Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shock Waves

I'm still not coming back to my blogs as often as usual, and I'm just going to post a few notes today.

We lost one of our white does, Snowflake, to some sudden onset thing.  It might have been bloat.  I've never had a goat get bloat, and it's really the wrong kind of year.  She didn't look anemic, so I don't think it was worm overload.  The only other things that looked wrong is that she had a bit of a dirty butt, so maybe she had diarrhea at some point, and she seemed a bit on the thin side, so maybe she'd been sick for a while but didn't show it.  Anyway, I'm frustrated by the loss.  I sprinkled poppy seeds on her grave and around the property.  Goodbye, sweetie.  You were a good goat.

I've been writing and editing, and I sent out that agent query I wanted to send out.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  Much as I believe that the writing has to stand on its own, I'm not opposed to a little spiritual boost, especially during the current economy.

Like many other genre writers, I'm a little shaken by the loss of Realms of Fantasy.  That was one of the magazines I aspired to be published in.  Word has it that although subscriptions remained strong, newsstand sales dropped off dramatically and the publisher dropped Realms in order to funnel needed funds into other projects.  

This reminds me strongly of the markets when I started my first round of heavy submitting and some of the changes that happened surrounding Weird Tales that disturbed me.  The feeling at the time, with magazines like Midnight Zoo appearing and disappearing with unpleasant rapidity, was similar to what it is now, but back then there was far less a sense of desperation.  (I actually had an offer from Midnight Zoo and the same day I got the acceptance letter I got an email letting me know they'd just folded.)  It seems I do better under an ill-fated star.  Maybe this means this year I'll get an agent, despite everything.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I got to have an excellent talk with the boy about how the transition from guy living at home to guy living on his own will work, and the various options he's got.  Some kids leave home ASAP and head out into the world w/o a backward glance, for whatever reasons.  Some continue to live at home for a while (sometimes a really long while) and go to school or work somewhere for pitiful wages until they can make enough/save up enough to get into a situation where they can support themselves.  I told him he wouldn't be staying forever, but we weren't booting him out on graduation day, either.  I think he ought to have one more summer vacation at home, if he wants.  From there ... school, military, job, or any combination thereof, is fine with me.  I think he's eager to test his wings, though.

Which probably means military.  It's the fastest way he wants to travel, and he wants in for more than one reason.  Do I worry?  Heck yeah.  But really, it's time for me to stop bossing him around.  Parental advice is all I can offer from here on out.  And I'm not really the No type when it comes to this stuff, even if it is mine to say, which in this case it isn't.  Yeah yeah I've been the doom and gloom veto artist before.  I can't shake that past.  I've decided to leave that behind (as much as I can--it's a WIP.)  I'm getting better at it.  If I wasn't, my DH wouldn't be overseas right now.  And my DH wouldn't have even blamed me if I said no.  In his case, it wasn't just his life that would be affected in profound ways.

I didn't say no to my DH, though.  And I'm not about to say no now, when my wonderful son needs to make the biggest call of his young life.  This has to be his call.  He's about to become a man.  Even if he allowed me to interfere (which I doubt he would) I'd be chaining him, tying his hands behind his back, trying to keep him safe from a life that's his to choose now.  

We raised him the best we knew how.  His grades, appalling for years, have risen a great deal and I'm deeply impressed by the progress he's made on them, pushing and sweating through bad habits accumulated from years of trying to find the 'easy' way.  (Believe me, we didn't make it easy.)  If he can defeat his own attitudes, his own self-sabotage, his own inertia and his own fear of success, he can tackle just about anything.  Just about.  The world is bigger and harsher than any one human being.  Of course I'd have to be pretty deluded if I thought I could protect him from that.  Trying would not only prove futile, but it would spit in the face of all those years and lessons and hurdles we climbed over together as a family in order to prepare him for his life.  

He won't ever really be alone, or on his own.  He'll have us, his family, in one form or another behind him.  But we won't be here to 'come back to.'  That's an illusion.  You can never go back home, not really.  But you can meet again, and again, and tell tales of where you've been, and where you plan to go to next.

Good luck, O-bean.  I'm cheering you on!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm Back!

I never really left, actually, but I'm juggling a lot of balls and they all ended up on the ground.  Time to pick a bunch of them up.

Writing--gotta write today.  It's Tuesday!  Gotta write on Tuesdays.  Gotta.
Laundry--I have no socks.  Well, okay, I have one last pair of socks on my feet right now.  Thankfully I have laundry in the washer right now, 'cause my slippers, well, ew, I need socks.  I should probably toss my slippers in there too for good measure.  I'll still need socks in that case for when I venture outside.
Birds--When it snows the birds come from miles around to feast at the feeders.  If I stop feeding them, they'll go elsewhere.  I don't want my cats to get rusty speaking in the language of the birds, so I guess I'll have to go out and feed them.  I've got my boots on.  I'll be out there in a sec.
Concert for Cline--I have to start an email list or something so that we're all talking.  If we don't talk, how are we going to get together to rehearse or whatever?  Since a musical thing requires (at least for some people) practice, well, better the dialogue begin sooner than later.
Radcon/Reno Bid Party--I'm 99% there.  That last one percent is a killer, though.  Hey, you know, I just realized that I'll probably need socks for Radcon too.  D'oh!
INK--we have an INK meeting coming up.  I have a small round of brie cheese to bring with.  Yum!  I also would like to submit a story for the following INK meeting.  This means writing.  Writing is on my list, right?  Oh yeah, there it is at #1.  Go figure.
Endeavor Award--I'm supposed to be reading.  Um, uh, well, I'm mostly done with the book I'm on now, with four in the queue.  Must ... read ... faster ...
Speaking of submissions, I'm supposed to have a query out by Friday and it's now Tuesday.  Ack!!
101 program--I'm keeping up with the Tibetans, fasting when I'm supposed to fast, and meeting my goals, except for one day on a fast day when I had a handful of popped potato chips.  They were good, too.  But I'm not going to do that again.  That was bad, not because a handful of popped potato chips is a big deal, but because I broke a promise to myself.  Breaking promises is not good.  Bad habit, hard to break.  I'm fasting today, and my stomach is starting to seriously growl, so I'm going to shut it up with a cup of nice hot tea while I write.  After I feed the birds.
Am I forgetting anything?  I'm sure I am.  For all y'all who are counting on me for stuff, please, ping me and remind me!  Or just kick me in the butt.  It's right there, all hanging out, now that I'm bent over picking up all these balls.  Hmm.  Is there one more under the couch?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Thing about Glossaries

In the style of Big Fish:  What do you know about glossaries?  I remember this one time after reading Tolkien I poured over the appendices and started putting together elven words ...
Stop, stop.  What I need to say is, the thing about glossaries is:

If they're not outright pretentious (which many are, in my not so humble opinion,) they suggest the writer is a bit lazy (at least to me.)   It suggests that the author didn't want to make terms clear by explanation or context or both for the reader.  And, really, do you want the reader to mentally halt in the midst of the story and have to look up a word in the glossary?

So what gives with Tolkien and others who use things like foreign language dictionaries and stuff in their books?

I think it's that Tolkien didn't use words that needed a glossary for translation in "The Hobbit" and the LofRs trilogy.  Everything is right there on the page, and the glossary is supplemental.  Other authors use context and then provide a glossary for readers like me who might be a little slow on the uptake sometimes and want a quick reference when we don't want to think too hard.  Also, I've noticed in books where glossaries are fun, you learn something that you wouldn't otherwise on the page, and you get to double-check your assumptions, to see how close you got.  If you're right often enough, well, you can be rightfully proud of yourself.  Actually, the author can be proud for dropping enough hints to make the meaning guessable, but not so many that the narrative is interrupted by a long, awkward set up and/or explanation on the page.  That takes some serious skill and insight into the reader's perspective.

I'm creating words that hopefully, by a combination of guilt by association, context, and on-the-page action, need no explanation.  I started doing this because quite a few of the words that worked the best were foreign already.  The one that tipped me over the edge is salle.  People who love all things sword know that a salle is the french word for hall, fencing school/college, and the actual room in which you practice fencing, all wrapped up into one term.  You know which salle is being referred to by context.  Sure, I could say it's a fencing hall or fencing school, but it doesn't have the depth of meaning as salle or salle d'armes.  Then there's maestro.  The English equivalent, master, has a lot of baggage and I don't want the baggage.  Sure, I can use the real world foreign terms and maybe even switch regions to mix it up (though those words would be far less likely to be recognized than their semi-international standard counterparts,) but what would that imply?  That my characters live in an alternate France, or Italy, or Spain?

And so, with these two terms as the launching point and no sensible way around them, I started creating Vyennen terms.  Vyenne, I've decided, is the Renaissance Italy of this world.  Cethrat, where my character grows up, is a military and naval powerhouse.  Hasla, to the north, is the center of all things religious and, probably no surprise to some but may be a point of complexity to the readers, rife with myriad cults, sects, and philosophical strangeness.  So much of the sacred poetry mentioned in the book was originally written in Hasle, and there are quite a few philosophical terms that have no direct 'English' equivalent.  

Which brings up an interesting conceit in genre writing.  In many texts of SF and fantasy nature, there's an undercurrent feeling of translation.  We, the English speakers/readers of planet Earth, have somehow come across a book translated from the 'original.'  This used to be literal back in the day, and not only that, but books of a speculative nature had to have an excuse for existing.  They were diaries, travelogues, collections of letters, and the authors often went so far as to write prologues as to how these materials got into their hands.  This created another layer of realism for the reader.  Since we, as a society, have shrugged off the tradition of creating an excuse for the existence of speculative text and don't have to pretend that we stumbled on the manuscript carefully wrapped in oilskins while marooned on an island (which we were, of course, later rescued from so that we could dash it over to the nearest publisher and bring it to you, dear reader) we can immerse ourselves in other worlds without having the author intrude by addressing us or creating elaborate stories that have nothing to do with the actual narrative.  Some of those were really fun, but let's face it--a lot of it was really, really bad.  And I still don't care for the addressing the reader directly thing, except when Mark Twain does it.  Then it's okay.  

But the sense of translation remains, though on a much more subtle level.  In Masks, with multiple countries, a multi-lingual (for the most part) nobility, physical as well as political, spiritual and cultural borders between countries that prevent them from consolidating or becoming essentially a mono-culture, there's a lot of opportunity to deepen the story through the use of 'foreign' terms that have no direct translation into my pov character's language, which in turn is, in the reader's subconscious, translated into English for their enjoyment.  Now, I could have done this the other way.  Right now it's assumed that the language of Cethrat is so close to English there are no untranslatable terms, and so therefore all the foreign words originate in other countries.  But I also could imply that Cethratan is a different language than English, and that I am as much translator as author for the reader.  The 'foreign' words are not foreign at all to my pov character.  They're Cethatan.  They just have no translated English equivalent.

What seems like a weird and somewhat complicated thing isn't actually that bad.  Most writers do it subconsciously and don't run themselves into trouble (except when they call a rabbit a smeerp.)  But if a writer is conscious of what s/he is doing, there's some interesting opportunities.

I've decided, for now, to go with a glossary and see where that takes me.   I may decide later to do something different, but for now I'm enjoying it, and it helps me keep my notes straight.

So, the thing about glossaries is, they're poopyheaded and silly, except when they're not.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

So far so good

Beast and the Puppies (that'd make a great rock band title) are doing fine so far.  No signs of distress, bleeding, or otherwise going downhill.  Although Beast whines to get let out to play with the puppies, he's happy inside watching movies with me or napping while I work on writing.  I could use a nap about now myself.  I had a short night.  I'll have an even shorter night tonight, unless I'm willing to walk Beast in a robe and slippers.  The weather being what it is, I'm thinking no.  Or I could skip my bath, I guess.  You know, if these are the toughest choices I have to face all day, I'm good with that.

Everyone else, according to the weather folks, had a nice, calm day.  We still have quite a bit of wind.  When they said it was about 20mph in Washougal, I thought ha!  This is not 20mph.  It's way too fast for paragliding, never mind the gusts.  But it's not 60mph+ gusts.  It is quieter in town, or was when I went in today for a hot date and a hot caramel apple cider.  I think it's just our location on the hill, above most of the trees, unsheltered by the hills that surround downtown Washougal.  When they said it was 37 mph in Corbett, I thought yeah, that's about right.

But enough about the weather.  

I've got my latest short story on the verge of its climactic point, which hopefully means I'm close to the end.  I've gotten to the islands (again!) on Masks, and I'm taking a deliberate vacation from the manuscript so that I can come at it fresh.  The issue, as I've mentioned before, is that the beginning gets worked on and polished and beautiful while the middle, where I'm tired, gets adjusted sort of haphazardly and then left to stare at me with large, undernourished eyes.  I was going to start in the middle, but I realized a. I need a new, better map, and all the mappy stuff happens in the beginning (meaning I'd have to reread it again anyway because I can't make sense of my navigational notes anymore) and b. I got some really great feedback on the opening chapters and I wanted to make those larger cuts and adjustments before I got to the islands, in case there were any emotional changes (there weren't.)

With Cold Comfort Farm lying on the cutting room floor, I'm at a more marketable length, which is handy.  Yes, fantasy generally gets a little more room, but the shorter it is, the less likely that an agent will look at the word count and decide my gawd, this is going to be a bloated, purple monstrosity.  I would prefer that, if that is the opinion, that it come from reading the pages, not the cover page.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Aftermath

I listened to the radio on the way home from the Fireside today.  You know, people can be awful.  I found it interesting that all the conservatives could come up with was an accusation of racism for yellow/mellow white/do what's right.  What the heck?  Sometimes I'm entertained by some of the conservative radio talk shows, but today I was sickened.  I couldn't listen to it.  I mean, seriously, couldn't they hear the laughter in the crowd?  Hear and see the smile behind the words?  The joy?  The release of pain?  Are Asians all across America going to be offended, really?  Am I offended by having white being rhymed with doing what's right?  Heck no!  I'm proud that a white majority nation helped vote President Barack Obama into office.  To see that rhyme as anything other than white Americans voting the right man into office despite years of racial prejudice is really reaching.  Get over yourselves, poopyheaded conservative radio people.  

And so I switched to a 'progressive' radio show.  I expected there to be good will, cheer, and hope.  Nope!  Instead I found that just couldn't let Bush go.  They had to see him face charges or America couldn't move forward (in their opinion.)  Um, maybe I'm just not getting it, but wouldn't dragging Bush Jr. tie up all kinds of time, resources, and political energy for ... what great positive goal?  Assuming he's even convicted of ... um ... whatever they want to charge him with, what will that do?  It was awful.  It was Bush this, and Bush that, Bush blah blah blah--as if this beautiful, wonderful day was all about Bush.  One guy wrote an email proudly declaring how he had Bush's helicopter for his computer wallpaper because it made him smile.  Um, guys, there's this guy named Barack Obama, and something special happened today involving him.  Maybe you should look into that and talk about that.  Oh, wait, you don't want to do that, do you, because selling hate and revenge buys you more radio time.  You'd rather put a hateful image on your wallpaper, than the portrait of our first black American president taking the oath of office.  Fine.  Be a poopyhead.

So I switched to music.  Ahhh, music.  I smiled, and sighed, and thought tomorrow at 7am Eastern time stuff is going to start to happen.  I hope it's good stuff.  It'll be wonderful to find out.  Yes, things can always get worse, but maybe, just maybe, things will get better.  Despite, rather than because of, the negative poopyheads.

Rock on, President Obama.  Rock on.  With that thought, I'll say good night with some classic Boston:

Dont look back
A new day is breakin
Its been too long since I felt this way
I dont mind where I get taken
The road is callin
Today is the day

I can see
It took so long to realize
Im much too strong
Not to comprimise
Now I see what I am is holding me down
Ill turn it around

I finally see the dawn arrivin
I see beyond the road Im drivin
Far away and left behind

Its a new horizon and Im awakin now
Oh I see myself in a brand new way
The sun is shinin
The clouds are breakin
canse I cant lose now, theres no game to play

I can tell
Theres no more time left to criticize
Ive seen what I could not recognize
Everthing in my life was leading me on
But I can be strong

I finally see the dawn arrivin
I see beyond the road Im drivin
Far away and left behind


Inauguration Day

I haven't been posting lately, I know.  It's been a little intense around here.  So far Beast is fine, and we're doing good.  I've just had my time shifted toward the dogs and the boy and the DH.

I don't normally get excited by political goings-on, but like most of the rest of the U.S.A. I want to watch the inauguration today.  Our main t.v. is dead (which is sort of a yay) and our downstairs backup t.v. that we mostly use for video games gets one channel after lots of manipulation with the antennae, and the best we can hope for is that we can see the content through the snow.  Because we have dialup, I won't be able to stream it.  But I'll be able to hear it, at least.  Hey, I bet it's on the radio!

That'll be my backup.  

What will the next four years bring?  I don't know, but it'll be interesting.  We're living in interesting times.  Which most human beings do, actually, if you think about it.  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Another Dog Day

You know the mice under the dishwasher?

I set traps, and for days they've been empty.  The mouse smell won't go away, because the flooring under the dishwasher is soaked with mouse nest.  And that nest is huge.

I did something really, really stupid.  I got a poison trap for mice.  1 oz pre-baited.

I read the label and it said that if an animal caught and ate a poisoned mouse, it would be poisoned too.  I chickened out of using the trap.  Good, right?  Well, sort of.  I triple wrapped in in plastic bags and had the boy take it out to the garbage so that Dakota or the cats wouldn't knock over the garbage can in the middle of the night and get into it.

So many should haves, could haves ...

The wind rolled the garbage can within reach of the dog enclosure.

When I saw the garbage can on its side by the gate, I thought oh no, you've got to be kidding me.  When I opened the door, Brian nicely handed me the empty mouse trap.  

All the dogs went to the vet, and they're under a vet's care.  So far so good.  But after inducing vomiting in all of them, we determined that it's likely that Beast got most or all of the poison, and not enough of it came up to put him out of danger. 

He feels fine.  He's happy to be in the house.  But he could start bleeding internally.  We don't know.  He's on a treatment that help counteract the poison, and he gets canned dog food with his vitamins to help absorb the treatment.  He's in pretty good shape, and has no idea what all the fuss is about.

The puppies are on the treatment too, just in case.  They get to be outside and have regular fun.  But Beast has to stay in, avoid any rough and tumble stuff to avoid bruising, and be treated with kid gloves for about three weeks.

I'm so scared I'm going to wake up and find him gone.  

He sure knows how to get into trouble.  The airedale is strong in this one.

So wish us luck.

The really, really stupid part about all this?  I've never bought poison for rodents before.  Ever.  I'm against it.  I talked myself into it because the traps weren't working, and if I hadn't done that, or if I hadn't talked myself out of it and locked that trap under the dishwasher where no animals could get to it, we wouldn't be going through this.

Don't buy rat poison.  Don't talk yourself into it.  Just don't.  You'll sleep easier at night.  Trust me on this one.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chaos and Sunshine

I heard the dogs whining.  When the dogs whine, it's usually the goats or the dobies across the way.  I was in the middle of a phone call, so I dawdled, until finally I got my butt upstairs.  

Goats.  Goats everywhere.  Well, near the barn, anyway.  Gah.

I apologized to my DH and headed out in mud boots.  The so-called cunning plan was to get one dog on a leash, head out there, and herd the herd back into their enclosure, followed by an investigation to try to figure out how they got out.  Finn sat tidily and calmly, so he got the coveted leash.  Now, normally, I can squeeze through the fence and through a combination of mild expletives, snarls, barks, shouts, shoves and admonitions, I can get me and just one dog out the gate.

Not today.  

Beast rammed past me with surprising force.  The goats scattered.


I shouted at him, but the airedale is strong in this one.  Goats climbed onto the stack of straw we have on our archery range.  Goats circled and faced him off with horns.  Scooter disappeared into the barn, and Beast went after him.  A second later Scooter came out, Beast appeared to bound onto him, and Scooter went down.  And lay still.

My heart leapt into my throat, just like in the cliche'.  I managed to snag Beast.  It was like a fight, but luckily he didn't use his teeth on me.  I knew if I scared him enough, he might panic and bite.  My throat was raw and I couldn't get enough air to fuel the effort of getting a very powerful dog so he can't slip away while simultaneously getting the chain collar off another dog that's trying to help and get that collar on him.  I think it took about four minutes.  

For the record, four minutes of giving it your all sucks.  

I finally succeeded.  Finn is good with the goats, so he was fine off leash around them.  He trotted into the pasture and started a perimeter patrol.  I couldn't take Beast over to what was left of Scooter--I had to get him back to the dog run.  I couldn't get the thought out of my head.  I have to shoot my dog.

No, I'll adopt him out.  Can I do that?  I don't think so.  What if he hurt a cat, a dog ... maybe an owner with no animals, maybe if I put out a plea--

Negotiations of a desperate mind.  I got him in and started back toward the barn.

And Scooter, the little butthead, stood up.  He was fine.

Fainting goat.  He must have fainting goat in him.  He overloaded and collapsed.  He was down, oh, I don't know how long.  Four minutes?  Another long four minutes, the kind where you have death in your hands and you don't want it.

So relieved on so many levels I was on the verge of tears, I looked Scooter over.  He didn't have so much as a scratch.  He wasn't limping.  He was fine.  Beast didn't hurt him.  He didn't hurt him.  He just scared him.  It still wasn't good, but it wasn't a death sentence.

I got the goats in, still relieved by my near miss.  Next time, the good dog gets to go in through the house.  It'll be like an air lock.  If one or both get by me, they might trash the upstairs, but they won't get out to the goats.  Brian would be fine, but Beast ... Beast was born and bred to chase deer, and goats are the next best thing.

Exhausted, I gasped my way back to the house, tasting blood in my throat, trembling from adrenaline.  It took fifteen minutes or more for me to feel like I might not pass out.  My DH called back and we talked while I sipped a shot of Navan to soothe my throat, and then I went back out.

I found what I thought was the hole, plugged it, dealt with another weak area for good measure, and thought that was that.  I was filthy, smelled like wet dog, mud under my fingernails--and it was sunny and gorgeously warm, beautiful in only the way a day can be after a near miss.  Time to garden.  I planted a tree (not the Christmas tree--I'll need help to get it off the deck) and some bulbs I'd left out in the weather just before the storm (all of them except a few anemones looked good, and I bet even the really pathetic anemones will be fine too,) did some weeding, placed a couple of edging boulders, leveled a couple sections of path.  About that time the goats got out again.  This time I had help from the kids.  I managed to notice that the truck gate was leaning.  Aha!  Andrea and I got it tied back in place.  No more goat escapes.

Chaos and sunshine.  It was a very good day, but I'll be sore tomorrow.  I feel it coming on already.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Maestro

I have a cat on my head and her tail is curled around my neck.  Darn these chairs with the high backs.

I just heard from an old friend that her father, my violin instructor, passed away last summer.  Cline W. Otey Jr. was a talented musician and a remarkable teacher.  I don't regret much, but I do regret that I didn't take full advantage of his expertise.  He could have taught me so much about transmitting emotion and discovering the possible intent of Mozart, Bach, Handel and other master composers between the notes on the musical scores.  Instead he had an uphill battle with me to get me to practice.  I could be great, he told my father one day, if I only practiced more.

But daily practice was beyond the desires of a grade school and later teenaged Kami who immersed herself in mathematics and fantasy epics.  I did practice, a little on weekends, sometimes after school in the practice rooms with my friends when a concert crept up on us, feverishly every afternoon for a week before the performance.  But then the performance would pass and I'd be back to practicing during class and occasionally picking around the most difficult sections of a classical work at home here and there.  Meanwhile Mr. Otey helped several of his more dedicated students achieve chairs in the junior symphony while they were still in high school.  He made me the best I could be too, the best I could be with the limited time I put into it.

I think what impressed me most is how he sat down with us and played.  He directed when he needed to direct, but when we were part of a larger ensemble he would sit between the first and second violins and play the most challenging part (wherever it fell, crossing back and forth) in support.  He also sat down with us during class on occasion, though he didn't do that too often--it would be too easy to use him as a crutch.

I learned so much from him when he played.  Lights would come on in my head.  Oh, that part of the bow.  Oh, that emphasis on those notes.  That much volume.  That much vibrato.  Yes, it was a matter of direction and even in an ensemble there's a certain amount of personal choice as well, but watching and listening to someone who understood the music on a much deeper level not only showed me what was possible, but made me braver.  

Courage is required to play the unfretted string instruments, and Cline had courage to spare.

The thing about violin is that it has a huge range, not only in scale but in volume.  That's its beauty, and its curse.  You can play so softly the audience can't hear you.  You can hide, fortunately in some cases because you can botch every single note.  There's no fret or key to save you.  You can be quarter tones off--just slightly flat, or slightly sharp--relative to tune and/or the rest of the players simply by slouching or adjusting your wrist.  It's not even the shift of a finger.  It's the lean.  And the bow, ha ha, you can run out of bow on a stroke, or fearfully play just at the tip.  If you apply too much pressure or allow the bow to drift, suddenly there's a rasp or a squeak that can zap birds on the wing right out of the air and leave them twitching on the ground.  That's intimidating.  For a learner, it's frustrating.  For a teacher, it must have been torture to listen to young violin, viola, cello and bass students saw and screech and splat and sandpaper their way along at various undisciplined paces through music that, under normal circumstances, would move an audience to enraptured tears.  Some of us played so softly you couldn't hear us (I went through a long phase of that.) Some played loudly from leaning onto the strings because their arms were tired, or because we (me) wanted to do what he asked when he asked (with gritted teeth?) to play as loudly as we could through the next phrase--

He did it year after year after year, kindly.  At times he was firm with us, but he never shouted, never demeaned, never unleashed a hint of frustration, anger, or contempt on my lazy little shoulders.  And by firm I mean he leveled with us.  We would practice this section until it was acceptable.  We would play on this portion of the bow, even though we were uncomfortable with it (usually because that made the inaudible players more audible) and he let us know that if we didn't, the kids who didn't would stand out.  The timid ones would pale at the thought of standing out, and learned to play, quietly but with a little bit more volume than was their usual comfort zone, with that part of the bow.  

When I learned about his musical career I thought God (I wasn't pagan yet) why is he wasting his time with us?  Now that I've taught people how to do things better or do things they couldn't do at all before they met me, I'd like to think that he taught us because he found it extremely rewarding, regardless of the ear-bleeding result.  I certainly know he devoted many, many hours of his life to it.  He didn't linger in one music department in one school either.  Though he had a busy schedule outside of teaching, he traveled all over the district, and there was no one else like him in Clackamas County.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was no one else who devoted that much time to public school orchestras in the entire Pacific NW in the seventies and eighties, though it's hard to say--there are some remarkable people in the world that we never hear about.  I do know that without him, there would have been no orchestra in North Clackamas school district; no grade school orchestra, no middle school orchestra, no high school orchestra, just as there's no high school orchestra in my own kids' high school today.  There's band, but if you want to learn one of the classic stringed instruments, you have to take private instruction.

It was such a privilege to learn with him.

I still have my violin.  My daughter plays with it occasionally.  I've taught her some rudimentary skills, placed paper hole punch reinforcement stickers on the neck again (strips of medical tape work too,) to mark the area where her fingers ought to land, taught her a scale.  I'm not Cline Otey.  I'm not there every day, demonstrating, coaching, encouraging her to practice, and then moving on to the next group, and the next group, and the next, all day, teaching violin.  I know the effort that would take, and what it would take away from.  We all have limited time, and how we spend it in part defines who we are.  I'm a writer.  To me, Cline Otey was an orchestra teacher, the very best I could wish for.  Rest in peace, maestro.

If you would like to see some of the results of Cline Otey's years of dedication to music, and meet some of the people whose lives he touched, mark your calendars for March 1st.  The Concert for Cline will be on a Sunday at 3pm at St. Anne's Chapel, Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Highway (Hwy 43.)  I'll put up a reminder closer to the day of the concert.  His daughter Lisa will be organizing the concert.  Proceeds will benefit Marylhurst's music therapy program.  I think Mr. Otey would get a big kick out of it.  Usually his smiles only touched his eyes, but from time to time he'd get a huge grin.  You'll have a chance to see that grin on his daughter's face.  Please come.  I'll be there.

And for you martial artists out there, Cline was a black belt in karate.  I didn't know that about him back then, but it makes sense now.  If you need an excuse to go to a music concert, make that your excuse. 

Please spread the word!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Meditations on Violence

I think this is a new height.  I'm seriously impressed.  There are over a million books on Amazon.  I found one ranked at 1.4 million.  I'm not sure how many total there are, but there are at least that many, right?  Earning a rank in the low thousands is amazing.  I'd be happy if I did half this well.  Or is that double?  Now I'm all confused.  

My only question is, what's an edition edition?

Congratulations, Mr. Miller!  If I had a hat on right now, I'd take it off for you.

Now I'm thinking of the song "You Can Leave Your Hat On."  Heh.  Right back atcha.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: YMAA Publication Center; illustrated edition edition (August 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594391181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594391187
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Sales Rank: #2,033 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)

    Popular in these categories: (What's this?)

    #1 in Books > Sports > Individual Sports > Martial Arts
    #1 in Books > Sports > Individual Sports > Mixed Martial Arts
    #4 in Books > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Violence in Society

    "You Can Leave Your Hat On"

    Baby, take off your coat, real slow.
    Baby, take off your shoes. I'll help you take off your shoes.
    Baby, take off your dress. Yes, yes, yes.

    You can leave your hat on.
    You can leave your hat on.
    You can leave your hat on.

    Go over there, turn on the light. No, all the lights.
    Come back here, stand on the chair. Ooh, baby, that's right!
    Raise your arms in the air, now shake 'em.

    You give me reason to live.
    You give me reason to live.
    You give me reason to live.
    You can leave your hat on!

    Suspicious minds are talking. That's right, they'll tear us apart.
    They don't believe in this love of ours.
    They don't know what love is.
    They don't know what love is.
    I know what love is.
    You can leave your hat on.
    You can

(written by Randy Newman, and yes, I'm one of those heretics that likes the Tom Jones version)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Flights of Fantasy has a great post on vanity publishing.  I agree on all points too. 

I wish that writers would look at the publishing process this way--

Your manuscript needs to be utterly and totally ready for the public.  It can't just be interesting to you.  It has to really shine with a fairly wide audience to do well.  It definitely should stand out in the genre you're writing in.  But if it can't, if it's just a 'fun' read or whatever, great.  You can expect to have some sales and you can take pride in that.  Unfortunately, especially with a first novel, it's far, far more likely that you're not seeing the manuscript clearly.  If you're relying on feedback from readers who don't discriminate well, you may be in for some nasty shocks.

How will you feel when your book starts getting those first reviews? How awful would you feel if you got your dream and the publisher put your book in every book store, on big displays ... and critics made comments like 'amateurish, cliche', unsatisfying ending ...' That's the nicer ones.  Some may use you to get a laugh out of their readers with comments like 'my eyes my eyes, it burns, it burns!'  With lots of promotion, sure, you could probably sell a hundred thousand copies even if your book got panned.  That would be really, really nice.  You might be able to support yourself on that.   But then you get to hear folks at conventions say things like 'that author is a total hack. That book was (fill in the blank with your favorite slam.)' No one goes to your reading because they'd much rather hear vetted, experienced authors talk about where we're going with alternative energy.  People report that they couldn't get past the first chapter.

And, I think this is worst of all because you can at least go out of your way to avoid reading reviews and not put yourself in a position where readers will be discussing how bad your book is, five years down the road you pick up your book, read the opening chapter, and realize it doesn't just fail to represent you well, it's an embarrassment. Yes, we all improve as writers as we go along.  At least, you'd better!  But knowing you could do better is different than realizing that what you wrote wasn't just the result of a journeyman's errors, but beyond amateurish, would be hard to cope with.  Realizing the critics were right.  Some writers are forced to change their name, and that's no fun.  It makes me sad when they must do it for the sake of sales, especially if they disagree with the decision.  But in the case of the unready first novel, after those first reviews and ghastly return rate, I'd not only want to change my writing name, but change my entire identity and move.  Seriously.

I think some people get so caught up in the idea of writing a best seller, they don't look at the real public risk you take when you put your work out there.  May the gods help you if you get to live your dream, and it becomes a nightmare.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Power of Three

No, not any of these power of three, or the picted PoT amulet from Charmed.  (Full disclosure--we own many seasons of Charmed.  Ahem.)

I read somewhere (alas, my poor short term memory) that it's a good idea to give yourself a list of three things to do every day.  No more, no less.  Whatever else you do or don't do, get those three things done.  This sounds like a great idea to me.  For one thing, there's less weasel room.  For another, with three things rather than one, you're less likely to pick a thing, much less three things, that will (or you think will) take all day long, which will run the risk of burning you out before you get done.  Keep it simple.  Keep it achievable.  And don't squirm your way out of it or blow it off.  Give it a try.  

Post it notes where you tend to waste time help.  I put them on my computer.  TV works too.  Just don't put your list where you've put lots of other lists.  Chances are you've taught yourself to ignore them.  Is there a big pile of lists and notes and all kinds of other stuff already there?  I thought so.  Other places that have worked for me--the main door I use in and out of the house, bathroom mirror (post its work great on mirrors,) stove top (ha, you thought you could cook something before doing your list, didn't you!) microwave, and on the book I'm currently obsessed with.

I'm also giving one of my Mac features a try.  iCal is working for me.  I worked as a receptionist for a while, and got used to having a calender for a desktop.  I checked it several times a day, each time I cleared my desk of a particular task.  iCal is working the same way, and I love it.  I had no idea how much I missed my desk calendar until I started using this one.  I finish something, then look at my iCal.  I already know if I have something on it or not that I have to deal with today.  Doesn't matter.  The constant reminder helps me keep track of my week, and how I spend my hours overall, better, and I'm less likely to, say, have the INK meeting sneak up on me tonight, or forget that dental appt I made.

Man, I feel all weird and organized.  I wonder how long this will last.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Weird Health Notes

If you brush your teeth regularly, you'll reduce your risk of heart disease.  I've known this for years, but I'm not sure that it's common knowledge.  I especially make sure I brush my teeth before I eat in the morning.  Chowing down on your own plaque can't be good for you and besides, ew, gross!!

On livejournal I got into some of the details of how I've IFed in the past, and how I plan to operate using the IF paradigm for the 101 program beta test Steve Barnes is running.  Today is a regular, rather than a fast day.  I'm looking forward to having some treats today.  I don't let myself have dessert after dinner on non-fast days, but I can have dessert with lunch, and I can be a bad girl with my snacks if I really want.  On non-fast days, I find I eat a more complete lunch--all the food groups are included, I usually have dessert, and sometimes I have a glass of wine too.  It makes sense to me to have a lunch that's a bigger production than dinner.  Going to bed with a full stomach isn't good.

Wanna know how sumo wrestlers get big?  They get up very early, work out hard, eat a ginormous breakfast and then sleep.  Then they wake up, work out hard, eat a huge dinner, and go to bed for the night.  Wanna know how to get really big?  Eat two huge meals a day and nap right afterward.  If you exercise heavily you'll bulk up on those muscles and add to your size and weight, while still hanging on to the fat.

If you don't want to be huge, eat more meals, smaller meals, and sleep on a relatively empty stomach.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

They have my eyes

At the dinner table today, we had Star Wars dinner theater.

Darth Vader:  Luke, I'm your father.
Luke:  No, that's impossible!
Darth Vader:  You know it's true.
Luke:  You know, now that you mention it, I noticed we had the same eyes.

The boy has a school project where he has to cook dinner for us four nights in a row and we all have to sit at the dinner table and talk.  We do the sit down dinner with candles and all that for holidays, but most times, dinnertime is movie time.  We eat, watch a movie, and keep up a running commentary.  I don't think his teacher realizes how dangerous it is for our family members to talk.  We could take over the world or something.  Besides, I know she wouldn't approve of what we talk about.  The Darth Vader stuff was the tamest part.  It's much better for the world if we have distractions to keep us from thinking, planning, and having fun.  

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sanding my office

Ever sanded something meant to become a beautiful, permanent piece of woodwork?  That's how I feel working on cleaning up my office.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  I have to put serious thought into every little bit I accomplish.  Since I can't just shuffle things from one place to another (I'm not clearing, I'm organizing and cleaning) I have to pick up a thing, decide whether to throw it away, or clean it and find it a permanent home, or put it in my garage sale box.  I'm putting a priority on creating space so that I can put away stuff I want to keep.  Bookshelf space.  Drawer space.  

Right now I need garbage space, so I'm going to run the garbage out.

At least I discovered a couple of boxes I got for cheap at IKEA.  O and I put them together, and he got to keep one and I kept one.  Space created--where the wrapped boxes were, and inside the box.  Now I have to figure out what would be best to put in the box (something that will fill or almost fill it without making that something hard to access, or something that will fill or almost fill it that I seldom use) and then find a space for the box itself.  If I'm really clever, the things I put in the box will, by their removal, create a space for the box or create space to move other things into that will create, by their moving/organization, a box-sized space.

Will it never end?!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Financial Poop

I'm reading "Debt is Slavery" by Michael Mihalik.  It's basic, easy stuff that I know.  The beauty of this book, though, is that it's a short, fast read and it's so repetitive that the data will pierce even the thickest skull.  Yes, even mine.  If you must buy it, buy it used.  It's especially valuable to folks just starting out, though us old farts that ought to know better can benefit from the many reminders.

Inspired by the book and egged on by my frustrations (ah yes, the well pump, plumbing, various appliances including the refrigerator, and now most recently a dead tv (we're going to live without a poopyheaded tv too!  That'll show 'em!) I sat down and played with our financial picture.  Which is great, poopyheadedness aside.  It's just not the fabulous, freeing excellence it ought to be.  I plan on whipping it into proper shape in short order.

It's also time to get ready for taxes.  As always we have all kinds of bits of paper and stray decimal points that have to be herded in the direction of our fabulous accountant.  Start getting ready early and often is my motto when it comes to taxes.  Unfortunately, mottos have a way of getting stuck to the back of my head where I can't see them very well.

With figures dancing in my head like sugar plum fairies dressed in green (have I been drinking absinthe without realizing it?) I'm finally ready to admit that I'm too fuzzy-headed to continue.  Time for bed.  I hope everyone has a brilliant and secure financial 2009!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Year in Retrospect

Highlights of 2008:

My DH was home for half the year.  That time was precious and glorious.  I didn't realize how much we did together until all at once we didn't.  But we talk and type lots and lots.  I love our relationship.  We got some strange and beautiful blooms on our relationship tree this year.
ItRunsInFrontofMe came into our lives.  Aw, she looks so thin.  She glows with health now.
We adopted Carey.  After Nikita's and Mojo's loss, it felt good to have both Carey and ItRunsInFrontofMe in our lives.  And Carey is so sweet!  To us.  Ahem.  I'm glad she made A her person, and ItRuns picked the boy.  Emotionally that worked out really well.
I had some stunningly beautiful days.  A pic of a peony heart in my garden.  Click the gardening tag for more garden stuff.
I left a good job.  Well, okay, good for me.  Sort of.  I do miss Barbie Lady.  I don't miss the lost writing time and the struggle to keep up on housework.  Now, if I neglect housework, it's on purpose, not because I'm at work too much.
Got to watch O growing up.  That's almost continuous, but we had some great milestones like his Jr. prom this year.  He looks great in a tux.  He's poised on the verge of setting out on his own.  Scary beautiful.  He started his senior year in 2008.  He's thinking about joining the military, and he's getting tall and strong.  We had fun playing video games yesterday.  I'm sure going to miss him when he decides to move out and on.
Got to watch A growing up and survive some knocks.  (BTW, her hand was broken and she did get a cast.)  She's an amazing, creative, beautiful young woman and I should have taken more pics of her in Victoria where she really glowed with maturity.  The music concerts she's been a part of were amazing.  Did I mention that she loves math?  Ah, how my heart swells.
ABBB was weird but tons of fun.
I had a pro short story sale!  At last!  Huzzah!  
And we had two amazing winters.  Remember, snow in April?  And December was incredible.  If you're a weather watcher, click on the weather tag.  May 26th I posted about an amazing storm.  I'd forgotten all about it until I clicked the weather tag.

Happy New Year, everyone!!