Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ah, frustration!

So here I am: empty in-box that should last a couple more days, taxes figured out (I hope) enough to turn in to the accountant tomorrow, cash in hand to pay the painter who said he'd probably finish up today (at last the house won't look like an abandoned haunted shack any more!)... Nothing left but tune up the ol' wip (work in progress) so I can query Cerridwen with it, right?

Wishful thinking. I'd forgotten that whatever they're using up there in Ohio doesn't work with my work Mac. It barely works with my home Mac. Every time I open it I find yet another section of 127 point type, though the last time I closed everything was a sedate 12 pt. (I'll have to set up an entirely new document at home and reprogram all the styles, etc.) So all this useful time will go to pot, unless I decide to watch my Dreamweaver or Photoshop training videos which would actually positively affect my 9-to-5 job. You know, the one that pays the bills.

Sigh. I just want to finish this book and get it OUT so I can pick up my work on "Nothing Personal" again.

"Star-Crossed" has been a bit of a bear. It was originally written waaaay back when I only thought I could write. I've been wrestling with it for that, and also because it's the rising action of the overall story arc, a tough nut to make stand-alone. But it's been pruned and zinged-up and I like to think reads pretty well.

"Nothing Personal" was begun in mid-2007. It was my attempt to do a quick book. I got bogged down fairly quickly when I didn't know where things were going. Oh, I knew the ending, just as I knew the midpoint (whew! Hot zero-G naked action!), but people's motivations kept changing. That evil gang of kids on the space station just didn't interest me.

But as time has passed I've gotten glimpses of Tam Yusuf's space home, friends, acquaintances and enemies. The theme of non-biological family has grown stronger and stronger. I really want to write this thing now but I've got to finish what's on my plate first.

Darned document. Maybe I'll be able to get the query at least done tonight. (Does that mean I can skip going to the gym?)

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Parental Units Trap

Whew! Just survived a weekend with Ye Parents.

Is it just me, or does everyone have a similar problem? I come back from a visit with shakes, completely exhausted from the emotional conflagration. I go through every excuse in the book not to see them for another six months.

This past year I actually DIDN'T go to their place for Christmas. (Went Thanksgiving instead.) Got the whole Guilt Trip laid on me (of course my absent sister didn't), but by golly, for once it was a peaceful holiday! Think I'll try that again this year. Maybe I'll even get a tree.

Mom's recollections of her life back before marriage when she was in the Air Force, involve a lot of breaking rules, standing up for herself and having fun. Her nickname was "Happy." Me, I don't recall her ever smiling that much. (And I don't think it was me what made her that way. I was a perfect child.)

Now in their eighties, Mom and Dad have become concentrated versions of themselves. These days Mom sits in her recliner working silently on solitaire or watching whatever's on the TV while Dad talks and talks even if no one's around (occasionally Mom says, "Uh huh" if he pauses because he gets mad if he thinks no one's listening), and flies into absolute rages at the tiniest thing.

I remember being seriously upset by the situation when I was in high school, and it wasn't just teen angst at work. For a couple years they did seek a shrink's help. Mom seemed to be fine with all the verbal abuse. The problems kept flaring up with me time and again through the years. These days I put in my weekly phone call -- dealing mostly with the weather -- and that's that; duty done (along with a bit of financial assistance).

My friends and co-workers seem to have the same type of problems and also dread visits.

So: how did we survive our childhoods with them if now we go KA-RAZY if we're with them for more than three hours?

How do we get back on a non-lethal emotional playing field with our parents?

I'd welcome any ideas. I mean, they're talking about the entire family getting together for a week this summer at Myrtle Beach. I think that's the week I have to work overtime...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mary Sue and Me -- Our Fate is in the Cards!

I've been trying to get my wip ready to send off for the past three weeks. Well actually, for the past year, but with any energy for 3 weeks.

"Touch of Danger" comes out in May. It's the first volume of my Three Worlds series. Cerridwen bought only it and said, "We'll see" about a series. The second volume is tentatively titled "Star-Crossed," even though a recent online course instructor told me that since this was such a common title I should add a word or two. Unfortunately I can't get my heart around anything more. "Star-Crossed" sums up the predicament so nicely! She's a teleporter on interstellar levels, and she's in love with someone who is just not in her social class but rather miles above her. (Or so she believes.)

So anyway. One of the three online courses I took in February was "Screenwriting," by Alexandra Sokoloff, who is converting us all (as I've half-heartedly tried in the past) to putting scenes on notecards in order to arrange the book in a fast-paced, exciting, and stakes-upping manner.

Now, Three Worlds started off as one gigantor book. An agent (don't recall who) said it was impossible to sell such a large book -- something even idiot I should have known at that ignorant, pre-RWA time in my life -- so I split it up into four books plus 1 stand-alone sequel.

Book 1 was Act 1 of that part of the series (estimated at about 12 volumes) (oh puh-lease, don't groan; it's got 5 major arcs). Act I is the introduction of the hero/heroine and the call to adventure, but it made a very complete, exciting book and apparently Cerridwen agreed with me.

"Star-Crossed" is the "rising action" part of the first arc, where you get introduced to the characters and their situation while assembling a team. The characters have "crossed the threshold" and try to figure out what's happening until they hit the exciting Midpoint, where the situation takes a 180 turn (into the next book).

So it's a bit difficult to format a stand-alone-ish book from this. Book 2 definitely stands on the weakest ground of the bunch.

But the index cards will saaaaaaave me! I have faith in them.

Trouble is, it's just so darned much real WORK to write everything down, especially since I've been so busy paring the final two chapters to get rid of all the absolutely FASCINATING infodumps they contained. I reduced their page count by 3/4 and it reads so much better. (But still, isn't a wedding reception the best time to reflect on the various modes of interstellar fashion, humanoid types, political strategies, and galactic evolution? NOT ANY MORE!!!)

I'm hoping that the cards will also burn off any remaining Mary Sue-isms in the narrative. Since the series began from a dream, it started off as Mary Sue City and in the years of writing the first 5 volumes I've tried to adapt the lead character to the story and vice-versa, pulling her away from any Mary Sue tendencies. Still, they rear their ugly little Mary Sue heads, at least if you take those "Mary Sue tests" that you find on the Internet.

I'm doing my best to make Lina her own self who rules and is ruled by the universe she lives in.

When I get these freaking cards done it'll probably be another 2 weeks before I can hand the book in to my editor. Whew! Then I can get another pack of cards and start figuring out how the heck "Nothing Personal," the book I've been working on for about 2 years now that still remains rather vague in places, holds together. It's teetering on the brink of "aha" and merely needs a little organization and focus.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Precipitation, prescriptions, and paintings

What a long week it's been! Luckily, it seems to be preparing for a long weekend, as a good coating of snow is forecast for this afternoon and tonight, which will interfere with getting to work Monday, hee hee! And the thing that made it such a long week, my root canal first thing last Monday, seems to have finally decided to wind down in the swelling and pain department. It was fine Monday night, not too bad Tuesday... But Wednesday! OY!!!! Picture me in the middle of the night rifling through every corner of the house trying to find something stronger than aspirin! Luckily for me I'd bought a new first aid kit for my hurricane corner that I finally recalled and -- tra la! Acetamenophin AND isowhatsitsface! Worked wonders! Pats on the back for me for not overdosing when I really, really wanted to.

Speaking of health problems (what a great time we live in! Imagine coming down with some of this stuff a mere fifty years ago, or a hundred!), a shout-out to Mart Gray! I've been looking all around trying to find where he said he'd been having some medical probs, because Gail Simone gave him a "get well soon" wish on the DCMBs. Can't find it at all, but get well soon from this corner as well, Mart! When I get back to work where I have your email addie, I'll drop you a line. You know, you might mention such things in your blog. I'm just sayin'...

A column or two down I asked about how do you know something is finished? Seems I decided to work a bit more on my "finished" painting. Then I said, "Yeah, that's all right!" which I hadn't before, so it does appear to be finished-finished. I had to name the jpg so it's called "Evening Copse." You know, as in "bad trees, bad trees, whatcha gonna do?"

In the meantime I started another pic and decided not to continue putting up "I think it's finished" pics every week until even I couldn't stand it. So here's... What did I call it? "Frolic in Blue," a dorky enough name which might be changed though I think the pic won't.

The one on the left, or the red one, however this is going to be displayed, is my value underpainting, which came in handy as I'd photographed it and could adjust the thing in its final stages. I like the red version, too. Have to try to do a finished something along those lines as an experiment sometime. This year I'm really trying to concentrate on having an interesting value pattern in my work. They say if you have that you can screw everything else up and still get a nice painting. I'm also trying to paint in a more painterly manner. And learn more about acrylics and abstracts. So far so good; I just need to up my production rate.

I'm also working on my color choices. For example, this painting was supposed to have been a four-color painting, based on Bob Burridge's color theories. It turned into a more sedate complementary scheme, but Bob's two "spice colors" do show up faintly. I'll have to work some more on that. Oh -- I also incorporated Bob Rankin's ideas for abstracting from reality. Thanks to Jerry's Artarama's free demo videos on their website, I was able to recall what I'd learned during his courses, ran out and got some reference picture books (he uses National Geographics), and did this. It's not nearly as abstract as it should be (the red version shows what the original idea was), but it's more abstract than how I usually work. I'm getting there. I'll learn abstraction yet.

At this point I'd wax on about the lovely writing courses I've been taking this month (which have partially kept me from working on my wip) (very partially; the other part is procrastination rooted in a fear of not creating perfection), but I think I'll save that for next week, which will allow me to make the column a more writing-specialized one.

Have a great week out there!