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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Edit Like the Wind

Since Vaulter reminded me how much I love my firstborn, Star of Justice, I've been locked into edit-land. Don't know why. Not like I'm submitting it anywhere at the moment. Doesn't matter. It's just nice to remember why I started writing in the first place.

Vaulter's done but I'm only halfway, so I have a lot of work to do before the end of the month.

Most of the edits have been itty bitty adjustments like removing "said" and replacing it with a beat of action. Jeff the Publisher recommended that a long time ago. I started doing it during the MLS contest, but I've missed a few spots.

I've also gotten rid of a bunch of "telling." Passive voice descriptions of this, that and the other. Stuff you're smart enough to figure out or completely unnecessary to plot.

Not that I'm overly concerned with plot in this one. This is one of many books planned for this world. Word count also doesn't bother me. I refuse to cut 66K words just to make it fit the 100K "first book" publication category. Decided that a long time ago, and I'm sticking to it. Doesn't mean I won't cut out words that don't pull their weight, but I'm not cutting chapters just because. I like my chapters.
Sound a bit diva-ish, don't I? Well, when you're my publisher, we'll talk.

If the power stays on and the tornadoes stay out of it, I should be done with this pass-through by the weekend. Tell Cilla to be patient, dear Vaulter. Turtle's working on it.

After that, I'm thinking it's time to pull Justice for All out of the file cabinet. I've missed my little band of ruffians. Maybe they've missed me, too.

Lessons for Life

I would have posted this yesterday, but I lost power around 6 AM, and by the time I got it back, I'd forgotten about everything else. Could be a life lesson.
Find out over at

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tip of the Iceberg

Days of clear, beautiful weather forced me to see my fear of storms as the tip of the iceberg.

For several months, most of this year, actually, stress has built in my life.

Job stress. Self-imposed self-improvement stress. Political and economic stress. Dying cat stress (a dying cat who was well enough to snatch half a chicken breast off my plate and resist my efforts to pry it from her needle-sharp teeth. No fallout I've detected from that little adventure, praise the Lord. One of us now eats lunch in the bathroom, and I'm not telling which one).

Those are the bad stresses.

I've found good stresses, too. New family member stress. Writing and critiquing stress (you're in the good list, Vaulter, never fear and don't stop!). Reading stress. I like the changes, but they require adjustments and that takes its toll, too. 

As I've knelt before God, giving Him my fear of storms, I'm finding all these other fears and stresses crowding to take its place. One by one I'm giving those to God, too, because the vast majority of them are as out of my control as the weather.

I'm also reducing those stresses as best I can, one stress at a time.

It's like I've been sunburned. Where normally I could walk outside without trouble, for the moment, any light or warmth hurts my skin. Only my skin is my psyche and the sunlight is the world.
I'm limiting exposure. Easy on the nightly news and its multiple tragedies (just the weather, please *grin*). Earlier bedtimes until I catch up on the sleep I've missed. Exercising daily to use up that adrenaline. One extracurricular task a night, either critiquing or reading or writing, but not all three and not any if something else is planned, like family time.

And prayer. Kneeling before God every day, at least once a day, reciting my "You take it; I can't" list. Because I can't take it. I'm done with worrying. God will have to be in control.

Memorizing scripture. I'm halfway through Psalm 91, which I learned yesterday is called "the warrior's psalm." That one follows me into sleep at night.

The surprising thing is how this snuck up me. Since my nervous breakdown all those years ago, I'm pretty sensitive to these kinds of emotional pitfalls. In the past, I've spotted them way before they got this bad.

Well, I'm not going to worry about it. God can take this mystery, too.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Funny thing, adrenaline. As a chemical, it's pretty neutral. It's whole purpose is to prepare your body to do something - run or fight. It shuts down your brain, your stomach, everything but the muscles you'll need to accomplish one of those two goals.

Some people enjoy the rush of adrenaline. Thanks to roller coasters, bungee jumping, para-sailing, whatever, they've learned to associate that flood with pleasure.

I never learned that. I don't ride roller coasters. I don't drive fast or enter houses with possible burglaries in process (OK, once, but I vowed never to do it again). For me, two sips into a caffeinated drink have me wondering if I need a doctor and some Valium.

Part of my journey away from phobias is dealing with adrenaline. No person can pump adrenaline all the time. It burns out your body and your brain, like pressing "turbo" and holding it down.

I think I've been pumping adrenaline too long. At least three weeks, near as I can figure. I'm getting rushes at weird times, when literally nothing is happening, and no storm is forecast for a solid 48 hours.

I don't like it. Hard to type with shaking hands. Hard to eat lunch when your stomach clamps up and says "no admittance."

What to do?

Well, the exercise thing seems the best solution. If my body says "run or fight," I suppose I should run or fight. That will use up the adrenaline, I hope. The bonus is it gets me in better shape to run or fight if I have to do those things for real at some point.

I'm trying to look at this as a "win-win."

One side-effect is a new sympathy for those in real harm's way. Firefighters. Police officers. Our deployed military men and women. I'm getting a little, tiny glimpse of what it's like to live daily with an impending sense of doom. God be with them all. And their families. We're not designed to endure that kind of stress constantly.

Yesterday on Family Talk, Dr. Dobson interviewed the Monetti's, a military family who wrote the book Called to Serve for military families. The wife, Penny, talked about her obsessive behaviors when her husband first deployed. I heard my story and some tips to help. The biggest tip is to give it ("it" being my problem of the moment) to God daily. It has to be daily.

And that's what I'm trying to do. The AA "I am powerless against..." is my new mantra, followed by "It's yours, Lord. I can't do it. You'll have to."

He is. Thank you for your faithfulness, God. It is my shield and rampart.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ah, Sleep

I must have slept last night because the alarm surprised me.

Sleeping is good. I need sleep. I wish I could sleep all day long today, but I can't. At least I'm not working off one hour like yesterday.

I'm "feeling" better, which makes me wonder if the threat of exercise really is enough to make my brain stop sending panic attacks. This will be useful to remember should I get published.

I'm not cured. Based on past experience with severe emotional trauma, I'll take longer than a day or two to recover, but I am better. God and I talk every day, sometimes constantly, it seems. My friends and family continue to pray.

I've reduced my weather-related searches to just the news in the morning and the evening (unless we're in an active spurt of weather where something is happening right then that I should probably know about). Part of obsessive thinking is obsessive behavior. That stops here. It's not helping and I can control it.

One of the things I remember from Steve Leavitt's talk is when a panic attack starts, rather than fight it, you ride it out. Like the "fear is the mind-killer" mantra from Dune. "I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass through me. When the fear is gone, only I will remain."

It's also like surfing, but I'm a nerd so I have to go for the sci-fi over the sport reference.

I also realized I need to remember the fun in my life. I got so freaked out I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, couldn't play Farmville. These are the fun parts of my life. How can I live past the irrational fear if I don't combat it with fun?

That all sounds great, but in the midst of irrational fear, it's hard to make yourself care about breeding pigs. I just couldn't. Too bad, really. I missed the father's day special where all babies got the dad's pattern. I'll get over it.

Even as I write, with a beautiful day ahead and no threat of bad weather (at the moment), my stomach is twinging a bit. That's how I know it's irrational fear. 

Thanks for the prayers and the support, my dear readers. God is bringing me through this. I'll be praying for you, as well, that He covers you with His feathers so you may rest under His wings.

Friday, June 17, 2011

No Time

"There never seems to be enough time to do the things that you want to do once you find them."
I don't know who originally sang that song, but in my brain, the voice is Roger Whittaker.

It always comes down to time, doesn't it?

When I wrote Star of Justice, I had no friends. OK, I had one, but she was sporadic in her attentions. No Facebook. No 2-3 hour phone calls from all over the States. No blogs. No Farmville.

In short, nothing but me and the computer.

Well, I had church, but I'm ashamed to admit attendance took a back seat to writing on more than one occasion. I just couldn't spare the time. I had a book and it needed out right now!

My life is fuller than it was. Friends call. Facebook beckons. Family needs attention, and I'm happy to give it.

But it can really take a bite of my writing time.

All of which means, I love you, but if I don't answer, I'm writing. Hopefully, you'll forgive me when the book comes out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

So Much Fun

Vaulter pestered me into giving her Star of Justice to read.

For the record, I'm not withholding the mss out of fear. I've had about 8 non-writers read it and give constructive criticism on plot. I could use a few writers to do the same.

I hate to ask people to read it because it's enormous. Last time I counted, 166K enormous. That's a lot of words to read for busy people with other, smaller, technically more pressing projects on their laptops.

For whatever reason, Vaulter took up the gauntlet on her own whim. She's been sending chapters ever since.

Which reminds me, her new second name is Shredder.

Anyway, I'd forgotten how much I love Star of Justice. There's a fond place in my heart when I think of it, but I haven't really looked at it in a while.

It still makes me smile, and laugh, and cry. I love the people. I love the problems. I can't believe this is my first book. Elementals may have more polish and read faster and reach a different audience, but Star of Justice is my first born, and I love it.

It's not perfect, as Vaulter's red comments will attest, but it's not hopeless.

Even better, I'm reminded how much fun writing can be. When I'm not writing Past Ties, that is. It may be time to set Past Ties aside and start (or finish) something else. Something fun.

Perhaps the Star of Justice sequel.

Willy Wonka may have the right of it.

"You can't go back. You've gotta go forward to go back. Better to press on."

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Art of Witness, or A Huge Can of Worms

Kat Heckenbach got me thinking last week. How about you?
Let me know at The New Authors' Fellowship.

Elder Brother, the comment I referenced happened on Kat's post Christian Fishbowl. I knew I wrote it; I forgot where.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Split Personality

I added the "personality" for you, Kat, lest you thought this post was about sundaes. *evil grin*

While wandering the blog world this morning, noticing the many and varied aspects of the writing world, once again I am struck by how much there is to know.

Writing is a business as well as an art.

TT: Those business books I'm reading say everything is a business, but what do they know? Spoil sports.

A savvy writer is supposed to know trends, competition, price points, contract laws - all kinds of stuff. Enough stuff for a full time job and a half.

Not saying I'm a savvy writer. Far from it. In fact, I have a day job.

How do people split themselves into all these spheres of interest? I started with three blogs about my top three interests at the time: writing, politics and Farmville (those are listed in order of creation, not order of importance, hehe!) I quickly learned I don't have the mental energy to devote myself fully to all three interests all the time.

As I seek to improve myself with all this business reading, I'm trying to be more "present" at work. That's exhausting! No wonder I avoided it for so long. So, I'm wearing myself out during the day to come home and pour more energy into other things.

TT: Part of me thinks this is what people call "growing up." No wonder I've avoided that, too.

I've tried to balance the amount of time spent on each things each day, but that just doesn't work. I end up with 30 minute segments and no real attention given during that time.

I'm not willing to give up my interests. They are important to me and I'm not built to be only one thing, unless it's hungry.

I'm wondering if the key is cycles. The energy level remains the same, but the focus may shift depending on the needs of the moment or the future. Writing fantasy? Political blogging will have to wait a bit. Election cycle? No outside reading. New Farmville feature? Oh, yeah, everything else stops.

TT: Mostly kidding there. Farmville is like eating to me. I just do it and move on.

I'm gonna have to find a way to make it work. Like everything else in my life, "slow and steady" may play a part. Plant the crop, reap the harvest. Read one thing a day, gain the knowledge. Pay attention now and benefit later.

If this works, I deserve a sundae. A turtle sundae.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


We'll try this post again.

Last week, a female co-worker asked where I got my pants.

First reply "no idea."

This happens to me quite a lot, actually, the not knowing where my clothes come from. I shop so rarely, you'd think I'd be able to name each piece and the date, but no. I inherit clothes the same way I inherit furniture.

After thinking a moment, I said, "They might have been grandma's."

At which point, I heard a snicker from another office.

He's allowed a snicker or two. It's a ridiculous thing to say. How many near 40 year olds would admit to wearing the clothes of a woman over twice her age?

Well, you have to understand a few things.

One, Grandma Byrd and I were almost exactly the same shape. In her younger days, she was one inch taller than me, but otherwise, we were identical. I have pictures of her at my age wearing dresses I now have and have worn and we could be the same person. It's a bit scary. Although osteoporosis twisted her up near the end, she never gained a great deal of weight. Her clothing sizes remained the same.

Two, Grandma Byrd wore separates, like me. She preferred slacks and a shirt to a dress. She also wore funny socks. I suspect I'll pick that up eventually.

Three, Grandma Byrd was far more stylish than I will ever be. To wear her clothes is a serious step up for my wardrobe. I tend toward bohemian - lots of crochet, loose shirts and long, baggy skirts with Sketchers. I generally prefer comfort to anything else. It's not like I have to look at me.

TT: Mom continually threatens to turn me in to What Not To Wear, but it would be useless because a) I know how to dress better, I just don't, and b) you'd have to drug me unconscious to get me on a plane and I'd spend the next week throwing up during shoots anyway, so what's the point?

Therefore, my co-worker can snicker all he likes, but I'll go on wearing grandma's clothes and look better for the change. You can ask mom.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Sides

Grace Bridges posted a link this morning about publishing backwards.

I find no fault with the logic. My problem is it puts writing firmly into the "business" category and appears to leave out the "inspiration" part. It could be seen as chasing trends instead of creating your own.

I must tread carefully, lest I be misunderstood.

There is wisdom in finding out what the market wants before putting in the work. Professional writers do this all the time. They send out the query before they ever write a word. Saves time and for the professional, time is money. I'm not knocking it.

But what if my goal is simply to write something, or to write something potentially controversial or unpopular or just plain odd? 

We'll take the tired-from-overuse example of J.K. Rowling. Market research wouldn't have helped her. Trying to build a fan base from the back of her station wagon while writing a book on leftover restaurant napkins would have been a serious waste of time. But Harry was what she had and she did her best with him. Her best turned out pretty good.

I don't intend to be the next Rowling. God forbid, in fact. Talk about out of control. But I do want to write stories I like, and those may not be the best bets market-wise.

I have the luxury of not needing to sell to survive. My next meal is not dependent on my next royalty check or advance, thank you, LORD. To put it in Dave Ramsey terms, at the moment I have a hobby, not a job. I prefer it that way. Publishing is good, but writing must be better. Otherwise, my focus gets all skewed.

As I told Grace, the blog author's main point seems to be get busy or get out.

That point I can support completely.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I'm writing along last night and bam! Roadblock. End of chapter.

Now what? I've been comfortably settled in Gavran's head for a while. Feels natural. Do I stay there or jump to Shah, my psyonic? Readers might enjoy her empathic perspective.

"Who tells the story?" It may be the first decision a writer makes, right after "What story do I tell?"

In Star of Justice, all views are Caissa's, except for a tiny bit with Merritt at the end. In Elementals, four people share storytelling duty, and I forced myself to add Spidraax for balance. I mean, Cahnar got some head time, why not the other guy?

I've written from four viewpoints so far in Past Ties, with the likelihood of an additional two or three.
Why does this matter?

First, viewpoint determines what information gets shared. If that character doesn't know it, the reader doesn't, either. This leads to the question "Does any character have information that must be shared or cannot be shared yet?"

Second, some viewpoints are more fun to write. This is entirely dependent on what the author perceives as fun, but I have noticed a resistance when I try to write as certain characters. I'm guessing this happens to other writers, too. 

Of course, each character has a unique perspective. Some have special ways to process the world, like the psyonic Shah whose talent allows her to see past and future snippets of people's lives. That must be considered when deciding who tells what best.

Some readers don't like multiple viewpoints. I don't mind them, as long as the reason for switching is sound and obvious. On the other hand, I prefer getting to know one or two characters deeply rather than ten on a surface level. That's smacking of a short story or anthology and those annoy me.

I don't know that I have a reason to switch at the moment, so I'll try staying in Gavran's head. I can always rewrite later.

I hope this book is worth all the trouble, but I fear the only lesson I will take from it is when to quit.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Special Kind of Crazy

Those who know me know I have an inordinate fondness for cats. This leads to the occasional stupid decision (like owning six at once). For the record, six is too many and I will not own six cats at the same time ever again, so help me, God.

Mica, my oldest, has a chronic digestive problem. She eats the wrong stuff and bad things happen, things that cause starvation and dehydration rapidly in a cat whose max weight in the three years I've owned her was five and a half pounds.

The problem is worsening. I knew it would. It's chronic. It can't be cured, only controlled. For a while. Want to know how?

With pills. Three a day, if I remember correctly. Pills which more than double the cost of Mica's monthly upkeep. So, I can give a resistant cat three expensive pills a day to help her keep food down, even though I know from past experience the stress of taking the pills will cause her to eat her own hair and throw up food that costs four times what I feed the dog who outweighs her 10 times, or I can do nothing and let her die.

This is where the crazy comes in. My head knows she's dying. I can't stop that. Any additional course of treatment will mean pain and anger for both of us, and, frankly, only possibly delay the inevitable.
But my heart wants to do anything to save her, because, pain in the ear that she is, I love her. When she's happy, she's infectiously happy. When she's not...well, she could have been a momma.

One of my favorite movies is The Three Lives of Thomasina. It's a Disney movie about a Scottish cat.  Go figure. In one scene, the vet and the "witch" are tending a wounded badger. The vet announces, "It's a bad wound. Kinder to put it out of its misery." "And wonderful to give him his life," the "witch" responds.

I wish I could give life. I wish I had the power to heal with a touch and an act of will, like Leetah from Elfquest. But I don't. So I wait and give Mica what time and love I can, without pills.

I read a poem on one of those memorial stones recently that said it perfectly:

"If love could have held you, you never would have gone."

She's not going today, and hopefully not tomorrow, but one day soon, we'll say good-bye here and not meet again until I take my own Long Step.

Crazy as it sounds, I will miss her.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I meant to write something this morning. Can't remember what.

Oh, yes, I can. Something about wearing my grandmother's clothes.

But I got distracted into commenting. First, by Vaulter's patriotic, blood-boiling post over at The New Authors' Fellowship, then by Mike Delosso, who continues to puzzle over the strong reactions he gets from killing dogs in his novels.

TT: I wrote a post about him a few weeks ago, although I don't think I mentioned him by name.
Might as well. He seems comfortable using animal-killing as a means of demonstrating the nature of his villains. That is one way to do it. If not for that, I would probably read his books. They seem to have a paranormal bent to them and I like that kind of story. His most recent book, Darkness Falls (I think), got a bad review because a dog died and upset the reviewer. I'm with ya, dear, whoever you are.

I suppose it's nice to let other bloggers know they're being read and understood. Left me without a lot of time for my own blogging, though. Oh well.

Maybe I'll talk about grandma tomorrow. My title would be "Snickers."

Hey, I wrote on Past Ties last night for about an hour. Possibly total dreck, but it felt good. We'll see if I can keep it up.