Saturday, January 28, 2012

Clear Creek in January

During the awful month last summer that I stayed in the hospital with Mom, I yearned for Clear Creek--less because I wanted to get outside in the July sun (although that was part of it), mostly because having the freedom to jaunt off to go hiking would mean a return to Life Before. But nothing returned to normal.

Now I have the freedom to go wherever I like. It's not the way I wanted to get that freedom, but it's what I have now and I might as well use it. So although it's cold today, I took my new little (cheap-ass) camera to Clear Creek after work. Here are some pictures.

Here's a big tree with huge buttressed roots. I'm not sure what kind of tree--ash?--but you can see how big it is by my shadow at the bottom.

This is an overexposed photo since the sun was in my face but I was standing in the shade, and I love the effect. It shows an impressive vine twining through winter trees, the kind of vine we call "grapevine" locally although it has nothing to do with grapes. If you can find one hanging down at just the right height, they're the best swings ever.

And this is the view from observation point, my destination today. I sat on the bench and looked at the dam and the river far below me, and thought about how much Mom liked to walk along the river, and how last summer--before her stroke and the hospital and everything else--we took a picnic to the river. It was a perfect day, hot but breezy, and when we left with the picnic basket swinging empty in my hand, we ran into a wedding at the river's edge and stayed to watch the couple kiss.

Summer will be here again soon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No, and maybe

I got a no today from Angry Robot, for those of you keeping track at home. Still, it was nice to be under consideration at that level.

Remember the contemporary YA I wrote this past summer, Misfits? It's revised now and I sent the first batch of five queries out to agents Friday night. I've already received three responses: two rejections--and a full request. So that's almost made up for my rejection today.

I don't know what I'm going to do with Bell-Men, to be honest. There's one more publisher I can send it to, although I want to revise it again first, but if they say no I'll probably just sit on it for a while. I've almost completed the sequel and I've always planned to make it a trilogy, so maybe I'll just wait until I've finished all three books to my satisfaction. And maybe by then I'll have sold something else and have an agent who can send it out to all those publishers who don't take unagented submissions ever.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Twitter is down, I need to natter

So, I may be getting a dog. I'm not pushing either way about this, but it's kind of weird how it worked out so if I get the dog, I'll figure it was Meant To Be and if I don't get the dog, I won't get a dog at all. Not yet, anyway.

Friday afternoon at work I found my thoughts meandering, as they do (usually at work), and I remembered that before I got my Newfoundland dog Jasper, who died at the end of 2008, I was thinking about getting a standard poodle. I don't know why it popped into my head then, but I thought about it for a while and thought, "Well, I can't get a dog now because I'm not home enough. Maybe in the future when my work schedule changes and I don't have to be gone over twelve hours every Tuesday."

Saturday at work I mentioned in passing to my coworker that I was thinking of getting a dog eventually. "What kind?" he asked me, and I said, "A poodle. One of the big standard poodles, not a little one."

And he said, "My sister-in-law has a standard poodle she might need a home for soon."

What are the odds? Anyway, the dog in question is a girl not quite one year old, with a good personality and a brown-tipped white coat, but who is driving her owner wild with her puppyish way of chewing everything to pieces. I remember when Jasper went through his final adolescent chewing phase. He liked to destroy hardback books. But after about six months he pretty much stopped chewing entirely except for chew toys and treats.

So I may get a dog. If it works out. If I do, I'll have to figure out what to do with the dog on Tuesdays.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gendered Nouns are the devil

You know you can still send me your mailing address to kcshaw123 at gmail dot com and get a free Goldie bookmark. Just sayin.

I've made it to lesson four in my Irish language CDs today. I'm going slowly because I have to repeat each lesson two or three times until I start to get it. It wasn't until today's lesson that Pimsleur let it slip that Irish has gendered nouns. I hate gendered nouns! They don't make any sense and it just means you have to memorize everything! I was always fed up with them in German, and had hoped Irish didn't have them. Today I learned that the Irish word for 'road,' which I can't remember, is male.

English has its problems, sure. But while our verbs are weirdly irregular, our pronunciations and spellings are all over the place (The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs the Dough, anybody?), and we've borrowed so much from other languages that ours really doesn't resemble any other Germanic language anymore, at least we don't have gendered nouns. Also, the word 'the' never changes.

Now I'm going to make hot chocolate and run a hot bubble bath so I can read and warm up. Because it's cold. And gendered nouns get me down.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Right now, keeping my brain occupied is paramount. I don't want to wallow in grief. I haven't been doing much writing, but I've been reading up a storm, keeping myself busy at work, and I got some language CDs this week that I've started listening to in the car on my commute.

I chose Irish Gaelic, because I listen to a lot of Celtic rock and it would be nice to be able to figure out what some of the more obscure songs are actually about. (Yes, I know I could look it up online, but that's cheating.) Also, anyone can learn Spanish or French, but it takes a certain amount of effort to learn a language with only about 75,000 native speakers (100,000 fewer people than the population of Knoxville, Tennessee, the city I am driving to while listening to the language CDs).

I got the Pimsleur Quick & Simple Irish ("No Books! No Classes! Totally Audio!") because it was cheap and the whole point of getting language CDs was so I could listen to them in the car. The directions that came with the CDs say to only do one lesson a day and repeat it until I've got about 80% mastery before I move on. Each lesson is half an hour long. I did the first lesson twice and moved to the second lesson this morning, feeling pretty good at my mastery of about eight words of Irish, and the second lesson promptly kicked my ass. I guess I'll repeat it for a few days.

The directions also say not to use the CDs with language books or anything else like that, because it messes with the way the brain learns language. When I was in grad school, the big thing in teaching was brain-based learning, so I'm all over that. No books for me. And to my surprise, I really do seem to be retaining what I'm learning--and considering that my previous serious attempt at language, three semesters of college German, never did bring me anywhere near fluency (or past tense words), I think I'm doing pretty well.

Of course, the only word I really need to learn is one I learned in lesson one, which means "I don't understand." It sounds like "nihiggim," and I suspect it's actually two words, 'nee' and the verb 'higgim,' but of course I don't know because I've never seen the words written down and all I can do is attempt to spell them phonetically. In other words, I am illiterate in Irish.

I'm so ashamed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Bookmarks! Free bookmarks!

Okay, my last post was grouchy and ill-mannered. "Goldie" is worth three bucks. Also, YOU CAN HAS A FREE BOOKMARK!

My shipment of bookmarks just arrived, and they are awesome. Seriously, these are some nice bookmarks. If you'd like one, just email me your mailing address at kcshaw123 at gmail dot com.

A big shout-out to Overnight Prints, who did a great job and who actually called me to tell me some of my text was bleeding off the edge (because I'm terrible with photoshop), and who managed to nudge the text over to fix it so that it's not actually cut off. Above and beyond the call of duty, especially since I got their cheap bookmarks. I will definitely order from them again.

Goldie release day

My steampunk novella, Goldie, releases today over at Musa. I thought it was supposed to be 99 cents--it's had 99 cents listed next to it since the page came up, my author workpage thingie they use had 99 cents listed from the beginning, but now that it's available, it costs $2.99. Not sure what's up with that. Maybe the price drops later. I don't care.

I don't currently care about anything. Mom's memorial service is tomorrow. The house is so quiet.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last Things

This morning, while snowflakes fluttered past the windows, Mom died. I held her hand and told her how much I loved her.

Several years ago she wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about her childhood called Afraid of the Moon, which eventually I'll get around to publishing. Here's a little excerpt that I keep thinking of; it's one of her own memories, and the little girl called Jessie in the story is essentially my mother.

Jessie and Mack had a record player, and Jessie's favorite record was "Thumbelina." She had a stack of yellow Golden records in paper cases, but Thumbelina was the record she played most often.

"Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing,
Thumbelina, dance, Thumbelina, sing."

Thumbelina was a fairy tale princess who had grown in a pot for an old man and old woman who wanted a child. She was as small as a thumb.

One day while Jessie was listening to Thumbelina, a thought stole into her head.

She began to wonder about being sick and about dying.

People died, and there seemed to be no reason for it. It was like the day she had been singing, had felt sick, and then everything went dark. Was that like dying? Was it like falling asleep? Was it like the spinning red lights she saw when the doctor placed the black mask over her mouth at the hospital?

What if this was her day to die? She hadn't known the day of the May Day rehearsal would be her day to faint, but it had been. No one could help her, and no one could stop it.

Maybe tonight, when she went to bed, would be her last night.

She would lie down, go to sleep, and never wake up.

She didn't care about heaven. She didn't want to go there. She didn't understand things she couldn't see. Jesus was a painting over her bed, but he wasn't in the room, and Heaven was something they talked about, not a real place like her grandmama's house in Oklahoma.

Jessie turned off Thumbelina. The tinny, merry song had become eerie and unsettling. Was this the last time she would hear it?

She walked into the kitchen quietly, feeling cold. She asked Mother, who was cooking at the stove, for a cookie.

"It's close to supper, Jessie. "

"Please, Mother: just one. "

Mother gave Jessie a chocolate marshmallow cookie out of the jar. "One--and don't show Mack. I don't want his supper ruined."

Jessie carried the cookie back to her bedroom. She sat in her chair and ate it slowly. It would be her last cookie.

While they ate supper, Jessie asked Daddy: "Can we go for a drive tonight?"

Daddy liked to take the family out in the car on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes he'd stop at the A&W for frosted mugs of root beer.

"I don't think so, Jessie," he said. "It's a school night."

"Please, Daddy. I want to go, please."

"Why don't you take her?" said Mother. "You need to get milk, and I can give Mack a bath."

They drove along the highway, and Jessie looked at everything. The last time she'd pass that tree. The last time she'd pass the white church on the corner. The last time she'd pass the school.

"You're very quiet, Jessie," said Daddy. "Want some music?" He turned on the radio, and "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" was playing. "That's a song you like!"

Jessie listened to the song mournfully; it was her last time to hear it.

Mack was in clean pajamas, and he hugged Jessie when she came home. "Jessie!" he said. He smelled like baby soap. His hair was brushed and damp.

Jessie hugged him close: the last hug.

"It's time for your bath, Jessie," said Mother, "and then you need to get to bed. Tomorrow is school."

I won't be going to school anymore, thought Jessie bleakly. She went in to take her last bath.
After lights-out, she began to cry into her pillow. All the last things were done, and now it was time to go to sleep and die.

Mother opened the door a crack. "Are you crying?"

"No." Jessie wiped her eyes on her pajama sleeve.

"Yes, you are. What's wrong?"

Jessie began to sob loudly. "Am I going to die tonight?--because I don't want to!"

"You're not going to die. Where did you get that crazy thought?"

Jessie didn't believe her mother anymore. How could her mother stop her from dying? Was she stronger than God and Jesus? If they wanted her to die, she would.

Mother went out of the room, and soon Daddy came in. He sat down beside her on her bed.

"What's this about dying?" he asked her. "Do you think you're going to die tonight?"

Jessie nodded. Her nose was running onto her upper lip. She licked it off with her tongue.

"When I was seven," Daddy said, "I thought I was going to die, too."

Jessie stared at him. "You did?"

"Yes, I really thought I would die, but I didn't. See? Here I am!"

"Why do people die?" asked Jessie.

"Mostly they die when they get very old or very sick. But you aren't sick. You are very healthy."

"I fainted at school."

"You were just too hot. That isn't being very sick." Daddy patted her on the arm. "I think that young children are still new, still close to being born, so they don't know about things like dying. That makes it seem scary, like it could just happen for no reason. But there is a reason. You aren't going to die. Tomorrow you'll get up and go to school, and Sunday we'll drive around and then get a root beer at the A&W. Okay?"

Jessie nodded and smiled. "Okay."

"Do you want to hear a record?" asked Daddy, standing up.

"Yes, please: Thumbelina."

Daddy turned on the record player for her, and she listened to Thumbelina. He turned out the light and shut the door.