Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Adventurer

I've got the best husband in the world.  He's adventuresome but not a risk-taker in the usual sense.  He doesn't take random risks, or take risks for the thrill of it alone.  He's wise enough to know that whatever risks he does take will be plenty interesting, so there's no need to make it random or look for something with a theoretical better adrenaline payoff.  I love that--love that he's sexy adventure guy while being smart.

He also cares without being a sucker.  I know sometimes people let him down, and that hurts him, but he doesn't pretend that people will meet his every expectation or hold his same values or believe that they'll like or love him.  But he doesn't hold back.  It's not a cold, reserved caring.  It's a vested interest in human beings.  He may go on about how sick people can be and the horror some can do, or how irrational, petty and purile some people are, how selfish and small in thought, but if these people asked for his help he'd give it (though probably not in a comfortable form--truth can sting and change is hard--so many interpret help as 'make it easy for me' instead of 'help me get there' which takes work.)  In fact they have asked, and he's helped.  He says it's his job.  

In older times people would sometimes say it's their duty, and it had nothing to do with their form of employment.  If someone was broken down on the side of the road, it was their duty to stop and help.  If a child was hungry it was their duty to feed them.  I'm not talking about all people of those older times.  Like today, it was a percentage, and that percentage varied based on awareness, social expectations, and a whole bunch of other complex factors.  I believe that percentage is larger than people realize until disaster unifies all the individuals that have all along made unnoticed contributions.  And there are quite a few who volunteer to tutor students having trouble in school or grocery shop for their disabled neighbor or capture feral cats and get them desperately needed medical care like the lady I met today.  A mother and five kittens captured, one of them quite wild, spayed/neutered, given vaccinations against deadly diseases, and released to be given as much support as semi-feral animals are willing to accept--regular food, clean water, a dry place to sleep and when they learn to trust, affection.  She racked up between two visits over $500 in vet bills, and she wished she could do more.

Anyway, my husband is one of those people who helps in little ways that no one hears about, counseling inmates, getting educational materials for children, giving marital advice to someone who's on the ropes.  But he helps in big, splashy ways too, ways that many people can't/won't because it's too risky.  Which wraps this back around to risk.  Not everyone can afford risk.  Young families, people who have others depending on their physical proximity to stay alive, people in fragile health or any number of myriad reasons.  Not everyone can handle separation, isolation, radical changes in culture and language, etc.  It takes all kinds to build civilization, kinds to stay home and hold the fort, kinds that manage details that would drive anyone else nuts, and of course kinds like him that rappel down the cliff, that handle the chemically deranged, that go to tropical countries and try to mitigate the effects of nasty diseases and malnutrition, and of course go to war zones and help people prepare for that unfamiliar and strange (to them) state called peace.

In the back of my mind I'm always aware of these qualities and that I love him in part because of the power and positive bent of his actions.  Today it's not background, for whatever reason.  Today I'm appreciating this bold aspect of him.  Tomorrow I may think more on his intelligence, or his ethical core, or his wit.  I think I married a good 'un.  I'm proud to wear his ring, every day, including today.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Last night I spent a little time, while on hold on the phone, looking at Breaking Dawn reviews, commentary, and the author's official responses to a couple of different issues.  That along with my (minimal) experience with detractors has gotten me thinking about fame.

It seems like a lot of fame is no fun.  For whatever reason people feel a need to own something of what you have.  Maybe it's a control dynamic?  I'll try to get a little more specific here to illustrate.

One example is that the readers of a book series felt the book didn't end the way they wanted.  Fine.  That happens a lot in fiction.  Some people like happy endings, some people like tragic or non-standard endings, some require a strong twist or some sort of surprise/revelation.  Often the kinds of endings are incompatible.  My personal fave?  A happy ending with a down note--there's a cost, a heavy price and the hero usually doesn't get to enjoy the full fruits of his or her efforts, or achieve his/her personal goals completely, though overall the world is a better place.  I like happy so I let the hero live in that improved world and reap the benefits thereof.  Other folks like the big, happy ending where it all comes together in celebration, with no big price tag.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one such that I really enjoyed.  But I prefer Chocolat.  The price was the loss of a friend, and more subtly, a small loss of magic and the loss of the ability to help other villages, other people, though overall the immediate world of the village is a better place full of freedom and life.

Bitter readers, instead of accepting that this is the way that the author wrote it and satisfying themselves with analyzing what went wrong and where, are demanding their money back.  Um, sorry?  They bought the whole package when they bought into the series, with no guarantees that it'll come out the way they want.  A good comparison made has been clothes.  It's unethical to wear a dress to the prom and then return it because you're not going to be able to use it anymore.  Or a sweater that you wore once and decided you didn't like the color.  Presumably these readers tried on the fit--read the opening, the jacket cover, read some reviews online, and in the case of this particular book, read all the books prior.  They have no grounds to return a 'faulty' product no more than I have grounds to return a CD after listening to it and deciding all but one song on the CD was crap.  Art, music, clothing design, dance, culinary arts and so forth are not a one size fits all!  There's no fault in different tastes.  You'd better decide within the first bite if the chocolate cake you ordered is going to work for you.  It's not fair to refuse to pay for it after you've eaten most or all of it.

But most of all, the reader can't control the writer.  They can influence and inspire writers, but ultimately it's the writer's choices they're buying, not their own.  The writer makes a gut call about a story and writes it the best they can.  I think writers that don't listen to their audience are being foolish, but we all know that going too far the other direction creates a work by committee, and those rarely come out well.

Another thing people do in a fame situation is to try to disparage or elevate the celebrity disproportionately based on their own agendas.  I see this happen all the time.  A famous lawyer who happens to be a bachelor recently reported on an interview that not only is he criticized irrationally, but he's been attributed with good works that he never did.  Like chickens pecking at a red spot until they create a wound deep enough to kill, some people will take a small issue and turn it into a huge problem in their minds.  We see this with politicians but also with artists, writers and other people of fame.  They'll also take a small positive quality and make it gawd-like--and the celebrity has nowhere to go but down from there (not to mention it's very isolating.)

I've talked before about knowing what you're getting into as a writer.  In the highly unlikely event that you or someone you know becomes famous, don't imagine it's all going to be happy happy joy joy.  Be careful out there.  Your average person isn't mentally and emotionally prepared for fame, and once you're on that big pedestal there are lots of directions and long distances to fall.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Write a Great Query Letter

I just did my very first free download from Amazon: "How to Write a Great Query Letter" by Noah Lukeman.   I won't share any contents here--the idea is that everyone downloads their own copy.  Makes sense to me.  It's free, so there's no reason to have to borrow a copy from anyone, and every reason to let the author and Amazon know how popular it is or isn't.  So, if you want to read about query letters, download your copy today!  For free!

I will say that some of the advice was counter-intuitive, at least based on my unsold-novelist experience, but the vast majority of information reinforced what I already knew or taught me new and useful ways of looking at query letters.

I still hate writing query letters, but now I feel lots more prepared.  Next on the agenda--build my resume'.  (Working on it!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Driving Everywhere

Gas prices smash prices, I gotta drive.  Everywhere.  At least, that seems to be my doom flavor of the week.  Today I have a write-in, I have to pick up the kids from my mom's, and I have to get the car into the dealer for its regularly scheduled maintenance.  Tomorrow I'm driving forever, all day, there and back again so that while the kids spend some time with my MIL the animals will still have someone who loves them waiting on them hand and foot.   I'll have to drive again on Friday to get the kids back, but that's Friday.  I'll have a whole day (theoretically) of not driving on Thursday.  That sounds like bliss about now.  I'll be driving again on Saturday, so I'd better make the most of Thursday.

Don't get me wrong--I actually enjoy driving.  I have my tunes, I have A/C if it's too hot (though sometimes I go ahead and waste the gas by rolling down the window,) I enjoy watching scenery/landscapes even if I've seen them a hundred times, and the traffic gawds love me so I'm rarely caught in a jam.  But I don't think I'd enjoy driving every day.  It's hard to write when you spend most of your time on the road.  It's hard to do anything, for that matter, except driving when you drive.  Yes, hands-free talking on the phone, yes, recording notes, but it's not as satisfying as doing these same things while not-driving.

I usually appreciate the privilege.  Our not so distant ancestors were severely limited by how far they could travel, and the risk of travel was considerably higher even if you factor in car wrecks.  This week, however, it's too much and I'm hoping next week I'll be able to take a long vacation from driving.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's Alive!

There's a lot of things to get used to when you move into a rural or semi-rural area.  No natural gas lines.  No DSL.  Spotty or minimal cellphone coverage.  More frequent brown and blackouts (which makes the woodstove more than a decorative item) that tend to last longer than in town.  Deer eating up your garden, not just occasionally, but every frickin' night.  Dozens of bunnies that you scare off as you walk the garden--but they'll be back in a few minutes.  (I had three small bunnies hop out of one of my herb whiskey barrels not long ago when I watered.)  And ...
SPIIIIIIDERS!  This one here is one of my favorites.  It's a garden spider, literally.  I posted pics a long time ago of the very first one I saw, evah.  Now I have quite a few, though despite the fact they're considered common I sure don't see many of them.  I see far more of the orange and black orb spiders.  One of the many fun things about them is the squiggle they weave into their webs.  Some scientists believe it's supposed to imitate a wheat shaft to help fool insects into flying too close.  No one's really sure.  Notice how she lines up the squiggle with the dark line on her body, and how that line design kinda looks like wheat too... or maybe something else.  Or maybe it's all accidental or still a WIP by evolution.  Anyway, if spiders terrify you, don't live in the country.  You won't be able to go into the garden, nor sleep at night.  Plus, there's never anything to do around here.  All I had to do today beside the normal barn chores was move the sicklebar mower, which was out of gas, from the lower property to the garage.  Ho hum.  (gasp, pant!)

In other garden news, huzzah!  Tomatoes at last!
With the cool weather it's been a long, long wait for ripe tomatoes.  The plants are huge, though.  The leaves are packed together very tightly against the fence they're growing up.  They're as tall as I am.  If the tomatoes didn't turn red, I'd never find them in there.  I also have eggplant developing, but the fruit is still pretty small, about the size of a golf ball.  This variety of eggplant doesn't get more than 3" across and stays pretty round, so we're a bit less than halfway there.  Hopefully we'll have plenty of time before serious cold weather sets in.  We still have rhubarb and currants.  We're waiting on grapes, cucumbers and pears.  Apples are done/fallen (the goats are very happy), blackberries are mostly over with (though there are plenty of green ones, once the rains set in the berries are pretty yucky and mold quickly) if not done, marionberries are done, blueberries sort of never arrived but are sort of done, herbs are in bloom and for the most part sub-optimal unless you're a bee, in which case they're perfect.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Long Day Ahead

I've got a meeting in the Beav town.  It's going to eat my whole day.  The kids will be heading off for some last minute vacationing for a couple of days, so I'll come back to a house full of pissed-off critters.

I made some progress on one of the sequel novels last night, finished up a chapter.  The characters are just now realizing how deep in they've gotten and they're all scared, except Gutter, who's annoyed.  Lark's done the equivalent of eloping with a high school sweetheart as far as Gutter is concerned and he's going to try to salvage the situation.  Salvage for Gutter will equal big problems for Lark, and he'll have to choose between double crossing Gutter or betraying his master.  Yay conflict!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Me Aminals

Here we are toward the end of August and, surprisingly, all the animals appear to be healthy and happy. 

Dakota, all of a sudden, has decided to develop arthritis, but it's not too bad.  The vet checked her out and everything.  She's getting around pretty well for a twelve year old--at least I think so.

Huntress, Lucky, Kat and Wiz are all shiny and pesky.  They've invented
 all kinds of fun new games revolving around my bed and waking me up several times during the early morning until I give up on sleep and play with them.  Some faves are race across the bed, walk on mommy's hair, king/queen of the bed (which involves hissing,) chase the feet, make a tunnel in the blankets, and paper bag dash at the foot of the bed.  

The Wiz-dom has his own special game that makes tv time interesting.  He chooses the lap of the person who wants him the least.  The rest of us can make Gne-gne-gne noises all we want--he will not be swayed by promises of face scrubs, deep massage or belly rubs.  

The livestock is in good shape too.  I didn't get a good pic of the Smartest Chicken in the World, but the goats all posed nicely for me.  Spike is looking particularly handsome.  Here he's wearing pure white Boer-Saanan wool with designer horns and matching hooves.  He always looks smashing on the catwalk.  Beard by Beastie Nature.

The puppies and Beastie are ready for some diversion, but alas the Nissan is still stuck in the grass, and I'm not taking the hairy army in my nice new(ish) Corolla.  So, we're going to start walking around the neighborhood.  I know, that's not nearly as fun as going to the river and getting all wet and muddy, but it'll just have to do.  It's either walkies or a rebellion at this point.  When I'm so foolish as to jingle keys, they think that's their leashes and they go bananas.  Poor things.

That's all for the animal update.  Next on animal update--September vet trips.  Yay, a trip to the pet to get some tots!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I will update on animals soon.  I realize I haven't in a long while, and it seems I have a small cult following of kitty, dog and goat pic lovers, so I'll see what I can do.  I might even snag a pic of the Smartest Chicken in the World.

In the meantime, I couldn't resist taking the Serenity quiz after seeing it on Stuff and Words.

Your results:
You are Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)

Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
Inara Serra (Companion)
Wash (Ship Pilot)
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
River (Stowaway)
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
A Reaver (Cannibal)
Dependable and trustworthy.
You love your significant other and
you are a tough cookie when in a conflict.

Click here to take the "Which Serenity character am I?" quiz...

I think I edged into the Zoe category because I like big guns ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Today, Meow Your Head Off, Kitty and Sad Kitteh bowled three games each and I, Sad Kitteh, got my best score evah (for just one game!)  121.  Okay, I don't think anyone is so sad that they'd need three games to get to 121, even me, but I thought I'd be clear.  Meow Your Head Off is bowling really well and that ball lets off a little sonic boom on the way down the alley, so I broke down and got (just him) his very own bowling ball--a better one than I'd planned on because it was on mega-sale, being the last of its kind.  Kitty and I will wait until mid-September and get ordinary awesome balls instead of super awesome balls.

The new laptop, Lark, is being a good little clone and handling business while Jasmine is away.  Today I finally paid off that credit card (yay!)  What a load off my mind!  I'm much, much less stressed.  

And much creativity results.  I got an idea for a non-fiction book.  No, seriously.  I'm not going to spend heaps of time on it because I don't have a platform, so it's unlikely to sell.  But it's about sex! so maybe it'll sell anyway.  I'm sure I'll finish it.  I wrote for four solid hours on it and I'm just getting warmed up.  Turns out I have a lot to say.

I feel a big writing thing coming on.  With the kids about to re-enter school, I have an opportunity to make much words happen on page.  Fiction, non-fiction, whatever.  It's all good.

Bowling.  Finances.  Writing.  It's been a big day.  We'll have another tomorrow, with school schedule pick up and pictures and fees and topping off lunch accounts.  With the cool, rainy weather, it feels like autumn, something my dh taught me to think of as Wandering.  I don't quite have that longing to see what's over the horizon when I go outside, but I have it internally.  I want to write around the next corner, bowl the next game, make our finances start working for us.  This is a good place to be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Stressed.  Aggravated.  I may end up spending money today and I didn't want to do that.  Maybe I'll do okay surrounded by all the shiny new fun products because I'll be a reluctant customer.  When I'm an eager customer I often want the biggest, brightest and newest and then settle for something that's a step down.  Not today.  Boy, definitely not today.

Jasmine is having DVD/CD drive issues.  Hopefully it's something simple, something easy.  Regardless, I think it's under warrantee still (I may extend the warrantee today!) so that's fine.  It's just that I'm in the middle of several projects and not having the big machine for them is going to set me back.  Also, I'll lose email contact with my beloved.  Well, I guess I can borrow someone's machine or use one in the library.  Anyway.  It's a bother and my back's up, never a good sign.  After breakfast and bill paying I'll feel better.

Wait, I never feel better after bill paying!

Actually, in this case I will.  I'll have that credit card back to zero and I won't have that unconscious, well, semi-conscious feeling that I'm going to spend the household into oblivion and we'll lose everything because of me.

No pressure.


And in the middle of this he calls and the whole world is better!  I know I'm not shouldering anything alone but sometimes I get caught up and end up with tunnel vision.

So I'm going to go get the computer fixed and keep an open mind and maybe come home with a new computer.  If not, I'll have talked to him today and it'll only be two or three days without home computing.  I doubt I'll blog in that time, even if I make it down to the library or to a friend's house, but you never know.  

Monday, August 18, 2008

Meditations on Violence

I hope the fonts and stuff aren't all messed up by copying and pasting.  This is the latest from Amazon on Rory Miller's book.  I'm very, very glad that people are buying the book, enjoying it, and getting good information from it.  Writing is tough and in many ways magical.  Transmitting information from one person's mind to another person's mind isn't easy, though it sometimes seems that way.  Transmitting it with any accuracy is even harder, and making it an experience that people seek out and gain something positive from it is quite the accomplishment.  Rory has plenty to be proud of, though he'll say he's an ordinary, average guy.  Well, his book isn't ordinary or average.  The reviews and sales have spoken.

Product Details

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Drunk on Friendship and Enjoying the Hangover

I had a really good time yesterday at the ABBB, and I hope everyone else did too.  It's always hard for me to gauge if party stuff is going well.  My beloved friends are so good to me, they'd never let on if they were bored or annoyed or insufficiently fed if they felt left out or fillintheblank.  But judging from the laughter and smiles I'm guessing almost everyone enjoyed themselves.  And I have to say a special thanks to the mighty tall one for being the best sport ever.  

Oh man, now I want to give more special thanks--to the goddess and her accompanying god (or does he consider himself a minion) for their warmth and excellent companionship, and to the woman of the moon for her stories.  To Wit for his quirky, fun gifts.  To my oldest friend for fighting a hard battle to make it to the party at all and winning through only to suffer the luck of the draw.  To father and child for being patient in the extreme (for us) heat and crowded conditions.  To the cheater, who always helps out and makes me laugh.  To the monk who keeps things lively--it wouldn't be a party without him.  And to all of them at once, together, and the ones who couldn't be there but were in spirit, and to the voice from afar who I love more than the graceful sky, and my children who waited hand and foot and sometimes even seemed to enjoy it, and to the glory that's the sun, the teasing wind, the full moon that shone like molten gold at the horizon, and ...

To all, to those I missed because I'm a little tired and drunk from friendship, and to the world.  Happy birthday!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Big Day Approacheth

Every year we have a party for all our friends born in August.  It's going to be much, much smaller this year, but smaller to me just means more chance to actually talk to people instead of working as a kitchen drudge (although kitchen drudgery isn't so bad--it's where the liquor cabinet is and I never lack for company/help.)

I made the required Costco run today to make sure everything is as fresh as possible.  I prefer it that way, but also, since we're going to have a real scorcher tomorrow there's less chance that the veggies will go flaccid when they come out of the fridge and the pop hopefully won't lose its fizz in the ice chests.  We have a gigantic chocolate cake, plenty of booze, plenty of bottled water, and some no-corn-syrup pop, hamburger, a lovely pork loin, a mountain of hamburger buns, brats, pork spring rolls, a huge Costco veggie tray, salsa, bean dip, about four pounds of chips, dried fruit and nut mixes, rice crackers, regular crackers, a cheese assortment (though no brie--Costco was out--denied!!) mushrooms for steak topping, frozen cream puffs, and of course the gifts.  Did I forget anything?  Tomorrow morning I'll make a beer, ice, and last-minute items (like steaks and possibly ice cream) run.  I'm sure a list will develop.  It always does.  And I'll have enough leftovers that I'll have to freeze things so they'll keep.  Nature of the August Babies Birthday Bash.

Somehow I managed to time it so that tomorrow is not a fast day, too, though I make exceptions for events.  Pretty nifty!

Time to go drink a ton of water.  I'm still feeling woogedy.  I was okay most of today but I took a nap during the hottest part of the day and woke up massively sweaty.  I've been trying to rehydrate ever since.

Take care out there and drink lots of water, no matter the weather.  And have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I've been bumming around the garden and keyboard trying to work out a time/rhythm for working out.  Almost everyone has this struggle.  What's worse for me is that I used to run on a regular basis, and at one point in my life I was working out 5 days a week between martial arts, yoga, weight lifting and other pursuits.  (Boy, that was a long time ago now.)  I know I can do it.  What's more, I know I enjoyed it.  What's keeping my butt in the chair?

The ten thousand little excuses.  I should be writing.  I should do housework.  I don't want to drive over to the 24 Hour Fitness without multitasking because of the gas.  Oh look, I'm in the area but I forgot to bring workout clothes (or a towel, or the right shoes.)  I'll do it later tonight.  I'm tired I'll do it in the morning.  Okay, I'm here on the floor watching a DVD but all I really want to do is stretching and a few situps and oh look, there's that sudoku I was working on.

It's insane.  I want off the roller coaster and back into a routine.  It won't take me long to get there and stay there, but I know me.  I do best with outside pressure.  Whether it's working out steadily with a friend (if I don't go my friend won't go and I can't be part of the problem--must be part of the solution!) or taking classes for money or the gym membership (which is languishing but apparently not enough to make me get out there more than once a month) or whatever I do better with external structure.  I think I've found something, and I'd like folks to spread the word because this could be a lot of fun.  And work.  And fun.  And work.  If Steve is serious about 101 volunteers to beta this then even if you read this post in a couple of days chances are pretty good that you'll make it in.  

If you're on serious meds or have health problems do consult your doctor.  Most of the program should help except the intermittent fasting in combination with certain medications or health problems.  I think folks should still be able to do IF in most cases even if they're on heavy medications but personally I would modify it in some way so that you're getting something in your stomach, even if it's just all veggies for the 'fasting' day, so that your blood sugar or meds in an empty stomach don't damage you or cause you excessive pain.  

One thing I really love about IF is that when I know I'm not going to be eating all day I make with the busy work like crazy.  I write more, I garden more, I clean more house, I get out of the house to do stuff, etc.  I also drink lots more water.  I let myself get dehydrated yesterday so the extra water today will be grand.  Yet another thing I really love about IF is that when I'm disciplined about my food, that bleeds over into discipline in other areas.  And when I do eat, I crave the good stuff.  Fresh or lightly cooked veggies.  Home-cooked meat.  Salads.  Cheeses.  The pre-processed, pre-seasoned, deep fried or empty calorie junk just doesn't do it for me when I'm on IF.

Anyway, I'd be very happy if folks joined me or spread the word.  I'm really looking forward to this and I can't wait to start.  Literally can't wait.  I decided to fast today.  Interestingly enough, I decided to fast today before I read the post.  Coincidence?  Whatever you need to tell yourself to sleep at night.  I'm comfortable with synchronicity in the universe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dreaming of the Caribbean

We've been contemplating the possibility of cruising in the Caribbean.  Not sure we'll be able to pull it off, but one of the possibilities could connect us with The Brig Unicorn.  You know me and tall ships and cannons.  

The trick is figuring out who will take care of the animals while we're gone.  The cruises I've been looking at are 7-10 days.  That's a long, long time to be away, especially since we'll probably spend two additional days flying.  If all we has was cats I wouldn't think much of it. We could ask someone to just fill up their bowls and maybe clean out the catboxes once.  We'd probably come home to kitty protest puke and unrolled toilet paper everywhere, but hey, they'd forgive us eventually.  The dogs and goats and bunnies ... whole 'nother matter.

We may also take the train to Seattle and from there the ferry to downtown Victoria, stay there for about a week or so.  Far, far less expensive, but unfortunately the time away from home is the same.

I love our dysfunctional farm, but it would be nice to be able to clean the place up, ask someone to pick up our mail and feed the cats, and go without worrying.  Instead there's a good hour or more of work out here between feeding/watering animals if for no other reason that there's a lot of walking around that has to happen plus the dogs will need some attention in the form of catch or just sitting with them and snuggling.  Fortunately the time periods we're looking at won't require hours of garden watering.  It'll be raining and cool in the Pac NW (which would be a downside to going to Victoria except that we don't do that much that's strictly outdoors there.)

In the Caribbean it'll be warm.  Mmm, I close my eyes and remember the tropical skies ... and open them to our local periwinkly-blue and grin, because we live in one of the more beautiful places in the world, and right now it's warm and gorgeous and homey and most of my favorite things are right here.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Prologues.  A lot of people don't read them.  Why not?  Because they're done so badly so often.

My preferences for prologues won't guarantee that a particular prologue done in that style is necessarily going to work, nor are my pet peeves going to set down some magic rule that guarantees all prologues written that way are bad.  I do feel that people who are so dead set against reading them won't be able to provide writers with useful information.  There are good prologues, I've read them, enjoyed them, and the book would be poorer without them.  Unfortunately there are far more prologues that are done really badly and they've poisoned the prologue well.  

So here are my thoughts, in no particular order:

Action blood sweat panic attack!  The issue with this sort of prologue is that 99% of the time the reader doesn't know the characters enough to care about whether they live or die.  Second, they have no idea what the fighting is about, so they don't care who wins or loses.  Also, this kind of prologue screams "everyone is going to die and in chapter one we're going to go visit the real pov character who will be eating breakfast or trimming his/her fingernails."  That's what happens so often that it becomes a cliche' and the readers are so disgusted by it that they never want to read this kind of prologue again.  Even if everyone doesn't die and the next chapter does in fact start with one of the combatants, the reader may not get that far to find out.  They'll have put the book down within two pages because they can't see the story.  There's too much blood in their eyes.  These kinds of openings are often written with the conscious or unconscious reason that the first chapter has nothing exciting going on.  It's a transparent hook, aimed as much or more toward editors than readers to rope them in to buying the book.  Yuck.

Way Back in the Neolithic Period  This is one style of prologue that can work if done right.  This drops the reader into a point in the pov character's past where s/he experiences something life-altering.  Now, if this can be done in the space of backstory peppered through the first part of the book (or even better, throughout the book where we don't see the whole scope of the experience until the emotional climax--rah! Right on!) then don't bother writing this kind of prologue.  However, if there are visual, sensory, cultural, emotional and other experiences that form a kind of self-contained short story in and of itself then you're not going to want to break up that party.  A major clue to whether you need to pepper backstory or write a prologue is if the context of the prologue is immediately necessary--the reader won't know what they're looking at in Chapter One without the prologue and will be utterly confused--you need the prologue.  If the info can wait, pepper that baby.  Finally, if you go back too far--the character is born and egad, it's supposed to be a girl not a boy--you're in danger of boring your reader (because there's absolutely nothing at stake that the reader will care about and also, who is the reader supposed to sympathize with?  Drooly child?)  The reader may dread that you're going to describe every blessed living daily detail.  Also, if you start too far back it's more difficult to connect the young person to the much older person and the reader may not trust you to do that well.  You have to earn the reader's trust and with an iffy prologue you're not off to a good start.  

Concerning Hobbits  This kind of prologue is all setting.  Invariably they are so boring that even faithful prologue readers immediately start skimming.  The big question is the same as in the battle openings.  Who cares?  Where's the story?  What's at stake?  Why am I staring at a tree, or an encyclopedia entry, or the little town of Gerspotten?  It's debatable whether Tolkien got away with it.  If you're a novice writer or even merely unpublished, do yourself a favor and assume you won't get away with it.

Twenty four hours after the book starts...  This one drives me the most dingbats.  This style of prologue isn't introduced this way (or very rarely.)  Chapter One defines this style of prologue retroactively.  We get through the prologue and everything is going swimmingly but then in Chapter One we're hit with (usually in italics) Twenty four hours earlier ...  (Or two weeks earlier, or two years ago, whatever!)  My immediate reaction is to fling the book across the room.  No joke.  Even if I'm wrong I don't care; my expectation is this:  I now know what the climax looks like.  I don't care how we get there.  I don't worry about who is going to make it there or why.  The tension has left the building.  The reader has been cheated because s/he's coming in at the end of the story and many, many of us readers want to wait until the end to find out what happens.  And don't even get me started about the authors who use just the beginning of the end for a prologue and then we have to reread that beginning at the end before we can find out what happens.  Bleh!  It also doesn't help that these sorts of prologues are often another thinly disguised hook written to get the reader hooked enough to get through a boring chapter one that's all set up or a normal boring day or involves a situation so mundane that your reader is wondering when we're going to get to the juicy parts.  On tv shows this is done all the time.  A book is not a tv show.  Besides, I hate those tv series episodes too.  I'm watching X-Files season 2 right now and if I never see another episode start with Mulder or Scully dying of something and then skipping back to two weeks earlier I'll be so happy!  What's really bad about the X-Files episodes that start that way is that if they began without the prologue, I'd still be intrigued by what's going on when the story really begins.  The difference is that I wouldn't be annoyed.

Here's What the Bad Guy is Up To  This is another type of prologue that can work if done well.  The key is to be short and sweet and crystal clear that this is the antagonist while making him/her a believable, fascinating character.  The reason this kind of prologue doesn't work as often as it should is that the bad guy is usually more interesting than the good guy is in chapter one.  Unless your good guy really, really shines in chapter one, don't make him/her pale by comparison to your bad guy by writing a stunning antagonist prologue and then sit your good guy down at breakfast.  K?  Glad we're clear on that.  A major pitfall of this style of opening (and any prologue that doesn't feature the pov or main character) is if your antagonist is sympathetic and fun to read about and suddenly the reader discovers we don't get to read about him/her, we're stuck with this other guy and the reader/author trust has to be rebuilt all over again.  Why do I say trust instead of interest?  Because readers tend to attach to the first characters they read about.  The expectation is that the characters first mentioned are going to be the most important in the book.  If that expectation is broken, then the reader loses a little trust in the author and the author will spend the whole first part of the book showing the reader that s/he will not be jerked around.  Much better to, again, make it crystal clear that we're dealing with the antagonist in the opening so that the reader doesn't get attached in the first place and is looking forward to what the protagonist will be like.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?!  These kind of prologues shouldn't even exist, but they do.  I can't even theorize about what was going through the author's head, or why the editor allowed such a prologue to come to term and rampage around in bookstores everywhere.  They are pure hooks that appear to have absolutely nothing to do with the beginning of the book.  I don't care if they come into the book later.  Don't.  Care!  Weird stuff is going or people we don't know are doing mysterious things or there are voices without any setting talking about the state of the universe or how evil is running rampant or how Thug the Invincible was the last great hero or whatever.  When I read this kind of prologue (assuming I even get through it) and Chapter One has absolutely no connecting element to the prologue--no characters, no setting similarities, nothing to go on at all--I don't even have the energy to throw the book across the room.  I just set it down and if possible never pick it up again until it's time to dust.

So those are my thoughts on prologues.  I'm sure there are other kinds, and subtypes.  I may write about those in the future if I think about them.  But mainly, I hope that by presenting this information someone out there writing a prologue will think hard before they finish it.  Or, if they finish it, will reconsider before including it in the text.  So often prologues are just scaffolding anyway.  Tear it away and let the story stand on its own in all its architectural marvelousness.  You'll know it belongs if you tear it away and oops, you just stripped off the entryway and there's insulation fluttering in the wind ...

Birthday (belated)

Someone I love gets to count an extra year to his life.  

Birthdays are so odd if you think about life as a continuum.  Not to say that they're silly.  They are useful for all kinds of things.  They're the marks on the long tape measure we extend along our time in the world.  But because they're relatively far apart and there's so much cultural (and medical) weight put on them--get your first mammogram at age 35, over-the-hill forty birthdays decked in black with headstones, sweet sixteen, etc.--it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we get older all year long.  We don't suddenly become 28 or 79 or 12.  

So on the one hand, I don't perceive my beloved as being proportionally any older than me, even though my birthday isn't until autumn.  On the other, I recognize that he's passed a markerpost, the day of his birth, and his age can be counted as a precise number of years.  Counting by months, days or hours wouldn't be useful.  Human beings age too slowly and we live too long.  The medical mileposts would be redefined in ways that aren't any more useful than the years measure, and culturally we'd probably miss out on some fun parties (although I could see having a blast at my 1,000,000 hours old party with all the kids and grandkids and greatgrandkids and great great grandkids ...)

I wonder if mayflies tell each other, you still look as good as you did yesterday.

I know he doesn't view aging the same as I do.  He never expected to get this far and aspects of that frustrate him.  His body can't always support his expectations of what he wants to do physically.  He's stronger than he's ever been but the toll he's paid out of his joints has brought him pain.  His shape has changed from lithe and light to powerful and dense.  His mind is broader and sharper than ever and the depth of his experience leaves many in awe of him.  Anyone can have that experience, but they have to be willing to train for it and seek it out and to take the chance that they might not survive it.  Unlike so many human beings, he doesn't claw to hold onto his life as long as possible, nor does he cram death into a box of abstraction.  It will come, to him, to those he loves, and there's no reason to hold back.  To lose his life doing something great and meaningful is much better than avoiding death and doing nothing that matters to him.  It makes him remarkable, though he finds that baffling.  To him, that's the only sensible way to live.

I used to have a devil of a time trying to accommodate what he did and didn't want to do on his birthday (he didn't want to artificially elevate what's otherwise an ordinary day,) but I think I've brought him around.  He always has and always will live on a continuum, but he's discovered the usefulness, not for medicine or culture, but between us and his friends and family, of celebration.  For a moment we can stop to take a breath, and smile, eat some beef jerky and reflect on the past, present and future.  For a moment we can pause and think about how far we've come since the day we were born.  

He's come many miles and breaths and hours and heartbeats since he was born, something the years can't measure in age, but I see it in his eyes.  Birthdays can't touch that.  There's no way to measure the full meaning of his life with a number that so many men reach who've done far, far less, or who've done more.  But it's never about the number.  It's the moment.  And he lives because of this moment, years ago, when his mother gave birth to a son.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Do You Believe in Magic?

Nathan Bransford posted a funny You Tube video on his fabulous and informative blog.  I'm going to be giggling about this one for a while, but you know me, I'm easily amused.

If you're an unpublished writer and your intention is to be published someday, read his FAQ.  I know, I know, it's so much more fun to believe in magic instead of researching and working and icky stuff like that.  Don't we all write for fun?  Isn't this supposed to be one of those happy kind of occupations like wedding planner or Disneyland character where every day you help make people's dreams come true?  What better thing than to write a book that millions will adore?  It's only right that they shower you with money in exchange for the new lease on life you've given them with your mind-altering prose.  Oops, I meant deathless.  Deathless prose.  (It's just not a Kami post without a cliche' or three!  And parenthetical comments.)  How I love writing.  It's so rewarding that after a few weeks on the best seller lists your poo doesn't even stink anymore and the publisher ships you a halo to wear in public.  

You know, I've changed my mind.  Never mind what I said about the FAQ.  BTW, I'm going to be busy reading for the next little stretch.  What, you ask?  Um, nothing.  Really.  I'm just biding my time until the magic happens.


I didn't miss a day of blogging for anything in particular.  I met with my new accountant (yay! she's so wonderful I love her!) and handed over some paperwork, shopped at Costco, watched some X Files with the kids (this is their first time seeing it so it's xtra X filesy fun) and went over some manuscripts that are being critiqued today.  I suppose I was pretty darned busy, but I could have squeezed in a hi how r ya somewhere.  

I'm still stuck on the fight scene in the script, although I'm starting to get some ideas that will raise the stakes and hopefully make for a frightening or at least eerie magical fight.  The boy and I also discussed makeup.  I may have to raise his film budget to $20 instead of zero.

As far as the Lucky Labs meeting today, I will have one of my shorts critiqued.  This is the only one that's home right now so I'm eager to hear the comments, polish it up and ship it out.  I enjoy having them out in the big world instead of locked up in my hard drive where no one will see them.  It motivates me to write more stories, though at the moment the script has my writing time tied up.  

Have I thought about turning the script into a short story?  Only just now.  But it's more of a visual rather than a prose story.  The difference bothers me.  I feel like I'm not doing a good job of layering the visual medium, so I'll have to go back through with that in mind.  It also reveals how much sub plotting and layering I'm used to doing in prose work, and the level of depth I'm used to playing with.  In script form I feel like I'm only able to polish a mirror, while with prose I can step right inside.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Police line do not cross

A long but good day today.  We went to the county fair and did county fair things complete with seeing just about every animal there and eating elephant ears.  I have a bright yellow elastic bracelet that says POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS, the kind that are kind of like giant rubber bands.  I'm sure there's a specific name for that kind of bracelet but I'm not nearly kewl enough to know what it is.  Out of keeping with tradition, we put on enough sunscreen that none of us are sunburnt.

When I got home I put another 20 or so books into my library thing.  I haven't yet finished the books on my computer desk--that's all that this list is so far.  Some of them are reference, some of them are on my to-read pile, some of them are inspiration, and some of them were written by friends of mine so I like to keep those close while I'm writing.  Maybe the magic will rub off.

I'm so tired I'm rocking in my chair, not back and forth, but side to side and not focusing on anything when I'm not typing.  Time to call it a day.  No writing, no reading, but I don't feel like I've slacked off.  If anything, I bet the writing has percolated nicely in the summer sun and tomorrow will be a great writing day.  Unless I sleep through it.  A distinct possibility.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

'Cause I'm a copycat!

A dear friend of mine is recording her library at Library Thing, so naturally I have to too.  I've got all of 21 books entered, not much, but a start and they're the majority of my use-all-the-time how-to writing books.  I'm enjoying rediscovering my book collection (and realizing how big it is) and I'm also feeling a little more secure.  Should the unthinkable happen and our house burns down, assuming we make it out we'll have a head start on replacing some of our things.  

Some of the books, though, will be irreplaceable.  I'm pretty sure there are very, very few people who own The Rules:  A Short Course in The Basics by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  Forget about finding it for sale anywhere.  No ISBN, printed by the now long gone (unfortunately) Pulphouse Publishing, Writer's Notebook Press.  My copy has seen much use and abuse.  On the inside, in pencil, is written $3 new.  That was 18 years ago.  I've outgrown most of the advice but it's still absolutely valid.  I just have it memorized and have no good excuses to not do exactly what's outlined in the chapbook.  For example:  
Rule #1:  You Must Write
Rule #2:  Finish What You Write
Rule #3:  Mail Your Manuscripts
Rule#4:  Keep your manuscripts in the mail
Rule #5:  Repeat rules 1 through 4 at least once a week

This is far from all that's in the book.  There's lots of craft and insight in there crammed into twenty six pages of hard-won experience.

When you're starting out, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's advice is priceless.  I had no idea about this sort of stuff.  It was easily the best $3 I'd ever spent on a writing book.  For the experienced writer, there's a lot of reminders that make you go mmm hmm, uh huh, yeah, I should be doing that right now but the dog ate my homework.  What could I do if I lose it?  I guess I'll have to see if she or her husband have any copies still around, or if it's been folded into a larger work.  Other than that, unless someone bought it, put it away and then aha! found it and decided they didn't love it anymore and put it on ebay, I think I'd be out of luck. 

But then, if there's a disaster, there's inevitably going to be irreplaceable things lost.  I think without Library Thing, I would lose things I didn't realize I had until I started missing them and trying to remember exactly which writing books I had, and why, and how I felt about them.  And art books, and fiction written by my friends and books on science and the classics and all that good stuff.  Besides, it'll be fun to look through my library electronically.  In fact, the next time I'm looking for a book I'm sure we have somewhere, I can just do a search for it, and there it'll be, or not, with the exact color of the cover and maybe even a private note about where I keep it in the house.  Pretty nifty.  So, have a looksy, and if you like it, I won't tell anyone you're just being a copycat.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Making Time

This is the first Tuesday I've missed Fireside writing in a long while.  Well, I guess just a month.  Or maybe three weeks.  More than two weeks straight, anywho. 

And what am I doing?

Straightening out some silly problem our medical insurance is having with keeping track of paperwork.  Dental is a done deal.  Medical?  I dunno.  They dunno.  No one knows who knows.

And, of course, I'm blogging here.  Ah yes, the deadly distractions from writing.  There's only one thing for it.  Finish up my faxing, finish writing this blog entry, and go forth and write.  It's just that easy, and just that hard to work for an opportunity to write.  If I waited for a quiet moment to settle in and type a few words, I'd have zip, zero, nada done.  

Have a good night, everyone.  See ya in the morrow!

Monday, August 04, 2008

We're chilling and green

The verdict is that we still have a refrigerator.  It's even our old refrigerator.  It no longer has a functioning ice maker, but we don't have a water feature in the kitchen any more.  

In garden news, I've whacked back a substantial amount of blackberries and, with some added plantings (mostly donations and stuff I've been growing from seed) the wildflower garden is starting to look more like a perennial garden.  There's some disproportion--plants that were supposed to get 24-36 inches high are still making small mounds, plants that were supposed to be 12-18 inches are exploding, and the shrubs I planted that will eventually be, depending on the type, anywhere from 12-20 feet tall are still only knee high and getting buried.  But, you know, in a few years the place will look like a million bucks.  Which is good, because if I were paying myself wages that would be about what I'd owe myself by then.

Tomorrow I have a girly checkup with my doc.  I'd planned on going to the Fireside writing thing but the appointment falls at kind of an inconvenient time, so I think I'll stay home tomorrow and bask in the house of operational appliances.  At least I hope they'll all be operational ...

You gotta be kidding me

The refrigerator is leaking.  The appliance guy will be here later today to fix what he believes is a problem with the defrost drain.
You know, I mentioned that on the (seemingly more unlikely) day that I remodel the kitchen the only appliance I'm interested in replacing is the refrigerator.  I also mentioned that I wanted a new washer and drier, and noted that because the pump is so noisy it'll probably go out soon and need to be replaced.  Guess what's all died recently?  Is the washer next?

I would like to now make an announcement.
Everything in this house is fine.  We don't need anything new here.  What we have is serviceable and fine and I'd like to continue to use it please.  Thank you!

Unfortunately I have been talking about putting in hardwood floors, replacing some of the furniture and, eventually, the tv.  Anyone want to take bets on what breaks or goes bad next?!  Gah!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Flash Review

I've been plugging Flash Fiction Online for a while now, so all y'all know to expect this.  It's the beginning of the month therefore Kami will jump behind the pulpit and shake her fist at all you sinners, especially the ones that don't read enough, and preach that you go forth and read some flash.  
This edition has a story that got under my skin.  I've enjoyed plenty of stories, including Jeff Soesbe's "Apologies All Around" and William Highsmith's "Copper Boss" and others I won't go on naming because everyone's going to have their own favorites.  But for whatever reason Elizabeth Creith's "Stone the Crows" spoke to me on a deep level.  I could analyze why, come up with a pretty quick answer, but that won't serve any purpose.  Instead I'd like to remind folks that if they don't read, they won't get a chance to connect with stories that will enrich their lives or confirm (or inform them about or change) their beliefs or bring them rare pleasure, the kind that makes you feel like you haven't smiled for a long time and suddenly you're lit up inside like a star.  I'd also like to remind writers, including myself, that communicating with the reader is ultimately what it's about, at least for me.  
If I was writing just for myself, I'd never try to publish a thing.  I'm not inclined to masturbate in public or heal myself through writing therapy, though it doesn't bother me if someone else wants to do that.  I'm trying to reach others by shaping my soul into words or into colors on paper and canvas.  Maybe someday I'll actually touch a wide audience.  That'll be an amazing day.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Going to the Fair

After some more fixes around the house by the plumber, we've settled into debt, er, I mean our new water-cushy environs nicely.  The girl suggested county fair therapy, so sometime this week we'll go look at cows and goats and chickens and geese and ducks and turkeys and sheep and horses and beefalo and pigs and llamas and alpacas and bunnies and guinea pigs and bees and booths and displays and contests and art and photography and plants and crafts and farm equipment and rodeo stuff and listen to music and generally have a good time.  

Going to the fair was never a thing we did when I was a kid.  I think I visited one fair briefly with a friend who went to see another friend who was showing goats.  Nowadays it wouldn't feel like summer without going to at least one fair.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe it's a gawking thing.  Maybe I enjoy discovering what the kids are interested in.  Maybe it's seeing what other farm people are up to, though obviously not everyone who participates is into farming.  Probably it's all of the above and more.

County fairs are pretty complicated places.  The layers of people who attend and why and the history and traditions--it's an intense confluence.  If I could get that kind of complexity in my books and still maintain that sense of unity--the fair--that would really be something.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Water water everywhere

We have water!  Yay!

And, it rained today.

It's been a long time since I've dealt with water that smelled like chlorine.  We won't be drinking the water until we get it tested, but it's running clear and I feel okay about giving it to the goats and watering plants with it and such.  I'll probably take a water sample to the county testing folks on Monday.  By then I expect the chlorine levels will have dropped a lot and the sample will have something to show other than 'has lots of chlorine and minerals."