Dec 31

Backing Into 2008

This is so uncalled for. I got out of the shower this morning, dried off, and reached for the foot powder. That’s when somebody snuck up behind me and stuck a knife in the small of my back. And twisted. Hard. Son-of-a-bitch-that-hurt!

So I spent the next hour lying on the bathroom floor trying not to scream. I’m moving around a little better now. I can at least walk a few steps. Thank God for 4-footed canes.

On the plus side, I have a lot of time to think about Washed in the Blood. New plot twists are cropping up, as are ideas on weaving in the 2 plot lines that are currently hanging fire.

I finished the read-through and mark-up on Chapters 1-3 (of 12 existing) yesterday. I’ve added 6 new scenes and made lots of notes on expanding and enhancing what’s already there.

I’m feeling really good about this novel. For a few days, I had worked myself up into a lather with self-doubt. I had done a good job on working through the mid-Winter depression this year up until then. Suddenly, I was sure I could not handle this job. It’s too big. It’s too complicated. There’s too many things to consider: plot, pacing, characters, description, dialogue.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I told myself “Just shut up and do it.” So I did. It felt good, too. I can do this. I will do this. Just shut up and write.

Dec 22

Scene Cards Done

I’m just way too excited about getting into the rewrite on Washed in the Blood. I guess that’s a natural outgrowth of finally getting a draft finished.

I had originally planned to wait until after January 1st to do my line-for-scene cards, but I just couldn’t. Since I observe the Winter Solstice as the actual turning of the new year, I decided to dive in.

I went ahead and did my cards this morning. 81 scenes in 11 chapters. Some of them are really short. Some of those actually by design.

Doing the cards made me aware of soem serious flaws in the design as well as in the plot logic of this novel. None of them are fatal, though. The next step along this path, upon which I will embark next week, will be a thorough read-through of the printed manuscript with copious marginal notes, some grammar correction (since I just can’t help it, I’m an anal-retentive former English major), and cards for the scenes I need to add.

I can already see that one chapter is going to have to be eviscerated. The left-over parts will probably be absorbed into the adjacent chapters, so I should wind up with something like 90-95 scenes in 10 chapters. As I embark on the actual rewriting sometime next month, I will have to also look at chapter structure. 10,000 word chapters may be too long. I just don’t know that yet.

Each step is progress, and the positive progress is a big help in fighting the mid-winter darkness this year.

Dec 16

Water, Water Everywhere!

24 hours of rain, rain, rain! There’s a decent chance we could get some more on Thursday. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas. And the weather’s actually turning cool. We should have overnight lows at or below freezing for the next 3 days. YAYYYYY!!!

I know those of you in the Midwest and Northeast think I’m insane. So what else is new? Heh.

Dec 13

I Hate to Complain, But…

But it’s December 13th, and the temperature outside is approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 80! In December! For the fourth day in a row!

I refuse to turn on my air conditioner. I even refuse to use the ceiling fan. This is ridiculous.

Of course, I’ll be ruing these words one day soon. We might have frost tonight. We may even have rain on Saturday. Who knows? Who can tell? Everything is inside-out.

2007 has been one strange year all the way around. I’m hoping 2008 will have its act a little more together.

*****

On a completely unrelated subject:

I’ve been reading a couple of articles by researchers who dispute the notion that depression is related to serotonin and norepinephrin imbalances in the brain. While I agree that there is little or no gold-standard scientific evidence (i.e., randomized double-blind crossover studies) to support this theory, I find their assumptions appalling.

In the first place, merely measuring the level of serotonin (or its breakdown by-products) is way overly simplistic. People’s brains are far more complicated and individualistic than that. What’s normal for one person may well be almost lethal for another. Measurements of this kind are virtually meaningless.

In the second place, the theory is one of imbalances, not insufficiencies. Disregarding the obvious — and unanswerable at this time — question of what constitutes an insufficiency of a particular neurotransmitter, the theory is that serotonin, norepinephrin, and other, possibly as yet unknown, neurotransmitters sometimes get out of balance with each other.

If serotonin insufficiency was the cause of depression, then a simple supplement would provide a permanent cure. It’s just no that easy. When it comes to the human brain, nothing is simple. Nothing. that’s why depression and bipolar disorders are so hard to treat. Getting that balance right is really just trial and error at this point. With a lot of errors.

Every person’s brain is different. What doesn’t work for me may work fine for thousands of others. What does work for me is not guaranteed to work for anyone else. One size does not fit all.

I’m just talking about physical causes, here. There is always a cognitive aspect of depression that also has to be treated. Getting the physical part back in tune is vital to making progress on the cognitive front, though.

For those who, like me, are still struggling against the depression/bipolar Beast, hang in there. Patience in the face of despair is hard, but it does pay off in the end. Keep trying. You’ll find the right combination of meds for you. I hope it doesn’t take long.

Dec 09

Submission Tracking

Once more, I am changing the way I track short story submissions. I’ve tried several systems over the years, but none of them gave me the one feature I really need: the ability to look at my submssion history for one particular market.

This is important to me for a couple of different reasons, the most important being that I don’t want to submit a story to the same market that rejected it a year ago. It also helps me avoid multi-subs.

So I decided to roll my own. After much thought and consideration I eliminated Microsoft Access. That would be much like swatting flies with a loaded shotgun: too unwieldy and I would be prone to damage myself. The same applies to using PHP and MySQL and setting up a secure database online.

I finally settled on a spreadsheet. It lets me keep the essential information–title, market, sub date, acceptance date, rejection date, withdrawal date, etc.–AND lets me sort on any column or combination of columns. A neat solution to my dilemma.

I’m sure there are things I have not thought of yet, but we’ll see how it works out. At least I can get my data out into another format easily, which also beats most of the other systems I have tried or evaluated.

Dec 07

I’m Calling it Done!

i am not at all happy with the denouement, but I finally wrote “THE END” on Washed in the Blood. It’s far from complete at only 40K words, but all the parts are at least there in rudimentary form.

So now what? Now I’m going to take a couple of weeks off from this one and work on some short stories I want to get out on the submission Merry-Go-Round. Come first of the year, it will be time to codify a mass of notes, thoughts, mental grunge, etc., make my line-for-scene cards and begin the process of getting this monster into shape. Maybe this part won’t take 3 years. I’m counting on more like 9 months.

Dec 04

Drought Update

We’ve had about .75 inches of rain since Thanksgiving. We’ll take it! We only need a couple of more feet to make up the deficit, but we’ll take what we can get right now. The well is holding on, and conservation measures in the household remain in effect. Otherwise, things remain very much the same. The rainy part of the year is coming up. Maybe…

I should be able to finish my crappy rough draft/detailed outline/whatever this is of Washed in the Blood this weekend. Only about 1000 words left. I’m looking forward to being D O N E ! with it.