Monday, August 29, 2011

Since I can't hibernate . . .

I guess I'll just have to adjust: it's back to school time!

I love back to school because it makes the neighborhood kids somebody else's problem for most of the day. I don't have to keep an eye on them all day or have their hooting, hollering, and destruction as part of the background noise while I'm writing (several of the kids in my neighborhood are practically feral; they roam in a pack and destroy everything that's not watched like a hawk; the new pack is still young--the oldest is probably twelve--and if they follow the pattern of prior packs over the years, they'll all have juvie records by the time they hit sixteen).

But back to school also means switching over to "winter routine." I feel a little like a tourist attraction: I have summer hours and winter hours. And every year during this adjustment, there are kinks to work out and problems to face until we find "our groove." This year, two new developments are making the adjustment period a wee bit more complicated.

The first is minor: a new task for my day. I went to move some railroad ties for my garden and could barely move my arms the next day. Yes, I know I'm getting older (harumph!), but I've always been strong. It made me realize that I spend a lot of time sitting on my butt, writing (and playing online poker). So I decided it might be a good time to add a little exercise to my daily routine. Of course, around here, going to the gym can be a problem. As if working out isn't torture enough, who wants to hop into the car and drive to the gym when it means you're going to have to spend twenty minutes scraping the windshield, drive over in -40 weather, walk across a parking lot, and then come out of a gym, hot and tired, and jump into a cold car for the drive home. Not me. The last thing I need is more obstacles to working out. So I picked up some exercise equipment and remodeled our homeschool room into a home gym. So far, it's working out pretty well. The equipment is right there, with no extra effort on my part required to go use it (I don't even have to change out of my PJs). And, since I have to walk past the room several times a day, I get a nice physical reminder (guilt trip) if the equipment remains unused.

The other scheduling adjustment is for my mother's cancer treatments. Her lung cancer is back, but this time in a location where they cannot operate. So she has begun a regimen of radio-sensitizing chemo (once per week) and radiation (daily). I take her to her chemo and remain on call the rest of the time for any problems that come up.

As part of the new-schedule-adjustment-period, I'm cutting back this blog to once a week. I'll be doing only the Monday posts for a while until:
A) I get adjusted to the new schedule and find my groove; or
B) I finally get the novel revised/edited/polished and get that albatross from around my neck . . .
whichever comes first (and why, oh why do I have the feeling that it's going to be A instead of B, lol; sometimes I wonder if the novel is ever going to be done!)

So wish me luck, wish my mother luck and a speedy and full recovery, and stop by again next Monday!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Unplugging This Week

Last week, I accidentally unplugged and missed putting up my blog posts. This week, it's going to be intentional. I'm taking the week off . . . sort of.

Between back-to-school preparations, my mom's preparations/appointments for cancer treatment (radiation and radio-sensitizing chemotherapy), and the annual preparations for the slide into cooler weather, I'm going to have my hands full this week. I'm still writing whenever I can (write or die!), but all of it leaves little time for blogging and tweeting.

I'll be back next week, though I may reduce the blog schedule down to Mondays and Fridays and drop the Wednesday posts (my mother's treatments will be on Wednesdays). I'm playing it by ear until I see how tight my in-real-life schedule will be.

Have a good week!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gordon Ramsay Gave Me My Groove (Back)

I had a short-term crisis of faith this week, the sort that usually ends in writer's block:

What if I'm not a novelist?

Sure, I can pen a pretty mean short story. But that doesn't mean I can write a decent novel. Novels and short stories are as different as haiku and free verse. Just because someone is pretty good at one, it doesn't mean they are good at the other. Maybe I just wasn't cut out for producing a novel.

This crisis came about from diving into another revision on my first novel, Macha Mong Ruadh. Every time I pick it up I find more plot holes, more characters acting "out of character," more weak scenes . . . the task of revising it into a readable novel seems overwhelming. And every time, I find myself saying, "How the hell am I ever going to fix this?"

I can even try to say, "Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the novel." After all, the "experts" say you should throw away your first novel. Maybe I am a novelist and this particular novel just blows. Maybe if I pick up my NaNo novel and start on it, things will go better.

Crisis of faith: do I suck as a novelist, or does the novel suck?

Or am I'm just suffering from the same doubt that plagues most writers? And most artists.

Hubby and I were watching a cooking reality show the other day--well, okay, he was watching the show and I was reading, but I happened to look up at a crucial point--and the judge asked the contestants to raise their hands if they felt confident about their dish. One cook raised his hand. Only one. The judge tasted confident-cook's dish and raked him over the coals about all the things wrong with it. Meanwhile, one of the cooks who came forward forlornly, disappointed that his dish didn't live up to his intentions, ended up getting a rave review.

The lesson: very rarely does an artist--writer, painter, cook--feel like their art has met their own expectations.

We are our own worst enemies.

So, thanks to the reminder from the reality cooking show, I decided I was going to keep working on this novel. After all, I certainly won't know if I'm a novelist, if this novel sucks, or if I'm just being a doubting Thomas, unless I power through it. I've dived back into revisions and, after a few days of work, I'm realizing that things aren't as bad as I thought they were.

Thank you, Gordon Ramsay.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Horror, Fantasy, Sci-Fi: Spec-Fic Friday, Aug 12th

Personally, I would LOVE to see more of Riddick. The first two movies were so different, but I loved them both. I can't wait to see what's in store for the next one.
More Riddick Hype

Damon Lindelof on How 'Prometheus' is a(n Original) Prequel to 'Alien'

OMG! Bring it on! I was nuts about the original series!
Cryptkeeper crawls back out of the crypt

Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing are my top two movies in the horror/scifi category. They are the only two that have ever made me actually shriek.
‘Alien’ guest essay: Looking back in horror to 1979
And on the pointless trivia side of things . . . I drive a tough little SUV. Her name is Ripley. They gave me a compact loaner car last week while Ripley's air conditioning was being serviced. I named the little compact car Newt. And I had a cat named Bishop (Jonesy would have been too obvious). Yes, I am that much of a geek.

Some Walking Dead links:

Walking Dead Season 2 Official Poster

Frank Darabont Leaving The Walking Dead

Walking Dead Showrunner Announced

Rainn Wilson geeks out: 10 favorites from my sci-fi and fantasy bookshelf

NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Novels

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Comic Relief & Weird News, Aug 10th

It's all about the incentives! Last week, it was a gold bar lottery for picking up your dog's poo, this week, it's pot for doing your civic duty. Free Pot in Exchange for Registering to Vote?

These things are everywhere around here! Who knew they might violate decency laws (depending on the state, of course)!
Dangling Fake Testicles Get Woman in Trouble

I can't even pick up a hunk of broccoli with chopsticks!
New Tool for Pickpockets: Chopsticks

No wonder their slogan used to be "Worth the trip!"
Dunkin' Donuts Worker's Deal Too Sweet

Awesome Infographic: Venn Diagram of Author Sensibility

From @funnyoneliners
I try to see the best in everyone. They, however, are trying harder to hide it from me.

From @funnyoneliners
I just checked the health/weight chart at the gym. Found out I'm four inches too short.

I've eaten at a couple of restaurants where everything was a crap stick.

Monday, August 8, 2011

She Works Hard for the Money

I've wanted to "be a writer" my whole life, and I'm fortunate enough to be writing full time right now. However, the road to this point was a long and winding one, and I've held an incredible variety of jobs, from road construction to Realtor.

My favorite job was working on a department of transportation survey crew. I wasn't one of those folks standing there holding the "slow" sign, I was one of the folk pounding rebar into the hardpack with an eight-pound sledge hammer. The days were long and the work exhausting, but I loved working outdoors and loved being able to look behind me each day and see how much progress I'd made. It was also the job where I was almost killed several times, so I guess it had it's drawbacks, lol.

My shortest job was as a telemarketer. I was only sixteen at the time and after four hours of people swearing at me and hanging up on me, I happened to reach a guy who said, in a raspy, hissing whisper, "If you come over here and demonstrate it, little girl, I'd be happy to buy one." That was it. I quit.

My longest job was fairly recently, when the economy tanked. I had a job at a large retailer, working as an overnight stocker/sporting goods associate for almost two years. I loved the work I did, I loved working nights, I loved the people I worked with, and I even liked our immediate managers (the people who directly supervised us were mid-management, "assistant managers," and most of them were awesome). What made the job awful was the crap that came down from on high. Whether it came from upper management or corporate, I don't know, but it made the job damn near intolerable. For example, they had a stocking quota of one case per minute. They calculated the case count for each department, then gave you a time you were expected to complete it in, or else you could be fired. Fine. But a case per minute doesn't take into account that sometimes pesky customers come and ask for help (I mean, it's not like the customers were important or anything, for pete's sake, lol), or that you are going to have pallets to move in and out of the stockroom, or cardboard to put in the compactor, or a bale to make, or paint to mix, or fishing licenses to write up, etc., etc. Even worse, sometimes their calculations were wrong on the case count, and thus their calculations were wrong on how long the work would take you. For example: some days, I'd come in to stock the shoe department and find I had a pallet only as high as my knees to stock. "Forty-five minutes," they'd tell me. The next night, they'd tell me I had an hour, but when I'd get to the floor, I'd have three pallets taller than my head out there waiting for me. But I hit my limit and knew it was time to move on when this conversation happened at our nightly pre-shift meeting:

Upper management lady turned to Bob. "Okay, Bob, you'll be in the dairy department. You have eight hours of freight, so you should be able to get it done."
(at this point I should mention that we worked nine hour shifts with an hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks; if he left his mess on the floor, didn't pull back pallets, and didn't have to help any customers, his shift was still only seven-and-a-half man hours).

Bob, ever the good employee, looks worried as he's doing the math in his head, but nods. "Okay."

Upper management then turns to Ralph. "And you've got fourteen hours in the freezer."

Ralph's jaw drops. "What? I can't--."

Upper management holds up her hand. "Don't worry. I'll send Bob over to help when he gets done."

Now Bob's jaw drops. "What? How am I supposed to even get my eight hours done, much less help him?"

Upper management gives him a stone cold stare. "Work faster."

I laugh. Upper management's head spins three times and her stone cold gaze lands on me. After she feels she's given me a long enough glare (there's probably guidelines for this in the management handbook: "reprimand employees with a three-point-nine second glare, then move on"), she turns to everyone and says, "Don't forget, everyone has to have their work done and cleaned up an hour-and-a-half before shift end, so we can all zone grocery."

For those of you not doing the math, that means our shift has been reduced to six hours of actual stocking. Knock off at least half an hour for clean-up, and now Bob has to do eight hours of freight in five and a half hours . . . or less, since he's supposed to go help Ralph, too.

Upper management lady must have been using that "new math" I hear everyone complaining about. ;)

Needless to say, I'm glad I'm back to writing full time.

What's the best job you ever had? The worst?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Comic Relief & Weird News, Aug 3rd

Well, wouldn't you? I'd break the land-speed record running out of there.
Morgue Workers Scatter After Man Wakes Up and Yells

A butter knife!?! Really?
California Man Attempts Self-Surgery with Butter Knife

Great idea, but I wouldn't want to be the guy in charge of "deposit collection."
Taiwan City Offers to Turn Dog Poo Into Gold

I wasn't sure what I was going to see when I clicked on this one. Art inspired by:
a) Pee-wee from Pee-wee's Playhouse;
b) the Pee-wee caught exposing himself in the adult theater.
Luckily, it's art inspired by "the good Pee-wee."
Art Inspired by Pee-wee Herman
And #10 is, of course, my favorite.

Winners of This Year's Bad Fiction Award

Love, love, LOVE the poster for Hansel & Gretel!
Minimalists Posters for Your Favorite Children's Stories

Lol. Might just have to try this one.
From @funnyoneliners
When vacationing at a public campground, a tuba placed on a picnic table will keep adjacent campsites empty.

From @funnyoneliners
My family's Coat of Arms ties at the back.

From @Georg_Grey
Whoever coined the phrase "Quiet as a mouse" has never stepped on one.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Alternate History

I just finished reading The Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century, edited by Harry Turtledove with Martin H. Greenberg. It's a great collection, and I highly recommend it.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, alternate history stories are the ultimate "what if" stories:
What if Hitler hadn't been defeated?
What if the South had won the Civil War?
What if we hadn't landed on the moon?

According to writer Steven H Silver, alternate history requires three things: 1) the story must have a point of divergence from the history of our world prior, 2) a change that would alter history as it is known, and 3) an examination of the ramifications of that change.

While I've never written an alternate history, the fourteen stories in this anthology have sparked my imagination. Maybe once I'm done with the next revision on my novel I'll try my hand at an alternate history short.

A few links for more info on alternate history:

A list of alternate history books for your reading pleasure:

John J. Reilly's Alternate History site