Thursday, July 31, 2008

Be a good one

The Muse and I are on speaking terms again, the Lesser Demon of Overanalysis has been put back in his cage until such time as his critical eye is actually useful, and I've managed to almost fill my daily word count quota. There is also office furniture enroute, so I can soon look at my notes while I type, without having to keep one hand on the precariously-balanced notebook in my lap. These are good things.

I have determined that, desk or not, I may need to rethink my habit of squeezing two, sometimes even four, pages onto a single piece of paper when I print out notes and drafts. The idea is to save paper, but two pages/sheet makes me squint and four pages/sheet requires me to put my nose on the paper and peer under my glasses to make it out. And even then, it's more like "those shapes on the page are vaguely familiar and remind me of what I think I wrote there" than "I can actually read those words." So uh... Yeah. The up side is, I have tons of papers and flyers from the boys' school with nice blank space on the reverse side--a full copy paper box full, at present, with more flowing in come the start of school in two weeks. I can still conserve paper and recycle! Even as I go blind.

Two weeks until school starts. What the hell happened to our summer?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I've spent roughly two hours so far today trying to dissect the plot for Crowmaker and decide why it's threatening to fizzle on me. It's not that I don't know what to write next so much as what I should write next just doesn't jump up and dance on the page. So maybe it's not really a plotting issue so much as a butt-in-chair, just-DO-it issue. The "this isn't so bad" angel and the "are you kidding, you suck" devil are perched on opposing shoulders and making the whole thought process deal even more challenging. I should perhaps start with some pesticide and then move on to some meditation and deep breathing to clear my head so I can hear the Muse, should she decide to put in an appearance.

The leg is somewhat better. Being able to keep it more or less motionless today has helped immensely.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I spent most of the morning running hither and yon on assorted errands. The leg was super tender when I got up, even worse by the time I got done exacerbating it, and I'm now running a fever. The good news is, I have horse pill antibiotics, so it should start settling down soon. In the meantime, if you talk to me and I seem a little out of it, I may be. On the other hand, you may not be talking to me anytime soon, because a nap is sounding really good.

In usual me-fashion, I'm already having second thoughts about the working title for the Q3 story. "Pale Roses" is not terribly SF/F sounding. Grizz made a suggestion involving the words "star" and "fall" which I'd passed on previously, merely because I had an RP character whose last name was Starfall, and I have trouble disassociating the word combination from her. Which sounds silly, now that I type it out. So, yeah. "Stars Fall" or "And the Stars Fell" or "All the Stars Fall" or... Something. Maybe.

Maybe the Muse will whisper in my ear while I'm napping.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Butt shot

I have a sebaceous cyst on the back of my leg that got infected five years or so ago but responded well to antibiotics and has been quiet and well-behaved since then. Over the weekend, it rebelled and turned into a big red bump of ow, so it was off to the doctor today. She took one look and insisted a shot of antibiotic was in order, to be followed by the less-painful oral variety over the next week and a half. The nurse, in her turn, insisted that the shot would be less painful administered to the "hip." And yeah, we all know what that's nurse-speak for.

Finished up the major revisions to the Q3 story today. Took one less day than I'd anticipated, yay! Which is good, since tomorrow morning will be booked solid with grocery shopping, prescription filling, and a visit to the insurance claims adjuster with the van. I also spent at least 45 minutes (including wait time at the doctor's office) doodling down every word I could think of that was relevant to the almost-finished Q3 story and jiggling them around this way and that in an attempt to find a title that made me say, "Wow." I did not find such a title, but I tentatively decided on "Pale Roses." I am currently experiencing post-story ennui, which could mean the story sucks or could just mean I need to recharge the mental batteries where it's concerned. I'll set it aside until the beginning of September and switch gears back to Crowmaker for a while. I've half-decided to skip the Q4 story in order to concentrate solely on Crowmaker until it has at least the rough draft done. Switching back and forth between projects has its positive side, but it also means more days readjusting to a story that I had to leave behind for a while. I guess I'll see how I feel when October rolls around. For now I will simply remind myself that when I set that goal, I hadn't planned on a novel moving into my life. If I skip the Q4 entry, it will be dubbed "flexibility" and not "copping out."

Friday, July 25, 2008

The reverse side also has a reverse side.

(Which is a Japanese proverb found here.)

I've taken up the habit of using a stopwatch (previously employed for math fact sprints) to keep track of my actual writing time, vs. my writing time as reduced by the amount of dithering and frittering I do in between. You might assume this is because I feel I'm not spending enough time on writing; actually, I want a way to prove to myself that I have been working, and really working, not just pretending to work. I have a tendency to feel guilty for every spare moment during the day when I'm doing something other than writing, even when I know darn well that I've met all my goals for the day. I need evidence to wave under my own nose and get myself to back down and chill out. The writing is getting done. I have no need to ride myself so hard every single day. (And yet I insist on feeling a twinge of guilt even as I type those words.) It's all about balance--yes, I want to write and I want to work on getting better and maybe build a career at it. But I also want and need the time to be a mother and to deal with day to day stuff that has no relation to writing. I suppose this is all one of those pitfalls to working from home--the difficulty in separating work work at home from home work at home. Or just from plain old home.

I have recently begun longing for a desktop computer again, after many years of parking with a laptop in the living room. My LCD screen is going bad on this one, so I'm considering hooking it up to a spare monitor and turning it into my faux desktop until such time as I can really justify the actual purchase of a new computer. We could afford a new computer; justifying it is a whole other mind struggle. We could also afford a house cleaning company every week, but I can't justify spending the money when I'm capable of doing it myself, whether I really want to or not. I've pretty much decided to go this route, although I have yet to decide on a final location for a desk of my own. I long for privacy and quiet not just when everyone else is elsewhere and leaving the living room to me, but whenever I choose. I long for actual desk space and wall space where I can spread out my notes and doodles and tack sticky notes wherever I like--and leave them there for as long as I like. Balancing stuff on the arms of a chair and shuffling stacks off the floor and having to pick up and move everything each time I walk away for more than ten minutes is getting old.

The reason for getting a laptop to begin with remains, though--it's very hard for me to go off alone into a non-central location and still be available when the toilet clogs or the jam hits the floor or the hubby wants to chat about his day during commercial breaks. And I need to do those things, too. And while I can't manage to write when there's a lot of commotion in the living area of the house, it is kind of nice to be able to play games and surf the 'net while keeping company with the people watching TV or reading.

Hmm. A test drive may be in order, I suppose. Perhaps the next few weeks will see me camping out in various potential desk homes throughout the house, in search of the ideal solution.

Yeah, I know. But I can dream, right?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the saddle

Upon returning home, I decided to go ahead and revisit my Q3 WotF story instead of continuing with Crowmaker this week. I originally had Q3 on my calendar for 4-5 days of next week, but I hit the end of Act I of Crowmaker, so it was a good place to break away to something else. Since the first part of this week wasn't highly conducive to pumping out word count, it also seemed like using what remains of this week for a shorter project seemed a better fit. I did get some thinking-level work done on both projects during drive time, so I don't feel as if I've been completely slacking off. I even made a few quick notes in my Q3 Google Doc over the weekend so I wouldn't lose the thoughts. I did additional thinking and brainstorming and note-making last night, although I have yet to put any of it into the Google Doc yet.

But that will be my focus for the remainder of this week. I doubt you'll see any changes on the word count progress meter, since the rough is technically done and fussing with word count is probably not the best use of my time at this stage of the story. I also have yet to figure out how to show the whole second draft/revision stage of writing a story without getting bogged down in just figuring out how to show it. Probably I'll just make some general notes about what I've done and why, and just post the finished segments or maybe just the finished story. Or something. I'll let you know when I know.

In closing, an appropriate little tidbit pointed out to me by Grizz: XKCD - Upcoming Hurricanes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Welcome to the Midwest, enjoy the weather adventure

As previously reported, the boys and I reached my parents' house late Saturday evening, while the hubby returned home on Sunday so he could go to work on Monday while the rest of his family was enjoying a few days of vacation. The boys and I (and Avie, safely retrieved from the doggie hotel) are all home now. Here's a quick recap of the last few days:

Sunday, the hubby follows a nasty-looking thunderstorm home from Bloomington, Illinois to Indiana. It clears out just before he arrives home to find the little tree beside our driveway broken roughly in half, with the missing bit lying where my van would normally be parked. Managed to take out the lamppost just for fun. (I have pics, but they are being uncooperative in making the trip from my cell to my email inbox.)

Monday, adventures in weather, take two, with pictures. The boys and I weathered it in our hotel room, sat tight while they got the live power lines cleaned up, and picked our way through the utility crews clearing away branches and trees to check on my parents. (No damage or injuries there.) We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon watching the news and counting our blessings. Late in the afternoon, things were cleaned up enough to go back to the hotel for a swim (Operation: Wear Out the Kids) and then head out to Happy Joe's for pizza and ice cream.

While we were gone, I left my van parked outside my parent's house. The mother of the lady next door, while attempting to turn around in the drive across the street, backed into the rear of the van. No major damage, just a cracked taillight cover and a little rub on the bumper. I'm pretty sure she felt worse about it than I did.

So, yeah. We're home, we're safe, and by and large we got off lucky all the way around--my mantra has been, "It could have been so much worse." And I'm so glad it wasn't. If you need me, however, I'll be over there talking to the insurance company.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On the road

The boys and I are on the road for a few days. We dropped Avie at the kennel yesterday afternoon and drove as far as Normal, Illinois, where we spent the night at my brother-in-law's. Joey and Michael were up until somewhere between 3 and 4 am playing Halo 3 with their cousins. After dropping into an anniversary celebration for the hubby's aunt and uncle, the boys and I hit the interstate for another hour and are now checked safely into a hotel down the street and around the corner from my parents' house, where the boys are napping until my mother gets off work at 7. Yay for hotels with wireless internet. We should be back in the homeland Tuesday-ish, although I won't really be out of touch.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Much ado about little things

I popped open my word document to start working on Crowmaker this morning and discovered that the running word count I'd become used to seeing at the bottom of the page on Power Writer was, of course, no longer there. Since I was no longer in Power Writer. (No kidding.) Which left me with the options of obsessively checking word count with the word count tool every five seconds (a temptation too great for me to resist) or returning to my old way of counting daily word count which is translating it to more of a daily page count utilizing the standard publishing practice formula. Either works; the second is allegedly more accurate and foregoes the obssessive temptation bit, so I went with that. Standard practice formula is to use Courier 12 font and whatever margins will yield you 25 lines per page (EDIT: and 60 characters per line, including spaces, usually right around a 1" margin on all sides), which gives you an estimated 250 words per page. For my current summertime goal of 1,250 words/day, that's 5 pages.

(Why, you ask? Here's the most succinct response I've seen about it. Go pretty much anyplace that writers gather and you'll find heated debates on the topic, however. It's the method I'll continue to use for submitting purposes until someone gives me a good reason to stop, but I stop short of stating "OMG, that's how you HAVE to do it!" See this for a really good opinion on the word count debate.)

Anyhow. Since I'm in rough draft mode, it doesn't matter a whole lot how I track word count, except for my own purposes to provide me with tangible proof that yes, I am getting work done. When I did a quick and dirty count on what I had so far, I found that my publishing method gave me a different cumulative word count than my previous Power Writer tracking tool had--no great surprise there. To make everything jive with my Storytoolz progress meters, I adjusted my word count on my progress meter. So no, I didn't write quite THAT much today. Although the muse has dragged me out of bed before my alarm every day this week, so maybe 5,000 words in one day isn't entirely out of the question. Someday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Toiling upward in the night

(Yes, I have been playing with the random quotation page again.)

I mentioned having put together a writing schedule for myself through the end of the year. The schedule includes a goal daily word count on days when I'm supposed to be producing rough draft of projects, with some specific dates for bigger benchmarks, mostly revolving around the quarterly due dates of the Writers of the Future contest. I also built in some days for producing no word count even during rough draft work, as a nod to my knowledge that sometimes I just need to step back and reassess and let things bubble a little.

This will be the second such reassessing and bubbling day this week, so I'm glad I built them in. I needed the time to reconnect with Crowmaker and to do a little more note making on the cultures involved and the overall plot structure. I hear bubbling, even if I don't know yet how the stew will turn out. Something yummy, I hope. I definitely need to get back into producing new word count soon, though--I can feel my writing muscles stiffening up and aching for a good run.

County fair this week. Balloon race was kind of a fizzle--fewer balloons than usual and they blew the opposite direction from us--but still a good excuse to sit on the deck and eat fudgesicles together. We'll hit the midway some afternoon/evening this week (the boys and I, at least), since Joey insists he really does want to ride the parachute drop and the double ferris wheel, and Michael must have funnel cake. (I might be a sucker for a lemon shakeup, myself.)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One moment to the next

Yesterday, I caught a good chunk of quiet time to assess stories and my schedule and take a stab at semi-organizing my writing time for the next couple of months. The Q3 story will be back burner for a couple of weeks, to do its stewing thing before I take a second look at it. In the meantime, it's back to Crowmaker. I have plans to visit the folks the week of the 20th, but the boys and I will be staying in a hotel in order to take advantage of the pool, so I should be able to keep up some kind of word count while I'm away. (Yay for laptops.)

I have also decided to move Crowmaker off Power Writer and into traditional, plain old word processor files. I've copied over note tabs already, just need to print them out and put together ye olde three ring binder of notes. (Call me old-fashioned, but I find it easier to track down what I need on paper than scrolling up and down through a zillion pages of on screen notes.) I really do like Power Writer--it's almost the ideal setup for me, in theory. But the whole undo button that doesn't really undo anything and other assorted glitches have made me a little nervous. Once I get up and running, hopefully I can spend less time fussing with software and just write.

The really good news is that Ein and Kellen popped into my head and started talking to me this morning, without me even having to go looking for them. The others can't be far behind, which means Crowmaker is still alive and kicking.

Our county fair opens today, which means we will have a hot air balloon race to watch this evening. Sometimes they come right over our house, one year so low we could look up inside the balloons and hear the burners hissing and flaming. Very cool. (Or so I thought. Avie was less enthused and went from standing against the fence barking as they approached to cowering under my chair and growling as they passed overhead.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hurricane season, year-round

(Or, Why I'm Not Writing Right Now)

If you're a parent, you're already aware that some days you can tolerate your children's little quirks, and some days it turns into an experience more akin to Chinese water torture or surviving a force of nature.

My youngest son is ten. He is and always has been... exuberant. And fearless. And a tad forgetful. The combination, as you might imagine, is good cause for a number of the gray hairs on my head. He's still working on learning to swim with a degree of consistent results, for instance--not because he hasn't had lessons or isn't trying, but because he'll get halfway across the pool and simply forget that he's supposed to be swimming instead of giving me a thumbs-up.

He is brilliant at math and understands concepts at a level I don't quite get. I can't count the number of times, when we were home schooling, that I would plan out a lesson that should take half an hour and wind up spending 10 minutes on it, because he figured out where I was going before I got there. He's good at his other school subjects, too, and he has that uncanny ability to listen without appearing to listen at all. But he is bouncy. (Raga would love him.) I've been known to state that he vibrates--this is not an exaggeration. If he were a cartoon character, he'd have those little wavy lines around him at all times. He rocks in chairs and car seats; he rocks side to side to put himself to sleep at night. Send him up to his room to get dressed, and pretty soon you'll hear him bouncing around and telling himself a story, and you'll know it's time to call up and remind him. "Michael?" "What, Mom?" "Are you getting dressed?" "OH YEAH! I forgot."

He CAN be still. When he sleeps, he doesn't move all night. He's just boom, out, and that's that until morning. Give him a book he's really into, and he's... well, mostly still. His current habit is to hang his increasingly long legs over the arm of the chair and use his toes to flip the piano bench open and shut, open and shut, open and... "Michael!" "Huh? Oh. Sorry, Mom."

I'm only half kidding when I say that this child has not just a guardian angel, but an entire flock. And I'm betting they have to rotate assignment on a pretty frequent basis, to cut back on on-the-job stress. Watching him hop-skip-dance his way up and down stairs is an exercise in motherly composure. Every once in a while he'll miss the last step or two and finish the trip down on his butt. The first time, I thought it'd cure him and make him more careful. It did--until the very next time he used the stairs.

This morning, I had to run to the store when I first got up, so I was late getting around to writing time. By the time I sat down, Michael had used up his morning video game time, so just as I was opening my Power Writer file, he came hop-skip-dancing up the basement stairs, whammed the door open and shut, whammed the bathroom door shut, whammed the toilet seat up and down, ran the water full blast to wash his hands, whammed the door open again, and bounced down the hallway and into the kitchen, which is open to the living room, which is where my laptop is set up. By this time, I already had an inkling that today is not a day where my tolerance threshold allows me to not notice the banging and bouncing.

Fridge opens and whaps shut. "How long do I need to microwave the jam, Mom?" (Joey and I made refrigerator jam with fresh strawberries the other night. They got almost too sticky, so we heat them a smidge to loosen them up again--and warm jam is yummy, too.) "About 10 seconds, Michael." Whap, microwave open, whap, microwave shut. Whirr, ding. Whap open, whap shut, slamming of jam container on counter. Bounce, bounce, bounce of bare feet on the kitchen linoleum. I glance over my shoulder and see him dancing around the kitchen island with no apparent goal other than dancing around the island. "Michael?" "Yeah?" "Are you going to put the jam ON something?" "OH YEAH! 'Wholesome grain goodness,'" as he drags the bread wrapper out of the basket. I look away at this point; I know the bread will be balanced precariously at the edge of the counter, I don't need the extra twitch seeing it will give me. Whap whap, toaster oven open and shut, and craaaaaaank on the timer. More bouncing while he waits. Ding!

At this point, I didn't see exactly what happened. "UH OH! OH NO!" Smack, the (thankfully plastic) jam container hits the linoleum. Now, this was on the far side of the kitchen. By the time I looked up, it was rolling on its side under the table, which is on the nearest side of the kitchen AND on the opposite side of the island in the middle of the kitchen. The dog, having amazing OMG FOOD reflexes, was a step ahead of me, wagging her tail in an "Oh, for me?" manner. Michael grabbed the dog, I grabbed the jam, and we scraped away the section of jam that we thought she might have actually managed to get her tongue on. "Sorry, Mom." "Just try to slow down and be more careful, OK? I think it's one of your extra-bouncy days, pretend you're moving in slow motion and you should be moving about the right speed." (Yes, this is a common instruction. When he remembers to follow it, he does pretty well.) Back he goes to his toast, jam and spoon in hand. I get back to my computer, glance over my shoulder, and see him holding the jam-laden spoon over the toast and whipping it up and down in an attempt to dislodge the sticky jam from the spoon.


"Yeah, Mom?"

"Use a knife to scrape the jam off the spoon and spread it around."


I'm going to settle for browsing the web for historic events and other miscellania from 1976, the year my Q3 short is set in, and call it research, and wait for my nerves to stop jangling before I try to write for real. I'm not complaining, really, or upset. I'm laughing too hard. Because some days, that's just what you have to do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Waiting game

Some days, it seems like I spend more time waiting to write than I actually do writing. I feel that tell-tale itchy feeling inside my skull that indicates I am ready to write (I think), even if I don't know exactly what I will write. But there was the kid I promised a round of Heroscape, and there were the kids who needed lunch, and there is the kid watching No Reservations across the room. Soon there will be the kids I promised a trip to Dairy Queen this afternoon, and the dog who expects a walk right about now, and the laundry and supper and other assorted everyday things that constitute my "real" job, the actual reason I stay home during the day instead of trekking to an office somewhere for a paycheck.

Don't get me wrong. I love this job. In spite of the 24/7, every week of the year hours and the lack of tangible rewards. And I am happy and pleased to have my boys home with me, and I enjoy the Heroscape and the Rock Band and the Uno Attack and the trips to DQ. (I mean, come on--who would object to DQ?)

Except there's this itching in my head, and my computer is right here, and the PW document is open on that tab, right over there. Only I know that if I open that tab and start trying to write right now, there will be inevitable interruptions. My best hope is to wait another few minutes, when they settle in for their allotted video gaming time and a lack of interruptions will be almost guaranteed. Because I love my family, and the only thing that makes me crankier than not being able to write when I want to is being interrupted in midthought. I get snappy. I don't like this about me, but there it is.

So, yeah. Waiting to write. Remembering why I'm really home. Taking a deep breath and trying to enjoy the moment, even if it's not the one I think I want right now, because it won't come again, and I might regret missing out on it later.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sshh, my brain is sleeping

I just realized I've missed a couple of days on the blog entries--although I've been putting lots of word count into the Q3 story process document over there on the sidebar.

The other day, I mentioned motivation and a Holly Lisle article. This is the one. I'm not saying we should all go out and make enemies to drive us to greater and greater writerly heights. But you know, I think we all have those people in our lives who, even if they mean well, spout those little remarks and lacks of faith that can either drag us down or push us. I've been lucky the last few months--most mornings I wake when my alarm goes off and can hardly wait to get to the computer and slap down the words to shape out that next scene, even when it's hard going. But on the days when I just can't seem to get myself going, the magic mantra of "Oh yeah? Just watch me" gets me moving.

There's a fine and dangerous line to tread, between writing just because I love it and feeling I should prove myself, those two things that I think must be necessary to become a "real" writer. I've crossed over onto the wrong side of that line before, and it about buried my writing impulses for good. I think, though, that being aware of the line's existence is helping me keep my balance; I know it's there, so I can glance down and make sure my feet are firmly planted in the center. I can use the updraft from both sides to keep me where I need to be.

This morning, for instance, I woke up and tried to make myself think about the current story and realized that I do not yet feel a passion for it--curiosity, yes, but nothing that makes me really like and care about these characters. I've been writing it because I said I would. And that's fine, because I read somewhere that the first draft is usually the getting-to-know-you draft; by the time you get to the end you're finally really getting to know your characters. And then you can go back in the second draft and rewrite so that those characters you know say what they really meant to say all along. Sometimes the biggest sparks come out in the actual writing, the little truths that magically make everything about the story make sense. So as I continue my process on Monday, I'll be remembering to look around as I write that first draft, and not just drudge through it because I said I would.

That's the plan, at least.

But not until Monday, because I told my brain it could have the weekend off. It didn't realize how exhausted it was until it got away from the work and laid down for a little nap, but it is now sleeping quite deeply and does not wish to be disturbed with anything even faintly resembling shop talk about those stories, thanks much. That's fine, I did approve the vacation days, after all. And quite possibly, when the brain returns on Monday, it will be all full of renewed creative energy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Productivity outburst

More creative process blogging happening over here. You can bet on two things--there is or will be fire, and it will be awesome to behold.

I got my monthly Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter today, and it occurred to me that even though I'm not using it right now, there might be people out there interested in trying their hand at flash fic. Pam Casto's monthly newsletter has all kinds of tidbits about markets and contests and so forth, related specifically to flash fic. You can find it here.

In other news, wasps have been eradicated, windows have been stained, and the shed is half-painted. We're looking good today.