Friday, February 27, 2004

Back To Writing

Well, that's the hope for this weekend, at any rate. Human Dignity stalled out last week. And in two scenes, too. I'll probably push my way past the blocks this weekend. The Masque is stalled out right now too, but that's something that's going to take more work to fix. I need to do a bit more research about spaceflight and low-g biology so I can better write the next scene. So research, research, research. I'm finding some really cool stuff on the Internet. And learning a lot too. I'm frustrated that this field is so new, though. It's not like I can sign up for a course or pick up a textbook. We're really not at that stage. There are some programs that are pretty close, but nothing feasible for me. But it's also a neat thing to be out there on my own, culling all this info and trying to apply my knowledge to it. So this weekend I'll either be making more progress on my HD revisions or my Masque research.

Oh, yeah. One more thing I'll be doing this weekend. It involves this:


Thursday, February 26, 2004

Gutwrenching Numbers

This just in from CNN:

The Boston Archdiocese said Thursday that 162 of its priests have been accused of molesting 815 minors since 1950. Sexual abuse allegations against just seven of those priests accounted for "slightly more than half" of the alleged victims, it said.

Those are the first two lines of the article, and I just can't get beyond them. Now I'm going to go home and pretend that the world doesn't exist for a while. Playstation 2 and Textbook Denial, here I come!

Music Linkage

I can't remember if I blogged about this before. So if you're reading this for a second time, my apologies. People often associated certain sensory inputs with certain experiences. Perhaps the smell of grapefruits reminds you of Easter breakfasts at your grandparents. Or the feel of grass on your feet brings back summer visits to a friend's house. For me, music is a big association gold mine. I hear just a bit of a song and remember emotions, trips, conversations, life situations, etc. Here's just a sampling.

Enya: Enya's got some great music. I find it incredibly soothing. Unfortunately, the two times I needed a lot of soothing, I listened to Enya non-stop. And now whenever I hear her music, I think of those two things in my life. I used to listen to her Shepherd Moons album while I studied organic chemistry my sophomore year of college. I can't hear that album without thinking about where electrons would flow in predicting the chemistry of a reaction. Or about analyzing NMR spectroscopy readouts. When I was teaching high school, I needed Mega Doses of comfort on my drive to work each morning. I listened to A Day Without Rain during every drive. I can't hear any song on that album without choking on all the panic and doubt and nervousness I experienced with that job. I was caught quite off guard when one of the songs came over the loudspeakers while shopping at PetSmart. Damned if I didn't tear up.

A-Ha: I mentioned before that I listened to "Take on Me" and "The Sun Always Shines on TV" while waiting to cross over the border into East Germany in 1988. Those two songs remind me of the yellow, gray, and brown tones that pervaded the former East Germany, as well as the tension of being in that country, as well as the pining for a very cute guard.

Portishead: Their album Dummy has a very sexy, jazzy, unique sound. My high school buddy Matt played it for the gang after prom but before the bowling extravaganza (I think that's what we did after prom). I never bought this album, it was given to me. It was a gift from the guy who gave me my Last Piggy-back Ride Ever. See, Matt and I had this joke about piggy-back rides ever since he offered to give me one at a picnic and I hopped on his back before he was ready, causing us both to fall and Matt to hurt his back. So everytime we encountered an exceptional unpleasant surface, I would joke about having Matt give me a piggy-back ride. Ha-ha, had to be there kind of inside joke. Well, I made the requisite joke to Matt while he, our friend Gary, and I were walking to a party. The road was rather gravely and icky, so I decided that was my cue to tease Matt about giving me a piggy-back ride. Matt and I both laughed, but Gary wasn't in on the joke and thought I really wanted a piggy-back ride. He offered to give me one. I tried to beg off, but he insisted. And shortly thereafter, we crashland into the nasty road. Gary, sweet guy that he is, tried to protect my knees in the fall and his face took the burden.

It's hard to forget showing up at a party with someone unrecognizable due to the amount of blood on his face and ask to use the bathroom.

We had to take him to the hospital. My Last Piggy-back Ride Ever left a scar on Gary's face so apparent that it became a "distinguishing feature" on his Air Force record in the event someone had to ID his body without benefit of dogtags or some other form of recognition. I hope this is not the only way in which I leave my mark on this world. Anyway, what does this have to do with Portishead? Gary, a couple months after The Incident, decided he didn't want his CD any more and gave it to me. It's a great CD, and I've formed a great many more memories listening to it since then, but it's got this strange black cloud hanging over it everytime I see it in my collection and pull it out to play it.

Elton John: I recorded the song "The One" off the radio way back in the early 90s and played it incessantly one summer when we took a little trip to the North Sea. I hear that song and think of cold water and naked sunbathers. And this really weird peanut sauce we had at the Holiday Inn we stayed at. I also worked first aid for a concert he did at Notre Dame in 1999. I was at a station with my roomie (and First Aid Team pres) Nikki that was just twenty feet or so away from the stage. I spent most of the night watching Elton drink Diet Coke and spit into the little Champange chilling stand his drinks sat in. But at one point early in the concert, we had a first aid emergency near our station that required us to run behind Elton's stage to assist somebody. My foot was inches away from accidentally unplugging the show. So just about every other Elton John song besides "The One" reminds me of the look on the sound guy's face as Nikki and I hopped around backstage to get to the emergency. Poor man.

Hootie & the Blowfish: My very first concert was this band at some outdoor pavilion in Wisconsin in 1996. I will always associated Hoote & the Blowfish with getting drenched at their concert and having the sound short out when lightning stuck the pavilion at the beginning of "Hannah Jane", my favorite song of theirs. I will also remember my six-year-old cousin singing "Ti-i-ime, why you punish me" before we left for the concert.

Dexy's Midnight Runners: "Come on Eileen" at every single college dance I went to. 'Nuff said.

Sting: "A Thousand Years" from his Brand New Day album will forever bring up memories of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince. I bought that book and that CD on the same day, went home and listened to the CD - which has a very desert, middle-eastern feel - and read the book - which takes place much of the time in a desert. It was a wonderful blend. Made for a great reading and listening experience.

Fleetwood Mac: Their Greatest Hits album always calls to mind summer and drives in the sun with the windows down. It feels weird listening to that album in any other situation.

U2: The song "Electrical Storm" as played on their Greatest Hits 90-00 CD inspired a scene in Strings of Betrayal. It's impossible for me to hear that song without seeing that scene play out in my head.

And last (for now), but certainly not least...

Natalie Cole & Nat King Cole: "Unforgettable" was the first dance Mark and I shared as a married couple. I can't hear that song and not remember trying to teach Mark to dance in the weeks before our wedding, dealing with the church's Wedding Nazi, watching a bowl of soup dump into PJ's pocket at the rehearsal dinner, getting Matt's "Scent of a Woman" drawing in Pictionary in the big shindig we had the night before the wedding, finding out my brother's plane had landed just three hours before the wedding, reaching for Mark's right hand instead of his left when we exchanged rings, having everyone hold down my veil in the pictures we took outside in the wind, having to make three "oops, we forgot something" trips back to the apartment both before the reception and before we left for our honeymoon, having all the men at the reception at the DJ's direction sing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" to me on their knees, trying three times to get a cosmopolitan from the bar and only succeeding on the third try and holding my "victory drink" as I danced with my brother, and watching a meteorite streak across the sky framed by the window next to our table at dinner during our honeymoon in the Southwest.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Complex Copyright Infringement

OK, here's hoping that I never have to deal with anything this complicated (not to mention just plain ugly) when I get published.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Have an Antacid

All that political stomach churning can be relieved by reading the following article.

Not That He Had It Before...

...but Bush just lost my vote. Time to brush up on the Prohibition as well as the Civil Rights movement. We've got lots of ammunition against this. And there goes my stomach again.


Still not feeling well. Left work a little early yesterday so I could go back home and huddle under the covers. I'm beginning to think that there's nothing really wrong with me, that I'm just reacting to the horrendous amount of political jibberish pervading everything. I was actually pretty excited about Dean because he seemed to have quite a few moments of humanity, which set him above the usual politicians. I didn't agree with him 100%, I didn't know if he'd be a good president, but I was sure willing to hear more from him. And now it seems like it'll be Bush v Kerry. Politician v politician - no humanity in sight. Rhetoric and bile v rhetoric and bile - no honest assessment of the state of our country and how it could be better. Conservative v liberal(-ish) - and that debate sounds like different arguments dressed up in the same language and debate tactics. It's hard to choose from one or the other when conservatives are telling me they're right and how evil the liberals are, and then liberals turn around and tell me they're right and it's those conservatives who are evil.

Both sides should know better.

Since when did politics become telling you how horrid the other side is and how life will just get worse and worse with them, the implication being that the person doing the talking has all the answers and life will be vastly improved under them - until the "other side" gets control of another branch of the government and derails everything? One day, I'd like to sit down with a bunch of arguments/speeches/debates/what have you from both conservatives and liberals. I would just start marking the similarities. Sure, the overall thrust is different, but they use a lot of the same words and rhetorical devices to get you there. I wonder if either side would hear such a comparison? I bet they wouldn't believe it.

Ideology is a terrible thing when it blinds you to something. It's a worthless thing when it blinds you to the fact that you're no better than the folks you are railing against. Moral superiority is a terrifying thing indeed.

I may lose my stomach lining because of it, but I'm going to keep hoping that one day politics will figure out that demonizing the opposition isn't the way to improve our country and it's certainly not helping society in general.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Happy Hubby, Sick Wife

Mark had a bit of a blah time last week. And, since he never responded with anything when I asked him "Are you OK?", I just assumed he was tired and didn't help him with his blahs. I realized Friday that Something Was Wrong (not majorly wrong, but enough), and decided to kidnap him and boost his spirits. I had a great time Friday afternoon, putting together a list of six options and typing them up with a neat background. I gave him a sheet of paper with 6 Powerpoint slides, each one with the title of "Abduction Package #X". Then I picked him up a little early from work and whisked him away to the destination of his choosing. He chose Package #1: Dinner and games at Dave&Busters, followed by Return of the King. After dinner and enough skee ball to last Mark for a few months, we swung into Best Buy before the movie. We went a little nuts picking up some CDs and DVDs, but nothing too crazy. Then we watched the movie and went home to crash (a 3.5 hour movie will take a lot out of you). We spent Sunday watching the DVDs we picked up the night before: Red Dawn (Mark had never seen this 80s cheese), Pulp Fiction (both of us hadn't seen it in five years or more), and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (with 12 whole new minutes!). It was an impressive trip down memory lane and helped Mark fully shake off the blahs.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to write. Priorities are priorities, though. Mark is far more important than my books. And the weekend wouldn't have been a total wash were it not for me being pretty sick yesterday. The tummy wasn't pleased, my dizzy spells kicked into high gear, and I felt exhausted. It was all I could do to get the laundry done as I huddled under the blankets and watched TV. My stomach seems to be better today, as does the fatigue, but the dizziness is still hanging around. Bleh.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Patience, Grasshopper

Fate's been busy. Long story short, I'm tossing my name into the hat for a research assistant/technical editor job at CU. This opportunity fell into my lap this morning. I'd be teaching science writing, editing research articles, that sort of thing. This is so up my alley. And they're pretty excited because they usually get journalism types (in fact, that's what they were asking for), but they're interested in someone with a scientific background like mine. Way cool. I've spent as much time as possible today spiffing up my resume, writing a cover letter for it, and lining up my references. And I've loved every second of it. I'm more than a little spastic because the more I read about this position and the work I'd be doing, the more I can see myself doing it and loving it, and the more I can see how much my resume kicks ass. I'm ready to interview right now. Let me at 'em. I'll blow 'em away. Knock 'em dead. Tell 'em I'm so good with English that I know how to abuse it with words like "'em".

But I've got to be patient. This is a virtue that comes easier with time, right? Because I'm not where near mastering it right now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Background Music It Ain't

Last night I remembered someting I had meant to blog about two weeks ago. I was very happy forgetting about this particular thing because it involves bad music. Two weeks ago, I found myself twitching during my critique group meeting at a local Borders. The background music was a little louder than usual. And the songs were recognizable, cheesy 80s tunes - but remade in reggae and funk. It was painful to hear. I'm a child of the 80s and I loved the cheesy music that decade produced. But these were not reggae bands, and covering one of those songs in such a fashion is just...wrong. It was a terrible experience to recognize the original song, perk up the ears to listen and wallow in 80s nostalgia, and then to be brutally tortured with, "Ya, who's gonna take ya home, mon."

Why did I remember I wanted to blog about this last night? They were playing the same album at last night's crit group session. If they're playing it the next time we have a meeting, we will not suffer silently.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Ah, the True Marriage of Science and Technology

Via Jenny, I now link to the livejournals of Spirit and Opportunity.

Priorities, Anyone?

OK, as a Notre Dame and Colorado alumna, I'm very used to football and athletic programs in general dominating a school. That's not why I went to ND, though. I went because I wanted to study biochemistry and ND has a great program in that. I went because I wanted to join a research lab as an undergrad and ND has an excellent undergrad research program. I went because I wanted a campus where I felt at home and ND has to be one of the friendliest and most welcoming campuses I've seen. Before I accepted ND's offer of admission, I had no idea who Lou Holtz was. I had no idea who Ron Paulus was (and, let me tell you, I would've been much happier never knowing about that piece of work). During the orientation weekend, Lou Holtz himself gave a speech to the incoming freshmen, telling us that the football players were just normal students like us. They ate at the same dining hall, they went to the same classes, yadda, yadda, yadda. I believed the man for two whole days until I went to work at the dining hall and manned the athlete's dining area (separate because the dining hall closed at 7 and practice for most if not all of the athletics on campus ended right about that time). The food was much better for the "training table," as it was called. I didn't think it was such a big deal, though, since working there meant that I got to gawk at Pat Garrity on a daily basis (the man was also a biochemistry major - up until his senior year, don't get me started on that - with at 3.7 GPA and an undergrad research project in addition to being the Big East MVP; unfortunately, he was dating a volleyball player, who I also got to see at the training table every day).

Anyway, I learned pretty quick that things were different for athletes. They had better scholarships, they could miss a lot of class and still pass (I'm sure they had to do the work for it), they had an entire squad of tutors I couldn't have access to, etc etc. But I still wouldn't trade those four years for anything. They were a great part of my life. And as soon as I have money to donate, I'll be sending some in that direction, though with the stipulation that it only goes to the College of Science. So when my alma mater struggles in a football season, sure I'll get miffed. But would I write and/or sign something like this? NO. What a waste of time and influence. I think of all the things that ND needs to make itself an even better university, and I don't think of things like criticizing the football program for "plac[ing] more importance on making money than winning games." First of all, as far as I've heard in college football, the only way to make money is to win games. The two can't be separate issues. So 400 of my fellow alums get points for stupidity. Secondly, of course the football program is focusing on bringing in cash. That's the name of the game at any university. Or are these Fabulous 400 thinking that in order to start winning games, the football program shouldn't concern itself with making money and that they'd be more than happy to pick up the bill should any revenue be lost?

I guess this (along with this, which led to my finding the letter in the first place) just makes me ask if they're scholastic athletes or athletic scholars. And if universities should be so focused on dollar signs that they are willing to sacrifice their educational mission to keep the booster, athletes, coaches, fans, and, apparently, storied-football-lunatic alums happy and donating. When I think about ND, I'm more worried about it's degree programs losing their punch then I am about it's football program. I don't know if that's supposed to make me a disloyal Fightin' Irish fan, or just smart.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Non-Writing Weekend

So last week saw some interesting non-writing developments. Nothing concrete, but my resume was praised and deposited in a pool for a more technical job. I'm hoping this will be the job that gets me energized and engaged in science again - not in research, but in something more multidisciplinary. I'll have more to gab about on this as I learn more myself. Suffice to say, a lot happened in the job world last week. Things clicked loudly and quickly and rather advantageously. The last time every thing fell into place in this way, I had a job teaching high school science about three weeks after I started looking. Which is both scary and heartening for this round of Fate Steps In. Scary because my teaching job went the way it went. And heartening because I landed that job and I learned so much about myself before, during, and after that job.

Anyway, it was a non-writing weekend because I was a tad bit overwhelmed with how well things went in the new job potential. I knew that if I tried to revise or write, I would distract myself thinking about the new job potential. I know when my brain is poised to immerse itself in Overdrive on an issue. After spending all day at work on Friday trying to distract myself from overthinking the matter, I realized I need to bury myself in a book for the weekend (when I wasn't doing the Valentine's Day celebration thing or the baby shower thing - more on that to come). After hearing the name Jennifer Crusie in several internet writing-type sites, I decided to read the woman's books. I picked up Faking It Friday evening and jumped into it head first. Excellent, excellent read. Laughed out loud the whole way through. I got about halfway through it Friday night, got within 75 pages or so of the ending Saturday morning, then paused to run some errands and do the whole Valentine's Day dinner thing, (Oh. My. God. The Boulder Cork is an amazing place. I had the most delicious buffalo prime rib and a to-die-for bottle of a zinfandel/syrah mix. Mark continued his phenomenal gift-giving trend with a white gold tanzanite and diamond set - did I mention I love this man?) and then finished it Sunday morning before I had to trot off to a baby shower. To complete my weekend of Non-Writing and Non-Thinking, I watched Terminator 3 with Mark and then crashed.

Now it's Monday, and I need to start thinking and writing again. In fact, I'm wishing I had done just a bit of writing yesterday. Is it a good or bad sign when I try to give myself a weekend off, and I end up thinking how I could have done X, Y, and Z with my writing instead of reading or veging? At any rate, it was a nice, relaxing weekend. Read a good book, ate a good meal, drank some very nice wine, gave the brain a break.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Random Science Blogging

I just realized that it's been a while since I've wandered through Nature's Science Update. Found some neat items. Scientists are tinkering around with bacterial intercellular signaling, a very cool field. I remember asking my cell bio teacher about how a bacterial cell "knew" how to move toward a food source. All he told me was "signaling". I was very disappointed. I'm glad someone's studying this in depth.

By now, everyone's likely heard that South Korea has gotten stem cells for cloned human embryos, but what you haven't heard is that stem cells are being used in clinical trials not for diabetes or Alzheimer's research, but for something, erm, cosmetic. Granted, these are stem cells culled from the patient seeking augmentation, not from a human embryo, so the moral debate isn't concerned, and adult stem cells are rather tricky about differentiating into something more useful for the big name research issues. But, it still makes you blink.

Now that the politicians have decided it's vogue to talk about a space program in serious terms again, we can expect to see more of this. I'm just waiting to hear about the genetics and terraforming research. That's the groovy stuff.

And, of course, more cool Mars stuff. I also hope that someone is compiling a CD of the Rovers' wake-up songs. I'll bet it'll be one of those deals you see on late-night TV. "This collection is not available in stores! Call now to receive all five discs of 'Rovin' to the Music' for only $49.95! Operators are standing by!"

Happy Birthday, Blog

One year ago today, this blog came into existance. Drop a comment and wish it a happy first birthday.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

You Mean They Weren't Married?

All those years of sleeping in the same toy box, and it turns out Ken and Barbie were never really married. And now they're calling it quits. I don't know about you, but I can't possibly pull myself together after this.


I haven't been a part of corporate America for very long, barely a year and a half. So I don't know if "layoff rumors" are a common thing or not. I'm sorta used to hearing them around work - science was probably one of the worst rumor mills I ever worked in. But it's really strange when you go to the mall and shop Bath and Body Works (with a buy anything, get lotion free coupon!!) and the clerk there has not only heard the layoff rumors but can also add to them. Yes, according to the woman who sold me my foot lotion, the IBM Boulder site will be shutting down. I think this was also confirmed by another secretary's nurse during her recent mammogram. I'm very surprised my hairdresser at Cost Cutters on Monday had nothing to contribute. Maybe our server at the Boulder Cork will provide his take on the issue over wine during our cozy Valentine's Day meal. Who knows? Maybe the official announcement will be heard on a local radio morning show.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


I just realized today that, since my thesis is in the University of Colorado library and available for checkout, I can plug my name into the library catalog's "author" search and find a book by me! Pretty cool, eh?

Fun Typo

I was reading something on the net and came accross a new typo. The "loyal" servant became the "loyalist" servant. I dunno, maybe it was intended as a quick way to introduce this servant and perhaps the master's political leanings. But it still made me chuckle.

Another Learning Experience?

After all my great words yesterday, I went home to see about plotting for The Masque and got really frustrated when the plot just wouldn't come. Frustration on the "I'll never be a successful writer" level. Just hours after I was all patient with getting published. Maybe I should start looking into bipolar disorders....

It took an hour, but I eventually realized that everything was OK. The plot would come to me, I'll write this book, I'll learn from it. I guess I was just super excited with the new writing software I'm trying out and with the new characterization method I sampled (tarot cards). I got quite a few ideas about the plot from the character readings, but they were vague. I tried to make them specific last night by sketching a storyboard on the software. I got very frustrated very fast. I should've expected it, really. I'm not good at pre-planning. I'm trying to con my muse out of this. Extensive revisions are difficult and make it hard to catch some of the subtler problems that need fixing. The more details about plot and characters that I know as I write the first draft, the less work I have in revisions. I'm already light years ahead of myself in the character department compared to Human Dignity. But the vague plot issues are bugging me.

I need to just get over it and keep plugging forward, sketching plot outlines and such as it comes to me and keeping it all organized so that way revisions are as easy as possible. And maybe by the time I'm ready to start the next book, I'll have learned enough about myself, my muse, and my writing process to help me have more than a vague idea about what's going to happen in that book when I'm writing it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Kellie 0, Agents 3

Got my third rejection yesterday. I had this strange sense it was in the stack of mail before I even saw it. This was the form letter that apologizes for being a form letter and makes assurances that my submission was given personal attention, even though the form letter might suggest otherwise. I think I prefer the brief "thanks, but no thanks" letter. The apologetic letter took up just enough space for me to get my hopes up that it wasn't a rejection letter. So out the query letter goes tomorrow to the next agent on the list.

I'm actually not expecting to gain representation or a sale for Human Dignity. It would be nice, but I just don't think it's going to happen - not any time soon at least. I don't even think I'm going to be able to get an agent or a publishing deal for The Masque, although my chances with that one will be greater than HD. I actually think my best chance for breaking into the publishing world lie with the quirky character who snagged a spot in my noggin last month. I can't really explain why. Call it a gut feeling - one I'd be happy to see proven wrong, of course. I guess I can step back far enough from my work to see where it's falling short from making it to the Big Time. But I know I need to try my best on it, learn what I can from it, and then I'll be ready to write Svink's tale and break into writing. I could be dead wrong. I could get through my revisions of The Masque and find I've got one sweet book on my hands. The difference between HD's first draft and the revisions I'm making now is extreme. I've always enjoyed learning, and I'm usually pretty quick on the uptake - apparently that holds true for my writing.

So why am I spending my time on these two projects (and, technically, the fantasy Strings of Betrayal, which seems perenially lost in the shuffle)? I need to learn more. I need to practice. I need to stop hanging out in the shallow end with my feet wet and really dive in. I'm doing that now, only I need to master a breaststroke, not the doggie-paddle. The big problem with all this is that I'm not patient when it comes to learning. I want to Know. And I want to Know Now.

Unfortunately, writing is anything but a field of instant gratification. But I've got to keep writing, even if I only find out that I'm not meant to be a writer. One great thing about this slow journey: it seems on track to make me address just about all of my flaws, shortcomings, quirks, strengths, dreams, goals - the sum total of Kellie Hazell. That can't be a waste of time.

Or maybe this is all just a way for me to handle the rejection letters in a non-destructive way. Regardless, it sounds pretty good. :)

Monday, February 09, 2004

Important Announcement


Part 2 now has a middle, the plot elements that were vague are now tightened, a character who had originally died has now been resurrected, my heroic trio has acquired more depth of character (although I still worry about Darren, the damned tight-lipped bastard), and the threads started in Part 1 have been more expertly woven through to the last page of Part 2. And I was surprised to find some rather good writing in the last chapter I spruced up. It reads like something clicked, like I finally learned something about my writing style and took advantage of it. That gives me hope for my revisions of Part 3.

In fact, I was so energized by finishing Part 2 that I steam-rolled into Part 3, writing the new first chapter from the formerly deceased man's POV. It fit pretty damn well, and since his chapters are the only chunks I have to create wholesale, the revision of Part 3 could move pretty fast. It no longer seems a ridiculous feat to finish with HD once and for all by the end of next month. March 31st will bring the day that HD is burned onto a CD, printed and placed lovingly in a box, and stored somewhere for future submissions. A project done, a milestone passed, a learning experience living on in my other projects.

Times like these, it's hard to think about doing anything else with my life. I need to print out this entry on some spiffy paper and plaster the walls of the study with it. This entry should fall out of the cupboard when I'm struggling to prepare myself for work on a Monday. This entry should pop out of our entertainment center when I wander into a funk or a less than stellar health moment and decide to play a game or watch a movie. This entry should fall out of my purse at work when I decide I'm much too bored to even think about doing anything other than surf the web. This entry should be tattooed somewhere in my long-term memory, right along with this. Especially these words: "So I thought it might be better to go off and be a writer, even if what I learned from the experience was that I wasn't a writer. At least that way, I'd know."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got stuff to write.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Devil in the Details

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Those pesky questions. Before I get into the specifics of them, I'm issuing an appeal to anyone who reads this blog to tell me what the generic name for those questions is. I've searched countless site today and googled incessantly, but to no avail. Are they the cardinal questions? The Serious Six? The Short Six? The Necessary Six? They have a name, and I learned it right along with gerund and past participle, I'm sure. But my education is failing me (and Mark).

So why do I mention them? They are vital to writing. I've discovered I'm pretty good at who, what, and why. Well, so sometimes my who is limited to dialogue, hair color, and gender, but I like to think the characters translate well from my brain to paper regardless. I'm not so good at when, where, and how. The when and how are easily spotted in revisions, however, and will get fixed before the book is done. The where is rough, seeing as how I hate description. Give me a brief "small, cozy room" and let me fill in the details. Maybe tell me if there's a preponderance of pastels, but no more. I don't need to know the intimate details of each and every picture hanging on the wall, knick-knack on the shelf, throw pillow on the couch, and mote of dust in the corner. My writing style reflects this. You're luck to get more than a general descriptor: the lab, her apartment, the media room, the caverns. I can pull a little more out of myself when describing the desert or if the setting elements need description for some reason in the story. But even that is quick, to the point, and more than a little vague. I'll go ahead and toss in "sensory details" into the "where" category. I'm terrible at that, being much more interested in the thoughts and actions of my characters and the Mess I've given them to sort out. That and telling me that she ate an apple is plenty to provide the sensations of that act.

But I'm a scientist. I categorize when most people don't. I observe and stockpile knowledge as a matter of course. I've got a large store of information available for filling in gaps on my own, painting pictures to accompany words, and bringing a story to life. I can't be unique in this. Yet my writing has been criticized for being flat and sterile because it lacks sensory detail and description. At the same time, I'm also told to trust the readers more and not lead them by the hand. This does not compute. But I've heard these comments often enough and from professional sources that I have to acknowledge them and see how to adjust.

How do I do that? I can easily make one of my revision passes solely for sensory detail and descriptions of surroundings. That's easy enough. And maybe in doing so I can figure out how to incorporate it into my writing on the first draft. But what about the inherent logic of my style? Again, I suppose time and experience will remedy this, but how do I correct it in a draft? How can I tell when I'm dragging the reader along to where I want them to go? Is there a subtle nuance of plot that I'm missing?

I'm concerned that an inability to fix the latter problem will prevent my writing from being successful, and yet it's something that I can't readily see and have no idea how to fix. And my patience is already thin enough - waiting for my muse and my brain to eventually click in this area is the most likely answer but is hardly comforting when I look at Human Dignity and wonder what's the matter. It comes down to that damned ephimeral "voice" issue. It's hard to recognize where it's broken, and it's equally hard to figure out how to fix it. Just time and practise. And a daily injection of patience, which requires a prescription from God, apparently. And God just gave out his last dose.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

What Was That About Balance?

I was hoping to make 2004 the year of balance. It seems to be the year of pushing the idea of balance to its limits - something like a teeter-totter effect. Not what I was aiming for. In trying not to be lazy and such, I've upped the bar on impatience and tomorrow-thinking (as in thinking so much about where I want to be in the future that I forget to enjoy and appreciate where I am right now). It really stinks to have a day job that bores you so you can bring in needed funds and write, something you love. I know there's a perfect job for me out there that uses my science training, brings in enough cash, keeps me engaged, and still provides me with time and energy to write. It's just not an obvious job and not one that often gets advertised on science company websites. So I have to accept where I am now, write my heart out, and keep my eyes open for that perfect job. That's hard to do when you're bored and you know you don't have to be. Balance. Balance. Balance. I will make this work.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Follow Instructions

Why is it that folks get it into their head that they don't need to read and/or follow instructions? It must be some case of vanity run amok: I know a better way to do it, so hang they way they want me to do it. That must be it. Or in some other unrelated or slightly related field, you got away with or were told to do the same thing in a different way. The latter is understandable. But if you're submitting anything to anyone for any purpose, you should know the format the receiver requests and follow it. When did "follow instructions" become an optional task in life? Is this what led to the insane amount of litigation in this country? Is this a side effect of humanity's naturally self-centered nature? And then when someone gets called on blatantly disregarding the instructions, that person usually gets all bent out of shape, being incapable of saying, "Whoops. My bad." Or even a "thank you" for the correction and a note to self to follow that instruction in the future. I don't understand that.

I would say that this is an issue reserved for authors, but I know better. I've been a graduate teaching assistant and a high school teacher. Ignoring the instructions is rampant. Given another year in public education, I'd probably be that asshole teacher who hands out a three-page test with the instructions "answer the first three questions, then hand in your test; for each question answered after the third, you will lose five points" and grades accordingly. And I suppose that if we don't train our students to always, always read and follow the instructions, then I guess we can't expect adults seeking jobs or publication or whatever to do the same. But now we can expect that adults called on not following directions will react as if they did nothing wrong and it's someone else's fault for not creating directions that catered to the way that person submitted their resume or manuscript.

Teresa posted an extremely informative essay about the perils of the slushpile and strange author responses to good or neutral rejection letters. Her reward? After 150+ supportive and appreciative comments by authors, editors, slushpile readers, general folk, an attack by some misguided soul who thinks the publishing world owes him something. And who also thinks that insulting a Big Shot Editor with Huge Name Publisher will somehow garner him a publishing contract. And who labors under the double-standard that it is not OK for editors and agents to hate authors (not true, but something he sees as gospel), but it is extremely appropriate to consider agents and editors The Enemy, The Antichrist, and All That Is Evil in this world. The moment of truth for the angry poster came in this description of his reaction to Teresa's post: "I have rarely read anything so aggressive/defensive and simultaneously self blind." I believe an introduction of the Pot and Kettle are in order here. As well as a moment of intense thanks and praise to God that I am capable of self-analysis and honesty in my writing and life.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Thank You, Janet

No, not for displaying the latest in nipple art, but for including "Rythym Nation" in your show on Sunday. Brings back memories. Memories which I had to investigate last night, thus requiring Mark to drag out a box filled with old cassette tapes from my teen years. Lots of mix tapes of songs recorded from the radio. Lots of tapes I thought I had discarded long ago. (Ack! Not one, but two Mariah Carey tapes?? And a CD? NOOOOO!!!) Several recorded messages to and from friends and family that really need to be pitched before I become famous and they incriminate me. Some strange mixes garnered from CDs of friends - I'm surprised I didn't anger some music gods somewhere for putting Nirvana, Sting, and Pearl Jam on one tape. I also found the tape that I listened to while we were waiting to be cleared at the East German border. It had A-ha's two hits on it and some other mushy, cheesy 80s tunes. I listened to "Take On Me" while staring dreamy-eyed at the really cute communist guard who fondled a semi-automatic weapon and checked the passports we had pressed against the windows. Can't beat a memory like that for demonstrating the insanity of teen hormones.

So thank you, Miss Jackson. Memory Lane is always a fascinating place to roam.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Superbowl Exposed

You'd have to be hiding under a rock not to have heard anything about Justin Timberlake putting a literal spin on his song during last night's Super Bowl. In addition to posting links to all the shocking photos, a local radio morning show decided to hunt down where Miss Jackson shops for her nipple apparel (scroll down through some rather painful-looking accessories to reach the relevant "nipple shield" section). A sampling of outraged quotes on the issue:
  • "I am outraged at what I saw during the halftime show of the Super Bowl," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said in a statement. "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration. Instead, that celebration was tainted by a classless, crass and deplorable stunt. Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better."
  • "I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl," Timberlake said in a statement. "It was not intentional and is regrettable."
  • "We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," Joe Browne, NFL executive vice president, said. "They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show. It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."
  • From Washington Post'sTom Shales: Viewers who tuned in expecting a big-time football game saw the Super Bowl of Sleaze instead. Sexy and violent commercials that included jokes about flatulence and bestiality mercilessly interrupted the CBS telecast of Super Bowl XXXVIII from Houston last night, making it a dubious choice for family viewing. But it was the unexpected climax of the MTV-produced halftime show that shocked viewers and set the CBS switchboard ablaze.

So many jokes to make, so little time. First, the obvious: The "unexpected climax" of the show? The rest of Browne's comment might've gone something like this: "It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime. They completely renigged on their assurances that Jessica Simpson and Janet Jackson would kiss on stage." Or how about the rest of Powell's remarks: "Our nation's children, parents and citizens deserve better...after watching Panther's quaterback Delhomme say 'Oh you mother f***er' after a score." I also really like the concept that quality family programming involves watching a bunch of men in sweaty, tight pants grab each other's butts and their own crotches, gyrate, spit, swear, beat each other up, run around with bloody kleenexes up their noses, and ogle scantily clad cheerleaders. Or that a clip of Brittney Spears wearing nothing but a glitter suit is an appropriate family program slot advertisement for the CBS airing of the Grammys. If that's clean, wholesome living, then I shudder to think what true depravity is.

Also entertaining: Complaints that the advertisements for alcoholic beverages weren't suitable for family viewing. Where's Captain Obvious when you really, really need him? Or how about the whiners saying there were too many ads for erectile dysfunction treatments? Do they realize that marketing firms know their target audiences well? I only counted one such ad, but it turns out Levitra is another Viagara clone, not the cholesterol drug I thought it was - I guess I win the Not Paying Attention Award for that one. By the way, did anyone else catch the "Cannot be used for multiple attempts" disclaimer that flashed at the bottom of the screen during the Cialis ad? I was too busy pondering it that I missed the announcer saying it was a bad thing to have an erection for longer than four hours. I wonder if they just slipped that into the long list of Things To Be Said Too Fast To Comprehend - you know, right next to "may cause death, dismemberment, and general mayhem".

Regardless, the bar is raised. What next, O Hollywood? I await your next move with eyes half-covered by my fingers.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Holy Testosterone Traffic

Mark and I made a deal. He would read Stardoc by S.L. Viehl if I would read Without Remorse by Tom Clancy. I've shunned Clancy's novels for several reasons: 1) I'm not big into military suspense thriller stories (probably has something to do with growing up in the military); 2) any series of books in which the MC goes from being your "average CIA/FBI/whatever Joe" to POTUS is just a little too much for me; and 3) I've been told that the scene in the movie version of Clear and Present Danger in which only Jack Ryan emerges alive and relatively uninjured from a blocked alley under attack is not different from the one in the book - how in the world can I be expected to suspend disbelief with that? But if my suffering through a Clancy novel gets Mark to read some top-notch science fiction (other than my own), I'll give it a try. Thus begins my chronicle into < deep male booming voice > Testosterone Traffic < / DMB voice >.

I kept losing track in the beginning of the book whenever there would be a lot of description of the fighter jet or the missile or the boat or the incendiary device of choice. So it took me a while to keep reading to the first sex scene of the book (about twenty or so pages in). I was rewarded for my efforts with this line: "Pam lay back, letting him take charge as he needed to do now that he was again a man in spirit." I'm sorry for not warning my female readers that they shouldn't have been eating or drinking anything while reading that.

As I kept reading, I thought that it was perhaps Clancy's intent that the MC come off as a male chauvinist pig. He tosses lines around like "capacious ego" and "proud image of himself" to describe the MC. But then he throws out this line to describe some government and military bigwigs at Arlington on Memorial Day: "Normal men might have wept, but these were not normal men." Now I'm confused. Is the whole book full of supermen? Will all the testosterone leak out of the pages and start going to work on me? Is that why Mark likes these books? Puts hair on his chest, and all that?

But it's not just the men, it's the women too. All breasts and desire. And stereotypical. We've met two women so far: the tried and true Hooker With a Heart of Gold and the dumpy and plain science professor. As our Superhero makes a bad decision to lead him and his woman into danger, the woman (HWAHOG) thinks, "She was confident in her man, wasn't she?... She had to trust him - no, he had to know that she did. She had to show him that she did." And into danger they go.

Mark tells me that the MC has to foul things up and be egocentric - it's part of how this character comes to be the ace hitman type in later novels. Doesn't mean I'm going to laugh or roll my eyes any less. This is how I'm going to survive my descent into the Supercharged Testosterone Traffic that is Clancy's novel. I'm going to be all feminine and estrogeny and have a good laugh. I'll share that laughter here, so be warned about spoilers if you plan on reading this novel. I don't mean this to offend men or Clancy and his work. Rather, I mean this to be entertaining and further proof that men and women come from totally different worlds.