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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Good-bye, 2013, I'll Miss You

I mean that. This was my calmest year in a while, and I needed the break.

I'm in the minority. Most of my friends have had hellacious years (hmm. Blogspot doesn't know that word). New jobs, lost jobs, floods, chronic illness, never-ending divorces - you name it, I have a friend going through it.

But my 2013 was good. I kicked depression in the teeth and out the door. I settled into my cemetery job and gained a little mastery and a lot of attitude. The weather was remarkably calm for Kansas. My zucchini flourished, even if the tomatoes faltered. I found peace with Zynga.

I've read some books. More books than I've read since pre-college. I've watched some movies I've never seen. I attended a conference and met people I've only known virtually (and still liked them). I'm remembering how to sing in the shower. If lack of cavities is proof, I've successfully reintroduced fluoride to my teeth cleaning regimen.

The only thing that suffered this year was my writing. I've been avoiding my WIP like a clingy, demanding boyfriend. I've forsaken NAF almost entirely (as an alumnus, my responsibilities are less than they were, but still...). I've run out of blogging ideas, as if you couldn't tell. Not a good thing, as I've apparently added some fans. Got a message from one last week asking if I had a release date on my next book.

Sigh. A release date. I should probably get on that.

Thank you, 2013, for being a year I could love. A Year of Jubilee, as it were. I needed it. I suspect 2014 will be a real nutcracker.

Happy New Year's Eve, dear readers. Count your blessings and forget the rest.   

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter in Kansas

A few things to know about Winter in Kansas.

Usually, it's cold. Not Antarctic-kill-you-if-you-step-outside cold, but 30 degree highs and 0-10 degree lows with a wind chill. You'll want a coat, boots and thick gloves. And a ski mask because our winds keep blowing in Winter, and that north wind will peel the skin off your face if you're not careful. I add earmuffs because I can take almost anything but cold ears.

We don't see a lot of snow. We get sleet, freezing drizzle, the occasional ice storm, but snow doesn't happen as often as we would like, especially considering the cold temps. I mean, if you're going to freeze your nose off, you may as well have something pretty to look at, right?

When it does snow, people go a little crazy. SUVs think they're masters of the road, when in fact they tend to wind up in ditches and rollover accidents. An SUV can't stop any better than anyone else on snowpack. Keep that in mind, young'uns. Snow driving means down-shifting, slow speeds, and no tailgating.

Even in Winter, Kansas sun melts snow. What your parents may not have told you is to shovel your drive a) before you drive on it, and b) before the sun gets too high. If you get the snow off, the sun and wind take care of the remaining moisture, and you get a dry driveway by nightfall. If you don't clear it off, the sun melts the snow, and you get a sheet of ice by next morning. This holds true for clearing off your vehicle, too. Sun either heats a car and melts ice off the windows, or heats a car and turns snow left on a car into a thicker layer of ice.

This clearing and melting can backfire if the sun doesn't come out until late, but generally you're better off clearing than not clearing. It's good exercise, too, as long as you don't pull your brachioradialus muscle. 

Snow is both moisture and an insulator, so I always shovel it onto the flower beds. This is another good reason to move it before you drive on it. The chemicals used to clear roads have no business on your flower beds.

Any day above freezing will be a good day for the carwashes. Kansas drivers know to get the road sand and salt off their vehicles as soon as possible. With my growing affection for the new van, I'll be doing this myself when the opportunity arises.

We got snow this weekend, so I've been shoveling and scraping and pulling muscles. Good times.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Drive careful out there. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Insight, or Another Excuse?

Money doesn't motivate me.

I'm almost ashamed to write that. It sounds horribly elitist, as though I cannot be bothered with the travails of mere mortals. I assure you, money worries me as much as it worries most people. I just don't translate "money worry" into "make more money." In fact, I seem to take the opposite route of "money worry" becomes "money hoarding."

This lack of desire to pursue money makes me a bit odd, I suspect, and may add to the elitist image of "I cannot be bothered to sully myself with grubbing after income like a commoner." I hope that's not the case. If it is, I assure you, the issue is entirely mine, as my entire family is of common stock with an excellent work ethic and normal perspectives of income vs. outgo. I have no business thinking I'm made of grander stuff than most. I'm plain old homespun from wool and cotton, no matter that I behave like the silk petticoat of a queen. 

TT: Probably time to reread The Lost Princess by George McDonald. I do that when I start to get above myself. 

Back to my point. I didn't publish a book to make money. I published a book because a lot of people made my life miserable until I did. Now that I have, they've mostly backed off (possibly because I bite people who ask "when's the next book coming out?")

One of my writer's groups is once again discussing book pricing. I fall on the lower price point side for ebooks because the physical costs are lower and higher prices for print books because the physical costs are higher. However, I wonder if I'm about lower price points because I don't want my books associated with me making a profit.

Now that absolutely goes against everything I espouse. I am a rabid capitalist, provided the capitalism is balanced with integrity. I firmly support the mutually beneficial exchange of goods and services, and that is the foundation of capitalism. Two people getting exactly what they want from each other, and being so satisfied with the exchange, they'd gladly do it again. It's what I used to have with Zynga before the company went money crazy.

I want people who buy my books to be satisfied with the purchase. There is nothing inherently wrong with me benefiting monetarily from that. But, I admit, I would rather have the praise than the cash. I would rather my product be admired and respected than fill my savings account.

Therein lies the pinch. I am reluctant to gain money from my books, and I am terrified that I will lose what respect I've earned by producing the next one (a very real possibility, btw, considering how often it happens to others).

So, once again, I've found an underlying insight to the paralysis I face whenever I look at my laptop. Will it help me overcome that paralysis? We'll see. Sometimes insight is enough to remove the dam.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May you have all the money you need, even if it's not all the money you want.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To Steal or Not To Steal

Yesterday, Katherine Coble asked the question,
"Is it stealing to open a bag of something like chips or cookies or cough drops and eat them during your shopping trip?"
This was apparently prompted by observations of another shopper. She had her opinion on the matter, but was curious what her FB Friends thought on the issue.

About half of the responders thought it was fine as long as you paid before you left. I don't think that's the question. The question is did you steal by opening the bag and eating during your shopping trip?

If you've interacted with me for any length of time, you know how much food occupies my thoughts. You should also have gathered how extremely possessive I am. This question touches on both issues. I have no doubt at all that eating food that isn't mine is stealing. 

I'm not condemning those who've done it. My greater concern is how easily rationalizing comes to us as a society.

"Well, it's fine as long as you pay before you leave." No. Eating something that isn't yours is stealing. You can pay for it afterward, but it was stolen until you paid. That's an "end justifies the means" argument. Those never fly with me.

"Well, the clerk didn't say anything/stop me, so it's fine." No. Bad behavior doesn't justify more bad behavior. If you take something that isn't yours, you steal. It doesn't matter if someone calls you on it. This is the same rationalization we use when running a stop sign because no other cars are there. The law doesn't stop existing because no one sees you break it.

"Well, I really needed it because I was having a (insert medical condition)." If you are that likely to have such a medical condition, why aren't you carrying whatever you need with you? I'm borderline hypoglycemic (one of the reasons I'm so concerned about food). I promise you, I have snacks with me at all times. I don't need to steal from a store because I'm experiencing low blood sugar.

Again, I'm not condemning. I'm observing. As a gatekeeper/guardian/ anti-change agent, I will always call out b.s. And those answers sounded my b.s. horn.

Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God. (NASB)

Happy Hump Day, dear readers.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Issues of Dismemberment

or, Why I'm OK With Dolls Whose Arms Come Off, But Not Dolls Whose Feet Come Off.

I have issues with dismemberment. You might not think so if you've read my stuff because I appear eager to sever protuberances, but it is never a good thing. Actually, that could go either way.

It started with those Disney head purses. You know the ones. Purses that are just the heads of famous Disney characters: Pooh et al., Mickey et al., Nemo et al.? OK, Nemo is pretty much a giant head anyway, but you get my point. I put my foot down when Niece #1 wanted a head purse. There was no way in The Nine Hells My Lamb was going anywhere with a severed head dangling from her tiny shoulder. Unless she killed it herself with a bottle opener and her teeth.

I got her a Djali backpack instead (this was during the Hunchback of Notre Dame ouvre).

TT: Not sure I'm spelling that word correctly or even using it right, but I heard it on Buffy the Vampire Slayer so I'm giving it a shot.

Yes, the goat was eviscerated, but he was otherwise intact. Stuff him with a blanket and no one knows his sorrow. She got the point, and Weird Aunt Turtle got peace of mind. 

Fast forward several years, and Bratz enter the scene. I have no issues with disproportionate dolls. Hey, I played with Barbie for years. And years. But when you have to change a doll's shoes by pulling off its feet, I draw a line. These are caricatures of real girls, and real girls' feet don't come off on purpose. I banned the Bratz. Pretty sure the nieces still had some, but we didn't discuss it, and they certainly didn't depedocate them around me. (Is that a word? Should be.)

Why, then, am I fine with the removable arms (and in some cases, everything) of Monster High dolls? Because they're monsters. Monsters can do all kinds of things normal humans can't, including switching forearms.

Which is why, after nearly a year of yearning, I finally broke down and bought a Monster High doll (actually, I bought three - one assembled and a set of two, assembly required, mwahahahahahaa!). They should have been around when I was younger, and it isn't my fault they weren't.

They came!

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Grasp a bit of your lost youth today, as long as all your pieces stay attached.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Twitch

I've got a twitch. In my eye.

I get those on occasion. A few years ago, the twitch was so persistent and long-lived, I went to the optometrist. Eye twitches are usually a combination of too much histamine and too much stress. I took my Benedryl, got more sleep and the twitch subsided.

About two years ago, the twitch changed to numb eyelids. That's the only way to describe it. My eyelids go numb, and I can't keep my eyes open. I think it's my body's attempt to mimic the Joo Janta 200 Super Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses by ending my ability to see what's stressing me. Again, the solution is more sleep and a histamine blocker.

The twitch started two weeks ago, when I had my little upset. It's switching from right to left eye, it's hit both eyes at once, and it's alternating with the numb eyelids. You can't see it, but, trust me, I feel like Bugs Bunny after he swallows that shot of alcohol (don't remember why he swallows it; just what he looked like after). It has to be stress, because I've taken that generic Claritin for six weeks and I believe that contains antihistamine.

"Choosing to forgive" is a bit harder this time around. I keep making the choice, and I think I'm setting the issue aside for God to handle, but the twitch makes me think I'm failing. So be it. I don't know any other way to handle this than to keeping praying, keep forgiving and keep taking Benedryl.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Should my eyes slam shut while talking with you, you're stressing me out. Stop it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Not NaNo

I am not a NaNo writer. I disparage no one who does it, but it just ain't my style and I'm at peace with that.

However, my goal for the remainder of this month is to write something on my WIP every day. That hasn't been happening and I'm at the end of my procrastination rope. I mean, I've been procrastinating so hard, I'm exercising rather than writing. That's sick.

I'm afraid of my WIP. Personal expectations are too high and personal motivation is too low. I have no great ideas left. I can't even figure out who the antagonist is. On the other hand, I have no other project that tweaks my interest any more than this one, so it seems silly to write on something else.

It's not that I can't write. I put words down, and they make sense and everything. It's that I don't care about writing anymore. I have no drive to tell the story. If I don't want to tell it, why would anyone want to read it?

Doesn't matter. I must assume this is simply my own lazy, apathetic nature seeking to condone my inclination to do nothing more in life but go to work to support my Farmville habit. Being half Vulcan, I understand emotion cannot dictate direction. Being half human, though, I understand without emotion, there's no drive to complete the journey. That's where I am. No drive.

If I can get as many words on my WIP as a typical blog post, I'll be...well, farther than I am. If it doesn't matter whether I write or not, I may as well write, right? With such willingness to be distracted by anything, the holiday season is as good a time to start as any.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. May you find the drive to finish all your worthy projects.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Greatest Queso Ever

Because My Best Friend apparently went through contortions trying to find the recipe so she could make this, I promised I would post it here for perpetuity.

1 block (32 Oz. Block) Velveeta Cheese
1 package (8 Oz. Package) Cream Cheese
1 can (10 Oz. Can) Rotel
1 can (10.75 Oz. Can) Cream Of Mushroom Soup
1 pound Ground Beef OR Sausage (or A Combination Of Both)
1 Green Onion, optional 
1 sm can corn, optional

Brown ground beef or sausage (or both) in a pan over medium heat and set aside.
Cut up the Velveeta and cream cheese into cubes and place into a crock pot.
Pour in the Rotel and the cream of mushroom soup (and drained corn) and stir ingredients together.
Place the crock pot on low setting.
After about 30 minutes, add the browned meat and continue to let cook, stirring as needed, for another 30 minutes or so.

May we all die happy of coronary heart disease. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pant Rant

Y'all remember when I bought new pants, right? I'd had enough with the old ones being too tight (read "I've gotten too fat") and in a fit of exasperation, I went to the store and bought five new pair in all the colors I wanted. They fit, too. Mom is a witness.

Well, they're too loose now. They fit that night, and now they're falling off and bunching in weird ways and just infuriating. Did I lose weight in the meantime? More likely it's a conspiracy involving space age polymers that cling in an environment of low humidity, white linoleum and florescent lights and relax under all other conditions. I must be a size 11. One salty chip and I'm a 12; one hour  in The Swamp and I'm a 10.

I also have to say, once again, I hate low rise pants. Pear-shaped women carry weight in their bellies and butts, and low-rise pants accentuate not only the muffin-top of belly bulge but broaden the beam by focusing on the widest part of the hips. I guess it's more important to show off that tramp stamp and thong than have flattering clothes. I've been waiting since 1991 for colors I can wear to come back in style, why should I be surprised that clothing trends only get worse? Pretty soon it'll be normal to show pubic bones at work. Better yet, we'll wear nothing on the bottom and focus entirely on baby doll tops that make everyone look pregnant or willing to be pregnant.

I should have learned to sew. Except I would have to find patterns from the 1950's to make a decent pair of pants.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May your pants fit in a good way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Too Right

I hurt my arm last month. Not sure exactly what I did, but somewhere between digging and hauling, I strained my forearm. The brachioradialis muscle, as far as I can tell with an Internet search when the pain got so bad I feared carpal tunnel or bone cancer. My elbow wasn't happy with me, either. Could be a chicken and egg situation.

This weekend the pain was so intense, after my one-handed research laid my worries to rest, I started using my left arm to lift heavy things like the half gallon almond milk carton, my half full electric teapot and the brown sugar container. That's when I realized how "right" I am. I must be using my right arm a lot outside if I'm using it this much inside. I guess it's had enough.  

I'm not a crazy gardener. I'm crazy about gardening, but I don't go all out insane with the whacking and boulder rolling and whatnot. I'm the slow and steady gardener who sits down to weed so I don't put my back out, takes more trips than necessary with the wheelbarrow to avoid muscle strain and goes inside between 10 AM and 2 PM because that's when UV radiation is most intense in Kansas. Zucchini isn't worth melanoma. 

To actually hurt myself is rare, and to hurt myself in a way that hangs on for weeks is unheard of. Until this year.

That fall in April that led to the horrible knee ache in July and August has morphed into what I can only describe as a groin pull. Rotating my left leg in certain circumstances leads to a pain that nearly buckles my good knee and causes inappropriate words to spew from my lips. So, lame on the left, crippled on the right.

I've read gardening magazines for years, and every once in a while, I'll see an article about garden safety that involves exercises, because everybody knows gardening can be extremely dangerous if you don't warm up properly.

That was sarcasm, if you didn't hear it. 

The old joke says a twenty year old gardener has a forty year old back and sixty year old knees. They ain't kidding. Add 20 to all those numbers, and you know what I'm dealing with.  

I'm not laughing quite so hard anymore. Gardening is about the only exercise I like doing, so I'm stretching those muscles slowly and carefully and applying heat as needed. Once these injuries have healed, I'll add some weight training to help prevent this kind of thing in the future. Nothing crazy, though. That wouldn't be me.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Remember, Monday is always the first day you go to work, no matter when that day happens on the calendar. Be ready for it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Logistics of Blogging

I am an excessively scheduled person. My life is maintained with a precision likely stemming from an undiagnosed mental disorder (it's only undiagnosed because I haven't pulled out my DSMIII-R and diagnosed myself). This is why I can keep six cats with varying dietary and exercise needs. This is also why I occasionally miss my blog time.

I have 30 "free" minutes between waking up and leaving for work. Since that's my average writing time for a blog post, this generally works well. However, some days I get off track. Farmville has loading issues. Someone coughs up a hairball in a particularly difficult place to clean. I've forgotten the fridge is empty and must make something for lunch that day. All kinds of things.

TT: The fact that these things happen and I cope with a minimum of trouble leads me to believe I don't have a mental disorder, just very rigid habits.

So, when you don't see a new post from me, more often than not it's a case of bad timing. I'm not dead or depressed or kidnapped. I'm just off schedule.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. May any inconvenience today be God's blessing in your life.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Practicing Forgiveness

Every decade or so my world gets shaken. It's probably more often than that, but I'm trying to be positive. Usually this shaking comes in the form of someone doing something that is completely out of the character I understand them to have.

I'm not a good judge of character. I have no instincts, no intuition. I measure folks by one yardstick, really - me. What would I do in a similar situation? Which is why I often get the hell shocked out of me when someone doesn't choose the path I would.

Most of the time, this is surprising but not world-shaking. Most of the time, this doesn't cause a problem. Every once in a while, though, this surprise leads to shock, disappointment and anger.

Had one of those happen recently, and I'm struggling to deal. This is the time to apply that "forgiveness" lesson I learned last November.

See, forgiveness is a choice. It's me being aware a wrong was done, but not marking it in my Book of Wrongs and reviewing it nightly as I plot revenge. I know the wrong occurred. I will take steps to deal with the consequences. I will not brood over how I was wronged and how that person should now burn in hell for eternity.  I will not allow one wrong to ruin the rest of my life, or the rest of my relationships.

It's hard. I don't have good instincts, but I have an excellent memory. Burn me enough and we are done. Not because I hate you, but because I won't live my life in a fireplace. I doubt that's how Christ would do it, but I'm not Him yet.

Anyway, today is a day of forgiveness. No wrong done against me will destroy my eternity, and I will trust the real Judge to deal with true wrongs in due time. God has my back. I don't have to waste another emotional minute on this.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Choose to forgive today, for your sake, not theirs.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Out of the Study

If my WIP were a sketch, I would have rubbed through the paper by now. I have written, re-written, pondered, procrastinated and persecuted my brain for how to get them out of there. I can't gain enough traction to propel my people out of this scene.

They're close. The door swings open, inviting. They just have to walk through it - against all common sense and leaving Obvious Danger to stab them in the backs. No thinking person would do it and these are thinking people.

I'm almost ready to just write the next scene. No transition, no idea of how they did it, just the assumption that they did on the hope that somewhere in the future a brilliant and obvious "of course!" moment will wake me at 3 AM and I'll actually get up and write it down before I forget.

However, if past is prologue, the moment I move them on without regard for how they get there, some snag will arise that makes where they move impossible and I'll have to rewrite anyway. Obvious Danger must be outsmarted or defeated or neutralized for the time being.

Good Lord. I just thought of how to do it. Literally this moment thought of a way. Gotta go.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May you find inspiration in your most frustrating moment. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Answer

I am officially The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Yes, today I am 42.

This will be the first birthday I do not eat an entire 3-layer German's chocolate cake in celebration.

I don't have a good track record with birthdays. They tend to be all about me. Yes, I know that's how they normally work, and for normal people, that system works well, but for an egomaniac like myself it leads to tantrums, unreasonable demands and self-indulgence of truly epic proportions.

No more.

I am now The Answer. Today I shall be gracious. Today I shall be kind to all those who are not The Answer. Today I am All There Is, and I have no reason to be petty about it. Today I will march out my door with a Pan-Galatic Gargle Blaster under my belt, my Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses on my face, and my towel firmly in hand.

Don't panic. I am here, and I am The Answer.  

Oh, and regarding all those previous birthdays...

"We apologize for the inconvenience." 
Douglas Adams 
So Long and Thanks for all the Fish.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fall in The Swamp

I'm learning my ideal gardening environment is 45 to 65 degrees on partly cloudy days. The lower the temp, the less "partly" on those clouds, please.

It's been a looooong time since I've tried "Fall-cleanup" in The Swamp. Not sure if I've ever really tried it. It's more the kind of thing vegetable gardeners do than flower gardeners. While the weather has been kind with mild temps and sunny days, the sun rises after 7:30 AM and sets around 7 PM, so it's a race to get home and get dirty while I can still see the shovel.

The asparagus bed with added space for garlic.

I've moved the raised bed dirt into the flower bed and the "almost finished" compost into the raised bed. I've dug up the 10x10 Wild Plot in the middle of the yard and seeded with fescue, mostly because I can't maintain all the beds I want to have and Sweetie does need a bit of lawn for butt-hunker running purposes. That sounds so easy. This is the part of the yard most destroyed by the arborists, so with every shovel, I'm hitting rocks and buried tree branches. Fortunately, I've forgiven that crew, so I'm not furious anymore.

I expanded the asparagus bed slightly to allow for a garlic bed, too. Seems you have to leave garlic alone for a while if you want multiple cloves.

I'll seed this swath, too. No more vegetables so far from the house. I'm considering making a dividing line of ornamental grass (you can see the grass I'd use just behind the tomato. I'd do that in the Spring.

I tore out the disappointing tomato plant last night. It tried, poor thing. It just couldn't get any traction with the weather. Next year, I'll go back to "Early Girl," even if I have to buy two because the first one dies. There's something to be said for an indeterminate tomato.

Up here, maybe it won't be so frost-susceptible. It will certainly be easier to smell.

I transplanted half my lilac bush closer to the house. I meant to move the whole thing, but lilacs sort of turn into masses of suckers, so I took a mass of smaller suckers and moved them. I may move more in the Spring to the south side as part of the "green screen" I'm planting between me and the Neighbors to the South. The ornamental grass from last Spring is doing it's bit, but everyone appreciates a well-planted lilac bush.

That's lemon balm and lamb's ear in front of the lilac. Both are "weeds" and should provide plenty of ground cover for next year.

I hope to switch out some peonies for lamb's ear in the rock garden. The peonies don't get enough water back there and the lamb's ear is a bee friendly weed, so the move makes sense. I also plan to transplant autumn sedum (or live forever, as we call it around here: a Kansas weed sold in garden catalogs to other States) to the back because butterflies love it and it can take the sun and heat. Don't know why I didn't think of doing it before.

If I can remember (and resist), I won't buy annuals next year. I should have enough self-seeders to keep the flower bed going and I'll transplant herbs to fill the bare spots. My annuals just didn't like the weather this year, and I did not get my money's worth. Considering the number of volunteer basil and dill that came up from two plants in 2012, I shouldn't have to buy those ever again. I hope.

That's a quick summary of how I'm spending the dying light of an evening and the daylight of a weekend. I'll be suiting up in winter gear to collect leaves, too. My compost bins are empty and momma needs brown stuff.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Get out while you can. Winter is coming.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stupid Humans and the Zombie Apocalypse

Season four of The Walking Dead is underway. Two amazing episodes so far. Here's hoping they can keep up the tension.

I'm not generally one for end-of-the-world story lines. I hated Stephen King's The Dark Tower as soon as I read the back explanation. I completely avoided the Left Behind series. If it says "dystopian" in the blurb, I walk away.

Until you add gore, I guess. Something about decomposed bodies going splat as they fall from 20 foot heights piques my interest.

Four seasons of this show have brought home one stark reality, though: no one can survive a zombie apocalypse.

Let's assume for a moment that a zombie virus only affects humans (true in The Walking Dead, not true in Resident Evil, another series of zombie movies I love for the fight scenes). You still have 300 million - give or take maybe 20,000 - Americans now morphed into mindless, unstoppable killing machines. We'll ignore the rest of the world for the moment.

Those unstoppable killing machines eat anything that moves. That means all land animal life will eventually be eaten by zombies. All the mammals, for sure. Massive extinction in a relatively short amount of time. Add that all living humans now carry the zombie virus and automatically become zombies at death and you're beginning to understand the meaning of "apocalypse."

Survival for humans would depend on three things: food, shelter, and killing zombies. That's really the only things anyone should focus on. No in-fighting. No political systems. No "does she love me or my best friend?" musings. Unless killing zombies is high on the list of priorities, you will run out of food and shelter and you will die. And become a zombie.

By this point in the show, the zombies are at least 10 months old. They're getting pretty rotten. They're still dangerous, and I'm glad to see the survivors are more cautious than ever, probably because they're tired of watching people die. But no one alive should walk away from a moving zombie. The goal of every mission out should be 1) search for supplies and 2) destroy as many zombies as possible. You have 299 million (assuming we've lost 10K live humans in the last three seasons) to dispatch. It's more than a job; it's a career.

Our survivors on The Walking Dead haven't quite figured this out yet. Maybe they don't want to face that truth. Maybe they're tired. Maybe they tried during the spring hiatus and they've decided it's too costly. It doesn't matter how costly it is. It's the only chance humans have.

I don't worry about it too much. According to a Facebook quiz, I won't last 16 hours into the zombie apocalypse because I won't leave people behind.

Happy Monday, dear readers. Enjoy your lives while you have them. The zombie apocalypse is coming and we won't get out alive.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Another Way to Flesh Out a Character

Spent a little time last night with Creating Characters: Heroes of Legend by Paul Jaquays and my old gaming dice (and an extremely pupil-dilated Caleb when those dice hit the desktop). With some help from my former DM, I found a clear downloadable version of this out of print book (at least, I couldn't find a recent copy or an old one for less than $50).

Once upon a time, this book helped create Caissa, Kirk, Galena, Rhami, the Harvarkoset children, Raven and Horus. Every character from Star of Justice I first role-played or used as an NPC for a role-played character.

See, some characters spring to life fully formed in my brain. Some need a little help. Like Merritt's mom and siblings. Didn't know he had siblings, did you? Well, he does, but I couldn't quite get them to step out of the shadows of his past and introduce themselves.

We writers are encouraged to know our characters well (some more than others). We're not supposed to write everything we know into the story, but we should know more than we tell you. I can't always pull "fun facts" out of thin air, and a character generator program doesn't give me the specific, hands-on control that I prefer. They also don't go as deep as I like to go into a character's history.

This book is made of tables. Birth Circumstances. Childhood Occurrences. Skill Sets. Blessings and Curses. All kinds of fun and quirky bits that can spark imagination and make a two-dimensional character way more fun.

TT: Remember Raven's reference to her "third birth?" She wasn't talking conversion, folks, but I won't spoil that story just yet.

Merritt's mam is first on the list and coming along nicely. If I want to be slightly more focused on my WIP, I should roll for Gowan Rudebeck next, but Jezreel MacEwan has been bugging me about her backstory anemia longer, so she gets first turn.

Anyway, should be a clickety-clackety weekend as I role those d20 and 2d10 and whatever else Paul wants me to throw.

Happy Friday, dear readers. May your character creation be fruitful and your 20's excessive.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doctor, Doctor, Leave Me Alone

Yesterday, a FB friend asked for testimonies concerning holistic medicine.

My doctor is an advocate and practitioner of healthy lifestyle choices as both preventive and curative, which matches my philosophy if not my habits. I don't know if that makes him holistic or not, but it means I will go see him if I'm on the brink of death because I don't think he'll push me over. OK, maybe 24 hours after the brink of death. I mean, I might get better on my own. Why not? I got sick on my own. No point rushing it.

I don't trust doctors in general. I consider the majority of them to be pill-pushing shills of the drug companies, much like the FDA. How else can you explain 60 second commercials for new pills where 40 seconds are warnings about all the horrible things the pills can do to your major organs, immune systems and anyone "who has been to certain regions where certain fungal infections are common?" What on earth does that even mean? These commercials are then followed by the ambulance chasing lawyer commercials asking if "you or a loved one have suffered" any of the list of symptoms, including death, while taking any of these medications because "you may be entitled to a large cash settlement" so contact them right away.

Yes, I watch too much cable TV.

I don't think doctors mean to be pill-pushing shills. It seems to be a matter of training. "You're already 200 lbs overweight, pre-diabetic and don't listen to me anyway, so here's a pill covered by insurance that masks most of your symptoms. Let's see if that helps. Of course, your liver might stop working and you could go blind, but at least you can keep eating pork ribs." So we take Tums instead of avoiding the BBQ with the fiery peppers in it. Maybe your body doesn't like fiery peppers. Maybe that acid reflux is an honest reaction to a stupid action and if you stop the stupid action, the symptoms will stop.

Obviously, this isn't every doctor or every patient. I'm using sarcasm because I'm feeling better.

This vertigo thing has me thinking I do need to see a specialist. I should make sure it's the congestion holdover from a cold that I think it is and not a tumor or alien implant or brain-eating pre-zombie virus I might hope for. My current method of slow-and-steady treatment producing slow-and-steady improvement seems to confirm it's congestion. I'm on day two of no morning wobbliness or nausea. That means it took six days to feel improvement on a condition that probably took six days to reach its apex of discomfort. I'm OK with those numbers.

I am blessed to have a relatively healthy life so far. If family history is an indicator, breast and colon cancer may be in my future, as well as hip and knee replacements, but I'm doing what I can to prevent those. TV has convinced me a major step is to avoid taking or using anything approved by the FDA in the last fifteen years.

For those of my friends currently experiencing serious health issues, I am truly sorry and I am praying for relief for you and wisdom for your doctors. On the one hand, we live in an age where actual cures exist. On the other hand, finding them may be as deadly as the disease.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. Thank God for the health you have and pray for someone who suffers more than you do.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vertigo Continues

My thanks to those of my readers who now recognize my whiny-day rants as little more than over-reaction to sleep deprivation (either that or you're all so busy having real lives you barely noticed me - good on you!). Those self-pitying bouts rarely last more than 24 hours.

The sleep deprivation continues, however. The antihistamine is helping, but I won't take it at night anymore. I don't know exactly when my eyes opened last night, but I'm guessing 2 or 3 AM when the time-released meds time-released. I don't know for sure because once again I couldn't turn my head or body without turning the world upside down. Getting very tired of that. So there I lay for hours, motionless, unable to sleep or get comfortable, waiting for something to happen. Preferably an asteroid, but, you know, I'm flexible.

When the alarm went off at 5, I sat up carefully like yesterday and thought I did a good job - until the cold sweat kicked in. No idea where that came from but I sat completely still for about 5 minutes while sweat poured out of me and soaked everything. I managed to get a trashcan in place because what usually follows sweating is puking but that didn't happen. My temp was normal: 97.4 (that's normal for me).

A quick check of webMD says it could have been anemia, low blood pressure, possible mini stroke or motion sickness.

I'll choose motion sickness for $500, Alex.

I don't remember a sickness where I felt worse lying down than standing up, but I'm getting mighty tired of that, too, in every sense of the word. Tonight I'll go back to the Benedryl and motion sickness medicine combo that worked a few days ago. The Turtle needs sleep.

I've avoided wheat like the plague, and I'm eating pretty much rice and green vegetables trying to get rid of the mucus in my head. I am better during the day. It's night that has me flummoxed. Stupid night.

Happy Friday, dear readers. Keep your heads up and your noses clear.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justice for My Characters

I could turn over last night without wanting to throw up, and I was able to sit straight up this morning with only a little dizziness. The Wal-itrin-D is working its generic drug magic. I'm not pushing it, but I may just survive this bought of vertigo.

I took my own advice about my WIP. You know, that advice I told myself last week about not focusing on what I couldn't do but considering what else I could do? I rearranged the scene slightly and the difficulties have smoothed out. Most recent hurdle jumped. Check. While I did it, I realized I've forgotten yet another plant I'll have to add to previous scenes. I never had this trouble with Star of Justice.

Do you ever feel like you're not doing your characters justice? I was thinking about Patrick Carr's second book and how he had all the makings of a really great story and fell just a bit short. Will I do that? Will I fail to give Kiven and Lucki all the room they need to be truly brilliant? I love these characters. I want other people to love them, too.

I understand why George Lucas keeps going back to original Star Wars (I despise him for it as only one who shares that log in the eye can, but I understand). As often as I sit at my keyboard and compare what I'm doing now with Star of Justice, I want to give up. That book wrote itself. I didn't have to decide what to do next; it just happened.

Frankly, it was too easy. It didn't prepare me for the bleak reality that some stories have to be planned. They need plotting and research and rewriting and adding plants and a ton of other stuff my arrogance thought I was past.

For all my admonitions and complaints about the hard work of writing, I hadn't realized it gets harder every book. I hoped at some point some of this would become old hat. I suppose if I wrote to formula, it would.

But I want to dazzle. I want unique, and plausible, and humorous and bittersweet and all that other nonsense I promised myself I would never worry about. I want better than Star of Justice, but apparently it's going to be harder than I expected and without any of the joy I once experienced. Writing isn't fun anymore. I dread opening the manuscript. I fear the second book syndrome. I'm paralyzed by indecision, like Sarah with the Helping Hands. "Which way do you want to go?" 

In short, I care too much what other people may think. I hate you all a little for that. Why did you have to like my book? Why couldn't you have ignored it or stopped reading at chapter three? No, you had to keep going and tell me how much you liked it. You had to tell your friends. You had to congratulate me and give five stars.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. It may be the only thing you get from me in your lifetime.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Hope your day isn't starting as whiny and self-loathing as mine.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Vertigo and Self-Medicating

Woke up with vertigo yesterday - severe enough I fell over instead of getting out of bed. This isn't unprecedented. With my history of motion sickness and allergies, every so often the head plumbing gets clogged and the balance gets wonky.

Haven't fallen over before, but I'm getting older, so why not? Of course, lying there until I starve isn't an option. For one thing, those dogs won't let themselves out. By the third attempt I was on my feet and not tossing cookies, so I downed a motion sickness pill to at least prevent the puking and made plans to swing by the pharmacy on the way to work.

Last time this happened, the doc prescribed an antihistamine. Once I halved it so I didn't drop unconscious half an hour after swallowing the pill, I was on the road to recovery. That was years ago.

This time I went with a non-prescription antihistamine, although it was still behind the counter and I had to show my photo ID and sign away my firstborn (if I ever have one) to get it. Sorry, future child of mine, mommy needs to walk upright. I chose the 12 hour non-drowsy because I want to be drowsy at some point during a 24-hour cycle. Mine tends to come at the 3 PM long, dark teatime of the soul, but I continually hope for that 9 PM to 4 AM slot.

This left 12 hours when I wasn't covered by the antihistamine. What to do? Take a motion sickness pill to attack the symptoms, or take a decongestant to attack the problem? Yes. I took both, and lived to blog the tale.

This morning I only fell over a little. Thank You, Jesus. Motion sickness is bad enough when you caused it by sitting in a rocking chair. Experiencing it while sitting still is beyond annoying.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Keep those kleenex handy.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Editorial Preference and Feet

Got inspired. Thought I'd share it with the folks over at

Why, Why, Why Did I Put Them in the Study?

This is driving me crazy. I thought I'd kept the "plant" details sketchy when Caissa mentions that insane man and his non-magical construct in Star of Justice, but I was wrong. So wrong.

I shouldn't have put them in Gamaliel's study.

I did it because the scene at the time had them in Gamaliel's study. I hadn't written the rest of the book, but that scene seemed pretty clear cut. I mean, Kiven and Lucki had to be there, and they had to have met both Gamaliel and Caissa, and the study was the most obvious place for that meeting to occur.

Until I rewrote the scene. Now it's like trying to put Skamper into a cat carrier. Lots of push but no progress.

I remember observing Big Brother teaching an aikido class. His sparring partner grabbed his wrist, and Big Brother asked the class if that was a problem. "Am I under control?" or something to that effect.

A chorus of "yes's" from the young pupils.

"Nope," Big Brother said. "He has my wrist. He doesn't have me. I can do anything I want with my brain, with this hand, this foot or that foot, my torso, even that hand he has." Then he did one of his little aikido moves and his partner hit the mat and proved his point.

I'm in the same place. This one little snag has my wrist, but it doesn't have me. It doesn't have the power to stop me unless I give it the power to stop me. The mind leads the body. My mind must agree this isn't the huge problem I'm making it out to be, apply a little kote gaeshi and drop this sucker to the mat.

Easy to say. Harder to do.

Happy Friday, dear readers. You have options today. Exercise them. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

Sweetie the dog and Simon the cat both had dental work done in the last six weeks. This is the first time for both, and both had known dental issues when they went in. They're about the same age, although it could be argued since Sweetie is a big dog, she's older than Simon the cat.

Sweetie had one tooth pulled and came home with heavy duty pain meds, extra antibiotics and obvious pain for the first 24 hours. She wouldn't open her mouth, so I dissolved her meds in water and used a syringe to squirt them in the opening between her back teeth. Give it two days, and she was better. A week later, and you'd think we'd knocked five years off her age, the sweetheart.

With this recovery curve in mind, I was extremely reluctant to put Simon through that. Cats don't take meds like dogs do. I knew Simon had at least two cavities, and that means extraction. If my sweet girl had such a hard time the first week, what would it be like for spoiled Little Brother, who can be a real toadmonkey even in his best mood?

I read an article in the Tufts University cat magazine Catnip that claimed cats do very well with tooth extractions. For most, it's a new lease on life.

OK, that's most. What about my guy? Would he be "most" or the "least?" The article was convincing and my vet is skilled. I took the chance.

I can't believe how true the article was. Simon came home without pain meds, without extra antibiotics, and other than a severe case of the tipsies that had me running after him to prevent landing slippage, no apparent side effects at all. I even fed him a little wet cat food that night, probably more than I should have, but it was either feed him or put him in a carrier to prevent him from searching the house like a dopehead on a munchie binge.

If your pet has cavities, spend the money and vacation time and get them out.  Yes, it's harder on the dog than the cat, but bad teeth cause all kinds of other expensive problems no one wants to see. I wish I'd done it sooner for Little Brother. He probably does, too.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Hug those furry family members and check their teeth when they aren't looking.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Hero's Lot by Patrick Carr

Liking A Cast of Stones as much as I did, I bought A Hero's Lot (on sale for $6.99 at the time - woohoo) and jumped right in when I finished book one.

It has what I call "second book problems." Usually, an author's first book has the snot polished out of it for years and years before publication. Book two may be started but it's rarely finished until book one comes out and then it's rushed into the market to take advantage of the excitement book one caused. This means book two hasn't had the snot polished out of it and the rough edges show.

The author tried some new stuff and good on him for doing so. He split the storyline into two viewpoints and made it a zipper book (where they all start out together, split apart and then zip back together to conclude). He increased the number of companions around both and juggled giving everyone reasonable face time and depth. He raised the stakes on main protagonist and gave him a seemingly impossible task. All good. All perfectly acceptable things to do in a second book.

Then, I'm guessing with outline in hand and word count goal in front of him, he started writing, checked for spelling errors and handed in his manuscript.

OK, that's harsh, but this reads like a really good second draft to me. If he'd let it sit for six months, he would have opened it up and seen all the little issues that add up to big problems I saw when I read it, fixed those and had another four or possibly five star book on his hands. 

It all boiled down to uneven pacing. Things that needed more description didn't get it; things that didn't need it got it. The action dragged in the wrong places and skimmed in the wrong places. "The big reveal" was harped on for several chapters instead of planted throughout, which made it fall flat for me. Too many extremely unlikely coincidences cropped up, more than the ones the author noticed and tried to explain away to me the reader (big no-no, btw. I'm a smart girl. Don't tell me how to think). One example: the two swords of amazing craftsmanship and value just happen to end up in the arena for Errol "the slave" to use instead of being stashed in the prince's vault. Please. The climax was over almost before it started. I didn't cry once, which I should have, 'cause there were a couple of things that should have been touching but weren't.

Had the author let it sit for a while, I have no doubt he would fixed these issues mostly by sprinkling better plants (clues) into the manuscript instead of punching me in the face with them all at once. He did fine in A Cast of Stones.

I could be completely wrong. A Hero's Lot might have sat on a shelf for two years before he pulled it out to give to the publisher. In that case, I have no explanation for the pacing issues in this book other than some major life event distracting him.

Anyway, I give it 3 buttercups because I liked it, it's still a good book, and I will buy the last. Every new author has to find his stride between one book-two-books-multiple books written. He's published twice, hopefully learned both times and has the chance to apply that knowledge in book three.

Happy Friday, dear readers. I'm ready for the weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

It started as a friendly dare on Mike Duran's blog by Rebecca Luella Miller. It morphed into an itty bitty sensation as the chosen book turned out to be free on Kindle that week (I'm curious if there's been any impact on sales of book two, Hero's Lot).

I was reading Anna and the Dragon at the time, so I didn't start A Cast of Stones until two weeks ago. Here's the short version: I really liked it. Anymore, I like any book that holds my attention and makes me want to keep reading to find out what happens next.

I wasn't sure I would. I read Katherine Coble's review and she had a few issues with it - number one in my brain being lack of description. I hate that. However, I read on and by the time Errol is slipping and falling his hungover way through a series of waterfalls called The Cripples, I was hooked.

This story reminds me of Dragondrums by Anne McCaffrey crossed with Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. A coming of age survival story with plenty of action without a lot of romantic entanglements (not yet, anyway). I did not notice any particular lack of description, so I guess he instinctively told me what I wanted to know.

Mike Duran says A Cast of Stones doesn't come close to Name of the Wind, but that's like saying a painting hanging in an Italian gallery doesn't come close to a Rembrandt. Doesn't make them bad paintings. Just means they aren't Rembrandt. The writing style was clear, easy to read and well-paced. The story didn't leave me as emotionally exhausted as Name of the Wind, either, which I appreciated.

I loved that Errol's weapon of choice is the staff, and I love the description that surrounds his use of it. Don't see many staff-wielding main characters, but I want to see more of them now. Nicely done.

The lots are an interesting idea, especially how they're divorced from faith in God. The church uses (monopolizes?) them but the ability seems a generic talent some people have. It's a complex concept that seems consistent within the world view so far. Nicely done.

The folks in the story are different people, too. When the cast includes many supporting characters, it's important they all have something unique to add to the story. Nicely done.

In short, I found more than enough interest and action to pull me through the whole book without any "oh, come on!" moments and buy book two when I reached the end. The ending wasn't as cliff-hanger-y as some series I've read and had book two not been available, I would have been OK emotionally until it was.

I'd give it 4 buttercups because I really liked it, although not enough to buy the paper book. We'll see if how the series ends changes that decision. 

I finished book two, Hero's Lot, last night, so I'll probably talk about that tomorrow.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. Find a good book and take 'er out for a spin today.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Star of Justice Cover - An Explanation

I'm going to write about why Star of Justice has the cover it does, even though it's petty to do so. I've always said other people's opinions are none of my business, and I should stick with that. This could be categorized as a "whiny post," and may actually offend a few people who take the time to read it. That's your warning.

Here's a fact: the cover was my idea. Splashdown Books gives its authors a great deal of leeway in cover design and titles, way more than traditional publishers. Yes, Grace had final say and chose the font because I didn't care, and Iguana did the actual work of creating the idea I visualized, but it was my idea. Stop blaming the publisher if you don't like my cover. Blame me.

TT: I suspect Grace allows so much leeway because she has had her own issues with covers designed by marketers that have nothing to do with the book itself. We all have, right? We fiction writers want our covers to accurately reflect what's inside. Never mind that those marketers got your attention enough to buy the book and read it and realize the cover doesn't match and give you something to complain about. You're welcome.

My cover has been called "boring." Fine. Caissa is boring. She's a fairly boring person who happens to have a fairly exciting two weeks. This is why I didn't want an "action shot" on the cover. No flaming swords, no fire-breathing dragons, no druids in fight skin. All those things happen in the book, but I didn't want people to see the cover and think "Wow! Wall-to-wall action!"

And what exactly makes the Twilight cover so intriguing? A hand holding an apple gets a pass? Don't answer that. I don't care. 

Most of my beta readers don't read fantasy. They would never choose a book with a traditional fantasy cover yet loved my story, probably because it isn't quite traditional fantasy. I made the choice to provide a more generic fiction cover with symbols rather than illustrations to try to reach those kind of people through referrals. They shuldn't be turned off immediately by this cover like they would by a cover with people in medieval costume on horseback battling dragons.

TT: That is my preferred type of cover, btw. I loved Mercedes Lackey's covers far more than I loved her books. 

I've heard the cover has nothing to with the story. *blank stare* Caissa begins her quest in search of a book, continues her quest with the discovery of another book and ends the quest with understanding that book. How can a book, held by the protagonist herself as evidenced by the marks on her arms, not represent the story? I can understand the confusion if you haven't read SoJ, but I would hope that confusion goes away after you've read it.

The blood. Yes, there's an enormous blood stain on the cover. I admit it made me nervous, but I polled a bunch of people (state workers, some of them, who wouldn't know SpecFic if it bit them on the nose) and they had no problem with it. Grace also thought 1) it showed up better on thumbnail and 2) it was fair warning to the amount of violence contained within. I agreed with those reasons, and the stain stayed instead of the spatter I would have preferred. Frankly, I don't know that anyone has complained about the blood, but I just needed to say this.

That's all I can think of at the moment, and far more than I should address anyway. This frustration has been building for a year, so I hope I kept it somewhat civil.

Not everyone is going to like the cover. That's fine. Your opinions about my cover are none of my business. They likely won't change any decision I make about covers in the future. I just needed to get this off my shell because the weight is hurting my knees.

Happy Monday, dear readers. I'll end on a positive note. What's your favorite cover and why?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Colds, Mulch and Good Books

A cold seeks residence in my nose. The sneezing started yesterday, although I don't yet have that tickle in the throat that heralds the end of all resistance. I've just started rebuilding my sick leave so I'm a bit irritated that I may have to use it so soon. I'm drinking Airborne and taking cold meds in the hope of delaying illness until more winter-ly weather kicks in.

It could be the mulch I moved last night. Did you know if you have tree trimmers in your neighborhood, they may be willing to dump trimmings in your yard rather than hauling them to a local dump site and paying fees to get rid of them? For a recycler and composter like me, fresh tree chippings with all the green and brown crunched into shreds are a Woo-Hoo moment stretched into an hour of hard work in light rain. I used everything they left and wish I had two or three more loads, but I'm grateful for what I got. Come spring, it will all be melted into black gold.

I'm 40% through A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr and enjoying it. Yes, there's been a few beating-a-dead-horse paragraphs and a couple of wrong-word-typos, but nothing I haven't seen worse in other places. The main character has just enough hardship to keep him interesting and not so much to exhaust me (Kvothe of The Name of the Wind reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events on more than one occasion).

If I want to lie down a bit before work, I'd best go.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Take those vitamins and wash your hands.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Committing to Forget

Becky Minor used this phrase in a recent post and voiced exactly what I've been trying to do with Dangling Justice.

I conceived Dangling Justice in college. I illustrated at least three scenes from what I imagined the plot would be. I'm talking multimedia pen and ink, colored pencil and marker illustrations. Those puppies took time and they solidified my imagination.

I keep bumping into those illustrations. Oh, no, I can't do that, because then they wouldn't end up here doing this thing I drew. Oh, no, she can't look like that because she looks like this. Oh, no, he does it this way in the picture.

None of these issues should stop me. None of these issues are actual issues. They were ideas I had way back when and I have different ideas now.

I've had the same trouble with Past Ties, so much trouble, in fact, I've almost decided that book will never be revised/updated/published. It was a campy first effort at writing a book, but I wrote it and it remains.

I must commit to forget what I planned twenty years ago. Had I written it then, it would be different, but I didn't and it isn't. The story must move forward, not stall out at now-useless images from my once-fertile imagination, no matter how beautifully proportioned.

Happy Monday, dear readers. If your past holds you back, first forgive, then commit to forget.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


If you're my FB Friend (and pay attention), you know I've updated my wardrobe (bought pants) and updated my coiffure (dyed my hair). So, why the sudden attention to the outward appearance?

First, the changes aren't that dramatic. About once a decade I notice my clothes are too small/ too ratty/ too hard to match, and I get new clothes. That happened last week when I spent a day squeezed into 15 year old pants with snags and a button coming loose even though I've sewn it on about four times. I'd had enough and that night I bought five pairs of pants. The miracle was they were all in colors I needed. That hasn't happened in about 15 years.

The hair isn't that dramatic, either. I cut off five inches, yes, but it's still below my shoulders and I will still put it in a bun clip most days because I hate hair touching my face. In fact, it went into a scrunchie right after I snapped this pic.

I dyed it because the leftover red from last November had turned orange and was driving me crazy. There's no way to get from orange to silver without shaving my head, so I dyed it the normal brown and the silver will come back on its own. It also cost me nothing because the house guest I've kept for the last few weeks paid for the whole thing. He's an odd looking dog, but flush.

It was weird to look in the mirror this morning. I haven't seen that kid in 20 years. I kinda wanted to slap her. 

Finally, after a What Not to Wear marathon a few months ago, I remembered that an adult should project a certain image in the workplace, and I was falling down on that job. Not saying I'm turning into a fashionista. Just saying I occasionally need to clear out the old to make way for the new.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. What's in your closet?

Friday, September 6, 2013


Weird thing happened Wednesday night. I was exhausted and getting ready for bed, looked at the clock, thought "I have a little time," pulled out my laptop and WROTE SOMETHING ON MY WIP.

Yes, all you writers out there who do that every day - good for you. I've been stuck so long I've built a house in the rut. But that night, thanks to the outline, I knew where I was going and I knew I could make a little progress if I just turned on the computer. I did, too.

Tried it last night, but I really was too tired and the computer itself thwarted me by running all these diagnostics it's been wanting to run for a while. Plus, I'd handwritten bits of the next scene earlier in the day, so I'm counting that as working on it.

While pondering this scene and some ahead, the issue of "alignment" came up. I'd like to take a moment to thank Wizards of the Coast and D&D for including alignment in their gaming systems, because it's a useful concept.

Alignment comes in flavors, like ice cream: Good, Neutral and Evil. Add the adjectives Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic and you get the ice cream container: Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Neutral (I wouldn't even know how to play that but it exists), Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil and finally Chaotic Evil. Out of sheer perversity, I would finish the analogy by saying "Lawful" is a paper cup, "Neutral" is a thin waffle cone prone to drips and "Chaotic" is no container at all - just a handful of ice cream.

Why do you care? Because written characters have alignment, too. A Good character cannot do something Evil without consequences, and vice versa. A Lawful Evil character may resemble a Lawful Good character until the right circumstances reveal the evil (think Magneto's abandonment of Mystique in Xmen 3 because she's no longer "one of them").

Keep in mind when you're writing or reading that a character's actions should reveal that character's alignment. In Pan's Labyrinth, my alignment warning went off when the Faun put an 8 year old girl into extremely dangerous (and beautiful) situations, even though he claimed to be helping her. At that moment, I moved his alignment from Good to Neutral Good a hair's breath away from Lawful Evil (the "healing" spell using mandrake and human blood didn't help his case, either). He might be a friend, but his version of friendship is rougher than I would like.

Alignment isn't an excuse to write two-dimensional characters, but it is a gut-check on what kinds of actions your characters will perform. A Good character who kills in cold blood or steals or lies may suffer an alignment shift and all the baggage that goes with it or may be trapped by conscience into making restitution that hinders his ultimate goal. An Evil character who shows mercy may suffer the same thing, or may be using all his evil wiles to lull the Good character into a trap.

Choosing an alignment is one more way to keep characters - and your story - on the right track.

Happy Friday, dear readers. Make it a Good one.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Zucchini Pie

Zucchini season may be over for me. The remaining four plants are looking sad indeed, but that doesn't mean I won't need this recipe later.

Zucchini Pie

1 1/2 C Cooked Zucchini (you can cube it and microwave for about 6 minutes)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3 T flour
1 C evaporated milk
1 t vanilla

Put all ingredients in blender.
Mix Well.
Pour in unbaked pie shell.
Bake a 425 degrees for 10 minutes then at 300 degrees until well set (about an hour)

This is an amazing pie. Looks like quiche, feels like pumpkin, tastes like custard. I don't even like pie, but I will be making this. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It Starts...Again

Does anyone else hear Timon from The Lion King when you read "it starts?"

Last night I started Dangling Justice. Again. No, I didn't start over, although I did a quick read-through of the first 50 pages to correct a few issues I noticed the last time I read through the first 50 pages.

This story is potentially full of cheats. The current scene is one of them. If I pull it off, disbelief will remain suspended and my readers will remain happy. If I fail miserably, readers will delete the book and never talk to me again.

I can probably live with it either way. I might actually prefer the latter because it lessens the pressure.

When this story first fired in my imagination, the ending was absolutely deus ex machina. I mean, God got them into it; He would have to get them out of it, too. It worked for Lewis, right? The children can't possibly get out of Narnia on their own.

That ending no longer makes me happy. While outlining with the help of Structuring Your Novel, I brainstormed other possible solutions and found one slightly less divine. Not much less, mind you, but a little. We'll see.

The outline, rudimentary as it is, helps. I felt the difference in the new bits I added last night. Instead of dialogue and action meandering across the white space, character interaction aimed at something: the end. The end is currently out of sight over a mountain, but it's there, waiting to be found.

Every start must have an end, after all. That's the whole point.

Happy Wednesday, dear readers. May you start and end well today.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fall in The Swamp

The days shorten. Although summer waited until the end of August to arrive, it can't escape the tilting of Earth. Last night I awoke because I was cold - a familiar and unwelcome sensation I've experienced far more often than I care to in the last twelve months. It will be cold for real too soon for this reptile.

One hour a day is making all the difference in The Swamp - for both of us. I need the exercise and it needs the taming. 

I tore out one zucchini plant yesterday. It didn't even protest. The baby blueberries underneath seem no worse for the shelter or the squash bugs. Perhaps I should plant something tall between them and the southern sun.

I've torn out barrels of bermuda and crab grass. I shouldn't put them in the compost pile, but I did. I need the green more than I care about the seeds. I'll turn it often this winter, especially if we have snow like we did last winter. I'll need to collect leaves, too. Can't have a good garden without good soil.

I pruned roses, and I have the scratches to prove it. All the ones I took from Grandma Turtle's house rebloom if I deadhead. They also take over the garden if I don't.

Discovered the plants I thought were wild rhubarb are actually enormous stickleburrs. Glad I've been as mean to them as I have been. Made it easier to remove the few that survived. They will not go into the compost pile this year. I'll wait until the seeds have soaked into mush.

About the time I'm at the end of the zucchini season, I discover zucchini pie. It looks like quiche and tastes like custard. Once I have the recipe, I'll share it, but only because there's enough zucchini to go around. Otherwise, no one would see it but me.

Overall, I'm pleased with The Swamp this year. It's not as tame as I could wish, but we're coming to an understanding.

Happy Tuesday, dear readers. Monday will find you today, so be ready.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The History

Twenty years before Star of Justice was a blip on my imaginary writing screen, I wrote Past Ties. We're talking college here and the beginning of my million word journey.

Past Ties would technically be the first story I ever "finished." Today I would call it a 27K word sci-fi romance novella with a cliff-hanger ending, i.e., an unfinished story, but, hey, back then I finished nothing. To quote Sam Elliott in Roadhouse, I was "fast out of the gate, but not much on stamina."

However, I had plans. Past Ties would lead to Present Tense (time travel from future to our 1991 following a robot assassin, thank you very much) would lead to Future Perfect, wherein the two main characters from Past Ties finally give in to love after tracking down a serial killer.

Yeah, I've always been like this.

I also had plans for a crossover book in which the robot and one of the characters from 1991 Manhattan, KS accidentally slip between worlds while testing the time machine and end up "elsewhere" for a few adventures. The adventures would revolve around the spoiled princess of a country that eventually became Golor, and the book that would launch that series would be Royal Pain. The title of the crossover book, to stay with the grammar theme of the other three, was Misplaced Modifiers.

Upon reflection, Misplaced Modifiers didn't have enough punch, so I changed it to Dangling Participles. Yes, I believe the phrase is actually "dangling gerund," but participle not only sounded better to my ear, it played to the idea of "action out of place."

Then I upset the apple cart and wrote Star of Justice out of literally nowhere. That character and story sprang into my brain fully formed almost as I wrote the book, but I knew this would be part of that Royal Pain series, and thus, at some point, Dangling Participles would have to be part of the lineup.

Which brings us to today, when I've modified the title of my crossover to Dangling Justice to emphasize both its connection to Ah'rahk and its crossover nature. The truth is Past Ties may never see the light of literary day (it might also be published posthumously and become my most popular work) but it does exist in the mythology of Ah'rahk and I will acknowledge it.

So, on days like yesterday when I wrote the wrong title, I did it because in my brain it's been Dangling Participles for about 20 years, and Dangling Justice for about 20 days. It'll take a little while to retrain the fingers.

Happy Thursday, dear readers. More than you ever wanted to know, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Missing the Climax

It isn't my fault your brain goes to inappropriate places. I'm talking about the climax of my WIP.

Structuring Your Novel has moved from explaining basic structural elements of a story to FAQs. I don't need these as much, so I'm skimming until we reach the next stage of K.M. Weiland's book. Even if I find nothing else of interest in the last 50%, I still got my $2.99 worth. I'm satisfied.

However, I'm not satisfied with Dangling Participles. I've taken notes the last week, made a sketch of an outline I will shortly transfer to a spreadsheet, and decided once and for all what I'm currently lacking is a slam-bang finish.

I suspected this for a while. One of the reasons I didn't fully commit to the story is I saw no clear  pinnacle. You know, that moment everything rushes toward? The Big Battle. The Point where The Point of No Return leads you.

One of my fears is promising what I can't deliver. A reader takes a chance on monster books like mine, and I'm supposed to reward their faith by giving them the ride of their literary lives. This includes a powerful and satisfying climax.

TT: Geez ole Pete. It all sounds incredibly dirty, doesn't it? Stupid over-sexualized American culture.

The lack of a climax may also be due to the lack of a concrete protagonist. After a week of pondering, I'm not sure who or what "the villain" is or should be among the half dozen options I've explored. It's kind of hard to fight an unidentified enemy in an epic battle.

This is one of those moments I'm hoping the writing will reveal the ending. I have a direction and a vague idea of what will happen. As I put these characters through their paces, their enemy should reveal itself and hopefully provide the obvious climax.

May as well end as I began. Happy Hump Day, dear readers!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Anna and the Dragon...and Spaghetti

I know, I promised a zucchini recipe, but this is way more important. Although, not as delicious. I'll put the recipe at the bottom.

I finished Anna and the Dragon last night just before 10 PM. This is remarkable only because I started reading it Sunday afternoon. No, it isn't a small book. It's just so darn compelling I had to finish it. I even took two breaks during work yesterday (something we're encouraged to do but I rarely do) so I could read at work.

This is a book about an antisocial woman who wears clunky boots, forgets to eat and shows interest in people only when they're part of her research. How could I not like it? Then she falls for an ill-kempt Welsh rogue? Please. How could I not like this book? Add a kilt, and I've written it. Not really. That's about it for similarities, although there is one part where she's looking up at this black "arch" that reminded me... well, I won't go into that.

It's set in Oregon and Oregon is a character in its own right. I can smell the gloomy, green damp and the salt water and the cold. Excellent! The health food store became the Health Food Mart I frequent (minus the deli and coffee bar - guess those are standard in Oregon). That tiny apartment with its card table could have been the tiny apartment I rented in grad school.

The publisher is CreateSpace, which I think means she did it herself. Well, she's a better editor than most because I didn't notice a single typo. Can't say that about many books these days, my own included. The best compliment I can give her is "it reads like a real book." Which also means there's some adult situations and cussing but not nearly as much as I get standing in the checkout line at Walmart, so don't let that stop you.

Since I don't know the author yet (we've FB Friended but what does that really say about a person?), my anxiety was higher than normal. Would I like the ending? Would all the suffering be worth it? Would the cat survive?! You can't always tell with these spec fic authors. Some of them enjoy tragedy as object lessons. That last page was a sigh of relief, I'm telling ya.

I gave it 5 stars. That's a first for me with a living author,* 'cause my realist self says they could always write a better book and where do you go from "up"? The best part is the price. $2.99! You can buy the book and a multi-grain vegan sandwich to go with it like a real Oregonian.

Most importantly, Ginger survives the book.

If you can't tell, I liked it. A lot.

*Turns out it's not a first for me. The first was Odd Little Miracles by Fred Warren and I've handed out a few since then. Apparently, early dementia afflicts the Turtle. Sorry. 

And now the recipe I made in-between reading sessions and ate while reading:

Spaghetti with Zucchini and Garlic

2 sm to med zucchini, shredded large
¼ cp extra-virgin olive oil (4 turns on the pan)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
(Basil pesto if you have access to such)
1 lb spaghetti, al dente
½ cp grated parmasiano or romano
Over medium heat, add olive oil and shredded zucchini.
Season with salt and pepper.
Cook zucchini 7 – 10 minutes. Add garlic (and basil pesto, if desired) in the last two minutes to avoid burning the garlic.
Add hot, drained pasta to the pan.
Toss spaghetti with zucchini and add handfuls of grated cheese. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weekend Recap

The partial insomnia is back. I'm waking up around 3 AM because that seems to be the tipping point for heat collection the house. It's too cool outside (as in, under 82 degrees) to make the thermostat trip, but it's at the edge of my tolerance level inside. It almost makes me miss winter. Sometimes it helps to get up and adjust the fan. Sometimes it doesn't. This morning, it didn't.

I read an article posted on FB about "two sleeps," how people in medieval Europe, at least, used to sleep for a while before midnight, wake up for a couple hours, and go back to sleep for a few more hours. This would be pre-electricity days when darkness lasted fourteen hours and nobody had to beat traffic at 4 AM. I'm a little concerned that this article settled itself in my selectively suggestive brain and I'll never sleep through the night again, even though I have electricity. Oh well. What's read is read. Let that be a lesson to you, folks.

The zucchini may be nearing the end. Despite my efforts (I won't call them "best" because they've been a little hit or miss), the squash bugs are taking over. Aside from the normal sense of panic I experience when I come to the "end" of something, I am a bit tired of constant vigilance. Flowers are easier, although the zucchini hasn't been as work-intensive as I'd feared.

I'm nearly to the end of Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. That has been An Extremely Useful Book, let me tell you. I have yet to outline the slam-bang finish of Dangling Justice, but I'm way closer than I was a week ago when I started. After that, it's about the butt-in-seat writing, something I haven't practiced all out since Elementals, and never with an outline. Should be interesting.

I'll have a new zucchini recipe tomorrow. I made it last night, and even though I burned the garlic, overcooked the zucchini and made too little spaghetti, it was excellent. How good does a recipe have to be to forgive that kind of incompetence?

I'm off to make zucchini hash for breakfast. Happy Monday, dear readers.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Strong Female Characters

I've posted in the mornings for years, but my mornings are currently crowded with The Swamp, so we'll try evenings for a while.

Day three of no TV when I come home and I'm not missing it. This is far easier to do in the non-tornado season, btw. I know there's nothing more important entertainment-wise on television, but weather can kill the unaware and unprepared. Yes, that's my phobia talking.

I read a blog post by a total stranger this week on how much she hates the descriptive phrase "strong female character." While she had excellent, rational reasons, I still came away thinking "feminist" with a little scoff in my mental voice. My issue, I'm sure, because her reasons boiled down to "no one describes male characters that way."

Must everything be a reaction to maleness? Must women be "equal" or worthless? I would say "strong female character" is a reaction to all those weak female characters who were props for male characters to show off their masculinity. It's nice to see the literary world branching out. I don't see the need for a parade about it or a Female Character Awareness Day.

Do we really have nothing else to worry about as writers? Is this the straw that broke the camel's back (Hump Daaaaay, yeah!), whether my female characters are "strong" instead of "complicated," "snarky" or "egocentric"? Sheesh.

I just don't care. Describe them however you like. I'm not reading your reviews anyway. They're none of my business.

Happy Hump Day, dear readers. Hope it was a good one.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Kat interviewed Jill Domschot this week (go see) and got me thinking about symbolism.

I love symbols. I like depth and symbols are all about depth. Hidden meanings. Connotations. Similarities between dissimilar things.

Which is why when Jill posed the question "what symbols do you use?" I was stumped that I was stumped.

Now, as much as I like symbols, I also tend to mock those who symbolize everything. Yes, hypocritical of me, I know, but when your book is 160K words, sometimes a blue curtain is a blue curtain.

TT: Jill asked about the significance of the blue curtain, and I can only say somewhere in the past, a discussion was held about symbolism and someone said they put blue curtains into a scene for a particular symbolic reason. I mocked them, as is my wont, and promptly forgot the reason. My apologies. I am an arrogant dumbass.

Anyhoo, there I am wracking my brain for symbols in Star of Justice when it hits me (much like the title which took far too long to discover) that the "star of justice" is a symbol. It's the symbol worn by the knights of Golor. It's an obvious symbol, because I name it so, and nearly everyone in the book recognizes and understands the symbol, but it counts as a symbol nonetheless.

Radiac's symbol also counts. That second, equally dangerous mark Caissa receives that puts her into a mess of trouble time and again. So, two obvious uses of symbolism.

A deeper and completely unintended symbolism I figured out today is that by wearing both symbols, Caissa herself becomes a symbol. She symbolizes the struggle every person must face to take the easy left or the hard right. Do your duty or flee as a coward. It kinda makes me wish I'd put the star of justice on her right arm, except knights are marked on the side closest the heart, like a wedding ring. I guess that's another symbol.

There you have it. The only symbolism I recognize in my first published book. The two extremely obvious and intentional symbols and the one less obvious and completely unintentional symbol.

Finally, Kat gave Jill's first book 5 stars and it's less than $10. That alone makes it worth buying. Make an author's day and go get Anna and the Dragon. Make an author's month and actually read the thing.