Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Post if I Want To

Yes, it’s my birthday. And what better way to celebrate than with a blog post?

Okay, I can think of plenty of better ways to celebrate a birthday, but the blog post is all I’ve got. Although I did treat the grandbaby and myself to McDonald’s for lunch. What can I say? You gotta have something bad for you to celebrate the day with, and it’s not like anyone remembers to make/get me a cake (I refuse to make my own anymore). So fatty food it is! ;-)

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been doing so great on my goals for the year so far. Um, in fact, the only one I’ve followed so far is the reading - I read a book of fairy tales over the week end. Sandman’s Fairy Stories to be precise, it was a thrift store find in really good shape.

Last week I still had Monday and Wednesday off from babysitting, so you’d think I’d have all kinds of time to write and craft and settle into a routine. But, well, did you forget this is me we’re talking about?

Since it’s a new year, I think it only far that I start with a new numbering system for my excuses. Therefore, I present excuse #001 (notice the optimism that I won’t be exceeding three digits worth of excuses for the year): cleaning.

If you read my Other Blog you know all about the bathroom renovation. For those of you who don’t... In a nutshell, the in-laws got one of those walk-in tubs and since their old tub with the jets in it was only a couple of years old, they didn’t want to just trash it so they gave it to us. This necessitated a remodel of the main floor bathroom, which has been an ongoing project since September.

Anyway, in the course of things the hubby used an electric sander on the walls and even though he had the door shut a toxic cloud of dry wall dust settled over the entire house. Especially in my office, which is almost right across the hall from the bathroom. So, from Christmas through New Year’s I spent a considerable amount of time in my office, cleaning away the dry wall dust. By Monday it was mostly clean again, but I still had to put all the stuff back where it belonged. By the end of Monday (last Monday, not yesterday), all that was left was de-hairing the reading nook (which still isn’t done).

Excuse #002: the tile guy. The friend the hubby was going to have show him how to tile the bathroom became unavailable, so he hired someone to just do it. Tile guy (who did an amazing job) showed up shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and I was too intimidated by his presence to work in my office, even though the desk was now cleaned off and everything was organized.

Tile guy finished up on Friday, which brings us to the weekend and excuse #003: I got sick. *sigh* Stomach issues with slight back pain on Saturday, turning into more increasing back pain on Sunday. And Monday. Today the Advil finally kicked in so I’m not feeling too bad *knock on wood* but ... you know, it’s my birthday. So I figure this blog post should count for something.


At any rate, this is the time of year I usually use to shake things up a bit on the blogs, so don’t look for any kind of consistency or actually sticking to the goals list until the dust settles after I’ve finished thinking about what I’m doing.

Me. Thinking. Might be dangerous. At the very least I’m sure it’ll be interesting. ;-)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Goals Versus Resolutions

Do you set goals for yourself, or make resolutions? As far as I’m concerned, they’re pretty much the same thing. The difference is that you break a resolution, but you fail to achieve a goal. Neither one is a particularly nice word, but at least with goals even if you fail it gives the illusion you at least tried.

As is traditional, we start with a recap of last year’s goals first. I was light on the goals last year, there were only five of them:

Blog more often.
Write every day.
Read every day.
Spend more time on crafts.
Lose more weight.

So how did I do?

The blogging was directed more to this blog, where I noted that over the course of 2015 I’d only posted 14 times. Well, in that respect I really outdid myself. I posted 86 times to this blog over the course of the year. For my other blog I was actually down by 3 posts.

Write every day. Nope, not every day, but enough days to keep me going at least.

Read every day. I may not have read every day, but I read enough to surpass my Goodreads pledge of 52 books by 7. Okay, actually, it was more than seven - I kind of lost track of the books I read in November.

Spend more time on crafts. Well that was a great, big, no. Other than a few crafts for Christmas I really don’t have anything to show here.

Lose some more weight. Oooo *hangs head in shame* Not only did I not lose weight, I actually gained some. During the hot, humid summer I fell right off the healthy eating and exercise habit, and while I’ve been better at watching what I eat, I still haven’t regained the exercise habit.

So...other than blogging and reading, I’d say 2016 was a bit of a failure, goal wise. Which brings us to this year:

1. Keep up with the good reading habits, but include a non-fiction book every once in awhile. I’d like to say once a month, but knowing me it’ll be more like once every other month. ;-)
2. Get back on the healthy life style band wagon. I’m a diabetic, and I also have IBS, and my last check-up showed my cholesterol was higher than it should be. So no matter how much fun it is to lie in the ditch watching the band wagon continue on without me, it’s time to chase that sucker down and climb back on.
3. Get out of the house once a week. And by out of the house I mean something other than babysitting or grocery shopping. It could be a walk, or a movie, or taking in the monthly poetry reading, just so long as it’s something.
4. Less gaming, more crafting. If I want to do something mindless in front of the TV at night, crocheting or knitting is more practical than hidden objects games. Who knows, I could even get a jump start on Christmas gifts - toques for everyone!
5. Find a routine that balances what I need to do with what I have to do. I think that one’s pretty self-explanatory. I like my routines, and I get a lot more accomplished when I have one. But it’s also got to be flexible enough that it can be adjusted when life throws me a curve ball, as it so often does.
6. Write every day. I’m not going to set myself a daily word goal because I’m still trying to find a routine that works. As long as I write something - a sentence, a paragraph, a page... - I’ll be happy.
7. Write a flash fiction or short story once a month; maybe even submit one or two. I used to really love writing short stories - it seems kind of silly not to write them just because I’m writing longer stuff. Why not do both?

So there you have it. Seven achievable goals for the coming year. You’ll notice I don’t have anything there about self-promotion. I’m going to keep writing and keep publishing, but I’ve been fighting with the IRS for an ITIN number (which means I’ll get 2/3 of my royalties instead of 1/3) and until I win this battle I don’t see the point making myself crazy with the promotion stuff.

And also, as seems to be traditional, I’ll be shaking things up a bit posting wise. I’ll probably still do the wordage report, but I’m re-thinking the quotations thing. While the quotes are continually changing, the advice they offer is much the same. And I may, or may not, talk a bit about what I’m reading currently. But NO book reviews! I made that mistake on a different blog and I’m still getting emails from publicists offering me books to read. Thanks anyway, but I’ve got plenty of books to read!

Truth is, I’ve got way too many books to read. Weeding them out is a traumatic experience. And a post best written another day. ;-)

So ... what are your goals/resolutions for the coming year?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Christmas Eve!

There are so many beautiful Christmas songs out there that it makes it hard to choose. But here are a few of my favourites:

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Solstice!

Just to warn you, there probably won't be any writing related posts until the New Year. Between baking and crafting and the enforced visiting, there's not much time for writing or writing related things. You know, like getting An Elemental Earth read through for the last time and sending it off for formatting and publishing.

Soon, my pretty new book, soon ...

In the meantime, here's some Christmas cheer for you, starting with the traditional tree picture. Aside from the Hello Kitty on the top, the lights, and the two cats jockeying for space underneath it, all the ornaments are hand made. This was a tradition started many years ago by my daughter and I - we'd make a new craft each year and sometimes we'd even make enough to give to friends.

Next we have some traditional Christmas videos. And by traditional I mean my tradition - I always start with the funny ones. Next post will be more serious Christmas videos, and on Christmas day I go with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Writing Versus Christmas

I’m sure there’s a way to balance the writing and the holidays, but I haven’t found it yet. NaNo’s finished and then all of a sudden, EEEK! Christmas is just around the corner!

I still have one big scene to write before I can call the NaNo draft done, but it’s being very illusive. And after making a list of stuff I have to get done before Christmas I’m pretty sure it won’t get done any time soon. And while I’d like to think that once the holiday madness is over I can settle into a routine, I’m already starting to feel like I’m losing my momentum.

I guess it’s time to start putting my money where my mouth is, eh? I give all this advice on finding time to write, and making time to write ... and by writing I don’t mean letters, emails, and blog posts. I mean actual writing.

The time I was hoping to have set aside for writing every day isn’t exactly working the way I expected, so I’m going to have to find a new time. Maybe even a new story as well - something shorter perhaps that I can fit in between all the baking and crafting and shopping.

You know, it’s kind of like the exercise thing. It seems like it takes forever to get into the habit of doing it every day, and it doesn’t take long at all to get out of the habit again. I fell off the exercise band wagon back in the summer when it was so hot and humid, and my last check up with the doctor has proven that I need to get back into it again. But it’s hard.

Baby steps. Instead of 45 minutes a day on the bike, I’ll start with 15. Maybe even 15 a couple of times a day, just to get me back in the habit. With the writing, instead of looking for those big chunks of time I’ll try finding smaller ones spread throughout the day. It sounds good in theory, we’ll see how well it goes in practice. ;-)

Meanwhile, for the rest of the month I’ll probably still post at least once a week, but I’m not going to do a wordage report per se. There’s just no point when my writing schedule is so up in the air. I spent the weekend going over the notes my editor gave me on An Elemental Earth and making the editing lama face as I made changes. You know the face, this one:

At least I think it’s a lama. Whatever. The point is, that was the face I was making as I read her notes and realized she was right. There may have been a bit of fist shaking and a few “Damn you!”s in there as well. ;-) But I only have one more read through, just to make sure the changes I made make sense, as well as one last check for typos, and then I can send it back and the wheels of publication can be set into motion.

Which is, I think, a blog topic for another day.

In the meantime, here’s another excerpt from my NaNo novel, just because. :-D

“A day at the beach?” Maykayla repeated thoughtfully. “I used to love the beach as a kid - I can’t remember the last time I spent any time at the beach. It sounds great.”

“Did you say beach?” Jeffy’s voice came from the door to the kitchen. Jonathan cursed under his breath. Abraham appeared behind their little brother and spread his hands wide, mouthing “I’m sorry.”

“Can I come too?” Jeffy wheedled.

“No, you can’t,” Jonathan said forcefully. At the same time, Makayla said, “Sure you can.”

They looked at each other. Jonathan barely managed to keep his ire in check. Couldn’t she see the beach was just a ploy to get her alone again? They’d had a great time out on the island and even if they weren’t soul mates he saw no reason why they couldn’t repeat the experience.

But there was Makayla looking surprised at him turning Jeffy’s request down, and Jeffy looking all woebegone, and he had the feeling he’d just gone down a point or two in her estimation. He glanced over at Abraham who studiously ignored him, helping himself to breakfast instead.

“Fine,” he said with a long-suffering sigh. “You can come with us. But you have to promise to stay out of trouble.”

“Great! I’ll go get my stuff.” Jeffy was about to take off, but Makayla snagged him by the arm. “Breakfast first, young man.”

  To Jonathan’s surprise, his little brother acquiesced immediately. Apparently he was quite taken with Makayla. It made him almost wish they really were soul mates, she fit into the family so well.

“Why don’t you come too, Abraham?”

Jonathan almost choked on his coffee. Was she going to invite the whole damn family?

“Oh, I don’t think...”

“C’mon,” she urged. “The more the merrier, right Jonathan?”

They all looked at him and he mustered up a weak smile.”Sure,” he agreed, really having no choice. Then it occurred to him that if Jeffy started getting tired or too annoying, Abe could just take him back to the castle and he’d have his alone time with Makayla. This just might work out after all.

“Kay’s right,” he said with a little more enthusiasm. “The more the merrier.”

“Well, I really should...” Abraham waffled, but Jonathan gave him a faint nod to let him know it was all right.

“You can’t spend all of your time squirreled away in that lab of yours, you’ll turn into a mushroom,” Makayla said.

“Well, we wouldn’t want that now, would we?” Abraham said weakly.

“What’s a mushroom?” Jeffy wanted to know.

“It’s a kind of fungus that grows in dark places,” Makayla said with a smile.

“What’s a fungus?”

“Oh, how do I explain that one? A fungus is a living organism, like a plant, but it’s more like a soft, white, spongy mass, usually attached to trees in the woods. Mushrooms usually have stems and rounded tops to them like hats.” She sat back with a laugh. “If I had my sketchbook with me I’d draw you a picture of one. Remind me later and I will.”

“Okay,” Jeffy said happily. “Hey, Abe, Makayla thinks you’re soft and spongy.”

She sat up straight in her chair, looking alarmed. “No, that’s not what I--”

They all laughed, and Makayla reached over to tweak Jeffy’s ear. “I can see where I’ll have to be careful around you!”

They finished their breakfast and went their separate ways, agreeing to meet in the main hallway in half an hour. Jonathan was already making plans on how he could salvage the day.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Is It Over Yet?

There were times, over the past few weeks, that I didn’t think I was going to finish the NaNo challenge. Times like when I got sick and had a zero word count for four days in a row, or when Netflix just had to release the Gilmore Girls reboot the last weekend in November.

If you’re registered with the NaNoWriMo site, you can look me up (I’m Lady Cat) and check my stats. Apparently my usual pattern is to get off to a slow start and then halfway through the month I start catching up. This year was no different.

What was different for me this year was the way I wrote my story. I started at the beginning, but then I had an idea for the ending so I skipped to the end and wrote that. Went back to the beginning and fleshed it out a little more, but got an idea for the scene just before the end so I wrote that. Worked a little on the beginning again, and got an idea for the scene before the last scene I’d worked on at the end. And so on, and so forth.

At some point I made a list of what was supposed to happen between the beginning and the end and I looked at this list and didn’t think it was enough to make it to 50,000 words. I think there was like three or four scenes listed. But surprisingly, these scenes ran really long.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish the challenge, but I liked my story enough that I really didn’t care as long as I was able to finish the book. And I think the thing that surprised me the most about it was how there are no plot holes. This is almost unheard of for me during NaNo, especially given the way I was jumping around in the story. I have one more scene to write and then it’s done. It may not be pretty, but it will be complete.

So that was the best part about NaNo. The disappointing part was the local NaNo experience. When I learned we had a couple of official Municipal Liaisons I was really excited. And that excitement lasted for the first couple of write-ins, but went downhill pretty quickly after that. The MLs had a lot of enthusiasm, and they used their own money to book places for write-ins and provide snacks, but they weren’t very well organized. And the one was pretty chatty during the write-ins.

Seeing as I haven’t been doing any blog posts lately, I didn’t see the point of doing a wordage report - as you can see by my NaNoWriMo widget on the right, I got over 52,000 words written for the month of November, so that should be enough for anyone.

And because you’ve been such a lovely audience, here’s an unedited excerpt from my NaNo novel, The Eros Portal. This is near the beginning where my main character is out looking for her friend’s cat (that she’d been looking after while her friend was away) who’s escaped from her house:

Makayla trudged on for another twenty minutes or so before she could no longer see where she was going. Had she been able to, she would have seen how the tracks circled back towards her house about fifteen of those twenty minutes ago. What she thought were tracks were really just the indentations made when small clumps of snow fell off of the tree branches in the faint wind that had sprung up.

“Damn it!” She looked around and realized the sun had set. With no clear idea of how far she had come, she could be in serious trouble here. She’d always wanted to live out in the country, so the surrounding woods had been a big selling point of her house. And while it was great in the summer to have the privacy and few neighbours, in the winter it felt very isolated.

Everything looked the same in the dark. If she was lucky, she’d be able to retrace her steps. If not, she’d be as lost as Mittens.

“Stupid damn cat,” she muttered under her breath.

A flash of blue light off to the right caught her attention. It flickered, like the light bulb was about to burn out. It couldn’t be from the highway, could it? She’d been walking for a while but she didn’t think she’d walked that far. And she hadn’t been going in that direction, unless she got turned around somehow.

Didn’t most people walk in circles when they walked without something to guide them? But that didn’t really make sense either, she didn’t have a blue light in her house. Shrugging, she made for the light anyway. Light meant people, so even if it wasn’t her house it was bound to be one of her neighbors, not that she had many of those.

The light was further away than she thought and she was getting dangerously chilled. Her fingers were totally numb. What kind of an idiot took off in the dark in nothing but a sweater? No hat, no gloves ... But the sweater had been right there and she would have lost precious time going back through the house to the back door for her coat. This is what came of being in such a rush. She was probably going to end up frozen to death while Mittens was curled up on her porch having a nap.

The light was still ahead of her, and the woods were growing denser. Had the trees been this close together on her way in? She pushed through some shrubbery that still had a few dead leaves attached to it and stopped to stare. A doorway of iridescent blue light filled the space between two slender trees.

“What the hell?”

Makayla took a single step forward and stopped again. Then she took a couple of steps to the side and the door seemed to disappear. Moving back to her original position, the door shimmered into view again.

As curious as the cat she’d been looking for, Makayla moved forward, one step at a time. A ripple went through the shimmering blue and she paused for a second. The light settled back into a staticky glow, like the snow on the TV when the cable went out.

Another step closer and the snow turned blue again and seemed to clear a bit. It was almost translucent. One more step and she could see vague images in it. It wasn’t the woods in behind it, it was something else altogether. Some place else.

Maybe it was some kid’s science project - holograms or something like that. His parents probably made him set it up out in the woods in case of accidents. Like, if something shorted out and set fire to something. It was pretty advanced looking, if that’s what it was.

One more step and she was able to reach out and touch it. It tingled on her fingertips, a ripple effect spreading out where she touched. It wasn’t until she tried to pull her hand away that she realized what a stupid thing it had been to do. She appeared to be stuck fast.

Makayla yanked her arm back but her fingers remained glued to the shimmer. In fact, it actually seemed like the shimmer was pulling her hand further in.

“Oh, no no no!” She twisted and turned her hand and her fingers turned easily, but they wouldn’t let go. “Hello? Is anybody out here?” What kind of person set something like this up in the middle of the woods and then just abandoned it?

“Hey! I could use some help here,” she yelled. Surely whoever made this couldn’t be too far away. Wouldn’t they need to monitor it or something? “Look, I’m sorry I touched your experiment or whatever, but I need you to shut it off.”

There was no answer. Millimetre by millimetre her hand was being enveloped in the glowing light. No matter how much she pulled it refused to let go of her again. Digging her heels in she tried to wrench free, but slipped on the damp ground and only succeeded in causing her whole arm to become enveloped.

Panting from the effort, she glanced around but she was surrounded by darkness. It was getting really cold out. It was starting to hurt to breathe. She didn’t bother calling out again, if there really was someone out there it was obvious they were only going to watch, not help.

While the point of contact with the light tingled, the rest of her arm didn’t seem to be affected at all. She tried wiggling her fingers, but the rippling effect made it impossible to see through the door. Looking at the ground where the light made it easier to see, she looked for an electrical cord or whatever was powering the thing. There was nothing that she could see.

There weren’t many options here. Maybe she should just get it over with. Steeling herself, Makayla took a deep breath and then stepped through the doorway. She was aware of light and heat and then nothing at all.