Thursday, December 31, 2009

Adopting Stories

I received a form rejection today. No big deal, and it won't be my last, but it might be my last for 2009. That makes me grin.

We didn't just talk about rejection at the master's class. We went through an exercise that helped put us, briefly, on the other side of the editor's desk. Once I'd been through that I wanted to stand up and shout louder than ever before, "Don't take it personally!" Seriously.

This has been said many different ways. Here's one way I look at it. Plenty of great stories are rejected not because the editor didn't like them, but because they didn't quite fit, or there wasn't enough space for them, or they didn't fill enough space. Think about that. Editors reject stories that they enjoy all the time. Every day. They even reject stories that they love. If they let it hurt too much to let those stories go they'd never survive as editors.
Lately I've been likening it to going to your local humane society to adopt a kitten. There are lots of really lovely kittens, any number of which would be great to take home. There are some wonderful cats there too, and dogs, but you're not shopping for those. They're there anyway, tempting you with those beautiful big eyes and soft faces. You pass them by and look at the kittens, and there are, out of the hundreds, four that you really, really want. You take the one that you think the rest of the family will like too (as an editor picks what they think their audience will enjoy the most.) And you take it home.

Imagine doing this every month. You'd have to learn to quickly let go of the ones that you can't adopt and focus on the ones you do. And you couldn't spend lots of time trying to comfort or say sorry or goodbye to all those other kittens that you won't adopt. It's not just a matter of time expenditure, but emotional energy.

Makes those personal rejections that much more special, doesn't it?

For those who haven't seen it yet, a fun little video that demonstrates how not to respond to rejection:

I couldn't embed this video because that ability was disabled.

Happy New Year everyone! May you be successful in your endeavors.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Silver Thaw

I'm working on a story with silver thaw in it. We don't have any right now, so I'm working from memory. I've decided I don't like working from memory as much as I used to. Making stuff up is harder now too. Why? Because I'm aiming for specific rather than generic or false details. It's tough! I think my writing has improved hugely since I took the master's class, but it's harder now too. Oh sure, I get immersed in the writing and everything. But I spend a lot less time typing when I'm in the midst of a description, and more time with my eyes shut tight, trying to squeeze the right details out of my brain.

So much easier to look around and see and smell and feel. I'm in the library right now in a slate blue corduroy chair with tan piping that supports me like firm flesh--cozy and creepy at the same time. A totem pole towers against the pale yellow wall, ignored by library patrons studying their laptops. The wood and varnish scent have faded back to almost nothing under the smell of the carpet shampoo they use around here. Everyone is in a cushy chair except a lean man in a black and green windbreaker with a beat up old Mac. His finger pushes wrinkles up his forehead and I wonder how can that be comfortable, bracing your head on one finger. He looks like he's working and that things aren't going well, but he's calm, determined, the kind of guy I'd want fighting to protect me from bad guys. I bet he has scars from all his battles both real and cyber.

It's so easy compared to trying to remember the scent in the air from a silver thaw, and how the ice looks at night, and the sounds--I want to say it kind of crackles, but I'm not sure anymore. Maybe it only does that during the day when the pale sunlight focuses through it like a lens and warms the branches underneath.

Challenging, but doable. I sure wouldn't mind a silver thaw coming along, though. It would really help me out. I can't wish for it because it causes too much trouble for folks lucky enough to have a job right now. If it just happens to happen, then I'll squee.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Winter Thirst

New Year's Day coming up, with a whole new year to look forward to ahead. It's not quite time for a recap, but I do look back with a grin on my face on my DH's homecoming, Ireland, high school plays, the master's class, and other fun stuff. The grim stuff is there too. It all mingles together into the potluck stew of life.

My stress level is really high. I'm hoping this will give me lots of creative energy to draw from. Yeah yeah, I know, stress usually kills the muse, but I killed my muse and ate her a long time ago, so I'm on my own anyway.

Stress has given me fun dreams, including one last night where I'd started taking fencing lessons from my kids' instructor in a huge underground gym that was partially sectioned off for tennis. In the dream I was super flexible. I could do full splits and lay my body flat against my leg at the same time. I woke up all inspired to work out rather than write, but I'll manage to manipulate that energy over to writing somehow.

The icy wind pushes cars around on the freeways and the wind chill is pretty interesting. We're dried out, parched even, and what little standing moisture we have near our house is frozen solid. It's easy to forget to drink water in this weather--the sensation of thirst is suppressed--so I plan on keeping water and tea near at hand while I write.

Ice, a fire in the hearth, tea and big dogs curled up in the living room. Sounds like a cozy winter. The only thing that keeps it from being a completely classic moment is that I'm working on a laptop rather than being curled around a book right now. Later. I've got some books I'm really looking forward to: Oxygen, The Forever War, Machete Season, The Company, some history books relevant to the Masks time period, and Chosen by a Horse which promises to tug on all the heartstrings I've got attached to mustangs. Reading and writing. It's a good life, but if I had a holiday wish, I'd wish for gainful employment that has health insurance benefits. Well, I take that back. I'd wish for a great future of health and happiness for my kids. I can handle a challenge or three.

Or maybe they could stand for challenges too.

I don't know! Fine. No wishes. It's too complicated. Have a Happy New Year. I'll see y'all on the other side of December 31, 11:59, if not sooner.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Beyond the River

I love traveling to eastern Oregon. Beautiful country, wonderful people.

There's a roughness to the soil and to the bark of trees in the high desert. The quality of the greens speak of thrift and toughness. The rivers are wild, liquid gems--not just beautiful, but much more obviously precious because of the dry all around them. Juniper, sage and pine lend an incense-like perfume to the air. And this time of year there's a sharpness to0--the clean cold. To me it doesn't seem to go deep as fast as the same temperature in the wet regions, but it's fierce and wakes up my mind. Coming into that cold from a warmer, wet area, I'm startled when I step outside or crack the car window, but I warm right back up when I'm sheltered again.

I'm snuggled up right now, with gorgeous hand-knitted socks on my feet (thank you J!) My belly is full, and I'm quiet in my heart. I'm glad we made the trip.

Like any other life experience, travel can inspire writing. I don't think it's essential to good writing, but it sure helps to have direct knowledge of ecosystems and cultures beyond the places you live and shop and go to the dentist. Going from suburb to urban, urban to rural, across the railroad tracks, across the state line, across the nation border can not only provide a foundation for writing about new places, but lend a new perspective on your regular stomping grounds. Even when I write about home, I have a sense of what's just a few hours of driving away, beyond the river in view of mountains strange and wonderful to my eyes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snap, Crackle, Pop, Click

Still no chocolate for me.  I haven't made as much progress as I'd wanted to on the ms, and today won't push my word count as much as I'd like--I have some photos I need to take for another book project (not mine.)  

Photography is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work and can take huge blocks of time.  The digital advances have made it tons easier both to learn (you see your mistakes almost immediately) and to execute, but it's still a difficult art.  

My challenge is to try to take non-cheesy martial arts photos.  The favorite options for setting are dojo/gym, studio and urban.  Lighting is always an issue, with each setting having its own particular problems.  Fortunately most of the images I'll be taking, if not all, will be converted to b&w so I don't have to obsess about things like skin looking too yellow or orange with the influence of indoor lights.  It's also not terribly sunny today, so I won't have to worry as much about over-exposure/glare or sharp shadows interfering with the subject.  But overall light quality is an ongoing problem, especially indoors since I don't have any umbrellas.  Even if I did, I would solve some problems but then create others--I would probably have to reposition the lights for each series, and that would extend the shooting time.  

We need four specific images today.  That'll probably translate into 60-80 pics taken.  I'll also look through the selection from the previous shoot and see if any sets are thin due to a high number of out-of-focus shots or shots with weird lighting, etc.  I'll add to those while we're there, and maybe take some artsy mood stuff while the guys play.  The editor will want a wide selection to choose from.  BTW they want uncropped, undoctored stuff--that's for the art director to mess with, not me.  Which makes me nervous.  I look at what I've done and I know what I was aiming for, so I have a feeling for what direction to go with a particular image.  I bet the art director has a much better eye than I do and will do wonders with them, but I have this little voice inside my head that says he'll take one look at the sets and think my gawd, these are a mess!  I can't do anything with this.  What a crappy photographer.  But I don't have time to wait for more so I'll just polish this turd as best I can ...

So I'm all insecure and I want to take more pics in different locations ... the issue, as it almost always is, is time.  And resources.  Not everyone wants to have their mug in a book for all to see.

Ah, the joys of martial arts photography.  At least the guys will have some fun.

Snap.  Crackle.  Pop.  Click click click click.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Will Type for Chocolate

After a couple of months of not exercising, I'm on day 3.  Oh.  My.  Gawd.  I alternate full and light workouts, and so yesterday's workout wasn't so bad.  I'd even be willing to put in writing here and now that it was fun and pleasant.  But the soreness!  I get to giggle at myself all day long, especially trips up and down the stairs when my legs start whining.

C.S. Cole has observed, and I agree, that exercise helps hugely with creativity.  A friend of mine just got a Wii, and her painting exploded.  (No, not literally--sheesh!)  When I took the master's class, our instructors spent some time talking about how physically demanding writing can be.  (Seriously, it is.)  Think of it as a reverse-toll in terms of cardio-vascular health.  To head off potential problems with blood clots and stroke, and to keep weight from ballooning, writers need to eat right and get some aerobic exercise.  Also, to keep the mind sharp, no drinking alcohol before or during writing.  (Makes sense to me so I've adopted this habit or rather non-habit, though I do miss sipping wine while writing in the evening.  I've also added no snacking during writing.  Not only does snacking make my keyboard gross, but it leads to mindless eating--lots of calories with no enjoyment because I'm not paying attention to the wonderful experience of eating.)  Writers also have to have some serious strength and endurance in their hands, wrists, neck, shoulders and lower back.  It's good to have balanced fitness, but weakness in these areas in particular can literally end a writing career when, after a hard push, the writer suffers a catastrophic failure or an overuse injury.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is just the tip of the iceberg.  Try writing while flat on your back in constant pain, or without the use of one of your shoulders.  It can be done, but would you produce as much?  Might you perchance develop a monotone of subject matter, or plot, or characterization if you were in constant pain?  

Stuff to think about.

So I have a date with Jillian today (oh Jillian, how I love to hate you.)  I'm also depriving myself of chocolate until I get my Nano novel written to The End.  This has been remarkably motivating.  I knew I consumed some chocolate every day, but I had no idea how much.  Trader Joe's brick pieces.  Chocolate-covered raisins from Costco--accept no substitutions.  Hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows.  Ice cream with chocolate chips or chocolate cups; we're now out of vanilla ice cream.  I think by the time I finish the novel, I'll have dropped a few pounds from lack of chocolate alone!

Chocolate, chocolate, how you torment me ....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

Because sometimes you just gotta be silly.

I love The Muppets. Yay Muppets!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Emotional Settings

One of the things I had emphasized to me over and over again at Kris and Dean's Master's Class is the importance of setting. I had that lesson taught to me once again, but from a different source.

I read for the Endeavor Award. When I read a really good book, I may give a review on my blog if I'm so inclined, but generally I don't review books. First of all, reading is a very subjective sort of thing. What one person may enjoy, another may loathe. I'd much rather be accused of singing praises of a book everyone else hates or doesn't get, than be slamming a work that may be perfectly enjoyable to the vast majority of folks. I'd be hurting the author's feelings for no good reason--I'm not a paid critic so it's not my duty to point out a particularly putrescent piece of fiction--and I may deprive someone of a good read if they take my advice and avoid something they might have enjoyed. In other words, I'd rather err on the side of encouraging folks to try something I liked than go the negative route and tell people to stay away from reading no matter how bad I think a book may be.

But I digress.

This last book I read lacked setting and visceral details almost entirely. People and clothing were described on a fairly regular basis, and dripping blood, but other than that, the characters lived entirely in their own heads. Maybe that was the point. But it wasn't a very gratifying read. The action fell flat because no one felt or reacted to pain, unless it was emotional pain. The characters have scenes set all around the world, but I didn't hear turns of phrase change, and the landscape--they might as well have stayed in the United States. Any details about England, France, Wales, Russia, Italy ... I had to fill in myself based on my knowledge and experiences.

I don't want to fall into this trap.

Dean told us that he used to have a problem with too little setting in his writing. After being admonished about this many times, he finally got mad and overwrote setting in the opening of his next work. The first reader response? He nailed it.

They also reminded us in class that many of our favorite books on the class reading list were extremely setting heavy books. I remember the feeling of being in a southern swamp while reading one of the books and loving every drip from the moss and every whine from a mosquito. All the while the author had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Why?

Because the book engaged my senses while injecting opinion into every detail. I loved or hated the character's surroundings based entirely on whether the author wanted me to love or hate them. I was along for the ride.

So despite the weak book's best efforts through (overwrought) dialogue and action-packed scenes (in which people froze or ran or used telepathy a lot) I was bored and feeling like I was watching a poorly written, plotted, choreographed and filmed movie. And despite the strong book's pages-long lovingly-described scenes with little dialogue or action, I was never bored. In the weak book I was told that a character's eyes gave people chills. In the strong book, a look from a suspected killer from across the room gave me chills.

Note to self: Make every description count, and don't be shy. Setting can make or break a story.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Silver Jewels

We had a nice silver thaw (aka a silver frost) last night. I love the way the ice turns every blade of grass, every limb, every fallen leaf into a jewel. Although the skies have turned platinum and slate now, for much of the morning our land basked in sunshine pouring through a huge blue well above our house.

As the day wore on, these ice wrappings around the limbs began to melt and fall off the limbs. Icicles dangling from the eaves shrank and some shattered on the frozen deck. Juncos, sparrows, towhees, jays, chickadees and finches, swarming the bird feeders, dodge the falling ice as they feed beneath the trees. A couple of times now a red-shafted flicker has landed on the window frame, his tail propped on the glass, and peered inside the house with guarded suspicion while pecking away at whatever is interesting him in the siding. (We have a few mushrooms growing there, and/or there might be some bugs trying to overwinter in the cracks.) Normally I'd say ack, btw, but he's not drilling. Whatever he's eating, he's picking out very delicately.

Incredible morning, lovely afternoon, and as the afternoon wears into evening, an expectation of everything that melted turning into a solid sheet of ice. Again.

I like to include this kind of stuff in my writing, but I bear one thing in mind. As lovely as this is to look at through my window, it would be pretty miserable to deal with if you had to be out in the weather. I think it's too easy for many writers, in their climate-controlled (or at least not out in the open weather) to forget that being snuggled up inside a cloak on horseback in winter weather wouldn't be anywhere nearly as comfortable as sitting in a cushy chair in their house in a house coat, even if their office was a little chilly.

I remember, in particular, freezing my buns off within three feet of a substantial fire inside a stone building. Freezing. Could see my breath cold. That fire had no hope of overwhelming the very high rafters and the draftiness of the place, never mind warm up the ice-cold stones of the floor and walls that sapped the heat from the very air and any body part unlucky enough to be in even indirect contact with them. About all I managed to get warm was my hands and face.

So I'm happy to enjoy this lovely weather from within my nice, warm house and on brief, fun-seeking stints outdoors followed immediately by hot apple cider or hot chocolate with extra mini-marshmallows. My characters in this sort of weather ... not so happy. I'd even hazard they'll be downright miserable, though the more poetic of them might have to admit that it is beautiful.

Stay warm out there!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yet Another Writer Beware Post

To be clear, I'm not posting this because of a specific recent incident. I was doing some research and the never-ending threads about rotten publishers started to get to me.

Sometimes I feel sad for people who get so excited about publishing that they don't do their research when they get an offer. Actually, they should do their research before they even submit, but even so ...

Always, always know what you're getting into when you publish. Maybe you want to self-publish--if so, look for the best deal: highest quality for lowest cost, and be prepared to work your buns off being your own distributor. It helps to have connections in the industry or a niche of some sort. It's my understanding that the Christian fiction market is more accepting of self-published books, for example. You may, as a private individual, possibly get books on the shelf with a phone call. You can also sometimes convince stores (not necessarily book stores) to sell your book on a commission basis. A book about flea market buying and selling, for example, may sell well alongside your other wares if you have a flea market booth.

But I digress.

Even if you do get pulled in by a bad book publisher, all is not lost. Writers write. If it turns out that the publisher wants you to buy your books and sell them yourself, ignore the publisher. If your contract requires you to buy a certain number of books (ack!! why would you even think about signing a contract like that?! ... well, people don't know what they don't know) then buy the minimum quantity at the maximum discount you can negotiate and be done. Write the next book and don't work with that sort of publisher again.

If you're reading this, you have internet access. Use it. It's true you can't believe everything, or even most things, you read on the internet, but here are a couple of tried and true resources for writers I use as my points of initial inquiry:

The Absolute Write Water Cooler (Beware, major time sink zone! This is a fabulous community and it's easy to make friends and spend lots of time here. Great search engine, free registration.)
Preditors & Editors (Wonderful free resource. Donate if you can--they have legal fees that arise when businesses that feed off of writers sue after having their unethical business practices are revealed for what they are. They also have lots of other handy info for writers like agent information and forums.)

I also like to Google the name of a business in quotes and add scam. Sometimes the complaints people make about a business have no foundation--there are lots of people who complain about unfair treatment who are actually making unfair and/or unreasonable demands of that business--but sometimes I discover some very interesting stuff.

Practice safe publishing out there, and happy writing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Yays Galore

A gratuitously adorable kitty and girl pic.

Congratulations to INK member C.S. Cole for her first short story sale! More announcements about that at the appropriate times.

Also, our household had money fall out of the mail the other day. It's great to get royalty checks, especially right now.

More yay as far as the upcoming weekend weather--we should be warming up. Right now it's colder here than in Juneau, Alaska, where the temperature is around 27 degrees F. Compared to us in the teens and smaller twenties. I'm very grateful that the winds have calmed down substantially today, and I'm looking forward to Friday, when the temps will start to rise. Of course as they rise we're supposed to get some incoming dampness. Or the incoming dampness will warm us up. Either way we may get snow or freezing rain, but that'll be fun, too, since none of us really need to go anywhere or do anything important. I'll have to remember to stock up on fresh meat Friday morning, in case we can't get down the hill for the next little stretch.

At some point we'll take advantage of our relatively wind-free, sunny weather and cut a few trees. Which, even more yay, we can add to our firewood stockpile, a pile that is looking pretty scary-small. Yeah, I know, it's sad to cut trees, but these trees are bad. Actually, they're not bad, but ... We have a couple of very dense patches of volunteer douglas fir and the remaining trees will grow much taller, faster, and fuller/healthier with a few of their fellows gone. Mother Nature thins trees at a much slower pace, a combination of chemical warfare and suffocation/smothering that really doesn't seem any less cruel than converting the ones that will get choked out anyway into fuel to help keep us warm. Yay to being warm, especially if our power goes out and we're snowed/iced/snow-iced in. Then the dead trees will be our only source of warmth.

I guess that we're helping the tree bullies win, but it doesn't make horticultural sense to help the weak, possibly already dying trees survive and cut down the healthy ones. Alas, the laws of tooth, claw, branch and root. But, as a gardener, I'm used to the cruel realities of both the natural and the cultured plant world. I've slaughtered thousands of weeds, heartlessly, even gleefully, and pile the corpses to convert into soil for new garden beds.

Now I'm creeping myself out.

Last yay for this entry, I now have 15 manuscripts out in the mail looking for homes. A while back I had ten, the most I'd ever had out in the mail, ever. I'm aiming for at least one new manuscript out in the mail every week for the foreseeable future as part of my new commitment to put my typing where my mouth is. Or something like that.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for more blog posts as weather allows.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Winter Musings

Brrrr ....

This is the kind of weather (below freezing, wind chill sending us into the realm of unnecessarily cold, having to put warm water out for the barn animals twice a day) that inspires me to write a simplified life book. More on that in a sec, because --

What is it about the dumb, persistent myth that warm or hot water put out in the weather freezes faster than cold water? I heard this again the other day from someone and I was so dumbfounded that I couldn't bring myself to correct them. It defies the laws of thermodynamics, folks. If nothing else, consider that the warm water is cooled by the environment down to a temperature that qualifies as cold water, right? And that this takes time? And then, presumably, this now same-as-the-initial-cold-temperature water will take, what, less time to freeze employing what mechanism? I believe this fallacy must have come from some high school physics course in which the instructor explained calories and heating water and how much energy it takes to heat frozen water as opposed to liquid water. I'm not entirely sure but I suspect that someone took that data and extrapolated it incorrectly. The other thing that might be going on is that it's true that warm or hot water evaporates more quickly. Less water, less time to cool it down. However, I doubt that the evaporation rate reduces the amount of water overall (unless, possibly, you have a really small container) enough to increase the freezing rate.
Rant mode off.

My next project, after I'm done with the YA I'm working on, will be House of Goats. I proposed this at Kris and Dean's master's class and I've had very kind reminders ever since then that I have to write this book. Although I'm not basing House of Goats on my life, you can bet that all my Skunky stories will be included. And of course there will be dogs, and cats, and rodent infestations ... all the gory details of life on a small farm when you don't know exactly what you're doing and learn everything the hard way.

Well, not everything. Learning to make homemade blackberry pies wasn't hard at all. But then pie is notoriously easy.

The puppies have been enjoying life inside the house. They spend a few hours outside every day during the warmest part of the day, which they use for chasing each other around the yard and lazing in the sun, but the remainder of the time they're indoors napping in our living room chairs. The vacuum is my friend. Despite the added work, and the additional fuzzy people always getting in my way and underfoot, it's wonderful having them in the house with us. Aside from occasional forays into the litter box, they're really well-behaved animals.

No more sleeping on the bed, though. They take up more than half of a king-sized futon. The wedgie allotted to me when they're there is warm, but a little too cramped for comfort.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Beast as a Young Man -->

When I think about Beast, "Marley and Me" comes to mind. My DH and I didn't have the kind of relationship things going on, and I haven't had a problem finding myself--I'm always right here. But the dog. Oh yes, the dog ...

We adopted Beast and his sister Angel from the SW Washington Humane Society not too terribly long after we moved into our current house. We wanted Nikita's help raising the next generation of dog(s), and we were ready to celebrate our new open spaces with dogs that could cavort and run rampant around the property. Also, the kids were tiny when we got Nikita and Frey, so they lived with them as part of a pack, but hadn't been involved in training dogs. Nikita and Frey were family. We thought it would be fun for the kids to have best friends. We saw the dynamic duo, named Fred and Ginger by the staff, and decided not to break up a winning team. Little did we know that these two had probably escaped from a yard much like Beast would later turn loose the Sea of Unconditional Love again and again and again ....

As is the way of the world, all grand plans fall apart within the first couple of steps. Beast was the smartest stupid dog I'd ever known, and he proved it within a week. He learned to lift the latch on the gate, probably by watching our kids leave for the school bus that morning. He and his sister Angel got loose a short time after the bus had left. I watched our kids get on the bus through the window and had no idea Beast was so smart. In a few tiny seconds after I moved away from the window they got to the main road, and Angel was struck by a car.

I remember hearing the squeal of tires and the yelp, and the wash of disbelief pouring through me. I'd just seen them out there, safe inside the yard and the gate was closed. It couldn't be.

But it was.

I ran out, thinking 'please don't let it be Beast ..." I don't know why I connected with him more deeply in the beginning. I felt like such a bad parent, but as my heart stopped and stuttered back to life and I saw his shaggy face full of terror and confusion, relief soothed the red hot grief I felt as I gathered Angel in my arms. Beast had been a very smart, very bad dog and I'd been a very bad mommy for not predicting the need to clip that latch down so he wouldn't be able to lift it. We bonded hard in blood. The kids learned an entirely different lesson--the price of a moment of recklessness.

Did that make him mindful and obedient? Hell no. I can't count the number of times he opened that gate if we forgot to lock it. He'd watch for it. If anyone--stranger, kid, one of the adults, a house guest--neglected to clip the latch into a locked position he'd nose it up the second the coast was clear. He knew to wait for the front door to close and away he'd go.

He knew sit, and down, and come here ... if there was something in it for him. I had to learn the lesson that first-time airedale owners learn the hard way. Airedales are single-minded. Born for the chase. Born to run. To get an airedale to obey you have to make whatever it is you want him to do much more fun than running.

Beast knew how to find joy and hang onto it. If you weren't part of the joy, you were part of the problem, not part of the solution.

One time he chased a deer off a cliff and went missing for five days. Another time I lost control of him--he bashed past me as I went through the gate--while trying to recapture escaped goats.

Did that annoy me? No. Weirdly, I felt proud of him. He had a truly indomitable spirit. And he loved us completely. When we let him in the house he'd tear around the place looking for opportunities for play--teasing the cats, eating kitty tootsie rolls out of the litter box, snuffling every surface for food or something expensive to chew. (He got an irreplaceable remote on an older tv once--we had to recycle the tv and get a new one. Yargh.) But eventually all that destruction and chaos would get boring and he'd settle on (not by, on) my feet, sleepy contentment smooth on his face.

Everything active was his favorite, so I can't really say that jogging was his favorite thing, but it was. The other dogs couldn't keep up with us, even the younger ones. Sure, he'd be a little weary on the way home, walking slightly behind me instead of beside or ahead of me during the cool down, but he'd be ready to go again in a hour, easy. We'd play the sit-for-the-passing-car game which was great for him. He knew he'd get ear rubs while he was sitting on my foot, braced against my knee so I couldn't go anywhere without him.

This last summer we went to the river to cool off quite often. This was the first year he actually swam. Water to him had been a necessary evil, and he wouldn't go in deeper than his belly unless forced. But this time he followed me in until his feet left the sandy ground and I'd swim with him back to shore over and over. We walked together afterward, drying off in the luxurious sunshine, his clean, wiry coat perfect and shiny in the golden light. From that day on the river was his favorite walk.

I'll always remember that he experienced joy on a level far beyond that of any dog I'd known. He really knew how to live. He focused his entire being on the hunt, the chase, the run. Watching him run was like watching exquisite art in motion. The emotion of it was more like Olympic ice skating or ballet, so much more than getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. And he knew how to drink in love and accept it fearlessly. In fact he demanded it shamelessly, a big grin on his face, knowing he deserved no less.

You deserved no less, Beast, my monster. Blessed be.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Words Keep Coming

I'm still not moved into my office, so posts will continue to be sporadic and uneven, like life.

I've been writing like crazy the past few days, adding a lot of words to my Nanowrimo. I've also finished writing a new short story and will start on another short here pretty soon. My DH and I went a little crazy yesterday morning and came up with an alien biology that screams to be written about. More details as they emerge, skittering, from my flesh.

I love it when a good idea comes along and grabs me by the throat, but I don't actually need an idea, per se, to write. Like most writers I can go on and on just fine thank you about the human condition in all its dimensions--love and suffering, hate and pleasure, victory and lust, etc. There's plenty to write about in the regular, everyday world, just like there's plenty to paint all around us. It just requires a way of looking, the infamous artist's eye, to figure out what to write or paint about. It takes some practice but once the skill is there, it doesn't go away. Still, it's nice to have an idea take on a life of its own. It makes the writing that much more fun.

So I'm writing and settling into a post-convention routine that involves reclaiming my house from the Aaaaargh! Rats! and maybe even painting for Radcon. I haven't shown my watercolors in a while and I think it would be good for me to try to make that art show a deadline. I sold something at the last show I participated in, so I'm rather fond of Radcon's art show. They have the coolest stuff.

In other news, the puppies had a bath and spent the night in our bedroom to dry off (they have very thick coats this time of year and it takes a long time to dry out.) They tried sleeping on the bed, which worked out great for them (they took up over half of it) until they overheated. I was grateful when they decided the floor worked better.

It was nice to get a lick on the cheek to wake me up in the morning.

I'm still missing Beast very much, and so are the puppies. Lots of sad eyes and hearts looking for him, even seeing him for fleeting moments as memory intersects wanting. I got that song "Snoopy Come Home" stuck in my head for a couple of days. I've started listening to music while doing chores again to keep from slipping deeper and deeper into the pit of what-ifs that might have saved his life.

Last but not least, first hard frost this morning. We've had some good cold weather before this, but this is the first time I woke up to everything being white. Even our garbage bags outside had little white pebbles all over them--frozen dewdrops. Inside one of our metal posts, the ice formed a chaotic, delicate, criss-crossed stairway leading down into darkness.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Soon now, before we know it, the longest night of the year will be upon us, and we can begin to welcome the hope of longer days to come.