Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Thigh Bone's Connected to the Hip Bone

Back in September/October, I started getting very bad hip pain every now and then in the evenings. Over a period of three weeks or so, I realized the pain showed up every time I carried the Drew Monster for more than a couple of minutes during the day or if I stood or walked a lot. So I made a conscious effort to limit my Drew carrying time and take more breaks during walks and long periods of standing. The pain mostly went away, flaring up much less often and only as a dull ache as I went to bed.

Then in late December/early January, that dull ache turned into something more pronounced at night and started happening every night and made it very hard to get to sleep. I decided it was time to go see the doctor. She did some poking and prodding and determined I likely had bursitis. She took some X-rays, gave me a steroid injection in my hip to get to work on the inflammation and put me on some NSAIDs. By that night, the pain was gone, having been replaced by a creeping numbness along my legs. Nothing too startling, just a bit of that "pins and needles" thing you get after a a limb's "gone to sleep". Still, it didn't seem normal, and the last time I had numbness like that, I had to have surgery on my knee, so back I went to the doctor. She muttered something about sciatica, ordered an MRI, and decided it was time to hand me off to an orthopedic specialist.

My insurance first approved the MRI and the specialist, so I got everything arranged for me to take my Happy Pills and get stuffed into the terrifying tube this past Friday. The day before my appointment, my insurance suddenly decided to deny my claim. I'm fairly certain they only nixed the MRI at this point, but I haven't heard anything back from the orthopedics guy, so they might have pulled the plug there too.

Meanwhile, my hip is feeling weaker and I'm compensating for it by using my quads more and more (not necessarily a bad thing; my thighs could use some toning), and straining my other hip. That's right, now my other hip is starting on the same journey the problematic one began last year. Sigh. I really miss the health insurance I had back in Colorado. And I'm beginning to regret trying to get this resolved as at least before I knew exactly how the pain worked and how to live around it, even if it did disrupt my sleep. That pain was easier to manage than this weak leg phenomenon. Drew and I are going back to Colorado for the DDJ tomorrow and I'm a bit worried that my hip will choose a very inopportune time to give out while we're there.

The last I knew, I was scheduled to see the ortho guy in a week and a half. Here's hoping my body holds itself together until then.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Another Reason January Can't End Fast Enough

Just heard back about PPR. Rejected. In standard from letter fashion.


Now to figure out where to send it next and get back on track with THUMB.

Actually, I'm going to get to that tomorrow or Sunday. Tonight, I think I might just let myself wallow a bit by acting like a slug in front of the TV with my Friday night shows and the bag of Hershey's Chocolate Truffle Kisses Mark got for me yesterday after frustrations with health insurance (a bit of fun from this month that I have not mentioned at all on the blog, actually; more later). Oh, and a glass or two of Bailey's might be involved.

Then I'll start figuring out where to ship PPR next and start progress on THUMB again.

Is It February Yet?

Gah, this month has been nuts. Some of it great, some of it utter crap, most of it hitting fast and furious to know the difference. And the reprieves I've gotten have come in the form of adding more aggravation with delays and extra paperwork and whatnot. My downtime doesn't feel like it and the busy times get eclipsed by the new twists that come after I finally get something accomplished.

Add to this the fact that the only computer in the house is in the family room surrounded by, well, family and distractions and I can't seem to summon up the energy to do anything computer related, even simply answering email. This will change when I get my work computer back and can set up my office again. Of course, I have to go back to Colorado with the Drew Monster in tow to get said work computer fixed, which is just par for the course this month.

So. Not so much with the posting until February, assuming things settle a bit. To entertain you while I struggle with Interesting Times, I direct you to my sidebar and it's bountiful links to writers who are great fun to read no matter the medium. In particular, I'd like to point out a new addition to the link list: Carol Berg's solo blog effort, Text Crumbs. She's just landed a three-book deal with Roc for a new fantasy world series, and it sounds very interesting. She's detailing her process for the very early-going of a book in a new universe, and it makes for great reading.

Go forth and read!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

In Lieu of Actual Content

Because I am deep in IT Hell trying to replace the laptop I oh-so-stupidly spilled water on (no data was lost; gotta love external hard drives and file servers), and the only working computer in the hosue now is the Frankenputer that my mom's boyfriend resurrected from three non-functional computers, blogging is going to be light. Great timing on the writing front: a story out on submission and the next project in the throes of "hmm, maybe it'll work better if I switch it to first person POV" analysis. Not so great timing with the DDJ, but what can you do.

So, here are some neat takes on the whole Cassie Edwards plaigarism scandal because I certainly don't want to spend any time rehashing it in a clever fashion.

One of the plaigarized authors in question responds. (Warning: Tolme is understandably miffed and suffering form a case of cognitive dissonance as to the context of appropriated words. He dumps on the entire romance genre in addition to his warranted snark at Ms. Edwards. I can't really fault him for it. If that sort of attitude toward romance in general ruffles your feathers, you might want to read with caution.)

Another romance writer got tired of having to explain the hoopla to others and resorted to putting everything in context of a Greek tragedy (complete with wailing chorus!).

It's a bit more serious, but a really neat essay on admiring someone else's work and using it to improve your own writing rather than just taking the words and grafting them.

On an interesting related note, I once read a book in which the author plaigarized one of her pseudonyms. The author was a friend of a friend, so I looked up her books at the used book store so I could tell my friend that I had read the author. I found two books: one a regency and one a western and each under a different pseudonym. I read the regency first, thought it good enough to warrant reading the western, and started on the second book. The plot was lifted pretty much wholesale. Entire scenes were copied between one book and the other with just a search and destroy for details like character & place names and hair color, etc. This was over five years ago, just as I was getting started in my own writing endeavors. I was disgusted but didn't really think about anything beyond getting rid of the books and never reading anything by that author again. I've since forgotten the author's names and the titles of the books. If I had encountered this today, knowing what I know now about publishing, I would've certainly written to the publisher. I might've written to the author and/or agent, too. I can't imagine putting it on the internet, but then it's not like I'm a poster for a very popular romance review site. Maybe one day I'll do some research into the books and author and see if I can get the particulars again, but it's a bit of an odd situation: she recycled her own words, not someone else's.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Greater than the Sum of the Parts

The Drew Monster loves to take things apart. He'll dump puzzles and his bag of blocks onto the floor. Then he'll mix all the parts together. He's not very interested in sorting through the mess. He just likes to stir it up. This could be another side of his fascination with cooking, or it could be some other neat quirk of his personality showing itself.

No matter why he does this, it makes for messy living rooms and very long cleanup times. But, hey, with all the puzzles he dismantles and abandons for me to put back together, I certainly have brushed up on my ABCs, my shapes, my animals....

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wiped Out

I'm toast for the weekend, I think. I do want to get back into THUMB and make sure I've put together some sort of plan of attack for the thing, but I need a break. So I'm going to take a nice long hot shower, curl up in a warm fuzzy robe, and fall into Carol Berg's latest, Breath and Bone. I might let myself take off tomorrow as well.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Deadline Vanquished

I can't do anything the stress-free way. I was drafting up my email to the publisher in which I introduced myself and my story and would attach my synopsis and novella. A strange series of funky keystrokes sent my email on its way after I had only sketched out two sentences and before I had attached anything. I damn near had a heart attack. So I had to hurry my way through the full email and the last few reviews of things I wanted to do to send a complete submission off as soon as possible after my stupid incomplete thing.

I feel like such an idiot.

I'm really trying not to let this mar the high I've been on with this story this week, but it's very hard. Mostly because it just seems like a bad omen.

Grr. Stupid technology.

Bright side: PPR is off on submission and I am free to return to sanity and THUMB. And there was much rejoicing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Synopsis is Done

Well, it's just squeaked in the 3 page limit. In the course of getting it from 5+ pages down to those 3, I'm not sure there's much more editing I could do to the thing. But I'll set it aside and give it a look-see tomorrow during Drew's nap.

Now I've got those last few bits of revisions to do, which I should be able to finish up tonight. I'm hoping that everything will be off to the publisher before the day ends tomorrow. That's two days before the deadline, hoo-rah. Then I have to wait three weeks for the verdict. My hopes are really running strong with this one, and the comments from both Mark and my critique partner have been very positive. This story feels like it is The One. And if it isn't (at least not for this publisher), then I'm still going to be very happy with my effort. I've really come far with my process with PPR, and I'm looking forward to applying what I've learned to my other projects.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thank You, Scalzi

Inadvertently I'm sure, John Scalzi reminds me why I'm writing THUMB with all of that hair metal stuff. He and many others who recall (often with pain) those big hits will, I think, enjoy my book. Now to finish the damn thing.

*Eyes PPR deadline*

Almost free of it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Process Examination #17: Stepping Around the Steaming Infodump

I've become allergic to infodumps. Nothing makes me feel more patronized as a reader than an infodump. "See here," the author is saying, "this is how this bit of worldbuilding works and connects with the story." I'd rather figure it out from context, thankyouverymuch.

I'm not sure when the allergy started, but I stopped using infodumps in my writing very early on. Unfortunately, I didn't learn a decent replacement technique to get vital character backstory and/or worldbuilding information across to the reader. Thus, the most consistent complaint I get in the first chapter or two deals with not understanding the odd references characters are making to each other about something that happened in the past or being perplexed by whatever geewhiz element of worldbuilding I shoved into the early going.

Yes, of course I ran into this with PPR. My frist critique contained several "Huh, wha?" reactions to my protagonist's job and to the broader world I established and to the basic rudiments of the paranormal element central to the story. I'm happy to report that, with just a sentence or two in dialog that did not in anyway resemble "as you know, Bob," questions about my protag's job became a non-issue for Mark. Alas, the paranormal element and the broader world details were still fuzzy for him. For the former, Mark and I figured out exactly where he got fuzzy and that adding a mere two words solved the problem. For the latter, Mark kept saying, "you need to explain that" and I kept saying "no" because I will not knowingly commit infodump. I quickly figured out a way around the problem in general but then had to struggle with the specifics.

Well, I figured out the specifics in a way that shouldn't add more than 100 words to the story and enhances the connection to the worldbuilding in a very nice way. Also, the fix is a nice segue into PPR: Novella the Second, which, if PPR sells, will be nice to have either well-outlined or underway should I happen to nab a multi-project contract out of the sale. I also have broad outlines for three other stories in this same universe (one is the third story in the current PPR timeline to complete a little trilogy, one is a prequel to this trilogy, and one--which I have rather a bit more outlined as I was working on it in a completely different capacity until I realized it hooks up well with this universe--is the backstory to how the paranormal element PPR universe came to be). So, success with the informing without infodumping, at least in theory.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Pantsless Drew

The boy is trying to start a fashion trend. For his nap time, we've been taking off his pants to make sleeping more comfortable for him. Lately, he doesn't feel the need to put his pants back on when he wakes up from his nap. Unless we have to leave the house, he spends many the afternoons running around in his diaper and a shirt. The house is usually warm enough (or he's usually active enough) that it's not a big deal.

Last week, Drew decided that his new PM outfit needed a twist. He demanded he wear socks and shoes without pants. He's quite taken with his New Clothes. As if the removal of his pants made walking a whole new experience, the Drew Monster will clomp around in his socks and shoes, staring at his feet. He walks backwards, he walks in circles. He steps with great care and precision, watching the movement of his legs without those pesky pants.

Even more amusing is how he handles the clothing requirements for going out of the house. In Pantsless Mode, he'll come up to me and say, "Car!" or "Out!" I then explain that he has to put his pants on if he wants to go in the car or outside. Drew considers this and says, "No," and finds something more amusing in the house to entertain him.

Of course, because I'm such a loving mother, I will be getting a picture of this attempt at influencing fashion for that Special Album of similiar photos to show Drew's special someone later in life.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Done and Done

I actually finished the type-in about 2.5 hours ago, but then it was right on to dinner and time with the fam and getting Drew to bed, so I didn't get my update posted right at the end.

I even went through and did a search and destroy for my junk words like even, just, really, much, etc. Trimmed a good 100 words that way. My story's word count is 28K, which is closer to the 30K upper limit of the subopp than I would like, but not egregiously so. And, dammit, I just remembered that I didn't run spell check on the stupid thing. Grrr.

Mark is reading the thing now while watching the Amazing Race. I need to update my outline to take into account the Brand New Shiny Ending and do a couple of scene analyses to make sure I didn't shoot myself in the foot with the new stuff. I actually enjoy this, usually, and I think my brain still has enough juice in it to manage. I'd really like to get this last little bit done tonight so my muse can munch and chew on the new stuff and make sure I haven't missed any holes or such.

Here's hoping Mark gives it a thumbs up, or at least gives me helpful feedback so I can fix the broken bits by the end of the week.

I am still a little stunned that the first week of 2008 has been this nuts with the deadlines.


I've been typing away for about two hours now, and I have gotten about a third of the way through the manuscript. Yay! Of course, as I go through my changes, I'm swinging back to "gee, doesn't this stink" and that's not a fun place to be. Just gotta push through, get this done and see what Mark thinks about it, since I don't have enough distance from this thing to assess it anymore.

Onward to the next two-thirds of the MS.

Saturday, January 05, 2008


Because I always try to get a five minute internet procrastination out of my system before I sit down to a document, I checked my email before I began the type-in. And, because Murphy is just such a swell guy, there was the last item I needed for my RWA chapter's newsletter. So I had to work on that, which I just finished. Seeing as how I've been sick and tomorrow it's my turn to wake up with El Boyo Diablo, I'm not going to push my way through a type-in tonight.

I'll lock myself in my office tomorrow and do it.

And then on Monday I will knock the stuffing out of a synopsis. Boo-yah.


I have finished the last word of my revised ending. Now for the type-in, which will be extensive as the last forty pages of the original draft contain many many many revisions and directions to hand-written text in a notebook and on backs of pages and keep this bit of dialog but not that one and this little snippet goes over here now and the one that was there goes on this page. And so on.

After the Drew Monster is in bed, I will sit down to type it all up. Hopefully I will get rid of the suck that sneaked its way into the hand-written stuff as I type it up. I shall post my progress on that tonight. I'm planning on the post going along these lines: "Type-in finished. Suck mostly dead. Off to bed now."


This shouldn't surprise me, seeing as how Murphy's Law lately has had greater applications in my life than Newton's law of universal gravitation.

Staying up until 2AM the other night to finish a book as a way to assert my control over life's little insanities was not a good idea. Life dished it right back to me: I've had a low-grade fever ever since. I felt mostly OK, just a little tired, until yesterday when tired snowballed into "leave me a lone, a freight train just hit me" exhausted. And I seem to be working up to that level again today. Meanwhile, I have a deadline for my RWA chapter today/tomorrow and, oh yeah, there's that silly novella I'd like to finish revising so I can beat my head against a wall about the synopsis sometime before that project's Jan 13th deadline.

I'm off to see if a shower with one of my perkier scented body washes can invigorate me a tad more. Then I shall bury myself in my office and finish PPR and type in my changes. I will be working on the synopsis tomorrow. So take that, Life.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Four Things Make a Post

It's not quite a meme but a commonly used frame I've seen a lot recently, and as my brain is somewhat mushy (see below), it seemed a good concept to explore.

1. Sometimes when life hands you a lot of tiny stresses, a couple of big ones (including watching someone you care about spiral), some unexpected deadlines and a few bits of internal wonkiness, the brain needs a night to say, "OK, screw this. Give me a book to fall into and let's finish it." So I stayed up until 2AM reading a book. It was a very absorbing read (even given that because I'm deep in revision mode with PPR, I was tightening prose and cutting words and looking for ways around infodumps and such) and I still managed to get four solid hours of deep sleep. Overall, I'm actually feeling somewhat refreshed. Certainly a little less overwhelmed by life's current level of insanity.

2. I went to the local Social Security Administration office today (for why, see below), and just with catching random snippets of the stories of the other folks there, I was reminded of just how much I couldn't handle a job like that. Which got me thinking about my very short stint as a public school teacher. I may have eased up on what used to be obsessive perfectionism, but I still haven't managed to deal with my empathy. Not having a tight reign on empathy in a job like that will suck you dry very quickly.

3. It's a long-standing joke in my family that my mother can never remember my birthday. Usually this manifests in not sending a card or calling (or, as happened once, forgetting when she did actually call on my birthday that it was my birthday and talking of other things). It's very funny when she tries to tell other people when my birthday is or if my brother the prankster decides to needle her and ask. She's gotten the day, the month, and the year wrong (sometimes all at once) during those instances. We all assumed this was something that started when she completely forgot to pick up me and my brother on my 15th birthday. (We were abandoned without money in the pre-cellphone era in a donut shop; when we finally managed to call, her reaction was comical: "Hi, honey. Why are you--oh.") So imagine my surprise when, after learning that we can't file taxes on-line because my birthdate didn't match what we entered, I examined a recent SSA mailing and saw that I was apparently born 3 days earlier than I had thought on June 12th. (This is actually the birthday of one of my mother's brothers.) See, when my mother applied for my Social Security card back in the mid-80s, she listed my birthday incorrectly. I'm surprised that it's taken over twenty years for this to affect me, but it's all fixed now. Now we have proof that, as early as 1986, my mother couldn't remember the date she gave birth to me. I have ribbed her well for this. Sadly, though, this could be a genetic phenomenon as I have managed to completely space her birthday (and it was the big 5-0, even). And I wasn't trying to give as good as I got, honestly.

4. I managed a most excellent pork roast last night by dumping a can of beef broth into a 9x13 baking dish, splashing a bit of Worchestershire sauce in there, tossing in a few cloves of garlic and some potatoes and onions and carrots and celery, and plunking a pork roast into the mix. I should've basted the thing, but I wasn't really expecting it to take 80 minutes to cook; thankfully it didn't dry out all that much. I made a very nice gravy by pouring the resulting broth/juice mixture into a roue. Apparently, I can cook things other than pasta sauce from a jar without a recipe.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008: Goals for Me

As 2008 kicks off today, it's probably a good idea to get my goals for the year posted. Gets things started on the right note. I tend to have one-word goals for each year that aim at encapsulating the essence of my longer-winded ones. For 2007, the word was "focus." I promptly forgot about this noble idea during the first month of the year, but, looking back, I somehow kept that word with me. I did manage to focus on improving myself and my writing by actually getting to and trying to correct the stuff that was keeping me scatterbrained and three steps behind.

That being said, I came nowhere near to meeting the goals I actually detailed for the year. For the sake of my mental well-being--and to keep from derailing this post into a pat on the back for all that I did accomplish in 2007--I'm not going to analyze those specific goals and rate my success and failure.

So, onward to what I plan to accomplish in 2008, with my one-word theme being "open-minded."

Mark and I are both on a health kick to lose some of our excess weight and tone up the flab. We have been inspired by our svelt and spry son who isn't going to take kindly to our wheezing and moaning when he wants to run and climb and hike and swim and bike and whatever fool activity he takes a shine to. I've managed to find about 2-3 mornings every week (though the holidays derailed it recently) when I could do a Denise Austin workout from the always replenished 5 episode stash in my DVR. Drew has enjoyed working out along side me or simply watching the way I contort myself. Mark is going to get back into running. And we're both cutting out the junk food snacks as much as possible (with the exception of those holiday candies and cookies that are still hanging around, calling to us with their delicious caloric content).

If I can lose 10 pounds, great. If I can get the flab to stop dripping over my C-section scar, sweet. If all I manage is to do the workouts more often than not, I'll be happy with that. Spare time is a bit too precious a commodity at the moment to guilt myself into running myself ragged with demanding diet and exercise regimens. Once Drew is a little older, maybe.

As for the mental health, I managed to obsess my way into a breakthrough. That is, I got all hot and bothered about something for a month or so and really drove myself and Mark nuts about it. Then I sat down and forced myself to figure out why I was obsessing, the real deep-seeded reason. Figuring that out made the obsession laughable and dismissable and cleared away much of the other looniness I decided to exhibit in the months before. (Also, there might have been some interesting hormonal shenanigans involved; women's health, ain't it grand?) Since then, I've felt like a new person, being mostly sane or at least fully aware of the bits of me that aren't and able to deal accordingly. My goal here to just keep this trend going.

This is the year for potty-training the Drew Monster. And watching his speech patterns closely to figure out if he's going to be a late talker or if he might need assistance with that whole talking thing. Also, I want to find better ways to keep him occupied during my work hours.

I read at least 35 books this year. (I didn't think to start tracking them until June, so I had to rely on a spotty memory of the early part of the year to count what I read before June.) I'd like to read at least that many next year, though I'm not going to push myself to do it. Most of my reading time depends on whether the Drew Monster is keen on letting me bury my nose in a book while he plays. He very understandably doesn't care to let me do this but once or twice a month, particularly as he already has to play without me while I'm home working.

I'm glad I started tracking my book totals and my impressions of the books I read. It's just a simple spiral-bound notebook with quick little half-pages about what I think worked or didn't work and why. But, as I discovered with notebooking for my writing process, it does keep things better organized in my mind and cement some details that are worth noting for my own writing improvement. And it allows me to confidently report this:

Best 3 Reads of 2007 (in no particular order): Flesh and Spirit by Carol Berg, Survival by Julie Czerneda, and Territory by Emma Bull.

Most Interesting Reading Discovery of 2007: There is a publishing house that consistently disappoints me, no matter the line/genre. Of the dozen books of theirs I've read over the past couple of years, I've only really enjoyed 2, thought 4 were flawed but mostly OK, and wanted to write "what were you thinking" letters to the authors, agents, and editors regarding the remaining 6.

Books in my To Be Read Pile That I Will Definitely, Absolutely, No Excuses Read in 2008: Poison Study by Maria V Snyder, Maelstrom by Peter Watts, Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson, Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein, Old Twentieth by Joe Haldeman, and Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science--from the Babylonians to the Maya by Dick Teresi. I hope to read more than that, but I always end up adding to my TBR pile and picking the new and shiny or developing odd quirks in what I want to read at any given moment, so I think 6 is a good goal. (This is sad, given that I have over 80 books to go through in the pile.)

Now we come to the real heart of the goals. I really do want to finish a book this year, but I'm hesitant to make a push for it and list it as a concrete goal. Why? Because I've never met this goal since I finished Human Dignity several years ago. It's starting to get me twitchy and depressed. Having said that, though, I think I've figured out enough of my process and ticks that I can finish a draft of THUMB by the end of the year. I think I can also finish revisions, too, but I don't want to jinx myself. At any rate, that's going to be the book I focus on finishing this year.

Unless, of course, I sell PPR and the editor loves it so much that she requests the other 4-5 stories I've got on tap for that universe and/or expresses interest in that odd zombie romance that's brewing. Then I'll have to sit down and examine my time and my goals and figure out how much I can give to The Pseudonym without derailing my science fiction and fantasy. Wouldn't that be an interesting pickle?

Seriously, all of my writing goals beyond finishing a draft of THUMB have to wait until I hear back about PPR in February. Because I don't want to work on any assumptions there, and there are several different ways it could pan out to impact my writing. So I'm going to post my actual, official goals sometime in February. That being said, there's a science fiction short (total word count could go as high as 20K) that I've been kicking around for a while and really want to write as it's a fun, unique idea and I think very saleable to several excellent SF markets. I would like to get that done and submitted somewhere by the end of the year.

And, no matter what happens with PPR in February, I can state one very concrete and acheivable goal. I want to continue the process examination and keep applying what I learn about myself from that. I hope that by the end of the year, I'll know even more about how I write that I can craft goals and establish a more disciplined routine in 2009 to increase my writing output without sacrifcing quality.