Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So close

I've been working on a couple of short pieces for Still Moments Publishing. They have a magic-themed anthology coming up, one called Snowbound Hearts, and one for Valentine's Day. I sent them two pieces, one called Crossings, and the other called Honolulu City Lights. Okay, I totally stole the second title from the old Keola and Kapono Beamer song, which has always been a favorite of mine. I'm not sure it actually relates to the story as much as it does to the time that the story was set, if that makes sense. It was a popular song in the '80s, and the story was set in the early '90's,  and most of the action takes place at night. It works in my head, anyway.

Crossings is the piece I'm losing sleep over. Part of the problem comes from the fact that the story is set in the Sister-verse, Sister being one of my WIPs that I'm getting ready to overhaul. It's been great to get back into that world and get to know some of the characters better, but after I finished the first draft, I had the strong sense that what I'd written wasn't really a short story, but maybe the first three or so chapters of the sequel to Sister. Oops.

So I sent Crossings off, and a couple days later it came back with the comment that the ending was too abrupt. Lesson learned - a romance can't end with the heroine walking off into the sunset, leaving the hero behind. It might work for the end of a chapter, but not so much for a short story. So I took the dog for a walk and came up with what happens next. Fate separates them, but then brings them back together and it's wine and roses time. Or something like that.

And then they sent it back again, with another request for work on the ending, and could I please bring in the heroine's parents - who so far have existed in the most abstract way possible. Like, she's alive, therefore she must have parents, but they abandoned her at birth and their identities will be known somewhere in the Sister sequel. Probably.

So....I took the dog for a walk and came up with another idea, one that gives her a family, without actually naming Mom and Dad. In the end, she and the hero ride off into the sunset together to look for them, or thereabouts. That will hopefully satisfy SMP (who are lovely, lovely people and I'm really thrilled that they like the piece enough to keep working with me on it) but still give me the flexibility to make her parents a surprise when they show up in book 2...or book 3.

What I don't want is to end up with a short story that readers NEED to understand the action in book 2 (think Charlaine Harris and Definitely Dead, which makes a whole lot more sense if you've read the short story One Word Answer). I know it can work - there's a Kim Harrison novella, I think in the Dates From Hell anthology, that's illustrates the relationship that Ivy and Kisten shared before the action in the Hallows series really started, and there's a LKH short story in Strange Candy that shows a definite warming up in the relationship between Anita and Jean Claude. It's a snap-shot of one night between books, and a cool story in itself, but the series still works if you haven't read it.  

So why am I nattering on about this? Because now I'm nervous. I can't decide if this situation is third time's the charm or three strikes and you're out. I've told myself that if they don't end up taking Crossings, I still have the first few chapters of my book 2, and I have a much better understanding of the characters and how the world works as I go into the re-write of Sister. This is really a win for me. I have until 12/31/11 to get Crossings together, which gives me plenty of time. It would be so cool to get a taste of the world out there to see how it flies!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Puppy Torture

                                                     This is the face of puppy torture.
Hmm, yeah, no, not really. This is the face of a little dog who needs to learn that when he's on walkies, he shouldn't tug so hard that he knocks his mama on her ass in the mud. Not that he's actually done that, but there have been a couple of close calls. He also needs to learn that it's not good if he's tugging so hard that his breathing becomes audible. Tracheal compression by collar is so not the way to go.  

A friend recommended I get a Gentle Leader, which is basically a harness like a horse would wear. There's a strap that goes over his nose, and another around his neck. Apparently dogs don't like things touching their noses, so they won't tug in this contraption. Actually, it took about fifteen minutes to convince him to MOVE in this contraption, and then it took almost a whole pocketful of kibble to get him down the four blocks from our house to 15th NE. After that, he sorted things out, more-or-less, and we had a pretty decent walk. And my shoulder stayed in its socket.

We've had a second walk with the Gentle Leader, and that one went better than the first. Except that he started to poop in the middle of the road because he was too intimidated to let me know he needed to go to the sidelines.  We'll work those details out. He's about ten months old, which I'm learning is comparable to a teenager in human years. I figure it's good practice for managing the young teens that live in my house. Not sure they make anything comparable to the Gentle Leader for kids, but I'd totally buy one if they did.

And I hope that those of you reading this have a peaceful Thanksgiving.  It makes my heart full to think about all the amazing people and gifts and blessings that I have to be thankful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why is there a drum kit in my basement?

I started out with the best intentions.  It was Monday morning, after all, and Dear Daughter was up till midnight finishing her homework.  You might be asking yourself why she didn't start her homework sooner than 7pm on Sunday evening.  Good question.  Likely because she's in 8th grade, and I trust her to be able to organize herself when it comes to that kind of thing.  Maybe I'm misguided, but that's how it is.

So because she was short on sleep and I wanted to be nice, I volunteered to iron her khaki uniform pants.  The dog and I went down to the basement to plug in the iron, and I noticed the drum kit.  Surrounded by gear, like amps and mic stands and a small mixing board.  Huh.  Wonder how long that's been there.

Now, it's not as unusual as it might be, since the Dear Husband is in two bands.  It's just been, like, a week and a half since one of them rehearsed at our house.  Which means the drum kit has been set up for at least a week and a half.  Huh.  Hadn't noticed it till now.  The basement is big, and all, and the drum kit was pushed up against the pool table, but still.  It's hard to miss.

Any good story has conflict, right?  So here's mine.  I was ironing away when I smelled the distinctive aroma of dog poop.  Seems Puppy doesn't like to do his bidness in the rain.  We live in Seattle.  He needs to get over that.  I threw him out back (not literally) and went on a poop hunt.  I found it BEHIND the drum kit and UNDER the pool table, which is why, at 8 am on a Monday morning, I was crawling over rock and roll detritus to scoop the poops from under the pool table.  Almost got scalped by a cymbal.

And from that I know that it's going to be a good week, because, really, there's nowhere to go but up.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Each one cuter than the last...

Yesterday I read The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. I'd never heard of this author and I can't even really remember how the book ended up on my Kindle, but I'm so glad it did. Charlie is a kick-ass heroine, and the book's roller-coaster plot and strong heart made for a really fun read.

And her men were HOT. First she introduced Hank, an otherworldly siren who's Charlie's partner. Okay, whenever an author starts describing a man in terms of his lion-like good looks, I'm like, sign me up for that safari. Then there's Will, Charlie's ex-husband who owns a construction company. My own Dear Husband is in construction, so I have a total thing for a guy with a little dust on his jeans and paint on his hands.  

Aaron is a mage with glossy black hair. The first time she met him, they were in a public bath and he was...all there in the open. I knew Charlie was a stronger woman than I'll ever be when she had a conversation with him and kept her eyes on his face the whole time.  And Carreg is a powerful otherworldly guy with dark good looks and perfect suits. He plays the grey zone between good and evil. 

The book is the first of three in this urban occult series.  It isn't a romance, and none of the men were really presented as Charlie's love interest, which made the possibilities all that much more intriguing.  I'm not doing any of them justice here, but believe me that the imaginary eye candy definitely added to the reading experience.  I may be getting old, but I'm still the girl whose high school classmates voted the student most likely to get arrested for attacking the 7th Fleet...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Da Bus

So every Sunday I work at my real job.  It's less than ideal, but it must be done.  I take the bus to work whenever I can, and I gotta tell you that the #75 on a Sunday morning is worth more than the price of admission.

There's a cast of regulars.  The bus runs down along Lake Washington, and every Sunday this summer Mr. Fisherdude got on. He was a big guy in hip waders who carried a fishing pole and a tackle box.  God only knows what he ever caught out there.  There's the Black Gentleman With The Cane who smiles and says 'hi' when he gets on.  There's also the Surly Punkrock Dude who gets off in front of City People's Mercantile.  Almost every week he nearly misses his stop because he's asleep.  He hasn't been there the last couple weeks.  I wonder what's up?

Today the bus was busier than normal, and there was one Chatty Cathy behind me who was telling her unfortunate seatmate all kinds of stuff.  I had her pretty well tuned out until I heard her say, "I was going to go to _______, but when I went out to my car, my son had let the air out of two of my tires."


"Yeah, see, I get my license back in three weeks, and every time I get close, I get pulled over and the judge re-sets the date."

Uh - huh.

"He was just protecting me."

And all the rest of us, sister.  I hope she rides again next week.  I'll pay more attention.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Glee boycott

So this  is a bit of a rant.  Last week I saw something that's still bugging me.  It was a new Glee commercial using music from Mozart's Requiem Mass.  This may mark me as old or stodgy or a hopeless church choir geek, but really?  Somehow you think The Requiem bears any relationship to a TV series that arguably has seen better days?  It just kills me.

To back up a step, for years I sang in the choir at our neighborhood Cathedral, with a choir director who seemed to know Mozart personally.  Okay, Mr. Director was a teensy bit crazy, but he was an amazing teacher.  When we'd rehearse The Requiem, he'd tell us how Mozart knew he was near the end of his life, and how he struggled to complete the Mass before he died.  He didn't make it.  The way Mr. Director told it, you could see the failing composer working frantically by candlelight, composing one of the single greatest works in the choral repertoire.  And now he's selling Glee.  He's sold cars before, too.  Totally pisses me off.

There should be a law against using works of great religious significance for TV commercials.  Orff's Carmina Burana is another piece you'd likely recognize, whether or not you know jack about choral music.  Anyway, that's my bitch and I'm sticking to it.  Peace,

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Great Chicken Experiment

This is the last piece for my humor writing class.  Next I'll try to summarize what she actually taught us!>

The great chicken experiment is over.

Six years ago, it seemed like a good idea.  The Son was in kindergarten, and for their science project his class had eggs in an incubator.  The theory was, the eggs would hatch, and then the baby chicks would need a home.  I volunteered.  The Husband LOOKED at me.  Then he shrugged.  Three baby chicks came home with us on Good Friday, 2006.

Shadow was a big Barred Rock hen.  Old John that used to live next door told us she’d be a good layer.  She was a bossy old bitch, but knew about laying eggs.  Sunshine and Acorn were Auricanas, Martha Stewart’s preferred breed.  They laid cute little aqua blue and green eggs.  Sunshine had, well, yellow feathers.  What can I say?  The kids were little and they made fairly obvious name choices.

Acorn was a pretty marbled brown and black hen.  She was our fragile flower.  Because of Acorn, I know there’s an avian Vet down on Aurora Avenue.  I know that the staff at the Animal ER in Lake City are friendly and caring…and don’t laugh outright in your face when you bring them a bird in severe respiratory distress.  Hey, it was almost Easter and I didn’t want the kids traumatized by a chicken who wouldn’t rise again in three days.  I now know it’s possible to spend hundreds of dollars keeping a chicken alive.  If you’re crazy.

People who actually know about animals do call me crazy.  Like, my sister-in-law who runs a stables thought I was nuts when we brought Acorn out to her while we were going on vacation.  Acorn needed steroid and antibiotic shots, and I had to teach Auntie C how to give them.  You do this, and you do this, I said.  She LOOKED at me.  Then she shrugged.  And gave the shots.

In my defense, a dear friend once told me about someone her mother knew who spent hundreds of dollars keeping an ailing hen alive.  Not only that, but once it died she paid for an autopsy and then had it cremated.  Its ashes are in an urn in her living room.  Now that’s crazy.

One night in the spring of 2009, I got a hysterical call from the Husband while I was at work.  Once I got him calmed down a little, I realized that he was telling me a neighbor’s dog had broken into the chicken coop and played Chicken Frisbee with Sunshine, Shadow and Acorn.  Shit.  They were all dead.

So that was our first real learning experience as chicken owners.  I mean, besides the fact that chicken poop STINKS.  The kids had a life and death lesson.  And I had a reality check.  No more spending big bucks keeping a chicken alive.  After talking with other chicken owners, it seemed that they all had a dirty dog story.  Getting chomped by other critters was an occupational hazard of being a chicken.

The back yard was a sadder place without the girls.  I missed the way they’d strut around, turning up where I least expected them.  When you talk to a chicken, they’ll cock their heads, as if they are the source of all common sense and you, verbose ape, are clucking nonsense.  They made me laugh.  When I raised the possibility of getting new birds, the Husband LOOKED at me.  And then he shrugged.  That Easter, there were three new baby chicks under a warmer light in our basement.

Lacey, Eight Ball and Beulah Mae were a different breed.  We didn’t give them the run of the yard, hoping to keep their presence a secret from the neighborhood dogs.  Beulah Mae was a Buff Orpington, a big yellow bird who knew her way around a nesting box.  Lacy was a fussy little Lace Winged Wyandotte, and Eight Ball was another Barred Rock.  They lived in their coop, with an eight-foot run in front of it.  We moved the coop so we could see them from the kitchen window, but they never had the same sense of family as our first three birds.  And they NEVER had the same vet bills as our first three birds.

We were happy chicken owners, and would have kept them up, but this summer the neighborhood raccoons figured out that dinner lived in our coop.  They’d break in and snatch one.  The Husband would reinforce the coop.  They’d figure out another way in.  The Husband would fix it.  And so on.  Our last girl, Eight Ball, tangled with a raccoon yesterday.  That’s a battle a chicken will always lose.  We hope she’s happy in chicken heaven with all her chicken sisters.  The Husband can’t wait to take the coop to the dump.