Feb 28

Apparently, I dare not

Fell one short of the January-February 2005 Short Story Rewrite Dare (Apprentice Level) at Forward Motion. The goal was 4 stories of at least 1000 words each rewritten and submitted by midnight tonight. I actually submitted 5, but one was a turn-around with no editing — “Real Monsters”, which will appear on The Harrow Real Soon Now (maybe tomorrow) — and the other was a flash — “In the Hands of an Angry God”, 400-something words submitted to Vestal Review— so they don’t count. The ones that do count are:

  • “A Time for Every Purpose” (Fantasy) submitted to Quantum Muse 2/2/2005
  • “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” (Horror or Dark Fantasy) submitted to Cemetery Dance 2/28/2005
  • “Carrion Comfort” (Dark Mainstream or Literary) submitted to The Chattahoochee Review 2/28/2005

On the other hand, I’m ahead of the game on my submission goal for 2005. I set a goal of 1 per month finished and submitted, and I have 4 so far. Yay, me!

I’m going to skip the next Dare and work on Washed in the Blood for a while.

Herb magic

Set out some more herbs today:

Sage
Sweet Marjoram
Greek Oregano
Bee Balm
Lemon Balm
and for the youngest of the family: Catnip (as if she weren’t psychotic already :/ )

My bok choi is all bolting to seed, it’s a bust, but the broccoli is really taking off. 4 more weeks, and I can set out tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers.

Magic day

Grey, chilly, steady drizzle all day. The kind of day that drives the cold into my bones. The only thing that will warm me up is a cup of tea or hot cocoa (sugar-free, of course) by the fireplace with a cat on my chest and a dog on my feet. What’s not to like?

This kind of weather puts me into a sort of contemplative melancholy mood. A lot of story ideas come out of that.

Cleaning up

Went upstairs yesterday and started sorting through books. I have too many. No I don’t! Yes I do! Do not! Do too! Y’all just shut up and let me work! 🙂

There is no such thing as too many books, actually, but I have to make space for future purchases, so the torn-up ones go in the … in the … in the trash. You’ll just have to imagine the screams of agony. Volumes that have been read too many times, except for a very few, and the ones that I don’t think I will ever get to go into boxes for the public library’s annual book sale.

An unfortunate side effect of this project is that my To Be Read list has ballooned to elephantine proportions. I came across a lot of things I had completely forgotten I had. First on that list (and already started) is Mythologies by W. B. Yeats. This is a compilation of stories from his various collections of Irish folk tales and legends. Fascinating.

Feb 26

Can’t do it

Thanks, Jean, for the insight. I’ve wrestled with this decision for a lot of hours, and I just can’t bring myself to apply.

The single sentence in the announcement that stands in my way is: “1. Adherent to the Stone-Campbell tradition (Church of Christ/Christian Church)”. While I enthusiastically support the Stone-Campbell philosophy of inclusiveness and focusing on common values, I just do not believe that the Bible is the absolute, final Word of God. I have studied this issue for many years, and I see far too much of the hand of Man and far too little of the Hand of God in the beliefs and practices of the Christian religion. I will not prostitute my beliefs and standards for the sake of a job. I hate it when my scruples interfere with my life. 🙂

The Mountains Within Me

That’s the title of a book that Zell Miller wrote many years ago. Though I have come to despise Zig-Zag Zell for his total lack of principle, he did get the title right. I was born in the mountains and lived there until I was 4. Though I was just a small child when we left, the mountains have stayed in me through my life. They call to me. It’s like there’s a giant rubber band constantly pulling me back. Though I probably will never be able to go back “home” permanently, I can always go back in my dreams.

What is it about mountains that binds people to them so firmly? When I think of the mountains, I think of strength and solitude. Tolkien referred to “the bones of the mountains” (or something similar) in LOTR. I think of the mountains as the bones of the Earth, massive and strong, bearing up the weight of the sky. For all Man’s technological prowess, the most we can do to the mountains is dig a few measly holes in the dirt looking for coal, a minor irritant that the hills scratch sometimes when it itches too much, causing floods and cave-ins.

The best times of my life have been spent standing on top of a mountain watching the clouds sail by below me. Looking out over the hills and valleys puts my perspective back in order. The hills maintain their imperturbable serenity, and I am reminded of the basic solitude of life. I don’t mean lonliness, which is something altogether different. I mean the fundamental solitude of the individual. Maybe I’m not an island, as Donne said, but no matter how connected I may be to others, I remain at all times individual and unique, just as each mountiain has its own unique landscape and personality.

The mountains are within me, and I belong to them. I hope for and work toward the day when I can finally go home.

Slash and Burn

I went a little crazy Thursday. I edited “In the Hands of an Angry God”. Maybe “edited” is too weak a word. In fact, I carved that mother like a Thanksgiving turkey. Started at 720 words. By the end of the day, it was down to 450. Cut out a lot of repetition and unnecessary diversions. It’s now a very disturbing and hard-hitting story. I sent it to Vestal Review.

Giving up the fight

I’m not going to finish the Dare this time. The goal was 4 short stories over 1000 words rewritten and submitted. I’m only going to make 3. “A TIme to Every Purpose” has gone out already. “Though Your Sins be as Scarlet” is ready, I just need to get it to the Post Office on Monday. I am going to make every effort to get “Carrion Comfort” out the door as well. Either “Wolf Moon” or “Bare Trees” was going to be my fourth, but neither will be ready.

I’m not really disappointed, though. I have done a lot of good work since the first of the year, and I am a much better writer than I was. I’ve learned a lot and had a blast doing it, and that’s the real benefit. I work slower than many people, but I like to think that I can produce an amazing product as I mature as a writer.

Stand clear, so the lightning doesn’t get you, too. 🙂

Feb 23

Mama didn’t tell me there’d be days like this

Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak
Somewhere in the town
Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak
So don’t you be around
Tonight there’s gonna trouble
I’m gonna find myself in
911 — “Jailbreak”

Well, actually a prison break. Spending 2 years as a prison librarian has left me with a lifetime of nightmares. Fought this one all night. Still foggy and headachy. Real hard to concentrate.

Got an e-mail from my father this morning. There’s a job opening for an assistant librarian at his alma mater, Kentucky Christian University. There are a lot of reasons for me to apply for this job:

  • It would make Daddy happy
  • I love the location–Grayson, KY is in the Appalachian Mountains. In Carter County, no less.
  • I really need a full-time job with benefits–medical bills are driving us crazy.
  • Better pay and lower cost of living.

BUT

There is one really big reason not to even consider it:

  • I would be the biggest hypocrite in the entire world if I took a job in an institution that supports a religion that I do not support.

‘Nuff said. Now all I have to do is figure out how to tell Daddy without really hurting his feelings. Damn.

On the positive side, I did make a lot of progress against the jungle that constantly threatens to take over our yard. Brush-cutting with hand tools is wonderful therapy. Lots of opportunity to cuss and throw things around.

The down side of getting better

“Real Monsters” has been nagging at me for a couple of days. When I proofread the galleys, an awful lot of faults drew my eye. Unfortunately, these are fundamental flaws in the story like logic faults and timing that it’s too late to fix. I’ve already been paid, and the editor has already made space for the story. Withdrawing it now would generate a lot of bad karma that I just don’t need. I’ll just have to let it go ahead and be embarassed by it. Should it ever get sold to an anthology, though, it will be in a new version.

That’s the down side of improving your craft. Your early stuff will most assuredly come back to haunt you.

A lost day

I have spent all day thinking it is Tuesday. Where did Tuesday go? Did somebody out there get an extra one, and can I buy it? Deadlines are inexorably slouching closer and closer. I don’t think I will get “Wolf Moon” done in time to send it out on Monday. I’ll try. Miracles do happen.

In the meantime, I need to get “Carrion Comfort” whipped into shape. One major flaw that all of my stories have in early drafts is slow starting. I have some need to ease into things. I will need to move the first scene into a flashback and jump right into the action. That won’t be too hard. There are also a couple of leftover bits from earlier versions that just don’t fit well anymore, so I have to root them out. I think I also need a scene with Brian undergoing a police interrogation. I might be able to work that in by reference in the penultimate scene. That’s on tomorrow’s agenda. It will be raining, so I should be able to get a lot done.

WWJD?

This idea has been nagging me for several days. What would Jesus do after witnessing 2 millenia of horrors committed in his name? Many people don’t remember that Jesus had a temper–the Cleansing of the Temple, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), etc. Brings a whole new dimension to “Jesus wept”. I’ll have to find a new angle on this, since it’s been done so much.

Current marketing plans

“Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” — Cemetery Dance (to be mailed 2/28)
“Carrion Comfort” — Chattahoochee Review (to be mailed 2/28)
“Wolf Moon” — Writers of the Future (to be mailed when ready)
“In the Hands of an Angry God” — flashquake (to be e-submitted after rewrite)

Feb 22

So long, HST

No, not Truman. Hunter S. Thompson apparently committed suicide Sunday night in his Woody Creek cabin. I have long been an admirer of Thompson’s writing. His no-bullshit style was a real wake-up call back in the early 70’s, when I first started to read him. He supposedly invented Gonzo Journalism, where the journalist becomes part of the story and often helps create the story. That he committed suicide is not a real big surprise to me. He lived too hard to be able to tolerate getting old. He was 67.

Just call me Jack

As in the Ripper. Cut “TYSBAS” down to 5005 words. I’ll cut 5 more tomorrow. I have to rest now; my knife is smoking. Forcing myself to do this has been educational. I’m learning to recognize wordiness and to think of alternatives. Passive voice is still a bug-a-boo for me, which drives the word count up. I also still have a fondness for adverbs. Need to work on my verb vocabulary. I want to get this one in the mail ASAP. Maybe tomorrow or Thursday.

For now, I’m going to make a few notes on the “Carrion Comfort” revision, then work on the “Wolf Moon” rewrite. I’d like to get them both out no later than Monday, so I can finish the Dare at Forward Motion. I have yet to finish one.

Bad dreams in the night

Last night’s entertainment was hammer murders. With a 4-pound sledge, no sissy claw hammers here. Luckily, I was not the one wielding the hammer. Unluckily, the perp was always one step faster than me, and I could never quite catch up. Ugh.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
came down upon her head
Clang! Clang! Maxwell’s silver hammer
made sure that she was dead
Lennon/McCartney — “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” from Abbey Road

Feb 21

These Dreams

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
Heart

The weekend was filled with dreams. Though I have bad dreams every night (and have for several years), these were much worse than usual. Lots of frantic searching, screaming anger, and unbearable frustration. They don’t need interpretation; their meanings are quite clear to me. The real problem is that I am often afraid to go to sleep, and that fear colors the dreams even more. Ourobouros devouring its own tail. I need to sleep. I’m groggy and headachy and generally feel like shit today. Here’s hoping for a better tonight.

Feeling good about this, though

Proofread the online galleys of “Real Monsters” earlier. I hope it will be online by March 1.

Also did the final editing pass on “Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” and started the final polishing. I need to lop off 440 words to get it down to 5000, which is Cemetary Dance‘s upper limit. Neil Gaiman could probably get away with going over, but I don’t think I need to push the envelope on this one. 15 words per page. I can do this.

Georgia moves in mysterious ways

Today is the official observance of President’s Day in the US. So why am I, a State employee, at work tonight? Georgia moves in mysterious ways, its holidays to schedule. We will get a day off for Washington’s Birthday (Lincoln being a dirty word in this part of the country). We will observe this holiday on December 27. We also observe General Robert E. Lee’s birthday (January 19) on the day after Thanksgiving. On the other hand, we will get Confederate Memorial Day as observed on April 25.

Reconstructed, my ass! Damn Yankees ain’t gonna get away with pushing their silly holidays on us! They act like they think they won the War, for Christ’s sake.

Hope those of you who got one enjoy your day off.

Feb 19

Spam for lunch

I stole this idea from Spam Poetry. Here’s my entry into the field:

You need to furnish the delight of having the finest
Life in full color. Inkjet printers.

Want a Tablet PC?
Chat to Delmy at free dating service

Look at the results! I am HAPPY
Women just can?t resist.
Oversize bath towels just 4.99

We?re giving away a Communication Device
Better than Vagra

Something she can?t refuse
Light up her life
Premium cigars with a leather traveler
Get creative and keep your dog happy.

You need to furnish the delectation of having the best
Valuable pharmacy muzak

Would you like a Cellular Phone?
cialis is a bit more expensive but lasts 9 times longer

THE END (for now)

Feb 19

Silence inside, laughter outside

Been reading Zen: Its History and Teachings by OSHO. I find a lot about Zen that appeals to me:

  1. It doesn’t take itself seriously. Laughter is encouraged as part of learning and as a vital part of enlightenment. How refreshing after the dour teachings of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and others. Zen masters laugh at themselves and encourage their students to do the same. Zen masters don’t care whether anyone repects them or not. They consider themselves to be opnly human, just like everybody else.
  2. The leaders demand nothing of their students. They depend on “the kindness of strangers” for their very survival. This is not as scary as it might seem, since kindness to others and concern for their welfare is an integral part of learning about Zen and is not just given lip service as other religions do.
  3. One of the foundations of Zen is that each person is responsible for his or her own enlightenment. I really like that. Personal responsibility has been a guiding light for me all my life. My soul is my business. Everybody else needs to worry about themselves, and let me take care of my own needs.

Those are just a few things I have learned so far. Looking forward to digging deeper.

Talking the talk

Yeah, Debra, but talk is cheap. Making that happen in words is the hard part. I’ve talked the talk, now I have to walk the walk, put some steak with that sizzle, some fire under the smoke, all those other cliches that are so easy but so meaningless. Actually writing the story requires digging deep and working hard, finding just the right word at just the right time.

English is such a slippery language. Every word carries layers of meaning and connotation that have accumulated over the centuries. Finding the right word can be a major feat sometimes. Sometimes? All the time! I can’t count how many times I have had to settle on a word that was almost right. And how many times have I been rereading a draft and thought “That’s not what I meant”? I keep trying because I really, really love writing. On the other hand, Nazareth got it right: “Love hurts”.

Feb 17

“No” is such an ugly word

Lenox Avenue rejected “In the Hands of an Angry God” with a note saying that the situation and characters are too familiar. While I do appreciate their comments, and I know they are offered in the spirit of offering suggestions for improvement, this has really gotten my back up. Form rejections are just discouraging, but this kind make me say “Oh yeah? You just wait!”. That one goes back into the pile for review azs time allows.

A lot of people recommend taking rejected piecesand sending them back out the same day. That’s not how I work. I want to understand, or try to, what brought this one back to me, so I can fix it before I submit it again. Plus, there are always those little things that can be tightened up or polished just a little more.

The score is now 26 – 8. In baseball terms, that’s a .308 batting average. Not bad.

Today’s celebration

Got my broccoli and bok choi set out. 9 of each. Also got started planning the next step in the on-going landscaping project. Good soil freshly turned feels and smells really good to me. Even though I adore really bad puns, I will resist the temptation to say that it grounds me. There is a such an enormous potential in soil, so much it can help us do to actually improve our lives and our planet. When we move into the heat, drought, and bugs of summer, these moments will seem like a dream, but, for now, they are real highlights in my day.

Reading, ‘riting, and rejection

The 3 R’s of the writing life. The third one I have already covered.

Reading:
Just started a book about Zen. History and theory. I hope one day I will be able to relax enough to meditate, or find some other way to practice. Natalie Goldberg uses her writing as her practice, and that may become a possibility. Or maybe gardening, since I can sometimes lose myself in that for a while.

Also re-reading The Best of Cemetary Dance: Vol. 2. Damn, I can write better stories than that! And do! The first time I read it, a couple of years back, I was intimidated by the big names. This time, I can see the craft behind the work. It is sometimes a real disappointment.

‘riting:
Got the 2nd scene of “Wolf Moon” rewritten. Next scene, our hero (he’s between names at the moment) leaves on a year-long expedition to the continent to gather enough silver that he can marry Astrid and buy a farm. Mayhem ensues, as one would expect in a story about a Viking. I’ll be working on that tonight and tomorrow night. It should be fun. I get way too much pleasure from writing about fire and blood. Heh, heh, heh.

The 4th scene will be a tough one. He will return home to find that Astrid has disappeared under certain circumstances which shall remain untold here, since that would give away the whole story. In his grief and madness, he strikes out and kills his own father. The Althing recognizes the mitigating circumstances and exile him instead of killing him. Then things get dark and ugly. More killing, some magic, some more magic, then the climax. The end.

Feb 16

Hip, hip hooray!!!

Noon blood sugar was 122! It’s been a long time since I saw the underside of 150. It may not last (probably won’t), but on this day, on February 16, 2005, I win!

I don’t celebrate enough. A lot of that is an effect of PTSD. I just can’t let go and enjoy the moment. SoI’m starting to look around to find those small things that I usually ignore. I’m willing to bet that every day has a least one thing I can celebrate, or at least take a small moment of satisfaction from it. Hell, some days, just getting out of bed is cause for rejoicing. 🙂

Looking at some new software

Ran across Prose last night. It looks interesting. I downloaded and installed it for evaluation. If it works as promised, it may be better than Word. It has built-in chracter analysis, scene development, outlining, and other stuff. We’ll see.

I also took a quick look at PDF reDirect. This is just cool. It claims to be able to turn damn near anything in a Windows app into a PDF. I’m considering this one, too. It sure can be a pain making PDFs the way I’ve been doing it (print to file using a PS printer driver, then use GSView to print that file to PDF). If it really work well, this could be a really useful tool.

Gardening season commences

Got one bed turned over and ready for planting. I’ll be able to set out my broccoli and bok choi tomorrow morning. Considering trying some leaf lettuce. My experience with lettuce has not been good in the past. Our springs are usually too hot, and it just bolts to seed.]

I’ll get the other two beds ready before Easter. Our official average Last Frost date is March 20, but the old-timers say never plant before Good Friday. Since that’s March 25 this year, it works out pretty well. Current plans include tomatoes (of course, are you crazy?), peppers (bell and jalapeno), squash, and cucumbers. Pole beans are a possibility if I get motivates to build a frame for them to climb.

I’m a firm believer in the deep bed method of gardening. That involves digging down two shovel-blades deep and never walking on the cultivated surface. My beds are 3 feet wide and 25 feet long, which gives me more than enough growing space, since I can plant more intensively. It’s a ton of work the first year, but after that, I only have to turn over the top layer of soil. It’s still so soft that I can stand off to the side and turn it over using a spade without having to step on the blade to drive it in. Hard work now pays off later, isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?

Oh, and writing…

Finished one crit for one of my crit buddies, one more to go. I hope to get it out Saturday. Brought “Wolf Moon” to work with me in hard copy. I can work on rewriting in the slow times. In this part of the quarter, every time is a slow time. 🙂 Mid-term was last Friday, and the quarter ends on March 18, so everybody’s coasting right now. From March 14 on, it will be quite different.