Thursday, April 29, 2010


I should wish I was still at the beach, but it's been too fun around here thanks to spring storms.
The weather's been intense. Hard downpours, hail, mist, towering clouds with tiny bits of bright blue between--when the sun actually pokes through where I'm at, I have to squint. My eyes have adapted to the darkness and don't do well in sun at the moment. I have become a creature of the dimness and thunder.

It's fun to watch the patchwork of sun and shadow on the hills, when it's not pouring, that is. One really nice thing about the weather is that the temperature has dropped so much, and it's so miserable (though gorgeous) out there that the hummingbirds have given up on being scared of us. The female especially just parks on the feeder under the eaves, happy to be out of the torrential downpours. It must be like flying through a whitewater river for her.

Which, when it comes down to it, is inspiring weather to write in. When the skyfall sounds like marbles banging on the roof, and I see a gold, green and slate streak of landscape lit by rare sunlight while we're huddled in the shadow of a massive thunderhead, it's easy to write dramatically.

And I'm not at all tempted to take a gardening break. I guess the slugs get to eat it all. I ain't goin' out there, not even to bait.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Estrogen: The Fountain of Weee

I had a wonderful time at Estrogenfest this last weekend. Hence my silence the past few days. No internets, no chores, just women, waves and art. My creative batteries have been recharged, and I'm ready to get back to work.

I seriously planned on writing while I went away, but I'm glad I didn't. I think that, unbeknownst to me, I needed the space. Focusing on visual arts for three days felt like rebuilding my computer's desktop. All the same stuff is there, in the same order, but the brain is running better.

For all that, though, it's good to be home, and I'm glad I wasn't away for, say, a week or a month. A weekend is just perfect for a rejuvenating escape.

As part of my artsy-fartsy focus, I got to take lots of photos. I'll be posting some, and painting some, in the days ahead. Yep, you heard me right. I'm painting again. I suspect that if I allow time for painting, I may be able to give myself little boosts and breaks every day. It'll be a nice experiment, and even if it doesn't work out, I look forward to playing with watercolors for a little longer. It'll stretch that coastal experience, and extend the high I get from the massive amounts of estrogen I'm exposed to when I go to one of these all-women retreats. Weee!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


We switched over to OS X Snow Leopard a couple of days ago. The jury's still out. I'll know more about how well I like it when I get the unofficial manual. I use those like a tour book. Without a tour or guide book, I pretty much stick to doing what I've always done, which negates any benefit (other than keeping up so that we don't end up with obsolete, unsupported machines) of upgrading. We ordered the book the same day we got the software, so it should be here any day now.
One thing I'm looking forward to (though it turns out I've had this capability all along, unbeknownst to me) is the creation of podcasts. In my copious spare time, of course. I'm also looking forward to organizing my workspace better. Because in the end it's all about getting the computer to make my job as a writer more efficient and productive, and to help me be more creative. If it didn't do that, I'd be better off with a typewriter. Fewer distractions that way. I do think I get a lot more work done on this thing than I would a typewriter. It's full of awesome, and topped with awesome sauce. Soon now, I hope to cook like a gourmet with this baby. C'mon, post office, deliver my book!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Big Goat Day

I haven't posted about the goats in a while. Other than taking care of their daily needs, I haven't done much with the goats lately. So naturally I had to do everything at once yesterday, with the help of my DH.

Imagine taking a ton of tools out to the barn in a wheelbarrow. With the puppies, because they needed some quality time with the goats.
Imagine the goats immediately starting to play with any tools you don't happen to be using at the time.
Imagine the ripe scent of composting manure as we stripped away the relatively clean top layer and started mucking our way down toward bare earth. Mmm mmm mmm. Then of course wee little white flies arrived and hummed about. Then somehow, while going out to check on the dogs, I managed to get a bug, I think it was a flying black ant, in my eye. I got the body and wings out, not sure about all of the legs.
Imagine hauling wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of muck (my DH did this part all by himself) out to the garden at the far end of our property (on the top side--at least he didn't have to manage the hill.) Some of it was dry and light, some quite damp.
Imagine, just as you're starting to really dig in, the nature of the muck changing such that it wants to come off the ground in big chunks that keep falling off the shovels, sometimes by breaking in the middle like old, crumbling pottery. This same stuff, when chopped at, bounces shovels. Try not to imagine the coughing and the snot as our bodies tried to fend off the dust.
During those times when my DH made a wheelbarrow run, I worked on pulling out the old hay feeder (the goats had torn it to shreds) and put up a new one. Then I took out the old fencing that divided the goat side from the chicken side. So easy to say, so difficult to wrestle with twisted sections of wire field fence and to yank out staples with a hammer (we couldn't find our fencing pliers, which are perfect for this sort of thing.)
Imagine the feeling of satisfaction when we finish spreading the diatomaceous earth and straw. We turned the old chicken coop we kept in the barn into a sleeping shelf for the goats, and Snowblaze immediately had to leap up on top of it. Top bunk! (The inside is big enough for a goat to use as a house, and I suspect that's where Scooter will probably sleep, if not cuddled up to Snowblaze on top. Or they might both end up inside, because Snowblaze had to play around in there too.) The barn glowed with cleanliness and smelled great. I stayed to bask for a while, then buckled down to trim goat hooves. A piece flew off at one point and hit me in the eye. The same eye. But I persevered, and the goats have nicely trimmed hooves again. Those hooves really grew a lot in a month, which is normal for this time of year. Later I'll be able to trim much less frequently.
Left to do--one more dose of Panacur for the season (spring is worm season. Ick!) and the goats could use a good brushing. I also (eventually) want to build a stanchion because when they're not in the mood to stand for hoof trimming, they're pains in the butt. Weirdly, though, I had fun. If you don't have fun doing this sort of thing, rethink any ideas about having livestock.
I was sore even before we finished the work. I'm even more sore today. Maybe I'll take my camera out and take a pic, but it's more likely that I'll make tea and curl up around my computer and write most of today. It's too rainy to garden anyway.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Two Writer Household Quirks

People keep giving the DH and me looks when we go to Wifi hotspots around town. We must look terribly unromantic, having a sit-down lunch or coffee, typing and not talking to each other. Ah, the state of our current technological world. Human contact will be a thing of the past if all couples go the way they're going, they must think.

It is a little weird on the one hand, but on the other, the only reason we go out anymore (besides for romantic or celebratory dinners, which are actually more fun at home) is to have a business meal, where we can connect at blinding (meaning not dial-up) speeds. We often go to the library, where it's free, but sometimes we're hungry, you know?

Perhaps it is unromantic and sterile anyway. That's not all bad. As far as the sterile part--I love our kids, but thank the gods because we don't need any more. On the romance part of things--at least we kick each other under the table, and we've even been known to send goofy love emails during a break. It's less likely to interrupt a thought than kicking each other under the table (the surest sign of love. Quarreling sibs take heed.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I just passed the six hundred post mark. Six hundred posts? Really? In August I'll hit my five year mark, so I guess it's not all that many, all told. Still. That's a lot of yammering.

Another milestone, though more a spring-oriented one: the tulips and pears are in full bloom, while the last of the quince, and peach blossoms are fading. The apple blossom buds have just started to barely open, which means it's time to plant asparagus seeds. The instructions on the packet don't recommend direct-seeding, but I'm following Gardening West of the Cascades and I want to give it at least one year so I can see for myself how well his methods work. I have a couple of asparagus survivors from the great greenhouse upset, so I'm not putting all my eggs in one basket, but that does leave a lot less margin (I'd planned on six seedlings and fourteen direct-seeded plants) than I'd initially worked toward.

The DH and I are one step closer to a finished ceiling downstairs. I spent the sunny part of yesterday painting the first coat on our new ceiling--on the ground, where I don't have to rest every few minutes to let all the blood return to my hands. He got a ton of mowing done, and now the orchard field looks gorgeous, like something out of a postcard. The girl had JR (our rabbit) out hopping around for over an hour, which must have felt great to him after several rainy days stuck all day in his cage. We celebrated with yummy bbq, and the bunny got fresh mowing clippings as a treat.

In writing news, I'm finding that working on House of Goats is easier, at least for the moment, than writing first draft short stories. I don't know if it's that I'm coming down with the same illness that have sent both kids to bed, or if my creative energy is being siphoned into trying to manage and organize the return of the downstairs to a lovely living space. It is creative work (and a lot of elbow grease) to essentially build a to-do list and put the items into the proper order. For example, we had to consider whether or not to tear out the laundry room wall. I think it'll be okay. It doesn't feel unusually cold (which would suggest that it's soaked with water) and I don't see any discoloration. So I decided to run the clothes drier, a lot, to keep the place vented and warm to assist in drying. Which involves not only going through our normal laundry needs, but also curtains and such.

Stuff like that. Every aspect of the downstairs, from the ceiling joints and sections where the ceiling tore or damaged part of the wall, down to figuring out where and how to start eliminating the piles of dust, to figuring out a cleaning schedule so that the kids' rooms don't become dangerously filthy not only from their own lifestyles but encroaching remodeling, takes a surprising amount of creative energy.

So imagine my surprise when I started painting again recently. Imagine my even larger surprise when I had a dream about painting portraits, and woke up thinking that the techniques I used in the dreams would actually work.

Now I just need some writing dreams where my dream writing techniques would actually work ... But I'm getting lots of writing done overall, so I guess I shouldn't complain. Maybe my difficulties with short stories right now are a bit inevitable anyway. I've always been primarily a book-length writer, and as my energy gets eaten up, it's natural that I'll favor that length. It's my understanding as well that if (when!) I start getting books published, I might very well end up with a schedule from the publisher as far as what books they'll want to see next (usually sequels.) Combine that with my own plans for what books I want to write, and that will leave less and less time for short story writing. The increased difficulty of writing short stories (for me), decreases in time, and decreases in energy, make the slow reduction of short story production seem inevitable. I guess it's another transition, like quince to tulips. But I think I'll always write short stories. They're not only fun, but they let me explore ideas that wouldn't necessarily fill a book, they let me play with different voices, and they teach me lots about writing.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is an argh of quiet desperation.

Actually, I'm not really desperate.

The DH and I are at the Laundromat. Are we here because we wanted to catch up on bedding? No. Are we here because we're doing a bunch of pillows? Wrong again.

I went into our laundry room looking for underwear. (C'mon everyone, sing it from Dr. Horrible! Underwear ... tumbling ...) I heard what I thought was a rat really going to town, nibbling. After I hit the wall a couple of times with no effect, all the while wondering how the rat could have possibly gotten in there and where to set a trap to catch it, I realized it didn't sound exactly like a rat nibbling. Actually, it sounded like water dribbling and burbling behind the wall.

And I had this awful, sinking feeling that the wet towels on the floor weren't from the kids dumping the towels in there after some weird cleaning scheme like I'd initially thought. You see, those damp towels had been damp for a couple of days, and--

"Rory! Turn off the water upstairs! I need to check something!"


I dashed upstairs and got him to stop washing his hands, then hurried downstairs again. Still dribbling. It wasn't drain pipe noises, which ended my last hope that I was just hearing normal plumbing sounds.

It was raining outside.

And the dogs had been digging.

Sure enough, when my DH looked outside, a little stream was running down a deep trench they'd dug straight toward the laundry room.

The director of my life cued the adventure/danger music as I ran out to the shed, grabbed a shovel, and began to reroute the water toward the French drain my DH and the boy had installed a few years ago.

For about fifteen more minutes, we heard the dribbling behind the wall, and then it stopped.

Luckily there's a drain in the laundry room floor, so this didn't affect any other part of the house, and also (sort of) luckily the towels and stuff on the floor soaked up a lot of the moisture.

So here we are at the Laundromat (with my freezeray I will STOP the pain) washing all the wet stuff. Some of it was gross because all the laundry on the floor had been quietly soaking up rainwater that had run behind the wall and onto the laundry room floor for the past few days, unbeknownst to us, and did what wet laundry on the floor is wont to do.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Updates

Some wild weather lately. We had another extremely windy day, so I'm glad I didn't get the parts for my wind-busted greenhouse yet. It would have just gotten busted up again.

I'm working through House of Goats again, this time adding things I thought of belatedly and wanted to insert in, and looking specifically for emotional highs and lows that I missed the first go-through. This is a bit of a new process for me. I usually get in almost everything I want on the first go-through. I'm liking it a lot. When I mentioned this to a group of writers I know from a class, another one piped up with the fact that she writes in a similar way. Since she's a published author and I rather admire her writing, I felt better about doing it this way.

Even if no one else wrote this way, though, I'd still do it. I write every book in a slightly different way. Part of that is due to the fact that I'm learning to be a better writer, but I think a great deal of it has to do with the fact that every book is different. Some are very different. In fact, I'd be very surprised if I wrote a hard SF book exactly the same way that I'd write something literary.

In other news, Veronica will be going to the vet to get spayed at the end of the week. Wish her luck! It's a very common surgery and I trust our vets, but surgery is surgery and because she's a wee little girl it will be an internal surgery rather than a boy's easier snip snip sort. I'll try not to pass my anxiety on to her as we near the day, but I'm already worrying.

Stories out: 29
Currently working on: House of Goats (novel)
Short stories written last week: 1

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Downstairs Down in the Dumps

We've drawn our lines in the sand. Actually, they're more like blocks of mortar setting in rat tunnel entrances. Assuming we've found all the entrances, I'm anticipating a rat-free house (yay!) for at least a few years. I can finally (re)finish the downstairs without feeling like it's all for nothing. You know, the downstairs I had new floors put in, and repainted with fabulous colors, and remodeled? Yeah, that downstairs, which got ripped apart and run over as we tried to root out the evil yuck that accumulates wherever rats go.

The floor is still gorgeous. It's just hard to notice with the ceiling all torn out.

When we've got a new ceiling up, I'll celebrate by giving the place a good cleaning/decluttering. It will shine once more, oh yes, it will shine. But first, I have to mud all the top edges and repaint where the tape between wall and ceiling ripped down. Ugh.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Bad Agent Sydney Awards Treats to Veronica

Weather has kept me indoors and writing. I'm almost done with House of Goats! I'm especially excited about this because I have another book I desperately want to work on. I still might get the post-finished-first-draft blues, but I'll stay busy.

In other news, Veronica has made it onto Bad Agent Sydney's Blog. See the post here. Veronica got a treat, of course!

Bad Agent Sydney T. Cat revels in bad agent practices. I recommend Sydney's posts to anyone who'd like to get an idea of the kinds of things agents can do (and have done) that might not be in a writer's best interest. There certainly are great agents out there, but there are also bad agents like Sydney. Sometimes the only way to tell them apart in advance if you're hunting for an agent is to educate yourself and watch for red flags. Most people know to watch out for agents that ask for up-front money like reading fees or who refer writers to editing services, but there's lots of other iffy things agents (both scam and legitimate) do that are much harder to spot. Writer beware!