Friday, May 30, 2008

Still Baby-Sitting the Process

It seems like hours since I last posted, but obviously that isn't the case.

I blame it on the new laptop, as I have only installed AVG Free Virus Protection on it until I decide what all I want to spend, and I refuse to surf or mess around on the internet with the New and Glitzy until it is adequately protected.

And of course, I'm continuing to write my someday-to-be-serialized-in-the-Piker Press novel, "Transitions" on it. Not going to risk an infection; not going to stop writing. The new laptop is in quarantine, except from me.

It seems like days since I sat down at the computer this morning. In reality, it's only been 14 hours. My ass is mighty tired.

I've had breaks: I get up when my buns are aching so bad I can't think anymore; I did get off the exam stool I use as seating to make lunch for me and Bernie; I hobbled up to the mailbox, and did other quick tasks before perching before the screen again. I proof-read, formatted, and loaded in excess of 20 articles to the Press.

What could possibly make me so assiduous? Why, only this: I subscribed to "Geek Squad" and their online auto-backup service. They'll back up my shit automatically for $50/year. Daily. DAILY. No more freak outs at losing stuff.

However, the first dump of files to their secure retrieval site is taking forever. And since this ass-hat computer feels compelled to hibernate every ten minutes if there's no activity, I've been here holding its ass-hat hand all day ... and because playing Spider Solitaire for 14 hours isn't all that appealing, I've been working on the Press.

I don't know why it's taking so long to transfer the files. I have observed that .psd's take forever to transfer. And with all the cover art and practice pieces, I have a lot of .psd's. Damn.

Currently the thing says that 75% of my files are saved. I think I have to just let this machine hibernate and pick up where it left off in the morning.

Oh, and it's about 10 - 15 degrees colder than it should be at this time of year, here. That doesn't help.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Open House

What, three posts in one day?

Call it a whim. Call it guilt at having not posted for a while. Call it can't go outside the damn house or have the damn windows open because of the damn wind.

This has been an unseasonably windy spring. An unreasonably windy spring. When the winds let up last week, we rejoiced, only to have the temperatures leap up to 110 degrees, which is the shits, although it did take the swimming pool from "cryogenic" to blissful.

Then someone turned on the "wind" switch again, and there are trees down all over the place. Fortunately, not in our yard -- so far.

Plowed fields are now being deposited 60 miles up into the mountains and up everyone's nose with the gusts in excess of 40 mph.

My Japanese maple's leaves have all curled, crisped at the edges, battered and dehydrated by the wind.

Forget swimming -- it's now too cold again for dips in the pool, and even if one did, one would have to take a bath afterwards because of the amount of mud in the air.

And monumentally irritating is the fact that although the house is only at about 70 degrees, when the wind kicked into high gear this afternoon, we had to close up the windows and turn on the AC -- to clean up the air in the house so that we could stop coughing and sneezing. We won't be able to open up to catch cool air tonight -- there's too much dirt carried on it.

Places along the highways where farmers have plowed fields are almost obscured by the crap in the air. I went to the store this morning and was assailed not only by the wind but by the scent of freshly-spread chicken manure. This is May, for heaven's sake, not March!

In this last picture, Howie's expression says it all. His tail, usually held high in exuberance, is down. He's squinting. His ears are in an annoyed position. As I type this, he's not even in this room. He's gone back to the bedroom, having given up on the day.

He should have been swimming with me. Instead, we're hiding from the wind.

Yes, Every Day

A couple of people know that my New Year's Resolution for the past two years has been to create something every day.

Last year fell short of the goal as my life plummeted into abject misery with my mother's illness, my sister's death, and my own winter of Endlessly Being Sick, but this year, I'm pleased to be able to say that midway through May, I've succeeded in my goal.

Most of what I've done has been to write; along with a couple short stories, I finished an untitled sequel to my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel, "Truck Stops", and am 50k+ into a novel called "Transitions."

I've done some cover art for the Piker Press, and even a Fever Dreams cartoon a couple weeks ago.

For a while I maintained a blog about the creative effort, but after I kept writing, "Well, I wrote another 400 words last night," over and over, I abandoned and deleted the blog, and promised to update the project here instead.

I was very pleased with the result when I did this graphic for Mel Trent's story, "Angel Hunter" from her book The Immortal Guns of Talon Constantine. Mel, Lydia Manx and I brainstormed some images, which was most helpful, and then, when I started to work on it, a weird thing happened -- the art began to flow in the same way my writing does ... it just began to happen.

This is unusual for me. Ever since I was little, I hid while I was drawing or sketching, and if I couldn't hide, I kept to conventional subjects and ways of drawing them. Someone was always looking over my shoulder, saying, "What are you doing?" or far worse, "Oh, that's going to be soooo good!" As a result, art work is stressful for me. Writing isn't, usually, because I'm downright shitty about it and if anyone pesters me while I'm writing, God help them, because I will roar at them to take off.

The above graphic -- well, I got into it so deeply that I didn't care if anyone saw me, and if they had said something, I'd have roared at them to leave me alone. Sounds rather rude, but for me, it's a big, big step forward.

Also, I give credit to the ghosts in the machine; Photoshop glitched in one layer and did the gradient of color a twist I didn't ask for ... and it made all the difference in the result.

The Importance of Being Comfy

Once upon a time, there was a chair that had been in a hotel room for years.

Its fabric dulled over the years, and its matching ottoman began to look a bit ratty. The hotel dumped it, and all its brothers and sisters; a furniture dealer carried them all away and stacked them in a dusty warehouse that sold, on the cheap, used furniture.

One day a couple came in looking for cheap chairs to put in their TV room, and took home the dull chair and its twin, with their matching ratty ottomans. It was a good thing, and for the next nine years, the couple reveled in the comfiness of the old chair, guests got so comfy they fell asleep in the arms of the old chair, and the dog of the house loved the chair so much that he stopped sleeping beside his muvver and slept in the chair instead. Three novels, a bushel basket of short stories, and more than a few movie reviews were written from that chair. The chair was pleased that not only the dog loved to sleep in it, but the mistress also slept in its arms when she was sick, or needed to be near the fireplace to keep it going in the cold winter nights.

Alas! The upholstery could not last forever, and began to disintegrate. Time had its way with the chair and its twin; they were tired and worn out and ready to return to the earth.

When they were gone, the mistress of the house was inconsolable, because all that was left to sit in and write was a bony piece of lawn furniture brought in from the porch. (There was a set of living room furniture, but they were neither particularly comfortable nor well-situated for writing. Thus they were invisible to the mistress of the house.)

The woman knew that she had to find the proper successor to the position of Comfy Chair. She went into furniture stores and sat in every chair there was to offer. Some were too deep, so that she had no back support at all; some were so squooshy she gagged; others were just too high for her stubby legs and her feet dangled, a situation sure to cut off circulation to her legs. Some had backs too low to allow one to fall asleep in; some were just so butt-ugly that the woman knew that she would pour gasoline on them and burn them down within a fortnight.

Then, just the other day, weary with watching the rather lousy movie "Prince Caspian", the mistress of the house skidded to a stop in front of Pier 1 Imports, a store fabled for chairs designed for short people.

She went in and once again, sat in every chair in the store. And then it happened: her husband, knowing how short his wife was, and how comfort-oriented her rear end was, directed her to sit in a chair. The mistress of the house sat, and she and the chair fell immediately in love.

This is that chair, and its friend, the matching ottoman.

Difficult to tell in this humble photograph, the chair is smiling smugly that the woman has already fallen asleep in it several times while writing, and the dog cannot wait for the woman to go to bed so that he can climb up and snug in.

And amazingly, it's not only The Comfy Chair, it's beautiful, too.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

No Pictures Yet

Last night, an amazing thing happened.

The novel, "Transitions", that I have been working on swelled to 42,250 words. And I was pleased with it. It was the last chapter before I would take the characters and dump their poor little lives into a blender.

Then the amazing thing happened. The mouse on my laptop started jumping all over the place; I couldn't 'select' ANYthing, couldn't 'refresh' anything, and when I went to my document, I had 41,390 words ... ending right where I'd started writing five hours before. 900 words ... GONE.


I was so numbed by shock and disgust that I drank my glass of wine and went to bed. Even forgot to feed Howie, that's how upset I was.

Around 1 am I woke, sat straight upright, and fired up the laptop to see if I was lucky, and that I had only dreamed losing all those words. Nope, not a dream. And the thought of sleep was far from me. I fed the poor hungry How, and gritted my teeth, and began to hammer.

By 4:15 am, the word count was back up to 42,130 or so, and some of the sentences I remembered well enough to use, and I was compulsively hitting 'Save' after every paragraph, even though I had 'saved' the stuff that was lost, too.

By this evening I realized that I just couldn't risk having that happen again, so I spent my stash and bought a new laptop.

It's a pretty thing, but it sure is a pain in the ass getting to know a new machine.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A New Look to What Had Been a Mess

Well over a year ago, I got irritated by the sheer bulk of our "Breath-of-Heaven" shrub.

What had been sold to me as a small, compact shrub ("Oh, it will get about two, maybe three feet across") had grown five feet high and eight feet across and was killing everything around it. So I decided to remove it. I got about half-way through, got tired and left the job for another day.

Then life went to hell and gone, and what was left of the shrub died. The front yard looked like the remains of a toxic waste dump -- until a couple weekends ago when Bernie came to my rescue and removed the rest of the carcass.

After removal, we put down cedar bark mulch, and moved two pots into place; the bigger one will eventually hold English lavender, the smaller one seasonal color.

In spite of global warming, it has been so chilly and windy out that I haven't felt much like puttering in the garden, or even sitting out to gloat over how nice the front looks now.

Just a few more particulars on the Breath-of-Heaven (coleonema pulchra), variety "Sunset Gold": The foliage is light yellow-green, very soft to the touch, and smells wonderful when you run your hands over it.

However, it makes lousy greens in bouquets, as it just dries up -- a temperamental shrub. In keeping with that personality, the shrub is very touchy about the soil around it, at least when small. Pulling nearby weeds out killed two of the first ones I planted.

I've noticed that our city is planting them along walkways here and there. My guess is that someone told them that it was a small, compact shrub, too.