Tuesday, December 28, 2010

'Twas Two Days After Christmas…

… and all through the house
was a mess.

And I really don't care right now.

I take very little time to pamper myself.  Even my "fun" getaways usually involve a quiet corner where I can write fiction or taking care of my horse - both work to a certain extent.

I didn't not work entirely today… laundry and dishes got done.

After all, the Husband-of-Awesome went into epic battle against the semi-blizzard that hit us yesterday with the brand new snowblower… which, with all our property, took him about 3 hours.

But I definitely took some spa time.

See, a Christmas ago, my really cool brother got me this nifty herb and body butter skin softener and polish kit from Crabtree & Evelyn.  I love the scent of it but I had yet to use it.  And then mom got me more bath care products this year… and I did not want to waste another year of not using fun spa stuff.

So, after I'd eaten the last bagel and bit of lox… for breakfast around 3:00PM (I haven't had a full night's sleep since before Christmas Eve!), I took a long spa break.  I ran the shower to get some steam in the bathroom, did the whole pre-shower scrubbing and moisturizing, threw on a clay mask, then took the shower (nearly falling on my butt, granted, from said super-moisterizing shea butter stuff) and extra-conditioned my hair.  Then I gave myself a mani-pedi (well, I cut, filed & moisturized hands and feet - I didn't bother with polish), and finished with some light scent and oil.  Then, I proceeded to do my chores in my ultra-comfy white velour yoga pants, sweater, and fluffy robe.

(And then proceeded to spill the mulled wine on the sweater, causing H-of-A to demand I finish my wine at the table and not even go NEAR any computer.  In any case, the wine came out of the sweater, and life is fine… I digress.)

The mulled wine was great, and the H-of-A did appreciate it after all the snowblowing.  After that, it was snuggles on the couch for the remainder of TV catch-up for December.

I didn't actually get on the computer until after 11 or so… but in that time, I brought my email down from 164 to 85, and I'm ready to face the rest of the week with a lot more energy - but calm and focused energy.

And I need it.

Some things I must accomplish:

Clean this friggen desk.  (Yes, this is a constant challenge, but it's almost a New Year… and it should start clean!)

Make my New Year Post and 2011 Business Plan.  (In which I also compare what I accomplished this year to what I wanted to accomplish.)

Update Broad Universe page.

Write some BSER webpage articles.

Drop in for some essay and lead work at Smarthinking.

Spend some time with Calico.

Make calls & write article due 1/5.

For a weekly "must do" list, it's not terrible, really, though I'm sure plenty of other related items will pop up.  I also still want to continue with the "hanging out with H-of-A" plan, because, well, I love the guy and he's fun to hang out with.

Also, I'm going to take the rest of the week off from blogging.  I think I will pre-write some articles for next year, and I've got a lot of planning and work to do for my New Year Post… which I may break into two pieces, because it was so very long last year - I appreciate all of you who ploughed through the whole thing and commented!

So - I'll wish everyone who reads a very Happy New Year, right now!  And if you plan on celebrating with libations, have a designated driver or dear friends who will let you spend the night.  (*waves to many, much appreciated Friends-of-Awesome)

Much luck, joy, and above all, love, in 2011!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Pets in Santa Hats!!

Much merriment to you - no matter what you celebrate!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Writing Around the Christmas Tree

… if we'd actually put one up yet.

We have some stars, and the stockings, and the Jingle Wreath (which, honestly, is around for the sole amusement of the H-of-A tormenting the cat.)

I don't know if it's a common issue with writers, but I always start holiday break with a million plans for writing.

999,999,997 of which never get done.

See… you think there is a ton of time now that the official "work" is on break.


I'm still baking.  (Yeah, those cookies are going out TOMORROW, not today, for those of you waiting.  And at least two of ya' are getting stuff after Christmas.) 

Then, of course, every weekend is booked.  Yes, it's fun and wonderful and I love seeing my friends and family.  It takes a lot of time and prep, though.

Cleaning for Christmas Breakfast.  Packing and wrapping presents (the few besides cookies).  Travel, travel, travel… car maintenance.  Heat and wood requirements.

EVIL EVIL SNOW. (Ok, we've got flurries… which only means each one gets an even longer glare.

ICE!  (My chiropractor is getting sick of me.)

Horses + Ice + Snow! (See above comment.)

And recovery time from all that.

A Christmas when we had actually gotten the tree up. And had Rhetta.
The biggest thing is the whole usurpation of my schedule, though.  I am a pretty free spirit with a flexible schedule - but it's still a schedule!  And I stick to it!  Yeah… notsomuch now.  And the feeling of being lost due to being unable to keep my schedule only makes things worse.  Here's a big example of how:

Now, the Husband-of-Awesome is so titled because he is so.  The H-of-A also gets 2+ weeks off from work during this time.

I love my husband; I adore him.  He is my best friend, and I love spending time with him.  And he enjoys spending time with me.

So, if he's planted on his computer behind me, I'm not getting work done.  He can even be working, too, like paying bills.  It doesn't matter.  I'm expecting some question, some comment, or some interruption.  You know… you kinda talk to people you like.

Remember: My normal workday is alone in my house.  Alone.  The cat gets her arse tossed outside or upstairs if she becomes demanding.

Until he went outside to do the physical labor of taking care of the rest of our firewood, I was edgy and unfocused.  After that: Called all my article contacts, finished laundry, did dishes, packed cookies for mailing, organized some of my scary desk, and made dinner.

See how productive I am alone?!

Even now, as I'm trying to get this blog done, he's distracting me.  It's cool stuff he finds on de Interwebs… but, um, yeah, writing?

He's also usually in bed at this time. Or, if it's a weekend, playing video games.

And, of course, I WANT to spend time with him.  We just went to go see Black Swan tonight (awesome movie, btw!).  So… work?  Have fun with husband?

Christmas.  Holidays.  Vacation time.  Not good for writing - no matter how much you beg Santa.

Better to suck it up and enjoy it.  Living, after all, is the fuel for writing…

And my friends Kelly Harmon and Tracy Morris have much better posts going into that topic.  So, go read them!

That, and I haven't had much time to spend with the H-of-A with the months of overtime anyway. <3  If there's missing blog posts in the next few weeks - you know why.  ;)

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Manic Monday!

It’s Christmas Week and things are… a little crazy to say the least.

Happy Solstice & Yule… Despite my FB post, technically, per the actual Earth’s Orbit.. it is on the 21st, though we just enjoyed the gorgeous full moon tonight on the way back from our friends’ holiday shopping evening – which was excellent.

I haz me a pretty present!

“Graffiti Dragon” – I squeed all over the store because I fell in love with this one the moment I saw it!  This actually came from Studio 206, which is next door to Stained Glass Creations, from my other friend Stef – the amazing paint artist. 

I’m also still in baking mode… and those of you to whom I mail stuff, well, it’s getting put in the mail on Tuesday, so you will likely enjoy it during the 12 days of Christmas rather than before Christmas.  Extend the love!

I promised more on the surprise New York City trip with my Mom, but it’s late, I’m cold, and there’s not a whole lot of details.  It was a lot of fun, though.  Here are some pictures!

In fact, that’s our job for tonight: Finally clean off our Camera!

So, my blogging presents to you:

Two cuties cuddling by the fire.  (At least one of them is cuddling by choice.  Guess who!)

And me and my pretty horsey!

Other news, before bed:

Christy and I have a fun guest post on the Bad-Ass Faeries Blog!  Please go over and see it and leave us a comment?  Pretty please?  :) 

Now, I’m off to bed with a thousand jobs to do tomorrow – including FINALLY seeing my baby – well, the big half-ton baby who lives in Leicester.

Yeah, that one.  :)  I threw my back out last Friday moving wood, visited my chiro like three times this week (thus my missing Wednesday post), and can now go visit her… preferably before I throw my back out again moving the two cords of wood that got delivered yesterday morning.  (Also on tomorrow’s list: Get Back Brace at Home Depot to hopefully prevent this).

Wish me luck, and happy holidays!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

10 Baking Mistakes I made so You Don't Have To - Part 2

I've been baking cookies for some time, and learned some important lessons that I'm happy to pass onto you.  Welcome to the 2nd part of Mistakes I've Made so You Don't Have To.

5 - Mistakes can be Good Things

Even if you've done your research and homework, things will go awry.  And that's ok.  Taste them - try them.  Several of my mistakes have landed me some excellent discoveries. 

One of my favorites is this peppermint cookie brittle, aka “Peppermint Mistakes,” that looked horrific on the pan (and gave me nightmares before I discovered the joys of silicon pads).  It's crunchy, sugary, and unlike anything else I eat around the holidays.  (The mistake was before I discovered I'm Just Here for More Food and did not realize that my chocolate would melt like butter, and the sugar from candy-canes would liquefy). 

And even if it's not gift-able - or even edible, what did you learn?  :)

4 - Don't do the work that technology can do for you  (aka Protect your writing assets: your hands & wrists!)

As a writer, I have enough issues in my wrists, hands and fingers from typing too long.  The last thing I need is further injuries from baking.

Get a good mixer - both a bowl mixer and a hand mixer.  The extra money for quality is worth every cent and more.

Use a food processor for mixing, too.  (See prior note about Alton Brown for more info on this.)

Wooden spoons have more strength and stability than plastic ones, so that will also save your wrists, and pastry cutters make short work of what you don't feel comfortable mixing in the food processor or with a mixer.  Well, shorter work than just a spoon.  (Go with the food processor or mixer whenever possible.)

I've mentioned silicon pads several times.  They are wonderful - especially if you are prone to gooey mistakes in the oven.  Beyond awesome.

And lastly - spring for good oven mitts! LOTS of them.  If you haven't experienced the agony of typing with burned fingers, knuckles, hands, etc., may you be blessed with never having to experience it.  Especially when you are on deadline.

3 - Tip the Staff

I mail a lot of stuff.  A LOT.  Not just during holiday seasons, but all year.  (Well, duh, I'm a writer - these manuscripts haven't grown legs yet!)  The Post Office knows me by name… Only packages from Utah get lost (though, going to Utah seems ok.). 

They realllllly like my cookies.  So does the mailman.  And the UPS driver.

2 - Helpers… don't really help.

This is one of those really hard lessons to learn.  Cooking with kids - be they your own children or someone else's - is a great time to bond and have fun.

It's NOT very productive.

If you're going to invite others into the sanctity of the kitchen, do it for the right reasons.  Kids/Youth need supervision with the tools, want to know why with everything, and most of all, want to experiment!  This is all wonderful, and I highly recommend baking with kids - but do it for the experience.  Not because you think it will get your baking done any faster.

It won't.  And if you feel it will, you'll end up getting impatient and losing the magic that comes with baking with kids.

The same goes for friends - even foodie friends.  You will likely end up in a food fight (possibly a higher likelihood than with children), you will get in each others' way, you will be postponed by giggle-fits, and you will continually swap aggravating and unsolicited advice on technique, ingredients, and recipes.

Bake with others for fun - not productivity.

1 -  Remember, they're just cookies!  And it's s'posed to be fun!

Yes, more and more people are cooking and baking - so it's not as unique a gift as it once was.  It's still special.  No one will make exactly what you make - and if you have included family recipes, it's even more from the heart.  Points for creativity and love - even if presentation and flavor aren't Iron Chef levels.  It's a gift - not your entrance exam into Johnson and Wales.

And chances are, they'll be eaten and enjoyed within a few days, anyway - without close inspection.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December Broad Pod: Hope, Light overcoming Darkness

Broad Pod Episode 11 by Broad Universe  
Download now or listen on posterous
December Episode.mp3 (14148 KB)

Join Broad Universe for the 11th Episode of the Broad Pod! This December, as the northern hemisphere approaches longer days and the southern hemisphere, longer nights, five broads share tales of light overcoming darkness. Join hostess Trish Wooldridge, as she introduces you to Rin Kutoji, Christy Tohara, Kim Vandervort, Theresa Crater, and Kathryn Hinds, who lend us sparks of hope in troubled times.
Come and listen to these beautiful voices at: http://broadpod.posterous.com
As you listen, you can also subscribe to the podcast via itunes by dragging it into your playlist. Subscribe and spread the word - so that more women's voices can be heard across the globe.
The Broad Pod is sponsored by Broad Universe, a non-profit, international organization dedicated to promoting, celebrating, and honoring women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

Posted via email from The Broad Pod posterous

Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 Baking Mistakes I Made so You Don't Have To - Part 1

It's that wonderful cookie time of the year again! [Ok, today, not so wonderful… mishaps everywhere not even COVERED in this post… I digress…]  I shared a few baking adventures with you last year, and now I'm ready to gift you with a few more lessons learned in my baking endeavors over the years.  This is a pretty extensive list, so I'm breaking it into two "Foodie Friday" parts. 

Happy Baking!

10 - Plan, Plan, Plan - Real Estate is Limited

For most of us, we don't run a commercial baking facility.  In fact, we probably only break out 3/4 of this crap once a year.  So, if you want to maximize your oven space, countertops, bowls, mixer, cookie sheets, cooling racks, and other stuff, you really do need to plan.

  • Maximize oven space and save energy by planning cookies that cook at the same temperature.  You don't want to keep fluctuating your oven temperature or you 1) waste electricity and 2) don't bake evenly.

  • What mixing/rolling can be done while baking?  Can you get all of the recipes that need the mixer out of the way first?  Do your best not to be stuck waiting for one thing, unable to do anything else.

  • Make a list!  As supportive as family and spouses are, there are only so many times they will go to the 24-hour supermarket - if you even have that luxury.  Do a kitchen inventory and make lists of what you need from the grocery store, the club store, and the kitchen warehouse.  Bonus Points:  If you do this early enough, you can order some ingredients/hardware cheaper online!

  • If you are baking on the go, at a friends house or otherwise, know where the heaters and hot air vents are.  And where all their kitchen equipment is.  And what you need to pack.  This advice comes from having to make several last-minute adjustments, letting batter sit too long, being unable to salvage cookies without a Silpat, and losing almost 5 lbs of chocolate because I didn't realize I put my supplies on the furnace.  Just like driving a car - do a full cockpit check before you start driving.

9 -  Salt is not Sugar; Baking Powder is neither Flour nor Baking Soda…

This is part planning and part the science comment below - but I cannot tell you how many batches of cookies I've ruined by feeling so rushed that I didn't check my ingredient. 

Furthermore, if you are baking on the go and don't want to haul your club-size ingredients wherever, you might put things in baggies.  And forget to label them.  Or, you may have dishes of ingredients in handy reach so you don't contaminate your five pounds of flour/sugar/baking soda/salt. 

Yeah.  Label stuff.  Know where it is.  Don't accidentally flour your rolling pad with baking soda or sugar your cookies with salt. 

8 - Importance of Packaging

Related to making a list, realize that these cookies/baked goods have to get to their recipients, so you need to plan to package.  If you require fanciness, plan after Christmas/New Year's to stock up on tins that are on sale (and don't forget that "somewhere safe" where you put them.)  I collect baskets through the year, but I needed a little extra protection. 

Plastic baggies keep cookies fresh for mailing and gifting - and still show them off in a tin, basket… or a blouse box from a 25-cent package of 5 (my choice for mailing & gifting in 2009).  Like with your ingredients and hardware, you don't want to be running (or begging a spouse/family member to run) out and find them the day before you plan on gifting/mailing these things.

7 - Portion Control

Yeah, it's the holidays and making cookies is relatively cheap, but a little goes a long way.  Especially if you are giving a variety.  I started doing over 12 different kinds of cookies and wanted to make sure everyone in the family receiving them got plenty. 

Then I got cookies back… and I realized, "Y'know, I will just keep eating these and my waistline will haunt me for the next year." 

A lot of work goes into baking; most people realize this, so you don't need to lavish them with a ton of food. 

6 - Baking = Science (Why I <3 Alton Brown)

If you don't own, I'm Just Here for More Food, go out and buy it.  Right now.  It will be the best baking investment EVER!  For example, powdered chocolate behaves like a fat in baking.  And sugar a liquid.  And did you know the way you mix something - and the way you roll it - will affect the end product? 

Learn why your food behaves the way it does, and you will avoid a exponential amounts of baking frustration.

Check back next Friday for the next 5 Mistakes I've Made so You Don't Have To!  And, in the meantime, what are some of your memorable mistakes in baking?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Planning a Castle, and Magic in Scotland

Or, Why Research in Novels is Cool!

Most of Friday was spent on the Interwebz and in Scotland (via said Interwebz). 

My good friend, Renée, was kind enough to let me abuse her paper and ink supply as I looked up various historic castles, their stories, their blueprints, and the areas in Scotland where they were. With large stack of castle research in hand, I set about plotting the castle that Heather and the MacArthur family live in - the 2nd part of my homework from my "Fabu" (thanks for the word, Suzanne!) writing group, Traveling Java.

Plotting a useable castle is freaking hard!!

(Planning a starship is harder, but that's a different novel.)

In any case, like with all of my details, I want it to be believable, which means that the castle must be structurally sound and things like secret passages need to make sense with the blueprint.  That also means that the walls and rooms need to be well-planned so as they aren't suspiciously wide between rooms.

Oh, and on top of that, if it's been modernized with additions (as the MacArthur castle has), you need to actually get to the additions and move around… so at some point, doors need to be made in places that make sense for doors to be (i.e. not at major supports and not through extra-reinforced walls… and certainly not through already-built-in towers with stairs planned for the original levels and dimensions.) 

Everyone needs a place to sleep and live, too… don't forget the live-in staff!  They kinda need to be near heat sources and close enough to the remodeled and renovated parts so that they don't feel like their living in the Middle Ages.  Not if you're writing a contemporary fantasy, anyway.

In figuring all this out, I worked one pencil's eraser down to the nub and made my way 3/4 of the way through another poor pencil's eraser.  I have three completed floors and one partial of the sub-floor, which includes how the secret passages all connect… and I probably still need to do a roof view.

Of course, the changes affect the story, too.  Just like the Character Bible revealed a lot about my characters that I hadn't realized, the map did the same.  There are definitely some scenes I must fix to reflect the layout (particularly one with running down stairs where the room from which the character is running is now on the first floor), but as I continue on the draft, more scenes are a whole lot easier to write.

Besides just plotting out the MacArthur castle, I mapped out where it would be located in the novel's Scotland.  This was a particularly magical task.  After a few novels in the UK under my belt that make liberal use of Google Maps (HOW did writers survive before Google?  Really?!), I have a rough geographical idea in my head about Wales, England, and Scotland (And Ireland).  In the mists of my mind, I figured the castle would be about an hour's drive east of Edinburgh, and I wanted it on the shore… with cliff trails (Thanks, Backpacker magazine!) and maybe about 35-40 minutes from a small village - but not a major city or town.  It also abuts a nature preserve between the castle and the village.

Well, there just happens to be such a perfect location in Scotland!  EXACTLY how I want it!  Down to the village and driving times (per Google Maps' driving directions) and the cliff walk (a tourist attraction of the village I found that matches my novel village).  So, I just plopped my castle and saltwater loch in the middle of Real-World existing farmland (or so it appears on the satellite images). 

In any case, I'm unbelievably happy with the results of this exercise, and absolutely appreciate how well my new writers group pushes me! 

Yay, research & writing groups!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Make-Up of "Fluidity Friday"

I spent my weekend in New York with my mother, brother, and brother's girlfriend.  Before that, I spent all of Friday working on my map for the castle in my novel.

It was a fabulous weekend that I need to catch my sleep from.

So, you get the blog that I totally forgot to post on Friday because I had about 20 windows open of Scottish castles and castle floorplans and maps of southern Scotland.  (I'll write about that later… along with my Adventures in NY.)

Fluidity Friday

I was moved to tears [Thursday night].

The human being, human culture is so amazing and transformational – and so horrible and cruel.

I had the opportunity to join my husband for a joint program put on through the Raytheon American Indian Network (RAIN) and the Raytheon Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies (RGLBTA) showed the short documentary called Two Spirits about a transgendered and gay Navajo teen who was brutally murdered. 

What made this such a powerful documentary is that despite the horror of the crime, there was a close look at the history of transgendered peoples within not only the Navajo tribes, but many others.  These people are called People of Two Spirits, and they had specific and honored positions in society.  Many of these people played important roles in negotiating for peace with the white politicians.

Many were also tortured for show, depending on which white conquerors they met.

The movie, itself, isn't without controversy among the Navajos, either.  Many Navajos in Arizona felt the movie painted their culture poorly or incorrectly.  I'm not sure how, though, admittedly, I'm not of that culture.  Watching the movie gave me an impression of an accepting, beautiful, and spiritual culture.

In the center of this look at Navajo culture and history, of becoming aware of issues specific to "border towns" (where there are a lot of racial tensions, already – so throwing in tensions over sexuality is like throwing in flint that will eventually spark), was the individual.  All the history, all the social stress, all of the cultural considerations were part of the teenager, Fred Martinez, featured in the documentary.  It was a story about one person, and at the same time, many people.

I've been an active supporter of the GLBT community since my teens, and I had heard from my Native friends about the idea of "Two Spirits" before, and I am (sadly and furiously) aware of the heinous crimes committed against members of the community.

The one thing I felt this film covered better than any other I've seen is a look at the life of an individual, and the potential that person has.

Fred, who went by many names depending on his day (he preferred the masculine pronoun), had his moment of despair when he swallowed pills and called his friends and family for help.  When he survived that moment, he changed.  At any day he would be another aspect of himself.  Some days he'd be FC, and dress in women's clothes with beautiful make-up.  Other days he'd want to be Fred, and be undiscernable from pretty much any other teenage boy.  Other days he was someone else – but they were all him.  He was always true to who he was, and I'd say he was truer to himself than most people who dress the same and only embrace a part of who they are. 

I feel that way.  I've never identified as gender queer, though some days I definitely prefer to dress more masculine while other days I want ruffles and make-up.  Also, some days I want to totally Goth myself up, so I do.  Another day, I want to be a horse-crazy cowgirl. 

Our personalities, who we are, is made up of many things.  Everyone has different pieces of their identity, and we don't always honor all the pieces.

Fred did, and his fluidity in identity and gender is something that isn't addressed as often.  One of the interviewees in the documentary said that different people in the GLBT community wanted to call him gay OR transgendered, when he could be a combination of those and more on any day.  He wasn't just Gay or just Transgendered; he was Fred, or FC, or whoever he wanted to be for the day.  And every aspect he wanted to show was who and what he was.

In general, I believe people – even those who identify as heterosexual and one particular gender – have fluid identities.  And I believe that not honoring that natural fluidity of just being human is harmful to an individual.  If more people could accept that no-one really is just one identity of one aspect, human beings and human culture would start living more emotionally, psychologically, and healthy lives.

If this interested you, at all, please check out the film, Two Spirits.  More information about the film and Fred Martinez can be found at twospirits.org

I'm on a few different sexuality panels at Arisia in January, and I look forward to adding this dimension to what I already expect to be excellent discussions.

*Photos courtesy of twospirits.org

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The MacArthur Name Bible

A few of us New England Broads and our friends who write speculative fiction recently created a local writer's group that covers us non-Boston writers.  We call ourselves Traveling Java, and I'm loving the chemistry we have.

Most of us are submitting ongoing stories for critique, with some breaks for short fiction.  My homework for this next meeting (besides continuing my writing and changes) was to put together two things:  A cheat-sheet of the massive character list and a map of the castle the protagonist lives in.

Last night I took care of the first assignment.  (Friday, while at the artistic haven of my friends in CT, I'll take care of the map part.)

In any case, just writing a very brief paragraph for each character (single spaced) took me about 6 hours of work and left me with an 8-page document.


I'm extremely pleased with my efforts, though.

The 6 hours and 8 pages were well spent for a number of reasons:

I hammered out clearer motivations for side-characters and side-motivations for main characters.  For example, I didn't realize how much Rowan disliked his next older sister, Lily, until that appeared in his mini-bio.  It's not even that Lily is a drama-queen-to-the-max that Rowan doesn't get; it's the fact that Heather, the sibling he's closest with, spends more time with Lily than him.

I got all the character names straight.  You have no idea how many little symbols I'd spread throughout the MSIP (manuscript in progress) for the characters I knew, but had forgotten the names of.  Or who I'd misnamed or given the wrong nickname to.  Yes, these are all people in my head, but don't you even get your family and friends mixed up sometimes?

I realized deeper meanings to some of the "throwaway" lines in dialogue that will have repercussions later.  I'm about 2/3 through the ms now, and Heather - or Monkey, the talking cat - will throw out some line that I know needs to be there, but I don't know why.  I don't do any major deletes on the drafting just for this reason… I get so much now!

I straightened out those pesky details.  The twins realllly don't have eyes that change color, I just can never remember what it's supposed to be.  Now, I can check.

I realized animals are almost as much a pain in novels as in role-playing games.  They all have names and personalities and they need to get fed and they need special food.  From a writing perspective, they need to keep popping up, like what dog wouldn't go investigate kids sneaking through the house after everyone's in bed?  And you need to give that popping up a purpose.  I mean, I could cut a bunch of them, but Heather told me they all are there, and sometimes it's just not worth arguing with your main character!


Those are only a few of the things I learned in the exercise.  Besides just doing the exercise, I think the timing is key.  At a little over halfway through the rough draft, I know how most of the plot will work itself out.  (Here's hoping that keeping all her animals prevents my dear protagonist from throwing in an unexpected monkey wrench somewhere).  Anyway, that also means that I know all the characters that will be on screen or mentioned (again, fingers crossed for no surprises).  But, as I discover more of my characters' inner workings, I have time to adjust the conclusion and make it stronger.

If I recall correctly, this is also about the time I sat down and worked out much of my "bible" for Kyra Starbard's world, 2/3 of the way through draft 1.  It gave me renewed focus and I ploughed through to the end.

Which, if I also recall correctly, was actually the end of the sequel that I thought was all part of the same book.  So, ahem, when Kyra's picked up by an agent and then a publishing house, the sequel is already drafted.  Yay less work later!

In any case, if you haven't done it already, have some fun making at least your character bible.  You'll be surprised how much it helps you create a better draft and drive you to the finish!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Eek! The Holidays are Upon Us!

Thank goodness Thanksgiving is over… oh, wait, now I've got Yule and Christmas to plan for???

And _______ has a grand plan to do Really Awesome thing for _____ that I need to help with…

Deep breath.

And _______ is having a party.

So is ________.

Another.  Deep breath.

And I've got an editing deadline?

And when I REALLY DID intend to put my tax info together before now.  Well, it's all sorted into envelopes?  Yeah, I've sorted it into envelopes year round for the past three years… but my envelopes are better categorized this year?

I mean it this time:  DEEEEEEEP BREATH!

I have a horse!  :)  She puts me in the Now and lowers my blood pressure. That's great - but I have to cover the year end expenses and follow up with the vet!

-Gives self a stern look-

Deeeeeeeeeeeeeep Breaaaath.

Did I even mention my writing and the fact I did NOT finish my novel in November and I did NOT make 25 submissions? 

Yes, but I DID make 11, with one two more days left.  And, so far, *knocks wood,* only one novel rejection and two short story rejections so far.

And I DID get writing DONE on the novel.

Seriously, it's the holidays.  You're supposed to be sharing good will and charity.  And that includes yourself, Me.  (And anyone else who's listening.)

Yes, there are priorities and obligations with friends and family.  And y'know what? Right now those people I'm close with and care about among friends and family don't expect me to be perfect.  They expect me to be me, well, an eccentric, somewhat scatterbrained, but caring individual.  A writer - hell, most of them identify as writers, and I don't hold them to levels of perfection.  That's why we're close.  Those that hold me to unrealistic expectations (or, rather, unrealistic if you know me), well they'll be disappointed… and why should I care?

I've got priorities for stuff I'm paid to do.  Y'know what?  The abovementioned people placed above this priority get that.  And I know they've got mortgages, bills… basic necessities of food and family, too. 

I've got priorities for the causes I'm passionate about.  The people who pay me may "get" that, but I still need to get work done.  The people I care about also get that, and usually are willing to work with me around these things.  I do the same for them.

I've got to write my stories.  In my heart, this priority is two steps up, but in my mind I know I need to pay for things and that other people depend on my contribution to websites and fundraisers and that writing.

My heart is actually in a lot of places.  Most of my paid gigs I do not just for money but because I care about the stories, individuals, and missions associated with the gig.  Of course, it's also with my friends and family - with whom I've spent the past few days happily offline.

It's exhausting to be passionate. 

It's also fulfilling, amazing, and mind-blowingly awesome. 

I spent almost 3 hours tonight trying to figure out how to make a fan page on Facebook for the Bay State Equine Rescue.  I wanted to do it right so people could see what we did in their newsfeeds.  There was a lot of deleting and re-doing, and a lot of Google-ing and research, and I threw my whole self into this project.  I'm happy to have figured it out (so it appears), and do hope everyone goes to the page and Likes it. 

But I didn't get much else done besides answering email.

Those of us who are passionate throw every atom of our being into whatever project we're working on: making a fan page, writing an article, editing a website, baking cookies. 

For things we can rein in our passion on (like most emails and spaces between full-throttle-passion-engaged projects), we can multitask.  Once we're in the throes of a project, or even a part of a project with a beginning, middle, and end, it's often to the temporary exclusion of most else.  (A ringing phone, for example, will break my concentration and garner a glance at caller-id to see if it's a potentially life-or-death situation… I would assume fire alarms would too, but I'm happy to say I haven't had to test that.)

With the holidays, there are so many projects and so many priorities that I throw my whole self into, that I'm passionate about, that I so easily make myself sick when I ought to be enjoying and celebrating the passion I can share. 

I'm not alone in this, either.  In fact, most of the people I know & care about make themselves sick over the holidays.

Why?  How can we get around it?  What are ways we can remind ourselves that we should be celebrating our passions and loves?  What do we do to minimize feeling forced to perform for people and things we aren't passionate about or that we don't love?

I'll keep reminding myself of what I said before.  The people who I care about and who care about me understand… and I need to remind them of that, too. 

Celebrate the people and things you're passionate about during whatever holiday you celebrate (or don't celebrate) this December.  And let the people with whom you share true love and friendship with celebrate however they need.  And we should remind each other that we're doing this.  Because we care.  Because we all have things we're passionate about.

Happy December!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A beautiful show of Gratitude…

My friend & colleague, Tracy S. Morris, who you met in a blog interview here, is doing a special project to show thanks to the service men and women who protect our country.

With many members of our family having been in, or currently in, service to our country - a country despite however much it irks me I'm so proud to be a citizen of - I think this is a most wonderful gift.

Her family is going to local airports and handing out gift cards to men and women they see in uniform.

It's simple, it's beautiful, and it's a gesture that directly shows soldiers how much we appreciate them putting their lives on the line for freedom.

If you're thankful for freedom, for the promise of freedom, for the sacrifice of so many fellow Americans, consider helping Tracy and her family by donating to this project.

Here's the information from Tracy, herself:

·        $30 gift cards will be handed out personally by us to
soldiers at the airport who are traveling in uniform.

·        For every donation of 4 gift cards ($120), we’ll donate a
5th on your behalf for free.

·        We’re going to video the event and post it on YouTube with a
message of thanks to the troops with donor names.

·        You can put a short thank you message or indicate the gift
is given in honor/memory of someone who served.

For more info 866-408-6493 or giftsfortroops@godsey-family.com.

Thank you, Tracy and the Godsey Family for such a beautiful gifts.

And thank you to all the troops who put their lives on the line for the United States of America.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Obligatory cliché, sincere emotion?

Thanksgiving week.  All around the blogosphere, Americans and Ex-Pats are on the "I'm thankful for…" blogging horse. 

It sounds so awful to say it that way.

I've enjoyed a number of posts, and there most definitely is a lot of things and people I am - truly - thankful for.

I just feel overstimulated and overrun with thanks.  It feels like I'll just be shouting from my tiny little blog into the din of an arena concert where my heartfelt song will be drowned out and blended into an unintelligible roar.  Lost in a sea of sentiment, a drop indistinguishable from the overwhelming wave.

That doesn’t mean my gratitude is any less.

But I do make an effort to thank people in turn, throughout my blog.  Dear friends, favorite businesses, generous donors to the rescue, helpful colleagues… etc.

And I will thank you all in turn.

And I remember more of you than you may realize in my thoughts and prayers.


As a diversion, here are some of the things my characters are thankful for.  I'd say there were some spoilers but at the speed of my attempts at just finding an agent, you will likely forget them by the time of publication.

Or an editor will make some changes.

As of now:

Heather is thankful that herself, her friend, her best friend, and her brother are not killed by the kelpie.

Alec is thankful for his friends' and Shepherd's support that prevents him from being damned to Hell.

Joe is thankful to be not only alive, but not a vampire.

Thomas is thankful to have met and assisted Dr. Balland - er - Katherine.

Katherine is thankful for the android, Thomas, who has helped her rescue her kidnapped daughter, and that she can now hug her daughter in person.

Kyra and Marne are thankful to be alive and not to have accidentally killed anyone.

Aurelio is thankful… that he has enough patience to not kill Sophia.

Sophia is thankful that she is not in Hell.

Cameron is thankful for a reunion - no matter how bittersweet.

… and those are all the characters I'm grateful to have worked with so far this year, and for whom I'm grateful to share my life.  No matter how demanding they can be sometimes.

Thank you for reading my post!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Funny Furry Friday: Wild Kingdom Chateau Wooldridge

Welcome to this special edition of Wild Kingdom, where we'll explore wild animal habitats… a little closer to home.

This episode brings us to -- ------ Road in Auburn, Massachusetts.  A two-story colonial separated from surrounding suburbia by woods on four sides, cliffs on two.  As the human habitants, the Wooldridges, explain, the environment is a gathering place for many species.  A red-tail hawk regularly nests here.  A herd of deer frequently migrate through.  Turkeys, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, Barred Owls, Screech Owls all have been sighted. 

What makes this area so strange is the tameness of these wild creatures.  Most come within 10 or 20 feet of humans, unafraid.

Today, we'll look at one particular habitat and the curious behavior of the animals involved.

For the past 25 or more years, there has been an untouched pile of a hundred or so cinder blocks beneath sheets of plywood, sheetrock, and a truck cap.  The story about how it came to exist isn't important right now, because it's all about to be turned upside down.

Some history you do have to know is that the Wooldridge family added a companion predator to their pack approximately 4 years ago. 

It's a highly domesticated predator who, on record, has only managed to kill three field mice and a chipmunk - and although no autopsy was done, it's suspect that the animals were likely rather domestic and out of shape themselves.

Early (according to Mrs. Wooldridge who claims 11AM is early), visitors came to the Wooldridge residence to obtain cinder blocks for the construction of a stall for another companion, a horse, who lives off site.

Unbeknownst to the residents of the cinder block pile, their lives were about to change forever.

In a couple of hours of hefting and loading, the truck cap was moved, much of the wood taken, and then the cinder blocks started to disappear, too!

As the humans were moving these building materials, they uncovered several different members of the insect kingdom, and continued to find more and more evidence of field mouse nests and scat.  Upon reaching the cinder blocks, every third one had at least one hole full of mouse nest.  Every so often, the advancing humans would catch site of brown and grey bodies scurrying… and even staring right at them!

In all, a minimum of two or more dozen individuals were estimated as living in this maze of cinder block holes.  All demonstrated only minor fear of the creatures decimating their homes.  Most letting the humans come within inches, some even letting the humans "pet" them with gloved hands.  Unfortunately, we have no camera footage of these strange interactions, but here is a view of how much of their homeland was taken from them.

Close to 80% of the field mice's habitat was trucked away this day, leaving the remaining mice to make do with the few blocks left.

Or not.

The companion predator, known as Nylis, was introduced to what was left of the field mouse habitat to promote balance in a now over-populated area.  The humans did not want the mice to migrate into their domicile and wreak their own brand of havoc on the materials, food storage, and other things.

"Since she's not all that much of a hunter, I wasn't sure what she was going to do when she spotted the mice," says Mrs. Wooldridge.  "But once I put her on top of the pile of cinder blocks, she was all business… sort of."

"Sort of" is a good way to put it.  What happened next is an example of the strange, quite anti-Darwininan, behavior this environment promotes.

Within a matter of seconds, Nylis captured her the first field mouse of this population and, haphazardly carrying it in her mouth, brought it to the grass to inspect.  It died within moments.  The feline appeared confused, poking and sniffing the now still mouse.

Without a reaction from her prey, the feline returned to the blocks and within seconds had another mouse in her mouth.  This time, however, she was carrying it like a kitten, and she gently placed it on the grass.  From there, we watched quite the game of cat-and-mouse… only, with the cat letting the mouse escape into the woods every time. 

Even during the play, Nylis kept her claws withdrawn and no longer used her mouth.  Her bats were much more gentle than the strength demonstrated when she played with her humans - as if she now realized these creatures were delicate.

(Apologies again, for lack of photo proof.  All parties were laughing too hard to properly operate their electronic equipment.)

One might think that the mice would now know to run or flee, but the cat was still able to catch a mouse within seconds of returning to the cinder blocks - each one quite gently and like a kitten and none harmed again.

The humans watched this dance take place with three mice and then retired to the house to conduct business, letting the cat stay with the mouse population.  Something she appeared pleased to do.

Upon completion of the business, approximately half an hour later, the humans returned to the scene of destruction.  No more rodent cadavers were found, nor a hint of blood, but there were also no more mice scurrying around the blocks.

Well, almost no more mice.

It was agreed that this one looked so sad and pitiful that the humans moved the blocks so Nylis would not find him, but he could still go out.

With the rodents evicted in a direction away from the human domicile, all retreated to the two-story colonial and Nylis was given a bowl full of snacks in hopes she might have a positive affirmation that she continue to evict field mice from the human territory.

While such a behavioral show might seem anti-Darwinian, recall that these mice have had that relatively safe habitat - hard to get to by the mostly avian predators of the area - for what could be close to a hundred generations of mice.  And in such close quarters, inbreeding is sure to occur.  Although the local predator only killed one, these animals will now fend for themselves among the other habitants of the human neighborhood - such as other cats, dogs, and now the avian predators.  The cat, being domestic and sharing a domicile with a prey animal - a 10-year-old rabbit - has learned that actual hurting of prey animals normally results in punishment, so her adaptability to the environment also shows. 

(That, and she has been altered so she cannot reproduce, anyway.)

We hope you've enjoyed this close-to-home safari into a Not-So-Wild Kingdom.  Remember, you can find life or death drama and appreciate the world around you… just by paying attention in your own back yard.

Thank you for joining us!

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