Friday, July 22, 2005

Modern Girl vs the Earth Goddess

I've been thinking a lot lately about the environment and the dichotomy between all our wonderful new "advances" and the more traditional values with which I was brought up. A little-known fact about me is that I was raised on a small farm which used to be an old homestead, and in conditions that my friends considered very "primitive." When we moved to that property I was about five, and I still remember the ruts going through the woods from the old wagon road that was there and the toppling-down remnants of two old log cabins--or perhaps one cabin and one barn. We ate apples and plums from trees left behind by the original settlers and drank from an actual spring on the property. I remember washing clothes with an old wash frame, galvanized tubs, and a washboard until we found out where the local laundromat was and started going to wash there. While I was a teenager I ironed my clothes with a sadiron heated on the gas range, and long after I'd grown up and moved away, my grandmother washed her clothes with an old wringer-type washer which she never taught me to use because she was convinced I'd get my fingers stuck in the wringer.

I've watched episodes of reality shows where modern city dwellers had to go out to a semi-wilderness area and live in pioneer-style log cabins in much the same way and with the same technology the settlers did. What fascinated and horrified me was that so many of us nowadays are completely unprepared to cope with those sorts of conditions, and when you take the city-dweller out of the city and tell them to fend for themselves under "primitive" conditions, they have trouble--big trouble. But remembering my childhood in Montana, I realize that while I've come to love my modern conveniences perhaps a little too much, I would be fine if they were to put me in that log cabin and tell me to cope. A part of me misses the long weeding sessions in the garden and the endless bean and pea harvests, the pea shelling, the washing, the carrying and stacking of wood. And sewing for yourself--wow. I still own the same Singer machine my folks bought for me when I was in college, but it's buried under who knows what in the room my kids use for their homeschool. How I envy Tamera with her quilts! I used to be an avid herbalist, and when my kids were small, we grew a vegetable garden every year in our back yard. Now my days are ruled by a daily planner, without which I cannot cope. Where do I have to take which kid when, and what is my next scheduled responsibility?

I have become, by necessity and even by choice, a (small) city girl. I love going to big cities but I hate to drive in them, and while I'm there, my car of choice is a limo. (This isn't because I have delusions of granduer--although that may be true--but because I have a theory that all the best drivers tend to work for the limo companies and I've never feared for my life while riding in one. A taxi, on the other hand, is almost as stressful as driving myself through a big city.) I love the convenience of having a cell phone, my laser printer is one of my favorite possessions, and I adore my computers. I've even hacked on html code, which for me is quite an accomplishment. Word for Windows is far different from the manual typewriters I learned querty on, and I wouldn't trade my ergo keyboard for anything but a newer model. I like restaurants, movies, and Estee' Lauder products. I bought the new Ford 500 car because of its side-curtain airbags and built-in safety features. I adore the in-dash CD player and the volume controls right there on the steering wheel. Our digital cameras are so wonderful and convenient that I'm thinking about getting a digital camcorder as well.

But on the other hand, I've had the urge lately to find a way to meet my past halfway. Use a few herbal shampoos and cosmetics, make a few things from scratch, teach my kids what a washboard and sadiron are for, and make sure they know how to cope with a few "primitive" technologies. When Y2K came I was almost hoping for something to happen, and when there wasn't even so much as a power blip I sighed in a combination of relief and resignation. It doesn't surprise me in the least that a lot of the "new" amazing cures for this or that ailment being touted on infomercials now are derived from simple herbal remedies that most of the drug companies would like people to forget exist. Women go under the knife to get bigger breasts when all they need are a few simple herbs. People put so many chemicals into their mouths and onto their skin that it's truly scary. But what if we could make a world where all our wonderful modern advances marched hand in hand beside a reverence for nature and a respect for our envronment? What if we could find a balance between our hectic lives and our need for relief from the stress we've created?

The other night, I was in front of the computer doing something that seemed very important at the time. My nine-year-old came to me and said, "Mama, the moon is full and it's rising and it's really yellow and beautiful! Would you come and watch it with me?" For just a second, I hesitated--but only for a second. How could I sit there and let such a request--such a moment--pass? I took her out on the balcony off the master bedroom and pretty soon the whole family ended up there, taking just five or maybe ten minutes to sit still and gaze at the moon. It woke me up to how much I'm missing by letting my life be completely ruled by that dang planner. I need some quilting. I need some home-baked something-or-other. I need a few minutes to look at the moon. And I need to remember that when I was sixteen, I sat on the hearth for hours during a very cold Christmas vacation and wrote my very first novel, longhand, into a spiral notebook.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Secret of the Closet Door

Everybody's got a technique for plotting and brainstorming, or even a combination of techniques. With this upcoming third book of my trilogy, I'm going to be doing some pretty extensive outlining and prep work. Now, I know that pretty soon my writing addiction will kick in and I won't be able to keep my paws out of the work any longer, but before I jump into the first chapter, I'm going to use my Closet Door technique to figure out plot arcs for the characters in this book.

What I do is pick a different color 5 x 7 index card to represent each main character. In the case of this trilogy, Prince Xander gets the yellow cards, my heroine, Raena, is green, my seer, Dria, is purple, and my mer, Aurelia, is blue. (If you knew the plots for these books, you'd have a laugh at that last statement!) White cards represent my other minor characters except for the villain du jour, who is always the virulent pink color. On each card, I write out a brief scene blurb on the color card that represents the character whose point of view (POV) the scene will be in. Then as I plot out the story, I stick the cards up on the closet doors with poster tape. As scenes get removed or added or shuffled around, the cards get moved accordingly, and at a glance I can always tell who has which scene where in the story. That way if I haven't heard from someone in a while or I'm using one POV way too much, I'll know. I've tried other ways, and this is my favorite. It saved my bacon when I was writing Shadows of Memory. Trouble is, I can't really take this system with me on trips, and then I have to rely on a written outline in the laptop. I know there is at least one computer program out there that uses scene cards, but I feel the same way about the cards as I do about books: I don't want to read it on a computer screen. I want to hold it in my hand, write on it, crumple it up or throw it in the trash if I choose. And I don't want to have to access a computer file to get to it.

Any day now, out come the colored index cards, and the closet door will be stripped of the old cards and plastered with the new. I know I can't hold out much longer, even if my daughter's room still isn't painted.

Speaking of closet doors, the munchkins and I are very much looking forward to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, coming out later this year. It was always my favorite C.S. Lewis book, with The Horse and His Boy running a close second.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Wanderer Returns

I had a good trip up to Seattle and back, but the weekend just seemed entirely too short. I wish I'd gone up on Thursday afternoon instead of Friday morning because not only did I miss one keynote dinner, but I also missed part of a class I wanted to go to. The conference was good, and it was PNWA's 50th year, so I'm glad I went. Three out of four of the published authors I've met there in the past still remember me, so I'm doing all right. The sad part was, the one who didn't was the only fantasy author out of the four. Oh, well. No particular reason why he should remember me, since I'm still unpublished.

Shut up, Eeyore.

I'm starting to look forward to writing the third book of this trilogy. I still love the story, love the characters, and want to finish telling their story--once I figure out the exact details of what that is. But I need to take a couple of weeks where if I write something, great, and if I don't, I don't go on any guilt trips. I'm still trying to help my kids get their correspondance school year finished up. We'd gotten behind, and we're very close to being caught up now, but we still have a few things to do. At least we should have the month of August off before we have to hit it again. I have another conference coming up, we're going on a family vacation, and I still need to finish painting my younger daughter's room--a project which has been put off for far too long. She wants a fantasy forest in her room, so it's design-on-a-dime time. 'Bout time I got my house back under control and made good on a few promises before I plunge back into what my family and I call the "book fog."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

To All the Citizens of the U K

My prayers and thoughts are with you. May whatever deity you worship grant you strength and peace and above all, hope.

I will never stop wondering at the sick, hateful, twisted thinking of some people. I will never stop hoping that some day we humans as one race, one species, can rise above all this and Just Get Along.


I just ran across an interesting link on Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden's weblog. The link goes to an article about dreams, particularly women's dreams in ancient Greece. Apparently most of the dreams recorded were of a sexual nature or related in some sense to childbearing, but it was interesting reading nonetheless. It's also not surprising that sexual dreams would tend to be recorded more than non-sexual ones, especially those coming from women in a male-dominated society. The link to that article is here.

The entire subject of dreams is interesting. Dreams are powerful and a very important part of our lives. If we didn't dream, we would all be walking around acting like raving lunatics, since dreams occur during REM sleep. That's why having your sleep interrupted too often makes you feel so exhausted--it's often not that you didn't get enough sleep in cumulative hours, but that you kept being awakened during the REM cycle. You can have 8+ hours of sleep and still be sleep deprived--and dream deprived. Even when you don't remember the dreams, they occur. I personally believe it's part of how a healthy mind and psyche helps us to work on and deal with problems. It's no wonder, then, that dreams are full of archetypes and symbolism.

Plenty of the writers out there have heard the injunction against using dream sequences in fiction. Some people think they're a weak crutch, while others think they're great if done right. I sort of have a foot in both camps. I like them if they're done right, but I hate to read them when they're a writer's quick way out of a problem that should have been solved differently. Anybody want to comment?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Happy Dance in the Endzone

I finished the edits to Shadows of Memory! Four chapters edited in two days--as I suspected, all it took was getting some time where I didn't have to play mommy or cater to anyone's needs. The Moxie were here and proofread the whole manuscript, line edits and all, and I've already sorted out which pages need fixing. Looks like the word count is going to end up at approximately 127,000 words, which is 22,000 words fewer than when I started this latest edit. I think I've done what Bob asked me to do, and my crit partners like it, so I think I'm ready to ship it this week.

On Thursday I need to take off for Seattle for the PNWA conference, and I want this mailed out by then. Now, that seems entirely possible--as opposed to how it seemed only a couple of days ago. Thank goodness for retreat weekends.

I'm going to be very anxious to read what the Moxie gets done by our next meeting. Stef is getting close to the end of her book, and Val has started a book that has me so hooked I'm going to hate the wait for the next installment. She can't possibly write the darned thing fast enough, and she's the fastest writer in the group.

So we've gone out to dinner and the ladies have gone home. I now have time to input the last of my edits and make sure the manuscript is all formatted correctly, and maybe even spend some time in front of the TV for a change. The best part is, I can do anything I want to because I'm alone in my own home for the first time in a year. That, and I'm sort of doing the little happy dance in the endzone because the edits are finally, finally done and I really love the way the book has turned out. Now maybe I'll stop dreaming that I'm pregnant and in stalled labor.

Cheers! Time to party.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


The Moxie and I are having a writers' retreat weekend at my house. Meanwhile, my family is off camping. I stayed up late last night to clean the house to get ready for the Moxie after my family trashed the house getting ready to go camping so that the Moxie and I could have the house to ourselves. And no, this is not the house that Jack built.

But I am getting my edits done. Three chapters more and I'm through with Shadows--at least until either Bob or a publisher tells me differently.