Friday, September 2, 2016

The Merlin Kitty

Friends, family, followers:

My friend Bridget has one of the very best kitties in the world. His name is Merlin.

I first met Merlin when my best friend was preparing to move in with Bridget and they were introducing their cats. Dash was a cantankerous, territorial, prima donna pain in the ass. He was hiding in his carrier and wouldn’t come out. I mostly expected there to be a cat fight, because pretty much every cat I’ve ever met is that way in the extreme. But Merlin just walked back and forth in front of the carrier, rubbing up against it affectionately, and peeking inside from time to time. Dash eventually ran out of growls, but Merlin never ran out of patience or love.

In all the years I’ve known him, Merlin has ben the paragon of catly excellence. He’s never a “butt” as so many cats tend to be. He doesn’t bite, claw, or scratch. In fact, he sorta seems like a cat that Catholics might want to give a sainthood to (don’t those things alone count as miracles?). He’s kind, caring, and attentive to his friend cat and his person.

But now, Merlin’s in trouble.

He has a diaphragmatic hernia. In layperson’s terms, it basically means that his liver is up near his heart (note: this is not where it belongs). Insurance will cover some of it, but Bridget is quickly approaching her cap on coverage, what with all the ER visits that it took to get this diagnosis.

Merlin will probably need an operation, and soon, if he hopes to live much longer. His quality of life has gone downhill recently, and he needs treatment ASAP.

Bridget is hoping to raise $5,000 for his veterinary care. Since she can only estimate the cost, she is offering a ballpark figure and promising this: if it ends up being more than they need, all extra funds will be donated to the Almost Home cat rescue in Denver, a cage-free no-kill shelter that provides a safe place with medical care for all cats, even the “unadoptable” and terminally ill. (They’re located right near me!)

If you enjoy my kitten blog, please consider donating to Bridget’s campaign. Every dollar helps. Bitty kitties turn into grown-up kitties, and my goal in fostering is to raise wave after wave of kitties who are as wonderful as Merlin. It’s easy to ignore the plights of big kitties because they’re “not as cute” as kittens (though I think Merlin is), but they’re the reason we foster parents go through all the trouble. The grown-ups are the ones who are our best friends and companions.

See? Told you he was cute.

So go now, and with kittens in your heart, give this week’s latte to Merlin. He could really use it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A spot of discomfort

In this draft and the draft before this, I wrote scenes that are sexual in nature. The one in this draft is a straight-up sex scene; the previous draft was more of a soft-core porn situation. In both instances, writing them (and subsequently reading them) has made me really uncomfortable.

That’s the point of these scenes, though. They’re not fluffy feel-good scenes of intimacy—they’re shows of power and control, of one person over another. “Intimate” sex scenes are easy to write and fun to read, but scenes where sex is a… shall we say “weapon” are occasionally exactly what the plot calls for.

I feel that the first difficulty with writing scenes like those is to make sure that your foreknowledge, as author, doesn’t come through into the narrative. Frequently, you want a scene like that to seem frivolous when you read it and then reveal itself to be sinister once more information is revealed; so you want to keep it light, fun, and sexy. The missteps should seem accidental and inconsequential. You don’t want to have an overwhelming sense of foreboding throughout—that sorta kills the mood. But when you know that what’s going on is actually really skeevy, you have to write it while wearing blinders. Stare straight ahead, right down the sexy barrel of that gun, and don’t glance to the sides—there be monsters.

But the second difficulty with those scenes is standing by them, having confidence in them once they’re written. Looking back at them, you are likely to feel like you shouldn’t have written them, for any number of reasons. Maybe you think you went too far. Maybe you think it’s out of place or inappropriate. Maybe you think you went into too much detail. But most of the time, that just boils down to you feel uncomfortable with it. You know why it’s upsetting and you can’t ignore that. But don’t let that stand in your way. Ask yourself, Does this scene move the plot forward? Does the entire scene move the plot forward, or are there places where you could pare down? Does it say important things about your characters that couldn’t be said as well in a different way?

I think making sure the entire scene is important, is important, (omg word salad,) because you don’t want a scene like that to be indulgent. If you want it to be gross/creepy in hindsight, then you don’t want your readers looking back at it with an uneasy sense that even though it’s icky, they feel like you (the author) want them to enjoy it anyway. Because yuck.

Word count: 21,573 (呅)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Knitting a story idea

When you have an idea, and it doesn’t make sense, do you give up on it? Should you?

I think it is conventional wisdom that, if the idea seems like it doesn’t make sense, you move on. You don’t want to spend a lot of effort on a thing that’s going to strike readers as false, right? And that’s okay. Sometimes ideas actually don’t work. But I believe that just because sussing out what the plot is takes time, effort, and a little mental gymnastics doesn’t mean it’s always not worth doing.

For example, my initial inspiration for Cassidy was literally, “Acid rain, and a girl with prosthetic legs and amnesia.” Figuring out who she was and why she had amnesia was like sitting on an egg, combined with kneading dough. The most important part actually came to me while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym. There have been times in the writing process when it seems like I’m trying too hard, and the end product is going to feel contrived because I keep having to make room for things, or force things in. And I do think it’s true that when something is forced in, it shows—but that’s what rough drafts are for! You put it in so that you don’t forget it and maybe in a subsequent draft you figure out exactly how it fits.

Say you have an idea, and it’s predicated on a conflict and a character’s reaction to that conflict, and you’re excited and happy and plotting things out in your head… and you realize after an hour or so that the whole foundation for the idea seems contrived, that no sane character would react the way your character reacted. What do? You could start over, try to figure out what the appropriate response would be. You could scrap it and move on. Or… you’re the writer, you’re the worldbuilder, who’s to say that reaction isn’t appropriate? What would have to change to make their reaction appropriate? Would it be internal to the character, or external? Like, maybe your character is mentally ill, or something like that.

Don’t force the ideas that don’t feel right, but remember—you’re the god here. If you want something to work, figure out how it would work, and write it that way.

Happy writing!

Word count: 17,869 (䗍)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Writing! Again!

Hey guys, so this is exciting!

I wrote 2,222 words yesterday.

The last words were “the end,” not because I finished the draft but because otherwise I’d have only written 2,220 words and well, you can’t have that.

I don’t know if what I’m writing is any good. I have a very hard time having a feel for that while I’m writing it. I usually imagine my future readers making fart sounds and rolling their eyes when they’re reading my feeble attempts at misdirection. But… it is not mine to judge, only mine to write it down as it comes to me.

I’m going to have almost twice the words for this upcoming Writers’ Group meetup as I had for the last, hooray! And honestly, if I’m going the wrong direction this time, I’m just going to finish the draft and give up on the damn story because there’s just no pleasing you people. (And by “you people” I obviously mean myself and the craft of writing at large. No personal offense intended.)

I saw the Ghostbusters movie this last Friday, and it was awesome. At a couple of different parts I had to remind myself that it wasn’t the original and it wasn’t trying to be, and with that in mind, I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better movie.

Oh yeah, then there was MuckFest.

Guys, MuckFest was great this year. The venue was perfect: flat, grassy, wide open. The weather was perfect: warm by 9am but we got out before it got hot. The mud and water were perfect: refreshing but unarguably on the warm side. We brought our shower tent and shower bag and man… that was great. I was the #1 fundraiser (*takes a bow*), so I got to have a hot shower, and there could be nothing better. That’s definitely a keeper.

The Racing Snails were in the top 10 fundraising teams, and Elly Conley was in the top 10 fundraising individuals! Thanks all my donors! I (obviously) couldn’t have done it without you!

On Sunday, Branden and I went to the Adele concert with my parents. She is a great performer, very very fun. We were sore and shell-shocked from Saturday’s Muckening, but we muddled along and had a great time. Overall, my weekend was packed but kicked ass anyway. Viva los Ghostbusters, amigos, and I'll see you when I see you.

Word count: 15,633 (㴑)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Everything but writing

So, creativity.

I have it. Boy, do I. I have been creating and creating and creating. I’m reflooring rooms! Painting rooms! Building fences! I’m knitting a scarf (right) that requires twenty-three strands of yarn. I even built a little tool dealie-bob to help me keep all them strands organized and untangled. I’m growing plants. Growing kittens. Designing shirts for the MuckFest. I’m learning 3D modeling. And now I have a deep and burning desire to build bookshelves with lumber and screws.

You know what I can’t seem to do? (I think the title gave it away a little bit.)

That’s right: write. Yesterday, Becky and I had a writing date, for the first time in several weeks. Instead of writing, I wrote a Java program for formatting HTML. Because, you guessed it, I’m straight bonkers. I stayed up till 2am finishing that program, specifically to improve an HTML file that was already 98% there and that I’m not going to bother updating anyway. (The good news is that it can be reused in the future, so that’s nice.) Anyway, I finished it, and now I wish I could coax Becky into writing with me again, because I recognize that I totally wasted what may be the only time this week that I’ll have any motivation to write. (Our dates provide motivation of the external variety, which is essential at times.) And I would have loved to chat about things instead of having my entire brain absorbed in mind-bending code. But… I also love the way I feel when I’m that engaged. It feels like fatigue doesn’t matter, like my life doesn’t have to matter as long as I feel that way forever.

But that’s sorta edging into other topics, so I’m gonna call it here. Now I have to go do chores for the rest of the day so that our cleaning lady can… you know, clean stuff.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Out of gas

When I was in the grips of creative construction earlier this week, I felt like I could work forever on my project. I felt like I had discovered the secret to reclaiming my old energy. I felt like all of my previous problems boiled down to “chronically bored.”

Today, I know better.

We are 98% finished in the cat room. We only need to apply one touch-up layer of silicone in some parts of the room, and we’re done, finally. Then we can move all the stuff back in, and not a moment too soon, considering that we accepted five bottle babies yesterday. But it’s a good thing that the silicone still needs about twelve hours more to dry, because I just don’t have the up-and-at-’ems needed to finish this project alone.

I am not complaining, I’m not feeling bad about myself. I’m just realizing that nothing is magic. There is a good chance that my capabilities are greater than I’ve been allowing myself to explore, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still need to take it easy and keep an eye on my spoons throughout the day or week. It’s been a really nice visit back to the world of pseudo-normalcy this week, but the fact that it was only a vacation isn’t much of a surprise to me. Honestly, right now, it sorta feels like I improved my time on some kind of race: a success, not a failure. Which is a very nice change in my habitual thinking. I might actually be getting good at this.

So, today I am looking forward to knitting and watching NetFlix and feeding kittens every three hours. Everything else can wait.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

So close I can taste it

The cat room transition is almost complete. Yesterday I painted baseboards, then once they were thoroughly painted, I nailed ’em up. The only thing left is doing the final cut of the carpet and installing the transitions.

Oh, and everything else we can think of.

This morning, Branden suggested maybe sealing around the bottom of the baseboards with silicone. Normally, of course, that would be ludicrous, but since this is a room in which kittens are being potty-trained, and we installed vinyl flooring exactly because we wanted a non-absorptive surface: making it impossible for… undesirable substances… to get under the baseboards and subsequently under the floor“boards” is probably a good idea.

Oh, and Branden wants a new bookshelf. Oh, and I want to make a bookshelf cause I’m sorta over the $35 Target bookshelf lifestyle. So. You know. This project will be over never ever.

I want to have a bookshelf whose bottom shelf is actually a kitten habitat. A bed, a scratching surface, an agility playground… I would love that.

I really want to get the endless crap that is currently in our office, hallway, and bedroom back into the cat room where it belongs. On the other hand, why not do all these projects? Sounds fun to me. I haven’t had so much energy in a really, really long time. I’ve been super productive this whole week, and efficient, and organized. I almost feel like a real human being! I want to keep up the tidal wave of awesome, and why shouldn’t I? Maybe my real calling is craftsmanship.

We are coming up on the MuckFest so dang fast, now. Please consider donating to my team! Every dollar helps get us one step closer to a world free of MS. Plus, you’re helping me earn a warm shower on the day of the event. You don’t want me to freeze my fingers off, do you? I didn’t think so.