Sunday, October 31, 2010


It's Nanowrimo time again.  The whole month of November I'll be working on not one, but two novels.  Normally Nanowrimo is NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, but I'm stupid so I'll be working on two, with a goal of 100,000 words by the end of the month.

Is there any reason to suppose I can pull this off?  Not really.  I've done high word count months before, but I've also fallen on my face, and this year I've got a full time job.

Perfect time to up the stakes, says I.

What happens if I lose?  I hang my head in writerly shame.  And if I win?  I get a nice little certificate.  I've got a few of them laying around, and I'm rather proud of them.

The one thing I won't promise to do is to work equally on both books.  Whichever is working for me better on a given day, that's the one I'll be writing on.  Will I be able to keep them isolated in my head?  Will the voices stay true to each other?  Will Lonni ever be able to live in the rapture of true love?  I have no idea.  I think I'll be okay, though.  I've done multiple projects before.  And if it starts to not work, I'll just work on one book.

Hopefully that'll be my 'main squeeze'--the book I've got listed as my novel on my Nanowrimo profile.

If you too would like to try to write 50,000 words in a month (a pretty short novel) you're very welcome to join me.  I'm kzmiller.  Let's buddy up and do this.  Why?  Well I know why I do it.  'Cause I'm a writer.

You're probably crazy to want to.  Me--it's a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  

No, really.

It's what I do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I've been working on Masks again.  I have this giddy feeling that comes from visiting favorite places combined with new explorations.

It's a good thing that there is giddiness because I've received a ton of rejections this past week.  Editors must be reacting to the change of seasons and are clearing out all the leaves from their yards.

Speaking of which, most of our trees have all their leaves and only a few have started to turn.  That means I have to wait before I fertilize.  This is, however, oddly, a great time to do a bit of shaping and pruning if you have plants you need to reduce.  They'll go to sleep remembering that they're a smaller plant, and won't go as crazy in spring trying to regain the size you want to bring them down to.  Once the leaves turn and fall, though, the tree is essentially dormant and won't remember a thing except that it used to be X number of feet tall and wide and oh noes!  Must grow all the missing bits back!

Plants are kewl and weird.  Writing is kewl and weird.  Rejections ... best thing for me to do is to sweep them into a pile and send out the manuscripts again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crime and Punishment

Locally a woman who shot her husband four times is trying to use a defense that she was essentially in a disassociated state when she learned that he was having an affair.  Additionally, she wants to plead that she has a disorder that basically makes her react in an exaggerated fashion in order to gain attention.

I'm really uncomfortable with this and similar defenses.  What if someone is a sociopath--other people basically aren't real and the only thrill this person feels is when they hurt or kill others or break the rules by stealing millions, etc.  Maybe they're considered insane.  Does that excuse them from their crimes?  What if they don't know what they're doing?  Does that mean that they should go free?  What then does such a person have to do in order to be removed from society so that they don't commit more crimes?  

This all just makes me think about our justice system.  I don't think any system is perfect.  I think there are issues no matter what you do.  I am concerned about the fact that in our society, violent predators thrive (or seem to.)  Is it because violent predators have always thrived, is my perception skewed, or is it because in our relatively safe society, we've intellectualized crime and justice so much that we haven't kept up with dealing with the reality of it?  In the process of being fair, have we forgotten the ideal of protecting people from crime?

I have no answers, only more and more questions.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I've been crazy busy at work, and the rains they are a-comin'.

Woke to the sound of rain this morning.  Been a long time since that's happened.  Our torn-apart porch is just a painted skeleton in pieces, waiting for a carpenter/paleontologist to put it together somehow with parts missing and all.  Poor old Dakota is having trouble getting back in the house after we let her out.  Her hips twinge when she tries to duck under the framework and it's a scrabble to make it up the slanted cement steps that collapsed into rat tunnels ages ago.  Those steps are actually pretty neat-o, but I bet the insurance company wouldn't like it if we just used them and gave up on the whole porch project thingy.  So something has to happen.

I vote for magical things happening in the middle of the night and we wake up to it all done perfectly with red and white intermingled roses growing all over a trellis on it.

The chickens are doing really well.  The Wyandottes will go on sale soon, hopefully to go to good homes though I wouldn't be offended if someone just wanted a really nice (though work-intensive) holiday dinner.  They're neat birds, but we've got two roosters too many and they're starting to stress each other out.

So, not much going on, and yet lots going on.  It's been a full week, and I'm looking for a day off so that I can make some headway on the home front.  And writing?  All I can say is, thank goodness for one hour lunches.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Students Learn, Birds fly, and Writers Write

I helped (just a wee bit) with the girl's senior project.  She had to (with the help of her mentor) learn how to collect, catalogue, and preserve a plant collection.  I hadn't done anything like this since 2002-2003.  I'd forgotten how much fun it was.  

I remember many days just like today, soaked from the knees down under the not-really-adequate shelter of a red and white golf umbrella (the same one I used today, in fact) while my horticulture instructor led us through various gardens and rattled off common and latin names. I used a waterproof notebook and wrote in pencil.  I collected bags and bags of plants, which I then had to sort, re-identify, and press within a few hours or they'd be too wilted to be useful.  Sometimes the specimens kept okay overnight in the refrigerator.  I still have books and books of pressed plants.  Some are in better condition than others.  Anyway, although the girl is a bit overwhelmed, she seems to be learning, and having fun too.

This morning I let the chickens out into pouring rain.  They make different noises during different conditions that sometimes imply language to me.  "Cluck cluck, what weather we're having today!  A little rain is just fine, but this is going a bit far, don't you think?"

I gave them a handful of black oil sunflower seeds, their favorite, to help stave off the morning damp (soaking) and chill.  It definitely feels like autumn, with warm, beautiful days and the gentle storms.  Much as I love summer, autumn is special too, and I'm happy with my orange pumpkins and ripening corn.  The chickens don't seem to mind either.  They've been raiding the tomatoes.  So much for a chance at getting some ripe ones here at the end ... but it's just so much fun watching them disassemble fruit and raid the compost pile for bugs that I wouldn't dream of keeping them away.

Not that I could.  They can really fly now.  Trim their wings?  I could, but if I didn't want creatures flying around here, I wouldn't have gotten birds in the first place.  Besides, we still have rats, and this way my chicks-all-grown-up will be a little safer.

I hope everyone local is enjoying a cozy, rainy day.  I'll be programming, and writing.  Tomorrow it's back to the day job, so I'm hoping to really make this day count.

Friday, October 08, 2010

News of the blue&white, black&white, and green&white

The boy painted (nearly) the entire house!!

In other news, a story of mine got held-onto (again, still, or something like that) for final selection for a magazine.  It makes me happy.  I should know in a couple of months if the story will be in or out.

In the garden:

Autumn has arrived on the hill, announced not so much by leaf-fall, colors, or even the scent in the wind but by powdery mildew.  To fight this dastardly disease, you can spray, prune, or both.  (I recommend both, but prune at minimum.)  Removing diseased leaves not only helps slow the spread of the disease, but allows more airflow into the plant.  Powdery mildew likes moist, warm conditions to grow.  Pruning takes away some of the moisture.  Most people notice it on their squashes first, but keep an eye on those grapes.  Now is a fine time to reduce your grape canopy--before problems set in--to help protect your ripening grapes from all kinds of fungal problems.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Ex-Siding Developments

Our siding has some rotten places.

I discovered this when I prepped to paint.  I went up with caulking, started injecting ... and found that a few hand-sized places were essentially painted veneer with sponge-like wood underneath.  I stopped caulking immediately, realizing that I was basically trying to glue together sawdust under a thin coat of wood held together with paint.

After a lot of tapping and testing, we've found all the bad spots, so we'll replace the siding in those areas and paint them while we still have dry weather.  I'm disappointed that we won't have the painting done in time to beat the incoming wet weather, but that's okay.  Another dry spell will come along.  


I hope.

That's both dry and above freezing.

The good news is the vast majority of our siding is surprisingly sound.  Yay!  I'm looking forward to how the house will look when it's all done, and I'll sleep a little easier knowing that we'll be in good shape to weather the next long stretch of years.  All in all, the house really is getting into really good shape.  When I look back at how it was, both home and property, and how it is now, I'm amazed.  

It's hard to realize how far we've come when I discover a problem like this, until I start to think about how major some of our problems were (like my office flooding) compared to what they are now (a little bit of rot that will only take a few hours to deal with.)

I think we're going to be more than okay.  I think this house is turning out great.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Painting ... the House

Normally when I say I'm painting, I mean on canvas or watercolor paper.  This time it's the exterior of our house.

But you know, the finesse-stuff is kinda all the same.  Sure, I'm not going to put a mural on the side of the house or anything (though I'm tempted to put up the occasional 1/4" ladybug here and there like little physical Easter eggs) but paying attention to brush stroke and line is still the same.  The main thing that's different is structure.  I don't have to worry too much about the canvas/paper/ground on a painting.  Prepping surfaces like that for the main event is really pretty easy.  On the house, we have to wash, and scrape off flaking paint, and fill in those little holes that bugs occasionally make in siding.  

It's looking really nice.  I like it, anyway.  And it feels like a familiar task, even though I've never done it.  Sure, I've done the inside walls, but never the outside except for some trim touching-up I did at our prior home.  I'm comfortable with this work, like I've done it a lot.

By the end, I will have done it a lot, I guess.  It's a big house.  Maybe when I'm done, we'll have a grand re-opening or something.  Toast the accomplishment.  Speaking of which, here's a big thank you to my son, who has done most of the work this time.  Did I just say most? you ask.  Yep.  I've had to work, and he's taken up the brush and roller in my place.  Thanks, kiddo.  I very literally couldn't have done this without you, especially with the rainy season looming.

Yay boy, yay painting, yay new-looking house.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Courtesy, Part 2

Some people, when they return stuff, unintentionally give me a clear picture of their house.  Two cases in point recently--two sets of sweats covered in dog and cat hair, and the sweatpants that had been through the wash were hairier than the rest.  The green had a kind of roan or frosted look.  The other case were camo-hunting pants coated in dog hair, with less near the waist band and a ton around the cuffs.  In the camo-pants situation, I had a striking image of the person trying the pants on one leg at a time on avocado carpet with a good quarter inch thick of dog hair felted into the surface.  Am I psychic?  You decide. 

Anyway, when you need to return clothes that don't fit, bear in mind:

If the merchant can't resell them because they've been washed or covered in dog/cat hair or sweated out/smell like perfume/smell like you've been in a cigar bar all night, you're basically asking them to eat the cost of the clothes because you made a mistake.  They usually won't get a credit from the manufacturer.  If the clothes are in good enough condition to hang back on the shelf, though, the merchant will be happy to accommodate you.

In marginal economic times, it doesn't take long before merchants have to decide whether to accommodate errors in size-choice (which we all make, and is a courtesy on their part) or to decide whether to keep their doors open.  Returns are built into business plans, but it's not hard to see how increased returns, or just normal rates of return when the business is struggling due to greatly decreased sales, could kill a store that managed to survive up until this point.

I do understand that lots of people don't really care if the little clothing boutique dies or their local drug store closes ... but they better not complain that the only places still open are Fred Meyer and Walmart.  And on the other side of the table--the best way to ensure you'll be able to return clothes that don't work for you is to take good care of them.  More and more businesses are refusing to take back stuff that's been misused.  They simply can't afford to take the hit anymore.

The exceptions, of course, are obvious manufacturing defects.  The manufacturers make good on those.