Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Our office does a quarterly(ish) junk swap, where staffers can bring things they’d like to get rid of – be it books, clothes, gadgets, etc. The basic rule is bring stuff that is still usable, take stuff if you want, even if you didn’t bring stuff. At the end of the day, anything not claimed by someone else gets packed up and donated to our local Goodwill.
Slowly, I’ve been going through some of the final tote bins, books and piles o’clothes at home and bringing them in for the various swaps. It’s been a not-so-easy task, thanks to the fibromyalgia, but last night, I got motivated (I think it was the caffeine) and I loaded up a grocery roller cart* full to the brim with books, clothes and bags. Lots and lots of bags.
Some of the bags came from conferences. Some were purses or backpacks I’d bought over the years. I’d been leery of opening the tote bin o’bags, simply because I knew it would be tough for me to part with some of them. The nostalgia! The utter usefulness of some of them!
I was ruthless.
In went the awesome bag from Left Coast Crime in Monterey, CA more than a decade ago. In went the nifty blue bag from Lone Star Con. In went the black leather backpack/purse that I hadn’t actually seen in at least a dozen years.
After a couple of hours and a Tramadol, I was done. The rolling cart was full.
This morning, I rolled it down the hall, into the elevator and out through the lobby, somehow managing to get through the building’s foyer without help. Unpacked the cart into the back of Phil-the-car, then repacked it when I arrived at work.
The swap starts this afternoon at 3 p.m. – Normally, I’d be a little anxious…do I really want to donate X item? Maybe I’ll keep it for a little bit longer.
Not today, though. I’m relieved–happy that more stuff is going to find good homes and perhaps even delight someone else.
Is my changed attitude because I’m getting older/wiser? Is it just the semi-annual burst of “OMG, I need to declutter?”
I don’t know.
All I can say is that I’m taking advantage of that urge and going forward.
Years ago, I could fit everything I owned into one small truck. I don’t know that I’ll get back to that point again, nor would I want to, but hanging on to stuff just because I can is silly and makes no sense.
Maybe I am growing up…just shy of my 55th birthday.
* the cart stands about 3.5 feet tall at the handle and is nearly 2 feet wide.
Monday, February 6th, 2012
I watched a lot of the TV show: Private Practice over the weekend, thanks to Netflix streaming. If you’ve not watched it, it’s a spin-off of Grey’s Anatomy, which I enjoy. Both shows are not about the medical stuff for me, but about the interrelationships amongst the characters. It occurred to me while watching that this show (and Grey’s, for that matter), are good examples of how to write characterization.
- First, you allow people to get to know and care about your characters. (In Private Practice, we empathize with Addison as she realizes on her first day at work, that her friend/boss Naomi neglected to tell the other doctors in the practice that she’d been hired. Through her eyes, we meet the other docs and get to know them).
- Second, you throw in some sort of challenge, obstacle. (Insert any episode)
- Third, just as you think things are beginning to go great, you toss in something dire. (Insert the back half of any episode)
- Fourth, your character resolves the challenge (whether good or bad). (Act 4 of the episode)
- Finally, you show that your character has grown (either good or bad). (The wrap up)
Yep, it really is that simple. Think on this a little. What can you do to shake up your characters’ lives? What kind of obstacle or challenge can you give to your protagonist?
Joss Whedon is famous for many things, but I always remember his statement from ages ago (paraphrased): “Give your audience what they need, not what they want.” I’ve always remembered this. I was amused to hear these words coming from one of the Private Practice characters during an episode. They were talking about medical treatment, but the sentiment’s the same. You’re the doctor when it comes to your writing. Your audience may want bunnies and puppies, but they need demons and vampires. They need to see the conflicts, have resolution, even when the resolution isn’t what they’d envisioned. This is the audience-facing corollary to writing good characterization. You need both to create good fiction.
If you stick to these basics, you’ll have a head start.
What examples do you have of when a writer gave you what you needed and not what you wanted? Did it work? Did you hate it? Love it?
Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
The brain, she is fried. So instead of meaningful (or otherwise) content, here are some links:
Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Yesterday, my trip request got approved at work. This isn’t a normal “I’d like to go on vacation” type request, but a request to use my 10-year longevity benefit: a “dream weekend”, including extra day off and up to $2000 for the trip. This is a new thing at our still fairly young company. Only three of us qualify at this point. When it was announced a couple of months ago, I was excited, but really couldn’t think of what to use it on.
Then, I discovered that one of my awesome role models (now buddy), Ms. Tanya Huff was a guest at World Fantasy Con 2012, along with Charles deLint and Patricia Briggs, both of whom I’d love to meet.
I crunched a few numbers, dismayed that a flight from DC to Toronto was $750 (at the time), but persevered and figured I could do it within the allotted budget. I put in the request and now it’s official!
I’ve registered. I’ve booked my flight and hotel (oddly, the flight was now nearly half of the original price – go figure). Best of all? I’ve convinced my pal Dina to come along! The only sad part is that this is the same weekend that sis & BIL have a trip booked to CA for some event. I really wish they could attend, too.
I’m SOOOO excited!!! I love Canada. I love Toronto (only been there once and that was a zillion years ago) and am so looking forward to spending a weekend with fellow writers. Plus, World Fantasy is one of my favorite conferences. It’s more of a pro bent, so there are a ton of amazing people, many of whom I fangrrl from afar.
Hope to see some of you there!
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
I discovered Letters of Note yesterday via some other blog that totally escapes me now.
This is AWESOME! (especially if you love history, as I do). Their tag line: correspondence deserving of a wider audience.
The site collects, displays and transcribes old letters – some from only a few years ago, some from much further back. The letter that utterly entranced me? To My Old Master – a letter from an emancipated slave to his previous master, who’d written requesting the slave to return to work at the farm. It’s an absolutely riveting read.
This, and sites like the Library of Congress, are a chief reason I adore the Internet. In the olden days, when I was in college, writing a term paper/research paper meant HOURS digging through books, hours spent trying to find primary sources and hoping you had time.
Now, with a few clicks, I can SEE a lot of these primary sources “first hand”. No, it’s not quite the same as holding something in my hand, but how likely is it that I’d get to actually touch one of these letters? The most I’d be able to do is peer through the museum glass.
Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE going to museums, seeing historical collections in person, but being able to find this stuff online is priceless.
What’s your favorite website for historical data/collections?
Monday, January 30th, 2012
The following books were read by me this weekend.
(Edited to add The Help)
Friday, January 27th, 2012
…is like today.
Woke up to strong winds and heavy rain pounding into the window above my head. I wanted nothing more than to roll over and try to get some more sleep, but alas, I have things to do. Mostly, though, I have people coming. Grocery delivery scheduled between 9 and 11, then between 11 and 1 – oh joy of joys, the medical equipment guy is coming with my CPAP machine!!
I know it’s going to be an adjustment to learn to sleep with a mask on my face, but trumping that x 1000 is the fact that I’m going to be able to get REAL sleep. Last week, when I went to the sleep doc, he informed me that my sleep study showed that I’d stopped breathing 70 times in an hour. Only for a second or so, but SEVENTY times!! Basically, that means I never actually get all four stages of sleep, so I’m never fully rested.
I can vouch for that this morning, as I feel like a truck ran me over. Exhausted, though I went to bed at 10 and fell asleep rather quickly.
CAN’T WAIT to have my machine!
It is rather frightening, too, to know that I’ve had this for who knows how long. My sister and BIL both have sleep apnea. I will bet anything my late father did, too. He’d often fall asleep at the movie theatre or just sitting in a chair, and wake up choking, gasping. Turns out, tendency toward this is genetic. Whee?
I’m just glad that these days, it’s more readily recognized and treatable.
Speaking of machinery, my new at-home blood pressure monitor arrived. Easy-peasy digital machine. Happy to report that today’s BP is 114/85. I’ll be taking it first thing in the morning so as to keep a consistent log.
Since it’s so gloomy today, I’m probably going to curl up with a good book or movie while I wait for people to arrive. I’d be recording, but I’ve sent some files off too ACX for a QA test, so I need to wait until they get back to me. (I think waiting might be the operative word for the day!)
What’s your favorite rainy day book or movie?
Thursday, January 26th, 2012
It began with Homicide: Life on the Street, with the murder po-lice, the Waterfront, the dark and twisty tales of life in a Baltimore cop shop. Who can forget following right along with newbie Tim Bayliss as he desperately sought Edina Watson’s killer in season one? How we agonized when the brilliant Frank Pembleton was brought down, not by bullets, but by a stroke? Seven seasons of awesome by Tom Fontana and based on David Simon‘s Homicide: Life on the Killing Streets.
After Homicide made its final bow, as desperate as Bayliss for equally brilliant entertainment, I uncovered Oz. I didn’t have HBO when Oz actually aired, but was lucky enough to score DVDs via Netflix. As with Homicide, I was instantly hooked and quickly mainlined the entire six season run in less than two months.
I even got to tell Tom Fontana how much the show meant to me in a brief encounter during MWA’s Edgar cocktail party one year. He probably thought I was insane.
After I finished this fix, I faced a whole lotta nothing. At this point, I still didn’t have premium cable and though there were a few shows I enjoyed, none had the hard-hitting edge I craved. I needed something other than bright shiny Hollywoodized characters with improbably pretty actors. I’m not against pretty. Pretty has its place, but having gotten a taste of something more visceral, more real, I wanted more. Fabulous writing merged with excellent casting/acting. It had to be there.
Then, there it was. From a familiar source: The Wire – a different view of Charm City and yet another show that I had to wait to see until it was done and available via iTunes/streaming. My inner addict breathed more easily. All too soon, however, I finished watching the five seasons.
I cast my wandering eye about, hoping for a new fix. A new show to fill that gap. Sure, I watched other dramas, but nothing that resonated with me as much. Some tried too hard. Some not at all. How could I settle for bland polished Hollywood pablum when I’d been exposed to the real thing?
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Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
A blog post today over at Book View Cafe (which linked to an article) got me to thinking about a conversation I had some years ago with Dana Cameron.
It was the deadest of the dead dog Sunday evenings, after the close of Malice Domestic. I’d planned to stick around for one drink, then found myself chatting with Dana until nearly 11:00 that evening, in the tapas bar.
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Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
I’m still here. My goal to do a blogpost daily got derailed by a digestive system upset thanks to new/old meds (all of which list various digestive issues as side-effects). I’ve spent the last several days just feeling rather miserable and doing a lot of sleeping.
A bit better today, but still rather out of whack, so I’m working at the job from home – thank goodness I can do that.
Hoping that this will clear up.
So, what’s new in your world? or the world–now that I think on it, I’ve been offline and have no clue what’s been happening.
Friday, January 20th, 2012
For some bizarre reason, I keep rescuing kittens in my dreams.
A few nights ago, it was at the seashore, and I rescued them using a weird trapping type of machinery. Sort of a cross between a humane cage trap and one of those glass-enclosed claw machines at the arcade, only instead of a claw, this one just had a sliding wall that came down and trapped the kitties inside at the edge of the ocean. Go figure.
This early morning’s dream was perhaps less weird, but still with the kitties. I (and some friends) were at my house (which, evidently, was a refurbished old church). We had to be sure to not let the cats out, but then someone had moved some construction panels and one of the kitties fell down into an unfinished basement. There was only some framing for stairs, so we (me and faceless friend) coaxed the kitty to climb up the two-by-fours and then we boarded up the hole in the wall again. There was something else about working at the house, and the cats roaming around but that’s all fuzzy.
My twisty mind, let me show you it.
In other news, the cardiac doc visit went well. She scheduled me for an echocardiogram, but doesn’t think I have any heart issues. My numbers are good; family history is good, so this is mostly to rule out the possibility of sarcoid in the heart.
Today, I visit the sleep doc for followup. I suppose I’ll get the prescription for the CPAP machine, since that’s what was indicated in the sleep study results. Severe sleep apnea, oh, my!
And, on that note, I need to finish eating breakfast so I can skedaddle to the doc’s office.
Y’all be good!