Old Story Now In Print. New Story Now On Typewriter.
- 1,070 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 54,629 words (if poetry, lines) long
- 566 words (if poetry, lines) long
Big news: "The Day the Sidewalks Melted" is now live for you to read in Ideomancer volume 9, issue 1. Read it here. And since it won't take you all that much time to read, go read the rest of the free, online magazine while you're at it. The other stories are breathtaking, the poetry likewise, and the reviews illuminating.
And consider donating, since that's how the staff of Ideomancer keep the magazine going and the contributors paid year after year.
Meanwhile, I'm working on a new story, which is news and really oughtn't to be. That is, I ought to be doing it often enough--writing new stories--that it's not newsworthy. But I finally realized, considering the woefully slow progress I've been making on finishing the NaNoWriMo 2009 draft of Melissa's Ghost (I'm afraid John's getting the proof copy for an anniversary present; it wasn't done in time for his birthday), that putting off everything else until I'm done with that job is a recipe for unhappiness.
Recipe for happiness:
- One story idea that won't let you go.
- A portable Smith-Corona that's gathering dust.
- Five minutes reviewing the typewriter's instruction manual.
- About two and a half hours.
It's not actually a new story, but it's such a revision over the first time it showed up that it might as well be. What's it about? Well, in one sense, it's about succubi and how they reproduce. In another, it's about lives of ennui, lives of substance, and profound transformation. It's probably only going to be about 1500 words by the end of the day.
The end of the day will not be later than this weekend. I have promised it to the twice-monthly critique group. No, not the original typewritten draft. It'll get retyped into WordPerfect and revised first. Then emailed.
See, I'm not entirely a luddite here. (I mean, look! Blog post! On the internet!) It's just that sometimes, to recover from a stall, I have to switch from my daily laptop to something a little more "me plus words minus everything else". Sometimes I need to dust off the Ancient Decrepit DOS 6.2 Compaq, hide away from the wifi and from all my fancy editing tools. And sometimes I need to escape the bureaucracy of file names and directory trees and run away to where the paper shows up before the words rather than after, to where each letter has weight and the price of going too fast is a key-jam or the whiteout ribbon.
And sometimes I just need that immediate reward of a bell going "ding!" every time I invent a new ten-word sequence or so. "Go you! Now come up with another ten. Good job! Again!"
Seriously. You should try it. It's refreshing.
Incidents Following An Interception
Of course the bar went wild. If my cell phone weren't A) set to vibrate and B) in my hand, I would have missed Steve's text message: "HOLY SHIT!" I tried to write back: "I KNOW, RIGHT? That's it! That's the game!" At which point my phone told me that it had encountered difficulties sending my text message, sorry, it had been saved in my outbox please try again later. So I did.
Sorry 4 delay... Tracey Porter broke my network.I had sort of lost track of the game at this point. Everytime I looked, some Colts play was going wrong, as though everyone on the team, except the quarterback, had accepted that it was over. But I was getting text messages left and right, so I kept ABCing my way through responses that may or may not have gone through.
Then the 4th-and-goal attempt got stuffed and it began to rain indoors.
I actually looked for some sort of sprinkler system that McGuire's might have triggered to go off in celebration. The reality was much less high tech. All of the high tech in the bar had been channeled into showing the game on four TVs and a home-rigged cardboard projection screen. ("I love it when I win," said Zack, bartender and entertainment system MacGuyver. "That's my favorite game in all the world.") Thus the wi-fi wasn't working and even the electrical outlet under the bar was dead, which is why my computer was safely in my bookbag underneath my seat when people began buying bottles of beer to baptize the crowd. Purchase, shake, pop the top, spray. Friends and strangers hugged, screamed, clasped hands in the alcoholic drizzle. Two women near me were crouched to the ground, though whether in emotional overload or because they'd dropped something I wasn't sure.
Some guy jumped up on the bar and began strutting from one end to the other. I handed him my spare Krewe of Carrollton beads to throw and got myself together to head out into the street.
For a moment, all I could think to say was, "I love everybody in the world right now!" I shouted that, and things like it, a lot last night.
Car horns sounded without cease: jubilation, not irritation. As they passed me, or I passed them, windows rolled down, shouts of "WHO DAT?!" were exchanged in call-and-response, hands extended to slap palms with anyone close enough. After awhile, I stopped wincing and started just holding out my hand at the sound of a car fast approaching behind me.
In the Quarter, gently and sloppily drunk adults tripped over families towing toddlers and apologized loudly and politely. Children in pint-sized number jerseys made the most of their rare chance to yell at the top of their lungs at passing strangers without getting rebuked for rudeness. "Who dat?!" they yelled, and adults yelled right back, "Who dat?!" And the kids were delighted. They were part of something tonight. This wasn't going on over their heads or in the next room. They were part of it.
Bourbon Street was as crowded as any festival night, possibly more so. At the intersections, it teemed like a salmon run but without direction. Any attempt to navigated foundered. You entered the current not to get somewhere, but just to be there, pressed up in full-body contact against three or four other people at any given moment, sharing joy like body heat and not caring that your feet were barely touching the ground.
From the river to South Claiborne, there was no traffic. Well, not what you'd call traffic. What there was, was a non-stop tailgate party, traffic signals having lost their meaning, horns continuing to sound in rhythm with the ubiquitous "WHO DAT?!" chanting, sunroofs and windows sprouting upper bodies, styrofoam pointing fingers, second-line umbrellas, hands, voices. Past South Claiborne, lakeward Canal Street flowed smoothly but riverward Canal Street remained bumper to bumper, and if anyone was annoyed by this, you didn't notice them. You noticed the convertible with the top down where five or six riders stood up on the seats and danced to the music pounding out their car stereos. Some riders were standing on roofs and hoods--not that the cars were going fast enough to make this a danger.
"How ya do?" I called, passing fans walking north along the street car tracks. "Wait," I amended, even as the automatic Fine, I do fine, I'm doing great, came back. "Dumb question, is that even a question? Don't I know the answer already? WHO DAT!"
Music ranged from brand-new hip-hop gonna-be-standards written in honor of the Superbowl opportunity, to reworked classics like the "Superbowl Mambo," to old favorites that Louis Armstrong used to sing. Which could also stand to be reworked.
Oh when the Saints
Came marching in
Oh when the Saints came marching in
I was proud to be in that number
When my Saints came marching in
Traffic at South Broad and Canal was somewhat more normal. People stopped at red lights and weren't backed up more than half a block. Kids in a pickup truck parked at a drugstore called out "Who dat sayin' gonna beat dem Saints?" at passersby, who shouted back the only possible answer. "Who dat? Who dat?"
Across the parish line, things fell silent. The party never lasts as late in Metairie. But before locking up and heading home to bed, business owners had left their acknowledgments. The cycling light board at Old Metairie Bank said,
SuperbowlBut this suburb had gone to bed, and I was about to do the same.
Starting From Scratch
- 54,103 words (if poetry, lines) long
Not as drastic as it sounds. The novel wouldn't let me in to edit it, so I've started a brand new Word Perfect document and have begun a re-type.
Unpacking that. Um. So, you know how I said I barely knew where exactly the holes were, let alone what shape they were? And how I was rereading and taking notes as to how to rework scenes such that the holes would kind of fill themselves? Sounds like a good plan, right?
Except I get kind of attached to the draft I'm looking at. For one thing, the current yWriter project is sort of like Baby's First Draft. I kind of want to print it out and wrap it in flannel and stow it in the cedar chest. Second of all, once I've written a draft, the draft is the story. It's incredibly hard to visualize it any other way. Oh, in my head it's been revised and it's all sparkly, but when I get down to actually editing the old draft, it does its best impression of The Platonic Ideal Of This Story and won't let me in.
I'm terribly susceptible to first impressions.
So I'm blending my re-type with my read-through, which you never never never do when your goal is a submittable draft. Good things my goal is merely a complete first draft I'm not embarrassed to let my husband read.
Also, this past week of no blogging doesn't indicate a week of no writing. It indicates a week of "Dang, look at all the spectacular crap I did today! Now I'm tired."
(Hee. That's what Maangchi said at the end of her How To Make Kimchi video. "Kimchi is done! I'm tired." It's so true.)
Seeds of Apathy
It's amazing how "Just another half hour" turns into a day with absolutely no nutritional value.
Seriously. I know exactly where today went wrong. I can put my finger right on it. It was the bit where John left for work and I said, "I've set my alarm for 9. I'll get up then." And I went back to sleep. Somehow the alarm at 9 turned into another at 9:45 and another at 10:30, and lunch spent with a book* turned into going back to bed with the book and pretty much being worthless until I was done rereading the book and it was time to feed the cats.
I'm not sure if it's a symptom of pathological apathy or of a latent tendency toward the nocturnal. Probably somewhere in between. I know that if I sleep late I'm likely never to get anything of use done, and that I have my most productive days when I get up early and get right to work.
With enough willpower I can repair a late-start day, but it's not pleasant. Since I treated yesterday like the weekend day that it was, enjoying a Rock Band lunch with John and a Dominion dinner date with friends and an afternoon in between full of naps-with-book, I felt obliged to repair today. And it wasn't pleasant, because it involved turning down a friend's invite to hang out and chat and possibly play video games. But I did get today's quota of articles written, and while I didn't quite work on the novel, I thought about the novel.
Tomorrow will be better.
*Book: Sunshine, Robin McKinley. Predates Twilight and presents a more grown-up view than Meyer's book does of Life With Vampire. Doesn't jettison main character's mundane life as unimportant, for instance. Does spend a little too much time in the main character's head, though, to the point of interrupting dialogue every two sentences with a page or two of internal monologue; but still, Rae Seddon is no Bella Swan.
Day 1 of the Rest of My Life, Take 967
- 51,283 words (if poetry, lines) long
I'm sure I've used that as a blog title before. But, so? Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. You get do-overs.
Today was good. Only, writing two articles for Demand Studios takes at least forty-five minutes longer than it should. Right now, there are writers complaining in the DS forum about how few titles they're allowed to have in their queue at a time because they would like to write more than their current average of 60 articles in a week. I don't know how they do it. Seriously. It took me 3.25 hours just to write two. I guess if I worked 8 hours a day on nothing but DS articles, that's how I'd do 60 articles a week. But I don't want to. I've also got some 3rd-party blogging to do (oh hai Metaverse Tribune, I'm in ur Second Life bein kloo-less!). And, oh yeah, a novel draft to finish and short stories to revise and put in the mail.
In the end, today only about 1 hour of my 5 went to the novel. I spent it mostly making notes.
In the second half of November, I started jumping around the novel's chronology, mainly because I wanted to write the end of the book before the month was out. 50,000 words wasn't going to be a problem. The problem was how many words it took to get Melissa out of elementary school. NaNoWriMo philosophy holds that you should make 49,999 and 50,000 be "The" and "End" because you can't count on the momentum to keep itself rolling into December. Except skipping around the book in order to make that happen doesn't leave me all that much better off. I am missing a lot of material from Melissa's college years and beyond, and I don't even know what shape it's supposed to be.
So I've been rereading and taking notes as I go. Essentially, I've been performing Holly Lisle's One Pass Manuscript Revision method on an unfinished first draft. I'm hoping that by the time I get to the holes I'll have got enough of a sense of the big picture to know what goes into the holes. Hell, if I even recognize that I'm looking at a hole, I'll be in better shape than I think I am.
It's working so far. I got a glimpse of the rough shape of Melissa's crisis scene with the Ghost Prince. I think I might even be able to write it tomorrow. But I probably shouldn't, not until I've worked my way through the rough draft to that point. I am probably still missing necessary data. I can afford to put it off; I put in the first few sketchy brush strokes, so to speak, when I had that flash of "ah-ha!" and began typing into yWriter's notes field in the appropriate scene file. I can come back to it. I'll probably come back to it several times, filling in a brush stroke here and a brush stroke there until the whole avalanche comes down.
Defining "Part Time Self-Employment." Also, Happy New Year.
The original mission statement with this blog was, "I will blog every day, and only after I've written that day." And of course I began to fail at that standard pretty much the moment I put it into place. But it's never too late to get back on board with a good idea. It's my reusable New Year's Resolution: This year I'll write more, with more self-discipline and better time-management! This will be the year I Act Like A Writer!
The problem with New Year's Resolutions, though, is the high expectations involved. It isn't enough to say, "Tomorrow I'll write more than I did today." Oh no. We have to put it in terms of a whole year. So the moment we drop down out of the stratospheric levels of Perfect, well, that's the year down the tubes. It doesn't help that we ante up an amount of self-esteem proportional to the impossibility of the perfection we seek.
Some people, recognizing this, turn the idea of New Year's Resolutions into a joke. They set deliberately impossible goals, or deliberately trivial ones, and they laugh about them. Laughing is good for you. Jokes are healthy. But I don't want to turn the idea of self-improvement itself into a joke. I seriously want to take all that magical, psychological power bound up in our communal awe for the event of the annual odometer ticking over, and push it into my personal engines. Vroom!
So. A do-able New Year's Resolution with a reasonable attitude toward success and failure.
Here's another tank of gas for that: John and I just purchased health insurance. He got a new job, and, since it's an hourly contract position, he didn't get a new company-paid health insurance policy with it. Well, they offered him one, but the options offered cost about the same but provided less coverage than what we were contemplating purchasing on our own. (His new employers did, however, offer him a dental policy worth the premium. I will never understand this system.)
What does health insurance have to do with my writing goals for the year? Well, it has to do with how we signed up. Since we had the option, we made me the primary insured. I'm the one with more time on my hands, after all, or, if not, if I actually am spending all the time writing I should and the rest of my work week being a housewife, at least I'm the one with a more flexible work schedule. I can bike down to the State Farm office on Mapleton just about any day, weather permitting, and sign stuff. Or make phone calls. Or whatever. Not that it this hasn't been the case since I quit my day job in April 2004, but I since I haven't been the insured employee, I haven't typically been authorized to handle the bureaucratic details. Insurance companies want the signature of the guy in the number one slot. They don't want to talk to the dependent or beneficiary.
(Speaking of companies that won't talk to the beneficiary, let us another day discuss companies who, when receiving an application from a married couple with a hyphenated last name, "helpfully" "correct" the husband's last name by removing the hyphened-on half, and then require the husband to call them and then fill out a change-of-name form rather than just saying "Sorry, we goofed" when the wife calls to point out the error. Shall we? It would be a blast.)
When you're the primary insured on the application, the application wants to know all about you. Including your employment status. I always fill out "Self-employed" not just because that's what writers are, even if they aren't making a lot of sales, but because it's an act of magic. Or psychology, take your pick. I am not unemployed and dabbling at a hobby. My writing is my job. I mean to treat it like a job, and I expect others to respect that it is my job, and I'm not going to wait until I've sold a novel to say so. "Self-employed." Emphatically.
And then when they ask "Part time or full?" a little sliver of conscience grimaces and admits I don't spend 40 hours a week on my writing like I think I should. "Part-time." Sheepishly.
This is Magic 101. Mundane action, or "sweat," is a necessary component of any spell. It's very important to say "Writing is my job! I am self-employed!" It is also very important to then write like it's my job. The Goddess is very prompt at reminding me of this, and very versatile in how She delivers the message. This day, She was sending the message via Assurant Health and Time Insurance Company.
Well. I wasn't exactly going to sit there with a calculator and go, "I think last week I only worked 15 hours, and the last time I had gross income sufficient to pay this policy was three years ago." I said yes, and yes, and yes, and yes, and I signed on the dotted line.
And that's where the New Year's Resolution juice comes from. There's nothing quite like being unsure whether I've told the truth to inspire me to make it the truth.
So. My resolution, in precise: Write 5 hours each day, 5 days a week. This should consist of at least two articles for Demand Studios, any assigned blogging, and constant work on completing and submitting fiction submissions.
And blogging here when I'm done.
...And also flossing my teeth every morning, and achieving World Peace by December. [laugh track] No, no, but seriously, folks...
Happy Two Thousand And Ten!
Quickest November You Ever Did See
- 50,358 words (if poetry, lines) long
It occurs to me that I forgot to blog for the entire latter three-fourths of November. You may have been under the impression that NaNoWriMo kicked me under a bus and left me for dead. If so, you would be wrong. Not far wrong, but wrong nonetheless. The bus analogy is just a bit too much. If you want accuracy, we could say that NaNoWriMo sort of prodded my backside while I was looking at something else, with the result that I sort of stumbled out in front of a moped puttering along at about 3 miles an hour, with the result that, to prevent my picking up moped tracks on the back of my favorite jacket, I had to keep running at a slow, steady, but unwavering pace for the entirety of November.
Which didn't leave me a lot of time for blogging, this year. That'll teach me not to watch my back.
In any case, the story's about the same as last year: Crossed the 50K line (see attached 2009 Winner Badge), failed to reach The End. Also, only managed to do about 9 of the hoped-for 30 Demand Studios articles; nevertheless, this total surpassed the totals of each previous month. So. Progress!
I have pledged to the other inhabitants of the "Life After NaNoWriMo" forum that I will finish this novel! I will finish this first draft in time to use my "free proof copy" code from CreateSpace (expires July 1). And, personally, I hope to finish it much sooner than that. Like, in time to give my wonderful, supportive husband a birthday present. "Limited edition," I told him. "Very limited. Like, just one copy. Signed and numbered and everything." This amused him.
As for my "day job," Demand Studios is doing something very special this month: Write For a Cause with Demand Studios. (Link goes to Facebook, where you can "become a fan" or just follow the cause's progress through the month.) For every eight articles their writers complete and their editors approve, they will donate a book to a child in need, via First Book. If you've been considering writing for Demand Studios, now's a darn good time. And this month's also a darn good time for me to finally reach a more respectable "day job" level of output with them.
And that's the news for now. Summary: Not dead, not under a bus, have won NaNoWriMo, will continue on.
On Vegan Pot Roast and the Loneliness of Millenium-Old Ghosts
- 10,622 words (if poetry, lines) long
So. First, you gotta make stir fry. Stir fry requires sauce. Sauce requires soy, hoisin, mushroom sauces. Also hot sauce and a spoonful of dill relish (because it's easier than chopping chilis and acquiring sezchuan pickles). Also veggie broth. And you gotta totally overestimate how much veggie broth the stir fry sauce needs. Those dried mushrooms don't really soak up all that much juice, reconstitutin', after all. So you end up making a really soupy stir fry.
Oh well. You serve it with a slotted spoon and use some of the extra to moisten the rice. It's damn good. Mmm, mushroom stir fry with selection of Asian greens from Abbondanza's last veggie share.
Meanwhile, you have all this stir fry sauce left over and, incidentally, the leaves of all that young celery you chopped up. The celery was really more leaf than stem, to be honest. You hate wasting it. So. You toss those leaves and that sauce into your crock pot. You put an extra cup of water in. You crush up one of your home-grown tomatoes that's starting to reach the use-it-or-lose-it stage. You set the crock pot to "low" and you go to bed.
Good morning! Now. You've been defrosting that lovely 1/2-lb Celebration Roast since a couple days ago, because you wanted to roast it up with some vegetables. Now is the time. Pull out your pyrex casserole dish with the clear lid. Set the roast in the middle. Surround it with the results of chopping up one onion, two potatoes, and two big carrots.
Ladle over it a little of that broth that's been simmering all night. Did you strain out the solid bits first? I recommend this.
Put the covered casserole dish into the oven on 425 degrees F for half an hour. When the buzzer goes off, baste with more broth. Give it another half hour and another basting. Then give it another 10 minutes but this time uncovered.
During that last 10 minutes, make a roux of about a tablespoon each olive oil and whole wheat flour. It's not going to be a gumbo roux. It's just going to be a basic thickener. When the roux is well mixed and bubbling creamily, pour in the last of the broth. The roux will go all shreddy; don't worry. Stir it casually and let it simmer until the mixture gets homogenous again. This is your gravy. It will need salt.
Serve the field roast with veggies and cover all with gravy. Do not be afraid to invite your vegan friends to the table, or indeed to create this dish if you are yourself vegan, 'cause it is.
Eat leftovers cold for maximum delight.
Go forth and try this come thanksgiving.
(This post coming to you live from BeauJo's Pizza in south Boulder. We started tonight's write-in at the Baseline Brewing Market, but they unexpectedly closed early "for cleaning." So we hopped across the parking lot and had pizza and garlic-cheese bread and fountain drinks in mini mason jars. Today, Melissa finished up her first visit with the Ghost Prince, and I discovered that the first lesson she learns from him is, "You think you've got it bad? You think you're lonely? You, missy, are eight years old. Come back and whine when you've endured loneliness for ten centuries." Except the Prince was a lot nicer than that, breaking this to her.)
Meeting Ghosts and Goals
- 8,365 words (if poetry, lines) long
So Melissa did meet the Ghost Prince in today's writing. And the conversation was terribly stilted. And every line felt really, really unnatural and hard to eke out. And some days are just like that. I just keep telling myself, someday I'll know more about the story than I do now, and that will be a better day to think in terms of perfection. Today I know very little, and so I must content myself with exploration. Sometimes exploration is done by eking out stilted dialogue and out-of-character narration. Sometimes it's the only way to get from here to there.
My additional challenge this NaNoWriMo is to do one article a day for Demand Studios,, a work-for-hire content provider that publishes in respectable places (eHow, GardenGuides.com, etc.) and pays reliably on schedule. That's my endorsement. Go ahead and apply; I won't try to stop you. Some people who write for them make a full-time living wage from them, all working from home. Me, well, I've been patting myself on the back for four articles a week. I'm not satisfied with that, neither as an accomplishment nor as a paycheck. (Also, Demand Studios will soon be offering an optional health plan but only to writers who average 30 articles a month. I should like to qualify, if only to know I have that option.) So I'm trying to do one article a day in addition to 1667 words on the novel.
How've I been doing so far? Well, divide my current word count by 5 and then multiply by 30; I think you'll find the result to be slightly in excess of 50,000. However, I've only done two articles. Gotta be behind in something, I guess. But there's time yet to catch up. I've done two articles in a day before. I'm not worried. Tomorrow is a new day with lots of writing time scheduled in.
(Schedule, you say? Why yes! There's a calendar at the top of the Boulder Regional Forum home page. Go take a gander.)
That's enough for today. Food blogging tomorrow. Maybe. (But I still feel clever!)
NaNoWriMo 2009: Off To A Good Start
- 6,733 words (if poetry, lines) long
Those with an eye on the calendar may have noticed that it's November. Yes, I'm doing NaNoWriMo again. Yes, I am a Municipal Liaison for Boulder again. You can buddy me at Nanowrimo.org via my handle "vortexae" if you like.
It's been going well. I've been sticking rather precisely to a schedule of 1667 words per day, which is just few enough to keep from getting overwhelmed by despair that my main character still hasn't met the ghost in the castle yet. Or that I don't really know much about my character once she's a teenager, a woman in her 20s, a woman in her 30s, etc. I just keep telling myself that exploring her childhood in detail will help me get to know the possibilities for her growing up. Meanwhile, I think I know why the ghost is in that castle. It's sort of half the traditional Beauty and the Beast set up, and half High Spirits only without the comedy.
My rough draft already has a beta reader volunteer--not that I usually like anyone to read my rough draft, but for this story there's precedent. I could have sworn I blogged this, but apparently I have not: Round about July 2005, I sat down with the creative writing prompt to take one of Tori Amos's more inscrutable songs and write a story that the lyrics could possibly, if you squint at them over your shoulder, be said to describe. I cued up "Toast" (audio link; lyrics here). After about an hour I had finished what I thought was the first scene of a short story. OK, a long scene, but rough drafts tend to be full of babble that'll get cut later, so, not worried. And I emailed it to John. And he called it "chapter 1" and asked "when can I read the rest?" And I said to the Muse, "You lied! You said this was a short story!" and She said, "No! Not lied, I was just, you know, mistaken..."
October this year had started and I still hadn't quite decided what plot I was going to try to stretch out over 50,000 words this year. John said, "When are you going to finish my ghost story?" I said, "You know what? I'll finish it in November." So I'm working on it.
(Also? It is not particularly subtle, naming the main character Melissa. Given that "Toast" is the last track off The Beekeeper. I C WUT U DID THERE.)
Today, I think, Melissa will finally meet the ghost. It will be midway through Chapter 2. Or it will be the cliffhanger of Chapter 2 and continue into Chapter 3, I'm not sure. I'll report on it later today, along with yesterday's pot roast. Because I feel very clever about yesterday's pot roast, that's why.