Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good."
- Phillip Pullman

Man, Why Do I Feel Like a Crazy Bitch?

Hum do hum do ho dee hum

I think I'll check my blood sugar...

Boo bop wooo

56.

Yup, that would be why I feel like an angry, snarling bitch.

And that would be why I don't act on feelings that feel totally rational anymore (at least until after I check my blood sugar).

Welcome to living with crazy land.

Monday, September 29, 2008

And yet...

The sugar cookies need work.

I subbed half the flour with almond flour, the other half is whole wheat, and of course, I used Splenda. I'm thinking they need some kind of additional topping, though the texture came out really nice - very chewy and good.

It's the almond meal, I think, that gives it the "off" taste. Still, I could eat five cookies without poisoning myself, so really, that's gotta be a win.

Full recipe to follow when I finally get it right.

Thoughts on Impending Economic Collapse

I have survived two death threats, a chronic illness (which, let's face it, threatens to kill me every day), South Africa, depression, chronic-illness-induced Crazy, the mental breakdowns of loved ones, a job layoff, my parents' concurrent layoffs when I was still financially dependent on them, several big city and land mass moves, and much more.

I still owe just under 10K in credit cards, I have 19K in student loans, about $600 in savings and $200-odd in the bank at any one time.

This is the best place I've been in, financially, in the last two years.

I've lived through some tough shit. I'm prepared for things to be worse.

I know that, in time, things get better. `Til then, I've got good friends and good food, and when the food runs out, friends and family band together to weather it out.

But no, it won't be good times. Good stories, maybe. But not good times. I'm as prepared for that as I'm going to get.

Tonight, I baked diabetic-friendly sugar cookies.

They weren't bad.

The Cult of Loving Kindness

The third book in Paul Park's Starbridge Chronicles arrived today. I am continally in awe of writers who write so well that they make this shit look easy.
What stunned me even more is when I discovered this was actually his first series. Dammit, man.

Heroes and Monsters

A TED talk by Philip Zimbardo, most famously known for the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, about power and corruption. And power and redemption. Includes an overview of the Millgram experiment, for those unfamiliar with it. That one still terrifies the crap out of me.

This is about the power of institutions and how they affect behavior, and it has just as many implications about your behavior in the workplace, on the street, as it would if you were running the trains or overseeing the prisoners.

There are two bigs points in this one - it's not the people you have to change: it's the system and the basis of power. Power heirarchies encourage evil by allowing its perpetrators to either be anonymous or shift responsibility to someone in authority. If you're looking for the root of evil, don't look at the individual: look at the institution and what it allows and encourages the individual to do.

The second point, and most important because it's the solution: is how the promotion of heroism is the antidote to the abuses of power. Heroes are deviants: they are always going against the herd. They act when others are passive. Heros question authority, heirarchy, power. They aren't afraid to say, "This is wrong."

And those are the sorts of people we need to celebrate and encourage; not abusers of power.

This is why it's important to write good heroes. This is why people get so pissed off about misogyny in the comic book world in particular. If our fantasy heroes preach conformity and misogyny, what hope is there for real heroes?

Standing passively by while people commit abuses just makes you another member of the Millgram experiment. And if that's true, how much of a step to the right is it, really, to turn you into a torturer at Abu Ghraib?

I think about this stuff all the time. It's why I confronted the guys harrassing the girl at the bus stop in South Africa. It's why I was the first one to get up when the guy on the train in Chicago went into a seizure, and it's why I was the first one to notice the girl passing out on the train not long afterward. It's why I confronted one of the guys at my last job about a sexist slap about the unfortunateness of having a girl, and it's why I spoke up at my current job about an incident I observed as being an abuse of power.

Somebody has to be the first one to move. Somebody has to shake it up. And yeah, it's really hard to do. But watching this stuff over and over again?

I'm reminded of why I do it.

Babylon

I started writing the opening to Babylon today in first person. I don't think that's going to work.

But I did finally find the right soundtrack for the novel, which is a big accomplishment in itself.

Writing begins in earnest on October 7th, when my month-of-WoW reward for finishing book 2 runs out.

Here we go again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tonight's Adventures in Cookery

Chicken Spaghetti, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman cooks.



No, this is not my photo - I've totally stolen hers. But mine actually almost looked like this! Only in a wok! (I really need to get a proper digital camera).

I swapped out the spaghetti with spaghetti squash to make it diabetic friendly and added about twice the amount of red pepper and seasoning salt that she has in her recipe. I also just cooked up four chicken breasts in a cup of chicken broth instead of boiling it off the bone because, srsly, I just don't have the kitchen hardware to do that (read: big ass pot).

This actually turned out really well. I knew this was the recipe for me when she's like, "Now add 2 cups of cheese! OK, now top the whole thing with another cup of cheese!"

Dinner was tasty. It's all boxed up in the fridge for lunches and dinners this week.

Cutting costs, cutting costs... oh, the glamorous writing life.

Bug Sculptures!



Bugs!

Wild at Heart

I think I may have actually liked this Lynch movie. In the way you find it interesting to, say, examine some particularly strange yet somehow appealing malformation.

Laura Dern still annoys me, and I still have no idea what Lynch sees in Isabella Rossillini. As ever, the main female character is brutalized and overly sexualized. I'm starting to think that this isn't even a critique you can make of a Lynch film - it's, like, the definition of a Lynch film. Which makes me wonder where he gets this obsession, or if it's just lazy misogyny. I'd like to think it's not, since so much else you see in Lynch film's isn't lazy - but I won't rule it out. Sometimes there are just gaping holes in our assumptions where our reasoning should be.

Basic premise is: girl and guy love each other and have mad sex. The girl's mother is jealous of this cause she wants to screw the guy. So she puts out a hit on the guy. Guy and girl run away and go on a road trip through the south. At one point, Willem Dafoe blows off his own head with a shotgun, Laura Palmer plays the Good Fairy, and misc. Twin Peaks actors get cameos. It's the sheer out and out weirdness that makes this movie watchable.

I did like the weird integration of elements from The Wizard of Oz, the red shoes, the crystal ball (the wicked witch mother thing was kind of lazy,but she's a reaaal creepy character), and I think it failed on one level because it's not, in the end, Lulu's (Dorothy's) story - it's her boyfriend's story (and, really, the Good Fairy talks to *him* in the end, so is he supposed to be Dorothy? That might be worse). It's Lulu's job to just love him and endure. He's the one with all the action. It's his actions that are the driving force of the story (unlike Wizard of Oz, which puts Dorothy in a more active role).

So that does kind of lean toward lazy misogyny, doesn't it?

Kind of disappointing, but the film has the same weird Lynchian obsessions with red things, wacky characters, character actors, and family secrets. This is probably the closest thing Lynch has got out there to a a love story that I've seen. A wacky, head-blowed-off, manslaughtering, brutalized woman, fucked up guy love story.

And, ok, now that I've written all that, I'm not sure why I said I liked the movie. Maybe it's more accurate to say I found it... interesting? Just like mangled bodies at the scene of a wreck - so freakin' weird and messed up that you can't help looking.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Friday yet?

This has not exactly been the best week. I want a do over...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"The Most Important Reading You Will Ever Do"

How books have changed your life.

Training Daze: Off Week

Due to pool closure, allergies severe enough to keep me home from work on Monday (I'm just now feeling about 80% human), pump failures inducing sugar woes (yesterday was *awful*), and the fact that it's fit test assessments at work (which means no regular work workouts this week), I've decided to take the week off from my training schedule.

I'm dedicated and all, but not stupid. Things like breathing and steady sugar numbers (my god it's a fucking miracle to have on a pod that works after three straight failures) = good times. I also have a date on Friday that I'd like to be cognizant for. This will require things like breathing and steady sugar numbers.

The plan is to pick the training schedule back up where I left off come Monday morning.

Also, as a consolation prize for my shitty week, I finally bought this t-shirt:


Because I'm awesome.

One for the Road

More Reasons I Won't Be Reading the Twilight Series

This neatly sums up everything I intuited about the books.

They just stank too much of that Anne Bishop "I'm writing a feminist romance ha ha ha just kidding there are cock rings and child rape and incest but really I had feminist intentions because so many women just can't get over how hottt guys are which makes them weak and prone to rape and incest and falling in love with their rapists because rapists are hottt" thing.

Rapists, vampires, werewolves... whatever. You know, hottt dudes that you should "save yourself" for.

Yeah.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Omnipoddery: OmniPod Suckage

So last night I pull out one of the 5 new replacement pods I received from the Omnipod Insulet Corporation.

I went to activate one.

And the first one out of the box FAILED.

FAILED.

A REPLACEMENT FOR A FAILED POD FAILED.

I called them up, reported the failure. They are sending me another one.

I put on a new pod. Activated fine. But today I tested at 345 at lunchtime.

WHAT THE FUCK SRSLY?????????

The pods generally do this right before they fail (rising blood sugar followed by occlusion error beep, followed by flat line beep). I injected myself with my vial and syringe. I just didn't trust the fucking pod anymore. I expect I'll get a beep any time. If my sugar is still off when I get home, I'll have to change it out again and call them.

I finally wrote Insulet corporation a complaint letter. EDIT: I have now also called them and made a formal complaint. I think my 300+ sugar number is leading to increased amounts of ire, bitchiness, and distraction.

I've fucking had it.

I wouldn't trust a fucking form of birth control with a 20% fucking failure rate. Yet here I am, entrusting my fucking life - and limbs, and vision, and kidneys, and etc. - to a medical device that FAILS 20% of the time.

Back in Februrary, an Omnipod marketing manager had this to say about the "rumor" of a 20% failure rate:

“People on the product have some problems sometimes, of course, but the incidence is very low. That 20% figure is just ridiculous!”

Ha ha. Yeah, a 20% failure rate IS pretty ridiculous!

It's not just me, either. That's the kicker. I knew there was a 5-10% failure rate. I could have - maybe - lived with that.

20% is too much.

I haven't seen this many 300+ numbers since I left the fucking hospital.

Fit Test

Well, it's that time of year again - time for our quarterly fit test at work.

My blood pressure is about the same - still in the good range.

Pushups and situps remained the same - about 50 each.

My only real accomplishment was shaving off those 4 lbs that I'd gained just before the last fit test. I'm not manic about losing weight, but I'm committed to *maintaining* my weight, so I was happy to see that I'd shaved off those plus one, which keeps me at my base line.

I'm telling you - too much WoW and too many flourless peanut butter cookies was enough to tip me over the edge. I like maintaining my weight, if for no other reason than that clothes are expensive.

My measurements may be slightly better as well, but they sounded about the same to me as she read them off. Again: maintenance is good. I'll be able to compare them when they hand out our assessments next week.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tired.

Now I am tired again. Man, I hate being sick.

I need to be at work tomorrow; I'm thinking tonight will be better than last night cause of the drugs and the fact that I'll be back on the pod in half an hour, but man. I hate being worn down.

I deal enough with sugar wackiness that when I have further wackiness, it's just.. just... really tiring.

Tomorrow will be better!

Breathing is Highly Underrated

I love it when the drugs start to kick in.

In other news, the new Omnipods arrived today as well, so I can get back off the shots. You don't realize just how annoying all those shots are until you don't have to take them anymore.

Being back on shots, even for a day, wasn't any fun at all.

Drugs

Apparently, my supreme sinus/throat discomfort is due to mere allergies, not uber-contagions, as I first suspected (whenever my throat feels like this, I'm afraid I have strep throat). This should excite me, since it's not actual sickness!

But it does mean I have to go back to work tomorrow, because it's not like I'm going to get anyone sick with my allergies (after last year's one-in-every-three people at work getting the flu episode, they gave us three sick days. Good call).

Fucking allergies.

At least I have drugs. And a heating pad. Which does make my whole head feel a little better.

I'm sure I will post about something interesting and useful at some point. Just not right now. Now I'm just going to go lie down again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

OmniPod Goddammit

Had the last pod in my box fail tonight while I was changing out my expired pod.

I have five pods in the mail to replace the 5 that have already failed. According to the woman on the phone (I was stunned that Insulet has 24/7 support. That part is nice, at least), those are due to me tomorrow. I've been calling to try and get new pods for two weeks. I realize they are trying to be helpful and keep me from paying out of pocket for them, but by not shipping me pods when I said I needed them - by making me wait for the Oct. 7th magical date that's in their computer - it means they leave you no room for their 20% pod failure rate. They give you no wiggle room.

So it's back to shots for a day until those fuckers show up. I just took my 15u of Lantus. It also means leaving work early tomorrow so I can pick them up before the the apartment office closes (I had them change the delivery address to my work address to avoid this problem in future). When I'd assumed I'd be sent pods well in advance of running out, I figured having them sent to me at home would be no big deal. I'd have a week or more to pick them up from the apartment office.

But it doesn't work like that. In order to get replacements I don't have to pay for out of pocket ($35 a pop) before the magical Oct. 7th date, I have to call them every time a pod fails and have them ship me a replacement.

Goddammit. 6 pods in 30 have failed.

That's a 20% failure rate.

I realize it's a new technology, but these guys have seriously got to get their shit together.

Friends in the Garden

This small male mantid showed up yesterday among my morning glories:



This morning, when I pulled out my bike to go biking, I found an enormous female. Seriously, this thing is as long as my hand.



I generally find small bugs pretty cool, but after South Africa, the big bugs give me the shivers, initially, even if I know they're perfectly harmless. It's only after I talk myself down that the "Hey, cool!" factor kicks in.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Only Slightly Belated Pic in Honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day



My nephew Christopher, my mom, and my new niece, Kaylee.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Early to Bed and Early to Rise

I have a lot of crap to do tomorrow.

Til then!

Good Signs

I find it a good sign that my date for Saturday sent me an email this morning full of pirate-y goodness.

If nothing else, should be a swell time.

Mmmm rum.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, shit

The pool at the gym is out "until further notice."

When I inquired at the front desk if the pool was having repairs done or something, he said, "Oh, I have no idea what's going on with the pool."

Way to go Urban Active customer service!

You know the one thing gyms could TOTALLY improve on? Their fucking customer service. It never occurred to me before because I've never really had to inquire after anything, but today it really hit home.

These people don't care if you show up. Most of the time they appear to be sneering down at you instead of, you know, being happy and encouraging. Going to the gym should be a fun, invigorating experience. You should feel better afterward. And, generally, I do, provided I don't interact with the front house staff behind having them barcode me in.

That's really the trouble. Gyms are always hard sell to get you in the door, but they figure that once they've got you locked into a contract, they don't really have to offer anything anymore. After all, you signed the contract!

Thing is, they don't realize that people who are locked into contracts at gyms they hate will go rant to all their friends (and all across the internet) about how crappy their gym is, which means you may have one person for a year, but you just lost 5-50 possible memberships (depending on just how much and how irate their rant was).

Come on, people, is it so hard to let your front house staff know why the pool is closed?

Seriously.

And now I'll be getting really behind on training scheduled - and on my weakest event! Which kind of irritates me a lot, actually.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And...

We have internet!

Civilization has officially returned.

The Calvary

I seem to be one of The Few, The Proud, The Brave who had power restored yesterday. It came on about 6pm. It was beautiful.

This morning, I saw three power trucks on the road, and though there were still quite a few street lights out on my route in, and several blocks still without power, there was... progress. Which, you know, really, was all I was hoping for. Some kind of indication that we weren't stuck in the second half of The Stand.

They're using the fairgrounds downtown as the staging area for the power and debris trucks, and I passed them on the way in. It was pretty awesome to see 50 second shift trucks and crews get geared up for another day. I very nearly took a picture. It filled me with love!

On the one hand, I don't want to blame Dayton for being incompetent - most of the crews were in Texas, and it took them that extra day to get up here. But you know, it also doesn't surprise me that this get noticeably better once you get in the folks from out of state who know what the fuck they're doing.

It doesn't help that Dayton Power & Light just goes out of its way to look incompetent:

Other major utilities in the region, including Duke Energy and American Electric Power which serves the Columbus area and southeast Ohio, offer the public specific projections, by telephone or Web site, about when customers in given areas can expect to have their service restored.

DP&L lacks the technology to do that, Tatham said.

Often, residents have been able to determine where power has been restored by "driving around," Tatham said.


Yeah. It's an incredibly organized strategy we employ.

Montgomery County Sheriff Phil Plummer said he has been in contact with DP&L about the repair schedule, but needs to know more about when each area is to be reconnected. That would help the sheriff's office deploy patrol officers accordingly to deter criminals who might try to loot in areas still without electric service, Plummer said Tuesday.

DP&L relies on information that local governments relay about reconnect priorities, Tatham said.

"As far as identifying priorities down to a neighborhood, that would be difficult to do," Tatham said.


Right. Because... making a priority list in the event of a disaster isn't something that... people do. Shit, if FEMA doesn't do it, why should DP&L?

Retards.

In any case, there are still lots of folks without power this morning, but at least there's progress.

Then everybody will head back to Texas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tonight's Training

Tonight it's 20 minutes swimming and 25 minutes running.

These are the times at which I start to get a little nervous. I'll do fine and all, but you start giving me 30 min of an exercise (my first 30 min swim is next week) and 20-30 of something else, and... whew. It's the anticipation that will cripple you.

So, um, I'm just not thinking about it?

Or thinking about the last 8 weeks?

I may have some hiccups with insulin adjustments next week when the times get longer. I'm just forgiving myself for those now, cause I know that leveling is going to be really frustrating.

Onward and tra la and all that.

How Did I Miss This One?

Ellen and Portia got married.

This makes me terribly happy.

Quote of the Day

"Vision without execution is a hallucination."
- Thomas Edison

More Reasons Not to Live in the Midwest

No power yet.

Every single place I passed on my route today that didn't have power yesterday?

Still didn't have power today.

I have not seen one power company truck in the last two days. Not one.

If I had a fireplace, this wouldn't be so annoying. But no fireplace means I can't cook tea or soup. Steph and the Old Man graciously invited me over to their place for dinner last night, since the entirety of my refrigerator is shot.

The only places that have power are:

1) People who never lost power in the first place
2) Hospitals
3) Oakwood, where the rich people live

The good news is!

At least the out of town cavalry is finally here.

There may be two whole stop lights working tomorrow.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, For Goodness Sake

Seriously??

Conversations With My Coworkers

Graphic designer: Wow, you look nice today. Did you iron that shirt and everything?

I love my coworkers.

(P.S. I did, in fact, buy 3 no-wrinkle shirts this weekend, for just this reason. I've begun looking a lot like Raggedy Ann again.)

Oh, the Wilderness!

I've lived in Alaska.

I've lived in South Africa.

I've lived in rural Washington.

The longest I've ever gone without power was while living 5 miles outside of downtown Dayton, OH.

Seriously, people.

Went off about 1pm yesterday, and still isn't back on as of this morning. The only real annoyance was lack of any time keeping device, once the cell phone died. The upshot? My insulin pump PDM does, in fact, keep time. Which is why I arrived at work on time.

Power was on at The Greene all night (there's nothing more frustrating than seeing the lights on right across the parking lot while you're in the dark. I suspect they had generators), so that's where I had dinner, but the food in the fridge is pretty much a wash. Which is a bitch and a half when you have an actual food budget.

It was a pretty awesome windstorm, tho.

And contemplating electricity in the dark last night, I realized why there's no electricity in the bel dame books.

So it wasn't a totally useless exercise.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Death By Pizza

Insulin pumps are really awesome when they work.

They aren't so cool when they don't work.

Since getting the new pump, I've been able to eat more than 2 pieces of pizza at a go, which is pretty awesome. Longtime readers may remember that pizza has pretty much been my death food since I got sick. Eating more than two pieces means testing every two hours, correcting, highs, lows, and subsequent weird highs and lows afterwards (think of eating a really high carb meal as throwing a stone into a pond. It's the ripple effect. Everytime you go really high, you tend to have to deal with the ripples for a few days after ward. Getting yourself back on track after a bad high is torture).

But with this new pump, I can avoid wacky highs. I set my bolus to give me 35% of the insulin now and the rest over the next 4 and a half hours. This means that as the bulk of the carbs are absorbed over time, the pump is giving me the insulin to cover it at about the same rate. This means no dramatic highs or lows.

Cool beans.

Last night, my pod expired just before dinner (you have to change them every 3 days), so I changed it out and then ordered in some pizza because hey, it's Friday, and I had two lows that day because of my new workout routine (working to cover for this), and all I had in the fridge was hummus, cucumbers, and low carb tortillas, and you can only live on this stuff for so long before you need to mix it up.

So I dosed as usual for pizza, ate 6 pieces of thin crust pizza and a couple of breadsticks, played some WoW, and tested before bed.

I was at 209 before bed, which was a little more elevated than I expected (I can generally stay under 200, even with pizza). So I corrected for it and went to bed.

My 1:30am alarm woke me up. I tested, already knowing when I woke that I was high. I was wicked thirsty, and had to go to the bathroom. My legs were feeling prickly and my eyes hurt.

I test at 440.

Sweet jesus.

When you test that high, you know something's not working.

But I wasn't getting any pod alarms.

So I dosed myself with a few units manually with one of my pens and took the other half of the correction via the pump. Then I drank some of the most delicious tasting water on the planet. Nothing tastes better than water to a dying diabetic, let me tell you.

Set my alarm for an hour later.

In an hour, I'd gone down under 400, which wasn't great, but meant I was getting some insulin (the kind from my pump is absorbed faster than when I give myself a manual injection in the thigh) so I set an alarm for a couple hours later. I then chugged the most delicious tasting diet soda on the planet.

At 5:30am, I tested at 360, which is still absolutely insane.

I corrected.

That was when my pump alarm finally went off.

Occlusion error, according to my PDM display.

Well, no shit.

So I changed out the pump.

But by then, the damage to my Saturday had been done. I was thirsty, exhausted, my legs were needles and pins bothering me, my whole head was muzzy. It was like viewing the world through a gray gauze.

I finally rolled out of bed at 11:30am, trying to get some rest after my rocky night, tested at a finally respectable 138, and walked around like a woman recovering from a hangover.

I resolved - as I have every time after getting sick after eating pizza - never to eat pizza again, even if the actual fault in this case did not rest entirely on the pizza. Eating the pizza just made the pump malfunction that much more shitty.

I love my pump. When it works, it's absolutely awesome.

But when it doesn't work, dying is a really fast and immediate possibility.

I wouldn't trust a form of birth control with a 10% failure rate, and yet here I am, relying on a life or death medical device with a 10% failure rate. If it didn't keep my numbers so damn good the other 90% of the time...

And maybe that's the bullshit part of it.

With t1 diabetes, having good-to-great numbers 90% of the time is... amazing. It is life changing. It is so grand.

Having bad numbers - life altering, perhaps even long-term life-ending - numbers the other 10% of the time?

Well, hey, that's not so bad!

It's like hey, extra blood and pain once a month with an IUD, or 365 days a year of chronic depression and weight gain on a hormonal form of birth control?

Yeah, I'll take the extra blood and cramps 3 days a month, please.

And that's what having an insulin pump is like.

Shitty 10% of the time, great 90% of the time.

The alternative being shitty number 40% of the times with pens and more complications (read: feet getting chopped off) in the future, but fewer chances for abrupt death.

Not having a pancreas really, really fucking sucks.

P.S. Yes, this means very little will be getting done today. I'll have to double up today's workout with tomorrow's. Also, line edits are probably out as well. I want to sleep, and not much else.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Writing

"Fail, fail again, fail better."
- Samuel Beckett

Alaska.

I've been thinking about it more and more lately. I usually do, around this time of year.

Here's why I still think of it so fondly (this post originally appeared here):

Drunk & Unpublished at the Edge of the World

My first year of undergrad work in Alaska, I met a girl named Lou who drank a half gallon of Black Velvet whiskey every week, rolled her own cigarettes, wore steel-toed boots, and took home a different guy every weekend.

In Fairbanks, even more than other university towns, there’s not much to do during the winter but drink and have sex. When it’s 20 below and it’s been dark for the last twenty hours, you’re really not up for much else.

So Lou would coax me up to her room with promises of cheap whiskey and diet coke, and once I was sufficiently sloshed, she’d bring out her stories.

Lou was an English major from Oregon. She’d spent a year in the Philippines when she was sixteen, and most of her stories were about that year. They were beautiful, emotional pieces that took me to a hot, humid place, to beaches and palm trees and rice at every meal. They were potent escapes from a dark, cold, November night.

After the readings, we’d go down to the front porch of the dorm and roll cigarettes with numb fingers and smoke until we were frozen, then go back in and drink some more. I would drink until I realized that if I drank any more, I wasn’t going to be able to make it downstairs to my own bed without passing out in the stairwell. Lou said she wouldn’t have minded me not returning to my own bed, but Lou wasn’t really my type, and I was still holding out for somebody else at the time.

Lou was a good writer, something I was surprised to learn once she started reading. I’d had any number of people come up to me and claim to be a writer when they heard it was something I did. Most of them were of the, “I have this great idea, and if you write it, we can split the profits 50/50,” type or the “As soon as I have the time, I’m going to write a novel,” kind.

But Lou definitely had talent. She told good stories on paper and in person, and told me about the time one of her girlfriends shot off her boyfriend’s toe after he threatened to kill her and locked her in a basement for three hours.

These were the sorts of people Lou was friends with.

But Lou’s writing had one fault:

She never finished anything.

The impression I got from the bits and pieces she read about her experience in the Philippines was that something not all-together empowering had happened there, something that, after coming back to the States, she dealt with primarily by drinking a lot of whiskey and putting on a lot of weight. She liked to talk about how thin and desirable she’d been in the Philippines, how much men liked her blue eyes. She would say, “135 pounds” with the wistful nostalgia of a far older woman for a much younger self, though she wasn’t even twenty-two.

Lou and I hung out with the same group of stoner guys - the beer drinking, motorcycle riding, marijuana smoking, guitar playing types who were easy to get into bed. And while I mostly was stuck on one of them, she went to bed with all of them, and some of the drama and English majors to boot. I wanted to admire that kind of sexual freedom, but I soon learned that Lou wasn’t particularly happy with her conquests. Mostly, she was angry and bitter that a one night stand was just a one-night-stand. I suggested that maybe getting to know a guy and having a relationship with him before she had sex with him might lead to more long-term interest.

She rejected that out of hand.

“Men don’t want to be in relationships with fat girls,” she said, and she scribbled something into her notebook.

What always fascinated me about Lou was that when I looked at us, I often saw the same person. Or, rather, who I could have been. She was angry and bitter and pissed off at the hand she’d been dealt. She’s had one really bad experience, and it broke her, and she believed everyone was out to betray her and piss her off and nobody would stick by her. And believing that, she created the world just as she imagined it to be.

Most of our drinking and reading sessions involved discussions about how she would get back at the latest lover who had jilted her: not returned her calls, not been up for another midnight session, told her she was just a passing fuck.

When rumors began to circulate on her dorm floor that she and I were lovers, she wanted to stage a glorious public breakup in the dining hall, perhaps to draw further male sexual interest from the woodwork.

She had a flair for the dramatic. It made her a good storyteller, but a rather undisciplined one. Her life was in such a disarray, so full of drama and angst and drunken nights, that finishing most any bit of writing at all would have been a blessed miracle.

She was living. The recording could come later.

Some of the best advice I was ever given about writing came from Geoff Ryman, and it wasn’t advice about writing at all. It was advice about life. He sat me down for my one-on-one at Clarion West after a rather stunning critique of a story of mine in which he asserted that the he found the story “personally offensive” and believed it suffered from “a failure of the imagination.” Coming from a writer like Ryman, when I was twenty years old, the youngest in the class, was like a cold slap in the face.

He said I needed to travel and read outside the genre. He said I had far too much talent to be writing sordid slash-n’hack (I still write slash n’ hack. But it’s a better sort of slash n’ hack).

When I went back to Alaska after that summer in Seattle, Lou was gone. She had had a wild “breakup” with the group of guys we hung with, told one guy’s girlfriend she’d slept with him, told that girlfriend I was a loser slut who’d slept with her boyfriend, too, and was fleeing an abusive boyfriend who’d threatened to kill me (not exactly common knowledge at the time), and tried to get the motorcycle riders to ditch me, too. It worked pretty well. Everybody got pissed off.

Lou always did have a flair for the dramatic.

I’d spent a great deal of my life, about ten years of it, working very hard at “being a writer.” Whatever the hell that was supposed to be. I believed you just had to work really hard. You had to write every day. You had to finish everything. You had to read the books in your field (unfortunately, to the exclusion of all others). You had to go to writing classes and workshops (I’d been going to one sort of workshop or another since I was 14). You had to write, to the exclusion of all else. You had to cut yourself off from other people, because only the writing was important.

Lou didn’t really do any of that. But damn, she had good stories.

I’d like to say that not a lot of my writing got done in Alaska, with all that drama, all those dark nights, all that whiskey. But I sold my first pro-rate-paying story while I was there, something I popped off in a couple hours on a dreary October night while downloading porn and music from the networked computers in my dorm.

When it’s cold and dark and you don’t have a real job, you can say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and write about it, too.

Well, you can say yes to almost everything.

I think Lou may have said yes to too much. There’s a fine line between living out loud and driving yourself into the ground.

Stories don’t come from nowhere.

I remember spending one chilly May night at a ramshackle cabin in the hills just outside Fairbanks. The floor sloped precipitously, there was no running water, and the couple who lived there were growing marijuana upstairs in the loft. We ate wild rabbit cooked up with rice, and before the beer really got flowing, me and one of the other girls took turns shooting a rifle at makeshift targets made out of the remains of a sled dog kennel.

I drank eight beers followed by a fifth of vodka and promptly heaved out a stream of projectile vomit over the porch railing. The guy from New York was playing the guitar, and the couple were dragging themselves drunkenly to bed, and I retreated out to the bonfire just off the porch (fueled, as well, by the remains of old dog kennels) with the kid from Evanston. We huddled together for warmth, and I bled out a bunch of perceived ills and moaned about how unlovable I was, and how Lou had gotten laid more than me, and about the couple heading upstairs, and how I felt I didn’t have any friends, and I didn’t fit anywhere. I always felt too smart around them. Too big, defective.

“You realize you’re a lot better than us, don’t you?” he said. “I’m not really sure why you’ve spent this long hanging out with us.”

I suppose I couldn’t help it. They had good stories.

When the guy from New York hauled me out onto the porch later and berated me for crushing on the coupled guy for the last year, I burst into tears, and he hugged me and said, “Listen, us, this group of losers, you’re not going to see us again. We’re just gonna be some guys you knew in college. This really isn’t important. It’s a chapter in your life. There’s a bigger picture. You deserve way better than that guy, and way better than us.”

Ah, my drunken Alaskan boys.

A month later, I went to Clarion. By September, the group broke apart, Lou’s forked tongue helped severe me from the crowd, and I didn’t see any of them again.

In some small, secret way, I suppose I loved them, and Lou, for being everything I wasn’t. Their expectations of the future were closer, more attainable, less risky. They wanted a good partner and a good motorcycle and good weed and a roof over their heads. They wanted enough money to live. They did not want to be known. They didn’t want to be heard. The stories they told were more private, secret histories, often far more interesting than mine, that they had no interest in broadcasting to the world. Why bother? What did they have to do with the world? That’s why they’d come to Alaska.

And it’s why I left. I wanted more in the way that the perpetually unfulfilled will always want more. I had more people to meet, more places to go, more stories to write.

Like Lou, I never wanted to get stuck in one story. I didn’t want to endlessly catalogue the mistakes of my youth. I wanted to finish what I started.

When I sent off my Clarion applications, I did so without the money to go, and without any real expectation that I would get in. I made the waiting list. I got in a month or so later by sheer virtue of the fact that somebody else didn’t want to go.

That seemed somehow appropriate.

Your writing life isn’t over once you get out of bootcamp any more than your life is over after getting married, or divorced, or having kids. Those are just mileposts on a very long marathon route, pit-stops for food and refreshment, and they usually turn out to be the places where you meet the most interesting people, and collect the best sorts of stories.

Sometimes, I can even finish some of them.

It took me a long time to realize that writing wasn’t about cutting yourself off from people and huddling in a dark room for hours and hours and hours every weekend (well, not every weekend). It was about going out into the world with big boots on and learning how to roll your own cigarettes. It was about riding motorcycles and drinking home-brewed beer and taking trains across New Zealand. It wasn’t just looking out at the world, it was about being a part of it, and living to tell the tale: yours or somebody else’s, somebody who couldn’t finish theirs.

You want to open up your hands and say to somebody, “Here, this, this is your life, what it was, what it is, what it could be. How do you want it to end?”

And I wonder if that’s why Lou never could finish a story. I wonder if she was afraid of getting stuck with the wrong ending, afraid it ended with her reading half-finished stories in a little dorm room at the edge of the world, drinking whiskey by herself on a cold, dark night, trapped by her own adolescent self and the roads she walked before the world became too much, before it reared up to get her, before she got lost to anger and fear.

I dream that she went out and made a better ending.

I know she can.

Wiki Fame: I Keep Wondering...

... when someone is going to do this up properly.

Maybe I have to be srsly famous first?

At least I have an entry!

How to Write a Query Letter

Finding good examples of query letters and synopses online can be tough, especially when you're an SF/F writer. I returned again and again to this one by Lynn Flewelling when I started writing mine.

And lo, look, now here's a whole bunch of them.

For those working on Queries, I also recommend Elizabeth Lyon's book, The Sell Your Novel Toolkit. It has a ton of great synposes and query samples, and it was just the book I needed to read when I started seriously trying to sell books.

Here's my contribution to the collective wisdom of the free internets. The Query that got me my agent, who subsequently got me my deal. Personally, I still think it's a little dense and wordy, but hey, it piqued some interest:

April 23, 2007

Dear Jennifer Jackson,

God’s War is a 90,000 word SF novel of faith, betrayal and submission played out in the contaminated deserts of Nasheen, a matriarchal nation engaged in a centuries-old holy war.

Nyxnissa “Nyx” so Dasheem is a bel dame, one of the brutal women engaged in hunting deserters. After getting caught selling out her womb to gene pirates, she is stripped of her bel dame title and forced to make a tenuous living as a less-than-respectable bounty hunter. Nyx’s luck appears to improve when she’s offered a bounty on an interstellar gene pirate who’s fled – or been kidnapped – from the royal compound. While trying to keep together her ragtag crew of mercenaries, Nyx pursues the elusive alien across Nasheen’s parched interior and over the war-torn border with Chenja.

There, under the dim lights of Chenja’s underground fighting rings, Nyx must face a black market boxer, a traitorous magician, and the betrayal of one of her team members. As her crew begins to unravel, Nyx finds herself hunted by her former bel dame sisters and a notorious war veteran. If Nyx can salvage her crew and outwit her rivals, she could hold the key to ending Nasheen’s centuries-old conflict in her bloody hands.

My educational background is in the political history of southern Africa, with an emphasis on the experiences of female guerilla fighters. I am a Clarion West graduate, and some of my work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Talebones, and the upcoming Year’s Best SF 12.

The partial or full manuscript and synopsis of God’s War are available for review upon your request. I am currently drafting a sequel, Black Desert, and a third and final volume is in outline form.

Thank you for considering this proposal. I have enclosed an SASE, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

Kameron Hurley

How (and Why) to Turn Your Info Dump into Conversation

Infodumps bore the living crap out of me.

It's probably one reason why I don't read a lot of hard SF. Hard SF loves the infodump. The trouble with infodumps is that all they do is get you information. It doesn't expand on character. It doesn't move the plot forward. People aren't moving forward with it.

It just sits there.

Dumping.

There's a good example of the total word-waster that is the expository lump in Black Desert round 2, below.

This is just authorial dumping. It's me figuring out this character, this story, and just blabbing on and on about pretty much everything, even stuff that's completely not relevant.

Please fix your expository dumps. They're unseemly.

If you have to write an "As you know Bob"-like conversation, fine. This is what most folks do. Joss Whedon dumps in the form of a classroom discussion in Serenity. I use the same technique in The Dragon's War. If you're going to get information to the reader, please do it in a way that's believable.

In Black Desert round 3, the Expository Lump becomes slightly more engaging dialogue. Also shown below. It's just a first pass fix, and there's still some dumping there at the end, but you can already see what a big difference it makes.

Here's the original:

ORIGINAL (blah blah blah blah blah. Please don't do things like this!)
_____________________

Alharazad had retired from the council back when Nyx was still a bel dame, and the bloody story of her leave-taking had been popular gossip in and outside bel dame circles for year. Alharazad had opposed a coup against the former Queen, Zaynab’s mother, Abayyd. Abayyd had limited the sorts of notes bel dames could collect, just one more erosion of power, the sort bel dames had been fighting for centuries. Abayyd had restricted the bel dame council to notes for war criminals, draft dodgers, and terrorists. No longer was the council to take out notes for petty officials who wanted their sister’s head in a box because she stole some locusts, or bring back an old man who’d fled a marriage contract. They could police war veterans who escaped the breeding compounds, sure, but private notes could no longer be accepted. It was another limitation on bel dame power.

The council discussions went on for days. Alharazad and two of the others on the nine-woman council argued that the bel dames had taken an oath centuries before to uphold the laws of the Queen. To disobey the Queen’s edict was to break that contract. The penalty set down in the contract for the breaking of that agreement was the dissolution of the bel dame council. The oath kept the bel dames from running rogue like the magicians before them, making and breaking their own laws. The rest of the council argued that the bel dames had been around longer than the monarchy or the caliphate before it; they had hunted down rogue magicians and petty thieves equally. Back when bel dames were the only form of law in the desert, no one had had any problem with that.

The story went that once everyone had cast their public vote – three for the upholding of the Queen’s edict, six for civil war – Alharazad had strode out into the middle of the floor, drawn her sword, and decapitated three of the six women who’d voted for war.

As the others took arms and came at her, Alharazad quoted from the old code of the bel dames, the one carved into fiery red metal flanking the entry into the council chamber.

Bel dames in violation of code must be brought to justice by their sisters.

Breaking oaths, she reminded them, was a violation of code.

“You can’t pick and choose from the old laws,” she was said to have told them. “If you vote to break an oath in favor of an older law, I have the authority to met out justice as laid down by those laws. Knowing now that a vote for oath-breaking is a vote for the penalty for oath-breaking, vote again.”

The six remaining members of the council voted to uphold the Queen’s edict. Six months later, the last of Alharazad’s daughters died, and after assisting in the nomination and election of her replacement on the council, Alharazad had retired to Faouda, the birthplace of all of her children.

Alharazad had sent all twenty of her children to the front over the years – fourteen boys and six girls – and she’d given birth to them the old-fashioned way, in groups of three or four instead of the ten or eleven the magicians manipulated now. Only three of her children had come back from the front; a crazy girl who got drunk and drown in a gutter during a flash flood a few months after finishing her six years of service, and another daughter who was so bug-crazy after a year in the trenches that she was sent home and locked up in a mental ward in Mushtallah. The only boy of hers to survive came back from the front at forty after completing his mandatory service, but he came back a radical. He had his own ideas about how to police Nasheen. He became a bounty hunter and started hanging around the magicians’ gyms in Faleen, recruiting boxers and girls fresh off the front before the bel dames signed them. He was known for his strong moral and religious arguments against the mandatory drafting of men for the front, and his heated desire to disband the bel dame council, which he saw as an unregulated army of bloodletters who answered to no Queen, no Imam, no God.

His name was Raine al Alharazad, and he’d recruited Nyx after she paid off her debt with the magicians at the morgue. He had taught her how to bring in a bloodless bounty, how to kill with her bare hands instead of munitions, and how to drive a bakkie like a bel dame on a blood note. What he taught her had given her an edge when she joined the bel dames, but he’d never forgiven her for going over to their side.

Ten years later, Nyx had put a sword through his gut and left him to die in a gully in Chenja.

So she was really looking forward to meeting Alharazad.

____________________________________________

And, the first pass of the fix:

FIXT VERSION (first pass)
_____________________________________________

“So tell me something about this Alharazad,” Suha said, capping off the tank.

Nyx peeled off a note and gave it to Eshe to feed into the big central money depository. “She retired when I was still a bel dame, back before Queen Abayyd abdicated. There was a big shit in the bel dame council after Abayyd restricted notes to terrorists, draft dodgers, terrorists. Made the bel dames more an arm of the monarchy than an independent force, you know?”

“And she didn’t take to that?” Suha said.

“Alharazad goes by the old code. Nobody fucking liked it, but bel dames take a blood oath to the Queen. That’s new since the monarchy, sure… we didn’t swear to shit before that. But we all swear that her word’s God’s law. You break a blood oath, you know what happens?”

“Bel dames kill you,” Eshe said. He gave her her change. Nyx pocketed it, nodded.

“Yeah, bel dames kill you. Alharazad reminded the council of that, watched them vote on whether or not to split from the Queen. The ones who voted yes? She chopped their fucking heads off.”

“Must have made her real popular,” Suha said.

“To some people, sure. You can’t pick and choose from the old laws. You break your blood oath in favor of some old Caliphate law about bel dames running their own show, you still get taken out for breaking a blood oath.”

“Is that why you keep taking the Queen’s notes?” Eshe asked.

Nyx peered at him. She was wearing the hat she’d gotten at the coast, to keep the sun out of her eyes. He went uncovered, as usual, burnous flapping loosely behind him, no hood, shoulders bare.

“Cover up, would you?” she said. “You’re going to get cancer.”

He rolled his eyes, pulled the burnous back over his shoulders. “Is it? Is that why you took the note?”

“I took the note because it’s my job,” Nyx said. She shuffled back toward the bakkie.

Suha opened the door for her. “I bet Alharazad thought it was her job to kill half the council, too,” Suha said.

“No shit,” Nyx said. “My bel dame oath? The part about protecting the Queen is the only part of it I haven’t broken yet. I’d like to surprise myself in my old age by sticking with that.”

Suha shut the door.

Nyx leaned out the window. “Let’s have you drive, Eshe.”

“Why?” he said.

“Cause Alharazad won’t shoot a boy unless she’s provoked.”

She saw Eshe lose some color. “This is why I taught you how to use a pistol,” she said.

“And we’re lucky he’s a better shot than you are,” Suha said.

Nyx sat up front and watched the pitted landscape roll by.

She have any kids, Alharazad?” Suha asked.

“Why, you planning on pissing her off?”

“Just wondering if she’s on her own,” Suha said. “I don’t want to face a fucking kid army like that Anneke women’s breeding.”

Nyx grunted. “Naw, nothing like that. Heard Alharazad had twenty kids. Fourteen boys, if you can believe it. All twenty went to the front. Three came back. Crazy girl got killed in a flash flood, drowned in a ditch. Another girl went so bug-crazy after her year in the trenches she got locked up in a ward in Mushtalluh.”

“What about the other one?” Eshe said.

“Did you get any food when we were back there?” Nyx said.

“Nobody asked me to,” Eshe said.

“We didn’t get any fucking food?” Suha said. “Shit.”

Nyx let them bicker. Alharazad had one boy come back from the front, too, at the end of his mandatory service. He was forty by then. He came back a radical and took up bounty hunting, started hanging around the magician’s gyms in Faleen, recruiting boxers and girls fresh off the front before the bel dames got them. He was known for his strong moral and religious arguments against the mandatory drafting of men, his passionate desire to disband the bel dame council, and his uncanny ability to hunt down terrorists. He believed bel dames were an unregulated army of bloodletters. They answered to no Queen, no Imam, not even God.

His name was Raine al Alharazad. He’d recruited Nyx at the magicians’ gym and taught her how to bring in a bloodless bounty, kill with her bare hands, and how to drive a bakkie like a bel dame on a blood note.

Tens years after leaving his crew, she put a sword through his gut and left him to die in a gully in Chenja.

So she was really looking forward to meeting his mother.

_____________

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Welcome Kaylee Rae Clark

My neice, Kaylee Rae Clark, was born via planned Cesarean September 9th around 1pm PST.


Kaylee! I want to get her overalls with a teddy bear patch and teach her how to remake a Starship engine. Sadly, my sister doesn't get that joke... but it amuses the hell out of me.

Mom and baby.

Mom, Dad, and baby!

My mom and Kaylee.

My mom, my nephew Christopher, and Kaylee.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Robin Hood: Season 2

Oh my God. I think this is even cheesier than the first season. It's gone from campy fun to PAINFUL.

PAINFUL I TELL YOU.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Training Daze

I hurt today from yesterday's weight training workout with the work trainers... and what did I do today?

25 min run (5 min warmup) followed by a 15 min swim. Came home and ate some baked sweet potato fries (rosemary paremesan!), chicken sausage, and cucumber slices.

I'm tuckered out.

I'm not sure how I'm still doing this. I think it just lends a nice structure and sense of purpose to my days. I feel a lot better, I'm stronger, less fuzzy headed. It gives me some direction.

I like that the swimming time is staying constant for a bit here, too. I don't think it kicks up to 20 min until next week. It gives me a chance to concentrate on my form, which still sucks. Have I mentioned I sort of have this latent claustrophobia? It's terrifying when you're putting the breathing together with the strokes, and you're going along just fine and then it's like - BAM - I can't breathe! I can't breathe! I'm going to die!

I was fine when I was keeping my head above water, but now that I'm doing proper strokes again - stroke, stroke, breathe - there at the beginning and the middle I lost it a couple of times and wondered what the hell was wrong with me.

Oh, yeah, I thought - that claustrophobia thing. Yeah.

See, I went down into the catacombs in Rome? Paris? when I was 17, and I flipped the fuck out. During the same trip, they packed six of us into one of those night train sleeper cars, and I was hysterical sobbing all night long.

I realized then that if I wanted to travel, if I wanted a big adventurous life, I would have to get over the claustrophobia thing.

I think that the secret to facing any fear is knowing that you're not getting over it, getting past it it, or even overcoming it. You're just facing it. You sit and acknowledge it and look it over clinically and go, "OK, I recognize what this is. This is a crazy thing. Now that I have acknowledged it and poked at it a bit I am going to move on."

Then you take some deep, calming breathes and force yourself to think about other things.

This is why I love the fear mantra from Dune, and the "Pain is just a message" mantra from Griffith's Aud books. You're not ignoring your fear. I think that's the misconception that kept me from being able to function before that. I thought that I could just ignore it and it would go away. But that's not true. It just builds up then. It sneaks up behind you.

You've got to face it like a fighter. Hit it head on.

So I acknowledged my crazy swimming claustrophobia and kicked out those last two laps hard and fast. Then I came home and put hydrogen pyroxide in my ears to fend off the tricky infections. My ears don't like me swimming, tho the new ear plugs sure do help.

And here's the thing, you know?

This shit is not easy. It's not pleasant. I'm scared of running. I'm scared of saying I'm doing Triathlon training, because how silly is that? I'm absolutely terrified of failure all the time. But the alternative is not to try. Never to try. And I could use any old excuse to not get to the gym - "Oh, I'm sore from working out yesterday," "Oh, you know, I have a history of ear infections, I can't swim," "Oh, I've never been good at running," "Oh, I've never really been an athletic person," - these are all excuses I've used to not do things before. They seem like perfectly valid excuses to me. And they will seem like great excuses again.

But for now... for now...

Sometimes, when your life has calmed down and things are good, you realize you have the strength and courage to do things that paralyzed you before.

Going to Peru? By myself, even with my chosen tour group? Scares the living shit out of me. Publishing books that could totally fail and bomb? Scary shit. My job? The thought of losing my job? Scary shit. But you do it, because the life where you don't do it is way fucking scarier.

Waaaay fucking scarier.

OmniPoddery: Always Backup

My OmniPod has been working pretty wickedly for the past few weeks. I haven't seen a morning, noon, or night "hit" number above 150 in nearly four weeks (just correction numbers), which is why I was suprised this morning to wake up at 178.

I was even more stunned to see my noon number hit 248 for no reason.

Was I getting sick or something? What the hell was going on? I realized that I'd changed the pod out yesterday, which is when the wacky numbers started (I thought I was way higher than I should have been during my 1:30am test, too).

But hey, maybe I'm just getting sick, so I just keep on keeping on. I popped down to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription.

As I walked back from the pharmacy, I stepped into the elevator and heard this high pitched whine.

That's a weird elevator whine, I thought. It's that high dog-whistle radio noise type whine that's really, really annoying.

And then I had a thought.

I put my hand over my pump.

The noise lessened.

Oh, shit.

When I stepped out of the elevator, it became very clear that I was the one emitting the high pitched whine. I made a beeline to my office with my hand over the pump and grabbed my backup from my bag.

In the bathroom, I went to change out the pump with my PDM. But the PDM said it couldn't communicate with the pod...

Which meant -

The pod kept beeping.

I peeled it off and replaced it with my backup without any issue, but...

THE POD KEPT BEEPING.

So here I am, standing in the bathroom at work, and I have this continuously beeping pager-sized device in my hand. I pulled off the adhesive backing. I pulled at the edges of the plastic backing. It wouldn't budge.

I checked to make sure I was the only one in the bathroom.

Then I started throwing my beeping pod as hard as I could against the bathroom floor. I did this at least three times. Thank God nobody walked in on me trying to destroy a piece of medical hardware.

My next thought was to throw it in a sink full of water, but these things are waterproof up to 8 feet for 30 min. I'd have to let it soak - batteries and all - for 30 min.

These fuckers are really well made.

And here's the deal: you can't just throw away this beeping thing at work in a high rise building. It looks like a mini-bomb. I knew that if I tossed it and it kept beeping, there was a chance somebody was going to call in the police for bomb sweep. No, seriously. If people are willing to call the cops about half empty bottles of water left in elevators, they're going to call about a pager-sized device beeping in a bathroom trash can.

My next thought is that I have to somehow pulverize this thing into small pieces. I need to get the fucking battery out, but I don't have anything on my desk to hammer this thing.

So I went to the experts in demolition.

I went downstairs to the IT hardware guys.

The infrastructure manager pulled out his tools and said, "So I can destroy this, right?"

"Yes, I already replaced it."

"So basically, I can destroy it and just tear it apart?"

"Yes. Please. It wont. stop. beeping."

"OK, I'm going to totally destroy it then!"

"Excellent!"

He pulled out some regular pliers and some needle nosed pliers and pried off the plastic backing after a couple of tries (I told you these are well made!). Then he popped out the batteries.

The pod went blessedly silent.

It was then that he asked me, as he handed me the neatly destroyed remains, "What is this, anyway?"

"My insulin pump," I said.

He just shook his head at me.

I mean really, what do you say to that?

Fun Facts to Know and Tell

There is apparently a Sled Dog Rescue group in Indianapolis, IN.

Also, a Home for Huskies. I'm curious as to why Indy is so full of huskies.

Benefits to Biking a Mile and a Half to the Dematologist's Office in the Rain

Man, that doctor was HOT. Seriously.

Better, tho - well, marginally better; he was SUPERhot -was learning that my itchy leg was not, in fact, yet another chronic condition. Just itchy, and will clear up in a couple weeks with some topical cream. Seriously? I guess so.

The hilarious, part, however, was when he asked me if my slightly splotchy face "bothered me."

Um???

These must be things hot doctors ask about. I have never considered myself to have an acne problem. A couple of zits never killed anybody, but ah, yes, this is America, land of perfection!

He suggested that I could totally go on birth control pills, which would clear my face right up!

AHA HAHahaha ha ahaha ahaah ha aha....

Let's see.... chronic weight gain and severe depression or a couple of zits? Chronic weight gain and severe depression... or a couple of zits? (not to mention the $40 a month that would cost. Why did I get an IUD again?)

Let me think really hard about that..... thinking... hrm... thinking.... hrm... math is hard.

These are some of the wacky things that happen when doctors get overzealous. Please don't get overzealous, doctors. There are bad, bad consequences.

His suggestion did also make him slightly less hot, which was a shame.

Poor, pretty doctor.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Writing Life

Book checks.

They are a tricky thing.

Everybody tells you not to rely on them coming on time -or even at all! -but there's this part of you that's always planning and scheming and hoping and budgeting, regardless.

I've been putting off some purchases for awhile because I keep thinking, "You know, it would be better to wait for my next book check." These things, at various points in time, have included: a digital camera, a home elliptical machine, a printer, an HD television (not seriously, but it's fun to think about), $100 in books from Amazon.com, and a dog (yay!).

Thing is, with the way publishing works, well, this isn't going to work. That is, if I want these things within the next, let's say, 2-4 months. So I continue to budget and accrue these things piecemeal as money allows.

See, I got my first book check when I signed the deal, which arrived roughly 30 days after I signed the contract, which arrived roughly 30 after the offer was made (this was blazing fast, in my opinion). That was pretty awesome, and that's how I was able to move into my own place and pay off a credit card. Have I mentioned how awesome that was?

In any case, the next one is due "on delivery" of GW. But though I have actually delivered GW, it's not "officially" considered delivered until my editor gets back to me with edits, I fix all the edits, she approves and is happy with the edits, the check goes through the check things it does, the check goes to my agent, my agent sends me the check minus commission, and tra-la. This could be a really long, drawn-out process. Probably 2-6 months from the time I see edits to the time I see a check (based on what I've heard from other writers).

Back in May, the plan was that I would have edits for GW from my editor in July. My sekrit wish was to then have a check by September. And then, you know, put half toward the CC and the other half toward a digital camera and Amazon books and.. and...

Yeah, I know. Ha ha.

It sucks when you realize that all the things people told you about being a writer are basically true.

In the meantime, I'm going to go buy a cheap printer.

The Cutting Will Continue Until the Book Improves

I'm not much for books that ramble. Some may argue about the short attention span of the internet age, but really, look back at something like Zelazny's Amber books, or the pre-90s Stephen King novels:

They're pretty short.

They are not 1500 page epics. They do not hem and haw and circle and backtrack and spend 10 pages talking about underwater farming in Australasia while the protagonist repeatedly tugs on her braid. Mainly, this is because folks were writing on typewriters. I'm also thinking short books sold better. These days, you pay $30 for a hardcover, and goddammit, you want 900 pages, because, seriously, $30 for a hardcover??

I haven't been able to get through Hobb's sequels to the Assassin books because Fool's Errand just goes on and on and on. It's two characters having long conversations about their bitter lives and regrets - this is how the book opens! It's like a hundred pages of the author trying to figure out what the characters are supposed to do during this book, and summing up the boring 15 years of their lives between this book and the last, which I really, really doubt is ultimately relevant to the climax of the novel.

I don't write like this.

Usually.

I mean, yeah, OK, I write first drafts like this. They are long, and wind-filled, and people are always drinking tea (I was delighted when I realized that they actually had a high tea in my fictional Tirhan. Nobody in Nasheen in the last book actually sat around and drank tea. You have no idea how many stupid, pointless scenes this eliminated in GW. I had to be careful about my tea scenes in BD).

When I'm writing a first draft, I'm generally bouncing around trying to figure out where the characters are going to go, and - if they're new - what the hell they're about.

So there are these long, pointless passages about trauma and heartache and growing up in a farming community at the edge of the desert, and the economics of the Bashinda River. And when I revise a book, the first thing I do is say, "OK, do the economics of the Bashinda River have anything to do with this plot? No? Cut it out." And out it goes.

It is incredibly satisfying, after you murder the first few darling paragraphs, to watch paragraph after boring, clunky paragraph recede into the wastewater that was your first draft.

Ultimately, I'd like to cut about 10K-15, which would get this back to 95K at the most. 95K feels like about the right length for the bel dame books. I can't tell you why that is, but it is.

Different books tend to have different lengths and styles that just feel more appropriate. I've had to go back and chop up a lot of the long sentences and rambling paragraphs I wrote in the first draft, too. Nyx books are short sentences books. Curt, snappy dialogue. Bleeding roaches. Sand-caked wrinkles. Calloused feet. And, of course, heads getting chopped off.

And revision time is when you get to make sure all the shit that was supposed to be there is there. And all the shit that's just shit... well, that's what you chop out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Officially Printerless

The printer gifted to me by the not-Boyfriend finally bit it on Monday. It was having trouble picking up paper, which I had to reload after every 10 sheets. Then I overloaded it and it made a horrible grinding noise and when I pulled the tray out, several plastic parts came with it.

Alas.

I loved this printer, and it was probably the best present he ever gave me, so I'm actually a lot more sad than I should be. The thing was a fucking beast for printage. It must have printed like 32-35 pages a minute or something crazy like that. I think it retails for $300+ (it was gifted to me refurbed and quirky, so it wasn't actually worth $300 anymore, but still).

In any case, I never could get it to work on my new machine anyway. However, when Steph brought over my old $30 printer to replace it, which I'd left at their place, I noted it was missing a cable. I realized I had used said cable on my old printer.

So I went out to the dumpster behind the building to fish it out of the old printer. But, alas, somebody was dumpster diving last night, because my old, awesome (but broken) printer is no longer there.

Sucks to be me.

I could order a new cable and have a working (but crappy) printer for the month, or just use next month's meds money to purchase a new printer all together.

I'm thinking that I don't need to print anything here immediately, so I guess I can wait to try and purchase something good next month. But man, I'm sad.

And now I don't know why I've written all of this about printers, except that when you're a writer, printers are a big deal. I loved mine. And I'm sad that - quirky as it was - it bit it. Sadder still that I was stupid enough to toss it out without retrieving the goddamn data cable first.

Arg.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Low Carb Enchilada Goodness

6-8 Low Carb Tortillas
2-3 Boneless, skinless chicken patties
2 cups spinach leaves
1 avocado
1 clove (or 4 tablespoons, in Kameron math) garlic
1 large onion
1-2 fresh jalapenos
1 15 can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups mozz cheese
olive oil


Chop up your onion and jalapenos. Put in a bowl to the side. Cut up your chicken. Get ready to combine all this goodness!


Heat up a frying pan. Add olive oil. Throw in the garlic, onion, and jalapenos. Simmer those babies for 7-8 minutes, or until the onion is soft but not brown. If it's a little brown, tho, don't worry, no one will die. I didn't. But then, I have a high tolerance for death. Or is that, a high intolerance for death? No matter.

Add oregano, chicken, tomatoes, spinach, and salt. Mix this all together until it is well stirred, or until the spinach is slightly wilted. It's OK that the chicken isn't really cooked. This made me nervous at first, but have no fear: it will cook nicely inside of the torts.

Put about a scoop of the goodness into a tortilla. Add a slice of avocado. Roll up just like a Chipotle burrito and start layering these packets of yum into your greased (Pam is great!) baking pan.

Top your torts with the remaining avocado and a dollop of your sour cream (all of my dairy now is low fat, sad to say, but still quite tasty).

Now for my favorite part! Slather the whole thing in mozzarella cheese and pop it into a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is nice and brown on top.

They taste like real enchiladas! Like, seriously, I ate it and it was good! It's a miracle! A miracle!

Next time, I'd like to add some cilantro for a little more zing. I also forgot the can of green chili peppers I was supposed to add, which may have spiced things up. All in all, tho, this turned out really well.

I should have a second blog called "The Yummy Diabetic."

This is a variation of a much prettier looking recipe which you can find here.

Conversations with the Crack Hooker

Steph: So, what have you been up to?

Me: Oh, you know, working out a lot.

Steph: Yeah, I could tell. Your flat ass is flatter than usual.

Oh, the love.

Dayton Greekfest

That was basically one big orgy of food, yo.

Quote of the Day

"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."
-Stephen Hawking

Friday, September 05, 2008

Got Email?

If we've been exchanging emails, or if I owe you emails, and you haven't received a response in the last 2-3 days, let me know. I have been experiencing technical difficulties, but all email should now be caught up on.

Thanks!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Training Tonight

Tonight was 25 minutes jogging followed by 25 minutes biking. I'm starting to up the jogging by .1 miles per session to kick it up a little. I'm only jogging at 4.2 right now, and I think I can get that up to a proper running speed of 6 (::gulp::) in the... um... foreseeable future?

I've also realized I can't follow the original training schedule as written, which is apparently OK so long as I get the time in (hence the biking and jogging in one day). I was supposed to do biking yesterday and jogging today, but doing my Mon/Weds hour and a half training session at work and then *another* session after work is still a little much for me to think about.

As it is, I'm currently working out 6 days a week, one of which is weight training only (my Monday training session at work). I've been working really hard to get up to a 5-6 day a week workout schedule, so this makes me pretty happy. I'll be a little more joyful if I'm still at it in 6 weeks. It's the consistency that's key.

So far, my "mix it up with different cardio exercises and a set schedule" thing has worked really well. I'm at nearly three weeks, and I can notice a huge difference in strength, form, and endurance, particularly when it comes to the swimming. That's definately the event that I'll show the most improvement on.

And yes, for those curious, I have started training for a Triathlon Sprint. Whether or not I will actually run one (the events they do have are quite a hike from Dayton), has yet to be seen. However, in 12 weeks I should have the *ability* to run one if I can find one.

If nothing else, there should be a duathlon at Kettering Rec. Center near my house sometime in January/February, which is a running/swimming event.

One of the big problems I've always had with working out is that it seemed to have no end purpose, no end goal. I need structure and something I'm building toward. Seeing some of the folks at work, who run marathons and half marathons, and, of course, reading this blog made me wonder what I could physically do if I actually applied myself.

I've been working my whole life to be a writer, and yeah, it's fucking tough and it's still tough every day to keep at it, but it means I do have the drive to accomplish things. I've just never applied that drive to anything physical, because I always felt I just didn't have the body/stamina/inherent whateverness for it. Mainly, I just didn't have the drive to try it. I'd rather stay home and write.

Now, after that whole almost dying thing, I've become a lot more interested in what I can do with my life. And I know my time is not infinite. Better now than... possibly never. You just don't know what's going to happen around the next bend.

It's a part of the big projects I've been working on the last year and change. Being better at relationships, getting control of my finances, finding real strength and security in my life. These are really fucking tough things for me, and training for a triathlon is no less tough.

But these are attainable things. Yeah, it's hard fucking work. Just like writing, you have to do it every day, and you have to plow through the hard stuff, and people will make fun of you and some days you'll hate yourself, but if I can write books, why can't I do this? If I can travel around the world, why can't I run a Triathlon?

If I can keep on breathing, despite having a condition that will kill me within about 12-36 hours of ceasing my medication (being a zombie is my secret superpower!), really, I should be able to do anything.

Also, while I'm at it, I'm going to have a level 70 in WoW.

And learn Arabic.

But anyway, first: novel writing and event training.

Yeah.

Murder Your Darlings, or: Move it or Lose It

I hate cutting out cool characters who it turns out you just don't need for the book. One of my walk on characters from GW got a fairly lengthy scene in BD in a chapter that, well, doesn't really need her so much anymore (she doesn't show up later in the book, so doing a lengthy intro only to have her disappear seems silly). It's such as shame, really, because then all this has to go:

"Sometimes Nyx invited Husayn to drive up with them. Nyx had met Husayn at the magicians’ gym in Mushtallah back when Nyx was training as a boxer and bel dame, sometime after Nyx had been recalled from the front and reconstituted. Husayn was a stocky old fighter with a mashed-in pulp of a nose. Her left eye drooped a little, and was going a tad misty. She’d lost her peripheral vision in that eye at thirty, and now, at fifty, she didn’t see much out of it at all....

Nyx and Husayn sat out on the hilltop the morning after Nyx sent Mercia home with a bellyful of buni-flavored rum. The blazing orange disk of the primary star had just swallowed the blue sun, and Eshe was lying prostrate on a prayer rug on the other side of the bakkie, his fingertips stretched toward the base of an old thorn tree that clawed at the sky with barren, charred branches."


Eh, it wasn't doing much anyway.

The Burka and the Bikini

Discuss.

Things Could Always Be Worse

Fun with Revisions

I seemed to have some confusion about whether or not Nyx's kid clerk was a Ras Tiegan refugee, a half breed orphan, or a full blooded Nasheenian from the coast whose mother was a career breeder.

All of these conflicting historical details appeared within the same 12-page spread.

Next Project

I've been contemplating what project to take up after I finish Babylon, mainly because it's never too early to start doing book research and working out plot points.

Basically, I can work on the 5-book fantasy saga about genocide, polyamorous matriarchy, and the end of the world, or I can write the standalone book about genocide and gender roles (or, what I think of as my "far-future Rwanda with four suns" book, or more elegantly, my "burning cane fields" book).

The upshot to the fantasy series is that book 1 and several chapters of book 2 are already finished. The downside is, it's a trunk novel, and to my eye, it reads like a trunk novel. I don't want this to be my Banewrecker. So I'm thinking I would do a ground up rewrite (but then, I've rewritten this book so many effing times that I honestly have no idea if it's good or not and requires a ground up rewrite. A ground up rewrite just seems like the least lazy thing to do).

It's also five books, which, if the bel dame books do well, means regular pay checks. And all five books have outlines. Which makes for a much easier writing process. Also - it's a more marketable little package than anything else I've written (I think. I have no idea when it comes to marketing anymore).

The downside is: it's old, and I feel like some of my 19 year old self who wrote the original version back in the day is still seeping through the cracks on occasion. Also, though 5 books mean steady paychecks, it also means... 5 books in that world. Roughly 5 years of my life all dedicated to writing those books. Not that that should bother me, since I've been working on that world on and on since I was 12. So, that may not be a drawback, just a fact to think about.

No doubt they would be easier to write.

I'm also thinking that the burning cane fields book may not have reached fruition yet anyway. I love the concept and the world, but the worldbuilding isn't done, and more importantly, the character building isn't done. I have an idea of who these people are, but I don't have their names yet, and they aren't real people until I have their names. That's just sort of how my process works. Until I have solid characters, I can't get very far.

The upside is, it's just one book. The down side is, it's a very big and complicated book with a complex world and a lot of stuff going on.

Maybe I can just work on both. So during the 5 years I'm punching out Dragon's War books, I'll be slowly twindling around with The Burning Fields. That gives me five years to write shitty drafts of it!

And then I'll deliver the last book of the Dragon's War series and have tBF ready to go.

I would like to be a lot more prolific than I am. Lots of people have families and day jobs and are producing two books a year, or a book and a ton of shorts (OK, not a *lot* of people, but some people). I hate the short form, so I'd prefer to do like, say, a book and a half a year.

I have the ability to do it. It's a matter of scheduling my time properly, and fitting in all the other stuff I want in my life (professional life, social life, fitness, traveling, etc.).

Hey, I can be ambitious.

At the same time, I want to make sure I'm writing good books, which is why Black Desert isn't due until May but I have a draft in August. I need all that time for rewrites and revisions and revisits.

I don't want to write books that suck.

And now I need to figure out what other books I need to write that don't suck.

30,000 Steps to Peru

So, as many of you know, we have a health and wellness program here at the day job. It includes two hour and a half long training sessions a week, diet and nutrition advice (should you choose to solicit it), quarterly fitness assessments, and monthly fitness challenges.

It's all voluntary, of course, and one's participation does *not* affect one's health insurance premiums, so I'm all about that (we pay $5 per pay period for our health insurance, have a $100 deductible, and then it's all expenses paid 100% after that - seriously).

Anyway, this month those of us who wanted to participate got free pedometers and we're all tracking our steps in a big spreadsheet. Pedometers are incredibly easy to hack (as one work colleague said, "I'm just going to hook mine up to a vibrator."), but it's a neat little toy to pass the time with while trekking up and downstairs to the main floor to get some diet Coke (granted, having one more piece of hardware hooked up to me, small as it is, is kind of annoying. I'm glad it's only for a month).

It's considered a "team" challenge, so individual results aren't supposed to matter (as a group, we need to have 5 million steps at the end of the month, and then, like, we all get a free water bottle or something), but it's interesting seeing what everybody else logs in.

According to the chart:

Less than 5,000 steps a day = Inactive
5,000 - 7,499 = Slightly active
7,500-9,999 = Moderately active
10,000-12,499 = Active
12,499 or more = Very Active

Really, I don't think this chart goes high enough. Because, you know, I don't have a car and I work out regualarly, so logging in 10-18,000 steps a day really isn't all that difficult for me (tonight's scheduled workout will be just under 10k by itself).

On the other hand, one of our personal trainers is training for a half marathon and is averaging over 30,000 steps a day.

So at least there's a high bar.