Less bad, more good

Well, I did it; I broke down and went to the doctor. Aside from the cost, I just dislike going for medical help. I’d rather take care of myself, be all holistic and stuff. That usually translates into weeks of illness, but luckily only once or twice a year. This year has been no different. After two weeks of coughing, part of which included being unable to speak for days, and feeling poorly, I gave in. Now I’ve got antibiotics and nasal spray and pills galore.

Consequence? Feeling less bad, but still not great. Not exactly how I wanted to spend my week off.
The ever-present, silver-lining analysis is that I got to finish Ian McDonald’s The Broken Land in record time because I’ve been lounging around reading, in addition to watching the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings DVD set and most episodes of Firefly. And eating ramen.
Today, I got up off the couch and cleaned my desk! Woo! Then I jumped on the computer and did my best to whip three other people into action on an academic manuscript we’ve been aggressively procrastinating with for almost a year. It occurred to me that my timetable for completing the job before summer is fairly short, and after summer, I don’t plan to care about academic garbage for a long while.
It has been a pretty good day.

Clarion West, and a theft

I’m thoughtful and mostly calm about my Clarion West application, so far, not like last year’s histrionics. I finally joined the online forum for applicants, so I feel connected to the collective angst.

For my application, I submitted a revision of the story that I used last year as one of two stories for Clarion (the other one), and it feels a little crummy to do that. First, if it wasn’t accepted last year, why use it again? I’m convinced it’s a promising story, and I made some changes for the better. Second, I realized I’ve been working since last year on two stories that I’ve not yet finished. To be fair, one is a novel, and I wrote several flash pieces in the meantime, but the output otherwise is pathetically low. One thing that NaNoWriMo taught me is to let go of some responsibilities so I can write more, but the increase in pace has been marginal.
So, what’s the problem? Some of it, I think, is the fact that my favorite ideas, the unfinished ones, are ones that began with a seed, not a whole picture, whereas the finished ones hit me all at once. They were complete pictures that just needed to find a way out onto the page. I’m still floundering around trying to figure out what those unfinished stories are really about and how I want them to end. Now, I know that’s not inherently a bad thing, but I get stuck and can’t seem to get unstuck.
The other issue is discipline. If I don’t work consistently, it’s not going to happen. I spend way more time reading than writing.
Anyway, enough whining.
On another note, someone stole a big wooden statue of Buddha from my front porch. What kind of dick steals a Buddha? It galls me a bit. I don’t feel especially angry, though. I hope thieving individual at least gets some spiritual satisfaction out of it, however tainted. I should write about it, if for no other reason than spite.

To V or Not to V

Okay, that’s really awful. I must be tired. So, I’ve spent a productive day tidying up loose ends so I can enjoy the rest of my week, stress-free, at Florida Pagan Gathering (camping+bonfires+hopefully, writing), and then I procrastinated the night away watching the pilot episode of the new “V.”

Tiny review, with spoilers: not bad, but not great, either. I love the cast they’ve assembled, including Battlestar, Firefly and 4400 alumni, but that’s no guarantee. Morena Baccarin as Anna the alien Visitor is dead-on, easily the best casting choice and acting talent. I love Alan Tudyk (FBI guy) and Joel Gretsch (a young priest) although lately Alan Tudyk’s stint against type as Alpha on Dollhouse totally tagged him as potential baddie, which this episode quickly confirmed. However, the show’s major problem, so far, is pacing. It felt like several episodes crammed into one: don’t set up a crazy-sounding conspiracy theory group and reveal that they’re legit in the same hour, don’t try to make the viewer like your platonic-nice-guy FBI partner and then reveal him to be an vicious alien bad guy, don’t hand us a likable priest who doubts the Vatican’s word that the Visitors are a blessing from God and then have him joining a potentially violent resistance group. I like characters who with rounded corners and angsty hearts go through gradual changes of motivation, give up on their dreams or compromise their ethics for the greater good with lots mental hand-wringing. V just isn’t capturing that.

Enough talk! Me write now.


So, I’m alive, and in spite of the fact I haven’t posted in FIVE FRIGGIN’ WEEKS. Two unfortunate things have happened, causally relating to this:

My cat threw up on my laptop. Seriously, I am not making that up. Right in the middle of the keyboard, so now a bunch of keys don’t function. Maybe I could have had some fun with synonyms, trying to work without those keys, but since one of them is A, another is W and another is Delete, I really couldn’t manage. I must use Delete more than any other key (it takes the place of the PC Backspace).

Also, I have a high-maintenance guest in my home in the form of my mother-in-law. That might sound amusing until you hear that she has Alzheimer’s. That condition is not without some humor, as anyone caring for someone like that can tell you, but mostly it’s a pain in the backside (sorry, honey). I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say, it’s distracting, and six weeks of it is too much for me (four down, two to go). I haven’t written much of anything other than lesson plans in weeks.

Stir in wacky offspring who resists sleeping and homeschooling plus the stress of three different not-fun deadlines on top of gearing up for Fall teaching. I was kinda close to mental breakdown at one point, but somehow recovered with help from loved ones, and I’m invigorated by the directed study I’m teaching. So, here I am!

In the interim, I got a rejection from Every Day Fiction, which I’m actually a little relieved by. After submitting, I started to think my piece really didn’t fit in with what they do there, in terms of themes people seem to enjoy as well as quality (only sometimes, though). Not to sound sour grapes-ish, but I’ve been aggrieved by the appearance of typos and other issues with more than a few posts. That is really not snarky pseudo-superiority, that’s just the English teacher in me talking. I’ve not been published yet, outside my freelance news features and academic stuff, so I can’t gripe there. It’s just that with some of the issues I’ve seen, it rankled a bit that my rejection note encouraged me to rework the story and submit to a “more forgiving” venue. But I’m glad for another reason: that story’s been percolating a little in my head, and I think it could be a traditional-length piece with some work.

Look for more regular postings from here on out.

News from the Front

You know it’s bad when I get too busy to write. I’m sure “lifestuff” is the death of many a blog, but not this one, thank goodness.

Major developments include new responsibilities as co-chair of worship at the UU, and the realignment of my entire house to accommodate new housemate. Between these two, I’ve been a little pre-occupied.

Maybe I was also avoiding the blogosphere so as to shield myself from the amazing good-times stories of folks who are at this very moment blogging the writing life at Clarion Writer’s Workshop. I want to know, but I don’t. I got over the politely worded rejection I received a few months ago, and I’ve trained my brain on next year’s possibilities and this year’s publication efforts. Reading about the adventures of the “got-ins” may send me in the wrong mental direction.

I’ve also been logging lots of gaming time, which takes me out of my world and problems for a while and translates as quality time with friends and spouse. Big-time, late-night fun playing Spirit of the Century and Arkham Horror, eating junk food and laughing. On the downside, I’ve been driven insane and devoured by Yog-Sothoth.

Where to Get Ideas

If I could stop procrastinating, I could write at least fifty short stories from all the story-starters in my “percolator,” a big blue binder that houses my writing life. I used to make the excuse that “I would write if I just had some ideas.” But I have gobs of ideas; they fly at me from everywhere. Sometimes I capture them right away (QuickVoice, people!), but some escape.

My best places to get ideas, if you need a few:

  • Random words I overhear: (“I’d be dead by now if not for her,” “We just wanted a quiet holiday, I swear,” “This tractor is a time machine” (okay, my kid said the last one, but it’s still pretty cool)
  • BoingBoing, a usually interesting blog (especially Gadgets)
  • Wired Magazine (they’re kinda snarky and sensational sometimes, and have permanent wood for anything gadgety, but ideas emerge)
  • Dreams (really!)

Obviously, my ears perk up to tech topics, and that’s where the fresh fodder for sci-fi hides out.

I think the key is to write down anything vaguely interesting or catchy, even if it sounds absurd (especially if it sounds absurd).


This is my first post since April! I think what happened is all that responsibility stuff I was raving about finally overwhelmed me to the point where I stopped thinking and just kept moving. Survival mode. Then I purged it all at a bonfire. All-night dancing and celebrating. I was caught off-guard by the level of catharsis I experienced. People talk about that word, catharsis, but I wonder how often they actually experience true release. I think that was my first time.

So now, I have no excuse to procrastinate, haha. While all those pressures have eased up with the ending of the spring term, I am at risk of becoming overwhelmed by the summer to-do list I’ve made for myself. You know, all the fun stuff I never have time to work on. I realized that I tend to pile stuff on, like I’m afraid of sitting still. So, I making myself take a day off, sit still one day a week, all summer. I’ll see how long that lasts, I guess.

Just For Once

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by too many choices, I’d like to feel bored.

So why start a blog? It’s one more choice, one I can settle down with for a few moments and not feel guilty. I chose it.

Today, I should have been doing specific things (a list was even made). These activities benefited other people, generally, not me. I am a chronic volunteer; it’s damn near pathological. It must be the validation I receive from being needed that convinces me to volunteer in the first place, but later I experience ongoing sensations of being trapped from which there’s only momentary relief.

I chose to avoid those activities and spontaneously built a sad-looking compost bin out of old bricks I had in my garage. They were old and painted yellow: one split when I chucked it out of the garage into the yard. I stacked the bricks in a Red Rider wagon and hauled them around to the other side of the house. I pushed a row of them down into the wet earth and then stacked more on top, the result is something like the ruin of a burial cairn. Sweat ran down my stomach and soaked into my shirt, and I had dark, dirty bits under my fingernails. I raked up leaves and filled the space I’d built, then rushed inside to retrieve the plastic bowl full of kitchen waste to make my first deposit.

It was weirdly satisfying. About an hour was spent on that little project, an hour that I wasn’t being “productive.” No one helped me, and it’s unlikely I’ll be validated or praised for it in any way. Why’d I do it? I’m not going to dwell on the why and wherefore, just the satisfaction. Whatcha think about that?