Being a writer can be handy in difficult social situations, especially when your natural inclination is to gravitate to the most remote corner and imitate the wall paper. If you know your characters well enough, you can slip into their skins and have them do the talking for you.
While I was out doing some last minute shopping this afternoon, I encountered an exhausted, bad-tempered clerk who snapped my head off for asking her a simple question. I immediately shifted into Raven's character and joked with her about annoying customers, outrageous fashions and the joys of retail. I had her not only giggling but helping me pick out one last gift for my friend in under five minutes. I didn't even realize I was doing it until I walked out of the store and started plotting a Kalen and Raven short story in my head, and muttered dialogue under my breath.
If you try this, just be cautious who you pick -- Cherijo, for example, is someone I'd never take shopping. :)
Quote for the Day:
"The soft overcomes the hard in the world as a gentle rider controls a galloping horse. -- Tao Te Ching 43
Unless the gentle rider gets stomped by it. Then what?
Medical Fact for the Day: Musculoskeletal strain,
or muscle strain, originates from stretching or partial tearing of muscle fibers, which causes pain, swelling, and in some cases, temporary motor loss (range of motion) in the affected limb. Symptoms display anytime from immediately after the source injury to 1 to 2 days later, and usually persist for another 7 to 10 days. Musculoskeletal strain is caused simply by overuse of a muscle. Diagnosis is made via physical examination, but a physician may wish the patient to submit to X-ray examination to eliminate the possibility of bone fractures, which are sometimes associated with this condition.
Musculoskeletal strain is more likely to occur in teenagers and young adults, as they are the most active portion of society. Males 35 and older are also particularly vulnerable to muscle strain as well. Heavy lifting or repetitive lifting, lifting while twisting the body rather than facing the lifted object squarely, and vigorous sports participation represent the majority of injury situations.
Treatment: a few days of rest, while relieving tension on the affected part; application of ice or heat to the injury site; anti-inflammatory medication; and (in some severe cases) physical therapy to restore motor function.
Sleepless in South Florida:
Welcome to Insomnia Tri-Rail, please step back from the doors and sit down, it's going to be another bumpy ride. On tonight's tour, departing friendship station, brief stop to refuel at the think tank, weaving through deadlines and (again) skipping all the rest stops until the rails collapse.
I know why I can't sleep. Besides the hating it with a passion deal. I did our farewell dinner for our school administrator, amused everyone at the table, got up and made my little speech (wasn't my finest, but I got everyone still sobbing from the last speaker to laugh. Twice.) Even made it all the way to the end without clouding up, then I had to say my personal farewell. No laughs here. I choked it out, burst into tears as she hugged me, and ran for the truck. Conclusion: I suck at saying goodbye.
Felt better after the think tank, enough to rap out another 3K. I was in no mood to edit and it seemed like a good idea, I've only got thirteen days left 'til deadline. When my hands went numb, I saved the file and went to bed. And was back up in ten minutes, pacing the livingroom. And me due at another dinner in Lake Worth tomorrow night, with people I don't even know. At a country club, for God's sake. I have no pantyhose that isn't in shreds. I'll have to slap on makeup and one of my IRS suits and be perky. I've never been in a country club in my life. Not even as a waitress. Conclusion: I need to get over my stage fright. At my age, it's pathetic.
But you want to know what's really bothering me? Sure you do. I'm worried. About my good friend who is going through hell right now. About my daughter, who blew out the test score grid on the SAT again and now needs to be placed in a gifted program. About someone I can't help and we won't even go there, uh-uh, but it's bad and it breaks my heart. And the moment I stretch out those faces will start doing a little flash thing behind my eyes, and I'll feel even more useless. Because there is only so much I can do for them, and everything else is left up to something I don't understand but I'd like five minutes with so I can air my grievances.
Would be nice to be water, like Holly says, and let it all flow through me. I have to work on that again.
A Little Light Reading:
Been meaning to read the Egyptian Book of the Dead, haven't you? Well, you can find E.A. Wallis Budge's translation of the complete text online here.
More Knot Art:
I'm into graphics today, what can I tell you. Two more, created by yours truly:
If you want to try your hand at artistic mathematical knotting, you can download this really cool program called KnotPlot free here.
This one was created by Robert G. Scharein.
Quote for the Day:
"This journal is a relief. When I am tired . . . out comes this, and down goes every thing. But I can't read it over--and God knows what contradictions it may contain." --Lord Byron
Like how you treated John Keats, for instance?
Medical Fact for the Day: Clubfoot (talipes equinovarus)
is a congenital deformity characterized by the inward turning of the foot. Clubfoot is present at birth and easily recognized by doctors and parents. As a fixed deformity, it cannot be passively corrected, but clubfoot itself does not cause pain. It is usually bilateral and more common in boys than in girls.
Treatment for clubfoot begins with manipulation to stretch the clubfoot, usually through the application of the casting. Doctors will change the cast at weekly intervals to promote the gradual stretching of the contracted tissues (serial casting). This method of treatment takes from six to eight weeks, and should be started immediately after birth. If the serial casting is not successful, surgery is needed to correct the deformity.
Okay, I've added the option, so now y'all can comment to your heart's content. As for how long the comments stay, well, we'll see how it goes.
NASA's $600K Apple:
Take a Finnish scientist whose anti-gravity theory has never been proven, the allure of exotic quantum physics, and plop it down on the conference table at the monthly "What Else Can We Blow Money On?" NASA meeting, and what do you get? Yep, you guessed it, yet another Idiot Program.
This one, which you can read about in Popular Science this month (pg. 36), is a determined effort to prove the theories of one Eugene Podkletov, who in 1992 invented what he called a "gravity shield" which basically causes an object to "resist" gravity. NASA jumped right on this -- I mean, considering this Podkletov is as smart, seasoned and reputable as say, Albert Einstein -- and is spending $600,000.00 to prove once and for all if his theory works. Apparently Eugene never built
his gravity shield, so by God, NASA will.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Sir Isaac Newton proved this back in 1666, when his work in physics culminated in the theory of universal gravitation. (The apple falling from a tree in his garden and bonking him in the head is a myth, by the way.) And here's what Newton discovered:
F = G--------------------------
--where (m1)g and (m2)g are the gravitational masses of two objects separated by a distance r and G is a constant, given by G = 6.7x10-11 N m2/kg2. F is the magnitude of the force between the two objects and the force is always attractive.**
"It's a bad bet," University of Maryland physicist Robert L. Park is quoted as saying in the article. "It's absolutely mysterious why NASA would bother to spend its money on this sort of thing."
This is not a mystery, Robert. This is standard operating procedure.
**See, you don't have to waste six hundred grand to discover the laws of gravity. I'm happy to help NASA out for half that much. You can make the check out to S.L. Viehl.
Who Needs Diamonds?
(Before you get out your checkbook, the pricetag on this one is $10,549.00)
Oh Great. I'm a Lizard.
I'm also a popsci (Popular Science website) junkie, which is where I read this article
about which animals experience true sleep (REM and NREM sleep, along with some other qualifiers.) Mammals and birds have it down better, anyway.
I don't like to dream. I mean, I cook some pretty scary stuff when I'm awake,
think about it. But the main reason is, I evidently don't dream like other people do. You know, like when a friend confides that she woke up in a cold sweat after dreaming she was grocery shopping naked? My honest response to that would be, "Gee, last night I dreamt I was hovering in a medevac unit with a crew of twenty over a disaster area where they were stacking up ten thousand plague victims dressed in orange jumpsuits for burning. And then Jupiter exploded . . . ."
My philosophy about writing science fiction versus writing science fanfic came under fire when a colleague told me to read this article
by Gary Westfahl and then justify my lousy attitude and lack of proper respect for the Sacred Cows of SF. This line from the article kind of says it all for me:
"No changing of the guard is abrupt or complete, and there remain many among us who are passionately devoted to studying and preserving the entire history of science fiction, many who would rather read a science fiction book than watch an episode of the latest science fiction television series."
Whatever ignites your thrusters, pal. The fact remains, nearly 90% of the adult fiction market buyers would rather watch grass grow than read a science fiction book, and it ain't because someone is driving them away from the shelves with a whip. Well, unless you count the authors themselves. My opinion stands: if this genre is not to go the way of the dinosaurs, then we need to address the needs of the readers, not the desire to preserve history. Sounds like an abrupt and
complete changing of the guard is overdue to me.
Quote for the Day:
"I'm willing to bet that other editors feel the same way I do: with very few exceptions, seeing the letterhead that lists SFWA and HWA is a screaming neon sign saying 'crappy story enclosed; please flush at first opportunity'" -- Paul Riddell
And here I thought I was the only one who wasn't much of a group-joiner....
Medical Fact for the Day: Backache,
which has a number of more formal medical terms, depending on the location of the pain, is usually caused by the following: Being overweight, overeating, a slipped or ruptured disc, chronic back strain, muscle weakness from lack of exercise, spondylolisthesis (slipping forward of one vertebra over another, with erosion), a transitional vertebra (birth defect), psychological factors such as tension or mental anguish, and constitutional factors, such as constipation, hypoglycemia, pregnancy, menstruation, and pelvic tumors.
Treatment : You should seek medical treatment for any back pain, to address and/or eliminate the source. With your doctor's approval, you may be able to prevent future episodes by strengthening your back through walking, purposeful labor, or well-directed exercises. Important:
Never ignore backache of any kind, and never try to self-diagnose your condition.
The universe can stop messing with my friends. Anytime now.
Writer in the Window:
In the tradition started by Harlan Ellison, who would sit in a shop and write a story live, taping the pages as he finished in the window while an audience shouted suggestions, I'll be the Writer in the Window tonight
at HollyLisle.com, starting at 9 p.m. EST. I've never written in front of a two-legged audience before, so it should be interesting.
The Politics of Linking:
A polite inquiry today, asking why I don't link Star Lines to blogs by other pro SF writers, like Gaiman and Doctorow. Truth is, I don't understand why I should -- is this another political thing no one bothered to tell me about? I don't do well with politics. Actually, I run and hide from them. To me, a link is like recommending a book -- you don't just pick one with a famous name and tell someone it was fabulous. You have to read it and like it first. I'm sure Neil and Cory will survive without a link from me. :)
A Little Chinese Wisdom:
In studying Daoism (aka Taoism) I've found some pretty amazing stuff. Dao is all about universal balance (something the Western world could stand learning), which is the ideal state of all things. Although Nature has no problem following the Dao, humans, because of their will, don't. Since conscious action interferes with the Dao -- literally "the Way" -- its philosophers recommend followers practice wu wei
, or not acting against the natural order.
I don't know if I agree with everything Daoism embraces. I think it's like Communism; great idea, but it can't work when you throw human beings in the mix. At the same time, humans are very good at two things: butchering and breeding. Even the old Chinese philosophers who thought up this stuff would admit, you don't get much more Dao than that.
From the Daodejing:
Attain utmost vacuity;
Hold fast to quietude.
While the myriad things are stirring together,
I see only their return.
For luxuriantly as they grow,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is called quietude,
Which is also said to be reversion to one's destiny.
This reversion belongs with the eternal:
To know the eternal is enlightenment;
Not to know the eternal means to run blindly to disaster.
He who knows the eternal is all-embracing;
He who is all embracing is impartial,
To be impartial is to be kingly,
To be kingly is to be heavenly,
To be heavenly is to be one with the Dao,
To be one with the Dao is to endure forever.
Quote for the Day:
"May you be afflicted with the itch and have no nails to scratch with." -- Irish curse
Get your minds out of the gutter, now.
Totally Non-Medical Fact for the Day:
When an insomniac does manage to get more than three hours sleep, he/she will slumber in the wrong position and wake up with a back ache.
Lee says a batch of e-mails came in asking if I'd be willing to sell the spooky-looking ARC for Eternity Row. Um, sorry, but I don't make money that way, guys. Have to be ethical and all that. It's only four more months until it hits the shelves, so hang in there.
Mad Dogs and Irishmen:
This morning Sean Delaney drove me up the wall; I haven't had this much trouble with a male character since Reever popped into my head and said, "Lots of luck figuring me out." The problem is I've never thought of Sean as a hero, and he seems to be resisting the idea as much as I am. This is just another aspect of professional writing, btw -- when an editor asks you to turn a supporting character into a hero, you do it.
Sean is a selfish guy, no doubt about it. And he's developed a bit of a drinking problem on top of that (subplot from Raven's novel). Those two aspects of his character can't vanish overnight, so I have to deal with them logically and avoid being judgemental and preachy. Also, as Sean is a good twenty years older than any of my other heroes, his priorities are different. He's had a long and colorful career, but is now facing retirement and, like Jory in Blade, has no interest in making babies. All of that makes it hard for me to get inside his head.
Still, despite my grumbling, I love the challenge. Working out a hero like Sean will never be easy, but if I don't experiment with my characters, I'll end up writing the same novel over and over.
Quote for the Day:
"You're there to be shot at, and that's part of it." -- Norman Mailer, on being a novelist
Fine. But make the shooters take off their ski masks.
Medical Fact for the Day: Rabies
is a lethal viral infection that affects the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and cranial nerves), and is transmitted to humans through bites from infected animals. Symptoms, which develop thirty to fifty days after the bite, begin with pain and local swelling at the bite site, followed by fever, headache, itching, numbness or tingling around the wound, swallowing difficulty, anxiety and restlessness, declining mental function, sore throat, nausea, muscle stiffness, excessive salivation (not real foaming at the mouth, but increased saliva), muscle cramps, paralysis of muscles including respiratory muscles (breathing), hydrophobia (fear of water because liquids can cause spasm in the throat and make swallowing difficult) convulsions, seizures, coma, and death. Death usually occurs due to heart or respiratory failure.
Only seven people worldwide have been known to survive untreated Rabies (i.e., did not receive the series vaccination for Rabies after being bitten or exposed to a rabid animal). The virus needs to be found in the saliva or brain tissues, including the spinal fluid (CSF), or fluorescent antibody (protein associated with Rabies) test will be positive in the infected animal. The rabid animal must be captured if possible, terminated, and tested for the virus. All warm-blooded animals (Mammals) can carry the virus, with bats being most common, followed by dogs, cats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Treatment after the bite from an animal with Rabies is with the Rabies vaccination series, which must begin soon after the rabid bite. If you suspect you have been bitten by a rabid animal, seek medical help immediately
as an untreated bite is fatal.
There is a cure for a bad temper, and it starts with quality time with the children. I can't stay ticked off around my kids, they always know how to get in under the red haze and remind me of how lucky I am to have them. Besides going to the movie, Kath and I planted new flower seeds today, and Mike and I rehearsed his lines for the Spring play. Simple, uncomplicated things that I so often take for granted. Today I needed them badly, because I've been on semi-shaky ground for the last week.
And this was like a cosmic magnet for other good things -- my editor called with the terrific news about Raven's book (see earlier entry); I was invited to a birthday party this weekend for one of my favorite people in the universe; another friend stunned me by sending roses and a big basket of chocolate and cookies and jelly beans; and an e-mail arrived to let me know someone I've been worried about is on the mend. It almost seemed like every hour I was reminded of how fortunate I am in my family, profession and friendships. As usual, Someone Upstairs saw I needed a boost and directed a little light and love my way, to nudge me back to where I belong.
Spider-Man the Movie:
The kids dragged me out to see it at the theatre, and we just got back. Nice flick, some gorgeous special effects, an appealing protagonist and some smart and logical story fixes (whoever thought to have spinnerets as part of Parker's mutation should get a raise, that was inspired.) I have no doubt it will make much dinero for Stan Lee and Marvel. The dialogue isn't Hamlet, but hey, we're talking a comic book adaptation here -- I don't remember them reading
much like Shakespeare. Very entertaining for an old lady who remembers when Spider-Man comics first came out, ha.
As for the hype, well, practically everyone in the theatre was male and over 35. Most of them were doubtless reliving their high school years, when nerds didn't have anything to play with but these new things called calculators and whatever the chemistry teacher would let them cook up in the lab besides flan. I remember most of our chess club were huge Spidey fans, but he was the working class geeks' hero. He gave them hope -- all you had to do was get bit by a radioactive spider, and you could be swinging between buildings downtown, too.
Even Mike, whose Dragonball Z heroes can blow up entire planets, was mildly impressed. I got the feeling he thought it was kind of quaint, though, maybe because Mom knew more about the storyline than he did. I don't know if the film has been rated yet, but I'd recommend you test it out before taking young kids. Kath did okay, but the dolby stereo was pretty loud and that bothered her more than anything.
Spoke with my Onyx editor today; she's very happy with Raven's book and only wants me to change the name of a supporting character so he doesn't clash with a character in the third book (Mick and Nick, too similar). This is the first time I've ever turned in a book that has been accepted "as is," so I'm apparently getting better. Cecilia's advice about shifting the relationship arc every twenty pages is really to blame, it helped me tremendously during the writing process.
Also, excellent news on release dates: the first book of this new trilogy will be released in February '03, with book two and three following in March and April respectively.
I think I've earned a cookie.
Check it out:
has moved, so I updated that link over there on the left.
Writer Trick #4:
One of the demands of pro-level writing is to avoid using excessive adverbs, particularly the ones that end in -ly. It's very tempting to get lazy and slap an adverb on a dialogue tag, i.e.: "I want you out of my house," he said coldly.
In order to avoid the adverb quick fix-it job, you need to 1) trust your reader and 2) let your characters' actions and dialogue convey their emotions. In the following, I only used one -ly adverb, and even that could have been deleted without really hurting the scene:
Except from "Eternity Row"
(StarDoc book five):
I didn't stop to signal Squilyp, but went straight from my quarters to Medical. Good thing, too. I could sense trouble brewing before I went through the door panel.
Inside, the Senior Healer was the only thing keeping my husband out of the critical care unit. It may have been because Reever's fist held him suspended a half foot off the deck. My husband was ignoring the two security guards holding their weapons aimed at his head, and Qonja, who was evidently trying to reason with him.
Only one person could reason with Reever when he got like this.
"Cherijo." Squilyp had never sounded more relieved. "Thank the gods."
Reever turned around. "Xonea released you?"
"I proved my innocence. Put the Omorr down."
Slowly, my husband returned my boss to the deck.
"Thank you." Sometimes I didn't know who was worse -- Marel or her father. "Squilyp, I'm sorry. Reever, get on an exam table. And you." I planted a hand on Qonja's chest and shoved him out of my way. "You're relieved of duty. Get out."
His friendly smile evaporated. "You can't do that."
"Squilyp? Got a problem with this?" My boss shook his head, and I beckoned to security. "Escort this man to his quarters. Or an open airlock. Whatever's convenient."
The guards exchanged a glance, shouldered their weapons, and left, guiding the seething psych resident between them.
"I don't require an exam." Reever was staring at Dhreen through the clear plas wall in the same way he would a small bug he wanted to squash.
The Senior Healer straightened his tunic and resumed his usual expression of grave dignity. "I've been trying to convince him to do exactly that."
"You just have to use the right words." I went over and took one of Reever's hands in mine. Tenderly, I pressed it to my cheek, making him focus on me. "Duncan. Sweetheart. I'm okay. It's over. Now get on that exam table before I tranquilize you."
Copyright 2002 by S.L. Viehl
All rights reserved.
Quote for the Day:
"Medicine is my lawful wedded wife and literature my mistress. When one gets on my nerves, I spend the night with the other." -- Anton Chekhov
Much as I loathe Chekhov, the pretentious little snot got a few things right.
Medical Fact for the Day: Amphetamines,
aka speed, began to be seriously abused in the '60s and '70s, when they were used as diet pills. Many physicians of the time prescribed amphetamines with little understanding of the damaging psychological and physical side effects it induced. Since that time, illegal speed has been steadily manufactured in homemade laboratories which produce a powdered substance that can be inhaled, snorted, injected, smoked, or swallowed.
Speed is a stimulant. In general, it causes euphoria, although repeated, excessive use can result in anxiety, panic attacks, hallucinations, and other forms of mental and extreme emotional distress. Medically, amphetamine affects the part of the nervous system that "revs up" the body similar to adrenaline. It is extremely psychologically addictive, but it is not physically addictive like heroin or other narcotics. Despite this, speed has a devastating, negative impact on one's lifestyle, health, and work.
Symptoms of amphetamine abuse are: sweating, rapid pulse, dilated eyes, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, confusion, paranoid delusions, depression after quitting or prolonged use, and malnutrition (due to suppression of appetite). Blood tests are not always sensitive enough to find these drugs, so urine testing is recommended. Doctors may prescribe bromocriptine to help addicts combat cravings, along with other addiction treatment programs. An overdose of amphetamine can cause seizures, aortic dissection, psychosis, lung damage, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), fetal abnormalities among pregnant women (including placental abruption and premature births) heart attacks, and strokes.
With the dangerous street versions so readily available, abuse of amphetamines continues to be an ongoing problem in our society. If you suspect someone you know is abusing street speed or a prescribed amphetamine, help them seek psychological and medical treatment as soon as possible.
Happy Mother's Day
Finally toddling off to bed after some productive hours. I get to sleep in tomorrow 'cause it's Mother's Day, which means I'll get up at eight instead of six. I had a mostly wonderful day, marred only by Forward Motion's momentary vanishing act, and thoughts of a particularly stupid bitch I'd like to ram head-first into a concrete surface (just for starters.) I can't get around this anger, so I used it to do something positive and constructive.
And still it boils inside me.
You might think that my little "do no harm" motto comes from medical experience. No. It's because I have the capacity to do enormous damage when I'm angry. Not random destructive stuff, but intelligent, creative, all-encompassing, life-ruining damage. In temper, I am my father's daughter, and I wrestle with the beast every time someone attacks me, my kids, or someone I love. It's a fight I always win, but I also know will never end. When I think about what I could
do if I let the beast go, it scares the hell out of me.
Tomorrow I'm spending the day with my children. I'm going to remind the beast there's much more to life than revenge. Maybe that will repair the chains a little faster.