Saturday, March 31, 2012

The difference a week makes

On March 25, last Sunday, I went on a long (4.5 hour) hike through Clear Creek. It was a lovely, sunny day and I took lots of pictures. This afternoon, once the daily storms had moved off, I hiked up to Observation Point for my end-of-the-month photo of the view, and took lots more pictures as I went along.

Well, I thought it was green last week. But look at these pictures, the first taken last week, the second taken today:

And no, I didn't monkey with the filters or shop anything. Spring is just exploding all over the place. This was the warmest March on record and very nearly the wettest. We've had storms almost every night, daily temperatures consistently between 70 and 85 degrees every single day. I'm not complaining, because it's been awesome, but it does make me worry about the summer. I think it's going to be very, very hot by July.

But in the meantime, it's just gorgeous out there.

Friday, March 30, 2012

But first an outline

I think it might be almost time to start my new project.

The problem with being a writer is the constant influx of story ideas. In my case, they're all ideas for novels, which take a relatively long time to write. Sometimes I think an idea is a short story idea, and when I start writing it turns out I've got a novel idea after all. Sometimes I think an idea is ripe, and I get five or ten or fifty thousand words in and realize I only had half an idea. (Outlines help with that problem, but I don't always do an outline.) I always intend to come back to those half-done projects (like Little Sparrow and How Christopher Kaplan Learned to Lie and Adventures in Zoology). But time is short, and there are always new ideas crowding in.

I was messing around with the sequel to Misfits, which has a working title of Unsung Math Genius. But I'm hesitant to write too much on it while I'm still querying agents for the first book. I don't want to jump the gun on the direction the series takes.

So I've been doing some editing and a little bit of writing here and there instead. And then BAM! An idea smacked me upside the head. It's YA, probably SF/F although that's an aspect of the plot I haven't resolved yet (the bad guys could be aliens or zombie type monsters or real life terrorists, depending on where I want to take the story).

Last night I figured out the main characters' names. Tonight: outline time. And then the first words.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Give it away, sell it

With just over a week to go in my Dragon Whisperer Goodreads giveaway, I already have 703 people who've entered the contest. Good grief! They can't all seriously want the book that much.

I can announce the sale now since I've returned the contract: my story "Blood Oranges" has been accepted by Daily Science Fiction! I don't know yet when it will appear. The sale pleases me mightily because I really like that story and because DSF is a SFWA pro market! I don't write very many short stories so I don't make very many pro sales; this is only my second. Once I sell one more, I'll be eligible for SFWA membership.

Now I just need to write some stories.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to be paranoid

Twice last year I needed a 'go bag' when I had to rush to the hospital after Mom was admitted, and had only a few minutes to throw some things together. Twice I was unprepared. (You'd think after the first time I'd have figured it out, but I'm kinda slow.)

But I resisted putting a go bag together until after my aunt and I were cleaning out some of Mom's stuff after she died. My aunt found the little suitcase Mom kept under the bed and said, "Isn't this the suitcase your grandmother kept packed in case she had to go with someone to the hospital?" And suddenly I didn't feel so paranoid at feeling like I ought to have a go bag.

There's a very useful Making Light post that gives some good tips, which I just reread. Now I have a small list of things I need to add to my go bag. Of course, my go bag is not just for emergencies; it's also in case someone ever says to me, "Let's go! Now! Adventure awaits!" Not that that will ever happen, but it might.

Instead of a backpack, I used a small, attractive (I think) messenger bag made of sturdy brown canvas. I can sling it over my shoulder and carry it comfortably, leaving my hands free, and it won't make me look like I'm about to go camping. Here's what I have in it currently, in case anyone else is interested in making one and would like some ideas:

*toiletries in two small makeup bags (they wouldn't fit easily in one bag, so I split them into things I need daily and things I need frequently but not daily)
*a light, sleeveless nightgown and change of underwear
*a washcloth
*a small notebook
*a ballpoint pen and a spare ink cartridge for the pen
*a paperback book (Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers, which I can happily read again and again)
*a few bandages and a tiny bottle of aspirin
*a spare pair of glasses
*one of those travel sizes of Kleenex
*my passport in a holder that also contains a few dollar bills and a card that tells me what to do if I lose my passport (of course, if I ever lose my passport I'll probably also lose the card, but at least I feel like I'm trying)
*a copy of all my important documents--driver's license, credit/debit cards, health insurance card, car insurance card, etc.--front and back. On the back of these two sheets of paper I've jotted a list of passwords to certain important websites (like my online banking account) that I don't use often. (In a weak stab at not making it entirely easy for anyone who steals my go bag to take over my identity, I didn't label the passwords or write down the matching login information.)
*a spare car key and house key
*a flash drive that I update at least weekly with whatever writing project I'm working on
*$100 cash

Things I plan to add to the go bag now that I've reread that Making Light post:
*space blanket (those things are really tiny and only cost like a buck)
*wool socks

Even though that makes what looks like a mighty long list, the bag isn't heavy and has plenty of room left for small things that I need to add. I keep it in a hidden but easy-to-get-to location in my house (I'm not leaving it out where anyone can grab it, duh, it's got money in it).

If I do ever have an emergency that requires me to leave home on short notice--say, a flood or fire--or a weather emergency like a tornado that makes me have to leave while repairwork is done on my house, I've now got a bag that will make it a lot smoother to stay a few days in a hotel or shelter. And if I ever need to go with someone to the hospital again, I have a book, a nightgown, and dollars for the vending machines--and those little comforts make all the difference, trust me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's a pergola!

I have a weird work schedule anyway, but this week it was even weirder than usual--but that's good, because it meant that I got off work on Friday at 10:30am and then had the whole weekend free! Friday was chilly and rainy, so I went and saw a movie (John Carter of Mars, or whatever it's called; it was fun).

Saturday dawned beautifully sunny and warm, so I opened a gallon of exterior semi-gloss white paint and decided it was time to paint the front railing. So I did. It was honestly a perfect spring morning: birds singing, sun beaming, a light breeze fluttering my hair, people walking by with their dogs calling greetings to me. By the time I'd finished painting the railing, it had dried, so I went back and did a second coat.

So then I went around and painted part of the back porch, but didn't do all of it because I decided it was time to paint the pergola.

I didn't know what a pergola was until we bought this house. It's a open trellis that doesn't have a roof, and of course the house has one. It's old and needs repair and/or replacement of many of the beams, and it badly needed painting. So I got out the stepladder and got to work.

I started painting the railing at about 9:15 am. By the time I ran out of paint while working on the pergola, it was a quarter until two. I took a shower, changed clothes, and went back out and washed and waxed my car. Because apparently I get my energy from the sun like flowers do. And I mowed the front lawn (badly).

I finished painting the pergola today and finished the first coat on the back porch, which looks very nice but will have to wait for its second coat at least a week because it's going to rain rain rain all week long. I also repainted the white adirondack chairs in the front of the house. And I have a sunburn, a strained muscle in my arm, a full-body crick in my neck, and so much paint left on my skin I look like I have leprosy. But by god the house looks great!

More pictures, including a bonus Jekyll pic:

The pergola. Disregard the clutter underneath it, which I need to rearrange (and some of it goes on the back porch but is not on it currently while the paint dries).

The back of the pergola, by the garage:

The back porch. Once the second coat is on and dry, the red chairs go back on the porch:

And finally, Jekyll the cat who wishes I would play with him instead of painting constantly:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What happened to my brain?

So there's an excellent post over at LadyBusiness looking at SF/F book reviews in blogs and how they break down along gender lines--that is, how many books by male authors are reviewed compared to how many books by female authors, and how the percentages relate to the gender of the reviewer. It's fascinating and not at all aggressive (translation: guys, you can go over there and read it without feeling defensive). The point of the post is mostly just to get people to think about the issue so that they'll be aware of their own choices in reading material.

This topic pops up pretty frequently online, which is good. Last time I blogged about my own reading choices at the beginning of 2011. My results then were a pretty even split between male and female authors, with the exception of mysteries, where I'd only read one book by a man.

So I went back and looked at what I read this past year (actually, I looked at everything from January 2011 to present) and noted down the authors' genders where I knew them. Since the LadyBusiness post only looked at SF/F for adults and YA, that's what I counted first. I came up with 26 male authors and 19 female.

That startled me, because typically I read more books by women. So I went back and totaled the genders of the mystery and non-specfic YA I read last year. And gulp. I read 23 books by male authors and 16 by female. Admittedly, ten of the male books were one mystery series I went crazy for last year (Barry Maitland), but I'd assumed those books would be outweighed by all the Georgette Heyer and Karen E. Olson mysteries I also read.

So between January 2011 and now, I read 84 novels for both adults and YA (I didn't count middle grade or nonfiction because the original survey didn't). Of those, 49 were written by men, 35 by women. And I'm a woman who likes to read books by women. What the hell happened?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

You could win!

I'm a little slow sometimes. I knew that Double Dragon Publishing has an option to order POD print books, but I'd never actually connected that with the ability to, you know, order a POD print book of my Double Dragon ebooks. Yesterday I made that enormous leap and ordered a copy of The Dragon Whisperer--not to keep, but to give away on Goodreads!

So anyone who's interested, you can go here and get your name in the pot. You might win!

I am astounded at how many people have signed up already, incidentally. As of this writing, it's only been listed for a few hours but there are already 55 people who think they'd like to own it. If only they think they'd like to own it so much they actually go out and buy it.

I've got another Double Dragon book coming out this summer, Evil Outfitters, Ltd, so you can bet I'll be doing another giveaway.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

What the hell, California Pizza Kitchen?

Seriously, what the hell is this? I open up the pizza and it's, like, maybe a cup and a half of shredded cheese and spinach that isn't even stuck to the dough, and it's sliding all over the place and half of it falls off when I open the plastic packaging. I had to add my own cheese to make it pizza-like instead of like a piece of toast with a sprinkling of cheese.

So California Pizza Kitchen can kiss my ass. Also, did I mention I have a camera now?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Enter the Jekyll

Okay, let's try this cat thing again.

Actually, it's obvious me and Jekyll are going to be fast friends. He's much more outgoing than the little gray cat, and he seems to like me, and he's adjusted very well to living with me. Of course, he probably feels like he's in cat heaven now--before, he was sharing a house with eight other cats.

His name is Jekyll because he's sweet as can be to people, but bullies other cats. Since I'm not a cat, I'm not worried. The worst thing he does is grab me around the ankles in the mornings before I'm dressed. And that just reminds me to get dressed earlier instead of shuffling around in my nightgown.