Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

I Hate Change…Purse Trauma

I am female. And I am abnormal. How abnormal? I hate shopping, I own 12 pairs of shoes and I’m having mental trauma over replacing my one-and-only worn-out purse.

My taste tends to simple design, but at the same time I’m very particular–like the recent car commercial, “almost” isn’t the same.

When I figure out what I’m looking for and I can’t find it (or can’t find it for a reasonable price, which is a different issue), I become highly perturbed and end up creating it for myself. As a result, shopping is pretty much useless for me, unless I’m buying raw materials.

Then, three to five years later, when I don’t want/need that particular thing anymore, it turns up everywhere. At a reasonable price.

Some people think I’m cheap, but I’m not, really. Take the purse, for example. I’ve been working with leather since, well, grade school (girl scouts, 4-H, etc.), so I understand what’s involved. To me, no bag/purse on Earth is worth US $400 for the privilege of advertising someone else’s brand.

It doesn’t work any better than the generic version. I’m not interested in impressing my neighbors with my poor financial acumen (I blew a car payment on this handbag!). And shouldn’t the designer be paying me for advertising space? I’m just sayin’….

So. My purse/bag has been in the process of wearing out for two years. The strap is cracking and falling apart. The zippers are fraying and getting stuck. I’ve nursed it as long as I could, but time catches up with everything.

For approximately 18 months, I’ve been waffling between three leather organizer models that all cost less than $30 online. I’m going to keep and use this one bag for eight to ten years (or whenever it wears out), so it has to be the Right One.

Last week, I gritted my teeth and made the selection.

Today it arrived. Spooky Man sent me to my room after dinner to load up the new bag (he knows change makes me cranky), and…everything fit.

It’s still going to take some getting used to, because it’s different. But I think I’m going to be okay.

And now for my next trauma…Spooky Man muttered something about it being time for a new coat. Gulp. Couldn’t we just buy a photovoltaic grid instead and turn up the heat? Those are easy.

The Magical Null

I’ve long been fascinated by the concept of the magical null; a person whose magical talent is that magic doesn’t work in his or her vicinity. This premise is used in Glen Cook’s The White Rose, part of his Black Company series.

This is possibly because I appear to be a paranormal null. For example, every time I go someplace that is supposed to be haunted, absolutely nothing happens.

I used to work a quarter-mile from the Old Idaho Penitentiary, allegedly one of the most haunted places in Boise, Idaho. It was in service from 1872 to 1973 and I used to walk down the road and around the grounds during my lunch hours. Absolutely nothing of the paranormal variety ever happened. For five years. Not even a creepy feeling.

The weirdest thing that happened was a couple of critters (weasels? otters? marten? I never did identify them) trotted past me on their way to the foothills when I was cutting back across a field between the Dept of Agriculture building and the lab. They came within about six feet of me and didn’t seem to notice I was there. Very cool, but not paranormal in the slightest.

My husband and I purchased a house with a resident ghost in 2000; we were doing the final walk-through prior to closing and heard the ghost walking across the main floor while we were in the basement. Three people heard the floor/ceiling creak exactly as if someone were walking across it (me, Spooky Man and our realtor). I went upstairs to check; nobody was there, and all the doors were locked.

Feeling silly, I introduced myself to the empty living room, explained we were buying the house, would be moving in soon and had no problem sharing. We never heard from the ghost again. Sigh.

If you ever have a pesky poltergeist, invite me over for dinner. I might just scare it away for good, or worse, destroy it.

But it makes me think. Doesn’t that make the person who has the ability to negate magic sort of a doomsday weapon? “It’s time for the nuclear option. Go get Trixie.” Or, I suppose, it’s a bit like being the bogeyman; people use your name as a threat.

I’m sure there’s a story idea in there somewhere, maybe a variant of Ghostbusters, say, a ghost exterminator. What, because ghosts multiply like cockroaches? Or they’re attracted to the equivalent of food being left around, like mice. See, this is a piece of the possibly abnormal brain activity that creates book ideas. Grin.

Why I Write Speculative Fiction

Once upon a time, Val decided to write a romance novel. Seven months later, she had a manuscript with a beginning, middle and end that was long enough to be a Silhouette Desire. It was about a director of a commercial research lab and one of the researchers. There was a patent for a new form of bacterial gene splicing in the plot.

That was my first try at a sexy contemporary romance novel. It has been shoved into deep storage. No, it will never come out. Trust me, this is a good thing.

My second try at a sexy contemporary romance novel involved a secret method of decompiling executable files to tease a virus out of custom database software running oil production in a secular Middle East country. Sigh. Where did that come from? The heroine was supposed to be a stripper, for god’s sake. Into the drawer. No whining, get in there.

Okay, I thought, I would try a fantasy novel. High fantasy, perhaps even epic fantasy. Pseudo-Medieval, people who used to traffic with elves but hadn’t seen one in a generation or two…um, yeah. Within 50 pages it morphed on me. Big time.

“Elf” was suddenly an acronym for Engineered Life Form, “fey” meant Fully Engineered Human, elven magic was nanotech control systems, and they were colonists on a planet orbiting a blue-white star. But there was a love story. Welllll, alrighty then. I gave up on fantasy before page 100 and I still haven’t finished that story.

How about a paranormal? Yes, a ghost story, set in Seattle, about a software developer who has a new kind of project management tool that fully integrates…dammit.

Plus there’s the issue of the ghosts–do dead people get to have a point of view? My gut feeling is no, because it makes the ghost phenomena less creepy if the reader knows it’s just So-and-So trying to help.

It took me three tries, but I finished that one before shoving it into a dark corner.

At that point, I gave up and wrote the story that would eventually become Blade’s Edge, my first published book. The first draft was completed in five months.

Interestingly, it’s the only book I’ve ever written in order, from beginning to end–probably because I wrote the love story first, and then went back and added all the different points of view for the political story.

And that’s why I write the kind of fiction I do…because I can’t, apparently, write anything else. Even when I try. And believe me, I tried.

Now that I’ve admitted that, I have this idea for an urban fantasy about the sorceress who guards the Rocky Mountain power node under Yellowstone Lake. I think I can make this work, because I have to treat the magic like physics.

If you define magic as direct manipulation of energy, then it has to obey laws of physics that can be described mathematically. And if mages are those humans who have the ability to directly manipulate energy (anyone who can flip a light switch can indirectly manipulate energy), well, there’s your premise, all neatly tied up with a bow and E=mc^2. I can do that.

But first I have to get a few current projects finished. Club Bebop is tapping me on the shoulder again, whispering that it has lots of stories to tell me….

What is it with all the cancer in the last week or so?

Last week I had my now-yearly dermatologist checkup–I’m boring, if you recall. Grin. The next day I found out my friend Robin Lee Hatcher was diagnosed with breast cancer on the day before Thanksgiving (I was diagnosed with breast almost-cancer, DCIS, on the day before Thanksgiving last year).

Robin found it early and has a very good prognosis, but still, the timing coincidence is a little creepy.

Colleen Lindsay, who I started following on Twitter when she was a literary agent, is currently in the adventure of chemotherapy. She left agenting at the end of summer this year, but her tweets are so fabulously entertaining that I couldn’t stop following her.

Tonight, she said her chemo docs probably wouldn’t approve of her sharing apple pie with her cat. I’m not sure her vet would approve, either, but if Colleen and Stinkyboy (the cat) are okay with it, it works for me.

Now I have to split my thoughts, prayers and general good vibes between Colleen and Robin. Kick its [bleep], ladies.

And we lost Elizabeth Edwards on Tuesday. Sad and annoying; a life well lived, but…too short.

I’m healthy as a horse these days, at least according to all the new doctors I’ve collected over the last year and a half. So now the rest of the world needs to catch up.

In the world of writing, I didn’t get to 50,000 words for National Novel Writing Month, but I did get to 20,000 words. And I plotted a sequel cyberpunk romance novella. And I think I have the beginning of a third, which would mean all three could be packaged together as an anthology if anyone else likes them as much as I do.

Now, back to the manuscript critique on which I’m supposed to be working.

Sometimes Boring is a Good Thing

Today I saw my dermatologist…for my annual exam after having squamous cell carcinoma removed from my nose in spring of 2009. She went over my skin with a lighted magnifier and pronounced me boring.

Oddly enough, the medical oncologist I had to see in September as a follow-up to the DCIS in my left breast also pronounced me boring. Well, she actually said my DCIS was pretty boring.

So, if anyone is counting, in the last five years I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Sprue, Squamous-Cell Carcinoma and Ductile Carcinoma In Situ.

It turned out the MS was really a neurological symptom of Celiac. When I stopped eating gluten the symptoms all resolved within about six months and haven’t been back in five years. It got old about four years and eleven months ago.

As for the other stuff, I’ve never been so happy to be boring.

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