Browsed by
Month: April 2011

Portland adventures

Portland adventures

Hi! No, I didn’t abandon my blog again. I’ve been away, in Portland, Oregon, which is a fabulous city I want to spend more time in.

I went because my dear friend, TOC-mate, favorite beta reader, and Inkpunks co-blogger Wendy N. Wagner got married! At a magical cottage in a park. That was the impetus for the packing up the whole family and heading up there, but we managed to fit in a LOT of activity in a very short weekend jaunt.

Thursday we arrived in Portland, and just took it easy with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who graciously let us stay with them. This was John’s first time meeting this branch of the future in-laws, and naturally they all liked each other and it went beautifully.

On Friday we took my youngest daughter with us to go meet up with some old friends of mine, Tim and Sara. I’ve known Tim since 1995–we met through fandom, naturally, specifically Star Wars fandom, and he’s been madly in love and living with Sara for several years now. I knew he had planned on asking her to marry him a while ago, and then life happened and wedding plans had to be postponed–so I was thrilled when he announced that they had been stealth-married on April 11! Huge congratulations to a perfect couple.

Next was dinner, with Tim, Sara, Andrew Fuller, and Wendy. That was technically my first time meeting Wendy, a fact which I have forgotten periodically over the past two years. We email each other nearly daily, and have served as each other’s crisis hotlines for the past year–she is such a sweet and genuine person, and it was great to be able to spend time face to face for once. Andrew, too, is open and charming, and I was very glad to get the chance to meet him. There seemed to be a Bald Editor thing happening at one end of the table (Andrew, in addition to being a writer, is the editor of the Three-Lobed Burning Eye zine, now in its tenth year.)

Correlation between baldness and editorial brilliance? PERHAPS.

After dinner (most of which I didn’t eat because I was too busy chatting) we headed over to the Cedar Hills Powell’s for a reading. John introduced himself and his books, and then Wendy and I both read part of our Way of the Wizard stories. Wendy is a delightfully theatrical reader, and her story went over very well. My reading went MUCH better than the one at AggieCon (it did help that there were nearly 40 people this time, instead of six!) I got to meet several more Twitter friends and some of Wendy’s family, and generally had a great time. We ended the evening by heading over to Wendy’s wedding venue and helping out a little with the setup. She is so DIY-crafty and her ideas were so cute! My eight-year-old and Wendy’s daughter hit it off at dinner and by the end of the night were absolute BFFs. Similarly, my oldest wanted to take Wendy herself home with us. (Me too!)

Saturday morning John and I went down to Powell’s Prime before the wedding (my aunt graciously brought the kids to us there after they went to the Saturday Market) where John signed stock…and the famous Gold Room Post! His name now dwells with those of legends.

John signing the Powell's post

And then…wedding time! I’ll let this speak for itself.


Saturday night we went walking around Portland with my family and revisited Powell’s with a little more leisure time. I indulged my recent obsession with Mt. Everest by buying a copy of Into Thin Air to read on the plane. I got to catch up a little bit with my aunt and extract her official endorsement of my upcoming marriage. (Always a relief.)

Sunday was a travel day, and the day of the Big Announcement that we’d been sitting on for the past two weeks. We were standing in LAX when the Hugo ballot was announced: John is up for Best Editor, Short Form; Lightspeed is up for Best Semiprozine; and Carrie Vaughn’s “Amaryllis,” which appeared in Lightspeed’s very first issue, is up for Best Short Story. The only disappointment I have about the final ballot is that Adam-Troy Castro’s “Arvies” didn’t make it, which I consider a travesty, especially given that the category only has four stories in it this year. (It did make the Nebula ballot, though, so I guess I shouldn’t be too sad. It just seems more Hugo-aligned, to me.)

Very happy for John and everyone at Lightspeed. And man, so many other great nominees in every category. If you haven’t seen the ballot yet, take a look.

So all in all, it was a very busy and happy weekend. But now it’s Monday, and time to get back to the reality of the day job, terrible dogs, and an unfinished novel. Hope you had a great weekend too!

Belated Caturday

Belated Caturday

Spent today out at Sanford Winery with our friends Paula and Allison. They’re spending the night here tonight and allegedly making us huevos rancheros in the morning! John ate four different varieties of Thai cuisine tonight and enjoyed them all. (I know where we’re going to Date Night from now on!)

I hope you had a great Caturday also. In lieu of anything meaningful or educational, here is a picture of our cat. (Allison, incidentally, is horribly allergic and has been a truly good sport about having this animate bit of nonsense trying to rub on her all evening. Yay, Claritin!)

Suki and the butter chair

Suki and the butter chair

I was going to start posting Caturday pictures of Chewbacca, since he seems to be a crowd-pleaser (and I lurve mah kitteh.) I feel like the dogs deserve some attention, too. Today’s post is about Suki: a hyperactive, not-too-bright, easily stressed out Labrador/German Shepherd mix. This is weird, because Labs and German Shepherds are both notoriously smart, reliable, trainable dogs. Suki got the short stick. That’s okay, though. She’s sweet. Some of you have heard this story. I won’t be hurt if you skip it. :)

Suki, the Mostly Good Dog (despite what we may say about her.)

Suki has a bad habit of self-mutilation when she’s under stress–I suspect that she picked it up when she was left at the shelter, because she’d been with the same family since she was a puppy up to that point. They gave her up because “she had too much energy” and they’d just had a baby. I can totally see not wanting Suki around a newborn–she steps all over herself and us all the time. It just wouldn’t work.

When Suki is stressed out, she paws at her nose until it bleeds. I actually adopted her because of this–I saw her picture on Petfinder and her face was a mess. My last dog, Sugar (also a shelter dog), did the same thing to herself whenever she was left alone, so I knew what it was, and knew the odds of a scabby, torn-up dog being adopted were pretty slim.* (You can see in the picture that her nose is mostly pink–that’s all scar tissue, where she tore away the black that used to be her nose. Poor puppy.) :(

When I first got her she was pretty traumatized, and acted out in all kinds of ways. She’d spread the garbage all over the kitchen. She’d shred the sofa cushions. She would pee on the carpet several times a day, rather than go outside where she couldn’t see me. (I fixed that by going outside with her until she would “go potty” on command.) I would feed her in the morning before I left for work, and when I got home her kibble was untouched. I’d have to stand beside her while she ate. And she would steal food from the kitchen–but only easily-hoarded food, usually loaves of french bread. She would then bury these in the couch cushions, presumably to survive on in case I left and never came back. Every time she did something like that, though, she would get anxious–she knows that’s a Bad Dog thing to do, and it stressed her out. She would paw at her nose until I cleaned up the trash, or unearthed the loaf of bread and scolded her. Then the pawing would stop. So I came to recognize a raw, bloody nose as a sign that Suki had done something wrong.

One day I noticed that she’d been at her nose in a bad way. So I do my rounds–garbage, uneaten. Sofa cushions, untorn. Nothing hidden in the cushions, no food being saved for an emergency. Huh.

She kept at it, though. I couldn’t figure it out. Bathroom trash? No. Grace’s toys? No. She had clearly done something she felt terrible about, but what was it?

At bed time I was walking around, picking up a few of Grace’s toys, and spied something that looked like it had slid behind the cushion of the chair the Suki likes to nap in–Grace also likes that chair, and would often play there. I reach in absent-mindedly, thinking I’m about to grasp a Polly Pocket doll or something, and my fingers go squish. I pull my hand out quickly and examine my fingers. They’re covered in some kind of substance. Possibly organic. Definitely gross.

Suki in the chair that is her favorite, presumably due to its delicious flavor

I reach back in, more carefully, while my dog sits there looking at me dolefully with her crossed brown eyes and red, weeping nose, and I pull out…a stick of butter. In the absence of bread, she had found a wrapped stick of butter that I had left on the counter to soften, and had hoarded it in a new place. You know, in case of apocalypse. Points for resourcefulness, anyway.

Suki seemed so relieved to be yelled at. Her tail thumped wildly against the floor and the pawing stopped once again.

She’s a lot better now. Her nose gets raw if we have to put her outside for extended lengths of time, like on Game Night when there are just too many people for her to not be in the way. And occasionally the trash is just too delectable and she MUST lick the wrappers of John’s protein bars.

So while Chewbacca the Cat tends to steal the limelight, and we still call Suki The Terrible Dog, and I still haven’t sewn up the couch cushions she destroyed the day after I bought the damn thing, I really wouldn’t trade her.

This is much grosser than you could even guess. But y'know--love.

*If you see a dog like this at the shelter, and they tell you it’s “sunburn,” it’s not. They are not seeing the dog do this to themselves, because in the shelter they will do it when they’re alone in their run. They said the same thing about Sugar. Please adopt–that’s a dog who just needs security.

A spoonful of sugar

A spoonful of sugar

You know what I hate? First drafts. I hate them a LOT. I know not everyone feels this way, some people find them freeing and thrilling, but for me the single most painful part of the writing process is getting that first draft done. I am less able to lock my inner editor away than I was even a couple of years ago. It is always in my head, screaming at me with every word I type, that my work is bad, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I have too far to go and with this crap there’s no way I’ll ever get it right.

That’s my experience with Temperance so far. 500 words here, 1000 there. All forced out through the keyboard slowly and painfully, with that inner asshole screaming at me the whole time.

The part that I love is revision. Cut it up, put it back together, change this inadequate word for a better one, add a new scene to increase the tension, fix it, polish it. Watching that godawful first draft turn into something that kind of makes sense, and then finally become the story I was trying to tell–for me, that’s the fun stuff.

It seems to have occurred to my beloved that perhaps focusing exclusively on doing something I hate, such as a first draft of a story I am deeply invested in, wasn’t going to work out. He suggested that I have a backup plan, such as revising one of my old novels. Not necessarily do that instead, but in addition to. Just in case Temperance isn’t ready for Taos (which at this rate, it won’t be.)

He knows me so well, and always gives me good advice. So I dusted off Found Objects (a YA urban fantasy I wrote a few years ago), started reading through it, and surprise, surprise–the weight of the world came right off my shoulders. This is the fun stuff! And that makes the agonizing stuff more bearable. I suspect that I will be taking Found Objects to Taos instead–I really didn’t want to workshop a first draft.

Not only did the anxiety I’d been feeling specifically about Temperance lift, but my crippling sense of loserdom went with it. Suddenly it wasn’t about what I can’t do, won’t do, am a fool to consider doing (welcome to the inside of my head, enjoy your stay), it was about what I could fix, create, change, and do. To the point that I was able to even add a couple hundred words to a short story and start a new one.

Those of you who have been doing this noveling thing seriously for a while seem to work this way already–revise Novel 1 while working on Novel 2. Now I understand why. Maybe you’re the type who hates the editing but loves the freedom of the first draft–in which case you’re probably making the editing bearable by creating something new along side it.

I had an email conversation with a friend who was feeling that same sense of loserdom. I told him that just doing something–anything, really–might help. Maybe, or maybe not. I know that 500 words on Temperance wasn’t making me feel much better. That’s bitter medicine. So the trick, I guess, is to do something you’re good at, that you enjoy. For me, fixing broken stories is the sugar that makes the other stuff palatable.

Which is the medicine and which is the sugar for you?

The scariest thing about starting a novel

The scariest thing about starting a novel

Historically I haven’t been very good at talking about my works in progress. I’m still not. I think that’s because I’m usually trying to talk about something that’s half-baked. That’s how it’s gone in trying to talk about this novel, Temperance. I tried to talk to John about it in the past, and bounced some things off of John Remy when he was here visiting at Christmas, but in those instances it quickly became clear that the central ideas in the story couldn’t yet stand up under much questioning. It just wasn’t all there.

Last weekend was different. I knew I wanted to use my home town as a template for the setting; I really love this town and it has an interesting and tumultuous history that is often overlooked. In the months since I first tried to talk about Temperance I came across an interesting and particularly tragic bit of local history, and suddenly the story was about something important. In talking to John over dinner on Sunday I started to sound less like a babbling idiot and more like someone with a story to tell.

This is a huge relief, because I really didn’t want to start writing it until I had a really good grip on where it was going. The weight of the commitment to Taos convinced me to start it twice already, even though it felt like it was too soon. The first time the work was lost (Protip: Do not use the beta version of any product for important work; Dropbox won’t save you if the application itself isn’t saving the file when told to) and the second time…well, what I wrote just isn’t right. This time I’m pretty sure it will be.

I have a really aggressive writing schedule planned in order to have a first draft done in time to workshop it at Taos. (It would have been nice to workshop a revised draft, but oh well.)

None of this has anything to do with the title of the blog post! So I’ll get to that now. The scariest thing about that aggressive schedule is sinking a huge chunk of time into something that won’t see the light of day for probably two full years, maybe more. It’s time that I could put into short stories, that I could finish and submit in a month or two. It’s time wherein I’ll have one project, partly done, for a long, long time.

There is no instant gratification in writing a novel. Maybe this is why I’ve never gone beyond the first draft of one before now. It takes something more than the joy of making something for me to commit to that kind of time, to sacrifice the time I could have put into something else that would be done sooner.

It’s kind of like putting my entire writing career (what little there is of it) on hold for an indefinite length of time on the gamble that eventually this novel will be worth reading. I’ve been doing short fiction almost exclusively (my novel forays are usually November novels, and I’ve never seriously revisited one for revision) since I started writing seriously in 2002; I only got good enough to sell anything last year. To put a halt to that right now sometimes seems like a terrible idea.

But I think this is the right time to write it, so I’m going to go ahead and take that bet.

In case I forget how it goes

In case I forget how it goes

I don’t know about you, but usually the first thing I need to do when I start a new project is clean my desk. Declutter, break out the Windex (my desk is glass) and get rid of all of the stuff that chips away at my concentration.

I did that on Friday. I also finally put up the present I bought myself from this store on Etsy a few weeks ago. This is what my writing space looks like now:

And I’ve written. Not a lot, only 1500 words or so, but that’s how this journey of a hundred thousand words begins. It’s a lot of really awful writing right now, mostly throat-clearing that’ll be cut later, but it’s something.

Hope you all had a great weekend!

The thing about whining on the internet…

The thing about whining on the internet…

…is that it typically gets three kinds of responses:

1. Silent eye-rolling. Hey, I don’t blame you. It gets old.
2. Encouragement. My friends are awesome at this. It helps.
3. Identification. When people email or comment that they are right there with me and totally get it and are so glad they’re not alone.

Number 3 is the pay-off. That’s why I don’t keep my whining to myself when the Unhappy reaches a certain pitch.

Many thanks to everyone for the advice and encouragement. And for those who are in the depths of loserdom with me, let’s take this weekend to turn it around, and get some fiction written. It might be painful at first (who am I kidding, it will probably be painful) but we’ll get through it.

We’re writers, damn it.

Happy Friday!