Wednesday, December 21, 2011

If Wishes had Plans ...

Sometimes I wish I was working full time for myself. Wishing isn't worth much all by itself, though. I wish for stuff all the time. I wish I was healthier, slimmer, stronger, that I'll win the lottery, etc.

I can make the working full time for myself work, though. I have a plan. Tomorrow I'll have some time to work on that plan.

A plan makes all the difference. It's like budgets in finance. Want to be rich but living from hand to mouth? Have to start with a budget. It can suck. Adding up expenses and subtracting them from income sometimes points out just how far we're in the hole, but you know, you're in that hole whether you know it or not. I'd rather know it. From there it's just a matter of figuring out how to work with the income you've got and then formulating a plan for decreasing unnecessary expenditures (sometimes that's impossible if you've cut to the bone already) and formulating another plan for increasing income if it's needed (usually it's needed but not always.)

Before I can work totally freelance I have to (on average) have an income of my wages plus benefits. The benefits are the tough things to match right now. I 'make' more in benefits than I do in wages.

But there's that number, and so I can set up a plan and adjust as needed once I put that plan into action. You'd better believe step one is not quit my day job. Good thing I (mostly) like my day job! Step one mostly involves using my free time to the best of my ability, while maintaining sanity. I had a sanity day recently, so tomorrow is a work on my self-employed job day. If I can get eight solid hours in, that would be good. Holiday shopping doesn't count.

Have you got a plan for your wishes?

Thursday, December 15, 2011


My DH will have a DVD coming out soon. One of the questions we got from the producer involved the kind of music he thinks would work well with the DVD.

That's a huge question.

I have these soundtracks I listen to sometimes when I'm writing or as a prep before writing to help transport me quickly back into that world within the story. A lot of people I know have soundtracks for their lives, just like the commercial says. Some songs are so intensely popular that they're used in multiple movies, or sometimes aren't in the movies themselves but are in the trailers. "Ordinary World" is a hugely popular example.

But a bunch of favorite songs is not what a non-fic DVD needs. I'm sure the producer will take our ideas (or leave them) and come up with something practical. As someone who occasionally does creative stuff for other people, I understand the blessing that is a launching point.

I'm so, so curious about the entire DVD but now I'm especially curious about how music fits in. Music can turn a perfectly good instructional DVD and make it corny or unlisten-able. One of my favorite workout videos has such boring, awful music that I turn it way down and listen to my own techno and pop mix instead. There's a lot of pressure placed on the background that we don't think about. Music covers white noise, microphone crackle, and turns those dramatic pauses into, well, drama as opposed to someone standing around while the lights hum.

Which actually all plays into writing (as all things do.) Description is often background. When it's just a dry list of things present in the room and people gesturing, it's substance without the music. Description needs flavor, life, action. Think about it. Why were Tolkien's settings so rich? Because they were alive. They had music.

I'm going to go write some music now, while I eagerly await the DVD rough cut, coming soon (I hope) to a tv near me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Be Awesome because it's fun!

Here's me waving to my readers and apologizing if I haven't responded to comments lately. I'm hardly ever online anymore, and when I am I check my email and run away to work on projects.

It's cold out here, but my knees are warm because our bulimic anger management issues kitteh is sitting between them, purring. I have a kneeling chair, which is supposed to be good for your posture but it doesn't work for me--I've just learned to slouch a different way. Isn't that horrible? But she's happy, and I'm happy and now I'm sitting up straight again because I'm all self-conscious about it now.

It's been a while since I've posted about customers. Lately I've been having few to no issues. Everyone's been splendid. There's changes afoot. People aren't as stressed. I see more people smiling. Maybe they've just adjusted to their hardships, or maybe things are actually getting better. Either way, it's been wonderful working retail with upbeat customers.

My favorite is G. He's got a close friend who always comes in and says "hi, I'm G's friend. He's on his way in," so I don't actually know his name. He of course likes it that way. Anyway, G. was in a serious car wreck, as in the paramedics found him dead at the scene and managed to revive him serious. He fights like hell to walk, to remember (he suffered a brain injury, among other things) and to take care of himself but he effing gets it done. That impresses me. Not that impressing me means anything, but I do think that there's a lesson there. Not to go out of your way to impress people. A con artist can do that. But to fight hard to the point where anyone would be impressed if they heard about it. For your own sake. Screw that--do it for humanity's sake. That's what keeps the human race alive and vital. Striving, fighting, excelling is what keeps us strong. The wild critters have constant pressure on them from disease, predation and the elements. We've reduced that pressure greatly. It's still there (I find it a little creepy that our biggest predator pressure comes from ourselves) but it's not what it once was. That's kewl, but doesn't that mean that we need to push ourselves now that clear and present death isn't breathing in our ears whispering that it's coming for us at any moment? If the cheetah doesn't motivate the gazelle to run, won't the gazelles lose their gazelle-ness and become less awesome?

Consider being awesome, not just to prep for a disaster that may or may not come, or to overcome a catastrophe like G. did. Become awesome because you have the freedom to become awesome without a car wreck or a cheetah or cancer or war or your crazy cousin Irvine showing up on the doorstep with a shotgun ready to take you and your whole family out. Do it for fun!

Which reminds me, they found three bodies and positively ID'ed the shooter as well and truly gone, reduced to sooty bones. Unfortunately he shot the twin sisters, one of which was his wife. A family, gone. Details are here (though I noticed that, weirdly, today's update from the paper edition isn't there yet. And yes, I'm one of those people who read the actual print newspaper.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Fire and Gunfire and Smoke

All morning I've heard reports and rumors and everything else about a fire and gunshots just a few blocks from my workplace. It's sobering, standing at my station, watching to see if something drastically changes, listening to gunfire.

And weirdly, I could see getting used to it. Not liking it, but figuring I have to eat, I have to shop, I have to work ... and going to work while blocks away people are shooting at each other, be it armies, religious sects, gangs, whatever. What if there's nowhere you can move to? People are struggling everywhere to make house payments or rent, looking for work--if your neighborhood exploded with violence, could you move? Would you?

Because I won't. Obviously I have the fair assurance that this won't happen again, and that after today it's unlikely that I'll hear gunfire and see plumes of smoke and flames and police, or worry about a crazy man somehow sneaking through a cordon and coming into my workplace. But even if I did think this would happen again, would I move? Would I leave work, with little assurance of finding another job ... and where would I go where this couldn't happen?

Because it could happen anywhere. Today it's happening here.

Weird how normal my day is. Weird how I'm having lunch at my second favorite place to have lunch because the first one is closed for everyone's safety. Or maybe not so weird. It's here today, and it'll be somewhere else in the world, maybe several somewhere else's, tomorrow.

I just hope that the wife and sister are okay. The man ... he's in charge. He'll be okay if he wants to be, and apparently he doesn't want to be. Today he wants fire and gunfire and smoke.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Joy of Interrupted Writing

I used to get so peeved when I'm writing and there's an interruption. It still gets to me, especially if it's something quick and unimportant that someone else could have handled, but I try to remind myself that my family/friends/job/etc. are more important than writing. If I write well enough, maybe someday the job can be taken off the list as writing will be my full time job. But for now, paying the bills ... yeah.

Today, the interruption in writing proved to be full of awesome.

I write during lunch on workdays whenever I can. When it's time to stop, I have to stop no matter how well it's going. I grumbled (silently) as I closed up my laptop and locked it away.

Fast forward two hours later and I have this genius idea about the scene I've been writing. I obsessed about it whenever I had a no-mind-required moment at work, and now I can sit down and write something much better than what I'd had in mind. Yay! So thank you, job, not just for health care and wages and keeping my family fed and happy, but for the timely interruption. Because if I'd kept on a'goin', I'm sure I wouldn't have thought of this idea.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Wyrd Goat Logo

We have a great person, T, visiting us so that's my excuse for not posting as much as I'd like. Seriously, when did it get to be so hard to post on my blog every day?

Anyway, it's not finished but I've made some progress on the Wyrd Goat logo. Specifically, the neck's proportions aren't there yet and the horns aren't done and there's no beard yet (gotta have a beard!) but I figured y'all might be curious about what I've been obsessing over the past few. I have to say that working in digital media is pretty fun. I really, really want a tablet, though. I'm doing all this with the track pad and a mouse I got for my laptop. Yowza, it's hard on the hands and wrists! I also don't have as much control as I'm used to.


If I make a line I hate, I just delete it. No mucking about with covering or removing pigment or there's even a technique where you can remove the top layer of paper if you're working on something durable like vellum ... None of that. Just a click of the mouse and it's gone.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

Home Town

My DH mentioned yesterday that I connect our family to the community at large simply by seeing the same people every day. I don't always know their names, but I recognize them at the grocery store, the hardware store, at the Christmas tree stand, and I often say hi when I have time if they don't look too busy.

I want to say that this is important, but is it? Maybe in an emergency a person who recognizes me might be more likely to stop and help, but even in that unlikely situation I think a good person would stop and help regardless of whether they're a friend or a stranger.

Is it important for people to know their neighbors, or at least recognize them?

I don't think there's a clear answer. I just know that I enjoy living in a place where I can go to the post office and small talk about the new building going up with my vet and the person who bags my groceries and the person I helped with a return the previous day.

For my fellow Nanoers--have you backed up your Nanowrimo project? Don't put it off!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Nanowrimo Final Count!

Last night's total word count was at 59,339 words. I probably could have snuck up past 60,000, but I had a really hot bath and realized that I had a better idea than the one I was working on. So I'm going to unwrite some stuff tomorrow and continue on this new, more exciting track.

In other semi-writing news, I'm reworking the Wyrd Goat logo and putting more serious work into the Wyrd Goat website. I'll let y'all know when it goes live. Hopefully it'll be a fun website with lots of wonderful books, links, and other nifty stuff. Advance thanks goes to Lisa the Awesome who is helping me figure out GIMP while doing some serious heavy lifting with some graphics I need. Yay Lisa!

In other, other semi-writing news, Masks will soon be ready. I have a first reader going through it now.

Tomorrow, more work on the floor in the morning, which may lead to finishing the upstairs which in turn may lead to dancing. I don't know! This may be too much fun in one place. Anything can happen ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--58297 words!

I gained some weight, but I ended up with about 58,297 words (final count will be posted tomorrow) for Nanowrimo this year and I didn't neglect my house or family as much this year as previous years. I ended up in the perfect place in the book for Nano to end--I'm in the muddle in the middle. Anyone who's written a novel knows that the muddle in the middle can be pretty brutal. The writing can be slow going, or worse, you're doing fine until you realize that you've lost track of everything that's going on and you've dropped three of the eight balls you've been juggling and now you have to backtrack because the character couldn't possibly be on that side of town ... yeah.

Not that I've ever done that, but if I had, I would scream just like this: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh!

Congratulations to all my buddies that crossed the Nano finish line!! Validate sooner than later, because the validator will probably be pretty busy the closer we get to midnight in the various time zones.

Have a cookie. You can always hit the treadmill sometime in December, or if not, January is the traditional time to do that sort of thing, and that's not too far away.

Ack! Is it really closing in on 2012? Time seriously flies. I'd better get back to writing. Until next time ....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up: 50,536 I Win! and Happy Thanks Day

Our Thanksgiving celebration is mostly over already. We had a wonderful visit in Bend, OR with family and friends. I drank too much wine (for me, that's 2 glasses) and then after everyone except my DH and I went to bed, I wrote until 2am. (He did too. We're a little bit sick that way.)

Signet is now at over 50,000 words. I've made my Nanowrimo goal! Of course the fun doesn't stop there. I doubt I'll finish the book by Nov. 30, but I'm going to give it the ol' writer's try.

In more serious news, my good friend over at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is going into surgery. It's my understanding that although this is a serious surgery, his doctors don't believe that his life is in danger at this time. All surgeries have risks inherent to them, so I'll be thinking about him and his lovely and talented wife.

Also, RIP Anne McCaffrey. She created wonderful worlds that I as a young person and many people around the world of all ages loved to explore. My condolences to her family, in particular to Todd.

I have so much to be thankful for this year. My sister-in-law (I love you K!) hit the nail on the head when she mentioned that we're fortunate to have good health. Family, friends, food on the table, a roof over our heads, health insurance, our kids are doing great, and we live in the wonderful Pac NW ... I have no doubt that things can get better than this, but if they stayed the same (which things never do) I would be content.

As soon as the floor upstairs is finished, that is. :P

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday. If you're going shopping on Black Friday, be careful out there. And remember, it's only stuff. Don't let the crazy people grabbing stuff out of your cart make you crazy too. Their actions and that stuff they need so desperately that they're willing to grab it from your hands will not make them happy, and that stuff can't really make you happy either. There are so many ways to express love that it's not necessary to cling to the idea of one object given to one person or to hoard something in your house in order to feel fulfilled.

With that or some other more wise wisdom-y thingy in mind, it's possible to have a lot of fun on Black Friday. I'll be working, of course, but I might stop by the store before my shift and check out the deal-iest of the deals. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--45000 words!

Day five of six days in a row of work. Yes, I'm grateful to be working. Still. Always. But I'm tired, and I won't be any less tired tomorrow.

In writing, I've recently had to remind myself to use all five senses as often as I can. I just had my characters cross a huge common area. Guess what I forgot? Sound! Yeah, I didn't do taste or smell either. I did do a little tactile stuff. But the sound would be as important as the sight. Sound will define what sort of crowd this is, and what the general mood is. Angry crowd give anyone the creeps? Does me! Laughing singing dancing crowd make you want to join in or wonder what the celebration is all about? Busy noisy cranky crowd suggests a typical day in downtown, right? So there we are, and there in the story we weren't. Going generic will allow the reader to create their own stuff via their imagination, but a few specific things will help lead them in a potentially more interesting direction and can suggest culture stuff in the process.

Back to the keyboard-y salt mines. If I don't post before then, I wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving Day. Drive safe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--41032 words!

I'm hitting a weird point in the book where I feel like I'm racing toward the end, but I'm only halfway, if that.
The ending came to me during a bath. I'm not sure what it is about hot water, but it works for me. Anyway, now that I know the heartbreak and joy that comes at the end, I can't wait to get there. My word count has shot up as a result. I hope to reach the winning count, 50,000 words, by this Friday. And I really hope, though I doubt it'll happen, that I'll actually finish the whole book before the end of the month.
My poor DH has to suffer through me explaining bits and pieces of plot when I finish a particularly exciting scene. He made me happy today by letting me know that he enjoys listening to me talk about my book. Of course he had to tease me after that remark, but we're like that with each other. We like to tease, and tickle, and play. We have a wonderful relationship that keeps us both writing like crazy. Maybe someday we'll both be full time writers. I think that would be awesome. I wouldn't have to guard my writing time so jealously anymore, and when he invites me to go somewhere to Wifi, I won't want to say no so that I don't lose writing to travel, which is followed by feeling lonely and wishing I was with him. And I won't feel harried or like I've wasted my time if I say yes, and we won't play that not-so-fun game where we're lingering longer than we like and trying to find useful things to do while the other person finishes up their latest thing they started when the other wasn't done ... yeah. That can be crazy-making after a couple of rounds.
Oh, and about that flooring project ... what flooring project? I was going to try to finish the living room today, but instead I'm at 41,032 words.
Totally worth it. But the floor needs to happen, so I'll work on it really soon. Not sure when, but soon.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

OryCon 33: Word Count 33652

This OryCon I did more socializing than I have in a long time, and it was glorious. I didn't care that my @ss had flattened from sitting so long or that I wasn't making much headway with my novel.
Free samples:
Dreams and nightmares ... the sensory advantage fiction has over film, though film has some great advantages in pacing and visuals. Also, how kewl is it that although someone can be distracted from a movie and miss part of it, if someone becomes distracted from a book, they pick up where they left off or even go back and reread something to get back into it? Prose is a fascinating medium. And our brains are even more fascinating. You can have lucid dreams, faulty dream paralysis, teach yourself to fly, speak to the dead, have repeating nightmares, dreams with plots, and dreams that are so boring you're glad you can finally stop looking for the darned olives at the grocery store when you wake up. Thanks to Jason Brock and a dedicated audience at a very late panel that wasn't even listed for a fascinating conversation/panel on the subject.
Early attempts at writing fiction ... OMG. Does anyone remember their first efforts at storytelling? I had this thing for long, straight black hair that goes down to the waist (why did it have to go down to the waist?!) and purple eyes and chainmail bikinis on bodies that drove men mad with love. Lust was sort of an abstract idea at the time. And I adored the Monkees (who still perform from time to time--a coworker went to a concert of theirs a few months ago) but not as much as horses, which they would chase through various environments and then the wild buckskin would save Davy Jones' life. Karen and I laughed so hard I'm sure people were giving us dirty looks but we didn't care. I'd tell you her stories but they're so awesome she has to tell you herself. I didn't even get to tell her about all the Battlestar Galactica episodes I made up and then later was convinced that they really aired, only to find out that my favorite episodes never actually existed. Darn it! I think I might have hurt myself laughing. We're still telling silly stories, but now I'm not afraid to share them. Plus, I now know about copyright and won't make the (deliberate) mistake of using someone else's creations to carry my stories.
And I don't care if they're cliche'. I still think amethyst eyes are awesome. I just won't prance a violet-eyed warrior princess riding a black unicorn across any of my stories unless I'm writing a spoof. (Sadly.)
What Violence Smells like, Looks like, Feels like, you get the idea like ... you'd think that this panel would turn into a gross-out contest, but the panelists dug deep and revealed things that were painful and nightmarish to them on a personal and professional level. I was so honored to be there while they shared all that with us. I forgot to ask a question so later I cornered Rory Miller and asked him if he remembered what being tasered tasted like. He said 'it tasted like pain.' We laughed, but you know, it's intense stuff. We're made of meat, all of us, and we're all mortal and sometimes you have to laugh and cry and let it out and let it go if you can because the alternative is to curl up and shiver until you die.
Autism ... I liked when the panel started talking about education, because I don't think our education system is serving anyone right now, bright, challenged, bored or plaid ... our kids aren't learning as well as they could. I have high hopes for remote schools, but change is slow and change may not be for the better if we don't figure some stuff out. My kids are out of school, so I don't have horses in this race anymore, so to speak. But I care about the world's future, and kids are it. What do we do? Pay for more studies? I don't think so. Studies are horrible, and they tend to ask leading questions that have no purpose but to suggest narrow political answers. Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!
As far as I can tell the boy and the girl had a blast as well. And I missed so much. Filk concerts. The masquerade. Heaps of panels that I wanted to go to. The art show. The art show! I can't believe I missed the art show. I only breezed through the dealer's room. And I didn't get a triple penetration chocolate donut from the Voodoo Donut van. I had to settle for a (yummy) chocolate frosted chocolate cake donut. I'd say waaaah, but you know, it was a tasty defeat.
Lots more but I'll probably blog about something else next time.

Oh, and I can't forget! In sad fuzzy housemates news, Veronica has made a full recovery, and Finn's scalp wound is starting to heal nicely. It was looking very, very iffy there for a while (I think Brian 'helped' by licking the wounds a bit too much) but the next day Finn had everything scabbed and sealed. And Veronica (Poop!) gets to go outside again, so she's happy.

All in all, a good time was had by all. G'night!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--22413 words!

I have another day off tomorrow, so I'll be working on the floor, and writing.

On a more serious note, Veronica, aka the Poop, is not feeling well. She stopped eating and drinking. I'll call the vet tomorrow. She's moving around super-slow and is sleeping lot, which implies to me that she got beat up by another kitteh and is sore and possibly has a mild infection brewing somewhere. I admit I'm worried, but we've been through this with Wizard a couple of times before. She's young and strong and will probably bounce back without any interference, but I'd like the vet to assess her for dehydration, and it would be nice if she were prescribed something to alleviate the soreness (if memory serves, they usually give a steroid shot) to get her moving and eating again. I'm sure they'll prescribe antibiotics if she has a fever.

Poor kitteh ...

And also (why is there so often an also!) Finn scraped his head up pretty good. We're not sure what happened, but it doesn't look like a bite from the other dogs. Quite a bit of hair is missing around the scrape, and we know it wasn't there last night. Trapped under the porch? Got his head jammed under a tree root while digging? Ran under a low branch? We have no idea. We called the vet, who said to watch to make sure it doesn't get worse/icky/full of pus and basically treat with neosporin. Check, check and check. Unlike the Poop, he seems fine, though his head looks alarming with so much scabby stuff and missing fur.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--13994 words!

I should be writing my novel ...

My DH and I spent a lot of time working on the floor upstairs. We're now almost done with the living and dining rooms. Seriously. As in, single digit number of feet left to go. Then we get to start on the entryway.
It's an amazing transformation. Already the house looks better, even though everything is in a state of utter turmoil. Even the kitchen looks nicer. Okay, granted, part of that is because my DH hugely cleaned it up. But it's also because of the floor coming up to the kitchen. The cupboards now look like they belong. Before they looked too dark and kinda grungy. I think it was the too-sharp contrast of everything else attempting to be off white, including the carpet, and then the dark cupboards kinda stuck out. Same with our furniture. The roll-top desk I adore now looks almost like it was chosen so that it looked good with the floor. Fabulous!
I have tomorrow off, so we're going to spend part of the day writing and part of the day working on the floor. Hopefully we'll be able to finish things up, if our former-contractor friend D. has time to help us with the transition by the sliding door.

I'm so, so excited! Word count, and house beautification. There's something really wonderful about accomplishing difficult projects. Yes, it's daunting, and yes, it's possible to fail, and yes, yes, yes, it's hard and time-consuming and seems to be a huge distraction from what appear to be more important things. But those more important things often turn out to be busy work. So which is the huge distraction, really? The answer depends on your dreams and goals.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Nanowrimo Count Up--1846 words!

Yep, it's that time again. Nanowrimo: NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. The goal--50,000 words by the end of the month, which is about 1667 words a day.

It's always good to get a head start. Stuff happens. Thanksgiving is stuck in there (and for those of us who work retail, Black Friday is shot too.) Offices flood (happened twice during Nanowrimo in the past ten years.) The point is to write every day, and for the days that you know you'll miss, to write extra either before or after so that you make your goal.

For many, this is a fun exercise, and a chance to finally write that book that they've always wanted to write. For a lot of pros it may be a non-event. They may write 50,000 words in three days. (Stephen King wrote a 200,000 word novel in the time it took you to read up to this point in my post.)

Some fun facts:

*Some people clear 250,000 words during Nanowrimo. No kidding. Some of them are even first time novelists. (ooos and aaaahs from the audience.)
*Nanowrimo is organized by the Office of Letters and Light, a charity that does awesome things like provide books for the needy.
*A 'standard' (double-spaced, 12pt. font, 1 inch margins) page has about 250-275 words, depending on writing style. This can vary quite a bit, with some dense pages approaching 300 words, and spare pages with a poetic or spare structure coming in well under 100. These standard pages give an editor a very good idea of how thick the spine on the novel will be.
*Most 'mainstream' novels fall between 80,000 and 110,000 words because traditional paperback and hardback publishing finds that this length satisfies the reader, has ample spine on which to print necessary info like the novel's title, and doesn't have so much content that it requires lots of extra (expensive) paper and ink and binding to produce even if they make the font really, really tiny.
*Lots of incredible books are shorter than 80,000 words and much, much longer than 110,000. Really big ones over 200,000 words are sometimes referred to as door stoppers or tomes.
*Shorter books are often printed with bigger fonts, lots of pictures, or with lots of empty space around the print so that there's enough spine on which to print the title of the book in a visible font. Conversely really long books may be printed on thin paper, in smaller fonts, or have smaller margins. Compare sometime a copy of the complete works of Shakespeare or Stephen King's The Stand with War of Art or Michael Pollan's 64 Rules for Eating Well. (Yes, I really meant War of Art, not Art of War, although that's another book that is often filled out, though more often with commentary and lots of prefaces.)
*Although Nanowrimo seems to be held at a weird time of year and shouldn't offer any tangible benefits, the energy that comes from attempting Nanowrimo has inspired lots of people to meet or exceed their goals year after year. I've tried a year-round goal of 50,000 words, and have also tried it during a more 'sane' and quiet month. Nada. This is the time, the place, and these are the people.

I hope some of you will join me in trying to write 50,000 words (or more!) in November. It's not too late to start! If you do, feel free to buddy me. I'm kzmiller.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing (again, or is it still?)

My DH and the kids are coming home tomorrow after a nice vacation on the coast. I so, so wish I could have gone too, but I was at work. Again. Still. Thankfully our store has everything I need. Canned food, microwaves and dishes to cook with, sleeping bags, ammo and firearms, tools, pillows, toilet paper ... everything. I could even keep the animals there, though the goats would eat an awful lot of bags of bunny food. I could set up baby barricades (which we have right at the store!) to keep them penned on certain aisles where they'd in theory do the least amount of damage, or maybe I could keep them in the warehouse area. And of course the kittehs and dogs could roam free, as could the chickens, though it might be a pain to clean up after the chickens. Anyway, I guess I wouldn't actually have to leave work, like, ever. I just prefer to, you know, spend some time at home.

It would save on commuting, though. Hmmm ....

Nah. No comfy chairs.

Oh, wait, we totally do! I forgot! That's hilarious. And we have a futon! But I'd have to move them to be near an outlet so I can type on my laptop.

I am looking forward to having a whole two days off in a row soon. It'll be a little weird, but I think I can adapt somehow.

Not complaining! I am very, very grateful to be employed.

But still. Five days on, one day off, five days on, one day off, and now I'm in the middle of four days on ... then finally, finally, two days off.

I might even get some work done around here. Dishes? I have dishes. I just wash what I need ....

Friday, October 28, 2011

The End!

I've hit the end of Masks. Now to go back and add a couple of minor details, update some maps, finish the cover, and I'm done!

done done dunny done done I'm done! I'm done I'm done I'm done. Done done done.

Okay, now done looks like it's spelled wrong. But I don't care because I'm done!

I may have to put together a writer's clock. I'm thinking about something like this:

5 Why oh why?
10 I'm crazy
15 OMG, Fun!
20 What are dishes?
25 Out of underwear
30 Screeeeeech
35 Lost ... need ... map ...
40 Researching ...
45 Flying in the dark
55 OMG, Done!
12 Zzzzzz

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Too Much Work

I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Masks is eating my brain and I don't want it to stop until every last cell is gobbled. I've got to get the water sealing problem fixed on the sliding door while the weather holds--when I have no idea because it'll be almost dark when I get home and I can't do it now because it needs to be cleaned up under there first. I have to work on House of Goats, I have to get two book covers done, and I haven't touched my Wyrd Goat website (I have the domain but I'm still working on the bones of the actual content.)


I wish I could call in sick but I'm too ethical. Okay, that's totally untrue. The wishing part is untrue, not the ethical part, because wishing for it would be wishing that I was unethical, and I don't. Argh, I'm confusing myself! Help meeeeeeeee

There's only one cure. Soup for lunch. Soup for lunch makes it all better. I'll go pack some into my snapware container that I use for hot lunches and just focus on day job work.

Maybe I'll take my laptop with me to work and get something, anything done during my lunch hour. Yeah ....

What do you do to cope when you have too much to do and not enough time?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Masks Update

My DH is home! He was just gone for a weekend, but it always feels like a long time when he's away, whether it's a day trip somewhere or 14 months in a foreign country.

I keep discovering new things about the universe I'm writing in. Often I'll go back and insert hints and make changes, but sometimes I have to leave those details in my head, ready to unveil at an opportune moment.

One time in my mid-teen years I overheard my father complimenting me. He didn't know I was close by enough to overhear him. What he said astonished me. At the time I thought of my writing as a game, a diversion, something fun that was for my amusement alone. Every so often I'd have an excuse to write something creative for school, and I had a lot of fun with that. I had no idea that my father had read any of it, though I often deposited my papers on the kitchen table in order to show my parents how I was doing academically. What he said to his friends that evening was that my stories were like a flower with lots of petals unfolding.

Boy, I sure would like to live up to that compliment. Anyway, I think what he saw back then was an effect of my writing process, where I race forward and then go back when I get a fresh take on something so that everything is consistent and carefully (I hope) foreshadowed.

I spent much of last night, late into the night, doing just that with a particularly cruel truth that Mark, the pov character, will discover far too late to prevent a tragic confrontation.

I love writing. It's fun. I think the only difference now is that I do think about how I can best help a reader in on that fun. It requires a lot more work, since the reader can't know what's in my head. But that's fun too. I can keep secrets, and then pounce with them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Floor Hiccup

I was cruising along, minding my own business, taking bad sections out of the subfloor and replacing them with new particle board when suddenly (dun dun duh!!) I found dry rot. It hadn't worked all the way through the plywood under the particle board, but dang ...

So I have to seal the sliding door inside and out, and fill that depression in the plywood with 20 year caulk just in case the sliding door isn't the problem ...

It's pretty dry there, so it might have been damage from the original door. Just in case, though, I have to do all this stuff because if there's water coming in, even at just a slow drip, it needs to be fixed. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, if more water does come in, it will probably mess up the laminate there pretty badly. Fortunately because I'll know to keep looking for the root of the problem, unfortunately because then of course I'll have to tear up the floor there (again) and replace it.


In other news, Masks is coming along fast and furious. I'm really excited. I have a really good feeling about this book. It's been tempting to spend the entire day writing, but I really do have to go shopping for caulk (ugh ugh ugh!) and various other flooring supplies so that I'm prepped for doing more stuff on Thursday. That's when D. will be over early early in the morning to help me out some more.

Ugh. Whose genius idea was this anyway?




Saturday, October 15, 2011

Floor Progress

The floor is patched. Finally! I've made progress toward the fireplace/hearth, at which point my fabulous retired contractor friend D. will help me figure out how to mate a rhino with a lobster.

This is where super-long movies like Om Shanti Om (highly recommended, btw, and don't let the whole beginning half fool you--it's an intense love story that even my jaded DH enjoys) and the Lord of the Rings trilogy really come in handy. I've seen them so many times I don't have to really watch them. Listening transports me. I do stop and watch favorite parts, like the Pain of Disco. (Seriously, you have to watch Om Shanti Om.) But other than that I can listen to the music and the dialogue and be there while still paying attention to important things like power tools.

I've gotten far enough now that I'm starting to get that feeling that I'm actually doing some good rather than just ripping the house apart chasing a dream. Oh, and the carpet? It's outside killing grass for me so that I can expand the garden space near the house. I have so much pasture grass (far harder to deal with than tame lawn grasses) that it overwhelms the large sections of garden I've managed to create from blackberry zones. Finally connecting the garden to the proximity of the house will do magical things to the way the garden appears overall. It'll also be easier to manage.

That carpet stinks to high heaven, and the rain has actually improved it by rinsing out the worst of it. I'm once again reminded why I loathe carpeting. Seriously, it's disgusting stuff. Unless you have the money to replace it fairly often, like every five years or so, it just becomes a haven for dirt, dust, dust mites, fleas, stains and general filth. No amount of steam cleaning will get that stuff out. I know. I kept up on the steam cleaning, and it was still vile underneath when we pulled it up. Ten years of grime percolating down through the pad, permeating every layer in between, will do that.

I'm glad to be rid of it, but boy is it a lot of work to go to laminate. It's worth it. The house is tons better already, and we haven't even got a tenth of the surface area covered yet.

Okay, maybe it's over a tenth now. I've got two empty boxes, and three mostly empty ones out of thirty-ish.

And now, I must go back to work. Part two of Fellowship awaits!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Floor Drama

It's such a simple little thing.

You know how you'll be plugging along on a project just fine until you have to stop and do something you haven't done before in order to continue, and you resist because you have to get a bunch of materials, and then you finally get them, but then you have to read the instructions and they sound okay ...
... and before you know it three days have gone by and even though you know what to do because the instructions are simple, you feel like you have to prepare yourself and you just don't have the emotional energy after a day of work ...
... even though you figure it'll take you a half hour at most ...
... and you can't get back to doing the thing you know how to do really well until you do this little thing?


Day four today. Patch a dip in particle board. Really similar to stuff I had to do to prep for tiling, with similar materials but suitable for use on subflooring.

Should take a half hour or less, including mixing it with water.

Is it done?

Of course not!

Will I do it tonight?

For pity's sake, I hope so.

If not, I've got the whole weekend.

But how much more productive would the weekend be if I just got this





Sunday, October 09, 2011

More Flooring

Here are my kids, helping with the never-ending parquet. It's everywhere! It's in my kitchen under the linoleum. It's in the bedroom under the carpet. It's in the closet. (Seriously.) Everywhere we pull up flooring upstairs, there's more parquet. It's kinda creepy, actually. Parquet isn't easy to install.
I'm sure it looked fantastic back in the day. Unfortunately it doesn't look very fantastic today. Mysterious stains, bleaching, water damage and odors that have permeated what little finish remains on it have made it pretty icky. Maybe the stuff in the bedroom isn't too bad, but I'm not about to pull up the carpet in there to find out. The bedroom carpet is in halfway decent shape. At this point I'm all for the if it ain't broke don't fix it philosophy.

After all the prep (which is ongoing, btw) I finally got to lay down a wee bit of floor with D's help. He did all the brainy stuff, and I just kept going after the hard part was done. And I hit my first milestone. First empty box! Awesome, but scary. Will I have enough of this stuff to complete the project? Did I measure everything right? The conflicting info online and other places is crazy-making too. Everyone insists on poly film of various grades over cement. Everyone also insists on a vapor barrier in crawlspaces under the house where you're putting in floor 'at grade level.' But this is neither. This is my upstairs, with only downstairs rooms beneath all the upstairs rooms. In addition there's alarming warnings pertaining to putting film over wood, as it will cause mold and mildew problems.

But nowhere does it say what specifically to do in my situation. Seriously, people, who wrote the technical manuals for these things?

If I have to I will pop the floor apart and put plastic under it if the 800 number people tell me so when I have a chance to talk to them on Tuesday. But I have a feeling that they'll say it's not necessary.

Is that so hard to say, folks, in your very, very brief instructions in the teeny, tiny print?

So I'm in a holding pattern for now. But it's a pretty holding pattern. And the kitties love it. I have a feeling they'll love it a lot less, though, when they go charging up the (carpeted) stairs and hit that first stretch of slick new floor.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Upstairs floor redo ... ongoing stuff

All my great plans are shattered, but in a good way.  It turns out, after consulting the amazing D., that I don't have to tear out a bunch of stuff to put in my new floors.  Just a little stuff. 

Unfortunately that little stuff breaks up into little pieces.

So I'm yanking up all the parquet floor after all instead of pulling up the particle board underneath and replacing that.  It's sort of satisfying, in a violent OCD kind of way where I rip out exactly 3 rows and then sweep and I try as much as possible to rip out each 4x4 section whole.  (It's not possible as often as I'd like it to be.)  D. suggested that pulling up the parquet will go about as fast as I can get pissed off, but I just can't seem to get pissy enough for it to go really, really fast.  At least it's happening in a relatively clean fashion.  The floor isn't pretty, but I can walk around without it going crunch crunch crunch.

The best news in all this is that the floor will be done much sooner than expected.  Way before Christmas.  Hopefully before Thanksgiving.  Possibly (!) before Halloween.

We'll see.  

D. said something awesome that's keeping me excited about this project.  He said his father told him that when you complete something like this, it makes a house more into a home.  You'll always be able to look at it and say to yourself, I did this, and it's beautiful.

I'm really, really looking forward to the first time I see and think that.

I'll try not to look in the direction of the new hole in the wall so that moment can come sooner.  I didn't do it!  And I don't want to know who did it.  I just hope nothing broke when it happened.

Argh.  Construction.  Argh argh argh.  But it will be over sooner rather than later.  Yay!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Farms are Fun!

There are some things about owning animals, especially farm animals, that people don't think about.  

The goats don't just graze endlessly in a picturesque manner in their pasture, and you don't just pet them over the fence.  You gotta get in there.  I posted fairly recently about giving them wormer.  The other day I had to trim hooves.  At one point Snowflake had the girl down on the ground (ground covered in goat poo, I should point out) and the girl was yelling "I'm okay, I'm fine, keep going!"  It's like a funny little rodeo, but icky.

Chickens can be incredibly cute.  Again, you don't just toss scratch grain to them at a distance while they peck at the ground in a picturesque flock.  You have to walk (carefully because they get underfoot just like cats do at feeding time) among them to change water and to fill the feeder and find eggs.  Sophie is particularly cute.  She knows that treats come from human hands, and she doesn't mind being petted.  When I bend down to pet her she isn't sure what I'm going to do so she spreads her wings a little (she squats low and spreads her wings to get petted and when she gets picked up) but keeps her neck stretched as long as possible and twists her head around hoping to spot something yummy among my fingers.  When I pull my hand away she does a cute little leap toward my hand hoping to find grain there.  Leap!

Too many cats ... it's normally a good thing to have cats all over the place to keep the rodent population down.  (It's also awesome to have a little dog like Chase to kill rats because only a few cats are tough enough to take on an adult rat, though they bring home babies from time to time.)  But you'd better not get caught near the sliding glass door.  Think it's a chore to let one or two cats in and out all day?  Try five or six.  It's the worst in the morning on a rainy day.  The whining begins as soon as the alarm goes off.  I let them all out, and then some want to come in again five minutes later, and another ten minutes later and by that time one of the ones I let in wants out again, and the barn cat Tom Riddle sees me and freaks out and sprays to mark his territory.  I retreat, but inevitably I pass by the sliding glass door again and there's a kitty out there in the rain with its ears folded down and the silent meow, and one of the ones inside sees me heading for the door and races to be let out ....  All.  Day.  Long.

Dogs and coyotes.  Ah, the eerie and beautiful sound of coyotes in the distance.  Guess what?  The dogs hear them too.  The leader of the pack begins with rapid-fire barks.  The little one yips and runs up and down along the fence, then races to the back, back to the front, bark bark bark.  The leader slows down just about the time the big back-up base starts in with his steady, monotonous barks.  Oh yeah, eerie and peaceful and off in the distance.  Not!  At least our dogs don't howl when they defend their vocal territory, though sometimes I wonder if it might not be better than the barking.  There's something about that staccato that's a little like getting jabbed with a fork at the base of your neck every second or so at 3am when you're trying to sleep.  Besides, if our dogs howled I'd probably join in.

Maybe just the first thousand times.  Then it'd be back to me stumbling to the front door, ripping it open, yelling "Hush!" and then shutting it again before they can all charge into the house and fill it with fluff.

I think living on a farm is a lot more fun than most people realize.  It's just not the kind of fun they imagine.  It's somewhat like having kids.  Before you have them, you have all these dreams and a pretty good idea that it'll be hard too.  Then you have them and wham--it's everything and nothing like you expected, and so much more.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Wanna Be a Loose Woman

Sorry it's been so quiet (too quiet.)  I've been working, writing, reading, and practicing brush calligraphy.

Boy does brush calligraphy reveal in painful and obvious detail my shortcomings in brush control.  Yikes.  And I'm not talking about control in the normal sense.  Artsy stuff requires looseness and relaxation.  Anyone who's practiced a signature knows what I mean.  There's a point where your brain  has it down auto-magically and you relax and just sign.  I aspire to that with brush calligraphy, not because I want to achieve a zen state or anything.  I just want the letters to flow so that it looks natural.  Right now most of the letters have at least one awkward point.  When it's the same one, I can work on that section by itself, but most of the time the awkwardness wanders, like an awful conversation that you desperately want to go well.

Anyway, I've been listening to music and watching dvds (thank you, DH, for the Castle Season 3!!) and practicing with the brush, hoping that when I look at my collection of letters the next day I'll think wow, that's the one.  That's the keeper.

And then I'll put it on the cover of a book.

Speaking of books, I'm on a couple of serious deadlines, so I'd better get some done before I crash tonight.  Gotta write every day a little bit.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Moments of Happiness

I'm catching up on paper-worky stuff, and I got about 3000 words written today.  

But the really, really good thing that I did today was go for a walk with my DH, my daughter, and our dogs.

We have two big white dogs (Brian and Finn) and our recent adoptee/ranawayfromotherfamilywhodidn'twantherback (Chase) and they are quite the pack.  Brian and Finn take up the entire back seat, which makes things a little crowded for our daughter.  I don't know how she survived.  And fluff, white fluff! was flying everywhere.  We had our window rolled down and the fluff was blowing thicker than Colorado snowfall.  Seriously.
But we managed to get to the river despite my DH having to drive in whiteout conditions.

At the river ... (skipping the part where we were all tangled up in dogs at one point)

Brian and Finn, being veterans of this thing called going to the river for a walk, waded right in and picked a direction to walk.  It was even the same direction.  Meanwhile, Chase was frantic.  They were in the water, the danger water!  She didn't dare stick a toe in.  Hilarity increased when she discovered the true evil lying in the depths (3 inches) of the evil water.  A stick!  A stick with algae and mossy-looking water weed on it.  Oh. My. GAWD!

And then, suddenly, something in her snapped, as if the string that kept her high-strung stringy snapped.  She pranced in, lifting her feet excessively high at first.  Next thing we knew she was darting in and out of the water with the other dogs, and the darting became casual wading in and out as the mood took her.

The dogs calmed, we turned around, and we started walking the other way and we had one of those incredible moments.  Soft breeze, soft sunshine, sparkling river, the dogs calmly exploring at the water's edge, and we were together in a time and place of complete peace.

It didn't last, but these things aren't meant to last.  Three days from now I probably wouldn't remember the herons, one circling and one waiting patiently in the mud, unless I wrote about them.  It wasn't a big deal.  But that's part of what made it beautiful.  

On the way home Chase sat in my lap, all tuckered out.  She rested her chest and neck on my arm for a while, while I cradled her body with my other arm.  And then she lifted her head and rested against my chest like a child, her soft ear tickling my cheek, her chin on my shoulder.  I wondered if she had moments at her other home like this.  It doesn't matter anymore, I suppose.  But I hope so.  I hope she had, and always will have moments of happiness wherever she may be.

I hope we all do.  We need them.  Just for the contrast, you know?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Finished a Book, Wrote a Lot. Good Times.

I've been writing for most of the day.  This is a good thing, but it's physically demanding for someone who is accustomed to standing for the length of a working day.  It's also really, really not good for me.  I've been snacking more than I usually do, too, which does not help.

In the new stuff category, I read a really kewl book.  And yes, I know, it wasn't on my reading pile but I sometimes add to my reading pile without finishing what I've got.  (Ahem.)  And start reading the new stuff before I finish the old stuff.  (Ahem ahem.)

Highly recommended:  Food Rules:  An Eater's Manual.  One of my DH's awesome friends gave him a copy.  Don't let the mere four star out of 320 reviews fool you.  I'd give this one five stars.  And yes, I may quibble about some of the minor details, but they aren't important.  What is important is the message and the way that message is very easily digested.  Unfortunately it has more than five ingredients, but remember, moderation in all things, including moderation.

I'm working on a book cover as well.  I think I've got more than two full time jobs going here.  Will the universe kindly slow down so that I can finish some stuff and gain some ground on my to-do list?

You will!?!  Really?!!  Sweet!!

I'm going to get some work done while the getting is good!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I called in sick today.  I very rarely do that ... and then I overthink it and wonder if I do really very rarely do that, or if I only think I rarely do that.  I don't want to be the person who's always calling in sick and screwing it up for everyone else.

Calling in sick causes problems for my employer.  It's a small enough place (35 employees-ish, with quite a few of those being part-time so that we have considerably less than that working on a given day) that losing one person really mucks up the schedule.  It's most likely that the bookkeeper will have to fill in my spot at least for some of the day.  Not good.

There's the possibility too that I won't be the only one calling in today.  

Business will be done, and the customers probably won't notice except maybe in the form of longer waits, but my fellow employees will really feel it.  Since I like my fellow employees a lot, I don't want them to end up harried and stuck in spots doing work that I ought to be doing.  On the other hand, I don't want to spread this plague, assuming it's contagious.  A couple of people have already called in sick this week, and what I'm feeling now sounds something like what caused them to go to work thinking they could pull off another day and then sent them running to the restroom followed by leaving work sick.  On the other, other hand, since it's already going around, my showing up or not probably won't affect who will get sick.  The plague is in the building ... it's all up to everyone's individual immunity now.  And of course on the other, other, other hand, I have to think about our customers, some of whom are elderly or in poor health.  They definitely ought to be protected.

So I'm staying home, even though at this point I think I can push through without emptying the non-existent contents of my stomach on them.  (Breakfast may or may not get eaten today ... water is an iffy proposition at this point.)  I don't like to call in sick.  It makes me feel like I'm letting everyone down.  I hope my coworkers don't have a really crummy day because of me.  And I hope I didn't unwittingly spread this yucky feeling to others yesterday.  I sterilized my whole area with wipes.  Twice!  I'm sure the bookkeeper will do that again today.  And I hope my previously-ill coworkers are feeling better, not just for their own sakes but because that makes it likely that I'll be back at work that much sooner too.

Stay well, everyone, and have a good day.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Twins and Other Surprises

We had a few surprises over the last week. First came the cute little twin tomatoes. So adorable, and tasty too! They weren't just attached by the green. The skins were connected too.

Then we had a double yolker egg. These actually happen pretty often. Grandma House (my mom) got a double yolker in the last batch of eggs we sent her. Young hens tend to make mistakes like that while their bodies learn how to make eggs. When Chihiro laid her first egg, she forgot to put the yolk and the shell on it. The result looked like a weird white waterballoon. The membrane was really tough, strong enough to bounce on pavement without breaking. The second egg was better. Still no shell, but it had a yolk.
And now she appears to be sharing a nest with our best egg-hider, Sophie!
We were looking for the hens. We lost our rooster to a predator (probably a raccoon but it might be the return of the super-bold coyote) and we were worried when the hens didn't come running up for their mealtime. I don't usually go all the way to the NE corner of the pasture because I can see pretty clearly if there's a chicken there, but this time I went to see if the predator had dug a hole under the fence.
And that's when I found thirty eggs all cuddled up together in a chicken-sized nest.
The girl, when she put them all in a basket, found that some of the ones on the bottom were actually partially buried and had to be dug out.

Sometimes living on a small farm can be painful, sad, frustrating, and even scary.

But some days, a lot of days actually, it's a lot of fun. I'd even go so far as to say hilarious.

I love living on a farm.

Now, the girl and I have a lot of eggs to float-test.
(If you're not sure about how good an egg is, just submerge it in water. If it lays flat, it's fresh. If the nose tips up a bit, it's good to hard boil. Super fresh eggs don't hard boil well because the whites stick to the shell. If the nose points straight up, it's iffy. I might still hard boil it, but I'd probably give it to the dogs all chopped up rather than feed it to a human being. And if it floats--run away! If it bobs on the surface of the water, don't even run. Just carefully--very, very, very carefully--pick the egg up and dispose of it somewhere where the evil smell when it inevitably breaks won't foul up the whole neighborhood. Yech!)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rage at Work

I had a horror movie moment at work today.  The customers usually stand pretty close to the counter, and I have to use the lower part of the counter to do paperwork.  So there I was, paperworking away, while the customer was talking to me, when bam!  I got splashed in the eye by a tiny ball of spit.  Tiny though it might have been, I felt changes going on inside of me.  And I thought, this is Rage.  Soon now, the zombie virus will take over and I'll be infected.  I'll have to take out as many of them as I can before they come after me with baseball bats!

I paused, considering my first move.  

My fingers

twitched ...

But then the moment passed and I realized I wasn't infected with Rage.  I was just grossed out.

So I completed the transaction.

Of course, I might simply be resistant.  Perhaps, over time, the virus will overtake me and then, at my next day at work, I'll start making strange noises and grunt at the customers.  And then, savagely, I will feast!

Feast I say!

On the paperwork that inspires such Rage in me.

The horror ....

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Moving On

I'm not-so-secretly transferring my accounts out of one of the big banks to a credit union because there are new scary headlines about those big banks every day.  I know that those scary headlines won't affect my personal accounts at my branch (or so I hope) but they are constant reminders that I don't like the way the big banks have been doing business.

I like the way this credit union does business.

Hence, I move my stuff.  No one will care.  No one will be sad that I'm no longer a customer there (except maybe for the two totally awesome employees I've gotten to know over the years that work there.)  But I'll feel better about where I keep my money, and how that money is looked after.

In case you're wondering, yes, the only reason this is noteworthy is because I'm one of those sad cases that hangs onto a certain amount of loyalty when it comes to doing business.  I don't change banks often, and I usually visit the same businesses over and over.  I get to know the people that work there, and I learn what they do well, and what they stink at, and conduct my business accordingly.

So although this isn't a huge deal, it's still something that goes a little deeper than doing the paperwork and jumping through the hoops.  It's an emotional step as well.  Big bank used to mean big safety to me.  Now it feels like a big risk, not necessarily because the banks are in any real danger, but because I don't think they're dealing with their customers in a professional manner.  I don't need to be taken care of.  I do require some frickin' standards, though.  Maybe even a little pride.  Sadly, I fear that the line staff doing the jobs of four people each don't have time for pride.  They're just trying to survive.  Is it a management issue, or just more fallout from risky behavior?  I have no idea.  Knowing the answer won't change my decision.

Bye bye, big bank.  Hello local credit union.  I have a feeling we're going to get along just fine.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Currently On My Bathroom Bookshelf

What I'm reading right now:

The Godforsaken Sea
I've just started this gem of a book, partially for research but partially because I'm just a wee bit obsessed with the sea and sailing.  If I was really, really obsessed I'd be sailing right now and hardly anyone would hear from me, but I'd rather be writing and gardening (though doing those things near enough to the ocean to go play in and on the waves daily would be ideal.)  Anyway, the author is doing a great job so far of trying to explain to landlubbers why the Southern Ocean is so friggin' dangerous.  I've never been very far from the shore--out of sight of shore, but still pretty darned close.  I've also sailed in a notorious boat-eating area where we lost a kayak we were towing to some pretty powerful wave action.  So I have a basis of comparison.  I'm not sure that someone who hasn't been on a boat small enough to be overshadowed by a waves and completely surrounded by water with no sign of land can get it.  If you're one of those folks, I'd be curious to hear if this book would do it for you.  He's already referred to my favorite-est book on the subject, Heavy Weather Sailing.  Wee!

The Murderer Next Door
I'm poaching when I read this book.  I have a habit of picking up stuff that my DH is reading and then getting sucked in.  Every time I read a book about crime and human nature that starts to break the barriers between what we think criminals think and do vs. what they actually think and do, I can't help but get the feeling that our legal system is screwed up.  I think the checks and balances work okay, but the actual laws and stuff--it's like trying to run a space program using only Newtonian physics, a 1950's machinist shop and a bank of calculators.  You can hobble along, but it becomes impossible and overwhelming very quickly.  Anyway, this book is no different in that regard.  Where it is different from other books I've read on this stuff is how it connects murder back to me, personally.  Some of the insights so far are depressing, but most are extremely enlightening.  This might end up on my list of highly recommended books.  We'll see how it pans out.

Lieutenant Hornblower
'Cause I need some salt sea in my veins.  Always good to remember each ship is a small community connected to a larger community of many ships, and that gets political fast, and that's without taking the navy stuff into account.  I'm loving the way the author uses characters to describe his protagonist in extremely immodest ways.  After reading more subtle prose for a long time, it's a lot like having someone shout in my face that I must love this character he's so awesome!  I don't care, though.  The story is good, and besides, reading prose like this is it's own fun.  Just like I enjoy a really broad range of music, I enjoy a broad range of writing styles.

The Vegetarian Myth
Talk about courage.  A former vegetarian (20 years of the life choice, so we're not talking someone who dipped their toes in) exposes her throat and her research on what plant-based dietary choices actually do to the planet, with an occasional mention of what it does to the human body long-term.  (I had no idea there are doctors that specialize in treating former vegans.)  I know that just the idea of this book will earn her death threats and the undying hatred of lots and lots of people, and yet she wrote it.  Bravo.  Also, unbelievably fascinating.  I haven't checked up on her research so I can't comment on that, and sometimes her feminist views set me back on my heels a bit (and I consider myself a feminist--but yowza!) but I'm not caring about the details and whether she's right or wrong on a given point.  I'm not trying to save my friends, or even save the planet, though I care deeply about both and take care of them the best I can.  Nor am I trying to prove or disprove anything to anyone.  It's just an incredibly entertaining book.  It can be mind-bending, in a good way, to read a call to arms in the name of environmentalism to start eating responsibly-raised meat.  It's also a scathing criticism of current agricultural methods, including so-called organic agriculture.  Another potential book for my list of highly recommended books.  

I've also got a couple of technical manuals on gardening that I'm paging through, a book on architecture through the ages, and a dictionary of architecture.  I read them, but I'm not reading them end to end like a regular book, so I'm not technically counting them.

That reminds me, I need to pick up that Acorn book again.  I got sidetracked by other stuff.

So many books, so little time ...

Friday, September 02, 2011

Money Growing on Trees?

We had a fun time at our local fair. One of my favorite things was the Pirate Parrot Show. If they show up at a fair near you, be sure to go.

I totally have to train my animals to bring me money like this.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oh deer ...

Just for fun ...
No, it's not photoshopped. This is just life on the hill.

Copyright © Kamila Zeman Miller, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

WorldCon Reno: Renovation Memories

Fast forward to my first day of work after Worldcon, and then going home to zucchini sauce on squash ravioli (delicious, btw.)  I'm really tired but I want to spend all my spare time either writing or gardening, preferably both.  What I really could use is a way to dictate stories while I'm gardening.  There are ways to do it.  I just can't afford them (yet).

I learned a lot from the panels I attended at Worldcon, and I got to talk to some really fabulous people.  I'll write about highlights in no particular order on the blog until they no longer seem interesting to anyone, even me.

Convention Highlight One

I went through the art show early on.  I was impressed by the quality and quantity of art, so much so that I suffered a kind of burn-out thingy that made me feel like I was skimming Shakespeare and not getting the important parts.  And then I reached the Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell panels, and realized I was looking at cover art.  Something went ping in my brain.  

I'd been looking at cover art with an artist's eye for composition, rather than a graphic designer's eye for where the hell will we put the title and author's name.

I'd just about finished processing the wow moment (it took about 48 hours) and I thought I had it all figured out, when I attended a panel about book covers.  

Naturally, my world flipped another 180 degrees, and because art is magic, I didn't end up in the same place I started.  It was like coming home after a few years and finding that nothing is quite as I remembered it.  

If you can imagine this (assuming you care):  You can plan your art to include the title and author sections and get a really nice, capable and striking cover, or you can compose a spectacular piece of art and in the process of trying to figure out where to put the damned title and byline, do something really creative and get a spectacular cover.

There's also plan C, where you leave opportunities for text on the cover, but do whatever you want to make things full of awesome, and then place the text in creative and unexpected ways that will often make people take a second look as much if not more than the art itself.

Part of it is luck, and part is design, part is time constraints and part is what energy you have to devote to this stuff.  I took notes in the form of sketches because I couldn't write adequate descriptions fast enough, but I can do a halfway decent 30 second sketch thanks to life drawing.

Personal convention highlight one:  Having a double hot chocolate with the extraordinary Chris York and her wonderful husband.  Good times, good conversation, fun, learning, sadness (I didn't let her know at the time that I still feel pain at my father's passing after almost twenty years) and much talk about Sydney, literary agent.

Non-convention highlight that's conceivably anyone's business but my own:  playing in a warm pool with my DH, remembering what it was like to pretend that I was a mermaid.

Good times.  I could have stood for at least one more day in the area.

Alas, now it's back to work, and double-alas, not the work I want to do.  But it's necessary.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gambling with Life

Naturally, my ideas about what I'd be doing today went out the window (which opens, but not wide enough for someone to defenestrate themselves) starting out first thing in the morning. But it worked out great. Tomorrow I'll have to do some careful picking and choosing--lots of panels and events that I'm interested in are going on simultaneously. We all try to make the best use of our limited as we can, but just how limited our time is becomes highlighted when we're at a multi-track event. Or, more grimly, when we get bad news at the doctor's office. I can make myself crazy trying to make the 'best' choice, so I just try to go with my gut. If that fails, I just pick and hope it works out, knowing full well that I might have spent my time better doing something else. You've got to live with what you choose, and live with what you get from what you choose.

The casinos highlight that, in a way. Choosing to play one more game, hoping for a better outcome than the last dozen. Choosing to play one more game after a win, hoping for a 'winning streak.' Either way, the day is spent in a chair while waitresses feed you cocktails ...

I'm not judging, though it may sound that way. Our everyday lives are often just like that, even though the setting is the same. The daily job grind. Commuting. Doing the little daily things that make you happy, like having sex or eating dinner in front of the television or surfing the web. The only thing that makes the ritual of daily life bad is regret. There's a balance between pleasure/contentment and consequences. For me, I wouldn't get enough pleasure from gambling to balance against the pain of losing precious resources that feel tighter than I like as it is. As for the time I'd lose--that's a no-brainer. I don't value gambling enough to spend the time to engage in it.

Well, maybe a dollar and a few minutes.

But I do value sitting in on panels, and wandering through the art show, and swimming and hot-tubbing, and drinking exotic, silly drinks. For someone else, these would be a total waste of precious time and resources. I can't say that they're wrong--for them. The best thing, I think, is to occasionally check with yourself to make sure that the equation truly balances the way you think. And if you're wrong, well, that's life. We can't always be right, and we can't always win. But we can learn, and maybe even change for the better if we think it's worth the effort.

It sounds like unusually (silly) philosophical stuff considering I started out talking about what I'm going to do tomorrow, but it isn't. It's pretty simple, actually. Too simple to be wise. I don't think it has enough elegance to qualify as common sense. If choices become too much of a big-deal, then the joy and simplicity of daily life gets bogged down by too much weight. But I think that choices are best if they're active and awake choices, rather than wishful-thinking and passive. Either way, though, once made, those choices lead to experiences that are dictated in-part by chance. And that, my friends, makes gamblers of us all.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roughing It

Here we are at Worldcon in Reno, Nevada. So far I've gone for a swim, ate dinner, and met a couple of great friends in the hallway. We got to the convention center too late to pick up our badges, so I have a temporary Thursday thingy. Not that I'll use it. Exhaustion has set in.

I love our room. It's so ... tacky. Normally I'm all over the gilded mirror, elaborate tile and big beds but partly because it's squeezed into a relatively small space and partly because it's not very well matched up stuff, I feel like I'm staying at a Victorian-meets-pseudo-Roman bordello. It's wonderful. I especially like the huge jet tub (almost as big as our bed) that's right next to the bed. And the jet tub has a mirror over it--gilded (of course!) Our shower doubles as a steam room.

I would love to peek into their giant suites like the bridal or presidential just so I could giggle. And yet, in its own tacky way, it's almost kinda gorgeous.

If you've stayed in this hotel you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm not going to out them, though. I don't want even the slightest chance of anyone feeling bad, though I'm sure they're not exactly blind to the shortcomings of their decor. And those shortcomings are offset by the fun.

Tomorrow: more pool time, silly drinkies by the pool, meet-up with some wonderful writers, gawking at art, writing, etc. But first I have to go to reg and pick up my badge. I come all the way out here and it's nothing but work work work ....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Slowly Getting Weirder as Exhaustion Sets In

I have three days off in a row, so naturally I'm working hard enough that I hurt all over.  All in the name of getting the house into some sort of decent shape.  I'm so tired, though, that I'm not even sure what that means anymore.  Maybe I just want to get the walls painted (ceiling all done, yay!) and the floor put in upstairs so that I can pretend that from here on out all I have to do is write, show up at my day job, and eat bon bons.  

But of course there's always one more thing.  For example, I'm totally ignoring the fact that our deck is in dire need of maintenance.

La la la I didn't just type that I'm ignoring everything else that's languishing because of this dumb floor-replacement-turned-upstairs-remodel project.  

After tomorrow I'll start setting up to do the floors and then everything will be unicorn farts and fairy dandruff.  Yay!  I'll never have to work on the house again.  Weeee!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It Can be Good when a Kitteh Sprays

Tom Riddle

We have this cat that hangs out around outside.

I refuse to adopt this cat.

This cat is an unaltered male and sprays everywhere.  This is extremely helpful to me, as I'm far less likely to let this cat that I absolutely will not adopt into the house.  I mean, I'm not even thinking about it, although it would be easy to do, since we're feeding him.

But we're not really feeding him that much.  Just a wee bit.  He catches rats and mice in the barn, and that's what I'd like him to do--to remain healthy and happy catching rats and mice in the barn, as opposed to hanging around so much on our deck cutely touching noses with the Poop and napping on the deck chairs.

Not that he's cute.  Well, okay, maybe he's a little cute.  But he sprays!  And, I haven't named him, so we're safe.
Actually, he has a name but we did not name him.  I was telling my friend R about him (not that I'm interested enough in this cat to actually talk about him to my friends that much--just a couple of mentions here and there) and she said, so you're not naming He Who Shall Not Be Named.

So I blame R that we call him Voldemort and Tom and Tom Riddle--which, I should mention is particularly fitting, him being a tom and all.

But we didn't name him.  That was R.  Just because he has a name now, it doesn't mean we like him.  We don't.  We just like what he does.  And I don't (usually) talk nice to him or anything, nor do I take any pleasure (well, okay, some) in the fact that I can get closer to him now before he runs off.

But, in the highly unlikely event that I put hands on this cat, he is not coming into the house.  Because, yay!, he sprays.  And even if we fix him, assuming we can put hands on this cat, it would not stop him from spraying.  

So we're never adopting this cat.  He'll stay outside, un-named (by us), forever.

I really, really mean it.

Even if it starts to snow really hard and his ears are folded down and he's staring in outside and we have a snuggly fire.

Because he sprays.

Thank gawd he sprays.

Sunday, August 07, 2011


The dogs were going bananas and they just wouldn't quit.  I looked outside.  All their noses pointed in the same direction--the veggie garden.  Oh noes!  The young doe who's been nibbling on my trees and grapes was probably brazenly flicking her tail at them while decimating something even more precious, like my three small blueberry shrubs. 

I dashed out and--

It wasn't a deer.  It took me a while to count them all.  Six raccoons--two adults and four older babies--had made themselves comfortable in one of our silver maples.  

I got the girl and we snapped some photos before I let Chase out so she could sniff around the base of the tree and bark at them.  Then I sprayed them all with water.  We waited about a half hour--shower, rinse, repeat in another half hour.  One of them actually hissed at me.  But soaked raccoons are so cuuuute!  We brought out a stick and a sword just in case they attacked us, but although they were peeved, they didn't get riled enough to want to come down and teach us a lesson.  

The next night, about 3am actually so I guess that would be dang o'clock in the morning, the dogs started up again so I went out.  Just one adult raccoon, as far as I could tell.  I got the hose and sprayed him good.  

I haven't seen the raccoons since.  I hope they stay away.  The hens are safe at night in the coop, but our neighbors have their chickens loose and I don't want another slaughterfest.  Cute, but very, very destructive.

And darling when wet and hissing.

I may add pictures to this post later.  (Posted 8/8/2011)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Soon Now ... WorldCon!

My DH, the girl and I are all sick. Being the last holdout (I really thought I might skip this one) I of course am getting worse about the time that they're getting better. I don't feel too sorry for myself. So far it hasn't been that bad, plus I wasn't ill all winter and spring, so I guess it was about my turn. If these things take turns. Who knows.

The real news, though, is that I'm going to Worldcon in Reno. I've never been to a Worldcon. I've been to a few different ones, namely Norwescon, OryCon, Radcon, Potlatch and a few others, but I have a feeling that this one will be different. First of all, I've heard of all of the GOHs (Guests of Honor) including the musical special guests. That's pretty rare for a con for me. Also, I idolized one of the GOHs since mid-high school. That would be the incredible Boris Vallejo. I greedily absorbed news about him the same way normal people today follow the dramas of rock and movie stars, complete with commentary about artistic choices and yes, I blush to admit, even a bit of his romantic life (to be precise, rumors thereof--there was no Snopes back then to confirm or deny urban myths.) But mainly it was about his art.

My interest in collecting his books, scanning new books at the bookstores searching for his latest covers, buying posters and calendars waned over the years, but the admiration never flagged, so I'm excited to see what's been going on this past decade or two that I've been utterly ignorant of. I'm sure he's grown and changed, as artists tend to do, just as I've watched in awe as the core skills I coveted now carry through with even greater refinement.

Some of you might have caught that 'decade or two' and may be wondering just how old this guy is. Well, for your info he's been amazing the world with his work for a looooong time, well before I became aware of him. In fact, his career began before I was born. His entire family, including his wife, are all creatively talented. It's pointless to be jealous of him, though now (and correct me if I'm misusing the slang) I can say his art is sick and mean what I really mean--that it's beauty is beyond what I can describe in non-slangy terms without using terribly purple prose.

Will I walk up and say hi, or ask for his autograph? Heck no! Well, maybe, if I don't actually have to say anything. He's one of the few people that can easily turn me into a stammering idiot, so I won't even try to speak if I bring one of his books with me to sign. I'll just put a post-it note with my name spelled correctly and hope for the best. I think I'd have a better chance of saying hi to Johnny Depp than I would to Mr. Vallejo. It would probably come out mmmgggnnn-eep-myfriendwasyurbiggestfan-er,I mean metoo, ImeanIwas except I lost track and I don't have all your books or anything-- and then I would have to hide for the whole rest of the con to avoid the possibility of making eye contact with him thereby reliving that awful awkward moment.

I like the post-it plan. Let's go with that. I might even dare to put a smiley face on it.

I'll probably go through a dozen post-it notes before I make a smiley face worthy of him. Argh!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Being Weird

Every once in a while I'm reminded that I have a weird brain.  I've had a couple of reminders recently.

A group of young adults who'd just gone through a survival course were on their last leg where they had to survive on their own without adult supervision.  The party was attacked by a bear.  Four were seriously injured, including one person who had a punctured lung and bite marks in his skull.  The other six managed to escape without injury.  They turned on their emergency beacon at 9:30pm, and were picked up about 3am.  They used their recent skills to perform life-saving first aid, including dealing with the punctured lung.  No one died.  My first thought was, wow, that's an amazing survival school--they really taught them some serious skills!  I think most people will react with how irresponsible the instructors were to leave them alone out there without proper protection.  I expect the school will be sued and will fold as a result.  sigh

Today I had one of those moments when I couldn't wait until the end of my shift, and as often happens when I wish the time would fly by, I reminded myself that I wouldn't want to rush through the last hour of my life.  If anything, I would hope that the hour went by long and slow and among loved friends and family so that I could be with them and hold them until the hour stretched into infinite.  So why the hell would I want to rush this hour?  I made the most of it.  Yes, I was at work, but we have great customers and a great team and I tried to enjoy my time at work as much as I could before I clocked out.  On my way out the door, I wished my coworkers a good night, and that I looked forward to seeing them on Friday.

I don't mind being weird.  And I bet there are other weirdos out there just like me, so maybe I'm not all that weird.  I wonder how many offbeat ideas are out there that people never voice, because they're afraid that everyone will think they're stupid or morbid or naive ...?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Thunder, Lightning and Yum

I woke up early this morning to lightning and thunder.  I love thunderstorms, but I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to see a flash except through my eyelids.  I still got to listen to pounding rain and the thunder, and listen I did for probably far too long.  

So I was groggy woman at work all day today.  (Totally worth it, btw.)  

I dragged myself through with memories of that storm, and of our first garden soup--cream of zucchini.  Here's the recipe for the curious:

4 cups of water (ish--I don't usually measure.)
3 cubes of chicken bullion (or slightly dilute chicken broth of your own.)
1 medium or 2 small zucchinis, sliced
1/2 of a small onion
1/4-1/2 cup of heavy cream

In a small sauce pan, gently brown seasoned zucchini and onion (I like a wee bit of salt, pepper and dill) in a dab of butter.  Don't use too much butter here, you'll use more later.  When the zucchini starts getting golden edges, add the water and bullion (or broth.)  Add seasonings if you like, but be careful with salt as the bullion is usually plenty salty.  Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, in another small sauce pan, melt about 3 tablespoons of butter and add about 3 tablespoons of flour to it.  Brown the flour until it smells warm and toasty (as opposed to the raw scent it initially has) and is lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Add the cream and quickly stir until it's uniform and pretty thick.  Add the soup to the flour/butter mixture and stir.  You may need to use a whisk to get lumps out, but as long as this operation happens off the burner you should be okay.  Place the combined mixture back on the heat and gently warm until it's barely begun to boil again.  Add seasonings if necessary.  You can run it through a blender or strain it if you like, but I like the tender chunks of zucchini as they are.
Great garnishes:  sour cream, chopped tomato, fresh parsley, fresh ground pepper.