Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Give Local

I don't know about you, but I always end up doing the bulk of my charitable giving at the very last minute. The word "bulk" is a bit misleading: this year we'll give more than last, but we're still not up to where I want to be, due to job outages, a new roof and an impending new well.

I listened to advice on NPR on WMFE (radio 90.7) about how to choose a charity. They say to make sure the organization is highly rated and uses your money wisely. It was fine as far as it went, but I think they missed a vital tip--give your money to groups you know.

Local charities need your help. You think the big guys lost donors? Hah!

Here are a few locals I will give to, if I can:
Suncoast Basset Rescue (Foster Homes and Placement)
SpayNSave Seminole County FL (Low Cost Spay and Neuter)
Friends of the Wekiva River (Saving the Wekiva River Basin)
Ashton Biodiversity (Studying and Saving Gopher Tortoises and their Habitat)
WMFE (Public Radio and NPR)

I also like this online place for giving, even though they do cost a little. They rate everyone, and I can remember my choices easily from one year to the next:
Network for Good

Big Guys I Like with Good Ratings:
American Civil Liberties Union
EarthJustice (Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer)
World Wildlife Fund
Carter Center (Human Rights)

Happy Giving!

Review, Rework, Revise, Rewrite

I have spent a total of an hour and half on my big plan to revise Blue Loco. Woo-woo. The colored pencils suck for a person with bad handwriting; the chapter tabs are great; and the novel is both better and worse than I remembered.

So far, this process has not been very good for me. What happened to my enthusiasm?

Well, I'll say one thing about that: I think it would be better for me to write and revise all in one connected period, then edit after the material has cooled for a while. No more writing and then waiting two years to revise. It's hard to work on the novel when I feel I'm above it, on a higher plane.

I do think that writing is the only way to get better at writing. We'll see what revising has to offer.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Civil or Savage?

In listening to broadcasts on world affairs today, it occurred to me that there is a basic philosophical question at issue: are the people of certain countries, ethnicities, colors, or creeds inherently or hopelessly mired in savagery, or are all people essentially and on average equally capable of rational thought, kindness, and civil behavior?

I think we often hear arguments based on the former. I hear that Afghanistan is a medieval tribal region that has been fighting continuously for 400 years, and so is incapable of enlightened self-governance. The concept is that some countries or peoples are caught in an earlier time in their march toward civilization, and so can't help that they are violent. The voices recommend that we stop trying to "help" these countries/ethnic groups because they are... primitive.

Is it just me, or is anyone else hearing an alarm bell?

I believe that any group of people, given access to human rights like food, shelter, education, and freedom from oppression, will choose to promote those basic rights for others in the same numbers as any other, regardless of the number of years they have been "civilized."

The people of Afghanistan are not--no people are--innately savage. I think that with access to basic human rights that we in the More Fortunate World take for granted, they will look astoundingly similar to us.

With this disposed of, perhaps we can begin to address why those in the supposedly civilized world commit acts of violence.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Re Vision

Two weeks ago I completed the first draft of a novel that I wrote in just over a month. Two years ago I completed the first draft of a novel I wrote in two years.
I am now starting the revision of the two year novel, deciding that I should finish it first, like doing my homework before I watch TV--if I don't do it now, I'm never going to do it.

The second half of the word revision is the problem: vision. It's like I was blind while I was writing the novel, and now I can see. The plot is holier than a man-target at the sheriff's gun range. I can read road signs through the holes in this plot. And the characters: far from the interesting, sexy people I thought I knew, these guys make me feel like I need special glasses to see them in three dimensions.

I have been reading and talking to people about the revision process. There isn't too much about it in the literature. I think it's like the bathroom; everybody knows you gotta, but nobody really wants to tell you about it. And you don't want to hear, either.

So far, the best advice I've gotten was to read The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey. Mr. Earbrass actually shares a few scraps of the experience of revision, and he comforts me.

Other advice, listed here in no order:
  • Use crayon
  • Write on post-its
  • Revise on paper
  • Don't edit while revising
  • Be prepared to do it 20 times
What I'm trying:
  • Colored pencils (I hate them)
  • Post-its (OK, so far)
  • Post-it tagging the chapters
  • Put the novel in its own plastic box
  • A pretty bag to carry the novel in
I need to throw out half of the plot points. I need to add some suspense. I need to jettison 1/3 of the characters. I need to go back to what I thought I was going to write.

How does anyone get through this? Does it get any better, ever? Most importantly, is there anything about this novel that's worth all this agony?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Barely Counts


Barely counts. I am now an official winner of NaNoWriMo 2009, with 50,200 words and one hour to go.

It feels pretty good, even though I have to admit, I've got a climax and denouement still to write.

Yay for me!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Other Writers, Damn Them

A writing fellow I know, Tom Wallace, has started a blog. It's already more on point, more amusing, and much more erudite than mine, and the problem here is, I have no idea how to indicate that I am sticking my tongue out at him in print. (Blegh? Ffftt? Thwipppity?)
Of course, I have some room for pride: I am still nano'ing, and I'm keeping my word count up despite illness, locusts and driving hail. OK, just one of those. But still, I am definitely up against it.
So I read the week three pep talk from nanowrimo, and apparently, I am supposed to be hating my characters, despairing of my plot, and generally finding myself less than pleased with my novel. In fact, I am very happy with my novel, barring a few issues.
1. Chapter 5 is now three times as long as all the rest of the chapters. What's with that?
2. I think I'm going to have to take the whole thing apart and put it together again in a different order to make cause A happen in front of effect B.
3. I still haven't found a way to get rid of the zombies that showed up during plotting. Damn zombies.
Where comes all this fear that if I am not like other writers, that I am not a good writer? I never really wanted to belong to any fraternity, I suppose, and now I find myself staring in, hoping I am one of those people I always admired.
Jamie at Woodstream told me the other day that what I needed was to send one of my babies out to an agent--ready or not. She's right, and I'm going to do it.
Just as soon as I get rid of those zombies.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

24835

Yes, there is only one channel here at the Middle, and it's called nanowrimo. I have come to feel that this is both one of the silliest and the most educational things I have ever done as a writer.
I have learned that I can write 3 to 4 thousand words a day, easy, when motivated. I have learned that the middle of the book is about 10 thousand pages long, and is awful, and I can only write about a 500 or a thousand words a day there. I know that the next 25,000 words will bring more lessons, and I'm really wondering how much of a pain in the ass they will be.
Silly business? My neck hurts from cramping over a keyboard. I'm starting a new contract job in the middle of this project, and that seems the extreme edge of silly. Also, other wrimos seem to be another country from me. They are weirdly social, and they self-publish a lot. Maybe I will look like a hack by doing this? Oh, well. So be it. The lessons showing me that I could very well be a full-time novelist are worth it. Another silly thing? I am dreaming in cheesy novel plots. Even cheesier than the ones I'm actually writing!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

11892


This is the view from my current favorite writing spot in the yard. My mother-in-law's art pieces, "Windows on the Wetlands" are in view, as are a new hibiscus, an old cedar stump my dad gave me, and an eight year old staghorn fern.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

3411

And we're off to the races!

Or, as my nephew John said this morning, "literary trainwreck has begun--choochoo"

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NaNoWri-What?

I am planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this month. That's National Novel Writing Month, for those pitiful creatures like myself who had no effing idea what it was until I saw it advertised in an email from somebody... maybe STC?
50,000 words in 30 days. One novel, never previously written. Mine will be called "Ephemeral," and I've been thinking about the concept since January of this year. I am really excited about it, and I've told everyone I know (ok, everyone I know on Facebook and my Woodstream family) that I am doing it.
That said, I wouldn't be me if I didn't have something to complain about/fear. I'll just list them:
  • Other writers have been doing nanowrimo successfully for years. I am not a real writer because I didn't know about it, and I haven't done it. I suck.
  • The whole concept of Mary Sue seems flawed to me. I can't write a story in which I like my character, my character is special in some way, and my character has a tragic past? Good grief, I think that cuts out 95% of all fiction. 100% of fiction I like. Does suspecting I might have a couple of Mary Sues mean that I suck? Especially if I think they should be able to live on, despite their extraordinary-ness?
  • These people seem to have a lot of time to write--and to blather on on forums. Are they all unemployed? Or do I just suck because I can't write 50,000 words, work a full time job, do a couple of side jobs, AND blog about it continuously?
  • I have a deep suspicion that most of my co-writers are under the age of 20.
  • I have a correspondingly deep suspicion that I suck AND I'm old.
I'll be back to report my success or failure at the end of November. Possibly January.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Odd Jobs

"The odds are good, but the goods are odd."

This is a comment you hear about finding a man in Alaska, and I've decided that a similar corollary applies to job-hunting in a recession for a smart, experienced, talented person.

Either the network engineer or I have been job-hunting now, off and on, for a year. I have had maybe a dozen interviews--over the phone and in person--and the network engineer has had perhaps twice that. This isn't very different from the number of interviews we would have had during the boom years; what is different is the character of the jobs.

Speaking of my own experience, I have been offered decent jobs for indecent wages; horrifying jobs for laughable wages; weird jobs for questionable pay; and bad jobs for practically no pay. There have been a few notable exceptions, and I'm happy to have the work from these fabulous people, but what is it about this economy that makes businesses think they can lie to, abuse, bait and switch, indenture, and bore their employees?

Here's what I think it is: Businesses with few positive qualities (other than being still in business--and I'm not denying the allure of that) have usually been scraping the bottom of the barrel for talent. Or getting talent while it's young and naive. Or taking advantage of talent too heads down to realize it's being taken advantage of.

In this market, talented, savvy, usually fully-employed people are out of jobs. Bad businesses have never been able to get their mitts on these people before, but now they can. Are the businesses lying? Yes. Are they abusive? Yes. Do they offer one job, but actually employ their victims for another, much less desirable job? Absolutely.

But is this different than before? Not for the bad businesses. They were always like this--it's just that the good employees had somewhere else to be.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Long Time No Blog

I have been working. That's my reason, and I'm sticking to it.

I am going to try out the freelance service called Elance. My co-writer, Gerry W-G, recommended it. I became all depressed when she told me how well she was doing on the freelance/ghostwriting circuit, so I decided to join her instead of crying about it. I signed up as a tech writer/proofreader/copywriter to start.

In other networking news, I gave up my Virtual Vocations subscription. It's been an interesting service, and I got a bit of work out of it, but I can only do on so much at once. I'll concentrate on Craigslist and Elance for a while.

I also joined Facebook. I can't even figure out why--I think I have enough to do, and if I had any time left over from a full time job, some side jobs, and just keeping up with my friends and family, I think I should be using it to write. Oh, how I dislike being a work captive!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prompt: The Art of the Duel

Select two characters from your story, or create two characters.
Describe each character in terms of what they want, their worst flaw, and their best feature.
Write a scene in which these two characters duel each other--physically, verbally or otherwise.

Monday, April 13, 2009

iWork? Pages? -->Back to OpenOffice

Not fond of mykrosoft, when I came back to the land of Mac after years of putting up with a cheap PC, I started using OpenOffice. It had to use X11, it was slow as frozen jello, and its purported 99% .doc friendliness was overrated. So I started using Pages. Pages is good as far as it goes, and its .doc port wasn't terrible, but it lacked some of my favorite features, such as indexing. And, the .doc wasn't that good, really. Writing a novel, I tried NeoOffice (slow), CopyWrite (don't recall), Scrivener (interesting, but overly complex for me), and StoryMill (not featureful enough).
So, I'm back to OpenOffice. So far, all I can say is: not very slow; crashes a lot, but not so much I'm screaming; and has a nice UI. I can't use the TOC as a hyperlink to a page, at least, I haven't found a way. It has a TOC-making style that is just as arcane and likely to screw up as MykroWord--not worse, not better. Oh, and the TOC removal process seems to cause crashing.
I'll give an update when I have more data.

Dream as Reality

Wow. I was reading an article by Dr. Temple Grandin called "Do Animals and People with Autism Have True Consciousness?", and I was stunned by her comment, "Perhaps language blocks access to the subconscious." This seems true to me at an instinctive level. When I wake in the morning, I remember my dreams quite clearly initially, and I marvel over their complexity. I often feel they are the basis for a new story or that I have discovered some great truth, even when the dream isn't a big dream. However, I can't hold onto the dream for long unless I verbalize it, either aloud or in writing. Thinking about it won't work, unless I think in specifics, actually speaking words to myself.
The problem is, once I speak the dream, it loses something in translation. Sometimes I capture a bit of the thrill, but never to the extent I felt while dreaming, and often once I verbalize the dream, it loses its luster.
Dr Grandin says that those who think in pictures (like she does, like animals may) cannot grasp philosophical or abstract concepts. That makes me think of my current fascination with the idea that there are many experiences and emotions for which I have no name, and no way to quantify. There are emotions that have no parallel to any feeling I have had before, and felt experiences that are hard to describe, perhaps impossible to describe, because I have no language for them. It makes them very difficult to remember. But then, having a word for something may only give me a vague approximation of what it really is.
In Plato's theory of forms, what we see is not the thing itself, it is simply a shadow of it. Perhaps my language-less felt experiences are my seeing the thing itself, in all its glory and complexity, and the ones I can name and remember are my pitiful brain's way of creating a shadow that I can grasp.
Maybe the dreams I give voice to are simply Form or appearance, and the dreams themselves are the substance--which makes me think of the aboriginal Australian belief that The Dreaming is more real than waking life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

I'm celebrating having a new project by advertising my new client: the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. The three-week project to help them get flyers and press releases ready for some events was brought to me by Spherion, a headhunter that I approve of because their hiring documents and time sheets are all online! Love that.
Back to ASF: "More than 70 astronauts are helping the United States retain its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination, and exceptional performance in the science or engineering field of their major."
The project I am working on is an auction. If you'd like to own a memento of the space program, check out the items. Bidding starts April 9.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dream Job?

Are you interested for play a role of actor in bollywood movies.
Regards
Tony

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Story Circle

I have signed on as an editor with Story Circle Network, a group "dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives and to raising public awareness of the importance of women's personal histories." I'm excited about the idea of working with other writers on projects of personal significance. The service will, as I understand it, offer editing to women with all sorts of stories to tell--in fiction and poetry, as well as memoir. I'll blog more about it as the service comes online.

They requested a marketing piece:
Mary K is the kind of editor you wish you had in school, when you put your heart into your words, and every red pen seemed determined to destroy you. In her 20 years as an editor and writer, she has developed a style that tempers sensitivity to the music of words with a passion for brevity. Being trained both as a creative writer and a journalist, she loves best when she can help an author discover the truth in stories. In her own writing life, Mary K has written novels, essays, stories and innumerable poems.
Mary K has taught English at the college level, edited fiction, worked in marketing and technical communications, and judged in the annual Florida Technical Communication Competition. She has a master’s in journalism/mass communications from the University of Florida and a bachelor’s in English/creative writing from Old Dominion University. Teachers and writers who have influenced her include Bruce Weigl, Bernard J. Paris, Lawrence Hetrick, Allen Caillouet and Jamie Morris.


Sadly, I had to give them a photo as well. Don't laugh! (Loudly.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dreams of the Economy

I had a series of dreams a few nights ago in which my subconscious apparently decided to address the economic situation. In one, I had a new career in which I was teaching people to practice yoga in bed--sort of a cross between yoga instructor and massage therapist. In the other, I walked into a store in my old home town that was closing and selling the furnishings.
When I asked my friend, NM, about economy dreams, she told me that she had a dream in which she saw a series of ghost towns, empty of inhabitants.
The network engineer says that he had a dream in which he parked his truck with trailer attached at work, which in the dream was a "secure" place, and when he returned, all the sheet metal had been removed from the truck, leaving the intact trailer attached to a bare pickup cab.

How about you? Are you dreaming about the economy?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Volunteering


Saturday I volunteered for the Friends of the Wekiva River event called Riverfest. I helped Deedee hand out programs and later stood around the art display in a semi-official capacity. This was a happy accident, as it gave me time to watch the Birds of Prey show, given by the Eagle Lady.
Volunteering gives me something to do while I wait for my ship to come in, and I highly recommend it to anyone facing the current occupation shortfall. I need more of it.

In the photo (badly taken with my iPhone), Doris' Caracara goes for a walk. Here he (or his body double) is on YouTube.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In Praise of Family


These people are some of the reasons that I don't despair even when money's tight, all the news is bad, and it doesn't seem as if it can get any worse, and it does.

Reservoir or Wellspring?

I realize that lately I have been treating my creativity as if it is a reservoir from which I can only draw so much before it is used up. Maybe even that isn't right--maybe I'm acting as if it is more like a canteen in the desert: when I've drunk all of my ideas, I will die of thirst, so I'd better drink sparingly.
So what is the truth of it? Will my ideas run out if I try to drink too often? Or will they only flow freely when I keep the well primed?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Prompt: Body Art

I dreamed last night that I saw someone being decorated with delicate, henna-like lines, from head to toe. The process itself seemed warm and caring, and the art was beautiful.
For me, lines are related to the process of writing, and henna is linked to the support of women for one another.
Try this: Write a scene in which your protagonist becomes a canvas. How does it happen? Who does it? How does it feel? Is the art temporary or permanent?

Time but no Motivation

When I had a full-time telecommute gig, I was able to write a 400 page novel in two years, plus the beginnings of several others. I wrote almost every night.
When I was laid off, I thought I would spend a couple hours each day looking for new projects, an hour exercising, and use the rest of this unexpected bonus time putting the finishing touches on my novel. Then, when the projects started rolling in, I would ready to submit it to an agent.
Yeah, right: I spent five or six hours a day looking for work, redesigning my portfolio, and brushing up on my skills. The other three or four hours of my usual work day, I read, made phone calls, even did laundry. The time at night that I used to use to write, I began using to fidget, be bored, fiddle. No novel, no exercise...
So, as the projects have started to hobble in in this recessionary job market, I wonder how I can restart my writing habit.
Any ideas?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Artificially Arid

The engineer spent all day yesterday working on the broken water system. Something called an air bladder expired Thursday night, requiring the replacement of the whole tank, because we couldn't find just the part, and all of the plumbing pipes and fittings. As long as he was there, the engineer decided to out in a new filtration system, consisting of a sediment filter and a more elaborate filter, as well as take away all the extraneous bits we haven't been using these last few years (after they broke down, one at a time). Why is plumbing so darned complicated? Fluid dynamics, gravity, chemical cohesion (or lack thereof); it's a mess.
We got up this morning to test the system, and while it is functional for a while, the plumber says it all has to be done over again because some of the parts are faulty. Argh!!!
Thank goodness for the pond (from whence we carted our flush water) and previously mentioned engineer-cum-plumber. How do those without these benefits cope?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nuff Said?

Self-reflection is one thing, but examining my navel lint in front of a (so far, imaginary) crowd is another, less high-minded thing all together. Should I continue the blog?
Pros:
  1. Place for employers to gauge my writing style.
  2. Soapbox for my favorite rants.
  3. Little Zen garden for my thoughts.
Cons:
  1. Silly waste of time.

Hunt and Gather

Two new projects! Two editing jobs to keep the home fires alight. I have had nibbles galore (say, that sounds like the name of a sexy Bond girl), and I've done a lot of volunteer work, but solid paying jobs... in this economy, I feel rich.
However, the engineer and I have been discussing ways to reduce out-go. I have made the point here that I'm trying to continue to support small businesses, but a few big businesses may get less of our money. Our cable provider, whom I like, may nevertheless be partially replaced by something like Boxee and Netflix. Cell phone extras and one of the cars are also possible targets.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cultivating the Gardener


Bok Tower Gardens
, even after a bitter freeze, is a place that inspires me to wonder if a garden is actually the place to find God. The only place that a god seems at home, these days--it's hard to feel spiritual in the grocery store, or while watching the economy implode from my vantage point at the leading edge of the layoffs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bridge to Bassetville


So I've been offline for 12 days. In my defense, I have taken in a third temporary foster basset and I still have the first; and I have been going to two, count 'em, two, writing workshops.

In the pix, Sherman is on the left and Sammie is on the right. To find out about adopting a basset, go to the Suncoast Basset Rescue website.

I love dogs, but I think I'm a cat person at heart. I pay attention to Sherman and Sammie at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and when I notice them around the house, and also when they disappear into the night when left outside for five minutes (Sammie!)

In other words, I treat them like cats.

Friday, January 2, 2009

State of the Wench

It's 2009, even if it took a second longer to get here.
  • I am still looking for Mr. Right-Job, or Mr. Right-Now-Project. I have discovered a raft of job sites, but they all seem to lead to the same five jobs. In fact, jobs I've applied for, and even interviewed for, have not yet been filled. I have attended a seminar on rain-making--by STC member John Hedtke--and participated as a judge in the FTCC competition for 2008. I've started this blog. I've created a new portfolio site.
  • I've planted some kiwis, which may already be dead. Spring will tell. I've painted my kitchen and refurbished a decrepit hoosier with a white enamel top to go in it.
  • I have hosted a sweet foster basset for the last two weeks. I took in another sick basset who died about 16 hours after I picked him up.
  • The novel is tangly and not getting more organized. I have six pages of a new novel idea to keep me warm.
So, that's the state of the wench. How about you?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prompt: Felt Sense

In Plato's theory of forms, what we see is not the thing itself, it is simply a shadow. Perhaps emotions I can name are simply shadows of the real felt sense.

Try this exercise:
Get comfortable. Close your eyes and count backwards from 100, slowly. When you get to zero, try to remember your first kiss. Spend a few minutes with how you felt, but don't try to define it.

When you're ready to open your eyes, describe in words that felt sense. Don't be afraid to use simile and metaphor, even make up words.