Thursday, January 31, 2008

Opening for Mayhem

Again with the contest.  I noticed that the folks that posted links to their blogs and posted their entry there got some comments back.  It's early but I haven't gotten anything (yet) so I thought I'd follow their fine example and open myself to comments on my own opening.

Thanks to the INKers who've already commented on the opening when I posted it on our website.  You guys are always welcome to add more, of course, but I don't want to pressure you to comment here if you're not inspired to.  I didn't intend for this to be extra work for the group.

Here goes:

As a small child I once lost my balance and touched my hand on a red hot stove.  Before the pain stabbed into my fingers and struck my mind I remember feeling foolish and frightened.  I cried out a not-very-small-child curse and put my fingers in my mouth just as the pain hit me.  My mother hurled herself across the kitchen and pulled me up into her arms.  That scent of our tribe's plush wool, the softness of homespun cloth against my face, the red hair of a Kilhells woman and green eyes staring into mine had always brought me comfort.

I know I'm dreaming, but that same hot pain I remember feels real, and there's no comfort this time.  I'm trapped in that room again, the desert heat doubled by infernal fire in a hearth.  I'm tied with bark rope on top of a camel hair rug.  Instead of hot pokers, carving instruments are heating to white brilliance three feet from my face.  There's a helefrit straddling me.  Nearby, the blood of an infant has dried to black flakes.  I want to wake up, but just like when it was actually happening, I'm helpless

Something wooden cracks nearby and all at once I'm awake, gasping, my heart pounding so hard it hurts.  My body tingles from the memory of my flesh burning and I'm sticky and smelly with sweat.  I'm back in the present, cradled in a hammock in the belly of a sailing ship.  Sailors stand around a barrel they've dropped.  One sailor glances my way from under the brim of his dirty white hat with an apologetic look.  The others don't meet my gaze.  I'm not sure if they know something's wrong with me, or if it's just me.  My name is famous.  I'm famous, though hardly anyone has met me.  It's always a surprise when people take my word for it that I am who I say I am.  I'm plenty tall for a woman, but I don't think I'm tall enough for a myth.  I don't wear armor, I've lost my sword, and not only did I fail to do anything to aid the war, I think I might be on my way to assassinate the only man who can save the world.

I think people believe that no one would dare claim they were me.  I don't feel up to defending my name or my honor, though, as I awkwardly climb out of the hammock and go to ease the pressure in my bladder.  I don't stagger as the massive ships rocks from one side to the other.  My sea legs come back faster each time I sail, and take longer to go away when I'm on dry land again.  For hours after a long voyage, sometimes overnight, it feels like the land rolls under me, and I often dream of storms at sea.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Because I can't leave well enough alone

I entered a first page contest on Nathan Bransford's blog page with the first page of my WIP Mayhem (I've rewritten this thing how many times now?  Maybe this time I'll get it right.)  Good move, I think, but then I did something a little crazy.  I offered to critique first pages for anyone who wanted advice.  Not that I'm anyone in particular, but sometimes it's good to hear feedback from someone who has no vested interest in you whatsoever.  I could get swamped, or I could get a whole lot of nothing.  I'll post the critiques of those works when their writers give me permission to do so right here on Jestablog.  This could go nowhere, or it could be a whole lot of fun, or I could start drinking heavily and sobbing shortly after I check my email.  There were over 600 submissions to the contest.  Good luck to us all, but especially me, because this is my blog and la la la I can wish myself luck if I want to and you can't stop me nyah nyah nyah!

If you're from the contest and you came to my webpage, you're also welcome to submit your page in my comments section if you'd rather do it that way than sending email.  Also, you get a blessing from the writing googalah.  Tseeng tseeng!  Now you have extra luck in the contest.  

Does he have my eyes?

I always knew I was a bit confused about my sexual orientation.  Or maybe not.  Rory says I'm rorysexual.  I agree.  So, Rory, do you think Giles is cute?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


The snow is coming down fast in big flakes, not white out  conditions but still remarkable.  It's gorgeous.  I'm glad Rory got home before it started coming down this hard.  

The giant snow ogre was leaning this morning, and by late morning he finally toppled, poor thing.  Well, with the fresh snow we might roll him back together or just making him into something new.

Ugh, I'm in major girl pain right now, but hopefully for the last time.  I start my new treatment at the end of the week.  If it works, I'll be so happy!  If not, we have another easy option.  It's normally a $500 day 'surgery' but with our insurance it will cost all of $5.  I can hardly wait to feel some results.  I'm sure my blood count will be thankful too.  Which reminds me, I haven't taken my iron pill today.  Yuck.  Isn't there a form I can submit that takes me off the reproductive cycle?  I don't plan on having any more children.  Really.  See the sincerity on my pain-tightened face?

More Snow? Bring It On!

I haven't built a snowman in what seems like forever.  Today we went overboard and built a snow ogre that I had trouble reaching to create the nose and a spot for the eyes to rest (Rory pinned them in, and he also provided the creative genius and physical skills for the teeth, mustache, eyebrows, branchy hair and the green beard.)  Andrea and I used truck ramps to roll the snowball for the midsection onto the lower section.  Rory lifted the head up.  Orion provided creative options and some help with the shoulders but mostly he worked on his sentinels for the driveway.   He also made the little snowman on a spit for the snow ogre.  If we only had a tractor, we could build a really gigantic dragon--or I guess I could just use good ol' fashioned elbow grease.  That'd be a lot of grease, though.  Might even be bad for me.  Cholesterol being an issue and all.  Or is elbow grease cholesterol free or maybe the good kind of cholesterol?  Anyway, since we were doing the traditional snow stuff anyway we had a couple of snowball fights (I've noticed that concepts like teams and sides are more fluid in snowball fights than other games) and the kids went sledding.  The neighbor kids came over and had fun and then we all had hot chocolate (the adults had adulterated hot drinks.)  The weather couldn't have been better for all this.  I even abandoned my coat at one point.

While rifling around my gardening stuff looking for seeds (it's time to organize and also to get the slow-germinating seeds into their starter pots) I discovered three bags of overlooked tulips, poor things.  They were still alive, so I planted them.  Going from occasional light and warm air to dark and wet and frigid must have been quite a shock.  I hope they make it.  There might be more bags, as that area is still a mess.  I'll try to get that all organized tomorrow.  Then again, all is a very strong term.  Most might be a more appropriate word, or perhaps even some would be about as much as I can expect.  It's a mess that's been around a long time, so it's entrenched.  I wouldn't be surprised to find mice nesting in there, and I've already seen some impressive spiders who've made a very fine home amid the debris.  Yeah, it's that bad.  

As much as I love summer and gardening, I have to say that I'd be thrilled to have more days like today.  This one will last in memory a long time.  I hope everyone else had a great day too. 

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Birds and Hazards

We had heavy (for this area) snowfall last night while we slept.  I love waking up to snow, and quiet, and the swarms of birds that snow always brings.  (Note to self--refill the feeders.)  I swept off the tile downstairs where I keep my bird supplies and dumped the sweepings onto the snow.  In minutes, three juncos had found the pile and started scratching through it.

The motion attracted Huntress.  She started talking to them in the language of the birds.  I don't think they understood her.  She has a really thick accent.  She kept trying, though.  They ignored her, poor thing.

I went in to work late, when I felt comfortable with driving.  The roads were good on the way to work, and on the way back home, but just before I got to the house I noticed there was still traces of slush in the road.  If it freezes tonight, it could be nasty, though not all the way down the hill.  The trick is to get past the ice without ditching and making it onto the lower, dry or merely wet part of the road.  The other trick is to have that instinct that tells you that the steep curves near the bottom of the hill are safe.  Many a driver trying to commute into town has listened to their instinct and been oh so wrong.  They've been wrong enough that the folks living on the downhill side of the curves got tired of people ending up in their cow pasture, so they built up a huge berm.  

If only cars were as proportionally durable as a skateboard, you could bank off the berm down the next stretch and look pretty cool in the process.  Of course the last curve has no berm and you'd then end up off the side of the road on a steep hill crushed against a tree.  What we really need there, since the slope is too steep to rationally attempt to build a berm there, is one of those cement half-pipes set on its side.  Then not only could you use it to negotiate the curve, you could also flip a loop with your car.  Not even the Dukes of Hazzard pulled off a stunt like that.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Spy from the Sky a Slice of Pie

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Maybe even more.

This is our little acreage and our house with the slate-colored roof.  Tony's place is to the left and down with the red roof, and Tim's place is to the right and up, while Chuck's is across the road from us (his house is off frame.)  The smaller building with the darker, rust-red roof is our barn.  The line from the top right parallel to the right side of the pic is our east property line.  The trees at a 90 degree angle to the road to the right of Tony's house is our west property line.  If you put a straight edge on these two lines, they meet to form our southern (pointed) property end.  

The dark green trees are mostly doug firs, although we have maples in the mix.  To the left of our house are those big shade trees that are often in the frame when I take pictures of the gardens.  The apple green is all blackberries.  The darker lines in the blackberries are the paths we've cut through. 

That bright, not quite white area south of the house is the firepit patio.  The new goat pasture goes downhill past the firepit to the meadow (a subtle clearing with a round patch of trees) and runs east back to the property edge.  A lot of the original goat pasture is brownish--summer grass, not dust.  The only dusty (and muddy during the rains) area is the cream-colored line edging the barn.  In our driveway (which has a jog that runs off toward the barn) you can see a small, pale blue object--the Nova--and a darker object off to the side that's the Bruiser.  

The yellow areas are where the boy mowed and also areas I keep trimmed around the veggie garden.  In closer shots you can see the grape arbor, although it's not covered over this time of year, and the rosemary, but from this distance the only detail you can make out reliably are a line of trees--western redcedar--that protect us from the road a bit.  I planted timber bamboo west of them, but it'll be a while before that will be dense enough to cast a good shadow.  At the moment the only thing to distinguish it from the almost-identically-colored pasture grass is the darker (because it wasn't mowed) grass.

In summer the hike to the barn is not very far.  In winter, with the wind blowing like crazy from the east slogging through snow or skating on ice, it's at least a hundred miles each way.  

The dogs have a large area to play in (the green area between the house and the road,) but apparently that's insufficient because when they get out they all dash down into the ravine (where all the big trees are) and are gone for hours.  We're on a very steep slope, and even on four legs it's very dangerous down in that ravine which plunges into cliffs in hidden places, so we try not to let them escape and when they do I worry like crazy that they won't make it back.  Rumor has it that a herd of pigs were lost in the ravine.  That's where most of the cougar, coyote and bear reside.  Especially folks that have lived exclusively in urban areas would be shocked how quickly--in a few hundred feet--the territory around here changes from pastoral development to very wild with areas that are impassable to humans and sometimes impassable even to the animals that live there.

This is our little bit of the world.  It's fun to look at it from high in the sky.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Day Off

After three days of work in a row (I know, gee Kami, that's not a whole lot) I now get to play catch up.  That means researching and putting together a submission for an agent, getting the Nissan to Les Schwab (within the hour,) catching up on housework, shopping and I'd also like to get some writing in today.

Fortunately I only work two days next week and they're split, so I'll have plenty of time to get my act together then.

I'm really looking forward to the INK meeting tomorrow so I can find out what my fellow INKers think of the next section of Masks.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mojo's Memorial

Mojo's memorial has been posted.  Have a look around, and if you're a big animal lover, have kleenex handy.  There are so many beautiful animals on the web page, many wonderful and many painful and sweet stories.  Lots of smiling faces with adoration in their eyes.  It's a big reminder to appreciate what you have and also, if you've lost, that you're not alone and in the end it's worth the pain to have lived in love.  

To leave Mojo's page for the main pet loss story website, just click on Pet Stories.  If you're moved, consider donating to the college.  They do very good work and it benefits countless animals through research, the hospital, and graduates.

I've been tagged in a blog game by Carissa of Writer in the Trenches fame.  I will discharge my duty to the average of my ability.

The rules:
  • Link to the person who tagged you.
  • Leave a comment on their blog so that their readers can visit yours.
  • Post the rules on your blog.
  • Share the seven (7) most famous or infamous people you have met. Or go with the original 7 weird things about yourself. Or with Sandra's change and list your 7 favorite writing websites. Lots of choices!
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post.
  • Include links to their blogs.
  • Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
The only thing I'm iffy about is the tagging of the seven people.  I like games and all, but a lot of people don't like to be pestered with this sort of thing, and a large percentage of the people I know are this way.  I have some writing webpages on the sidebar, so I'll limit myself to pages I don't have in the side bar.

  • Long Ridge Writers Group:  Most of the features on this page are free, including the chat room.  The stuff you pay for is legit and very worth it if you need help bringing your writing to a publishing level.  I know Mary Rosenblum and she's an amazing teacher.  She's also heavily published, disproving the theory that those who cannot do, teach.  I guess she could count as famous, too, sort of.  I don't have experience with the other instructors but I have a feeling they're also excellent.
  • Preditors and Editors:  It tickles me that the appropriate title bugs the heck out of my husband because of the deliberate creative spelling.  A valuable resource.  Always, always check this page when marketing your work before you send it out.
  • Agent Query:  Can you tell what I have on my brain?  The search function is particularly handy.  Double check agents at Preditors and Editors before you send out your work.
  • 101 Reasons to Stop Writing:  I currently have one of their calendar pages as my desktop wallpaper.  It's Shakespeare with the following caption:  You will never be this good.  You're not even Titus Andronicus good, much less Hamlet good.  My twisted sense of the writing life meshes well with this page.
  • At Last! Writer Beware Blogs:  A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss write about various scams aimed at writers.  Some people are despicable.  Read about them.  Sometimes the scammers discover mention of themselves on the page and attempt to defend their behavior.  That's even more fun.
  • The Rejector:  He's a real superhero.  If I had to do his job, I think I'd go mad, mad I say, mad!  Thank goodness I'll only ever contribute to his problems.
  • Viable Paradise:  I'm only putting this up to torture myself.  If anyone out there is trying to decide whether to burn a heap of money just to see the pretty colors or to just give it away to strangers, then hey, I'm a stranger ...  Someday, maybe, someday I'll be able to go.  And hey, New England.  Some place I never knew I wanted to see until I read about it.  
And now, I shall do some tagging.  Let's see if I get to seven:
  • Coledust:  You've been tagged yet again.  It's good for you.  There are people checking your blog every day, hoping you'll post--I hope that encourages you rather than giving you a shiver of OMG leave me alone.  
  • C.S. Cole:  You too are tagged twice.  You cannot resist the power of meme!
  • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:  I would have tagged his wife too but I think she wants to keep her blog quiet.  Not that a link here will give her a huge rush of traffic or anything, but you never know.
  • The Story of Spaz:  I'm not sure my son will know how to play this game.  It'll be a learning opp, I guess.  I cringe to think what might come up if he wrote seven weird facts about himself.  I'm not sure I'm that brave.
  • Chiron Training:  I doubt Rory will have the time even if he had the inclination, but you never know.  I know he doesn't care for this stuff, but on the other hand it's just me tagging him so he won't have to feel obligated.  He can just kiss me gently on the cheek and smile and I'll forget all about it.
  • Life in the Land of the Rising Sun:  I can't even begin to guess which way he'll run with this.
  • Interrupting Gelastic Jew:  The wonderful Snippy has  given me permission to inflict the game on her.  Yay!
Okay, that took much longer than I expected.  Don't have too  much fun out there, people.  Remember, safety first!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Our Hero has Fur

Surprisingly, the dogs slept quietly all night.  Nikita did make a small mess.  No one had stepped in it so it was easily cleaned.  They poured out the door this morning to frolic in frigid freedom.  

It's supposed to warm up today.  Good.  I have to work so I can't let them in and out all day.  I worry about my poor old grand dame a lot.  We just can't seem to get any weight on her, and that lack of insulation makes the effects of cold weather that much worse.  Hopefully she'll snuggle up in the dog house.  I understand why she doesn't, though.  She's our sentinel, our guardian, and she doesn't want to give up her job.  Sometimes I wish I could tell her that we'll be all right, that she can relax, but I'm glad I don't have the opportunity.  If I gave in to temptation, how awful would it be if she decided that she'd been useless, or is useless, to us?  She isn't.  She's still our best watch dog, our most loyal friend.  I do think she could use a vacation, though.  As far as retirement, though--I couldn't see her retiring.  She's too defined by what she does, and I don't think anything we'd do could change that, even if we wanted to.  Nikita is the one who watches from the porch, who gets up and barks at strangers no matter how painfully stiff she is, who lets the garbage man know that he won't take our stuff from us without a fight, and who lets our across the street neighbor Chuck know that when he gets his mail, she's keeping an eye on him in case he decides to do something shady.

I do sometimes wish she had a softer life, or that we could give her a softer life without making her unbearably anxious.  I guess we could try, but I'd have to examine the deeper reasons and whether that would honestly be good for her.  She's a warrior, a brave spirit, a fine soldier and all the softness she's ever enjoyed was the touch of our hands and a proud word, letting her know that we appreciate what a good girl she is, and that she's loved.  If I could I might try to tell her how amazing she is, but I doubt she'd believe me.  Like Rory, I think she believes what she does is what must be done, and to do any less is unthinkable, therefore, what she does is ordinary.  Doing less would be to become less, to fail to do the minimum, to unmake who she is.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Four Dog Night

It's that time of year again when the dogs get to come inside due to inclement weather.  Nikita wants to go back out.  Beast has settled in for a nice nap.  The puppies want to escape into the main part of the house and play.  Because the barriers aren't steel I-beams and ferrous concrete, the puppies in particular could easily burst through.  I'm hoping that my force of will dissuades them from trying, even when I'm asleep.  If I hear a crash in the middle of the night and exuberant galloping, my backup is to have the bathroom ready and herd them all in there.  

I'm sure I'll have Nikita messes to clean up in the morning.  That's okay.  The others might be fine outside snuggled together in the doghouse, but she of all of them might suffer a cold injury or even die, because she gets into these stubborn fits where she doesn't want to go into the doghouse.  I watched her for several hours tonight, and it seemed tonight of all nights she was particularly reluctant to house herself.  

Right now it's easier to take the outside stairs than disassemble the internal barrier.  This is going to be interesting in the morning when, in pjs, fuzzy slippers and robe, I go get the kids out of bed for school.  I think I'll just set my alarm extra early, shower and get dressed before my morning tea.  I haven't done that in a long time, and it sounds ... good.  Wow.  Really?  Heh.  Guess I'd better get to it and get some sleep.  Sweet doggie dreams, everyone.

I'll be dreaming of my love.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Driving My Big Hunkaroo, plus yuckies

It's been a quiet weekend, full of sleeping in, some writing, a great writer meeting/lunch with Ris, and hatching plans to bathe the puppies and get the Nissan fixed.

What, I haven't mentioned that my car, fresh from the shop, went kaput again?  Believe it.  I've had people tell me it might be a strut or a shock.  All I know is that the driver's side rear corner dropped several inches.  The tire still has plenty of clearance, but considering I heard a couple of bangs the last time I drove it (I pulled over and couldn't figure out what was wrong, so I just took her home) I'm pretty sure it's not terrifically safe to drive.  So I'm truckin' around for now.  I love the truck.  It's so manly and rugged and scarred up.  As we all know, chicks dig scars.  The only thing I don't love is the gas mileage.  Thank goodness it takes unleaded and doesn't insist on beer or whiskey.

No single malt for you.

I'm taking the Nissan to Les Schwab in the hopes that it's something simple that they can deal with.  It's close, and it'll probably be less expensive than going to the mechanic.  Failing that, it's a shorter distance to have it towed from there to Vancouver than from my place.  Now I just have to get it down the hill safely.  Think safe driving thoughts on Thursday for me.

In other physical news, I've had my girly check up and everything looks great.  I passed all my tests, including a retest of my blood counts (though my red blood cell count is still low on the normal scale.)  I didn't even have to study!  They're going to try to reduce my icky girly pain and slow the massive outflow of precious red stuff, which would be great and will probably take care of my anemia, or at least mitigate it.  I have another general exam tomorrow, and my very first mammogram at the end of the month, and an ultrasound in February, and I should be good for tests until they decide they need to take a peek at my colon.  Really not looking forward to any of these tests, but hey, they're better than unpleasant surprises.  

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I wrote a small obituary for Mojo today.  It will be placed at the Pet Memorial Program for the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine when they have time to process my email and post it.  I'm not sure how long it will take.

I've owned a lot of animals over the years.  When I was a child, I viewed pet ownership as something done by my parents for my pleasure.  Over the years that's developed into a sense of privilege.  It's so worth it.  Over the summer I wrote often, and with pride, about gardening and how it's so beautiful to have living things respond to my care.  My early feelings about animals were similar, but now I have different sense of the relationship.  We're a family.  We live, grow, and die in a continuum of community.  We depend on each other, and love each other.  I don't think animals have the same sort of love for us that we do for them or each other, but then human beings express their love in a huge number of complex ways.  It's not a stretch for me to call what Wiz feels or the puppies feel or Nikita feels as real love.

I wonder how my children feel deep-down about our pets.  I know that they love them, but how is a mystery.  How I love others in some ways is a mystery to myself as well.  Maybe that's just the way love is.  Like the magnificence of music or the intense glow of sunset, it is what it is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I tried to change some elements on the page.  I hope it's more legible now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Attack of the Black-footed Ferrets

On the I.N.K. blog, Ris wrote about a plagiarism case that recently came to light. I started to comment, and the comment grew to be too unwieldy. I guess I have a few more things to say about it than a comment box can contain.

If Cassie Edwards deliberately took another writer's work to pad her word count and used the excuse that she didn't know how else to include the information, then she really needs to be called out for this. It's the stealing to eat argument with the exception that she has demonstrated that she doesn't have to steal in order to eat. Most of the writing in her books is her own, or so I assume, so really, excluding that text wouldn't cause her to starve. It was an option, a choice, with no negative consequences to her career (or at least that are clear to me. I could be wrong.)

It also seems unlikely that Ms. Edwards is innocent, as I understood is her claim, because she didn't know it was wrong. Didn't it bother her in the least that she was cutting and pasting someone else's work and selling it to a publisher as her own? Ignorance of the law, maybe, but how about ethical standard, or even simple pride? Very young children are taught in grade school that their papers have to be written in their own words. They can't just copy. This message is reinforced through middle school, high school and beyond. Maybe she never thought about the reason behind this, that you have to actually do the work in order to get the credit. Not only did she get the credit (until she was exposed) but she got paid for it.

Sometimes people do things without thinking it through, and I can understand that. I've certainly done things I'm ashamed of, sometimes deliberately, sometimes because I was short-sighted, lacked information, or had a major blonde moment. Having said that, if she really is a writer then she sits in front of a typewriter or a computer or scribbles into a notebook for hours and hours, producing words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters. That's honest, hard labor and she very much deserves to get paid for that. If she's given the luxury of time, she revises that draft, polishes, and ships it off to her agent (or publisher.)  That also is work she should get paid for.

She stops being a writer when she starts to transcribe instead of write. I'm not sure how someone could unwittingly cross that line.

Then again, I've had times when I've been a really crappy mother. That's an unforgivable, awful thing and it haunts me. It wasn't deliberate per se, but deep down I knew I could, and should do more and better for my kids. If she had a bad mom moment with her writing, I completely understand, but that also means that she will have to at some point apologize, and try to make things better, or do things better. If she can't atone or legalities prevent her from apologizing, she has to at least stop, to not do that anymore, and not pretend that everything's all right. Considering the threats of boycott and the rising scandal, I doubt she will be able to pretend everything's all right even if she wanted to. It just depends on who she is. If she believes Signet's statement and persists in the idea that she did no wrong, maybe she can spin this as a great unfairness, a bunch of poopyheads trying to ruin her life and career. We could all be jealous, conniving people who want to tear down her success. I sure hope she doesn't feel that way. I'd feel so badly for her. That would set her up for a very miserable life and might well end her career, whereas a swift apology and some compensation might have saved it.

On the plus side, Paul Tolme, the man who wrote the ferret article, is now famous. The ferrets might do pretty well too. I also hope that any writers out there who felt the issues of rights infringement and plagiarism were unclear can now recognize that the public will not turn a blind eye if they discover that someone has placed a by-line over someone else's writing. People do care. They want writers, and musicians and artists, etc. to be compensated for their work, because it's only fair. Just because their product is public and easily obtained and easily reproduced that doesn't mean it should be free, any more than the tasks I complete at work should be done for free because any monkey can be taught to do it.

The outrage out there is in part a result from thousands of people being underpaid, laid off, underemployed and undervalued. They know what it's like to work hard and see nothing for it. So this won't go away quietly. The ferret is out of the bag, and there's no way Ms. Edwards will be able to get it back in.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dreams of Death

I had a rough day yesterday, rough but fun.  Actually, just a rough morning.  I enjoyed lunch at McMenamins, great times with Rory, and accomplished some writing stuff in the evening.

It was the dream.  In classic Kami dreams about a lost pet mode, Mojo was darker than he was in life.  He was still white, but he had darker points--still patterned like a tabby, but brown and black striping like Wiz instead of ginger and buff.  I was so happy.  I knew in the dream that he'd died, but somehow he'd come back and I didn't care how.  I picked him up and held him close--and that's when the dream fell apart.  He was weightless in my arms and the illusion couldn't hold up to reality.  I woke so empty, not even being able to dream about him without my conscious mind stepping in and saying nope, it's not real, tough luck subconscious you can't enjoy this.  

This morning I dreamt that a friend of mine from high school got sick and died.  I got to tell him how bright, how strong and wonderful a human being he is, how the world needs people like him.  He seemed to be doing better, but then he died and I suffered through his funeral.  Once again I get to go through the morning with an ache in my chest and a lump in my throat.  

I'm sure he's fine.  It's just my brain thrashing around coping with something or other.  I might blame an external spiritual influence if this keeps up for no reason, but for the moment I think it's just my mind responding to lots of loss and change and potential.  Although growth and change can be very positive, even essential to survival, some very primitive parts of our minds want things to stay the same.  Any change, good or bad, causes stress responses.

In a tarot deck, the Death card represents change, whether it's good or bad.  Things are changing.  I'm not completely aware of what it is that's changing so much in the past few days that my dreams are affected, but I know it's been a big year.  Andy's death, two cancer announcements, my grandmother went blind in one eye, some relationship stuff, Mojo's death and Claire and Misty disappearing, the new pace in my attempts to publish, going to Radcon as a guest panelist with no actual publishing credentials, putting together the websites, never ending car trouble, financial pressure, losing the puppies and Beast and then having them all come home again, big vacations, a very busy OryCon including a bid to chair next year, Rory's book being accepted for publication--all lumped together in a twelve month period.  I'm sure I'm missing things too.

I started to write about how I feel like a delicate flower but on sober consideration, it really has been a big year.  I guess having a couple of death dreams in a row isn't out of line.  Writing about it helps.  The dreams help too, I'm sure, but it's not the easy sort of help.  More like physical therapy.  I can have a cheering section, but the heavy lifting I have to do by myself.  That's life, and love, in the big world.

Writing Stew

After a week during which I seemed to accomplish nothing of real worth, I think I've finally got my feet under me (we'll see if that holds up.)  I'm hoping I can get quite a bit of writing done over the next week, mostly on Signet if I have any say about it.  I've got some things to fix up on my website, but that will have to wait until I can progress my plot.  Signet has been on the back burner way too long.  I want stew, not mush.  The time hasn't been wasted, at least.  I now have a handle on the next big player Lark will meet.  He's intimidated, but what he really should do is run far, far away while he still can even if it means fighting his way past Gutter.  He won't know that until it's too late.  

I love it when that happens. 

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Multitasking Brain Likes to Melt

At the moment I'm both contributing to my blog and watching a DVD on revision called, "So, Is It Done?"  I love this.  

On the other hand, I was told at work by a customer that new research suggests that multi-tasking is bad for your brain.  (I wonder, is this more reliable than Googling for getting reliable information?  Heh.)  I'm not sure that's true, or what 'bad' means for that matter.  I can theorize that what the research might be pointing at is a need for the brain to be able to focus, fully, on one thing.  Deep thinking--not the philosophical or spiritual concept, but the physical process--is intoxicating and I like the idea that it's necessary for mental health.  But multitasking is challenging and a pretty neat skill too.  Studies I can't specifically cite have been quoted as saying that women are better at it than men.  Does that simply mean that women can tolerate that sort of mental abuse better?

Brain exercises of many kinds can be good for you.  There's evidence that learning a new skill every year, whether it's a new kind of game, foreign language phrases, or a physical skill like woodworking, keeps your brain more youthful.  So I'm not too worried that learning how to watch a DVD while typing a blog entry will melt my brain.  Or if it does, the melting doesn't feel bad.  If anything, I feel good.  Productive.  Especially with this DVD.  I'm familiar with quite a few aspects of the revision process, so I'm just listening for reminders, fresh perspectives, and new tools.  I wrote most of this while the DVD discussed the reasons why it's good to give your draft a vacation so that your subconscious can work while the manuscript 'rests.'

In submission news, I'm working hard on a snail mail submission.  I'm hoping to mail it out on Monday.  It'll be technically late (Sunday is my deadline--I think I'll rethink this and just make it Monday since I can't mail anything on Sundays) but it'll be better than if I sent it out today.

I'm super-jealous right now.  They're discussing short stories, and laying them out on a table so that you can look at the whole physical thing at once.  That would take about 500 sq. ft. without paths to walk among the pages if I did that to Masks.  Maybe a chapter at a time?  Still, it's a neat idea that generally speaking is a bit impractical.  My next short story, I'll consider this technique.  It's fun to learn new ways to play.  Er, write.  Okay, play.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fire, Snow, and Book

I love the woodstove.  It keeps the house really toasty while saving us a heap of money.  We'll save even more if we go cut ourselves instead of buying it from our wonderful neighbor (who sold it to us for less than he could have gotten for it on the open market.)  Rory will enjoy chopping it up, too.  Funny how he loathes hauling water but really enjoys splitting rounds.  Anyway, despite all the niceties associated with having a woodstove (heated blanket at bedtime or warm your back or hands, anyone?) there are disadvantages.  One of them is that when there's no one to tend it for a long time, say if it's a weekend and we all have it off so everyone sleeps in, then the fire dies and the temperature inside the house noticeably drops.  Waking up to a 60F degree house in the morning isn't that bad, but it's definitely not comfortable in pjs and bare feet.  At least the floor is warm downstairs.  Having the woodstove going for so long, and having carpet, has allowed the cement floor downstairs to retain heat and it holds it pretty well.  That's in the environs of the woodstove only.  In my office the tile floor is toe-curling cold, and I'm not talking the good toe curling either.  
The kids had a snow day off today so they spent the day horsing around and I spent the day cleaning and working on my website (aka horsing around.)  I found out that my print options include saving documents as .pdf and that iPhoto can import .pdfs, so now I'm officially in business as far as graphics on the website.  All the novels listed on the Writing page have updated, cleaner graphics.  While I was at it I added Signet to the list.  
Speaking of Signet, I'm about 15,000 words in and having fun.  I like having Gutter around.  As in Masks, I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen.  Some people write out detailed outlines or build large diagrams to develop political or mystery novels.  I may end up doing that, but for now I'm free climbing, keeping myself open to those unexpected twists and turns.  I'm hoping there will be some good ones.  In Masks I got away with having a pretty simple problem.  In Signet, it's going to be a hydra, and Lark will have no idea where the heart is until it's too late.  That's just where he ought to be--up to his neck in teeth.  

Monday, January 07, 2008

A little bit more snow

It nicely snowed for us this morning.  The kids have a two hour late start to school.  Commuter traffic is puttering down the hill at about 30 mph.  As often as not, I hear the drone of cables or the rattle of chains when cars and trucks go by.  It started snowing about an hour before midnight last night and I half-expected it to be all melted by morning.  Not so.  So the bird feeder will need filling as the hoards will once again go on a seed-pecking rush.  I have the cell phone by me as Rory will call me from work to tell me what the road conditions are.  I'm driving the PU and can put it in 4 wheel drive, but I'm not going to fuss with trying to get into work on time if the snow is all the way to the bottom of the hill.  Those curves--it's not worth mucking up my vehicle or risking injury for my job.  If I had to guess, though, looking at the road from the house, it looks okay.

Surprisingly, I haven't heard the manic snow plow man or the sand truck yet this morning.  Or maybe I just missed it.

It would have been nice to have a pajama and housecleaning day, maybe get dressed just to build a snowman, but I only work two days this week.  Shock of all shocks, I only work today and Saturday.  Today we have snow, and Saturday there's both a Lucky Labs meeting and an OryCon meeting.  I wonder what bones my boss rolled to determine what days I should work this week.  I need to swap them out for a new set.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Return(s) of the Barbie Lady

I was going to blog about this yesterday but I was tired, and then all day today I've been fighting a cold.  I think the cold is winning.  Grr.

Anyway, I was minding business at the front counter when in comes Barbie Lady.  She introduces herself, and I have to refrain from telling her that we all know her on sight at this point.  "I remember you," I tell her instead.

She starts loading barbies and barbie clothes onto the counter.  "I've been to Target and Walmart and Big Lots and a bunch of other stores and no one will take these.  I know some of them are yours because they have the stickers on them."

Indeed, some of them do have BiMart stickers on them.  I explain to her how the UPC codes (in theory, anyway) are unique to the stores and that's how we can tell if they're ours or not.  

"But these are BiMart's because they have the stickers on them," she says, getting immediately defensive."

"Yes, I understand.  We'll scan all these and see what's what."  So I get an RF and start in.  Fortunately some of the boxes, even though they have different styles of clothes in them, have the same UPC so I can stack them and scan just one.  It quickly becomes an exercise in frustration because the system keeps going down and I have to reboot the RF for every other scan.  

To pass the time the Barbie Lady repeats how she's been to all the stores.  She was at Walmart until 2am the day before and she's frustrated and exhausted.  Maybe I just start to have a day, but all I can think about are the poor Walmart employees dealing with a gizillion returns in the post-holiday buyer remorse days as their credit card bills come in, not to mention a healthy percentage of theft items coming back among them with no receipt or fake ones, and then this woman shows up and starts telling them her woes and piling up stuff on their counter and half or more of it isn't even theirs.  

"Big Lots would only take it back for half price," she told me, as if this was outrageous.  "They said they don't carry it and they offered to take it for half price.  And Target said that their stuff only stays in the system for six months.  Are you sure that this isn't yours?  Maybe it's out of the system."

"No, it would still be in our system," I assure her.  We had a fondue machine come back.  We didn't carry them this year.  We had them last year.  Another of our stores across the river apparently did carry it this season, but the point is that she got all these things in the fall and they'd still be on our computers.

I employ the help of a cohort and we start organizing better so that I can start writing things down, marking them off the receipt, and dumping them in the go-back bin.  She starts leaning over the counter.  "I know I paid more than that for those."  

"It's what the RF is telling me, and it matches the tag," I tell her.  "See?"

"Okay, maybe that one, but that one I definitely paid $10 for."

"It's on sale for $6.99, regular price $8.99.  It's right here on the receipt."  I circle the item on the receipt, trying not to get annoyed.  I know she needs the money desperately, but this is starting to verge into two things I don't care for--people who are not my coworkers and supervisors trying to tell me how to do my job, and people who are trying to get more than what they're due.

"I have more of those out in the car," Barbie Lady tells me.  "Should I go get them?"

No, don't get them because you can always bring them in later and we can do this all over again and maybe the RF won't be working at all that day.  "Please," I tell her.  "That would be great." So she goes out and comes back with a fresh cart of things.  A customer comes up and needs a card replaced.  "Would you like to shop around first and come back?" I suggest.  "I'm sorry but I have my hands full.  Or if you'd like I can do it now."

"No, I don't mind," he said.  "I'll come back."  

This apparently set a dangerous precedent.

So we're working and I have one return slip filled and I'm starting another.  I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when the Barbie Lady looks over my shoulder and says, "She can't help you right now.  She's really busy."  Then she looks at me.  "Can we get this going?  I'm just really tired.  I've been trying to get these things returned for hours."

Whoa there!  Turning a customer away on my behalf?  My cohort and I exchange glances.  "Excuse me."  I turn my back on Barbie Lady and tell her, "I'm sorry, I'd be happy to help you.  What can I help you with today?"

It turned out she was there to pick up some furniture.  She'd come from Vancouver, where they were sold out.  All it took was a few seconds for me to page someone.  All my fond feelings for the Barbie Lady flee.  I turn back.  "I'm sorry, that was probably rude," Barbie Lady says.  "I'm just so stressed out by all this."  Mmm hmm, I'm thinking.  And this excuses you being rude to a customer on my behalf?  "It's just that I had no Christmas.  I was by myself, couldn't even get myself a present, and the bank has called me four times and I've had to go over there for hours each time, and I'm trying to straighten out my credit cards.  Starting a business is so much harder than I thought it would be.  And my doctor told me that I have a degenerative nerve disease, so I can't work, but I'm not considered disabled so I can't get unemployment."  She starts to get all teary-eyed, sniffling.  

This starts to burn me.  I know people with degenerative nerve diseases.  It's a struggle, but they work and those who can't work are formally disabled and get social security.  I know, people slip through the cracks and I don't know her life story, but there are people out there in much worse shape who are getting by.  It's the timing more than anything, like she's trying to gain my sympathy so I take pity on her and, what, feel better about what she's doing?  Work faster?  "I suppose I could work here," she adds, laughing through her almost-tears, sarcasm full on.  "At least I could make grocery money.  I don't know how I'd live."  I'm standing next to someone who's only income comes from her job here, and although this isn't technically a slam her tone is definitely of the 'I'd be crazy to try and of course it would be a snap to get a job here and keep it' kind of thing.  I'm thinking, not with your interpersonal skills, ma'am.  

She didn't hear the theme music that follows me around everywhere suddenly go dark and eerie, didn't notice the darkness that filled my eyes and turned on a little red light behind the pupil, or the fangs when I smiled.  Yes, Kami went bad, I have to admit.  "Yeah, I understand," I told her.  "The holidays are tough for me too.  My father died of brain cancer on Christmas Day."  K-slap!

She looked like a deer in the headlights.  I felt a little guilty.  That's not something I do.  Well, okay, apparently it is something I do.  But she got herself into this mess, buying dolls and doll clothes from retail outlets at prices that everyone else has to pay.  Everyone who is into these dolls knows where to get them and their prices.  Reselling them, she's going to make money how exactly?  And now she's trying to make me feel sorry for her so that I excuse her rudeness?

And I'm trying to excuse myself, I know.  I lost it.

"Well, don't you have the story to tell!" she said.

I do, but it's not for her and I shouldn't have mentioned it.  But she did stop with the poor me stuff, which was a happy relief.  I finished her return and sent her on her way.  She'd been in at least once since I did her first return, so there are only a scant handful of items left on the large receipt she has.  She didn't bring the copy of the receipt my boss printed off the computer when she couldn't find it.  It wouldn't help her anyway.  If she didn't buy it here, we'll know.  She won't be able to double up on returns.

I'm sure I'll see Barbie Lady again.  Until then, to all my fellow retail employees out there:  Never give up, never surrender.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Good News at Last

We got a wonderful email this morning.  No cancer in my brother-in-law's bone marrow.  He'll be getting some radiation treatments after all, but not a huge number.  It sounds like they'll have him on a treatment schedule that won't make him horribly sick.  

So I guess I should hold off on getting him that tinsel wig.

Some days you wake up and you're handed a reason to keep smiling, keep laughing, keep loving, and keep appreciating that life is a gift.  Today is one of those days.  I don't always need a reason to feel joy, but it's nice once in a while to discover a new one.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


I think a lot of these questions reveal that the devil is in the details, but it sounded like fun.

Based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, PLEASE acknowledge their copyright. BOLD WHICH APPLY TO YOU:

Father went to college  

Father finished college  
Earned a degree in a foreign country that only partly 'counted.'

Mother went to college

Mother finished college  
Earned a degree in a foreign country that only partly 'counted.'

Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor

Were the same or higher socio-economic class than your high school teachers  
For most, but not all of my life.

Had more than 50 books in your childhood home  Later on.  Not for a long time.

Had more than 500 books in your childhood home (Detail--my parents left their native country with me and a suitcase.  The country they landed in didn't have any books in their native language.  Hence, we had what they'd packed in children's books, what relatives sent to us, and a few books in English.)

Were read children's books by a parent  Here's a question that puzzles me.  Yes, it's a privilege to have good parents, but from the culture it has little to do with socio-economic standing.  It was expected, whether you were raised by dirt-poor farmers or someone very wealthy.  Then came the schism, where the 'noble' or old families had nannies do that, though that was still considered bad parenting and a sign of being spoiled (the parents, not the kids.)  The whole image of under-privileged children living in squalor hadn't permeated Czech home life.  No matter how bad things got, you kept the house clean and the children washed.  If the kids had no shoes, you made them some.  Penniless households had art on the walls and flowers on the table.  I'm sure this is more utopian than reality in some ways, but I have to say that when I visited the home country it was clean, and the only things that were gray and grim and squalid were what the Soviets had built.  Even there, inside the cinderblock apartments, people might have few possessions but they were kept in a loving fashion.  Maybe being Czech should be listed as a privilege?

Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18

Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (gymnastics, swimming, sports, music--usually through community recreational programs, school or at home)

The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively  With the caveat that almost no one was Czech in media, but as I'm white and during school became English speaking, this one ends up bolded.

Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18

Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs

Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

Went to a private high school

Went to summer camp

Had a private tutor before you turned 18  (My parents tutored me.  I knew how to read and write to a certain extent before I ever went into kindergarten, though not in English.)

Family vacations involved staying at hotels (big time campers.  Sometimes we'd rent a house with my great aunt and great uncle or with friends of the family, split costs.)

Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 (eldest child, no nearby relatives except great aunt and great uncle)

Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

There was original art in your house when you were a child.  My parents painted the vast majority of art in our home.

You and your family lived in a single family house

Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home

You had your own room as a child (for a short time my sister and I shared a room in my great aunt's townhouse.)

You had a phone in your room before you turned 18

Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course

Had your own TV in your room in High School

Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College

Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16  To get to the U.S. we flew.  I'm not sure how that was paid for.

Went on a cruise with your family

Went on more than one cruise with your family

Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up  Of course!  My father was an artist as well as an engineer.  Even when we could afford very little we budgeted for this.  Another devil in the details, much like being read to by a parent.  It points at privilege of good parenting, which at least in the Eastern European culture I was raised in knows no class.  Didn't matter if your house had a dirt floor and you ate little more than potatoes.  You went to the museum at least once.

You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family  Never the amount, but sometimes the grinding of teeth could be heard from a good distance.  Does that count?

Maybe growing up in privilege blinds me to some of the stuff this is pointing at, and I'm sure I have a skewed perspective on my childhood.  It definitely measures a society more American than I am, despite the fact that I am an American--raised and educated in America in a primarily English-speaking household.

We started with nothing.  My father worked for a Chinese newspaper when we moved in with my great aunt and great uncle in their townhouse in Pacifica (Bay Area)--he spoke neither English nor Chinese.  We grew from that to owning our own home, my father making a handsome living as an engineer, but even then he saved up to buy things, including things that would only take maybe a half day of work of his wages.  What privilege is being measured?  Being born into a good, hard-working family which can be found even among the generationally poor, or being born into a financially independent circumstance?  It's apples and oranges in my mind.  You can be born to both and neither, either, or.

For the record, I have a much nicer house than most of my relatives, and my husband earns almost as much as my father did when he worked in San Jose (adjusted dollars.)  I think my kids are less privileged familially than I was, because I'm not as attentive to them and the house as my mother was.  Does that mean that despite my upbringing and family ideals, I fit in with whatever this quiz is trying to measure somehow?  If we made more money, had more savings, would I read more to my kids, take them to more lessons, have more books in the house (although the idea of more books in this house is rather frightening and yet intriguing)?  If I'd completed college would it be more likely that we would have planned to support the kids through college?  I'd like to see what this exercise shows and teaches us.  I do very much like that it makes me think about these things.