Star Lines
Saturday, June 15, 2002
  Evil Master SuperComputer Drives Poor Beleaguered Writer to Commit Seppuku With Butter Knife, Film at 11: I knew the detaut between me, Drefan, and the Russian software was too good to last. Tonight Dre crashed about halfway through the Think Tank, throwing me out, then started making these ominous drive-being-cannibalized noises when I finally got back in. So I shut him down and locked him up, and off he goes to the nice Gateway repairshop tomorrow. Will teach him never to mess with me when I'm coming down off deadline week.

This little disaster of mine illustrates how important it is to do daily backups when you're a writer. I know the straight people out there do them, but we creative types tend to forget the routine while we get lost in whatever we're creating. I learned my lesson after a crash fried three chapters of a book I hadn't backed up. Now I am religious about daily backups (morning, noon, and midnight, every day. No exceptions.) If I hadn't backed up today, I would have lost over 96 pages of new and edited work. So -- when was the last time you backed up your hard drive? Hmmm?

Btw, this post is being brought to you by Phillip, my extremely civilized if not-as-flashy backup emergency computer. He's never been connected to the Internet before tonight, but in his stoic, dependable way, he's tolerating it. Unbeknownst to you all, Phillip and I have had a complete private offline relationship for two years and we're quite devoted to each other. Why, no, I don't spend too much time with my computers . . . . 
Thursday, June 13, 2002
  Not Even If You Drug Me: A stop by Sarah's weblog convinced me to try this name generator and I ended up with "Countess Sings in the Rain." Um, no. I cannot sing. Not in the rain, not on a train, not in a car, not in a tree, not with a fox, not in a box, not with a mouse, not in a house, not here or there, not anywhere . . .  
  And then, it gets really, REALLY interesting . . . Some news just in that confirms once again that A) yes, there is a God and B) man, has he got a twisted sense of humor. Being foresworn to keep my mouth shut about it for the interim, I can't hand over the details. Suffice to say that once again the universe is messing with me (somewhat in a good way) and piling on the pressure (well, it's deadline week, what else is new?)

However, I am allowed one heartfelt Oh Bloody Hell.

I read somewhere (Stephen King, The Stand, I think) that Richard Nixon was one of the few presidents who didn't crack under the pressure of power, but thrived on it, like a vampire. As uneager as I am to compare myself to a unprosecuted felon like Nixon, I can be the same way. I don't like roadblocks, but I drive faster and better when there are lots of them ahead of me. Particularly when everyone else in the car is screaming to pull over so they can hide out in a rest stop. Nope, no moan fests over Cinnabuns for me. Damn the torpedoes etc. etc.

One question, though: Why does this stuff always always always happen on deadline week???
  Another Deadline Slain: Although the weather and Drefan did their respective best to stop me, I got the copy-edit for Jian-Shan's book off to my editor this afternoon with thirty minutes to spare. I didn't send Sean's book because, well, I'm a wimp and I need one more read-through. It goes tomorrow, my new shipper promised to rip it out of my clutching white fingers . . .  
  Art Imitates Life: I've had two operations on my left hand, and I've always wanted to come up with a fictitious reason for the scars. Tumor removal just doesn't sound very romantic, does it? So when I needed an other-than-gunshot wound for my heroine in Jian-Shan's book, I looked at my hand, thought of the hero, and came up with . . .

Excerpt from Book One Onyx Trilogy #2 by Gena Hale

Warm wetness running down her arm confused her. It didn't make sense - then it did. The man in the coat and hat had been trying to kill the bodyguard. She'd gotten in the way, although just not soon enough.

She stared at her hand, which wouldn't move. Mon Dieu, it went through both of us.

The bodyguard had shouted something, and now he held her with one arm. Shock made everything grow dim and distant, and a strange fizzling sound crackled in her ears. His face, so close to hers, blurred.

That man tried to kill him. Right in front of the baby.

The hard arm around her waist wouldn't let her fall. Instead, the bodyguard guided her down until they were both on their knees. The cool, fine sand felt strange against her hot skin.

Long black hair touched her face as the man bent down to look at the blade buried in her hand. He took her wrist with his fingers and held it. "Don't move."

"I won't." She couldn't. "Can you get it out?"

"Yes." His voice changed, became gentler. "Hold on to me."

She swallowed and clutched his other shoulder. He grabbed the hilt of the knife that had gone through her hand and into his chest, and with one quick jerk, he pulled it out of both of them.

The pain hit her then, driving all the air out of her lungs. Blood streamed down her arm and his chest to mingle between them.

"Thank you," Val heard herself say, before she slumped forward in a dead faint.
  Breaking in the Shui: The first entry in my new Feng Shui dream journal reads: June 12th -- Repeat of the lamprey surgeon nightmare -- patient on table, nurses trying to pull away alien-head surgeon with lamprey mouth, blood everywhere. I'm the anesthesiologist and I can't get the sevoflurane started.

I've had this one so many times it doesn't really scare me anymore, but I get frustrated because I do the same thing in every dream. No matter what happens in the dream, I hunch over at the head of the table, fiddling with the flow controls. As if putting the patient under is all that counts. Meanwhile, the entire surgical team is in utter chaos, battling this horrific monster/surgeon who is (literally) eating the patient. When I wake up, I wonder why I never take out the monster. I mean, a scalpel off the prep tray, one heroic leap across the table and I could off this ghoul in a second.

If you do have repetitious nightmares like this -- and aren't locked up in a padded cell -- you might try writing it out of your system. I'm going to do a short story on this one, see if I can banish it by getting it out on paper and acting out what I want to do in the story -- what my subconscious won't let me do when I sleep.  
Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Sean and Meko's book is dee oh en ee DONE!

I definitely have earned substantial chocolate for this one. Somebody, call Hershey's. Call Godiva. Get those trucks rolling.  
  Excuse My Interference. It Was Kindly Meant: That's a line from the A&E version of "Pride and Prejudice." It was delivered with such precise venom by Miss Bingley (actress Anna Chancellor) that I thought it one of the worst kiss-offs of all time. Well, I found worse last night when I tracked down a reference to Robert Southey writing to a young Charlotte Bronte, who asked his advice about her prospects as a writer. The letters are beautifully written, of course, and give you a window into that time. It's this line that Southey wrote that hit me hard:

"Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as an accomplishment and a recreation."

Translated, he's saying "Women can't be writers. Go bake something, honey."

Charlotte's letter in response is very earnest, and she vows to follow his advice and squelch her unnatural tendencies toward writing:

"Following my father's advice -- who from my childhood has counselled me, just in the wise and friendly tone of your letter -- I have endeavoured not only attentively to observe all the duties a woman ought to fulfil, but to feel deeply interested in them. I don't always succeed, for sometimes when I'm teaching or sewing I would rather be reading or writing; but I try to deny myself; and my father's approbation amply rewarded me for the privation."

That "wise and friendly" advice didn't quite keep Charlotte (or her sisters) from writing, thankfully, for in time she got over it and published a little novel called "Jane Eyre", which was about being a governess and falling in love with a haunted man who just happened to have a mad wife locked up in the attic. "Jane Eyre" went on to become one of the most beloved books of all time, while Robert Southey -- poet, historian, and all-around important guy -- I'm sorry, what exactly did he write?

None of the Bronte sisters was very healthy, and they all died young; Charlotte during her pregnancy after marrying her father's curate. Now I read these letters and wonder if she hadn't been trying so hard to fulfill her "woman's duties," maybe Charlotte might have lived long enough to fulfill her promise as a writer. 
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
  In Through the Out Door: Every person has a natural nemesis. Holmes had Moriarity. Superman had Lex Luthor. Mork had Orson. I have the doors. And not the group with that cute lead singer who overdosed, either. Doors as in the things you walk in and out of, open and close, wrench open and shut, slam on that intrusive foot/hand/head, and occasionally smack your face into.

I'm serious. Every time I write a book, I put in too many doors. Doors to frame my heroine as she looks out at the horizon/approaching storm/retreating vehicle, doors for my hero to kick shut before he folds his arms, leans back against them and says "Let's have a little talk." When the H/H aren't involved, they still show up -- I write about sounds behind them, light shining out from under them, the way they gape, etc. And once they're in a novel, I swear, they breed. Doors start popping open and slamming shut in every other scene. Every single time I do a rewrite, I have to weed out about a dozen of the blasted things.

After doing this rewrite, I'm convinced there's a Door Demon and he intends to drive me insane. I deleted no less than seventeen door references in six chapters. When I was done, I sat back feeling a sense of triumph as usual. Ha, take that, you subconscious manifestation of whatever messed me up in childhood (my father slammed a car door on my right hand when I was six and broke three of my fingers. Has to be that.)

And then I do the final read-through, and realize I have, for the fourth book in a row, a pool in a love scene . . . . 
  And the Almighty Reacts: After reading about souls being up for bid on eBay, I'm not surprised to read that the state of Colorado is on fire. Maybe God meant to hit Iowa and missed.  
  Hey Mom, Can I outbid Satan? They say you can find anything for sale on eBay, and now I believe it. Des Moines, Iowa resident Nathan Wright has now put his soul up for bid. He's not the first person to do this, but since his comes with a jar, he might be the first to pull it off. Once Wright auctions off his soul, he's thinking of listing his morals. Now, what would you put those in?

Monday, June 10, 2002
  Welded the Links: Blogger unkinked their glitch, so the Writer Trick links are now permanently posted on the left sidebar. A couple of e-mails came in protesting my heresy in rewriting a passage from "Sense and Sensibility," but it was only for example purposes and I am not kicking Jane Austen's work. If we lived in the seventeenth century, that kind of writing would be perfectly acceptable. Times change, readers change, and writers have to change with them. I'm sure in a couple hundred years someone will bring up John Grisham and use his style as an example of what not to do.

I should also emphasize that I am not the Goddess of Writing. Yeah, I know you're crushed, but I'm really not. I'm an ordinary person with little formal education who learned by reading every fiction novel I could get my hands on and writing my own until I figured it out. I've discovered from my colleagues in the authorial community that I don't even do half the stuff most writers do (bad girl that I am.) Thus what works for me may not work for you. Try what I recommend on for size, but don't take it as gospel. No matter what any author tells you, no one is the Writing God or Goddess.  
  Yo, Pony Express: At some point in my life, a gypsy cursed me. You know, like in Stephen King's "Thinner"? Only she pointed at me and whispered "Packages". There's a photo of me on the wall of guilt at Federal Express headquarters, as they've lost overnight packages of mine three times in the past two years. (Watching the movie Castaway was a revelation for me. "Eureka!" I shouted as Tom Hanks started picking waterlogged Fed Ex boxes out of the surf. "That's where that copy of Beyond Varallan went!") I use UPS exclusively to ship overnight now because hey, I'm a nice person but Fed Ex had their chance. And then some. So far UPS has delivered 100% of the time. But every now and then, I use priority mail to save a few cents.

This is the part where Jesus would weep.

Last week a priority mail I sent was returned because the shipper (a recent immigrant and new owner of the pack-and-ship place I use) didn't put enough postage on it. Week before that, a partially chewed up submission came back in one of the USPS non-apologetic "Got caught in our sorting machine, tough luck" damage packs. Christmas last year a friend on the west coast called me when one of my priority mail care packages arrived soaking wet, though it hadn't rained at my end or hers for weeks -- and the contents were non-liquid. And one priority mail sent to me was delivered in January open-ended, with half the contents sticking out. And that 2 to 3 day delivery guarantee? Forget about it. Every other priority mail I send out takes a week to arrive, minimum.

Granted, the United States Postal Service has had a rough time since 9/11, and I respect every single person who works for them. Even before these fruitcakes started shipping anthrax, being a mail sorter/carrier was an awful job. All the folks who don't write legibly, mess up addresses, and forget to slap on the right postage must drive them nuts. If delivering stuff wasn't bad enough, people are always complaining about the cost of postage, too. Go to any big post office and stand in line, there's so much hostility brewing it's like being up front with the skinheads at a Marilyn Manson concert. Then look at the dorky shorts they make the men wear. No wonder these poor postal carriers snap and wipe out a McDonalds every couple of years.

Not surprisingly, I've chosen to go solo with UPS from here on out. They're fast, they're friendly, and the gypsy curse has no effect on them. Or maybe it was a UPS gypsy who cursed me in the first place . . .  
Sunday, June 09, 2002
  Fashion Statement: Okay, I am not a slave to fashion, and my wardrobe would terrify anyone who is. I live in cotton, tshirts and jeans, or when required to look like a grownup, one of my IRS suits. My clothes are 99% single solid colors, with no patterns, because I feel like a sofa when I wear patterned fabric. Also, patterned fabric gets dated, solids don't. The exceptions are my Asian clothes and my wraps, but those I wear at home where I can be ridiculous and no one cares.

One secret islander women know are that wraps are the most comfortable clothing in the world. They're perfect for after a shower, at the beach, or when you're kicking back around the house. Great for long writing sessions, too, or when you do anything where you don't want to be all bound up or restricted by your clothing (use your imagination.) Lily taught me how to do a couple of different types of sarong-style wraps, but I found some new ways at this site today while I was shopping for a gift online. I really like the jacket wrap, that's perfect to wear down to the pool. 
  Testing template, one two three.... 
  Dreamfields: I keep a dream journal, and occasionally I read whatever nonsense I scribble in it at 5 am. Last night I finally finished out the one I started last January, and I skimmed through it. The entries read like a running list of disaster flicks:

Jan 9th -- Bomb goes off in crowded barracks, me in Army uniform, trapped in supply closet
Feb 17th -- Flying over group of six islands, modern day, FEB plague killing off population, working with CDC containment team unable to stop
Mar 11th -- Saw through eyes of innocent prisoner, African-American, set to be electrocuted
April 20th -- Plane crash, huge flash fire in main cabin, watch everyone burn to death

Can you blame me for being an insomniac? Quentin Tarantino probably has nicer dreams than me. But I am not in any way shape or form psychic, so don't worry. Then I get to the May '01 section, and there's this very strange entry I don't remember writing at all:

Katherine grown up operating on patient. Some type of implant/scope procedure. Watching from atrium level as she tests patient's vision through computer . . .

I have to go back and check, but I think that may be when I put together the CereSync stories -- right after dreaming about my kid becoming an eye surgeon. Even more wierd, I don't remember consciously acting off that dream when I cooked up the Jack & Sarah stories. Or maybe the dream came from writing the first story.

Despite the grim Armaggedon tone of my dreams, I think it's good to write things down. So I got me a brand new dream journal today -- Feng shui style, with a nice soothing swallow design on the front cover. Maybe it will be my talisman for good dreams to come.  
  Maintenance Problems: I was able to restore the missing archives (sorry, didn't notice until about ten minutes ago that most of them had vanished.) I can't seem to edit the template, though, and that's rather inconvenient. Anyway, to respond to a few requests -- as soon as Blogger straightens itself out -- I'll add a running list of links to the Writer Tricks I've posted, and keep it updated in the future. Unless Blogger bites the dust, and then we're all SOL.

Addendum for Amanda: Looks like it'll be awhile, so here are the Writer Trick links:

WT#1: Avoiding excessive description with characters
WT#2: Writing in the zone
WT#3: Avoiding "weather report" writing
WT#4: Avoiding excessive adverbs
WT#5: Conveying a sense of character through POV
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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