Friday, December 15, 2006

News!

Ok, so Paul didn't get the job I mentioned in the last post. He got the one he interviewed for last week. Good job for him as it's his favorite type of work. It starts after the holidays. It's not a temp job, so all's good here. It's the best Christmas gift we can imagine. Maybe next year we'll manage to be celebrating in our own place. That's our next goal.

We've been super busy, since between the two of us, we're in four different choirs. Last week and this week are the two busiest for us. We've had rehearsals or concerts almost every night, and a few in the daytime, too. It's fun. For us, doing music kind of makes the holiday season extra special. So, it's been a good year for that.

We're still walking. I have no idea how much I weigh because I don't have access to a reliable scale, right now. But the jeans I bought are four sizes smaller than the ones I used to wear. I'm up to three miles in an hour, five days a week. The only thing I'm doing, really, is trying to walk at a challenging pace, which means gradually speeding up. My next goal is to add another lap without adding more time. There are people who walk a lot faster than I do, so I know it's an achievable goal.

I've decided to try a different approach to getting the writing done, once we're finished with super concert season. I'm going to reward myself for working on 50 Ways by playing with an "indulgence". It's something I want to write just for fun. I have some things I want to try, but they don't fit into 50 Ways, my current WIP. It will be a way to stretch my writing ability without waiting for a project that needs those types of scenes. We'll see how it goes, but it's going to be a bit before I can start because right now my life is so busy. The other thing I want to do is to post more regularly and let anyone who might still be reading this know how it's going.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Hate Figuring out Titles for my Posts

I'm considering numbering them. lol I want to try to post more frequently, now that I'm getting out of the funk I was in for the first part of the year. We'll see how that goes.

Writing, Writing, Writing--

I figured out why I wasn't writing. I needed to do what my friends Sheila (PBW)and Holly did a while back. A lot of the blogs I read, whether by aspiring or published writers, are very focused on the publishing industry and how hard it is to get published. How hard it is to write to that standard. How hard it is to whatever. It's a very negative and discouraging message, especially with my current financial situation. It became too easy to think about needing money and how hard it is to earn it by writing. I needed to step back and evaluate my thinking, so I stopped reading blogs and stuff for a while.

If I'm tinking about needing money, I start to feel guilty about writing. I feel like I'm wasting time I should be spending figuring out how to bring money into the house--now. The picture painted of the publishing industry by people who write about it makes it seem like it's hard to focus on what you want to do--write--once you start to sell. Because there's the sales numbers and building "buzz" and working to create a career. But you can't build a career on one book. You have to keep writing more. And it seems like a lot of published writers are crazily being obsessive almost to the point of not having a life outside of their writing and career. I don't want to live that way. I like doing a lot of other things and I'm not willing to give everything up to be a writer. (Or to be any one other thing, either. But that's a subject for a different post.)

Another aspect of it is that worrying about whether the WIP might or might not be publishable or sell stops my creativity cold. I start judging the work almost before it's on the page. The best way for me to do my best work is to just write it. Put aside all thoughts of publication, money, sales, career, etc. I don't know how that will work when I finally do sell something, but the time to worry about that is later. After it happens.

These thoughts led me to is back to the WIP. I need to focus on the current project. I need to focus on writing the book that's in my head, getting that story on the page. That's it. To do that, I've decided to limit my blog reading and other internet stuff, so it doesn't overwhelm me. And not read blogs or do internet stuff until after the day's writing is done. So, if I don't post often to your blog, don't think it's because I don't read it anymore. I just don't read as often. I have to take the same attitude Sheila once posted about: Protect the work.

Other Stuff

Everything else is pretty much going along the same as it has been. We've learned that David and his team will find out at the con whether they came in first, second, or third. That's in LA the first weekend in November. So, I wish them the best and hope they come in first. :)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I'm B-a-a-a-a-ck

Blogger tech support has been very helpful and I can now post on my blog again. YAY!!

Woo Hoo!! David and Chris and Ann and Michelle and Andrew won a finalist's spot in the D&D contest. I don't know if they won first, second, or third, but two of them are going to LA for the convention to show off their video and have a great time with other role players. Congratulations to all of you. You done good!!

I'm walking 10 laps on the track, for 2.5 miles. On the trail, I'm doing one loop, which is about 2.25 miles, but it's a slight upgrade, with two small hills to get up to the bridge across the creek. So, it's a bit shorter, but as much of a workout. I decided to add some distance because I'm at about the top speed I can go at my current weight without getting strain on my knees. Current weight loss: 31 pounds

I looked over the manuscript of my novel. And I'm working on finishing up the first three chapters. Then I'm sending them out for critique and moving on to the next section. I have a good friend who offered to give me a daily nudge to help me stay focused. So far, she's been wonderful and patient with my start/stop efforts. I'll get back to the daily discipline, one little step at a time.

I'm enjoying my two choirs. We're gearing up for Christmas and I have a nice variety of music to sing this season. Paul is singing in church choir and he's found a couple of other groups to sing with, too. He's enjoying the variety of music, too.

And Paul has another job nibble. We'll see if this one works out. If we can get some money coming in, life will be extra blessed, instead of ordinary blessed. :)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stuff

Stuff is one of my favorite words and I don't know why. It just is.

David's movie: Voting is open until September 30. Just click on the link in the previous post and rate it to vote. You can vote as much as you like. The deal with awarding the prizes is that the official judges at Wizards of the Coast will be choosing the top three from the ten with the most votes. So, the goal here is to keep his video within the top ten, but as high as possible so more people will see it. Thanks for your support.

I've lost 20 pounds and had to replace the boring stuff in a person's wardrobe. I also need new jeans. I used to have 4 pair, but I cannot wear 2 because they're just too big. And my belt is too big, too. I hate wearing a belt when they're this much too big, anyway. It's really uncomfortable. I'm still walking 2 miles, but I'm walking faster. I haven't decided whether I want to increase my distance next week or work on continuing to increase my speed.

Life is pretty much the same, other than that. I've been studying up on writing techniques, which is a good thing. I keep getting more ideas, but they go into the idea file. I learned a long time ago that new ideas need to simmer before you can write them.

Friday, September 01, 2006

David's Movie

My oldest son, David, and some other people, who he names in the email so I won't repeat it here, made a movie. It's a 5 minute video for a contest sponsored by Wizards of the Coast. He wants anyone who's interested to take a look and rate it a 10 so it stays near the top of the list. He's hoping that keeping it near the top will increase its chances of being watched and voted on. Anyway, he gave me permission to post his email with details and a link, so here it is:

Hi All,

My friends and family (Michelle Alvarez, Andrew Haws, and Ann and Chris Sprinkle) and I have made a movie for a contest. The contest is through Wizards of the Coast, the current owners (and manufacturers) of the Dungeons and Dragons game. The movie is intended to have to do with the game. I would appreciate your comments about the movie. It would help a lot if you would watch our movie [and give it a rating of 10 (out of 10)]. Even more important, however, is that we need your votes on the 15th of September, when the the real voting begins. Voting by the public is meant to narrow the entries down to the 10 most popular, from which Wizards of the Coast will choose the three winners.

Here is a link to our video*:

http://www.gamevideos.com/video/id/5534

Although it will ask you to verify that you are at least 18 years of age, I can assure you that there is nothing more adult than the average PG movie.

I will send out another e-mail, on September 15th, to remind you to vote for our film. If you would prefer I left you alone, let me know.

-David


*Note: When I put in the code to make a live link, it didn't show up on the screen, so you'll have to copy/paste it into your browser. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thanks for your support, anyone who happens by and reads this. :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Summer's Almost Over

Summer's almost over and fall stuff is starting again. I think September is more the new year than January. Community and church activities all seem to start their seasons in the fall. There are lots of ads for season tickets to the theater and music scene showing up now. I feel like I should be gearing up for doing something new and different. I don't feel that way in January. In January, I feel like I should be succeeding with the old stuff I always fail at, the old New Year's Resolutions thing. Maybe that's why I prefer fall new year to January new year--new and different are more appealing than trotting out the same old resolutions one more time. That's why I stopped making resolutions in January at least a decade ago. It seemed pointless to keep promising myself to do things I never actually do.

Ladyesong started up on Monday. We have some cool stuff for Christmas this year. And, as usual, the stuff I've sung before was different arrangements, so I have to keep them straight in my head. When the music is memorized, it's easy to goof up and start singing the old arrangement automatically.

Church choir starts in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing what Barbara has in store for us this year. We do some really cool music.

I've lost 19 pounds, as of the last time I got on the scale. This is the weirdest weight loss experience I've ever had. It's the only time I've not followed a specific food plan in my whole life. I've been walking and eating the same stuff, but less because I'm not that hungry. I'm not losing it in the same pattern I'm used to. What I'm used to seeing is that I lose it in my face, feet, hands--basically the extremities first. Then, eventually the middle catches up. But this time, I've been losing it pretty much all over, pretty evenly. I measured myself for bras and I'm down a size. I've lost 50 pounds in the past without that clothing size changing. It's a good thing, in my opinion, that it's working that way. I also think I'm repeating myself, but it kind of amazes me because it's so unexpected. So I keep thinking about it and POP, out it comes when I start typing.

Nothing new with Paul's job hunt. I find between 2 and 4 jobs to send to each week. It's frustrating how often the same jobs show up. After six months or so, we resend his resume to those same companies, which keeps him in the system.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Yet Another Update

I can't believe I haven't posted since the end of July and it's halfway through August!! We haven't heard anything about the job. It's still posted on the web site, so we don't know whether to assume they didn't make a decision yet or just haven't taken it down. Oh, well, back to the waiting game.

Paul's birthday's in the first part of Auguest. We went to Red Robin for dinner. I like Red Robin because the food is fresh. They have a lot of fried stuff, including the best fries and onion rings. But they also have a lot of grilled stuff and salads. You can eat really healthy food, or not. And it's always fun to get my family together because they're a bit nutty and always have good jokes and stuff to tell.

Ladyesong starts up again next week. I've missed it and am looking forward to singing again. I'm sure church choir will be gearing up for fall, soon, too. Next week is the last of the summer choir sessions.

I've been writing in my journal a lot lately. I've been thinking a lot about why I'm not writing like I used to and part of it, at least, is just that I'm out of the habit. There are other factors, too, but I think we often look for complicated explanations for things that are pretty simple. I've been reading Twyla Tharp's book on creativity and she talks a lot about routines. It's interesting and I'll probably have more to say about it after I'm done reading it and start doing some of the exercises.

On the exercise front, I'm still walking 2 miles a day, 5 days a week. Paul says I'm walking faster, which is cool. According to David's scale, I've lost 15 pounds. According to my jeans, I'm losing inches in the middle, where you need to lose them for optimum health.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Update & Something Amusing

Update: It turns out Paul's job interview is on Monday morning. I'll keep you posted about how it turns out.

Something Amusing:

This came to me via Bob's blog:

Your Bumper Sticker Should Be

Even if the voices aren't real - they've got some great ideas


Perfect for a fiction writer, right?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Good stuff going on

First, I hopped on David's scale on Thursday and discovered I've lost 12 pounds. It's pretty cool, even though weight loss wasn't my goal. Two pair of jeans are nearly falling off, so I'm losing some in that all-important middle where they worry about the fat causing heart disease.

Second, Paul's passed the phone interview and is going to be interviewed in person next week, probably Tuesday, for a good job with a good company. This is a real job, not a temp/contract job. With benefits. Any good vibes, prayers, finger crossing, whatever you do to wish others well will be appreciated. Paul's birthday is a week from Tuesday. Wouldn't a good job be a great birthday gift?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I've been gone a lot this week.

It seems like I'm hardly ever home these days. My oldest son has been walking with us once or twice a week. Then he always seems to have an errand or two to run. It's no big deal for us to take him, so we do.

We're finally in the cooling off stage of that heat wave. We spent a part of one of the hottest days at the movies. We went to see Pirates of the Carribbean--Dead Man's Chest. I loved it. I'd already been forewarned that it doesn't wrap up the story in a nice, neat package. We have to wait until next summer for the end, which is fine with me. That's no different from the last two Back to the Future films.

Next week, Woody Allen's new film Scoop is coming out. I think we're going to go see it. We saw previews when we went to see The Devil Wears Prada and it looks good. A bonus for us fans of Anthony Stewart Head of Buffy fame--according to his official web site, he has a cameo in it.

Other than that, things have been pretty quiet around here. Nothing happening with the job hunt. The paper says there's been an increase in hiring, but it's mostly in the hospitality industry, not the tech industry. Paul's put in applications in at places like restaurants and retail, but they won't even interview him. I suspect it's because nothing he's done uses a similar skill set to transfer over to that kind of business. So, we're still looking at whatever's out there in engineering technician work. And trying to keep a positive attitude.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Time Wasters for Heat Waves

Thanks to Dave Kuzminski, who posted the link in the comments on Miss Snark's blog, we can have fun pretending to be Jackson Pollock.

Or you can go here and pop bubble wrap.

Or you can go here and see part of The Lord of the Rings, as told by Peeps--those marshmallow bunnies you get in the spring.

Or you can go here and make snowflakes, a fun thing to do in a heat wave.

A last suggestion, go here and see the Bible performed by Legos.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

This is Fun!

It's summer! It's the middle of a heat wave. I don't feel like being all serious and "writerly" today. Besides, it's my youngest son's birthday. Happy Birthday, Chris! So, it's a fun stuff day.

From Evil Editor: Want to know what your blog or web site would sound like if it were written in jive? Go Gizoogle it. Warning: the language is a bit rough, so if that bothers you, don't go there. (So, now I've done it. All of you know my little secret. I'm really not a prude. (grin) I think writers cannot afford to flinch at any words. You never know which ones you'll need to tell a story. But that's just my opinion.)

As for Evil Editor's blog--go there. It's funny and informative. He skewers and revises one of the things all writers dread having to write--the query letter. I've learned a lot about how to write one and you will, too.

Another fun thing from my friend Andi's blog:

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!


I love Kermit and I agree--it's not easy being green! :)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I don't usually post on Saturday, but...

I haven't been home to write posts the past two days, so I thought I'd better write something, just so you know I haven't disappeared again.

My husband and I have discovered Sudoku. It's actually quite fun and it does make you work your brain. Keeping our brains healthy is as important to us as keeping our bodies healthy.

We've still been walking. If I lose another inch or two in my tummy, hips, or butt, I'll be able to pull off the jeans I'm wearing without undoing them. I think I need to buy a smaller pair of jeans. I don't get it. I've spent decades of my life exercising and following Weight Watchers and doing what you're supposed to do when you want to lose weight. I struggled so much, ending up following the usual pattern of losing weight and regaining it, although I never have gone back to my highest weight. I don't know if this weight loss will continue or how much I'll ultimately lose, but it's pretty cool that it's happening mostly in my middle, which is where you need to lose it if you're going to have good heart health.

I had a couple of writing topics I wanted to post about, but I can't remember what they were. When I do, I'll write and post them. It's so annoying to have that happen. I wasn't at home to stick the ideas in my file, so out of my head they went. Rumor has it that when you're finally through menopause, you stop having so many memory glitches. I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fun Stuff

Everyone is deserting us tonight. Chris has a D&D game. Mom's taking David out to dinner for his birthday. So, we decided to go to Red Robin instead of eating leftovers. We'll have the leftovers for lunch.

I looked at my list and discovered I have a lot of fun quizzes I haven't posted on here. I'm going to post a couple and save the rest for later.

Quiz #1:
Animal quiz: found on Stuart MacBride's blog

Your Animal Personality

Your Power Animal: Eagle

Animal You Were in a Past Life: Whale

You are active, a challenger, and optimistic.
Hard-working, you are always working towards a set goal.


That's pretty true, even if I do get sidetracked from the goal every so often.

Quiz #2:
From Jean's blog:

Draw a Pig personality test

You drew your pig:

Toward the middle of the frame, you are a realist. True.

Facing left, you believe in tradition, are friendly, and remember dates (birthdays, etc.). My family's tradition is to not do traditions. We don't try to force traditional times to be the same every time we celebrate because sometimes it just doesn't work. I am friendly. I used to remember birthdays, etc., but I have trouble remembering what day it is at the moment. Rumor has it that when I'm done with this menopause stuff, my memory will get better again.

With many details, you are analytical, cautious, and distrustful. I'm not distrustful. I tend to be too trusting. But I am analytical and somewhat cautious, depending on the situation.

With 4 legs showing, you are secure, stubborn, and stick to your ideals. These are true.

The size of the ears indicates how good a listener you are. You are a good listener. I try to be, but my original family was full of interrupters. You didn't get heard if you didn't interrupt to make your point. It's a horrible habit I catch myself doing way too often.

The length of the tail indicates the quality of your sex life. You have a great sex life. I'll just say, "You all can figure this one out for yourselves." (grin)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Catching Up

It's been really busy around here. I haven't been home much to post. Sunday Ladyesong sang for the church service. I heard a lot of compliments, which is always appreciated. Then I conked out and slept for an hour or so. It's been hot and we've had the windows open. It's a noisy neighborhood so I don't sleep that well at night. Thus, I conk out in the afternoon. I'd rather not, but me and not enough sleep is not a pretty sight.

Sunday night we had a snack and listened to some music by a local singer. She didn't introduce herself while we were there, so I can't give her a plug. Then we went to Mel's recital. It was an interesting program, starting with music from a composer who lived in the 1500s, I think. (I don't have the program, so I'm doing this from memory.) The pieces moved forward in time until the last two, which were by Irving Berlin. The singers sounded great and it was a lot of fun.

After the recital, we still hadn't decided where to go for dinner. We were dithering between one of the restaurants at Santana Row and Max's. It was late enough that we decided on Max's. Max's is down the street from the church and we were hungry. Good dinner, as usual. All in all, we had a really wonderful anniversary.

Then yesterday we took David to run errands and he bought us lunch. The joys of adult children--sometimes they pay for the meal. I had Laydesong rehearsal last night, so I wasn't here to post. I've noticed I've been kind of serious lately, so I think tomorrow I'll look for some fun, silly quizzes to post.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Exercise, Patience, & Writing

First, Tech, who started it, has given me permission to link to The Great Slim Down. Anyone interested in joining the gang in our efforts to lose weight is welcome.

So, how does Thursday's essay relate to writing?

  1. Just like you have to think of yourself as a thin person in order to be one, you have to think you're a writer in order to be one.

    If you call yourself a teacher or mother or volunteer or whatever, that's how you see yourself. Those roles are where you'll put your focus and energy. And you won't get much writing done because being a writer isn't in your list of who you are. You have to add writer to your list.

  2. Just as you have to see your true image in the mirror in order to be successful with weight loss, you have to see yourself the way you are in order to write honestly.

    If you're hiding from the dark parts of your soul or hiding them from your readers, your writing will be "fluffy bunny". Nice doesn't catch people's attention. But dark does. Dark is where the conflict comes from. It's where your themes come from. I tried writing nice and I was bored. Good thing I didn't inflict that on any readers. I had to learn to kiss the monsters, a term my online writing group uses to identify the things you don't want to write about, but are the most powerful things you could write about. That's where honesty as a writer comes from, the hard places.

  3. Just as permanent weight loss takes time, so does creating and selling a publishable novel.

    People want their novel, their first novel, finished--now. And sold and in the bookstores. More people want to have written a novel, and have it out there being bought and bringing in the bucks, than want to sit down and write the story. But neither writing a novel nor the process of publication is fast. If you need to be rewarded quickly for your work, don't become a novelist. It's a rare person who can write and sell a novel, first time out. Most published writers have more than one sitting in a drawer or on a hard drive somewhere that will never sell. You have to take the time to write the practice novels, where you go from beginner to publishable, plus the time to acquire an agent, plus the time it takes the agent to sell the book, plus the time it takes for the publisher to get it onto the shelves. Add that all up and you have a long, slow process. Weight loss seems easier and faster. (grin)

  4. Just as you have to "use it or lose it" to get and stay in shape, a writer needs to write regularly or you "lose" it by becoming blocked.

    If you don't write, you "forget" how. Now you don't really forget. Like riding a bike, when you get back on, you remember. But you get full of doubts about your ability to write again. You say, "I'll do it tomorrow." And tomorrow is just as full of procrastination or other things that keep you from writing as today was. You have to write regularly, if you want to be a writer. It's kind of the definition of writer. Writers write.

Friday, July 07, 2006

It's Friday & I'm Supposed to Post

I even promised an essay. But my internet connection went down yet again and it's late. I just want to go to sleep. So, I'll try to get that essay written and posted over the weekend, even though it's a super busy weekend, with our usual Saturday errands, our wedding anniversary on Sunday to celebrate, Ladyesong singing for church and going to the recital Sunday night. That's not a complaint. I like busy. I just don't know when I'm going to have time to finish the post. We'll see how it goes. And if I don't get it done before, the gods of the internet willing, I'll post on Monday.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Exercise & Weight Loss

I originally wrote this post for a blog that's a group weight loss effort. I'm not trying to lose weight, per se. I mostly post motivational things that occur to me. But since I've been walking, some thoughts occurred to me that I wanted to share with those who read this blog. I don't know if the weight loss blog is a public one, so I'm not going to link to it. Tech is one of the writer buddies I met on Forward Motion.

I'm up to seven laps on the track, three days a week. And a mile and a half on the Los Gatos Creek trail, two days a week. My jeans are getting loose, which is weird because usually when I lose weight or start exercising I notice it in my face, wrists, and ankles first. Not complaining, just observing. (g)

When I was reading Tech's post on patience, a couple of things occurred to me. One good reason to be patient is that it gives you time to see yourself as a normal person. We all think of ourselves as "fat people". Sometimes that image can derail you. It's important to see yourself as you are, not as you were. As you lose weight, take pictures of yourself in clothes that fit well. Post them up and look at them often so your mental image is the smaller you.

You can also use the set of pictures to help you see the weight loss. If you're really big, you can lose a lot of pounds, as reported on the scale, and not really see it in the mirror. But if you have a picture of yourself before you started, you can compare the current picture with the first one you took and you'll see the difference.

Also, even if you have to go to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or a consignment shop, as you lose weight, toss your fat clothes and get clothes that fit. Take more pictures. If you're wearing clothes that hang on you and look terrible and don't show your body at all, you can't get an accurate mental image. So you keep seeing yourself in your mind as the fat person who started this weight-loss program. And that's the person you'll keep trying to become. Plus, if you're clothes are too big, it's tempting to let yourself get big enough to look good in them again.

The other thought I had about patience is something my husband reminded me. It took a lot of years to put on these pounds. He's a bit discouraged because he hasn't noticed any weight loss and he walks a lot farther and faster than I do. (An aside: This is funny, since men tend to lose more easily than women. But if we diet, no exercise, he takes it off way faster than I do.) So his comment was that he doesn't expect to lose it quickly. And, he reminded me that it's about good health, not pounds on the scale.

We hope to be like the 90-something grandma of an online buddy of mine who slipped off a stool and broke her hip. She apparently recovered fine. But what's special about that story is that the stool was in front of a slot machine in the Bahamas. I'd love to be in good enough health to be able to travel when I'm in my 90s. And as much as we all want good health now, isn't it really about not being bedridden when we're really old? That's all about the true cliche--use it or lose it. I'm not saying that if we don't get that, it's our own fault. I just think there are things we can do to increase our likelihood of being that way when we're really old.

One more thing about exercise in general. I've been eating less food since we started walking. I'm not dieting or following any particular program. I just haven't been as hungry. That tells me I'm walking about the right pace and distance for me. I'm not overly hungry, as I would be if I weren't fueling the exercise enough. But, obviously, I didn't need as much food as I thought I did, either. It's not a huge change. Just substituting larger portions of salad and veggies for slightly smaller portions of meat and pasta/rice/bread, etc.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with writing? Well, it's already a very long post, so I'll do that essay tomorrow. Stay tuned. (g)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nice Concert & Fun Stuff Going on These Days

We did find seats. The music was kind of blah. Then they had a break and fixed the drum mix. They added a second sax. And then they were cookin'. It was a nice evening.

I have a busy week coming up. Ladyesong is doing the special music in church this Sunday. The choir only does four Sundays during the summer. We're singing two pieces, both favorites of mine. "Steal Away" is hard for me because I memorized a different version for another group I sang in and sometimes I start singing the other version, out of habit. We're also doing a spiritual called "Witness", which is more upbeat and is a nice contrast to "Steal Away".

Sunday is our wedding anniversary. 29 years with the same guy and we're still happy, despite the job issues and stuff going on in our lives. We're going to splurge on dinner out somewhere and go to a freebie recital. Mary Elizabeth Enman (Mel), the founder and conductor of Ladyesong, is doing a duet recital with Kathleen Nitz Kazdorf. They will be accompanied by Michael Touchi. If you live in the area, the recital is at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on the corner of Saratoga and Cox Avenues in Saratoga, CA at 7 pm. We might get a late afternoon snack and do dinner after the recital, so we don't have to rush. It mostly depends on how long the recital is and how late the restaurant stays open on Sunday.

Then, next week, Ladyesong has a concert at The Villages. It's a long one. We're doing 22 pieces and I'm trying to memorize them all because that shoulder/arm injury I had isn't 100% healed. It hurts to hold even one or two pieces of music, even without the folder, because in order to see the music, I can't move my arm. I have to hold it in a position that's awkward for the not-quite-healed muscles. I can use a stand, if I have to, but I'm hoping I won't because that's awkward, too. I'll probably end up tripping over the darn thing. My biggest problem with memorizing the music is that I haven't been home the past couple of days to work on it, but I've been able to listen to the rehearsal CD, which does help.

Anyway, I'm planning to post in here weekdays, as I used to, before I started into a downward spiral into a black hole you don't want to hear about. Paul and I started walking a month ago and it's helping a lot. We do the all-weather track at the local community center three days a week and part of the Los Gatos Creek Trail two days. I'm doing seven laps on the track and 1-1/2 miles on the trail. I must have lost some weight, too. The jeans I wore yesterday are getting way too big. And my appetite is down. I'm not eating as much because I'm just getting full. After our walk, I go get a plain, black coffee and write in my journal. The combination is making me feel, and act, like a normal person again. Whew!

We're walking with our son tomorrow and then we're going off to Target, because we both forgot to pick something up when we were there today. Carpooling is cool, especially when you actually like your kid. (g) I'm looking forward to it. He's done with school for the summer and it's nice to be able to spend some time with him.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day to you Americans out there!

It's interesting to read what people are putting on their blogs to celebrate this day. I have four I'd like to link to because they said good stuff.



We're going to celebrate American music, I think. One of the local malls has a free jazz concert every Tuesday from May through September. They get great local talent and it's a fun time, if you can find a place to sit.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Changing Things or Not Changing Things

A Pet Peeve

Ok. You're writing along and come up with a situation that totally sucks. All of your ideas to fix it don't work because you set up your world a specific way. What do you do? Stubbornly stick to your worldbuilding and ditch the story because it doesn't work? Or change the worldbuilding so you can write the story you really want to tell?

At Forward Motion, an online writing community I belong to, there's a thing called a "Think Tank". Sheila Kelly, aka PBW, originated the idea. It's a brainstorming session. People come to Conference Room One. Everyone has an opportunity to ask one writing-related question and the participants brainstorm answers until the moderator calls "time". I moderated the Friday Night Think Tank for nearly three years.

One of the things I saw over and over again is that people asked for help with plotting or character development or whatever and automatically dismissed suggestions because they conflicted with something else the writer had already developed. The writer would say, "But it's this way, so that won't work." That attitude sort of defeats the purpose of brainstorming. When you brainstorm, you don't evaluate ideas. You accept them all and let them sit until after everyone's run out of ideas. Then you consider whether or not they're useful.

Sometimes an idea isn't useful the way it's originally presented. But there's a seed in it that can be tweaked and grown so it becomes a way to solve the original problem. Sometimes you have to rethink the whole thing because you've written yourself into a corner. Or you've built a world that has conflicting elements and something has to change if you're going to tell your story. Sometimes, you know what you need to do, but you're looking for a way out because it's too emotionally difficult to write the best way to tell the story. You dismiss the ideas because you don't want to go to that place inside your head.

But if you want to write your best stories, everything you write is up for grabs. You can't hold onto your words as if they were precious gems. You have to look at them in the context of the story you're telling. Delete, revise, edit, find the best ones, the ones that say what you mean. The same is true of plot ideas, characters, etc. They need to be as up for grabs as the words themselves.

Writing a story is a process. Until you've finished the draft, everything can be mutable. You're not taking dictation, although sometimes it feels that way. And even the "dictated" parts are up for evaluation, revision, editing, etc. Eventually, you get to a point where you're not changing anything essential. That's when it's time to say, "This is the way it is." And send the thing out. Or stick it in a drawer as a learning experience, depending on how it turned out. Before that, everything can be changed as you hone it to reflect the real story you're trying to communicate with your words.

So, my pet peeve is that people restrict the possibilities in their writing by making choices that they refuse to reconsider as they make other choices. For me, telling a story is about refining the choices I make to form a whole. I don't know any other way to do it, at least not with a story the size and complexity of a novel. You can't get a whole novel into your head at one time. You have to do it in chunks, and the later chunks can mean changing the earlier chunks. If you read the original premise of the novel I'm currently writing, then looked at what it's become, you'd wonder how in the world it's the same book. Well, it's the same book because it's the same basic idea. I just changed, refined, honed the details to tell the story behind the idea. That's what you have to do if you want to get closer to getting what's really in your head onto the page.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Dating" Writing & Love/Hate the Internet

"Dating" Writing

I haven't written about writing for a while. You probably wonder if I'm really an SAHW or a SAHBum. Sometimes I feel like the latter, but writing is rarely far from my mind, even if I'm not doing a lot of work on the novel. I've been learning a lot about technique and the publishing business and storytelling and other writing stuff this year. Lately, I've been itching to get back to working on the novel and I know what the next one in that "world" will be about. You can't keep a writer from writing forever. No matter what happens, we always get back to it.

A couple of days ago Robyn Harper posted on Romancing the Blog about dating your story. By "dating" she meant using specific news events that would cause the reader to know exactly when the story happened. Current consensus seems to believe that you should try to write a contemporary novel so that it's within the parameters of the current time, but not so specific that it must be 2006. I started to write a comment, but realized I had more to say than a sentence or two.

I think you have to consider the impact of news events on your story. In many stories, they have no impact because it's not what the story is about. You don't even have to mention them. If I write a mystery about San Francisco in 2006, I don't have to mention any of the catastrophes that occurred in other places around the world unless something about that catastrophe specifically impacts the story. But if I write a mystery set in San Francisco, post-April 16, 1906, then I must mention the earthquake because the earthquake had an impact on everyone in the region. And it would have messed up clues, taken people's attention away from whatever they may have witnessed about the murder, etc. That would be especially true if the murder took place prior to the earthquake.

Another side of this issue is how the culture "dates" a story. I'd write a story that took place in different parts of my lifetime very differently. If I wrote about the 60s and 70s there would be no cell phones, no personal computers, no world wide web. But if I wrote a story that takes place today and ignored those things, it wouldn't feel right to the reader. So, in that way, all stories have things in them that set the timeline. If you try to leave out all of that stuff and write a story that is contemporary, yet not specific to a particular contemporary time, you end up with an empty stage. Your reader doesn't get grounded in the world you're writing about and can feel lost. Plus, setting makes a difference in the story. How characters relate to the world around them is important, but how can you show that if you don't show the specific world they live in, including both the historical setting and the cultural setting?

On the other hand, I think it's possible to get too specific in writing contemporary settings. Marketing people want to "brand" everything. They want to define us by the brand of clothing we buy, the brand of car we drive, and so on. So there's a temptation to use branding as a shortcut to defining our characters and the world around them. The problem is that when you assume that saying your character drives a BMW rather than a Ford means something to the reader, you're making another assumption--that your reader has the same perception about BMWs vs. Fords that you make. And that everyone who drives one or the other is the same kind of person. Obviously, that's not true.

I wonder if Mark Twain, Jane Austen, or Agatha Christie's books would have stood the test of time if they were so nebulous. Could Twain's biting wit even work if he hadn't addressed the specific life he saw around him? When you read his work, you're drawn into his time. Ditto for the other people I mentioned. Christie gets slammed for her British upper crust racist attitudes. But that was who she was and the world of the 1930s she lived in and wrote about. If she had been born into contemporary society, her attitudes and the attitudes of her stories most likely would have been more in line with ours.

I think chasing the "dateless contemporary" is a futile exercise. Maybe you won't be writing about specific current events, but you will be writing about things that ground the reader in the current time period. That specificity is what I think creates a timeless story. The argument is that people won't buy a book that was written a couple of years ago because it's "dated" makes no sense to me. People still read stories written in past times, stories that don't pretend to be any other time. I think that they don't sell because the story isn't a timeless one, a universal story that has appeal beyond the time it was written for. But if writers admit that, then they can't blame the fickle reading public for not wanting "dated" stories and make themselves nuts trying to write a story that's not "dated", hoping that simple answer means it has a chance of selling beyond the immediate release period. They'd have to admit that maybe the problem is with the story itself. They didn't write a timeless story. Very few people can write timeless stories that sell for years and years, or become classics that still sell decades or centuries after they were written. We can only write the best story we can and the rest is really out of our hands. Personally, I take my advice from the example of Twain and co.--write as honestly as possible about the world as you see it, whether it's contemporary or fantasy or horror or whatever. And let time decide the rest.

Internet Provider Rant

I'm in a love/hate relationship with the Internet. Actually, more with the local internet provider services. Our options are old-fashioned, slooooow, dialup or the local cable company. We're too far from the central service thingie to have DSL. The phone company has been promising to upgrade for the past several years. No go, not yet, at least. So, we have the local cable provider. That was great when we first got it. But lately, I've had entire days when I couldn't get online. That makes job hunting very difficult because you can't check job boards, send resumes, etc. without a solid connection. I can imagine trying to fill out some of the forms on some of the company web sites on dialup. Most of them would time out before you got the form finished. So, we're slogging along and hopefully, the job hunt will be faster this time. We do have some unemployment money coming. Only 4 months, though. I don't know why only 4 instead of the usual 6, unless it's just what we didn't use from the last time Paul's contract ended. And, of course, it means less time for me to keep up the blog. (Sigh) I hope whatever readers I have won't give up on me because I'm not able to post as often as I used to.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's Up?

Life sucks, but then you get over it. Paul's contract ended. Yet again, we do the job hunt thing. I was kind of numb all last week and disinclined to post anything. My eternal optimism eventually takes over, though, and I figure out how to cope.

My arm is almost 100%. There's still a bit of a limit on what I can lift or carry with it. I have almost complete range of motion. I can do all of the basic things like shower and get dressed by myself. I'm grateful for that. I do still get aches or move it the wrong way and cause it to hurt. That's going away more slowly, but it is going away.

I thought I'd share a couple of fun quizzes. They make me laugh, which I need these days. That's why I like to post them. These were discovered on my friend Andi's blog:

Your Seduction Style: Au Natural

You rank up there with your seduction skills, though you might not know it.
That's because you're a natural at seduction. You don't realize your power!
The root of your natural seduction power: your innocence and optimism.

You're the type of person who happily plays around and creates a unique little world.
Little do you know that your personal paradise is so appealing that it sucks people in.
You find joy in everything - so is it any surprise that people find joy in you?

You bring back the inner child in everyone you meet with your sincere and spontaneous ways.
Your childlike (but not childish) behavior also inspires others to care for you.
As a result, those who you befriend and date tend to be incredibly loyal to you.


That one's obviously not aimed at folks who have been happily married for almost 30 years. If I were not married, I think it's pretty accurate to how I am.

Here's one more:

Your Theme Song is Beautiful Day by U2

"Sky falls, you feel like
It's a beautiful day
Don't let it get away"

You see the beauty in life, especially in ordinary everyday moments.
And if you're feeling down, even that seems a little beautiful too.


Do I see a theme in these things? I always seem to hit on the "sees the beauty in everyday moments" kind of answers. It fits and I think it's a good way to live because I'm more content, in general, than people I know who are always complaining about everything because it's not perfect enough or because they thought it would be different or whatever.

So, I'm curious. What's your life theme? Do you have one?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Music & Shopping

This has been a busy time for my music life. Ladyesong had a concert last weekend. I'd have posted a promo here, but my Internet connection was gone more than it was on last week. It went really well. I enjoyed doing it. West Valley College's Chamber Orchestra did an arrangement of Go Down, Moses that I'd love to do with my church choir.

This week is the big celebration of the 50th anniversary of the church I attend. Lots of musical opportunities there. We're doing a hymn fest before the dinner on Saturday. And singing a favorite anthem for Sunday's church service. Ladyesong is celebrating along with the church, so we're singing two pieces during the service.

Then we have a few weeks and choir stops for the summer. Ladyesong takes a break in August, but we have a concert in July to prepare for. That's going to be tough because most of the music is new to me and a lot of it is supposed to be memorized. I'm going to have to spend a lot of time with the music because this concert is 45 minutes to an hour and it's just us. I guess I'll have to figure out how to memorize music fast. We don't have a rehearsal CD, so I have to play it on the keyboard. Then sing it a capella to see if I can sing it without the music.

My wonderful hubby's been complaining that I need new dresses. Can you believe it? A guy telling his wife to buy clothes? lol So I bought some online. The first one came today. I really like it and it fits fine. The other two should be here tomorrow. Me, the "hates to buy clothes" person bought three dresses in one online spree. Hmmm . . . I think I need to be careful about online shopping. It's way too easy. lol But, now, I need shoes. Maybe on Saturday, before choir rehearsal, I can take a trip to the shoe store.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Internet Issues & an Interesting Quiz

I've been mostly offline the past week because I haven't had a reliable internet connection. It makes it difficult to post regularly, which I find frustrating.

Jean posted an interesting quiz on her blog yesterday. It's a quiz asking what time of day are you. Here's mine:




You Are Sunrise



You enjoy living a slow, fulfilling life. You enjoy living every moment, no matter how ordinary.

You are a person of reflection and meditation. You start and end every day by looking inward.

Caring and giving, you enjoy making people happy. You're often cooking for friends or buying them gifts.

All in all, you know how to love life for what it is - not for how it should be.



This is interesting to me because it's more like me than most of these quizzes. I do enjoy life for what it is. I don't see the point in trying to make life into something it's not, then being disappointed because my expectations aren't met. I don't expect my wildest fantasies to be real, but they're fun to play around with in my mind. I get stories from them because they're so over-the-top, exactly the way fiction is over the top. In real life, though, I try to make the most of each day, doing what I can to build the life I want, and enjoy every minute of that process, because my memories and what I do today are what I have.

I also have learned to appreciate the ordinary. There's a line Henry Fonda says in the original version of Yours, Mine, and Ours with Lucille Ball. He's talking with his teenage daughter, who's trying to figure out what to do about her boyfriend, who wants what every teenage boy wants. Lucille Ball's character is about to have a baby. There's complete chaos going on as they try to follow their plan to make sure the younger kids are cared for and get mom-to-be to the hospital in time. He tells the young girl that this is what life's all about. I think that's where love is built and relationships thrive--in the everyday, ordinary things.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thought-provoking

Elizabeth Bear's post, "How to Change the World", struck a chord with me. It reads like the things my sons call my "Momisms" because I believe that only if each individual takes personal responsibility for doing what he can to make things a bit better will they ever be a bit better. If you let cynicism make you stop doing what you can because it never seems to be enough or because you can't see that it makes a difference, then the cynics get their perspective validated and the world seems ruder, colder, and harder than it really is.

But then I'm often told I'm naive and stupid for thinking one person can make any difference and I should follow the crowd and look out for "number one". The thing is that I believe that our purpose in life is to care for each other. Not only our circle of friends and family, but everyone whose lives we touch. If everyone did that, we wouldn't have to feel guilty because we can't care for everyone on the planet. We'd know someone else was caring for those we can't reach.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I Refuse to Let This Die

It's been almost two weeks since I last posted. But I don't want the blog to die completely while things get back more or less to normal. I've had internet issues, as well as the arm pain issues, that have kept me from posting. Annoying, but what can I do but wait out both the arm healing and the internet connection?

My arm is getting better. I can type two-handed, but not for long periods of time. It looks like I won't need physical therapy. I just need time to let it heal. I'm only using the sling when I'm out and about, just so people know not to bump that arm. I'm still taking enough Motrin that I'm falling asleep in the afternoon, though. It's annoying because I have things I'd rather be doing than nap for an hour or two.

This week is Easter week. I have one evening I'm not doing a rehearsal or church service and we're shopping that day. Paul needs to exchange a shirt, which is unusual for him. He pretty much wears the same size in everyone's brand, but apparently this one runs large. I think he's going to have to try it on. And I'm looking for a new dress, but being unsuccessful because when I find something I like, they're out of my size. (sigh)

Andi posted a movie star quiz on her friends only blog. The quiz is for women only. She didn't say where she found the quiz, so I don't know if there is one for men. Here's the quiz (with the spelling of Miss Hepburn's name corrected):

Ever wonder which movie star you are most like? Don't read ahead please!

Well, a team of researchers got together and analyzed the personalities of movie stars. The gathered info has been incorporated into this quiz.

There's only 10 questions so it doesn't take long. Number your paper from 1 to 10, then Answer each question with the choice that most describes you at this point in your life, and then add up the points that correspond with your answers.

Don't look ahead or you will ruin the fun!

1. Which describes your perfect date?
a) Candlelight dinner for two
b) Amusement Park
c) Rollerblading in the park
d) Rock Concert
e) Have dinner & see a movie
f) Dinner at home with a loved one

2. What is your favorite type of music?
a) Rock and Roll
b) Alternative
c) Soft Rock
d) Classical
e) Christian
f) Jazz

3. What is your favorite type of movie?
a) Comedy
b) Horror
c) Musical
d) Romance
e) Documentary
f) Mystery

4. Which of the following jobs would you choose if you were given only these choices?
a) Waiter/Waitress
b) Sports Player
c) Teacher
d) Policeman
e) Bartender
f) Business person

5. Which would you rather do if you had an hour to waste?
a) Work out
b) Make out
c) Watch TV
d) Listen to the radio
e) Sleep
f) Read

6. Of the following colors, which do you like best?
a) Yellow
b) White
c) Sky blue
d) Teal
e) Gold
f) Red

7. Which one of the following would you like to eat right now?
a) Ice cream
b) Pizza
c) Sushi
d) Pasta
e) Salad
f) Lobster Tail

8. Which is your favorite holiday?
a) Halloween
b) Christmas
c) New Year's
d) Valentine's Day
e) Thanksgiving
f) Fourth of July

9. If you could go to any of the following places, which would it be?
a) Reno
b) Spain
c) Las Vegas
d) Hawaii
e) Hollywood
f) British Columbia

10. Of the following, who would you rather spend time with?
a) Someone who is smart
b) Someone with good looks
c) Someone who is a party animal
d) Someone who has fun all the time
e) Someone who is very emotional
f) Someone who is fun to be with

Now total up your points on each question:

1. a-4 b-2 c-5 d-1 e-3 f-6
2. a-2 b-1 c-4 d-5 e-3 f-6
3. a-2 b-1 c-3 d-4 e-5 f-6
4. a-4 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-1 f-6
5. a-5 b-4 c-2 d-1 e-3 f-6
6. a-1 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-4 f-6
7. a-3 b-2 c-1 d-4 e-5 f-6
8. a-1 b-3 c-2 d-4 e-5 f-6
9. a-4 b-5 c-1 d-4 e-3 f-6
10. a-5 b-2 c-1 d-3 e-4 f-6

NOW, take your total and find out which Movie Star you are:

(10-17 points) You are MADONNA:
You are wild and crazy and you know it. You know how to have fun, but you may take it to extremes. You know what you are doing though, and are much in control of your own life. People don't always see things your way, but that doesn't mean that you should do away with your beliefs. Try to remember that your wild spirit can lead to hurting yourself and others.

(18-26 points) You are DORIS DAY:
You are fun, friendly, and popular! You are a real crowd pleaser. You have probably been out on the town your share of times, yet you come home with the values that your mother taught you. Marriage and children are very important to you, but only after you have fun. Don't let the people you please influence you to stray.

(27-34 points) You are DEBBIE REYNOLDS:
You are cute, and everyone loves you. You are a best friend that no one takes the chance of losing. You never hurt feelings and seldom have your own feelings hurt. Life is a breeze. You are witty, and calm most of the time. Just keep clear of back stabbers, and you are worry-free.

(35-42 points) You are GRACE KELLY:
You are a lover. Romance, flowers, and wine are all you need to enjoy yourself. You are serious about all commitments and are a family person. You call your Mom every Sunday, and never forget a Birthday. Don't let your passion for romance get confused with the real thing.

(43-50 points) You are KATHARINE HEPBURN:
You are smart, a real thinker. Every situation is approached with a plan. You are very healthy in mind and body. You don't take crap from anyone. You have only a couple of individuals that you consider "real friends". You teach strong family values. Keep your feet planted in them, but don't overlook a bad situation when it does happen.

(51-60 points) You are ELIZABETH TAYLOR:
Everyone is in awe of you. You know what you want and how to get it. You have more friends than you know what to do with. Your word is your bond. Everyone knows when you say something it is money in the bank. You attract the opposite sex. Your intelligence overwhelms most. Your memory is the next thing to photographic. Everyone admires you because you are so considerate and lovable. You know how to enjoy life and treat people right.

I came out like Katharine Hepburn. I think that's cool. When I told Andi who I came out as, she wasn't surprised. Who did you end up being like?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quote from Stephen King & My Comments

"Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life."
- Stephen King
ON WRITING

I never fail to be amazed at the number of writers who I meet who tell me they don't read. Or they take their inspiration from movies and TV, which would be fine if they were writing screenplays and scripts, but they're writing novels. Different mediums with different requirements. I don't see how you can learn and understand the novel form if you don't read novels.

A lot of writers quote a lot of "writing rules". They tell me "show, don't tell." They tell me don't use adjectives, adverbs, or dialogue tags. And on, and on, and on. But if they were to read as much as I do, they'd see that none of those, or the myriad of other so-called "rules of writing" aren't as simple as "do this" and "don't do that".

Pro writers appear to break those rules all the time. Why? Well, because the rules were generated to help writers in specific situations, but eventually they became broadly applied to every situation because applying a rule is easy. You can fool yourself that you're a good writer because you know how to follow the "rules". But unless you've thought about why you're following the rules and whether you should break them this time, you're not writing at your top level of quality.

What should you do instead? Read, read, read. Look at what the writers of the good books do. Do what they do. Think about your writing as you write and compare the way you're using techniques to the way the pros use them. Then go back and make your writing quality as good as the best books you read. If you can't do that, you're writing's not ready for publication.

Good luck!!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Past Life

From PBW:

Your past life diagnosis: I don't know how you feel about it, but you were male in your last earthly incarnation.

Not surprised, but I like being female. (grin)

You were born somewhere in the territory of modern Hungary around the year 1775.

Ooookay--I'd have thought England in the 1800s. Or somewhere around Tuscany.

Your profession was that of a leader, major or captain.

Huh? And I'm a "timid, constrained, quiet person."

Your brief psychological profile in your past life: Timid, constrained, quiet person. You had creative talents, which waited until this life to be liberated. Sometimes your environment considered you strange.

Creative talents is the most spot on thing it came up with. And, for the record, my environment still considers me strange. Ask my sons, if you don't believe me.

The lesson that your last past life brought to your present incarnation: Your main lesson is to develop magnanimity and a feeling of brotherhood. Try to become less adhered to material property and learn to take only as much as you can give back.

Good advice for anyone.

Do you remember now?

Nope.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Too Funny

I found this on Agent Obscura's blog. The author's blog can be found here: Nancy Fulda



Let There Be Write
By Nancy Fulda
18 April 2005

(1) In the beginning the author created the concept and the story.

(2) And the story was without form, and void; and blankness was upon the face of the page. And the fingers of the author moved upon the face of the keyboard.

(3) And the author said, Let there be plot: and there was plot.

(4) And the author saw the plot, that it was good: and the author divided the plot into two characters.

(5) And the author called one character protagonist, and the other he called antagonist. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

(6) And the author said, let there be a problem in the midst of the story, and let it divide the characters from the characters.

(7) And the author called the problem Conflict. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

(8) And the author said, let the story bring forth setting, and imagery, and nifty neat scientific gizmos, or cool magic, each story after its kind: and it was so. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

(9) And the author said, let there be turning points in the conflict to surprise the protagonist and the antagonist, and to be for signs, and for foreshadowings, and for cliffhangers, and surprises. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

(10) And the author said, let the story bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life: supporting characters, and background animals, and pets with personality, each story after its kind, and let them multiply, and fill the pages of the story. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

(11) And the author said, let the story bring forth themes, and subthemes, and philosophical lessons to fascinate and taunt the reader, and let them have dominion over the setting, and the imagery, and the host of background characters, and over every lesser thing which creepeth upon the pages.

(12) So the author created the story in the image of his fantasy; many stories, created he them, and he said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish my bank account, and bring me prestige and literary acclaim, for you are my greatest work. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

(13) And on the seventh day the author rested, and he looked again upon every thing that he had written, and behold, it was a piece of junk.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Update

I had a followup visit with the doctor. I have a treatmeant plan. It includes lots of Motrin, which makes me sleepy. But there's progress and if that continues I may be able to avoid physical therapy. I'm OK with doing it, if it does become necessary. It's paying for it that's the problem.

Paul and I are leading the Lenten service tomorrow. It will be the first time I've sung solo in about 30 years. It will be cool because the music is good. Ladyesong is doing a really nice version of Amazing Grace and O Bone Jesu by Palestrina at Prince of Peace on Sunday. Lent/Easter and Christmas seasons are great because we get to sing more.

I hope this shoulder gets better soon, but it looks like at least two more weeks of frustratingly slow, one-handed typing. I'll have to keep entries short, but I really want to get back to more interesting topics than my sore shoulder.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Waiting

So, now I get to wait for the results of the x-rays. The hardest part of this injury is that showering and dressing make my arm hurt. I'm tired of sitting around in my bathrobe and mostly being stuck at home. I may have to do some clothes shopping, if it turns out that I'm going to be one-armed for a while. Skirts and tops or dresses are easier to manage than the jeans I usually hang out in. But they have to be long because pantyhose are impossible. And they have to be pullover or button down the front. I only have one pair of shoes that I can wear with dresses, so I'll need a pair of flats, too. Hell of a way to get a new wardrobe, huh?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Going to the Doctor

I found a low-cost clinic & am getting my arm looked at this afternoon. I'll be glad when I'm not posting about health problems. I hope you all are doing better than I am!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Black Cloud

I think there's a black cloud over my head. Yesterday I tripped and hurt my arm. I'm typing one-handed, which is very uncomfortable.

OTOH, it gave me a chance to read Rebel Ice by S.L. Viehl. Go read. I'll write more when I can type again.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sleeping, mostly

I've had a horrible bout with some sort of stomach bug. I've been mostly sleeping this week. I'll be back when I'm better. I cannot believe how many minor illnesses I've had this year. I've never been sick like this before in my life. Oh, well. I am getting better and will be back posting soon.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Not much going on these days

So, I'm not blogging much and I realized that part of the reason is that nothing much is happening in my life. It's the midwinter blahs. Christmas concerts are over. Lent starts tomorrow and Lent is not the most cheery season of the church calendar. Luckily, my church doesn't ask you to "give something up for Lent". I have a buddy who's Russian Orthodox and they go vegan for six weeks. I'd have to take iron supplements if I did that.

Here's something that's really fun:
Hidden passageways for your home. I found the link on on Neil Gaiman's blog.

I'm a mystery writer. If I had the funds to build the house of my dreams, I can guarantee you I'd put in at least one secret room or passageway. If my kids were planning on having kids, I'd put a fireman's pole and/or a slide, too, from the loft to the family room below. I have the house designed from top to bottom, except for the secret room/passage part. It's based on a house we used to live in that I really loved.

So, now you all know one of the secret wishes not very many people knew about me before. But, since my muse is 4 years old, it makes sense to have play areas hidden in my house. And what writer doesn't want a place she can sneak off to and be sure no one can interrupt her?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tuesday, February 21

My life is in a more quiet place right now. There's not as much going on for a week or so. Then Lent starts and we have church on Wednesday nights. But no concerts or special events until after Easter. Which gives me time to breathe, focus, and learn the music for the concert at the end of April. It's nice because I learn so much easier if I'm not feeling too pressured and nervous.

Some friends gave us tickets to see the West Bay Opera's Manon Lescaut, the Puccini version, on Sunday. It was really well done. I enjoyed myself thoroughly. I don't get to go to the opera very often. Afterward, they had the main cast out to answer questions from the audience. It was interesting. Then we went to dinner at a pasta place we'd never been to before. It was really good. And the waiter was amazing. He always was there with exactly what we needed without being intrusive. You don't get that much anymore. We were generous with the tip, as much as we could be on our budget.

So, we're planning to treat ourselves to the AMT's Gypsy. We both really like that show. I've never seen it live, just the films. Paul was in it once. He played the clueless Mr. Goldstone. He said it was fun.

So, a lot of my friends have been putting interesting quizzes on their blogs. I never seem to be able to catch up. I know they're silly, but sill's fun and I like them.

Which Serenity Character are you?

This one comes to me via Krista's blog.

Your results:

You are Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)

Zoe Washburne (Second-in-command)
85%
Dr. Simon Tam (Ship Medic)
70%
Kaylee Frye (Ship Mechanic)
65%
Wash (Ship Pilot)
65%
Malcolm Reynolds (Captain)
50%
Derrial Book (Shepherd)
50%
River (Stowaway)
45%
Inara Serra (Companion)
25%
Alliance
25%
Jayne Cobb (Mercenary)
20%
A Reaver (Cannibal)
5%
Dependable and trustworthy.
You love your significant other and
you are a tough cookie when in a conflict.


Click here to take the "Which Serenity character are you?" quiz...

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bad Blogger

I've been a bad blogger this week. I've been in a funk lately and didn't want to subject you all to that. I hate when people whine on their blogs--unless they make it funny. I'm not funny. So I try not to whine on the blog.

We had a superb concert on Sunday. I haven't heard any numbers, but I hope InnVision, a local charity that helps the homeless find jobs and places to live, made a bundle. I sing in two choirs, Prince of Peace Lutheran Sanctuary Choir and Ladyesong. Both did a superb job. And the mass choir doing Down By the Riverside absolutely rocked the place. I'll try to post about it ahead of time next year, so any locals who might want to come and support this wonderful organization can do so.

I've been reading a ton of Valentine's Day posts on the web this week. It seems everyone has something to say. My opinion is that if you're happy with how you and your SO celebrated it, then it was romantic. I think romance, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. In my case, if I were to be so foolish as to expect traditional romance from my hubby, I'd be in for a lifetime of disappointment. That's just not on his radar. But he manages to come up with untraditional romantic things that surprise me and delight me. I'd have to be a very dumb woman to wish to trade one for the other. I'm many things, but dumb isn't one of them. lol We went to a favorite restaurant for dinner. Then we went for a walk. The rest is none of your business. But it was wonderful.

Not much going on with the Uber Challenge at the moment. A friend suggested that I deliberately take a break. I'm journaling about that idea and trying it on to see if it feels like I'm using the funk as an excuse to be lazy or if I should go easier on myself, take a deliberate break, and deal with the funk in a different way than I have been. Not sure what that would be, but I do need to consider it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tools--Gravy, Whisks, and Writing

I started this post on my birthday, which is why Thanksgiving was on my mind when I wrote it. But I'm just now getting around to finishing it up and posting it.

Tools

Paul is always complaining about tools. He gets annoyed if he doesn't have exactly the right tool for the job. So, it's and Thanksgiving I'm making gravy. Lump city. I never have lumps in my gravy. I used a slotted spoon to take out the flour lumps and made a cornstarch slurry. As I fixed the gravy, I got to wondering why the lumps? I remembered that had lumps in my gravy twice. Both times I was in someone else's kitchen and they didn't have a whisk. I was stuck using a wooden spoon. I realized the reason you don't get lumps when you use a whisk is that the wires break up the flour/fat roux so it blends into the gravy. Having the right tool can mean the difference between success and failure.

What's that got to do with writing? Well, writers need proper tools, too. I don't mean a fancy computer and printer. They make it easier, but writers have been writing with pen and paper for centuries. The physical tools are the easiest for a writer to acquire and use. What I got to thinking about was the tools that make the story happen. I think writing would be a lot more difficult if I had to struggle with the basics of written communication--grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Or with sentence and paragraph structure. Or vocabulary. Those are like my pots, pans, knives, and, yes, whisks.

Just as there are cooks who specialize in general cooking vs. pastry-making, there are writers who specialize in fiction or nonfiction. They have other sets of tools, specific to their specialty. That's where the craft of the writer comes into play. I write mainly fiction, so the tools I'd be using the most are things like plotting, developing characters, theme, description and story structure.

I've been cooking for over 40 years. A lot of what I do in the kitchen feels like instinct. But I remember when I didn't have that instinct. It was acquiring the best tools, then practicing with them that honed my cooking instincts. I had to learn things like which tool is the best for which job, and I'm still learning. After all, I now know that whisks make the difference in the gravy.

The same is true of writing. I started ahead of the game by having an English teacher in the eighth grade who pounded those basic communication tools into my brain. I also had a head start gained from being an early, and constant, reader. Reading fiction helped me to see the difference between written down stories and stories told verbally or on film. But it seems like the more I talk with other writers, the more tools I learn there are to use. Acquiring and practicing with new tools is improving my writing. It's one reason the draft of my current novel is going so slowly. I'm learning how to use new tools that will get the story that's in my head onto the page, a bit closer to how I imagined it.

Just as a cook never stops learning new tricks to improve process and the result, writers never stop learning, either. There are always new things to discover. The rules of grammar have changed somewhat since that eighth grade teacher pounded them into my head. There are always more advanced techniques for getting all those wonderful layers from my head onto the page. Every story is different, so I can't just "do what I did last time". That's one of the challenging things about writing, figuring out which tools you need for this story, and acquiring the ones you may not have used before.

Uber Challenge

I haven't given up on this. I've been working through the rest of the reading from the mystery class. I'm doing the assignments that pose a challenge or are new for me, but I'm not bothering to write down answers to questions that basically parrot what was in the reading. My friend, June, is doing an invitation only class on critiquing. It's a cool class because it's not just about critiquing other people's manuscripts. She extends the information beyond that to how to apply the principles to your own work. I have to finish up the reading and the assignment for this week. We have a concert this weekend, so I have extra rehearsals and have to spend extra time working on the rough spots in the music. That's mostly what I need to do today. I'm realizing that I need to work on general discipline, as well as writing discipline. So, that's becoming my true goal. Not letting my living situation and the depression I'm always fighting off keep me from getting things done.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Best Blonde Joke Ever

Got this from Bob (Beard5). The best blonde joke ever. Be sure to read all the way to the end.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Skinny Fried Chicken & Gravy

Finally managing to post this recipe. Sorry it took so long to get to it.

Ingredients:

Chicken:
2 whole chickens, cut up and skinned
1 tablespoon olive oil
Enough flour to coat the chicken pieces
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock

Gravy:
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh sage leaves

For Chicken:
1. Mix flour and spices in a plastic bag. Shake 1 piece of chicken at a time in the bag. Place each piece on wax paper or a wire rack while you finish the rest. Do not stack the floured chicken pieces on top of each other.

2. Heat the olive oil to medium-high in a nonstick skillet. Put chicken in a single layer in pan. Brown thoroughly (about 10 - 15 minutes per side).

3. Add the 1/2 cup chicken stock. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to medium.

4. Cook for 15 minutes, turn chicken over, and cook an additional 15 minutes, until cooked through.

5. Take chicken out of the pan and pour the drippings into a gravy separator. Put the chicken back in the pan and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook about 2 - 3 minutes per side, until chicken is crispy and a reddish-brown color. Put chicken on a rack that's been placed on a cookie sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the gravy.

For gravy:
1. Mix the cornstarch and sherry to make a slurry. Pour the chicken drippings back into the pan, without the fat, and add the remaining 1 cup of stock. Bring to a boil. Add slurry. Boil about 1 minute, until thickened. Add salt, pepper, and sage, to taste.

Notes:
1. All spices, herbs, salt, and peppers are to taste. My measurements are approximate. You can substitute any herb blend you like or make up your own. You can just use salt and pepper. If you can find hot paprika, you can substitute it for the regular paprika, but be sure to omit the cayenne pepper.

2. If you're using a nonstick electric skillet, brown the chicken at about 320º F. Turn it down to about 220º F when you cover it. And turn it up to 350º F to crisp it up at the end. Regardless of whether you use an electric skillet or nonstick skillet on the stove, you'll have to experiment with the temperatures to see which ones on your equipment give you the results you want. Temperature calibration on equipment for home cooks is a rant I'll spare you all.

Mangia!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

My friend, June, asked me for this recipe.

I know some of you are doing Tech's Great Slim Down, and this would be difficult for you without a lot of those tradeoffs I talked about on that blog. So, tomorrow, I'll post my Skinny Fried Chicken recipe for you all to try.

Ingredients:
8 whole chicken thighs
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons seasonings
1/2 cup peanut oil

Instructions:
1. Heat oven to 200º F. Put a wire rack on a baking sheet.

2. Wash and dry the chicken thighs. Put in a bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken. Mix so the chicken is covered. Marinate 1-4 hours, turning the chicken occasionally.

3. Combine the flour and seasonings in a plastic bag or a pie plate. Heat the oil in a skillet with high sides until 375º F. One at a time, drain the buttermilk from the chicken thighs, coat with flour mixture and put, skin side down, in the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes, until browned. Turn over and brown other side.

4. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Turn the chicken over and cook 20 minutes longer, turning after 10 minutes.

5. Place, skin-side up, on wire rack and put in oven to drain and keep warm while you cook the next batch. Let the last batch drain on the rack for a few minutes before serving.

Notes:
1. You can substitute any equivalent amount of chicken parts for the 8 thighs.

2. Use whatever seasonings you want and adjust the amount to your taste. They can be as simple as salt and pepper or you can use a preblended spice mix or mix whatever spices you have on hand that you like. Adjust the amount of flour and seasonings to coat the amount and size of chicken pieces you're using. Don't flour the chicken ahead of time. Do each piece right before you put it in the pan. So, if you're doing more than one batch, leave the chicken in the buttermilk until you're ready to cook it. (Trust me on this. If you flour it ahead of time, it doesn't get as crispy and if it's not crispy, why bother?)

3. You can marinate the chicken overnight or do it in the morning and refrigerate it all day, if you want. But you don't need to do it that long for the recipe to turn out fine.

4. You'll have to adjust the amount of the oil according to the size of your pan. It should be about an inch deep. Some recipes call for putting enough oil to be halfway up the sides of the pan, but that's too much if your pan is more than two inches deep. It's Ok if you don't have a thermometer. You want the oil very hot, but not smoking.

5. You can double or halve this recipe easily. Just make sure you have enough buttermilk to coat/cover the chicken. And adjust the amount of flour & seasonings to coat the amount of chicken you're cooking. You can use more than one rack/baking sheet and put them on multiple racks in you oven to keep warm, if you're making a large batch. If you're making enough chicken to need to cook it in more than two batches, change the oil every other batch. Don't cook more than two batches with one pan of oil. You don't want to burn the chicken or your kitchen, both of which occur more easily if you overuse the oil.

Mangia!

Uber Challenge update:

  • I've so gotten out of the habit of doing Morning Pages. I need to make a point of doing them today.
  • I'm going to do the reading for Lesson Three of the mystery class. This is the last official week of the class. I might get through Lesson Four. We'll see.
  • And I have stuff, like upcoming concert dates, to add to my calendar.
  • Last, I have to go over the music for rehearsal tonight.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Short post

Today I had little time to think of anything to write for my post. I finished the second lesson of the mystery writing course. I'm so far behind. I should have finished that the first week. I miscounted. The class is four weeks, so it's scheduled as 2 lessons per week. I think that's too much work for people who have lives. Apparently, there are people who can get that much done. I'm just not one of them.

It's amazing, though. There are about 500 students in the class. Most of them haven't participated by posting lessons, but a good percentage have. I think that 500 students sells a lot of books for B&N, but it's too many students for a teacher to be able to look at everyone's work, let alone comment on very much of it. So, you're kind of on your own, with some student feedback, if anyone's interested enough to post about your work.

I'm not learning anything new. What I'm getting is reminded of things I need to be reminded of. It's so easy for things to slip through the cracks because a writer has so many balls to juggle as she writes. So it's a good class.

I'm going to go watch some more Angel. My son called me and he implied he'd like his DVDs back soon. I don't know why. I'm taking the second season back home when I bring this one back. So it's not like he's going to be keeping the whole set at his house--at least until after I've watched them all. (evil grin)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Rebel Ice, Galadriel,& the Uber Challenge

I was looking at my list of posts and discovered I never posted this. I'd only gotten the quiz from Tambo's blog, done and never had time to finish writing the post about the Uber Challenge. Also, since I started this post, I've gotten Rebel Ice, and I wanted to talk about that a bit, too. So, here it is, updated with today's stuff.

Rebel Ice

Rebel Ice is the long-awaited next novel in S.L. Viehl's StarDoc series. I haven't finished reading it yet, but I wanted to let everyone know it's out. It came out while I was sleeping off that flu bug a couple of weeks ago. I think that, while I really enjoy everything Sheila's written, her StarDoc series is my favorite.










From Tambo's blog:

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?



Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. You can read more about her at the Galadriel Worshippers Army.

Uber Challenge

I've had to make some hard decisions about how I'm spending my time, particularly with regard to the mystery class. According to the time estimates, I could do the class by working an hour a day. But it's taking a lot longer than that to do the work well. You can't do a lesson a week and finish, either, because the class is six weeks long and there are eight lessons. I'm thinking that the best way to deal with it is to work for an hour a day and do as much as I can. I won't finish the class on time, but it's free and there's no limit on how many times you can take it. So, rather than push myself to finish on time and do a lousy job, I'm going to sign up again and start working wherever I ended up when the original six weeks are up. I think that plan will allow me to learn the most, which is the whole point.

I purchased and downloaded both Holly's Create a Character Clinic and Sheila's Way of the Cheetah, written under her pseudonym, Lynn Viehl. I'm planning to work through Way of the Cheetah first because it fits neatly into the Uber Challenge. It's about how to become a disciplined and productive writer, and that's pretty much my challenge.

The last thing that's crucial for me to get done is to update and use my calendar. I have a love/hate relationship with databases and spreadsheets. I love the way they make it easier to keep track of stuff. However, I hate the tedious task of having to update them all the time. On the other hand, I worry that I'll miss a rehearsal or something crucial if I don't get my life on the calendar and keep it open on my desktop. My days are too much alike, which makes it really hard to keep track of whether something's happening today or next Wednesday without writing it down.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Miscellaneous Stuff

Naming blog posts is tricky, especially when so many of them are similar. So, I guess you all have to read the post to find out what it's really about.

It's so weird. My last post looks like it was written before it happened because blogger puts the time stamp on when you started writing it, not when you post it. So, the date is last Tuesday, even though I wrote about Wednesday and Thursday, too. I could change it, but I wish they'd change the default and put the time when you actually publish the post. It seems to make more sense that way.

Jean posted about Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic and Lynn Viehl's Way of the Cheetah, both on sale now in Holly's new store. Here's a link to her post, because she said everything I'd say, and said it better. I'm looking forward to both books, but particularly Sheila's because it will help with my Uber Challenge. We just have to get paid again before I can buy them.

I'm still a bit tired from that flu. My friend Barbara, who actually knows something about this stuff, said I should expect it to be a few weeks before I'm completely back to my normal energy level. So, I'll be good and take a nap when I need one.

I don't have a lot of stuff planned today. I'm learning to plan a couple of things and if I get them done, then I'm doing well.

  • Work on the current lesson for the mystery writing class.
  • Work on Ladyesong music before rehearsal tonight.
  • Do Jean's crit, which I still haven't gotten done because I've been napping during the only time I've had available to do it.
  • Put this week's list on the calendar