So, I Wrote A Book in About Two Weeks

This is me sticking my head up, well, from writing most of a book in two weeks. I discovered something about myself this month. Several things, actually. This post is primarily for writers, so if you don’t care about the novelist’s process, check back in a few days for updated pet pictures.

In the meantime, here’s some stuff I learned:

1. If I can get characters and plot really nailed down, I can write forty thousand words in two weeks. Now, I’ve never written more than 25K words in a month before, so this was a revelation.

Unfortunately, it took me fourteen months to get to that point. Next step is to figure out how to speed up *that* process.

2. I have a hybrid plotting process. I start out by writing with no concrete plan, but maybe a vague idea of the major plot points. Then when I get 30-50 pages, I can’t go any farther without knowing what happens, which is when I start to plot in earnest.

Now, that first 30-50 pages isn’t necessarily all the first part of the book; it might be all the really pivotal scenes from beginning to end. Or it could be one or two of them.

The first kiss, the turning point where the hero(es) figure out the big conflict is inevitable and decide how to handle it, the closing scene–any or all of them could be in there. After that I have to figure out the holes and fill them.

For this last book, I ended up making a list of scenes, then color coding them: pink for the heroine’s character arc, blue for the hero’s character arc, green for the relationship arc, black for external plot, and yellow highlighting for scenes that hadn’t had a version written yet.

From June 1 to June 26, I added more than 43,000 words to this manuscript, cutting about two thousand (that I counted). The next step is to send it out to critique partners and beta readers and see if what I wrote actually makes sense.

And then I send it to my editor with fingers crossed, LOL.

At Last, Something to Say

Have you ever had one of those periods where you just have nothing to say? I’ve had six weeks of it.

Went to a kick-ass hands-on workshop on self-publishing, taught by Boise mystery and SF writer Ken McConnell — no comment, everyone knows Ken has mad skillz

Sent a novella out for critique with plans to self-publish it — no comment since I haven’t really heard much back yet.

Stock market hits record highs — no comment.

Stock market tanks 200+ points in a day — no comment.

Bombs at the Boston Marathon — no comment (really, what can you say other than “Oh my god, so horrible, so horrible” and everyone else is saying that).

West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion — no comment (see Boston Marathon, above).

Linked In e-mail that a friend has endorsed me for my knowledge of Unix — wait, what? I don’t know anything about Unix. Okay, I can spell it and name the most popular distributions (Red Hat and Ubuntu), but I can’t install it or use a command line at all. The only command I know is SUDO, which is very dangerous in the hands of a Unix-ignorant person such as myself. What in the wide-open world is going on over at Linked In?

Oh. I had something to say about that. I guess I’m out of my no-opinion slump.

February was a busy month

V-PAP, diabetes, cerebral events in dogs, you name it and it probably happened last month.

Spooky Man got off of all but one pain medication, turned 55 (which is specifying the number of years, but it explains sooo much), got his driver’s license back and bought a used Hummer. It’s the H3, the little version that actually gets almost-not-disgusting gas mileage. But it can still go up a 16-inch vertical curb.

He wants to get back to rockhounding this year, and says we needed a vehicle that can go into the mountains. Okay. It makes him happy, so I’m happy. Mostly.

He’s finally going to get some treatment for his sleep issues — we found out he has obstructive sleep apnea AND central sleep apnea — which could help his blood pressure, blood chemistry (cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar are all affected by crappy sleep), and pain levels.

Central sleep apnea is when you just forget to breathe altogether for a while, which scares the bejeebers out of me. His second sleep study introduced the VPAP, a machine that not only keeps your airways from collapsing, it will periodically increase the pressure to remind you (force you) to breathe.

Unfortunately, the workup to get one requires at least four doctor appointments — chest CT scan, echocardiogram, two-hour “pulmonary test”, and multiple consultations with the somnologist (sleep doctor). And this was after the two sleep studies.

And all this while I was getting diagnosed with Type II diabetes and starting my first Metformin prescription. Some people have a mid-life crisis and buy a sports car (or a Hummer), but my family’s rite of passage is insulin resistance and the first Metformin prescription. I’ve been fighting it — since I got off the steroids in 2008, I’ve lost almost 50 pounds. Just this week, I crossed the line between morbidly obese and moderately obese; only 40 more pounds and I’ll be down to overweight! Sigh.

Corticosteroids are evil. I’m just sayin’….

At least I impressed my doctor enough that he didn’t send me to diabetes education camp. And when he said it would help me lose more weight (those last five pounds I practically had to chisel off), I held out a hand and said, “Gimmee.”

But enough about the humans. Hank had a minor stroke (droopy left ear, droopy left side of his face) and his left back leg swelled up for no particular reason. One $400 ultrasound later, he’s been diagnosed with “Shar-Pei Syndrome” and put on a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (think Advil, but it’s called Rimadyl because it’s a slightly different molecule).

It’s supposed to help the swelling and a possible cause of his stroke — immune-mediated vasculitis, which is also part of Shar-Pei Syndrome. I’d never heard of it before, but a Google search confirmed it’s a Thing. At least it has an inexpensive treatment.

So that’s where I’ve been all month, instead of writing blog posts or working on my WIP more than a few sentences: At a doctor appointment. I’m hoping we’re done for a while and March will be relatively doctor-free.

A Very Good Day

Sitting on my bed with my laptop, no errands to run today, cup of tea at my elbow and a cat sleeping on top of my feet. All of my loved ones are in fine fettle, Spooky Man’s birthday present is on its way (he will be an unspecified number of years old, plus one, on February 5).

It’s a very good day, indeed. I hope your day is going just as well.

The Dark Knight Rises, Crashes and Burns

This is my opinion on the movie’s story as it made it to the screen.

I just might be the last person in my demographic to see The Dark Knight Rises; Spooky Man and I watched it on cable last night.  OMG, was it entirely too much story for the format. The screen-time was listed as 165 minutes, and it was edited so tightly that the first 45 minutes didn’t even make much sense — that means the poor editor had to use a machete for scenes that would have filled in the story blanks. I found myself looking at my watch 30 minutes in, which is never a good sign.

It’s not all bad — great acting, great special effects, top-notch costuming, makeup A+, fab cinematography. But. Oh yes, BUT…the story, the plot, were almost as bad as the 120-minute chase scene/11-minute plot known as Van Helsing. Just because the genre is action/adventure doesn’t mean the plot can be a hot mess. Messrs. Nolan…what were you thinking? Your plot has holes suitable for semi-truck passage, two abreast, and yet you couldn’t properly tell it in two and a half hours.

Bane, Bane, Bane…the appropriately named villain has this convoluted plan to destroy Gotham City, because (as we learn in the last 10-15 minutes of the 2.5hour+ epic) he’s Miranda Whats-her-Name’s loyal lapdog.  And she wants to destroy Gotham City (which she was trying desperately to save via fusion reactor in the last Dark Knight movie) because…Bruce Wayne’s mentor-cum-nemesis Raza Gul, defeated and killed by Batman at the climax of the last installment, was her despised father!

Wait, what?

Well, Raza banished Bane, her protector in the (really) hell-hole prison in the middle of nowhere where she was born, because her pregnant mother bought Raza Gul’s freedom by taking his place there. But by getting Miranda to the escape area and too high up for other prisoners to grab her (you escape by climbing up the side of a deep well), Bane was attacked and horribly maimed. He ended up too ugly for Raza Gul to cope with (remember, this was the guy who wants to destroy all world order to bring about ‘balance’ — but he can’t stand to look at someone disfigured), so they were thrown out of the League of Shadows. And she HHHHaaated her father for that.

At least until Batman killed him. Then suddenly he wasn’t such a bad guy and now she has to finish his work and fulfill his dream of destroying Gotham City because it’s simply too corrupt to continue existing, even though she was trying to help it right up until daddy Gul died. And Bane went along with it, because, apparently, whatever Miranda wants Miranda gets. Including killing herself in order to nuke Gotham City on a psychotic whim. Yeah, it turns out that Bane’s an enabler.

See how badly they torture the logic to make six hours of story fit into 2.5 hours of movie? Plus there’s a love triangle — will Bruce end up with Selina Catwoman-with-a-heart-of-gold, or Miranda the-do-gooder-shapeshifting-to-double-crosser? Plus there’s the comeback aspect — can Batman overcome the physical and emotional battle scars for one more great fight, even when Alfred begs him not to before leaving him in a fatherly huff?

And did I mention the Robin figure? No? Well, he’s there, although he goes by James, not Robin. And oddly enough, not Dick Grayson, although you would think…never mind; this story has bigger problems.

The Dark Knight Rises has grossed more than a billion dollars. Obviously, there are many, many people who didn’t have the same difficulties with the plot that I did. Good for them.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Ends of the World through History – an Infographic

I have an unhealthy fascination with doomsday prophecies. What can I say? — They make me chortle with glee before they go splat almost as much as after the splat. I know, I know, but it’s so much fun.

At any rate, here’s a little something for my fellow oddballs, an infographic on Doomsdays Through History:

Times the World Was Supposed to End (at onlinepsychologydegree.net)

With thanks to Allison Morris for the heads-up.

And then there was the little gem I came across on…hmm, was it Facebook? Tumblr? Don’t remember, but it said something like this:

I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve survived like five Doomsdays already.

I really need that on a t-shirt, I think. Or maybe a coffee mug. Well, I’m off to Cafe Press….

Happy 13th Baktun, fellow survivors!

Things that go bump in the night

I’m not a target market for most paranormal romance or urban fantasy books currently in print: There is no such thing as a vampire, and there is no such thing as a shifter (werewolf, dragon, yorkie, hamster — whatever you choose, it ain’t happening). Thus, I have a great deal of difficulty reading books with this sort of monster as a main character. Or in the book at all.

Why? Because of the physics and biology of the thing. Really, it’s the same reason nobody in my science-fiction books is going to have a romantic relationship with an alien. Ever. Bestiality makes me gag.

First of all, vampires are dead (the root of undead is dead; look it up). If you have a romantic relationship with a vampire, it’s necrophilia — euww…just…euww. Plus the fact that vampires are ‘immortal’ and they can create other vampires. Even if a vampire created one other vampire per decade, and that other vampire created one other vampire per decade, you get a geometric progression and after a while (it doesn’t matter how long of a while because they unlive forever), there’s nobody left to eat, just vampires. And then they all starve to, uh, death.

I realize this stems from the perfectly human desire to stay young and not die — I’m big on not dying, myself — but really, sleeping in a coffin and eating people (particularly when you don’t know where they’ve been and what/who they’ve been doing)? Sorry, I have other ways to accomplish the same thing that don’t strain my logic circuits nearly as hard.

And then there are shifters…sigh. Have you ever broken a bone? Dislocated a joint? Torn a muscle/tendon, heck, had a really bad cramp? They don’t go away in two seconds. Bones that snap and relocate themselves take weeks to reknit. Weeks. Sometimes months.

Do not let the word magic cross your lips in defense of this trope or you will be subjected to an eye roll — I’ve been practicing with teenaged girls, so my technique is almost ninja-class at this point. You will not survive.

The problem is in biology and organic chemistry; cells can only work so fast.

So a shifter will not turn into a wolf/panther/dragon/hamster/rhododendron for three nights in a row and then go back to normal for three and a half weeks, sorry. And if your bones, muscles and tendons start reshaping and rearranging themselves, you’ll be too busy screaming in incredible pain to be very menacing to anyone.

Plus there’s the whole mass factor–120-pound human female becomes a 70-lb North American wolf bitch. There’s 50 pounds of flesh missing in that equation. Or better yet, she turns into a 6-ton (12,000-pound) fire-breathing dragon! Where did the 11,880 pounds of scales, wings, talons and etc. come from? Dark matter? Insert derisive snort here.

All this rant is not against paranormal stories in general, but for pity’s sake, at least try to make them non-ridiculous. Have you ever come across phenomena you can’t explain? I have.

I live with a man who can tame any animal within seconds of meeting it; he once chittered at a feral rabbit on the VA medical center grounds and it started hopping to him. He wasn’t even speaking rabbit; it was the same noise he makes to talk to squirrels in our back yard. (It’s rather odd to wander outside and catch one’s spouse having a conversation with a squirrel, but I have done exactly that. That’s one of the reasons his blog name is Spooky Man.)

Not to mention the dogs, cats, bunnies, cows, llamas, goats, ferrets, and whatever else that have tried to follow him at the Western Idaho Fair. Spooky Man is not allowed in the animal barns unaccompanied.

Plus, I’ve got a ghost cat in my house — I have seen the black shadow of a long-haired cat flitting from one room to the other and we have no long-haired indoor cats. Even Tuffy, our long-haired outdoor cat (who refuses to become an indoor cat), has a Maine Coon-style outline, which doesn’t fit Ghost Kitty. Yeah, we named the ghost cat, which shouldn’t be surprising since I live with, well, Spooky Man.

However, I’m the one who scares away ghosts, identifies flying objects, explains magic powers (with string theory, but still…), and generally explicates the inexplicable. This is why I’m not a target market for paranormal romance and urban fantasy. If I were living the X-Files, I would be Scully.

Marroooo! The Cat in the Pack

I have a cat who, I think, thinks he’s a dog. I have another cat who will speak dog if Spooky Man asks him to.

What does this have to do with “Marroooo!”? Well, we took Stuart to the vet last summer with Hank the dog. And he discovered — again — that he doesn’t like car rides. We discovered what he sounds like when he tries to howl like Hank: Meeeoooow. Meeeooowww. Maarrroooo!

This is all backstory.

Tuffy, the outside cat, recently had to spend the night inside because Spooky Man was sure it was going to be Too Cold For Outside Cats. At four a.m., my darling man got up to use the facilities and Tuffy — wide awake because all self-respecting cats should be out catting around at four in the morning, thank you very much — meowed and chirped to go outside, please.

Spooky Man said, “Okay, you can go outside if you give me one ‘maroo’ and one ‘maroo’ only.”

Tuffy immediately said, “Maroo?” Yes, it was in the form of a question. A rather puzzled question, too, actually.

Spooky Man let him out. It took me 15 minutes to stop giggling and go back to sleep. This is the sort of reality you can never put in a novel because it won’t be believed.

Ma-ma-ma-marrrooooo!

What I’m Thankful For This Year

1. I can feel my feet. (This wasn’t true in 2005; I’m much better now and thankful for it.)
2. I have someone to love.
3. I have interesting work.
4. I have enough money to pay my bills, give to those in need, *and* save for my old age.
5. There are new books to read. Lots of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to folks in the U.S.

Now that the election is over, I can say it

“Well-paying jobs” must be stricken from American English. It is a phrase that makes no grammatical sense whatsoever.

“Paying” is a gerund, a linguistic sleight of hand that turns a noun (or an adjective) into a verb. The problem with this? Um, pay is a verb. Paying is also considered the present tense of the verb “to pay,” but only in specific cases, and it usually requires a helper verb (He *is* paying the rent vs He pays the rent.).

There’s no real reason to create a gerund from a verb, unless you are among those who believe that extra syllables make a word more important (utilize and use don’t actually mean the same thing, for example, although many people use them interchangeably; these are normally the people who opt for the longer word).

So, now that the proverbial “they” have made a verb out of…a verb, these folks then proceed to turn it into a compound adjective by applying the adverb “well” with a hyphen — when they actually remember the hyphen, but that’s a different issue.

The net result is a construction that sounds off when spoken and looks off when written. Why? Because of the double-sex-change of the verb to try to make it sound present-tense (a verb thing) when acting as an adjective (which, like the honey badger, don’t care). See? This is why it makes no sense.

What is a “well-paying job” anyway? Logically, it’s a job that pays well. I would consider a person who has a job that pays well to be well paid, wouldn’t you?

Oh look, there’s the construction the media and politicians should have been using for the last two years: “well-paid jobs.”

That’s definitely it, because “well-paid jobs” doesn’t make my inner grammarian cringe. There, I said it. And I have no regrets.

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