Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pioneer Winter?

We had snow yesterday morning.  Yes, I said snow.  Again.  It melted right away, but still.  Are we having a pioneer winter, sort of like Indian summer, but not?  

Who came up with the term Indian summer and what's it trying to say?  I can't decide if I like the term because  I feel weird calling Native Americans Indians.  I don't think it's particularly offensive or derogatory (please correct me if I'm wrong) but it's perpetuating a historical error.  We've known better since the 1600's, folks.  Why is this Indian thing clinging on?  I'm not trying to be politically correct.  I just think it makes sense to refer to friends from India as Indians and friends from America as Americans, and to be more specific when specificity is required.  Makes sense to me.  Further, pioneer winter makes sense to me as a description because we always read about the incredibly tough winters the pioneers endured and so when we have an extra long one, I think of them.  With Indian summer, the connection isn't clear to me at all.  

I sense a Google moment coming on, but not this morning.  I have editing to do before I head in to work.


In writing news, I'm waiting to hear back about two short stories.  Waiting means that I'm not sending out queries or submissions, which means Kami needs a slap on the wrist.  More $$ for the INK coffers, I guess.  

In cat news, Katherine gets dropped off to be spayed tomorrow.  I suspect that she has mites because she digs at her ears, so I'll have the vet test them and clean them out if she has time while Kat is out.  You see, we learned something about Kat that makes us uninclined to just set her on our laps with a Q-tip, a few balls of cotton, a cotton square and some ear wash.  Kat walked through mortar while I was setting up to lay a tile, so I snagged her and went to rinse off her feet.  The vast majority of cats don't like this and will squirm and fight and whine and maybe snag me, and it's never been much of a big deal except with the ballistic cats.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  Well it turns out Kat is a ballistic cat.  We're talking wild thrashing, all claws splayed, danger of biting ballistic.  Thanks to my considerable experience at holding cats I was able to hold on to her but not able to do more than a cursory wetting of feet while the water was running.  I got her feet wet enough for toweling (which is a non-ballistic activity for her, apparently,) and got her feet plenty clean enough for her health.  OMG, what is it about the littlest kitties being the most insane?  I guess they have to fight extra hard to hope to break even.  Which lends me a bit more perspective on Mark's situation in Masks.

Yes, everything is wrapping around back to writing these days, which is as it should be.  I could stand to do more painting, but right now I'm working too many hours and writing comes first.  Too bad, because I'd really like to paint.  A lot.

Monday, April 28, 2008


I fibbed about the wine yesterday.  Not only did I not get around to opening a bottle, but then I calculated my last dose of ibuprofen to land at 11:15 am today and had a glass of wine at 9pm when all but a minute trace of ibuprofen would be out of my system.  Ahhhh, wine and chocolate, Fetzger Shiraz and Dagoba dark chocolate with lavender, to be precise.  Way better than meds, and probably (not sure) healthier for me.

Once I started to suffer from solid pain the depression mostly went away, probably from the body's reaction to pain with the release of a complex cocktail of hormones and other living chemistry.  Sometimes I think about how the body is both very simple--a reactionary organism that is relatively fragile and predictable in relation to the overall environment--and very complex and sturdy with its interplay of checks, balances and compensatory mechanisms that keep us functioning through a huge spectrum of circumstances in ways that we still don't completely understand.  I doubt we ever will completely understand, but complete understanding isn't necessary.  We are what we are, and we live how we live and existence is a patchwork of willpower, fate, environment, timing and a whole slough of factors that we all ride out to our ultimate ends.  

Gee, I got all philosophical there.  Sorry 'bout that.  But, while I'm philosophizing ...

Storytelling attempts to create life experience.

But wait, some say, some stories are just for entertainment.  Well isn't life entertaining?  I know mine is.  And heartbreaking, and beautiful, and ugly, and frustrating, and teaching and wonderful.

 When storytelling is done well the listener connects with the story and becomes engaged enough to experience it in a deep fashion that opens the emotions/heart/being to surprise, wonder, laughter, pain--all the colors of emotion.  Done poorly and the best a listener can hope for is a line that resonates with them enough to get a quick kick of some sort, whether it's a laugh, an aha or whatever.  

A story is by necessity, and due to limitations of medium, simplified.  I think that part of the appeal of VR (remember the SF projections of VR in the late 80's early 90's?) is that we can envision fewer limitations to story, deeper experience.  That deeper experience is achieved by more sensory experience, and more implied history through the creation of characters with independent existences as well as more plot possibilities which, as in the case of Star Trek holodecks, become interactive with listener choice.  

Good writing not only includes lots of sensory detail, unexpected moments, turns of fate and complexity of character, it includes choices that hopefully can draw in a reader into feeling like they themselves are faced with hard choices, and they themselves might choose as the character chose even if it's a bad choice.  Then the story begins to feel real.  

Lately I've read quite a bit of work where I'm not on board with the character choices.  I don't have to like the choices, but I darn well better feel like I might have chosen the same way in the same circumstances.  I think this is the real killer with 'But we have to go back to save Fluffy!' plots.  Done well, they can be entertaining, but now we're not talking a fine Shiraz (good story.)  We're talking pop, something a person drinks because it's sweet, it temporarily kills thirst, is predictable and readily available and is worth little or nothing--a throwaway that readers accept with comments like 'I just wanted to escape for a while.'  It's an Atari video game at best.  No crime in that, no shame.  I played lots of Asteroids and Pong as a kid, and I still love Snood (argh! get thee back, foul addiction!)  But if you're a writer who wants to create a really good, memorable story, you have to look around at real life's complexity.  Develop an awareness of a body's complexity, of life's complexity, and bring your story to life with it.  

Which, btw, makes me think about pat endings.  People say they don't like them, and say things like 'it all wrapped up too neatly.'  But sometimes life happens that way too, at least temporarily.  There are moments in our lives when we 'live happily ever after,' and a writer can capture that and give the audience that sense of closure and peace without the pat ending blahs.  The way a writer pulls that off is with implied continuance beyond The End.  There's more after 'happily ever after' that may not be happy.  It's just that the story reached its natural resting place, a point where we can diverge from traveling with the characters and return to our own lives.  Then it's a very satisfying ending, not just a mechanical knot that contains all the loose ends.

Stuff to think about while living in the clutches of complex body chemistry in a world that surprises me, lulls me, creates me as I create small pieces of it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

At least the camera is working

Rory gave me a clue, so now my camera is operational again.  Yay!  Just in time for serious gardening season.  It's late, but not too late, to weed like crazy in hopes to limit weed seed generation and spread.  We're high enough on the hill that the dandelions haven't turned into puffballs yet, but I noticed that lower down there's lots of yellow and white in the meadows and along the roads.  Other weeds are just getting wound up so if you have a garden, or even just a few containers, get out there and get to work.  Locally the soil is the perfect texture--not too hard and dry, not so wet that everything clumps into yucky globs.
It's too early for tomatoes, peppers, beans and other warm crops to go into the ground, though they can go into containers.  The air is the right temp but the soil isn't, yet.  But just about anything that isn't a tropical or sub-tropical dainty can get planted.  I spent the whole day on hands and knees filling the white garden beds with sweet alyssum, pansies, wave petunias and snapdragons.  When they all fill in it should look really sharp.
I've identified the mystery hummers.  There are two female rufous hummingbirds as well as the lone male we've seen so far.  They're fearless--too fearless, as I saw one humming around my hanging flower baskets sedately dodging Huntress as she leapt repeatedly for the bird.  I chased Huntress off before she got it, but the kids reported that Wizard got one a couple of weeks ago.  So we had four, and are down to three unless the captured one managed to get away.  Their numbers will probably grow as we warm up.  We're keeping the cats in most of the time, which will help, I hope.
While I was adding bird seed to one of the feeders I noticed there was a pine siskin that didn't want to fly off.  It just hopped around.  It looks like a male to me, and too bright to be an immature one.  Maybe it's sick?  The pine siskins let me get very, very close and often watch me from a couple of feet away in the tree when I fill their feeders, but I've never seen one hop around on the ground like this before.  If he's sick he's not going to make it, not with all the predators around, even if we keep the cats in continuously for the next several days.  He's so cute, it makes me sad.  But maybe he's fine.  He stayed in the area long enough for me to get my camera, come back, and take pics of him, and then I decided to stay away from him so he didn't get stressed.  Unfortunately that means I don't know if he eventually flew off, so I'll be thinking about him worried that he's suffering.  I don't know if the dirty bill means anything.  I think it's just cracked nyjer seeds.  There may be an illness going around, because I've heard others mention finding more dead birds than usual, especially pine siskins.  I've also found a towhee with no apparent cause of death visible on it, and the dogs have ended up with an unusual number of dead birds in their clutches this year.
I'm all stressed, depressed (not real bad, just gloomy) and hormonal right now.  Chocolate is helping.  Maybe I'll have some red wine tonight too.  Last glass for a while, because I'll probably need ibuprofen in the morning and I never mix alcohol and ibuprofen.  It's too hard on the liver.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Birds, Plants, Catching Up and Poop

Today I began the process of catching up.  Hopefully I'll complete that process by the end of this weekend.
Why, Kami, what in the world would you have to catch up on?
Glad you asked.
(Dangit!  I know better than that!)  Please, go on.
Gardening stuff
Barn modifications (always a hoot)
Notice, dishes are not on the list.  I'm all caught up.  Yay!

I had to put up two more bird feeders to handle the overflow, and I'm glad I did because we had a beautiful visitor today.  We've seen him before (last year, and for some reason I didn't mention him in this blog,) just one visit but it was memorable.  I hope he sticks around this time and maybe brings his black-headed grosbeak friends.  Why they call them black-headed grosbeaks is beyond me, btw.  I mean c'mon, what's the first color that strikes you when you see this bird?  Is it his black head?  I think not.  How about flaming orange grosbeak?  Or maybe safety first grosbeak.  

If you read the cool facts portion of the link, you'll see that the female of this species is particularly sneaky.  I prefer a relationship based on honesty, but hey, if the guy grosbeak won't sit on the eggs, I guess a girl grobeak's gotta do what a girl grosbeak's gotta do.  

In the sad news category, my poopyhead camera which had healed itself has unhealed and once again won't focus on anything except when I resign myself to point and shoot.  This means no flower closeups and no bird zooms until either A. I can teach myself how to focus the camera by eye (not easy with the digital interface) B. the camera heals itself again C. I can figure out why the camera focus mechanism keeps going out and fix it myself D. get the camera repaired ($ouchie$) E. replace the camera ($$$ouchie$$$) or F. some extremely clever option that will come to me any day in which no time, money or cursing will be expended in the operation of this camera ever again.  I'm particularly annoyed that it decided to stop working because I've had so many great opportunities to snap some stunning pics of our many birdie visitors and the hundreds of flowers that are in bloom in the garden.  Poop, I say, poop.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mean Book

While talking with Rory (one of my favorite things to do, aka, yammering) he pointed out that I had the makings of a mean book. I don't mean a great American novel (yuck! Who wants to write one of those?) but an actually mean book. As we all know I'm terribly mean and this book is right up my alley. On the other hand, I'm worried that someone might pick up this very mean book and get their feelings hurt.

I worked (if you could call it work) briefly (over a few months) on a movie to remain nameless for now. I think if I were to write about my experiences on the movie I'd change the names of everyone and everything, maybe even the names of common objects like shoes (I can call them smeerps! Oh wait, those are rabbits,) to avoid trodding on toes. I doubt there would be legal issues. That's not what I'm concerned about.

The fact is that I genuinely like the people who I worked on the project with, and I'd hang my head in shame if I learned anyone shed a tear or blushed with embarrassment or anger as a result of my work. So, let's think about this.

Honestly, the likelihood that one of the folks, much less a number of folks, who worked on the project would pick up a copy of this book (assuming it even gets published, a large suppose) is miniscule.

On the other hand, I'd be promoting my book in the same vicinity as these people. We live in the same town, and some of us attend the same events promoting our stuff. Eek.

Maybe they'd consider it mutual promotion if my 'secret' was outed.

Maybe they'd chase after me with pitchforks. Kill the monster, kill, kill!

I've found that in writing people fail to recognize themselves on the page. Unless you keep the names the same and jump up and down yelling "This is you!" and maybe not even then, people will laugh at themselves and never see themselves right there in front of their own faces mirrored in print. There's even more weasel room because a lot of times they'll just write off what you've written about them as your own flawed perception (which it is) and think nothing of it.

On the other hand, I sensed a lot of fragile ego hiding behind facades of particularly bold bravado. If anyone is unable to take the heat, it'd be these people. Why they're getting involved in the film biz, I dunno, but there they are. I guess it's possible that they'd make it, seeing as others who are much more quirky than they are have, but it's a tough business and the critics can be cruel. Often and sadly accurate but still cruel. Maybe I'd be contributing to that cruelty, or maybe I'd simply be a grain of sand on a much bigger beach--nothing worth noticing on the grand scheme of things. I think I'd be a purple grain of sand. Or maybe blue. Definitely not green.

This could be a really fun thing to do. Hey, maybe by the time I finish writing, editing, marketing it, sell it, and get it into print, everyone including me will be dead. Then the wide world can enjoy it as it is and there will be no rocks thrown through my window. Besides, in all seriousness, I don't think I'm really mean, cruel and heartless. I can be snippy and I can laugh at the expense of others, but I'm not a comedian out to rake her family over the coals to get a chuckle and a few bucks. I almost always give folks the benefit of the doubt, and treat them with as much respect as I have the foresight to grant them (which, in my limited wisdom, I don't always give enough.) I'm passionate about this idea. (Can you tell?) And I'm not planning to make my living in the business, so any bridges that I burn will be bridges I didn't plan on crossing in the first place. But I don't like the idea of writing on a subject hiding behind a shield of 'I never liked all y'all anyway so screw you.' I'd like to think that the principles could read it and enjoy it like anyone else, maybe more, because they were there and they remember.

It seems doubtful, though, that they'd enjoy much of it because so much of the material is rooted in how ridiculous and stupid some of the process turned out to be. I mean appalling. Some days I hope I'll see it in a local theater (I trust one of my insiders can give me a heads up for how many whiskeys are advised prior to viewing) and other days I think that maybe it would be better for everyone if it died in post. Like a first novel, a first feature-length movie that was written, directed, produced and acted by shiny, brand new people will be what it will be. It's a learning experience. I want to put that learning experience on the page, as a warning and inspiration to others.

Besides, sometimes it's fun to exercise my mean dog self. She lays around so much, she really needs a long walk once in a while.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bird days

For those of us (fools) who put out bird feeders and keep them stocked with a variety of goodies, this year has been crazy with the birds.  I don't know if it's the weather or what, but come 7:30am or thereabouts, I have an amazing number and variety of birds.  Yesterday and today I had at my feeder:

A red-shafted flicker (he likes the suet!)
Two crows (the local ones are normally too shy to come this close--as they learn that will change and they might even learn to eat out of our hands)
The starling (sigh)
A pair of goldfinches (first of the year!) in breeding colors
At least a dozen evening grosbeaks
More pine siskins than you can shake a stick at
At least three pairs of house finches (we started with one lonely pair)
A family of chickadees--there are at least three
The ever-persistent nuthatch
The juncos (of course)
The family of five Stellar jays
A pair (at least) of scrub jays

All. At. Once.
(I may link more birds to this post later but I think this will do for now.)

It's like a circus out there.  As shy as the flicker is around people, he's not at all shy around other birds.  He's big enough that even the grosbeaks won't mess with him.  He sits on the tree, leans over and pecks at the suet or sometimes lands on the feeder (which tips it precariously) where he sits folded over with his tail braced on the underside and removes large chunks of suet.  The stellar jays fly in, scattering everyone but the grosbeaks, and then they fly to the ground after the grosbeaks don't budge, chasing the juncos, finches and sparrows to the perimeter of the dropped-feed zone where they pick in the grass and mud.  A car goes by, flushing the grosbeaks, and everyone else zooms in to eat before they come back.  Pine siskins and the goldfinches duke it out at the nyjer feeder, while chickadees and the nuthatch duke it out at the suet bar.  The house finches steal meals here and there at the nyjer feeder but the pine siskins, which are surprisingly aggressive considering their small size, dominate.  The crows watch and wait for opportunities wherever they may arise.  They can't fit on the feeder but they move on the ground at a stately pace picking up the big chunks of nuts that are too much for the smaller birds to handle (the grosbeaks ignore the nuts and usually sweep them out of the feeder in favor of sunflower seeds.)

You can hear the noise from all these birds wherever you happened to be upstairs.  Down here in my office, their voices don't quite reach.

And at my kitchen window:
A rufous hummingbird and two female (or juvenile?) hummers of undetermined species

I know it's baffling to a lot of people.  Why on earth would I feed the birds?
I guess it's like having an aquarium (which I also enjoy but don't currently have one set up) except that at a bird feeder, you never know who's going to show up.  I like it better than tv.  And it keeps my cats entertained.  They watch hummingbird tv while they eat on the kitchen counter.  So do most people who enjoy bird feeding also enjoy aquariums?  Is it a brain/personality thing?  Do those people also typically find gardening rewarding?  Are they fascinated by terrariums as children?  I sure was.  

Sorry, gotta go.  I want to see who else is going to show up at the feeder this morning.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't Snow or Tread on Me

We had more snow last night, and more this morning.  The weather people claim that we'll have 60 degree weather soon, maybe by this coming weekend.  I'm thinking not snowing would be good enough, thanks, but then again it's so, so pretty.  Snow on tulips.  Snow on wallflowers.  Snow on the deck rail, and fairy lace on the trees.  The ground is warm enough that things aren't keeling over, at least locally.  In eastern OR and WA it's colder and farmers are fighting to save cherries and other early blooming or early planted crops.  I'm sure they're having lots of sleepless nights and are spending hours fretting over the cost of keeping their blossoms from dropping via smudge pots and anything else they can contrive.  I wish them the very best of luck. 

I made progress on the tiling of the office last night.  The post-it says "Don't Tread On Me."  If I'd had the energy I would have drawn a little snake on each one too.  Hopefully I'll have more progress to report on office tile later.  For now, it's time to head to work.  Have a good one, and watch out for snow!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Black Angus in the Dark Woods

I was picking through the remnants of devoured (the bulbs, by voles) tulips, making them into a nice bouquet, when The Sea of Unconditional Love alerted me to ... are those Newfoundland dogs?  No?  Black ponies?  (No no no I mean the animal kind of black ponies!)  No?  
Aha!  Black Angus.  
And here I thought I'd have a quiet evening sipping Navan and writing.
I'd tried to get goat feed earlier but the feed store was closed by the time I got there, a fact that's particularly annoying because I had nothing, no alfalfa, no grain, nothing that would appeal ... well, now that I think about it, I do have peanut butter and also rabbit feed.  D'oh!  But I didn't think of that.  I went out to try to herd the cows toward our neighbors' place.  Whether or not they belong to the neighbors is moot.  They needed to be contained so the rightful owners could eventually locate them.  Right?  So my good Sam butt got run ragged trying to herd them when finally I called 911.  What's my emergency?  Cows.  
The officers are on their way.
I figure, if we can't herd them, maybe we can have a nice roast?
Anyway, as I get to know the animals, I notice that there are two cows, two nice calfs, and a young not-very-big (read young, but no longer a calf) bull.  They're nice, docile animals that like to kick up their heels when they run away laughing mockingly at the two legs trying to keep them from either running down into the woods or onto the road.
I meet two of my neighbors at the road, and they join in the happy hijinx.  I'd thought, earlier, that maybe late tonight I'd go work out.  I decided, while gasping as I climbed the hill behind my house for the fourth time, that that would be overdoing it.  As time wore on, I wondered if there was good karma coming out of me chasing someone else's livestock.  Maybe someday someone will chase my livestock for over an hour, keeping them out of harm's way and trying to contain them so I'd have a better chance of finding them.  Wouldn't that be nice?  I knew of at least two other fools, er, I mean, neighbors who, like me, were willing to slog about in snow, mud and blackberries to tend to someone else's problem, so I guess it's in the realm of possibility that someone might return the favor someday.  
In the end, though, the bull kicked up his heels one last time and danced, laughing, into the woods.  We called it a night.  I called 911 back and told them not to bother anymore.  We'd never get the cows out of the woods in the dark.
The Sea of Unconditional Love still barks, though sadly, toward the woods where the cows roam (or are probably bedded down by now) all alone in the Ravine of Doom.  The dogs remember the Ravine of Doom well.  They spent several days lost down there.  Poor cows!  Come home, cows, come home! the dogs call.
Soon I'll feed the dogs and they'll forget all about the sad (not!) cows dreaming in the dark woods.  The real sadness is that the liquor store closed while I was running around with the herd.  No Navan for Kami.  But at least we had beautiful, unusually late snow to adorn the Land of Mocking Livestock.
Anyone missing some disrespectful cows?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cold Snap

Got the woodstove going again.  Cold weather has returned to our bit of paradise.  The greenhouse plants are shivering like chihuahuas, I'm sure.  Poor things.  I had to stay late at work to help shroud the annuals from the expected chill tonight.  This necessity torpedoed my hope to zip over to the INK meeting tonight before it got too late for some critiquing and planning of our writerly futures.  Weatherman says snow, maybe, down to 1000 feet or so.  I wonder if I'll wake up to the whitest April 19th I've ever experienced.  Questions I haven't had to concern myself with are popping up.  How will the peonies and clematis fare?  Will this stunt my poor asian pear trees?  Do fumes from oil lamps harm seedlings?  Shivering minds want to know.

At least we have water, and lots of it.  Turns out the new tank can keep keep our water running for some time once it's pressurized without the pump having to step in and work like mad.  I wonder, now that the pump's workload is much easier, if it might not give up the ghost, poor thing.  It's been overworked for who knows how many years and now, with a normal load, it may not just settle, but collapse.  

In the meantime, though, we have water, heat, shelter, food, all the niceties of modern life keeping us comfortable.  As for the wild things--good luck, and I hope you make it through the cold snap.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ain't It the Life?

Ain't it the life?  (With a nod to Foo Fighters)

This week I had all kinds of time off, which I used to get the boy arranged to go to prom and work on the EstrogenFest memory books, as well as spend some good ol' fashioned family time.  I even got to attend the aforementioned Fireside Writing Session.  I didn't explain the typer thing in that post.  The collective realized that few of us actually write as opposed to typing ... anyway.  I find calling myself a typer less oppressive than calling myself a writer.  The response is 'huh?' rather than 'Oh, what have you published?'

I'd planned to spend yesterday tiling, the thing I'd originally planned to do but didn't the whole rest of the week.  Well.  Come 5am Rory tells me that we have no water.  He's tried messing with the pressure regulator, which we've had to reset several times in the past couple of weeks.  I gear up (slippers, pjs and attitude) and head out to the garage.  There's the little pressure switch thingy with its arrangement of wires and nuts and the box that comes off of it with the red reset button.  I alternate between tapping the switch with various (non-metal handled) tools and pushing the reset button.  Usually this gets things going again, but we've got nothing going on.  Time to summon a professional.

Rory leaves early for work and brings along a towel so he can shower there.  The kids and I brush our teeth employing bottled water and proceed to stink our way through the day.

First I call and leave a message with a plumber that looks like a likely choice given a search through the yellow pages and on google in a pathetic hope that I could find reliable reviews on the businesses I'd hoped to employ.  (I didn't.  C'mon people, review review review!)  Then I wait.  Can't tile, need water for that.  And wait.  Can't wash dishes, need water for that.  And wait.  Can't do laundry, need water for that.  Finally I call them back around 9:30.  Even though I left my phone number twice, apparently she couldn't understand it on the message tape.  How does Friday sound?

Um, let me call around a bit and get back to you, says Kami, contemplating having no water until Friday and imagining trucking bottled water out to the goats, filling the washing machine with bottled water, and the toilet so we can flush, etc.  Friday doesn't work for me.  If possible I'd like to flush today, okay?

Plumbing company #2 gets a call.  She's in the middle of something and she'll call me back.  Forty five minutes later I call her back.  There's some sort of emergency and she apologizes.  She'll call me back--whoa there lady.  The last time we did this--she changes her mind and says since she's not making any headway with the emergency anyway, she'll take five minutes now to deal with me.  She'll call me back, really.  It takes a while for me to explain what's going on with my water system, which is discouraging but hey, she's just the receptionist, right?

She does call back after talking with one of their plumbers, but apparently they don't handle this sort of thing.  Huh.  I've just wasted a total of three hours and my early start on the problem is basically out the window.  I call our local appliance guy, who does fabulous work.  Well, the unions have convinced the legislature that if it involves water, they have to handle it.  He can't even touch a hot water heater anymore.  ??  Who does he recommend?  A local plumber.  I call said local plumber, who turns out to be a real champ and explains a critical detail to me.  Turns out plumbers don't work on this sort of thing either.  Well WTF?  I'm really glad I didn't wait until Friday to find out that pumps are a specialty and plumbers don't know what the heck to do with them.  There's one (ack!) contractor who handles this sort of thing in our area.  The good news is that it's a very good, reputable company.

I call them and explain.  I'm heartened because they appear to understand what I'm talking about at last.  Within an hour a truck pulls into the driveway, setting off the Doorbell of Unconditional Love (barking.)  I lead him to the source of the problem (or so I thought) and adopt the homeowner with a problem posture (hands on hips, puppy dog eyes.)  After some exploration he discovers the reset button isn't actually attached to anything.  The wiring has been bypassed.  !!??  Okay, I've been pressing an idiot button.  I feel so much better now.  More exploration.  The breaker for the pump is off and, when clicked back on, jumps off again.  So we go to the well head.  We dig out about ten gallons of mud and plastic bags and two live moles (so cute with their soft gray fur and little hands.)  Part of the wiring had been wrapped in electrician's tape, implying a previous issue, and it had been chewed through as had some of the copper wiring.  My mind goes into MST3K mode.  This arrow may have something to do with her pain! (aka gee, maybe a severed wire is the reason why we get only intermittent service from our pump.)  He wires it back together and we hit the breaker.  Power!  Pumpage!  Huzzah!  We have water.  Except.  The water tank's bladder has clearly burst, probably a long, long time ago.  It needs to be replaced, which will help to alleviate some of the water pressure bounciness we experience that I've learned to just live with and thought was normal.  Like I'd know!  Long-time city gal here, remember?  

The genius/rescuer promises to return tomorrow (today) with a nice new, bigger water tank.  The best part is that we have water while we wait.  Yay water!  Yay laundry!  If only I'd had enough energy to tile after we got water, but all I managed was a shower and I was done for the day.  I hit the sack early last night.  On the agenda today--late start for work, clear out a path for the tank through the garage, maybe tiling at last (doubtful) and a late start to work because the pump guys probably won't be done until noon-ish and my shift starts at 11:15.  But we have water!  Ain't it the life?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quick Before Bed

I finally made it to a Fireside writing session.  Fab!  Very productive.  I worked on editing Masks in the hopes that I'll be able to start working on the sequel again that much sooner.  I've got several thousand words pecked out on Signet, but I've set aside making more progress until I've finished (finished really ought to be in quotes) Masks (again.)  Editing in a different location than my office (and on a different computer to boot) resulted in about the same quality of notice that I get from printing the darned thing out and reading over hard copy.  This is a good, and less expensive, option even when I factor in the hot cider, oatmeal cookie and banana.  I'm not counting the birthday dinner afterward (not for my birthday, btw.)  I had to go, because of the rule.

You know, the rule?  All work and no play?  I really can't afford to be dull.  I'm a typer.

I had enough fun that it hardly seemed like work.  Hopefully I'll be able to go to a Fireside session again soon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I remember, back in the day, waiting until the last minute to pick out my prom dress.  It was jet black with a hot pink bow, an apt combination that emitted my rather vile and bitter personality during that point in time.  I asked the guy to ask me, and he complied.  'Nough said about that very wrong chapter in my history.

Fast forward over twenty years.  My son can be a real gentleman, thanks to the fine example of his father, and tonight he displayed himself in fine form.  The Fates wove our lives very nicely, which helped.  We managed, after some calling around, to find a formal attire shop that would accept a last-minute order.  The boy, you see, thought that the junior prom was a week from now, rather than today, so ... yeah.  Luckily he'd saved some cash and bought tickets at school at the last possible moment, Thursday.  He got fitted for his tux last night and we picked it up this morning.  Normally they don't allow guys to try on the tuxes at the store but seeing as it would be an extra nasty drive for us and the fact that he'd need it the same day, they kindly made an exception.  Everything fit okay, so we went to the nearest florist and they, again very nicely (thank you Fates!) made a corsage for him on the spot.  We stopped by Costco on the way home for chocolates, dog food and some other stuff and then we went home to drop off the corsage in the fridge.  After a pause in action (sort of--the boy vacuumed and dusted the car and I washed the car and detailed it so that any accidental brushes against the vehicle wouldn't result in a dust smear on his or his date's clothes,) we went to downtown Camas for a haircut at Carla's, reputed to have the best men's haircuts in the area.  But Carla's was closed.  Denied!!   We thought all was lost and that we'd have to go to (chain stylist) where we've had some reasonable cuts but also some really ugly dos, but we happened to walk past a pretty fancy new place downtown that looked like it'd be mostly for women.  We decided to take a chance.  Turns out that the ladies there are normally booked several days in advance, but one, who was just leaving, was relatively new, had only a short list that day and she fabulously agreed to cut the boy's hair since it was a special occasion and all.  Bless her scissors.  I'll have more about her later in the week.  She gave the boy a haircut that she thought of as Clooney-esque and I thought made the boy look, well, more like a man than a shaggy animal.  It's sorta retro, yet classy and cute and boyish and well-groomed and ... well, the boy liked it, which was the important part.

We drove home, ate and the boy showered.  He got into his tux barely on time (aka late) and we dashed out the door to pick up his date.  But wait!  He forgot his tickets and his student ID.  We raced back to the house, he leapt out of the car, got the stuff, and we took off rolling.

We arrived safely in Camas.  His date looked like a million bucks, and the boy was all grins.  She was so pleased at the chocolates, and the corsage.  Yes, her hair is blue, a fabulous blue, I might add.  Her parents (and grandparents, who happened to be visiting this week) were justifiably proud.  I hadn't met her or them previously but they seemed like nice folks and I had no qualms as we loaded up and headed off to Pearson Air Museum for the big event.  Small talk was in short supply and all the radio stations had simultaneously programmed a sucky music hour, but we all survived the drive and I dropped them off with, at their request, no more pics.  I don't have very many, and a lot of them didn't turn out well due to low light conditions, but c'est la vie.  

Here's to dressing up and having fun, to living life to the fullest, and to the milestones.  Have a great prom, boy.  

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Great News

I got a real booster of an email this morning:

Sorry for the impersonal email, but it's much quicker to bcc everyone than to send a bunch of individual emails.

I just wanted you to know that your story is still under serious consideration for an upcoming issue of Flash Fiction Online. I don't want to make anyone too optimistic -- we'll only be able to accept about 25% of the people who are receiving this email -- but I wanted to make sure you knew that we hadn't forgotten about you or lost your story in the mail.

Jake Freivald
Flash Fiction Online

I know I don't have a one in four chance of getting published.  This isn't gambling, after all.  It'll measure up to the other stories, or it won't.  

There's an additional artistic factor.  Many editors end up with conscious or unconscious themes to the stories they choose for a particular issue, even if it's 'I want all these stories to be completely different from each other.'  Every year that I coordinated the writer's workshop for OryCon, I had only one year where I had trouble grouping a story with another (I put the writers into pairs.)  For whatever reason I had one Mech Warrior story and no other robot story or military SF or franchise story, but I did have a pro author with experience in writing for Mech Warrior (what are the odds? heh) and so I made a quirky group with that pro and another pro that had deep experience in short stories.  The other submitting author had a short fantasy that was about the same writing level as the other submitting author in the group.    

The point is that fiction writers and their stories tend to come together in a serendipitous fashion, and serendipity may not be on my side this time.  Still, I'm happy and honored to have made it this far.  Publication with Flash Fiction Online would be a real feather in my cap.  By the way, if you don't read them, do.  I never have enough time to read, which makes Flash Fiction Online particularly wonderful.  

Mr. Freivald didn't have to send out the update, and I hope he didn't get a bunch of emails back (except quick thank yous, although even those might be considered clutter) pestering or abusing him.  You'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't, at what people send to editors given the slightest excuse, which they take as some form of provocation.   Anyway, it was very nice of him to take the time.  The email certainly made my day.  Now, on to writing, and tiling, and cleaning, and all that.  I'm sure my work will be particularly flashy today.  

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


There's something exhilarating, a definite sense of freedom, when I clean house.  The daily drudge work (with the exception of vacuuming--I've always liked vacuuming) I could do without, or at least have less laundry and dishes.  But I actually enjoy getting places cleared out, making things shine.  Today I cleaned out the woodstove.  The glass is all sparkly and the ashes are swept out.  I also swept the stairs (they're carpet but I find sweeping is faster and actually does a better job than vacuuming most of the time) and cleared out part of my office in preparation for tiling.  

Yep, I'm getting back to tiling my office.  

If I could get this same sense of cleaning out and freedom and exhilaration when I edit a story, that would be so fabulous.  Unfortunately I end up pinched between Charybdis (that sinking feeling that I'm making things worse, not better) and The Scylla (getting frustrated with the many layers involved in editing and the fact that it's both a big scope (plot) and small scope (line editing) problem that requires many passes.)  I get exhausted by the immensity of the task.  

Typing at normal pace I can write a first draft in three months.  I can write a Nano in a month, also.  But regardless of how quickly I write that first draft, it takes years to edit it.  That's normal.  A book should take years to put together.  A very skilled writer can write a passable book in six months or less.  Yes, I include romance writers in this category.  There's no doubt in my mind that they're skilled, talented and prolific writers, all traits I admire, and I won't hear a thing said against them.  However, if you gave a romance writer 2-3 years to write a book, you'd end up with a real masterwork.  Someone like me who isn't as skilled at editing would have garbage at the end of six months.  After 2-3 years, I have something passable, or maybe even pretty good.  The time frame, though, really wears me down.  It's not so much the hours.  I love to write, and I even like to edit at times.  It's the number of times going through the manuscript.  

Sometimes I get lucky and I don't have major plot issues on a first draft.  Yay me, because that saves a great deal of headache in the long run.  Unfortunately, more often than not there are plot and structure issues, character issues, and other major stuff that has to be addressed.  By the time that's sorted out, the line editing is a mess, flow is an issue and often there are stylistic issues as I struggle to find character voices, the feel of the setting and other things.  The trick is to make as few passes as possible so that the writing still has freshness and fire.  Each time a writer goes through the document they improve things, but they also polish off some of the good stuff.  It's like a grain of rice.  You start out with this rough, richly-colored grain that's typically too coarse to enjoy (at least in quantity.)  If you polish off some of that coating you get something more palatable, but you also lose nutrients and that wonderful color.  Flavor is also lost.  Polish too much and you end up with short grain white rice--incredibly bland but fully digestible, and also constipating.  Heh.

Like everything else it's a balancing act.  As I improve my editing skills I'm sure it won't be such a chore, but for now, editing is the endless laundry and dishes of the writing world.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Kat is definitely in full heat now.  To her credit, she's more subtle than other cats I've owned.  This experience comes from back in the day when vets insisted that cats go into heat at least once before spaying.  I wonder how much of that insistence was inspired by the idea that they'd want owners to really, really think hard about whether they'd honestly want an intact female around vs. the stated reason that the reproductive organs are easier to manage after one heat.  Anyway, vets don't insist on it now.  In fact they'll spay cats extremely young.  But I digress.  I have to admit that Kat's little purrs and trills are very cute, but their incessant nature gets to you after a while.  Even Wizard and Lucky have retreated to sleep together in the master bedroom, staying out of sight of Little Miss Take Me, Take Me Now.  She verged on yowling today but didn't quite make it past the yo threshold into full yowl mode.  Yo as in yo, guys, what am I, chopped liver?

Actually, I think Lucky and Wizard would find chopped liver far more appealing, but don't tell Kat.  I think it would hurt her feelings.  Well, feeling.  She has only one feeling now.

How long until May 1?  


Monday, April 07, 2008

Just in Time

Looks like we found Kat just in time.  She's going into heat.

Part of me is glad that she's not pregnant.  The more I'm around her the more I realize she's pretty young, younger than I first estimated.  Six months, maybe?  It would be really hard on her, although she's getting shinier and healing up fast.  But part of me would have loved to see what she'd have for kittens.  If they had anything near her temperament, they would be truly wonderful pets.

So, the beginning of next month, she'll be spayed and get all her shots and that'll be that.  In the meantime, we have a purring, trilling thing that really wishes Wizard wasn't fixed.  She liked him before.  Now she adores him.  I can understand her enchantment.  He's really a handsome guy.  Such a nice face!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Loyal, Honorable, Brave and True

Loyal, Honorable, Brave and True--They create a safer place for everyone to live in with unflagging service and noble sacrifice.  Let's celebrate the dogs that help keep the wolves from preying on our communities, even though we dress them up funny.

Write your own caption!

Applying for a Job

Just like volunteering as writer's workshop coordinator opened my eyes to how it looks, tastes, smells and feels to receive manuscripts, working at the front desk when there's a hiring sign outside has opened my eyes to the first part of the hiring process.

Hints for success drawn from real life experiences today:

Don't send mommy in to pick up your applications.  If you're mommy, send the kid in to pick it up.  We don't hire people under 18 and since mom said both qualify, that's a big hmmm.  Either the people don't want the job enough to bother picking up the app (in which case we don't want 'em) or they're being forced to apply by mom (subcategory of prior) or they're not mature enough to get around to picking up their own or they can't get their own transportation.  Ahem.  If you don't fall into any of these undesirable categories then why the heck are you going to allow the employer to jump to these conclusions?

When applying or asking about whether applications are being accepted, don't return items you bought from the store without tags, stained, without receipt, and with an attitude.  Also, don't spout off about the hiring process, especially if you're wrong.  The pseudo-customer in question brought in stained shorts without tags claiming they didn't fit, and then told me how her application was going to Eugene.  
"Oh, you're moving to Eugene?" I ask hopefully.
"Then why ..."
"Because that's how they hire," she said, rolling her eyes.
Mmm hmm.  Sure they do.  I was (not) hired in exactly that fashion.  I'm sure local store management has nothing to do with, say, looking over your app or interviewing or anything.  It's not like they have to work with you.  
Turns out this gem has applied every time we put a sign out.  Maybe her application did go to corporate to begin legal proceedings for a restraint order.  She only got more obnoxious from there, with a smile.  So, another tip.  Don't annoy your potential coworkers.

One of my bosses confided that he knows whether he's going to hire someone usually within the first minute of an interview, and sometimes in less time than that in the few moments before the interview officially begins.  This parallels the hurdle a short story and novel submission has to overcome with an editor.  And it's not really required to impress/blow away an employer in that first minute.  Just don't be a jackass.  Dress neatly.  Be polite.  Look interested in the job and eager to work.   

I wonder, then, if a story opening really has to be spectacular.  I think maybe not.  I think it has to be competent and interesting.  Overall the story really needs to sparkle to sell.  Overall the applicant needs to outshine the competition for the same job.  But in that first minute the applicant doesn't have to do backflips or display a talent for marksmanship.  They just have to, well, be themselves.  The opening of a story probably (I'm guessing, you understand) just has to be itself too.  

Something to think about.  If the applicant (story) isn't a natural fit for the job (publisher) then no amount of trickery or flash bang or emotional contortionism is going to make them more appealing or more likely to get the job (get published.)  Be yourself. (Write the story.)  Put your best foot forward but don't try to force it. (Write the opening that fits the story. )  And good luck out there.  It's a competitive world, but there are opportunities.  Keep looking, and trying, and hopefully someday you'll get the job (published!) 

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pen, or Sword, Whatever Gets the Job Done, for Hire

First of all, a big Yay! and thank you to the Lucky Labs for the comments on "I Remember the War."  After some spiffing up, I hope to have that story shipped off to the best paying market I can find.  I am, when it comes down to marketing, terribly mercenary.  When I'm writing it's all about the craft and the magic of transmitting a world in my brain into someone else's brain, and the fact that I can't stop writing even if I wanted to.  Which I don't.  I don't think I could handle the aggravation of that much creative juice fermenting (aka rotting) in my subconscious.  It's worse than testosterone poisoning.  I just gotta get it out of me.

Now I'm all thinking about sexual tension and release.  

I'm back now.

When I'm not actively writing, though, I try to think like a professional.  The most altruistic I get about the story is that I'd very much like it to end up somewhere where folks can read and hopefully enjoy it.  I like making people happy and it's neat to think that something I wrote could affect someone in a positive way, or at least give them a fun ride.  But I'm not relying on my words to provide immortality or some such.  The words have enough work to do without having to lug my sorry butt around.  When the tale is told, it's time for business.  That's how writers  sustain themselves so that they can write the next story.  Starving artists, well, starve.  And they don't get read by very many people if they end up 'publishing' on their own blog.  If you think about it, no one wins if the sale doesn't happen.  Well, I guess no matter what my cats win, because I'll always provide a warm lap during writing time and I'll leave the keyboard to feed them if they demand to be fed, or I'll get them water, or I'll tickle a chin before flinging the fuzzy demon off the computer desk.  Then it's time to delete all the catpaw words.

But I digress.  A lot.
So thanks again, and not just to the Lucky Labs but also to INK and all my patient readers who do a very good job of not rolling their eyes when I tell them I've got something new and I'd like them to take a peek at it.  I don't always express my gratitude, but man oh man, I would not have gotten very far without the many, many hours people (some of them complete strangers) have devoted to improving my prose.  May you receive many happy returns.  

And now it's time for me to strap on my weapons and go earn me a paycheck in the grand ol' mercenary tradition.  Where did I leave that sword laying around?  Gotta be around here somewhere ...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Strangers Think They Know Me

I finally found a title for my latest short story, "Strangers Think They Know Me."  I read an article on the SFWA website about titles and titling and got enough out of it that it made my job easier.  Thank goodness, just in time to keep myself from going insane.  I have almost as much trouble with titles as I have with naming characters.  I've been trying to title this particular short for four days, longer than it took me to write the darned thing, I kid you not.
I know I haven't been writing enough because I keep having these very vivid dreams that lead to story ideas.  It's a self-solving problem, at least until my dream space starts getting cliche', at which point not only will I not be writing enough to keep from dreaming, but I'll be bored while I'm dreaming.  Bummer.
So far, though, my dreams have been a rich mine.  Since I don't need more ore while I'm writing heavily, this arrangement with my subconscious suits me really well.  
I've got more short stories in the back brain to work on, but first, I have to visit Masks and Signet as I've had some ideas with both of them.  I find it's best to exploit ideas while they're still fresh.  If I'm given too much time to mull about them or if I discuss them too much with others, I lose that matchstick flash of enthusiasm.  I can slog with the best of them on a first draft, since I know the next flash will be along momentarily, but during editing those moments of heat and light are much more rare and precious.  So away to Masks, or Signet.  Maybe I'll keep both docs open at the same time and see what happens where.  I think I've got enough fire for both of them at the same time.  So, does that make us a ménage á trois?
My apologies to folks googling for something sexier than writing.  Boy are you on the wrong site!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Don't Want to Stop

Yum, I love the sunshine.  Yay!  I've been gardening like a madwoman.  It's one of those things where everything hurts, especially my back and my legs from trying to support my back and my hands which are no longer accustomed to pulling blackberries.  Yanking blackberries is hard, nasty work, but rewarding.  So why the rush?  Because it's time to put out some of the seed I have set aside for broadcast and I have to work tomorrow.  I have no expectation that the weather will be nice on Saturday (or ever again until June) so I'd like to get it all done now.
All is strong word.  Let's say a lot.  I'd like to get a lot now, and get the crimson clover and wildflower seeds sprinkled out there in sufficient quantities that the birds can go to town and there will still be plenty left over to sprout.  Out there, at least the part I want to seed, happens to be covered in blackberries.  So there we are.  
In the meantime, my greenhouse is set up and the seedlings have been transferred to a location where they can have sunlight in sufficient doses to keep them from getting even more straggly.  I've filled about half my hanging baskets and set them in there too, and some pots with calla lily starts (the red/orange kind) and started my tomatoes better-late-than-never.  It got cold last night, but the greenhouse kept everyone safe and warm.  Looks like it's going to be a great growing season this year.
But only if I can get enough blackberries pulled before the rains come and stay until June, like they almost always do.  I guess all I can do is keep my fingers crossed and enjoy what I've got going so far.  Not too many years ago it rained solid from February through the first week of June and nothing got planted--nothing--before June.  That was a sad kitty year for the kitty gardener.  I'll count my blessings.  But first I've got to go pull some more blackberries.

Here are some of the plants waiting for warm weather, sunshine, frost-free nights and plenty of blackberry-free zones to grow in.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools

I woke up to sunshine this morning.  I was so inspired by spring and growing things I've decided to walk out on my job, dye my hair green, and run around naked in my garden all day.

That was supposed to be the beginning of an April Fool's entry but you know what?  It really sounds appealing.  Well, the dyeing my hair green would be a pain, with the lightening first to a lighter brown or blonde and then finding and going to a salon that carries the right green for part B, and it would probably be expensive.  Maybe food coloring would work, but if it didn't, well, I'd have to live with the lack of success for a long time, being a long-haired weirdo.  I look really terrible in short hair.  Trust me.  

But besides that, the rest sounds great.  Someday when my garden is tall and all filled in I can garden naked or mostly naked if I want, no joke.  Right now there's too much exposure (ha ha) to the road and my neighbors, though I used to work topless when I worked in sheltered areas.  Ironically, we've cleared too many blackberries for me to work in a comfortable state of dress (or undress, in this case.)  But soon, soon now, the plantings will mature to a size that we'll have privacy again, without an invasive non-native species taking over what should be gardens and pasture and wildflowers and woods.

I'm reveling in my freedom today after reading about some real hardships.  A good and wise friend pointed me to her blog (waving hi!) and I spent about an hour catching up.  It pointed me to a wonderful and yet heartbreaking article about an all-woman village that both filled me with joy and anger.  My heart wants to react with counter-violence but I figure that's a no-win.  The men will escalate if the women fight back, and probably kill them all.  I'm so filled with feminine pride after reading about their success, and enraged by the poopyheadedness of the men.  When people can't see that beating women for being raped is wrong, they are more than blind and ignorant.  A blind man can understand.  An ignorant man can learn.  I don't think that these men can see, or learn to be other than what they are--a product of a culture that places blame solidly on the shoulder of people who can't or aren't allowed to defend themselves because they're too terrified to challenge the people who are responsible--the rapist, the abuser, and too often, the religion that they twist and interpret to condone, or that outright condones the savaging of their neighbors and kinfolk because they were born with a uterus.

Blessings on the women of the world who are suffering today, not for choices they've freely made, but because a glint of self-value shone in their eyes and an asshole couldn't stand it and had to crush it.  Blessings on the victims of rape, blessings on those who stand up and embrace courage and provide hope for their sisters.  Many, many blessings on the village of women that's growing around the world, and blessings on the women who haven't heard and don't know and need a place so much and will never live to see it.  May they be touched by peace, grace, and love.  

I think I know who the real April fools are today.  

P.S.  Katherine is doing great.  She's very kittenish and playful and is healing well.