Star Lines
Saturday, February 09, 2002
  Card Houses: Another job offer came in through a conversation today with an old ER comrade of mine; one of management and much money and group med (401K, company car, my own secretary, nice office, all the perks.) One thing I intensely dislike about being a professional writer is being unable to predict my income for more than a year, in addition to never knowing when my contract $$$ will arrive. I can't go to my kids' school and tell them, "Hey, I'll pay tuition whenever my editor feels like paying me, okay?" Thus the siren song of the hefty, regular paycheck buzzed in my ears and I found myself scheduling an appointment for a casual sit-down (lunch) with my friend's company's regional director. I have one more book to write after I finish polishing the two on my desk, and then I'm finished with all my contracts, so it would be the right time to make the transition. Despite my startling success with the books, career-wise I'm still living in a house of cards that could crash down around me at any moment.

Now, before anyone panics, I am not quitting as a professional writer. My agent has a contract negotiation in the works that could make this outside-writing job offer look anorexic. Or, if the publisher doesn't want to make a serious committment toward me, I may have to write in my spare time, is all. That means two or three books a year versus seven or eight. Bottom line, I have to support my family, and I have to have some security -- in my job and in the bank.

I think every writer asks themselves that question -- Can I walk away from being a published author? I can, in a heartbeat, with no regrets. I wrote the other day in one of the discussions at Holly's that I've done everything I set out to do, and meant it. I can always write books, but I have to provide for my family. There's no question what comes first.

  PC Mag: John C. Dvorak's article on the blogging trend has garnered some unhappy comments. I thought it was pretty lame, as articles go -- he hasn't done much research, and his attitude of quantifying blogs as mostly "interesting blather" sounds pre-conceived. Maybe Mr. Dvorak is of the school that thinks anything that's popular must be vulgar, trashy, worthless, etc.

As for his theories on why people blog: Ego gratification: I don't think it's trite and shallow to feed the ego -- what's wrong with feeling good about yourself? Antidepersonalization: As in the herd should stay a herd. Well, I'm all for the right to be an individual, so I can't agree. Elimination of frustration: Apparently Mr. Dvorak has never heard the one about glass houses and throwing stones. Might want to look that up. Societal need to share: As opposed to being, what? Selfish, self-interested, out for number one, incapable of feeling comraderie with others? Wanna-be writers: Mr. Dvorak forgets that at some point in his existence, he was a wanna-be writer. We all were. Why does success almost always induce selective amnesia, and utter contempt for those who have yet to succeed?  
  Quote for the Day: "Whatever you do, protect the work." Susan Elizabeth Phillips, romance author

Yep. Like a starved tiger on a snapped chain.

Medical Fact for the Day: Craniopharyngiomas are very rare tumors which develop in the pituitary gland -- only one or two cases per million people in the US are discovered each year. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, vision problems, stunted growth and failure to enter puberty in children. Craniopharyngiomas must be surgically removed or the result is permanent brain damage.  
Friday, February 08, 2002
  And Then, It Gets Interesting . . . My present deadlines just got a little tighter, and it looks like I'll be finishing two books in two weeks. If my other editor decides to send me revisions, which always seems to happen, make that three books in two weeks. I love the challenge, though; I do my best work under pressure. Maybe because I see it like a dare. I never could walk away from a really good dare. And, of course, this afternoon the three books I've wanted to read for the last four years arrived. So along with the pressure, I've got a nice carrot dangling to see me through the next fourteen days. :) 
  Quote for the Day:"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead & rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing." Benjamin Franklin, 1706 -- 1790

Interesting choice. Can I do both?

Medical Fact for the Day: Aspirin, which has recently been pushed as the "new wonder drug" for treatment of heart disease, is not as harmless a drug as pharmaceutical companies would like you to think. Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding, and vitamin deficiencies which lead to anemia, growth and digestive problems. Taking aspirin at night can trigger episodes of insomnia. Side effects from taking normal doses of aspirin are responsible for hospitalizing 60,000 and killing 4,000 people each year. 
Thursday, February 07, 2002
  Twinkle, Twinkle, ZAP: Physics student John Talbot offers an interesting proposal here on controlling stellar photon emissions, and I quote from the page:

"What if you could control the direction of photons emitted by a star ? Instead of spreading out in all directions some could be projected in the form of a highly coherent and collimated laser beam. An artificial laser star could be constructed to send an extremely well focussed and concentrated beam of light towards a space station or planet to sustain a biosphere or propel an interstellar light sail."

I imagine our military would think of other applications for an artificial laser star, too. (Mr. Vader? Paging Mr. Darth Vader . . .)  
  Re-Buffy'd: I received a bunch of e-mail regarding my comments on watching my first episode of Buffy. And boy, are some of these fans pissed. So let me clarify a few things: first, this was homework -- call it market research -- and I went in hoping some element would capture my imagination. The exact opposite happened. I thought it was silly, shallow, and far too contrived (but I think the same thing about most television shows.) I'd want to kill off at least half of the supporting characters, seriously maim the protagonist, and put Spike in charge. I thought my reaction was rather interesting, given the popularity of the show, which is why I posted it. Perhaps, as it has been suggested, I'm too old to properly appreciate Buffy. It is harder for me to relate to this particular cast, the magic elements, the glammy portrayals of violent death, etc. Still, I will be watching more episodes, because I do want to give it a fair shot. Maybe Buffy improves, as has also been suggested, the more you watch it. We shall see.  
  Frustration: Yet another professional burr under my saddle appeared last night, and excising it required repeated biting of tongue and kicking of inanimate objects. However, I voluntarily climbed on this particular nag, so I only got what I deserved. I'm chalking up the whole experience as Another Lesson On The Idiotic Things About Publishing I Need To Avoid Like The Plague In The Future. And next time, I send in the agent and let her deal with it. The subsequent frustration is not so easily dealt with, and might have wrecked my writing time this morning, but I managed to turn most of it off and vent the rest in the story. 5,411 words poured out of me in four hours, and it really helped.  
  Quote for the Day: "Yes, do you mind?" Dorothy Parker, 1893-1967, to a guest at a party who asked, "Are you Dorothy Parker?"

I love Dorothy.

Medical Fact for the Day:Xeroderma Pigmentosum is a rare skin disease which renders a patient extremely photosensitive and vulnerable to UV damage from infancy. Persons with Xeroderma Pigmentosum are unable to withstand even tiny amounts of sunlight, as their immune systems do not respond to or repair the effects of exposure to the skin. If the individual survives childhood, later development of skin cancer and neurological complications are common. There is no known cure for this condition.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002
  Buffy'd: I finally sat down and watched an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the very first time (on tape; it comes on too early for me to watch -- my kids don't go to bed until 9:30pm.) And this is what all the fuss is about. I can see it appealing to the youngsters, and anyone with a pop culture fascination. However, the woe-is-me protagonist didn't do much for me. She's having way too much fun with that Spike guy (who I thought was the most interesting character, why don't they retitle the show Spike the Vampire?) to remain convincing as a do-gooder. The supporting cast reminded me of everyone I avoided in high school, and the retro-Valley-Girl talk was simply annoying. Like, kids haven't talked like that in twenty years. So I'm left feeling not very excited by the entire concept, but I'll watch a couple more episodes to be fair. Maybe next week they'll let old Spike tear off the angsty-whiny little sister's head; that would perk things up considerably.  
  Cat Scanners: This morning on the way to the truck, my eagle-eyed son spotted a stray cat under a car half a block away. "Mom," he said, "it's got something around its neck." (After the incident with Rush, this is like God tapping me on the shoulder.) I went to investigate, coaxed the six-month-old kitten out and had a look at her. She was thin and very nervous, and sure enough, she had an old orange flea collar stuck around her neck. Said collar was so old that it took forever to work the strap loose. Finally, I got it off her. The kids and I were discussing options when a car horn beeped nearby, and she took off. After I deposited the kids at school, I went back to look for her, but she was long gone. I was left with the collar, and the hope she would at least have a chance to survive now.  
  Quote for the Day:"The science fiction novel, it seems, instead of being the place to escape to, has become the place to escape from." Scott Edelman, Editor, SciFiWeekly

Gee, I wonder why.

Medical Fact for the Day: Narcolepsy causes a patient to experience uncontrollable episodes of sleep several times per day. The condition can start at any age and often continues for life. The attacks, which generally last from ten to fifteen minutes, can strike even when the patient in a situation not normally conducive to sleep, such as walking or operating a vehicle. Narcolepsy has proven to be genetic, and some scientists believe it is related to dysfunction of the immune system. There is no known cure.
  Writing Mistake #1: A friend asked me to check out an e-book version of a novel by a sort of well-known fantasy author (who shall remain nameless) who's been writing for the last twenty something years, mainly to judge whether it was worth the asking price. So I looked at the posted excerpt of chapter one. This has to be the longest no-dialogue opener in history (precisely 2,492 words) describing a not very exciting setting and a hero walking through it while he conveniently thinks in pure info dumps for my benefit, ignorant reader that I am. And this person has been writing professionally for twenty years. I sent my friend a "Only if you want to blow seven bucks" reply.

Here's the mistake: The author was trying to tell me the story. Never tell the reader the story. Show us the story. And please, skip the weather reports -- I don't need you to tell me how hot, cold, wet, dry or dismal it is in this place. Show me. Have the protagonist shiver or sweat. Have him tug at his rain-sodden clothes or smash bugs biting his skin. Another thing -- don't have your protagonist walking or running or skipping to get somewhere, unless it's through a minefield. Open the story at the moment he gets there, I don't want to read three pages of how he trudges along thinking to himself. And finally -- kill the info dump thought streams. Please. Trust me as a reader, I don't need to be handed the last twenty years of your world's history just because your protagonist is alone, bored, and has nothing else to think about. Have a band of brain-sucking marsh trolls attack him, that's what I want to read about.

  Collection #10, Complete: I collect complete works by certain romance and SF authors, a process which sometimes takes many years and is still lots of fun. I love digging through old books at used and rare bookstores. I also have booksellers in Britain and Japan who help me find editions that are only released overseas. Anyway, I've been trying to finish my Anne Stuart collection for about four years, and finally found the last three books I needed. The very rare Dell Maggie Bennett novels are at this moment zipping their way across the U.S. to my shelves, thanks to Terri at Trade A Book (2740 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051 if you're in the neighborhood.) So I now own every book ever written by Catherine Coulter, Robyn Donald, Linda Howard, Elizabeth Lowell, Christina Dodd (including the infamous cover with the three-armed heroine), Holly Lisle, Mary Balogh, J.D. Robb, Anne McCaffrey, and Anne Stuart. Next challenge: Find the last group of novels to finish my Iris Johansen collection. 
Tuesday, February 05, 2002
  Old Wounds: One of the cats reopened some old scar tissue around Rush's neck tonight while we were out, and we came home from dinner to finding the little guy craning his head trying to lick the blood off his fur. He might have even done it himself; I've seen him scratching at the same place. As I cleaned the wound, I got pissed off at his original owners all over again (they either turned him loose with a collar on, or he escaped their home, and outgrowing the collar as a stray nearly killed him.) For God's sake, if you have flea collars on your cats, take them off. Your vet can give a prescription for Advantage drops that will kill all the fleas on them within 24 hours, and you won't risk choking them to death or leaving them scarred for life.  
  On this date in history: 02/05/98 Author Tom Clancy confirms he signed agreement to purchase Minnesota Vikings for slightly more than $200 million, an NFL franchise record. (Soon after, Clancy admitted that he couldn't afford to buy the team and made way for current owner Red McCombs.)

I'm trying to imagine having the nerve to spend $200 million dollars on what I'd like to own -- an AIDS research facility, a therapeutic home for abused children, a surgical hospital for the poor. But a football team? Ick.
  Quote for the Day: "Every day is a good day." -- Yun-Men, 750 -- 812

I bet. Especially when you're not being captured and eaten by a pack of marauding Huns.

Medical Fact for the Day: An ophthalmoscope is an instrument used to inspect the inside of a patient's eyes. Through this scope, a meticulous examination of the eye is possible, and doctors can even inspect the entire area of the retina, the head of the optic nerve, the vitreous humor, and the retinal veins and arteries.  
Monday, February 04, 2002
  Inabikari strikes: A new novel idea hit me this afternoon, hard and fast, like a car jacker smashing in a driver's side window with a tire iron. I simply read the word inabikari (Japanese for "lightning") from my research notes and ka-boom,the concept for the new book exploded inside my head. And while I can work on up to six different manuscripts at the same time, I can't do that now. I have to remain focused on the contract books or I'll never finish before deadline. The only solution is to make good notes on the idea then tell it to take a hike, and hope I can maintain the self-discipline to stay away from it.  
  Number seven: My next novel release, Sun Valley (writing as Gena Hale) is now available at Barnes & Noble online. B&N always has my books up before anyone else does, which I think is pretty cool. A bit weird, too, because the galleys for Sun Valley are sitting on my desk right at this very moment.  
  Time Enough to Write: A nice article at this morning about weblogs and Blogger (oddly, the article is dated Feb. 11th. Sarah, are you fooling with the space/time continuum again?) The author of the article is about as allergic to HTML as I am, too. Will Evan Williams end up being Man of the Year, 2002? :) 
  Quote for the Day: "Kono michi wo massugu iki mas." Advice in Japanese, translates to: "Follow the road straight ahead."

Sure, but -- Biichi ewa doo iki mas ka? (How do I get to the beach?)

Medical Fact for the Day: Parasomnias are sleeps disorders that include vivid dreams and physical activity during sleep. Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is probably the most well-known of the parasomnias and occur more frequently in children, as do night terrors, nightmares and head-banging. Outside of short-term drug treatment with sedatives or hypnotics, no specific treatment is available, but promising sleep studies may soon change the way doctors treat patients with parasomnias.

Sunday, February 03, 2002
  Taking second break of the night, finished editing the morning's work so I can sneak away to tinker on Gamers, which I've decided not to sell to the antho for reasons previously mentioned and let's not start another rant on that subject, thank you. I'm going to post Gamers on Holly's site for the February challenge instead. What the heck. Found a portrait of me and mom at one of the few times in history we both had red hair -- way back in 1980 -- and despite some unhappy associations with ex-husband #1, I might just hang it up. After all, Pond Scum isn't in the photo. Also found a much happier portrait of me and Kath on her first birthday, when she actually had red hair (first 16 months, the kid was a redhead. Then she turned blond on me. God likes to play with my mind.) Back to work now.

  Half-time Munchies: It's hard to behave with all the junk food in the house, but I did good tonight. I made a new recipe for carmelized onion bread in my breadmaker, then used it to make grilled cheese sandwiches (with low fat Swiss instead of American cheese.) Added a side of manzanilla olives (pimento-stuffed) and fresh pineapple for dessert. The bread came out so full of flavor you could eat it plain without butter. The trick to sticking to the vegetarian diet is to go for distinct flavors, and try new combos.  
  Looking for Correspondence: Locus put up a surprisingly nice notice about getting people to write to Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, SF/F writer and founder of Fantasy Press, who will be 92 on June 20th and has just moved in to a retirement home. Kelly must really want that Hugo for best website. 
  Quote for the Day: "When people say, ‘Powers’s novel is set in an alternate Middle East,’ I want to say, ‘It’s not goddamn alternate — it’s this Middle East!'" Tim Powers, SF writer

Dear me. Too much caffeine this morning, perhaps?

Medical Fact for the Day: Conduct disorders are characterized by repeated, disruptive behavior in children and adolescents, and various types have been identified, such as solitary aggressive conduct disorder, in which the patient is selfish, feels no guilt or remorse, and doesn't relate well to others, and group conduct disorder, in which the patient is loyal to a group (like a gang) but show hostility toward outsiders. Psychotherapy may help improve the patient's self-esteem and self-control, although most therapists feel removing the patient from the damaging environment and administering strict discipline is the key to successful treatment. 

Star Lines Quarterly Report

As the weblog is officially three months old today, I thought I'd look back and see what's changed since I started in November.

Positives: I've posted basically every day, except for a few spots during the holidays; I figured out how to change colors on the template, add links, and put links and graphics in my posts (mainly by copying HTML codes from the blogger template and blindly fumbling with them until they worked); I've registered for an ISSN for the weblog with the Library of Congress, which should arrive soon; I've added a medical fact for the day which has gotten much positive response, and deleted the word "famous" from the quote of the day entries because, let's face it, who cares whether they were famous or not; I've found dozens of other, terrific weblogs I might never have read otherwise; sponsored some worthwhile blogs by zapping ads and switched to Blogger Pro to say thanks to Evan; and made some great new friends out there in blogger land.

Negatives: I rant too much on Star Lines, and I haven't gotten off my backside to revamp the other blog I set up specifically for rants -- sheer laziness. I blog too much, memory-wise, which means I'll have to pay an extra $30 to $40 per year or learn to shut up. I still have not caught up with the current technology, and the more I work on the computer, the less I think I know -- and while I'm kind of tired of that feeling, I resent having to catch up so much I refuse to do so. The cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face variety of resentment. I've also ticked off one or two blogdweebs with my bad attitude about blogart, blogjournalism, and blogresponsibility.

Bottom line: Writing Star Lines is fun, and I enjoy the time I spend here. It's an excellent way to chronicle the process of writing for me and a lot of other things that impact on my writing. It's also my daily message in a bottle, tossed out into cyberspace. Who will pick it up tomorrow and read it is anyone's guess, but if I can make them smile or even laugh, I've done good.

Adventures at the KeyBoard

10/28/2001 - 11/04/2001 / 11/04/2001 - 11/11/2001 / 11/11/2001 - 11/18/2001 / 11/18/2001 - 11/25/2001 / 11/25/2001 - 12/02/2001 / 12/02/2001 - 12/09/2001 / 12/09/2001 - 12/16/2001 / 12/16/2001 - 12/23/2001 / 12/23/2001 - 12/30/2001 / 12/30/2001 - 01/06/2002 / 01/06/2002 - 01/13/2002 / 01/13/2002 - 01/20/2002 / 01/20/2002 - 01/27/2002 / 01/27/2002 - 02/03/2002 / 02/03/2002 - 02/10/2002 / 02/10/2002 - 02/17/2002 / 02/17/2002 - 02/24/2002 / 02/24/2002 - 03/03/2002 / 03/03/2002 - 03/10/2002 / 03/10/2002 - 03/17/2002 / 03/17/2002 - 03/24/2002 / 03/24/2002 - 03/31/2002 / 03/31/2002 - 04/07/2002 / 04/07/2002 - 04/14/2002 / 04/14/2002 - 04/21/2002 / 04/21/2002 - 04/28/2002 / 04/28/2002 - 05/05/2002 / 05/05/2002 - 05/12/2002 / 05/12/2002 - 05/19/2002 / 05/19/2002 - 05/26/2002 / 05/26/2002 - 06/02/2002 / 06/02/2002 - 06/09/2002 / 06/09/2002 - 06/16/2002 / 06/16/2002 - 06/23/2002 / 06/23/2002 - 06/30/2002 / 06/30/2002 - 07/07/2002 / 07/07/2002 - 07/14/2002 / 07/14/2002 - 07/21/2002 / 07/21/2002 - 07/28/2002 / 07/28/2002 - 08/04/2002 / 08/04/2002 - 08/11/2002 / 08/11/2002 - 08/18/2002 / 08/18/2002 - 08/25/2002 / 08/25/2002 - 09/01/2002 / 09/01/2002 - 09/08/2002 / 09/08/2002 - 09/15/2002 / 09/15/2002 - 09/22/2002 / 09/22/2002 - 09/29/2002 / 09/29/2002 - 10/06/2002 / 10/06/2002 - 10/13/2002 / 10/13/2002 - 10/20/2002 / 10/20/2002 - 10/27/2002 / 10/27/2002 - 11/03/2002 / 11/03/2002 - 11/10/2002 / 11/10/2002 - 11/17/2002 / 11/17/2002 - 11/24/2002 / 11/24/2002 - 12/01/2002 / 12/01/2002 - 12/08/2002 / 12/08/2002 - 12/15/2002 / 12/15/2002 - 12/22/2002 / 12/22/2002 - 12/29/2002 / 12/29/2002 - 01/05/2003 / 01/05/2003 - 01/12/2003 / 01/12/2003 - 01/19/2003 / 01/19/2003 - 01/26/2003 / 01/26/2003 - 02/02/2003 / 02/02/2003 - 02/09/2003 / 02/09/2003 - 02/16/2003 / 02/16/2003 - 02/23/2003 / 02/23/2003 - 03/02/2003 / 03/02/2003 - 03/09/2003 / 03/09/2003 - 03/16/2003 / 03/16/2003 - 03/23/2003 / 03/23/2003 - 03/30/2003 / 03/30/2003 - 04/06/2003 / 04/06/2003 - 04/13/2003 / 04/13/2003 - 04/20/2003 / 04/20/2003 - 04/27/2003 / 04/27/2003 - 05/04/2003 / 05/04/2003 - 05/11/2003 / 05/11/2003 - 05/18/2003 / 05/18/2003 - 05/25/2003 / 05/25/2003 - 06/01/2003 / 06/01/2003 - 06/08/2003 / 06/08/2003 - 06/15/2003 / 06/15/2003 - 06/22/2003 / 06/22/2003 - 06/29/2003 / 06/29/2003 - 07/06/2003 / 07/06/2003 - 07/13/2003 / 07/13/2003 - 07/20/2003 / 07/20/2003 - 07/27/2003 / 07/27/2003 - 08/03/2003 / 08/03/2003 - 08/10/2003 / 08/10/2003 - 08/17/2003 / 08/17/2003 - 08/24/2003 / 08/24/2003 - 08/31/2003 / 08/31/2003 - 09/07/2003 / 09/07/2003 - 09/14/2003 / 09/14/2003 - 09/21/2003 / 09/21/2003 - 09/28/2003 / 09/28/2003 - 10/05/2003 / 10/05/2003 - 10/12/2003 / 10/12/2003 - 10/19/2003 / 10/19/2003 - 10/26/2003 / 10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 / 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 / 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 /

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