Star Lines
Saturday, December 15, 2001
  I sometimes tuckerize people in my books, but I never tell them. I wait for them to read the book and react. One of my friends is pre-reading the manuscript for Blade Dancer, and just discovered he got double whammied. His reaction was perfect, I loved it. The only thing better would have been me being there to see his face.

I worked a little on Gamers today, because I was tired of housework and the kids were visiting their Dad. It felt good to write, and I set the timer so I wouldn't spend more than an hour at the keyboard. I was so lost in the story that I jumped when the buzzer went off -- and nearly threw it across the room. You can put the writer on vacation, but not the writing.

  Blogger is stuttering this morning. 
  Everyone has strong opinions about something. My mom believes in scrupulous punctuality. My son thinks spinach should be an illegal substance. My daughter believes that our cats should wear baby clothes 24/7. My cats can’t talk, but judging from the brochures I’ve found hidden away under the beds, they believe children should be sent to military school. In New Zealand.

Opinions about writers and the craft and business of writing abound. Editors routinely send out lengthy revision letters, resulting in authors with bald patches. Agents are very specific about what books they want, which do not include heroes who turn into six-foot tall lizards (but if you know one who does, call me.) Critics and reviewers delight in tearing apart our novels and regularly spitting on our efforts. Even readers have a wide range of views -- I’ve gotten fan mail calling me everything from a master storyteller to a purveyor of sado-masochistic kink.

And I thought I was just a nice Catholic girl from South Florida. Geez.

Strong opinions about writing don’t bother me, because most of them come from people who really have no idea what we do for a living. These folks also couldn’t write a marketable novel, and the few who do generally can’t sell their work or make a success of what they get published. Why else would they be taking shots at those of us who can and do?

What does bug me is the constant, opinionated bickering within the ranks. Letters to Locus online. Flame-wars on internet list-servs and newsgroups. The seemingly endless clash of what is and isn’t professional, what we should and shouldn’t do, what we are and what we aren’t. When I turned pro, it wasn’t to debate this stuff. I became a professional author to seriously pursue a career writing books.

Is That What I’m Supposed to be Doing?

Oh, yeah -- you become a professional author because you are seriously pursuing a career writing books. You didn’t join to go to conferences, wear nice suits, have lunch with your friends once a month, or create the impression that you’re a writer. Now, just in case this requirement still confuses some people, let’s break it down:

Seriously Pursuing A Career Writing Books:

1. Seriously: This means you’re not fooling around. This isn’t a hobby, you’re not dabbling, it isn’t a way to kill time between manicures. You have intentions and they’re of the no-nonsense variety. Your personal motto should be a variation of my own: No One is Going To Stop Me, and God Help Anyone Who Tries.

2. Pursuing: You’re going after this thing. You’re the hunter, getting published is your target. You’ve armed yourself with education, prepared your attack with the best manuscript you can write, and you’re in hot pursuit. You’re constantly on the move, following up every lead and every possible avenue that will get you into print. You’re doing this now. Not next week, not next month, not when little Jimmy graduates the fourth grade. Now. Nope, no excuses. If your life is that hectic, quit and come back when you have the time to be a writer.

3. A Career: An endeavor that actively employs your time and pays you money. Hopefully, lots of money. But you’re after a career, not a hobby or a game or a pastime. This isn’t something you do for free or that you have to pay someone else to do. If you were hired as a secretary, would you work for someone who promised you a paycheck, maybe, if their company ever gets off the ground? I don’t think so.

4. Writing books: Oh, geez, did you forget that's what an author does? Let me refresh your memory. We write stories. Long stories. In novel form. That’s basically it. Not a difficult concept to grasp, right? We don't turn pro so we can make speeches at conferences or write articles or how-to books or hold political office or create controversy or do anything else. Thank goodness the various professional organizations don’t prohibit any of that, or we’d really be up the creek sans paddle, huh?

So What’s The Problem?

Want a list?

Okay, seriously now: You’ve read the letters to the editors of innummerable online mags. You’ve read the posts on the various list-servs you belong to. You’ve read the arguments on your favorite newsgroups. You know everyone has strong opinions. Everyone would love to run the publishing world the way they personally see fit. Everyone has their own point of view on how to define our role as writers and writing and what is professional and what isn’t and yada yada yada.

If you added up all the time devoted to airing all these strong opinions, and attacking others who don’t share them, and instead used that time to write novels? I’ll bet you a million dollars I'd have a hell of a lot more competition on the shelf.

Bottom line: expressing opinions is great, and certainly your God-given right, but you can’t deposit a check for that in the bank.

So what happens when you devote your writing time to writing novels instead of opinions? Well, take me for example: I rarely write letters to editors or post anything on list-servs. However, in 1999, I wrote four novels. In 2000, I wrote five. This year I wrote seven and next year I'm going to write eight.

While I’ve been doing all that, I’ve also handled all the domestic crises involved with having two kids in elementary school, underwent two knee surgeries and related physical therapy, moved my entire household, raised thousands of dollars for struggling writers and literacy funds, ran procurement for two conferences, attended two local and two national conferences, responded to thousands of and letters from readers, participated in a bimonthly critique group, and mentored not one but four different aspiring writers. Recently I've begun hosting a weekly online writing workshop at and I try to do a little moderator work over there every day, too.

By the way, I don’t have a maid, or a chauffeur, or a secretary, and I take care of my own kids after they get out of school. I simply devote my writing time to writing novels (usually 12 hours a day), I don’t watch TV, and I juggle everything else.

Not bad, huh? Now imagine what you could do.

But . . . but . . . I’m entitled to my opinions!

Of course you are -- everyone is. Just ask yourself a couple of questions: Are you seriously pursuing a career writing books? Do you feel as determined as I do to make a success of it? If your answer is yes to both, then you’re not going to have time to get sucked into all these debates -- you’ll be too busy writing your novels.

One last thought before I end my little reality check. I can already hear the many voices muttering, “Who does she think she is, telling me where to stick my opinions?”

Did you ever think that the reason so many people get involved in expressing and debating various opinions is, they’re trying to avoid writing their novels? It’s easy to flame someone who doesn’t agree with you on what constitutes a professional sale. It’s a little harder to produce a marketable 100,000 word manuscript. Also, debating different points of view can be and usually is fun. Writing novels is work.

Yet that’s why we’re here, why we do this, why we put up with the rejection letters, why we continue to slam our heads against publishing's perenially closed doors -- to be writers. And successful writers work.

Copyright 2001 by S.L. Viehl
All Rights Reserved. 
  Famous Quote for the Day: "Amusement is the happiness of those that cannot think." Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Short, self-educated, irreverent, crippled Catholics should form a union -- we all end up writers.

Gloat for the Day: "Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon." Alexander Pope, 1688-1744

Hey, I still haven't figured out how to program the VCR. 
  If a writer falls over and slams her head against a computer, does it still make a conking sound if she's alone? 
  What the heck was THAT? Department: Always a bit disturbing when I break out in poetry or parody, isn't it? Ha. Five years ago I wrote a 4,000 line epic called "The Apes of Eden" all structured entirely out of Elizabethean and Italian sonnets (with a couple of villanelles thrown in for good measure.) I solemnly promise not to post it.

Evil Master SuperComputer Triumphs Momentarily: Drefan decided he didn't want me to teach a session tonight, and blocked me out of conference room one over at Holly's, citing "Java error something-something-something, download other." The download-other option would have taken 43 minutes. Well, I fixed his wagon -- with a little help from 'zette, we moved the class over to regular Chat and held it there. Great session, we're all into that writer's think tank collaborative jamming I love. It's like having a plotting party around the globe (and since James is on the other side of earth, it is.)

School Christmas Play: My children were wonderful, Mike didn't miss a single line, and I could hear Kathy at the back of the church when she hit the high notes in Silent Night. Mike wearing hates dress clothes so much I brought shorts and a tshirt and he changed in the truck going home. Kathy wore her new velvet holiday dress and for once didn't stain it within the first five seconds of wearing it (I dressed her at the church ten minutes before she was due on stage.) All I have to do is dress them up one more time and then they can be total slobs for the rest of Christmas vacation. Can you scotchguard kids? I wonder . . .

Friday, December 14, 2001
  A Tribute to NASA's Mars Program
(sung to the tune of "U Can't Touch Dis" by MC Hammer)

Can’t Lan dis (Repeat 5x)

Mars, Mars, my probe hit you so hard
Makes me say "The jets misfired"
Thank you for not blaming me
With a mind to write about my defeat
It feels good, when you know you're down
A super dope homeboy from NASAtown
And while I know I’ll likely miss
The space program’s a joke, uh, you can't Lan dis

I told you homeboy (You can't Lan dis)
Yeah, that's how we budgeting and you know (You can't Lan dis)
Look at my specs, man (You can' t Lan dis)
Yo, let me bust another billion (You can't Lan dis)

Fresh new gear, a big advance
You gotta like my book, I'm a sci-en-tist
So move, outta your seat
Adjust your trajectory to this beat
While probes are crashing, hold on
Pump a little bit and let 'em know it's the norm
Like that, like that
A useless mission but they don’t know that
Let 'em know next time we won’t miss
And this is a beat, uh, you can't Lan dis

Yo, I told you (You can't Lan dis)
Why you standing there, man? (You can't Lan dis)
Yo, sound the bell, probe #3 is in production, sucka (You can't Lan dis)

Give my book a plug, it’s jamming
Make Bova sweat, that's what I'm doing
Now, they know
PW says I’m the best of 2001
That's hype, the kind my BS won
Techs are sweating the next Mars launch
Who cares about probes? I’m worth twice as much.

Copyright 2001 by S.L. Viehl
All Rights Reserved. 
  Close, Personal Relationships: I just received an e-mail from someone I deal with professionally -- as little as possible, on my part -- announcing the start of this person's vacation. I'll have to somehow survive the next 16 days without said person's sparkling personality and tireless spring of wisdom. Right, well, have a wonderful time, and I'll break out the champagne later. Another e-mail came from an acquaintance who uses little "checking on you" e-mails as excuses/opportunities to promote new releases. Sort of the "Hi, how are you, next week Yet Another SF Novel by Me comes out, isn't that exciting, don't be a stranger" driveby variety of self-flogging. I'm tempted to respond with, "Hi, I have leprosy, the entire family is infected, but Shockball is doing well, isn't that thrilling, let's do lunch sometime, taaaa."  
  Back from another round of power shopping; my friend Carol gave me a Chinese painting/calligraphy set for Christmas and I've been looking for the correct paper to use with it. Even if my pictographs look like chicken tracks, it's still great fun. Over the summer I took a class in Japanese paper dyeing, wrote a poem in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and flirted with Celtic manuscript borders. The whole process of book making fascinates me, especially archaic forms. I've made and bound a few books of my own from pre-fab materials, but I'd like to do a couple for the kids completely from scratch -- actually make the paper, grind the pigments for the inks, illustrate it, etc. There's something very satisfying about that kind of hands-on, all-mine thing.  
  Just considering how I'd feel if they misspelled my name on the cover of my book. Ack. 

A Jane by Any Other Name

We had an interesting discussion on names at the rants board at Holly's site, and while I was looking up some variations on the name June, I saw the following entry:

From "The Best Baby Name Book in the whole wide world" by Bruce Lansky, ISBN#0-915658-83-6

Jane (Hebrew) "God is gracious." A feminine form of John.
Variations: Gene, Gianina, Giovanna, Jaine, Jan, Jana, Janaya, Janaye, Jandy, Janeczka, Janeen, Janel, Janela, Janella, Janelle, Janean, Janene, Janessa, Janet, Janeta, Janetta, Janette, Janey, Jania, Janice, Janie, Janina, Janine, Janis, Janith, Janka, Janna, Jannel, Janelle, Janot, Jany, Janyte, Jasisa, Jayne, Jaynell, Jean, Jeanette, Jeanie, Jeanne, Jeannette, Jeannine, Jenda, Jenica, Jeniece, Jenni, Jennie, Jenny, Jess, Jessie, Jinny, Jo Ann, Jo-Ann, Joan, Joana, Joanna, Joanne, Joeann, Johanna, Joni, Jonie, Juana, Juanita, Sheena, Shena, Sine, Vania, Vanya, Zaneta.

Another interesting item -- on the copyright page of this book, it's Copyright 1979, 1984 by Bruce Lensky, not Lansky like on the cover. Now is that a typo, or deliberate?
  Famous Quote for the Day: "Except during the nine months before he draws his first breath, no man manages his affairs as well as a tree does." George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950

Or his mother. You remember Mom, George -- the one schlepping man around during those nine months.

Gloat for the Day: "Unlike grownups, children have little need to deceive themselves." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832

Aha, a plausible reason as to why SFWA shut down their Junior Membership Program.  
  Off to bed after answering a few dozen e-mails. Tired but happy, I miss writing. :) 
Thursday, December 13, 2001
  Reader mail bag offerings: A hail of undeserved congrats on getting Evil Master SuperComputer up and running (nearly effed it up a couple of times, guys); someone's already heard about the booksigning; Shockball factoid confirmation (yes, the Navajo really do do that); more folks cruising by the blog wondering who the heck I am (so much for name recognition, the author mutters); the wicked AH Jenner suggestion which I refuse to think about; a comment on how prolific I am in fiction and blogging (as in, boy, you sure are opinionated, aren't you?)

It's true that Star Lines is my first electronic foray into journaling, but I've been keeping regular written journals since 1973. Would you like to know how many boxes 28 years of journals take up? Come on over to my house, I'll show you the walk-in closet you can't walk in anymore. I've chronicled everything from just before the Bicentennial on. If the paper survives, and my descendents don't get tired of storing the boxes, I figure someone in the 23rd century will have a few laughs. Or maybe I'll end up one of the carrier pigeon of writers. Imagine the android tour guide at the Strange and Incomprehensible Novelist's Museum: "Here is a sample rant from 21st century writer Sheila Kelly, who assumed many aliases in order to publish her anti-conservative ravings set in implausible universes. Kelly not only suffered from insomnia, but delusions of humor and romanticism as well. Ironically, she died in her sleep after being forced to read Robert J. Sawyer. Which brings us to Sawyer's Bottomless Narcissistic Well exhibit . . . "  
  Put up or shut up time: I've been threatening for years to write about Edward Jenner, the physician who discovered the smallpox vaccine. Unfortunately, he was a quiet country doctor who didn't want fame or fortune (another reason I love him) and that's been my excuse -- a scholarly study would be real thin. As I sifted through e-mail, a message came from a friend who read my Baen AH story, asking why I didn't do an AH on Jenner instead of Harvey next time. Unfair, unfair! Now all I can think about are ways I can use poor Dr. Jenner for my own selfish purposes.
  Adventures in Shopping: I always try to get my kids interesting and fun books for Christmas, so I hit B&N today to do a little hands-on browsing. I wish I was a kid again now, they have such cool books out for the holidays. For my linear thinking son Mike, I found a Scooby-Doo version of "Where's Waldo?" and for spotlight-lover Kathy I picked out a kid's karaoke book with a mini-piano and microphone attached. I have nearly all the DK books now, so I'm hunting for more reading-type books. Mike likes Matt Christopher and the Hardy Boys, Kathy's more into Harold and the Purple Crayon, but I couldn't find anything that looked like it screamed "Read Me!" I drifted by the SF section and was gratified to see nearly all the copies of Shockball are gone. Then I went over to Waldenbooks at the mall (all sold out of Shockball there) and got into trouble. The manager waited on me, recognized me, and talked me into doing a booksigning next week. I'm so much better at saying no over the phone or via e-mail; in person, I'm a wimp. *Sigh* Maybe I should start wearing a hat and trenchcoat?
  Famous Quote for the Day: "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862.

Or the donning of pantyhose.

Gloat for the Day: "Everyone has talent at twenty-five. The difficulty is to have it at fifty." Edgar Degas, 1834-1917.

Obviously Edgar never met Enimen.

  Author, Thy Name is Carrot-Top: I've been letting my hair grow out since the last, disastrous dye job that landed me with beautiful, almost-purple-brown hair (I looked like a stumpy eggplant.) Two months and about an inch of roots later, I've discovered that, like my grandmother had by age 40, my natural haircolor has turned completely white (not silver. White. Like an albino.) I debated on getting the rest bleached out to match, but I'm not quite ready to give over to my genes. No way in hell am I going back to that psycho hairdresser who made me look like Barney the Dinosaur, either. So I invested in some home hair color and did the job myself tonight, and went back to being a redhead (my childhood haircolor.) It makes all my freckles stand out, but it's a nice change from brown. Last year I got twelve inches cut off and changed my color every two months, which scandalized all the old lady romance writers with perfect hair, but hey, I was bored. They're lucky I didn't shave my head.

There is one woman I know who is obsessed with her appearance. And I guess she should be, because she's beautiful, and through careful maintenance and luck of the gene pool looks twenty years younger than she is. I'm not exaggerating, she has great skin, lovely eyes, and perfect hair. Her whole package is gorgeous, but I don't envy her. I think of all the hours she must spend every day in the bathroom, standing in front of the mirror, searching for flaws, agonizing over whatever the age-reducing creams don't erase. The other sad fact is, her beauty is completely superficial. Underneath it is a far more different package, one not so nicely put together, nor so pleasant to behold. She's all twisted and withered inside, because her beauty only took her so far, and no further. Worse, she never bothered to use her mind more than was absolutely necessary to get by. What does she have to look forward to? Smashing her mirrors?

Which brings me to Raven, the heroine of my next romance. Raven wasn't beautiful until a bullet to the head nearly killed her, and she had to get plastic surgery to repair the damage. The fallout is that she went from an average-looking, tall, lanky woman to a stunning, international supermodel type. I've never done a character physically transformed like this before, so I'm wondering about the mindset. I remember when I finally grew into my bone structure and started turning heads, back in the days of my nefarious youth. Since I'd resembled a big-eyed turtle for most of my teen years, I never took the change seriously. And while Raven takes full advantage of her transformation to get what she wants -- wealth and fame, and the walls of protection they afford -- she's still the same girl under the new packaging. Her book will be a second chance at love story -- also another new theme for me. I don't want her to be like me -- so indifferent to herself that she only looks in the mirror once a week -- but then I don't want her to be like the high-maintenance princess above, either. She's a tremendously strong character, so much so that I had to cut half her scenes in Jian-Shan's book for fear of her upstaging the heroine in that one. Where does Raven fit in the universe?

Wednesday, December 12, 2001
  I've been catching up on some online reading today; I subscribe to a few list-servs and reading groups, and the recent demise of iPublish has created a huge uproar. The President of SFWA seems to think they destroyed the company, several pro authors have been left stranded sans copies of their books and contract disputes, and a number of titles that were earmarked to make it on the Nebula ballot now may not. I feel bad for everyone hurt by the closing of this offshoot of Time Warner -- it's never good to see a publisher go out of business -- but it's an excellent example of what happens when you hand your work over to other than a major print publisher. And before people start shooting off hate e-mails to me about that comment, it doesn't matter if Time Warner was backing it. iPublish was basically a POD/vanity publisher for pro writers who for various reasons (mostly literati) could not get a major publisher to buy their stuff. Bottom line: If you go with a rinky-dink outfit, you'd better expect to get rinky-dink treatment.

What seems to be outraging the pros most is the harm it's done to their Neb chances, which just goes to show you how screwed up their priorities are. Me, I'd worry about paying the bills, not losing a shot at WorldCon speech-making.

  Hawk is going to be on the cover of Eternity Row (StarDoc book five.) I don't know who the artist is yet, but I was asked to provide a more detailed physical description for the production and now I'm really interested to see what it looks like. I'm thinking it has to be a planet scene with Cherijo and maybe Reever and Alunthri from the book.
  Famous Quote for the Day: "One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it." Jane Austen, 1775-1817.

Unless whoever made you suffer still lives there.

Gloat for the Day: "Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality." Oscar Wilde,1854-1900.

And gossips are never so tedious as when they get moral.

  I finally tracked down the quote by Nietzsche that I've been paraphrasing all these years: "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." My version (which I've signed in a few copies of Endurance) is "What we endure only makes us stronger." See, while you people are sleeping, I'm pouring through books tracking down obscure quotes. Think of all the fun you're missing by avoiding insomnia. :)

It's funny how some words stick in your head. I probably read that quote back in high school, once, as part of an assignment from my Nazi English teacher. She made me read Chekov, too, the witch. I love that quote but you can keep the rest of Nietzsche. The guy was grim, nihilistic, and probably sociopathic (rather like that Nazi English teacher.) All these VIP philosophy people say he went mad because his mind collapsed under the weight of all those heavy thoughts he produced. Uh-huh. And the raging, untreated case of syphilis he had was just a little minor side inconvenience. Oh sure. This guy announced the death of God. What did Nietzsche think, that he was His Press Agent?

Tuesday, December 11, 2001
  Yet Another Famous Quote: "Love is an ideal thing; marriage a real thing; a confusion of the real with the ideal never goes unpunished." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749 - 1832

Reader mail bag offerings: Thanks to all who e-mailed advice and suggestions to help the stupid author get her equipment straight; I do truly appreciate it. It's just you'd really have to come over to my house to show me, this stuff does not sink through my thick skull. I'm so behind on e-mail it's not funny anymore, backed up over 700 messages between four accounts, and with Christmas just around the corner I'd better move my butt and get caught up. A flurry of questions about the weblog; mainly who am I (midlist SF/romance writer, Mom, a couple of other things), what do I write (see previous answer), what does S.L. stand for (So Lucky), am I married (no!), don't I have a boyfriend (no and I get out the cross, the holy water, and garlic the few times I think about it), and why don't I add more stuff to the weblog like cool links and graphics and what music I listen too etc.?

I'm not adding cool links and graphics and music and stuff because I don't like clutter. It annoys and distracts me. I don't like to wait for things to load, I want to read them now. I think it's my basic nature; I like things stark, clean, minimal. 99% of my clothes are in solid colors with no patterns. My idea of comfort is a room with comfortable furniture, a few paintings, and no knick knacks (but people keep giving them to me as gifts. I have them all stacked on top of bookcase now and I'm hoping the cats will keep knocking them down and breaking them.) I also wanted this weblog to be pure journal writing, nothing else. The music I listen to would bore everyone. Tonight it's Turlough O'Carolan, a blind Irish harpist from the 13th century. Tomorrow it will probably be Enya or Clannad. See? No Limp Bizkit here, I'm just not trendy, sorry.
  The Suit
by S.L. Viehl

I was facing my first crisis as a professional writer. It wasn't a plot problem. It wasn't writer's block (I never get writer's block. There are many moments, usually around 2 am, that I fervently wish I did). I liked my editor, loved my agent, and was busily whizzing through the revisions on my manuscript. Problems with them I could handle.

I had been invited by a local writer's group to attend their monthly meeting. At the Airport Hilton. To meet 65 published or aspiring writers. I wasn't nervous about attending. Sixteen years of public school conferences had enabled me to be pleasant and sit and listen to almost anyone politely insult me. Then there was all the hand-to-hand combat training I'd gotten in the military. I figured meeting a bunch of writers would be a breeze.

No, the problem was my closet. Or more specifically, what was not in my closet.

"What does everyone wear to these meetings?" I casually inquired when I was invited. Eager to hear the words, "oh, any old thing, you know, be comfortable."

"Everyone dresses up," the lady President of the local writer's chapter stated firmly. "You know, suits, dresses, that kind of thing."

"I guess jeans and an X-Files t-shirt is definitely out, then," I said in my most forlorn tone, hoping to be corrected.

"Jeans? Oh, no, no one wears those." The woman sounded as though I'd said I planned to attend naked. She went on to assure me that if I simply wore "a nice pair of slacks and a decent blouse" that would be fine.

A nice pair of slacks. A decent blouse. Dresses. Suits. She didn't know who she was talking to. My idea of high fashion was making sure both of my shoes matched before I left the house. Despite this depressing requirement, I agreed to come to the meeting and hung up the phone. Went immediately to my closet. Turned on the light. Peered in.

None of my jeans or t-shirts had magically turned into suits. Not a single dress, except the sober-looking black thing I wore to weddings and funerals (events so similar to each other). If I wore that, I'd have to resist the continual urge to cry.

I spied some ancient slacks I used to wear to work ten years, four sizes and two kids ago. Blouses I'd worn with those slacks. Said blouses all appeared to be in florescent colors (very big ten years ago) and were missing at least two buttons, generally in the chest area. I'd never match the buttons up. Safety pins would be noticeable.

It wasn't my fault, of course. I had no reason to maintain a wardrobe when I'd quit work and stayed home to increase my tax deductions. My children didn't get up in the morning and demand, "Mom, can't you change into a nice pair of slacks and a blouse?" No, my kids generally grunted at me in the morning. They got verbal only if the waffles and orange juice didn't reach the table within five minutes of their waking. They felt that as long as I could cook and drive, I served my purpose. Who cared what I wore?

My husband wasn't much help, either. He thought I looked pretty in whatever I wore, even if it was my rattiest pair of shorts with the hem falling down on one leg under one of his paint-spattered t-shirts. Of course, my husband is in dire need of an eye examination, which I keep convincing him to put off. One day he will get glasses, look at me and yell, "Who the heck are you?"

He was, however, very sympathetic when I explained my dilemma. "You never buy yourself anything, honey. Go get yourself a nice suit."

It was that word "nice" everyone kept using. It should have warned me, the same way it had when my Mother used to say, "Can't you write something nice?"

I went to the mall the next day and hit the first major department store I came to. Confidently I cruised down the women's wear aisles. So I hadn't been serious clothes shopping since Elton John starting wearing a rug. It was like riding a bike, right?

I immediately discovered another set of problems. I was too poor for the clothes in the Designers Department. Too old for the stuff in the Youth Section. Too fat for the Petite racks. Not fat enough for the Woman's Sizes.

In desperation, I went up to a sales clerk. Naturally she was on the phone, arguing with her boyfriend. "Excuse me."

She gave me a pained glance. I didn't leave. A few seconds later, she sighed heavily. That didn't drive me off. Like any determined female consumer, I know you can usually out-wait the sales clerk. Even one who thought her boyfriend was "really being a complete jerk".

Finally she tucked the phone on the top of her shoulder. "Yes?" she snapped.

This was it. I only had one chance to get all the information. If I came back, she'd go off to the stock room or take a coffee break. That was how it worked when dealing with department store sales clerks. I took a deep breath, and rushed it all out in a single sentence:

"Where can I find a suit that doesn't cost $500, is made in sizes higher than 12, and is cut to fit someone who wears bras that prevent center-of-gravity shifting?"

She didn't even blink. "Center aisle, over there." A jerk of her head in the general direction, then she was back on the phone with her boyfriend. She was put out by the fact he apparently didn't appreciate how much she did for him on a daily basis. Based on my short acquaintance, I was already on his side, poor guy.

I went to the center aisle over there. It was a small, bleak square in the store, filled with sober racks of black, grey, navy and screaming yellow suits. (Yellow being the current trend in fashion). I picked up a tag at random and nearly had an asthma attack. And I don't even have asthma. For a size 6 rayon jacket that looked about as substantial as woven facial tissue, I would have to fork over $229.00. Just for the jacket, nothing else.

White-faced but determined, I continued my search. I found some suits I liked on the 50% off rack, but they were all in sizes like "2" and "38XXX". I found screaming yellow suits in size 14 that paired with my skin tone might get me rushed to the hospital as a victim of sudden, acute liver failure. I found black suits with big brass buttons, lapels wider than men wore them in the 70's, with enigmatic tags that read "Sma. A-B" "Med. B-C". I figured the last was sort of like pantyhose sizes, and tried to find a "Chunk. P-Q". No luck.

At last, I found a navy blue suit in a size fourteen, not on sale, with a tiny pin stripe. It wasn't $229.00 for the jacket. It was $244.00 for the jacket and a quarter-yard tube of matching fabric someone on Prozac had tagged as a skirt.

Grimly I marched into the fitting room, and tried it on. I wasn't crazy about the pin stripes, but at least they were vertical. I could tell people it was "slimming" and probably get away with it. There was no way I could lose thirty pounds to get into one of those "Med. B-C" black nightmares, even with comprehensive surgery. I only had six days left before the meeting. I'd enter therapy before I voluntarily wore yellow.

It would have to do.

The blouse worn underneath the jacket - something euphemistically tagged as a "shell" - was priced at $39.00. I scoffed at that. For the same money I could get ten new t-shirts that would pass as "shells" if I didn't take off the jacket. And why buy new t-shirts? I could wear what I already had at home. The jacket would cover up David Duchovny's face, if I kept it buttoned.

It was painful to hand over the equivalent of two FP&L payments, but I bought the suit and went home. When he heard how much it cost, my husband swallowed hard, but only once. He didn't trust himself to speak for a few hours. That was okay. I was busy trying on t-shirts with the suit to see which one I'd wear to the meeting.

"Honey?" I asked, coming out of the bedroom to model my latest experimental combo. "Can you see the hair on the top of Mulder's head when I button the jacket like this?" He was staring at the floor. I looked down, too. "What?"

"Uh - what are you going to wear with that?" he asked. When I glanced blankly back at him, he added, "On your feet?"

I swallowed hard. Several times. Trudged back into the bedroom. Glanced into the closet.

Nope. None of my sneakers had magically turned into high heels, either.

Copright 1998 by S.L. Viehl
All Rights Reserved

  The new laser printer arrived and is now installed, and Drefan the Evil Master SuperComputer is complete. I ran a print check test and the printer (which is three times faster than my old HP) chucked the pages out so fast I thought it was skipping lines. They are flawless, of course, this is top of line hardware here. The HP 2200something has two paper trays, though I can't imagine why, and resembles a midget copy machine -- blocky, square, a bit hunchy around the top. Igor is too obvious; I'm calling it Renfield.

I did the Dragon NS tutorial this morning and whipped through that pretty fast. I do tend to slur my words, so if nothing else using the software will make me enunciate things more clearly. I also have a hell of a lot of names/made-up words to put into the system's memory; when I tried to speak/type "Cherijo and Reever" it came out "Jerry Joe and Revert" (you can correct this by typing in then saying the word for the software to "learn" it.) I also figured out how to use the program to write in WorPerfect. I think it's the same principal for e-mail, I just have to experiment later. The headset takes some getting use to, but I can switch off from the speakers to the headset by switching two cables, which is nice if I want to listen to music while I'm working at night (I'm such a considerate neighbor.)

I have to go take some ibuprofen; my arms and back are overstrained. My elbows feel like they've popped in and out a few times, weird, I've never had any problem with them before. Of course, I never nearly dropped a thirty pound computer on my foot before, either. Then I have much e-mail to catch up on before I go rescue the kiddies from school. We're building a gingerbread house this afternoon, and if I'm lucky, I'll get all the decorations that won't stick to the white icing.

  Famous Quote for the Day:"I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other." Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926

And, if threatened, deploy whatever elephant gun is necessary to drive the annoying little pesties away.

Gloat for the Day:"Resolve to be always beginning --to be a beginner!" Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926

No problem there, Rain, especially when all one seems to do is start over.

  Evil Master SuperComputer just let me cut and paste this from an e-mail I sent:

The Norton Antivirus is totally paranoid. The minute I signed on to AOL, it started nagging me about doing a Live Update in case God Forbid I Get Hit With Some Virus I'm Not Protected From. I told it to bother me tomorrow and it threw up ANOTHER nag screen, just to whine ("Are you sure? You can connect right. Click on OK to get started. I'm always right, you know"). It's going to be like my mother, which is good. I need to be nagged on this subject.

This is only remarkable because I could never do it before. Lily wouldn't let me cut and paste into Blogger at all. Oh, boy, are you people in trouble now. 
Monday, December 10, 2001
  This message is coming to you live from the New Computer!

(Well? A little applause, please.)

I am hooked in and switched over. The desk now fits the computer. Everything is plugged in, turned on, and with the exception of my laser printer, fully operational.

Houston, we're going to take a nice long hot shower now and pop some M&Ms. :) 
  Ten Things You Should Never Do After You Become a Bestselling Author

1. Pretend you've lost count of how many books you've written.

2. Refer to your fans as the rabble.

3. Refuse to autograph any book of yours that was released earlier than 30 days ago.

4. Openly use hand sanitizer at book signings.

5. Refer to women you like as my girls and women you dislike as those bitches.

6. Wear very thick, red lipstick (it always rubs off on your front teeth.)

7. Put fan letters in a box on your desk labelled Junk Mail.

8. Yell at your editor because some idiot put magenta lettering on your latest cover when you specifically told them to use mauve.

9. Greet other authors you used to be friends with before you made your millions with "I've been so busy with the national book tours, darling, let's catch up sometime, hmmm?"

10. Greet other authors you suspect write better than you do with "I'm sorry, have we been introduced?"

Copyright 2001 by S.L. Viehl (who is only a bestselling SF author. . . so far . . . ) 

A Rose by Any Other Name

All my computers have names and genders -- this one I'm working on now, the backup system, is Lily. If she were human, she'd be a cranky senior citizen with arthritis who works tirelessly at church socials and goes home to her fifteen cats to watch games shows while she pops Percoset and mutters about the hemlines of skirts worn by teenaged girls in the youth group.

The brand spanking new shiny computer is male, a great big hulking white guy in black leather with a bit of a James Dean sneer who has the fastest car in the neighborhood. The car is black, too. I'm naming him Drefan, because he's going to get me in trouble, I can see that already. I want to bake Christmas cookies, he wants me to run the Microsoft programs to see how stupid I am.

I have four novels that are typed, not on computer, and it hit me this morning as Mike and I were running the voice recognition software that I can now dictate those four novels rather than retype them. This is a problem, as I've always wanted to see one of them in print, and yet have always held off because of the sheer work involved. I don't have time on the production schedule to fit in another book, but then I think of how easy it would be to dictate a few pages every night and then . . . see? Trouble.

Gateway's sales guy must have realized he was dealing with a brain-fried moron, because a bright three year old could follow the actual installation diagram. So far I've had no trouble getting into anything, all the cables went to the right places and I'm fairly sure I did the software installations correctly (there was an extra WordPerfect 2002 CD that the Wizard didn't call for, but I'm hoping it's a pop-in and use when you do something weird thing.) I don't understand or I'm not familiar with about 90% of the software, so I have a lot of studying to do.

  Monday? Again?

We ought to do something about this.  
  And another thing -- I hate, Hate, HATE computers. Just in case there was any doubt. 

Computer up and running, but . . .

I did a dry fire (that's practice run for you non-military people) so I could see what the deal was with the new software before I swapped out the backup system for the brand spanking new shiny deal. Windows XP works, Dragon Naturally Speaking works (and I got the hang of that in about ten minutes) but neither Microsoft Word or Word Perfect 2002 will convert my Lotus or WP5.1 documents. At all.

Which means, boys and girls, I can't load my already-written books on the brand spanking new shiny deal, and I'll have to do internet revisions and so forth on the backup system. (Kids, cover your eyes for a minute) Which is a major effing pain in the ass and I am seriously pissed off.

The other boil on my backside arose when I finally unpacked everything and lo and behold, my brand spanking new laser printer is not here yet. I checked tracking and it won't arrive until Tuesday. Which no one bothered to tell me, damn it. Of course, I just assumed it was under the tower in the really really BIG box, but then, my depth perception has always sucked.

As Lady Catherine de Burgh would sniff, I am Most Seriously Displeased.
Sunday, December 09, 2001
  The children and I have decorated the house, put up the tree, hung the ornaments, strung the lights, and went through three stores to find the right edible ornaments to finish the job (saves on storage, we eat half the stuff on the tree, I don't have to repack it in January.) The small of my back is a Gordian knot, I have a huge headache, and my kids are happy. They're worth every minute of aggravation. 

Still not up and running

I had to make some furniture rearrangements and I promised the kids we'd decorate the house today, so the new computer is still not online. After opening all the boxes I'm more intimidated than ever. Who thinks of all this stuff? Necessity has dragged me kicking and screaming into the realm of CD burners and talking software and I resent it so much I could take a sledgehammer to the damn thing. Would be a very expensive temper tantrum, though. Maybe I'll beat up a pillow.

On a side note, someone accused me via hate e-mail of lifting a name from Robert Heinlein's works, which I have never read. I don't intend to read them; they sound really dull. (I did see StarShip Troopers the movie, which I thought was juvenile and lame, although the bugs were promising.) So, for the record, "Rico" is a phoenetic diminutive form of Jericho. As in take off the "Je" and you're left with "rico." I didn't know the character's last name from the movie -- I can't remember his first name, that's how memorable that silly flick was. I was not spitting on the Rico from Starship Troopers, and I was not dissing Yet Another Sacred Cow of SF. And I'm sorry someone compared me to Heinlein in whatever review it was, because it has created nothing but headaches for me.

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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