutely required you wonder if you're a bad parent for not just having them available on general principles.  I think her most recent swimsuit is two sizes too small.

I'm a little on the pooped side.  Although we have places to stay every night, we're technically still traveling.  I don't unpack my clothes into the dressers.  When we get up in the morning we're watching the clock for the checkout time.  This morning my DH did laundry.  Clothes are tumbling in the drier.  They'll be done in time, but still, I'm checking the clock.  It doesn't detract from having fun, but it isn't relaxing.

Time to do my five Tibetans.

Hmm.  That sounded kinky.

Posting will continue to be sporadic until about the 10th of December.  I hope everyone's having a good first part of December!

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I managed to cross the Nanowrimo finish line today!  I didn't have far to go, but distractions abounded, all of them good distractions that I'm happy to allow to distract me, especially my DH.  But he wanted me to win, so he and the rest of the fam put up with me typing (and even cheered me on and teased me) while we went bowling today.  When I got home I had less than 300 words left, and got those in right quick.  My bowling kinda stank, but I had a great time.

Now it's a matter of finishing the darned thing to The End.  While I'm on vacation I may have a few quiet moments here and there, so we'll see, but most of the time we'll be sightseeing and enjoying each others' company.  

I hope those who participated in Nanowrimo this year felt like they got a fair shot at the win, and learned and grew and enjoyed focusing on writing.  See y'all next year!  And I hope those of you thinking about it will join us next year too.  Merry writing!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Turkey with No Name (44656)

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving in Bend, ate a wonderful smoked turkey with no name and tons of fixings, plus homemade caramel apple pie that was divine, and are setting up to head on home.  Even Dakota had a good time, though I think the long car ride was hard on her.  The family played on a Wii for the first time.  Strange, and fun, and a lot more active than traditional video games.  The golf courses are amazing and fun.  I can see how golfers can become enamored of spectacular golf courses in exotic locations.  The setting is integral to the fun.  Having said all that, I still prefer bowling and I'm unlikely to take up real golf.

There's something about very cold weather that I find compelling.  The sharp air, clear skies, ice, snow and the scent of snow, and the cutting wind grab the primitive organism part of me and put me into a completely different mindset than my summer-self.  We went from Wandering/autumn weather to winter in the course of one car ride, so I observed the transition, though I can't say I understand its nuances.  Now I wonder if it'll flip back into Wandering, or if I'll be stuck in winter.

I put some words into Nano last night.  Not much time left.  I wrote a wee bit more after I logged in my word count for Thursday, so it's likely I have close to an even 5000 words left to write.  Doable in a day, but I have travel time and family time to take into account, so it'll be a near thing.  My DH won!  First year, and not only does he finish ahead of me but he wrote The End.  His book/novella is really excellent, too.  Mine is bantha poodoo, normal for a Nano for me, and I have a ways to go before I hit the end.  Someday it'll be a real book if it's truthful and ... whatever all else.  But after Nano, aside from tapping away here and there to get to the end before I lose my so-called train of thought, this project will get set aside in favor of editing Masks.  Since I prefer writing sweet and light first drafts over bitter and complex editing, I can use my Nano as a reward for getting stuff done on Masks.  

As for other writing goals, getting short stories out into the marketplace also has to become a priority, and I need to clean out and consolidate my gizillion emails left over from the smashing success that was OryCon 30.  So I'll be a busy thing over the holidays.  I hope folks who were sick over Thanksgiving are feeling better, and those who were able could spend time with their friends and/or families.  With all the serious strife, horror and pain in the world, we need times to reflect on what we have to be grateful for more than ever.  May peace and comfort be yours.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The weekend that ate the moon

We've got a busy schedule still, but the busiest part of it is done.  

The convention was a great success!  I made people cry (in a good way, I hope) at the Broad Universe reading,  got very encouraging feedback on the openings I read for the ORCs, and excellent feedback on the Mayhem opening for the writer's workshop.  My DH sold lots of books.  I got a free signed copy of a book from a very nice pro.  As far as I know, I didn't make a fool of myself at any of the panels I was on.  And I learned tons, including how to properly do the Five Tibetans straight from Steve Barnes.  This will come in handy when I beta-test a life improvement system for him.  

So not-selling any art this year didn't sting.  It would have been nice to sell something, but I didn't feel like I wasted my time or art show space.  An extra perk--people said nice things about my work, and one of them was an unsolicited remark from artist Alan Clark.  I admire the heck out that guy, so it encouraged me that I may be heading in a good direction.  

That's all I have for now.  I have a pillow to hit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

(41474, still) Last minute stuff

I'm still prepping for the homecoming and for OryCon.  Note to self: try not to overlap two major events, an art deadline and a writing deadline again.  Evah.  (I know, I know, I'm dreaming--this kind of stuff always overlaps.)

This blog will very likely be dark or at least very shady until Nov. 24, 2008 due to OryCon, and sporadic thereafter through early December due to various trips around the Pacific NW.  Posts will pick back up to their usual almost-daily schedule starting on or near Wednesday December 10, 2008.  

I hope to see many of you at OryCon 30!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

OryCon 30 Schedule

I have a very full schedule at OryCon this year.  

I'm officially scheduled as a panelist/reader at:

*Artistic Inspirations, Fri 2pm Elizabeth Fellows Kamila Miller Jeff Sturgeon Vincent Vaughn Jeff Fennel
*But I thought YOU were going to write the ending: collaborations Fri 3pm Kamila Miller Bruce Taylor Richard A. Lovett S. Danelle Perry
*Evil scams for newbie writers Fri 4pm  Kamila Miller Mary Rosenblum J.C. Hendee Bob Brown
*Saturday 10am Broad Universe readings!! Please come!  M.K. Hobson, Cat Rambo, Sara Mueller, C.S. Cole, Robin Catesby, Tina Connolly, Ann Wilkes and me!  You don't want to miss this, trust me.  Or, if you do absolutely want to miss this, go to Rory Miller's reading at 10:30am for a great reality check.  You won't want to miss that.  Um, either.  Darnit!
*Where's my robot maid? Sat 11am Bart Kemper Jean Lamb Mike Shepherd-Moscoe Kamila Miller
*Art Jam: everyone draws Sat 1pm Jeff Sturgeon John Gray III Kamila Miller Alan M. Clark
*The Autistic Spectrum Sat 2pm Kamila Miller John Hedtke S. Danelle Perry Laurel Anne Hill Rory Miller
*Nanowrimo: Shut up and write! Sat 5pm Nina Kiriki Hoffman Kamila Miller Mary Rosenblum C.S. Cole Amanda Kundert
*Who is Mary Sue and why does everyone hate her? Sun 11am Ann Wilkes John C. Bunnell Sara Mueller Kamila Miller Louise Owen
*Feedback--time to feed or slay the concom dragon, 2pm Sun with all the usual suspects.

You may also be able to find me at the following (if I haven't curled up into a little ball in a corner to rock and suck my thumb):
The bar
ORCs Friday and Saturday nights, 9pm onward
The bar
Rory Miller's panels
The bar
and also possibly the bar.
I'll also try to hit a couple of parties.  Check out the Reno bid, and support the Endeavor Award, please!  And buy art.  And don't forget to pick up some books in the dealer's room, especially at Lady Jayne's because we love her.

I hope I'll see y'all at the con!

I Slept! (41474)

I slept last night!  I slept I slept I slept for I think about six hours, and then after I got the kids off to school I got in another couple of hours and it was glorious!  

So I had lots more energy today and actually got the downstairs looking nice.  The upstairs is a disaster, plain and simple, but a disaster I can live with.

I haven't written at all on my Nano for two days.  Shame on me!  But I'll probably have some time while my DH is napping, and I plan to be at the write-in at OryCon 30.  The finish line is right there.  I can almost touch it.  But the big welcome home became hugely more important than Nano.  I even dreamt about it last night, apologizing for what a pit the place was.  My house isn't particularly tidy on the best of days, but in the dream it was ten times worse than usual.  Poopyheaded anxiety dreams.  

Tonight, if (when!) I get to sleep, I trust that the poopyheaded anxiety dreams will be well at bay.  But the dreams I will have will be intense, as they always are when I haven't written in a couple of days.  Wish me luck that they don't become nightmares, or even more inventive anxiety dreams.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A million ants

I have so much stuff to do prepping for OryCon and a fabulous homecoming that I've fallen behind on everything.  Nano.  Housework.  Exercise.  Painting (the house interior.)  Watercolor projects.  It's the attack of the million ants.  Every project is manageable, but I feel like I've been swarmed.

I made progress on some neglected stuff today, but it feels like just one or two ants got smushed out of the swarm.

Argh, ants everywhere!  Ants!

Thank goodness my kids are helpful and forgiving.  And bowling yesterday helped, weirdly.  I think the bowling ball must have taken some of the ants out.

Still fighting insomnia.  Maybe tonight will be my night to sleep more than four hours.

Friday, November 14, 2008

(40328) Romance rocks

I've hit an awkward spot in the plot, but it's all good.  These things get ironed out in the end.  

Working with two entwined characters is great on my nerves.  I haven't had both of them floundering at the same time, which is a huge help as far as avoiding being stuck with a pov character who is dithering or at a loss or overwhelmed.   I'm also enjoying the quieter tension of 'will these two ever admit they're in love and get together?!' rather than having a plot that revolves around being extremely clever or extremely violent or both at the same time in order to get anywhere.  But I don't know if I could handle writing romance full-time, just like I don't read romances full time.  In fact, if reading was a job, I'd starve working the number of hours I read romances, whereas I have a full time + job with the fantasy/SF and writing-related NF I read.  I also read more non-writing NF than romance.  

Having said all that, there's something special and wonderful about the romance genre that keeps me coming back.  Maybe it's the happy endings.  Maybe its the skillful way a good writer can make me feel joy at the sight of young love, love that is entirely fictional but still compelling.  My first love is a good action/adventure romp in fantastical realms, and that's where I plan to write my most words.  Even those, though, have a romantic element in them.

Anyway, I'm down to four figure numbers to cross the Nano finish line.  If I spend my time wisely, I might (though it's doubtful--it's a long ways away) get to the real "The End" before my (earlier than the end of November) deadline.  After my deadline, all thoughts of writing will go out of my head and I'll be a happy, prancing Kami muffin ready for an awesome vacation with my DH.  Yay!  

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All My Crimes Meme

If you saw me in the back of a police car, what would you think I was there for?

Answer me, and post this in your own journal to see how many crimes you get accused of.

Jay Lake infected me with this meme.  He was, naturally, accused of jay walking ... but not by me.  I didn't respond fast enough.  I had to come up with something else.

As a side note, as an April Fool's joke I toyed with the idea of calling up a friend of the family and have him bring me in during my DH's work shift.  I couldn't decide if I wanted to be booked for prostitution or murder.  Just telling my DH about my plan when he got home had more than enough of the desired effect.  The expression on his face was precious.  He pondered for quite a while about how he'd react to that.  

33251: The bigger conflict begins to blush

The characters have leapt nimbly, with some bumps and bruises and self-doubts and fears, over the first hurdle.  Before they've had a chance to brush themselves off, they're starting to see the glow of something ominous on the horizon.  It's the first blush of a red dawn before the storm.  They know something bad is approaching, but they still have hopes that they'll be able to shrug it off.  It might not be so bad.  They're just nervous.  You know, new town, new people, unfamiliar rules ... it's probably just the flutters.  Nothing to keep them up at night. 

And yet they're gnawing their fingernails.  Rightly so.   Because as in much of the fiction out there, the kind of fiction that follows the storytelling path of increasing stakes, increasing problems and a climax in the center of the book from which the big, final, seemingly insurmountable conflict and climax arise, they're just getting their first taste of a big banquet of troubles.  Things will be said that can't be unsaid.  Truths stranger than fiction will be revealed.  And the axeman appears.  They've sensed the danger, but not the scope and they'll flee before it right into the arms of the one person they should avoid at all costs, because they're human beings and he's familiar, he's (they thought) reasonable, and he may be not the best guy ever but he's their not the best guy ever.  And the war they've been trying to ignore and pass off as out of their hands will explode around them.  I really don't know how they're going to get out of it.  That's the fun part.  The characters and I will discover that together, and I think it will be way more interesting than anything I could come up with in advance.

And of course when I go to edit the thing sometime next year I'll gnash my teeth and curse under my breath at the slow areas, the shallow thinking, the repetitions, the dragging, archaic language and all the other little problems that I don't yet have the awareness to suspect are developing now.  But I'm not worried.  If I fret about it now, the soap bubble will pop and the magic will be gone.  This way I'll get it done.  This way I'll have something complete to edit.  There's nothing sadder on my hard drive than an incomplete manuscript that I'd planned on 'fixing' before I moved on.  The fixing never happens.  When I go back to a partial manuscript, more often than not it's much better to just start the thing over.  That's where an outline writer is way better off than someone like me.  It's easier to pick up in the middle even after a longish hiatus.  But outlines thin the walls of that soap bubble, and it often pops before its time.  I'm better off with my bottle of bubbles and my bubble wand.  

Hopefully everyone doing Nano is moving apace.  If not, don't give up!  The month is yet young.  We're not even halfway through.  So snag yourself some tea or coffee, settle in, and write, even if it's just a hundred words.  Right now.  Late or early, short on time or short on patience, brain mush or brain tuned to work, whatever.  Commit, do.  You can do it in two minutes.  On your mark, get set, go!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I knew you were going to say that (30060)

The echoes of insomnia are still bouncing around inside me.  Fortunately the kids have a Veteran's Day holiday, so I can sleep in.  I had reasonable rest last night, but it started late.  It ended up tanking my whole day, writing-wise, as I ended up taking a nap, then rushed off to work out (yay writer's constitutional!) grocery shop, and took care of some chores including vacuuming out the electric wall heaters (if you have them, do this please and don't forget to shut off the power to them!) downstairs, vacuuming the stairs, sweeping (yay!) the downstairs and transplanting a plant.  

I'm too punchy to write effectively at this point, but guess what!  I'm going to write at least a hundred words.  Maybe one hundred will turn to a thousand, and maybe I'll end up pushing past that thousand to my daily goal of 3000 words.  The prose will probably be rough, silly and repetitive, but it'll be on the page.  I'm 100% in agreement with Pullman in his emailed pep-talk to Nanoers--better teh suck words than zero words.

Soon I have to go to sleep.  I know, I know.  Break the cycle by getting up early, and don't take a nap.  Hopefully I'll be able to get back on the sleep track by Wednesday.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Soul Stealing (26234)

Today in Nanoland, Kami takes a tour of her novel and makes some changes.

On the way to a write in at the library, I stopped to help at a car accident that had just happened.  I tried to get people out off the highway (duh!) and made some quick assessments of the people there.  No one appeared to be seriously hurt.  Luck of the angle paired with working air bags.  It could have been head-on at freeway speeds, but there appeared (judging by the damage) to have been some swerving and braking that helped save lives.  The people there were so dopey on adrenaline I couldn't herd them all to the side of the road.  One woman especially felt a need to wander around, and her husband, carrying their child, wandered after her.  Fortunately the police showed up about a minute later, and after I let them know I wasn't a witness, just there to help, I was able to leave to go to the write-in.  Yeah, I probably could have tried to help some more, but it's better to let the pros do their stuff and stay out of the way.  As I backed out to avoid driving through the accident scene, I saw the ambulance en-route.  They were in good hands.

So I was a little distracted when I sat down to write, but also, because I'm a horrible person, I wanted to capture some of that sense of trauma in the book.  I went back and added some things in to the combat scene.  Or, more accurately, the post-combat scene.  And then I sprinkled some post-trauma stuff in.  Since that involved reading and careful placement, my word count was poopy today.  But it was poopy in a good, vulture-like way.

All y'all who think writers are wonderful, creative people who write from the soul now are witness to the ugly reality.  We really do use everything.  Including that time your two year old barfed in the grocery line, and the funny faces you make while you're talking on the phone, and the way you crossed your ankles and bit your lip at the funeral, and the way you made love to a writer one winter night in Pennsylvania.  There were, and are, people who think that cameras can steal souls.  Actually, it's the writers you have to watch out for.  But your soul isn't alone.  The writer's soul is alongside yours, was with you in that moment, and treasures it, values it, believes in it, loves it, adorns it with care, frames it with hope.  We're the shameless reporters looking out for the scoop of the century on the thing that matters most to us (or to me anyway)--the beauty, pain and joy of the human condition.  I try to respect it.  But I still use it, because my experiences are too small, and I can't watch my body in an unguarded moment.  I have to rely on my fellow human beings to see expressions in motion.  It's just how this art works, and grows.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Shiverpips results

Shiverpips are in fact goosebumps.  Next time I'll make it a contest!  I have all kinds of fun things I can use as awards around here.

The original context was:

She couldn’t be sure of where exactly he was looking, but she tried to guess and noticed a little shadowy something on the downhill side of the streamlet.  Her skin crawled with shiverpips.


I'm more than halfway done on my Nano!  

Even more exciting, from a fantasy fiction standpoint, is that it's solidly in fantasy romance, a genre I've been wanting to write for a while but never quite managed to get that romance angle to be dominant enough to the plot.  Also, I've bounded nicely into Act 2.  

Actually, I fibbed about being halfway done.  I'm more than halfway to the 50,000 word goal, but less than halfway on the finished novel.  Length-wise, this one may end up being one of my shorter fantasies, which is a very good thing.  To be able to keep this at or around 80,000 words would be hugely helpful.  Masks is the length it needs to be (although I have an opportunity to shorten it a little more on this edit) to serve the story but at its current length it's a bit too long for a 'first' novel to tempt agents.  Of course it's going to take months and months to hammer this very rough draft into a finished product, and I may finish editing one of the other novels that have been stewing before I even start to edit on this one, so it's not going to be the next one I market no matter how strong I think this first draft may be.  First drafts always seem shiny to me, but after they've sat around for a month or more their warts start to show and the real work begins.

Anyway, the long and the long of this is that I'm excited by this novel and I'm looking forward to all the evil waiting for the two main characters in the rest of Act 2 and all of Act 3.  Whether this ends up at 80,000 words or not, I think this is going to be a fun book and hopefully it'll appeal to a broad audience of both fantasy and romance readers.


The results of the Measure 8 vote in California is disappointing.  I guess people aren't ready for sexual equality yet, and that's what this is (in part) about.  The anatomy may be the same, but the sexual reality is different.  I wonder if the voters who passed Measure 8 would be as gung ho about a yes if it was paired with losing the right to vote, or losing any of the other rights afforded to American citizens.  It seems so strange to me that people can vote, can fight for the country, can do any ol' darned thing they want but marry.  I'm not sure if the analysis in the article is correct, but it's interesting anyway.  A sad day for human rights, on a great day for the USA.

Meanwhile, my Nano is trucking along nicely.  I'm still fighting this sore throat cruddy thing, but I'm hoping if I sing la la la I don't see you! and sleep a lot and act like I feel perfectly fine, it'll get discouraged and go away.  

Yesterday I used one of my favorite writing novel tricks.  I ended in the middle of a really dynamic, exciting scene.  That way when I sit back down to write again today, I'll read back a bit, get all worked up and emotionally engaged again, and type away like crazy from there.  Whether I do this or not, what I try never to do is stop when I don't know what I'm going to do next.  That can lock a writer into an ugly place.  Do some quick research, brain storm, whine to your friends, poll people in your neighborhood, whatever it takes but get that plot rolling before you quit for the day.  Sometimes sleeping on it helps, but be careful.  If you're well and truly stuck, you can probably give yourself one sleep period (and take a nice, long hot bath or shower) to work it out subconsciously, but don't let that be your standard mode of operation.  The muse should be your inspiration.  You should not be it's slave.  Think about that.  There is a difference.  Also, muses are happier, healthier critters if they're fed a lot.  Watch a movie or read a book that inspires you with its brilliance.  Listen to music that inspires your creativity.  Page through a book of reading prompts, or turn to one of the dog-eared pages in your favorite how-to writing book.  Bubble chart your characters and plot.  But don't give in to writer's block, and don't feed the writer's block by putting off difficult decisions.  Especially don't decide to 'let it mull' or 'put it on a back burner' or 'let it rest' and then do nothing.  If you have to stop, be aware of exactly why and address the issues in an active way until they're all resolved.  Deal with it as if your job depended on it.  Because, in fact, it does.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

More political stuff

Today I saw an image of Obama and realized he'd be our next president.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I normally don't get too terribly worked up about politics.  But I have to say that from a purely emotional, irrational viewpoint, from the view of my soul, I'm overwhelmed by the fact that this nation has a young, handsome, black President with a solid marriage that, when I look at him with his wife, looks like my marriage feels to me.  No sense of putting up a front for the public, or posing, or mutual respect but with emotional distance.  The kids look genuinely happy and healthy.  Typical school kid grins.  This feels like healing to me.  

And politically speaking?  He seems like a competent diplomat, and we really need one.  There's more that I like, and some stuff that I disagree with, but overall I most want America to have a serious, intelligent, and yet friendly face and I believe we got that and more.  Yay!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


I'd planned on getting to 20,000, but I admit that, after getting some watercolor and matting stuff done, I parked my butt in front of the tv to watch the elections.  What an exhilarating moment.  We're part of history, and part of the future now.  I'm fighting some sort of malaise, sore throat, a bit feverish, but I feel good.  Tired, but good.  Two good men, a long fight, and an outcome based on a free people voting with their hearts, minds, and consciences.  There are so many countries torn apart, run by criminals and psychotics, where death comes early, where rape is something to hide because you'll be punished for being a victim, where people disappear, where disease and hunger and all manner of deprivation are endured because there's no choice, no resources, no hope.  I'm so lucky to live here.  The western world in general is pretty good for the most part, but the USA is home and right now, I can't imagine anyplace better.  Yay voting, yay freedom, yay hope, yay to a lot of stuff even though there are a lot of problems the American people have to face.  I can't say if Obama will have the best, or even good answers, but I know he's going to give it his all, and that's all I can ask of any leader.

You know, as opposed to shooting people who disagree with him and having his dick commemorated in bronze while the people he supposedly leads drink cholera-laden water, or getting together with all his buddies and grabbing as many resources as possible and then go on raids with machetes to hack down as many people as he can before his arms get too tired.  But I digress.

Monday, November 03, 2008


I've had my first combat scene.  I feel all better now!  I've also gotten deeper into the antagonist's pov.  I'm digging the structure.  I'm not sure if I can carry it back to the very beginning--anything from the antagonist's pov too early on will give away too much--but I think it's fine going along the first four chapters 'normally' and then setting up the remaining chapters as primarily the protagonist's pov with a few paragraphs at the end set aside from the antagonist's pov.  

It's tempting to go back and start playing with setting and enriching earlier scenes based on what I'm learning about the characters now, but part of the process of writing a first draft, especially during Nano, is to resist that temptation.  I could turn it into a real mess if I kept adapting things retroactively, especially if I change my mind about a plot element.  Everything would grind to a halt at that point, and all my tinkering in the meantime would be for nothing.  The one thing I do allow myself to do--continuity.  I might miss it later, so if I forget to have someone reload and they need to be prepared, I go back and let them reload right after their first bout of danger.  Of course if it serves the story, I'll let them flounder and wish that they'd remembered to reload ... but if it turns into this long, awkward and unnecessary thing that holds up the story instead of adding suspense then it's better to go back and tweak.

If you can't see anything for my Nano word count widget, you're not alone.  I tried to fix it, but I suspect the real problem isn't corruption but that the Nano site is so overburdened (as usual) during this early part of the month that the widget can't get data from it.  As the month wears on people will drop out and the site will be less crazy busy.  The widget should work more consistently then.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


When writing fantasy it's pretty usual for me to make up words, and not just words to describe something that doesn't exist her on good ol' Earth.  Sometimes I make up new names for existing things because the original name doesn't resonate with me in the story's context, and hopefully it lends a little oomph to the setting.  And I definitely make up slurs, epithets and blessings to reflect the culture I'm inventing.  Oh my god doesn't always fit, nor does damn, or Jesus, or Christ, or cripes, or what have you.

Anyway, any guesses (it'll be easier in the context of the story for the reader, but I'm curious how it reads without context) to what shiverpips are?

Shiverpips is word 10,573.


I wrote three times--after midnight until 3ish am if I remember right (I'm a little fuzzy on the details,) late this morning, and then after dinner until midnight again.  That got me a great headstart on what's shaping up to be a fun novel to play in.  

Um, I'm pretty tired now.  I think I'm going to go to bed.  The plan for tomorrow is to sleep in and write at a relaxed pace.

I've been talking with C.S. about health, writing pace, crashes, and old-tyme constitutionals.  I went to 24 Hour Fitness today to run through my routine before writing this evening.  I don't know if it helped my word count, but it kept me from getting sore in the seat and my circulation stayed decent through the hours there.  I also made sure I got up every so often and wandered.  Writers face health hurdles with the sittin' down and the typing or handwriting.  It's hard on a body, but in the way that makes a body soft and yet brittle rather than the kind of hard that makes a body, well, hard and yet flexible.  So take care of your bodies.  Nano is traditionally a caffiene and sugar-fest with late hours and short sleep, a recipe for health ills even if you're in decent shape to start with.  So break those up with long walks, veggies, home-cooked meats, whole grains, fresh fruit--you know the drill.  C.S. suggested that it may keep away the second week slumps.  You never know!

FYI, my Nano word count widgit appears to update at its own good time.  The count may or may not be accurate.  But it will never be higher than I've actually written, unless there's something really weird going on.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


I'm off to a decent start on my Nanowrimo novel.  I'm taking a mental break before I start on chapter two.  Y'all can keep track of my progress as I attempt to write about 3000 words a day.  The normal Nano goal is 1667 words a day, but I need to be done early, so I'm aiming higher.  I won't be able to verify my win until the 25th, but that's okay.  That won't take but a moment.

To all of you who haven't started yet, the month is young.  You can still sign up, today, a day later, two days later, and still make it.  And to those of you on your way, go Wrimos, go!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Tomorrow, we honor those who have passed before us.

Tomorrow, we disguise ourselves or wear our clothing inside out so that things that might be up to mischief won't recognize us.  

Tomorrow at 11:59pm I'll be waiting for the clock to click over to midnight.

Tomorrow I have to get up early to make my kids' hair green.

Tomorrow we might put a small dent in the huge amount of food set for consumption.  Plus we're also having pizza.

Tomorrow, unexpected visitors will be made welcome.

Tomorrow is one day closer to a beloved coming home.

Tomorrow I'll clean, and paint, and think about what it would be like facing imprisonment.

Tomorrow.  All tomorrow.  Today, I look at the clock and smile, and relax as I realize I have time, real time ... before tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Closer ... closer ... closer ...

Nanowrimo is almost here.  It's definitely not too late to sign up and give it a try.  People from all walks of life and capabilities do this.  There's a whole bunch of stuff dedicated just to young writers.  People who are disabled, who are in chronic pain, who are elderly, who have two jobs and are struggling to get by, people like me who have a lot of flexibility and control over their schedules, people who have written for years, people who have never written anything longer than a grocery list since they'd left school do this.  So can you.  

One year (I didn't make my goal that year) my office flooded and I worked on my novel laying on my belly with my keyboard in front of me and the monitor just behind it, on carpet, amid a horrendous mess of wet and damp stuff that I had to spend a lot of time sorting through between writing bouts.  That year my hurdles got the better of me, but I don't regret trying.  In fact, if I'd done just a wee more writing more consistently earlier in the month, I may have made it despite the impromptu arrival of a shallow pond in my workspace.  I don't beat myself up about it, or consider myself a failure as a writer.  Nor should anyone who can devote full time to writing in November and doesn't get past five thousand words.  Nanowrimo isn't about failing.  It's about stretching, achieving, reaching.  You know, exercise.  Keeping the body and mind healthy, whether it's by learning something new, or for established writers, playing with the writing/production rhythm and benefitting from the unique social energy that comes with Nanowrimo.

It's not about whether or not you may be able to succeed, or how much is working against you, or how little time you have, or technological issues.  It's discovering what you can do, not what you can't do.  It's how far you can get, not how far you couldn't get.  It's testing your limits, surprising yourself, exercising your brain and your creativity, and connecting with people who share the same fascination you do with the process of writing.  Two more days plus 45 minutes, I'll be there.  I hope to see you there too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Reposted from the INK blog.

I got my first payment check yesterday for words I've written.  It's an amazing feeling.  So many years of practice, workshops, flattening my butt on at least a half dozen different computer chairs.  Novels, shorts, stories long since lost or abandoned, hundreds of thousands of words of fantasy that will never see the light of day because I needed that million words of crap before I could begin to make real progress.  Learning to connect with a reader.  Learning to find a balance between my internal editor and my dreams.  Learning to educate myself, because so much of the education of a writer happens either entirely from the inside or by deliberately, through an act of will and trust, separating the ego from the written word long enough to accept a professional opinion.  Learning who trust and when, especially myself (and when not to trust myself.)

The kewlest part of all this?  It's a beginning.  A long road to travel to begin, but that's the nature of this, and many other crafts.

Autumnal cleaning

I'm doing my annual fall cleanup inside the house.  For various reasons, and probably some I haven't considered, I'm taking the autumn cleaning much further than usual.  Maybe it's from watching too many Jane Austen and other period pieces.  Rather than make me wish for a house full of staff that looks after the upkeep, I've recognized that A. I have a lot less square footage to take care of, B. I have a lot fewer people to take care of, C. I don't have to polish lots of silver  D. I have lots of modern conveniences like vacuum cleaners, indoor plumbing, microfiber dusting cloths and swiffer for the really ugly accumulations of dust, and E. no one in my household is nobility that generates work but doesn't have to actually do work.

Puts this housekeeping thing all into perspective.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Readings to go to at OryCon

Sometimes I worry that attending readings will fall so far out of fashion that people will stop going.  And that's a real shame, because some of the times I've felt the most entertained, and intrigued, and involved have been when I've been listening to an author read his or her work or a musician performing an original piece.  I don't need a bunch of people with me to get that experience--small is okay.  But if I'm alone in the room with the author, although I get the treat of discussing the passage with that author afterward (and sometimes sharing a drink at the bar later on) it's unlikely that the author will feel motivated to set up a reading the following year, facing a single person or zero turnout.  And if this happens across the board, programming will stop programming readings (though this is less likely--famous authors always will draw audiences to their readings, and cons are usually willing to grant even total unknowns their half hour and a room to read in.)  
I'm not big on promoting something that simply doesn't interest people anymore.  If it's no longer of value, then alas, it must fade.  But I do think that maybe people just don't know what they're missing.
And so, even though it's self-serving because I'm part of this group, I invite everyone to come to the Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading at OryCon.  I also want to encourage folks who come to the convention to make time for readings, and not only the big, well-known authors or authors personally known to them.  Try picking an author you don't know.  Look through the bios and see who piques your interest.  Maybe it's their pic, or the titles of things they've written, their day job, or the voice in the short bio that catches your interest.  Maybe it's just that there's a bit of rare free time and a half hour in a room with someone reading to you sounds just barely better than taking a nap after an exhausting morning, or hanging out until the bar opens, or perusing the dealer's room for the third time.  I should warn you, though.  Live performances can become addicting, as anyone who gets drawn into theatrical performances or live musical events can tell you.  At least most readings, including those at OryCon, are free.  If you can't make it to OryCon, check out your local library or bookstores.  You'd be amazed at how many readings happen out there every day.  It's worth it.  Just step out of routine for a bit, and listen.

Official Announcement

Beneath Ceaseless Skies (probably no surprise for those of you who are reading between the lines) will be publishing "Thistles and Barley" by Kamila Z. Miller sometime in the future.  I'll let all y'all know when the issue comes out.  In the meantime, they have a new issue online.  
In the forums you'll find news about upcoming stories and their authors in the Official BCS News and Announcements: Submissions Status section.  It's a fun way to get a sneak peek at who you might see in print in the next few months.  Keep a lookout for your favorite authors.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Grudge vs. The Ring

We picked up a whole bunch of horror movies discounted for Halloween.  I'm not a big fan of horror, but I like a well-made suspense.  I even watched The Others in the theater.  One of the few movies that's actually made me jump.  It still makes me jump about 50% of the time.  It's not the best horror movie I've seen, but it's up there.
Anyway, the boy and the girl are seeing these for the first time.  It's fun watching their fresh, no-preconceptions reactions to the movies.  We've been rating them, which is scarier than which, and two have floated to the top.  The Grudge, and The Ring.  (I want to get Ringu also so they can compare.)

So of course we came up with The Grudge vs. The Ring (though I doubt we're the first.)

Scenario:  Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) finds out about the tape.  She takes it to the grudge house, plugs in the tape, sets it to play, and runs.
Curious, the ghost woman of the house comes over, sits down, and watches.  After she watches the images (largely baffled rather than creeped out,) the phone rings.  She walks over and answers.  One eye is showing.  
"Seven days," the voice on the phone says.
"Uhhhhhhhh" she replies.

And mayhem ensues.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The root slips

I have this image of a root in my head.  I'm climbing it to get up a steep cliff, and though it's been tough the last few hand over hands have been easy. Suddenly, though, the root gives way and though I stop, I've lost a couple of feet.

Fixing itineraries for OryCon 30's programming is the reason the root slipped back.  I'll get back into writing and blogging soon.

Thankfully we had a Nanowrimo prep meeting last night, so although it wasn't work on my existing novels it was work on a future novel, and that's just as good.  Another happy event--I was cleaning the upstairs and found the big stack of Masks critiques I'd misplaced sometime prior to the floor going in.  But having everything set to write isn't the same as writing.  I miss sitting in front of the computer to create.  I have the habit ingrained now of checking my email for crises.  Yet another good reason to throw myself completely into Nano this year.  Writing will take priority again, maybe not all at once, but by the end I'll be climbing that root up the cliff steady and strong.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Inspired by young voices

I haven't been posting much because I'm still swamped.  Yesterday afternoon was particularly hectic as I had to pick up the boy from school and I also went to a music concert at the high school to watch the girl perform.  It was a great evening.  I love concerts of all kinds.  Hearing students perform was a huge inspiration that wrapped back around to Masks.  It's a great reminder that getting the heck out of the house and out of my routine will generate more story ideas and deepen my writing.  I may have to buy a season pass.  Even if the girl isn't at a particular event, I think it would be a lot of fun, and all kinds of wonderful, to hear the budding musicians in our area perform.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: YMAA Publication Center (June 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594391181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594391187
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
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