Friday, May 29, 2015


I mentioned on other social media that I had made a Unicorn Mobile for my niece's birthday.

More pictures here: Unicorn Album

I also made her a three-fold card.  I think the next time I do something like this, I'll be a little more careful making the tree frame so it is easier to see the unicorn (or whatever the focus is) without it being obscured by random branches or tree trunks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Late May Journal

It's officially pollen season.  Let the sneezing and odd sleep patterns begin!

Writing: Got a critique Tuesday night for a science fiction story. I'd workshopped it elsewhere, and on one hand I addressed some of the issues in an earlier critique about providing enough back story;  but on the other hand, garnered the critique to cut  the first half with the back story.  I'm pleased because I didn't get the "wading through dense prose" critique, and despite my love of setting description, the story was perceived to be a character story.

Handed in the science fiction fairy tale to the Wordos.  We'll see how it goes.  I wanted the fairy tale voice, which may be perceived as too purple-prosy.

Wednesday, I was going through an old manuscript that had been critiqued a few weeks ago and saw that cutting the first scene made the whole manuscript stronger.  Now I have to fix the remaining bits to  make things clearer.  

Working-Out:  Thursday night, I managed to get a session in at the gym.  I managed the elliptical (20 minutes, about 100 cal), the rowing machine (about 100 cal in about 12 minutes), and the dipping machine (set at 16 because I got out of the routine).  Then I did lat pull-downs (70 lbs), the pec-fly machine (30 lbs), barbell curls (35 lbs), the power-station curl (3 reps of 13), and some dumbbell shrugs (10 lbs).   My elbows are feeling better, although the tendon at my right elbow still feels sore sometimes.  

Writing:  The other day, as we were driving somewhere, The Child told me the general plot to a story, and I asked him if I could use it.  He said "yes" and the proceeded to embellish the story with far too many goblins and ghosts and violence.  What was embarrassing in a cute way was that he told the first stranger we bumped into in the parking lot was "my dad's a writer and he's going to write a story idea I gave him."  Friday, I managed to get up earlyish and started to outline it and managed to churn out a 400 word scene in about an hour.  His basic idea is interesting, and I'm not sure if the story that's coming out will be something I'd be comfortable reading to him (pause to ponder "Gregor the Overlander," "The One and Only Ivan," and "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" and decide that maybe he's already reading some pretty serious stuff).

We've reached that time of year when the days are starting early and ending late.  For  the next eight weeks so, it will be easier to arise in the morning and write.  The temperature is warm enough so that going outside isn't distractingly cold.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sand Dune Plant

 These are lupine, I think.  I saw these in Honeyman Park, and I was surprised.  I'd seen them last year at Crater Lake and I thought they were mountain flowers.  Apparently they grow on the coast as well.  They must like sandy or rocky soil.

These plants seemed to be happier than the Crater Lake ones; I don't know if they liked the lower elevation, or the lack of snow or what.

I liked their color, so I took some close-ups.  Back at home, I was pleased how the camera managed to make the flowers extra brilliant.

The curious thing about these plants was what looked like some sort of pod growing along vine.  I'm not sure if this was a former flower, or if it was some sort of tuber or root.

Monday, May 25, 2015

 Last weekend we went to Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park.  The park is best known for its ten-story tall sand dunes and a small lake.  The coast is about a mile away.

The temperature started out in the mid sixties, and increased as the morning overcast cleared off.  The wind was light and out of the east.

When we got to the park, there were a few kids grooming the dunes to go dune-boarding.

We climbed a dune and had a little picnic.  Here's what I wrote in my Book of Art:

We are secluded in a cleft between pines at the dune's peak.  Two three-wheelers whine in the distant dunes, growing louder as they crest a near-by dune.  The wind whispers through the pines and scotch broom.  Dark clouds scud by, alternating grey with blue, and the sunlight and wind dictate layer changes every ten minutes.
Overhead, a keening osprey carries a fish.  Other birds twitter in the brush and unseen hummingbirds zip nearby.  From the lake at the foot of the dune, a woman shrieks about how cool the water is.  A dog barks, and the three-wheelers have returned, revving as they complete another lap along the dunes.

Wind rushes over the trees and grass, erasing the other sounds.

Later we went on a short hike to the edge of the park where the three-wheelers were.  Along the way we ran into some scotch broom.  I know it makes a lot of allergy sufferers miserable, but it does smell nice, and it reminded me of peas or snap-dragons.

There were some with red flowers, so I took their picture, singing, "Lay the bend to the bonny broom" all the while.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


This owl lives in the fireplace at Shelton-McMurphey-Johnson house.

Whenever I take a picture of firedogs--or in this case, fireowls--I always think the glowing eyes are going to come out much more compelling than they do.

I think if we were ever to have firedogs, it would be fun to have some that look like Egyptian cat statues.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Becoming Re-enchanted

 Here's some more photos from the Rainbow Falls Overlook.  The area was actually pretty rocky once you dug down a little.  The tenacity of the plants struck me.  Once some moss or lichen got established on a big basalt boulder, there would be a place for the roots of other plants to grow.

This particular succulent caught my eye.  I think it's related to something called "Hens and Chicks."  We've something similar growing around our house, but I hadn't noticed the five-fold symmetry before.

The last few days I've been tired.  Some of it is a result of inconsistent sleep schedules, which I'll have to fix.  I think some of it may be pollen:  it's that time of year when I wake up with eye boogers.

Writing:  I got a quick rejection on the latest manuscript.  Sigh.  This seems like a good point to survey the various projects and manuscripts needing a little bit of polish before I send things out.  Thinking about the last few manuscripts, I'm wondering if I might be spending too much time on setting detail at the expense of plot and character development -- then again, on the other hand, a frequent critique I get is that readers don't understand how the world works.

Working Out:  Monday was a workout day.  I took it slowly.  Monday I was exhausted; Mark opined it was from climbing sand dunes Sunday, but I'm not so sure. My hands and feet just ached, and I'm blaming the barometric pressure.

Writing:  Tuesday morning I looked over some manuscripts that are (ahem) between markets.  Not all of them are dreadful, and I need to work through them.  A few just need some minor tweaking and then I should send them back to the markets; I've been terrible at sending stories into the mail.   A few could easily turn into longer pieces, and I should focus on longer pieces anyway because it's part of a Writer's Career Path.  

There's one story that's actually not bad, and I let a critiquer hold it back simply because she didn't like  the way I'd very purposefully written one of the characters.  

Working Out:  Wednesday I went to the gym in the evening.  I had a 20 minute elliptical session, followed by all of my regular exercises.  My calves are feeling the burn this morning -- I woke up with a huge cramp in my calves that I had to fix by manually flexing my feet.

Writing:  I picked up the fairy-tale manuscript I'd been working on before the Sword and Sorceress manuscript:  it's not so over-wrought as I thought.  I need to put finishing touches on it and turn it in to the Wordos next week.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rainbow Falls Viewpoint

 Mother's Day Weekend, we hiked to the Rainbow Falls Viewpoint, near the McKenzie River Bridge.  The trees were mostly cedars or pines, with a smattering of vine maples and madrone.  The viewpoint itself is a rock outcropping, and it would be just the place for a NeoPagan ritual.

What struck me was how one tree was growing out of a rock.  It had had its main trunk damaged, with much of the bark missing, and yet it still managed to snake its way across a rock face and sprout leaves on the other end.  It was very much a natural bonsai.

The madrone tree growing on the outcropping contrasted the other trees around it.  I tried to get a good picture of it, because the under-bark was a kind of greenish pistachio color.

Hiking in, the most prominent noises were the sounds of our feet and the breeze moving through the trees. Only when we got to the outcropping did we hear the falls.  At one point, we thought we heard some strange croaking-growling noise, as if there were a large amphibian concealed in the treetops; this turned out to be water in Mark's thermos glugging as he moved.

We had a good laugh after we'd been standing still to try to figure out what strange animal was calling to us.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Historical Doll House

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Shelton-McMurphey- Johnson House.  They were having a Steampunk exhibit there, so sprinkled around the 1880's house were various brass geared Nerf guns, goggled top hats, and re-purposed typewriters.

Up in the attic was a replica of the house.  If we were in the doll house, we'd be under the gable to the right of the peaked copula.  We'd also have to be much smaller.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Working-out:  Did the working out thing; I think the elliptical makes me sweat more.  I had some fun playing with the display and apparently my heart-rate is in the cardio zone.  I suppose if I cycled more slowly I'd lose weight.  I'm not sure how that works.  Occasionally, I'd spike up above the cardio zone; I think that's bad and I suppose I'll have to read up on it.

Writing:  Still plugging away.  I'd meant to write last night, but I was so tired I went to bed before 9.  At least I got a (mostly) solid 7 and a half hours.  The way my schedule is, I'm going to have to finish fixing the story tonight or miss tomorrow's deadline.

Dreams:  I had some "group on the run" dream.  I don't recall much except that I was in a group of college-friends (we all seemed to be in our twenties).  We were running around the periphery of a large institutional building -- it might have been on a university campus, or it might have been part of my folks' old church.  We'd snuck into a room to retrieve some stuff (we'd been there in the dream earlier).   If we needed to make a break for it, we were to re-group by the old train engine (which I'd borrowed from the Corvallis Avery Park).   The last thing I remember from the dream was a door cracking open and a device which was two black spheres stuck together with a red LED at the business end being poked into the door (it was a stun gun or smoke grenade or something).  

Then the cat was batting my chin to wake me up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hiking, Working Out, and Writing

Yesterday (Sunday) we took a hike to the Rainbow Waterfall area, near Cougar Hot Springs.  Mark wanted to go some place where the pollen wasn't so bad.  The hike was a level jaunt through vine maples, cedars (I think), and the occasional madrone tree.  I took some photos of the flora, but I haven't pulled them off of the camera.

Today (Monday) is a drizzly, colder day (50F)

Working Out:  Today (Monday)is a work-out day.  I continue to use the elliptical for a 15 minute warm-up, followed by 10 minutes on the rowing machine.  I followed this with the usual barbell, pec-fly, lat-pulldown, curl-up, routine.  I think I could read on the elliptical machine, but I'm not sure I could critique on it.  This was the first time I wanted to punch or pick-up the machines; not because I was angry, but because I seemed to have a lot of energy.

Writing:  Sigh.  The manuscript I wanted to submit to Sword and Sorceress is a disaster.  I wasn't quite sure how much of its problems were problems with the sword-and-sorceress-genre (yes, people do swear things like "Lord and Lady") and how much of it was me "back-packing" information from the backstory between every available nook and cranny.  But the latest round of readers pretty much said it's 4500 words of really confusing pastiche and incomprehensible battle scenes.  I've gotten some advice to just re-write the whole thing.... which I'm doing with a few judicious raids from the current manuscript.

I'm more annoyed with myself than anything else.  To quote Darwin:  "I hate the world and myself."

More Writing:  I've been working away at the manuscript Monday and Tuesday.  I've re-worked the first half, and I think the story's plot logic is better.  If I'm really good, I think I can get it in under the dead-line.  I'd really like to get into Sword and Sorceress, but I'm at that new-moon point where it's getting harder and harder to generate any enthusiasm.

More Working Out:  Today (Wednesday) is a work-out day; after thinking about it, I've decided that I should go even though I could work on the manuscript... because not-going means I wont work out until the weekend (which usually doesn't happen...).

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Before and After...

What I Think My Manuscript Looks Like Before Critique....

What I Think My Manuscript Looks Like After Critique...

Arg. Despite reading Forster's "Aspects of the Novel," and trying to focus on the aspects of why a character does something; despite trying to make a character-driven story based on emotions; and, despite trying to write to anthology specifications; I have produced a overwhelming description of confusing fantasy pastiches and meaningless character action that feels like a novel chapter and not a 4000 word short story.

Back to the drawing board.  Bother.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Family Time / Writing Time

Thursday afternoon, The Child and I had a discussion about how much time I spend writing.

This was prompted by me growling at him (so much for writing making me a better person...) the other morning when he woke up a little early and started asking me all sorts of questions -- that I was sitting in the Stickley Chair with a manuscript and staring at a screen didn't seem to communicate to him that I was in another world fine-tuning some staging.   

I don't know if this is true for other writers, but when I'm that focused, it feels like I'm being physically yanked out of the world my characters are in and back into a pre-dawn living-room.  It breaks my rhythm and it's irritating.   I retreated to the Writing Closet, the doors of which were assailed a few minutes later with a request for technical assistance printing a job that should have been done the previous evening.  

I felt annoyed at the apparently manufactured interruptions and also guilty for snapping at the child, which by now had pulled me completely out of the story and the rhytm of writing.

During our afternoon discussion, The Child accused me of writing eighty percent of the day.  Ha!  I told him I was sorry that was his perception, but if that were true, I'd be writing at least eighteen hours every day.  The reality is that on a good writing week, I get in fourteen to sixteen hours a week; but it's much more likely to come up to eight.

An item-by-item of my weekly agenda didn't convince him, and we reverted to the old-style "uh-huh!/nuh-uh!" school of debate.  Sigh.

Thursday, May 07, 2015


Writing:  Going through critiques to make changes to the Sword and Sorceress manuscript.  I got a really good critique from one of the Wordos -- one that went a little farther than "I liked it" and a few notes -- and I made sure to thank him for it.   Everyone  seemed to like the world-building in the story; which was funny because I was trying to focus  on character and  not the world (because I always over-focus on the world).  The deadline is looming, so this story is going to be the focus for the next five or six days.

Working Out:  My tennis elbow is slowly getting better.  I've been taking it easier on my arms, and I've been avoiding triceps exercises that involve moving weights over my head.  Did about six minutes on an elliptical running machine for a warm-up, then 10 minutes at 650 cal/hour and about 100 calories.  Barbells, lat-pulldown, curl-ups, and dips on an assisted-dip machine.  

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Writing and Writing Fantasy

Interesting things came up after Wordos last night.

The first, most obvious was that I ran into a genre vocabulary issue.  I submitted a fantasy story to the table, and a number of people got confused by the medieval armor terms:  curias, gorget, falcshion, barbute (okay, I'd have to look that one up, too) and a few other fantasy tropes.  Once again, I had to ponder how much in-story definition I needed to do so as not to confuse the reader, and how much knowledge on the part of the reader I could assume.  

The manuscript also skirted with The Dictionary of Obscure Usage and the Twin Towers of Tolkien Sclerosis and Not Enough Detail.  

The other question that came up was 'What do you want the reader to take away when you write."  And my answer was that I wanted the reader to feel like I had after a violin loop performance, where the violinist started swaying as he played and had a fierce smile as he bowed.   I thought about it later and I wanted the reader to have the same sort of experience I remember skydiving when I jumped out of the plane and located the sun, moon, mountain and me.   I want my stories to be like good ritual.

And now, editing!

Journal: Pollen

Pollen season has officially arrived.  Mark will be extra-sneezy and stuff for the next six to eight weeks.   I think it's making me extra sleeeepy or something -- at any rate, that's one reason why I think I was having difficulty writing the other day.  It was one of those days when I would type and either stream-of-consciousness stuff would leak out or else I would type the same phrases over again.

The last irises were blooming, so I cut them and brought them into the house.  Mark added some lilac and verbena.  I think there will be about two more days of being able to smell their earthy perfume.  I'll have to look them up in some of my books to see if the ancient sages would use them to gain visions or something, because -- as I've written before -- the smell reminds me of a sweeter version of myrrh.  

Working Out:  I went to the gym Sunday.  I tried out one of the elliptical machines as a warm-up.  My arm was doing okay until Saturday when I aggressively yanked my hiking boots while I was tying them:  which my elbow did not like.  I can tell when I don't go to the gym, because my beach-ball/bicycle-tire expands.  

Writing:  I did some line editing, critiquing, and attempted to write over the weekend.  Monday I managed to get up at 5:30 and got a good hour's worth of new work done  on the fairy tale story.  

Friday, May 01, 2015

Oh Ouch, It's May!

Tra-la,it's May!  I woke up with my hands and feet feeling sore.  I'm not sure if I'm fighting off a cold or if the pollen count is messing me up or if some other aspect of temperature and humidity is making things ache.  The result is that I rolled over in bed and woke up again about forty-five minutes later.  My Beltane Fantasy was that fine men would draw a hot bath, then administer massage, and bring some tea, fruit, and not-too-heavy breakfast pastries.

This time of year reminds me again of the NeoPagan practices I used to do.  Most folks call this festival Beltane; I prefer the Ides of Spring.  I'm thinking the last full-blown festival I attended was about eight years ago at the Carl Jung Center for Symbolic Studies in New Paltz -- there were horses and giant puppets and fire dancers.  This year it already feels a bit like Summer -- it's warm, which is nice, and not unseasonable, but it also feels dryer.  For me, the challenge -- especially when I'm feeling the joints in my feet, arms and hands -- is to see beauty in everything.

Dreams:  I dreamed I was putting bleach into my hair with my fingers.  I'm not sure why, but I had the vague notion that it would put blonde (possibly reddish-blonde) streaks in my hair.   I also dreamed that Mark and I and some other folks went on a kind of road trip to a national or Oregon state park.   I think we got on train tracks, and the tracks went through a swamp or over a shallow lake.  I think there was some vague "do I have a ticket" anxiety.  At one point I was at the top of a thick log or tree trunk, which was propped up against a white stucco train station building, and I wasn't sure how I was going to get down if the tree fell -- there wasn't much of a place for handholds.  Eventually, I decided that I could slide down the trunk if I needed to.

Writing:  Yesterday I did some critique.  I was going to finish it up this morning, but that sort of didn't work out so well.  Spent about 20 minutes writing things up before it was time for the rest of the morning routine.

Engery and Art

Yesterday during The Child's Kung-Fu practice, I discovered I'd brought the wrong manuscripts with me, so I turned the moment into a improv-writing session.   I wrote a little from a phrase that had struck me earlier, but it was more a vingette or image and not a character with a reaction.  I looked around the training mats.   Sometimes when the instructors are demonstrating something, their moves are so dance-like that I can almost see the energy they are directing.  I defocused my eyes in order to try to see any patterns along the mat and get a prompt, but nothing presented itself.

Last night I went to a warehouse warming held by a local costumer; she's going to move her inventory from her small warehouse space in town to a much lager space west of town (by our old vet).  The  event was a salon, really, with sculptors, painters, writers, costumers, and musicians all talking with each other.

Ken Scholls performed songs with guitar and harmonica, and it sent me back to the early 1990's when Mark Heiman used to play in someone's room after a Saturday Night of Dr. Who and Blake's Seven.  

After Ken, Cullen Vance, a guitarist/violinist played.  He used loop-tracks to layer what he was doing. His wife, Mia, is a belly dancer and she danced during one number.  I almost asked if they played music for Neo-Pagan ritual, because what he was doing could have really worked well with one.  I wanted to write the performance into a story.

What really struck me was that these people were happy making their art.  They were creating things.  They weren't complaining or dour or grousing (or if they were, it wasn't the dominant vibe).