Monday, March 19, 2012

Shower stall secrets

This is a little silly for a blog post, but I'm doing a class called "housekeeping for writers."  This is one of the tips, and I have to have the photo online to put it in the forum, so you get the tip, too.  If you like these, let me know.  Maybe I'll make a series.

Here' is my shower stall.  (The dress is on the other side of the stall.)

This is not a new door.  We had it cleaned by a professional housekeeper (ie, the one we paid to clean the house before we moved in).  We have lived here 22 months, with an average of 15 showers a week in that little stall.  I have cleaned it once every six months, no lie.

The secret?  The squegee!
Maybe two bucks at WalMart--worth its weight and more in gold!

After every shower, the person just runs the squeegee over the door to remove the excess water.  It takes 20 seconds a shower, and this is the result.

We learned this trick from our landlady in California.  It was the only thing she asked of us as renters.

Once every six months or so, I soak it down with the de-soaping cleaning solution, wipe, rinse, then spray it down with windex and wipe again.

How I Started Writing DragonEye, PI--from Vern's POV

Natura had invited me to her restaurant. In those days, I didn't pass up free meals, even when I knew a catch was coming. She'd set me down at the table with a friend of hers, Karina Fabian, a middle-aged mother of four with a huge mop of hair--dark brown with streaks of silver, the shiny kind. I like silver. She was nervous, but who isn't when first confronted by my grandeur? She relaxed as we ate, traded small talk and puns, and I waited to find out what this meal was going to cost me.

Natura waited until after the second course.

"So, like, I think you need some good publicity," Natura said.

"I don’t like reporters," I growled, then turned to Karina. "No offense."

"No,none at all," she agreed.

Natura made a tsk sound. "Karina isn't a reporter. She's a writer! You know, like fantasy and science fiction? Totally open mind, and she's like Catholic and everything. You should let her write your stories."

"You don’t think McGrue does enough of that?" Kitty McGrue, reporter for the Los Lagos Gazette, seemed to want to make a career out of twisting my successes into some kind of diabolical Faerie plot. Didn't Natura think I had enough punishment?

Natura huffed. "Let Karina tell them from your point of view. Like, I've already told her some of your cases and she's was really grooving on you. She'd be able to share your story, Vern, how you want it. She'd get stories, and you'd get good press. I think you'd be good for each other."

"My point of view?" I didn't mean to ask. I didn't mean to consider it. Was it the food or Natura?

Karina said, "First person, even. I'll record the stories, write them up, and run them past you for approval."

"And I can make changes?"

She shrugged, "I do it for the priests and deacons I interview for Montana Catholic. I am a reporter, too, but mostly positive features and how-to stuff. I'm not into mudraking."

"See? Like, priests even!" Natura enthused. Not that she cared much, but she know it'd win points with me.

I looked at my empty plate, considering.

"I'll feed you," Karina said.


"Dragon Eye, PI" appeared in Firestorm of Dragons. It was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My friend, Walt Staples

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” --E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Most of you know by now that Walt Staples, who was a writer, a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, and my good friend died on Wednesday, March 14. 

I met him through the Guild, in the chat room, I think.  My memory is fuzzy on that, but not on the fact that it was during a chat that I roped him into running for the Guild Presidency.  He won unanimously (not hard with the Guild--officership is still more of a "who'se crazy enough to volunteer?" deal).  He did a great job for six months, before he had to drop out in order to take care of his wife, who had some medical problems.

Still, he and I kept in touch, swapping stories for critique, sharing funny things we'd found, talking over Guild stuff.  Even though he was busy with the stresses at home, he always took time to help the Guild--and others--and me.  After a conversation about humor, he agreed to do a workshop for the Catholic Writers Conference Online (we're running it in his honor again this year.)  When I started a blog about the space industry, he agreed to run a series of columns about growing up in the 50s and 60s and watching the space race. (Find them at Rocket Science for the Rest of Us.) 

We were crit partners, too, and he was always willing to tell it to me straight.  When the romance part of Neeta Lyffe 2 didn't work, he first checked it with his wife and daughter, then told me what was wrong.  The book's vastly improved because of his honesty.

There have been times in my life, too, where I've needed straight-up advice, things where Rob and I were too close to what was happening.  He came through for me, then, too.

I know it's cliche in times like this, but I believe he was a far better friend to me than I was to him.  I loved him dearly and am proud to have known him.  He was a blessing in my life, and I think God that we were friends, even if it was for too short a time.

God's Will, Human Pride, and The Butterfly Effect

On March 24th, I'm going to be on a show called "The Butterfly Effect."  The premise is that we can make big differences with small actions.  I've been wondering exactly what I can say on this show.  Monday, I read this in the daily readings:

2nd book of Kings 5:1-15a.

Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house.
The prophet sent him the message: "Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean."
But Naaman went away angry, saying, "I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.
Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?" With this, he turned about in anger and left.
But his servants came up and reasoned with him. "My father," they said, "if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, 'Wash and be clean,' should you do as he said."
So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 
Don't you love it?  Elisha gives him a simple task--go jump in the river--and Naaman would almost rather live with leprosy than do something so menial.  Maybe part of it was pride, but I'm betting part of it was simply the thought that it couldn't be enough.  Leprosy is a flesh-eating disease--it's HUGE!  How could he get cured from washing a couple of times in a river (a second-rater river in his mind, at that)?

Sometimes, God asks us for the smallest things, especially in comparison to the reward He promises us.  It exemplifies the butterfly effect--a small action on our part can mean a great impact elsewhere, and not always for us, personally.  Sometimes, we might not even know the effect we have.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The incredible, maddening To-Do list!

Most of you know that when I finished writing The Old Man in the Void--now renamed Dex's Way--I said I needed to tackle my to-do list before I could start writing again.  The goal was to get down to 30 items from the 150 or so I had piled up.

I don't know if I'm good or bad with to-do lists.  On the one hand, I generally keep up and do an impressive amount of stuff.  On the other, I cannot chop them down--it's like a hydra; more spring up in their place.

My to-do lists are in two forms:  Outlook and written.  Written usually has more to do with the real world--like groceries, housekeeping chores, etc.--while the Outlook one is more writing.  However, there is a lot of overlap--I flag or send myself e-mails abut the kids' school events, for example.  Overall, the list has these items:

--Things I'm sure I'll forget, like call the chiropractor because I've been sitting too long at the desk.
--E-mails I need to follow-up on but can't do right away.
--E-mails I've sent to others that I need to follow up on, like following up on submissions (I flag these for months from the send date.)
--Things I want to read later or read again
--Long-term projects that need occasional reminding.

For one day, I actually made it!  Technically, it was down to 60+, but most of those were follow-ups.  Then I started planning the Live and Let Fly book tour, and that added nearly 50 items.  Of course, there's all the usual stuff I get, which can generate about 5 flagged tasks a day.  So, now I'm back up to 100, 30 of which are follow-up later.

I am proud of myself, though, because I chopped down some of the bigger projects this past week, things that took days instead of hours.  This week, before the Catholic Writers Conference Online, I hope to chop the list back down to 60.

Not that it will stay that way, but in April, I start writing Gapman, anyway!

What's your to-do list look like?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Notes From Homilies: What is sin

Here's my note on today's homily:  "Whenever we go against God's will, it is sin."

This one struck me because our society tends to have  somewhat different view of sin: i.e., if you're not hurting anyone, it's okay.  Even if you accept that, does that make an action right?  If so, then where is the line drawn--a harsh word is sinful, but destroying a child in the womb is not?  Speaking out against immorality is wrong, but stepping aside none-of-my-business is okay because you aren't hurting anyone?

God gave us some clear directions.  Sometimes, in this messy life, how to interpret them isn't as clear.  I do believe that our society with it's "do whatever you like as long as you don't hurt anybody" attitude isn't morality.  God expects us to do better than that.  He wants us to do His will.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

My story is in Corrupts, Absolutely?, a superhero anthology!

We interrupt My Novel's Journey to announce that my story, "Illusion" is in the anthology, Corrupts, Absolutely? from Damnation Books.  


The only family member to survive the 9/11 attacks. A sidekick-turned-construction-worker. The teenaged products of an institute for unwanted metahuman children. The man who can make anyone do anything. Are they heroes? Are they villains? Sometimes they’re both. Often, even at the same time.
Corrupts Absolutely? collects twenty brand-new stories from veteran authors and newcomers, each with a unique perspective on what it might really be like to be superhuman in today’s day and age. In the center of such a roiling mass of uncertainty and excitement lies one important truth: the fight against good or evil is never as important as the fight for or against oneself.

Contributors: Weston Ochse, Jeff Strand, Joe McKinney, Cat Rambo, A.D. Spencer, A.S. Fox, Andrew Bourelle, Anthony Laffan, Edward M. Erdelac, Jason Gehlert, Jason M. Tucker, Jeremy Hepler, Karina Fabian, Kris Ashton, Lee Mather, Lincoln Crisler, Malon Edwards, Tim Marquitz, Trisha J. Wooldridge, Wayne Helge, Wayne Ligon, and William Todd Rose.

As you can see, I'm in good company, which is always exciting.  My own story, "Illusions," is about Deryl Stephens from Mind Over Mind.  It takes place years before the book when he first gets his telepathic abilities and has no control over what thoughts enter his head.  It's pretty harrowing.  Here's an excerpt:

Even before he opened his eyes, the assault began: discontent about leaving a warm bed to put on the chilly school uniforms, dread at another day of facing bullies and disapproving teachers; eagerness to hang out with friends, fear of a math test, excitement about the math test, eagerness for the week to end and see parents, sisters, girlfriends.  So many thoughts.
None of them his.
Think about the sheets: soft and warm, the blanket nice and heavy over me, like a cocoon.  Smell the laundry soap.  Laundry soap, not deodorant.  Cotton sheets, not polyester blend pants.  Dark and dry, not echo-y and steamy.  My name is Deryl Stephens…
He pulled the covers over his head and fought against the dizzying onslaught of thoughts as his dormmates prepared for the day.  This early upon awakening, the chaos of their minds brought nausea more than pain.  He'd learned that if he breathed slowly though his mouth and concentrated on physical sensations and his mantra, he could usually stay calm and fake sleep until the room cleared.  It didn't matter if he missed breakfast; he'd be too sick to eat, anyway.  Later, when his waking mind had better control, the queasiness would leave and the headaches would start.  Enough medicine, and he could bear those.  Besides, if the Master had taught him one thing, it was how to handle pain.
There'd be less pain if I did what the Master wanted. 
He felt himself scowling, even though no one could see him.  If disobedience meant pain, he'd deal with the pain.  He was not going to attack other humans, not even in his dreams.  He'd already learned how easy it was to lash out at others--how much he could enjoy it if he let the Master lead him down that path.  He couldn’t always keep track of who he was anymore, but he knew one thing:  he was not a killer.
The distant hum of thoughts told him the room had emptied.  At last, he could get up, shower and steel himself for the day.

 You can get Corrupts, Absolutely? in e-book or print direct from Damnation Books or Amazon.  And if you enjoy "Illusions," I hope you'll read about Deryl as older, stronger and more cynical in Mind Over Mind.

Monday, March 05, 2012

I gots a Dr. Who t-shirt!

My sweet man found this in some catalog and decided I had to have it.  It's got all the Doctors hanging around the TARDIS.  Sadly, their version of "large" is not most people's version of "large," but I decided when I'm not squeezed into it, I'm hanging it up with my size 8 suede pants someplace where I can always see it, to motivate my to go a little more GYM and a little less BICHOK.  (Butt In Chair, Hands on Keyboard)

And yes, I'm wearing my fedora...because fedoras are cool!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

My Novel's Journey: The Old Man in the Void--Lessons Learned

It's been a little over a week since I finished the Old Man in the Void (which I think I may change to Dex's Way.)  The past week has been full of guest blogging and e-mailing and organizing the Live and Let Fly book tour (48 stops and counting!) and writing school planners for a company I work for.  I've hardly given the book a moment's thought, except as one remembers a terrific friend.  But today, I'm thinking about what I learned from my friend.

Most of you know this, but to summarize:  The Old Man in the Void grew from a discussion my husband and I had on a family trip to Moab.  I was holding off finishing Neeta Lyffe 2: I Left My Brains in San Francisco because I needed to talk to some sources.  I wanted to do something different to stretch myself as a writer--nd we'd heard that Tor was looking for Space opera.  I thought it would be fun to do a sci-fi based on a classic novel (kind of like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  Rob suggested Hemingway, who wrote a lot of great, Manly adventures, like The Old Man and the Sea.  I was a math major in college; I'd never read Hemingway.  So it sounded like an excellent challenge.

Lesson #1:  Look for challenges.  They stretch your imaginations and your skills.  You'll be thrilled if you succeed; and if you fail, you will still have learned.

Lesson #2:  I can think as a plotter.  I've been a seat-of-the-pants writer almost from the beginning of my career.  But to follow The Old Man and the Sea, I had follow Hemingway's plot, but with my own characters and universe.  I plotted the novel out as I read his book, trying to match major event and theme, and for the most part, I feel I succeeded.  however...

Lesson #3:  My characters and stories will not stay bound.  Even though I followed the plot I'd written for the most part, I could not stay bound just to that plot.  (Good thing, too, or it would be a novella.)  New characters showed up; subplots came out of the blue:  Dex having visions?  Alien gods playing tricks on each other and him?    And of course, once I got to the end of the plot, when Dex should have just gotten Santiago back, nice and easy, found a new apprentice and gone on his way, he takes over the book and changes so much!  however....

Lesson #4:  If I trust my characters, they will tie things together.  All the myths of Elomij and Hudon on the Bloody Road were just some interesting mythology--or so I thought as I was writing along the plot.  When that path ended, however, and the next part of the story began, they informed everything that happened next--how the future aliens treated Dex; how the alien culture developed; even Dex's romance.  I may go back and strengthen some of the ties, because when I was writing the first part, I had no idea those little extras were going to be so important.  Finally...

Lesson #5:  My writing had been getting stale.  Because I was writing comedy, with lots of fun and fast-moving jokes leavened with some heartfelt scenes, my phraseology was more about getting to the point and moving on to the next fun bit.  The slower pace of this story, however, plus the serious tone, demanded a different narration style.  I read other books, harder or military sci-fi, in order to absorb some of that.  As with plot, I'm sure it morphed into something different as well, but now I've stretched myself that way, too, and I have those in my writer's toolbox for use later.

No matter how much experience you have as a writer, there are still things to learn--and sometimes, the best way is to check out how other writers did it--and then jump in and try it yourself.

Next week, I hope, I will start editing Neeta Lyffe 2.  I think I'll do some short stories, maybe revisit the collaboration story a friend and I are doing for fun, then in April, I'll start on Gapman!