Celebrating 10,000

Yesterday, I hit 10,000 views on my blog. I watched the number turn over, the way little kids used to, when their folks’ million year old pickup finally went back to zero. It takes a really long time to pick up that one, last view… and I’ve been a little impatient.

It’s a milestone that will stick, and one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. It’s not quite a counting-down-the-days thing, but you know.

I’m gong to buy myself a t-shirt to commemorate the equation, and maybe something useful, like a how-to book. Or something scary, like a podcasting microphone. Seems like more than a few of my friends are getting into podcasting. (They talk about it, anyway.)

Oh, yes… and I got a new award to add to my Writer Scout Sash.

My friend Juneta Key (From the Writer’s Gambit, from Medium from Holly’s Writing Classes, from the StoryTime Blog Hop, and probably a bunch of other places I forgot…)  nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award.

_Okoto Enigma is the creator of this award. (I do not know Okoto personally, so all I can promise is that a brief perusal of the website didn’t reveal anything too heinous.)

So, Rules…

Rule 1:  Put the award logo/image on your blog. (ABOVE)

Rule 2:  List the rules. (You’re Reading Them)

Rule 3:  Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog. (Juneta Key-ABOVE)

Rule 4:  Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well. (ABOVE under LOGO)

Rule 5:  Tell your readers three things about yourself.

  1. I’ve changed my focus from writing fairly gruesome thrillers to writing science fiction. That started as a brain stretch, and then stuck.
  2. I’m one of the mods at Holly’s Writing Classes. No, I have no idea how that happened, or who thought it was a good idea.
  3. I finally went to a writers’ conference this year, and I was terrified!

Rule 6:  You have to nominate a bunch of people (some say 5 others say 20).

Since I’m not sure who’s into this kind of thing, just go ahead and nominate yourselves in the comments. I’ll add links up here, as soon as I have them.

Rule 7:  Notify your nominees. (Hey, guys! If you nominated yourself, you’re nominated.)

Rule 8:  Ask your nominees any five questions of your choice, one weird or funny question.

  1. If you could get a redo on ONE thing in your life without impunity, what would it be?
  2. If you had three wishes, what would your THIRD wish be?
  3. Describe your “true self” in three words.
  4. If you were a Star Wars character, who would you be? Can be anyone in old, new or expanded universe, but you cannot take a test to find out.  Who do you see yourself as?  If you don’t know Star Wars, use Lord of the Rings, or Pirates of the Caribbean or Harry Potter as a substitute only if you are not familiar with Star Wars.  I know, not everyone is as crazy about it as I am.
  5. If you had the opportunity to know your future, would you?  Why or Why not?

Answers:

  1. I’d probably go to Germany for my university education, or maybe just take some time off and figure out what I wanted to do.
  2. Probably for someone to share the first two wishes with. I’d probably wind up wasting a wish, as that’s when the genie would hand me my sister’s cat, or point out all the people I already have.
  3. Frazzled by day job.
  4. At the moment, I feel like R2D2… someone who needs massive translation to be understood by humans.
  5. I wouldn’t mind knowing, if I also had the ability to change the future. But the idea of here’s what’s going to happen, and you can’t do a darn thing about it would bother me.

So, for my nominees, I’m going to stick with the same questions. Juneta is really good at this, and most of mine wind up being more… So, what’s your favorite color?

Rule 9: Share a link to your best post.

My story the Poisoner of Time seems to be pretty popular this year.

Or there’s always What is the Purpose of YA and MG, if you’re feeling more like bickery non-fiction.

Chickens Rising

My neighbors are planting chickens. They’ve torn up most of their yard for the plants to support these chickens–or at least, for a chicken yard. And they’ve built a coop. It looks like one of those redwood play structures, and is… without a doubt… the most solid chicken coop I’ve ever seen in my life.

It’s about ten feet tall, and there was Tyvek involved.

Their yard is not actually big enough for the chickens, the eggs, or anything else they grow to be certified organic (as I understand it) and I’m pretty sure it takes a long time to recoup your money off the chicken coop for the ages, anyway.

I know a different couple who are raising eggs–organic, start to finish, feed, everything–and they’re selling them on the upper end of $5.00 a dozen.

Also, I know someone who gives away unexceptional, non organic pullet eggs for free, and a whole stack of farmers who sell their eggs–if you go to their farms–for in the neighborhood of $2.00 a dozen.

I’m not sure they’ll last long.

There are places in this world where you can raise chickens in town, and you wind up being called a hippie.

This is not one of them. I don’t know how long chickens will last, after Neighbor Wife has gotten an earful of those other words, most of which imply that you also have a still, and probably a rocking chair tied to the top of your pickup.

Anyway, so I’ll get to watch chickens until they go away, and I won’t have any actual chicken work to do.

Neighbor Husband is probably behind this. He’s easily the more interesting of the two, and he has projects, some of which are large enough to be seen from space. Neighbor Wife… well, she’s pretty tolerant, although he has driven her to chain smoking. We’ll see how his chickens and her German Shephard mix.

I like these neighbors–chickens and all–a whole lot better than the last ones. The last ones had a lawn mower the size of a Sherman tank, and consistently crushed the life out of my underground sprinklers. Chickens don’t involve me digging up sprinklers, and anyway, I’m up early enough that the noise won’t bother me, so Yay, chickens!

Combating Terrorism Through Chicken Soup

Once upon a time, I woke up to a news report that someone had flown an airplane into a building in New York City. I was in a rush, and I just had time to think What an Idiot before I grabbed my things and left for the day. After all, it’s not that hard to avoid flying into buildings. If it’s above your horizon line, you’re going to hit it. Pull up!

I was envisioning a private plane. Something like the crop dusters you see around here, or the nifty 4-seater the country doc uses to fly to the next 24 bed hospital. Nobody likes a flying drunk.

By the time I got to school, the second plane had hit, and televisions were being set up so everyone could watch. That’s when the disbelief set in.

At the time, I thought about where else? Where else would I attack, if the goal were to disable the United States?

Yeah. Obviously, I’m not telling you, but some of the sites were fairly close to home.

And none of them were ever touched.

The other side of it–the how do you make terrorism unappealing side of it–didn’t come until later. And I’m not talking about what governments do, or what James Bond can do, or anything like that. I’m talking about individual people with no particular motive beyond preferring not to be run over, stabbed, or blown up, and no Tomahawk missiles… what can they do?

The answer–as always–is chicken soup.

Buy chicken soup. Patronize immigrant businesses. It doesn’t cost any more to try something new, and give a new business a foothold, instead of throwing more money at long-standing chains.

Let’s be honest. Some terrorism is… less politics, and more desperation. Sometimes, it’s more of a “You blow yourself up here, and the higher ups will take care of your mother and sister, and younger brother. (Because you sure wouldn’t want the “martyr’s” family running around whoring themselves in the street.)” thing.

The answer is chicken soup.

Successful business people have other ways of taking care of their families. They don’t just send money home, they send stories home. They pull everyone closer. It’s not just “those people over there” anymore. It’s the regular customers as individuals.

If you have more than one way to support your family… if you have the option of “blow yourself up” or “sell chicken soup, and then go home and play Nintendo with your kids…”

There really is an obvious choice.

It’s important not to mistake poverty and desperation for ideology. Ideology is hard to get a grip on.

Poverty… well, you can overcome poverty by buying chicken soup. Or those nifty, jelly filled, not-quite a cookie, not-quite a turnover things.

It doesn’t take any special skills to work on poverty. You don’t even have to join the Peace Corps, or leave the country. You just… drive across town, to that deli with the foreign language in the window, and buy chicken soup.

Cat-Proofing the World

I found some cat-proof usb cables on the internet, and I’m having a 3 pack delivered. I’m hoping the animal won’t go through them as fast as he does the usual ones, and that I can replace some of the ones he already has bitten through and maybe charge two things at the same time. I also have little plastic tubes that go around all the real cords.

I had to switch to a wireless computer mouse almost instantly. He especially likes the wires on headphones (going wireless there, too, I’m sure.) And he will attack my shoelaces, starting as soon as I take my shoes off.

Well, I’m still getting used to having a cat.

He belonged to my sister, and he was supposed to go back. And now, I own a cat.

The animal pretty much knows the exact moment that I have to wake up… and pounces right about twenty minutes before that.

**sigh**

So, that’s me, right now. Hot, sweaty, and recently mauled by a semi-domesticated cat. One USB cable hanging on by a thread.

I might give the cat a bath, later on, if I still have the energy after work. He needs it.

Really, I’m not turning into one of those animal lovers who has nothing better to do than write about the cat. I’m having trouble even saying “my cat”.

True Self

I don’t know why I took the pills.

It wasn’t smart. Just a moment of try-anything desperation, and a gulp of water, and two slightly luminous capsules the size of castor beans went sliding down my throat.

Half a second after I swallowed, I decided to put my finger down my throat. That was the sane thing. The only choice. Throw up. Throw up. THROW UP!

I wasn’t fast enough.

The room didn’t spin, and nothing went black. My vision didn’t even blur.

I was going to puke up those pills, and then, I was on the floor. The cold tile and the sound of lukewarm water still running in the sink. Yeah. I knew the old woman’s promises were lies. I probably knew the pills were a rip-off, too. After all, the damn things glowed like theater props in her hand, and nobody ever said what they were supposed to do. I was hoping for something—anything—but there I was, waking up. Painted horse tranquilizers. Maybe Nimbutal.

Six hundred dollars down the drain, all because some poverty stricken fortune teller reminded me of my grandmother.

I stayed where I was, and listened to the water run.

Thought about calling an ambulance.

But what was I going to say? Passed out for a while. No, I don’t know what I took. Feel better, now. Feel better than I have in a month. But, maybe check my blood pressure?

No.

I got to my feet, and brushed off my bathrobe.

The clock on the counter said a barely-believable number. Time had passed, and lots of it.

If it was already evening, that was bad.

It wasn’t evening. The grinding progress of a garbage truck insisted it was morning.

And that meant I’d been unconscious for at least an entire day.

I’d have to be at work in a few hours, and for the first time in nine years, I wasn’t ready. The project I was working on wasn’t finished—not unless the pills had magical properties even the fortuneteller hadn’t predicted—and the company was relying on me. Failure was—

Not an option.

It was inevitable.

I was going to be fired, and the truth… Maybe the pills were working. Maybe they were–as advertised—resurrecting my true self.

Resurrecting? It had been so long I couldn’t remember for sure what my true self had been in the first place. I know people asked, once… what do you want to be when you grow up, little girl?

And I answered.

I must have answered.

But what I said?

I don’t remember.

My true self. Maybe I would have known, when I was eleven, and maybe… if I could remember… maybe knowing my true self would be enough to make me happy, or at least, to let me know where to look for happy.

I splashed some water on my face, and reached for a towel.

I couldn’t call in hung-over. I’d have to pull it together and make it through the day. I was a grown-up person, with a grown-up job, and after all, not everybody gets to be an astronaut when they grow up. Glowing pills. What was I thinking? I’d never go back to believing I could be a rock star, or a fire woman, or a sea captain. Whatever thing it was, I’d forgotten it for a reason. And a pirate? Why not just dream of being a serial killer? The only difference is a hat.

I threw the towel in the hamper.

Then, I looked in the mirror, and stopped breathing.

I leaned in to look at my own face—at my true self, a voice in the back of my head repeated, not quite mocking— just to be sure I wasn’t leaving for work with the imprint of a shoe or a wrist-watch on my face. The mirror stared back at me.

And there was nothing there.

Nothing left of my true self.

So, there you have it. Something I whipped up for your entertainment. Let me know what you think, and be sure you beat the hell out of those share buttons.

Doctor Who and Consent

I finally got the latest episode of Doctor Who. Thanks to Google Play, I’ve been dodging spoilers–in the internet age–on forums entirely full of science fiction fans–for four days. And I survived. But barely.

You may have noticed I don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about pop culture around here. I’m not one of those people who can name every Jefferies tube on the Enterprise, and I don’t usually have a whole lot to say beyond “Did you like it?”

I’m uncomfortable with the latest episode, and the current monster of the week’s insistence on “consent.” I’m uncomfortable with the–highly questionable–definition of “consent” the show presents.

And if there’s “more” to it, I’m not crazy about a lecture on consent being spread over two weeks so that the kids who miss part two are left with the questionable version.

So, in the beginning, the Doctor is Blind. (Pause for commentary from the Blind community, who in all likelihood are not crazy about the idea that Blindness has to be fixed for an extremely clever, time-traveling alien to save the world.)

So, the story is basically this–a short time until the end of the world, and a highly suspicious, probably evil group of aliens offers to help–if only the people in power consent to this. (And to being ruled by the aliens afterward.)

In the course of the episode, various powerful people try to consent, and are told that Fear is not consent… strategy is not consent.

The punishment for improper consent, by the way, is to be incinerated into a nifty pile of dust.’ I think we ran up a consent body count of four.

In the end, as a blind Doctor stands stymied by a combination lock, Bill–his current companion–bargains with the evil aliens to get his sight back and save the world.

As it turns out… The evil aliens say that love is consent.

Uhm… NO. That comes disturbingly close to if you loved me, you would. If you don’t consent, I will incinerate you.

I’m concerned. The truth is, that this is a badly mangled version of consent. And while it’s true that I’m mostly thinking about sexual consent (which is not stated explicitly in the show) I’m not sure this works for any other form of consent.

Imagine a hospital refusing to take a consent form because you figure that an appendectomy is the best strategy for staying alive. Gee, I’d really like to help your kid, but if you don’t consent because you love the surgeon, it doesn’t count.

And conflating love with consent is just…

Dangerous.

You do love Uncle Humbert, don’t you? You do want to make him happy, don’t you?

I absolutely think that we should be talking about consent more often, but using the word to mean things other than consent is not helpful.

At best, it’s a modern morality table. You MUST love someone in order to consent. At worst… well, I don’t think every kid who loves Uncle Humbert needs to be told that love, in itself is consent.

Turbulence and Abrupt Stops

The middle section of my book came to an abrupt end, yesterday, as I realized that the scene I was writing and the scene where my main character turns herself in–we’ll say to the “police”–could be smushed into one convenient bundle, and end a whole lot of tramping around the countryside.

It also ends the potential for any of those love-scenes I write when I can’t think of anything to write, and leaves my characters divided and arguing.

Oopsie.

I’ve run into a few instances where things I thought were separate episodes turned out to be elements of the same scene, and they may be the only reason I have any hope of coming in under word count.

They also have a way of getting that story cracking, and I’m positive that’s a good thing.

So, now… MMC doesn’t know it, but FMC has come to “the police station” for two reasons–she intends to leave him in a safe place, and she intends to turn herself in.

For various reasons, he’s not crazy about being left in a safe place, and the accelerated surrender means that I have a plot card that’s just… floating. I need to either ground the plot card, or go back through the draft and remove it, entirely. I haven’t decided which one, yet.

Or, maybe I just haven’t decided how, yet.

So, my sagging middle is starting to tighten up, and I’m reaching the point that I’m happy with the results.

Some Old Man

Some old man in the restaurant where I was eating breakfast whistled for the waitress, and when she didn’t come, he kept right on whistling. Louder and louder, until his wife was clearly humiliated, and some other old man was shouting at him that “She is NOT a dog.” “She is NOT a dog.” The wife, of course, being a woman–I dare say, a lady— of a certain age, thanked the other old man, and said “I told him that, but it just wasn’t taking.”

This was not a sit-down restaurant. It doesn’t offer table-service, and the most you ever get out of the staff is a coffee pot round if they’re expecting a rush at the counter.

And, while I know you’d have to be senile to whistle at a waitress in 2017, I’m a less sure how much leeway you should give the little old men of the world. The waitress in question is from a culture that respects elders, and never, ever tells them to go fuck themselves, no matter how desperately they need to be told to go fuck themselves. So, she ignored him–worked a little harder, pretended not to notice him.

As far as I know, the only people who respond to whistles in 2017 are drug dealers.

My general recollection from childhood is that the approved form of address was something along the line of “Hey (Waitress’ first name, which you knew, because it was a small town, and also she’d already said something like my “name is…”), when you get a chance…”

No whistling, no snapping of fingers, no implication that you expect her to interrupt whatever she’s doing.

So, exactly when whistling might have been classy is anybody’s guess. (Never.)

I have my own geezer to worry about, and he’s teetering at the edge of tolerable and calls to his doctor to mention personality changes.

I suspect a lot of women have qualms about distinguishing between older gentlemen having dementia, and just plain being a pig.

Hunting the Witch of the Gaps

Note: This is a continuation of the cemeteries and science rant from last week. I hope it makes sense in a vacuum, but you might want to read the earlier piece first.

There’s no need to look for a reason.

They blamed the girlfriend–the “significant other” who moved out after however many years… and took the children he’d grown fond of with her. They blamed her in whispers, and telephone calls between people who never met her.

Never mind the fact that half the world is divorced,

And “significant others” have their reasons.

And never mind the fact that–

If he’d had the good sense to live–

The same old hags who blamed her would have been rooting for her. You have to do what’s right for you. Children need a safe and stable home. Good for you… if he’s not going to buy the cow…

That was the reason.

And if it wasn’t, there’s the mother–she spanked, you know–she could have paid attention.

If only she’d bothered to read… this brochure. The Warning Signs of Suicide.

She could have stopped him, when he gave her that thing. They give their things away.

Everyone knows that.

And no one ever takes a gift without questioning why. A thank you note’s an abomination

If it  doesn’t end with Thank you, but are you okay? If you need to talk… if you need to cry…

Never mind that.

The mother had to be the reason.

And if not, there are brothers. Sisters. An old babysitter or two. His grandparents had just died. (Imagine!) And maybe the rent had come due.

We know the reason. Or maybe there are reasons.

There have to be reasons. We must blame someone.

Because saying “I don’t know” means “I don’t know.”

And  anybody could be at risk.

 

 

Gearing Up For Competitive Blurb Reading Season

I’m not writing my query letter yet. I’m still looking at examples from our forerunners, and looking for something (anything) that includes a vital piece of backstory. Yes. Exactly. My novel is the exception to the “no backstory” rule. At least, I think it is. There’s one glittering hunk of backstory you can’t understand the inciting incident without.

Yes, I know there are whole writers’ groups full of writers’ rule exceptions. But me… I’m the real deal.

Shut up.

So, I’m in the process of reading blurbs on the backs of books, or movies, or you know… tattooed on performance artists. Whatever. Trying to get a grasp on what other people are doing, and what works (backstory!) And what doesn’t, and why.

I’m not there, yet, but I’m working on it.

So, while  shopping for movies doing intense, and detailed research, today, I ran into one that was largely cliche, and which made me smirk just a little.  Let’s make sure I get this right. Snazzy relationship ends after she disappears without a trace. Very next sentence? He follows her “trail.” I’m pretty sure a “trail” is a pretty large “trace”.

Fortunately, it’s a movie, not a book, so with the right number of explosions, I could forget all about that, and be happy.

But I probably have less wiggle room as a writer.

Back to the great backstory hunt.