Friday, April 29, 2005

the ants go marching two by two, hurrah! hurrah!

2129 words today, for a story-to-date total of 43620. You'll be glad to know that Shann and Taafa are talking to each other again. Mostly yelling, for the record, but at least its communication, right? It beats depressions all to bits.

I've been thinking that I wanted this first draft completed by the end of June, but how badly do I want it? That's nine weeks away, and I'm guessing there's roughly 66K left to go. Anyone want to take bets on how consistently I can produce 1500 words per day, Monday through Thursday for nine weeks? Yeah, me neither. I'd've been a little cockier a couple of weeks ago, but I certainly lost a lot of time in the meanwhile. If that happens again, I'm a goner. (For the record, I *did* know this was the weakest spot in the outline, though...)

Why does it matter? Well, it doesn't, really. No hopeful agent or editor or publisher is waiting with bated breath (baited with what, you might wonder...) for me to submit my masterpiece. At least that I know of! ;) I'm really trying to keep a real schedule, though. If--no, WHEN--I have contracts to fulfill, I'll need to know what is a reasonable time frame for me. I need to know my pacing. And pacing requires consistency. So, there you go.

You may remember in March that I wrote more-or-less straight through Easter weekend at home, and used online word wars to help keep me motivated and on track. The *new* deal is that my bosses (have I mentioned lately how awesome my guys are?) are going to pay for cable internet for me at the store, so hooking up with friends to write online will be a viable opportunity for me during my prime writing time. Will it get too distracting? Not if I limit the people to ones who also are actively looking for words, and limit the random chitchat to specified blocks of time. I'll be taking my computer home for the weekend in order to prepare it for the new modem.

You can laugh here because, although this computer is a Pentium II (which I bought for fifty bucks two years ago), it's been running on Windows 95. The cable company says I need Windows 98 as a minimum, so that's what we're putting on. Why not upgrade higher? I don't want to have to replace my HP810 printer, which got relegated to the shop when our new home computer (XP) refused to play with it last fall, forcing us to buy a new printer. And 98 will run the program fine, AND Yahoo! Messenger. What more could I want? Of course there's more I could want, but I'll save it until this computer dies altogether. It may not be that long, as one counts computer lives.

July is the technical start of the revisions section of the 2 year novel course at Forward Motion. I can start the section a little late if I need to, but I'd rather not. So we'll see how things go, right?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Have you noticed?

Have you noticed that when I'm writing well and things are moving along smoothly in my little world, that I also blog well? But as soon as I hit some glitches, I don't want to talk about it. I guess I just want to report the good stuff.

So it's a good thing that there is good stuff to report! Yesterday got kind of balled up with crit group stuff. It was good, it needed doing, but it didn't advance my story any. Well, maybe it did. Not in word count, but in shoring up the support structure that I will desperately need again later!

The other thing that sidetracked me was finishing the novel *The Burning Land* by Victoria Strauss. If you enjoy fantasy, give this book a read. I thoroughly enjoyed it on several levels. First off, it's a great read. Second, I liked seeing how Victoria wrote a fantasy based firmly on her world's true religion, and the doubts and growths of the various characters, some of whom are condemned as heretic or apostate. And finally, I liked that every time things got so bad that they couldn't possibly get worse, I was wrong. They COULD get worse, and did so. Have I mentioned I liked the book?

So, this morning. Finally. After wishy-washying all over the place for the past week, I finally got some new words on the screen, just barely over 1K, but still... And now I discover that both of my main characters are depressed. Jeepers. Somebody should take a stick to them. Hmm. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Some kind of update

I took Monday off work to accompany Jim on an out-of-town trip. It was really good for us to spend the day together. There is plenty to talk about as we have some major decisions to make in the next few days. It seems that for every direction we could go, the cons outweigh the pros. Are we missing something here?!

Knowing I would have an hour or two on my own while he was in meetings, I took along a notebook (but not my outline, silly me). I wrote quite a few pages of notes in long hand, trying to push the edge of what I know about my story, and think I got some good direction. My morning today has been trying to blend the new parts with the former outline, tweaking and poking it where needed. I think I now have (again) a completed outline, ready to go. This *empty space* before Taafa realizes she is pregnant is now full of other developments and tension, and the whole re-melding created an additional nine scenes for the outline. I'm at 40K right now; the projected book total is back at 110K.

To those of you who can write without an outline and not get stuck or overwhelmed, my hat goes off to you. (Not that I'm wearing one, you understand...) It threatens to drown me. I feel like I've been thrashing around in the water, not getting anywhere and barely keeping my head out. I guess I still need my water wings.

But first I need a good night's sleep. Amazing what stress can do to you. In other news, calf #16 was born on Saturday.

Friday, April 22, 2005

well, THAT was optimistic

Okay, so I'm not really rolling again yet. I tried to convince myself that adding the Pidaal character and beefing the subplot here would not change the story intrinsically, but it's not working. Really I was trying to avoid re-outlining. I write much better with a road map, and I haven't been able to convince myself that this little detour is still in sight of the main road. Pidaal needs to be more important than that. So today he got a character sketch and a background while I tried to see which direction the story is taking from here. I know where it's going, just not how it's getting there. Though by the end of the writing day, I at least have more clues than at the beginning. Apparently this stage can't be rushed. I'm ahead of my projected wordcount pace, and I'm not under contract, so I can afford the time to do this right. Honestly? I'd rather be writing. But being as I prefer writing to REwriting, I'm taking the necessary time. I'm not sure if I'll get a chance to work on things over the weekend because we FINALLY have a warm sunny weekend forecasted, and there's a zillion outside things that need doing on the farm. So, we'll see. It can percolate around at the back of the brain, at least.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

moving forward at last

The past couple of days have been a struggle, fighting my way out of these plotting doldrums. Because I couldn't quite figure out the best approach, I went back to pricing work in the store on the new order guide that just arrived this week, allowing the sub-conscious time to mull over the worldbuilding and its repercussions.

The upshot was that I needed more detail on the religion of Taafa's country, Nuumour, than I had originally written up a couple of months ago when I was worldbuilding. Now things are starting to fall into place again. I've found the character and the subplot that will jump start this part of the story, and push forward the main plot at the same time. Not only that, but this addition sets the stage for a possible second book in Shann's world. I got a little over 2K forward motion on the story today, so I'm happy with what I got and especially happy to be moving again at all.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

new machines

Our lovely combination fax and answering machine died at work. All of you people who live in cities may laugh now. THIS town doesn't have such a thing in stock. Now, we may not be a large business, but we do get some faxes every day, so it seemed important to deal with our lack post haste. As in, not wait for the perfect model to be ordered and come in next week some time.

It's fairly easy, right? You buy a fax machine AND an answering machine. Very simple. Except. The fax machine directions say that the answering machine gets plugged into IT. The answering machine directions say that the fax machine gets plugged into IT. Okay, pick one. Wrong one. Wait, there IS NO right one. Honest. For the answering machine to pick up at all, it has to come in on the second ring. Just TRY to get to a phone on the second ring if you're not hovering over it, waiting for it to ring. I think my solution is to unplug the answering machine when I'm in the store. It's a nuisance, but I think it will work. Then I have four rings to get to the phone before the fax kicks in, and THAT I think I can do.

Any idea how many hours setting up two new machines takes? How about programming in something like forty phone/fax numbers? Yes, there went the day. Somewhere in the back of my head, the plot/outline problem for *Shann* is percolating, but I haven't had the time to devote to it today, to come up with a concrete solution. But, still...working at work? Right. That's what they pay me the big bucks for.

The Celebration is up!

In case you were wondering, this month's Celebration of New Christian Fiction is now up at Jeanne Damoff's blog. Stop by Jeanne's to be introduced to various Christian writers and their take on where Christian writing is going, metaphorically speaking.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself. I think I said I found a good stopping place on Friday, and so I did. Finding the next good starting place is the next problem.

I've spent hours today staring at my screen, and for the last while I've been free-writing. I have two problems here. One is a lull in my outline, right where I need to kill a few weeks of virtual time, long enough for Taafa to figure out that she's now pregnant. Oh, I do have stuff happening in the outline, but it's too internal--discussion type stuff that they can deal with in no time flat. In fact, they've already dealt with some of it. The other problem is that the story is looking a bit short in length. I'm at 38K, and if I wrote straight from the outline just now, I'd be at 40K and half done the scenes. I am really trying to get this book in at closer to saleable length first go, and 80K is NOT it.

It's time to ratchet up the action. I've been examining motives and subplots looking for that special something that is going to help carry the story through these few weeks of virtual time.

I can let that little forest fire that got started *somehow* in the last chapter burn out of control, but I'm not sure if it would really forward the story. A good rainstorm would put it out pretty fast at this stage, and that may make more sense. And there was a huge rainstorm only yesterday, so it would be quite believable.

Or I could introduce a character that I've only alluded to early on in the story, and pull that scenario into a much greater subplot. (That would be a good way to go if Book Two continues to take root in my mind, as it would tie the books together.) Only, how to bring these characters together? They don't know each other, and at the moment both sides are suspicious of strangers (don't look at me that way; I'm just trying to get the story down...) Hey, wait a minute. The forest fire could drive them together. Hmm.

Outlines. Can't live with them, can't live without them. Sigh. Back to screen-staring now.

(In other news, calf #15 was born Friday (finally; it's been a full month since #14), we had a great weekend with the kids, and hubby actually took off two days in a row. He's paying for it now, though.)

Friday, April 15, 2005


I've not been so good at keeping up the blog this week, have I. Hmm. Do you guys need excuses or is it okay? You know what excuses are, don't you? An excuse is the skin of reason, stuffed with a lie.

It's been a fairly intense week in *Marks of Repentance* land. The story has grown 8K and now sits at over 38. In this 8K, things have gotten pretty intense, both emotionally and physically. I called a halt early this afternoon when I found a good stopping spot, where I can leave the story for a couple of days over the weekend. I really hate being in the middle of a scene when I can't write for a couple of days.

Things continue to HOP at work. I started writing this blog entry over an hour ago. I guess it's good; I know I won't be laid off from lack of work any time soon! But we just keep getting behinder.

The good news is that half our kids are coming home this weekend. We haven't seen our daughter and son-in-law since November, so I'm really looking forward to spending some time together. They expect to be in really late tonight. The other half of our kids (son and daughter-in-law) live twice as far away and we haven't seen them since September. They're in the middle of college finals right now, but we still don't expect to see them until the end of June. We hope it will work out, anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Busy busy busy

Wow. I'm sure paying for not getting much writing done on Monday, I tell you. Everything piled up at once, but I think I'm mostly through the bottleneck.

Something that amuses me is that my local library is starting to rely on Jim and I to let them know what paperbacks to order in from the sff genres. I now have a password to the library's order guide, and while I don't have buying power, it's as good as. I got a call a few days ago to check out the newest listings and to give recommendations, so I popped a list up at FM and let folks talk about the various books as I actually hadn't heard of quite a few of these particular authors. I really like to get some new blood in at the library rather than only the same-olds. While realizing that if folks are following a series, we'd better get the newest ones of those as well! I submitted my recommendations today.

I also finally completed the article that I've been working on and submitted it. Also a critique that I'd promised for mid-week is out the virtual mail box and on its way. And I've even managed about 2600 words on *Marks* this week so far. It's been a bit of a blur.

On the home front, hubby is doing nothing but work over-time. In fact he's worked now for the last 17 days straight, including some evenings. That's about to grind to at least a slow down (I sincerely hope) because he is totally exhausted. It really isn't worth it, except he's had no choice. So...yeah. Tough times.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Blogging and Real Life

Blogs serve some interesting uses, don't you think? Some people use them to rant and carry on about whatever injustices the world has served them with lately. Some use them as a political or religious platform. Some show off their fabulous photography skills. Some blog their personal life in hopes that their friends and family will read it and thus keep up on the news. Others hope no one they actually know will read it. Some use their blogs as learning tools, or as essays on various subjects near and dear to their hearts. I'm sure I've missed a few reasons!

Why do you blog?

Why do I blog?

I've been thinking about that lately (mostly on days, like today, in which I avoid doing any Real Work). In the course of the past few years since I've known about the blogging phenomenon, several bloggers I've known have shut down their blogs, or turned comments off of them. Why? They were becoming dependant on the feedback, feeling overly conscious of the impression they were making on others. The blog had taken on a life of its own, and it was threatening to get away. I can see that.

I started blogging in May of '04, and moved to Blogger in January after comment spam had taken over my site, with no way for a non-techie to turn it off without turning the comments off completely. I like comments (hint, hint...). I do not write here simply to entertain myself, though that is surprisingly easy to do (grin). I *am* aware of my audience, though I don't actually know who all visits here on a regular or semi-regular basis. I do know that the folks who comment are just the tip of the iceberg. Why do you come here? What do I have to say that keeps you coming back?

I'm a Christian. Most of you probably know that. I don't exactly hide it, but I also don't make a big deal out of it in my blog or at FM. That may partially be a result of conditioning from FM's strictures onsite regarding political, religious, and war debates. This blog isn't specifically about my faith, it's about my writing (with a few other things, faith included, thrown in from time to time). Yes, the two are irrevocably intertwined. If I wasn't a believer, I certainly would write differently.

I think what I want (through the blog and online) is to build relationships with people, and let my faith shine through the relationship. It's a very vital part of who I am, but I'm not into pushing it at people constantly. I think that in most cases it only serves to push the folks away. I'm the same way in my Real Life. Most of my acquaintances know I attend church, and I'm certainly willing to share specific experiences and beliefs with anyone who wants to take the conversation a step farther. But I don't want to turn people away by being pushy, either. I'm not all that confrontational.

I grew up with parents who were very vocal about their faith. My mom still doesn't think any conversation is complete if she hasn't been able to *witness* to somebody. Three of my four sisters are missionaries, with some of their kids following along in those footsteps. I think it's great. The last few months my sis and I have been working, on and off, on the family history scrapbook. In the Mennonite culture my parents were raised in during the 20s and 30s, you didn't talk about your faith. At all, really. People should be baptized, people should obey the rules, people should *be right with God* but no one could explain what it meant. When I think about their background, I understand better why, as they left the Mennonite church (when I was 7) to become missionaries to the native people of Canada's north, they became so very vocal. But it's not me. Is that wrong?

I see the same trend in my writing. I am unwilling (possibly unable) to write a *preachy* novel. In the science fiction I've written, I've explored some future Christianity. *False Perceptions* takes the idea of a Christian group fleeing earth, and having no contact with outsiders for generations. What would that do to their faith? Would it remain strong and vital? I doubt it. I would guess that for the most part it would become stale and legalistic. I might be wrong, but that's the possibility I based the story on. Now I am exploring the idea of God desiring obedience of the heart more than outward sacrifice in the fantasy novel, *Marks of Repentance* (aka Shann). I think faith is a strong element of the story, but it won't hit the reader upside the head. I hope. A *look at me* theme is more likely to get the book tossed against the far wall, in my personal opinion. A subtle theme may stick with a reader for longer, and cause a few actual brain cells to bump into each other as thoughts. I think that's a good idea, whether the theme is actually *Christian* or not. Even though we mostly don't read novels in order to think about issues, the issues are there, underlining the stories, and they'd best be integral to the story and not be tacked on.

Was that a tangent to the original question about why to blog? From my mind, it was a logical progression. I share my writing progress, and bits of my life (though why you all are so fascinated with Canadian farm life mystifies me...), and bits of my faith. I believe that if any of my readers had questions about any of those things, they could contact me to discuss them. I'm not on a platform. These are the things that are important to me. This is my life. Welcome in.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

In case you were worried

I finished the detour chapter and things are pretty much back on track, albeit far richer for the coming-to-life the characters have recently displayed. Shann and Taafa are back in each other's company, relationship somewhat bruised. That's as it should be. You can't let things get too easy for them this early in the book (30K), or what's left to write about?

Yesterday at work it took me awhile to get into writing mode, my sub-conscious seemed to need a bit more time to deal with the character problems. I had a good writing blitz just after lunch, and then the customers started rolling in. It was quite an Untypical Friday afternoon. I wound up closing the file and emailing it home, unfinished. I couldn't leave off in the middle of that emotional scene, however, so I finished it up last night and this morning.f

The rest of today I have been domestic queen again, baking bread, canning dry beans, cleaning my house (and HOW that needed doing...), then some yard work which my elbow does not thank me for. However, if I don't do it, it won't get done, so I'll keep poking at it a bit at a time. Hubby had to work today, which makes something like 60 hours this week. He has to work tomorrow too :( but hopes he is nearing the end of this blitz. I know he is about out of energy. So I'll keep doing what I can of the yard and farm work to take some of the load off of him. When you run out of energy cells, they're gone.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I didn't have a lot of time to write today, though I did get a short scene down, and some sort of plan made. It's going to be at least another thousand words or two before Shann and Taafa meet again, and I have a few *worse* things thought up for them in the meantime so that once they find each other, they'll have to stick it out for a bit. And it will serve them right, too, for throwing me such a curve ball.

I spent the morning working out a powerpoint file for the interdenominational praise service tonight. Somehow I got shanghaied into running the computer. I've set the powerpoints up lots of times for our own worship team, but then I run sound and my nephew runs the computer. Anyway, this team moves all over the place, and some of the songs I'm only marginally familiar with, so that added some extra tension to the situation. The real excitment came when the laptop battery died, the person who set it up having forgotten to plug it in. And no that wasn't me, it's not my computer and I've never played with a Mac before either. Thankfully my friend (who had a choral dress rehearsal tonight)'s husband was right there and sprang into action, immediately realizing what had happened. I guess most of the people knew that song well enough anyway, they kept singing. That was early enough in the service to keep my tension pretty high for the whole thing. Anita can have it back next week, thank you very much. It's a little hard to worship when you're concentrating so hard your fingers are trembling and your eyes are bugging. Yeah, I'm sure it's just me. Put me behind the sound board any day. THAT I can deal with and worship at the same time. Wow I'm tired now that it's done.

Blogger hates me so bad that I could neither post this in the evening when I wrote it, OR this morning before I went to work. Yipes.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Character woes

I came across a little snag in my novel today. I discovered that the man I created, Shann, ran out of patience before I thought he would. When he'd had enough of Taafa, and left her stranded on the side of a mountain (after all, she could SEE the city from there and should be safe enough), it was actually quite in character. The problem? It wasn't in the outline. In fact, if I let the new story line diverge here in the direction it seems to want to go, it won't be the story I had intended to write. At all. I spent a while walking laps around the store, trying to figure out what will happen next, then wrote another scene and got Taafa into even more trouble. Now it's really messed up. Tomorrow I'm going to have to dredge a new channel from where we have ended up to where we need to go, and see if I can get Shann and Taafa to cooperate.

This is all in case you thought that having an outline would take all the fun out of writing. This kind of veering happens to me all the time, and it's reassuring to me when it does. Yes, even when I complain. It was a serious concern to me when I started my second novel that I had outlined all the creativity out. Now I find that seriously funny, as I wouldn't dream of writing from that sketchy an outline again, but then it seemed so over-the-top locked in.

So I expect that at some time tomorrow I'll find a way to get Shann and Taafa in the same room again, and perhaps even talking to each other. At some point, they're going to have to. Otherwise I will need to carve a new path to a completely unknown destination. Who knows? Maybe that's where we really want to go, but I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

On writing and reading

I think I work better when I have only one project to work on, but I'm wondering. Is that right? *Marks of Repentance* should be getting all my attention these days, then. My other novels are waiting patiently in the wings for their turn at revisions. And I simply don't do shorts.

So what have I been doing the past couple of days? Well, I HAVE added nearly 3K to Shann's story, so that's all right. But I've also written half that much in assorted other materials. I guess that's part of the deal of being a moderator over at Forward Motion. When things need doing, we're the front row, and that's as it should be. So not only has Mar roped me into writing website reviews for Vision Ezine for Writers, but I'm writing a class on subplots for the main site. Hey, I've got to put my recent illumination from the movie The Incredibles to good use one way or another! This also gives me a good excuse to watch the movie again soon. All in the name of research of course. :)

I have just finished reading Black by Ted Dekker. There's been a discussion recently at FM about the place of dreams in fiction, and for the most part, it's been agreed that dreams are a Bad Thing. Ted Dekker believes not. I should clarify that by saying that the dreams are not exactly the every-night variety. His main character, Tom Hunter, somehow gets mixed up in a parallel universe. When he falls asleep, he wakes up over there. When he falls asleep over there, he wakes up here. This cycle repeats itself throughout the whole novel (first of a trilogy). You're right, he doesn't get much rest! Critical things are happening in both universes, and he is key to both. What he learns in one is vital to the other, and vice versa. But he goes the longest time trying to figure out which one is real, and which one is the dream. He never figures it out.

As a writer, it seems an odd way to write a book. Dekker is a well-acclaimed author, and this is not his first book, both of which may help. If you've ever read a similar book, I'd be interested to know about it. It's not a technique I see myself using any time in the foreseeable future, but I found it quite interesting all the same.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Domestic Day

You want domestic? HERE'S domestic! Friday night before I went to bed, I got out both my canners. Into one I plunked two frozen stewing chickens (from the guy from whom we buy eggs) and into the other, a bag of frozen beef bones. I put a couple gallons of water over each, set them on my stove, and turned them on high. An hour or so later they still had not boiled (go figure) so I turned them on low and went to bed. Turned them off in the morning.

A couple of hours later they had cooled enough to handle, and I spent a couple of hours picking meat out of the bones and fat (which the outside, CATS are thoroughly enjoying), and then started turning the remains into soup. I canned 14 quart jars of chicken soup (no veggies, but seasoned right to add noodles, veggies whatever when serving time comes). I canned 7 quart jars of beef soup base in a similar way, and then an additional 14 jars of beef SOUP, pinto beans and veggies included. I still have a couple of packages of beef bones in the deep freeze that I'd like to deal with, but I discover that I am out of quart jars. I have lots in the cellar filled with pickles, tomatoes, and fruit, but I did think I had more than this.

The work of one day Posted by Hello

It is so handy to be able to pop open a jar of soup for weekday lunches, or on a weekend camping trip over the summer. And it's especially nice having a few varieties. (I still have a couple of jars of clam chowder, borscht, and a different variety of beef veg soup in the cellar, but we were getting low.) And besides, my kids always like a taste of home.

It's a good thing it was cold and rainy again this weekend, or this wouldn't have gotten done. There is a ton of yard work that needs doing whenever it dries up/warms up enough to get started.

Such is life for the farm-dwelling, cooking from scratch kind of person. And you eat the tasteless stuff out of cans? Bah...