Equipment for The Hobby I Don’t Need

I’m at that maybe I will, maybe I won’t phase of new hobby development. Do I need a podcast, or don’t I? It’s a thought that flutters in and out of my head, and sometimes involves Youtube video. Okay… well, I happen to have a nifty idea for a puppet that can be built out of a **ahem** personal massager. It wouldn’t work without pictures. And yes, I’m aware that it’s probably not quite in keeping with my brand.

A couple of my friends are in the same place, (podcast place. It’s amazing how wholesome my friends are.) and I think–in a lot of ways–it’s just a matter of who takes the jump first.

The last time I played with audio equipment, it was a truly antiquated system for academic presentations, and let’s be honest… I learned how to use it, not how to talk about it. So, I want information about the thingy, or the thingy, or the other thingy that plugs into the thingy, I’m pretty much at square one.

Okay, Google: Podcasting for Idiot Children, please.

I’m kinda tech-y, so the immediate response to all things Googled is: I have no idea what that is, but I want one.

There are money issues with that, of course. I won’t be hauling a whole recording studio off a UPS truck, any time soon. My budget would be enough money that I feel like I’ve committed, but not so much money that I have to eat any Ramen.

I’m dividing the wish list up into the must haves and the nice to haves.

USB vs Analog vs both, and the terror of deciding. Which pieces of this thing are the spend money pieces and which are the ones you can get cheap and run? What are the pieces that might survive an upgrade? And… just what is an upgrade, anyway? Naturally, everyone has their own opinion, and their own opinion is the only one that’s worth having. (And they’re probably affiliates, so they have expensive opinions.)

It’s not complicated. I don’t have any doubts that I can run the equipment, when it gets down to it. (Some qualms about  whether anybody wants to hear my voice.)  But making that initial choice…

Anybody else trying to do Podcasting on a Budget? What equipment are you using?

The Things That Matter

So, Doctor Who is regenerating, again, and this time, he’s regenerating into a woman. (She’s regenerating from a man? Something.) For those of us who were paying attention, it isn’t a surprise. (I’ve only seen the replacement playing the mother of a murdered child, and damn, I hope it doesn’t get that gloomy.)(Also, I was kinda rooting for Tilda Swinton. Ignore me.)

A lot of strong feelings about who plays a mostly asexual, 900 year old time-traveling alien in a children’s show. And, honestly, I’m not sure how much of it comes from people who actually watch the show, and how much is from outsiders. The Doctor could pretty much be played by a sentient mitten without changing the show.

So, the question is: Which parts of a particular character cannot be changed without changing the central core of the story?

It’s a tough question, because the answer changes from character to character, and most of the time, nobody cares enough to ask.

You couldn’t, for instance, change the character of Elizabeth Bennett into a man because the whole book is about women not having security because they were not able to own property. If she’s a man, she just inherits the farm. Problem solved. You also couldn’t turn her into a 20th century typist. Because, once again, she inherits the farm, and problem solved.

Why does Bridget Jones come across as being so much more vapid than the original? Because she doesn’t have any problems that couldn’t be solved by her pulling her own damn shit together. **cough** Twentieth Century Typist **cough**

You probably could turn Elizabeth Bennett into a Lesbian, though. Lack of legal standing=lack of stability=lack of ability to wind up with the person she really loves. Oh, yeah. There’s a problem.

And my own characters…

It’s a little on the patchy side. You could change this gender, maybe. But not that one. Careers are more solid, in general. She has to be a monarch. A fishmonger just wouldn’t be the same story. He has to be a former soldier, although it’s anybody’s guess what he’s been doing after the war. They have to be from opposite sides of the war, and they have to come from completely different cultures.

It’s probably going to help to separate out the MUSTS from the “just felt like its.”

So, what traits do your characters absolutely need? Which could be changed?

Sometimes, You Just Break The Lock

The news story that’s hitting me hard this morning is from San Antonio Texas where eight people were found dead in the back of a tractor trailer. Since it’s been 104 here, and I live in a place that’s generally considered cooler than San Antonio, I’m going to go out on a limb and say the cause of death was probably hyperthermia.

And for those of you who don’t have my vast and encyclopedic medical knowledge, yup… that’s just a fancy word for “human trafficking.”

So, the police were called after someone inside the trailer asked a passerby for a glass of water.

Could you please do a wellness check on this trailer, which is parked in front of my big box store?

The passerby comes back with the glass of water.

Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight. Can you imagine? Standing there in the hundred degree heat, in front of an 18 wheeler filled with dying people, and holding one Styrofoam cup?

And then, you wait for the police.

I’m not saying the passerby did anything wrong. It’s not the kind of situation you prepare for, and it’s hard to process something like that, in the moment.

The thing is… if someone’s asking you for water from inside a truck, you already know damn good and well that things are not okay.

So, you turn around, walk into the store, and get a bolt cutter. (big box stores sell that kind of thing) You break the locks, and let people out of the truck.

You break the glass on the car.

The whatever it is that is getting hotter by the minute.

That’s not legal advice. It’s moral advice.

And let’s be honest… did you think the guy who has a trailer full of human beings is actually going to stick around to sue you over a lock? No. He’ll be busy telling the cops he has no idea who owns the trailer, and how did that get there? Assuming he doesn’t run fast enough.

The extra five minutes for the cops to get there?

That’s a lot of degrees.

When every second counts… just ask yourself whose bolt cutter is closest.

Unlearning What They Done Learned Me in School

One of my (many) leftover hangups from grade school is a terror of red ink. Something about those pencils they used to give us. A shuffle of papers later, and you’re grading somebody else’s work and hoping against hope that you don’t have to flunk anyone, and that you didn’t do anything too humiliating, yourself.

So, I don’t edit in red ink. I’ve actually heard that teachers have taken up correcting papers in non-red colors, because it’s less traumatic. (No, sweetie. They’re not traumatized by red ink, itself. They’re traumatized by you.)

I also write in pencil or colored ink or… ya’know… my own blood… because I’ve been trained to take those things a lot less seriously than blue or black ink. Blue or black ink is the domain of very, very carefully re-copying your work so that it will be perfect when you turn it in.

I spent so much time doing this (because I never got to perfect) that one day in Junior High someone told me to make copies, and I sat down and copied the paper–by hand–five or six times so everyone could have a copy.

The response was horror. I meant… make copies in the office. On the Copying Machine.

That thought certainly never occurred to me.

To this day, I pick up a pen, and that same old perfectionism kicks in. Hello, inner editor.

The list goes on. Yellow or pink legal pads. Something with color to it. Blue. Green. Whatever. Never proper loose leaf paper. Still has to be college ruled, though, because the wide ruled reminds me of remedial classes, and makes me doubt myself. (No, really. It’s very simple. The less space between the lines on your paper, the smarter you are. That’s the rule, and it’s in my head.)

Lets just call them “quirks.”

What about you? Any school-based peccadilloes?

Pet Ownership and Other Crafts

Recently, I took up cat grooming as a hobby. The long-haired cat I inherited from my sister was starting to get that dirty hippie look, and besides the expense of taking the animal to a professional groomer, the local groomer is a little heavy-handed with the sedatives. He came home with the strung out on bennies look, and then progressed to the had a stroke look, and finally the oh, I don’t think that eye was quite that weepy before look.

We are not going back.

Still, something has to be done–at least for hygienic reasons–so I got myself a pair of clippers and hoped for the best.

You can take time with your own pet, and I did.

One cat. Four days.

I’m not doing the legs or tendon-y bits. Those are above my skill grade.

But very slowly and carefully, and with lots and lots of breaks and encouragement in between… I hit my cleanliness goal, and my cat with a haircut goal.

And not only is the animal still on speaking terms with me, he hears the clippers and comes running.

I’m grateful for his enthusiasm.

(Yes. He has been bribed. I don’t see your point.)

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.