Monday, September 29, 2008

Still Painting

If you've ever worked with stencils, then you know.  They seem like such a simple, elegant, easy thing to do.  Everything from conception to cutting them out to execution is simple.  Right?

Of course!  Which is why I decided (shut up, stop laughing at me!) that I could take a stencil from a book about stenciling I got quite some time ago, modify it (I can still hear you laughing) to get rid of the fleur de lis and add ivy leaves (spades if you prefer though I deliberately made the leaf asymmetrical) and lay it out properly.  You see, in the original it wasn't even.  It was wider than it was long, which wasn't a big deal, but when you folded it in half either way, it was crooked.  So I straightened it all out.  It only took, oh, about two hours working with a ruler and a curved edge.  And now I'm in the midst of slicing it out with a razor.  The best part?  I won't be done when I'm finished cutting it out.  No, that's just the beginning.  I have to treat the watercolor paper so that it doesn't absorb too much moisture and warp.  And then I have to actually tape this thing up, stencil it on, move it down to the next marked spot and stencil again.  All the way around the room.  Well, okay, I can skip the wall with the oh-my-gawds-what-were-they-thinking glue-on paneling that's peeling off now.  (I have plans for that wall later.)

Real artists use acetate and a hot acetate cutting thingy to cut out a stencil.  I don't have acetate and a hot acetate cutting thingy, so I'm doing this the old-fashioned way, the way they used to do it before acetate.

Wish me luck.  I'm gonna need it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Project apace

I'm painting.  There's paint, there's brushes, there's paint pans, there are cats everywhere.  Carey supervised for a while but got bored.  The other cats come and go, mostly when they think they're most likely to get away with shedding hair on a wet wall.  

These are some pics of the crappy first coat.

Actually, the trim has two coats, so it's in the pretty good coat stage.  I don't think a third coat will be necessary.  Trim paint is quite a bit denser than wall paint.  

The other walls will be about the same brightness as they are now, but warmer.  Think pale peach.  In retrospect I probably could have gotten away with a much darker peach, but sometimes we don't learn these kinds of things until we get home.  I can live with pale peach.  Right now they're a cold, grayish white.  Obviously the pic shows the walls as being warmer and more yellow than they actually are.

That teal wall will have IKEA shelves over it eventually so it won't be unrelenting TEAL like it is now.  But I like it dark.  It definitely adds character to the room.

And, for my next trick, I will continue to paint the walls.  It's like magic, only it's slow and messy.  Oh, wait, magic is slow and messy.  NM, it's just like magic.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paint? Not yet

Today has been prep day for painting (wall kind, not fine art kind.)  I was hoping to get some actual paint on the walls today, but it's almost 1am local time here and I've just finished filling in all the holes in the wall.

I may do some hand-painted details around the room after the regular paint is up, if I'm feeling brave.  Stuff like that is notoriously tricky, so I'm not planning anything really big or dramatic--maybe some leaves around light switches and such.  If I didn't have so many other writing and art projects on my list, I might plan out a trompe l'oeil on the section of wall between the sliding glass door and the big window.  In particular I'd love to do an ivy plant growing out of a Green Man pot with maybe a butterfly on one of the leaves and probably a caterpillar or two.

With those sorts of things it's best to first make a master sketch that you then guard with your life so that if it works out you can use it over and over again.  You transfer the master sketch onto canvas or, preferably, a board painted with the same latex you have painted on the wall as a ground.  You then paint your subject in oils if you have an oil-based paint on the wall or acrylics if it's latex, taking notes and/or pics as you go along.  If you're satisfied with your project, you then transfer the sketch onto the wall and paint it step by step (skipping any errors and making improvements as you can) and then you can sell the painting on the canvas or board.  If it didn't turn out, you shouldn't put it on the wall!  Just paint over the board or canvas and start again.  It's much less aggravating  perfecting your project on a board than making a mistake on the wall, especially since trompe l'oeils are notoriously hard to cover.  It's doable, but you have to treat it just like dark paint on the wall--a couple of coats of primer, and then two or three coats of your wall paint.  Why are they tough to cover?  Because even really good paint is just a wee bit translucent.  With a monocolor on a wall, there may be some of the underlying color showing through your paint, but not enough to notice anything but the most overt change in hue from your paint chip.  When there's a pattern, though, the eye is really good at picking up subtle variations in a monotone and you'll see just that hint of pattern under the paint unless you have enough pigment to cover the pattern so the eye can no longer detect it.

By the way, there's a particularly wonderful Green Man here, though it's not my favorite so far.  My favorite was created by my good friend Roz, and it's hanging on her wall at her house.  I've yet to find one that equals the depth of emotion and expression.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


The downstairs is nearly cleared out.  Time to paint the walls.  No, we're not set up for Halloween.  Those are real cobwebs.  And yes, we haven't vacuumed in a while.  I'll never go hungry, er, I mean, vacuum the downstairs again!

Carey is still settling in.  She feels crummy today, I'm sure, recovering from her distemper and upper respiratory battery inoculation and her gigantic shot to get the microchip in place.  That thing was almost the size of a drinking straw.  I kid you not.

Catching up on meme stuff.  Unfortunately I accidentally deleted the photo I took on the night I found the meme on Yeff's blog (it really was an accident!) but to make up for it I found a rare pic of me with glasses that I took to test Photo Booth when I got this computer back from the shop.  BTW, they did end up replacing the logic board.  So I wasn't going crazy.  Or, at least that doesn't provide ample evidence if I am.  Everything is working swimmingly now.  Finally!  Anyway, here's the meme instructions:  Take a picture of yourself right now. Don’t change your clothes. Don’t fix your hair. Just take a picture. Post that picture with no editing. (Except maybe to get the image size down to something reasonable. Don’t go posting an eight megapixel image.) Include these instructions.

I'll have writing news some time next week if not earlier.  In the meantime, I'm working on finishing my submission for WotF.  Once that's done then yay! I can finally work on editing Masks.  This will be the best edit evah thanks to the Lucky Labs and INK.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Exceptional Films

Steve Barnes recently posed a question on his blog.  I started to get wordy with my response, so I decided to crop it and continue my thoughts here.

The question was:  What would be your vote for Greatest Movie, especially from the perspective of studying film?

You all know me.  I have lots of favorites, which means I'd have lots of votes and so it would be really hard to pin down one.  I ultimately went with Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)

Someone posted Secondhand Lions.  So I responded--

Secondhand Lions would be close to the top of my list too! Really excellent writing and acting in that one. Casablanca has also already been mentioned. Cyrano de Bergerac (1990) with Depardieu is masterful on so many levels--character focus, sets, lighting, acting, music, extras, choreography -- even the level of craft in the subtitles is incredible. I've probably watched it a hundred times and it amazes me every time. Curse of the Golden Flower--except I felt the spilled poison on the tapestry end wasn't quite right. Maybe I'm too western to appreciate it. It just wasn't quite enough. Galaxy Quest. A lot of excellent elements came together to make this one of the most appreciated genre films out there. Part of its genius is that it knows its audience and plays both the positive and negative sides of the culture to its complete advantage. And, I hate to say it, but Dude, Where's My Car from both an entertainment and craft perspective is scarily amazing. I was very resistant to watching it the first time and sat down in total resignation. And was blown away. I dunno. Maybe my expectations were so low ... someone tell me I'm crazy! It was particularly masterful with its reveals and the level of plot acceleration. Chocolat, Forrest Gump, Kung Fu Hustle and Spirited Away are also amazing and I think they teach a lot about storytelling and visual presentation.  

There are six other films that stand out very strongly in my mind, but I believe it's mainly due to subject matter although craft certainly played a role. The LotRs trilogy, Schindler's List, Braveheart and Lion in Winter. Since the subject matter is so compelling to me I can't look at these films rationally.  

Schindler's List and Braveheart fall into a separate category with Pillow Book of films I love but can't rewatch. Actually, I rewatched Braveheart on DVD when we bought it, didn't regret it, but still can't make myself watch it again. It's too hard. I can't even own Schindler's List or Pillow Book. I'm such a wuss.

On the flip side, there's a film everyone loves and I could barely sit through it. The only reason I did was because it was part of a double feature and Casablanca was the second feature. (It was worth it.) That's Fargo. Ugh. No, double ugh.  In my mind it had no redeeming qualities. None.

I'm more in the norm with considering Brokeback Mountain not all it was cracked up to be. It was groundbreaking but not an exceptional film. Lots of missed opportunities in dialogue, storytelling, and overall film craft. I'm glad it made a splash, but I've seen much, much better on equally difficult subjects and I don't think it deserved most of the awards it got. If there was an award for "Should Have Been Mainstream A Long Time Ago" then it should have won that one, hands down. I fear that future generations will consider all the awards given to Brokeback Mountain the cinematic award equivalent of a pity f*ck.

So how 'bout it? From not just a good time perspective or made me cry perspective or made me rewind it three times because I couldn't believe what I was seeing perspective but that critical craftsmanship perspective where, if it's not perfect you can see perfection easily within its grasp--what's your list of outstanding films? Any recent ones, like The Dark Knight stands out for me, that stand out for you?

It's Grey and it's not my fault blame C.S.

I'm taking a kitty in to the vet tomorrow to get it tested for feline leukemia and for shots and probable treatment of ear mites and fleas.  She (we think) may also need to be spayed (neutered?)

What, what's this you ask?

It's not a new kitty.  Really.  It's ... it's a big mouse, that's what it is.  Did I say kitty?  Silly me.  Definitely a mouse, with grey fur and white whiskers and a white bib and cute little ears and a fluffy tail and big, er, I mean beady green eyes.  Totally a mouse.  Ha ha ha, you know us, always naming our animals after other animals, like the goat named Llama, and ... the goat named llama.  Oh, oh yeah, and the goat named Skunk!  So this is a cat named mouse, er, I mean, a mouse named Carey, er, I mean of course we didn't name it.  

In fact there's no cat or mouse here.  I don't know what you're talking about.  La la la I'm not listening!

I'm real tired all of a sudden.  I'm going to bed.  ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzz

Monday, September 22, 2008

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

I'm very excited to report that my short fantasy "Strangers Think They Know Me," won an Honorable Mention at Writers and Illustrators of the Future.  You have no idea the amount of self-restraint it's taking not to apply exclamation points all over the place.  

Thank you C.S. for the heads up.  I hadn't checked the blog today because it's an art day.  Or supposed to be.  I'm still setting up and it's already 3pm.  I'm also prepared for editing tonight.  I'm working on a short story that's requiring some serious finesse.  I thought I wrote exactly what it needed yesterday, but by the morning light reality set in and now I have to take it in a slightly different direction.

But art procrastination and editing worries aside, congratulations to all the folks who got an honorable mention, and good luck to the finalists.


It's only one, innocent, harmless exclamation point.  And honestly, that exclamation point may be more eloquent than all the rest of my blah blah blah.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Critique

The stack of papers is six inches high, and that doesn't count the spiral notebook.  

What's in this stack?

Hours, hundreds of man hours of work.  My writing, my heart, and the hearts, dedication and generosity of the people who critiqued Masks.  They went over the whole darned thing, every page.  Some of the manuscripts have every page marked.  Hundreds of pages.  That represents a tremendous amount of effort and stick-with-it.  I'm so humbled, and grateful.

And excited!

The critique today was impressive on many levels.  Everyone was insightful, thorough, well spoken.  And everyone was so passionate!  I didn't get the feeling from anyone that this was a wearying exercise in endurance.  If it was, they faked it well.  With some critiques lasting into the ten minute range, and nine of us altogether (if I'm counting right) that's over an hour in critiques and then me asking questions for who knows how long afterward about some tough editorial choices I had to make.  I wouldn't be surprised if the group spent two solid hours working with me on this.  Again, I'm humbled and grateful.

I'm especially grateful because they gave me so many fabulous ideas and gave me a good idea of where the work fell down.  I got the impression that it didn't fall down too far too often, but I think if I address the issues they brought up it will really shine.  

That's what it's all about!  Now I've got to turn myself about.  Or something like that.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's a good, smiling kind of morning

Someone has taken the age old question of why the chicken has crossed the road to a new level.  This was posted on Budoseek, a martial arts forum, in their lounge.  Enjoy!  

I may have some good writing news soon.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Procrastination Bites

I'm hitting the final stages of the office tiling.  This is where I expected to hit a few snags, and I did.  

One really bad thing about procrastinating on finishing a job like, for example, knitting a sweater, is that if you pick that project back up and find you don't have enough yarn--good luck finding the same dye lot.  And so it is with tiling.  I had to match grout and tile.  The grout, eh, linen is a common color and even if it's a tiny bit off, as the floor ages a minor color difference will not show.  And if it's really annoying, I can probably find something that will stain or otherwise color it.  Tile ... that's more difficult.

They'd just put the bullnose in the size and color I needed (3x10, almond romance) on clearance.  In July.  All gone.  All of it.  But, they had some lovely 10x12, in the same color, with a pretty emblem in the center, still available (also on clearance.)  Clearance doesn't mean savings, alas.  It was pretty expensive compared to the 3x10.  Not only that, but I have to bevel a bullnose onto the tile and then paint the bevel the correct color.  I'm hoping to find some enamel that will work on ceramic and be pretty durable.  The only bonus to this is that I'll have twenty really neat 6x10 tile with emblems that I plan to use on an outdoor project in concert with the remaining twelve whole floor tiles I have left over and some tile we inherited from a family member downsizing into a new house.  

The floor tile I bought plenty of when I initially measured the office project.  Why I didn't buy another box of bullnose, I'll never know.  Oh wait, I remember now.  I thought they were kind of expensive and I wanted to wait until the next paycheck, and besides, I wanted to re-measure the remaining wall to get a close estimate of how many I'd need.  

I'm reminding myself not to do that sort of foolish thinking ever again.  I saved zilcho dollars and cost myself probably $20 over what I would have paid for the right tile.  Ugh!

I've never seen a zucchini like this before.  Ooo la la, baby!  It's probably a pretty common mutation, but it's my first one so I think it's neat.

I fed both of these to the goats.  They're oversized.  My zucchini plants are producing big fruit this year--10-12" still has tiny, immature seeds--but these are just a little too big to be really yummy.

The goats liked them, though.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Give it away

I know times are tough, especially for folks who are living paycheck to paycheck.  Gas prices, food prices, air-we-breathe prices are rising and the salary isn't keeping up, if you're so lucky as to have a salary.

But it's harder to get by for the folks who provide valuable services for us too.  It's harder for charities, harder for artists, harder for contractors and yes, it's harder for people running websites like  So quit yer whining about how tough things are--it's tough all around--and donate even if it's a tiny bit to the people who do stuff that's important to you when there's something like a fund drive, or if it's a free monthly online magazine like Flash Fiction Online.  It's free to you, but not to them.  

If you're not a reader or a writer but you love animals and care about their welfare, think about donating to a shelter.  Pet food and supplies prices (as those of us with animals know) are going up too, which makes it that much harder for local humane societies and no-kill shelters.  

Or pick whatever websites or 'free' services you use or causes you care about.  Don't feel guilty, please.  Don't feel pressured.  Just look around and see if you have a dollar.  Skip the latte or the bag of potato chips or decide to drink water instead of pop for a couple of days.  When money is tight, it's the financially wise thing to do.  

At this point you're thinking huh?  But seriously.  When your budget sucks and you're tearing your hair out, chances you're looking at how much money is flowing out of your hands.  When  you start looking at who else is struggling, a mental shift begins to occur.  You start thinking about how much you have, how lucky you are compared to, say, folks living in Galveston.  And when you start to look for money to help, good grief, there it is!  You're overdrawn, you have credit card debt but there's a friggin' dollar in your car, or there's stuff in your garage that you haven't looked at in years that you could sell at a garage sale--advertise 25% of proceeds will go to charity X.  You may think hey, I'll give up pre-processed, pre-packaged food three days a week, ease up on my grocery bills that way, and in celebration of this decision I'll donate two bucks to the rotary club so that they can send books to Cambodia.

This is why just about every financial advice book I've read strongly suggests giving to charities even when times are tough, be it someone with lots of fame and hype like Suze Orman, or my very own accountant (I love you LaVerne!)  That mindset shift is critical in order to reduce unnecessary expenses without feeling impoverished.  If you feel like you're denying yourself and spiraling under, just like a diet you'll eventually rebound and binge.  If you feel like you have money to give away (or you don't have to starve yourself) you're more likely to meet your financial goals.

If it's a non-profit charitable organization you can take it off your taxes (bonus!) or, as in my case, if it's part of the cost of doing business you can probably take it off as a business expense (check with tax law before making this assumption.)  Even if it doesn't, it'll do you good.  So think on it, choose wisely (please don't buy a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness--donate directly to the charity) and scrape up some change.  Today!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are my teeth showing?

When Wizard is in touch with his inner tiger his canines show and he gets this expression similar to a smile.  I think I might be in touch with my inner tiger right now because I feel the teeth starting to poke.

I got an 185 word bio today.  Upper limit for bios is 150 words.  She said that she couldn't make her bio fit--so much to say, so little room because she's an artist and a writer.  Ahem.  

Ma'am, if you're reading this, I mean this in a loving way.

I sent a gentle email with some gentle suggestions back to the author.  Trimming 35 words took me about as many seconds.  Changing word order.  Removing parenthetical comments.  I did take out two things that might have been valuable.  I'm sure she wanted to include how many books she had written in her two unpublished series.  But whether it's four or twenty, they're unpublished and that's where reader interest will end.  They have no access to these books for perusal, nor will twenty make more of an impression of expertise than two if they haven't been vetted in the market.  Editors will not inquire after them.  Agents will not care.  If she wants to plug 'em, she'll have to market them the way we all market our fiction. 

I removed unnecessary articles, over-descriptions ('near' replaces '20 miles west of' quite nicely) shortened middle school level to middle school, young adult to YA, removed poor from poor rural white trash, and so on.

I don't mind doing this, even if it means she's going to scream at me for touching her writing.  But.  If you're going to put a bio out into the world, whether it's to an agent, publisher, magazine, what have you, make golden statues of the gawd Economy and worship it.  Bounce it off of a few friends or a critique group just as you would any other writing.  And for pity's sake don't go over the word limit.  

As for the parenthetical comments, none of them belonged in a professional bio.  Relatively unpublished (one short story) writers plugging unpublished series of books should avoid bloat and cute parenthetical comments in their bios.  Editors will run away.  Trust me.  It's okay in a blog (at least I think so) and casual correspondence, but this bio will represent her as a professional on the website and in the souvenir books forever.  It should be taken as seriously as her writing, and based on that it looks like she doesn't take her writing seriously.

And therein may be the problem.  The assumption that editors and agents will make is that if you have a bloated bio, you're a bloated writer in general.  So be careful when you compose those bios.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How Many Words Will I Have to Eat?

I wrote about 2600 words in bed last night on that high fantasy idea that attacked my brain recently.  I'd be all proud of me except I know that's a drop in the bucket compared to what kind of volume I'll probably be expected to write at the master's class.

Am I going to panic and decide I can't do it?  Nah.  Am I going to stress and fret?  Not much point.  Will I practice on bringing up my word count during my writing sessions?  Maybe.  Probably not a whole lot.  Volume is not the whole game.  It's an essential part of it, but so is quality.  Not just quality of prose/words either, but quality of the idea.  Mark Twain's frequently quoted words on the matter are, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."  But I'll write as quickly as I can without making myself crazy.  There are neat things that happen when a writer writes quickly under a deadline.  Lessons are learned.  Wacky ideas that wouldn't otherwise make it onto the page are thrown in out of desperation and sometimes work out to be that unexpected twist that makes some stories not only work, but shine.  And other stuff and things.

If I'm asked to write, say, 10,000 words by the following day on my project, I believe I'll be able to do that.  I can time myself periodically between now and then to figure out about how long it'll take me to complete a given word count.  Knowing will help keep my stress level down and my nose to the grindstone--I won't keep checking the clock or wondering how long it'll take.  I'll have a good idea how long it will take and whether I can afford things like breaks for a snack and water or to go pee.

Because it's the little distractions in life that keep a person from writing.  Seriously.  The inner critic, the snack monster, pets, television, research that turns into plain ol' reading for entertainment for weeks on end or surfing on the web for an image of a man that looks exactly like your leading man in the book (I've been guilty of this!)  And, very much like an insomniac that keeps looking at the clock and calculating how little sleep he'll get before he has to get up to go to work, worrying about how long it'll take me to get to a particular word count and how much time I have left to complete it will keep me from writing effectively.

Fortunately overall distractions at the master's class will be at an all time low for me and everyone else.  Except for one key thing.

All the wonderful people that'll be in the house!  I love to socialize.  I may have to tie a ribbon to my rings to remind me to shut up and write.  And I'll be thinking a lot about my family.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Getting to the end

I'm thinking about a new high fantasy, possibly a short story.  I hope it's a short story.  I've got too many novels going right now in various drafts to add another one.  I have to be especially picky about what I'm writing right now because Nanowrimo will be here before we know it.  I'm not sure what my Nano project will be this year, but it'll be something novel-ish.  I have a couple of non-fiction things in mind--continuation of the sex book, a book on family life with high functioning autistic kids, and my experiences as a modern grass widow with comparisons to the way it used to be.

Then there's fiction.  Since 50,000 words isn't a novel length work, I have no moral problem with picking up at, say, chapter 12 or whatever and writing from there all month, hopefully to the end.  So that puts the sequel to Masks on the table.  I could start on the third book in the series, but that would be tough to do without having the end nailed down.  That's one of the downsides of writing without an outline.  I'm also always open to starting something completely new.  I had a lot of fun with my last two Nanos and, though I haven't had time to do anything with them yet, I wouldn't mind adding another book to my rough draft pile for editing later.  I used to fuss and protest having a deep pile of books in rough draft form, but I've realized that this way I can pick and choose only my favorite ones to finish.  It's okay if I never get to the other ones.  There's no rule that says I have to finish every rough draft I write.

Having said that, though, if it becomes a habit to write a rough draft and never do anything with it, I'll have to make myself do it.  So far that hasn't been a problem, though.  I don't think.

I don't know!

It doesn't matter.  My office will be ready to grout soon, and then I can edge it, grout the edging, and be done, done forever!  Mwa ha ha!  Before I grout, though, sadly I'll have to give all the bordering tiles and grout a thorough cleaning.  I hate that.  That's one of many problems with stopping partway in a tile job.  While the project is languishing, dust, dirt, sweat, blood and other stuff accumulates and has to be completely removed before you can finish the final sections.  So if you decide to tile, I recommend doing it all at once if at all possible.

Same with writing a rough draft.  It's really tough to pick up a project that's written partway and then left alone in a corner to collect dust.  If at all possible, finish the rough draft of a novel within a few months.  Then it can languish for as long as you want it to with no harm done.

Good luck everyone with projects you're in the midst of.  

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cut to black

Chatted on the phone today (actually, talked my poor friend's ear off!) and discussed, among many other things, writing (of course) and art.

It always amazes me how useful it is to compare painting and writing.  Everything from contrast to negative space can be applied in a teaching way to writing.  Knowing this, I shouldn't have really been surprised when I described a technique for preserving the best parts of a painting and painting the rest black and C.S. came back with how someone could do that in writing.  But instead of painting in black around the preserved areas, a writer could link the best portions of a story with fresh writing.

I have to try this.  I have just the story I want to do this with, too. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The prep that never ends

The kitteh is tearing around the house like a maniac.  I wonder if she does this as a way to blow off steam when things aren't going her way.  Right now the thing that's not going her way is that mom isn't going to bed.  Bedtime means pouncing things that move under the blankets, tunneling in blankets, playing king of the bed with other cats and then a good long nap.  And of course in the morning there's the races back and forth across the bed to look forward to.

I know how she feels.  I still haven't had time to write much and it's making me restless.  No letting up on the schedule tomorrow, either.  I have a bunch of tile to mortar in.  It's all cut and looks dandy, but I had to take a break from tiling to clear out as much as I could of the downstairs.  Why?  Because I had an offer of help, and snagged it.  We worked from about 10am until about 4.  There are still a few more things, but nothing the kids and I can't do in a relatively short amount of time.

If I get the tile mortared in fairly quickly I may have some writing time.  The good thing about all this waiting is that my dreams are becoming very vivid (I seldom have vivid dreams when I'm writing) and I'm very eager to get back to writing.  This is a good combination for the generation of some short stories.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Barn it!

My barn, the Siberia of the Miller Household.  Neighbor's house not included.

I'm so grateful that we have a gigantic truck.  It's full again of stuff for the dump.  Some of the stuff is out of the house, but most of it is out of the barn.

For those of you who haven't had a barn before--OMG.  They're wonderful, but they do tend to fill up.  It's very easy to get into the habit of sending things that you don't want to deal with right now to the barn.  It's sort of a Siberia for the private land owner.  "I don't know what to do with those boxes--oh, just take them to the barn for now."  "Lawnmower isn't working?  Um, put it out in the barn, we'll fix it later."  "Gah!  Stop fighting you two!! Okay, that's it, both of you, go to the barn!"  

I need to send me to the barn.  I haven't written a thing in a couple of days and I have stuff I have to get done, the main thing being finishing a couple of polishes so that I can get a couple of stories out.  Yes, I now have completed stories that could be sitting in slush piles but instead are languishing on my hard drive.  Bad Kami!  Bad!  Go to the barn and don't come back until you're ready to apologize.

Oh, wait, already did that, and I filled up my truck with boxes that I didn't want to deal with at the time.  Well, huh.  Guess I just have to say sorry, and get back to writing.  Just don't send me to the barn again!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bunnies Gone Wild!

Cleaned the bunny cage today.  It was long overdue.  The girl cleans inside and under it regularly but every once in a while you just have to turn the thing on its side and bang on it with a shovel.

While this was going on, the kids took the bunnies into the goat pasture and turned them loose.  They are so, so cute when they run around in the grass.  I have to say, though, that they're dreadfully out of shape.  I've got to get that bunny run finished (in my copious spare time.)

Next time we let them out for a run I'll take a camera with me.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The lair of the garbage monster

Today for our ~fun~ thing to do we cleaned out part of the garage.  I kept Freudian slipping, too.  "Hey kids, let's get our stuff and go out to the garbage, er, I mean garage ..."  "When we're done in the garbage, er, I mean garage, we can temporarily move all the furniture from downstairs in here until the floors are done."  And so on.

We entered the lair, gloved and hatted, and started picking through.  Very scary stuff.  Broken glass.  Piles of cardboard and papers filled with spiders.  Ancient and chewed rugs and mats.  Broken toys.  Deceased furniture.  Weird, rusted items bent beyond recognition.    

One pickup load  dumped at the transfer station.  Tomorrow the stove and refrigerator, if we're strong enough to move them, will also go along with some junkety junk that's accumulated downstairs.  The rule--if no one would buy it at a garage sale even for a nickel, it goes to the dump.  The cool part of this is not only is the house going to be a fabulous haven over the winter all cleaned out and spiffified, but we'll be able to hold a garage sale (soon I hope!) actually inside the garage.  How weird is that?!

My poor kids, slaving away all weekend.  I'm bribing them and salving my guilt in one brilliant move--chocolate for everyone.

Project news:
Anyone who's local who'd like to learn how to lay tile is welcome to come over and help me.  It's messy and time consuming but easy work.  I'm using big tile so it's not as time consuming as, say, 4" or smaller tiles, and there's no pattern so the cutting is just to meet the dimensions of the room, not to make things pretty.  I'm hoping to get started on tiling, and if I'm quick I'll finish tiling, on Monday.  Really rough guesstimate, it looks like about 3-4 hours of work left to do on the floor and probably another 2-3 hours on edging, which is also tile.

I started on a new short story last night.  I don't get short story ideas very often so I had to jump on it before it went away.  It was very different typing on the laptop in the bedroom rather than in my office, different in a good way.  I felt like a hunter stalking my imaginary prey, on my belly with my shoulders hunched.  Not something I'd want to do for a super long time, but it was fun for an hour.

Friday, September 05, 2008

What am I, plus I hope it wins!

If you know what this is, let me know.  My guess is that it's a wing from a wind power generator.  Not far behind this item was something mechanical -- also gigantic, cylindrical, with what looked like pistons ringing the outside.  

Notice that this is a custom trailer.  The trailer is also gigantic.  Hard to convey the scope of this baby.  I couldn't get it all in the pic, mainly because I was driving.  I know, I know, bad Kami--this is my first and probably last pic taken while driving.  I wouldn't have taken it if I thought it was unsafe.  You know me--safety first.

Except, oops, I almost forgot I took those pics of that fire.  But I'm done now, really.

Email is all good now.  The desktop is back on the desktop and my laptop is in a good locale for laptops--upstairs where there are cushy chairs to write in.

I've fooled around with computers long enough.  Now I really, seriously need to get stuff done inside and outside of the house.

BTW, congrats (a bit late, I've known about this for a couple days) to the Writers of the Future Honorable Mentions!  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Blog: Honorable Mentions - 2nd Set for the 3rd Quarter.  My story is still in the running, though that may be a technicality more than something to be hopeful about--it could just be at the bottom of someone's slush box.  Still, I'm very excited by the possibility that I might at least make honorable mention this time.  I'm a lousy judge of my own stories, but this is a favorite of mine and I hope it does well.

I hope it wins!!

Oops, did I say that with my outside voice?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Redecorating my software

The Jasmine mini-me is dead, long live Lark!

Actually, I've been calling the laptop Lark from the beginning, but now it's definitely come into its own.  Which means I'll be calling Easystreet again.  I was sadly disappointed to find that their set up page for email is still woefully blank.  I know they're busy.  But dang!

Just as well.  I like talking to the techs.  Especially on Sundays.  The tech says it's odd for him to get more than four phone calls for his Sunday shift.  But I'll be calling on a Friday, so I may have to wait for a little bit.  I'll see if I can get him to email me the set up so I can print it out and put it in my binder of all things netty.  I tend to write down the protocols only spottily while the tech is directing me around, because I'm busy typing and I handwrite slowly.  And then, inevitably, I lose the paper I wrote on.  Maybe this time I'll get smart and just open a Word doc and type it out on the confuter itself.

It occurs to me that the page may be void of relevant data because it would just make it that much easier for hackers.  So maybe it's deliberate.  But then they shouldn't tease us poor users with a setup link!

In the meantime I'm stuck on webmail.  Bleh.  At least it's lightning quick for sending and receiving email, even ones with big attachments.  It's almost like I'm not on dialup.  It even uploads my attachments super-fast.  Weird.  But good.

Tomorrow, I'll give myself time to play between paying bills and helping with programming to put up a new desktop image and all that.  But I won't spend too much time on it.  Have to budget time for writing too, and housework, and gardening.  It's that time of year to get all the duckies in a row, because it's no fun clearing out the garden or taking trash to the dump in cold, wet rain.

Retreat of the Clone and book-colored glasses

Now that I've got Jasmine back (yay! stupid optical drive ...) I can declone Lark.  I'm not a big fan of keeping financial information on a laptop, so I won't reload that, and I don't plan on having 10,000 images or how ever many I have now on Lark either.  Lark will mainly be for writing, and Jasmine will mainly be for all other things biz like financial stuff, tracking subs and serving as my art-focus computer (plus serve as an occasional school confuter for the kids--this way when they need internet access for research I can still write.  They have their own confuters but they don't have internet access on them.) I can also manage my husband's biz on Jasmine.  He will remain a very busy boy.

Much as it was cute and fun to have a Jasmine mini-me, I'm ready to start with fresh data. Now the trick is to get everything that has changed since Lark became a clone transferred onto Jasmine.  A tech at the Power Mac Pac showed me how to temporarily lobotomize Lark (turn him into a hard drive!) so that I can sort through the files without interference from software and see exactly what's been modified and created since Lark's birth.  Then I can firewire that stuff over.

This is a very kewl trick and I'm excited to try it out.  I'll be glad when it's over, though.  I have a new short story I'm in the middle of and I'm going to take a shot at writing a dark SF flash.  Deadlines loom.  The novel WIP is whining for attention, too.  I'm normally a bit more casual about these sorts of things (except deadlines--I'll sweat to meet them) but I was inspired by Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki to look at my writing in a whole new way.  (Read my review here.)  Hey, I will take just about any inspiration to light a fire under my backside when it comes to writing.  

I think my insanity is once again confirmed.  I can read a book on financial intelligence and immediately my brain feeds back with an idea with how to approach my books.  Rose-colored glasses makes the world look safer and kinder.  What color are the glasses that make the world filter into a writer's perspective?  I say they're actually clear, but they have these translucent arrows all over them that point at story ideas.  Each arrow is tinged a color based on genre.  The end result is a psychotic hummingbird's idea of a basket weave of arrows, making the glasses appear to have an pearly coating.

Maybe horror writers live in the near-black arrow riddled world of shadowed arrows where the very air generates a story idea of terror.  Fear them.  They live in the dark.  Their neighbors are the monster that lives under the bed, the guy who keeps sending me anxiety dreams and Stephen King's undead pet cat.  The zombie apocalypse lodge holds its meetings down the hall.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Get flashed!

The latest issue of Flash Fiction Online is up!  If you don't have time to read even one of these stories a day, you don't have time to pee, either.  I wish you well.

Review: Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I finished reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki today.  Brilliant.  I'd recommend reading The Richest Man in Babylon first, though, if you haven't already or it's been a while.  RD,PD isn't an advanced financial advice book.  It is entry level, but if if someone isn't practicing some of the advice or at least intrigued by the principles in TRMiB then RD,PD is probably going to be advice given too soon.  It focuses on areas that are weak in TRMiB--investing, developing assets, and identifying liabilities.  TRMiB addresses these areas but isn't specific enough--the message is muddled a bit by the setting and it's usually the already financially savvy folks that pick up on it and find it clear.
Best wake up call:  That my house is a liability (seriously!) not an asset (actually, technically about 10% of my house, specifically my office, is an asset) and that I'm developing my assets too slowly.  I didn't even know I was developing assets (except the obvious--we have a small portfolio) until I read this book.  Financial intelligence.  I need to do more reading and get some.  Instead of arguing with me about the house, read the book and then we can discuss.
Information: Very High
Writing quality: Average
My quality ratings:  Struggling, Emerging, Average, High, Very High
For non-fiction I'm separating writing from info.  They don't always go hand in hand.

Still reading:
A Gardening Mystery by Mary Rosenblum (if I can find where I put it down, grr!)
Rating in progress: High
A War for All Oceans by Roy Adkins and Lesley Adkins
Rating in progress:  Information: High, Writing quality: High
Trial of Flowers by Jay Lake
Rating in progress: High

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


It's the kids' first day of school.  They should be getting home soonish.  I can't wait to hear how their day went.  Although they'd rather stay home and sleep, they were both excited to go and were all grins this morning.  

I have to say that schools have changed for the better in some ways.  I've always been a bit different than other kids--a refugee with enough cultural difference that I stood out, physically different especially with the broad shoulders and clearly Slavic features, intellectually different (ask anyone about my weird political views and off-kilter sense of humor) and so on.  I never understood fashion in high school.  I carried a violin to school most days.  

As a result I was an outsider, bullied by a few, feared by a few (which is so weird!) and admired by a few by the time I reached high school but by then I was so jaded it took a while to win me over.  I didn't make friends--they would throw me signs of acceptance until I'd take a chance (always assuming they'd mock me) and be friendly toward them.

My kids are clearly far more different than I ever was.  But the combination of local schools hammering home the acceptance of diversity, combined with the remarkable confidence their father taught them and their own tenacity and personalities that don't give as much weight to the opinions of others as I did have given them an entirely different educational experience.

I'm so very, very glad for them.  I wasn't completely miserable through every hour of all my school years, but I was afraid, and miserable for a large enough proportion that sometimes I wish I could go back and do it over.  I would have loved to have taken greater advantage of the recreational, social and educational opportunities available.  I would have worked harder at music and language, networked social groups to freeze out bullies (they're always outnumbered--we just didn't know it back then) and gone nuts with the extracurricular stuff.  I would have been less worried about what others thought and more concerned with learning and having fun.

Which is exactly what my kids are doing.  One is more academically interested than the other, but they're both taking advantage of the opportunities available to them.

I had to grow up the hard way.  It was who I was, and the times I grew up in, and going back might be a fun intellectual exercise but honestly school is for kids and I'm a grown up who needs to move on to grown up things.  Yeah yeah, child at heart, but I'm a mature child that prioritizes and can delay gratification (most of the time) and that sets big goals that most children are afraid of once they start learning about the ramifications.  I live fantasies, and that's a very fun thing.  The kids are living an enjoyable reality, and I'm excited to see how far they'll go from their very different launching points.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

We're going bowling on Labor Day.  Yay!  The USA has celebrated Labor Day as an official federal holiday since 1894.  Unfortunately for many employees, Christmas, New Year's Day and other heavily observed holidays such as Memorial Day don't experience the retail closure they once used to when I was a girl.  In fact, some holidays like President's day have been completely absconded with and I think this is the perfect day to talk about it.

Christmas Day in particular I recall you had nowhere to go except maybe restaurants.  Oh, and churches, of course.  If we went for a walk or a drive, it was to sightsee displays or to visit relatives and friends.  As we drove through the neighborhood we'd pass dark stores with empty parking lots.  Traffic was minimal.  Sometimes we'd be the only car on a given road.

Memorial Day was a bit like that, though there were more people out and about visiting cemeteries and memorials.  Even when I was young Labor Day usually had grocery stores open because of all the cooking that goes on.  Alas, we will always have workers working on Labor Day, but I believe it's always been that way.  For some workers to have access to entertainment and food, others have to supply.  Folks older than me may remember a time when it wasn't like that.  I'm all ears if you remember!

Anyway now it seems a great many stores are open 365 days a year.  It's a shame.  And it's our own fault.  If people didn't shop, didn't go in the parking lot and bang on the doors, didn't write letters to managers or talk to their friends about how they really needed to pick up a turkey on Thanksgiving because they burned the original one and how dare the stores be closed, then we'd probably still have that wonderful, ghostly quiet on most federal holidays.  I would love to have that feeling of silence and calm for Martin King Luther Day.  It would be nice for President's Day, though I think that one is doomed forever.  

Because people want to spend their money.  Their money is burning holes in their pockets. Remember when having money burning a hole in your pocket implied that you didn't have the self-control to put it in savings?  It wasn't supposed to be a sign that you should spend it!  People need the diversion of buying stuff, it seems, to enjoy life these days.  They need the security blanket of having stores open all the time because they're afraid that the huge stockpile of food in their fridge won't last one day.  Thanksgiving dinner will be ruined if they forget the cranberries.  Isn't part of Thanksgiving supposed to be being thankful for what we have, as opposed to sweating about what we don't have?  And I bet, when someone is sent for cranberries they pick up other stuff while they're there.  Because it just isn't Thanksgiving without a blueray copy of Zardoz.

There will always be people laboring on Labor Day.  But there used to be a lot fewer.  If you want to help turn back the clock, don't shop on Labor Day.  If no one comes to the stores, the stores will close.  We have total control over that.  

But the kids and I will go bowling.  Disneyland, Six Flags, National Parks, all those great, fun places that families go when they have a day off really should be open on Labor Day because labor day is supposed to be a day of rest, a day spent celebrating the worker's vital contribution to society and entertainment should abound.  But shopping?  I know a lot of people find it fun and relaxing, I really do.  But it's that non-stop shopping that keeps the workers of our nation in debt, and it would be nice if the workers, like me, like you, like pretty much everyone I know who isn't retired, took a break from buying plastic plates and bed sheets on sale and tiki torches and that blouse that you wear only once and decide the color isn't right in sunlight and a matching toilet cleaning set for the upstairs bathroom and a new cat toy for Kitty and a new bed for Spot and a new cover for your cellphone and a new cleaning product because you hope that magically the floor will come clean with just a few swipes just like on the commercial and--and it's all junk.  Join me in saying no to junk for a few days of the year.  We can buy junk the other 361 or 298 or however many regular days of the year there isn't a holiday.  Go to town and have a blast on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Maybe even enjoy the President's Day sales--they're here to stay, I'm sure.  But wouldn't it be nice if we as consumers took control, as we've always had control, and just decided to live one occasional day every few months without snooping around the clearance racks and toy aisles for more stuff to wash and dust in our cluttered homes?  Yes, I'm guilty as charged too.  I'm ready for a change.  

I'm ready to go bowling on Labor Day, and to make dinner that I bought the stuff for yesterday, and to play board games and read and spend time with my kids.  Sounds like fun to me!  Sounds like a great break and a good way to spend Labor Day.