Friday, October 26, 2007

Grandma and Writing

I went to Corvallis to visit my folks and managed to chat with my grandmother.

At first, I didn't think it was going to be a good visit because she was napping when I arrived. But she perked up quite a bit and we had a conversation about quilting, gardening, and the latest doings of other family members. She remembered that I live in Eugene, which is a lot better than last time when I wasn't sure she remembered who I even was. I'd say the visit was a 4.5 out of 5. After about a half hour, when I started to bore her (or at least when her gaze began to wander all over the room), I ended the visit.

In writing news, I managed to re-work the begining of a short story which should clear up a bunch of questions readers had about the setting and characters. I still need to go through and make a pass for minor things and consistency. I really need to get this one out into the mail.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

That Certain Air of Savoir-faire

I've made a discovery. I think our back yard has a je ne sais quoi that is really beginning to bug me. I hadn't realized it until I was talking with a friend and a list of reasons of why I don't like to be in the backyard tripped over my tongue:
  • Patio is too sunny in the Summer
  • Patio is too dark (and wet) in the Winter
  • I have to constantly tell Arthur not to
    • play with the hose
    • go into the tool shed
    • whack the shrubbery
    • molest garden decorations
  • There's no comfortable place to sit
  • There's too much white-trash-detrius and plastic-baby-crap
  • I have to traipse through the garage to get tea and snacks
  • The ground is fairly uneven
  • I keep finding damn clothespins everywhere
  • The neighbors' conversations are audible
  • There's no outside electrical outlets
  • And I still miss my gazing globe

I think some of this could be fixed with
  • a fountain
  • some comfortable storage benches
  • a covered sandbox
  • a raised, childproof, tea bar
  • a series of two foot tall bevelled concrete obelisks
So I started to fix the easy stuff: the patio is surrounded on two sides by a cinderblock wall; last year I created some steps onto the back lawn that made sense at the time, but which cluttered the space. I removed them, and in the process raised up the wall by a course -- it's at a comfortable level for sitting now. I think what I secretly want to do is convert the back patio to a greenhouse / conservatory, but Mark points out why that's wildly impracticle right now. Sigh.

I guess I'll have to figure out where to put a fountain next. And some WiFi.

Writing Progress

Spent two hours yesterday reworking the beginning of a 6000 word story that's been in first draft form for a while.  

It's another story with an alien protagonist, and most folks liked it, but it took them a few pages to be sure that they were in the head of an alien bug.  I think the new start helps to focus the conflict and make it more clear that the POV character is in fact an insect (and not, say, an iguana).  

In other writing news, I tweaked the 900 word Wordos Halloween story to more firmly ground it in the POV of a charater (it was more poetical omniscient before). 

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Clara's Regiment

Okay. I've been meaning to post this for some time -- almost two years, as it turns out. Enjoy.

This reminds me of when my hair used to be long. I still miss my hair some days. But then I'll see a picture of one of my many bad hair days and I guess I'm glad that it's short right now. At least my shampoo bill is a lot less.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Caption Contest!

Decomposition: The Artist Turns His Gaze Away from the Empty Cup of Herbal Tea and and Languishes upon the Lounge of Fluffy Literature while the Fish of the Unconscious Offers the Fruits of Occam's Razor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Deck the Halls...

Today I fished the gargoyle out of the garage and placed it on the mantle. I figure if I add one little Halloween item a day -- starting with leaves and working my way up to bats -- the place will be spooky looking by the 31st.

We actually tried dipping leaves in beeswax the other day (thanks Martha). Of course, first we had to find beeswax; our instructions from Our Lady of Gilt said to use bleached beeswax, but we only were able to find the regular kind at an art supply store. It yellowed the leaves only a little, and the "control group" leaves that didn't get dipped look less lustrous -- I think the wax conducts light. Other than that, the color between the two groups looks more or less the same; I suppose we'll have to see what the waxed leaves look like in a month.

Considering that cleaning a layer of formerly melted wax out of a pan took about as long as melting it in the first place, I'm not sure waxing leaves is worth the effort -- unless (as Mark pointed out) you want nice looking leaves in January.

Uh, no; we won't be dipping bats into wax to preserve them as house decorations.

Writing Progress

Got a 7100 word story into first draft form.  Now I need to let it sit for a few days so I can see the rough spots more easily.  I think it's reading a little long and I'm not convinced that the character motivation is clear (typical problems with my drafts).  

Oh well... in the meantime, I have a backlog of drafts that have been languishing on my desk -- so there's plenty to polish and publish. 

Monday, October 15, 2007

Writing Progress

Got some writing time in over the weekend. I managed to edit my latest short story and tighten up some of the dialog. The last third of the story still needs work.

I don't know when we're going to be able to be done with our housepainting. The wet weather has come early and seems to be sticking around. If we don't have rain today and tomorrow then Tuesday evening I can finish the prime coat (and seal the house).

Wedneday marks the official time (in my mind, at least) when we can put up Halloween decorations in the house. It will be nice to take the (small) gargoyle out of storage. I'm experimenting with cutting out bat shapes and placing them in lampshades (thank you, Martha). I have a vague notion that it might be fun to make dough bats and cats and then melt lifesavers for eyes. Mark is going to get some rat silhouettes for decorating shirts.

Murial continues to be an irritant.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Writing and Other News

I got a little bit of writing in, about two pages of a story for an anthology. I also polished the Wordos Halloween story a little. I realized that I need to make file backups and do other administrative stuff, too.

Went to Corvallis to scope out the next book signing venue, but I didn't call ahead, so the only person who seems aware of the signing wasn't in. The folks who were there were very nice, but they had no information to work with. I left them a poster or two (they did have WOTF 23 on a display, so at least the book is visible on their shelves).

In other news... I visited with my Grandmother; she seemed happy, but she was sort of falling asleep and kept restarting the conversation with recollections of her walks to elementary school -- I think she said that her older brother, Conrad, walked her through a wooded area about five times. I'm also not sure that she recognized or remembered who I was. At least she's back in her foster home and out of a nursing home, so she's with other (mostly) well folks and has better attention. And as Mark said later, at least it was a positive interaction that made some sort of impression on her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Writing Progress

I've been meaning to add this for a while... and now I can.

In writing news...

I pulled last night's writing bonanza into four different story (ahem) ideas.

Then I wrote about four pages of absolutely worthless, thank-you-for-sharing prose before I started to get into a scene that I wanted to work with when the phone rang -- I would have let it ring except that I'm always worried that it will wake The Child and it might be Mark calling. It was a telemarketer for a phone service. I really wanted to strangle the person (and they could tell), even though I realize it's not their fault they work at a call center. Then I switched the phone's ringer off (note to self, get a flashing light to replace the ringer). Of course when I got back to the keyboard I'd lost the thread I'd been following.

I realized that the part of my brain that sings songs and critiques my writing (and my life) was having a good day and that if I wanted to get anything done I'd need to listen to some writing music. Thank the Goddess my iPod had a full charge. And for hot chocolate. Between Varttina and Juno Reactor I managed to more-or-less finish the Wordos Halloween short story at about 600 words. I'll polish it a little next week.

The tea search continues. English Breakfast will do in a pinch as a Ceylon replacement, but I think Sikkim is a closer match -- even if it does have a hint of Assam's bite to it, the complex flavor is full and reminiscent of Ceylon. Mark suggested Yunnan, but I reflexibly recoiled when he did, so I think it's bitter or something (we used to have all of our tea critiques written down, but the record was lost when my Palm Pilot got zapped).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Writing Progress

Today was a good day -- I think -- for writing. I managed to vomit about 3000 words onto the keyboard. Most of it is unedited dreck. There's some attempt at slipstream that seems to be written by my inner Ingmar Bergman -- we'll save that for the therapy seasons later. But I did get about 300 words of a Wordos Halloween challenge, and I managed to get to the first (very rough) draft of another short story I've been struggling with for a while (it's at 6000 words, and I'm sure the dialog is wooden and some of the characters' motivation needs to be reworked so that it's believable).

I upped my caffeine intake (Assam) to offset the grey clouds and that seemed to be effective. At least it made it easier to giggle when I re-read the text written by Ingmar Bergman and during the resulting obligatory performance of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street.

New Sketchbook

I filled up another sketchbook.  Well, okay; the binding was falling apart and I had a handful of pages to go.

Ever since I got a worked leather sleeve as a gift, my sketchbooks have held up much better than in the past.  The design on the leather is an old woodcut of simple country landscape and a philosopher crawling through the celestial spheres to peer at the wheels of the cosmos.

Pulling out the old book from the cover and inserting a new, blank one is sort of like driving past an old boyfriend while the new one is sitting next to you.  No.. that image is too vampiric...  

Pulling out the old book is like receiving a letter from your past self.  This old one started just after Mark and I had our marriage ceremony -- there's notes and sketches from various Bach Festival events we've attended since June 20, 2004.  There's write-ups of dreams, and records of places we've visited.  I can see when I practiced geometry by all the compass drawings.  Disneyworld.  Two whole pages of baby names.  And then there are the character portraits -- I sometimes draw characters as I'm writing them to get a better feeling for them.   

But it's time for a new book.  So I carefully open it to flex its spine, and I insert the stiff cover into the leather sleeve.  In a year or three, the new pages will be filled and worn and this now-new book will join its fellows.

Ack... this is turning into "The Shelf of Forgotten Dreams."   Gotta go get some caffeine.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

And It's Not Even February

Well... the clouds of autumn have rolled in. On one hand, now that the year has progressed a little further, all three leaded glass polyhedra in our breakfast nook throw spectra. It's cheerful, at least when the sun shines.

On the other hand it's getting really dark. Last Monday mid-morning I just stared at the underside of charcoal colored clouds and it was as if a little switch inside me flipped. I can tell you my weekly chocolate consumption has gone up and this morning all I wanted to do was curl up with a novel next to a fire within arm's reach of hot chocolate and potato chips.

Even the chipper happy-fag-dance music I've been scraping the house to all August has become grating and I'm reasonating more with Annie Lennox.

And green tea isn't cutting it. I've been drinking green tea because there's a shortage or something of ceylon tea from my local supplier. I'm going to have to wait until at least November 9th for the next shipment. In the meantime, I've been drinking a green tea mix called Dragon's Well. It doesn't have the right taste or caffeine level or something because in addition to the hot chocolate and potato chips I really craved a decent super-sized mug of Ceylon OP and Orange Roobios blend (back when the salon was open and an orange ceylon blend went really well with scones and a petit four (or two)).

Maybe little Halloween crafts can cheer me up...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Writing Progress

Wrote 300 words yesterday. I really need to get someone to read the dialog because it seems not-quite-right to me somehow. Or, rather, it seems right for something like The Young and the Restless which isn't what I have in mind.

The Tsunami Books book signing and WOTF panel went well. We had a good turn-out and sold twelve copies of the anthology. You can see me reading an excerpt from my story (I'm sitting in front of a bunch of previous WOTF volumes that Wordos have been in) while Stephen Stanley and Damon Kaswell listen.

A really big thanks to Scott and all the folks at Tsunami Books in Eugene for hosting this event (and for letting the Wordos hold their sessions there every Tuesday evening)!

A slightly-delayed Wordos critique session followed and one of my stories got savaged ("John, this is beautiful language, but..."). As usual, I got too far into the story and so I and my characters knew what they were talking about and doing, but the readers didn't and were annoyed and confused. I'm thinking that maybe this story (which was my WOTF workshop 24-hour story) might be a good candidate for Nanoramo (or however you spell it).

Monday, October 01, 2007


I'm on TV (along with Damon Kaswell) talking about Writers of the Future. More later when I've got the time...

Whew... well. Now that I've done that I'm sure if I get interviewed again it will be easier. We both thought we'd be taped, but it turns out we were live. We were the last feature, so we got to sit off to one side while the news broadcast progressed. It was interesting from a writing point of view to see how the studio works when the red light is on and off; I especially enjoyed the green screen Josh the weather anchor stood in front of because it raised up and down like a portcullis and hid his weather desk.

Mark did say that Damon and I seemed very --ahem-- "writerly." He also said that what he got from the interview was that we were excited, that the award was an honor, and that we were just starting our writing careers.

Shelley, our hostess, was really good at placing us at ease. The interview was very chatty and people-oriented. We did run out of time... and I notice that we never did mention our stories' titles (although she did read out their page numbers). I think I said "Ummm" more than Damon said "Uhhh".