inasmuch as it concerns Vacuuming the Cat:
Procrastinate? Me? Never! That would be silly! Now, if you'll excuse me, I can't quite see my reflection in the basin of the kitchen sink. (Plus, there are cats.)
also we research our avoidance processes meticulously
- 4,400 wds. long
Holy cow, hotel business centers are super techy these days. You open up the "printerOn" webpage for your particular hotel--if your hotel does have one--you upload your document, you give it your email address and a fresh 5-digit security code you made up on the fly, and then you saunter down to the business center, enter your security code, and you tell it to print on their fancy laser printer. It was a none-too-fast fancy laser printer, but it got the job done. I now have a printed copy of "A Wish for Captain Hook" for me to deface at my leisure.
Now, our household printer is here in the room with us. I was all set to use it. But because the printer got here less with plans for using it and more for just getting it the hell out of the house and out of the way of the restoration project, it has not sufficient paper with it for the job at hand. Our supply of paper, you see, was already stowed at the top of a closet and out of harm's way.
So that's where half the time I spent on the story went today: Printing the draft. (Like I said, slow printer.) Also getting the draft ready to print in the first plase--for reasons I no longer recall, it was a text document with its italics indicated by underscore characters before and after the text to be italicized.
I spent the other half of the time researching.
No, look, it all started with good intentions. I was scribbling away on the freshly printed draft, honest! But I was scribbling things like, "This was true in 1984, but was it true in 2005?" and "When did different libraries reopen after Katrina?" and "Maybe by then you could get an Orleans Parish library card as a Jefferson Parish resident? Again, 2005 v. 1984" and "Double-check: Nov 24 was Thanksgiving that year?"
Next thing I knew, I was looking up not only the days of the week that the story takes place on (yes, November 24 was indeed a fourth Thursday in 2005, thus Thanksgiving) but also sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset, and phases of the moon. So now I know for sure that the last scene really can take place on a night with no moon, and when the sun comes up after the characters' long vigil, I will know precisely what time that means.
So, yes, the metaphorical cat has been metaphorically vacuumed within an inch of its remaining fur. This is just one of the many valuable services we writers provide. For an additional charge, we will also metaphorically wax your metaphorical cat. The cat will not appreciate it, metaphorically speaking, but haven't you always wanted your metaphorical cat to really shine?
the art of knowing the things you already know
- 1,102 wds. long
OK, so, that feeling? That awful "I have no idea how to write the next scene" feeling? The one that doesn't get better even after hours of preparatory freewriting? That feeling is not a valid reason not to write the next scene.
In fact, that feeling is a clear signal that it's time to write the next scene.
Seriously, feeling like "I don't know how to write it" doesn't get better by not writing. It doesn't turn into certainty and optimism just by thinking about the scene some more. It's a sign that I've hit the end of the usefulness of thinking, and I need to put words on the page to find out what the words are.
One of these days, I'll start remembering that right from the start. And the sooner the better. Because this painful process that involves several weeks of "I don't know how to write the next bit" followed by a day where I finally take a stab at writing it and arrive at epiphany thereby, well, it could stand to lose a few weeks off the front.
on research, and deadlines
Today I spent an hour and a half of the working day reading through the HowStuffWorks article "How Special Relativity Works". There are 23 pages in that article. It starts with a run-down of the basic building blocks of the space-time continuum, and it winds up taking you through several iterations of the "twin paradox." By the time I was done, I had expended woefully unnecessary brainpower cycles on just keeping myself clear on which twin remained on Earth and which traveled away from Earth for 12 subjective hours at 60% the speed of light (and why they chose to name the stationary twin "Hunter" I will never know), but I was sorta kinda confident with my understanding of the whole concept in general, and also I needed to take a walk.
The upshot of all this research--for a 750-word flash fiction draft I'm thinking will expand to maybe 1500 words, if that--was the opening line,
We now know that the speed of thought is also a constant, acting as a constant across all reference points.
At least I have until February 14 to submit.
Meanwhile, I still haven't submitted anything this week to anywhere at all. Conscious of this, I started yet another story today, because if ever there's a project I have a chance at starting and finishing on the same day, it's a new short-short written to the latest prompt in The First Line's submission guidelines.
(What did Carlos find under a pile of Grandma's shoes? A homing device, of course. What? Why are you looking at me like that?)
It did not get finished today. Which is technically OK, since this one's got a deadline of February 1, but I'd really like to say I submitted something this week. And I'd like to get back to "Other Theories of Relativity." And also "It's For You."
I hear there are authors who work on only one thing until that thing is done. Only then do they start a new thing. One new thing. Which they work on until it is done. I do not understand how this is possible. Sometimes I kinda wish I did.
A Fitting Memento
So apparently I do have a physical object to remember Null by after all. In cleaning out the cats' supply cabinet this morning, I encountered his old collar, and Uno's. I stored the collars away when the boys became indoor-exclusive cats.
And of course there's the Beanie Baby tarantula, the first toy Null began transporting around the house late at night. Thing is, Null would never chase it or play with it when I was watching, at least not at first. But I began to notice that in the morning the toy was not where it had been left the night before. And when the toy in question is a big furry spider, that can be startling. It was some time before we realized Null's howling was connected to the movement of the toys, and not just your basic "Help I'm lost in the house where is everyone it's darrrrrrk."
So. Here's the spider wearing Null's collar and name-tag.
I'll put up some more pictures soon. Just got finished emailing myself all the Null pictures from my phone. There's also a few on my computer that are just priceless. Not as many as I'd like -- John and I just don't take them all that often. But there were a handful of moments across our cats' lives that just screamed "TAKE-A-PIKCHER, QUICK!" I should share them here, or at least pop them onto Flickr with a link from here.
And then it's back to blogging about writing. And roller derby. Stay tuned.
Love and appreciation to all my friends, near and far, who have been so kind to John and me these past few days. You keep our world turning.
One Minus Zero Is
It has been a point of amusement in our household for the last fifteen years that we're such geeks, we have binary cats. Uno and Null: one and zero. Uno came first, a preternaturally intelligent brown tabby given to us pre-named in the summer of 1996. When the orange kitten adopted us the next year by means of doggedly climbing up my back whenever I knelt anywhere within range, there was only one possible name for him.
It has been a further point of amusement that Null immediately began living down to his name. He was, it must be said, not very bright. Bright-eyed, yes, curious and responsive and talkative and demanding, but no great shakes in the brains department. Almost no sense of cause and effect, for instance. An un-catlike absence of all sense of dignity. He hadn't the first clue what to do with the mouse that popped out of our radiator that one evening. His hunting instincts, such as they were, were exclusively expressed through various small stuffed animals (most notoriously a Beanie Baby tarantula) which he would carry on multiple trips around the house, howling meditatively as he went.
But he was so sweet. He was our puppy-dog kitten; he'd roll over for belly rubs and he'd lick your face if you let him. He liked to sleep between my ankles all night long, or at least until I finally, reluctantly, dislodged him by rolling over and giving my poor back a break. He had the biggest eyes you ever saw. There was a while when he'd purr at the mere sight of food or loved ones, as though in gratitude that John or I or Uno or, well, food still in fact existed.
Null passed away early Sunday afternoon. His kidneys started to go on him last fall, as cats' kidneys often do. We'd done a faithful job of maintaining him for as long as he'd let us, but this past week he simply fell apart. His lips were suddenly covered in ulcers. He stopped eating. A few days later he stopped drinking.
Saturday night John and I slept with him between us. This time he didn't even try to pull himself over for a cuddle. Sunday morning, he was neither sleeping nor really conscious. All he could do was lie there, flattened out like a deflated balloon on the sofa pillows, only breathing because that's what bodies do absent instructions to the contrary. We picked him up and found that, like a newborn baby, he was incapable of supporting his own head. Around 1:45 PM, he coughed a little. Then he wasn't breathing anymore.
We gave him our last hugs. Then we drove him to the emergency vet, who confirmed that he was really, truly gone, gave us their sincere condolences, and charged us $71 for "communal cremation." That's when the pet family declines to keep the ashes. We also declined to have a clay paw print made to remember him by. I don't really regret that -- we have too many sentimental objects gathering dust about the house already. Still, now I wish I'd brushed him down one last time with the shedding brush before we gave up his body to the veterinary crematorium so that I'd have a handful of his fur to spun into yarn to... I don't know, braid into a ring? Hang from the ceiling? Make into yet another sentimental object to gather dust, I guess. I guess it's just as well I didn't.
Walking back to the car, I couldn't help feeling -- and I know this is irrational -- that we'd abandoned him. Pawned him off onto someone else. Given up, absolved ourselves of responsibility. It wasn't that I felt guilty for having given his body to someone else to dispose of. It was as though he were still alive and I'd abandoned him at the vet. Like I said, totally irrational.
And then there's the usual guilt that accompanies the death of a family member who's been sick in a high-maintenance way. Guilt for feeling relieved. Again, I know I shouldn't feel guilty; I know it's no indication that we did anything wrong. But Null had been requiring extra-special care for the better part of three years now. The paralysis incident in October 2009 left him with weak, stumbly back legs and no control of his bathroom functions. We had to express his bladder several times a day and clean up after him a lot. He was on an anti-seizure medication, so we had to clip pills into eighths and make sure an eighth went down his throat twice a day. When his blood tests began to show evidence of overworked kidneys, we started him on subcutaneous fluids three times a week and the vet visits increased in frequency. In the last month, his already wonky back half let him down entirely, and he often decided it wasn't worth dragging himself to the food or water bowls.
With all the attention he'd required, especially toward the end, it's no wonder John and I both breathed a sigh of relief when he was gone. It makes no real sense to feel guilty about that, but I did feel guilty. Worse, I felt responsible -- I'd known before he died that once he did I'd no longer have to be Super Cat Mom, and now I suspected myself of having been looking forward to his death.
This is all perfectly natural. I know better. But my feelings don't seem to know better at all.
The other weird thing is the habit-forming nature of stress and hyperresponsibility. I've blogged about that before in the context of big scary writing projects with fast approaching deadlines. The day after submitting the manuscript, I'd wake up dreading all the work still ahead of me, only to remember that the work was now behind me. I'd be unable to relax all day, sure that there was something I was desperately supposed to be doing. Just so with Null's absence: I'm constantly realizing it's been hours since he was last expressed and I'd better hop to it before he leaks all over the bed and I should make sure he's lying on an absorbent pad and is today the day he gets fluids and it's probably time I brought him to the water bowl or presented him with a little wet food on my finger or encouraged him to excercise his back legs before they totally atrophy or--
And then I realize, Not anymore, and I start breathing again.
At which point, of course, the guilt starts in once more, because my response to realizing that is thank the Gods.
Today we're both doing better, John and I. We're background-sad instead of foreground heartbroken, if that makes any sense. And though I'm still feeling the guilt, it's receded a bit so that I can enjoying the simplicity of our much-scaled-back daily routine. I had forgotten what it was like to not be giving a cat at-home end-of-life care. It's kind of nice. And now we have room to pay some overdue attention to Uno, who has been feeling terribly confused and neglected of late. We're giving him a lot of attention now.
But I miss Null terribly. When I stop to think about it, it hits me like a ton of bricks. Such was his illness that I can't remember when he last purred. I wish I'd known it would be the last time. I'd have appreciated it more.
Friday night, he was in terrible pain and he didn't want to be conscious, but he squirmed across the bed anyway so he could go to sleep with his head on my ankle. If he'd still been capable of purring, I know he would have.
Five Weeks In
Hello, the blog. Long time no update. Which is silly, because I have been writing. I've just also been playing a lot too. That's the thing: You finish writing for the day, what do you do next? Do you A) write some more, or B) go play the computer game that best matches the current levels of exhaustion in your brain? I seem to be more of a B gal there.
By the way: Spiral Knights, Puzzle Pirates, or Plants Vs. Zombies (or maybe Glitch except Glitch has sort of turned into just clickety busywork for me these days) in order from "kinda tired but happy" to "totally pooped and don't wanna work that hard for my playtime." Also, roller derby practice is getting to be a weekly thing, and might go semiweekly very soon now. Neat trick, discovering new ultra-physical sports at age 35. My knees seem to be adjusting to the new demands, which is good, as I'm not smitten with the idea of getting new knees. I hear that's very expensive and painful and packs a long recovery time and has to be done all over again after ten years or so. So the longer my original knees will let me skate on 'em, the happier I'll be.
But today I find myself with a sufficient combination of energy and blogger's guilt to do a catch-up post. Look! Here it comes now.
I've written one very short story a week every week for the past five weeks, and yes, I am feeling bad-ass about it. This is thanks to a contest being run over at Codex, the "neo-pro" writing group I joined not very long ago. Fridays, the contest admin posts prompts. A 750-word (max) story is due by Monday morning at 2 AM Mountain Time. During the weekdays that follow, forum members vote on 'em. Only once you've voted do you get to see who wrote what -- but then you only get to see the pseudonym each contestant took on for the contest. Now that the Week 5 stories are being voted on, we get to guess who's behind each 'nym. Not that I'm going to be able to guess. I'm too new to the group to know other members' writing styles. Instead, I'll be getting an idea of people's styles from the stories once their authorship is revealed. Anyway, I successfully competed in each of the five weeks, so that's five brand new stories that I can start submitting to paying markets. Once I give them a bit of a revise, that is.
Now, this weekend we get to play a mega bonus round. Same timing, but the story has to be between 2000 and 7500 words. I predict that I will be very busy this weekend. In addition to other reasons I was already going to be busy this weekend. Yeesh!
So that's the happy productive news on the short fiction front. On the longer works front, I've finally decided which of my NaNoWriMo drafts will be the first to actually get circulated to agents etc., and therefore should be receiving my full attention for the coming months. Really decided, I mean. I pulled out a new notebook and put its title on the front and everything. But more about that tomorrow...
...which means I'd better update this blog tomorrow, right? Dailiness. One day's hardly over before the next one's begun. What's up with that?
Procrastination. Writer's Block. Kindness.
It's a sunny afternoon in Boulder. I'm at Aspen Leaf Frozen Yogurt, sitting at a counter that faces out the window into the parking lot. Cars roll by. Past the lot, Table Mesa Boulevard makes its final stretch west into the foothills and the neighborhood where I envision "Heroes to Believe in" taking place. (And how long has it been since that's been in the slush? Note to self...)
Things are peaceful. I am currently allowing myself what Havi Brooks calls "Island Time." Havi Brooks is an amazing inspiring blogger and you should read her stuff now. Or, well, whenever you get around to it really. No pressure. Your call.
It's been a Day Full of Stuff, which followed a Partial Week Full of Stuff, a Partial Week being all that's left when you're freshly back in town after a weekend at Gen Con. You know how it goes. First, the train is supposed to get back into Denver early on Monday morning, the better to leap back into Life As Usual. But what with the flooding in Nebraska reducing the BNSF to a single railway over which everyone proceeds single file, we didn't actually pull into the station until about 1:00 PM. And the Flat Niki Stage of Recovery stretched into Tuesday. So.
The Amazing Diaper Cat, Null, got a room to himself and his undiapered butt, so my job Wednesday was to Wash All The Things. This involved many journeys up and down the stairs so as to catch the washer at just the right time to toss in a quarter cup of Simple Solution Oxy Formula, which really does make the cat piss stench go away but is not optimized for use by the laundry load. I washed two loads and called it good.
Also, it's been hot enough in our house that guests need to sign a waiver indemnifying us against liability for their heat stroke, so it also fell to me to investigate replacing our air conditioner wall unit. Made the call Tuesday, met the HomeSmart representatives Wednesday, will have a new unit in the wall Friday. After more than a decade of this inefficient, dying, energy-sucking and stingy-with-the-cool-air refrigeration unit, we will have a new A/C box in the wall. I'm not sure I'll be able to take responsibility for whatever crazy impulsive things my unmitigated joy prompts me to do.
Today, Null went to the vet for Acupuncture Experiment #4. After this, we have to make the call: has it being doing him any good? Well... Maybe? He seems to be walking better and dripping less. He goes without a diaper again, because we find "helping" him at the litter box every few hours seems to erase most accident potential. He sleeps on the bed without leaving wet spots. But is any of this due to the acupuncture, or was it already the case if we'd shucked off the diaper sooner? Is he really walking better, or am I talking myself into seeing it? I... don't know. I'll be keeping an eye out for him.
Also, I made phone calls and decisions. Saturday, our old table and our old TV will find new homes at, respectively, Joyful Furniture and Ares Thrift. In the spirit of getting rid of unused things, I cleaned out my stationery drawer of empty or near-empty ink bottles.
So. As stated above: A Partial Week Full of Stuff. But have I been writing?
Well. I've been doing my Examiner posts and thinking really hard about getting back to other long-deferred writing tasks. I filed "Blackbird"'s latest rejection letter and decided where I'll send it next, which I'll do... tomorrow. And, figuratively out of breath from all the other stuff I've been doing, I've been smacking myself with guilt for not getting more done.
Did I mention Havi Brooks?
In my Internet travels, which get more ecclectic the deeper my avoidance cycle dips, I came across a link to Havi's "Bite Me, National Anti-Procrastination Day." I clicked it, thinking I'd read a screed about having One Big Day A Year defeats the purpose because us marathon procrastinators will use it as an excuse to put things off until said Day.
No. That is not what I read.
What I read was some of the wisest, kindest, most compassionate writing on the subject of procrastination. Just... beautiful stuff. Stuff that made the part of me that's sick of getting kicked by the other part of me feel acknowledged, spoken to, valued. And in was more than that -- when Havi writes from her own experience of procrastination and the effects that well-meaning but ineffective advice can have, it's like reading my own diary. If I kept a diary. If I was anywhere near as self-aware.
Or what about this charming quote on procrastination from another “expert” who wants to terrify you into taking action?
"Understand that this enemy is working diligently, 24 hours a day, to prevent any forward progress, so you must work even more diligently at eradicating it from your life."
Lovely. Thanks. Now I totally want to go get a bunch of stuff done. Oh, no I don’t. I want to curl up in a ball and cry.
I work with people who have these issues. People who have big, wonderful things to do in the world and are really, really scared sometimes to put it out there. Or even to talk about putting it out there.
I love these people with all my heart. They’re smart, creative and just generally awesome.
And then these so-called experts show up with their war-mongering and guilt-mongering and an entire day devoted to telling my people how much they suck. And it’s all so well-intentioned!
But it doesn’t help them. It makes them feel worse. They withdraw and retreat deeper into the stuff (guilt, criticism and self-loathing) that’s most harmful for them.
I’m here trying to help people who are traumatized by shoulds learn how to motivate themselves with love and attention. And this stuff freaks them out.
What about all the people who totally need help and aren’t getting it because they’re scared? Because they think it might make them feel guilty and horrible about themselves. Because they think they’ve tried what’s out there and know for a fact that nothing can help.
Well, I hope that everyone knows that not all methods involve kicking yourself and hating yourself. Because ohhhhhhh, that’s just got to hurt.
It does. It hurts a lot. Gods, it's good to read someone who gets that.
See, about half of any given Morning Pages session reads like this: "Here is stuff I gotta do today. [LONG LIST] And I'm gonna do it! Every bit of it! Except there's so much I didn't do yesterday. And I'm afraid if I don't do it today it means I'm worthless. I need to stop beating myself up. Why does even writing a to-do list feel like beating myself up?" And so forth and so on and variations on a theme.
So I just started devouring Havi's blog yesteday. Well, I collected all the Favorite Post type links into Scrapbook so I could read them offline at my leisure. I have another train trip coming up (anyone else going to World Con / Renovation?) and I could use the reading material.
Today I started dipping into it while between tasks. My fingers hurt and I was sick of being vertical, so I took the laptop with me for a lie-down and I read...
Is it scary to talk to your fear? To even acknowledge its shadowy presence in the room? Absolutely. I'm sorry. Hug.
And, Gods help me, I just wept.
Maybe I'm just a sap. I dunno. But reading this stuff has alternately got me energized and allowed me a measure of peace. It also makes me wish I could drop everything along with an extra $600 and run away to Portland for one of Havi's "Rallies," because, dude, blanket forts. I'm not quite ready to order her Procrastination Dissolve-o-Matic, mostly because I've been spending a lot of money this summer already and I'm rather behind on my money-making endeavors, but I would be really tempted if the eBook were available singly. So I continue reading bits and pieces in my breaks-between tasks, and I'm not going to pressure myself to OMG GET JUST ONE MORE THING DONE TONIGHT! but instead I'm going to eat the last few spoonfuls of my frozen yogurt with cookie dough and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and I'm going to watch the light change across the windshields of a hundred parked cars, and I'm going to give John a big smile when he arrives to pick me up and we head to the pizza place for dinner and Spiral Knights. And I'm going to have fun.
And tomorrow I'm going to get things done because each thing is a joy to accomplish, not because I feel guilty.
Well. That's the theory. It'll take practice to put it into practice.
You know, I don't actually like frozen yogurt. Under the freeze, it's still yogurt. It's still got that sour tang that sets my tongue on edge. But I tried it, and I had a wonderful afternoon here. Isn't that weird?
John's here. Gotta go. Hugs!
Recent Writing-Related Things I Have Done...
- 2,850 wds. long
- 700 wds. long
...roughly in order of actual writing-related relevance.
Firstly. Had the pleasure of seeing myself referred to, for the first time, in a Real Review of Actually Published Stuff, as a "newcomer." Like one's first lumpy handspun yarn, this is to be cherished. Only about 100 times more so. Again, I can't think of better company in which "First Breath" could see the light of print. This is amazing.
Relevant to this: Blood and Other Cravings is slated for release on September 13 of this year. It's available now for pre-order at all your favorite online and brick-and-mortar localities. I've presented here a link to do so at IndieBound.org, who help you place orders at your neighborhood independent bookstore if you're fortunate enough to have one.
Secondly, I've finally put "Blackbird" back into the slush. I'm slightly unnerved by Apex Magazine's insistence that submissions be done through HeyPublisher.com, referred to hereafter as "HP". (This should be unambiguous since I am not going to discuss boy wizards nor printer manufacturers in this post.) I can't submit a cover letter unless it's part of the manuscript; alas that I didn't think to prepend one. I can, however, enter a bio that will be attached to every darn thing I submit via HP -- which just feels weird. Also, in order to submit, I had to upload my manuscript to HP, which is worrisome even considering HP's reassuring privacy clause. Still, Apex specifically want dark fantasy, which this is, and Apex pay pro rates, which option I should like to exhaust before moving down the publishing hierarchy.
I'd have tried Strange Horizons first, but they have a list of horror tropes they really would not like to see again, at least not unless the manuscript is effin' fantastic, and I see "Blackbird" in at least three of those listed items. Which, despite SH wanting to see "stories that have some literary depth but aren't boring; styles that are unusual yet readable; structures that balance inventiveness with traditional narrative," is daunting. So... well, maybe later. Maybe a few rejection letters down the road.
Thirdly and similarly, I'm looking for other places that might like to reprint "Right Door, Wrong Time." Brain Harvest seems like a good fit. When I took a look Saturday, the most recent story was Helena Bell's "Please Return My Son Who Is In Your Custody," which, wow. Chills and shivers and a few uneasy giggles. I still need to read the latest since then, Simon Kewin's "Terahertz." The first few paragraphs tantalize me with their efficient worldbuilding.
Nextly, I've begun play-testing Glitch. Glitch is a very strange, and strangely compelling, MMO. You play the part of a figment of the Gods' (called "Giants") imagination. You learn skills, you do stuff. You interact with other people. You help build the world. Play-test opens again tomorrow, so I hear. What does this have to do with writing? Well, it's a reason why I might not be getting a lot of writing done. (Stupid online game addictions. I can has them. In multiples.) If you also are playing, I'm "vortexae".
And lastly (for this post at least), I am baking pound cake. I had this quart jar of whipping cream that self-soured, and pound cake calls for sour cream. So there.
And what does that have to do with writing? You ask a writer who's ready for dessert.
Actually, I can loop that back into writing. When I get done baking it, if the timing works out I shall take it over to our neighbors' place to share. John's over there with Kit and Austin of Transneptune Games, play-testing Becoming Heroes with some friends. Becoming Heroes is available for ordering right now this minute! Nothing "pre" about that. And if you go to Gen Con Indy this year, you can visit Transneptune Games at their vendor booth and buy it there from the team that made it happen.
I'm really proud of these guys and of the book they've produced, and not just because one of them's my husband. And not just because one of the copy-editors was me. (Gods help me, I'm a copy-editor.) And not just because Alison McCarthy's illustrations are stunning. And not just because the game draws on such a multifarious palette of literary influences. I'm proud of them and this book for all these things, plus because creating a new game and putting it out there for public consumption is an amazing feat to take from concept to fulfillment. And it's something John has always wanted to do, for as long as I've known him, so I'm especially pleased for him on that account.
And it's a dang good game, too. The team has put a lot of thought into it -- heck, they put a lot of thought into games as a category. You should read their blog. You won't take RPG mechanics or RPG terminology for granted ever again, that's for sure.
So Transneptune Games sold their first copies of Becoming Heroes about the same time I saw that Publisher's Weekly review of Blood and Other Cravings, which parallelism really amuses me. Hooray!
And that's the list of Things What I Wanted To Tell You What With Not Blogging Reliably Of Late. Which hopefully will improve in the near future.
Writer, Alone With Cats, Says Stupid Shit
Friends who know me in meat-space (as the kids these days do call it, or the kids from some days or other, maybe not these days, what days have you got?) LIKE I WAS SAYING they know I have a tendency to... vocalize. Think out loud. Talk to myself. A lot.
And as those know who have been present for my feeding of the cats or my diapering of the one cat, interaction with cats tends to exacerbate this behavior. (I plead that this is not unique and has been documented amongst the population in general.)
I have in fact been heard to make up whole nursery rhyme ditties to croon to the one cat as he suffers the indignity of being Pampered. "Oh, dear, what can the matter be / My poor Null-bit can't use the lavat'ry / Wears a diaper Sunday through Saturday / Oh what a tragic affair."
It should be remarked that my husband finds my attempts at Filking trying at best (even though I think they're hilarious, especially "For Lease/Fur Elise" and also a verse of "Be Our Guest" repurposed for a friend's first-timer guest-of-member free day pass at the rock climbing gym), even when I'm performing them with intent to amuse. That he has not signed me into an Institution because of spontaneously Filking at the cats is Commendable.
But sometimes even I think I've hit the deep end.
It was time to make the bed. The bed was full of cats, both of them confused that Mommy had suddenly robbed them of her cuddly body warmth and was now standing over them with intent to Make Them Move. I can only point again at XKCD's fish-shaped graph to excuse what came out of my mouth next.
"Sorry, kitties, but it's time to Make The Bed! I'm-a gonna grab me some two-by-fours..." (straightening the mattress and pillows on the left) "...and some nails, and make me a bed..." (ditto on the right) "...and then I'm-a gonna get me some marshmallows and make me a mattress..." (realigning the sheets) "...and then, 'cause marshmallows tend to be sticky, I'm-a gonna get y'all to shed me some cat hair..." (laying out the big furry blanket) "...and then, 'cause cat hair tends to get up one's nose, I'm-a gonna get me some bedsheets..." (laying out the afghan) "...and then I'm-a gonna MAKE THE BED!" (ta-daaa)
And then I thought, I've totally got to blog this shit. Erm. You're welcome?
You know, the nice thing about deep ends? They make these ladders, you can climb right out again. And then they make these diving boards, you can dive right back in...
Some NaNoEdMo Procrastination, or Why I Won't Be Buying Swain's Book
- 4,237 wds. long
- 3.00 hrs. revised
It's March. That means, if I've got my ass in gear, that it's National Novel Editing Month and I'm doing it. I got two hours in today on the revision of Deaths in a Dream (working title, may change) which was what I wrote back in November; that's the good news. The bad news is, I've only got three hours in total and the goal is fifty. Hee hee?
(The low word count refers to the rewrite. I'm taking the rough draft side-by-side with a new outline and notes on each scene, and I'm rewriting the novel into a new yWriter project.)
Doing a bit of procrastination today, I went back to an old standby, Randy Ingermanson's "Snowflake Method" for writing a novel. His method involves starting with a single sentence, then fleshing it out to a paragraph, then writing out a page of summary for each character, and so forth until you've expanded your single ice crystal of an idea into a snowflake of a novel full of all the detailed pointy bits you'd expect. It's a sort of fill-in-the-blank that gets you to write the shape of the blanks out first. It's a neat idea, but I don't think I've ever really found an occasion to use it. I go into a rough draft with a rough outline, but nowhere near the level of planning Ingermanson suggests, mainly because I write the rough draft to find out what the hell it is I'm writing. And now that I've got a rough draft and a much better idea of what the final should look like, I'm not sure his method goes the way my brain goes. Maybe I'll try bits of it here and there. The character page summaries seem useful; I seem to have less of a grip today on the character of Lia than I did back in November.
I've also discovered I... don't really like Ingermanson's writing style. I'm sorry! But I don't. He keeps inserting jolly comedic bombast that, as a joke, gets old quick. In my opinion. It's not so bad in Snowflake, where he mostly gets it out of the way in the first couple paragraphs and then gets down to business. But I clicked over to his other free article, "Writing the Perfect Scene," and the bombast was something like 40% of the content.
This may seem obvious, but by the end of this article, I hope to convince you that it's terribly profound. If you then want to fling large quantities of cash at me in gratitude, please don't. I'd really rather have a check. With plenty of zeroes.Yes, this is an example from the beginning of the article. No, he doesn't stop doing it there. I couldn't finish reading the section on "Small-Scale Structure of a Scene" because he would just not stop MY FUNNY LET ME SHOW YOU IT about "writing MRUs correctly." (What's an MRU? Coming to that. Momentito, amiguitos.)
He's also got a little problem with sexist language:
Your reader is reading your fiction because you provide him or her with a powerful emotional experience. If you're writing a romance, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is falling in love herself. If you're writing a thriller, you must create in your reader the illusion that he is in mortal danger and has only the tiniest chance of saving his life (and all of humanity). If you're writing a fantasy, you must create in your reader the illusion that she is actually in another world where all is different and wonderful and magical. And so on for all the other genres.OK, so, he's got the idea down of alternating "he" and "she" in order to avoid unconsciously treating Male as Default Human. Except... see what he does with the pronouns? Female pronouns for romance and fantasy; male pronouns for thriller. Bets on which pronoun he would have used had he gone on to describe the emotions of science fiction? Bets?
It's a small thing, but it does bug me. Put it together with a tendency to overload every new section with a fresh shmear of LOOKIT ME IN UR ARTICLE BEIN FUNNY before getting around to making actual informative points, and I fall right off the page.
OK so well but anyway he recommends this book, says he's stealing all his scene-building ideas from it. Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. This is where he gets MRUs, or "motivation-reaction units" ("such an absurdly ridiculous term that I'm going to keep it, just to prove that Mr. Swain was not perfect") from. "If you don't have this book," Ingermanson says, "you are robbing yourself blind." All right, already. I go look at the Amazon page.
Would you like to know why I will not be buying this book, robbing myself blind though I might be? Would you like to know? My problem with Swain, let me show you it. Let me rip it straight from Amazon's "Look Inside The Book" feature and show you it:
And each authority is dangerous to the very degree that he's correct, because that's also the degree to which he distorts the actual picture. Put four such specialists to work as a group, designing a woman, and she might well turn out like the nightmare of a surrealistic fetishist, all hair and derrière and breasts and high French heels.So. "Man" equals "person" equals "writer." Are women writers? No! They are what Men Writers create. Also, they're nightmares.
So . . . no magic key. No universal formula. No mystic secret. No Supersonic Plot Computer.
It's enough to plunge a man to the depths of despair.
This is, perhaps, not entirely unusual given the book was published in 1965. Except no, wait, here are a bunch of other books published in 1965. Some of them are on my shelf. Many of them have caused me less pain, cover to cover, than these few paragraphs did. Swain! More sexist than many of his contemporaries, and possibly proud of it!
According to reviewer T. Velasquez from Beaverton, Oregon, this is no simple unfortunate exception. He goes on like this throughout the book. Says Velasquez,
On the downside, the very dated presentation in the book can made for hard reading to the modern PC crowd. Swain writes very clearly from the POV that his readers are male. He never says that women can't write books but he mentions only one female author and she is used in a negative example. Swain uses the terms 'man/men' interchangeably for people. Of course, Swain was a product of his times but his style of writing borders on the unintentionally insulting.That single female writer he brings up as a bad example? Let's grab another quote from the first chapter of Swain's book. Meet "Mabel Hope Hartley (that's not her real name)...."
He refers to a black woman as a 'negress' at one point and his examples portray all wives (and women since this is the only thing he can allow women to be in his examples) as cheating on their husbands the moment that their husband's backs are turned: The understanding being that women are weak and mindless submissive creatures that are easily influenced by other men and must be constantly supervised.
...queen of the love pulps thirty years ago.... Old and tired now, she turns out just enough confessions to support herself.Ah, yes. Ye olde "old and tired," code phrase for "Woman who is no longer sexually interesting to me, and should therefore get out of my face, preferably by hiding herself away in a retirement home or maybe dying so I don't have to look at her." Old and tired. Which has what, exactly, to do with the profession of writer? In any case, old and tired Mabel Hope Hartley's role is to give the hypothetical (male) newbie (his name is Fred) bad advice so that manly Dwight V. Swain (Swain! I swoon) can rescue him and other newbie writers like him (alike to him right down to the male pronoun) from her old and tired badness.
"Modern PC crowd," nothing; Swain's book is painful for me to read as a woman. As one of those female writers that don't exist in Swain's world. As one of those terrible bad-advice-giving female writers who is probably cheating on her husband if he isn't nailing her fins to the floor. And is causing surrealist fetishists nightmares or something, I dunno. Clearly, if Swain were still with us today, I would be causing him nightmares just by existing. And writing. And publishing.
I should note that out of all the reviews on Amazon, most of which are 5 star and say "The writing Bible!" and "Should be required reading for all writers!" (because, Gods know, if women find Swain's writing painful they should just suck it up in the name of Becoming A Writer), Velasquez's review is the only one that mentions Swain's problem with slightly more than half the human species.
Anyway, valuable lesson learned. If a writer with an unfortunate tendency to fall into unconscious sexist language from time to time recommends a book about writing, and recommends it very very strongly as the book he got all his best ideas from, it is not unlikely that the recommended book will be full of a lot more sexist language that's a lot less unconscious. If your mentor is mouthing nasty bigoted stuff about women, or about people of color for that matter, and you learn a lot about writing from that mentor, well, it's hard to come away without having unconsciously internalized some of the nasty stuff.
Choose your mentors carefully to the extent you have a choice, right?
That said: If someone has taken Swain's good ideas, such as still apply today (Velasquez says he has a lot of ideas that don't pertain to today's publishing industry either), and has repackaged them within a writing style that, I dunno, acknowledges women as human beings who might have something worthwhile to say, maybe? then I'm all ears. I have a list, it is currently one author long, that author is Ingermanson. I should like the list to be longer. Suggestions?