And From The List of Things That Are None Of My Business…

I subscribe to the Ex-Boyfriends R Us newsletter. It’s one of the unforeseen pitfalls of dating people you or people you know actually have things in common with. You might be able to get rid of them, but you can never liberate yourselves from the shared-interest newsletters.  From now on, it’s dates from the union of actuarial scientists, sewage reclamation specialists, and embalmers for me.

So, I was sitting at the table, minding my own business and eating a sandwich today. Flipping through a copy of Ex-Boyfriends R Us. (Actually, the newsletter for a charitable group we’re both involved with.) And yup.

Somebody gave him a full page.

With pictures.

Why would anyone do that?!!

Because he’s raising money for the poor starving orphans with sufficient zeal to merit it.

Oh, well, there is that.

Well. All right. Fine. I already knew he was a better person than I am.

Did I mention I’m writing a book?

The thing is… I was pretty happy with the idea that he was happy. Well, you know. That feeling of relief when you see that someone you care about is being taken care of.

He is not being taken care of. He looks miserable. And I’m not crazy about the health-aspect there. (**Fantasizes about thyroid testing and blood sugar.**)

It’s like finding out your dog didn’t really go to live on a farm, and he’s not chasing rabbits.

I should mind my own business. And in the long run, I probably am going to mind my own business.

But I still thought there’d be rabbits.

Reclaiming Normal

Today, we have rain. Dreary, half-hearted rain, straight down and gray. It’s the kind of rain that makes the day seem dark, and I feel like I’m still waiting for sunrise.

I’m working on that pesky chapter. You know, the one. It’s the one I was working on just before all the stuff happened, and I wound up shifting to a large-scale structural revision.

There are serious mental blocks with this one.

It’s partly because this is a chapter I’ve worked on and walked away from and failed with more times than I want to think about.

And it’s partly because this is the place where things go back to normal, and I’m not quite ready for things to be normal.

I don’t talk about my writing with most of my family because I already know the response. Go get a real job. Or, if the person is being a little more diplomatic, What does that pay? You’d be surprised how many of the family stories I used to hear involved the phrase, “And they lived happily ever after, as soon as he gave up that silly dream and got a real job.” (In one notable version, the prince also promised to get the children’s ears pinned back.)

We’re a family of ex-creatives. The talented photographer who morphed into a doctor, or the painter who turned into an accountant. People who accept that their creative goals are just as unreachable as that childhood dream where they were going to be an astronaut.

I didn’t talk to my sister about this, either. Plenty of reasons, there. Do you really want to tell one of those nervous types “Hey, I’m writing a thriller where the homicidal maniac tracks his victims through their cell phones.” “Yes, you can do that.” “Yes, it’s even legal.”?

I didn’t. I think she knew I wrote in the past, and maybe she suspected that I was still writing.

Shameful little hobby.

And now–with a lot of the fat cut away–I’m back to working my way through. Front to back.

Back to normal.

Backward Word Sprints

I started running backward word sprints a while ago. I’m not sure what else to call it. I set a timer, and focus, and then, when my attention wanders, I hit the timer, and write down how long I’ve been at it. The timer goes up instead of down, and the goal is minutes of focus instead of words. (I’m revising, so words would be a little tough.)

I wound up with 32 minutes and 52 seconds over my lunch hour, which is as coherent a chunk of time as I’ve ever managed to come up with.

It also leaves me with the feeling that I’m getting something done.

Trackable, concrete progress.

Something to write down in my notebook to prove I’m not just sitting around breathing air.

A lot of the time, I do feel like I’m just lollygagging around. I write–but is there progress? Am I any closer to where I want to be than I was, when I sat down?

When I’m writing, I have words to log. Yes, moving toward a finished draft. But revising? I’ve never really gotten the hang of that. I have a process, of course. It’s a good process. (I bought it off a stranger on the internet, and it’s turned out to be one of the best purchases I ever made.) But that new-words feeling? Well, that’s just for new words.

One of my characters did something really out there, today. I don’t know what corner of my subconscious that came from, but he wound up punching another character. One I had considered sacrosanct. Guess not.

And I’ve reached the point that I’m rejoicing over words cut. Hey, that means I have space for my characters to punch each other in. (Yes, I’m down to the dangerous end of too many words.)

 

Penguin March Goals

I’m thinking about goals a lot right now. I have goals coming out my ears with this Fitbit tracker, and some of them are goals I didn’t even know I had. (Yup. I just won my Penguin March badge–no, not kidding–for matching the distance of the great penguin migration.) And in writing related news, I’m trying a goals-oriented thing where you write down three goals the night before, and that’s your activity for the day, and gold star for anything above and beyond that.

The problem I’m having is knowing what a reasonable goal actually is.

If Fitbit informs me that 17,000 steps is about average (without trying) for a day when I’m working, and I’m lucky to get 8,000 without trying on my days off… where do I set the goal?

And where does writing fit into that swing? It’s a big jump between what I can theoretically get done in addition to work, and what I could get done when I’m mostly free.

I set three goals for yesterday. And as it turns out, I hit most of one of them. Whole lot of typing done. I still have to go through some notebooks and weed out the useless things, and type up the rest, but at least there was serious work on it.

I’m evenly divided between thinking this means I should set fewer goals, and thinking I should buckle down and focus. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Or maybe the right answer is a set number of weekly goals, instead.

Refrigerators, Packages, and Books.

Today has been a day of deliveries. The refrigerator arrived, all dark and shiny, and is now in place and–deep sigh of relief–I now have ice again. Ice, people!  Let the replacement of food commence!

I also wound up with an assortment of packages I had ordered, and I now have clothing of a non-holey variety, and a very, very skinny postman, who has apparently been here twice in one day. (I’m still waiting on one more, which may mean that he’ll vanish entirely on the next trip through.) (Technically, it may be a post-woman. I haven’t been home at mail time recently enough to know.)

Today is also the day that Tor sends out the announcement of its Book Club book of the month (Free books for people who subscribe to their mailing list.) So, I wound up with a copy of Kushiel’s Dart. It’s the first book in the series, and I’ll forewarn you… Tor is taking a page from less-savory drug dealers everywhere: The first one’s free, the next one’s gonna cost you. The book club selections tend to be the first book in a very addictive series.

Note to self: Write a very addictive series.

As it happens, I’m just about to finish up my last addictive series (one book left!) so I’ll be looking for a new distraction to keep me from reading the books on my list of Hugo AND Nebula winners. I think the priority there is probably finishing American Gods before information starts oozing out of the TV show and into my head. I don’t know why I never finished it, before. I suppose life happened.

Also, I’m a little over-teenager-ed with Dune, although I might have loved it if I read it when I was fifteen. Or I might start loving it at some point in the future.

There’s also a paperback of Ringworld floating around somewhere. I figured I’d better get out there and buy it right after I narrowly escaped buying an e-graphic novel based off the original, so I won’t wind up getting the wrong thing in the end.

Death of a Mustard Yellow Fridge

Time has now murdered the charming, 1970s era refrigerator in my somewhat mustard yellow pied a terre, so I spent most of yesterday and a good chunk of today shopping for replacements. You’d think that wouldn’t be much of an issue. After all, it’s a refrigerator. All it has to do is keep things cold. It doesn’t have to match my shoes or my purse, or–horrors!–the rest of the mustard yellow kitchen.

But… it does have to fit.

There’s a space for it between the cupboard and the wall, and back in the dark ages, when the space was new, it must have seemed enormous.

It’s not quite deep enough for most refrigerators anymore… not if I also want to be able to use the door… and it’s not tall enough for some. (Admittedly, those are shiny space-ship type refrigerators which are mostly out of my refrigerator budget.)

Did I mention it was a balmy 94 degrees here yesterday?

So, a quick trip through local refrigerators turned up nothing. I have specific tastes apparently.

Something that goes in that hole is going to look like a laboratory refrigerator, no question. But will it go in that hole?

The refrigerator is being delivered tomorrow morning. And it doesn’t look too much like a laboratory refrigerator. It’s black. And it doesn’t have a Far Side cartoon scotch taped to the door.

I’m thrilled.

Honestly, I’m Not a Bag Lady

One of the great things about the internet age is the ability to sit on your sofa, and shop for all the things it ever crossed your mind that you might need. I’m not crazy about real-life stores. Something about having someone interrupt you just as you’re making a decision, the smells, the people… I mean, come on! Malls are for power walking, not for shopping, right?

The internet also enables you to buy the kinds of things your neighbors won’t. (And that’s important. I’ve lived in towns where the best bookstore was the remainders bin at Pamida.)

I’m not a natural shopper. For me, it’s usually What the hell am I wearing to that event? or “Damn it! there’s a hole in my favorite jeans.” Right now, I’ve hit the point that the best (newest, most hole-free) clothes in my wardrobe are work clothes that I really wouldn’t wear anyplace else, and the casual, lounge around clothes are getting pretty shabby.

And events… well, they’re getting pretty few and far between.

I’m boosting the casual, right now. Jeans and t-shirts, and a couple of fitness-kick related items. I probably needed a water bottle, and I definitely needed a sports bra.

They’re on the way, along with grooming tools for Depravi-Cat. I did not have to stop at a separate store to find the cat things.

I also did not have to stop at a separate shop for my semi-voyeuristic peek through lingerie that is a little further out on the kinky spectrum than I am, or for the writer-specific t-shirts that probably aren’t in stock anywhere near me.

Anyway, the good news is that in a few days, I’ll have go-out in public clothing that reflects “personality” more than “indigent” and a cat that doesn’t look like a stray. What more could I want?

 

 

 

Your New Terrifying Thought of the Day

I found a new and improved querying phobia, the other day, and since I can’t get the thought out of my mind, I figured the rest of you should suffer, too. Maybe I’m dense, but I hadn’t even thought of this one, before.

This one’s from Janet Reid’s blog–she’s a literary agent, and she blogs, and you should read her blog, even if you’re only slightly considering traditional publishing–and here’s the dark and terrifying quote:

“You should also remember that if I love your work, and sign you as a client, all my OTHER clients will be skulking around your blog to learn about you.”–Janet Reid.

Oh, good. That’s not terrifying at all, because I am perfectly normal. All my friends are perfectly normal. And we certainly did not throw a party for our imaginary friends a couple years back. Also… pay no attention to any posts about standing in the rain with a camera trying to photograph lightning; rampant insecurities; desired marriages based on “some men can cook”; vacuum cleaners or other electronics with names; or skulls or other human remains.

I don’t know how that got there.

So… there’s the idea. You know that writer? The one that made me query this person in the first place? The one where I explain the agent by saying ___________’s agent? (As in, They’ll probably laugh until they pass out, but they’re ________’s agent, so I at least want to try?) That client?

Yup.

That seems to say they’re inviting themselves over for dinner.

Don’t forget they’re vegetarian, and they have some food allergies. (I’ll send you a list.)

Not just my place. They’re going over to visit you, too.

I’ll be hiding as a puddle of melted Karen over in the corner. You get your own disguise.

 

Unsagging My Middle

No, not my middle. My Story’s middle. I have a character who needs to get from point A to point B in a hurry, but the middle third of my book is starting to look more like the Lord of the Rings than something thoroughly modern, and written by someone who **ahem** doesn’t particularly care for dual person verbs.

There are a few things that need to happen on this trip, but not a lot. It’s not an epic journey, and it’s certainly not the whole point of the story. Just enough that I can’t skip over it and just say “And when he arrived, he took a bath.”

And the whole thing has to be very, very sleek, because I’m running out of spare word count.

As if it didn’t have to be sleek, anyway.

There was a lot of sag to the book, when I started my revision. I’m not sure if I’m talking about words and plot lines that I never should have written in the first place, or if they were… necessary explorations that have now served their purpose. They don’t fit in with the plot, and most of them can’t fit in with the plot.

I’ll save some of them for the next book, and throw out the rest.

I keep coming up with things that could–and maybe should–go in the book, though. A plot card here, a paragraph there.

I have plot cards in an envelope. Counted out and color coded according to available word count. If I run out of cards before I run out of plot, I’m in trouble.

So, how about it? Any plot de-sagging tips I should hear?

The Exercise Thing Gets Expensive

As a part of my tech-assisted health and fitness kick, I’m spending a good chunk of time wandering around places I wouldn’t ordinarily go. Do I have my hourly 250 steps in? No? What about now?

So, I went to an antiques mall. You know… one of those chain places that rents booths to anyone and everyone. I don’t, usually. There’s usually nothing to see that you couldn’t dig out of your Aunt Thelma’s attic. I went for the steps, and not for the antiques.

And I found human remains.

One booth in the whole place is selling some old medical school skeleton parts. They’re pieces that are about two hundred years old. (As usual, there wasn’t anyone to ask about them.) The first of the pieces was an articulated female pelvis. Once upon a time, it had been painted to show the various bones. Okay. Maybe if I were running an obstetrician’s office, or something.

Then, again… maybe not. Pregnant women probably don’t like the death aspect of the thing. We’d hate to see someone go into labor. (That could be why I’m not running a doctor’s office.)

There was a bundle of ribs… I’m not sure how many, or how matching. It was all behind glass.

And then, there was the skull.

I am not in the market for a skull. I am not in the market for a skull. I am not in the market for a skull.

But if I were…

He was about two hundred years old (according to the notice in the case, but I think it’s close), and missing his calvarium, and some of his teeth. He’d been articulated old-school style, with the little springs connecting the mandible.

I thought he was charming, but out of my price range… you know… since I am NOT in the market for a skull, at all. And exactly how would I store him, if I did buy him? He doesn’t want to be shoved in a drawer somewhere.

Okay. So, I’m thinking about it.

He’d be a splurge and a half. Easily the most money I’ve ever spent on a man I just met, and that’s before I figure out exactly how to store him. (That sounds expensive, too.) Of course, I don’t think all that many people who go through antiques malls are really looking for skulls, so he might go down in price, if I wait.

Or, I might come to my senses, and buy something sensible.