Star Lines
Saturday, July 27, 2002
  Online Reference:  I just found's English Specialty Dictionaries page and found dozens of sources for the different construction terms I need for Pagentry.  But check out the rest of their list of specialty dictionaries and term sources -- all linked to this one page:

"Accounting Advertising Agriculture Anthropology Archeology Architecture Art Astronomy Automobiles Aviation Beauty Beer Beverages Biography Biology Botany Business Carpentry Chemistry Children Chocolate Clothing Coffee Collecting Computing Construction Cooking Crafts Criminology Crosswords Dance Dentistry Dialects Dinosaurs e-Commerce Economics Education Elections Electronics Energy Engineering Entomology Environment Etymology Film Finance Fish Food Industry Forestry Furniture Gambling Games Genealogy Geography Geology Golf Grammar History Horology Humor Hunting Insurance Internet Investment Labor Relations Law Leather Library Linguistics Liquor Literature Magic Marketing Mathematics Measures Media Medicine Metallurgy Meteorology Military Mining Multimedia Music Mythology Names Nationalism Oil & Gas Paleontology Pharmacy Philosophy Photography Physics Politics Pools & Spas Printing Professions Psychology Publishing Quotations Railroads Real Estate Recreation Religion Retailing Rhetoric Robotics Safety Sailing Science Security Shakespeare Shipping Slang Sociology Space Sports Statistics Telecom Terrorism Textiles Theater Tools Trade Transportation Travel Weather Water Wine"  
  Fun with Construction Workers:  (rated PG-13 for language) I think any woman who has ever been subjected to catcalls and suggestive comments as she walks past a construction site dreams of getting even, and I came up with a fun way in the opener for one of the new GH novels:

Excerpt from Pagentry by Gena Hale
Chapter One, first draft:

“Hey baby, how ‘bout you strut that fine little ass of yours this way?”

Christina Jaeger switched mute on her radio and turned to see a row of construction workers loitering across the street.  The biggest one, a mini-mountain of muscle with a bristly black goatee and gleaming shaved head, was grinning like at her like an ape in heat.  “What are you guys doing here?”

“Waiting for you, baby, come on over.”  He gave his broad thigh a suggestive pat.  “You can park yourself right here.  I’ll give you something to talk about.”

The other men erupted into laughter.

“Standby, Tig,” she said into the radio, then crossed the street.  The construction workers hooted as she took a stand in front of her oversized heckler.  “You men are supposed to be back behind the barricades, with the rest of the spectators.”

“It’s no fun back there.”  He leered at the front of her blouse.  “Anyway, we can handle anything you got.”

“Anything?”  Chris reached out and deliberately squeezed his bulging bicep.  “Hmmm.  You’re the strongest guy on this crew, right?”

“Damn straight.”  He flexed his arms for her.  “I can go all the way, sugar.”

“How about twenty yards?”  Chris pointed to a nearby wheelbarrow.  “I bet I can push something in that wheelbarrow across the street, but you won’t be able to push it back.”

His grin widened.  “You’re dreaming now.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”  She smiled back.  “Let's make it interesting.  If you win, I’ll spend the night with you.  If I win, you and your boys get back behind that barricade, and buy the beer for my crew after work.”

“Hot damn, then I’ve already won.”  He hitched up his belt as he stood.  “Let’s go.”

“Great.”  She went over, grabbed the wheelbarrow and brought it to him.  “Okay, climb in.”

The other men were silent for a split second, then started laughing until they were gasping and grabbing their sides.

“What the—” his face reddened as he got the joke.  “Hell, lady, that ain’t fair.”

“I never said it would be.  Move along now, boys.”  She nodded toward barricades at the far end of the street.  “Oh, and my crew likes Bud -- in the bottle.” 
  They're Heeeere...  I found some beautiful California table grapes today at the grocery store, the kind we used to pick up by the crate from Napa when I lived in CA.  These grapes are special because they're huge, dense, sweet and utterly seedless, and make great summer snacks.  If you're interested in recipes for grapes, check this out.  
  One of My Personal Heroes:  American champion cyclist Lance Armstrong is about to make his fourth consecutive win in the Tour de France, the notorious and grueling cross country race that wipes out more cyclists than a midget octegenarian driving a Caddy.  The fact that Lance beat potentially terminal cancer back in '97 serves as an inspiration to thousands of cancer patients, particularly as he has consistently beat the rims off every other cyclist in the world ever since.  Go Lance go!  
  Setting the Mindstage:  Another, not-much-talked-about aspect of writing came up during a recent conversation with James, which blossomed into a bunch of other ideas that kept me thinking and scribbling notes last night.  I didn't follow any of the traditional paths to become a writer, and my isolation made me develop with only books as my influences and teachers.  I always thought this was a negative, but I'm starting to change my mind.

Take mindset -- aka how you think and feel when you're writing.  Most writers describe it as if they are going into battle or cutting open a vein or whipping themselves.  At the same time, there's this imaginary audience present, made up of folks they admire, who boo and hiss no matter how well the poor writer fights, bleeds, or scars his/herself.  Some seem to think true artistic expression means suffering while you do it, so they create then endure this unimaginable pain as part of the process.

I'm sorry, but that isn't my mindset when I'm writing.  That was my mindset during my last divorce.

When I sit down to write, I'm dancing inside.  I'm excited and happy and scheming, like writing is Christmas shopping for the world.  Each character, each scene, each plot twist is a present that I get to choose and giggle over while I wrap it.  No fear, no doubt, and total gratification for me.  If I feel any pain, it's when I write difficult scenes that make me cry as I compose them.  But my pain and tears are for my characters, not myself, and even with the dark stuff, I still feel intensely satisfied when I'm done.

But how you can teach someone to switch from the Suffering Artist to the Christmas Shopping mindset?  If it's even something that can be taught.  I know my energy and enthusiasm can inspire other people; I wrote and gave a plotting workshop that hooked and turbo-charged about 60% of an audience of 100 people in New Orleans last summer (you have to figure you can't reach everyone, but more than half is great.)  Carol brought back the welcome news from Denver that after a year, people are still using those methods.  I've proven positive encouragement and brain-storming by group can jump-start writers through the Think Tank at Forward Motion.  There has to be a way to do the same thing for what's going on inside the writer's head. 
Friday, July 26, 2002
  Three Down, Four to Go:  Finished the proposal for the new Onyx books, off it goes to the agent this afternoon.  This weekend I have to polish up the existing top secret project and the final version of "Castling," which also have to be out of here no later than Monday.  Pitching seven books in three genres simultaneously is a little nerve-wracking, but I'm really only happy when I'm juggling a ton of things anyway.  Add to that the two independent queries I already have out and the new top secret project I'm shifting to next, and this must be how a bee feels in a field of new clover -- buzzing with excitement over the possibilities. 
  Forty-Eight Hours:  I'm seriously impressed by's service, which I just tried out with a trial-run order for a 11" X 14" poster of the new promo (see the big black Jump Start Your Heart thing at the bottom of the weblog.)  I ordered it on Wednesday, and the finished product arrived this morning (priority mail, no less, not overnight.)  It was perfectly packed, beautifully printed, and while the per-item price is a little high, I've never gotten such quality service so fast from anybody.  For great, one-of-a-kind gifts and any photo items you need done in a hurry, I'd say this is definitely the place to go.  
Thursday, July 25, 2002
  Control Your Temper, Part 3:  (rated R for content. Not for the youngsters.) Mike Sanders responded to both my and Katherine Derbyshire's opinions today, and now I see how these inter-blog things get started.  It's interesting, especially when someone makes a statement like Mike's "A true healer can only be successful if he truly cares about people.  There are successful surgeons who are extremely arrogant, but I wouldn't classify them as healers."  Mike goes on to speculate that less arrogance in a surgeon might make them better at their jobs. 

What Mike really needs is a reality check.

So let me make a little statement of my own:  If you've never cut into the chest of another human being to fix what's inside, or treated a silent toddler for infected cigarette burns, or administered Narcane to a 70 lb. junkie by jugular, or pumped out the stomach of a habitual drunk driver who just wiped out a family of five, or held the hand of a screaming old lady with stomach cancer because she's become morphine tolerant, then you sure as hell don't know what it takes to be good at it.  But tell you what, spend a couple years doing all that stuff, then come back and we'll talk.

As for what it takes to be a successful human being, that's up to the individual.  Just like everything else.

(Civilians.  Sheesh.) 
  Synopsis Slain; Readers Puzzled:  Finished the final draft of the synopsis for "Pagentry" and I really like the way it turned out.  Practice cured me of dreading synopsis writing and I (kinda) enjoy doing them now.  Helps when you really love your characters and the plot has a couple of truly wicked twists.  One last read-through tonight, then it joins the pile for the agent.

I got a funny e-mail from someone who attended RWA Denver, asking why none of my books are ever up for stuff like the Artemis, the Prism, or the Rita.  I've said this about SF but it goes for romance too -- I very very rarely do award stuff anyway, and I'll pull any book of mine that ever gets involved in a pay-for-popularity (if the submitter has to pay an entrance fee and/or get votes from an exclusive membership, or is nominated by an exclusive membership) contest.

Reasons?  A) These type of contests are rarely fair, B) in-genre snobbery is rampant (particularly in SF) and C) I personally have no desire to pay or kiss butt to get a trophy.  I mean, come on, can you see me being any good at schmoozing for votes?  Also, a lot of very insecure people focus on awards for the validation they seem to think it provides.  Nice, sure, but I've seen what happens when they lose, and no way do I ever want to go there.  In reality, the only validation I need is to know my readers are happy.  Oh -- and an advance check, made out to S.L. Viehl. 
  Sherlock and Savich are Back!  Catherine Coulter's latest FBI thriller, The Eleventh Hour just hit the shelves, and I'm really looking forward to this one. It's my reward for getting the proposal package off to my agent tomorrow. Meanwhile, Rush is guarding my copy, and I'm modelling my new hat:

Don't touch Mom's book, now.

Don't touch Mom's hat, either.

Of course, there are some thieves in this house who get whatever they want:

My hat now. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
  Taking My Own Advice:  Because I was a good girl and finished the outlines on the three new NAL books, I got to meet my pal Carol down at Casablanca's on the beach tonight.  We caught up on business and personal news and had a wonderfully decadent dinner (creme brulee for dessert, ooo la la.)  Carol also gave me a little bit of Paris with a beautiful French clock which went right up on the wall by my desk, and a gorgeous candle to add to my collection.  And Ghiradelli's (sigh) there go my thighs.  But great gifts aside, nothing really compares to having an excellent meal and conversation in the company of an equally excellent friend.  And now, since my spirits are turbo-charged, I'm off to tear down mansions and hide bodies.  God, I love this job. 
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
  Control Your Temper, Part 2:  (rated PG-13 for language, kids, it's past your bedtime.)  I can't scurry off to attack my proposals just yet, not after reading Mike Sander's latest entry, in which he elaborates more on the value of blogger self-censorship in response to Katherine Derbyshire's shrewd assessment of his earlier, related suggestions.  This, I have to address.

To me, suggesting that we divorce our weblogs from our arrogant, egocentric selves is a lot like saying we should drop a couple of tranquilizers before we go out in public.  Yeah, the world would be a better place, we'd all cohabitate so much better and everyone would benefit from the enlightened unification.  Actually, there's a place where you can see that kind of Nirvana right now -- in any major hospital.  Just go visit the psych ward and check out the patients.  You can watch them do the Thorazine shuffle and get along just fine -- no egos, no arrogance, no waves.  They only get upset if someone turns the TV off or if the Jell-O has things in it.

People who preach to others about how they must behave remind me of Super Nun. Barbara Tuchman wrote a passage about her in "A Distant Mirror", and described how she would only eat a little lettuce now and then because she wanted to remain a pure vessel for Christ or some other such nonsense.  She would pray day in and day out, devoting herself utterly to worship.  Naturally, her piety became world-famous.

And you know what I thought when I read about her?  Super Nun didn't do it for God.  She did it so she could say to herself, "See how holy I am? Nobody is as good as me at this nun stuff."  And I bet every other sister in that convent -- the ones who had to do the not so pious stuff like wash her lettuce and scrub out her chamberpot -- probably wanted to kick her ass.

I'm not going to be like Super Nun, or hand out tranquilizers, or otherwise tell you what to think or how you should behave.  I may make observations and suggestions from time to time, but that's all they are.  You do what you want, and have fun.  As for me, I'm an arrogant egotistic bitch and proud of it.  
  Off to do Author Stuff:  I may be scarce again as requests have come in for a couple of proposals (as in Get It Done NOW, Sheila.)  Also, got a wonderful quote from Linda Howard for Blade Dancer, which makes for much relief here.   
  Quote for the Day:  "People turn around sometimes, ya know." -- Large man at the grocery store, after an abrupt 360 during which he almost smacked my daughter in the face with his fist.

People get accidentally squashed by trucks sometimes, too. A polite apology, on the other hand, won't kill you.  
  The Wrong Stuff:  I deleted the post I wrote about James White here, sorry to those who read it.  I've been trying to think of how to respond and everything I write only throws more gasoline onto the fire. So until I think of something stunningly clever to say, my stand will go back to being what it was: Not my doing, not my problem. 
Monday, July 22, 2002
  The Write Stuff:  I've been off in novelist mode, at the same time trying to consciously nail down what I do when I write.  In terms that don't sound like I'm some escapee from a looney bin.  I skimmed through some of the how-to books over at Borders, and I see what they're doing.  The approach ranges, with a lot of artistic garbage that reminds me of method acting, punctuated with long, long lists of to-do's and not-to-do's.  There's no books that really say how to 1) get an idea, 2) make it work, 3) plot it out, 4) write the book, and 5) submit it to a publisher.  Way too much emphasis on the mystique of writing, not enough on the get-down-and-get-dirty work of writing.

The thing is, people think writing is so much more than it is, so they fall for this stuff and twist themselves into knots trying to follow the how-to nonsense.  I read this one book that was into setting up all the right atmosphere and influences and clothing and accessories and meditations and candles and phases of the moon and even a diet to follow.  Lord love a duck, if I did all that stuff I'd never get any writing done.

So I'm committed now.  In my copious spare time, I'm going to write a how-to book, and possibly a software program (harder, have to find a designer who can deal with what I want.)  It may end up gathering dust on a shelf, but I think I'm a passable teacher, and I'm certainly passionate about the subject.  Why not give it a shot?  
Sunday, July 21, 2002
  Woe Be Gone:  Too many people I know are feeling low; we need to do something about this.  You're supposed to wait until the winter holidays to get depressed, you know, so you can use it as an excuse to raid the cookie jar (or gobble all the latkes, as the case may be.)  But since it's mid-July and winter is a long way down the road, here are

The Top Ten Ways to Fight the Blues:

1. Shut off the computer and get out of the house during the day.  You're not a damn vampire, so slap on a little SPF lotion and get reacquainted with the sun for an hour.  For those of you with day jobs, have lunch outside the workplace, or just go for a walk.

2. Walk for thirty minutes three times a week.  Walk in the park, walk in the mall, walk around the block.  Doesn't matter where, just walk.

3. Call a friend and talk about anything but your depression.  Ask what's going on in their lives.  Plan a day when you can do lunch or go shopping together.  Helpful tip -- pick a friend who isn't usually depressed.

4. Talk to God, or Whoever you believe in (only applicable for those who believe in some spiritual power.)  When was the last time you had a good heart-to-heart with the Almighty?  He/She/They/It aren't going anywhere, and maybe putting some of your problems in his/her/their/its court will remove the weight from your shoulders.

5. Resist the urge to eat when you're upset and exercise for thirty minutes instead.  Remember the thirty minute walk up there?  How about a thirty minute swim?  Or a thirty minute bike ride?  Or thirty minutes of punching a pillow?

6. Drink 64 ounces of chilled water every day.  Break it up into eight 8 oz. bottles and keep them in the fridge.  It will help flush all the accumulated toxins from your body, and make you feel better.

7. Get rid of all the junk food in the house and replace it with fruit and raw veggies.  Rice cakes are great substitutes for potato chips. Likewise dried fruit instead of candy.

8. Help someone.  It doesn't matter who, or how, just do something positive for someone else.  Hey, you're not the only one with problems here.

9. Laugh.  I listen to George Carlin or Robin Williams when I want a laugh.  Find something that tickles your funny bone and apply generously.

10. Scream your head off.  This takes some arranging, so people don't call the cops or have you arrested. Find a safe room where you can make some noise (for me, it's always the shower, with the bathroom door closed and the stereo in the next room turned up.)  Then scream for as long as you like.  This is not crying screaming, this is screaming screaming.  Yell as loud as you can.  Let it all out.

(Disclaimer: if any of the above causes a conflict with an existing health condition, don't do it.) 
  Sneak Peek:  Work on the first draft of promo for the new SF books resulted in this:

Jess came up with the background concept; the blurb is mine (for want of a better punchline.) I love the colors, of course, and the design suits my aquatic pilots perfectly. I'm pretty happy with this, but I probably need a better blurb. "Dolphins running medevac" seems a little clumsy....  
  AOL Strikes Again:  I have to test out this new theory Jessie has in a few minutes, but apparently my America Online software has been keeping me locked out of the conference rooms over at Forward Motion.  Will know for sure once Jessie gets here and installs another browser (I'm positive I'm messing that up too, so she's going to walk me through it.)  I kid around about my lack of technical know-how a lot but this, this really depresses me.  All my friends are compuwizards and speak the language; I can't even understand what she told me in two syllable words over the phone.

For most people, learning this stuff is a breeze.  You guys soak up the constant changes and take your computer hard drives apart and install all these radical programs like Linux (still not clear on what the heck that is) and speed happily along the information highway.  Why can't I do that?  Is it because I'm still attached to paper and pens?  Am I too old to absorb it?  I know I appreciate the benefits of the machine and the net but the combination still intimidates me to no end.  I also can't keep up.  I think there's literally too much information I missed while I was having kids -- while everyone started surfing, I was changing diapers.  It put me at least two years behind everyone else. 

Jessie will probably smack me for being lazy, but that's why I like AOL.  It's like no-brainer software for the compuretarded. AOL does everything for me and I don't have to understand it.  Until it does something like this, something so stupid any other reasonable proficient person would have figured out on the second guess.  For me, it's taken three weeks -- with technical assistance, no less.  Sigh.
  Paging Dr. Picasso:  Diving into an evening of craniofacial surgical reading to finish work on the August web site story, I found a doctor who wrote about a case similar to one of my characters.  Severe blunt trauma to the head, shattered mandiable, multiple cranial fractures, extreme blowout fractures (okay, think pulverized face) treated with autogenous reconstructive bone grafts, microplates, metal mesh, split calvarial grafts, the works.  I know, gross -- see why you should never ask me what I'm working on during a meal?  There was a grosser one, guy who survived a self-inflicted .22 rifle GSW to the palate...but I'll just move along now...

Reconstructive surgery differs from plastic surgery in that it is not performed solely for cosmetic enhancement.  When you've got a recon cutter working on you, he/she is trying to restore form and function to some severely messed-up portion of your bod.  I liked reading that the doctor nixed alloplastic grafts as high risk for extrusion (that's when what they put stuff like teflon in and it later detaches and surfaces through your skin like little subs.)  I can't post them -- not that you want me to -- but the before and after photos were just astonishing.  I think of miracles like this as surgical art.  This doc literally built this guy a new face.  Only seventy years ago, the victim probably would have died of his injuries, or survived to endure a life of blindness and unimaginable disfigurement.

But for all the intricate demands of his calling, the reconstructive surgeon never gets much recognition outside the medical community.  His art goes completely unnoticed, hidden as it is beneath the restored faces of his patients.  People won't show you their before-and-after photos, they want to forget about it or act like it never happened.  Maybe that's the real art of the recon surgeon -- he restores people to who they were, and in doing so gives them back their lives.  
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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