Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Calf number eleven is a bull calf and looks healthy. So far so good.

At noon I bumped into a friend who is a realtor and picked his brain over our thoughts about fixing up the farmhouse. He says regulations have changed and that if we do ANYTHING to our house, even if we don't tamper with a single water line, we will have to have our septic field analyzed and probably upgraded. The tune? Likely twenty thousand dollars. Just for...what it's already doing for free. However, if we DON'T pay to have it professionally inspected but instead (for example) sell the farm now the way it is, we are legally liable for anything that goes wrong with that septic system for as long as we both shall live.

Hung if we do, hung if we don't.

He also says we are more likely to get our money back out of a double-wide than out of renovations.

Hubby will be tickled pink to hear this news. Trust me.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I won!

IwoniwoniwoniwoniwoniwoniwonIWON! I WON! Oh, and you'd never guess that I'm excited about it, I'm sure.

What did I win? I won a download of Holly Lisle's ebook Create a Character Clinic through a contest held last week at PaperBackWriter's blog.

I have just now successfully downloaded this ebook and done a quick scan through it, and I am really excited about reading through slowly and thoroughly. I'm at just the right stage in Puppet Prince to make excellent use of Holly's resource, and I'm sure I'll find parts that will help me with revisions on *the others* as well. I'll get back to you all when I've had a closer look.

I'm particularly excited about the timing of this because I had finished reading Talyn just a couple of days previously. Reading this fat and fulfilling fantasy reminded me once again of the excellence of Holly Lisle's worlds and characters. If you like fantasy, READ THIS BOOK. If you've been wondering about whether or not you might like fantasy but don't know where to start, READ THIS BOOK. To be fair, there is sexual content in the novel; if that makes you uncomfortable, you may want to pass. The sex isn't gratuitous, however.

So a big thank you to Holly Lisle for three specific items at the moment: Talyn, Create a Character Clinic, and for being the visionary orignial developer of my favorite hang out on the Web, Forward Motion Writer's Community. Hats off to you, Holly.

In calving news

In calving news we've shot past the center line, but not without casualties. Friday night hubby and I were out at friends for worship team practice. The guys used to work together and hang out together and since Jim got the job at the mines in June, they hardly see each other any more. Anyway, long story short, we were there quite late.

Hubby checked the cows when we got home and lo and behold if we didn't have a calf, likely less than an hour old. Jim went out and checked a bit later, but the calf wasn't up. By then I'd gone to bed so he woke me to help him put the pair in the shed to warm the calf. It wasn't particularly cold, but baby was shivering. Anyway Jim came to bed about five am after finally getting the calf sucking. Usually once that has been figured out, their prognosis is good.

Calf still looked a bit better through Saturday but not like he should have been. Anyway, by the time Jim left yesterday evening back for the mines, we didn't think the calf would make it. He was dead this morning when I checked.

The weather hasn't helped, but he wasn't out in it. We had about six or eight inches of snow yesterday and then it turned to rain. The other babies all looked pretty miserable this morning and one looked like he'd rather drown than carry on but I booted him up and the last I saw as I was going out the driveway he was sucking.

Of the ten births so far, six have been heifers and four bulls. Of course it was a bull calf that died. Prices for either are similar at the other end but heifers tend to put on less weight, so we get a bit less per animal.

Some of that sunshine we had last week would be welcome again about now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I finally hit a sweet spot on the revision! I don't know how long it will last, but I thoroughly enjoyed tidying up chapter seven today. I know there are rocky spaces up ahead again, but for today, I rejoice.

Customers were polite enough today to allow me time to work on the 2yn assignment too. I'm really enjoying the prep work on Puppet Prince. It's hard to pace myself and not give too much attention to it, and yet keep the momentum going as well. Waiting until November to write the thing is going to be difficult; I can already see that. My plot is starting to complicate itself, which can only be a good thing at this stage. This week's assignment is about the characters and what their involvement is with the theme of the novel: whether they believe in it or not. My main theme turned out to be compromise, and it seems that my cast of characters have varied opinions on that. Some of them are good at compromise and some are idealistic. Some believe everyone else should compromise so long as they get what they want. They all have differing amounts of compassion (the secondary theme) as well. So far I'd say that they truly aren't the same people with different parts to play. As one of my sisses is fond of saying, "If you agree on everything, one of you is unnecessary." So far the cast is made of individuals. Loving it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

On cost of housing and renovating

Hubby and I did a fact-finding mission on Saturday regarding the pricing of modular housing. We had already decided that a fairly small and inexpensive two-bedroom unit would be adequate as we could install it over a raised basement for added square footage. It had been about five years since we'd priced these units and (surprise) they have gone up considerably.

The good thing is that with Jim's new job at the mines we could probably swing the loan to do this. The better thing is that we don't want to spend that much, even if allowed to. We have spent enough time in our marriage *poor* that we don't want to go there again, even if it means a nice new house. We'd rather eat out when we feel like it, upgrade our car in a year or two, and start thinking of travel destinations.

Having said that, our current home is still inadequate. Not only in space but in the fact that so much needs fixing, as I mentioned awhile back in a post on this subject. The large addition that we contemplated earlier will simply stretch us too far as well. Now we are looking for ways to alleviate two key space problems: the congestion in the central core of our home (where a 12x16 room contains the kitchen, dining area, stairway, and the *hall* to the living room), and the fact that there is no bathroom anywhere near the bedrooms.

We are going to have to spend some money on this house regardless. We can likely put it off for another year or two, but there is no particular benefit to doing so indefinitely. We do, however, have the time to decide how to get the maximum value for our renovation dollar.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Head over to Tambo's!

If you are a writer who finds it hard to be nasty to your characters, head over to Tam's blog and read It's About Conflict, Dammit!. )Hopefully I found the right link; if not, it's the post for Friday, February 17.) Tam sets out very clearly the difference between writing for our own vicarious fun and writing a novel that others will want to read--nay, HAVE to read. Great post.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Slow and steady wins the race, so they say. Not too sure about that, but I've finally made a small amount of progress on False Perceptions this week. Last week I spent a considerable amount of time whining that I needed to insert a scene. All I knew was what the outcome of the scene had to be, but I had no idea of what the ingredients would be. I didn't want to throw something brand new in there that would open up the need for more sub-plots to tie off at the other end. I wracked my brain. Maripat asked if I'd tried free-writing through my stuck spot. Duh. I know that. I ALWAYS do that, but somehow I hadn't gotten there yet.

Then Lisa popped online; she is one of my critquers who was already familiar with the story. We tossed things back and forth for a couple of hours and found just the right scene to move forward by about five chapters. I'd already decided the scene needed moving, but I'd thought to put it in later, not earlier. With some adjustments, it works perfectly here and best of all pulls something like triple duty.

It introduces the setting in which the climax takes place close to the end of the novel, and introduces a couple of other vital concepts of how things work in the Sphere. It doesn't matter so much when that info is in there so long as it's before the climax somewhere. The main thing was that Treyan observed Cae with tousled and flower-strewn hair, hugging two children, but he doesn't know who she is yet. A very important bit, that. I got a good start on the scene yesterday and finished it off today, along with the short remaining scene to that chapter, and I'm very happy with how it turned out.

That *completes* four chapters out of thirty-three, and I'm back to chapters with minor adjustments to them for awhile. I think I'll enjoy the tweaking and adjusting that is coming up; I have learned a couple of new things this week about some of my characters. I've been working with them for two years and have gone through the entire novel twice before; you'd think I would know them already. Apparently I am a slow learner.

PS, we're up to six calves and the weather is fifteen below freezing as I write, with a howling east wind. Sounds like perfect calving weather...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

That's me, a day late and a dollar short.

Hubby's missed this entire set of working days due to a bad cold that has settled in his chest. He started out with a couple of days of sneezing before deciding that the cough was the more powerful weapon. It's easing off some, but he's still wiped. Now he's back to days off until the weekend, so maybe he'll have recuperated by the time he needs to head back up-country. That would be good.

On the one hand, though, it's been good to have him home for the opening days of calving season. We're up to five babies now, out of something like eighteen expected. Just tagging their ears has been the max work hubby's been up to, though baby #5 was a bull calf which adds a bit of work in the de-bulling department.

The weather has been great for calving, crispy cold overnight and sunny most days, or at least it hasn't been pouring rain or dumping snow. We won't count the couple inches last night that melted straight off.

In other news, we're examining the option of tearing down our existing house all together and replacing it with a modular. At least it would be done all in one go. It's hard to know what will make the most sense down the road, so the research isn't over yet.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

George R.R. Martin

I've been reading George Martin's fantasy saga A Song of Fire and Ice for over a month now and am mid-way through book three. Book four is now out. There are days I love the series and days I am bogged down and think it will never end. Sometimes the things I love and hate are the same.

For instance, he has created a very indepth and fully functioning world. The downside? There is so much I can't even begin to keep it straight. If Martin himself has made errors on which lord flies which banner and who that lord is currently loyal to and how that differs from whom his father was loyal to, I will never know. I cannot fathom Martin himself keeping it straight with even the best database available. The amount of minutae is amazing.

There are thirteen point of view characters, and it's possible I missed some in my counting. One of them has not yet intersected any of the others, and he's killed a couple off so I guess we're down to eleven. Thankfully she is interesting in her own right, and is advancing on the rest of them. Martin does not rotate through them like clockwork, which is a good thing because their circumstances are not all equally compelling at any given moment. Unfortunately, not each character is all that compelling either. One thing Martin HAS done well, though, is title the chapters with the pov character's name and make each pov voice distinct. They do change and adapt and learn things, but their personalities remain strong and clear. A couple of these characters are not clearly either *good* guys or *bad* guys, and that keeps them interesting as well.

What would it take to write a series like this? My mind boggles at the thought. I have to admit I don't really want to write something similar. I prefer getting in less heads and having one major story to tell with a few subplots woven in. Is it because I am a lazier or newer writer than Martin? I don't think so, but some may differ, and time may prove otherwise. This is not what I aspire to.

One thing I want to do as well, however. I want my characters to be as unique. I don't want a family to have eight kids simply because that's the size of families typical for that era or its birth rate or birth control level. If a family has eight kids in one of my stories, I want it to be because eight different personalities need to interplay to bring the story to completion. A story can't afford to have a bunch of second level characters that bring nothing distinct to the table.

Anyone read this series? What did you like or dislike about it? Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


It is busier at the store than it has any right to be in February. It is eating into my writing timee, by golly. My guys are starting to go crazy with it again, being as this is supposed to be the slow time of year. We nailed two jobs today and got requests for three more quotes, two of them large jobs. I feel like I'm spending a lot of time on cutomers these days. Yes, I know. That's what they pay me the big bucks for. But they hate feeling this behind, too.

In the four years I've been writing at work I've gotten pretty good at coming back and picking up right where I left off five minutes or twenty minutes before. There comes a time when my concentration is shot though. I'm not sure what exactly it takes, but a certain number of phone calls and/or customers in a shortish period of time and I'm done for. Usually I can switch to something a bit less demanding.

My primary goal these days is to progress on the revision of False Perceptions. The first chapter needed finetuning. The second chapter needed total rewriting and is *done*. The third chapter didn't exist in any form before this. I managed the first scene of it today before my concentration blew, but the second scene eluded me. I know what it needs to portray, but not what it IS. It's starting to come, I think, but of course I've got a sales rep again in the morning. The third scene planned for this inserted chapter is fairly close to together in my head. I'm looking forward to getting to chapters that *only* require revisions!

Meanwhile, the 2yn assignment this week is the first of the character building ones. I haven't written any of it down yet, but I'm starting to see it. So that's good. I also have classes to write and a crit to do and and and...

Maybe I'd better go do some of it instead of whining.

Friday, February 03, 2006

About adding on

So a few weeks or so ago I mentioned that my hubby thinks this may be the year of the addition to the house. I was a little dubious at the time, but he's starting to convince me its doable. I, in turn, have convinced him that fall would be better than spring if for no other reason than that it usually rains less in fall and we will have to rip half our roof apart. Besides, I'm not ready just any old day now.

Our house is not so much small as awkward. It wasn't ever meant to be a house. It is 16 feet wide and 36 feet long with a barn shaped upstairs and no basement. It is made of concrete block. The ceilings are low, the electrical is inadequate and the windows aren't sealed anymore. It was built as cheap as possible 30 years ago and it shows.

Truthfully, I would rather take a bulldozer to it than fix it up. I dream of larger windows, maybe even french doors. We live in the country after all. I dream of vaulted ceilings and...and AIRINESS. This isn't airy by anyone's definition.

Some rooms are adequately sized. The front 12x16 on the main floor consists of a 5x12 bathroom (the only bath) and a mudroom/laundry room/junk room. In reality, everything that *should* go in a basement is in this room, and it's the only entry. I'm not into comparing myself with the Joneses to be honest, but this is a depressing way to enter a house. The second 12x16 module is the kitchen/dining room. It also contains the sort of spiral staircase, and of course you have to walk through it to get to the third module, the living room.

Upstairs, there are decent sized bedrooms on either end and a smaller one along the hallway in the center. And a linen closet beside the stairs. The severe wall/roof angles make furniture placement upstairs challenging. Total square footage: 1152 square feet. It's not a big house by North American standards.

I shouldn't complain. Hubby's folks raised SIX kids in here through their teenage years. Two boys in the little bedroom, and four girls in the *big* end room (a bunk and a double). So when I consider that, I feel pretty silly for wanting a bigger house for me and a halftime husband!

Part of it, however, is that the house really doesn't help to make the farm saleable. Not that we're planning on selling any time soon, but still... If we don't go crazy spending money on the reno we should be able to enjoy a nicer house now and reap the benefits at resale down the road.

It occurs to me that most of the cramped feeling of the house would change if the living areas were more open to each other, had a higher ceiling, and took advantage of the great view (once you look past our cows...) The current house is to protect from the elements, not to ease indoor/outdoor living. So...what if we added a section to the east side of the house approximately doubling the current footprint? What if the current living room became the new master bedroom; the smallish window and low ceiling would be just fine in that case. The current kitchen could become the new master bath; the plumbing's mostly there already. And upstairs we could either leave the three bedrooms or turn the small one into a third (luxury!) bath. It would be directly above the new master bath so again the plumbing wouldn't pose a serious detriment. On paper, it all looks good.

I turn my attention to the new space. How should it look? Well, it should contain a main entry for company. The mudroom we now have is perfect for a farm entry but it shouldn't be inflicted on anyone else. I really dislike the current core of the house: the kitchen/ dining room/ stairway/ walk-through-to-living-room space. My ideal is a kitchen that people don't come into unless they're helping. Through traffic drives me bats. (Yes, I know, that's easily done.) So it seems logical to place the kitchen at the south end of the new space, with the dining room and then the living room flowing north from there. It puts the new kitchen back to back with the current bathroom and near the electrical panel, both of which will save some money. Another nice thing is that if the dining room and living room are more or less one room, you can expand the table as much as you want when you have dinner company; just shove over the sofa a bit if needed. The spaces can borrow from each other.

I designed it really nice that way. A great 13x10 kitchen that has many of the bells and whistles I would like without being extravagant. I was mulling over the design while I made dinner a few nights ago, thinking through the steps I would take to prepare this in the new kitchen.

You know what? I never used to watch tv, but I've started to with hubby gone so much. In our cramped space, I can stand at the sink OR stove and see the tv clearly, and I've been doing that for the past five years without really thinking of the significance of it. When hubby is watching those law and order shows with the stalkings and the bloody murder investigations, I wish I couldn't see it or hear it, but honestly, I've gotten used to the tv being right there.

I mentioned this to hubby and he nearly split a gut laughing. "The first step to curing an addiction is admitting you have a problem," he says between chortles. Thanks, hon.

I wonder what the addition plan would look like with the kitchen in the middle? I shudder. I want open space; I don't want walls. Can you build a kitchen without upper cabinets? I sharpen the pencil again and create a multitude of new sketches. (I live for sketching house plans; this is not a hardship.)

Tonight I came up with a plan (about the fifth one...) that I think I could live with. In fact, it has some fun features that I kind of like. It would be very open, although the dining room table definitely can't borrow space from the living room. But how often do we have ten people for dinner? Aprroximately never? It's more important to plan a house that works for the two of us, that would work for the mythological family with two and a half kids (maybe we should leave the small upstairs bedroom for that half kid) that may buy the farm from us in ten or twenty years.

I'll show the sketches to hubby when he's next home and if he thinks it has promise, I'll start on the detail sketches. Those are always fun! I can get a lot of entertainment mileage out of this project yet.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Retrofitting a main character

I would really like to learn to write cleaner first drafts. Revision should be for cleaning up sentence structure and clamping down on animated eyes. (My eyes can do many things: dance with joy, shoot daggers, and anything in between.) Revision should NOT be for re-creating the lead male character. In the month that I've been mulling over Treyan's flaws (of which he has too many), a few things have started to click. I even had a major revelation yesterday, which was good timing as today was the day to rewrite in its entirety his introductory chapter, the second one in the novel. Here's hoping that the new and improved Treyan really is new and improved without losing his rambunctious zest for life that made him so endearing in the first two versions.

Revising is going a little slower than I'd hope. I'm the eternal optimist I guess. It's been a bit busier at work than it ought to be in February. But being as I don't really want to revise this novel AGAIN, I'm going to take as much time as it needs now. I won't let it push me. If I work on it with whatever time I have available weekly, then it will get done when it gets done.

I've pretty much decided not to start writing the new novel, Puppet Prince, when the class gets the go-ahead in July. I'm planning to hold off until November and Nano. If each first draft novel requires two (or more) major revisions, it seems logical to allow twice as much time in a year to revise than to write. So the goal is to get this revision of FP done (hopefully its the final biggie), then to revise Marks of Repentance (aka Shann and Taafa), and THEN to revise Quest to be Queen before writing another first draft. I have some critters lined up for each of those. I have promised compensating crits as well, so once those start coming in I'll need to start taking time out daily to work on crits.

Nice and steady will win the race. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Shades of PINK

Some of the publishing houses apparently are reluctant to mail review copies of novels to non-USA addresses, and I guess I can understand their reserve. It definitely costs more, and it also takes considerably longer for them to arrive here. I had to do some international bargaining of my own to make sure my review copies didn't dry up. In the meanwhile, this month's pick slid through the cracks. Not only did I not receive a copy but my new plan wasn't in place early enough to rectify the problem.

Still, I've read the first chapter of Marilynn Griffiths' new book, Pink. On her website Marilynn portrays herself as: Serious Faith. Serious Fiction. Serious Fun.. This book looks to be a contemporary peek at the New York fashion industry laced with romance, the first of four novels set in this venue. To quote Marilynn: Serious Fun Fiction (tm) is about girlfriends, guys, God and the giggles between life's tears. Dramatic comedy? Romantic tragedy? Call it what you like. Just have some serious fun turning the pages, okay?

Looks like a great read!