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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wasting Paper

You may find this amusing but I'm worried about wasting my note cards. I only have 200 and access to 1000s more in a few minutes and a few dollars, but I have to worry about these note cards and whether I'm making the best use of them.

TT: Ever wondered why I'm not married? This is one of the 100s of reasons. Why would I put up with a man who would put up with this kind of quirk?

I'm trying to relax and go with this new skill acquisition thing. I may like using note cards to map out a story. Haven't tried it long enough to know. I may be able to recycle or compost those wasted cards. It could happen.

I took the cards with me to work and added some sentences during my breaks. Note cards highlight the one good/bad thing about being the author - the choices. What do I put in? What do I leave out?

In 15 minutes, I literally went from being convinced I didn't have enough material to write to even bother finishing the book to despair over how much story was left and how I could manage to fit it all in. Do I need this kind of stress?

I currently have 5 viewpoint characters. Is that too many? Do they all sound different enough from each other to justify the space?

I start the story with Rhami. I don't know why. I liked the scene, I guess. Jeff the Publisher's rule about continuity would indicate I should end the story with Rhami, too. Can I? Do I want to? I don't know.

As I write things down, I keep coming up with new questions about where the story could go and where I want it to go and why isn't it going that way? Frankly, it's a bit frustrating. This could be why the story isn't progressing rapidly.

Do I dare sigh and repeat Star of Justice wasn't this hard? Nah. I'll take the high road and keep that to myself. 

On the bright side, I've found some good pics about Raven's forest to guide me while writing and some ideas about other things and a bit of excitement about upcoming confrontations. That's good. I need to be excited about this if I'm going to finish. Success breeds success, you know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Three For One

I'm a stationary nut. Notebooks, pens, legal pads - doesn't matter. If it involves marks on paper, I'm drawn.

TT: Hey! I punned! Sorry. 

Which is why I can't believe I left the dollar store with only a single pack of 3 x 5 cards. I guess Dave Ramsey really is rubbing off. Only took six years.

It probably helped to know anything coming from the dollar store (other than 3 x 5 note cards) will just not be worth that dollar. That, and my single-minded, straight-ahead push to get the cards and get out fast.

With the cards in hand, I sat down to outline my story and discovered I have no idea how to use note cards to outline a story. Do I write a word? A character? A sentence? Am I supposed to put a little essay of what I see happening or is it like bullet points? I'm writing down things I already know. Is that OK?

With purple pen poised, I remembered I couldn't use note cards in school, either. Oh, I used them as doodlepads and bookmarks, but not for outlining. This may be why I didn't have any note cards in the house and had to go buy some. Which makes me extremely happy I bought only the one pack despite all temptations otherwise.

Does make me wonder if this is why I don't outline.

Anyhoo, I have a few days and a couple hundred cards so I'll fumble along and see if I can make anything worthwhile writing-wise out of that dollar investment.

If not, I'm set for bookmarks for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Stupid November

While enjoying day three of German Chocolate Cake Week, I read Tim Ward's post over at NAF and nearly put down my fork.

That stupid November NaNuNaNu thing is coming. Again. When writers around the world challenge themselves to write 50K new words.


That's almost 1700 words a day.

I did it easily with Star of Justice. I'm sure I did. By the final word count alone I wrote 1840 words a day, and I know I wrote more than that because I edited.

Elementals - not so much. I don't remember the start and end dates but I wasn't consumed by that tale. It took longer.

We come to Justice for All. Should I try? Am I setting myself up for failure or is this the push I need to get this baby out by the end of this year?

As I lick my fork, I consider buying some 3x5 note cards and trying to outline the rest of the book. At least put down some scene ideas to propel me forward when I stall out. I have a week to prepare. Maybe I can do something.

Of course, the best thing I can do is convince the world to leave me alone while I do it. With my typical writing speed, I'm looking at 4 hours of writing a day. That's an entire evening plus some for me.

Maybe. It might work. Even if I don't hit 50K, whatever I do hit is better than nothing.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Trouble with "Not Earth"

Kat the Hacker Heckenbach brings up an excellent point. Ah'rahk isn't Earth. I can have ferns in my forest if I want to.

True enough, Kat.

However, Ah'rahk and Earth have much in common. In Star Trek vernacular, Ah'rahk is a type-M planet capable of sustaining human life. Yes, magic exists there, but, like the magic of your books, it follows certain reliable rules.

TT: Remind me to tell you sometime of the fun I had coming up with a "magic test" for Dangling Participles. Pacing, hair pulling, eye gouging. Well, not eye-gouging, but there was some definite torment (I'm talking about my process, not what the character had to go through). I brilliantly overcame the obstacle and moved to working on another book.

Some famous author (I thought it was Orson Scott Card in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy but now I'm not so sure) laid out the four basic reasons to write a fiction book. I can't remember all four, but I remember two.

TT: In any list greater than two, the human brain typically remembers the first and last. That's why test-taking tip books recommend paying more attention to the middle parts of a list. Excuse me. I digress. Again.

One reason is developing character. You start with a protagonist and let the reader get to know him. That's really the whole point of the book. This is how I write, by the way, which is why I remember it.

Another reason is to showcase a setting or world. The main point of the book is to say "hey, look at this really weird/cool/wonderful/awful place." This is not how I write. It is how George MacDonald writes, and Piers Anthony to some extent.

I don't invent stuff. I recycle stuff. This is why I'm not J.K. Rowling or Piers Anthony or even Anne McCaffrey. I don't want to create an entire world from the rock up. I just want to add enough to support my characters as they go through all their little problems and make me feel better about my life.

So, while I could invent new names for all the various shrubberies and ferns and trees and flowers in my fictional forest, I'd rather not. Which leaves me researching Earth-type forest environments for all the little doodads and whatsamahooies that will make fighting in a forest harder or easier.

Before you say it, you're absolutely right. I've painted myself into my corner and I'll just have to sit here until it dries.  Or tear the house down and live in a sleeping bag.

On a brighter note, writing continued last night back in the forest. Now my issue is whose viewpoint shall tell this chapter? I've settled on Merritt. He should get to talk while he can, right?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Forest Is Clearing

Writing screeched to a halt when I left the beach and returned to the party members who remained in the forest. Drat. Research could not be postponed any longer.

TT: Those of you following Ranunculus Turtle the Facebook Page might remember a tiny status rant that ended with the plea for death followed by the pronouncement of going to bed. Yes, I was an unhappy turtle. And that was only 5 minutes in.

Not saying the research has gone anywhere. Something in me rebels at searching. I don't care how easy Google makes it. I don't want to do it. I don't even want to look for a picture of a druidy kind of forest. Do you know how many pics of Yellowstone are on the Internet? Neither do I, but a lot. Like 10+ pages.

TT: What the heck is Morning Glory Pool anyway? What is wrong with that water? Is there glass over it? I don't understand!

I tried looking at topographical maps of Russia and Alaska and North America, which would be the closest kinds of terrain to York. I discovered I can't read topographical maps. Sorry, Dr. Iliff.
Really, the whole thing just sucks eggs.

One thing I did learn is ferns grow in Alaskan forests.

TT: Oops. Did a little rhyming there. I sometimes wonder if I have Welsh in my Scottish bloodline. I tend to alliterate like Eliza Doolittle's dad when I'm not paying attention. Odd, since I'm rhythm-deficient in other areas of my life.

Back to the ferns. The problem with having ferns in an Alaskan-type forest is the connotation of ferns with tropical jungles. The problem with the whole thing is the void of common descriptors for "forest" that lend themselves easily to melee-topography.

TT: For the non-English-speaking readers of this blog, i.e., anyone from Kansas, I'm having trouble describing the area where the fighting happens.

Yeah, yeah, this is the burden of being a writer. This is why not everyone does it (or should do it).

On a bright note, the "dense" fog lifted a bit more and I realized the natural place for Raven to live is in a tree. Duh. Druid. Tree.

Feel free to smack me the next time we meet. You'll know where to hit by the hand-shaped bruise on my forehead.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

You Bet I'm Cranky

All those not interested in whiny-butt posts, turn away and read something else with your coffee. I'm shooting the moon. Whatever that means.

I walk through my house last night. A door knob comes off in my hand. I discover Miss Kitty's persistence has ripped the screen out of the screen door in the guest room, rendering the screen door completely useless (it cost $20. I'm probably better off buying another one than trying to fix it). Two basement steps "feel funny" when I step on them, leading me to believe at some point they will either break in half or pull away from the wall, probably while I'm carrying a 40 lb case of kitty litter. My back deck appears to be separating from itself. All of my window trim has dry rot and I actually have gaps between one window and the siding where storm damage from several years ago ripped a cable loose. I have the caulking and the ladder. I just keep forgetting to apply them when the temp is between 65 and 72 degrees and the relative humidity is below 90%. Not that caulking solves the problem. I need to replace the trim. I need to replace the windows, too, and while I'm wishing, God, can you send me a silver Subaru Outback in my Christmas stocking?

I could go on. I've been making a list of "things to do if I had the time/skill/money/equipment to do them."

I watched my dad not do things around the house most of my life. He didn't do them because he knew it's never as simple as replacing a toilet flap. It always turns into replacing an entire toilet. Watch This Old House. He's right. How many times do couples start here and end up there? Even professionals sit back and scratch their heads sometimes wondering how so many things could go so wrong so quickly.

I don't start many of these projects because I don't have the money to hire the professional to fix it when it turns ugly. I only have one toilet. I literally can't afford to mess with it, even though the back is wobbly and mom says it's too low.

It's the affording, you see. That's the part I didn't figure out about buying a house until several years into it. Thank you, Lord, I had the sense to stick to my guns about the monthly payments.
Maintenance is important, too. Things break and even a power drill doesn't solve everything.

A normal woman would browbeat her husband into either fixing things or paying for someone to fix things. I don't have that option. I'm seriously considering renting a husband for a year, except I don't know of manly, able-to-fix-things men who would eat the kinds of food I prepare.

I'm probably just cranky because Miss Kitty spent the time from 3:49 AM on to rip up as much hall carpet as her little claws could reach under the closed solid door of the guest room. I'd pull out the carpet in the hallway and replace it with tile if I had the money/time/skill. While I'm wishing, I should ask for a wrap-around deck out front and a garage that isn't falling off its foundation.

I may be the crazy lady with 6 cats, but I don't want to be the crazy lady with 6 cats and a crappy house. 

So once again I must examine income vs outflow, needs vs. wants and how to teach my dependents the value of old carpet and door knobs.

Yeah, I'm cranky.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little Planning May Not Kill Me (But It Might Kill Someone Else)

Put down your coffee. I don't want to cause nasal burns. 

I'm a bit dense on occasion.

Yes, yes, you can stop laughing.

The problem with being dense on occasion is that you can't see how dense you're being. That's why God gives us friends and gives them mouths.

TT: No friends helped me with this particular bout of denseness, possibly because I didn't share it with any of them. Probably because I didn't know I needed to. Maybe the solution was so obvious to them, they didn't think to ask if I'd thought of it. The VCR was not plugged in, folks. It's OK to ask.

That's the other problem with not knowing you're being dense. You don't know to sound a warning siren for help.

So what increased my mass beyond its usual proportions, I'll ask for you?

I've been piddling around with my WIP for about two months, moaning about writer's block, searching for inspiration in writing books or Xanth novels or long weekend meditations in my bedroom with my eyes closed and the curtains drawn (those would be "naps" for anyone who hasn't had their coffee yet).

This week my MCs moved out of the literal woods onto a sandy beach and the floodgates of inspiration opened.


I didn't know the terrain for the forest scenes. I thought I did. I know what a forest looks like. I've watched Willow.

TT: Not a lot of forests in Willow if you think about it. 

I've gone back over the previous writing and see I have no idea what kind of forest my MCs are in. Are we talking pines or oaks? Underbrush or no underbrush? Alpine? Ferns show up at one point. Do ferns belong wherever they are? Where the heck are they? I don't know! 

Now that I'm out on the beach where I and my MCs can see what they're doing, I'm having no trouble writing at all. Lots of things are dying. Lots of people are getting stabbed or shot. It's great!
Apparently, I know what a beach looks like and I have no trouble moving people around on one.
Who knew?

Writing lesson: as much as I hate research, being stuck for two months may be a signal to look at the terrain and do a little decision-making.

Raven's forest is fairly important to her. Time to decide what it looks like.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Title Ideas

In the ongoing quest to find a more obvious title for Elementals, I've thought of these: 


Broken Trust 
Which really sounds more like a financial planning book to me, but with the right cover...

Daughters of Earth and Water from a poem I really like by Percy Bysshe Shelley called "The Cloud." Here's the excerpt: 
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
Obviously, I changed the noun to plural to account for two sisters. Seems a little long, though. 

Which leads me to the possible Daughters of Earth and Sky, which just might be The One. I'll have to mull it a bit.

Aside from completely turning off any potential for most male readers, it sounds a bit too "lesbian night club." Of course, that might attract some other kinds of male readers... 

Anyway, that's all I have for the moment. Feel free to "yea" or "nay." I have considered Why Did I Write A Book So Hard To Title?, but I may save that for the mandatory book on writing I'll be writing after I get published.  

Those are mandatory, right?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Budget Success?

One, I don't know how people without computer check register programs do anything worthwhile with their fiscal planning. Maybe they don't. Maybe that's the problem.

While struggling with pen and paper to "create a budget" like Dave Ramsey tells me, a brilliant idea hit me. After I picked myself up from the floor (it hit rather hard, ba-dum-bump) I went to the "budget" feature in my program.

I may have cheated here, but it's a start and a start is what I needed.

I created an automated budget using my spending pattern from the last year. That gave me average percentages of spending per category (yes, I've been using categories for a while so that made it much easier). I applied those percentages to my new paycheck and voila! I have a budget!

You might argue that all I have is a record of how I've spent my money in the past. You'd be right. Except... I'm going to try Dave's envelope system. Using my new budget, I will spend only that much per month on those categories. I hope this will do a couple things.

1) It makes my spending deliberate and limited. Since I'm using cash, I can't go over those amounts and if I try, I'll know it immediately.

2) Since I'm accustomed to spending this way and in similar amounts, I think it will bypass my concern that I won't have the right amount in the right envelope at the right time.

I don't quite feel like I've gotten a raise (although I did with the new job) but I do feel a bit more in control of my money and consequently my life.

I can't remember if I've said this already, but I want very much to be responsible with God's blessings on my life. Living in a world just starting to feel the burden of its fiscal irresponsibility, it seems even more important to get my own house in order. I'm hoping this helps set my mind on long-term goals while allowing me a little breathing room in day-to-day living.

On a side note, let me know if you use a budget or envelope system or any type of method to regulate spending. I'm curious how other people do it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank A Cop

I intended to write more about budgeting but a news story got my blood up.

I just watched a 2 minute segment of tearful women describing how their relative got in "an altercation" with a neighbor (I'm sorry, who knows that word except people familiar with legal defense jargon?), separated and then got shot by police when he answered the door holding a knife.

They're blaming the police.

"They could have done something else," one woman sobbed. "He wasn't the nicest guy but he didn't deserve that."

I don't know about you, but I don't generally answer my front door holding a knife. If I have a fight with my neighbor -something I've never done, by the way- I wouldn't let it reach the point where I might feel I have to answer the front door holding a knife.

Maybe I have better people skills.

I don't know the specifics in this case, other than the eyewitness testimony just recorded by the news that will probably be thrown out of court as "here say." What I do know is cops deal with the bottom-feeding 1% of the population 98% of the time. People the rest of us only hear about in headlines. People the rest of us would fear if stalled in an elevator with them. People who would rather shoot a cop in the face than do what he says.

It is not surprising such people get shot. What is extremely surprising is they don't get shot by cops more often.

Do I sound judgmental? You bet I am. I am sick and tired of the victim mentality just displayed on my television.

"He couldn't help himself." "He was just having an altercation." "Yeah, he had a knife but that's no reason to fear for your life or the lives of others and shoot him."

They're called consequences, people. They happen. Sometimes they kill you.

And before you go all "You're being rather judgmental, aren't you?" - uh, yeah. I totally am and I'm not backing down, either.

I once heard the best way to stay off Cops is to put on a shirt and some shoes. The best way to not get shot by cops is to not be in situations where they're likely to feel the need to shoot you.

Thank the next cop you meet, even if she's writing you a ticket. They put up with a lot of crap so you don't have to. They don't need yours added to the pile.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No Worries - I'm Poor

Before I got all bent out of shape over the new and improved salary, I should have sat down with my pen, paper, calculator and checking program.

Yeah, I'm definitely poor.

Dave Ramsey says when you make a monthly budget, you feel like you got a raise. I've never experienced that feeling. When I make a monthly budget, I feel utterly miserable at just how little money there seems to be.

TT: I'm not complaining. God has blessed me above and beyond what I deserve. I've never had to choose which bill to pay. I've never paid interest on a credit card. I've never paid a late fee or a bank fee, except for that one time I used an ATM that wasn't from my bank and discovered it came with a service charge. I had no school debt, thanks to my parents and a couple scholarships. I do know how to manage money in little increments and avoid the most common and costly mistakes people make that keep them poor. It's the "wealth-building" I haven't yet mastered. I've got "debt free except for the house."

This miserable feeling may be why I resist the monthly budget so very hard, even when Dave explains how vital it is. I don't like to see on paper how little I can afford without putting aside money every month. It's pretty much a few take-out meals. That's a hard truth to accept, so my sympathies for those who don't want to accept it.

I pulled out Total Money Makeover last night for a little light reading before bed. Sandwiched between the chapters on getting out of debt and investing, I did find the five times he repeated "save your money." They were all in a row and spelled and punctuated differently for emphasis.
I think he's telling me to save money.


I guess since the next chapters are about types of investments, he means I should invest/save money.


Here's the rub, and maybe it's the rub for other "poor" folk like me.

I worry about my money being "liquid" enough.

Since I'm the only income and I have the furballs depending on me for food and such, I worry (yeah, I'm gonna use the word even if it's a sin) that I won't have the resources I need at the moment I need them.

This may be that "security gland" Dave talks about. Mine secretes when I consider I might not be able to take care of my family.

How much liquid is enough? A number seems to be emerging the more I work with Dave's plan, but I can't be sure until I reach it.

What I don't want to be, and what is absolutely not something Dave teaches, is a money-hoarder like Silas Marner. Money is active, so the best places for it in general are places where it can move, hopefully in good ways. To Dave, that means charities (the giving away) and mutual funds (the saving).

Wish me luck on my continuing journey to make wise decisions with the blessings of my new job. I'm praying daily that God will show me how to use His money to glorify Him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Money Trouble

I'll begin by saying I have no complaints about my life. God has blessed me generously with resources, family, kindness, and patience above and beyond what I would supply were our positions reversed.

TT: Be grateful I'm not God. I would have killed us all before Noah, let me tell you.

With the new job comes a new and slightly improved salary. What's the problem, right?

Well, the problem is the turtle seems to come with a subconscious glass ceiling where money is concerned. Too little and I freak out. Too much and I freak out.

There's nothing wrong with having money. I have no problem with people being rich. I don't think I deserve what they have and I don't want to redistribute anyone's wealth to my bank account (or anyone else's bank account).

In my own life, however, I seem to have this idea that I can't have more than a certain amount in any of my emergency funds or I'm a bad person who's keeping God's money from doing God's work.

Weird, I know.

Again, I don't think God has anything against rich people. Lots of important Biblical figures were rich. Like ridiculously wealthy rich. Like move money to get to the toilet rich. Job. Abraham, et al. Joseph was the second richest guy in Egypt. Solomon the richest in the world. God didn't have anything against those guys.

Dave Ramsey, and his teacher Larry Burkett, equate wealth with an ability to be responsibly generous. Those with money ready can give faster, better and more than those who have no money saved and debt to their eyeballs and beyond.

The connection I can't seem to make is exactly when I cross from being "poor" to being "rich." Please remember the dollar amounts in question are so small as to make the poorest Californian laugh at me for worrying.

"That's my monthly house payment," they might scoff.

Well, if you want to know my feelings about California in general, read my other blog. Plus, Dave would say "broke is normal," so, take that, scoffing Californian!

Where was I? Oh, right. Money.

I'm revamping my budget, rearranging columns in what I hope to be a responsible manner. Having no real experience with wealth building, I'll have to trust Dave and hope to get used to this feeling of not struggling and equate it with "good."

I'm also rereading Thou Shall Prosper. God willing, the good Rabbi Lapin will encourage me yet again.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I'm trying to decide whether to keep Ranunculus Turtle the Website.

I'm not complaining. I'm evaluating. Since Elder Brother pays for it as a birthday present, it's imperative to evaluate right now.  

I don't go there much. I haven't been able to make Amazon Associates work with it (to sell books, you see, should I ever have books to sell). The last few times I've updated it, I've run into issues with loading and whatnot. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. The fonts tend to change randomly. It's just not as user-friendly as I'd hoped, although I still love the look of it.

It seemed like a great idea three years ago, but I wonder now if the blogs are enough. I don't visit my author friends' webpages. I go to their blogs. Or their FB pages.

I did create a wordpress page (not that I need another blog), because wordpress is considered professional and has some nice features. However, wordpress doesn't seem to have the ability to sell, either. Blogspot (this forum) does. I just need to add it back.

TT: Did you notice I took out the little ads? No one clicked on them and they were getting silly.

I think I can restore Amazon selling without adding the little adspace boxes. Haven't tried yet.
Anyway, it's one of those marketing things I've been kicking around while avoiding writing on JFA. I can find all kinds of motivation for stuff not manuscript related now that I've set writing goals.
At the moment, I'm cleaning house. I hope if I make a big enough mess, it will become a procrastinatable problem and I'll write to avoid dealing with it.

Mostly, I'm just trying to distract myself from jonesing after my lost farm. It isn't working.