Planning to be Impulsive

I’ve decided I need a list. Activities to do, when I’m not feeling creative enough to come up with anything on the spur of the moment. I seem to be having a lot of those days, lately. More doing energy than thinking energy. I used to have a kind of calendar of standing… well, stuff.

Not big, bank-breaking, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list stuff. More… It’s Thursday Night and what the hell do you do on a Thursday night? list. Entertainment and something resembling food for under ten bucks list. Something to fill all those weird scraps of hours and minutes that are left over after everything else.

I’m in a smaller town, now. There aren’t a lot of that kind of thing, and there’s not a whole lot of room to be choosy.

I’m choosy.

I really am. I really don’t want to spend my ten bucks on the local cover band, or my scraps of time on art exhibits where Mrs. Somebody has painted a chicken on a gunny sack. I want to see something good.

It’s amazing how little I planned, and how much I did, anyway. The vague outlines of “what’s going on” were enough to keep me busy. Dance here, here, and here. Jazz on Tuesdays, an art exhibit on Wednesday–there’s always something… and some other thing on Thursdays… Impulse was enough.

So, now I need a list. Something, anyway.

I’m going to work on specific things first, and then more general “Every Tuesday” things.

P.S. I think there’s something wrong with my visit counter, so be sure you leave me a like or a comment to let me know you were here. If I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Word Count Blues

I’m counting down those last few “safe” index cards–the ones I’m sure I have space for–and moving into the “with caution” cards soon. I’ll still have a lot of revising to do after I have the entire draft written, but I’m already fluttering around 92,000 words. (Including the fat.)

I’ll have to add some hints at a romantic subplot, of course, and there are some connective scenes I need.

So, how, exactly, do we get from here to here without killing anybody I’m going to need in the next chapter, and without tearing apart the entire book to make the new scene fit?

And then, on to writing that impossible query letter.

And Under a Hail of Gunfire

There are guns in my very, very soft almost-fantasy, but really, it’s sci-fi novel. I already knew that. The soldiers have them. And apparently, some of the civilians, too. One of guardsmen keeps offering to shoot my main character with one. They’re not ray guns, or ballistic nuclear weapons, or any other kind of excitement. And they’re certainly not flint-lock, light the wick type guns. (Because it’s not fantasy, after all.) Just pull the trigger, launch a bullet type guns.

There’s no in depth exploration of them. They’re just there.

Cards on the table, I know more about guns than the average city-person, and a whole lot less than the average country person. They go BOOM, so as a child, I really, really disliked them. (also fireworks, loud stereos, backfiring cars, and motorcycle engines. I do not like the BOOM, even now.)

One of my uncles (imagine Ben Stein, but a gynecologist) collected World War II era Mausers. (They’re a small handgun made in Germany, and various formerly-German territories. You know the gun from the Rocketeer? That.)

Do you know how many Mausers there are?

Trick question.

The answer is ONE. Just ONE. It comes with or without the folding stock, and will be repeated several million billion times in the course of the grand Mauser tour. The size of the gun safe is just a ploy to convince you there’s more than one, but there’s not.

This is a Mauser from (Germany, Czechoslovakia, Turkey…) it was made in (Year, probably from 1937-1945) It is really snazzy because it is absolutely identical to the other 400 Mausers you’ve seen today. Identical, can you imagine? I bought it for thirty-seven cents back in 1974, and all I had to do was replace a spring.

There are no Mausers in my book.

But my characters did find themselves under a convenient hail of non-Mauser gunfire.

It suddenly struck me as interesting that of all the methods of killing people in my book, the guns are the least… fatal. The aim isn’t good. Or even intentional, and my guardsman never gets permission to shoot my MC (obviously.)

Homeopathic De-Allergi-fication

I survived my first encounter with the neti pot, last night. In all honesty, it wasn’t half as drowny-awful as I expected, and it did help. I think I’d describe the experience as pretty much identical to pouring water down your face. So identical, in fact, that I wasn’t sure I was doing it right, at first.

I was doing it right. The ability to blow bubbles with one nostril and then stop the stream of water by pinching off the other nostril proves it. 

And… get this… I could actually smell things after I was finished. It’s been a while since I could smell anything subtle, apparently. 

I’m still getting the hang of the exact right angle so that salt water doesn’t wind up going down my throat. I would like the water to be warmer, next time. I was really cautious about the heat this time, because I’m not crazy about the idea of poached mucosae.

I think the results last at least as long as some of the pills I’ve been taking. And instead of leaving you slightly drugged and over-dried, the neti pot actually left me feeling… well, good.

I’ll probably do another round when I get off work later today. I’m getting that just-getting-over a cold feeling where you can feel the snot moving around in your head and ears, so I hope I can clear the rest of it out and be even better.

Time Through The Sieve

As usual, a couple of days off, and I have blasted the hell out of my schedule. I don’t know if it’s the caffeine or the slow slide out of waking up at three in the morning, so I can do other things in the “evening” but I keep running into the thing where I don’t sleep, and then I’m up running around on empty.

Maybe I can blame the thunderstorm.

And maybe I can blame thunderstorms all spring. We’re expecting more of them.

Seems like it’s those moments when I should have the most time to work on my revision that I wind up having the least. Days off eaten up by a little of this and a little of that. I’m fairly sure my biggest achievement this time was a nice cheeseburger.

What this gets down to is discipline, of course. It always does.

I need the extra time in the morning to get things done, and I need discipline to—ya know—be awake at three in the morning on my days off.

I have yet to get to the place where my deep, dark subconscious believes that sleeping until five or six is sleeping in, and I’m not sure how to get there.

I’m not sure if I want to get there.

Visions of sugar plums quitting their jobs keep dancing through my head.

Dew-drop fairies dancing their way to… I have no idea what. Something better.

And where are my friends? All married with children… or divorced with children… or some other thing that looks like progress to the outside world.

I’m getting a cup of tea. American Style… black as the pit and served over ice… and maybe that will make me feel less pointless.

At the very least, I’ll be less thirsty.

Amazon’s Algorithm and Advertising

Aside from I hope everyone’s aware that Amazon is selling the buy now button on books to people other than the publisher, people who may or may not be paying the authors.

It’s not often that I open a web page and immediately notice that the algorithm behind it has changed. Most of the time, those behind the scenes programming changes aren’t that obvious. Yes, I can see them, after someone points them out to me, and in a global way, I can see how this makes a difference somewhere to someone. Sometimes, I even have an opinion about whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

But the Amazon algorithm–the one that controls what products are recommended–well, I can see that change without being told, and without much thought, I can tell you what the end result will be. They’re clearly selling recommendations (among other things) as advertising space.

I have screenshots.

So, here, we have every single 2017 calendar that Moleskine makes. I bought one of those this year (about five months ago, actually) and now these are my book recommendations. And no, I haven’t shopped for calendars since December or January.

moleskine

Yup. That’s basically a row of 2017 Moleskine calendars. Don’t get me wrong, I like the one I have, but I don’t think I’ll be reading the whole series.

And then, there’s the thing with the robots?

I bought my vacuum cleaner a new battery. The last time I did this, the recommendations immediately went to all of the various vacuum cleaner batteries and filters for my brand of vacuum cleaner. (It’s a Neato Robotics XV-21.) This is my second set of batteries, and if I ever replace the vacuum cleaner… well, the next one will be a Neato, too.

RoombaScreenshot

As you can see, the Roomba corporation (who do not make my vacuum cleaner) has clearly paid for the privilege of advertising here, and I have a list of accessories that I can’t use, for a machine that I don’t own.

I hope these companies know what useless advertising they’re paying through the nose for.

Why I’m Not Allowed to Write Children’s Books

I bumped into the fact that children’s books have about 500 words, yesterday. There was probably some sort of distinction between what kind of children and what kind of books, but 500 words. I can do that.

I can not do that.

In the first place, what I wrote is about twice that. Probably more, when I get it all polished and shiny. It’s still short for an adults’ story, but it’s not any 500 words.

And… in the second place…

As if there needed to be a second place…

It’s about the monster who eats Santa Claus.

Well, he sees some old guy sneaking around a little girl’s bedroom at night and figures that’s someone who needs to be eaten.

So, the rest of the story is about what they do, while they are waiting for the monster to shit… I mean, poop… Santa back out.

I actually like the idea of a monster delivering presents. I’m kinda betting that a monster doesn’t have a lot of preference between the naughty kids and the nice kids, so everybody wins.

And yes, I’m aware that something horrible happens to Santa Claus every time I pick up a pen. I never liked him, anyway.

Tiptoeing Quietly Away

I just got the heads-up warning that one of my co-workers quit. It’s been a long time coming, and I don’t blame her. If anything… I actually envy her. I’m going to come back to a hell of a mess after this writers’ conference. And just to be absolutely clear, I am still going to Colorado. So, that’s the message: DON’T PICK UP THE PHONE!!!

Shall we all take a deep breath and give thanks to the creative universe that I already had my vacation planned before this happened?

Also, the neighbors are choosing now to build a deck, or something, so I will miss all the sawing and banging while I’m away.

No, really. I look forward to the smoking crater that will be waiting for me when I get back.

A-to-Z Challenge: The Vineyard at Mar Mozambique

The giant vines were as green as the grass in the ancient children’s books the first settlers brought from Earth. The fruit they bore was bigger than a man’s head and midnight black. When the fruit was ripe, it carried an opalescent sheen that reflected back the yellow sky, or the red lights of the city, or whatever thing happened to be nearby, but until the fruit matured, the surface was as dull as swirled storm clouds, and just as dismal.

No one ever tasted the fruit.

The colonists hadn’t planted the vineyard, and neither had the original explorers.

No one knew the name of the fruit, and if they did not call it “beautiful fruit” or “evil fruit” most languages simply called it “grapes.”

In the spring, the vines bloomed, and in the fall, the ripe grapes fell to the ground and rotted. The ground squirrels and rabbits got drunk off the fermenting juices. When the ground thawed, and spring returned, the fruit drew the bees that pollinated the colonists’ more human orchards and fields.

No one considered eating the fruit.

The colonists built a fence, and appointed a caretaker, and eventually, when their own crops began to grow, and the food was no longer rationed, the scientists stopped studying the grapes, and returned to more important things. Whatever the fruit was, it didn’t matter. And whoever had planted it… well, clearly, they were gone.

For forty-two years, the Caretaker did take care of the vineyard. He was barely more than a boy when he began, but in time, no one remembered him as anything but a sinewy recluse. The council suggested he should get a dog. The mayor—she was one of the colony’s elders—suggested he should get married. His own mother and father suggested he should quit, entirely, and let someone else take care of the vineyard.

The Caretaker stayed in the vineyard. For forty-two years, he drove to the town twice a month and bought groceries. After the grocery store, he went to the hardware store, or the farm-supply store, and after that, he picked up crates of books at the library, and returned the old ones. Most of them, anyway. Then, he collected his compost in the back of his truck, and went home. He kept the vines in check. They did not overflow the boundaries of the vineyard, and they did not grow wild between the rows of plants. The council checked on the situation from time to time, but they were always satisfied, and they never had to stay for long.

The Caretaker’s work was always satisfactory.

But in August, forty-two years after he’d begun working, he stopped buying groceries. The hardware store prepared an order that was never picked up. The library called the council about two crates of books that were never returned. The Council grumbled. In September, the same thing happened. And by the beginning of October, the vines seemed to be creeping over the wooden fence closest to the city.

There was gossip. And theories. And if someone on a street corner wasn’t saying the old man was dead, someone in a bar or coffee shop was saying that he must have gotten senile. Some people even said that he had taken to eating the fruit—the evil fruit, the beautiful fruit… the grapes—and that the city would never see him again. The new Librarian objected, of course. Even if the old man was eating the grapes, she said, he’d still come for his books. That wouldn’t change.

The Librarian dragged the council out to the vineyard.

They huffed and puffed down the hill, into the valley that was known as Mar Mozambique, and stopped at the gate to the vineyard.

The gate was closed, and locked, but even the fact that there was a gate was new to the Council. Two notices were painted in handwriting the Librarian barely recognized as belonging to the old Caretaker. The first notice, in black letters six or seven inches high, read “Caution. Keep out. Danger. Grapes.” and then, it said nothing. The sentiment appeared complete, as if the word “Grapes” were a warning in itself, as much as Danger or Caution. As if the Caretaker had never intended to say anything more.

The council shook their heads, and looked for a crowbar.

The old man was clearly out of his mind, and if he wasn’t taking care of the vines, he’d have to be replaced.

The second notice, written in ink that could only be described as the color of grapes reflecting the sunrise, and written on fine stationery that might have been made on Earth, itself read: Welcome to paradise.” The librarian turned the paper over, and kept reading.

“You must be the new caretaker,” the old man had written. “Welcome. I have little advice to give, so this will be short. The vines belong to no one, and they were planted by no one. There are tools in the shed. You won’t need any of them. The plants manage themselves, as long as they’re content, and you can’t possibly handle them, when they’re not.”

The council had broken through the gate, by then.

“Nothing is going to happen,” the letter said. “The vines are jittery, but they aren’t dangerous.”

The Librarian stepped through the gate, and looked into the overgrown vineyard. The council was shouting the Caretaker’s name, and scurrying around, as if they had just noticed he was missing.

The letter continued, a list of supplies to keep the vineyard running, and a longer list of ways to get rid of those supplies, since they weren’t really needed. Suggestions, and counter suggestions, and ways to spend the time when everyone assumed she would be gardening. Rolling and unrolling hoses. Putting up trellises, and then taking them down. Bonfires in the fall, and butterflies in the spring.

The letter sounded like a fantasy, or a delusion.

And, of course, up until then, the Caretaker’s work had always been satisfactory.

“He’s not here!” one of the councilmen shouted. Someone else concurred. “He’s gone.”

“One last word of advice, my young friend.” The Caretaker’s handwriting was shaky, almost illegible, and smaller than the rest of the letter.

She had to squint to read it.

“Eat the fruit.”

Here are links to the other stories in the blog hop.
Stealing Space by Barbara Lund
The Day I was Clever by Katharina Gerlach
Never kid a kidder by Angela Wooldridge
The Color Of… by Chris Makowski
Nightmare by Erica Damon
Pick Up Lines by Bill Bush
The Scorpius Gate by Sandra Fikes
V is for Vortex by Elizabeth McCleary
Deep Dive by Juneta Key
Bugs by Gina Fabio

Secret by J. Q. Rose
Journal of Anah by J Lenni Dorner

Waiting and Waiting

Seems like a big chunk of my life, right now is waiting for things to happen. I wound up ordering a few things for the writers’ conference. Nothing quite like trying to figure out what you’re going to wear for three days to remind you just how long it’s been since you’ve gone shopping. I’m pretty much a jeans and a t-shirt girl, so going a notch up seemed like a good  idea.

I also splurged on something generally costume-y the first costume party I’ve been too in ages. I miss those. My dance studio used to hold one every month, so it’s a shock to go from knowing exactly where to borrow a coconut bra to having to pick something out of my own closet.

Since I won’t actually be dancing up a sweat, I’ve declared the event Fun With Makeup Day. There’s a pint of liquid latex (Another thing I can’t just borrow anymore.) arriving on Monday.

There is the possibility that a shockingly high percentage of my friends have become breathtakingly normal.

I’m still eagerly awaiting the final schedule for this thing, which was supposed to be out in “Mid-April” and I’m pretty sure I just heard the sound of “Mid-April” whooshing by. (Also wearing something out of her own closet.)

My revision is not exact-ally finished, but I’m getting close. Very close. I’m pleased with where it’s going, and I have something vaguely resembling a road map. I think people might still remember me by the time it lands in their inbox, which is a nice thought.

They will definitely remember me, if I can scare up a coconut bra.

I believe the guy who owned that is married with three kids, these days.