Monday, May 21, 2012

Books I'm Reading Right Now + bonus griping

I had a really frustrating day at work last week, and one of the most frustrating parts of it is that I can't write about it here, even without naming names and pointing fingers.  Gone are the days when people could vent their spleens without getting sued or losing their jobs or whatever.

Or were they ever here?  I'm in the midst of reading Toward the Brink by Claude Manceron where people got jailed for writing less confrontational and critical stuff.  I guess it's for my own good.  Though it's highly unlikely my boss would ever read it and correctly deduce it's me writing about my job, and though it probably wouldn't cost me my job, it would only make work more uncomfortable.

Speaking of Toward the Brink, I'm having one of those mixed experiences that drive me crazy.  On the one hand, the author puts you right there in the middle of things and makes it feel like everyone is a fully-realized person, which of course they were at the time.  So it's very humanizing.  On the other hand, I'm in the middle of the series and I often feel lost.  I don't think that's the fault of where I started, though.  I think it's the writing style.  The writing often presents as the author sharing a lot of inside jokes and anecdotal material with readers who ought to know everyone involved.  It is, after all, the French Revolution.  And who hasn't heard of the Marquis de Sade? (for example.)

And sure I've heard of him.  But when the author starts bandying around first names I've never heard and whips out a bunch of nicknames of various people associated with him, I turn into the most ignorant person in the world.

So although I'm loving the information and the sense of place and culture and people, I just bought a copy of 1776 by David McCullough which I know is going to be a much more reader-friendly book, and I'm tempted to set the intelligent and fascinating Manceron for the equally intelligent, accessible and engrossing McCullough.

That probably makes me a bad person.  I'll keep on a keepin' on with Toward the Brink.  But if 1776 ends up on my nightstand and I accidentally start reading it after my bath when I settle in to bed tonight, I won't be the least bit surprised.

PS--I got 1776 for $10 at a used book fair.  I was all pleased with myself until I saw the fully illustrated version (with maps!) for $25 at another booth.  I was good and stuck to my budget, but there was much pouting, lip-quivering and whining.  My poor friend R and the girl bore up to it well.  They're so good to me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blood, Sweat and Seeds

When I got home I had two M&Ms cookies with a cone of whipped cream on top, and then I went to work.  You'd think after a full day at the day job I'd want to put my feet up, or maybe at least cook some dinner and watch a movie or something.

That would be far too sensible.

We had rain in the local forecast, and I remembered I had all these old seeds I hadn't gotten around to planting.  Bags and bags of them.  And I thought, I'll just scatter them around and the rain will soak them in and what comes up, comes up.

But of course it's never that simple.

First I planted some ancient marigold seeds out in the veggie garden, and then I checked out the area I had planned for my mass old seed dumping ground.  It's about sixty feet long and ten to twenty feet wide, depending on the section.  The kids had, as instructed, dug out the majority of the blackberry roots, so I figured I'd just toss the seeds on the bare ground and go inside and have dinner.  I grabbed a rake (big mistake) and went to break the crust on the soil.

Hard as a rock.  Seriously.  I felt so betrayed!  Normally the soil under blackberries is quite soft.  They form their own sort of (evil) duff that keeps the soil moist and suppresses weeds.  And a few of the areas were like that, but way too much of it felt like baked clay so hard that I understood why even the grass hadn't started to take root there (yet.)  First I debated attacking the areas with a hoe.  Couldn't find one.  Then I considered  a shovel.  Mind you, this is after work, and I knew it would get dark soon, and breaking up rock hard dirt with a shovel is no light, quick task.

The impending darkness settled it for me.  I would get the big rototiller.

One sweaty, sore, throat-sore-from-suppressed-cussing half-hour later I had the whole section tilled.  I scattered the seeds, keeping particular kinds more or less together, raked the now (mostly) soft dirt to roughly cover at least some of the seeds in case they needed to be covered to sprout, and went home.  I had just enough time to gather eggs from the coup and close the chickens in for the night before the dark swooped in.  I had to turn on lights when I came in so that I could find my way around the house.

So now I'm thinking (I'm crazy that way) that I'd just put a whole lot of work into seeding an area that may or may not have viable seeds scattered on it.  So sometime this week I'm going to do yet another ridiculous thing.  I'm going to get a bunch of fresh seeds of something tall, bomb-proof and pretty, like cosmos or baby's breath or bachelor buttons (or maybe all of the above), and mix it with a big bag of potting soil and scatter that around the area as well.

That should fix it up real nice.

And then I'll be done.

Except for putting in the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other stuff.

Oh, and I have a few more discounted bulbs to put in.

But then I'll be done.


Mostly done, anyway.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Remember when you were a kid?

I'm at the coast working on book covers.  On the way, my DH and I were talking about hot lava.  Who didn't play games where if you touched the ground while going across the monkey bars or jumping from rock to rock or leaping from the swings (and many other things, probably some of which have been banned from playgrounds because they've been deemed unsafe and schools don't want to get sued because little Kami broke her arm) you fell into molten lava?  There was molten lava friggin' everywhere on the playground.  Talk about unsafe!  Sometimes we had hot lava in the living room and you had to leap from the sofa to the easy chair and then launch yourself into the hallway to make it to bed alive.

It was a great talk, and a fantastic warm-up for putting together my latest book cover project.  I giggled the whole time I worked on it.

It's good to be a kid sometimes.  Maybe even most times.  And then, once I cleared the molten lava hazards and finished playing with crayons, I got back to being an adult and had prime rib and wine for dinner followed by a cheesecake truffle for dessert.  Yum!

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Married Couple at Work

Soon now, our house sitters will move in (note to self, have to clean the kitchen!) and we'll be off for the much-anticipated work weekend.

My DH and I work really well together.  At least, it works really well for me.  We succeed at the dueling keyboards model of going out to dinner, which we don't call going out to dinner unless that's the actual focus.  Most of the time it's going out to Wifi at a place that has food because our chosen work time conflicts with mealtime.  We also succeed at the dueling keyboards model of hanging out around the house, and often bounce ideas off of each other when we take breaks for food, to stretch, or to deal with animal stuff.

We had a great time working at home together, during that all-too-short time period when we were able to do that.  I think we both worried that we'd see too much of each other and get sick of each other, but that didn't happen.  Maybe spending hours and hours not talking to each other with only mouse clicks and keyboard keys getting tapped in rapid succession helps shield us from over exposure.  But I don't think I'd ever get tired of hanging around my DH.  He's the kind of sunshine that won't give me a sunburn.

So we're both working hard to get to the point where we can both work full time at home, and so that I can travel with him on some of his trips overseas.  Not all of them.  Someone needs to hold down the fort, and we do have dogs.  I don't think the cats and chickens would miss us very much.  They love anyone who feeds them.  But Chase, and our red-eared hounds Brian and Finn, tend not to eat when we're away. I'm not exaggerating.  I have family members and former house-sitters who can attest to this.  As a result, I'm nervous about being away for more than a few days.

But I would like to visit with some of the people and see some of the places he's connected with.  Really wonderful people, living in legendary or beautiful or exotic or all-of-the-above places.  It's funny how life works out.  The introvert travels and meets tons of people while the extrovert stays home.

It's funny, too, that both my DH and I have been athletes most of our lives, but we both work at a physically demanding job that requires hours and hours of sitting employing small muscles instead of the great big muscle groups.  I like it.  And I look forward to focusing on that work.  You can bet, though, that we'll be walking on beaches and maybe even running or sparring with bokken.  We'll make the time, somehow.  It's going to be a jam-packed working vacation and play is integral to our working life together.  Without the physical stuff, my mental stuff languishes.  And my DH is a genius physical sort of guy.  He inspires me to belly dance, and keep in shape, and keep some sort of semblance of physical prowess good enough to defend myself if I need to.

He doesn't just inspire my physical self.  (Rrrow!)  He inspires me in all aspects of life, so I guess what I'm really anticipating during our time together is a kind of holistic inspiration. That sounded way fuzzier than I meant--but it's true in a very real sense.  That inspiration will go into the skull machine, and out the words and art and maybe even music will come.

We may not talk to each other, but the communication is there.  We're going to get a lot of stuff done as a result, way more than we'd get done individually.  I tell my kids and it always proves to be true, at least in our family.  Two people working together can get way more than twice the work done than two people working independently.  Weird, but it works for us.

Hopefully, by this weekend, you'll see a lot of new stuff up on the Wyrd Goat website as a result of our working retreat.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Morning Wake Up

I had one of those moments yesterday morning, where you wake up and realize you'd forgotten something very important and now there was no way to make up for it.

I cleared out the fridge of leftovers that I knew no one would eat.  Lamb pot roast I'd forgotten to freeze went to the dogs.  They of course gorged themselves and then promptly got sleepy-eyed, though no one went so far as to actually nap.  Eggshells, coffee grounds and banana peels for the roses.  They love that.  Easy enough to tuck it under the mulch.  And then I took some leftover rice, quinoa and a few cooked veggies out to the chickens, and realized that I hadn't shut them in.

I called to no avail.  I saw no sign of them.  I walked around the lower pasture with a sinking feeling, looking for the telltale bits of wings and legs and feathers everywhere.  No sign.  But no sign of them around either pasture, either.

I dumped the leftovers--if the goats got into it it wouldn't hurt them--and slogged back to the house.  I had to get ready for work.  I told the boy that if he found the bodies to please bury them.  I felt about 4 inches high and fifty feet wide, creeping along like some vile fungus into the car.

And that's when I saw them.  They were bright-eyed and looking to me for their morning snackies.

You can bet I shut them in last night.

I didn't have time to raise chicks this year.  If I lost my dear biddies, that would be it for eggs, for stroking their smooth feathers while they spread their wings and tucked their legs waiting for the attention, no more carrying them tucked in one arm like a baby, and no more giggling with the girl as she gets one to perch on her arm with the declaration that this was redneck falconry in action.

But they're still here.  It's a very good thing.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Pace, She Quickens

The end is in sight.

I've been working on the new Masks cover for what seems like forever.  Now I only have a few details left, maybe a half day's work (which will take me two days) and I can get started on the cover for Confidante.  With any luck, I'll put up Confidante and reissue Masks with the new cover by the end of the month.  They might even go up during my super-secret working retreat this week.

Work on the third book is stewing, perhaps even boiling over.  I want to write on it sooo badly, but I think the build-up before putting more words on the page is good for me.  I've already decided to change a bunch of stuff in the beginning, so it's fantastic that I haven't made my way halfway through the book before I discovered I had better ideas for where and when and how to start.

In other writing news, work progresses on the origin story for the Gelantyne mask at a more sober pace.  There's something lurking in there that I haven't found yet.  I want to introduce another character that's only been mentioned once so far but will probably be a huge element in this story, and I'm not sure how.

The maker of the Gelantyne mask is a middle-aged woman who took over her father's theater mask business.  She came from a broken family and hasn't opened herself to the possibilities that love brings to pull herself away from work long enough to give love a chance.  Then one day, two strange men show up on her doorstep. Not that unusual a circumstance for someone whose father's fame and reputation had spread as far as it has, but these men want something more than a theater mask.  It seems innocent at first, of course, just another mask, but something about them, especially the one whose voice and hands draw her to stand ever closer, suggests terrible danger.  To fill this contract, she may risk more than a broken heart.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Passion and Boredom

I have too many writing and cover projects and not enough time!  This is a good thing.

I've been thinking about boredom and passion lately.  We have some customers at my day job that show up several times a day because they're bored and the most interesting thing to do is to come over and shop.  I'm not knocking this--but I wonder what it means to be bored, and what various passions mean to quality of life when measured against a lifetime.  

I haven't been bored since I was a child.  I used to be bored all the time.  Restless.  It seemed like there was nothing to do.  I ended up reading and that cured it.  Suddenly I didn't have enough time to read.  I'd gripe about having to go up and eat dinner with the rest of the family when I wanted to at least finish the chapter.  Does that mean that obsession or passion or addiction is the end to boredom?  If so, is alcoholism any less valid a 'cure' for boredom than painting or writing or touring the world?  

I've known people who drank because they were bored.  I wouldn't want to spend my time that way, but if they have nothing better to do, should I judge them (assuming that they aren't harming anything except their own livers)?  What about people so bored with life that they want to move on?  It may not seem possible to most people, but I know it happens.  

I don't think many of our ancestors were bored.  Perhaps some, some of the time, but survival--eating, holding on to shelter, watching out for predators and enemy humans--kept things from becoming dull.  Not to mention village/clan politics kept things lively.  If you didn't get along with your neighbors or family, moving out meant big risk, so you had to deal and dealing can be tough.  With increased safety and leisure time, boredom has more opportunity to take root.  And what does it signify?  Luxury?  Lack of imagination?  Lack of coping mechanisms in brains designed to survive in what used to be a very harsh environment?  

I don't know.  Stuff to think about, when I have time, assuming I find the time between projects.  Sometimes it feels like I'm losing ground when I finally get to sleep.  Not enough hours in the day.  And that, too, is a product of our modern age, though perhaps the builders of our ancient and mighty monuments, be they pyramids or cathedrals, felt that same press of time as their projects sometimes required the work of generations ....