Thursday, July 31, 2008

Let me entertain you!

So, our pump went out this morning.  We knew this was coming.  It was making lots of noise, letting  us know that it was a very, very unhappy pump and wanted a hug.  The timing of it, though--oh so good, and yet oh so bad.  I mean, it's like there's a mini-fate that keeps an eye on us.  She never throws us anything we can't afford, but makes it expensive enough that our financial plans are shot.  Remember the hardwood floor in September?  Poof.  

Well, maybe not.  But it's looking unlikely.  This isn't an ordinary pump.  Nope, this is a 3/4 horsepower well pump sitting at the bottom of somewhere around 200' of pipe, and it all has to come out.  Yep, all of it.  Pipe, wiring, plumbing and pump are all coming out of the ground tomorrow.  It's a half day job ($$) with a bunch of guys ($$$$) and some heavy lifting equipment to pull the pipe straight out ($$$) plus the new pipe, pump, and any plumbing that has to be replaced ($).  So the money I'd planned on spending on hardwood floors downstairs ($$$$) will go toward paying off the credit card.

What, you say?!  Credit card?!!

We can afford it ... in two weeks.  Not tomorrow.  Two weeks.  And they're coming tomorrow because I want to flush my toilets, thank you!

Mini fate, I love you.  Kiss kiss, sweetheart, darling.  Thank you for not throwing us more than we can handle.


So this week's entertainment will be the plumbing circus.  I thought, whatever, let's call the appliance guy and just repair the drier if possible while we're at it.  Because the new drier ($$$) I wanted?  No point if there's no water getting to the washing machine.  

I'm not disheartened, I'm really not.  I'm grateful that this isn't going to punt us into bankruptcy or put us into debt for the next X number of years.  It's just another thing to keep me busy.

This weekend.  This weekend we'll settle back and relax.  Really.  It could happen!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Morning sweetness

The little fluffy personalities are back.  I heard them first thing this morning when I woke up.  My bedroom window is open except in the hottest and coldest weather so I can usually hear who's up and about, whether it's coyotes, the hummingbirds engaging in their constant wars, the sparrows, the towhees, the goats picking through the flattened blackberry patch (yay goats!) one of our hawks, geese with their strangely mournful cries flying overhead, the soothing voices of content cattle, horses galloping like fools around the pasture, dogs barking at evil bicyclists or people walking up the road or horses going by or sanitation employees stealing our garbage or the mailman or the bunny nibbling in the veggie patch, or rain (and the scent that comes with it) or rushing wind making music with the leaves of thousands of trees, or the simple quiet of first morning light as I wake from a dream.

Lace and Blade

Lace and Blade, edited by Deborah Ross

Overall:  Highly Recommended

There are some fine reviews on the web about this book so I won't go into too much detail.  Some of fantasy's finest authors are featured in this invitation only anthology that appropriately was released on Valentine's Day, 2008.  The stories vary from exotic to the best satisfying formula romance, from bizarre to wonderfully familiar, from sensual to stark.  There was only one story that I didn't connect with.  That a very high percentage of stories that worked for me, unheard of compared to the other anthologies I've read over the years.  Now, romance and subtle magic and swashbuckling is the norm here, so if you're looking for something edgy or quirky or a challenging read this probably isn't going to be your goblet of wine.  But for those of us who love sailing ships and Don Juan and heroes in disguise and slapped faces, for those of us who want to see pride fall (but not too far) and the woman get her man (or thing) and the hero to win the day, this is the book to read.  The unique, experienced voices of the authors sing and their creativity draw our expectations into new realms in this fabulous collection.  Available online.  I'll be sure to order Lace and Blade II.

Quality: High
My quality ratings:  Struggling, Emerging, Average, High, Very High

Monday, July 28, 2008

Buzy Daze

After running around for what seems like forever we're all ready for some down time around here.  But for other local families life is gearing up.  The baby swallows are out and about today.  They can fly quite well and one of them was even hunting earlier, but they'd rather sit on our clothesline and get fed.  I was able to get quite close, but not as close as I'd like outside and not at a good angle, so sorry about the cruddy quality of the pics.

There are at least five little birds.  The fifth one is sitting apart from the others and it seems more interested than the others in hunting for itself, at least sometimes.

They're adorable and I'm glad they graced us today.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Okay, so, when do I get my golden lariat?

I enjoyed a certain puzzled goddess' results to her test, so of course I had to be a copycat and take it too.  Hee hee hee!

Your results:
You are Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
You are a beautiful princess
with great strength of character.
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Of course, of the Justice League superheroes she wasn't my favorite. She was kind of poopyheaded at times. Then again I can be a poopyhead too. And I watched the tv series religiously as a child.
I do love her costume. I'd never fill it out like she does, but then I can run without throwing my back out, so I'll keep the body I've got and not wish for a different one, thanks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wishing for On the Rocks Laundry

Three and a half hours.  That's how long it took me to do the laundry I brought to the laundromat.  I think I did somewhere between 12-15 home-sized loads (I have a really big washer dryer set too) in that time, which is lightning fast.  I had six of the largest washers going at one point.  Thankfully the dryers were really huge and I was able to dry things fast enough that I didn't have time to sit down and read (which translates to wasted time which translates to even more time spent at the laundromat.)  I had about ten minutes of free time and then one after another the dryers would run out of time, I'd pull out anything that was dry, restart them, and start folding.  I usually didn't get done with folding what I had before I had to fish out the dry stuff and restart another dryer.  Intense, but worth it.  The laundromat's owner was a peach of a man and kept my sense of humor going through it all, even when my back was whining about how heavy laundry is.  (Boo hoo, do you want to sleep in clean sheets and blankets or not?!)

I may go in next week and do what's left over plus anything that accumulates in the meantime so that I stay ahead of the game instead of falling behind while my dryer is non-functional.

The only disappointing part is that I was sure I'd have time to sit and write on something.  Next time I'll know just to put my driver's license in my pocket, about $25 cash in the other pocket, and forget all the writing stuff and reading material that was supposed to keep me distracted.  Oh, and an iPod shuffle, of course.  

It did make me a bit nostalgic over my old college days and the Suds N' Suds.  Beer and laundry.  I think it's a perfect combination.  Margaritas and laundry, even better.  Salt and Suds?  Blend N' Tumble?  Or, heh, On the Rocks Laundry, for those of you who remember that much laundry was done (and still is done) by beating it on rocks.

BTW, ma'am, in case you read this:  Put your entire effing load in one dryer next time, please!  You can dry more than one towel in one dryer, one pair of jeans in another, and three t-shirts in yet another.  I can't believe you had the nerve to hold the last one in the bank for your husband's soccer uniform (one tank, one pair of shorts.)  I can tell you're used to people not arguing with you.  Well, I was no different.  I used a dryer on the other bank.  Why was I smiling?  Because I know you're a poopy poopy poopyhead and having to live with yourself is its own worst punishment, not to mention you plugged in a whole lot of quarters for no reason.  You were there for two hours, too, with less than a tenth of my laundry, because you couldn't tell when the clothes felt dry.  Poopyhead.  Poopy poopyhead.  I'm way more mature than you.  So ha!

Shameless Plug and Public Humiliation

My DH's book is doing well, at least in reviews.  He links to some others in his blog.

It's wonderful to see what people think about his work.  I'm sure it would be a lot less wonderful if people gave low star reviews.  I've often contemplated what it would be like to get panned or a snarky review in a major newspaper or high traffic blog.  At least on Amazon you're a shade on the invisible side.  Unless someone is looking for you or happens to do a search that will pull your book up (much more likely for non-fiction than fiction) and you turn up within the first few pages, you're not going to be on very many peoples' radar.  If your book isn't very well received, this is a blessing.  And books that aren't very well received are self-sorting.  Unless the publisher does a huge amount of publicity, if you crash and burn it'll be into a very small, relatively private region of hell.  But oh, what a special, ugly hell it still can be.  So I'm glad folks enjoy the book and find the information valuable.  And my advice is, if you want to be a writer, be prepared for the possibility that you may end up in the public eye in a big or small way that won't do anything good for your ego, not to mention it won't earn you much money.  

There are no guarantees in publishing.  It can be a lose lose.  As long as you accept that possibility and, if you end up there, plan to learn from the experience and write even better (under a new name, of course) then your persistence and attitude will eventually, hopefully, pay off.  You can make that experience work for you and hopefully you'll convince a publisher to take one more chance on you.  Your writing career can live to tell the tale.  This is easiest to do if you both believe in what you're trying to teach or express and if you allow for the possibility that you're wrong (or just a little off) or that you can't express yourself as well as you thought (or you couldn't reach through to a high enough percentage of the people who read your work.)

If, however, you expect success and giddy reviews and a fanfare, you may be setting yourself up for more than a disappointment.  Know yourself, know the emotional risks.  Walking with those unrealistic expectations in your eyes may prevent you from seeing the approaching cliff.  Believe me, it's better to climb down than fall off.  You may still end up in that special, little hell just for you, but it's easier to work your way out if you're not broken into lots of tiny little smoldering pieces.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Drying

Today my dryer went kaput.  Won't even tumble.  It's just dead.  It's dead, Jim.  It's an ex-dryer.  Now, I had been planning on getting a new washer/dryer set.  Tomorrow?  No!  Like, September, October or December.  Not tomorrow, not next week, not three weeks from now.  And I'm not going to do it.  Not not not!  (Stubborn stomp.)  The good news is that it's summer and the stuff I had in the wash can line dry outside.  The bad news is that I have to line dry outside until I figure out what I want to do (besides research washers and dryers and cave and go to the laundromat.)
I've line dried before.  And those of you who plan on waxing rhapsodic about line drying including how it makes clothes have that special smell and so forth, go ahead but be warned that I may feel an irresistible urge to hunt you down later and talk about how we should all go back to catching and killing our own food and eating it raw.  I can talk for hours about that.  Days even.
Here's the deal with line drying in my limited and reluctant experience.
  • It saves lots of electricity and yes it makes clothes smell nice.
  • The clothes often don't feel nice unless you beat and shake them after they're dry.  I especially dislike crispy towels, but some people do like them so this may be an upside for them. 
  • That nice smell includes an infusion of pollen, so if you're allergic, guess what!?
  • Spiders and bugs will quickly find the clothes and cuddle up inside their nice shelter.  You have to turn everything inside out and shake to make sure you don't have any unwanted passengers.  Fleas or ticks will not shake out, but fortunately they rarely hop on in the time that you've left the clothes outside.
  • Birds will settle on the line and leave little whitish and grey presents.  Happy birthday!  (But it's not my birthday ...)
  • It takes a lot of room.  The pic shows one load.  While you're line drying, unless you have a really nice line drying rig (which I covet, btw) you're limited by warmth and wind as far as how many loads you can do in a day.  
  • If you want to dry anything big, like sheets, you need a much higher rig than I can conveniently string right now.
  • Don't use a stretchy string or a string that will stretch when wet (like cotton, unless it's woven around a non-stretchy core like many clotheslines are.)
  • Don't let the clothes touch plants.  Bugs will crawl from the plants onto the clothes.  They'll still creep up the posts and along the line or simply hop on but you won't get as many as you will from the plants.  You'd be surprised how much traffic there is on a single grass stalk.
  • If you use your spouse's rappelling rope, don't take a pic of it and then post it on the web.  (Oops ...)
  • Unless you're in a windy area you don't need a lot of clothespins.  Only for socks and underwear.  If you need to put wet clothes out to dry in an emergency situation where your dryer has just quit, assuming it's not super-windy right then, hang the clothes first so they start to dry and then go get your clothespins.  You're less likely to overbuy that way plus they'll be drying while you're driving.
  • Try not to hang them at a time when they'll be out overnight unless you have no choice.  They'll get dew damp in the morning and you'll have to wait until they dry before you can hang your next load.
  • Try not to hang clothes in strong winds.  They collect a lot more dust and pollen that way.
  • Don't run long stretches of line.  They'll sag a lot.  Additionally, put heavy stuff by the posts first and then hang the remaining lighter stuff in the middle of the line.
  • If you have jeans out to dry expect that they'll take forever to dry.  Jeans and other heavy clothing items need to be turned and/or turned inside out in order to finish drying.  The rest is fine as-is.
  • Take in clothes as they dry.  On a warm day things like light polyester or poly-cotton blend work shirts, handkerchiefs, thin socks and/or nylons and scarfs can dry in just a few minutes.  Generally speaking, woven clothing dries faster than knitted.
  • You can dry stuff outside in very cold, even freezing weather.  It takes longer, but if it's very dry (like it often is in winter around here) the ice in the clothes will sublimate (dry off.)
Please feel free to shoot me down or disagree or give me helpful hints or fun laundry stories.  I'm open to ideas, encouragement, and laughs.  Just so you know, I'm also resisting the go to the laundromat option.  It's pretty expensive and inconvenient.  But I'll probably get up tomorrow morning, look at the laundry pile, and cave.

Yes, yes, I'll be looking at Energy Star products, Craig's List (aka I stole this list,) and Sears is at the top of my list for places to shop.  Btw, I've never, ever had a new washer and dryer, so I'm a little excited about the possibility that I'll be getting a new or late-model set.  Not excited enough to offset the aggravation of the timing (couldn't it have quit a couple of months later?) but still.  

My appliance guy had just fixed this thing recently, too.  I may have him take a look, but I've already poured a lot of money into it for repairs, so ... Ugh.

Before you download

I found a resource online that everyone else has probably known about for years, but oh well.  McAfee Site Advisor lets you plug in a website and lets you know if that site has an iffy record, if it connects to sites with lots of spyware, which websites it connects to, and so on.  I will never shop without it again, and as for downloads?  Oh yeah, no software will pass these virtual lips until my poison tester checks it out for me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Car is Tired and Happy Milestone O

I've been driving all over almost every day for as far back as I can think, which is not very far at the moment.  I want a day at home.  A whole day.  No shopping of any kind, no classes (which btw O passed with A grades!  Yay!) no meetings ...

And yet I thrive on meetings, enjoy shopping, and driving O to class turned out to be great discussion time.  I don't want to give anyone the impression that I spent the last couple of weeks or so being dragged from one thing to another and that I hated every moment.  I had a lot of fun.  I'd do it all over again.  But I do want to give myself a day off.  Tomorrow sounds good.

Today is the boy's b-day.  He's so tall and strong and smart.  I'm immensely proud of him, especially now because he's coming into his own.  After years of childhood luxury where failure held no terror and success didn't interest him, he's learned to succeed.  He's learning he's powerful, and that with not very much effort he can achieve a great deal.  He's learning that success isn't negative.  That seems obvious but it really isn't.  When failure has been working for you throughout your living memory, why in the world would success hold any interest?  Why change and grow when things are good?  People told him it would be better, but he had only our word (and the word of every adult) to vouch for success?  He knew he'd need to succeed eventually, but putting it off was easy and didn't cost him anything that he could relate to.  

The beauty part of where he's headed is that he decided to do this.  I didn't even give him choices.  We looked over his options together and this is what he decided to do instead of extending his high school education or the drawn-out failure he seemed willing to accept.  He's been given opportunities like this before, but this is the first he's made his own.

My son is becoming a man.  Now if I could only get him to stop teasing his sister ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Story Structure? Um, I thought I knew ...

Big writing day today. I worked on a short story that, when I wrote it back in the day, I didn't have the skills to pull it off. I did a rewrite from memory, remembering only the good parts (in theory.) After I transcribe it and edit it until it's all clean except for the remaining bits of glitter that stick to it from the glitter editing soap I use, I'll hand it over for critiques.

I also spent some time trying to analyze "The Incredibles" for story components. Dark moments. Turns of event. Action rise and fall. False triumphs. Sub plots. Theme. Set up, hook, setting development, character introduction and development, what's at stake, and so on. I got all tuckered out after a short night and an early morning, so we didn't finish the movie but we got a good start. What I learned, fast, was that what had been clear in my mind, when presented scene by scene, became unclear and debatable. Novels and feature-length films, done right, have an interesting weave and scenes multitask, thematic elements leap between story lines, and foreshadowing as well as revealing the true nature and importance of certain characters is masked or subtle. One of the reasons I glommed onto "The Incredibles" is that I'd seen it so many times. Seeing it many times didn't help me as much as I'd thought it would. It was a humbling experience, and informative, and it helped me appreciate all over again the very fine writing that went into that movie.

I imagine as it all sinks in I'll re-envision writing yet again. Going back to a beginner state of mind can be daunting because I know I'm going to flail and make more mistakes. But beginner mind states of mind are when I learn the most the fastest. It can be exhilarating.

Once the beginning stages are done with, the rush is over and learners hit a plateau. Learn the lessons deeply takes a long time, well after the thrill is gone, and it'll seem like I'm getting nowhere. That'll take patience and perseverance. Learning deeply has its own rushes and epiphanies, but those are fewer and far between. The commitment to learning is the only thing that gets me through at times. That and I just can't seem to stop writing.

In the meantime, I get to play with story structure, something I've used by instinct but never examined. I thought I knew so much. Ha!

Monday, July 21, 2008


I'm approaching 10,000 views for this blog.  A lot of those views are me--I do check in several times a day most days to answer comments and I use this site to get to my favorite blogs.  But not all of them are me by any means and 10,000 is a big, fun, landmark number to get to.  I started at zero, so it's not padded (except by my own obsessive checking.)  Oh, and yes, I know I can take myself out of the count, but since I don't have a steady IP address that would involve going to the counter site to figure out who's me quite a few times before I eliminated the majority and that sounds like too much work taken away from things that I actually like to do and, you know, care about.  

So in some ways 10,000 is meaningless.  I'll probably miss the actual turnover, since I don't plan on reloading this page the teen number of times it'll take to get there.  When it happens it happens.  Like noticing it's 12:34 on the clock sometimes, I'll get a grin when I see it, and then move on.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 20, 2008


C.S. got an honorable mention in the Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest.  It's my understanding that they're going to start posting names on the blog on Monday (tomorrow) so keep yer peepers peeled for our brothers and sisters in arms.  Good luck to everyone still in the running, and good show to everyone who entered.  This international competition is fierce and making it to honorable mention is a big deal--definitely not a given, even for the very competent writer, even for someone who has made honorable mention before.

Naturally I hope that folks support the contest and the winning authors and artists by checking out the website, reading the stories and viewing illustrations posted on the web, and if you're so inclined, purchasing the anthologies.  Considering the folks I know who've won and the quality of writing and illustration it takes to place, these anthologies will not disappoint.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Critiques from 50,000 feet and Empty Nest

I managed to get back from Lucky Labs despite losing my keys (in my purse, how embarrassing!) thanks to C.S.'s patience and wherewithal.  

It was a very intense meeting, covering an entire novel (not written by me.)  The downside proved to be that there's so much information cascading in that it can be overwhelming.  On the upside, having that overview and perspective (as D. put it, the view from 50,000 feet) is great.  So I'm really looking forward to the time when the Lab Rats take on my novel.  I like intense and I like perspective.  These things are my friends.  So I'll be smiling and happy when the Rats cut me open and dance around the pub with my entrails.  La la la la la!  The gent on the chopping block took it very well, amazingly well considering the level of, ahem, honesty.  I think he's going to make it.  It takes guts and heart to endure a long critique.  

Now I'm thinking about entrails again.

And I'm thinking about honest critiques and belief in the story and how those two energies combine to help shape a story.  A critique is candlelight shining from the nightstand.  It's the writer that makes love in the bed.  So hopefully the author will go home, think about everything everyone said, and start reaching deeply into himself to start creating the story anew.  

I don't think editing after a critique is about fixing what's on the page, unless I'm satisfied with what's there and the reactions I'm getting from people I trust.  That sort of line edit and cleaning up is just a peck on the cheek before I ship the story off into the wide world.  I think it's about discovery and passion and molding and really getting in there and feeling while I write with a focus on expression and revealing meaning.

On a side note, it's been kind of lonely on the submission front.  I think I've got empty nest syndrome.  Nothing to do, I guess, but write more stories so I can start marketing them too.  Now that I'm in the habit of making submissions, when I don't have anything to send out on Monday I feel like I'm just spinning my wheels.  This is good, I know--I've finally got the marketing thing ingrained enough that I miss it when I have nothing to send out.  But it's also a sign that my portfolio isn't very deep.  I don't want to reach back and pull out old stories.  So I guess I have to come up with more ideas for shorts and write them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

An Enjoyable Evening Drinking Poison

I'm enjoying my first glass of wine in several weeks and it's very, very nice.  My fave, Fetzer Gewurztraminer.  I've backed off all alcohol considerably and it's nice to come back to, at least for tonight.  

I've always complained that there's no good denatured wine out there.  Vintners refuse to ruin perfectly good wine by denaturing it so just about everything I've tasted tastes like diluted prune juice, and the exceptions are flat, and remind me of vinegar without the sharpness that makes good salad vinegars interesting to sip.  

My love of wine, unfortunately, will have to be celebrated with the real stuff.  Same with cognac and rum (how I loooooooove a great rum--I will make recommendations on request.)  I've had pretty good luck with virgin mixed drinks, though.  The mixture helps disguise the flatness, usually via sweetness, saltiness, sourness, sparkle, or a combination thereof.

I've voluntarily retreated from my indulgence for several reasons which will, over the course of time, lighten up and allow me a little more leeway for indulgence.  Firstly, I have no adult backup after dinner to comment should I start drinking a bit too much.  Second, although I don't feel depressed or anxious I know I'm going through a stressful time and that will make my self-monitoring of alcohol intake suspect.  Third, I'm hoping to lose a little weight this summer and alcohol has tons and tons of calories.  I know a couple who stopped drinking and lost most of their excess weight in just a few months with no other change in diet or activity level.  Wow.  Fourthly, I'm going through some mild medical side effects of a TMI procedure that will only be aggravated if I indulge due to dehydration (not to mention that I won't be able to take ibuprofen if I start cramping bad.)  And last, alcohol (with the exception of my beloved Fetzer Gewurtz) is pretty darned expensive and I'm trying to be relatively frugal until I'm no longer living off of savings.  Even if it wasn't expensive it's a luxury item.  Of my luxury yummies--booze, chocolate, ice cream, cream, red meat (especially ribeye steak,) cookies, cream cheese, pre-sweetened breakfast cereals, juice, bacon and/or ham, and white/sweet breads in all their myriad and tasty forms--I don't need to have all these things on stock at all times.  Certain times of the month, chocolate is valuable for the survival of my offspring.  Occasional juice is healthy for the raw vitamin supplementation.  The rest I can (and do) take or leave.  And alcohol is the one that's left out in the cold first and the most often when things are tight or I start feeling unhealthy.  It's a poison, after all.  It's a happy poison with some health benefits, but there are health risks too and none of us need it.

For tonight, however, I'm happy to enjoy my fave wine and do a little late night writing.  No school tomorrow, so I can have a bit of a late start with no bad repercussions.  I can't stay up too late or go overboard with the wine, though, because I have a long day of writerly activities and I don't want to be groggy, dull-witted (at least not more than usual) or short-tempered.  I also plan on having my fave (yes, I have many faves) pear cider tomorrow and I don't want my liver to be screaming for mercy.  It comes in pints!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Silly Bowling

I've had a busy couple of days, including bowling with the kids.  Despite pain in my injured hand (which I treated with ibuprofen) I managed to bowl all three games with the kiddos.  We had a lot of fun!  

If anyone out there knows anything about bowling maybe they can tell me how bad I'm being by delivering the ball 'underhand' (back of hand facing the pins on release.)  I had to bowl that way out of necessity to keep the strain on my strained tendons to a minimum.  I'm sure it's a horrible habit but it felt great and I bowled straight and even got two strikes in a row and picked up some spares.  I think that's the right term, anyway.  

I think as I heal I'll go back to a normal delivery, if there is such a thing.  Pain is a teacher.  In this case it may be a bad teacher, but it's a chance I'm willing to take.  It's simply too enjoyable to participate in this fun sport with my kids.  Besides, I'm so new to bowling (just past the walking up to the line like a little kid and rolling it toward the pins with two hands) that I doubt I'm damaging my future pro career (ha!) bowling this way.  I'll get us a bowling coach sometime soon and learn how not to be pathetic.  In the meantime we have fun picking out names like Pity Me and The Darn Kat and enjoying family time together.

I found a nice YouTube on wikihow today that will help me learn to hook and maybe that release will hurt my hand less.  I know, I know, nothing replaces a real coach.  I wouldn't dream of advising a martial arts student to start out watching videos.  But, since I don't plan on doing this except as recreation, I think it's forgivable in this case.

Monday, July 14, 2008


It's very warm and muggy.  The dogs sleep under the porch where it's cool, and the cats melt into puddles on the chairs in the hottest part of the house.  I'm in the office, thinking about going to bed really early instead of writing but just the idea of that trade keeps my butt in the chair.  

I don't think I'll ever wish that I did less writing.  I may wish, though, that I did more.

Thankfully I don't have to wish.  I can do.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Close but no banana

There's a lot that's challenging about communicating with people who aren't just far away, but which have between you and them issues with line quality, connectivity, and technological limitations.  So today I spent more than a usual time for me trying to do some workarounds.  I figured if I can't even get something off my mail program to the server, then it's going to be a bear, if not impossible to retrieve back off the server.  It may even get stuck in transit.

As far as voice communications you can't appreciate the marvel known as the telephone much less the miracle of cell phones until you try to talk to someone via a program like Skype.  As much as I love this advance in communications, the technology is imperfect and it's actually easier to chat than it is to hear someone's voice and interpret sentences that transmit at uneven speeds and volumes and often drop entire or parts of words.  I'm hoping that these limitations will go away or become mitigated as I gain access to better technology and connection speeds, but unfortunately, there's a good chance that the problems originate as much on the other end as they do with me.

All is not lost.  Far from it.  I love firing up the ol' confuter first thing in the morning, knowing there's a decent chance I'll have some email or a chance to chat with someone I care about.  Not so very long ago I would have been waiting for some sign of life in the mail, a letter that's two weeks or more old and which can only interact with my thoughts–as-words in a limited way.  Letters are conversations, but not the kind of conversations we take for granted in our world today.  So life is good.  But I'm eager for better, because I see the possibilities just within reach.  It's ... right ... there ...!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Surprise! Didn't see that coming!

I get to sleep in tomorrow.  That's going to be such a wonderful luxury.  I try not to but I often stay up late to write and check up on forums and blogs.  When I stay up late and get up early I get lots and lots done, but it costs me a lot.  Today I felt normal most of the day but these last few hours I'm not just exhausted but feeling sore again.  I should know better than to overdo.  Bad Kami, bad, no more getting up early for you for a whole weekend.

Um, what's my motivation for not doing this again?

We had a great INK meeting tonight in which I learned about the flaws in my stories.  Tomorrow I'll fix those flaws as best I can and send them out immediately to the markets I have in mind.  There's one in particular that I was sure I wouldn't have time or energy to finish before the submission deadline and so I relaxed and just let the words flow and didn't write to fit the guidelines per se.  What came out is mysterious in that I'm not sure why or how it works.  Which brings me to one of the ideas I had at the meeting.  I realized why I don't write outlines.  My mental outlines are restrictive enough that I chafe even under those, and when I break away from that predicted path I have these aha moments that I could never plan for, never predict, never craft.  Well, never's a strong word.  But I figure that if they surprise me when they turn up they'll surprise the reader.  If I can plot it out in advance (unless I get into really Byzantine multilayered structure and deliberate twists like some mystery writers do) just about anyone will be able to see it coming.  If it catches me off guard and steals my next heartbeat, I figure I'm onto something good.
I can't of course make a statement like this is my best story ever because only my readers can decide that.  INK liked it, both the stories I had in for critique, actually, so so far so good.  We'll see how this and the other story do when I send them off into the big world to seek their fortunes, and my heart goes with them.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bliss and Success

Still sore today.  Nothing new there.  I think I'm better in that incremental way that people feel better with their colds when the fever goes away but they're still coughing and draining enough snot to go into national production.  At least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Also, I had my first mammogram today.  I think I must be a member of the lucky few because it didn't hurt.  At all.  Squeeze the boobies this way, squeeze 'em that way, and you're all done.  It was firm but not at all painful pressure.  Piece of cake.  After my TMI procedure I was all ready to be pain endurance woman, too.  Got some ibuprofen into me, coached myself to relax, take deep breaths that reach below the navel, and concentrate forward through time with wordless calm.  I'd say it was a huge disappointment but actually it was a relief.  I won't hesitate to go in for a mammogram on the suggested timetable.  The bummer part, aside from having no chance to use my (very limited) zen training?  No excuse to go have a conciliatory ice cream at Cold Stone.  Nothing to do but to go home, have lunch and wait until it was time to pick the boy up from school.

I was missing my man pretty desperately yesterday but I got to talk to him today and I'm walking on clouds on air.  A best friend and lover's voice develops a direct connection to the soul.  It doesn't amaze me at all that I'm in a great mood today.  My spirit has had a big chunk of emotional chocolate and is riding the endorphin high.  Weeeee!

So it's been a day of bliss and success.  Now I just have to finish up my reading, finish up my financial stuff for the week and I can finally settle into some semblance of summer vacation.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oops, I pushed my character and he broke

I'm still feeling yucky today.  Hopefully this will lead to long term betterness but for now I'm sore and feeling bloated and low energy.  Up until now I've been getting up early and getting lots of work done.  That's out the window.  

But I'm still writing.  Thank goodness I can do that while in sitting-on-butt mode.  Today is transcribe day.  I'm wondering if the stuff I hand wrote last night will read well on the screen.  Yet another opportunity to edit by looking at the prose from a different angle, though personally I don't care to edit on unfinished novels.  Then (yay!) I can launch into the next chapter.  I ended the last chapter with a bad thing happening and I'm eager to get writing on the consequences.  This will push all the characters to their limits.

There are times when writers push their characters too hard, though, so that they snap and then just curl up in the fetal position and do nothing or thrash around uselessly.  That becomes annoying to a reader fast, especially if they're smarter than the character on the screen.  It turns into a one-sided shouting match.  What do you mean there's nothing you can do?!  I can think of three things off the top of my head and I don't even care if you do any of those, just do something!

That isn't a usual problem, at least not with beginning writers.  They tend to go soft on their precious babies.  But when the challenge is well beyond what the character can handle, it's just as bad for the reader.  Now, this is different from a character being momentarily overwhelmed.  That can be very, very fun.  But eventually (and sooner rather than later) the reader wants the characters to find their feet, regroup, come up with a new strategy, or even just run away, so long as they're active on the page.  And if the characters come back stronger and smarter and overcome the challenge that originally knocked them on their asses, that's sweet.

Lecture (rant) of the day is over.  Use the rest of your classtime for homework or free-time quiet activities.  Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Despite doc's best efforts, Kami is still writing

Today I had a (TMI! medical procedure.)  Everything went smoothly and other than some very minor discomfort I'm doing fab.  Fab, unfortunately in this case, means I'm walking around like an old woman (not hunched but shuffling) and easing slowly when I get up and down.  I'm sure I'll be less sore tomorrow morning.  By Thursday I should be feeling back to normal, just in time for a mammogram.  I tell ya, trying to stay healthy is a lot of work and yuckiness.  But at least my hand feels a lot better.  It still hurts when I make a fist, but the fact that I can make a fist is spectacularoso.  

I got a lot of novel writing (by hand) done at Fireside today.  I broke an old man's hip.  I'm such a meanie!  It's really good that my characters can't get to me because I'd be in big trouble with some serious bad-asses.  

And now, for my next trick, I will finish (I hope!) reading and critiquing a book manuscript before bedtime.  I've got about ten more days to work on it but I want it done so that I can get back to my real job eating bon bons.  Er, I mean writing.  Yeah.  And maybe even some art!

Monday, July 07, 2008


This morning on the way out to the car we were, as always, mobbed by the Sea of Unconditional Love: Brian, Finn and Beast (we miss you Nikita!)  Jostled, panted-on, we swam to the gate.  Both of us are accustomed to keeping our feet in this situation and unlatching the gate while being swarmed.  These dogs do not jump on people--they have better manners than that--but they are large and tend to circle their people and sometimes hop their front legs onto the porch rail or the large doghouse on the porch putting their faces near a human's face level (and incidentally making it impossible to get by without either pushing them down or commanding them down and then waiting for them to get around to it.)  
It's amazing that I used to make it to work relatively undishevelled when I think about it.  
While the boy waited for me to unlock the car after I clipped the gate so it wouldn't open should Beast nuzzle the latch (like a Jurassic Park velociraptor, Beast constantly tests his fence, heh) the boy started to grin.  "I guess we know what it feels like to be a celebrity."
I had to laugh.  Yep, we're mobbed every time we leave the house and every time we arrive back home.  

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Clarion West Update

The word from Jay Lake's Livejournal and other places is that the community rallied swiftly and the victims of the thefts are back to work.  I'm so glad.

I know if I was in that position and I took my main computer with me I'd have financial information compromised, passwords revealed, and I would have lost a heckuva lot of work.  So.  Let's all be security conscious from now on.

When you're robbed in your own home there's really not much you can do to protect the sensitive information on your computer.  (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)  Some programs allow you to have passwords required and such, but by and large, I think it's okay to trust your home environment and then deal with theft when it happens.  

When you're traveling, though, that's a whole 'nother ballgame.  Thieves are taking more and more advantage of the fact that people carry laptops everywhere.  They've taken to breaking into more hotel rooms (a family member of a coworker had this happen and lost a brand new laptop--it was a nice hotel, too) and watch for people being careless at restaurants, etc.  If you're traveling with your laptop I think it's wise to backup your data much more frequently than you normally would, protect any confidential information with password roadblocks (yes, I know it's a pain to have to type a password to get into Quicken or whatever but believe me, it's worth it) and to have a non-mental list (because after you've suffered a theft you're going to be very upset!) of what might be compromised and who to call about it.  Credit cards.  Checking and savings accounts.  Passwords/auto sign-ins to forums that are the same as or similar to the sign-ins for more important things like online banking, Paypal, Amazon, ebay, medical records and/or medical insurance sites, car loans/mortgage info, etc.  (BTW, thieves *love* it when you use the same password or even just the login for everything.  If they seize control of your email, even briefly, they can snag a lot of information in a very short time.)  

Life's too short to live in a state of fear that someone might snag your private info and steal your identity or your money or destroy your credit.  But do think about security when you travel, and do make that list of numbers you'll need to call to inform folks that your laptop was stolen so they can start suspending accounts and such and help you protect yourself.

There's a lot of poopyheads stealing laptops so take care out there. 

Saturday, July 05, 2008


A terrible accident has claimed the life of Roberta Carlson, a dedicated convention volunteer in the Pac NW.  One of the passengers has suffered serious injuries to his hand and is still in the hospital.  The rest were relatively unscathed.  They're in Las Vegas at the convention they were all carpooling to because they had almost reached their destination and didn't know what else to do.  One of the survivors is paying for the group's flights home and there's a call to help him offset this expense.  Any monies beyond this will be given to Bert's family to help them out.  The family has requested that any messages of condolence be sent to genecon at hotmail dot com.    

Speaking of bad news, this just in.  Someone horrible and unprincipled stole four laptops and some other items from four students at Clarion West.  I can imagine all too easily what they're going through.  Not only are they in the thick of a very emotionally and intellectually intense workshop, but now the work they've done so far is gone (I hope they have backups of anything else they may have had on their laptops!) and their future potential to participate in this prestigious workshop has been very seriously impeded.  If you can help please do.  It's not easy to get into Clarion West.  They're dedicated writers and my heart aches for them.  I'm sure the thief had no idea about the heartache s/he has caused, nor is it likely that this person cares, just as long as they get themselves some money out of it.  Two Mac laptops have been volunteered on loan.  If you have a laptop you can loan or wish to donate please do.

On the scope of all things in the world these are small blips, but they're our blips, darnit.  When these things happen all we can do is support the folks in distress and take what comfort we can in that this too will gradually change from a tortuous present to become part of our community's painful, beautiful, difficult and wonderful history.  Into history we and all we do must recede, but life and work is never in vain.  It just is.

Friday, July 04, 2008


I was born a few months before the Iron Curtain engulfed (then) Czechoslovakia.  Although I love the country in which I was born deeply and many of my cultural, social and emotional sensibilities (such as I have them) come from being raised as a Czech and a refugee and a not very legal immigrant (I'm now naturalized and I have a pretty certificate to prove it) I am, absolutely, an American.  I love this country from the perspective of someone whose parents chose to come here, and who had to earn the right to call ourselves Americans.  Because I'm a writer I take pleasure in the resonance of the fact that both nation's flags are red white and blue.

I find it interesting that much of the fantasy and even a surprising proportion of science fiction (including distopias!) assumes and grants their characters a great deal of freedom.  They can say what they want in public, write letters or email or send messages over the airwaves without considering who might take offense if they were intercepted and read.  They don't have cities or villages that are 'sacrificed' for industry with not even a token attempt to protect worker or inhabitant health and safety.  Want to be depressed?  Google the ten most polluted cities in the world.  I don't want to turn this post into a rah rah American--we have problems--and I don't want to disparage other countries because like us, they're inhabited by human beings and I'm hesitant to cast blanket judgement on entire populations of people I've never met, online or otherwise.   How I feel about political matters for me is pretty personal, though I applaud people who shout out their opinions because they are exercising (literally in all senses of the word) and therefore maintaining (and keeping healthy) that right.  The point I'm trying to make is that although intellectually many Americans are very aware of the privilege of freedom, the perspective of how many if not most governmental systems work (or don't work) doesn't frequently appear in speculative fiction, or at least not what I've been reading.  Maybe I'm subconsciously overlooking those works.  But by and large, it seems freedom is assumed.

1984 was of course a classic and wonderful exception.  One of the things that made that work so terrifying and absorbing when I read it was that, although things were never even close to being that bad for my relatives (or in the vast, vast majority of nations both modern and historical) I could see it.  I could taste it.  I'd escaped the edges of a shadow that had enough common ground with that world that it gave me chills.  And things have been that bad for real people, may now be that bad for real people, or even worse.

I don't think writers in general or speculative writers specifically have any duty in portraying one thing or another to make points and educate people.  I'm just making an observation which may be incorrect and putting it out there as something to think about.  And maybe, in my next novel, I may write about people having adventures in a world that doesn't have freedom assumed.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

From Hand to Fingertips

I finished a flash fantasy today.  Well, as finished as a polished first draft gets, anyway, before I'm done with it and send it off to various critique groups.  When I hand wrote it it came in too short, around 180 words or so.  Mulling over it for a couple of days helped deepen the idea so that by the time I sat down to transcribe it, it grew by a lot.  It sits at about 900 words at the moment.  

This is reverse of how I normally write in almost every sense.  I'll sit at the computer with an idea and type on it.  The prose is lush--too lush--way too many adjectives, long sentences trying to do too much, characters examining every detail of their cognitive process between fight scenes where every drop of blood is displayed in super-saturated colors.  When I reach the end I'll think about it and then play with it the next day or next week, editing on screen.  Then, when I foolishly believe I'm happy with it, I print it out and go sit in Not the Office space.  There I usually find several flaws, all kinds of grammatical silliness, extra pronouns and quite a few adjectives that escaped me on the first cull.  I type the hand-written changes in, and presto.  The focus is rarely on additions.  I cut cut cut until my little cutters won't cut no more.

Writing long hand into a notebook I wrote sparsely.  Very sparse.  I think it was due to having to write slow because I handwrite so much more slowly than I can type, which also gave me extra time to think.  The extra time wasn't well spent.  A whole bunch of stuff happened in my head that simply didn't make it onto the page.  So when I transcribed it I had to put flesh on the poor old bones, and on the final (semi-final anyway) pass I put skin on the flesh.  Tada!

I think I ended up in the same spot, but I can't tell these things.  Maybe my critique group will tell me all about it.  Honestly I'd rather hear them say that I didn't achieve my normal quality than 'it's the best thing you've written ever!'  Why?  Because I can type a lot longer than I can handwrite.  Hand cramp from hell ...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The psychic poopyhead practical guru

I had a really stellar time writing today, pestering people who were trying to accomplish real writing, hunting for right words, getting new material hand written on a page (how romantic and old-fashioned, ooo!) all followed by a handsome dinner and a great time yammering at my buds about how great I am and how great my husband is.  Man, I'm insufferable.  Ain't it great?

A topic that came up revolved around critiques.  How much and to what level writer, specifically.  I don't have any humble opinions today since I'm busy being insufferable, so here's the deal.  

We already know that although it's nice to have your typos and blatant grammatical errors pointed out to you, line editing is not what critiquing is really about so almost none of a critiquer's time is spent on line by line stuff except noting awks, unnecessaries, passives, highlighting echo words and such.  Right?  Good.  So what's all the time being spent on besides just regular reading?  It's trying to put into words why you like or hate the character, the source of confusion, noting with !!! places where you're surprised (hopefully in a good way) and things of that nature.  If something really leaps out then you write a more detailed note about it.  

What if the writer is a novice or struggling or whatever?  How helpful is it to have a manuscript dropped in your lap dripping in red ink?  The answer to that varies, depending on how fast you learn, whether you have enough self-confidence to understand that this is one (very red) opinion and you can choose to ignore it all, and whether the comments are presented in a way that makes sense to you.

The critiquer has to be part psychic, part guru and part practical poopyhead.  The psychic part is guessing based on your magical powers of human observation what quantity and quality of comments will help the writer improve their manuscript.  The guru part is to be more of a guide or pointer than a hander of information.  A hander of information says here's what you need to do.  Do it.  The guru says the answer you seek is somewhere over there in the bushes, or maybe by the creek, I'm not sure but I thought I saw it there.  Go get it!  Good luck!  The practical poopyhead is a minimalist who not only looks out for the interests of art but protects himself from overcommitting for no good reason.  Is there any reason to spend three days sweating over someone else's two thousand word humorous and write out a critique that's a ten times longer than the story?  Don't waste your time (that's the poopyhead part, but actually, you're not being selfish--you're keeping yourself from burning out) and don't heap all that sweat and analysis onto someone who probably doesn't want or benefit from it (the practical part.)  

Some writers never get critiques from anyone except maybe their editor.  Others (like me) depend on wise and generous critiques offered freely and with good intentions to get their stories into decent shape.  For those of us who use critiques, and give them, it's a good idea to examine the nature of the beast to figure out what you're giving as well as what you're getting.  It's a learned skill.  Observation, practice, feedback--these are my friends.

There's peril and victory and gratitude and remorse as both the critiquer and the writer but in the end, all that really matters is whether the critiques improve self-expression.  If they do, then shine on.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Flash! AaAah!

Don't forget to check the current issue of Flash Fiction Online!

I've been thinking a lot about flash fiction.  It's still coming to me mostly by accident the same way that finding a penny in the parking lot happens if you look around long enough.  I told a good friend of mine today that I can come up with several novel ideas in a single bath, enough for 10,000 years of writing within a lifetime, but it takes days of racking my brains before I come up with even one possibility for a flash.  Take a shower, she suggested.  She knows about me and water and ideas.  But then the water would get cold, I whined.  So take a quick shower and come up with the idea before you're done, she replied.

I'll try a prompt tomorrow.  In the meantime I've got a new short story close to done and some stuff to critique and more stuff to read.  Maybe later this week I'll have time to work on one of my novels.  Sheesh.  I knew I'd be able to focus more on writing once I quit my day job, but I didn't expect all my projects and plans to pig pile on me as a result. 

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