Writing is a journey, not a destination.

Search This Blog

Monday, December 31, 2012

Good-bye, 2012. You sucked

I can't remember ever being so glad to see the back-end of a year. I really hoped the Apocalypse would come, but even that was a bust for 2012 (unless the die-hards are right, and it did start small and intends to build, but, hey, that sounds like normal life to me, so how would we know?).

Let's recap:
A backyard destroyed first by arborists, then drought, then Bermuda grass (the only thing to survive the drought)

Mom's highly traumatic and nearly fatal neck surgery

My highly traumatic and nearly fatal publication of my first novel (I sure thought it was going to kill me, anyway)

The 25th anniversary of my father's death

Two close friends experiencing on-going, major life traumas that almost completely destroyed my emotional support system (didn't do them much good, either)

The first anniversary of Grandma Turtle's death

Complete and utter writer's block encompassing even my blogs

Lavender Squeak and the accompanying vehicular homicidal urges (I more than once considered wrapping that POC around a light pole. The only thing that stopped me was the fear I'd hurt myself worse than I hurt the van)

2012 election results (hardly surprising, though, were they?)

Diagnosis of clinical depression

Switching from a job I love and do well to a job where that remains to be seen

Sounds fun, don't it? 

On the up side:
We've already gotten more snow this winter than last winter, which should help with the drought and the backyard.

Mom came through the surgery, and the neck works. Everything else is falling apart, but the neck works.

Star of Justice is out and well-received by the 10 strangers who've read it.

My friends are getting their lives together.

I met my publisher in person, and, more importantly, liked her in person.

Lavender Squeak has been replaced with Dodge Caravan, who can't help but be a better van 'cause the bar's pretty low.

The 2012 election results just mean Jesus is coming sooner.

I got a clean bill of health from my doctor.

God and I finally had it out, and we both won.

I'm treating the clinical depression.

My new job includes a new salary, which should come in handy when the results of the 2012 election start hitting my bank account next paycheck.

My writer's block is slowly dissolving. 

I met my goal of reading the entire Bible chronologically in a year.

Of course, all the "bright side" events have happened in the last two months or so, which means the majority of 2012 sucked. Like a novel. All garbage and hardship until the end. I guess that's an optimistic way to think about it.

So, good-bye, 2012. You will not be missed any more than Lavender Squeak.

Happy end-of-the-year, dear readers. Best good-bye ever. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Struggling with Words

My Christmas present to myself - other than St. John's Wort - was a new laptop. I probably spent way too much, but I wanted a touch screen. I regret nothing.

I am puzzled, however, by the manufacturer's admonition not to block the vent fans despite their placement on the bottom of the laptop exactly where it rests on my thigh/table. I assume there's some kind of special stand I'm supposed to buy. Since I spent plenty on the device already, I will attempt to get Big Brother to make me a stand both sturdy and lightweight. He's a mechanical genius. Should be easy.

The whole purpose of the laptop is writing. I bought it to write on, away from the distractions of the Internet and the cold of the front room. A laptop can sit on top of my electric blanket in any chair emptied of cats in my house, or at World Cup, if the cats look too comfy. So, here's to new writing and finished first drafts.

Last night's venture into uncharted territory was a study in conflict.

First, my conflict in trying to write while keeping the laptop vents unblocked. I'll allow you to imagine what that looked like.

Second, my conflict in writing what should be a simple fight scene yet refuses to be so.

Perhaps it's the lack of weapons. This is a surprise, close quarters, two-on-one skirmish. I'm gonna have to interview Big Brother on some down-and-dirty fight techniques 'cause I'm coming up blank. Perhaps it's the terrain. An excellent use of my non-writing, TV time would be mapping some of these places my characters populate. Perhaps it's my unfamiliarity with the attackers. Their personalities and motivations play into this fight. It's probably all of these things.

Anyway, it's taken three nights of writing and rewriting to get this scene on paper, and I'm pretty sure it continues to suck. I won't know for a while, though. Tonight I move to the next scene because I ended last night's work with a definitive blow to the head.

It's only fair. They hurt me. I hurt them.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Know Your Place

I started reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. Right off the bat, I'm immersed in Small Lumber Town Mississippi climate and culture. Excellent stuff. Muggy, buggy heat. Afternoon storms. Chicken coops and the smells that go with them. All the meat I crave from my books.

All the meat my current WIP lacks.

The trick, of course, is to know your place. The author obviously knows Mississippi. He couldn't put that much detail into describing a place he's never been. Half the fun of this story for me is the description. The sensory details as I experience a place I've never been. 

Once again, I must admit I don't know the places I'm writing about. Or the people. I'm working on a scene where three strangers make an entrance and join the storyline. I have to name them, describe them, give them personalities - you know, bring them to life. I don't know if they'll stick around for one chapter or become integral to the plot, but, either way, they're here now and they should bring something interesting to the mix.

I don't remember having trouble with this in my first two books. Now, though, I resist the idea of bringing in anybody new. What if I get angry comments if I kill one of them?

TT: I am never going to live Gowan down, btw. He was a red shirt, people! Get over it!

That's the problem. I've gotten too serious. Too much is riding on this being a great book. I'd settle for it being a finished book.

Descriptive words about places I've never been and people I've never met. Sensory details that make a made-up world live and breathe and sweat and bleed. That's the impossible goal. That's the windmill I've chosen to fight.

Yee haw.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teacher Wanted

I started a new job in October. It actually started in September, but I moved into the new office in October.

It's a really new job, as in, other people have done parts of it before, but most of the legislation that defines what I'm doing got passed January 2012, and I'm the first person trying to make practical sense of the new legislation, so no one has really done any of it yet.

It's scary. I'm very good at presenting a calm, knowledgeable exterior, but I'm not very good at figuring things out by myself. I've always - always - had a teacher, until now.

TT: You might think this is an opportunity for me to "grow up" and "act like an adult." I would argue that's an "American" way to think and rather silly. There is nothing wrong with wanting a teacher. Jesus Himself said no student is above his master. If I'm my own teacher, I cannot do better than I'm doing now.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not completely alone. I have a deputy and two part-time support folk who are doing their best to get me where I need to be. It's just not as...structured...as I would like. The most irritating part so far - other than how often I forget things I do know in the scramble to learn other things - is how my support people seem to think my freaking out is a normal part of the process. They all did it; therefore, it's completely normal.

No one should have to freak out as part of their job. I know it happens. I was a foster care case manager, after all. Had I freaked out a little earlier and more publicly, I wouldn't have had a nervous breakdown. However, it is my nature to limit the trauma of change, mostly because I find change so traumatizing.

It may be a difference in learning styles. I would never throw a child into a pool with the admonition "sink or swim." I would never drop someone off at the DMV for the first time and say "go pay your taxes." I wouldn't hand someone the phone and say "order a pizza" without showing them how. You know why? Because my student nature learns the wrong lessons. I don't learn "Hey, I can swim" or "Hey, I can survive the Portal to Hell" or "Hey, I can feed myself as long as I have cash or a credit card."

I learn "Hey, I can't ever trust that person again. They will frighten and abandon me because they don't care enough about me to show me what to do."

TT: If you followed the Lavender Squeak fiasco (still on-going, btw), you know this is the major issue I had with God. We've gotten past it, by His grace, but my nature hasn't changed.

I believe I will enjoy this job. I see a future where I'm competent and caught up and able to teach a successor how to do what I do with competence and efficiency.

I just wish that future didn't look so far away.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No Comparison

Been hearing some disturbing things in my writers' groups. Things like "it takes 10 books to get noticed and 30 books to get famous." Or something close. Shock shut me down for a little bit when I heard it.

That is one statistic I hadn't heard yet. 

I guess it's a good thing I don't want to be noticed or famous. Even assuming America exists long enough (which I don't believe it will), it would take me 60 years to produce 30 books at my current rate.

Did you hear the one about the grandfather clock? The little alarm clock asked how old it was and the grandfather clock began to explain just how many ticks it had ticked and the alarm clock blew a gasket just thinking about it. "How do you do it?" the alarm clock asks. "One tick at a time."

I can't afford to think about "30 books from now" or "10 books from now" or even "the next book." Well, maybe the next book. That gives me hope there will be a next book.

It really gets annoying when folks start rattling off all their "next book" ideas. Good on them, yes, for being all energetic, but I'm old and tired and my brain turns more toward spreadsheets than RPG maps these days.

Praise God the depression has loosed its hold, or I'd be eyeing the toaster oven and considering how the laptop might fit inside.

On a slightly brighter note, taking my recovered, non-lazy writing goals to heart led to a spurt of rewriting that has turned out pretty good. Instead of a polite "oh, how do you do, why, yes, we know the same people" boring scene, I now have a "whoa, sorry about kneeing you in the back, I guess that's a bit unfriendly since we're actually on the same side, huh?" scene. It was easier to write, too. If I really want to get excited, I should throw in some blood and head-lopping, but it might be a bit early in the relationship.

Happy Friday, everybody. Be safe. It's icy out there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The End of Lavender Squeak?

Not quite yet, it seems.

For you who don't know, I bought a van. It went horribly, horribly wrong. I went briefly insane. I got better. Go back to Oct 4 and you can catch up if you really want to, but I wouldn't recommend it.

I found a used car dealer willing to trade in two vehicles for one. He found a used vehicle in my price and interest range. December 8 I traded in my trusty but dying Chuga (that's the Suzuki's name) and the bitterly disappointing Lavender Squeak and drove home a 2000 white Dodge Caravan that doesn't have an alarm system to screw me over.

TT: I haven't named it. I'll wait a month. I'm also not going to talk about it. I've gotten a little superstitious.

I didn't have the title for Squeak yet, which struck me as a bit odd, but they said it could be 45 days and we hadn't quite reached that limit. The salesman assured me they had done this before and it wouldn't be a problem.

The salesman called me last Friday to ask if I'd gotten the title yet. No. They hadn't, either, and they sold Squeak at a dealer auction that weekend (Dear God, let it please be for parts!).

He said I could go to Titles & Registration (one block from where I work) and pick up my title. Figuring this was one more way the Chrysler gods wanted to screw me over that van, I took some vacation time and walked the block to sit for an hour with butterflies eating their way through my stomach in anticipation of what would go wrong at this State agency only to find out my title hadn't been released at the county level yet and they couldn't help me. I would have to return to The Mouth of Hell, excuse me, the DMV Annex, and get them to push it through. Yes, I had to return to the same people who refused to help me twice previously and ask them to not help me again.

TT: Some of you are thinking, "Why didn't you call before you went? Wouldn't that be easier?" It would be easier, if the DMV ever answered their phone OR returned their messages OR even had a phone at The Annex, which as far I could see, they don't.

So I took more vacation time and drove to The Annex, where I met a lovely lady who had no idea who I was (or that I was barred from receiving any help at that location for whatever reason they arbitrarily assigned to me and me alone of the 100 other people there the two times and five and a half hours I was there). She took my paperwork and 15 minutes of my life and pushed the registration through.

Turns out I hadn't signed something. Really. Wonder when they were going to tell me that?

By the time that was done, I was out of time to return to Titles & Registration, so I went early Monday morning, only to find out it was mailed. Deep sigh. So, here I wait for the title to arrive so I can drive it over to the dealership. I'll probably get in an accident on the way.

I predict in six months' time, I will be sideswiped by the new owner of Lavender Squeak, destroying my newest vehicle completely, yet leaving Squeak mostly unharmed. Some paperwork flummox will list me as owner of both vehicles, and I will be fined for driving without insurance.

So be it. I'll turn it into a Japanese horror movie script. I wonder what Lavender Squeak sounds like in Japanese? 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Flickering Furby Fascination

Tuesday night I glance over at the TV and see a child hugging a Furby. My attention focuses. Furbies. Good. I'm curious about Furbies, so I'm glad I'm seeing a toy commercial featuring them. Except it isn't a toy commercial. It's a battery commercial.

Duracell batteries.

Furbies run on Duracell batteries? I knew they took batteries, but I thought they were like calculator batteries. Or cordless phone batteries, the ones with the little wire prongs on them. Or cell phone batteries you plug into your computer at night where they recharge and download software upgrades.

What kind of Artificial Intelligence runs on Duracell?

The toy kind, I guess.

This was the first moment I realized the Furby may not be everything I hope. If it runs on Duracell batteries, it isn't meant to last forever. It isn't meant to be an evolving friend and companion. It's just a bit of fake fur over plastic with a voice chip and plasma screen eyes possibly intended to keep Duracell in business.

Yes, you're thinking that's all it ever was, but I say it could be so much more. Hasbro is totally missing the boat on the adult Furby market.

Furby could keep my schedule for me, like the iPhone's new SIRI (is that how it's spelled?). Furby could be my alarm clock and contact address book. Furby could help me practice Spanish or harvest my Farmville farms when I can't get home on time. Furby could be a smoke/carbon monoxide detector. Furby could go to nursing homes and visit residents frightened of cats and dogs. Furby could come equipped with a camera and be able to answer my question, "Furby, what did the cats do today?" with video.

TT: No screen in the stomach, though. That's too close to Teletubby Land and those things creep me out way more than Furbies. Not sure why. They're very, very similar when I think about it.

Yes, all those things would take time and training of the Furby, but that's part of the fun. Taking a little alien owl-thing and making it a useful and beloved member of the family. 

The Duracell information really knocked the wind out of me but I'm pretty stubborn, so I decided to do more research.

I got hands-on with Furbies at Walmart (not too hands-on. They were in boxes). But I could feel the fur (very nice - no problem there) and look over the advertising text. Nothing too distressing other than the mildly threatening "you never know who your Furby will be." Does that mean it could turn out badly even if I'm nice, or good even if I'm mean to it? Is its personality set from Day One At Factory, or will nurture win out?

All the questions I had at the start.

So I'm conflicted. I want to test my mettle against this reportedly most irritating toy of all time and see who wins, but I'm afraid I will ultimately be disappointed, either because the win was too easy or just impossible. There's no point spending money on disappointment.

Thus, the Furby fascination flickers, attracting layers that say more about my obsessive nature than about Hasbro or Duracell.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blog Meme: The Next Big Thing

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I didn't know what a "meme" (pronounced meem) is. I looked it up. Second definition according to Dictionary.com is "an idea or element of social behavior passed on through generations in a culture, esp. by imitation."

I can live with that.

Kat Heckenbach tagged me as part of a string of authors promoting their Next Big Thing, so I get to return the favor. I'm linking back to Kat's original post so you can check out her Next Big Thing and I am to tag 5 other authors to continue the madness.

1) What is the title of your next book/work?

Price of Justice. It started as Justice for All, but as the story grew darker, this title took over.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book/work?

My head? I wrote Star of Justice to stand alone, but it contains a lot of consequences with no clear reasons. Price of Justice offers some explanations for otherwise random occurrences in Caissa's life.

3) What genre does your book/work fall under?

Adult fantasy. The sword and sorcery kind, not the bow-chicka-bow-bow kind. Yes, I say that to people.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Merritt was easy. Rufus Sewell. He's got that rumpled sexy thing going on. I don't even mind his age. Although, thanks to some FB questioning, I have to admit, there's a little Mandy Patinkin/ Inigo Montoya in there. Of course, Kevin Kline totally nailed the character in French Kiss. Why don't I know any young actors?

Caissa was harder, but Ellen Page could do it. She can present that innocent but determined air Caissa exudes. Have you seen Inception

While Kate Beckinsale and Scarlett Johansson seem to have cornered the market on kick-ass females (and Kate has the advantage of an English accent), I choose Milla Jovovich for Raven. She can pull off grace, elegance, height and a 1000 yard stare just fine. The transformed parts would be CGI anyway, but she could do the stunts in a pinch. Yes, she's impressed me with her Resident Evil franchise and her apparent agelessness.

Gamaliel has always been Terence Stamp. Always. When you read his dialogue, hear William Harcourt from Alien Nation. I would do a cartwheel on Youtube if he agreed to read the audio version of Star of Justice. Whoa, I just got sweaty palms thinking about that.

Price of Justice has a newbie joining the group, Keirbannan Rossamathalid, who could be admirably played by Ali Larter. OK, Resident Evil may be influencing me too much, but I know she would work with Milla.

Rhami Harvarkoset remains uncast at the moment. Benedict Cumberbatch could do it if he were two feet shorter. Maybe trick camera angles if Peter Jackson directed? My other thought is Simon Helberg, aka Howard Wolowitz, looking especially Jewish in that head shot. He's got the size, nose and sex drive, but I don't know if he could overcome, you know, being Howard Wolowitz. Little Sister suggested Eric Stoltz, and while he doesn't physically fit the image, he has the acting chops to pull it off and he may need the work.

Dear Galena. Grace Jones set the standard for bald black barbarians in Conan the Destroyer, and I haven't seen anyone do it better. I could cop out and choose Gina Torres, who has the screen presence, but, frankly, I need a berserker. I saw a photo of a supermodel on FB earlier this year that had the look but bless my soul if I can find it now. I guess a casting call is in order.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

No good deed goes unpunished.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have an indie publisher who seems interested.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Two years and counting.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This is pretty standard epic fantasy fare.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The characters. Their lives go on after Star of Justice. My readers might want to know about that.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? 

That isn't enough? Sheesh. What do you people want from me? Oooh! Somebody kisses Raven. You'll never guess who. Never. And I won't tell you you're right even if you do. 
Mwahahahahahaa! ehem.

I'll tag Keven Newsome, Katherine Coble, Fred Warren (not because he hasn't done it, but because he has and won't have to do it again), Cindy Koepp, and Kristen Stieffel. Get at it, boy and girls. I'll link to your actual posts once they're up. You have a week. Except for Fred, 'cause he's done it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Furby Fascination

Is it just me or are eggs getting harder to crack? I swear, I've lost the ability to judge how hard I need to tap those little buggers against the counter. I'm either smashing them to pieces or ending up with eggshell in my food because I have to peel it like a boiled egg. Yes, I buy cage free brown eggs, but does that make that much difference in the shells?

This post is about Furbies, but I had to get that off my chest since I just washed egg off my hands and counter.

I've become fascinated with Furbies. I vaguely remember hearing about them when I was younger, mostly that college students were teaching them to swear, but I didn't want one.

Now that I'm older and, apparently stupider, I'm fighting the urge to get one.

It's the AI thing. Can I train a computer program? I've trained cats and dogs, so the answer is probably "yes," but I wouldn't know that until I tried. What if I get a bad one? What if it doesn't like me? What if they don't offer upgrades? What is the life expectancy of a Furby, barring accident or injury?

Do the ones made in 1998 still work? My computers from that time don't. Do they eat? Will it learn to sleep through the night? How do I discipline a Furby? Do timeouts work? Will it get along with my cats? Does it get jealous?

The Flash knew someone who had one and has since given it away. Apparently, she removed the batteries and it kept talking to her. That makes sense if you don't want to lose all the programming during a battery change, right? Hmm.

I don't need a Furby. I'm really hoping as is the way with all my severe interests this will fade if I resist for two weeks. But I kinda wish I knew someone who had one who would let me Furbysit. Except sitting with someone else's isn't the same as having my own. Then I think about starting a Furby rescue and rehabilitation, where I take abused and mistreated Furbies and retrain them into more productive members of households and find them new homes. Would that be possible?

Oh, the things that bother me.

Happy Monday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Random Post as Proof of Life

Yes, I'm alive. Things got a little hectic 'round here, and I remembered I'm supposed to be blogging sometime late last night.

The Irish Kiwi with a German Twist has come and gone. She really gets around for a flightless bird.

I've discovered Orange Leaf frozen yogurt. Not sure this is a good thing.

Rented my first car yesterday (job related). Now terrified of driving it into a retaining wall. I have that history, you know. It's a 2012 Ford Taurus, and I feel like I'm driving a coffin.

Got Lavender Squeak back from yet another mechanic who told me to cut my losses and run away. I am negotiating a double trade-in with a local used car dealer for a 2000 Dodge Caravan with 117K miles. CarComplaints reports no trouble with anti-theft devices on these vehicles; just a lot of transmission problems and engine rebuilds. I can live with that.

Learned all salads are not created equal. Who knew something green and fresh could so wrong so quickly? I ate it anyway, but the last few bites were all about willpower.

I can walk a mile in about 16 minutes. Pretty sure this is pathetic. However, my doctor says most of his patients don't even bother to try, so I get points for that. He also gave me a clean bill of health.

If you can avoid it, never be the next patient of a phlebotomist who just got a call from her son's school/social worker/principal. I'm thinking she left some needle in there because my arm still hurts from a week ago.

My To Be Read pile has reached staggering proportions. I need to stop picking up Kindle books on sale and start reading them. Here's hoping I grabbed good ones. My next read should be The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It cost 8.99, which is officially the most I've paid for an ebook. Hope you're right, Kat.

Enjoying the Christmas music this year, although the Michael W. Smith one where's he got that choir is a little like the guys from Hee Haw joining the Boston Philharmonic. Love Michael W. Just sayin'.

That's enough. Happy Tuesday.