January 31

A few words to count--yesterday's though, and not today's. There is no time.

I have choir practice, one more email, and a suitcase to pack. The Spousling and I are off to a b&b this weekend in Santa Barbara. The weather will supposedly cooperate. The partly cloudies don't become showers until Sunday. So one day more or less clear. I hope.

Ideo's slush is cleared, and we close to submissions at midnight--this is not a reminder to send us anything, but a sigh of relief as my attention becomes riveted to the new issue.

With luck, this month will also contain words of my own, and not just the authors I will publish.

I cross my fingers.

As months go, February is short. If one publishes on March 1st, this is not good.

It is also not good when there are four celebratable holidays in the first half of the month, and two presidents' days which require directed draws from the kinders. We begin tomorrow with Groundhog's Day. A week from today is Chinese New Year. The following week, we have the 100th day of school and Valentine's Day. What the hell?!

No one ever considers the poor kindergarten teachers when they distribute these holidays. No. It's feast or famine. And I'm sure whoever is in the conspiracy is funded by Hallmark.

Still, this month?

I am getting the relaxation in first.

And the wine tasting.

Woo! Go me.

2008 Writing Stats
New Stories
Daily Words
Year's Words


January 1/0 words

New year, new... well, maybe not motivations. Not quite.

Desires, or perhaps to be even more specific, wishes.

And the only way I know to make desires or wishes come true is to work at them.

So, in no particular order:

A cleaner house.
Finish the wall quilt for my friend before I see her in two weeks. Don't make her wait another year. (Although six years isn't that bad, is it?)
Pick another room to work on.
Finish the bedroom. (Which leaves drapes, chair covers, and buying that comforter set I've already chosen.)
Write. More. (Seeing that I've done very little writing the last year, some would be excellent, more than some would be amazingly wonderful.)
Nair the dogs. Dammit, they won't let me.
Walk. With the dogs or not, but walk. And hit the gym.
Keep the stress of school under control.
Take more soaky baths.
Laugh more.

That's it for the moment. Figuring out a way to manage two cons this year should be on that list, too.

So good intentions, spurred by the realization that this time is all I have. A friend's death will smack you upside the head that way. And then the notion that vague wantings are not the way to get things to happen. No, you've got to go out there and do something about it, for if you don't, it won't happen.

Mom's here for a few days. She's visiting the kids for her Christmas celebration, and it's been lovely. We tried to see the floats being finished in Pasadena yesterday, but apparently 200,000 other people had the same idea. We gave up and went to lunch instead.

She's ransacked my bookshelves for reading material (Mom: the classics, non-fiction, and house magazines. I have few of the latter, and she has had to fall back on my college literature anthologies.) The latest made me laugh.

Mom: Oh, how interesting! Style things to do with sheets, tables, and frames.
Me: Mom, put that down. It about HTML.

January 3/0 words

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd we're off!

Mom's here for the last half day, and we perform the mom-transfer at 1400 this afternoon. Yesterday included a trip to Ventura with a nice lunch at the harbor and a walk in the old neighborhood where we briefly lived in 1963. There was much counting of houses and attempts to ascertain that the house we remembered was the correct house. Google maps came to our rescue, when we saw the backyard dimensions and I remembered there had been a gap between that last house at the beach's edge (with a swimming pool! How decadent in the '60's) and the tiny ones that matched ours. A quick visit to real estate in the area gathered in the info that teeny tiny 50-year old homes in that area are going for 1.3 million.

We are saddened by the memory that Mom and Dad couldn't afford that 18K pricetag of that home back in the early 60's.

No writing since Mom arrived, no critting, either. That won't happen until I return momless.

Today's activities include a visit to the Getty in LA. I'm looking forward to it. I don't get there more than once every two or three years, but there's so much to see that I'm not going to be done until 2020 or so. Today we'll focus on the ancient manuscripts section, with the paintings to follow if time, and Mom's legs, hold up.

More progress on the bedroom, although it's half a step forward and three back. My idea of what the comforter should be hit a snag when the Spousling rebelled at the color. With a reminder from the Pea, I will now photoshop the dratted thing into the room, with the bed that we will purchase and the slipcover and drapery fabrics on the chairs and window. My mad Photoshop skillz come in handy for the weirdest things.

I have all three kids at home for a few more days. It's been a zoo as kids arrive, leave, arrive with friends, friends leave... Mom's been amused (bemused?) by the fact that Alix's closest friends tap (if that) and let themselves into the house at 11P.

Better that than me running to and from the door all day long.

And now for the Getty. I'll slap some makeup and earrings on, and we'll fight our way into battle with all the bazillion other cars on the 101. At some point, we'll meet up with my youngest sister, but we aren't sure where or when. I just know I'm not driving all the way to San Juan Capistrano to deliver Mom. And I can honestly say, in case my brother, Steve, is paying attention that we didn't allow her to talk to any strangers. (Mom has a history of chatting up released inmates from Corcoran on the train.)

And she really didn't get drunk. Cross my heart.

Though she probably had more wine than you would have given her....

January 5/0 words

I managed to get the antler story trimmed. I think the total amount of wordcount loss was 12%, which made me feel better about the damn thing.

It still feels long at 13K, but until I get some feedback, I'm not mucking around with it again.

No, I have the buttonhole story that I came up with at the 2006 Wiscon, while sitting with Mary in that conference room. Half-written and I have no idea what in hell has to happen next. I'm sure something will come to me in the next month.

After that, the goal is to hit the novel. Again.

Other people can get past 40K and the sense that the damn things are unwieldy monsters; I can, too.

The other accomplishment was also centered around the computer, because I came up with Ideo loot for donations. It's not much in terms of monetary value, but I do prefer to use donations to pay authors rather than in thank you gifts. I'm hoping to get a few made in the next week to keep in stock. And yes, I finally found another use for those icons.

The tile guy arrived to fix the tile which had been badly cut the first time. I'm not certain why there isn't a circle drill, because he had to cut those circles all by hand. But the end result was worth it, and I'm satisfied. One more thing accomplished off our list of things to be fixed.

Most of yesterday, however, was spent in adapting to a third dog. Odie (there's a damn good reason he's named that) is mostly pup, and he spent the entire day and night annoying someone. If it wasn't one of our dogs (Zoey: Ohmigod, save me from this idiot before I stomp him! Harley: I'll just lie down right here and let you trample on me.) it was us. Last night, we finally let him out of the crate and he came upstairs with the other dogs. However, instead of sleeping, he decided it meant time to play with the mostly dead bodies on that bed.

That would have been my mostly dead body.

At some point, the kids all came home and he was distracted by waking humans.

I was grateful.

Until the Spousling's alarm went off at 6A, waking the dogs all again.

January 7/0 words

No actual wordcount for 2008, but I'm not worried. I'm thinking more about my WIPs and that counts.

The revelation that someone on my friend's list had regarding first person narrative has smacked me upside the head. No wonder I'm having issues with my buttonhole story. The kid protagonist has to solve this by herself.

Well, d'oh. And as I recall, that was right where I left her--solving her own problem in the middle of the night.

Maybe this story is horror, dagnabit. I haven't written any since my firefly tale. At least, not serious horror. My warped weird stuff? Oh, yeah.

So yes, think, think, think.

The tree is almost down. I've almost finished the ritual packing, and as usual, I seem to have acquired far more than I took out of those boxes originally, which means, I'll have one more box in the rafters when all is done. It won't be a full box, either. Which means I will have to fill it with stuff to make it earn its place among the other boxes.

Swear to god some of those boxes are going. I know of at least four I didn't touch this year or last, so it's time to look at them and get rid of them.

It's related to my 2008 determination to lose a good chunk of the stuff I've acquired in the past twenty-one years in this house. Thankfully this hasn't extended to my classroom yet, because I continue to buy things for that.

So today is goodbye to Christmas, some dusting and vacuuming because I can't stand the dog hair any longer, and then writing.

I have a story to finish, and an itch to work on it.

January 9/350 words

The first words of 2008 put in an appearance last night. It was a painless birth, for the most part, with only an occasional yelp when a few words clung to the inside of my skull and refused (initially) to take their first breath. Reminders that I had to meet my goal and that the laptop would not be shut down until they cooperated finally convinced them.

Well, that and prying up their teeny-tiny fingers one by one.

So yes, the experience was good. A personal kick in the head to tell me that writing is not all trepanning and blood and ripping out words screaming obscenities.

The interesting thing about returning to a story you've abandoned along the way is discovering what your subconscious was busy doing when you last worked on it. I'd already set up wolves, a thematic touch of Little Red Riding Hood, and consumption. Now that I can actually see those, I can do something about it.

Also? The tricks your mind play? Not funny.

I'd convinced myself that this story was first person, present tense. Not so.

Nope. Third person, present tense. With the result the same: my protag has to solve her own dilemma. With one dramatic ending that just came to me, and that I think is so ambiguous, it could be one of Amber's endings.


I'm going to think about using this one. It could happen to either the protag or her older sister, but while it makes sense for it to happen to Libby, I've set up Cissy, her older sister. I'll have to go back and tweak Cissy's age or size to make it plausible.

Do I know what the hell it means or what I'm trying to say with this ending?

No way in hell.

January 10/420 words

So more words last night, and easier ones for some reason. Perhaps because I had a point that I was writing to, perhaps it was just my lucky day. Again.

Anyway, she's another buttonhole closer to the end.

There's a lot of favorite places in this tale. I love the present tense and the voice it creates, breathless and dreamy at once.

When no creaking bed or footboards answer the call and the house settles into a deep silence that not even Libby's shallow breaths can break, she returns to her work. One stitch. Another. A knot. And her sharp teeth gnaw at the thread, lips drawn back to avoid all touch of fur and hide.

This time there is no blood on her hand, but when the coughing begins, red dots spatter Poppa's handkerchief.

So I'm happy with myriad bits and pieces, satisfied with the way things are setting up for the ending.

No, there's not enough setting. No, there's not enough interaction between certain characters. Really, Cissy is a walk-on. She's there to flesh out the world, to lend weight. She's not there for anything critical, other than to assuage the reader at the end.

If that.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering where my vacation went. I'll head back to school tomorrow for some cleaning and setup for Tuesday. Since Monday is all teacher meetings, I'm not going to get worthwhile stuff done, sadly. And everything is sitting on my table right where I left it three weeks ago. Accomplishments around here continue, mostly of the cleaning nature. I have a list and a deadline.

In other news, the guys are here to finish all the tweaks on the bathroom. Little things need to be fixed. Knobs are reversed, the light on the tub doesn't work, the shower knob that adjusts the flow from head to handle has come loose, one sink has less water flow and slow drainage. Once again, there is banging. But then things will be done, other than stuff we have to do ourselves.

The bedroom is waiting for the comforter until we get the bed. I want to see the weight and what a contrast difference that makes. I've played a bit with the idea in PS, sticking the comforter I currently have onto the bed's image and coloring the carpet. But there's a heck of a lot of light in that room and a lot of gold in the spread that reflects lighter rather than darker. I'm hesitating and the Spousling really wants higher contrast between the floor and spread and walls. Which I'm in agreement with, now that I've thought it over.

The worst-case scenario is that I sew and machine quilt our own comforter (good: it's WELL made, bad: the doing and time spent) and drapes. I love playing with bits of fabric but I'm not so thrilled with large masses of fabric that cascade on the floor and over my lap as I ram them through the Bernina.

Yeah, a weekend, maybe two, for both items. I know I'm whining.

But in my head? That project makes the writing look easy.

At least until I have to carve a hole in my head to excavate words.

January 11/0 words

And progress was had on all fronts.

Okay, so maybe not the housecleaning. Let me dream.

The story's been sticking in my head while I'm away from it, which is good. There's a great chance that I will be able to wrap it up and send it to a first reader before I send it out. I'm thinking this is a story that could actually fit in Polyphony, so it may make a first trip there. If I can tweak it into shape, and if Deborah will allow me to submit it via email.

And that's the best bit of all! It's done! I'm now going back to research bits of late 19th century farming in Montana, so I can up the setting. The whole thing's only about 3K, so I certainly have room to play with it. I'm checking word choices now, looking for opportunities to tighten and nail the voice.

I can't do too much more of that, though. Nothing like a deadline.

Which, actually, is how I got to the end of the story in a flash. I opened up that file after I returned from dropping the Slug off at her meeting, so 6:45ish. By 7P, it was done, and I was so astonished I had to pop into chat and tell people. And then it was time to rush out the door to the theater.

Ain't Misbehaving. Wow.

This is the second time I've seen this one in production, and I was far more impressed with the cast. (Although that could have been a issue with venue--outdoor theater vs. smaller indoor theater.)

Still, it's the personalities that make this musical pop, along with the skill sets of the performers. I was thoroughly wowed by one woman's voice and performance right away. One male's voice knocked me over right in the beginning, and the rest didn't impress me as much because the singing was more about style and performance than voices. Second act, though? Oh, man. Every single one of those people are phenomenal. Plus I was extremely impressed by the pianist who is onstage the entire time, out of view of the seven-piece band that is also playing onstage, and how they all stuck together in terms of timing. Not a single entrance blown.

So yeah, if you haven't seen this one? Add it in to your list of musicals to see. All I know is that the audience last night was reluctant to leave the theater, and stood listening to the band and pianist play to the last note.

And then, if that wasn't enough to make yesterday sparkle, I pulled out an unfinished quilt landscape, finished the accent beading, pieced most of the borders, and will finish putting borders onto the darn thing before I leave.

Yes, today is about setting stuff up for school on Tuesday, and a quick run-through of whatever I'm singing with the group on Sunday, since I couldn't make practice last night.

No time off.

And housekeeping?

I scoff. That'll wait until tomorrow.

P.S. Ants have invaded the kitchen. Again.

January 13/250 words

The last day of vacation. Bummer.

So the focus for today is finishing the stuff I've started and oh, by the way, the cleaning I've put off. Because you know, cleaning is always better when saved to the absolute last minute.

Word count, because the buttonhole story lengthened by an entire page on yesterday's rewrite. Based on feedback from one reader last night, this version is much closer than the last, and I managed to nail the ambiguous ending.

But another tweak (or more, depending on feedback) and this puppy will be ready.

I'm also debating about sending it out the door to Polyphony--only because it seems like it might be a Strange Horizons kind of story.

So, we'll see.

The other project I started (which isn't so much a start as a return to finishing) is a landscape wall-hanging for a friend. I've got to shrink the batt this morning, sandwich the darn thing, and then it'll be a touch of quilting and add the binding and a pocket for the rod. I may even label, although I could mail the label later, and have Karen sew the darn thing on herself.

There may be a photo posted, depending on how well I do with the finishing. Luckily, there's not much quilting going on. I've got layers and layers of fabric in this thing and no way am I killing myself to get the needle through them all.

And did I mention the packing? Yes, there will be packing for I am heading north.

Yay! North!

We did manage a couple of hours out for a movie last night, and say Juno. Sweet, funny, and I found myself near tears a couple of times. Well worth the money, and if it hadn't been for the noise in the main theater as other movies let out, and the silly woman who left to talk on her cell but didn't manage to close the door to our theater as she did so....

Minor details. Hopefully your trip would be less annoying.

But there was ice cream at the end! A real treat, because we hit a nearby Coldstone's. My inner ice cream glutton is happy for the moment.

Motto for the day: Damn too much to do and not enough time.

January 15/100 words

I spent the last two days ruthless editing--and I lost a page and a half. Yes, there were new words there, maybe 100 total, but the others? Squeezed out in a desire to tighten.

I'm still trying to figure out what I can do about the story if two out of three readers don't catch the metaphor. So, I've tied the cough syrup in with the medicine show man, and I hope that creates a link that was unavailable before. I'm not tired of the story by any means, just wishing I was better at burying hints. There's also the worry that because this one (like so many of my others) has a historical touch, maybe people don't have that era's background in their memory banks as well as the Civil War or WWI eras. My time period fall between.

Anyway, more work on that tonight.

The dogs are usually good, but this morning Harley has been hunched in front of the stove and barkingbarkingbarking.

Dead mouse? Dead something else?

After getting on my hands and knees, I finally found the prize: a rather furry chunk of meat that had fallen as the Spousling cooked chili last night.

I defurred it and handed it over.

Great hunters need their rewards.

It is back to school this morning, with kids and everything. Rumor has it that several of my kids are excited to return.

Geez, I wish I was.

January 27/200 words

I booted Buttonholes out the door yesterday, and because chance pointed me in the right direction, I'll have another leaving on the 1st. So, two! And one new, at that.

I love Januaries--the month of good intentions done right before the other months demand their fair share, and drag me into the mire of good intentions gone horribly wrong.

So now, I'm working on a new story. One which needs me to research predictions marketing as utilized in business organizations rather than the stock market proper. It's a whole new world out there, peoples, and using the collective mind to determine where a business will go is (or will be) a new Big Thing, if it's not already. (I have my doubts. There's just not quite enough links when I google 'prediction marketing'.)

It's not quite jelled in my mind; I certainly don't have all the bits that I need to make it a viable story, but the protag has a glass eye that allows him to read the future, so it's all good. I haven't decided yet if he can act to change the future in small ways to suit himself--avoided being splashed on a rainy day would be one--because I can visualize how a small action begets more and more possibilities that one would have to choose between. Think branching trees, with the main branch veering off into new branches and new choices. I think it would drive anyone nuts, trying to predict the fallout more than a step or two ahead. Grand Chessmasters excluded, of course.

And the other characters? So far, the fates. Who just happen to own a knitting shop.

I have no idea how they're all going to run into each other, but rumor has it that they will. And soon.

As I was jotting notes and creating this story idea out of random bits of nothing, I managed to type the one thing that changed the protag from the current guy to the fates. I immediately erased it, and stopped focusing on losing the glass eye. The fates, once they became aware of his abilities, would be all over glass eye retrieval in a flash. So, hey, how about outright failure of the device?

Yes, and then life as he knows it goes to hell at work.

And the fates step in.

Now, judging from yesterday's idea gathering process: seashell oracle->talking to the dead->Samodivi->
leip-bya->glass eye! (Don't search for connections there; there aren't any.) The damn thing's going to morph a lot more before it's written. And I may very well throw what I've written out, even though I've got it set up for my protag to drop the damn thing in the bathroom stall, and have to crawl under the others to retrieve it.

Hmm. No wonder my characters hate me.

January 28/505 words

Words magically appeared last night. I must trust Mary Rickert more. Writing on faith does seem to be working for me.

Remember that concern I had yesterday? The one where I didn't know how my protag (currently named Wiggy, until something viable comes his way) was going to meet up with the fates?

Well, d'oh. As I completely ruined his day after crawling under stalls in the men's bathroom to regain that eye no one knows about--he's impulsive, this kid. I'll say that--his car broke down in the rain.

On a Friday night, after 6P, on a block of small specialty stores. Only one is still lit.

Voilá! Problem solved.

I didn't even think of that until I had him parked by the side of the road and, I discovered, with rain pouring down.

There's a tendency here for me to want to base it in the city. (San Francisco, which after twenty-some-odd years down south, still remains 'the city' in my head. LA can't possibly compete. It's too sprawling to be one city.)

Which would put my fates in the Mission District, I think. Lovely. Or on that one block north of San Francisco State off of 19th.)

It's not perfect. I don't have a real feel for how one would manipulate data from a prediction futures project within a company. I don't know what's wrong with the car, exactly. It overheated last night, but that could change. After all, Wiggy's got to get home sometime. Maybe the fates will intervene on this one, too.

I just have to keep the ball in the air.

Do I know what happens in the next scene?

Of course not.

This is writing by the seat of my pants.

In other news, I have slaughtered untold thousands of ants since these last two storms began. Enough to earn the fear of ants everywhere, even if they don't heed conventional wisdom and stay clear of my kitchen.

January 29/0 words

A new story, once it gets hold, is the point when you fall in love. You smile sappily into its eyes, paying no attention to Reason and Common Sense whispering in your ear that it's only going to cause you grief in the end when it doesn't sell, even though editors entreat, "Send me something else."

No, you're too blinded by the romance, the sweet way it has with words, the promises that it will love you, and only you. Forever.

And it will reiterate this promise right before you discover it dallying in a back room with that slut of a protag, sheets rumpled, and cigarette at the ready.

The current darling, following a breakdown on a Friday night after 6P, as a cloudburst hits and he remembers his umbrella is warm and dry under his desk:

Wiggy practiced creative cussing all the way to the door.

Which, thankfully, was unlocked, and he wandered into a brightly lit yarn shop with a bunch of old ladies equipped with spears the length of his forearm.

The entire room turned to stare. At him.

Dead silence.

What guys don't knit? Wiggy essayed a smile as he counted only three heads, while the name of that football player who did floated in his head just out of reach.

The nearest biddy, the wizened possessor of a mass of wrinkles even an elephant would be proud to own, nodded. "Rosey Grier, dear. And it was needlepoint. But close."

After torturing him by fates who can read his mind, he's come to the conclusion he's had enough.

Screw him. Wiggy is taking up knitting.

Moral: Do unto your characters before they do unto you.

Staining Snow: Ideomancer, October, 2003
Nine Tenths: ASIM, Aug/Sept 2003
Charlie's Harley: Farthing, forthcoming