Monday, June 30, 2008

Right, Wrong, and Both

My DH and I got to talk a long time today.  Sometimes we just talk to hear each others' voices.  A human voice is powerful.  When it's a loving voice, it's so much more powerful.  It can change the world.

Or not.

Raising kids has highlighted to me how much stake people put into being right.  Part of the conversation today revolved around that too.  Even when people are caught doing something that they know is wrong, they'll defend their special case.  You know how folks got all riled up about how certain groups hoarded food and medical supplies so that they didn't get to the folks who really needed it?  I bet if you talked to them they'd defend their actions.  They'd justify until your ears bled, trying to make a case for why they're special or who gave them permission or how it's for reasons that you don't understand.  The loving voices aren't being heard.

Some of the wisest, smartest people I know are secure in their beliefs and at the same time allow that they might be wrong or, even more importantly and relevant in this case, how someone else might be right or even different and also right.

It's so important to allow someone else to be right.  Being okay with being wrong is important, but I think it's far more important to allow someone else to have validity and to let that validity have enough weight that it could potentially change your perceptions, your outlook, your world.  

So when I talked about the power of the human voice, did you take that to mean that you have a powerful voice that can change the world (true) or that the power referred to people who love you and you love (also true) or both?  

Folding this back into writing, part of making a complex character is this need to be right.  Especially the good guys have a tendency to be bland when they think they're right and are right.  But you can be a very good person and think you're right and be wrong (good people, when they discover this, try to change though they'll try to defend their original perception) or be a good person and think you're wrong and discover you're right, or you can think someone else is right or wrong and be wrong about that.  Working out something that functions as truth translates to complexity in growth, something that a lot of characters lack.  Working out the rights and wrongs is a good tool to help bring characters to life, and give them their own powerful voices. 

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Word Choice

When I created my Wordle, I had a revelation about word choice.  When I started out putting it together I opened the first chapter in Masks determined to just pull out the articles, weak verbs, conjunctions, all pronouns except pertinent personal pronouns, and so on.  I didn't bargain on gaining a lot of insight into my word choices.  I'd always known that I used too many adjectives, and I'm developing the skills to help weed them out, but as far as actual word selections I never realized how much potential (and freedom) there was in choice.  Not just picking the exact right word for the situation.  I'm talking about the ability to fold word choices back into a theme or atmosphere or both at once.  The Wordle laid those choices bare and I went through (after I'd sent the book to Lucky Labs for review, of course, because I couldn't have been so lucky as to find this out before I sent it out) the first chapter again with a sharper eye.  It was a lot of fun.  I'd go through the rest of the novel, but I'm busy with other projects at the moment.  It's not a lesson I'll soon forget, though.  Yay, I have a whole new tool!

Also, I'm starting a new blog tradition (for me.)  I don't think I'll ever go into reviews.  I'm too critical and not particularly eager to have my opinions known to the wide world.  But I'm comfortable with rating books on a general scale.

What I'm reading:  Lace and Blade, edited by Deborah Ross
Quality:  Very high
My quality ratings:  Struggling, Emerging, Average, High, Very High

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kitteh update, and Storage

Animal update:  Everyone is doing great.  Kat (lately dubbed Kitten) has shown the most improvement.  She's fully recovered from her spay surgery, is active, very playful, her face has healed up, and she has a nice shiny coat.  Every morning she runs around the house like a mad thing and attacks anything that moves and sometimes even things that don't (but perhaps they're thinking about moving.)  When she meets (and attacks) a person she'll usually hang out for a few minutes with her signature inquiries.  Breet?  Meet!  Moot?  Mmm!  And if it's me I answer in kind.  She's been annoyed by my lack of making the bed properly, though.  As all right-thinking breets know, making the bed is very important and she needs to be there running around under the blankets to make sure it's done right.  I don't know what I'd do without her.

In writing news, I've sent off another story.  I tell you, e submissions sure make it (relatively) painless.  Right now I'm just trying to keep all my 'current' stories out there.  I'm still writing on the new story too.  There's a couple of older stories that have been haunting me and I'm thinking about rewriting one from scratch to see what happens and polishing the other.  

I know quite a few writers surrender older stories to dust heaps and I'm all for that, provided that they're confident that they're abandoning things that no one wants to see.  Stories that have already made the rounds are especially toss-worthy.  Don't clutter the slush piles with them, please.

I'm wild-guessing that I've written maybe a hundred short stories and most of those are on floppy disks, best left forgotten.  Some, like an old SF I wrote called The Emperor's Mistress, exist only in hard copy and if anything happened to that copy, it'd be gone forever.  Those were written on a contraption called a typewriter.  It's sort of like a keyboard but there's no monitor and you have to use a special kind of paint to fix mistakes.  I kid you not.  Anyway, there are a few of those older stories (The Emperor's Mistress is one of them, actually) that haunt me.  Divided is another.  That one killed two magazines.  (They both folded after acceptances.  One acceptance actually arrived a day before I got the letter that said oops, sorry, turns out we're closing up shop and can't print your story after all.  If only the first letter had a check enclosed ...)  

There's another funny story I've probably told before about Divided.  I got a glowing acceptance from an editor saying she missed her bus stop three times reading the story.  Now if that's not grabbing a reader, I don't know what is.  When I got the next letter in the mail I was sure it had a contract enclosed, but it was a regular legal envelope and pretty thin so it had me baffled.  Inside there was a letter from the senior editor.  He said he didn't know what his assistant editor was thinking.  He would not publish that story in the magazine, sorry about any grief it may have caused.  

Thinking back I know what killed it.  Length.  It was 13,000 words, essentially a novella.  The prose probably wasn't that great either, considering when I wrote it, but the story had all kinds of potential and if I'd written it even a little shorter, written it cleaner, it might have gotten past the senior editor.  If I'd written it a lot shorter, it might have been a real winner.  I couldn't have known that then.  I know that now.

Those old stories aren't wasted effort.  Some are steps on a ladder and never will achieve anything more for you.  Others, though, are more than just a step.  They're something special.

I will always be a pack rat when it comes to my early stuff.  Heck, my poor put-upon beloved husband has to deal with me keeping my old math exams.  In my defense, when you've put an hour and six pages into a single calculation and get it right, if it can't be framed it ought to at least have a place of honor in a file box.  Some of the other stuff I packrat isn't so defensible, hence the put-upon part.  Nonetheless, the concept is this--as cheap and compact as electronic storage is these days, and since it's almost impossible at the time of writing to tell if you've written crap or written something that will haunt you twenty years later, it might behoove you to hang on to it, just in case.  Not just in case you die and become famous, but because some seeds take longer to germinate than others.  I read (not sure if it's correct) that some seeds of domesticated roses take as long as ten years to germinate.  Think about that.  A rose breeder hand pollinates several flowers between two specific roses, encloses their heads in bags so that no other pollen reaches them from other roses to contaminate his breeding experiment, waits for them to develop over a winter, pulls off the dried hips, plants the seeds inside, and waits up to ten years to see if he has the next Double Delight.  (If you don't have this rose and you have room for roses, get it, grow it, love it.)  Sometimes roses, like other plants, form sports and some of our roses come from those, but growing from seeds created from controlled pollination is still the rose breeder's secret dream--to conspire with nature to create something never before seen, something to behold in awe.  

Writers can produce great work in a short amount of time, but some of that work, no matter how speedy they are, just takes time to reach its full potential.  When I wrote Divided, I simply did not have the skill to pull it off.  I also had no idea whether it was a keeper until experience in the business side of the writing world made me realize how exceptional the responses were to that story.  Now that we have a storage medium that is essentially bottomless, I see no reason not to keep everything.  Every blessed word.  In twenty years you'll realize that 80% or more is crap, but the rest, the rest is why we write at all.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Work and Disillusionment

I spent the day working outside battling weeds, except for nap time.  Nap time is good.  Oh, and writing time. 

I'd planned on getting a short story out today but it needed editing.  I overshot when the post office closed by about an hour, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow.  Tonight gets to be research time.  The market I'd planned to send it to is closed until August, so I'll just have to find someplace else.

I used to be all weird about where to send stories.  Thanks to becoming more practiced at it, it's much less stressful.  Writing cover letters is less stressful now too.  Every one is a little different, tailored as much as possible to the publisher or agency based on what I know about them.  Writing one cover letter often took me a day or more.  Now it takes me a few minutes.

Am I becoming careless and disillusioned?  Or am I just getting better at them?  Either way it's a good thing.  What, you say, careless and disillusioned is good?  In one important sense, the sense I embrace, yes.  It's not good for me to obsess about cover letters.  I also prefer reality to illusion, and by becoming disillusioned I'm letting go of weird fantasies like if I write the wrong word or phrase the editor will hate me forever and my name will be mud.  A lot depends on those cover letters, but not *everything*.  If they're professional, fairly free of irritations (like, apparently, "I hope to hear from you soon" is an irritation to some agents and editors) and presented in good faith, I should be okay.  And so should you, my fellow unpublished writers.  I know it's hard, because I did for a long time, but try not to freak out over the cover letter.  Or the envelope.  Or the stamp you use for the SASE.  It took me forever to get (partially) over these things, and the only way I managed to do it was submitting on a regular basis.

So here's to collecting those rejections, carelessness and disillusionment.  Yay!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


It's gray and cool outside, perfect weather for gardening.  Unfortunately I'm in the dumps.  Lots of complex emotions working through me.  But I've had my morning oatmeal and that makes almost anything better.  Just waiting for it to kick in.  Maybe I'll have some chocolate for a quick pick me up until the more complex carbs start their magic.  Yep, it's called better living through chemicals.  No artificial ones required today.  Mother Nature has more than enough luvin' for me.

Last night I wrote some on a short story.  I'm waiting for the twist to occur to me, but in the meantime I have plenty of normal plot to work through.  I think I might be getting better at the whole short plot thing.  The issue now is how to keep the writing awake and alive.  At novel length I have no problems (or at least I don't think I don't) keeping the world active.  There's so much going on not just in the pov character's life but all around it--political stuff, weather, economic issues, cities and nations teeming with problems, rural life keeping the urban dwellers fed and the disconnect between them, things spiritual, societal attitudes changing and staying the same in a swirly vanilla chocolate cone of cultural existence, on and on.  Things come at the characters from way in the outfield, or sideswipe them.  There's opportunities for random things.  Grandma passes away.  George gets the flu.  There's a storm, or an earthquake, or a heat wave.  

There's not much room for those sorts of things in a short story.  There's not very much room overall in a short story.  So I struggle with richness.  I feel a little impoverished when I write a short story, in addition to feeling inadequate.  But at least when I'm actually writing instead of thinking about writing, all those worries go away.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Hours of the Sun

It's a weird day.  Not bad, just weird.  I'm floating through it.  Part of that is lack of sleep--I think I slept about 3 hours last night and then another 3 hours during a morning nap.  I sent out an agent query today, the first in a long stretch, shopped a bit with the girl, and now it's time to get some work done.  The only thing that's kept me from being in a complete fog is the fact that I walked some and got a little writing done around 7am.

I'll go wander outside for a while.  That may lead to gardening, or it may lead to some story stuff, or both.  I've talked about environmental changes helping the writing thing.  This time I'm not just highlighting the change in creative dynamic when I change my location, but how the sunlight affects my energy and mindset.  Exposure to light when I'm drowsy will help reset my messed up sleep cycle and help pull me through the rest of the day so that I can go to sleep at a reasonable hour and maybe even get a shot at waking up early.

Has anyone noticed changes in their productivity and health when they change the times that they wake up and how much time they spend outside?  Me, the earlier I wake up (within reason, near dawn or soon after seems to be ideal) the better.  If I spend at least two hours outside that really helps too.  I feel better, I sleep better, I work better.  I can also function well with a late to bed, late to rise schedule but that's all it is, functioning.  When I write until the wee hours of the morning and don't get up until 10am (or even later) I don't have as much energy as I do on an early schedule, given equal time outside.  In summer it's especially obvious--I end up experiencing a lot of heat and simultaneously miss that blissful morning coolness that's so delicious to work and play in.

Let's discuss.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Big Day

It's a big day.  

I'm doing laundry because I'm out of pants, though I probably won't wear any today.  

Shorts, people, I'm going to wear shorts.  Sheesh, where are your minds?  Then again I can't exactly blame you, seeing as I don't wear much while gardening, given a choice.

There's so many weeds still in the garden beds I haven't been in a position to mulch.  Until today.  Mwa ha ha!  Gotta drown those weed seeds.

But always following me around; the fact that it's a big day looms.  I don't want it to be a big day.  It's like graduation, or a landmark birthday or the day before major surgery and there's all this pressure to make the day into something.  A day can only be a day.  Every day is important.  Today the sky is an amazing blue.  I slept well and don't remember my dreams.  The bed smells like the two of us, the bonded pair that mated for life.  We don't cheat on each other, we respect each other, work together, play together, and dance with each other's differences.  Another loving night, another morning like so many mornings, but the fact that we've had so many mornings is shadowed by this one more morning and the word only.  

He'll be gone awhile, but he won't be gone.  We'll talk and write and see each other on view screens.  We'll share new experiences, talk about adventures, give each other a sense of the mundane day to day in sound bites.  Those days will be like every other day--special, unique, irrevocable as time always is.  We'll still be a couple, but we won't be living together in our home, our paradise of endless work, not for many days.  Those days can only be what they must, composed of hours and minutes and breaths and blinks.  Contained within our skins, we've always been separate.  But our friends know we're never really apart either.  We're always kissing, smiling, playing, smelling, punching and fingerlocking, tasting, teasing, listening, touching touching touching through all our senses, not just skin.  So many senses will be cut off by this big distance that will form after this big day that has only attached to it.

It's a really beautiful day, beautiful and big, bloated by only one more whole.

Monday, June 23, 2008


We had a wonderful dinner with some great friends at Brazil Grill tonight.  This place is not for the faint of heart (or stomach.)  They will feed you until you explode unless you call a halt with the red disk of mercy.  We suggested that little white flags of surrender would be just as appropriate as the red/green disk you place at the side of the table.  Green means bring it on, red means please, no more, I'm going to be laid up at the hospital for three days as it is.

Much as I love vegetables in most of their myriad forms and modes of preparation, there's nothing quite as satisfying as meat.  I need both in my life, always.  Occasionally one takes primacy, and since this dinner focused on the big carnivore of the family and we wanted to treat the kids, who both have impending birthdays (one is a month away and one just a wee bit away) to something extraordinary, the Grill of Endless Meatness immediately came to mind.

I think I'll be eating a lot of vegetables over the next few days.  But boy, was that fabulous.  Great food, exceptional company, and a beautiful day to live it in.  I'm content.  I hope everyone else had a fun time too.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bowling for Laughs

The whole family is going bowling this morning.  I haven't been bowling in forever.  Usually it's the husband and kids that go while I'm at work or at a meeting--seems like something always comes up.  For the record I'm a terrible bowler, so bad it's funny, and that's where the fun comes in.  I need bumpers to keep from guttering every time.

Because I'm fairly athletic--the farming, yoga, long history of martial arts, archery, belly dance, etc. I have a reputation for strength and grace.  But there are three things I'm pathetically sad at that blows that reputation right out the window.  Knife throwing, axe throwing, and bowling.  As far as pitching, I have a mean underhand pitch so it's not so much throwing in general.  I'm also a fair talent at spear throwing/javelin, so it's not the overhand throw.  I think that, aside from lack of practice (although practice isn't the whole picture) the Universe exists to be funny.  I can keep people entertained for quite some time when I bowl.  I wonder if their sides hurt afterward.  I know mine do!  And that's why I love bowling.  I think it'll be a sad day if I ever get good at it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

My brain is full

Normally I post something pagan-ish around the solstices and equinoxes.  Aside from a late night feast and some indulgence for the kids, we didn't do much religious observance on the longest day of the year.  I often get up with the dawn during the solstice, but I didn't set my alarm.
I could theorize, but it boils down to my brain is full.  I've got too much to do in too little time.  Oh well.  Life's always been busy.  As long as I keep breathing, the family and animals stay healthy, and the house isn't falling down around our ears I guess it's okay.  I feel a little weird in my summer dress stinking of sweat from stress and muggy weather, but weird is okay too.  Dakota sighs, content to lay on the cool tile in my office.  The cats demand attention and purr like mad when they get it.  The kids laugh while watching a silly movie, and I smile in answer.  

In writing projects, I'm juggling two novels and a short short.  That's two editing projects and one naked writing.  I really need to send out another agent query for Masks too.  Habits are formed through repetition.  The habit I need to form is the submitting habit, and I've definitely fallen down on that in the past few weeks.  Yeah, yeah, blame the man of the house, but honestly I have hours, daily, to myself now and that excuse doesn't hold up.  

The sad lot of the writer is the same sad lot of a self-employed anyone--by being able to schedule your own hours, every moment can be a potential work or play.  Play can make you feel guilty for not working, and work can seem endless and without sane limits.  When my focus is on I don't feel the stress from self-scheduling.  Right now I'm very unfocused and it's bothering me.  Bother bother bother.  Fortunately I have nice escapes in all directions.  When the writing feels too heavy I try art to get away from the pressure.  It's work, and yet play.  Same with gardening.  Same with gardening as work--the overwhelming sense of endless mowing--I can escape it into writing as work/play or art.  It's still not easy.  But when my brain is full, it helps.  A lot.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Word Clouds

Thanks to Jay Lake for pointing to this fun site.  

I had a good time pulling words out of the first chapter of Masks.  It doesn't look like a cloud to me, but the egg shape and the words that came out large are fitting.  Cold money.  Yep.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm sitting, dazed, thinking about what a big day I've had.  That's about as far as my brain wants to travel.  Like a tired dog it'll follow along just behind me if I walk, but then it sits down as soon as I stop.  

Nothing bad happened.  Nothing extraordinary.  I mowed, the kids and I took the dogs for a walk, spent some time with my DH before he left for work, did a little shopping, rented movies and watched one (Stand and Deliver) and managed email.  I sent some pics of the cedar waxwings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology--they'd had cedar waxwings on their minds and might include them in informational stuff about providing food for birds.  Maybe one of my pics will end up on a poster or on their website.  That would be fun.

On the writing front, I'll be getting feedback for Sin tomorrow.  This flash has me stumped, but that's no surprise.  I haven't mastered short fiction, or even gotten out of the Kindergarten for Short Fiction Writers.  I expect after INK and Lucky Labs are done with it, I'll have a much better idea of how to approach Sin.  

It made me smile to write that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cedar Waxwings

I didn't know that cedar waxwings drank nectar.  The hummingbirds were not amused.

By the way, the plant is called a red hot poker plant (also known as a torch lily and by other names.)  I got the start for this one from my friend Jane.  The leaves on these amazing plants can look somewhat shabby, especially at winter, but they're worth having around for their spectacular displays and their magical bird-attracting powers.  They also are a favorite of bees and some butterflies.  

If you want a red hot poker plant give it plenty of room.  They spread slowly and steadily and are difficult to dig out.  If you want to contain one to a certain area, put it in a big plastic container (like the kind nurseries keep large trees in) and bury the container.  

By the way, slugs love red hot poker plants.  Start baiting for slugs in early spring by sprinkling some English formula slug bait deep under the leaves in a couple of places.  Don't worry about getting the middle--in fact, if you get some slug bait on the stalk buds in the center of the plant you run the risk of poisoning the birds should rain fail to rinse it all off.  Just lift up the draped leaves on the sides and shake the slug bait underneath.  Doing it this way will hopefully limit how many animals get into it.  If you have a lot of wildlife or household pets you need to protect, use wildlife-safe pellets or just put the regular slug bait under a rock or heavy pot.  The slugs will contort themselves to get to the bait.  If you don't bait for slugs you may get a lot of deformed flowers, if you get any at all, during those bad slug years.

It's easy to get starts for the red hot poker, or you can grow them from seed.  Divide the red hot poker in the spring (although you can get away with it almost any time of the year) or get seeds through a catalogue or from a neighbor.  If you want blossoms through the fall you have to deadhead the spent stalks.

I think I'll go sit in my garden some more.  It's been a beautiful day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The End of a Shopping Era

Yesterday I had the oddball experience of shopping for everything (within reason) that we might want in the short term (this summer) from the store.  Aqua socks.  Bug spray.  Socks and underwear.  Shorts, capris and shirts.  Non-perishable(ish) food items.  First aid stuff.  Storage bins for putting away winter clothes (at last! and I'm still wearing long sleeves because it's cloudy and distinctly not warm this morning.)  Summer toys.  Hair scrunchies and pins.  Soap of various kinds (including two Kiss My Face shower gels and three of my favorite Palmolive dish soaps.)  Two carts got packed into four storage bins of loot.  We then turned in our employee and spouse discount cards.  From now on we're just regular ol' customers, but at least we're armed with the secret knowledge of cost and can find the best deals on stuff.  Even without the discount, most of the stuff at my old store is still the best deal around, Walmart included.

When I got home, surprise!  Incredibly gorgeous roses, a full dozen of a variety called Papaya, and a teeny tiny miniature rose with quarter-sized flowers for the rock garden.  A chocolate cake declared:  Happy Quitting Day!

I love my family.

This morning I'm filled with enthusiasm and relief.  We have a full day of getting medical, dental and financial stuff done and I can just do it without thinking about how I won't have writing time and the house is a wreck and I won't get anything accomplished before it's time for me to return to work again.  That's been the killer:  on my days off I try to catch up on critical household stuff I've fallen behind on, and never get even half done before I go back to work.  I often had three days in a row which got me just within sight of my goals with maybe a few hours to spare for writing and art before I returned to work.  If I had one day off, zero writing and art would happen because I had to devote all my time to laundry, dishes, and if I was lucky, some weeding or some such outside.

The mile-high sea of grass that's been mocking me is now shivering in fear.  Yes, your days are numbered, as are the days of the endless weeds and the patches of surviving blackberries in the developed areas.  

There's lots to keep me busy, not just for the summer, but for a lifetime.  I'm glad to get back to it.  Retail was a fun ride, as always, but it's time to get back to my real work.  

Monday, June 16, 2008

Farewell to Honest Work

Today is my last day at work.  I'm eager to get to work on the house and garden and to have more time to budget on writing and art, but for the past couple of days my coworkers have expressed how much they'll miss me and I do feel a bit sad that I'll be abandoning them to demanding lady, the paint lady, She Who Returns and the many other difficult characters that visit our store.  On the other, other hand they also get the fun of visiting with our regular wonderful customers, and I'll miss that too.  Not enough to stay, mind you ...

Yesterday was fun and today I imagine more hijinks and tomfoolery will occur.  Since I'm being halfway responsible about getting work done, returning from breaks on time and so forth, the assistant supervisor felt compelled to indulge in a little goofiness as a form of secondhand short-timer's disease.  Remember folks, short-timer's disease doesn't just affect you, but all those around you.  Be responsible.  I know I won't.  Er, will, I meant will.  Really.

I've got the early shift and I believe I'm in the lobby, so I'll make the most of my last day by doing the best job I can, reassuring people that I'll be in the store constantly (especially now that I know how to find out which items are the best of the best deals) and generally leaving with an un-bang.  I've threatened to make my last closing announcement memorable, but since I'm not closing today, everyone will be spared, and I get to go home early and enjoy a wee bit more sunshine before the clouds roll in tomorrow (argh, the irony.)  

Farewell to honest work.  I will now return to illusions (art,) lies (storytelling,) and mucking about outdoors in all manners of undress.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Yet another reason why I like Blogger, and birds

I tried a new feature on Blogger and I love it.  I'm pretty lazy, so given a chance to streamline things, including playtime, I take advantage of opportunity (provided it's easy.)  Hence auto deductions for most of our regular bills and writing first thing in the morning.

If you check out the sidebar you'll see the new blog list in action.  I especially like the blurbs feature.  I have some blogs on RSS that I check via email, but I like this Blogger feature better.  

Today I almost caught sight of the (assumed) lazuli bunting through the binocs several times.  This bird is beyond paranoid.  It's definitely a wham bam thank you ma'am type of birdfeeder visitor.  It zooms in, pecks, and leaves.  I despair of ever getting a pic of it, but maybe, eventually, I'll catch it sitting on a perch singing (apparently they do this periodically) and then I'll add it to the online collection.  

The mourning doves haunt the house constantly now.  I can't walk through my garden without flushing them.  They're ground feeders, and when they're disturbed they lay low and still in the hopes you won't notice them.  I imagine I've walked by plenty of times without flushing them and never known it, but several times a day I'll be minding my own business about the garden when the wild fluttering and rusty sounds erupt from the tall grass.  Once I've scared them off they perch nearby, watching me, and make mournful noises.  They may be trying to sound intimidating or at least aggravated, but instead they sound (as their name implies) like they're drowning in grief.  

Meanwhile our three hummingbirds have stepped up the warfare ever since some of their favorite flowers have begun blooming.  In a sane world, more resources available to a stable population=less conflict, but we're talking hummingbirds (and a not-very-sane world overall) here.  We've now become prime, highly desirable territory which means they're even more determined to harass each other and compete for everything.  They literally have a full acre of garden to divide, but they insist on perching within a few feet of each other and try to feed from the same plants or feeder at the same time instead of sneaking off and feeding while the others are distracted by the feeder or another region of the garden.  I guess this keeps their population fit.  I know I'd be a lot sleeker if I had to fight for my dinner.  

Hmm.  Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that.  It might give my DH ideas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Visitors

Yesterday I had a rare (to me) visitor, a bird I've only heard of but I've never seen in person.  The fun thing is that it could actually be one of two birds.

I thought it was a bluebird, but after scoping out the bird books I realized the bird had too bright a belly and probably wasn't hefty enough to be a bluebird.  Not to say it isn't, but it seems more likely that it's a lazuli bunting!  

We also had a chipmunk visiting.  I've seen absolutely no squirrels or squirrel-like creatures on our land.  I've seen them as close as the neighbor's place--small squirrels with long, tufted ears--but no chipmunks.  Wizard caught him and brought him home.  I scooted Wizard inside after he dropped the chipmunk at my feet and the chipmunk ran off.  He came back later to forage under the bird feeder.  I don't know how many times the cats will bring him home, but hopefully they'll release him unharmed each time.  He's a cutie, even though I suspect that it's him that ate my lilies.

I have to go back to work tomorrow.  Just in time.  I spent the (sunny! yay!) day out sicklebar mowing paths through the sea of grass and making a new tomato bed.  I have more to do out there, now that I have mulch in the back of the pickup.  Boy, am I pooped!  I'll need the recovery time before I get back to slaving in the garden.  Yes, it's begun, the long days of getting up at dawn and working until dusk, but I am writing.  I worked on a novel and a new short story this morning.  

I love summer.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Laundry Day

Big Writing Day At Last!

I had a big writing day yesterday. 

I combed through Mayhem, touching up a few things before I progressed in the plot.  This is the dreaded first novel, but it had something in it that caught Donald Maass' attention enough that he asked me if I had anything else, back in the day before I knew about stewing time.  I sent him Beggar Smith, a barely-polished rough draft that I thought was all that.  Not so much it turns out.    Although Beggar has some stuff going for it, it's rough writing and has several confusing areas that desperately need tidying.  Anyway, I try to write forward, not back, but Mayhem has stuck with me and I'm working on a complete from-scratch rewrite.  

Signet got quite a few words as well.  When I was sick I hand wrote--it was too uncomfortable to sit in my kneeling chair in the chilly office and I don't have my own laptop (yet.)  I had about 2000 words written is all, which transcribed into 1500 (I edit when I transcribe) of setting up a quick little duel.  After the duel I got Mark back to his room where he got to have a bad moment with Winsome.  It's hard not to rush to the next scene in Signet.  I have lots of plans and I want to get to them and, even more, I want to discover what curve balls my brain will throw when I get there.  One reason I'm not big on outlines is because so many surprises crop up.  I guess I'd call myself a crisis jumper.  I know what the next crisis will be, I just don't know how the character will cope with it or how the bad guys will counter, which affects everything that follows.  I do have some general ideas about plot further into the novel so I'm not completely at sea, like who's the bad guy, and who's the secret bad guy, and who ends up actually being a good guy, but a worse threat than the real bad guy.  How that plot resolves will lead to the third and final (ahem, unless I decide to write another) nameless (possibly Rapier) novel in the series, where Mark will have to stand toe to toe against his idol and mentor, the wicked and irrepressible Gutter.  Yeah, I'm eager to get to that novel but there's enough going on in Signet that I'm not tempted to 'skip to the good part.'

That's an eight or so hour day (well, maybe more like twelve.  I was up pretty late last night.)  It's been a long time since I've had a full day (with interruptions for meals and a few chores) of writing.  It feels good.  I look forward to lots more full-time writing work days ahead.  I might even get something accomplished!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Fire Swamp

I've been swamped, not by just any swampety swamp either, but by a fire swamp.  Luckily, there's a popping sound right before the flare so I'm able to get out of the way.

But Kami, what about the ROUS's?

For those of you unfamiliar with The Princess Bride, what I'm saying is that I'm navigating a well-rumored but previously (to me) unknown landscape.  My DH is going to a hot, sandy place for a long stretch and I'm still working part time until the middle of the month (which is rapidly approaching, both a thank goodness and an eek.)  We're trying to get paperwork done, to go on friend visiting rounds, etc. around two work schedules before he leaves.  
Laundry?  What laundry?  Dishes?  I think they're just a myth.  Writing?  Ah yes, the fond days of daily writing, I remember those!  
I hear tell of a thing called vacuuming that cleans carpet.  
Really?  Tell me more of this thing you call vacuuming!

If it weren't for the kids I'd be irretrievably sunk in lightning sand by now.  I hope they still remember what I look like.  Boy, there's nothing like mom guilt when, while getting ready for school, your son is looking into a glass of dry cereal, his expression sunken by the realization that there's no milk.  

So those are my lame excuses for not reaching the pirate ship Revenge today.  I've got a load of work clothes running and an itinerary prior to going to work that looks like a full day's worth of out-of-house chores.  What doesn't get done today I'll leave for tomorrow, provided I don't get chained up in the Pit of Despair.  Thankfully I don't have to do all this alone.  My Wesley will come for me, and we'll brave the Fire Swamp together.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Flash! Bang!

First, a reminder to read Flash Fiction Online.  The new edition is out, and there's a great article by Bruce Holland Rogers.  It's the first of a series, and I can't wait for the next installment.  He has a livejournal you can link to from the wikipedia article.  No excuses, people.  Writers have got to read, and reading a flash is going to take less time than it will to go to the fridge, figure out what you want to eat, and bring it back to the computer.  

Argh!  We're under attack!  Please stand by ...

Yes, we finally reached the day when we went on our battle cruise on the glorious Lady Washington with the graceful Hawaiian Chieftain.  

I wish I had a deeper way than photographs and movies to record what we experienced.  Oh, wait, hey, I'm a writer!  Woot!  

I'd say it fulfilled a lifelong dream, but since I never imagined it would be possible to sail on a ship with cannons firing, well, I guess I can say it fulfilled a lifelong dream I never knew I could have.  

See the sail folded up neatly along the mast and angling into the boom below the sailors in the rigging?  That's the spanker (first definition on the link), and my job was to manage the brails--the lines that keep the spanker out of the wind until it's needed. Ten people to a side are ideal to manage the brails when we're hauling it in, about half that when we haul it back out again.   During the battle we hauled that baby out and tucked her back tight several times.  Sometimes the spanker sail helped, and sometimes it actually slowed us down depending on the situation with the tight, variable conditions on the river.  The captain made the call, and we'd haul the outhaul or haul the brails.  I had to sling my camera back right quick every time I heard the captain say spanker.  In a different context, I guess that could be considered kinky ...

When they asked for volunteers I thought for certain that every passenger on board would leap up and cry me me me!  But only about a baker's dozen of us, almost a quarter of them kids, ran back to help.  I got to manage the brails on the port side, but then I lost my job to Brandon for a while when he asked if he could take my place.  Later he got promoted to the helm and, with a whole bunch of other kids, ran the rudder back and forth at the captain's command, so I got the brails again.  Yay brails!

It got cold, but we didn't have rain so it wasn't miserable by any means.  The capricious winds made for an interesting fight.  The Lady Washington is amazingly nimble, and I mean really incredible. 

The crew was very welcoming, informative, and patient with their guests.  I highly recommend touring the ship, sailing with it on a sunset or battle sail if you can, or best of all (a personal goal of mine) signing up for one of the family adventures they offer in the San Juan islands.  I probably won't go this year (watch me change my mind as longing for sailing and the sea keep eating at me) but next year I hope to be a passenger on their nature and historic tour of beautiful coastal Washington State.  They do it right.  

BTW, the kid in the lifeguard shirt?  Yep, that's Brandon at the brails.  He was a real shark for the fun posts.  I wonder if he'll become a sailor one day.  I know someday when I grow up, I'd like to be a sailor, even if it's on a wee river sailboat, lazy rigged so I can run her all by my lonely if I have to.  Judging by how the family reacted to the experience, though, I won't be alone unless I beg for it.

Monday, June 02, 2008

To Short or not to Short, that's the Question

Of the four stories I've been focusing on, all four are out knocking on doors.  Makes me feel good, but also it reveals my shortcomings as a writer.  Now I've got quite a few short stories, but many of them are old.  I've grown as a writer since I've penned them.  One of the more promising older ones I wrote way back in 2002, and rewrote in 2005.  That's a long time to spend on a short story, even if most of that time was having it sit in a deep freezer.  I want to write more new stuff, but ...

I'm primarily a novelist.  My strength is in novel length.  When stories bud in my brain they're peonies, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas and thistles rather than hibiscus, clematis, jasmine and tulip blossoms.  I'm pleased as punch when I get a daffodil, blueberry or an orchid opening up in my brain, but they don't grow as well.  

That's no excuse, though.  Over time I hope to develop my short story growing skills, and the only way to do that is to write them.  They're a great art form.  Besides, every novelist knows that the skills you employ to write a short story will only help you in a novel length story.  Twists, vibrancy, characterization, plot, theme--all that stuff and more needs to perform at peak efficiency in a short length.  

It's a lot less painful and very educational to write a hundred short stories.  If you do, it doesn't automatically mean you'll become a great novelist.  Not everything learned in writing translates from one length to another or one form to another, as we've seen with tv shows that have big screen 'episodes' made, big screen movies that are turned into tv series, shorts that are expanded into novels but never have that novel feel, novels that are, in essence, a series of related short stories, shorts that should have been novels, etc.  But good storytelling is universal.  I don't think learning to write in short lengths better will harm my novel skills, and I think there's a whole lot to be gained.  Now I just have to set my priorities, so that each time I sit down at the computer, I don't waste a bunch of time thinking about what I should be doing.

Gee, just like right now ...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Senses of Humor Can't Touch but Some Smell

I've been accused of having a very odd sense of humor.  If you, like me, found Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" a fun read that made you laugh outloud at several points, you get my sense of humor.  Yes, I still reread that book not just for the education but for the entertainment.

Those of you who know me won't be surprised that I found the following guidelines both educational and entertaining.  Enjoy, or if not, at least be edified.  

This is a small portion of Clarkesworld Magazine's Submission Guidelines.  Any errors are my bad.  Guidelines sometimes change; don't hold me responsible if something unpleasant happens to you as a result of reading and/or following these guidelines.  You know the drill.  Besides, if you successfully sue me for something I posted in good faith with credit attributed the best way I know how, bear in mind that if I had money I'd hire a maid, for starters.

Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:

  • stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
  • stories in which the words "thou" or "thine" appear
  • talking cats
  • talking swords
  • stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
  • stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
  • time travel too
  • stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a' comin', Communion wine turns to Christ's literal blood and it's HIV positive, Satan's gonna getcha, etc.)
  • stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
  • stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
  • stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
  • stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
  • your AD&D game
  • "funny" stories that depend on, or even include, puns
  • sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
  • stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
  • stories that take place within an artsy-fartsy bohemia as written by an author who has clearly never experienced one
  • your trunk stories