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“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” - Girl Genius, by Kaja & Phil Foglio

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Perspective, it's all about perspective ...

Monday, December 31, 2012

This Year and Books

2012 wasn’t a bad year for me.  I put in much time editing and writing and as a result have taken a novel farther than I have ever done before.  I took a real vacation for the first time in nearly a decade to a place that has fascinated me since I was a kid = awesome with awesome sauce. 

I didn’t read as much as I’d like; time spent writing is time not reading.  Looking over the list, it was a year of mostly favorite authors, their new stuff as well as re-reading older works.  Here it is, with ocasional notes: 

(1)  David Jauss, On Writing Fiction, Rethinking Conventional Wisdom About the Craft.  Essays on point of view, flow, epiphanies, and more. 
(2)  Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.  Beautiful writing.


(3) Seanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon.  Marvelous fun!  A monster-protecting competition-level ballroom dancer protagonist who is seriously awesome!  This book made the Grande Finale of the Cover Battle of 2012 at Ranting Dragon.  Up against Blackbirds, as of now (12/31/12) the count is 52%/48% in favor of Blackbirds
(4) Elizabeth Bear, By the Mountain Bound.  Prequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Good fantasy, spun from a Norse foundation

(5) Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress.  Sequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Now I’ve finally read all three books that make up the Edda of Burdens series. 

(6) N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods.  Book three in The Inheritance Trilogy.  Marvelous and satisfying.
(7) Ellen Datlow, ed, Naked City.  Anthology of urban fantasy stories by Jim Butcher, Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, and others.  Loved it! 

(8) Carol King, A Natural Woman.  A memoir that brought back memories of events we all lived through and how important her music, and the music of others, was in defining and solidifying those times.
(9) Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).  Hilarious and sad and fascinating.  At times like watching a train wreck.  But in a good way.

None.  :-( 

(10) Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth.  New SF book, not Discworld.  I enjoyed it. 

None.  :-( 

(11) Lois McMaster Bujold, Cordelia’s Honor.  Re-read of a loved book.

(12) Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens.  Another re-read of a favorite.  Yes, I took time off from writing during NaNoWriMo to read!  If you look at my stats [Kat's NaNo Stats] you can probably tell when it was, too.  {Oops.  Maybe not!  It was the first slump; the second slump was work-induced.}

(13) Elizabeth Bear, shoggoths in bloom.  Collection of many good short stories
(14) Terry Pratchett, Hogfather.  Traditional to read this at Christmastime.  Starting back when my daughter was around 14, we would read this out loud to each other, doing voices.  She does Death’s voice very well. 
(15) Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time.  The book that follows Hogfather.
In Progress:  Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts.  Thought I might get it finished today, but didn’t.

Well, I managed more than one book per month.  Perhaps I will do better next year.

OMG, my cup of New Year's Egg Nog is nearly gone!  I blame that for any typos.

I know 2012 could not end soon enough for many.  I feel fortunate that I was not in that group this time.

May 2013 be kind to all. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

"Bob the hamster was pleased with his new Christmas tree. It didn't drop needles, it wasn't a fire hazard, and it didn't look fake like all those cheap plastic ones.

"It did wander off occasionally, but it always came back when he filled the food dish."

by Ursula Vernon

And on a more scientific note:

From xkcd

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of The World

In my SPAMmers writing group we have "homework" based on a predecided prompt with a limit of 500 words.  Those who do it read their work at the meeting.  For our meeting last night the prompt (decided months ago) was "end of the world."  Vic posted his effort here .  I decided to post mine, too, partly because someone said I needed to write more stuff like it. 

Working title: "Bike"  

Deidra and I were strolling down the sidewalk.  A matte black motorcycle was parked in front of the drug store.  I stopped.

"What?  Coffee, remember?"

I rarely paused for anything on my way for coffee.  "It's beautiful."  I held out my arm.  "Look at those sleek lines." 

"Crazy woman.  It's a motorcycle!"

"A Ducati. Work of art."

"Black ugliness.  The coffee shop?" 

I waved her on.  "I've never seen one live before."  I moved closer.  "See how the curves make it look like it's already going fast?"

She stood there, hands on hips, rolling her eyes.  "No."

"Look at that Harley over there.  See how clunky it is?" 

"They're machines, Vonda."

I resigned myself to never getting her to understand.

Deidra was tapping her foot.  "That's it.  I'm going."

"I'll be there soon."  My breathing had slowed, my back muscles relaxed; physical reactions to such a pretty thing.

A dark haired man stepped up next to me.  His clothes matched the bike; matte black jacket and pants.  His unzipped jacket showed a pale green shirt underneath with the top four buttons undone, revealing significant chest hair.  I had a vague sense he was clean shaven with a nicely shaped chin, laughing eyes.  Chest hair.  I felt like I'd won the lotto.  Bike and man.

"Like what you see?"

"Yes."  Simple answers are sometimes the best.

"Would you like a ride?"

"I love to look at them, but I'm terrified of riding."

He looked me over.  Slowly.  Grinned.  "Bikes?  Men?"

"Bikes."  I smiled, one corner of my mouth higher than the other.  "It takes a long time for me to be comfortable enough to ride a man."

"I've never backed off from a challenge."

I raised an expensively plucked eyebrow.  "Oh?"

"Interested in some iced coffee?  There's a shop just up the street."  He pointed in the opposite direction Deidra had gone.

I was attracted to this man.  Dangerously so.  I should say no thanks and go; I wasn't always sensible when viewing beauty.  "I'd love to.  I'm Vonda."

"BJ.  Let's ride there."

"Hold on."

"Backing off from the challenge already?  We've barely begun."

I took several deep breaths.  Looked into BJ's inviting brown eyes.  I really wanted to have my fingers entwined in his chest hair.  "Not the bike."

"Shame."  He tipped an imaginary hat, strode over and mounted.  I felt the motion of his hips as he settled on the seat.  Felt my hips wanting to respond.

He looked hard at me.  "Sure you don't want to come?"

Oh, I wanted to come all right.  Just not out here in public.

He winked as if he knew what I'd just thought.  "You did say bikes terrified you.  Shouldn't push you."  He twisted a bit, patted the seat behind him.  "Join me.  Get the feel."

I hesitated.

"I won't start the engine."

Oh, honey, the engine's already revving.

"Come on, sweetheart.  It's not the end of the world."

I stepped forward. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading on 12/12/12

Over at shouldbereading , today's meme is:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you'll read next?

I am currently reading Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear:   
Ms Bear's imagery and sensory details, along with a ripping great yarn, are why I love her work.  This is book one of a trilogy; she has used a Mongul base rather than the standard fantasy medieval European base.  I'm only on Chapter 5.  So far it's wonderful. 

I most recently finished Shoggoths in Bloom by Elizabeth Bear:
This is a collection of short stories.  I started it back in October; took a break for NaNoWriMo in November, and finished it early in December.  It includes her two stories that won Hugo Awards.

I will next read Hogfather by Terry Pratchett:
because it is a family tradition to read this book at Christmastime.  I may read it before finishing Range of Ghosts.  Or I may watch the movie, which is well done but lacks one of my favorite scenes, one that involves a teddy bear. 

Please share your recent and future reading list!  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

City Lights - Black Marble

NASA and NOAA jointly manage the Suomi satellite, which takes high resolution images.  The first video is about 2 minutes long and gives an explanation of what the satellite images show.   

The second video is about 30 seconds of Black Marble animated images. 

 I've already lost track of how many times I watched it!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


When I was first introduced to formal outlining, whatever elementary grade that was, I found the process fascinating.  Indenting the lines brought a step-like appearance to the page.  Orderly.  Step in, step down, step in, step down, step down, step out ... like a path, a road.  And of course that's what it was supposed to be:  the path to guide you as you wrote.

I. Heading
__A. Topic
____1. Some words
______a. abashed, objurgate
______b. beguile, proliferate
____2. More words
______a. ineffable
______b. maunder
__B. Another topic
____1. Moar wrdz
____2. Must have a two
____3. I want a tab key that works, dammit!
______a. Rant rant rant
______b. Still moar rant
II. Another heading
__A. Another topic
____1. Some things
______a.  ^)^ 
______b.  >^.^<
____2. Some more things
______a. ( '}{' )
______b. *\ 0 /*
__B.  Beheading
____1. Because of
______a. Reasons
________i. Good ones
________ii. Bad ones
______b. Because
____2. Methods
______a. Details
______b. Don't look here

I really didn't care what was written on each line.  I worked at creating indentation patterns that pleased me.  Teachers had us hand in our outlines before we wrote our essay or paper or whatever.  Eventually - probably after some rather low grades on my outlines; I really don't remember - I did them properly.

Once I'd absorbed the organization lesson, I resented the extra step of writing an outline before I actually, you know, wrote!  When teachers stopped making us do outlines first, I stopped working from outlines.  They still wanted to see the bloody things, so I wrote them after I'd finished the paper.

Fast forward.

I don't plan my novels.  I just write.  Pantser is the technical term.  I follow my characters around, try to entice them (sometimes) to go in certain directions.  Usually they do quite well on their own and I just stay out of their way.

In 2010, the initial conflict of my NaNo novel suggested a logical ending.  It was really nice having that target to write toward.  It felt like I had a plan!

In 2011, I had a rough idea of what an ending for my NaNo novel might look like.  I even had a few events that "should" happen along the way.  I briefly wondered if I still qualified as a pantser. 

At this point I can't see me creating an outline for a novel before it's written.  Maybe a Six Point Plan, or perhaps a Ten Point Plan.

But no outline. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012 Wrap Up

I've participated in National Novel Writing Month eight times.  I've made 50,000 words seven of those times.  It boggles my mind, it does.  Here's how NaNo has gone for me over the years.  I put this together back in October, when several other people were posting their NaNo histories.

2002:  Signed up 10/31, daughter talked me into it.  Managed about 12K of fantasy but it was horrid.
2003:  Another attempt at previous year's story.  Made 50K but basic conflict didn't hold up.
2007:  Third try on same story, pushed time line back about ten years.  Best effort to that point, but was an editing nightmare.
2008:  Rebel year.  Total rewrite of 2007 novel from the beginning.  It's decent now, and as soon as I figure out the ending I'll pull it all together. 
2009:  Rebel year.  Three pieces of various lengths; all MCs (Main Characters) telepathic
2010:  High fantasy with dragon, dwarf and wizard
2011:  Urban science fiction adventure/romance
2012:  Rebel year.  Sixteen short stories (SF/F, lit fic).  Theme - the human condition (yes, anything can fit under that umbrella) 

The first four NaNo's were basically me floundering around learning how to write a novel. 

My rebellion this year encompassed writing a new ending for last year's novel (over 19K right there) and the beginnings of a bunch of short stories.  Four of those are currently around 3K to 5K each.  Only one has an ending.  The shortest "story" is 120 words - didn't get that one off the ground. 

First I think I'll edit the short piece that is the December homework for one of the writing groups I attend.  It's currently 670 words.  I need to get it down to 500 or less. 

After that I  just don't know.  Maybe I'll take a break from the writing and spend December reading.  Oooh, books!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 29

Tradition upheld.  Reached 50K on the 29th. 

My software (AppleWorks) said I was at 50045; NaNo word counting bots gave me 50483.  Sweet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 28

Traditionally I take the last two days of November off from work.  I request December first, too, if I remember.  This year I remembered! 

I worked Monday (my regular day off) and my generous boss suggested I take today off as a replacement.  I'm happy.  My word count is happy - 47160.  And I don't have to go back to work until next Tuesday!

I have a few errands to run and plans for this evening, but there's no writing pressure because I've already passed today's minimum (46676). 

Another tradition of mine is reaching 50K on the 29th.  I've done that four of the past five years.  Last year I cleared it on the 27th and ended with a personal high of 53154.  (Yes, I have a spreadsheet!)

Tonight I'll get a critique on the opening of one of the short stories I wrote this month.  Ideas from that will fuel the writing tomorrow.  Three thousand words shouldn't be too hard ... and there's tradition to uphold.

Congratulations to all my NaNo buddies who've already reached 50K and have their purple Winner bars. 

Commiseration to my buddies who couldn't make it this year.  Life happens and sometimes overrides the writing.  It can happen to anyone; some year that will be me. 

Encouragement (and buckets of words carried by plot bunnies) to my buddies still in the race.  Hope you get purple bars, too.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Day and Reminisces

I’m grateful for living now, for the advancements and changes that I’ve seen over the past half century.  Reduced discrimination, increased opportunities, amazing technology. 

Distance from events changes our perspective.  I can even be grateful for those people in my life when I was young who told me “girls can’t do that” and “college is wasted on girls, especially you.”  Those statements hurt, but gave me the drive to prove them wrong.  Pushed me right into an A average and advanced degree in oceanography.  

As an undergraduate I had several classes where I was either the only woman or one of two women, and I went to a large state school (FSU).  In graduate school I was one of three women students in the department.  We had one woman professor.  One!  A woman of awesomeness, a full professor with a PhD in physics who held a joint appointment in Oceanography and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. (*waves*  Hi, Ruby, if you ever see this.)  There were cruises where I was the only woman on board. 

There was discrimination.  The professor who graded the women lower for the same answers as the men.  We ended up in the department chair’s office over that one.  :)   The chief scientist on a cruise who gave me the 2 to 4 watch (that’s 2 pm to 4 pm AND 2 am to 4 am - the absolute worst shift) and ‘joked’ it would put me in my place and teach me women didn’t belong at sea.  That was my first deep water cruise and my first as the only woman in the scientific party.  A hurricane formed over our sample site (Anita) and we ran for port at the same speed the storm was building.  Sitting in the galley with my life jacket after a 4 am shift, along with more than half the crew, I was told I needed to get a knife before my next cruise (they assumed I’d be back; they were right) and a lively discussion ensued on the merits of fixed blade vs switch blade which included demonstrations.  I was quizzed on how to determine where I was relative to the door if we capsized.  Fifty knot winds, 10 meter seas (on a 100 meter vessel) for two days, chugging along at 13 knots was a hell of an initiation.  The wooden fruit bowl in a macramé hanger near the entrance to the galley was swinging to within a foot of the ceiling.

I bought a knife.  Not the type recommended, but one I was comfortable carrying.  It lived in the pocket of my jeans whenever I was at sea. 

I am grateful for all the people who encouraged me over the years, the folks who still encourage me when I tackle tasks I’m not sure I can manage.  Who remind me my toolbox is deep, my knowledge base broad. 

Attitudes have changed.  What was once not even considered as realistic (women firefighters, multiracial marriage, same sex marriage) is now either mainstream or moving in that direction.  

There are still challenges.  Discrimination isn’t gone.  Climate change has been ignored by policy makers for too long - drought killed more civilizations than wars ever did.

We can’t let those with small imaginations and limited ideas prevent us from following our dreams and accomplishing our goals.  I'm grateful I learned that lesson early. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 18

Good morning, internets.  I’m still catching up.  My word count last night was 25719.  Should have been at 28339.   That puts me 2620 words behind. 

If I write 4300 words today I will be caught up (today’s words plus that deficit).  I’ve done 4K days in the past.  Not yet this year, but I think I’m in a place where it might be possible.  I have a dozen stories going.  This past week I’ve focused on expanding what I rushed at the end of Rising Tide.  Oh, boy, did I rush!  What was one paragraph is now three single spaced pages.  *looks down, shuffles feet*  And the ending is changing again ... I think I’ve figured out a way to get that big confrontation in after all.

The other ongoing stories in my NaNo have been resting all week.  Should be time for them to burst out with new directions ... 

Daughter and I are going to a write-in at a coffee shop this afternoon.  It runs from 3:30 until 8.  Don’t think we’ll stay that long, but it will hopefully be good for both our word counts.

Meanwhile, the coffee pot has stopped gurgling.  I’m off to make my first mocha of the day and get to work. 

If you're doing NaNo, too, best of luck and may your word count soar!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

NaNoWriMo Update, Day 10

It's 10pm and I have ZERO words for today toward NaNo.  It was a work day for me, but still.  That is pathetic.  My second zero day for the week.  I am currently at 13034. 

My accomplishment today was making ring tones for my new iPhone.  Oooh.  Ring Tones!!  If you call me, "People Got a Lot of Nerve" by Neko Case will let me know.  At least for now.  I have eight to choose from so far and I suspect I will rotate them fairly frequently. 

I will now start writing.   I only need about 3500 words by midnight to be on track ... looks like tomorrow and Monday will be major catch up days.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Railroad Bill

In honor of NaNoWriMo and writers everywhere, here's my second (annual?) posting of the wonderful spec fic author Steven Brust performing Andy Breckman's variation of the classic folk song "Railroad Bill."

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNo and Work

It’s Day 2 of NaNoWriMo.   We are crazy busy at work. 

Our section dropped from five to three people (attrition), one of the remaining three went to second shift.  The two of us on day shift now have two newbies to train while keeping up with the four person workload.  AND the other trainer was off three days this week.  Yesterday surely set a record for the number of times I was interrupted.  I’d be focused on the project I was reviewing, a newbie would come by with a question.  Pull mind from project, get a focus on newbie’s project, figure out problem and give answer.  Return to my project, just get focused again - and someone else needed something.  All. Day. Long.  Today had fewer interruptions but an added project of timing (with a stopwatch) each step I do in LIMS (the software we use to manage data) and recording all relevant info for a special IT study. 

My brain is a bit fried.

I wrote about 800 words today and am amazed I got that much! 

Last year I made word count almost every day and it even felt easy; that was aberrant.  Unprecedented for me.  This year is shaping up to be more like what I call normal.  I know two days of data isn’t reliable for statistical purposes, but trust me here.  Normal used to be: lucky if I got 800 or 1000 words on work days.  That made Saturday catch-up day, even if it meant 4000 words or more.  Sunday was write a cushion day, with a minimum of 4000 words. 

My schedule is different now.  So this month, Sundays are catch-up day and Mondays are write the cushion day.  Probable minimum of 4K each day.  Don’t even ask what I’m going to do on the 11th when noon to 6 pm is tied up going to a play with friends.  Not ready to deal with that one yet. 

Write on!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I've been following this storm since she was south of Jamaica.  Tonight's news is so sad.  The NHC (National Hurricane Center) did a phenomenal job of forecasting the path and danger from the storm surge.  Too many people were complacent and ignored the warnings. 

(Photo from NASA GOES satellite)

When the sun comes up we'll see pictures and videos of the damage, the displaced people, etc. 

Please donate whatever you can to organizations that can help.  One I favor is Portlight.  They focus on aiding disabled victims and those otherwise underserved by some of the larger organizations. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo Prep

What little planning I’m doing for NaNo is moving along.  I have more than fifty prompts for stories but only hazy ideas for characters.  That bit’s a little worrisome.  Back when I wrote lit fic short stories, I could start with anything.  Over the last four years or so - when I’ve focused on novels - it seems I need a character before I can start writing.  I’d love to get back to starting with anything.  Maybe that ability will return in November. 

My daughter is doing NaNo this year.  She’s far more organized than I am, with pages of notes.  She writes faster, too.  Good writing, let me tell you, and that’s not just because I’m her mom! 

Elizabeth Bear’s new short story collection, Shoggoths In Bloom, arrived at my door Wednesday.  I plan to devour it.  Several of the stories included are among my favorites (“Tideline” and “Cryptic Coloration”) and I’m sure I’ll have a few more favorites by the time I finish the book. 

I’m also half way through another anthology, Dragon Lords and Warrior Women, edited by Phyllis Irene Radford.  Maybe I’ll get that one done before November 1 as well. 

See, it’s all part of the NaNo prep.  If I want to write short stories, I need to read them!

Happy reading, everyone!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

First Line Meme

Sometimes ideas converge in a way that amazes me.  I'm planning on being a rebel this year for National Novel Writing Month.  Not doing a novel; hoping to get 50K of short stories. 

Our homework for November in the Library Writing Group I attend is to make a list of all our unfinished writing projects. 

This reminded me of the first line meme I'd seen on some author blogs.  Quoting Elizabeth Bear: "For those who haven't encountered this before, the idea is that somehow magically listing all projects under construction will alert the brain to finish a few of them.  Sometimes, it even works."

I've already done my homework, guys!  (This makes two months in a row.  I think that's unprecedented.)  Some of the short stories on this list were written more than a decade ago.  They were the best I could do then.  Because of my plans for NaNoWriMo, I figured I'd list them and maybe the characters will reemerge during November with bright, shiny new stories.


“Are they dead?”  I swirled the flask, hoping to see some cloudiness in the pale media.
On a Rising Tide

Rahila strode comfortably along the animal track winding through waist-high turkey grass, her soft deerskin wrap pale against her bronze skin, thick brown sun-bleached braids swaying on either side of her bearskin pack. 
Shadows Dancing With the Wind

The passageway that led down to the dragon’s lair erupted with smoke and an acrid smell.
Affairs of Dragons

Short Stories

Orchid sat cross-legged on the oak storage chest under her open window trimming her nails.
“The Weavings of Orchid”

Amanda found the black carnival mask propped between boxed incense and a vase of peacock feathers in a tiny shop on Montegut Street twenty-five years ago.

The indigo flashes darting to sudden stops, hovering, then zooming off toward the vegetation reminded Martin of hummingbirds back home.
"Mr Exobiologist" (working title; probably won't last long)

“Hey, what’cha drinking?  Latte?  Espresso?”  Brewster shouted across the parking lot.
“Otter and Brewster”

Uncle Biggie brought home a camel.
“Uncle Biggie and the Camel”

According to the NIMBY orthodoxy, the townspeople should have loudly and repeatedly objected to the county placing a landfill here.  We didn’t.
“The Trout”

I woke up when Mom came in from the bar.

The naked philologist felt he would come unhinged because of the outlandish itch.
“Nigel and Lady Ashton”

I collect hats.  They hang on a wall in my living room with scarves, bead necklaces, and silk flowers as filler.
“Dreams of the Past”

Most dragons preferred gold.  This one wanted electronics.
“The Electronic Dragon”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some Critters I Like

One of my biology professors always said "critters" instead of "animals."  Other profs used it sometimes, so I view it as a scientific term.  ;-)

Critter One:  Yeti crab (Kiwa hirsuta)

Discovered in 2005 along the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge at a depth of 2200 meters by scientists in the submarine DSV Alvin. 

They live near hydrothermal vents and are about 15 cm long.   Here's a video of one made by folks from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, again in Alvin.  

This critter will end up in a story or novel of mine some day.  May get modified (thinking larger, but can't get too much bigger or those 'arms' will be a problem). 

Critter Two:  Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)

Here’s a mom and babies who live at the Belfast Zoo.   

Capybaras are native to South America and are the world’s largest rodents.  Adults are about 1 to 1.3 meters (3 to 4 feet) long and can weigh 35 to 65 kg (75 to 150 lb).  They always live near water.

I have these in my prehistoric fantasy novel. 

Critter Three:  Salties  (Crocodylus porosus)

The largest living reptile, salt water crocodiles make it unsafe to go in the water from northern Australia up through western India.

Mature males can exceed 6 meters (18 feet) in length, females are around 4 meters (12 feet).  Weights range from 400 to 1000 kg (900 to 2200 lb).  For perspective, average horses are around 1000 to 1200 pounds.

Not sure if this critter will be in a story of mine someday or not.  Maybe after I get over being too nice to my characters...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Link Gumbo - Writing

Every now and then I like to step back from the actual writing to read what authors have to say about the process.  I decided to share some of what I've found. 

The links are arranged from shortest read (NeilHimself’s advice) to longest (Seanan’s epic essays) mostly.  Not going to quibble over whether Ms Bear’s or Ms Darwin’s post is longer.  I’ve included a quote from each as a tease. 

To start, writerly advice from Neil Gaiman:  “2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”

Vonda N McIntyre has long been a favorite author of mine (Read Dreamsnake!  Also The Moon and the Sun!)  McIntyre’s First Law:  “Under the right circumstances, anything I tell you could be wrong.”  “His heart beat in his chest.  Where else, ordinarily, would your heart beat?”

Carol Lanham on revision - that’s when you add the bling.  “This is the moment where I get to sew little weird pieces of me into the mix.”

Elizabeth Bear on The Expert Problem.  “This is kind of a running joke among writers--never talk about firearms, motor vehicles, or horses, because somebody will give you hell about it--no matter what you say.”

Emma Darwin (my favorite explainer of How Writing Works) on “where the narrative (and therefore the reader) stands, relative to a character.”

And to wrap it all up, here’s Seanan McGuire’s Fifty Thoughts on Writing.  “3. Putting fifty thousand words on paper does not make you a novelist.”  (No, she is not against NaNoWriMo.  She makes important points here.)
First she made the list of thoughts.  Then wrote essays!  Includes links to her essays for Thoughts 1 through 47.  (The essays for #48-50 weren’t yet posted as of today.)  All The Things!

There you have it:  a mini writing course by professional, award-winning authors in the trenches.  Apply liberally!  Use wisely.

And remember McIntyre’s First Law.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thoughts Prompted by Alaska Trip

The last few weeks I've taken an introspective meander down Memory Lane.  It's full of potholes.  Some large enough to swallow a lime green, peace-and-love-symbols-covered VW bus.

Back in the time before dirt, when I graduated from what was then called Palm Beach Junior College [who came up with junior college???] and was applying to universities, I was accepted at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  I lived in south Florida (Palm Beach county!) at the time, but grew up in a Chicago suburb.  I had a realistic sense of "winter." 

My reaction to Alaska now that I've finally visited?  If I had gone there for school, I wouldn't have left the state willingly!

So why didn't I go?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

NaNo Meanderings

I mentioned that I bought a raffle ticket in Skagway from a couple of firemen.  The drawing was Friday (Sept 21).  I haven’t received a phone call; guess that means I didn’t win anything.  Well, I donated to a good cause:  Alaska Firefighters. 

It’s officially Fall.  October is just around the corner.  That means it’s time to start thinking about National Novel Writing Month .  That’s what November is FOR, after all.  Right? 
(Edit:  the new icons have arrived!)

I don’t do much planning; I wing my NaNoNovels.  I do like to have an idea of the world I’ll be writing in, some characters fleshed out and an opening conflict.  An ending is nice, too.  I expect my characters to take over the story before I reach 10,000 words; they usually do.  I really need that this year.  My fiction mind is still on vacation after the big edit of Rising Tide. 

So far I have no ideas for a novel.  I’m considering doing 50K of short stories.  If all the stories are linked somehow - same characters, same location(s), or some other way - it would qualify.  I tried that in 2009.  It was ... interesting (in that sarcastic, not-really-sure-what-it-was sense).   I ended up with one partial short story, a bunch of scenes for the previous year’s novel that wasn’t finished (still isn’t), and a novella of a biography for a character that stepped in and took over.  Telepathy was a common thread in all three so it qualified under the NaNo rules. 

I’d really rather not repeat that. 

I have over a month to come up with something.  Maybe I'll hear back from my Beta Readers and, based on their input, do the next version of Rising Tide.  Maybe I'll use one line of song lyrics as the opening for each short story (an idea I'm toying with).  Maybe something totally unexpected will occur to me before October 31.

For sure I will do something.  If you enjoy writing, have considered writing a novel "some day," come try NaNoWriMo.  It's a great way to stretch your writer self and meet many nice folks doing the same. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Alaska Cruise, Part Six - Tracy Arm and back to San Francisco

We headed south.  Around 6 AM the morning after leaving Skagway we arrived at the entrance to Tracy Arm.  (Earlier in the season they go to Glacier Bay, but by September it has too much ice in the water.)  I bundled up (heavy sweatshirt, one of my winter scarves, rain jacket and gloves) and spent about four hours on deck.

It was around 50°F (10°C) and breezy.  I didn’t feel cold, but the ship was prepared for those who did.  (Edit:  click on the pictures to biggify.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Alaska Cruise, Part Five - Skagway

Our final port in Alaska was Skagway, a gold rush town and jumping-off point for the Yukon.  We tied up at the Mining Pier and were met by busses to take us to the various excursions.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but chilly.

The predicted high was 54°F (12°C).  (Edit:  click on the pictures to biggify.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Intermission ...

I went back to work yesterday, and have to make more of an effort to get myself off Pacific Time and back to Central Time!  Instead of a travel installment, here's a little video clip that made me laugh:


(It's not from You Tube so blogger won't post it as a video.  Rats.)

Thank you, Daughter and her friend O, for the link.

Hopefully I'll get the next Alaska installment up Saturday evening after work.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alaska Cruise, Part Two - Victoria

Our first port was Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.  Labor Day is a Canadian holiday as well as American, and they were having a wooden boat festival.   We arrived just as they were starting the boat parade.  (Edit:  click on the pictures to biggify.)

Alaska Cruise, Part One

I returned from my vacation Monday evening - a ten day cruise to Alaska.  This trip had a number of firsts for me:  first commercial cruise, first time in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Alaska.  I enjoyed it tremendously.  Took hundreds of photos.  Not all of them are worth sharing, of course, and you’d be bored bored bored, so I’ve selected a few to post here. 

I sailed on the Sea Princess out of San Francisco. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Remembrance

For the world, 9/11/01 was a tragic day. 

For my family, 9/11/11 was a day of great sadness. 

We'll always remember.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running Off to Sea

Pavement.  Buildings.  Stress!  Cars.  Trains.  Stress!  Prairie.  Trees.  Stress!

ARGGHHH!  *two fisted hair-pulling in frustration*

I am running away to sea!  Where the view is unobstructed all the way to the horizon and I can watch for the green flash while salt spray tickles my skin.  

Will be back after a dose of ocean - possibly with pictures.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I know it's kind of late

It's late and I should be sleeping, but I added a new feature here at my blog.  At the top there are now two tabs.  I know, they don't look like tabs in this template, but that's what they are.  HOME is for my main blog.  YOUR THOUGHTS AND WHATNOT is for whatever you want to say to me - as long as it's polite, of course.  {Not polite and I'll quickly acquire something akin to John Scalzi's Mallet of Loving Correction.  *rubs chin*  Hmm, I have a machete I use for editing manuscripts ... it hacks through word jungles like anything.}

The idea for the page came from my friend Dixie, via her friend Jilly.  We all have blogs hosted by Multiply.  Don't bother looking into it now; they're shutting down the social networking/ blogging feature of the site by December to focus on eCommerce.  BUT, they have a wonderful feature called  "Guestbook" where visitors can post messages. So I'm hoping my new page will function something like the Multiply guestbook.  I may also be using it like the Multiply "Notes" where we could post little thoughts and ideas that don't warrant an entire blog post.

So, try it out (please?)  Let me know what you think about it or whatever else is on your mind.



Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hormonal Rapsody

This one is probably more for my women readers ... ;-)

The group is The Four Bitchin' Babes.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ash in the land of Lord of the Rings

Mount Tongariro, a volcano in New Zealand's Tongariro National Park in the central part of the North Island, erupted on Monday for the first time in about 100 years.  Part of the movie "Lord of the Rings" was filmed in the area around this volcano.  (I don't know which parts.) 

 (Photo from TV NZ One news)

An ash layer around two inches thick settled on the surrounding area.  There are many active steam vents now.  There has been little seismic activity.  Geologist don't know if there will be more eruptions soon.

New Zealand is seismically active.  The islands have frequent earthquakes.  There are 27 volcanoes on the North Island (some are dormant), and there's an area known as the Aukland Volcanic Field that underlies much of the metropolitan area of Aukland.  It consists of many small dormant volcanoes.

Volcanoes have given me nightmares since I was little.  I'm not fond of earthquakes, either.  (Only been in a few, none bad.)

I still want to go to New Zealand someday ... probably Aukland.  The volcanoes are dormant and that area has many fewer earthquakes than other parts of the country.   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Marriage - It Should Be For Everyone

Any adult couple who wishes to marry should be allowed to marry.  The government (or any other group) should not determine who adults are allowed to fall in love with.  There shouldn’t be regulations that say in essence:  you can pick anyone on this side of the room, but not from that side of the room.

I was incredibly naive when I headed out into the world, overly protected by my parents.  Not quite to the level of “survival instincts of a lemming” (Terry Pratchett, Night Watch), but damn near close.  At the time I got married there were states in this country where our marriage was illegal.  I will spare you the rant of outrage when I learned that.  (Who the hell were these people to tell me who to love?  I mean, really?  REALLY!?!?!?) 

Had we traveled to those states we would not have been permitted to share a hotel room - illegal.  Anecdotal evidence from friends said in those places we might have been stopped by the police for simply being in the same car. 

We’d picked from the wrong side of the room, you see.  Caucasian - Asian.  And interracial marriage was illegal in some states.  Then. 

Then, but no longer.  Attitudes have changed.  Folks recognized that it was wrong to ban interracial marriage.   

That hypothetical room is no longer sorted by color. 

It shouldn’t be sorted by gender, either. 

It shouldn’t be sorted AT ALL! 

There should be no “wrong side of the room.”  Pick an adult, any adult.  Any color.  Any gender.  Any size.  Any nationality.  Any (fill in the blank).  Go for it.  Love each other the best you can.  If the relationship lasts, great.  If not, there’s divorce.  No one should be denied the right to try.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

News from the Climate Change Front

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Group, generally considered to be climate change skeptics, funded a project to investigate global temperatures over the last fifty years.  Guess what?  Their results confirm what so many scientists have been saying!  Well, duh.  Facts is facts.  Temperatures have increased by 1.5 °F over the past fifty years and "essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." 

It’s wonderful to see they went at this with an open mind, ready to accept whatever the data showed them.

 ~ ~ ~ :: ~ ~ ~

Way south, a huge, mile-deep rift valley was found under the ice in West Antarctica. It's about the size of the Grand Canyon:

That's a trace generated by ice-penetrating radar towed by a team of scientists on snowmobiles.  It’s thought this deep canyon may be channeling warmer ocean water to the bottom of the near-by Pine Island Glacier.  This can lubricate the underside, speeding its flow and hastening its melting.  This glacier is poised to calf a large chunk soon: 

The picture is from November, 2011.  The crack was about 19 miles (30 kilometers) long, 260 feet (80 meters) wide and 195 feet (60 meters) deep back then.  The giant iceberg that will result will cover about 350 square miles (900 square kilometers).  Yikes!

The current rate of ice loss from West Antarctica is thought to contribute about 10% to global sea level rise, currently at about 3.3 millimeters per year and increasing.  If the ice sheet there (West Antarctica, not the entire continent's ice) were to completely melt, sea level would go up by several meters.  Greenland losing its ice would add another couple meters. 

 ~ ~ ~ :: ~ ~ ~

That's it for now.  Don't go buying any beach-front property!


I said I was looking forward to what came next after finishing v2 of Rising Tide.  Well, it appears that what’s next is mental fatigue.  It crept up on me over the course of the week.  By Thursday I couldn’t work on the short story any more.  Yesterday I was lucky to have some tasks at work that weren’t mentally demanding.  I copied and stamped numbers on the bottom of forms for about an hour.  :-)  Helped our IT guru with an issue off and on for most of the morning - which consisted of him saying “try this” and me trying that and disappointing him with the results.  It worked for him, just not for me.  I told him the system liked him best.  Probably not all that helpful, really, but I’m sure it’s true.  Did normal stuff where I had to think, too.  I’m scheduled for some training most of the upcoming week.  The ol’ brain cells better be back from coffee break by then. 

Today I have a list of things to accomplish:
Grocery shop
Cook some of what I buy at the grocer
Take a nap
Finish edit of Orchid (short story)
Read or watch a movie

So far I took a shower...  Guess I’ll head to the grocery store before the rain arrives.

Edit:  Crossed shopping, cooking, napping and editing off the list.  Did some on-line reading, although when I made the list I had reading a book in mind.  Well, there's still a bit of evening left.  It's time for Mr. Pratchett's latest, The Long Earth.   ;-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WRoE Wrap-up

Okay, here’s my WRoE wrap-up. 

In July (1st to 17th) I spent 46 hours working on the WIP, wrote a net of 10,700 words.  Finished version 2. 

The novel isn’t finished, just this version.  I fully expect to create a v3 after I get feedback on the manuscript.  Meanwhile, I will be working on other projects - a short story, then the 2010 NaNoNovel.  Time spent on those don’t count toward WRoE, since Rising Tide was my designated project. 

It’s been fun for me.  A bit mind-boggling as well, to see how much time this really took.  The number is scary!   If you don’t want to see it, skip to the next paragraph NOW  ..... ..... January through July  215 hours

From the beginning, this novel came slowly.  It was really hard to write more than 2000 words a day, even back in November.  A wrong turn led to a creative wall.  Perhaps I should say I ran aground.  Once I backed off, tried another tack, the story took off again.  Much of it wasn’t written in a linear fashion, either, which is not my usual approach. 

It feels amazing to have this in hand.  I am very much looking forward to what comes next.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


*wipes sweat from brow*

Last night I filled the last gap in v2 of the novel.  There are a few little things I still need to do, but essentially this version is DONE.  I had no idea how good this would feel, since I've never taken a novel to this point before.

It feels mighty good.

Already had a BBQ with friends on the calendar for tonight - oh, honey, I am CELEBRATING.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Books I Read in June

I realized today that I didn’t mention the books I read in June.  I took an excursion out of Speculative Fiction into the genre of ----- Memoir!  That’s a big leap for me.  I enjoyed it. 

Carol King, A Natural Woman.  This brought back memories of events we all lived through and how important her music was in defining and solidifying those times.  I’ve always loved her music, and now I admire her even more. 

Jenny Lawson, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir).  Hilarious and sad and fascinating.  At times like watching a train wreck.  But in a good way.  Was a huge shift of gears from Carol King.  I sporadically read Jenny’s blog [LINKY THING to The Bloggess] so that did prepare me, sort of. 

When I have wrestled this version of my novel into completion, I am going on a reading binge.  And probably a movie binge.  Should probably accompany that with a walking binge.  Just saying.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

It's been so hot that ...

My new air conditioner is handling our record-breaking heat with aplomb. 

(No, I didn't resort to the Synonym Finder for that last word.  It just popped in my head.  But I used the SF to be sure it meant what I thought it meant ... Can't trust the ol' brain in this heat.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Higgs Boson Day (tentative)

Wow.  CERN may have found a Higgs Boson .  Coolness.  Lots more work to be done, naturally.  That's how science works.  But, still, lots of wow.  Adds another reason to celebrate the day. 

Happy Birthday to the country of my birth.  So many candles.  Need to make them virtual this year as there are many areas of the country in drought or near-drought conditions. 

Novel is doing well and says hi.  Just passed 67K.  I am on an expotition to find The End.  I think someone is moving it.  I blame Rori and Serge.  They are trying to have some private fun, but keep getting interrupted.  Serge has threatened to keel haul someone - fortunately not me.  Yet.  He will hopefully pause and remember that I have the pen in my hand before doing anything so foolish.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cool! And Coffee!

I have A/C!!!

Something I haven't had for five years or more.  Given the heat wave we are currently in, I left this to the very last minute, although didn't actually plan it that way.  It was planned for several years ago, but events (sudden 20% pay cut, family member needing money) conspired to delay things.  The last few months were just me dawdling, reluctance to see my savings account depleted dominating my knowledge that this would be the summer Climate Change really raised its head and roared.

The money is spent.  There is a cool breeze blowing my way as I type this, an iced coffee on the desk. 

Now to get this novel finished...  Coffee and chocolate are writing fuel.  You knew that, right?  That's why I drink mochas.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

WRoE Summary for June

27 hours, 3790 word increase; word count at end of month 61067

I made corrections based on the critique earlier this month.  I also wrestled with seven pages (29-36) that were A Royal Mess.  Now they’re an Improved Mess, but still an Overly Long Mess.  Kind of burned out a bit on that, so it needs to rest for a while before I look at it again. 

Back in December, when Dixie was setting up this Writers Rules of Engagement gig, my goal was to average an hour a day working on this novel.  I put in 80 hours in the First Quarter and 89 hours in the Second Quarter, for a total of 169 hours.  Divide that by 26 weeks = 6.5 hours per week average over six months.  I’m satisfied with that!

And even more satisfying is this version of the novel is almost finished.  Well, I think it’s almost finished.  I’ve written several scenes near the end - those scenes were rough ideas at the end of last month - but there’s a gap of indeterminate size between where I’m currently writing (p 130) and those scenes. 

I have some ideas of what should happen in that gap.  The characters may have other ideas, of course. 

Maybe I’ll find out over this long weekend; don’t have to go back to work until Thursday.  I’d love to fill in that gap by Wednesday night.  Overly ambitious perhaps.  But, oh, my.  The End is near!

And if I finish on Wednesday there will be fireworks!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My First Car

Thinking about drivers ed got me thinking about my first car.  Thanks to the wonders of Google and the Internets, I found a picture:

Isn't she cute?  It's a Hillman Super Minx.  Don’t worry if you didn’t get that first try.  Few people in the US seem to have heard of these.

That's the color scheme I had, too, although mine was faded from years in the Florida sun.  I purchased it at a used car lot, actually heard it was "only driven by a little old lady to and from church."  Didn't believe it for a minute, but that line seemed essential to the car buying process to nineteen-year old me.  My uncle, a mechanic for Mercedes at the time, checked out the car and broke into guffaws when he looked under the hood.  "The thing is powered by a sewing machine!"

The engine did have a sweet little ticking sound to it.  Got decent gas mileage, too, when I could calculate it.  The speedometer cable broke and I drove for nearly two years not knowing my speed or miles traveled.  This must have been A Feature of the car, because it was broken on every Hillman my mechanic checked in the junk yards.  (By the time I bought the car they had long ago stopped importing them from England.)

My mechanic Joe had worked at a local Mercedes dealership, but left to open his own shop.  Because he was an old friend of my dad and uncle, he agreed to work on my car.  I loved driving into his place.  The lot had Jaguars, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Mercedes - and my boxy little Hillman! 

Joe told me that he enjoyed the car because there was enough room for him to work, unlike many of the fancy ones where nearly every square inch under the hood was occupied.  My engine took up maybe half the available space - hence my uncle dubbing it a sewing machine.  Joe checked for Hillmans in every junk yard he went to - even out of state - and had a collection of parts.  The two parts he/we needed that he never found were the above-mentioned speedometer cable and the nut that held the fly wheel pulley on. 

The fly wheel pulley fell off near sundown in front of the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. 

There’d been a rattle under the hood for several weeks, but my dad kept saying he couldn’t hear it, it was nothing, etc.  I was on my way to a party and heard a clunk when the part fell off.  I stopped the car, ran back and picked up the mystery Piece!Of!My!Car! that looked important.  And was hot.  But, hey, the rattle stopped!  Scared that when I turned off the engine it wouldn’t start again and being a broke community college student not willing to pay for a tow, I drove home with a close eye on the engine temperature.  Made it to our driveway, strutted into the house in my party dress and heels, greasy pulley in my hand, and announced to my dad, “I found the rattle!” 

He about fainted.

Oh, yeah, important bit of info.  My dad was a mechanic, too.  I handed him the pulley and asked for his keys so I could go to the party.  He was so shocked he gave them to me. 

Well, the fly wheel pulley nut was missing from every junker Joe checked.  Another Feature, I suppose.  He rigged up something.  Whatever he did, the repair held. 

I really loved that goofy little car.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Drivers Ed

Today I made my annual trek to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office to renew the sticker on my car’s license plate.  My timing was good; the line wasn’t very long and I was only in there about ten minutes.  Most of the chairs were occupied by students from a driving school, all in bright blue t-shirts with the school’s name and phone number across their backs in Large Letters.  They were probably there for their learner’s permits.  While I waited in line another drivers ed company brought in about a dozen students in bright red t-shirts with the company name on the front. 

Summer recess just started for the high schools around here. 

The local high schools do teach drivers ed, but because of funding cuts there are limited spaces.  Who gets in is decided by lottery.  Everyone else must take one of these commercial classes because the State of Illinois requires professional instruction. 

Things were different in my day.  (OMG I’m old enough to write that!)  Drivers education was a required course in high school; everyone took it. There was a movie we all had to watch - they showed it in the auditorium - called “Mechanized Death” or something equally horrid.  The cameramen accompanied EMTs to car accidents and filmed them saving lives - or not.  Several people fainted, including at least one guy.  I cheated by covering my eyes. 

For me, the school behind-the-wheel instruction included a stop at Dog and Suds.  Do they still exist?  It was a drive-in hot dogs and root beer place.  You parked, and when they brought your order it was on a tray that hooked over the window opening of the car.  Our instructor called it parking practice.  He always paid for root beer for himself and the three students in the car.  It was pull-straight-into-the-parking-spot-and-straight-out-again parking.  I have no memory of what kind of car the school had us drive.

When I finally got brave enough to go for my drivers test, here’s what I drove ... a Ford Galaxy 500. 

Not sure I’ve got the year right, and my dad wouldn’t have been caught dead in a car this color, but you get the idea.  (I think the only acceptable car colors for Dad were black, grey and white.)

I failed the driving test.  Asked to parallel park on a hill, I was too far from the curb and had the wheels angled the wrong way.  As you can guess, I practiced and practiced parking on hills.  When I retook the test, that officer didn’t even ask me to parallel park!  So I passed. 

For comparison, this is what my daughter drove for her driving test: 

A Toyota Tercel coupe.  Yes, in that marvelous color!  She was one of the lucky ones and had drivers ed through her school.  They didn't stop for soda that I know of.  She passed the test first try.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feels like Magic

The novel has reached the stage where I need to pull in all the dangling threads and basically make things go Boom.  I have bits and pieces of at least six sections yet to be written, including one that took me completely by surprise.  And I passed 60,000 words yesterday. 

This is the magic that keeps me writing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Stretch fishing boat

The video speaks for itself.

Duct tape is an essential part of any tool box.  Happy fishing!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

WRoE Summary for May

25 hours, 5074 word increase, word count at end of month 57280

Part of my time in May was spent doing another edit pass on the sections I’ll submit for critique later in June, so I didn’t get as many words per hour as last month.

I’m still having a grand time writing this.  I now know where the main characters will be at the end of the story.  The last three sections are in rough form in my head.  Not sure how they get from where they are now (on page 126) to where they will be then or how much happens in between.  Dangling threads must be captured, too.

As usual with this one, I just follow these folks around and write down what they do and say.  There have been many stretches where I couldn’t see beyond the section I was writing.  Because the story kept growing anyway, I have confidence in it and the characters to guide me to that rough ending.  Or another one!  They’ve sprung many surprises and I wouldn’t put it past them to have a few more for me before the story is done.

I'm not participating in the NaNoWriMo Summer Camp which started yesterday.  Want to finish editing Rising Tide then do the first pass edit on my 2010 NaNoNovel, Affairs.  So I suspect I won't be participating in the August Summer Camp, either. 

To all my NaNo Buddies and Friends who ARE getting to know their cabin mates and novel characters, Best of Luck and may the Word Count Fairie visit you often.  Here's lemonade and some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies to fuel the creativity.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Just drop off the TV. Git yourself free.

In a recent conversation with yet another incredulous person about how I don’t watch television (said person trying to sell me cable TV over the phone), I referred to the DVD player as The Gadget Hooked to the TV That Plays Movies (or something equally odd).  My daughter rolled her eyes and said how it made me sound old. 

Maybe it was a senior moment.  Hey, they can happen to anyone.

Or it was one of those curious turns my mind sometimes takes to avoid a perceived cliché. (If everyone says that, it must be cliché.  Avoid!  Avoid!  Avoid!)  This leads to me sounding a bit like Mr. Pratchett’s character Leonard of Quirm on occasion, who famously named his submarine “The Going Under the Water Safely Device” and something similar to Scrabble “The Make Words with Letters That Have All Been Mixed Up Game.”  (See Jingo.  On second thought, read Jingo!  Advice from your local Evangelical Pratchettian.  You’re welcome.)

Where was I?  Oh, right, mind avoiding anything that may resemble a cliché.  This has happened to me for years.  I suppose the blame lies in the writing workshops I took years ago.  They beat the word “that” out of my prose and set some kind of alarm system for those nasty common phrases. 

[Side trip to the thesaurus.  Cliché:  n. platitude, truism, saw, maxim, stereotype,  Inf.  bromide, prosaism, banality, commonplace, old story, old song, familiar tune, old saw, chestnut.  wOOt!  I came up with one not on the list.  What does your thesaurus say?  I have The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale.]

Clichés do pop up in my conversations, of course, but the alarm goes off in my head when it happens, followed by an immediate desire to edit what I said.  Weird writer chick, that's me.

{Today's blog title from "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover" by Paul Simon}

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Day

It’s not quite the end of the month.  There is no way I will finish another book before Friday morning, especially since I haven’t even started one, so here’s the list of what I’ve read so far this year:

(1)  David Jauss, On Writing Fiction, Rethinking Conventional Wisdom About the Craft.  Essays on point of view, flow, epiphanies, and more. 
(2)  Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.  Beautiful writing.


(3) Seanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon.  Marvelous fun!  A monster-protecting competition-level ballroom dancer protagonist who is seriously awesome!
(4) Elizabeth Bear, By the Mountain Bound.  Prequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Good fantasy, spun from a Norse foundation

(5) Elizabeth Bear, The Sea Thy Mistress.  Sequel to All the Windwracked Stars.  Now I’ve finally read all three books that make up the Edda of Burdens series. 

(6) N.K. Jemisin, The Kingdom of Gods.  Book three in The Inheritance Trilogy.  Marvelous and satisfying.
(7) Ellen Datlow, ed, Naked City.  Anthology of urban fantasy stories by Jim Butcher, Holly Black, Elizabeth Bear, and others.  Loved it!  The title is from an early 60's detective show. 

My last book post covered the first quarter of the year (January - March).  Didn’t seem worth repeating the list at the end of April with only one addition, so I waited.  Two of the new ones on the list are from the TBR* pile (Bear and Jemisin) and one is a recent purchase (Datlow). 

My target is two per month (average) for the year.  Gonna have to have some three books or more months to make that happen.  Oh, yeah, seriously, because if I do NaNo that shoots both October and November for reading.  I’m having a great time writing the new ending to my novel, though, and I’ve already scheduled a movie binge for when that’s done.   Sherlock!  The Prisoner!  Well, they’re both TV shows, but several episodes combined are as long as a movie ...  perhaps I should call it a DVD binge.

Reading will happen.  I have confidence.

*TBR = To Be Read.  I have several piles, including a few PDF books in the computer.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I do my part by simply smiling

I am still around, puttering and muttering and proclaiming there are Not Enough Hours in Thee Day.  Fortunately you’re out of earshot.   Daughter goes off to the stable or work so doesn’t have to hear it, either. 

Da books!  Da movies!  Da writing!  (groans Da Chicagoan)  They are all Piling Up! 

There’s a brief window around here between freezing your tushie and frying your tushie and we are THERE.  So I’ve been outside a lot.  Not doing anything particularly interesting - although I saw a pair of eagles the other day while walking.  No camera with me, of course.  I never seem to have it when cool stuff happens.  And they were right overhead!  

No eclipse viewing for me.  It was primarily west of here, but Chicago had clouds in honor of the astronomical event anyway.

(Photo by wunderphotographer mcgino, in New Mexico.  No clouds there yesterday.)

I have bought books (Carol King’s autobiography and Naked City, an urban fantasy short story anthology).  The second season of Sherlock comes out tomorrow and I have a coupon ...  I still haven’t reached the new ending on the novel, although it is now longer than ever (over 55K). 

Ze piles they do grow. 

(Title of today’s entry is a line from the song “Ampersand” by Amanda Palmer, the current choice of the iPod shuffle.)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dots - Red and Blue

You’ve probably heard through various news outlets that last month was one of the warmest Aprils on record.  Where it stands in the stats depends on what region you consider:  5th warmest globally, 4th warmest for the US.  Land surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere were 1.7°C (3.1°F) above the 20th century average.

(Click on the map to see an enlarged version.)

I like these pictures NOAA does because they give a visual of what goes into creating a statistic like a global average.  What’s happening at “your house” might be near that global average, or wildly divergent from it. 

Some people who work hard at denying the earth is warming will point out that glaciers in the Himalayas and some parts of Antarctica are growing.  Look at the map above and you’ll see blue dots in those areas.  Eastern Greenland even has a blue dot.  Yes, there are areas that are cooler than average, but talking only about them is cherry-picking data. 

There are very few blue dots on the land.  Very few.  And the land is where we live.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

April WRoE Update

Thirty-seven hours.  10,100 word net gain.  Current word count:  52,204. 

Wrote the dreaded (by me) torture scene.  FMC rescued from kidnapper and safe in MMC’s condo.  MMC now vulnerable to murder (kidnapper is dead) and kidnapping charges (cops could think him complicit) compounded by transporting victim = FMC across state lines.   Their upcoming lunch will be award-winning Maryland Crabcakes from MMC’s brother’s restaurant.  Followed potentially by romantic interlude. 

I’m happy with that.

[FMC = Female Main Character; MMC = Male Main Character]

Monday, April 23, 2012

Novel Update

The story is chugging along nicely - passed 45K yesterday (45397 at the moment).  Near the end of February I removed the ending, which took the story from 52K and 119 pages to just under 38K and 89 pages.  It’s back to 104 pages. (I don’t work in official manuscript format.  I like to maximize what I see on the screen and I’m balancing that with printing things out for editing, so it’s 1 1/2  spaced with 3/4 inch margins.) 

Seven thousand words in about as many weeks is nothing like a NaNo pace, but it’s sustainable through my crazy work schedule and the other interferences that wander by.  And those seven thousand words are edited, something that is anathema during NaNo.

Ah, yes, in case you missed it, last Monday I visited Motor Cycle Center and spoke with Geoff.  He was very helpful and confirmed my choice of a Triumph for Cait.  Very sleek bike, stylish, modern, and an appropriate size for an athletic woman around 5 ft 8 in.  And the big surprise of the day for me was the Street Triple comes in purple!  *swoon*  Now I have to add those details to the novel ...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

NASA's Perpetual Ocean

Video:  NASA/SVS

The eddies appear too perfect due to the limited resolution, but this is an amazing visualization of the surface currents of the world ocean.  

The following text is from NASA

“This is an animation of ocean surface currents from June 2005 to December 2007 from NASA satellites. Watch how bigger currents like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean and the Kuroshio in the Pacific carry warm waters across thousands of miles at speeds greater than four miles per hour (six kilometers per hour); how coastal currents like the Agulhas in the Southern Hemisphere move equatorial waters toward Earth's poles; and how thousands of other ocean currents are confined to particular regions and form slow-moving, circular pools called eddies. Credit: NASA/SVS

“The visualization covers the period June 2005 to December 2007 and is based on a synthesis of a numerical model with observational data, created by a NASA project called Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean, or ECCO for short. ECCO is a joint project between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. ECCO uses advanced mathematical tools to combine observations with the MIT numerical ocean model to obtain realistic descriptions of how ocean circulation evolves over time.

“These model-data syntheses are among the largest computations of their kind ever undertaken. They are made possible by high-end computing resources provided by NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

“ECCO model-data syntheses are being used to quantify the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, to understand the recent evolution of the polar oceans, to monitor time-evolving heat, water, and chemical exchanges within and between different components of the Earth system, and for many other science applications.

“In the particular model-data synthesis used for this visualization, only the larger, ocean basin-wide scales have been adjusted to fit observations. Smaller-scale ocean currents are free to evolve on their own according to the computer model's equations. Due to the limited resolution of this particular model, only the larger eddies are represented, and tend to look more 'perfect' than they are in real life. Despite these model limitations, the visualization offers a realistic study in both the order and the chaos of the circulating waters that populate Earth’s ocean.”

If you've read this far, thank you!  Here's a link to a ten minute version
At the NASA site I linked at the beginning, there's information to find a twenty minute version as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pick a Bike from the Lyrics

I love my characters.  They push me to find out stuff I didn’t know before.

In the current WIP, my character Cait has a motorcycle and won’t consider any other vehicle.  So this evening I went hunting for which bike she rides. 

What little I know of motorbikes I learned from Richard Thompson’s song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”  (See my post of 2/11/12 if you’ve never heard it.)  There’s one line of the song where he lists three brands of bike that “won’t do” - meaning they’re not as good as Vincents.  I’ve noticed that in different recordings he lists different bikes:  Nortons and Indians and Greeveses, Velocettes and Triumphs and Sunbeams. 

It seemed risky to choose one from his list.  I mean, from the lyrics Vincents are obviously some classic bike.  Anything he listed might not be made any more! 

I first thought to give her a Beemer.  Asserting my independence of the lyrics?  My cyber search took me to, where the manufacturers list included Triumph.  So after reading a bit about Beemers and picking a potential one, I went exploring Triumphs. 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Cait rides a Triumph.  Specifically a Street Triple R, that this website says is on their Sexiest Bikes of the Decade list. 

It’s a middleweight street bike, “the one who broke into the classroom, stole the test answers out of the teacher’s desk, did a smoky burnout and wheelied away.” 

Yep, that is SO Cait’s bike!