Friday, December 26, 2008

Online hiatus

I think we have pinned our internet woes on our ancient router. ("We" being myself and the children with whom I share an internet addiction.) We have reduced ourselves to one computer in the house being hard-connected to the modem, and that happens to be not-my-computer, since my computer does not have the modem nearby. In other words, I'll still be checking in here and peeking at my email until the new router arrives, but my online presence will be much reduced. Also, my parents will be here over the weekend, so I'll be busy enjoying their company as well.

I'm sure I'll be back soon enough, certainly once the break is over and I am once again in front of my computer wavering between actual word count production and writing a blog entry.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Even a miracle needs a hand

My internets are the poopz today, but in theory this should work.



Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A stillness of the sun

This is, I suppose, where I'm supposed to write something profound and moving in regards to Christmas. Honestly, I've always found Christmas to be a bit overwhelming--even seen as a time in which to introspect on the "true" meaning of the season. Because, being me, I find plenty of time to introspect about all things spiritual (and everything else) throughout the year.

There are things I still love about Christmas, but they are small things and possibly not so much about Christmas in specific as about my need to stop and listen for the divine on a semi-regular basis: I like to sit quietly in a darkened room and gaze at the tree lights. I like to watch the Christmas specials--the old ones, like Rudolph and Frosty and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, or the one with the mice who save Christmas by making, breaking, and fixing a clock--and let myself get caught up in the magic so deeply that I still tear up in all the right places. I like the pristine cold air at midnight, and the hymns belted out with more enthusiasm than accuracy at midnight mass. There is something in the air at moments like those, something I probably can't explain no matter how many words I throw around. It has nothing to do with religion or even with Christmas, and everything to do with feeling, with no proof and absolute certainty, in spite of my constant struggle with depressive tendencies and the always-nagging question "why?", that there is somewhere, somehow, an answer, even if I don't know it yet. That there is some kind of divine spark inside each of us. That there is light, and on my best days maybe I even manage to help spread it around.

On a recent trip to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis with my boys and some friends, we watched a planetarium show called "Season of Light." I learned that the word "solstice" means "still sun," and chills went down my spine as they went on to talk about how the earliest solstice rituals were meant to welcome or even attract the sun to return to us. There were images of druids building bonfires during the darkest, coldest nights--despite the dark and the cold, with certainty that the sun was still there and would return.

Happy holidays to everyone.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wiped. Out.

I spent the day herding fifth graders through the Children's Museum in Indianapolis. Cool place. Good kids. I had five in my van. One of them rode in the front seat with me and regaled me with everything from how he's going to be an engineer if the NFL doesn't work out to his opinions on the economy, all the while fiddling with the radio to find his favorite classic rock station so we could jam out.

Amusing, but exhausting.

One more day to Christmas break.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Nail on the head

Via one of my new favorite blogs, Shrinking Violet Promotions:

Online Jung Typology Test

Typology Test for your blog

(And let me just add that these are but two of the many wonderful bits I've found on that blog. The tidbit on the sidebar which begins with "Introversion is NOT a social disease"? Yeah. I knew I'd be visiting these people a lot as soon as I saw that.)

There are various places to find detailed descriptions and information regarding your type, once you find it, including the Human Metrics page the first test is on and The Personality Page. Being me, I find it all pretty fascinating, and most of it seems pretty on the mark for me.

My personal type comes back as INFJ, with REALLY high scores under Introverted and Intuitive and low to moderate under the Feeling and Judging. The type is described as The Protector or The Counselor, depending on which site you use to look it up. I found this one seems to describe me the best.

However, I answered all those questions as they apply in face to face situations; when I went back for curiosity's sake and took it again, answering any social-related questions as if they applied to online only, my high Introverted score became a low Extroverted score. Which probably explains at least in part how my blog scored ESFP--The Performer. And, I would imagine, also explains how so many of my closest friends are those I meet and hang out with online. I'm guessing that has a lot to do with the fact that there is a clear if invisible wall around me when I'm online--if I'm available for socializing, then it's only because I have put myself out there, and I only do that when I am in the frame of mind for it. In other words, I guess, I am definitely an introvert, because I much prefer my quiet alone time. But when I do put myself out there into the world, I am capable of and even enjoy behaving like an extrovert.

Hmm.

In the blog post at SVP where I found the blog typing link, a LOT of people commenting noted that they are INFJ's--almost exclusively, actually. And INFJ is supposedly the rarest type. Coincidence, or are INFJ's simply found in larger percentages in the writing/blogging/artistic circles the blog is geared toward?

If you feel like sharing your results or thoughts, you know where to find the comments section!

In the meantime, I have to cover a classroom during the teachers' Christmas luncheon tomorrow, followed by driving and chaperoning for a 5th grade field trip on Thursday. Start sending any excess extroverted vibes you don't need my direction now, please.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday morning geekery

I'm still working on a rewrite plan for Crowmaker. It has thus far involved a lot of scribbling notes and diagrams in OneNote and a whole bunch of deep thinking, but it is also resulting in a rough outline which accumulates the important bits I discover during the scribbling and thinking. It's in what I usually liken to a birthing stage--painful and slow, but I can feel that what I'm struggling for is close to coming out where I can see it more clearly. I'm trying to not force anything much this week, with two weeks of Christmas break right around the corner. But I am working!

The aforementioned geekery comes to you courtesy the Joe-Bear, who spotted this on my computer screen over the weekend. "You're making a soundtrack for your novel?" (Said in the "huh" tone of voice that could be interpreted as "That's cool" or "My mother is kinda weird." You decide.) Mostly I just use it to prod the Muse when she's sleepy, but here's a list you can do with what you will. (I'm too lazy to collect links this morning, so you're on your own this time.)

"Best of You," Foo Fighters
"To Be a Man," Boston
"The Pretender," Foo Fighters
"No Way Back," Foo Fighters
"Saints and Angels," Sara Evans
"One Blue Sky," Sugarland

Friday, December 12, 2008

That's my story and I'm sticking to it

It wasn't the most productive week ever, but I did manage to get a solid start on an outline for a rewrite of Crowmaker. I also did a fair chunk of chasing links to new and interesting blogs and articles. (Some of which I've added to my sidebar.) Technically, the link chasing counts as work, falling under the "educational" category. I also did some meager research into where I should send "Wings" next.

The blog watch for the WotF contest is officially over--I got the rejection letter for "Pale Roses" in the mail today. So researching potential markets for that story also goes on my To Do list. In looking at my calendar, I have one regular work week left before Christmas break hits. I'm not counting on accomplishing a lot during the two weeks of break, so I probably won't put the market research or submitting of either short story on my calendar until after the kids go back to school. I may admit to just feeling rather bleh about doing much of anything with either of them. Or I may not.

So, in summary: This week was not a complete loss, for which I am thankful and pleased. Next week will likely follow a similar pattern of leisurely writing-related work, and the two weeks after that are entirely up for grabs. The first day following break will no doubt find me at my desk, eager to plan my little heart out and get something productive done.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Going down again

I think at this point, since the sad has still not really gone away, that it's safe to say I have entered the annual season of the winter blues. My "coping" yesterday and Monday consisted mostly of playing video games and rolling in self-pity. Today, I decided it might be wiser to go with the special (albeit expensive) sunlight-mimicking light bulb in my desk lamp, a little bit of exercise, and forcing myself to do some writing-related work, even if I couldn't quite get directly to the writing just yet. And music. Music usually helps a lot, too.

So far this morning, I have constructed a final timeline for Crowmaker, to aid in this whole "planning the rewrite" stage. No, really. It's the final timeline. It's not at all like the first five. I really mean it, this time! I put this one into OneNote, in a nifty table format that is easily tweaked and played with and seen all at one time for the big picture effect instead of scrawled haphazardly across and in the margins of several sheets of paper. (Some lined, some the back sides of letters from the boys' school in SC... One of them was even pretty yellow!) So I feel productive. And more, I think I can go back to the outline I was working on and fix the stumbling block I'd tripped over there that sent me scrambling for a working timeline to begin with. Yay.

Musical (re-)discovery this week is The Hooters. One day last week, the boys and I were having supper. The husband was working late, so it was a pretty casual affair, which means we were listening to assorted songs of our choice at full blare and talking about music. (I have no idea what food was actually involved; I don't remember.) While listening to The Killers, I was reminded that I had intended to sometime compare their song "Uncle Jonny" to "Johnny B." by The Hooters. So we decided right then would be a good time. This involved digging up an old cassette version of One Way Home, but we had a good discussion about the similarities and differences between the songs, with their guys named Johnny and their approaches to the subject of drug addiction.

And then, of course, I had to rewind the cassette and play "Satellite" and "Karla with a K," just because I hadn't heard them in ages. At which point I was reminded how much I really liked pretty much every single song on their albums. Michael was bopping along with the music, so I explained to him about televangelists and some of the related scandals and had him listen to the lyrics of "Satellite." He grinned. And he asked me to play it again the next night.

So yeah. The Hooters are on tap on Rhapsody today. I didn't link any of the songs, but I'm willing to bet you can find them on YouTube if you try hard enough. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite, but in addition to the above, I'm also inordinately fond of "Where Do the Children Go" and "South Ferry Road." And "Day by Day." OK, and of course "And We Danced."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday

Normally, Monday is one of my favorite days of the week--being a mother/housewife type person, weekends are my busiest days since all the family is home and since I save up my big housework projects for those days in order to leave myself some quiet time during weekdays for writing.

Today, we have overcast skies and freezing rain. Very light freezing rain, just enough to make the streets a little slick and the parking lots a little more slick, not enough to close down schools. (At least, not in Indiana.) Joey is home sick with a nasty head cold, the kind where your nose either runs constantly or stuffs up so you can't breathe, and neither option will let you sleep much. He spent the night in his dad's recliner to try and find a comfortable position, but he was wiped out this morning, so I kept him home. I spent the night waking up every hour or so to listen for him, and he got me up at 2am to see if he could take more cold medicine. In short, there is much weariness in this house this morning.

And I just do NOT feel like tackling anything writing-related this morning. At all. I don't feel like reworking any of the chapters I know need to be reworked. I don't feel like writing any of the new scenes that need to be written. I don't feel like digging up the next potential market for "Wings" and getting it ready to mail again. I just. Don't. Want. To.

So maybe I won't. I haven't given myself a day off for quite some time now. And my original game plan was to write mostly Tues. through Thurs. and squeeze some hours from the weekend to give myself 15-20 hours a week for writing. I've been putting in 20-30 hours a week, rolling through Monday and Friday as well as every other day of the week, because it's been going strong and I've felt like it. But that doesn't mean I have to keep up that schedule, just because I can. A day off is OK.

My boss really needs to stop being such a guilt trip sometimes, y'know?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Death to blog titles

Seriously. I am so not good at them.

The WotF blog has posted a second list of Honorable Mentions for the 4th quarter contest. I am also not on that list. According to the lovely blog-keeper, there will be another list of Honorables out in the next few days, followed by a list of semi-finalists and finalists. I have spent the morning doggedly attempting not to waste time on over-analyzing information which, at this point, gives me no clues whatsoever as to which list (or neither) "Pale Roses" may land upon. Exercise in futility, Lori. Move on.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, there was a conversation about the teens in the family and how they're on voice chat on the Xbox so much. One of my sisters-in-law made a remark in reply to one of the grownups who had not tried voice chat: "Well, why would an ADULT need to know how to do that?" The judgmental tone of this is why I spend most of my time with my in-laws with a polite smile plastered on my face and saying as little as possible, even though what I really want to do is scream "I would trade ONE of my online friends for the entire bunch of you in a heartbeat!" and flee back to my computer.

Not that my in-laws are horrible people, by any means. But there's something so comforting about talking to people who GET you, to whom you don't need to explain yourself or your interests or make sheepish excuses for liking what you like. There is a common theme among my anti-online/gaming acquaintances that the internet is a dangerous place. Yes, you do need to use a little common sense and caution. But I have also had neighbors whose houses I forbid my children to ever set foot in, because they gave me the creeps. I've met the parents of my children's friends, most of whom are pretty cool people but some of whom I would never invite into my home. My husband was threatened by an employee and had to have a restraining order put on him, and they added our house to the alert list for the local police patrol.

These were not online-related incidents. "Real" people can be dangerous, too. Moreso, I'd go so far to say, since none of the potential online creeps I've run across had access to my real name or my address or my kids. So, y'know... There may be a line between people who are OK and people who are not, but that line is not defined by the internet.

The boys get out of school early today. We will be traveling to Indy to visit the Children's Museum, where we will spend the afternoon with two friends I've know for... a couple of years, now? I talk to one of them almost every day. We share tastes in books, talk about writing, hang out and play video games with each other and often with my boys, as well. He is one of my highly valued first readers, offering that rare but treasured combination of sincere enthusiasm for my stories mingled with intelligent feedback and questions that help me make them better. The two of them got engaged a few months ago, and I spent most of that day grinning because I love how perfect they are together.

Today will be the first time I meet them. If I'd let some generalization rule my life, about how the internet is a line you should never cross, I would never even have known them. I wouldn't know most of my current friends (online or otherwise), as a matter of fact.

That's a line I will never regret crossing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Rules, schmules

I enjoy writing fantasy, or what I guess we're calling "speculative fiction" these days. I like playing "what if" without the boundaries of reality constricting me. I like to take the abstract and give it physical form. But oddly enough, it is not usually the magical setting or system that comes to me first when a story starts to form--it's usually the overall theme, and then I try to think of character interactions that could illustrate that theme, and then I try to imagine what kind of world those characters would live in. This is, from what I can glean from other spec-fic writers' discussions about their process, possibly a little backward. I am NOT a big fan of world-building. Drawing maps and making up cultures and religions and the rules of magic systems does not give me chills or tempt me to spend too much time on it. At all. I draft my stories while making up whatever speculative elements seem appropriate (or just cool) at the time.

This means, of course, that inevitably I reach a point where my logical me is piping in with questions an awful lot. "OK, the emotional groove in the scene is working fine. But that thing she just did with the magic there... Does that really make sense? I mean, yeah, it's cool. But how does it work, anyhow? EXACTLY HOW?"

So I just spent the last two days alternately pacing circles around the kitchen (which makes the dog nuts) or checking my email every five minutes or rubbing my forehead as if I could shove some fresh insight in by force. But I think I have all the major kinks worked out of Crowmaker's magic system, now. It should all make a remote, fantastical kind of sense.

Y'know. Even though none of it is remotely possible in reality.

As a side note, I have grown to love OneNote. A lot.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let it snow, let it go, let it snow

Snow flurries today, which look pretty and have even managed to accumulate in scattered puffy mounds in the grass. Nothing's sticking to the roads, of course, and the forecast indicates it'll likely melt away in the rain tomorrow or Wed., if it manages to last even that long. Still, it looks pretty coming down.

The extended holiday visit to the brother-in-law's had pleasant moments scattered amongst mind-numbing boredom and an overall antsy longing to be in my own home doing my own things. I rank it "tolerable and over" and am moving on.

Apparently my bout of semi-depression hadn't passed entirely last weekend--I was still feeling traces of it Saturday and yesterday and today. Some of it comes from my tendency to get angry with myself when I don't suck it up and toe the line as well as I think I should, emotion-wise. I sometimes have to remind myself that it's OK to not be in perfect balance emotionally. There has to be joy, in order to remind ourselves that life is a joyful thing, and to have those joyful moments to look forward to and keep ourselves going. But there also has to be sadness against which we can measure our joy. I'm not sure if it's human nature or borne of our society's obsession with some mythical state of perfect happiness, but I tend to obsess over every little thing I don't handle exactly like I think I should have. I had to repeat my "you're obsessing again" mantra a few times the last few days--"let it go, let it go, just let it go."

On the writing front, I added over 3,000 words to Crowmaker during my three writing days last week. Word count is hanging right around 500 today. I'm wavering between "I suck" (brought on at least in part by Strange Horizon's rejection notice on "Wings," which I got last night) and "This is really pretty good. And I think I might know how to finish it, too." Which is, as far as my experience has shown, pretty much how this writing stuff goes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm not lost, I'm right here

This seems like a good place to pause for a breath and do a blog post, so I will.

After my white-heat inspiration phase, I finished off the week with a grand total of over 6,800 words for the week. Most of it is not shabby, and most of the plot roads it led me down are also not shabby. I had to rein in some of it during today's more equilibriated planning session, and the aftermath of the "ZOMG on fire" creative days was an uber-cranky Saturday and a moody, weepy Sunday. I was aware, in some small part of my mind, that the three high days were too high and that I was going to crash and burn. I was aware during the rage day and the sad day that they were the expected aftermath of flying too high on those other days. I have yet to determine if/how I could've handled the high better in order to manage the aftermath--sometimes that awareness of the phase I'm in seems pretty cut off from the part of me that's too busy flailing in creativity/rage/sadness to listen, and I'm not sure that little voice has any power to change anything. I'm attempting to take it as a lesson and apply what I've learned to the next time I feel the manic phase start itching.

Today, although gloomy and rainy outside, has been a nice, quiet, calm day inside my head. I have thought through a number of plot issues, gotten together my act on my working outline, and even managed to write one of the scenes I still need. Post-blog, I will go print out what still needs printing out and weave those into my stack of first draft pages where they should go. Then I can take a look at the next chunk of scenes and see what needs to be added to those.

So, productivity in spite of a minor bout of crazy, even if I could've happily done without the crazy. Three working days this week, then off to the brother-in-law's for an extended Thanksgiving visit. I could also happily do without that, but sometimes there has to be that whole compromise thing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No dead end in sight

I've written over 6,000 words in the last three days. (Yes, those of you I spoke to last night heard me say "nearly 6,000." I wrote more after we parted ways.) I am still utterly charmed and bemused by the character who's refusing to die when he's supposed to. And some of what he's had me writing has made me feel like Crowmaker is opening up in a new way. Which may make the book longer than I'd come to believe, which may make it no longer a YA, which may require me to spend more time on it than I'd come to believe I might.

All of the above is OK. No deadline, no contract that says it must be a certain length or fit into a certain genre. Most of the "OMG, must write" scenes are out of my head, although a couple are still bumping around in my brain, not quite ready to be born yet. I will spend the first part of the morning sketching out some new ideas and seeing if/how they fit with what I already have. (And the beauty of my inspiration, at least in its current state, is that no huge chunks of existing story will have to be chucked out the window. What's already happened will still stand, for the most part. Except the ending. Well, not the entire ending. Just a few lines. But it's only written in the sketchiest form at the moment anyhow.)

No, I am not a very linear process kind of person, apparently. I think sometimes that this whole gig would be a ton easier if I were, but I guess you take what you've got and learn to work with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Look what followed me home

I've added almost 3,000 words to Crowmaker the last couple of days. Every single syllable has been difficult--it's good, solid writing (I think), but I've really had to work at getting it onto the page the way I want it. I have discovered the Crowmaker's heart, fallen in love with a character who was supposed to die before the story even started for real, considered how his life and death (or lack thereof) might best serve the story, and wondered if I'm trying to talk myself into letting someone live just because I've fallen for him--or if I'm onto a spark of inspiration that might breathe even more life and depth into the story.

I've also listened to my Foo Fighters playlist a couple zillion times during the process. This is not something I will complain about.

Back to pacing and pondering and fussing with administrative type stuff while I try to figure out if I'm being struck by genius or idiocy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What if I say I will never surrender

One of the side effects of having a teenage son and/or Rock Band is that I'm more in touch with "new" bands than I used to be. Previously, I'd stopped listening to the radio much, preferring my collection of old, familiar CD's instead. Anyhow, to make a long story short, I've been getting great CD's for Christmas and birthdays in the last year or so, since Joey now knows my musical tastes very well and makes really great choices. Last Christmas it was The Killers' Sam's Town, which I love and used as the "soundtrack" while I was writing "Pale Roses." Not that the songs had a ton to do with the actual story, mind you, but the... atmosphere, I suppose you'd call it... was inspiring.

Another band I've discovered I like a whole bunch is Foo Fighters. So this morning when I sat down to work on Crowmaker, I turned on Rhapsody and fired up the Foo Fighters playlist. I pulled up the plot diagram I'd started for Kellen (the Crowmaker) and started fussing with her emotional/personal development throughout the story. At which point I realized that "The Pretender" (YouTube alert!) is the absolute perfect theme song for her (as well as that whole "atmosphere" thing on all their songs working really well overall). I wound up with a new angle on Kellen and several new scenes to add to the plot line. Coolness.

Another thing I've been considering lately is that my stories in general tend to have a pretty serious attitude. Yet most of my favorite stories, be they books or movies, include lighter moments, moments that make me smile or laugh out loud. And it's those moments, that feeling of comaraderie I get from them, that help bind me to the characters and care about them. Which gives even greater impact to the more dramatic moments in their lives. So across the bottom of my sheet of notes for the second draft, I printed in big red letters: "Joy and Laughter."

There's a life message in there somewhere, too, I suppose.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slogging along

The last couple of days have been pretty gloomy, weather-wise, so I'm feeling a bit sloggy, although in all honestly, the writing has been going pretty smoothly. "The Blue Wall" went to the post office this morning, and I've started adding some layers to Crowmaker as a start to the second draft process.

The second draft is where some of the secondary characters get their chance to step off their little x's and tell me what they're really thinking and doing. And in this case, "secondary characters" are pretty much everyone other than the main character, since even the Crowmaker got short-changed on telling me very much about herself in the first draft. Actually, even the main character didn't get to tell me everything she wanted to. I'm finding that I often need to flesh things out a bit more on paper than I do the first go-round.

At any rate, my To Do list for this week has lots of lovely red check marks next to all the line items, so I may just take tomorrow off and vegetate. In the meantime, however, the boys had a half day of school today, and we have some school projects they need to work on since they're home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The only person who can stop you is you

I didn't accomplish a great deal on the writing front today--orthodontist appointment that took longer than usual plus grocery shopping in the rain/snow/no, rain/sleet? plus a preview of a rental copy of Grand Theft Auto 4, and it was noon before I knew it. (And no, I do not feel GTA 4 is appropriate for a 13 year old. Sorry, Joe, gonna have to play the mother card on that one.) I did, however, draft the cover letter for "The Blue Wall." Just need to fill in the final word count when I know that.

SF Novelists has a great post about rejections, today. I know Falconesse and I have discussed our odd reaction to rejection notices--how they sometimes feel like an energizing thing instead of a disheartening one. (Or maybe in addition to, which is even odder.) I think maybe Mr. McCullough has it figured out, at least in my case--rejections are good, because they're proof I'm working and finishing things and my stories are out there doing their thing, even if their thing at the moment is nothing more than not quite landing in the right place at the right time. He also offers some real words of truth and comfort to hold near to our little writerly hearts:
"...what a reject means at the editorial end is very simple: This story did not work for this editor on this day. That’s it."
So, my work list for the rest of this week: finish up "Blue Wall" and get it out there and maybe fiddle more with "Strong Enough" and "Moon" (the picture book level story). More importantly, though, Crowmaker has begun whispering again. So I will be making time to listen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to work

Despite the allure of the new toys on my new computer, I managed to get "The Blue Wall" all but complete today. Another go-round for line level editing and a proofread, and it should be ready to go except for the cover letter and the preparing of envelopes. I gave it to Joey tonight, along with the really rough draft of "Strong Enough." His verdict? "Strong" did not suit his more mature sense of humor. (Read: "I am too cool to be reading your little kid stories now, Mom.") That's OK, I knew he'd be out of that interest level. I'll fix it up some and spring it on Michael, who's also out of that age range, but only just barely. "The Blue Wall," however: "It was cool." "So, you liked it, then?" "If it was a whole book, I'd read it, Mom."

So, "The Blue Wall" gets an overall thumbs up from the beta readers so far, along with much-treasured feedback on some little issues that I was then (hopefully) able to fix. Big hugs to the guys who allow me to spam them with my little stories.

The Writers of the Future blog has issued its first batch of Honorable Mentions for the 4th quarter. I'm not on it. Most likely they're from the folks who mailed in their stories before the final week of the quarter. More lists will be forthcoming soon, I imagine. At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I'd really like to not be on those, either.

I've mentioned that waiting is not my strong point, yes?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A posh new office

OK, no. Not a whole new office. But the new computer is here, and I've set it up with a nifty Van Gogh wallpaper and gotten all my programs and files (mostly) installed and copied over and ready to go. The laptop decided it had a few breaths left in it after all, which made the task of remembering exactly what I had where MUCH easier, so getting my new space set up to my liking wasn't all that bad. I splurged and bought the Microsoft Office bundle this time instead of the freebie Microsoft Works, so I feel very fancy. And while I was waiting for stuff to download this afternoon, I played around with OneNote. I could probably learn to love it, but I also wonder if I'll make use of it. Sometimes I really need actual pieces of paper to shuffle around and scribble on--kind of like when I tried my hand at computer art and kept wishing I could reach into the screen with my bare hands and actually touch the pastels and paints to get them to do what I wanted.

At any rate, I am pleased. I have a handful of programs (um, games) left to install, but for the most part I am up and running and ready to write come tomorrow morning. I didn't accomplish much on the writing front last week, but I have had a week away from "The Blue Wall" now, so the plan is to try and get it wrapped up by Friday. That should still leave me with enough time to flesh out "Strong Enough" a little better, too. The little picture book level story I toyed with last week fell apart on me. It still seems to have a little sparkle, though, so maybe after a time-out it'll pick itself up again.

I just have to hope the Muse feels like getting back to work, too. She's been very quiet lately, but when I poke at her, she pokes back. A little. I think she's just laying low because there was no point in getting all fired up when the hardware was being uncooperative for us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mother of the teen

I am now the proud parent of an official teenager. I can feel the weepy tendency lurking around the periphery of my emotional center, which I expected--it's that kneejerk, "but my baby" maternal reaction to a child growing up. But really, he's growing up into such a nice young man. Not perfect, no, but in my (admittedly biased) opinion, he'll make a good man someday. He spent yesterday evening watching election results and discussing politics with my husband and myself. This morning, when the video camera battery finally decided to hold a charge, he performed a retelling of an African folktale on tape to take to school. I expected some nervous umming and fidgeting, but he was not only cool and collected, he was entertaining and amusing (in just the right places). He's smart, he's funny, and he's thoughtful (or at least he strives to be, as he continues to develop an understanding of not being the center of the universe, as children tend to believe). I'm proud of him, and I also just plain like spending time with him.

So, yeah. Happy birthday, my Joe-Bear.

In other news, my new computer is supposed to ship today. Hopefully I'll have it by the weekend so I can work on getting programs installed and files restored. I dug up an old ms for a very young children's story that I wrote in ancient times. In reading it again after several years, I can see that it has promise, but I can also see where it falls flat. The difference between then and now is... that I can SEE where it falls flat. Mostly. I did some revisions to it on Monday, but yesterday I just looked at it and couldn't decide what exactly it needed. My instinct is that I simply haven't spent enough time lately reading children's stories in that age range, and a trip to the library is probably in order, so I can get back into the feel and rhythm of those stories.

The downstairs half bath has a fresh coat of paint and is looking much happier. I got two coats with the roller yesterday, but I still need to do a second coat on the trim. For those of you who have never painted a bathroom before, it's all about trimming and trying to contort your body to get the brush into tight places. Smallest room in the house, biggest pain in the butt to paint. (Those of you who have painted a bathroom before were wincing and shuddering as soon as you heard the words "paint bathroom.")

So, for today: Do that second trim coat in the bathroom, take a shower, make a library trip if time allows. Tonight, it's all about taking Joey to his favorite Mexican place for enchiladas and fried ice cream. And hoping that neither of the boys has as much homework as they did last night.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The best laid plans

For those of you not present to hear my wail of agony at the time of the event, my computer has died. It went quietly, without fuss, and responded to no amount of first aid or pleading. It is just, plain and simple, dead.

The good news is, I've been wanting a desktop for a long time anyhow, so I've ordered one to replace the deceased laptop. The other good new is, I use MozyHome and back up to a flash drive on a semi-regular basis, so my files and documents should all be safely waiting for me in one, if not both, of those places. The bad new is, I'm guessing it'll be next week before I have the new computer and have everything installed and restored and running the way I like.

I am currently camped out at Michael's computer, which I have set up as the temporary printer-connected PC, so it's not like I'm completely out in the cold. I was going to work on "Strong Enough" this week, but since it's on WriteWay and I don't feel like installing that on this computer just to move it again in a week, I may instead work on one of the stories accessible through his word processing program, which merely entails finding a copy of the document on my flash drive. My original emergency plan was to just focus on some much-needed painting of bathrooms this week. But man, I really need a story to work on, too.

At any rate, yes I'm still here. I may be more quiet than usual this week, however.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Introspection and planning

This week turned out to be all about the short stories. A surprise idea and rough draft for "Strong Enough," a finished first draft for "The Blue Wall," and an expedition into my back files which turned up an additional FIVE children's short stories that are all in at least first draft condition and which I had either forgotten about entirely or were better than I'd remembered. This put me in the enviable position of having more stories than I do markets to submit them to and sent me scurrying off into planning and scheduling mode. I have finishing and submitting the children's short stories all penciled into my schedule now, but while I was planning I realized that most of the markets I'll be submitting to have a turnaround time of 6 months in responding to submissions. When I sold "The Frost King's Bride" to Cricket, it only took about half that time for them to get back to me, but the potential for it to be May/June of next year before I hear back remains. That was, of course, a little disheartening for the part of me that was leaping around gleefully after finding I had seven stories to submit to my favorite children's markets.

I also realized that I really don't need to write any new children's short stories for a while, now. And with "Wings" and "Pale Roses" finished and out doing their thing, I think I've proved to myself that I am perfectly capable of finishing projects. Which means that really, I could focus primarily on Crowmaker again any day now. It still has a fair amount of work that needs done--additional layers of story and character to add, for starters. Still a couple of months worth of work until a second draft, I think, and then another rest period before I can determine how close it comes to really finished at that point. Again, a little disheartening to realize a finished novel is still out there on the horizon. I took a stroll through my bibliography and recollected the work I've done over the past 10 years or so, to reassure myself that I've come along pretty well in terms of craftsmanship and just flat out knowing what to do (as opposed to just staring at a blank screen and hoping I think of something to write down). At this point, it's all about patience, I suppose. God help me--patience has never been my strong point.

I also shared the first draft of "The Blue Wall" with a couple of friends. There's one transition that covers a couple of time periods, and I wasn't sure how well it worked, and sure enough, it threw off at least one of them, too. So, yes, Lori, you really do need to fix that up a little more. I also realized that, since my story took off in a different direction than I'd originally thought it would, I somehow missed the part that explains just why the blue wall is blue--a case of the writer knowing something and neglecting to get that little detail on paper. And it occurs to me that if that detail isn't critical to the story, I should also spend some time considering how to tie it in just a little better. Something for me to fiddle with this afternoon before I really put that story to bed for a week or so.

All in all, not a bad week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Garden of first drafts

Under the category of today's accomplishments: Finished a round of revisions to "The Blue Wall" which made the structure feel a great deal more solid. There's one more tiny angle I need to work in, and then some tweaking of descriptive details and language. The rough weighs in at 1,900 right now, which for official word count method will likely take it a little over the 2,000 word top limit for its intended market. Plus there's that additional angle I mentioned that still needs added. However, my first drafts are typically full of sloppy wording and fluffy bunny filler words, so I'm confident that tightening things up until it's back under 2,000 words won't be an issue.

I also exported it from WriteWay to my plain vanilla word processor for easier formatting of the finished product. In the process of looking at previous manuscripts to copy over the title page formatting, I realized that I have at least one, if not two, completed first drafts of nonfiction pieces for children. And the one I browsed for a few seconds is, at least at first glance, not a bad piece of work. It just got swept under the rug during that two or so year phase when I threw a tantrum and declared I was just going to give up on writing. So those go on my honeydew list, along with the first drafts of "The Blue Wall" and "Strong Enough" and Crowmaker. Lots of revising to do in the next few months. I think I can hold off on starting anything completely new for a while.

That ought to keep me busy enough to prevent any obsessing over the fates of "Pale Roses" and "But He Had Wings." One would think.

Joey was still running a fever last night, so I kept him home again today. No fever so far today, however, and that horrible-sounding cough has started to clear up. This is good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If only you believe strong enough

Yesterday was mostly comprised of taking Joey to the doctor and then making trips to the pharmacy, bank, and post office to get errands caught up. In between, I made phone calls and emails to assorted teachers, school administrators, and the doctor's billing office. (Ongoing insurance errors, and my doctor's office is the ONLY place that will actually work with me on them, even though it isn't THEIR mistake.) Then there was a parent-teacher conference. (The first one of the year is mandatory, even if the child is doing well, and Michael definitely is.) Joey's, of course, will have to be rescheduled, since the conferences at their school are student-led, and he obviously was in no condition for it yesterday. The doctor proclaimed a secondary bacterial infection caused by the cold he's been trying to shake, which was about what I'd assumed. Antibiotics, another day out of school, ibuprofen for the fever, and a return visit if it doesn't show signs of clearing up in the next few days. He's still running a fever today, but his color and his eyes are looking better.

I sketched out my basic ideas for the 6-9 year old story yesterday and surprised myself with a finished rough draft today. It's only 875 words (upper limit is 1,000 words), it's sillier than anything I've ever written (but it's supposed to be silly), and I'm unsure of how well it works. The structure is sound, and it feels like something my kids would've enjoyed in that age range. I'll let it sit for a week or so and then revisit it. A line from this Native American story became the foundation of "Strong Enough," but all similarities to that story vanish at that point.

I re-read "The Blue Wall" yesterday and found that my hunch about what I needed to do to scratch its itch still appeared accurate. I also decided that it's probably still in the Cricket Magazine age range, after all. It's next on my list of revisions, either this afternoon or tomorrow.

But first, there might be a nap, since I was up every couple of hours last night obsessively checking Joey's temperature.

If you didn't check out this Holly Lisle blog entry when it popped up over on my sidebar, you might find it inspirational. As is the case when one strongly opinionated person reads commentary written by another strongly opinionated person, I don't always agree with everything Ms. Lisle has to say. But damned if she doesn't nail things often enough for me to just say "read that, that's what I'd say if I were capable of articulating it that well."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Re-entering life

I wasn't going to blog first thing this morning, since I've had stories nudging at me for a couple of days now--they know it's time to get back to work, so I was going to dive right into them. I find, however, that the blog entries help me make concrete my vague ideas about what I've done, what I'm doing, and what I need to do. Which is sort of the reason I started the blog to begin with (in addition to that old writerly exhibitionist tendency).

For having been on vacation, I still managed to fit in a good deal of "work." I read a longish article/shortish book on writing scenes that I'd been meaning to read for a while. I read a YA novel (Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic) and was surprised to find that I liked it more than I'd expected to, even though it turned out to be more middle grade oriented than teen oriented. Which led me to thinking about YA novels in general, specifically in my previously unconscious attitude toward them. I never expect to like a YA novel, at least not at the same level that I like, say, a Robert McCammon or a Tad Williams--a book that I'm reading just for me, by an author I know I love. Which made me question why, then, I think I can write one. Which led me to dissect what I do like about the YA novels I've liked, as well as how well Crowmaker meets those criteria. So, not a bad exercise in familiarizing myself further with the market. I also managed to muddle through the copy of The Prince of Tides on the bookshelf at the villa where we stayed. They also had a copy of the movie, so I watched that. There were pieces of the story that really seemed to sparkle, but there were other places where it tasted kind of flat. But I learned things about writing from reading/watching it, hopefully, so I count that as more "work" effort.

Over the weekend, I did some internet research on Tamora Pierce and followed links around to research some of the other writers and books suggested in a discussion of good books with strong female protagonists for teen girls. I probably can't get around to reading all of them, but I should really get my hands on some of them. I have a reading list from the boys, too. Research! All of it counts as research!

On the actual writing front, "The Blue Wall" has developed an itch. I know it's not quite right as it is, and I have some vague ideas on how to scratch the itch. It's starting to feel less like a story for Cricket, though, and more like a story for Cicada. Which is perfectly fine, except that Cicada is currently closed to submissions. So I may wind up having to hold onto "The Blue Wall" until I find a more acceptable market for it. In browsing some articles related to the Carus Publishing family of magazines, I came across a recent interview with one of their editors in which she mentions wishing for more submissions for Spider. That's a younger age group than I've written for before, but I may have an idea that will work there. I'll spend some time, hopefully this afternoon, doing some doodling and idea charting and see what shakes out. "The Blue Wall" is on my list of stuff to doodle and idea chart with, too.

Crowmaker is still bubbling on the back burner. I have moments of revelation now and then, so I jot down a note or, as was the case this morning, write a quickie couple of paragraphs into the ms for a partial scene--this morning I had the first post-climax scene occur to me, so that's a good sign, I think. Some of the plot that I trashed along the way still tickles at me now and then, but the possibility that those pieces belong in a potential sequel also tickles. Whether that's a real possible sequel or just my subconscious trying to convince me we don't really need to do the work of adding plot back to the story right now, I can't tell yet. For the moment, I'm just taking notes for maybe next week or so, when I sit down for a more serious look at the story's status.

In the meantime, Joey's fever is back, and we're off to the doctor. And then there will be makeup homework for both boys, from the vacation days missed. And a few odds and ends of errands that I need to get caught up on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More huh

So, uh... A couple of things happened yesterday. First, I faced up to the fact that I could fiddle with acts 1 and 2 of Crowmaker all I liked, but there really wasn't a lot of writing left to do for the ending, and my Muse was giving me that full, really pregnant feeling that indicates whatever I've been incubating for a particular story is ready to be born now. (It's a pressure kind of feeling. A something in the air that I can almost feel, sometimes. Or maybe it's just a weather front moving through.) In any case, once I acknowledged that yes, the ending was ready to happen now, it happened. I'd known from the beginning what was almost certainly going to happen at the end, even if I didn't know everything about it back then. But the "facts" of fiction are not the same thing as the "truth" of fiction, and once the truth of the ending had me, thing #2 happened.

Thing #2 was a writing binge, which extended into this morning. It's still rough, particularly toward the end. It's got holes and rough edges and nonexistent transitions. But Crowmaker is a finished first draft, at least as I define a first draft. It has almost all the necessary pieces and most of the supporting pieces. There's still a good deal of work to do on it before I share it, even with my beloved beta reader type people. It finished up at about 41,000 words, although that's word processor count and not official method count, so it's probably closer to 44,000. It'll likely build up some with story element editing before I start paring at it for line level editing, so that's not a bad weigh-in for the first draft of a young adult novel.

It's a really odd feeling, finishing a story. I feel satisfied, yet empty. Empty like a burden's been lifted, even if temporarily, but also empty in a scary way, like I've let go of something I've been nurturing so it can try its wings on its own.

I hadn't planned to finish the first draft for another month or so, so I also have an unexpected windfall of time on my calendar. I will, of course, put the rewrite/revision of Crowmaker into those slots, as well as moving ahead with the planned short stories. If I can manage to land a short story or two in a reputable children's magazine to back up my sale of 3+ years ago, that would look nice in a query letter to book publishers and/or agents.

But first, there will be brisk ocean air and walks on the beach. And fresh seafood. Lots of it. Including she-crab soup. Mmmmmm. Nothing like a week off to wash your brain clean and clear out the clutter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Little things

I've been beating my head against the wall on some character turning points that are important to subplots in Crowmaker, with said subplots and their turning points being, in turn, the handful of seemingly small happenings which support and drive the main plot. And more specifically, the story's ending. I've been thinking consciously about them for some time now. I have notes inserted in the ms that say, essentially, "write this scene here (when you figure out what exactly it is)." This morning, in the time it took me to crawl out of bed and walk to the bathroom, the Muse handed me three of the most critical scenes I'd been looking for--I could see them with perfect clarity in my head, hear the character's voices as they spoke. Which is a great thing, when it happens, because I had no time to write anything down for them, and having them whole in your head like a memory instead of just something you made up, makes it much, much easier to remember and write down later. I had another such flash as I came in the door from dropping Michael off at school. I can't remember what it was about, now, but I'm hopeful that when I run across the "write this" note in the ms, it'll come back to me. If not, then maybe it wasn't as great a moment as I initially thought.

None of these scenes were big scenes. The core of what I "saw" will take a paragraph or two for each to get into writing. Then, of course, the scenes will need to be expanded to include other action that goes along with them. But the important bits are in those small moments--which is why I called them turning points. But those tiny moments can be what holds all that other word count together, that give them meaning and make a bunch of words into a story.

Michael had to write a letter for school, inviting his parents to all school mass tomorrow. He showed it to me last night, and we discovered that although it was his letter with his address in his handwriting, it was not his name signed at the bottom of the letter--although the name appears very much to be his handwriting, too. The name is unfamiliar to both of us--not someone in his class or anyone he's heard of in the other classes. (And it's a small school, so he knows pretty much everyone in all the classes.) He has no recollection of having written that name at the bottom of his letter. The only thing we can figure out is that maybe he was looking at something with that name on it when he was signing his letter, and he subconsciously wrote that name instead of his own. (Not farfetched. I have done this in both writing and speaking, much to the amusement of my children. "Put the dog on the dishwasher. Leash! Put the dog on the leash.") We laughed about it, he's going to show his teacher and see if she has a clue what happened, and that was that. But of course there was the writer-me in the back of my mind going, "What if it wasn't just a silly little thing? What if it turned out to be a big, scary thing? Under what circumstances would something weird but trivial like this turn out to be ominous in retrospect?" Which is, quite honestly, not a terrible seed for a story idea.

Joey is home sick today. So, on the ride home from school this morning, as I was recognizing my writerly instincts above and connecting them with my Muse pearls from earlier and thinking about turning points and not always recognizing them because they seem small at the time and how useful it is in fiction and how they make fiction seem more realistic, my subconscious popped helpfully in with, "What if it isn't just a little fever? What if it turns out to be ominous in retrospect?"

Not. Helpful. But painfully honest, because in any tragedy (or triumph) of life, you can look back and see the little turning points--the innocent-seeming symptom that heralded the beginning of a terrible sickness, the turning your back on a kid for "just one second" that 99% of the time never amounts to anything, the tiny exchange of mutual respect with your sometimes difficult mother-in-law that just seemed like a nice moment until she died a month later and it turned out to be the last meaningful thing that happened between you. Little things. Little things that turn out to be huge.

In other news, I wrote a very cranky blog entry in my mind yesterday, but writing it in my mind made me feel somewhat better, so I didn't post it. This morning, the WotF newsletter was in my mailbox, and lo and behold... an article covering very much the same topic. "If Only I Had the Time," by Kevin J. Anderson.

Apparently I'm not the only one who gets tired of hearing it. I don't have the time, either. Now more than I did in the past, when I did the largest part of learning how to write and slowly building my ability to write a story and get published, certainly. When I started really trying to make something of myself as a writer, I had two children, both still in diapers. My husband was not part of the parenting equation, since he was either at the office or on the road. For several months, during relocations, we didn't even live in the same state. I had no local family for backup. It was just me and the two little guys in towns we didn't know, trying to muddle through as best we could. In earlier writer bios, I stated that I wrote an hour a day, 5 minutes at a time. I was not exagerrating. I wrote longhand, in a steno notepad left on the kitchen counter where I could stop and scrawl down a few lines before moving on to the next "real" thing that needed done. I read how-to books during naptimes instead of sleeping. I crammed in all the things that I needed to learn and do to make stories and get them published, and it was hard work. I'm blessed now, yes, to have a block of hours during the weekdays. But even now, I still have other work to accomplish in those same hours. I put in somewhere between 40-60 hours a week on kids and housework. (Yes, I really do. I keep track.) I have to fend off the lure of online games and blogging (ahem) and chat rooms and Gtalk, and I put in another 15-20 hours a week at writing. It's still work. It's still HARD work. It requires me to set aside the time, to put in the hours, and to get it done instead of just talking about doing it. Is it sometimes wonderful? Oh, yeah. Do I do it because I love it, even when it's hard? You bet.

But I DO it. I make the time, and I put in the work. Can the people who spout "I could do that if I had the time" turn out stories and get them published and make me look like a rank amateur? Maybe they can. But until they've made the time and DONE it, every time they utter those words to me, it's a slap in the face--an utter lack of respect for and a complete dismissal of what I've accomplished and am still working to accomplish.

Rant done. We now return you to your regularly scheduled cheerful person, who in turn is now going to take some of her own medicine and go WORK instead of blogging.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I could learn to love this job

One of the things I try to do on a semi-regular basis, as a writer, is to read. This is, of course, a commonly-mentioned "thing you should do," but sometimes, in the limited hours and burning desire to finish what I'm writing instead of taking time away to "just read," I let myself off the hook. So yesterday afternoon, I dragged out our stack of Cricket Magazine back issues and had Michael bookmark some of his favorite stories from them while I checked out some non-fiction articles I've been meaning to read.

The non-fiction articles were on the subject of plot structure. When I first started writing, I struggled, HARD, with plot structure. As in, it was a familiar phrase but it didn't really mean anything to me. What was it? How did I use it? I mean, yeah... rising action, climax, falling action, denouement, yadda yadda yadda. But it didn't MEAN anything to me. So I spent a lot of time reading about structure and how to use it to shape a story. Which means that, at this point, I am pretty well read on plot structure. And part of my process for writing any story is to sit down and sketch out a structure for that story, to make myself think the story through enough to find all the necessary bits and pieces that will make it a story and not just a collection of cool imagery and/or dialogue.

I hadn't done that yet for "The Blue Wall," not in any concrete form, partly because I was still waiting to see if the Muse had anything new to add to the mix. So of course, as I was reading the articles, which covered information I already know even if I don't think specifically about it in those terms, the Muse inspired me to scribble down a plot structure diagram for "The Blue Wall" based on a slightly-different paradigm than the one I normally use. (But also very similar to the one I use. We did a "new" one for Crowmaker, too, and found that it matched up very nicely to the structure I already have in place for it. Which perhaps means I'm on the right track there.) I didn't get the plot structure for "The Blue Wall" in its entirety, but it gave me enough that I could feel the Muse in the background fiddling with the pieces.

At which point I took the stack of Cricket Magazines Michael had bookmarked for me and sat on the back deck in the awesome mild weather and read through the stories he'd picked out. Not all of them are the types of stories I would choose to write, although some were. But in reading the stories other people have written, I get the chance to both consciously pick apart how they did it and to subconsciously absorb the rhythm and flavor and feel of the stories--and I think, sometimes, that the subconscious portion of that process is just as important if not more so.

I jotted down a few more points on my diagram for "The Blue Wall" last night, in the midst of doing other things. And this morning I went to it first and jotted down a few more things. I discovered that the physical location of the story is right, but that the time period was wrong. I did additional research to get a grip on the setting and to inspire some additional details. And the Muse smiled and handed me a couple of complete passages to add to the existing rough draft, including one that contains echoes of the entire story's theme and gave me shivers.

All in all, a good day at the office. If I could manage to make a living at this, I would never, ever need to retire.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seeing rain

The sunshine came through today, as forecasted, but it took a while to soak in and rid me of the blah's. I accomplished not very much on Crowmaker, aside from fumbling back and forth between scenes on my screen and making some half-hearted notes about things I already know. I finally gave up, fed myself a bowl of ice cream, and took the rest of the day off. I think part of my problem is that I'm at that stage where I keep stumbling around in the stuff I've already written, moving scenes around and trying to figure out if they really go where they do and see what's missing, but I'm doing it on screen (the lazy way) instead of printing it all out and hacking it up with the red pen. Because I did the red pen with the first five chapters, and it went swimmingly. But then I got all confident because it was going well and stopped. So tomorrow, more printing out and red pen.

Received my renewal card for SCBWI this afternoon. When I added it to my bibliography page, I noticed that, hey... I've had a fair chunk of stories published. I even look like, you know... a real writer. With a professional designation and everything. Cool.

Joey borrowed my computer to print out some homework this afternoon. I had Crowmaker open in the background. When I came in to check on him, he had Crowmaker open, reading the first couple of paragraphs. "Looks good so far, Mom. I fixed a typo for you."

God love him.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Here It Goes Again

After the high days comes the inevitable downswing. I've come to expect them, and I've learned to deal with them, but they're still not exactly my favorite days. Clouds and a light, misty rain rolled in yesterday afternoon and have yet to leave, too, so I'm sure that's exacerbating things. I'm listening to upbeat music and consoling myself by dealing with more administrative/technical writing tasks instead of trying to force a creative mood, since I know that would only end badly. I have most of my point of view issues fixed now. (I'd written one partial draft of Crowmaker in first person and a second in third person; I finally picked one and am working on making everything third person.) I sorted out some confusion I'd created for myself regarding some plot elements, and even though I couldn't whip up the energy to write the new scenes required to clarify things, I did make the small fixes necessary to existing scenes. There's also an old scene I can tweak and bring back in. So there is work being done, even if it's not entirely new stuff.

There is no deadline, Lori. There is no rush. You're putting in the hours, you're making progress, and there is sunshine due tomorrow.

And on the bright side, when I forced myself to walk today even in the mist, I discovered that the cool, moist air seemed to have a great effect on my breathing issues. A cool mist humidifier may be in my future.

YouTube linkages related to the day:

That OK Go video.
Some version of Sugarland's "April Showers" (Because I have seen rain before. Haven't we all?)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Huh.

I spent most of the weekend working on household/family type stuff and wishing I had the time/ability to focus for writing instead. This morning, the alarm went off and my first urge was to shut it off and go back to sleep. "Ugh," I thought. "I don't feel like doing ANYTHING today." Being a responsible mother, I got out of bed anyhow and dragged myself through the morning, sadly noting along the way that I had not a creative urge stirring and that today would likely be a complete waste. Oh, woe is me. I cut myself a deal--sit through one hour of something writing-related, even if it was just doodling pretend notes to myself about "The Blue Wall."

So, yeah. Almost four hours of writing time in today, a really short, really bare bones draft of "The Blue Wall" (600+ words) and a full revision of my most recent "pigs from HELL" scene for Crowmaker, which included a depressing amount of cutting existing words followed by writing new words, but which turned out encouragingly well in the end. It's hard to tell since I cut all those words at the start, but I'd guess my total new word count for the day on both stories to be in the vicinity of 1,500 words.

Not bad for someone who really wanted to slap the snooze button on the entire day.

About four years ago, the boys and I sat down and picked two boys of similar ages to them to sponsor through Children International. Joey and Michael are both required to set aside certain amount of their weekly allowance to save for such things as buying Christmas gifts for other people and for the monthly sponsorship amount for "our other boys." We spent some time learning about the places Julio and Krishna came from, we read through their information that tells how they live, and we talked about how their lives are different from ours. I write to Julio and Krishna on a semi-regular basis (enough to let them know I'm a real person who cares about them, but not so often that they have to spend a ton of time writing obligatory return letters).

We got a letter over the weekend stating that Krishna's parents have decided to take him out of the sponsorship program. They didn't have details on why, but he's twelve now, and it's not hard to imagine that he can bring in more money working alongside his father and brothers than comes into the family through the sponsorship program. I don't know what that means for him. I don't know if he'll have the chance to continue any kind of schooling at all. I don't know what he thinks of the choice that was made for him, whether he's fine with it or not. I'm left feeling a little sad about it, but I suppose that's only because the situation of so many children all over the world was personalized for me. (Which is, of course, the entire point of the way Children International operates.) I'm left feeling remotely guilty that my life and my children's lives are so easy, relatively speaking, and blessed beyond belief that we have so much. We don't sleep on dirt floors or go hungry or have to haul water from blocks away. We have luxuries and leisure time in spades.

We'll be sponsoring another little boy in the same area. They sent his profile along with the letter about Krishna, there was no way I could say no to the smiling, hopeful face in that picture. Joey couldn't, either. But I've kept Krishna in my prayers (such as they are), and I hope that wherever his life leads him, he's safe and finds his measure of happiness.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pigs from HELL

OK, no, this blog entry has nothing whatsoever to do with pigs. The reference is to a line I've been known to utter when leveling a character through Hellfire Peninsula in World of Warcraft. Those of you who play with me know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. WoW is fun. Getting to Hellfire Peninsula is fun. Those first couple of levels out there, however, let's face it--they can be pretty rough going. As in, you just think you're making progress and doing well and WHAM! Out of nowhere, demon pigs chewing on your ankles.

That's what today's writing has been like. The chapter I'm currently working on needed a LOT of reshaping and new scenes. It took me forever and half a red pen to work out, and then just when I thought I had progress, I had to sit down and make heads and tails from my notes and locate all the cut scenes in my scrap pile to paste in and type in new material and... Yeah.

PIGS FROM HELL!

The up side is, when you finish that last quest and move on to the next chapter... err... zone, you get to thumb your nose at the demon pigs and leave them behind you.

Of course, then there are the warp hunters. And the invisible wolves.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why yes, I really should be working instead of blogging

Found while nosing around over on Grizz's blog:

Otherland MMO? Being a huge fan of Tad Williams' I can only say... Yeah, I'd probably give that a spin. As the reviewer points out, it's way too early to determine if anything will really come of this. But the concept is cool.

No word count updates yesterday, but I have been working. I have printed out what I have written for acts I & II and have been busily scribbling in the margins and on looseleaf paper to fill out missing threads and scenes. Two things will come of this: I will have lovely scribbly pages to bring to the desk and make the first two acts much better, and I will have a better idea about how the last act comes together. (I think I answered some of the most puzzling aspects of that Most Important Question, "And uh... how does this all work out at the end, again?")

So, progress, even if the progress wears red ink at the moment. And it's funny, I used to loathe red pen marks on my papers--it screamed at me about something I'd done wrong. I just this second realized that I no longer hate it. Now it's more like... jumping and yelling and showing me places I can make my story even better.

Yeah, I agree. I probably need to be more awake before I write blog entries.

In other news, "Wings" has visited F&SF and sent back another classic "Alas" note for my files. I have never been rejected more politely than I get rejected by these guys. I regrouped and sent the story to Strange Horizons last night.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Genius or folly

Today, a couple of changes to the Writing Progress Meters (over there on the right sidebar).

"Pale Roses" has been archived, since it is finished. (Finishing things feels good!)

I've added a new meter for "The Blue Wall," which is a children's story intended for eventual submission to Cricket Magazine (at least for starters). I'd mentioned I was going to shift from WotF Contest short stories to children's, and this kicks off that effort. On my agenda for this week on the short story front was simply to get the story concept cooking. My Muse handed over the title (which has a story smidge/history of sorts attached to it, but that'll come out in the story itself), along with the scent of magnolias, the sound of the ocean, and ghosts. I've fleshed it out a little beyond that, but I haven't started writing it yet, so I'm leaving it right there for now.

Crowmaker has a new meter, too. After much thought about the story itself and my career objectives, as well as the hunch I've had for a few years now that my voice and writing style might lend themselves better to a different genre than category fantasy (much as I love reading it), I made some decisions about Crowmaker and, as you can see, did a fair amount of hacking. (Fear not, the original, much-longer version is safely backed up for the next time I change my mind.) I've wondered from the start if this story might be well-suited to the Middle Grade/Young Adult market. The viewpoint character/protagonist is a teenaged girl. She didn't start out being the protagonist, just a person to tell the story for the real protagonist, the Crowmaker. But then she uh... made herself the protagonist. And thus the story has become as much, if not more, about her personal growth and the things she does as it has about the Crowmaker. And the story itself seems like so much MORE when I cut it back to its original story arc than it had become when I had three times as much word count cluttering it up.

The danger in such moments of indecision and decision, of course, is that my Muse is just fussing with stuff instead of putting forth the effort to come up with new material. It's really hard to know, sometimes, when your reason and your gut instinct are telling you things you should listen to, or when you're just trying to chase your tail instead of putting in the real work you should be. I honestly, at this moment, believe this is the right choice for this story. If tomorrow I change my mind, I have my old notes and ms backed up. The only thing I have to lose is a little time while I feel my way through what I'm doing.

And thus justifying my hack and slash of a perfectly good ms, I move forward!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Muse comes through again

Finally, a painting for my mother. I'll leave it up for a few days in case any fixes or tweaks feel like reaching out and grabbing me when I walk past it, but it is done and I am pleased with it overall.

A quickie snapshot taken under completely unprofessional conditions:



And just in the nick of time, too, because the Muse has begun making noises about spending more time on Crowmaker again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Good news?

The good news is, I'm perfectly normal!

For a writer.

Um... Yeah.

Actually, reading things like that does make me feel better--it reassures me that I'm not alone and that, if I'm going through the same things as the pros, I may be closer to joining them than I realize.

It's been a pretty productive week so far. Mailed out "Wings" and "Pale Roses" to their respective places on Monday, spent most of yesterday painting my bathroom, have a painting halfway to done for my mother (and I like it!), and have done some serious soul-searching and deconstruction/reconstruction on Crowmaker. And on my long term career goals (although "get stuff published" is still the general direction).

I logged into World of Warcraft last night for the first time in over a week and was met with a chorus of happy-to-see-you greetings and then dragged off to complete a quest and try to get a loot drop because "you just have to have one of these." Pixelated loot, yes--not a big deal. But the warm and fuzzies of good friends is priceless. I didn't win the drop, but I've already been told we WILL be going again until I get it. But you know, if my Tauren shaman does wind up with a beer-keg-bearing kodo mount, it'll be the recollection of how she got it that makes me smile every time I use it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rediscoveries

Right around the year 2000, I decided I was going to stop daydreaming about being a writer and actually do something about it. A discussion about the community of online gaming people I'd become a part of and the absolute necessity of the encouragement I received from them is for another time--suffice it to say, no one will ever convince me that online friendships are anything less than as real as it gets.

I had a 5 year old, a 2 year old, a husband with a job that required a ton of traveling, and a relocation from Illinois to South Carolina to contend with. I was pretty much solo parenting in a place where I knew absolutely no one. Looking back, I'd say I did a fair job of mucking through learning the ropes and growing, albeit gradually, as a writer. (Not to mention the whole "learning how to be a mother" business. Lord.) I was getting better. The publications that were accepting my stories were working more and more toward the pro level I yearn for. The sale to Cricket Magazine IS a pro sale.

And then I lost it. I still can't put my finger on exactly why--another relocation, another adjustment to a new place with no support system, but probably, mostly, a bout with depression that sneaked up and took me down without me really noticing that it had done so. At any rate, I simply lost the desire to keep trying. I sold "Frost King's Bride" to Cricket in 2004, but I'd pretty much stopped writing by the time it was published in 2005. Working through the requested edits for The World Between Earth and Sky was torture--I just wanted it off my hands, and I didn't care who published it or, quite honestly, if it was published at all. I couldn't remember why I'd ever wanted to write, and I couldn't remember a single good thing about the writing I had done.

So, as I was researching markets for "But He Had Wings," I noticed that my teeth sort of itched when I added The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction to my list of possibilities. The name of Gordon Van Gelder immediately popped into my mind, and my teeth itched even more. I couldn't quite remember exactly why, although I vaguely remember at some point deciding that submitting anything there was likely a monumental waste of my time. (F&SF is, for those not into the whole spec fic short story scene, at the top of spec fic short story publishers heap.) In search of a specific cause for the itchy teeth syndrome, I dug through my back files. I couldn't really find anything horrible, aside from a nice collection of Mr. Van Gelder's very polite "alas, it doesn't quite do it for me" rejection notes. Judging by the contents of F&SF, I do think that perhaps most of my stories will never "quite do it" for that market--not a complaint against the magazine or Mr. Van Gelder, just that sometimes, well, a writer and a reader (or a market) don't quite fit.

I also re-discovered some other interesting tidbits I'd forgotten:

The Leading Edge apparently does/did critiques as a matter of course for rejected stories, or at least I was fortunate enough to get them when they rejected "Disappearing" in 2002. Since the magazine is published by a rotating group of student editors at BYU and the critiques came on a form which three of them had filled out, I'm guessing it is/was part of their usual process. The three I got ranged from "It was good in some places, but I didn't get it" to "OMG, this is the best story EVER!" Another sign that sometimes it's not about your ability or the technical soundness of a story, but about whether or not the story makes that little magical connection with a particular reader. (Which is not to say I believe that story--or any of mine--are perfect. None of them ever are.) They did, however, later accept and publish "The Second" (in 2003). (A story that still whispers at me to come and revisit it, sometimes. I have a file of notes on how it could become a novel, if it really wanted to. Maybe.)

"Disappearing" also got a request to revise and resubmit from Strange Horizons in 2001. They ended up rejecting it anyhow, but the revision suggestions they gave me made it a stronger story. The same editor (Chris Heinemann, who is no longer with them, it looks like) also offered personalized feedback on another story they rejected. I am not the only person who's received the human touch treatment from these people, even if I had forgotten how awesome they are until my walk through my back files. Hats off to the folks at Strange Horizons.

I entered "Disappearing" in the Writers of the Future contest in 2002. I have no recollection whatsoever of having done this.

My publication in Cricket Magazine in 2005 made me eligible for an associate membership at SFWA and a full membership at SCBWI. Neither of which I have followed up on. I got a story published in a pro market--at CRICKET, for God's sake--and I have done NOTHING to build on that.

Where the hell has my head been for the last few years?!

Actually, to be fair to myself, I didn't just stop. I have a middle grade novel that I landed an agent for, but that she eventually sent back to me because she couldn't place it. I have a handful of half-developed children's nonfiction book ideas, and notes and a first chapter for a second middle grade novel that I never finished (but that Joey sometimes still asks me about, God love him). But I couldn't quite get them to GO--I was stretching for something above what I'd been doing, and I couldn't quite make that leap.

Then. I can blame it on a depressive episode or I can call it burn out or I can just shrug and say "I dunno." But whatever happened, it happened. All I can do is remember what I've learned and appreciate the people who've believed in me along the way and keep learning and trying.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dithering at top speed

I may or may not have mentioned that I am of the opinion that I have at least a passing acquaintance with manic-depressive tendencies. Or rather, I acknowledge that my moods and energy have a marked pattern of moving from high to low and back again on a pretty regular and mostly predictable basis. It's not debilitating, and I therefore don't treat it as a disease so much as personality tendencies that I've learned (with varying degrees of success) to manage. (Disclaimer: I'm talking about my personal experience with this. Obviously, there are others who are on much less civilized terms with this disorder--to the point where it is a disorder and not just tendencies. A matter of degree and all that. I do not make light of their situation; I speak only for myself, and sometimes I speak with humor because that is also part of my coping mechanism.)

Having just dragged myself through a decidedly low stage, I'm not surprised to find my engines revving again this week. Dozens of things I want to/should accomplish started buzzing in my brain and would happily chase each other into exhaustion if I allowed them, with the end result being that I start dozens of things and finish nothing-IF I allowed that to happen. Being all too familiar with the high-pitched white noise sound of my manic phase kicking into gear, I immediately instigated one of my usual tactics and sat down to make lists of projects and steps required to complete them and estimated time required (severely padded, because I know I'm prone to overestimating my abilities at times like this). And then I sat down with a calendar, reminded myself that there are only 24 hours in a day and that a certain portion of them are already allotted to sleep and taking care of kids and minutia like that, and scheduled a portion of those projects into the next couple of months. It's the equivalent of giving a toddler a basket full of building blocks to distract him from pulling other stuff out at random and making a big mess.

The other advantage is that I have things on my calendar to work toward, which provides a focus for my manic days. ("It's on my calendar! I need to finish it before I allow myself to run off and do anything else!") AND, it's a motivation when those days wane back to depressive days of much less energy. ("It's on my calendar. Crossing it off my list will make me feel better. I guess I can manage to do that one thing.")

My other tendency on manic days (OK, on any days) is to constantly feel like I've accomplished nothing, even when I objectively know I have. The daily rough tally I keep in an attempt to stay objective indicates that I've put in 10-12 hours a day for the last several days on either writing or household-related work (with probably 2/3 of those hours landing on the household side). I have:
  • Done the weekly cleaning of the bathrooms (2.5 of them). Hate bathrooms. Hate, hate, hate.
  • Plunged two different toilets on three separate occasions. Hate stopped-up toilets. Hate, hate, hate.
  • Painted the new patch of drywall in our bathroom, scoured our shower, and moved all our shower stuff from the boys' bathroom back to ours.
  • Started a new painting for my mother.
  • Done the usual dishes, cooking, laundry, running kids around, grocery shopping, homework helping, etc.
  • Measured the living room/kitchen/dining room area of our house (which includes 2 hallways and a half bath) which are sorely in need of a real paint job and calculated how much paint I'll need to buy for that job. (They still have the flat cheap primer, which holds onto every single speck of dirt and scuff marks aimed at it.)
  • Dealt with my annual physical and the bi-annual bloodwork that goes with my thyroid condition. (Hate bloodwork. Hate, hate, hate.)
  • Done a big block of revisions to "Pale Roses," which is now only in need of typing in proofreading level stuff and a final prep for submission.
  • Researched magazine markets for "But He Had Wings," which is now ready to come down off its Honorable Mention pedestal and get back to work finding a real home. (Or maybe re-researched, since I'm familiar with most of these markets and only need to touch base with them again when I'm making the "where do I send it first?" decision.)
  • Re-researched children's/young adult magazine markets and added them to my writing schedule in lieu of more WotF stories. (I've been itching to write some speculative fiction for kids, so I thought this would be an acceptable switcheroo for a few months. It's also the field where I've made my only pro sale so far, so, you know... Maybe following up on that success, even belatedly, is not a bad idea?)
  • Made great strides in finding a fresh angle on Crowmaker and even wrote a new (small, but new) scene for it yesterday. (I have not updated my progress meter for it. I've done some shuffling around from one software to another and from an old file with stuff I know I won't use (probably) to a new file with just the stuff I'm sure I will use (probably), so I'm not sure how accurate it is at this point, or what my real word count is.

Today, I will type in the mostly-final revisions for "Pale Roses." Tonight, the boys and I will clean up the basement play room. Tomorrow I will do a final proof of "Pale Roses" and prep it to send out. Tomorrow after school, we will entertain a dozen or so fifth grade boys with video games and pizza.

Come on, manic self. Surely even you have to feel we're doing pretty well this week?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just like I really know what I'm doing

Sat down with my marked-up ms for "Pale Roses" today and typed in revisions and wrote all the new material I needed to write--including a new ending, which was not nearly as overwhelming as I'd feared it might be. I am cautiously optimistic about the story, at this point. It feels much more whole and finished than it had, previously. I'll let it sit a few days before I print out a fresh ms and take a red pen to it for line level editing. I doubt at this point that it'll make the Sept. 30 deadline for this quarter's WotF contest, but I'm fine with it not getting in until the next quarter if that's what it takes.

I also started a(nother) painting for my mother. She requested "Oh, just something" for her new dining room wall when I was visiting over the summer, which tickles me even though I'm 42 years old. I suppose you're never too old to feel special when your mom wants to hang up your picture on the refrigerator. Err... dining room wall. I'd started one for her a month or so ago, but it is refusing to evolve from its ugly stage. So I have snubbed it and am turning to another idea.

So, you all remember our lovely little lightning-struck tree and its friend the tipped-over lamp post? Hubby got the lamp post all fixed up a couple of weeks ago and got all the dead branches out to the curb and our front yard was (mostly) hunky-dory again. High winds came through this weekend and knocked another (evidently weakened and/or dead) branch out of the tree. Onto the lamp post. Scraped the side of the van, but no damage to it. Mr. Lamp Post, however, is once more down for the count. Poor guy.

To-do list for this week:
  • More Crowmaker research reading. Maybe even some new word count, since I feel close to figuring out where I'm going. Again.
  • Paint for the newly-patched drywall above our shower. So we can once again take showers in it, instead of hauling stuff upstairs to the boys' bathroom.
  • See if I can get this new painting past the ugly stage for my mother.
  • The usual homework/housework/kidwork routine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Making lemonade

Progress so far this week:

  • Finished making notes on what "Pale Roses" still needs and marked up the ms to indicate to myself where I wanted to add/tweak things, and what I wanted to do in those places.
  • Spent some time hashing over the main plot line for Crowmaker and considering which subplots work with that main plot and which don't.
  • Made a trip to the library for books of a background research nature for Crowmaker.
  • Started reading the above books.
I have not felt in a writing kind of mood, but I can darn well still do planning and research.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Picture day?

In lieu of actual content, I bring you some findings from the digital camera download this morning. (Which came about after I took snapshots of my "Pale Roses" notes so I could take the lazy route on updating the Google Doc on the writing process. Which I have done, so if you're following along, there is new content.)


Storm passing to the east, sun shining over the house behind me to the west = pretty rainbow. Oddly, we get a lot of these. Sometimes doubles.


Because no selection of photos is complete without Avie. Just ask her. Toes provided courtesy the Michael-Monster. He is wearing one sock because there is a bandage on that big toe, and if there is no sock, he will pick the bandage until it "accidentally" falls off.


The writer at work. Sort of. OK. The writer slacking off by taking pictures of her work space and pretending it proves she was working. You can see brave Avie in the background, trying to decide if the deck is safe to enter. I mean... Checking to make sure nothing evil is lurking in threat of her beloved mistress.


Apparently, the hubby figured out my camera and took pictures of the lightning-struck tree in my absence. Please note the lamp post in the middle of the tree. This is approximately where my van would have been parked, had I been home. Instead, the van was in another state being struck by a cranky lady who would later chew me out for daring to file an insurance claim for the damage she caused. I think I'd rather have dealt with the tree. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have thrown a hissy fit at me.


More tree footage, after the hubby has cleared away some of the branches in order to get a better shot of the poor lamp post.


OK. I really am going to go do some work now. Real work. Involving plotting and/or plot problem solving and/or actual writing.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

In between days

Friday's field trip was good and just the right length. Joey's class has 7 boys and 3 girls, and the teacher assigned a mix of boys and girls to each vehicle. I wound up with 3 boys and 2 girls. I'm thinking all boys might have created less chaos--the boys requested a classic rock radio station (they're all into Rock Band and finding some of the older stuff pretty cool) and then proceeded to sing their own versions of their favorite songs over the top of whatever was on the radio anyhow. The girls had an ipod loaded up with Hannah Montanta-esque music and they also sang their own versions of those songs, so it was dueling music most of the way. There was also much clowning and slapping and squealing. In short, it was good-natured but a little on the loud and chaotic side, two things I can only abide in small doses. By the time we returned to the school parking lot, I was ready for it to be over--but they all behaved admirably at the museum and at Burger King, and I only had to ask them to settle down for real a couple of times, and they all so obviously get along together pretty well, so really, who can complain?

Yesterday was one of those days in which I had all kinds of restless energy that wanted to be put to use doing something creative, but a lack of the focus required to rein in said energy--a very frustrating situation. Possibly the lack of focus was brought on by two 7th grade boys who didn't go to sleep until 3-ish and then set the alarm to get up at 7 so they could cram in a little more Heroscape and World of Warcraft before we had to return one of the boys to his mother in time to attend a family reunion. So I was completely and utterly useless yesterday.

Well, OK. Not completely useless. I did take advantage of the availability of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere online in its entirety and read um, the entire thing between Friday night and Saturday afternoon. And actually, that possibly contributed to my restlessness, because I am unable to just read a book for fun anymore--I have to pick it apart and turn the pieces this way and that while I read. (It's for this reason that I count even casual reading as working time.) And I spent the entire read of Neverwhere vacillating between "I can write prose every bit as good as this" and "I am not smart enough to pick up on all these littles subtleties and nuances, let alone write them, and I never will be." At which point I try to remind myself that no, I never can write like Neil Gaiman or Robert R. McCammon or Tad Williams, or anyone else I admire. But I can write like me, and no one else can do that, and so it's that voice I need to keep cultivating--mine.

But last night I got more sleep, and the weather today is super mild if a little overcast, and I can have my windows open for fresh air since the hubby is not home to complain about his allergies, and I feel better. My goal for today is to get my massive list of household-related stuff worked through so that come tomorrow morning, with kids at school and my regular writing time stretched out in front of me, I will be lacking in distractions and able to really sink my teeth into... something. I think I'll be working on "Pale Roses," because I think it's right there and ready to be born into the next level of "I'm a real story now, with complexity and meaning and everything." Tomorrow will tell, I suppose.

For now, having crossed off all cleaning-related tasks (ick), I am on to dealing with assorted insurance issues and budgeting stuff. And helping kids with homework, as needed.

I love crossing stuff off lists. I really, really do.