Monday, November 30, 2009


Early this morning, after rushing Beast to the emergency room at St. Vincent's Hospital for Animals, we lost him to cancer. He had multiple tumors on his spleen and two of them began to bleed. We weren't aware he had anything wrong with him until he collapsed from weakness--he'd been frolicking and running about with his usual boisterousness all last week. The vet fought hard to save him, and he fought hard to stay with us. He survived the surgery, but succumbed to weakness and crashed while the vet closed his incision. After a long attempt at CPR, the vet recommended that we let him go, as his EKG suggested he'd already gone.

Beast was only six years old. We had a really great summer--that's what I'm holding onto right now.

I'll write more about this later when I'm able.

Beast, we miss you so much. I love you, my jogging buddy. I hope you and Angel and Nikita and Frey have all been reunited, and that you're having lots of fun playing with your beloved sister and pack mates.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Of Mice and Millers

We're still dealing with the never-ending vermin project.  Because my computer with online access is downstairs, I don't have much time to post these days amid the muck and yuck even if I wanted to.  But I've had plenty of time to write ...

The tropical plants are all officially indoor plants again.  I'm sure they'll whine and complain--they far prefer real, live sunlight as opposed to the pale stuff that comes in through the windows.  My blood orange is already protesting, and it's only been in a few hours.  But it was shivering out there.  There's really nothing for it.

As if this wasn't enough going on around here to distract me from my real day job of writing fiction, we've had some sunny, dry weather.  For us gardeners, having non-rainy days this time of year is a huge boon.  I've been weeding like a madwoman, and refreshing garden paths with mulch.  The ladybug in the pic loved one particular lavender, a Grosso in the border of my grape arbor.  I moved him to other plants twice, but he kept coming back, so I snipped the wand he'd parked on after taking this pic and left it in the plant.  He seemed happy with that arrangement.

Garden note:  Yes, you can mulch with your leaves, but (and this is a big but) you will be helping garden pests, especially slugs, overwinter right where they can get at your plants.  So.  Don't mulch on top of your perennial crowns.  Evergreens and large shrubs or trees can take a few pests, especially if they're native.  Also feel free to mulch garden paths with leaves (but shred them first with a lawnmower or they'll just blow away.)  If you want to suppress weeds with fallen leaves as mulch and you can't lawnmower them, do what European gardeners do--put down a layer of newspaper or cardboard first, put the leaves on top, and then put your pruned branches on top of the leaves.  Evergreen prunings work best, but if you're in a relatively sheltered area, even a pretty spare deciduous branch can hold those leaves down pretty good.

Orycon 31 is this weekend.  If you're in the Portland, Oregon area and you're interested in genre literature, check us out.  We have media and comic stuff as well, but our focus is books and writing.  We have some great guests this year.  See the Orycon 31 website for more information, including a schedule of events on the programming page.  The convention is right by the Lloyd Center Shopping Mall, so you can have fun at the event and do your holiday shopping too.  Rates are:  $60 for the weekend, $25 for a Friday or a Sunday day pass, and $35 for a Saturday day pass.  Day passes are good until 10am the following day except for Sunday--Orycon shuts down at 4pm.

After OryCon, vermin or no vermin, I will be posting more regularly.  I may even post updates during the event, as I'll have a bit of free time here and there starting Saturday afternoon.

I hope to see some of you there!  Now, back to writing.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Support Your Local Kids

We have some seriously creative kids at our local schools. You probably do too. Check out your local high school drama and music productions!! Mine aren't in this following video, but we went to this performance. It was a ton of fun, dirt cheap, and more entertaining than a lot of mainstream stuff I've been subjected to lately in movie theaters, etc.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Sorry about the lack of posts. We're still in iffy territory as far as internet connection and my office. We're working on it. I've also got a rotten cold of some sort. Bleh.

Anyway ...

I keep telling myself, it's not nearly as bad as last time.

But still.

We're finally tearing down the ceiling downstairs to rid ourselves of our ongoing vermin problem. In the middle of this (of course) the power went out in half the house. The half with my office.

Never fear! The good news is that I don't lie awake at night wondering if the house is going to burn down because a rat or mouse chewed through an electrical wire. Well, not too often, anyway. Turns out the wiring all looks pretty good except for one small spot that had nothing to do with the power going blink blink out. Turns out the power went out because of an overload on one of our breakers, now fixed. Yay!

The boo part is that we still have more ceiling to take down, and one of those rooms is my office. So there's really no point in setting up the computer in there, only to take it out again to make sure falling debris doesn't pop the screen (again.)

Blogging, email, everything computer-communication related is pretty much toast on the home front until we finish tearing stuff up and cleaning out icky mouse nests and making sure the wiring is safe and sound. Then I'll set the computer back up to its designated line and we'll be limping along at blinding (as in sometimes I think I'll go blind waiting for pages to load) dialup speeds. Because of line noise on our main line (yes, I've tried a noise reducer and it doesn't help that much) we have limited incoming email capability, no outgoing email (it times out) and very limited ability to look at web pages. Sorry.

My DH took point on the ceiling tear down. Have I mentioned lately he's my hero? Now, we didn't find bags and bags of dog food and rice like the last time I had to do this (in the boy's room, which is still blissfully clean.) But it's still disgusting to have that stuff raining on your head and arms. The ick factor doesn't shower off all that easily. Oh sure, the dirt rinses right off but the heebie jeebies need some serious scrubbing and the bleck bleck bleck requires toothbrushing, gargling, and then a second shower before it comes off. And of course we have a new influx of eeeee! spiders! that have until now lived all content and happy between the ceiling and floor.

We got the family room/library done in a day. Hopefully it'll only take a day to do the bottom of the stairs (there's a mousie spy hole there--they know we're coming and probably setting up ambushes, but they never man up to ever follow through,) my office and my daughter's room. We hauled off 840 pounds of gross stuff to the transfer station. Unfortunately that day or two won't be immediately forthcoming--we need a good combo of weather, lack of cold/flu stuff, and uninterrupted hours. It's bad to start a ceiling tear down and stop mid-way.

Where will we go from here? We have a cunning plan for what to replace the ceiling with. Details will come out after we've tested the system. Wish us luck!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Don't Look! Writing w/o looking at the screen

... still writing ...

... still working on Orycon programming ...

... still working on website ...

... but at least my website,, is live and updated.  It's just a little thin at the moment.  Let me know what you think.  Really.  I don't mind negative comments at all, especially if they're richly deserved.  Besides, it's not like I'd be stuck with teh suk if it does stink.  I can make changes all by my lonesome, without any webmasterly help (for the most part) so it doesn't cost me money, or very much time. I plan updating it fairly often, so your comments may be put to use pretty darned soon, especially if they point out something particularly heckle-worthy.

Bear in mind I may ignore your advice.  I'm mean that way to everyone, so don't take it personally. 

**A big thank you to S. & C. for your help in getting my website back!  That change of software really threw me.  Now I have control over my website again.  Yay!**

My Nano is coming along.  I'm averaging about 3600 words a day, with over 18,000 words written as of tonight.  But I haven't had much time to put together a short story this week.  I'd like to do that tomorrow, and get it sent out in the mail by Monday.

For all that I'm writing along at a decent pace, my DH is rather easily staying ahead of me.  This while only being able to type with two fingers.  Seriously.  I could trot out some excuses, but actually, it's a matter of dedication and speed of thought.  A couple of times now I've had to step back from what I'm writing and play in hot water for a while, whether it's dishes or taking a bath or whatever.  I've also done some gardening (thank you utility dudes for the free chipped pruning debris!) as that gets me out into fresh air.  Fresh air and exercise help keep my writing from getting foggy and inbred.  Working upstairs on my laptop helps too but I've already developed a favorite spot (on the loveseat) so I haven't changed perspectives very often through the device of changing sitting position and changing what I'm staring through when I look up from the keyboard.

Speaking of looking up from the keyboard ...

One of the things I learned about my own writing style in the master's class is the disadvantage of reading what I'm typing.  The advantage is that I tend to read somewhat aloud what I write as I type, just as I read aloud silently in my head when I read.  (This is a slow way of reading, but I get to enjoy the sounds of words on the page that way.)  People sitting close to me while I write will sometimes hear me vocalize deep (and quietly) in my throat, talking out the words on the page as well as reading them.

This is good to help me capture the sounds of words, but ...

But the flow of my writing stops and starts depending on things like typos.  I also get distracted by the look of the words on the page.  I worry, independently of how the word flow feels, about things like paragraphs being too thick or thin.

Visual appearance and typos are important, but allowing those little pixels on the screen dictate my writing to me while I'm in creative mode isn't always the best way to get at the right words.  When I mentioned this to Kris, she smiled and let me know that she often doesn't look at the screen at all.  Her gaze will wander around the room, and she'll be seeing in her mind's eye.  This, I believe, lets her tap more deeply into her imagination.

I gave that a try a few times during the class, and I think I'll give a try here at home from time to time too, especially during very visual moments in the story.  I just have to make sure my fingers are on the right keys, otherwise I won't be able to read what I just wrote!

I hope all my fellow Nanoers are doing all right out there!  Keep writing!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Writing as Chess

... working on website ...
... working on Orycon programming ...
... writing ...

I'm doing Nanowrimo again this year.  That's National Novel Writing Month.  The minimum is fifty thousand words to get a certificate of completion.  That's about the right size for a YA--you'd want to almost double that for a fantasy, and have 20-30k more for romance, etc.  

Anyway, to watch the drop out rate of Nanowrimo is to see for yourself the difficulties people run into when they sit down to write a novel.  I can compare it to chess.

Beginning chess players just know how the pieces move.  (Most writers have heard and read stories all their lives.  They know how the pieces are supposed to move.)  So they start out moving their pieces any way they can.  Most of them get lost after the first few moves as far as what to do next.  They know that they have to get a checkmate, but that seems impossibly far away.  If they've chosen a challenging situation (multiple point of view characters, an elaborate plot, a demanding genre such as mystery or historical where the readers have particular and high expectations) they will wash out literally in just a few pages.  They give up.  

If they've kept it simple, they'll get to the muddle in the middle.  This is usually the next big wash out place.  The story seems to take over and keep secrets from them.  Characters 'don't behave.'  They start losing track of story elements, character names (heck, I've forgotten character names in the middle of short stories!) and they seem to run out of 'things to do.'  In chess, there are just so many pieces in the active part of the board, the beginning chess player doesn't know which one is the right one to move.  In fact there may be several right ones to move and all would be well, but often they're so overwhelmed they just pick what seems easiest, or least dangerous.  Beginning storytellers do that too.  It's called choosing the low-hanging fruit, and the story becomes predictable, or characters are forced to do dumb things that no one who put five minutes of thought into the problem would do, etc.  

Sometimes, though (we're talking about just a few survivors at this point) the writer makes it through the muddle in the middle.  It's a mess to be sure, and they've usually put themselves (in chess terms) in a bad position.  They may have lost many of their best attacking pieces, or opened up pawn files (lost minor characters) that turn out to be quite important.  But they're still alive ...

Only to lose in the end.  They can't figure out an ending.  The ones that are really determined persevere, but often, even when it looks like the goal is in site, beginning writers find themselves out of the muddle in the middle with 45,000 words or more behind them and can't think of 5,000 more (the length of a short story) to pull it all together.  Suddenly the laundry becomes terribly important.  Or they just want to write "and they lived happily ever after" knowing that they're missing something critical.  That's the satisfying part of a satisfying ending.  The checkmate.  To learn it, you have to do it, and beginners just haven't gotten to the ends of things often enough to learn this skill.  Like a beginning chess player who somehow makes it through the complexities of the end game with a chance to actually succeed, they don't know how to force their opponent into a situation from which s/he can't escape.  

When the king topples--sometimes requiring a sacrifice--the game is over.  Easy to say, hard to do as many beginning chess players find out, chasing the opponent's king all over the board and never quite catching it.  In writing terms, they don't know how to wrap up the story in such a way that the ending wasn't dull and predictable, yet somehow feels inevitable based on all that has come before.

These 'beginning' problems never actually go away.  They just become easier to deal with, given experience.  The focus can turn more toward the actual game (story) instead of trying to get past these various obstacles.  Getting that experience, though, is tough.  The only way to get it is to write the novel.  To the end.  Whatever it takes.  Those first ones are messy and probably won't read well.  But the brain learns.  The mind discovers what works and what doesn't and does better the next time.  

That's the value of Nanowrimo, that and writing a novel in a month hones other skills.  Writing to deadline.  Daily writing.  If you're an outliner, adapting or going off outline or reworking an outline when the story inevitably takes a surprising turn.  Planning for and working around holidays is also a very valuable skill, and is one of the reasons why Nanowrimo is purposefully scheduled in November.

The support system is amazing.  There are people from all around the world on the forums to help and commiserate with.  If you've ever toyed with the idea of writing a book, this is the time and place to do it.  It's only day two.  You can do it!