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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hungry Cats and Sleepy Turtles

I awoke this morning at 4 AM with Mica on my chest staring at me. That's pretty much how my day has gone. All cats in the Turtle household may shortly find themselves relegated to the basement at night. We'll see.

I have done my best to make the most of the day but it has run away from me despite my efforts. I completed my interview questions for Wordcrafter and will send him the file tonight. This has reminded me of a high school homework assignment. I'm ready for it to be over.

Today was a beautiful 82 degrees. That's Kansas for you. Snow two weeks ago, and today 82. I was not cold for the first time in a long time. My boss actually wanted to turn on the A/C. Fortunately, my "shocked" face worked and I was able to enjoy the warmth. I doubt it will work for long.

I was an appointment-making fool today. Perhaps it was a sort of spring fever of activity brought on by the warm weather.

My car will be getting its first oil change in a year (it doesn't seem that long). I suspect it will need more than a tire rotation.

I'll be getting a hair cut next week. I'm trying it short one more time, but if it doesn't work, I'm done. I'll take my Nazarite vows and avoid all haircuts forevermore.

My new glasses will be adjusted tomorrow, and praise God for that. I've been pushing them up on my nose every five minutes for three weeks. Silly me, I guess I hoped I'd get used to them.

Two cats will be getting shots next Saturday. Shhh. Don't tell them.

Of course, if I don't get some sleep, I won't remember to do any of it.

So there's my boring post for the week. Hopefully I'll be back on schedule tomorrow and you'll have something slightly more amusing to read for two minutes.

Or maybe I'll sleep through my blog time. I'm good either way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Running Toward Discipline

I am having the worst time figuring out what information to give Wordcrafter for my interview. You wouldn't think someone as arrogant and self-absorbed as I am would have so much trouble talking about herself. I don't here. But what exactly do I say about me and Star of Justice in a few paragraphs?

This is exactly how I felt while trying to decide what to say in my "About Me" blurb. I should just send him "obsessed with food" and leave it at that.

Anyone with suggestions, please leave them here or on my FB page. I meant to send him this info a week ago, and I'm open to any suggestions whatsoever.

Topic change. Allow me to provide some background.

My house has an unfinished basement: concrete floors, stone walls and exposed ceiling/floor joists. The heating/A/C ducts are suspended and would require a tall person to stoop under them.

Skamper was a wild kitten born of a feral mother who took up residence in my garage. I live-trapped the little family, spayed and released the mother and kept the two kittens. Skamper is an odd mix of fear and fearlessness. He will willingly stick his nose into the dog's ear while she's eating but he ran from me the first time I wore earmuffs. For the most part, he is a momma's boy, and I have apparently trained him to trust me implicitly.

Skamper likes to sleep hidden in the basement duct work. It is a place he feels safe from intruders in the house (any human other than me) and Uncle Simon the black cat when he's on a rampage (Simon is too fat to fit in the duct work). Big Brother built me suspended library stacks in the basement when I first moved in, and they provide a perfect ladder to reach a hidey-hole just above the furnace. I know Skamper is up there because I can hear a fourteen pound cat walking along a hollow metal duct. Normally, I have no problem with this.

Last night, he ventured from his normal path and took a walk along the much smaller venting ducts to get on top of the gas water heater. This is unacceptable to me. The heater is dangerous, and I don't know how long those smaller ducts would put up with his weight.

I yelled his name and clapped at him. Startled, he jumped from the heater and started to run away. Then he stopped, cried and ran back to me to be held. I had frightened him, but I am who he comes to when he is frightened.

Why can I not trust God the way my Skamper trusts me? Even when God is the one Who frightens me sometimes, He is the only one Who can protect me, too.

How often has God clapped His hands at me when I am doing something wrong? But I run away and hide under the bed. I need to learn to run to Him for comfort after I am corrected. I have no doubt He will hug me as close as I hugged my Skamper.

So there's a devotional thought for the Tuesday before Easter.

And if you think of something for me to tell Wordcrafter, let me know. This perfectionism-driven procrastination is getting old.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I was in college before I realized other people could be interesting.

I knew this about family. God blessed me with extremely funny brothers, a supportive mother and a doting father. I love each of them with my whole heart and prefer their company above most others on most days.

In college, I took a class on communication from one of the greatest teachers I have ever known, Dr. Dennis Glenn. Through that class, I learned to notice people other than my family.

This was not always good. Some people can be more annoying than interesting. Alas, very few of them know who they are.

I have talked with many people since college. Some are excellent communicators. Some are not. I've spoken with a few who remind me of Jayne from Firefly ("How did you learn to form human speech?").

I've said before and I'll say again, communication with you is my responsibility. If I have a message to convey, it is up to me to convey it.

I would normally apply this to fiction writing. I have before. Today I apply it to all forms of communication.

Our country is smack in the middle of a war of worldviews. We think we're right; they think they're right. It is polarizing the country and may well rip us apart.

I am a political activist, but I hope I am a Christ follower first. I do not place my trust in the government of man, because man is a fallen being whose every tendency from birth is to do evil. Government will not save us.

On the other hand, as a Christ follower, I am aware of certain universal truths, truths like "everybody needs Jesus." Only Christ can change a heart. Only Christ offers eternal salvation, not just peace on earth. But peace on earth can be a side-effect of a Christ-changed heart. History teaches us that after revival comes a decrease in crime, drinking, gambling and abuse. Society as a whole becomes better behaved with Christ as Lord.

We live in a world where people prefer to think any kind of spirituality is good. As long as you believe in something, you'll be okay. As a result, we have a lot of people headed straight to hell on a road of good intentions.

Christ will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. The Bible makes this very clear. It also clearly states no one knows when that will happen. It does give some signs to look for: wars, natural disasters, alliances between countries who have never allied before (Russia and Iran, for example), the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.

It is our duty as Christ followers to communicate truth no matter the personal cost. I fully expect to be arrested someday, in America, for proclaiming the truth the Bible teaches. I am okay with that. Jesus says if I do not acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge me before His Father. That frightens me more.

I urge my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to be ready, as well. The world is out to silence us. It does not want to hear about Jesus.

As authors, it is our duty to communicate Christ. In our words, spoken and written, we must speak about the only one Who can save the world. In our books, our op-ed pieces, our church devotionals, even our FB status updates, we must remember to speak Christ.

This world is running out of time. We are not promised tomorrow. Today could be the last day to tell that friend about Jesus, the most interesting person anyone can ever know. Be ready to introduce Him. Doing so will change our world, one person at a time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Importance of Bibles

This has not been my best blogging week ever. Fortunately, I took down my rules, so likely no one but me and my 4 daily readers remember my goal is to blog daily.

I recently began listening to a Texas-based radio talk show host named Scott Wilder. I first heard him as a guest host on Point of View, and I liked his style. His show went national at the beginning of March. No station in Topeka carries it, so I listen online at http://www.scottwilder.com/ and use the link for scottwildertv. It airs just after Point of View, so it's easy to remember to switch over.

Scott Wilder often discusses politics from a Christian worldview, much as Point of View does. But Scott Wilder doesn't want to be known for that. His emphasis in each and every show is the importance of Scripture in the lives of believers.

Scott Wilder is a Bible-smuggler.

He's visited numerous "closed" countries over the last 14 years, smuggling Bibles in to give to Christians. He's been to North Korea (yes, North Korea), Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and other places whose names I can't remember. Right now, he's focusing on sending Bibles to China. Each day, he asks his listeners to join him in donating Bibles to be smuggled into those countries. He has a link on his website to make it easy.

This Thursday, he spent all two hours telling stories about the places he's been and the people he's met, and what those Bibles mean to them. It changes your life when you meet a woman whose hands were beaten to mush with lead pipes because she didn't want to let go of her Bible when the authorities came to take it away.

Bibles are common in America. I suspect you can buy one at Walmart. I haven't counted but I have at least 7 in my house, of various sizes, translations and ages. I keep one in my car, in case I forget one of the others on my way to church. I have one I read from, one I study from and one I just think is pretty.

Four years ago, at the urging of a sermon series on giving by David Jeremiah, I changed my spending habits. I made a conscious effort to give money to God. I give monthly to my local church, to Point of View and to American Family Radio. I give to Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch whenever God blesses me with something extra. When something happens, like the earthquake in Haiti, I give.

I didn't use to do this. I figured I don't make a lot, and I need what I have. Well, maybe that's true. But even Dave Ramsey says there's only 3 things to do with money: save it, spend it and share it. Strangely, in God's ecomony, sharing tends to lead to more money than spending. I don't know why. I only know that since I've done this, I've been able to give regularly, pay all my bills, and still have a little left over for me.

Scott Wilder says for every Bible donated (cost $4/Bible), 5 people find Christ. He jokingly calls it "souls for 80 cents." How much is an eternal soul worth?

I will be giving to this cause. Maybe not monthly, but I will give. What better use of the temporal than to further the eternal?

Find one of your Bibles today. Look at it. Think about what it's worth to you. All around the world, people are imprisoned and tortured for owning one yet they take the risk. Why? As the lady with the beaten hands said, it's because it tells everything we know about Jesus. There is nothing more important than that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Farmville Fridays

It continues to rain on and off in my home state, and I continue to be trapped inside my house.
Taking the proverbial page from The Least Read Blog on the Web, I will make use of alliteration and devote Fridays to the fun (to me) analysis of Farmville. Actually, The Least Read Blog has "Wordcount Wednesdays," but I'm not writing right now.

I will be writing shortly, though, because Wordcrafter has decided to interview me as part of his series on MLS Premise Contest authors and I need to figure out what I'm going to tell him about my writing career. I haven't forgotten you, Keven. The check is in the mail. That interview will show up in a few weeks on The New Authors' Fellowship. I will, of course, let my readers know when.

Elder Brother was kind enough to put to rest the urban legend that Facebook will become a pay site. Huzzah! The thought of selling off my farm and salting the earth (I would never leave those poor animals waiting to be harvested for virtual eternity) was bringing me down a bit.

I continue to farm. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm planting with gold in mind, which means high profit crops and a quick turnover rate. According to Adam Nash, the best crop for both XP and gold is blueberries. They mature in 4 hours, they cost 50 gold per plot (65 if you consider the cost to plow the ground) and your profit is 26 gold and 2-3 XP per plot. Not a lot, but do it 2 or 3 times a day and it does add up. The best crop for money value overall is tomatoes, which mature in 8 hours. I plant those overnight.

The short answer is in five days, I've nearly earned the 150K I need to expand my farm. After that, I expect to ease back a bit and have a real life. God willing, Kansas will dry out and let me do some real planting.

Farmville likes to keep its players engaged, and the programmers apparently do that with regular gift giveaways. For St. Patrick's Day, we gave away gold and got things like a "shamrock castle" (you bet I got one), shamrock sheep (green wool with shamrock antennae) and leprechaun gnomes (I intend to collect gnomes on my farm).

Spring and Easter involve eggs. They appeared last night, and I've gotten 8 as gifts already. We don't know what we'll be trading those for, but I hope there's a gnome involved. Or a cottage shaped like an Easter egg, 'cause that would be cool.

I got a tool shed (cost 30,000 gold) and a cottage (cost 15,000 gold) in two mystery eggs, which is great. I'll keep the cottage until I find something I like better. Originally I intended to keep my farm somewhat sparse of decoration and "druidic," with little obvious human presence other than my avatar. Now I'm going for a more hobbitish approach of cultured wilderness.

I start every morning with a leisurely "stroll" around my farm, seeing what needs harvesting and what needs petting. I don't understand why you can pet a bull but you cannot pet a swan, turtle or rabbit. But then, I don't understand why pink cows give strawberry milk, either. I guess that's just how it is in Farmville.

I also very much enjoy seeing what other people do with their farms. One lady always plants lavender around her house. I love that. One gentleman has moved his plots into 3 sections and grouped all his trees and buildings in the remaining space with a lovely effect I very much want to emulate. My College Friend put her castle in the same spot as her avatar - something I did last night. That way my little replica has a place to sleep at night, should she wish it. I also put my 3 cats in with her to keep her company.

I wish I had more cats, but I suppose those will show up in time. I must remind myself I haven't been playing that long. This might be my fourth week, and I'm now at Level 25.

Farmville is a bit frivolous, yes, but as that wise rock star Eric from The Crow once said: "It can't rain all the time."

Boy howdy, it is trying in Kansas, though.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Reason I Prefer Fiction Writing

I must apologize again. I suppose I should say, if this blog remains unchanged, check Old Fashioned Thoughts.

I did start a post, but time ran away from me. Even when the cats awaken me at 4:30, there is only so much time before work. It doesn't help that I'm currently planting FV hard and fast for a quick gold turnover. I need another 150K to buy more land. I'm using the XP/gold charts figured by Adam Nash and mentioned in my Farmville post "I'm Not the Only One."

I learned yesterday Facebook will supposedly become a pay site, $14.99/month, on July 9. Since I refuse to pay for such time wasters (that's why I only have 3 TV channels), I will lose Farmville. No doubt it's for the best. That's the beginning of my writing season.

Real life sucks. Excuse my French.

My Dear Friend prefers books and movies that end realistically. "Not only does the hero not get the girl but he loses a limb" sort of endings. It's odd because I've marveled at her optimism in real life. I've heard her after a call with a nasty customer say, "How sad. What must his life be like that he's so mean?"

Are you kidding? No, she's not. I've studied her for four years and her pity seems sincere.

I, on the other hand, am a cynic, another word for "wounded romantic." I am shocked when a real human being actually chooses the higher way. It so seldom happens in real life that humans do the selfless thing. Perhaps it happens often and I just don't hear about it.

I like fiction with happy endings. They don't have to live happily ever after, but I want to see my heroes do the right thing and get rewarded for it.

My brothers often say "no good deed goes unpunished." In this life, perhaps, but my goal is not to live for this life. Heaven is my home. This is an occupation.

In the meanwhile, I'll read and write my escapist literature with an image of a better world, whether that world can be achieved or not. This world and its evil are real enough. I live in it. I don't need to read about it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Still Angry

Forgive my lack of post yesterday, but after the travesty of Constitutional process that occurred Sunday, my normal topics seemed frivolous at best. When families will be scraping every last dollar to pay increasing insurance premiums or have the IRS garnish their paychecks, what difference will it make if I write good fiction or not? When a percentage of any profit I might make from selling books will fund abortions, why would I sell books?

Don't believe for a moment the liberals are finished. Like Islamo-facists, victory only makes them more determined. Amnesty for illegals is next on the agenda. Otherwise, who else will vote these socialists back into office?

One of the entrants in the MLS contest was The Land of the Black Rose about a Chinese Christian who helped run an underground railroad for Christians fleeing persecution. It didn't win, which is unfortunate, because if we don't stop this runaway train of liberalism and might-makes-right governance, we'll need it as a handbook for surviving life in the New America. Except we have nowhere to run. Now is the time to make our stand for the country we love and throw these traitors out of office.

Forgive me. I normally save this sort of thing for my other blog, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate real life from the fictional.

I hope someone is writing all this down. Depending on how it ends, it may make one heck of a story.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Our daily Scripture readings have brought us to the book of Judges. Israel, under the human leadership of Joshua and the heavenly leadership of God Almighty, has taken the Promised Land after five years of fierce and bloody fighting. Many enemies are dead, punished by God for their unrighteousness (I discussed this in my other blog, Old Fashioned Thoughts in a New Age World). But many enemies remain, and those that do become a scourge to Israel.

In Judges, we read a continuous cycle of righteousness leading to apostasy, leading to punishment, leading to repentance, leading to salvation through a judge, leading to righteousness. This happens over and over again. Why? Because people are stupid. We are created with a God-shaped hole in our souls and born with an insanity that turns us away from the only God who can fill it. The Israelites turned again and again to false gods of wood and blood sacrifice when the real God who gave them the land in the first place was right there waiting to bless them if they would simply serve Him. And they couldn't do it. They couldn't bend their stiff necks enough to bow to the one, true God.

How often have I done the same thing? It is easy to yell at the Israelites for their stupidity, but it is my stupidity, as well.

Our nation has fallen into idolatry. We sacrifice babies to the god of personal choice. We give the government our trust and money and tell it to do what it will with them because it knows best. We believe in all manner of spiritual things like ghosts and past lives, but mention the name of Jesus and you become intolerant.

Judges is an ugly lesson of what happens when we forget the God we serve. It is a lesson we must remember quickly, for all our sakes. Christian brothers and sisters, I urge you to join me in praying for the salvation of our country, lest we finally come under ultimate judgment as a nation and cease to exist altogether.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Vernal Equinox!

The first day of Spring is my favorite day of the year. I don't care that in Kansas the first day began with 3 inches of snow. It is the beginning of the end for snow. I can wait.

The snow gives me an excuse to play in Farmville. What a wonderful, annoying game.

I'm at level 22 now, but my rapid progress must slow. The XP required to advance apparently doubles with each level. This is why buying certain things like barns and tractors gives XP. The game itself encourages such purchases, even though I don't want to make them. I don't intend to buy anything that requires fuel. This is a "green" farm, and my little avatar will have to work for her harvests.

I found a turtle! What a happy day that was. They don't have ranunculus in Farmville, but I've put her in a plot surrounded by flowers. She will always be surrounded by flowers of whatever kind I can plant. Right now, it's pink roses.

I now have a dairy barn for my cows. That was something I could buy. A dairy barn gives me more fertilizer to use on my neighbors' farms. It also allows me to milk all the cows at once.

I bought a chicken coop because it lets me collect eggs at once and produce mystery eggs for neighbors to collect. A mystery egg can have anything inside, literally anything. I got a grain silo in one. I don't want a grain silo, so I sold it.

The next purchase will likely be a horse stable. I will have to have neighbors help me build that. They give me building supplies like nails and bricks and boards and once I have enough, I have a horse stable. I'm waiting until I have a lot of neighbors for this (I think I have about 30 right now). You can only give so many gifts a day and you only have so many days to build. If you don't make it, you can try again, but I don't want a framed-in stable sitting on my farm for who knows how long. Besides, not every neighbor is as great a neighbor as I am. For those needing translation, that means not every player is as obsessed as I am.

A horse stable provides XP for your neighbors and again allows me to harvest my horse hair all at once. It's odd. Horse hair in this game gives 80 gold coins, but cow's milk gives 6. What's up with that?

I was asked if this was a communist game because it has so much emphasis on "sharing the wealth." Not at all. The emphasis is on generosity. I keep the money for my crops, and I can buy anything I want, provided I have enough levels. I could conceivably advance in levels without any help from neighbors. It would just take longer.

But, as in capitalism, when I prosper, others prosper. When I plant crops, my neighbors can fertilize them and get gold and XP. When I have a good flower harvest, I get the gold but I also get bouquets to give away to my neighbors to make their farms prettier. When I have a chicken coop for neighbors to feed, I benefit with happy chickens and they can get mystery eggs. We all benefit from both selfishness and generosity.

For years I've watched my Second Dad go help his fellow farmers during planting and harvest, often at his own expense in time and money. It seems to be something farmers do for each other, and no one accuses them of being communists. No one I know, anyway. This game seems to work on the same principle. I can play by myself, but it's more fun to play with other people.

I now have one neighbor who is at level 64. That's 21 levels higher than anyone else I know. And I thought I was obsessed.

See you on the farm. I'm planting daffodils in honor of the first day of spring.

I'll be shoveling my real driveway afterwards.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Write It Down

My Dear Friend has started her own blog. Find it on my blog list as "Larissa's Crow." She is not an author (aspiring or otherwise), so you may wonder why I put her on my blog list. Well, she's turned into a plot-critique partner over the course of our friendship, it's easier for me to check her blog through my blog, and she's a Farmville neighbor so I need to be nice to her in the real world.

Larissa is an avid reader, at-home mother of five, and a fan of my writing, which gives her an automatic pass on anything as far as I'm concerned. She is also one of the smartest people I've ever met and, without doubt, the sweetest-natured, aside from my dog Sweetie. Larissa will think that comparison funny, which only illustrates my point. Since she's just starting out, stop by and give her an 'atta girl. Oh, and mom thinks your blog should be titled "Larissa Crows." Whatever.
On with today's post.

Last day of the fast. I can't believe I've made it this far with surprisingly little discomfort. Perhaps attitude really is everything.

In my first semester of college, Master Student was a required 8 week course designed to teach us newbies to be -aha!- master students. It was a fantastic textbook. What I learned in that class has benefited me almost daily since.

The first lesson was "be here now," meaning wherever you are, focus your entire attention on that time and place. Doing so will save you time later. This is probably the single most useful thing I learned in college.

But sometimes you can't focus your entire attention on your current time and place. Something keeps distracting you. Something is nagging at you. Something pulls at you and screams at you and jumps up and down in front of you demanding attention right now. So, the second lesson was "write it down."

When those times of intense distraction come, it is a better use of your time to write it down to deal with later than to ignore it. One of the reasons this works is because your subconscious knows you might forget about that important thing so it will continue to harp on it until you do something. When you write it down, you've done something and you can relax and refocus on your surroundings.

One might also argue a qualifying phrase to "write it down" is "where you will find it later." This applies if that thing really is as important as your subconscious seems to think it is.

Yesterday I kept a list of my food cravings. It was a long list, staring with a tuna fish sandwich and ending with Totinos Pizza Rolls (which is odd because I don't eat those). I did take 60 seconds to really savor the memory of saltine-coated, crunch-fried salmon patties with peppered, french cut
green beans and wild rice with a touch of gravy. Sigh.

My point is writing it down helped. Once I'd written it down, I could move on with my work day secure in the knowledge that if I still wanted those foods later, I had a check list. And I definitely know where I put it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The fast continues. Naturally my thoughts dwell on food.

I use food a lot in my writing. In Elementals, Glorya's first confrontation with The Queen is over a dinner of raw oysters, a "delicacy" unknown and unappreciated by the princess. In Star of Justice, Caissa meets Merritt during a meal. As I think about it, food should be its own character in Star of Justice. Caissa doesn't care about what she eats, Merritt prefers three squares a day, and no one ever catches Raven with food in her mouth.

Jeff the Publisher encourages "beats" in writing. A "beat" is a moment of description or down time that slows the pace a bit and gives the reader the illusion of real time passing. Beats are useful during dialogue to keep the conversation from feeling like a Dragnet episode.

Strassus looked around the table at each guest in turn. "And the rest of you?"
Pip pulled her head out of her ale mug to look around as well. She sucked at a piece of tentacle stuck in her teeth.
Rioto and Scar nodded. Strassus looked at Pip who was busy slurping the last of the juice from her chilled fruit cup. "And you, mistress gnome?"
"I don't know." Pip licked the rim of the cup. "Ten thousand gold, who wouldn't want that? But then, search for an old book? What if we don't find it?"
"I'll wager you'll be the first to lay hands on it."
Pip's pointed ears perked. "How much?"
Strassus considered. "An extra five thousand gold."
"If I lay hands on the book first?"
He nodded.
Pip rubbed her tummy. "Strassus the Bold, you got yourself a bet."

That's a very brief excerpt from one of our role-playing sessions, but it does provide an illustration.
Strassus was the wizard hiring our party to go to a haunted castle and find a magic book. Hmm. That sounds kind of familiar.

Eating provides a wonderful opportunity for beats. The character must pause to chew, to spear asparagus, to sip from a tankard or stick his head in a wide, wooden bowl to lick oatmeal from the bottom. All these actions provide beats as well as character description through showing.

Of course, your story may not leave room for meals. The same theory applies to any type of physical action that can occur during a scene of dialogue.

Well, there's some food for thought. That's the only kind of food I'm getting today, so I'll make the most of it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


This is day two of a four day fast. I don't care to go into reasons why, but I will say they are neither medical nor spiritual. That is not to say I may not gain medical or spiritual benefits. Those just aren't my reasons this time.

I love food. You cannot be around me for any length of time without realizing I am obsessed with food. There's a reason Joey is my favorite Friend. He and I would eat well together, as long as we didn't take food from each other's plates.

All of my life (you can ask mom) I have suffered from what my doctors call a "touchy metabolism." Sometime in my single-digit years, I was tested and found to be borderline-hypoglycemic. This is doctor-talk for I get sick if I don't eat. I figured this out early. I don't know why it took them so long.
Unfortunately, it's not just about eating. It's about eating the right things. I cannot, for example, eat a hot fudge sundae by itself. That is a guaranteed worship session at the foot of the porcelin god. I have to eat some kind of protein, then I can have the sugar.

I was in my 20's before I finally realized I was tired of suffering the consequences of eating poorly and started reining in the desires that so quickly led to discomfort. I consider it a milestone of maturity.

Fasting is not something I regularly do. I have never studied in a denomination that emphasizes fasting. I have resisted fasting in my younger years because of the low-blood sugar issues. How can I worship my God if I'm kneeling at the bowl-shaped altar of another praying for death? That doesn't make sense to me.

Our church recently studied spiritual disciplines, including fasting. I came to the conclusion it is a worthwhile discipline, something Jesus Himself expects of me, so I'd better get used to it.

Now I practice fasting. One day a month, instead of eating, I complain to God about not eating. Not the ideal, no, since I'm still obsessed with food, but I figure that way, we're still talking and I'm learning I can go without food for a little while. Soon I'll stop complaining and start listening to what God wants me to hear. As with most of Christianity, this is a process. I don't expect to become Master of the Fast overnight.

So the next few days should be interesting. I hope once I know I can do it means I'll be able to do it with a better attitude. I'm sure God is tired of the griping.

So don't offer me dinner or Oreos or some of that plump, white rice sprinkled with Kikkoman soy sauce with the olive oil-sauteed carrots and snap peas. I can't eat them until Saturday.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Short Post

I didn't finish the masks, so I'm back to cutting this morning. Big Brother must have left the latex cooking longer than usual. These are really thick and don't respond well to my scissors. I keep leaving little nicks in the latex and no one wants that.

For those who don't know, Big Brother makes paintball masks. I have a link on my website to his website, but I'll post it here for those who haven't visited my website: http://www.psychoscenario.com/.

You may now have a better understanding of my family.

Big Brother is actually the middle brother. Elder Brother came first; Big Brother is second, but...well, bigger than Elder Brother.

Normally, Big Brother drops off masks on Thursdays and I have all night to work on them. I pick a movie and cut away. This time, he dropped them off Sunday afternoon and didn't tell me (it must have been during my nap). I found them on my doorstep yesterday as I was leaving for work. This messed up my schedule a mite.

I was also having an inordinate amount of trouble keeping cats out of my lap while I cut. I would move Mica only to discover Skamper trying to squirm in. Once he was relocated, Mica was back. I can't blame them since I was gone a lot last week, but it's nearly impossible to cut out a mask with a cat in the way. Much like typing a post with Mica in front of the computer screen screaming for breakfast.

So, I'm off to cut. I've finished planting for the day and I'll forgo helping my neighbors to help my brother. Or I won't.

Maybe there's a way I can do both.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wow, I Even Forgot to Add a Title

Forgive my lateness in posting. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time, I actually slept in 'til 5:25 and threw off my new farm-inclusive schedule. It was wonderful. Probably won't last, so I'll enjoy it while I can.

I'm beginning to wonder if the regularity of my waking at 4:40 is related to some unknown factor. For example, I can hear trains from my house, although I cannot see them. I sometimes wonder if a train goes by at that time in the morning and wakes me up. It can't always be the cats.

Hmm. This is turning into the most boring post ever.

Fact is, I have some masks to cut out tonight and my brain is more focused on that than this. If something insightful comes to me while I cut, I'll get back on and edit.

God willing, I'll be back on schedule tomorrow AM and funny, interesting posts will resume.

That's assuming funny, interesting posts have preceded, of course.

Oh, and I began to wonder how many people notice when I don't post, so I've added a poll to find out.

Thanks for your participation.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hints of Spring

I woke up this morning to budding daffodils, hyacinth and crocus, and for once this week, I'm not talking about my Farmville farm.

Spring is springing around my house. I'm a little surprised so many bulbs have survived our wet winter in the heavy clay soil of Kansas. Some of them even look like they need to be divided. That won't be easy. I've a 70 year old maple tree whose roots cover every square inch of my front garden. Trying to dig through that is like trying to dig through a fishing net.

All my flowers are springing through mud. I cannot walk in my yard without bringing bits of it into the house. Those who know gardens understand this means I cannot garden. Walking on wet dirt compresses it into something unusable.

March is a tease. March brings days of sun and 50 degrees followed by days of snow and ice. Officially, the last frost date is May 15. Most gardeners can't wait that long and willingly keep a pile of blankets near the door to cover their tender annuals at night.

I discovered gardening in grad school. My roommate at the time was patient with my efforts (successful, for the most part) to grow from seed, transplant peonies (I love peonies) and save wild live-forever. Avid gardeners have seen live-forever in seed catalogs as sedum and know you can buy it for lots and lots of money. In Kansas, it grows everywhere for free. Maybe years ago somebody paid lots and lots of money and that's how sedum got here. You can drop a clump of live-forever in the middle of a gravel driveway and it will blossom in the fall, survive the winter, and grow new plants in the spring. Hence the common name. 

Those are a few things missing from Farmville: hyacinths, peonies, and sedums. I'll have to go outside to see those.

But not quite yet.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Is Farmville Like Heaven?

I'm listening to a sermon series on Heaven by David Jeremiah.

I have trouble looking forward to Heaven. Perhaps it's because I have it too good in my current life. Perhaps it's because I'm a Biblical literalist and a giant city made of gold doesn't interest me. A giant city made of chocolate barely interests me. I'm a country turtle. I don't care for cities, or crowds of people, or all the stuff that comes with cities and crowds of people (ironic since I live in the capitol of Kansas. Quick - what is the capitol of Kansas?).

My idea of Heaven is a small house with a huge yard and no neighbors in my line of sight.
Then I remember God is the first gardener. He created this world I love so much, despite all its problems. If He can create this Universe, which remains amazing even in a cursed state, can He not create something out of the Universe when it is redeemed that is more amazing? I have trouble picturing that.

Then I started playing Farmville. It's a world of, for the most part, perfection. Your crops always grow (although I've been told they will wither if you ignore them long enough). Friends show up and help you out and you can return the favor with a minimum of effort. The farm animals are well-behaved and never fight each other or eat your crops or drop manure where it isn't wanted. Everything produces something useful and beneficial. Isn't that like Heaven?

I heard a sermon series once by...someone - I'm guessing David Jeremiah - about the joys of work and the importance of the Sabbath rest. It might have been Dave Ramsey. The point was God created us to work. Even Adam was put in the garden to work it. When we work as God intended, work becomes play and we want to work all the time. This isn't healthy, so God instituted the Sabbath to force us to rest from having fun. Man, I wish I could remember who preached this.

Anyway, Farmville makes work fun. Yes, it's a game, but if you expand the concept to include what "working" in Eden would have been like, perhaps you see my point. What would it be like to work a garden where weeds never grow, and the ground is always friable, and the weather perfect, and crops always mature on time? Wouldn't that be Heaven? Maybe not to non-gardeners, but I suspect the concept applies to other forms of work.

I have trouble imagining what I'll do for all eternity. Won't I get bored? I know that's my fallen nature asking the question, but it comes up.

Farmville isn't boring (not yet anyway). Of course, today is only my one week anniversary. Happy Anniversary to me! In Farmville, each success moves you to the next level, which is harder but also more rewarding. New things to plant show up, and there is the goal of "mastery" of any particular crop.

(My thanks to The Flash for showing me how to measure that. New goal - mastery of every crop! Mwahahahaha! Ahem. Back to post about Heaven).

Advancement is not only exciting for me, but it allows me to be more helpful to my neighbors, too. I can give better "gifts" and - I think - fertilize more people's crops per day. When I improve, I can help others improve. That's like Heaven, right?

In C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, Aslan uses the phrase "inward and upward" to describe passage into the redeemed Narnia. Contrary to logic, the land gets bigger the further in you go. Lewis uses this concept in The Great Divorce, as well.

I see Farmville as a tiny window into the wide world of what Heaven might be like. Perhaps that's why it's so addictive. I long for that perfect Eden my forefathers abandoned at the beginning of time.
I'm glad I found Farmville. It's given me a new understanding of my ultimate reward.

Ironic, since playing it is keeping me from living toward that ultimate reward. But that's part of the curse, too, right? Losing sight of the real prize?

Don't worry. I'm coming down from the mountain. Why just this morning, I decided to plant a 24 hour crop so I can go to a meeting tonight and not worry about harvesting.

See? That's improvement.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm Not the Only One

I suspect Farmville will be the topic for the next few posts. My apologies to those of you not interested in Farmville, but, since I think they're some of the funniest posts I've ever written, I don't feel that bad about it. Besides, as predicted, the crush is fading and I am settling into a calmer pattern of planting and harvesting. When the maturation cycle of crops is 1-4 days, it tends to speed up the emotional progression of the relationship, as well. Like using rats or flies to study genetics. You can monitor a hundred generations in a relatively short period of time. I've now planted and harvested about 4 crops per day since last Friday. It's emotionally draining to care that much that fast, let me tell you.

I now have a flock of chickens, and at least one of most other things. I have decided not to buy animals. I like them very much, but they tend to be the kind of things you find. I'll save my money for crops and possibly some buildings. I do have two gnomes and I find them amusing enough to collect. I hope I can get one for every month.

It has been fascinating to visit my neighbors' farms and see what they do. Everyone farms differently. Right now, I seem to be the most mutable, probably because I don't have giant buildings or massive herds in the way.

I was visiting The Flash's farm this morning. She is fond of sunflowers, that one. She's also planted green hellebores, a St. Patrick's Day special worth a lot of coinage and XP (that's experience points for the non-gamers). She's playing for high stakes but doing it in a calculated fashion with small, concentrated plantings likely to get fertilized by friends and increase her XP. I've always told her to be President, but now I'm thinking Secretary of the Treasury. She has the self-control to be a good one.

My lamb, on the other hand, has yet to make me her neighbor. I will publish her full name on FB as retaliation if she continues to ignore me. Not her real full name, but the one I've made up will haunt her for the rest of her life. I'm not Mean Aunt Robynn for nothing.

While searching the web for a Farmville manual yesterday, I found the website for the creators of Farmville and numerous other social networking games found on FB. I learned about 30 million people play Farmville, and it is the No. 1 Internet game right now. Not surprisingly, this site has a blog. One entry in particular caught my eye. It was about Farmville economics. Someone other than me wondered how to maximize your profit in coins and XP through planting crops. Not only did this someone wonder, he did the math, with some results that may only be interesting to farmaholics, but I'll post the links anyway:



Apparently, this blogger was even contacted by one of the game creators asking questions. Kudos to him. What these posts taught me is I don't care about maximizing my coinage and XP. I just want to play in the virtual dirt.

I wish they had buttercups. Apparently, they had turtles available once, but the odds of me getting a turtle at this point are pretty slim. I can hope.

Anyway, I will soon be back to normal posting topics and save Farmville for maybe once a week updates. Those of you who don't farm can tune out, and those of you who don't write can tune in.

Those of you who don't care...well, why are you reading this blog?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


First, allow me to say congrats to the Wordcrafter for getting Winter out as an ebook. Those of you who paid attention during the conference are familiar with the book and the author, Keven Newsome. Keven is also the push behind The New Author's Fellowship blog. To see more about Winter and how to purchase it, you can go there (it's on my blog list).

Second, I attended the Winter Choir concert for my lamb. It was beautiful, and she sang well and paid attention far better than I did. Has anyone else had the experience of going to an event to see one person only to find out they are scheduled to perform at the very end? I swear I cannot think of a single time either niece has performed at the beginning of something. Oh well.
On with the post.

I looked at my FB wall yesterday and noticed something the rest of you figured out two days ago.

I may be a little obsessed with Farmville.

Whoa! I just heard the shouts of "ya think?"

Allow me to explain a few things.

Second First, I am playing Farmville less than I play Spider Solitaire. This is sad, but true. I have stopped playing Spider Solitaire entirely since I've started Farmville. I consider it one of those "make a choice" things. If I'm going to farm-play, I am not going to card-play. When I am off the farm, I now find more productive things to do.

Second Second, as I wrote yesterday, this is normally my outside gardening time of the year. My friends and family will attest to this. Thanks to the snow, rain, sleet, and continuous cloud cover and lack of wind for the past three months, Outside is too wet to play in. So I am playing in Farmville. I haven't changed anything except location. And this way, I still answer the phone.

My Dear Friend tells me I am rationalizing my addiction and I should consider attending a FVA group (Farmville Anonymous. Hello, my name is Robynn, and I'm a farmaholic). She may be right.
But my obsession is already fading. I am spending more time away from the farm. I am planting crops with longer maturation times so I don't have to check them every two hours (I may check anyway, but I don't have to). I am settling into the game, as I knew I would. I intend to play this for the long haul, like Dr. Mario. As long as there is Internet, I will farm.

This is a useful object lesson for characters, too. An obsession can be a wonderful tool for the writer.

In Star of Justice, Caissa is obsessed with finding answers to her questions, and it nearly kills her. On the other hand, make the obsession interesting or you will lose readers. If I don't curb my farm enthusiasm quickly, the only people who will hang with me will be Farmville neighbors.

I'm totally okay with that.

Farm on!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For Everything There Is A Season

This may be blasphemy, but I have least favorite portions of Scripture. That passage, Ecclesiastes 3:1-9, referenced in today's title is one of them.

I've heard it so many times. Seems like every pastor ever has preached on it. The Beatles even made it into a song. I think it was The Beatles. I don't know; somebody sang it long enough ago that DJ's don't tell you who it is because they assume you know. Mandisa (is that her name?) just remade it into a song, and I like her version.

The passage makes a point I agree with (good thing since it's Scripture). I'm a seasonal gal myself. I wish society was back on an agrarian timetable. I would be happier and not so out-of-sync with the rest of the world.

In the winter, I slow down. I'm cold and sleepy. I can take 4 hour naps in the winter, plus sleep 8 or 9 hours at night. I don't want to get up and move. I don't want to write, or clean, or garden or do anything, really, except stay under my Snuggie and allow 3 to 4 cats to curl up on me.

As the days get longer, I wake up sooner. I've been waking up at 4:40 AM for the past week without an alarm clock. My eyes just open. I'm staying awake until 10 or 10:30 every night, and finding it hard to fall asleep. I'm excited about daylight savings time because it means I can garden when I get home from work.

American society tells me I'm weird for this. Not the PC crowd 'cause they would never say anything so intolerant, but you know they're thinking it. I'm expected to act the same no matter the season. Well, excuse me, but no thank you.

I like the rhythm God built into the world. I think He knew what He was doing, giving us up times and down times and times in between.

Now we come to the crux of the matter, the moment I make what will sound like an excuse.

I write books in the summer. Both of the books I've completed have been completed during the hot Kansas months of July, August and September. Why? Because I don't garden in the heat and the mosquitoes, and I'm awake and active for longer periods of time. I'm not shivering at the keyboard or trying to stay awake in the dark of 5 PM December. For me, summer is down time. The nieces usually go to camps and whatnot. No plays to attend. No Kansas legislature to monitor. My relatives tend to vanish on vacations, so I'm by myself in the house with the computer. Why wouldn't I write?
I've been trying to write a book during the wrong season, mostly because everyone else is doing it and it seems to be what's expected of me.

You know what? It's not my season for writing. I'm not in this to churn out a book a year or support my family (not yet anyway). I'm a Type B nerd. I don't have anything to prove.

So I'll focus on the two books I do have, getting Star of Justice to the right publisher and getting Elementals ready for submission, and worry about Past Ties come July.

Having written this, I will mostly likely throw myself into Past Ties and complete it in a month. I'm quirky that way. Sometimes I just need permission to fail before I can succeed.

Anyway, I'm taking my word counter off for now (even though I've been working on the book). I will change focus to more outside time and more social time and less new writing time and we'll see what happens.

This is my season to garden, and I'm going to enjoy it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

To All The Games I've Loved Before

I am a nerd, not a geek. I can appreciate a good video game, but I feel no desire to play it. In fact, should I try to play it, odds are excellent I will destroy my little game person on Level 1 repeatedly with no apparent subsequent increase in skill. This is why I rarely play video games.

The games I do play have a pattern to them. They require minimal use of the controller, usually limited to turning something or firing something. I cannot master jumping, let alone jumping into a spinning backflip and grabbing the passing cloud before I plunge to my death. I spent five minutes once trying to mount Yoshi on Level 1 in a Mario Brothers game and couldn't do it. My nieces will attest to this. Even The Flash was stunned by my lack of coordination, and very little stuns her.

I do have a few games I have played and loved in my life. This post is for them.

1) Gauntlet. Ah, my first love. I and three friends played this arcade game for 1 -3 hours every Sunday afternoon at Godfather's Pizza for about 3 years straight. Oddly enough, I never really improved at the game. I just loved it. Mom was waaaaay too nice about handing me quarters. My email address is a phrase lifted directly from Gauntlet.
I understand they have made an Xbox version. No doubt it would be too complicated for me. I played by pushing the joystick from side to side and pounding one red button to attack. It worked.

2) Tetris. I discovered this game in college. It may have been invented while I was in college. I discovered it one week before sophomore finals. I played it for one month. Yes, that means during finals' week I would play Tetris from the moment I woke up until I finally crawled to bed with breaks only to take my finals. Praise God, I was otherwise an excellent student who paid attention and took notes, because I did not study anything that week except the best way to stack odd, colorful shapes. I advanced to Master Level, realized I could now anticipate the patterns that would fall next, and stopped playing. I've never played it again.

3) Dr. Mario. Another college experience. My boyfriend's dorm house was full of boys with electronic toys, who pooled the wealth and created a virtual world of linked computers, televisions and stereos. This was in the time before Internet, children, when two people max could play a game at home. Here I discovered Dr. Mario, and I was the only one who wanted to play it. Good for me. For those not familiar with the game, little pills drop from the top of the screen and must be stacked by color to dissolve them and keep the screen clear. It is identical to Tetris, except it's pills instead of those funny shapes.
I loved this game so much, I asked Elder Brother to buy it for me as a gift after I left college. All told, I've probably played this game more hours than I've spent eating in my 20's. That's a lot of time. I finally began to notice a pattern in the falling pills, so I disconnected it and keep it in my linen closet. Once I'm diagnosed with dementia, I will pull it out and resume playing.

4) Mahjong / Taipei. This is a computer game, not a video game, but I have wasted many an hour on it. We used to fight over computer time for this game, and back-seat play when it wasn't our turn. One guy got banned from the play room for an hour because he wouldn't keep his finger to himself. Thankfully, I accidentally deleted it from my home computer, so I haven't played it in years.

5) Farmville. The newest and most technologically advanced of my vices so far, this is a true Internet game, encouraging participation from other real people to increase my success as a farmer. It is a more social game than I've ever played before. I even became Friends with a total stranger so we could be Farm neighbors and give each other stuff. I have truly jumped off the deep end. She had a kid in her FB photo, so how bad can she be? She's even given me a gold bar already.

I still have some rules to learn. I've apparently used up my fertilizer and gift-giving ability for I don't know how long. I went a little nuts helping neighbors yesterday and now the game tells me I've nothing left to give. I kept trying to give, like the surgery patient keeps pressing the little morphine drip button to dull the pain. But like that button, I'm not getting my fix until the timer goes ding.

So, I'm writing my post, and writing my book, and doing my household chores, and only checking every five minutes instead of every 1 minute.

I think I'm getting better.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Year of Jubilee

I've been farming all weekend. Not real farming. Farmville farming, which is more fun and less beneficial exercise. I hope to ride out the crush in a week or so and settle down into a normal pattern of plant, live in the real world, harvest, repeat. I'm always like this with a new love interest. It takes about two weeks for the blush to wear off.

But virtual farming got me thinking about real farming, and God has some things to say about that.

Our daily readings for last month and this month include the Old Testament laws. Forgive me, because it's late and I should remember this, but most theologians break the Old Testament laws down into categories of dietary, Levitical (laws relating specifically to the priests and sacrifices, I think) and one other word I can't think of right now referring to the laws that continue but were fulfilled in Christ. Like the 10 Commandments are immutable, but Christ simultaneously raised the bar by exemplifying those laws and lowered the bar by becoming our Savior so we aren't required to be perfect in this life. That's a whole other post, so I'm not going into it here.

Anyway, God told the Israelites to celebrate the Year of Jubilee, a sort of Sabbath year when the ground rested (Lev 25:18-22). They could not actively plant or harvest crops that year. Whatever grew, grew and they could gather it, but they were not allowed to cultivate anything.

During that year, God promised He would bless the land enough to sustain them. They were to trust that He would take care of them without their interference.

I've heard that in the time before chemicals, this practice was necessary to restore the fertility of soil. Practicing the Year of Jubilee made ecological sense, even if it did frustrate the farmers. Some might say we have no need for such practices now because of technological advances. I won't argue with them. Technology has changed a lot of things.

I do wonder, though, if God's promises of blessings would still apply in this day and age if a Christian were to honor the old law and practice the Year of Jubilee. After all, God doesn't change. If He promised He would bless His children then, why would He not bless His children now?

I suppose you could argue His children at that time were the Israelites and these laws applied only to them. Okay. But aren't we adopted children? Isn't that the point of Christ's coming, and why the Jews didn't understand His message at first, because they thought the Messiah was supposed to save just them?

When God gives rules, He does it for our benefit. It teaches us something, or protects us from something, or reminds us of something. I find this an interesting rule because it teaches reliance on God, it protects the soil from depletion and it reminds us that everything that grows comes from God anyway.

So this is what I'm thinking about while I'm planting in Farmville, and I'm considering taking Sundays off from the game.

But not for another two weeks.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Now I Want a Farm

Normally, whenever Elder Brother is mentioned, it is in glowing terms of praise, admiration and gratitude. Not today.

Allow me to set the scene.

I do not play games on Facebook. This is a rule as solid and immutable as "Thou shalt not kill" or "Joey doesn't share food." I am on Facebook strictly to keep an aunt's eye on my lamb and The Flash. The added benefit of spying on hoards of people I haven't seen in years is just gravy. Or annoying. It depends on the day.

I've been invited to play games, but I have politely and, sometimes not so politely, declined. I've seen the awards for Mob World and Fairyland and Zoomanics (I changed the names because I don't know the real ones). I've been hit with snowballs and chocolate snowballs and never retaliated. I've received animals as gifts and done my darnedest to deactivate them so they don't die from neglect. I've been poked and tagged without permission. To be fair, I have retaliated with that because doing so doesn't require me to "allow access" to my information.

I've listened to Elder Brother discuss his admiralty status in Starfleet. He's moving up in the Universe and quite happy about it. I have no desire to make myself a target in space. I have remained blissfully game-free.

This week, while waiting for the nieces to appear, Elder Brother gave me a tour of his Farmville Farm.

I want one.

Seeing his cluttered yet organized mass of fruit trees, crops, dairy buildings, wandering cats and pigs and reindeer, lakes, sheds and hay bales made my covetous gland swell up and excrete. He showed me other people's farms. The Flash has an entire field of sunflowers. One person has a carousel. Lots of folks have herds of elephants. I don't want elephants, but I do want a farm.

You can move things around wherever you want them. You can buy things and sell things. Things show up but you don't have to keep them if you don't want them. And nothing dies if you neglect it. It just waits expectantly for you to come pay attention to it. I can do that. I've had the same AI fish screen saver for eight years, and it can die if I don't care for it. (It's gross, too. The dead, bloated body floats at the top of the computer screen waiting for you to reset. I knew someone else who didn't care so much. It was very sad).

Rain storms and tornadoes don't visit Farmville. Whatever you plant is guaranteed to grow and sell for full market value. Entire crops mature in hours or days so it's almost instant gratification. And the only farmer avatar available is skinny. It's like Heaven.

I want to plant groves of colorful fruit trees. And have dairy buildings surrounded by bright flowers. And a flock of swans or ducks on a "serene pool." And angora rabbits that produce fur. And pigs that hunt truffles. And crops of purple eggplants and yellow sunflowers and green avacados. And pink cows that produce strawberry milk. It's like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, except it's not fattening.

I Want A Farm!

I don't care that my computer doesn't have the memory capacity to support a farm. Elder Brother was quite clear about that.

I Want A Farm!

And now I have one. Come be my neighbor. "I'll fertilize your crops," she sing-songs.

And I have Elder Brother to blame. So feel blamed, Elder Brother. You did this to me.

Oh, and I'm going to need a bigger monitor after all. I can't see my whole farm on this one.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Bit of a Ramble About...Who, Who and What

This week the Wordcrafter posted a lament about the Secret Society of One in the world of writing. It is an interesting and heart-felt article and you can read it on The New Author's Fellowship. While you're there, check out PA Baines' most recent post as well. It is humorous as well as informational. He speaks with the voice of "been there, done that, and now it's just funny." It also dovetails nicely into my ramble for today, sparked by Wordcrafter's frustration.

I feel your pain, Keven. I, too, have wanted answers in a writing world that seems unable or unwilling to provide them. We fall into that gray area of "unpublished but not unskilled." We aren't green to writing, just to the business of writing.

I've come up with my own three answers to this question of how to get published: who, who and what. These three questions apply to more than publishing, but this blog is generally about writing and I'll keep that the focus.

It's who you know, who you are, and what you got.

From here, I address this post to my readers at large, not to any one particular reader or writer (I'm writing second person, and that can sound accusatory. That's why in therapy you have to use "I" statements, not "you" statements. Occasionally, you can get away with "I feel blank when you do blank," but I digress. Back to topic).

The advice about attending conferences is generic yet pervasive. I have heard it from every single published writer I've ever read or heard. The premise is basic: publishers attend conferences. If you want to meet publishers, you go to conferences. 'Cause it's about Who You Know.

I work at a magazine. Our editors are flooded with press releases clamoring for attention for their oh-so-special product. The product may be special, but unless it's so special no one's ever heard of anything like it before yet it is obviously essential to the floral industry, it's not going to get noticed in all the noise. Now, add a little personality to it, like "I remember this gal with the hat from Florida," and you got yourself a chance to get in the magazine. Slim chance, but a chance.

I'm not recommending you wear a hat, but it is a good idea to make yourself memorable at conferences. Preferably by not being an...idiot. I was going to use another word and edited myself for Susie's sake. Please feel free to use your favorite slur in that sentence.

This is where it's Who You Are. If you are the kind of person that editor or publisher connects with, your manuscript has a better chance. You won't connect with every publisher. You may connect, but the timing may be wrong for now. All kinds of things may happen. But Who You Are after you meet someone will leave an impression. If it is the right impression, you're one step closer.

Which brings me to the final point. It's What You Got. You've met your publisher. You've connected. You're in the deli enjoying pickles and chips and you hand over your manuscript. Your completely inappropriate, unpublishable-no-matter-how-cool-you-are manuscript, and you're done. So you have to have something worth presenting.

This last part is actually the easiest, although in this scenario, easy is a relative term. Most writers have the ability to polish their skills and develop some good stories without a publisher. Especially in this age of computer access and online critique groups.

I suppose this is the fourth leg of this Ramble Stool: How Long You Try (this is where PABaines's post makes sense). For the vast majority, achievement takes time and hard work. Elder Brother is reading a book that says the difference between successes and failures is 10,000 hours. He'll correct me if I'm wrong, and supply the name of the book, too, so wait for it.

A writer posted a tale on The Anomaly of a lady who met the head of Random House (or one of the big ones) at a kid's softball game and got her book published that year. Complete quirk. Except, maybe it's Who She Knew (the head of a publishing house), Who She Was (somebody that impressed him with the ability to write about her topic) and What She Got (a story considered worthy after the hotdog euphoria wore off). And who knows How Long She Tried?

It may be cliche, but I think each of us have a different row to hoe. God uses our writing to teach us lessons as well as our readers. Life has taught me it's better to struggle through and gain the experience than jump straight to the top and get in over your head (is that a mixed metaphor?).

So buck up, Wordcrafter. Your time will come. We all know it. It's just a matter of who, who, what
and how long.

Small comfort, huh?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ah, College

Talking with Mitchell got me reminiscing. He's still in college. He got published while in college (or just before; I'm not sure I know the details).

I loved college. I'm ashamed to say it, but I think of those as the best years of my life. So far. They were likely the only retirement I'll ever see. I sensed that, and I made the best of them I knew how.

I learned independence in college. It was the first time I'd done anything by myself (although those who knew me during those years would argue I was never without my best college friend Jami, so maybe this is simply my recollection of events).

I learned people skills. I'd never had those before college. Only one actual friend survives my pre-college years, although I've made several since (I have very strict definitions for friend).

I drew my best pictures in college. They were all about my stories. For those four years, there was nothing I couldn't draw. I've lost that ability. I suppose my inner child died when I realized paper costs money I could spend on the mortgage.

And the stories! I wrote the first Past Ties.

I started Fox Hunt, a pirate romance that's a cross between Swashbuckler (the book, not the movie) and The Princess Bride (the movie, not the book). Maybe some day I'll get back to it.

I started Other Sapiens, a story I dreamed up when I was 12 and living on a tropical island. My Barbies acted it out before I wrote it. Well, Barbies and my brother's 12 inch Boba Fett doll from the original Empire Strikes Back. Other Sapiens has a heavy influence from Isaac Asimov's Robots and Empire and Golden Dream by Ardath Mayhar.

I started A Star to Sail By, which is by far the story closest to my heart, yet seems to be the least likely to get written now. It's a coming of age tale of an orphan alien set in a future several hundred years after Star of Justice. The title came from that line by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka: All I ask is a tall ship, and a star to sail her by (he's quoting a poem, but I don't know which one). One of the characters is very like the ship from Flight of the Navigator. I think we can all agree: silly movie, cool ship. I thought I could do better.

(For the record, I did study in college. I had almost straight A's with an 18 hour course load, but that's not a huge accomplishment because I'm good at school and I didn't have to work a job through college.)

It seemed like I had all the time in the world to write, and all the desire to do so. Almost all of the stories in my files originated during that time.

After college... well, life got in the way. A mortgage showed up, along with a number of cats. Maybe the cats came first. I got a day job I enjoyed that paid the bills, so publishing for money wasn't a need. I've already admitted I have almost no ambition.

Basically, I got comfortable. When you're comfortable, you're not motivated.

Oooh, that's a writing lesson, too. Comfortable characters are boring characters. They need that drive to keep the story moving.

My drive is the approaching 4-0. Like Phoebe from Friends, I have some things I'd like to have accomplished by that birthday. Publication is one of them. So, while college was great, I have a life to get on with.

To Mitchell I say, enjoy it. You may never get another time like this.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Honorable Visitor

So the way to get noticed (for good or ill) by published authors is to review their books. Good to know. A better question is how do I get noticed by publishers?

To The Bronze Gryphon, you're quite welcome for the review, and thank you for the book. Gripes aside, I enjoyed it very much. Finishing college is more important than finishing the sequel. Just don't forget your fans once you've achieved that degree. Otherwise, we'll have a bit of beating about the head and neck to do.

I can only guess someone tipped you off to the review. It took Stuart almost a month to find his. I could guess a few other things, but those aren't flattering to anyone involved, so I'll keep them to myself.

After a visit to the eye doctor yesterday afternoon, my readers may be happy to know I'm in perfect eye health. I've also entered the wonderful era of age-related eyeball hardening that will somewhat improve my nearsightedness for the next few years. After that, bifocals. No big deal. I had bifocals when I was five.

However, Doc dilated my eyes for one of his tests, and I couldn't focus for squat. So, no writing again last night. I'm beginning to understand why the NoMoWri-whatever goes by wordcount. Schedules don't always allow for set writing times.

Tonight I spend with the nieces. I'm considering moving the weekly visit to another night. Their schedules have changed, and I don't always get to see them, which is kind of the point of driving 15 minutes in the dark. So, no writing tonight, either, unless I try it while eating my rice dinner.

The rice diet seems to be helping a little. Or maybe it's the decongestant. I don't know. I only know gardening season is ramping up, and I will be well for it, by jiggers, even if I have to cut my own head off to feel better.

Don't think I won't.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Evil Overlord List

Boy howdy, was yesterday's a long post! I had no idea until I looked at it again last night. Well, it's a big book. It deserves a big review.

I posted the review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble last night, in a drastically cut form, although I didn't get quite down to Amazon's suggested 300 words. So, I was writing between 7 - 8:30, but I wasn't writing on Past Ties.

Unfortunately, I'm concerned I'm getting sick again. Something new this time. "Maybe it's a tumor." "It's not a tumor. It's not. Not a tumor." My plan is to eat rice until I feel better or die. I think it's a good plan.

I'm going to read my Christmas present from the nieces next: Robert Jordan's and Brandon Sanderson's The Gathering Storm, book 12 of The Wheel of Time series. Robert Jordan is and was an amazing writer. I'll no doubt review him in a later post. After that, I'll most likely read Jill Williamson's By Darkness Hid, or whichever one is the first one. The sequel is coming out in April, and the first book has been getting all kinds of press. I wonder if this book will be more similar to Star of Justice. The two Marcher Lord Press books I've read so far are not.

On with the post. I'll keep it short.

I've had a link hanging around in my favorites lists for a little while. I first saw it posted on The Anomaly, read it, thought it was hilarious and saved it.

In honor of finishing Hero, Second Class with its cadre of monologuing Villains (I misspelled villains throughout yesterday's post, too, thank you for pointing it out, people. No more spell-check, remember?) I'm presenting the link at the top of the blog for this month. After this month, you'll need to click here: http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html,

I can't believe that worked. It didn't use to. We'll see what happens when I publish it.

Warning: this is a long list but it is funny. Don't read it while driving. The first 100 are the funniest, although the hard-core geeks will keep reading (I did). There's some copyright information at the top, but you can scroll down. The funny stuff starts after the cartoon.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Hero, Second Class by Mitchell Bonds

I finally finished this behemoth of a novel. 607 pages of rip-roaring adventure, magic, dragons, knights and accountants.

What was that? Accountants?

Yes. Turns out accountants can be some of the most dastardly villains in the known and unknown Universe.  Some of you may already know that. We're soon to celebrate that most evil of accountant holidays, April 15. But, that has nothing to do with this book. Perhaps it will show up in the next.

Hero, Second Class follows the journey of Cyrus Solberg of Starspeak, which is one of the Citrus Isles off the coast of the Phoenix Isles off the coast of Centra Mundi. It's a bit out of the way, but apparently produces Heroes on a regular basis. Cyrus' father was a Hero, and Cyrus wants to be one, too. He passes his Hero test, his paperwork is approved, and he is apprenticed to Sir Reginald Oglesby. Reginald, aka the Crimson Slash, is a perfect representation of everything Heroic, including the ability to self-narrate during battle. Reginald takes Cyrus under his shield and teaches the boy everything he needs to know to become a true Hero, everything except distrust of magic.

You see, Reginald doesn't hold with magic use, even though it isn't forbidden for Heroes to use magic. He doesn't trust magicians or magical items of any kind (other than weapons). Unfortunately for Reg, Cyrus seems to have an aptitude for magic, an aptitude that grows more powerful and more destructive as the story progresses.

Although Cyrus is the Protagonist, we meet many colorful characters as he battles and studies and rescues his way from Apprentice to Hero, Second Class. Kris and Katana are the sister/brother pair of Katheni (cat-like humanoids) who join the company because they happen to be going the same direction for a while. Keeth the Dragon (yes, it's Keeth, like teeth) fights Reg to a standstill, so dragon and knight call it a draw and pledge friendship instead. We even meet a zombie who, I have no doubt, will make an appearance in a later book.

We mustn't forget the Villains: Anthony the Mace, Voshtyr Demonkin, and Roger Farella, the fish-like accountant. That's only a sampling, really. The whole book is full of Villains and Heroes, and apprentice Villains and apprentice Heroes. We even have a Hero turning Villain and possibly a Villain turning Hero. It's a whole Villain/Hero kind of thing.

If you want more about the story, you can read the blurbs or some inside pages or whatnot through the link. This is a review, after all, not a marketing sheet.

Mitchell Bonds had me in the first two sentences of the prologue. I knew this was going to be a twisted version of Greek mythology and video-gamer philosophy in one tongue-in-cheek, role-play worthy romp of a story. He did not disappoint.

The prologue was the only consistently laugh-out-loud section of the book for me, but I read the rest with a goofy grin and occasional snort-laugh as the author went from serious to silly within a single sentence. Cyrus lives in a world not unlike Cartoonland from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The kind of place where Heroes can survive a fall from a sheer rock face or being peppered with 100 arrows but cannot avoid the fall or the arrows because to do so would break the first rule of being a Hero: Taking Unnecessary Risks. However, Heroes and Villians are also bound by rules defined by their various Guilds and enforced with monotonous regularity (that's where the accountants come in).

My favorite section was the explanation of magic, which sadly came almost at the end of the book. I enjoyed learning about The Elements, The Capital Letters, and The Arbitrary Numbers more than Cyrus did. I was also laughing harder than he was. His life was on the line.

I must warn you, though, that one thing happens consistently throughout Hero, Second Class.
Mitchell Bonds cheats.

Oh, he does it on purpose, and right in front of your face. He points it out at the beginning of every chapter, and continues pointing throughout the chapter. An example? A few pages into Chapter 2, "Cyrus clambered up the rope and sat on a wider ledge, preparing himself for blatant exposition."

"Blatant exposition" is "telling." The one thing we're not allowed to do as writers, Mitchell Bonds does. Bold as brass, that one, he breaks every rule of writing with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, and I love him for it. The overall effect is absolutely hilarious. If this were a movie, I would expect an "accidental" shot of the narrator sipping coffee waiting for his turn to speak and looking up in surprise at the audience. As it is, the narrator breaks in regularly to explain to the reader how things work in this world. In a lot of ways, they work exactly like they do here. They just seem funnier there.

I have a few gripes. I always do.

Even with 607 pages, I felt like I was skimming the story instead of trudging through it with the characters. This may be just because things moved very quickly from problem to problem, without a lot of down-time for processing. Most people might not consider that a gripe.

At times, it was hard to take the serious seriously in all the silly. I did feel sorry for a few of the good guys who got smashed. One captain whose soul was turned into a gem, especially. Poor reward for doing your job well, but, as my brothers would say, no good deed goes unpunished. I was touched by the side-story of the griffin Slashback and her rider.

The end came a bit fast, and, even though I know there's going to be another book - God willing - I felt a little abandoned, like at the end of Fellowship of the Ring. There is no good way to end that movie, and I don't know that there was a good way to end this book. The author sure gave it a try, though, and I give him points for it.

Mostly, it felt like I was reading a log of my brothers' role playing games, with less blood and more God. Probably why I enjoyed it.

Hmm. If I'm going to do this a lot, I should create a rating system. I'll say four buttercups out of five for style, plot, humor and consistency. I'm keeping one back because of the cheating.