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Friday, November 30, 2007
I've been editing Delving Deep and am really happy with the way it's going. Definitely got my shapeshifter a little edgier the way I'd originally intended.
And then I heard wind whipping about the chimney and looked outside and saw snow. Yuck.
When what to my grateful eyes did appear? (in my inbox) Lady Jaided, EC's monthly newsletter, and the 2007 ManCandy page. (I'd copy one of the pictures here but I'm not sure about the copyright and don't want to tick off the folks over at EC) So pop on over and take a look at Mr. January there. (Here's a towel to wipe off the drool) April and May aren't bad either. Yum.
What a lovely way to warm up on a snowy November day.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Let's start off on a positive with the exciting news that my editing partner - Marley Delarose - finaled in her very first contest and her work will now be judged by Scott Eagan. This is the work that I helped her edit during Margie Lawson's Deep EDITS course last month, so I'm going to vicariously enjoy her accomplishments. Woohoo, Marley!
My own life has been more drama than anything and I'm understanding the meaning of 'Sandwich Generation.' First there was a weekend of romantic drama - my eldest's former girlfriend of 6 years who I'll call Blue Drama (who had told him in September they needed to 'see other people') showed up on our doorstep last Thursday - in tears - wanting to see ES [Eldest son]. Whoa boy! Good thing she didn't show up the following night when his new girlfriend Emerald Girl was supposed to be visiting. (Need a dramatis personae yet?) I'm not sure what happened but the next morning, ES broke off with Emerald Girl and got back together with Blue Drama. He's 22, so I'm not interfering, it's his life and his choices. But I sure am curious.
On Monday, the other generation required my attention. I observed a psychiatric evaluation being done on my father. My reaction when I arrived was more "Oh man!" than the 'whoa boy' I'd had with ES. You see we arrived to find my Dad had stripped his pajamas off and was wandering around the hospital ward, with only an electric shaver in his hand. He'd done a wonderful job shaving his entire face, including one eyebrow.
The evaluation itself? To tell the truth, although it was exhausting emotionally, I found it fascinating on so many levels - from my own body language (I noticed I was leaning AWAY from Dad the whole time), to Mom's inappropriate laughter and attempts to explain away Dad's confusion, to the way the psychiatrist worded and reworded questions, and how he broke up his questions to Dad with questions to Mom and me for confirmation of pertinent facts. I also found it interesting how his questions became more and more directed at me as he realized Mom wasn't really 'seeing' Dad as he is or has been for years. It put me in a position that I wasn't quite comfortable with. I mean even though I'm nearly 50, these are my parents and they're the ones with the authority. Or at least they used to be. No more. Now I'm going to be parenting both my own children and my parents. That shift is going to take some getting used to, and quite frankly, given the way they've treated me the past 7 years - heck my whole life - I don't want that responsibility, thank you very much.
The examination took over two hours - I think if it had been given to Mom or me, it probably would have been over in about 15 minutes. Nice to know the psychiatrist didn't rush through it, but gave Dad a chance. You see, Dad fades in and out of lucidity so some of the questions were repeated or reworded multiple times. Now I understand that Alzheimers patients have good days and bad, but Dad has good 'minutes' and bad.
Questions started off with "Where are you?" When Dad couldn't answer, he was given the question again in a multiple choice form "Are you in an apartment, in a hospital, in a mall, or at home?" to which Dad answered "In an apartment." When the doctor pointed at me and asked, "Who is the lady sitting beside you?", the first time Dad answered that he didn't know. When prompted and given a choice of "was I his niece, his wife, his daughter or a friend," Dad chose correctly. When asked my name, he replied "Valerie" which is the name of one of his sisters - the one who committed suicide when she was 15 so it wasn't that I looked like her when she was my age. A few moments and questions later, he was asked again who I was. This time he said quite lucidly, and loudly, "She used to be our daughter." Saw a lot more of my own body language there - staring down at my hands, then out the window over my shoulder and blinking rapidly, then leaving the room for a few minutes. He couldn't remember the day, nor month, not even after he was told all the information. Nor could he remember anything the doctor asked him to remember and recall a few minutes later. They checked his spatial relationships, short term memory, long term memory, word recall, etc.
The psychiatrist who did the evaluation had never met my father before, although Mom and I had talked to the Mental Health nurse who accompanied him and gave her some background information. But I have to say every point he made about Dad and his personality was right on the money. Thanks to the terrific little voice recorder Marley sent me, I got a recording of the four page letter he dictated to Dad's doctor at the end. He used phrases like "this gentleman likes to hold court and does not appreciate being interrupted." I'll say. And "this gentleman has a great need to feel that he is in control. I'm not surprised to learn that this has resulted in some difficulties with certain familial relationships." Yeah, and one 'difficulty' was sitting beside him.
In the psychiatrist's decision at the end: Dad is suffering from a severe cognitive impairment probably caused by multiple strokes with a probable co-morbidity of Alzheimers.
The final recommendation - he's not coming home.
Trouble is, even seeing the difficulties Dad's had in answering simple questions, even hearing the doctors and psychiatrists and nurses and community access people tell her that Dad needs to go into a nursing home, Mom keeps calling me every day and telling me "how much better your Dad is today. He knows exactly what's going on. I don't think he needs to go into a home despite what that horrid Community Care lady says." Um, no, Mom, he's not better, and you can't even put his socks on, let alone bathe him and dress him, so you'll not be able to manage him at home. I understand her denial, essentially she's lost her husband in all but body. But since she's incapable of making any decisions at this point, it's falling on my sister and I to take charge. The next little while will be spent going out to visit the nursing homes, we've scheduled another run north to take our Mom to the Alzheimer's people and get her into a support group, and I need to arrange a conference with whoever is in charge of Dad's care to find out just what type of care he's going to need long term.
What's tougher is that my sister and I are dealing with a lot of emotions that are bubbling up from the past. We keep asking each other if there's something wrong with how we're feeling, why we're not upset at what's happened to Dad, how neither one of us can come up with a single good memory of him, how we wish they'd given him those antipsychotic drugs they're now giving him to stop his aggressive tendencies towards the nurses when we were little. If there's something wrong in feeling satisfied at finally getting Dad away from Mom, and anticipating how much happier Mom will be on her own when she finally realizes she's out from under his heavy hand.
It's a very weird place to be. Worthy of a Nora Roberts novel filled with all sorts of internal and external conflict. Except I don't want to be in this novel.
(Besides I've already found my hero.)
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
I got an email this morning from BlueSue ... one that has me in tears, which probably doesn't even approach how Sue feels right now. She's had to have one of her mares put down - La Cimmerii or Cimmi.
Cimmi was the beautiful black Arabian Blue Star mare that Sue let me ride while I was in Texas this summer. (I don't dare show you the pictures of what the poor horse had to endure with me on her back.) She was the most patient yet intuitive horse a new and very unsure rider could have had. I had a blast riding her over the Texas countryside. I had hoped that one day I could return for a visit and another ride but now Cimmi will have to live in our memories.
She will be missed.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
But for today I wrote 4948 words in a mad fit of obsession. What started out as a thought that I needed to add a single scene to expand the villain's role and interactions with the heroine so a scene later made sense turned into three scenes, including a sex scene with the hero (with the heroine, not the villain.) I'm pretty happy with today's writing. Of course, that may change when I look at it in a couple days.
I won't be around tomorrow because I have to drive Mum up north for Dad's big evaluation. I just keep repeating to myself: "It's all out of your control. Take it a day at a time."
Thursday, November 22, 2007
As a way to combat the stress that has been pounding at us lately, my editing partner, Marley, suggested that we both needed to keep ourselves in shape. We agreed that in addition to reporting word counts each day, we would also spend time on our treadmills and report those counts too.
Now I used to walk regularly, heck, I used to exercise like a fiend when I was in my 20's - 200 push ups and an equal number of sit ups per day wouldn't even make me break out into a sweat. In my 30's (after a really bad knee injury), Gizmo Guy and I started walking 5 - 6 kilometres a day. (That's how we found our current house - we literally walked by it every day and said "This would be a nice neighbourhood to live in.") But for the past 5 years ... diddly squat. Nada. Nothing. Anyone can see that from the extra pounds I've packed on over the years.
Plus there's nothing more motivating than watching a family member in hospital, possibly never to return home, and thinking "there but for the grace of God go I in 25 years. Or less." It's scared me to think that I might end up with Dad's fate.
So I convinced Gizmo Guy and the boys to drag the treadmill up from the basement where it's been gathering dust and install it in the living room. And for the past week I've gradually upped the amount of time and distance I've walked on it every day.
Two things I noticed - 1) for the first 20 minutes of the first couple days, the emotions just flooded out of me and I'd find tears running down my cheeks as I walked. Talk about cathartic! 2) after about 20 minutes the endorphins must be released and I start levelling out. All of a sudden my creative side kicks in and story ideas and solutions that had stumped me start flowing. Ideas like how to torture Mark some more while he's still chained to the wall in my Jewel story. Or what Laurel needs to do or say to make Kael fall in love with her in the story I started for NaNo and had to briefly abandon. She is human after all. And he ain't. I started having to keep my voice recorder handy so I could keep track of all the ideas.
Oh, and I guess there's a third thing I discovered, thanks to Marley suggesting it. It's MUCH easier to pass the time on a treadmill if you have music playing. And not something slow and easy, something that gets you wanting to move a bit faster. Lately I've been playing soundtracks. While I'm struggling to walk on a reasonably flat surface, I am listening to Promontory from Last of the Mohicans, picturing Uncas dashing up the side of a mountain to save his love, Alice. Or I'm walking along the streets of Notting Hill listening to Bill Wither's Ain't No Sunshine.
Hopefully soon, I'll be able to use the faster music. Then maybe the ideas will come faster then too. And my cholesterol will go down. And my life expectancy up. Positives all around.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I never gave it a thought. Who would have thought?
Mum got so upset when guests came in the door and plopped their handbags down on the counter where she was cooking or setting up food. She always said that handbags are really dirty, because of where they have been.
Smart Mum!!! It's something just about every woman carries with them. While we may know what's inside our handbags, do you have any idea what's on the outside? You should think twice about where you put your handbag.
Have you ever noticed gals who sit their handbags on public toilet floors - then go directly to their dining tables and set it on the table? Happens a lot! It's not always the 'restaurant food' that causes stomach distress.
Sometimes what you don't know 'will' hurt you!
'I drive a school bus, so my handbag has been on the floor of the bus a lot,' says one woman. 'On the floor of my car, and in toilets.' 'I put my handbag in grocery shopping carts, on the floor of the toilet while changing a diaper,' says another woman 'and of course in my home which should be clean.'
Most women told us they didn't stop to think about what was on the bottom of their handbag. Most said at home they usually set their handbags on top of kitchen tables and counters where food is prepared.
In one sampling, four of five handbags tested positive for salmonella, and that's not the worst of it. Microbiologist Amy Karen of Nelson Labs says nearly all of the handbags tested were not only high in bacteria, but high in harmful kinds of bacteria. Pseudomonas can cause eye infections, staphylococcus aurous can cause serious skin infections, and salmonella and e-coli found on the handbags could make people very sick. 'There is fecal contamination on the handbags,' says Amy.
Leather or vinyl handbags tended to be cleaner than cloth handbags, and lifestyle seemed to play a role. People with kids tended to have dirtier handbags than those without, with one exception. The handbag of one single woman who frequented nightclubs had one of the worst contaminations of all. 'Some type of feces, or possibly vomit' says Amy.
Experts say you should think of your handbag the same way you would a pair of shoes. 'If you think about putting a pair of shoes onto your countertops, that's the same thing you're doing when you put your handbag on the countertops' - your handbag has gone where individuals before you have sneezed, coughed, spat, urinated, emptied bowels, etc! Do you really want to bring that home with you?
So the moral of this story - your handbag won't kill you, but it does have the potential to make you very sick if you keep it on places where you eat. (This can be applied to briefcases and backpacks also.) Use hooks to hang your handbag at home and in toilets, and don't put it on your desk, a restaurant table, or on your kitchen countertop. Clean your purse regularly - if it's cloth and can be thrown in a washing machine, wash it. If it's leather or smooth surface use an antibacterial cloth or spray. And don't forget to wipe the handles, too!
Yeah, taking a look at mine, it could use a cleaning ...
Yesterday I was on the phone with my mother listening to her rosy-colored glasses idea of how Dad's 'improving' (he's getting worse, not better) and got an email from my husband telling me to get on Yahoo Messenger because he needed to talk to me. Now I'm pretty good at multi-tasking, so I log onto the IM and, while talking to Mum, have the following conversations:
Gizmo Guy: The muffler blew up on the Honda today. Phone the mechanics' and ask if you can take the car in this afternoon.
Me: I'm on the phone with Mum.
GG: See if they can take it at about 3:30 - I think I can get out early today. Oh, and tell them it's been all over the road since I had the winter tires put on.
Me: Okay, I'll phone when I'm done with Mum.
Mum: "So what's the weather like down there?" Translation: I want you to drive me to the hospital today even though I know that it'll take up all of your day to do that, and I'd not be inviting you to my house under normal circumstances. (It's 60 minutes from my place to hers, then another 30 minutes from their home to the hospital - so that's three hours there and back, not to mention the two hours she'd want to stay for the visit. So 5 hours from the time I leave to the time I arrive home, if I'm lucky.)
Me: "It's pretty grey, Mum. Looks like it might rain. " I explain GG's car problems. "He wants me to phone the mechanics', Mum." Translation: I need to hang up for a bit.
Mum: "Do you think it might rain today?" Translation: I'm not hanging up.
GG goes on a long rant about work ... trying to be supportive, I let him ramble away, making sympathetic comments in the appropriate spots.
My eldest son walks in from work and sits down in the other chair in the office: "Hey, Mom I need to go over to Long and McQuade today to pay the rental fee on my guitar." Translation: I need you to drive me over to the store and back while I'm still awake. (He works night shift so he sleeps during the day. In other words, he wants me to take him between ten and noon.)
Mom in the meantime is telling me a story of how Dad has lost a book she'd brought him, his glasses, his robe, had stuffed a chocolate down the toe of the single sock he was wearing and how it had melted (yuck), and argued with the nurses over his medication.
GG: So what did the mechanics say?
Me *sighing and mentally calculating the best route to the music store since every single road around my house is under construction and also if there is a route that could include a gas station since my car is running on fumes, and if there is a bank on the way because I need to get money to pay for the lecture I'm attending between 1 and 3 that afternoon, while wondering how I'm going to meet GG at the mechanics' the way he wants, and still find time to write*: I'm still on the phone with Mum.
GG: Oh. When you going to be done with her?
Me: Probably in an hour or two if any of her previous calls are an indicator.
Mum: "I was wondering if you'd like to come visit Dad with me today." Translation: I really really want you to come up and drive me because I don't like to drive but I don't want to have to come out and say that.
Me to Mum: "Mum, I'm going to that lecture put on by the Alzheimer's Society today on the legal issues involved with patients with dementia. You know - the one you asked me to attend for you?"
Mum - disappointment clear in her voice: "O-o-oh. [Yes, she actually drew it out to three syllables.] Is that today?"
Eldest Son: "So when do you want to take me? I was thinking that maybe we could swing by Subway and pick up some subs for lunch afterward. I'll buy." Translation: He's no dummy, he's trying to bribe me.
GG: So - you talked to the mechanic yet?
I believe I growled at that point.
The conversations end with me agreeing to take Eldest Son to the store (but not Subway which is in the opposite direction) at about 11:30, and me promising GG yet again (5th time?) to phone the mechanics as soon as I hang up from Mum and get back to him, and me agreeing to meet Mum at the library on the far side of town the next morning to drive her to the accountants' office.
Which means yesterday, I drove ES over to the store and got his guitar rental payment made, went to the bank, attended a two hour lecture that ended up being closer to three hours and got home just as Gizmo Guy drove up in his race-car-sounding Honda. I never did get the car filled up - had to do that this morning. Plus I had to do all the regular housework - making meals, cleaning, etc.
Today, because of yesterday's agreement with Mom, I had to drive Gizmo Guy to work this morning since his car is in the shop and I needed my car (thankfully he's not working at his usual data centre an hour and a half away but is working at a local one today.) Then I have to drive across town to the library, pick Mum up, drive back to the accountants' office which is two blocks from my house, and when that's done drive her back across town to her car. This evening I'll have to go back downtown to pick up Gizmo Guy from work. I also have to follow up with the mechanics about GG's car because even though GG will be working in town today and it would be a local call, heaven forbid that he'd actually pick up the phone and call the mechanics' himself.
The icing on the cake came last night during a conversation with my sister when she said, "So what are you going to be doing the rest of the week? I know you're taking Mom to the accountant's tomorrow, but I think you should be arranging to get her to a lawyer as well, and then maybe you should start visiting nursing homes. I don't know how we'd be managing if you weren't home all day with nothing to do."
WTF? Nothing to do?
Arrrghhh! Amy, I'm pretty sure you might have been able to hear me screaming about then. In fact, I'll bet people in Japan could have heard me!
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Moral: Never Judge a Book by its Cover. Or a person either.
Friday, November 16, 2007
The rape victim was punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man.
On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.
Read more about this disgusting decision here.
As I'm writing, a conversation I had with my mother keeps replaying in my memory.
My mother is a big big big reader - she's the one who taught me to read at the age of three, encouraged my lifelong love of reading. Like me she has to keep a list of books she's read - and I would be willing to wager that she reads well over 100 books a year, probably closer to 200. She's in a book club with my old teachers and a former principal where they discuss and analyze what they've been reading. (My mother worked at my old elementary school as the school secretary. Hard to get away with anything when your principal's your neighbour, and your teacher is your mother's best friend.) It's been very interesting to listen to what they look for, what they like and what they don't like. One of the things she said recently is that she doesn't like when an author uses the character's proper name more than a half dozen times on a page.
At the time I thought - yeah, okay, that's repetitive, I can sort of see that. Except now I'm wondering ...if you're writing a scene where there are multiple characters how the heck do you avoid naming them?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
One morning, the husband returns the boat to their lakeside cottage after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, puts her feet up, and begins to read her book. The peace and solitude are magnificent.
Along comes a Fish and Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, "Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?"
"Reading a book," she replies, (thinking, "Isn't that obvious?")
"You're in a Restricted Fishing Area," he informs her.
"I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading."
"Yes, but I see you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up."
"If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault," says the woman.
"But I haven't even touched you," says the Game Warden.
"That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment."
"Have a nice day ma'am," and he left.
MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Yesterday I spent quite a while on the phone with the Alzheimer's Society of Durham. What a terrific resource. (I know where my next charitable donation will be.) The lady I spoke with from Family Support, Brenda, spent at least an hour patiently talking to me and prepared a huge package of information for me to pick up. From what she's included I can tell she really listened to everything I'd told her - there's sheets on:
- Vascular Dementia - Dad's condition;
- how to handle aggressive behaviour in dementia patients;
- a list of all the nursing homes in the area and how to choose one, what questions to ask, what to look for;
- information about Power of Attorney for Personal Care - thankfully Mum and Dad already had that looked after. Important note that I just discovered: there are three types of Power of Attorneys. Power of Attorney for Property gives your attorney (by this they don't mean an actual lawyer but whoever you name to act on your behalf) the power to make decisions about your finances, home and possessions. PoA for Personal Care deals only with personal care decisions - treatment, housing, clothing, etc. Both are incredibly important legally or else strangers will make decisions about your spouse's care, and you'll have no access to their bank accounts or even their car or your home if it's in that person's name. That's especially important if you're reliant upon the other person's pension/income. If you haven't, GET IT! (Although there are some caveats about the property one - the person you give PoA to had better be reliable or they can sell your house from under you as soon as you sign the document even if you're competent.)
- information about driving and dementia patients - do you know having a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically get your license suspended? Or that 25% of dementia patients continue to drive anyway, sometimes with the blessing of their caregiver. (Even though Dad was incredibly confused, was hardly able to walk, and was completely 'out there' Mum let him drive to the hospital because he would have refused to go otherwise!)
- a sheet for enrolling Dad in a Safely Home program - think of the programs where we fingerprint out kids and keep records of scars/birthmarks so if they ever go missing.It's a similar type program where the person is registered with the Police so if they ever go missing a type of Elder Amber Alert is put out across Ontario.
- information on all the Support Groups and services in the area; websites to check out; a brochure on what the Alzheimer Society can help you with, how to care for someone with Alzheimers, and how to care for the caregiver - which is equally important
- a sheet on a Family Caregiver Education Series. There are two workshops coming up I've enrolled in, one where a lawyer discusses the legal considerations when someone has dementia, and an accountant that discusses tax credits and Government of Canada revenue programs, claiming expenses, deductions for caregivers ...
- and probably most important a sheaf of papers about how to advocate for the patient, advising you to record everything. I've already found this helpful - noting down not only who you've spoken to but when and what they said they'd do and when it would be done, what you've agreed to do, etc. There's so much going on, that it's so easy for things to get lost in a shuffle.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Unfortunately I don't have a gift for rhyme that Red Garnier has so, I didn't write a lovely poem like she wrote for her husband on their anniversary. (That's right, Red, make all the rest of us look bad!)
So Gizmo Guy, I know you've not been looking forward to yet another birthday. Yes, you've changed a bit since the first birthday we spent together. Your hair is shorter. And it's *ahem* slightly changed hue. But you've earned every single follicle change. Yes, I know you still are cringing at the idea that last year you passed that half-century mark. Yes, I know that you'll be cataloguing this because my 50th is rapidly approaching.
And yes, one of your birthday presents today may have to be a new stove because in true Gizmo Guy fashion you tinkered with ours and now the kitchen is littered with parts that *ahem* won't go back together.
All I can say is I love you, Gizmo Guy, and I hope I get to spend many many many more birthdays helping you blow out the candles.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Dad's definitely suffered some massive brain injury which has left him a husk of what he used to be. He doesn't remember me at all, though he recognizes Mom most of the time - although he thought she was his mother a few times today. He's got partial aphasia (where the brain can't associate words properly - he'll say things like 'Monkey butterfly plant' and expect you to answer him - it does make sense inside, it's a brain-scrambling thing.) He can talk sense - he's not always nonsensical but his sentences and subjects wander and as is usual with patients suffering from Alzheimers and related conditions as vascular dementia is, he lives in the distant past. He will need a walker as he can barely walk - he's already fallen at least once in the hospital. He's no longer restrained but he's got a tendency to wander, to try to escape the hospital. And he's in diapers. But at least he's no longer attacking, kicking, punching or biting the nurses the way he was on Saturday - mainly thanks to mood altering medication they're giving him.
My mom's in total denial - when we visited today she left saying "Oh, isn't he so much better today? He should be coming home soon." Well, maybe he's better than he was Saturday, but according to the nurse I spoke to today, he's severely confused and unable to follow simple directions. And she doubts he'll be going home.
Now we just have to get Mum to accept that.
Oh, and thanks for all the lovely notes of support I've received. I'll be spending the next while running Mum about I imagine, and investigating local nursing homes, and contacting the Alzheimer's society since vascular dementia falls under their broad umbrella. I'm going to try to keep writing, but I'm already three days behind on NaNo and frankly that's way down the list of priorities right now.
Friday, November 9, 2007
A couple days ago, he asked me about the story I'm writing for NaNo. He seemed impressed - thought it was original (I can only hope.) And then he asked - where did you get the idea? Where do you get all your ideas.
I told him ... everywhere.
For the larger story ideas, I often play a game I call 'What if'. While watching news stories and documentaries, it can get quite morbid. For instance, Gizmo Guy was trying to come up with a new idea for a storyline the week the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, and I said "Play 'what if' . What if your hero or heroine needs to disappear but doesn't want their loan shark or abusive husband to know they're alive. What if they're on the bridge but escaped. What if they decide to take advantage of the confusion and walk away, letting everyone think they've been killed." Yeah, I know that's pretty sick, but if it works ...
I take small ideas and twist them too. My neighbours installed a hot tub yesterday. So let's play the game. What if you move into a new house with an outside hot tub. You take off the cover, wanting to dive in and discover ... Take it from there ...
For the smaller details, I told him to use his senses. His fingers to touch different textures - like the rough skin of a shark in the touch tank in the New Orleans aquarium. Or the various creatures -- bristly starfish and squishy sea cucumbers -- in the touch tank in St. Andrew by the Sea in New Brunswick. Or the soft fur on the coat my father brought for my mother and she used to let me wear on occasion when I was little. I told him to use memories. For me? What it felt like when I fell off my bike when I was 10 and skinned all my knees and arms or when my karate partner landed a perfect spinning back kick right on my solar plexus and drove all the air from my lungs. What it felt like to watch my youngest faint last week in the doctor's office and know that deep-seated fear of watching someone you love hurt. How I felt when they handed him to me in the delivery room--that huge rush of love to this beautiful little creature.
I told him to use his ears to listen to people talking in elevators or lobbies or malls. Okay, probably that's not great advice to give a sixteen year old, it might lead to problems. When I was little, my mother used to scold me, telling me it was impolite. She said that I was just like 'Kilroy' and drew a little cartoon of a character they used to have in WW2 to remind people that you never knew who was listening. But even back then I was wondering, dreaming, writing.
Did I stop? Um, sorry Mom, but not really. I never remember what the conversation was about. I find myself fascinated by how people talk. I'm listening for accents - twangs and drawls and patrician speech. I'm listening for unusual sayings and similes. I watch for mannerisms and tics. Even how people dress.
Last night, for instance, I was watching “Are You Smarter than a Canadian Fifth Grader.” One of the contestants, Andrew to the left here, wore a shirt with a blue sweater vest, and red, black, and white tie. Except his tie – covered in cows of all things - was OUTSIDE the vest. Immediately I thought, “What type of geek does that?” Immediately followed by “How can I use that?” Okay, in his defense, he turned out to be a vet which explains the cows, and it was his lucky tie. No, I'm sorry, that still made him look like a geek. But my mind took the image and twisted it, played with it, wondered how I could use it. I showed it to my critique partner, Marley who asked if she could use him in her story. Sure!
And this morning I was watching one of the American morning shows. One of the correspondents was interviewing someone who was using his fist to punch the air to accentuate the points he was trying to make. It bugged me and I thought, “I should have some guy doing that as a way to bug my heroine.”
Inspiration can come from other sources too. I had to take my car in for its bi-annual clean-air check so we can renew the plates. I notice a Canadian Geographic from November 2006 sitting on the table. I flip through it and lo and behold there’s an article about a dig at a North American native village – probably Blackfoot - that dates back 8,000 years. Which is exactly what my heroine is doing at the start of my NaNo story. Now I’m not one who tears out coupons or stories from magazines in the doctor or dentists office. Or the mechanics’ either. So I read through it and made notes of the pertinent details a dig uncovers, what they look for, and what the site looks like while I had access to the article. I also got a couple more ideas from it that I hadn't considered. So the 20 minutes I thought I'd lose in a mechanics' waiting room turned out to be profitable writing-wise.
So if you're wondering where to get quirky habits or details, just follow JK Rowling's Professor Moody and use "Constant vigilance" In other words, look around you. Listen to what's being said in conversations around you, announced on news reports on the radio or television. Read what's being written - on the web, in newspapers. Play 'What if' and 'how can I use that interesting bit of info?'
2176 words today so far, and I’m figuring I’ll get some more writing done – over 15K words in total, although with all the notes and backstory and outlining I've done it's probably closer to 25K - pity we can't include those too. Even better, I had one of those wonderful 'AHA' moments when I discovered the identity of the spy who is going to be the threat to my heroine. Hehehe, I love when I’m writing and things just appear on the page like that.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I've also spent a bit of time researching HazMat suits. Got a really great post from a yahoo group I'm on by someone who is trained in them who gave me some inside tip about what it's like to wear one (wrap yourself up in ten garbage bags and run around!). I love analogies like that - I'm pretty sure one of my characters is going to be use that line soon.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Since November 1st, I've written 12,080 words for my story for NaNo. Sounds good, right?
Not so good when you take a look at the document and Word Count displays 5902.
I wrote 1600 words on Thursday, added another 1700 on Friday. Woohoo! Then on Saturday the horrible internal editor kicked in and 1200 words got deleted. But I kept plugging on - added almost another 4800 in the next couple days.
Yesterday afternoon, that evil, horrible, nasty, irritating editor started banging around in my head again . Told me that I needed to make my heroine stronger. Told me that the storyline wasn't going to work the way it was structured. Told me I had to get my hero and my heroine into the lab to ... well, not going there. (No, they're not doing the nasty! Get your mind out of the gutter. They're saving the world! Or at least an endangered race.) Suffice it to say some major changes had to be made if I wanted the story to work.
So last night I fiddled around and experimented with a new beginning - the heroine's in a new location, and in a new job and she's in on the action in a much involved position. It was only about 500 words, but it made me realize that dreaded Evil Voice was right - the direction definitely needed to change. Made me so depressed I went to bed right after Gizmo Guy got home from work.
But I'm nothing if not determined. This morning I tossed chapter one. Gone. Never to be seen again.(No, I don't really delete them, just won't open it again - it's there to use somewhere else if I really want to.)
I started writing from the very beginning again - wrote over 3600 words today. Luckily I've discovered I can save most of chapter 2 which lets me keep 2300 words from Sunday and Monday which were scenes from later in the book, they'll still work so it's not all gone. But while I'm making that 1600 word mark for each day, I really need to stop cutting words out.
**Edited** I just read a reply to a post I did over at Six Degrees of Sexy on this topic. Where I was told I should go back and fix that AFTER. Rats. I should have gone back and read the blogs while I was chopping. Could have saved myself some work. What I've done as a result is copied the deleted chapter back into the doc with a note to delete it later. So I'm back up to 10,000 words. Even though 2,000 of them won't be used. Although you never know if it may be woven back in later.
Ah, well, I'm still happy with the way the story's going. I'll just keep plugging away.
Monday, November 5, 2007
But what I've noticed is the way I'm writing has changed over the past couple years. I used to write sequentially, basically one chapter in a couple days, then I'd edit it to the way I wanted it, and move on to the next chapter. One foot after another.
However, since I've taken Candy Haven's FastDraft, when I get stuck, I jump to a scene that may not be in order and write it. That's how I wrote Delving Deep and its yet-unnamed sequel. And with this latest - An Inconvenient Enemy - I've written an outline - basically a paragraph summing up each chapter, sometimes a paragraph for a specific scene and then fill it out from there using Word's Split Screen feature. Which means I can jump back and forth and stay within the outline. It's a rather interesting process, but I'm also finding it rather disconcerting. Still, words are being written, and the story is being told. And interestingly enough, I'm finding the scenes I'm writing are those filled with emotion.
I'm wondering if that's because I'm writing with emotionally charged music this time where normally I write without any music as I found it distracting.
So do you write sequentially, chapter one followed by chapter two? And do you write to music? Do you think there is a difference in the way you write if you change up your procedures?
Sunday, November 4, 2007
I also wrote three full pages of notes that I'd dictated to myself at 1:30 a.m. on that lovely little voice recorder Martie sent me. Was that ever helpful - I crawled out of bed, left myself a 16 minute rambling note, but now I'm really focussed on where the story is and answered a lot of questions that have plagued me.
I'm still wondering what my hero's name should be - I have been calling him Tarvon, but I'm thinking that is perhaps his title as opposed to his name as his brother keeps calling him something different. Eve Silver said she doesn't name any of her characters in her first draft, that she refers to the heroine as XXX and the hero as YYY. Wish I could do that, but for me the name really becomes part of the character and can often reflect who they are and what they'd do while I'm writing. I mean can I really think of this hotty as XXX?
Saturday, November 3, 2007
I'm reading James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans and came across this line where he describes Alice Munro:
One, and she was the more juvenile in her appearance, though both were young, permitted glimpses of her dazzling complexion, fair golden hair, and bright blue eyes, to be caught, as she artlessly suffered the morning air to blow aside the green veil which descended low from her beaver.
Um, yeah. My mind immediately went off on a tangent as to just where - and what - her beaver was. I know what it means in today's lingo. I'm pretty sure it didn't mean the same thing back then.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Started out sleeping in - very rare for me. Normally I have to crawl out of bed before every one else to pick my eldest son up from his night job. But he is away visiting his new girlfriend. So I guess my body decided to take advantage of the rare opportunity to sleep in and I didn't wake up at almost 9 a.m. Really late for me.
I was in the middle of writing - honest! - at 10 when the phone rang. It was my sister, and we don't connect much, but I knew she'd been seriously ill lately, so I picked it up. As usual she started chatting and filling me in on everything that's happened in the months since she last called. (Mainly me murmuring hopefully supportive mutterings when she complained about how her runaway daughter never phoned anymore, that her son had a girl spend the night and they got their jollies on while Sis was ill and stuck in her bed with pneumonia, how she suspects said runaway daughter's boyfriend is beating her up, etc.) In other words, not one I felt I could cut short. That phone call lasted until 12:15, when Calling Waiting beeped. My eldest son announcing he needed to be picked up at the Go Train Station. Which meant a trip out.
So now it's nearly 1 and I've only written 650 words. Rats!
Hopefully, I'll be able to get back into the flow, but I know that usually my creativity is best in the morning and dries up by two. I'll let you know.
But while I'm writing - hopefully productively - hop on over to my editing partner's new blog, Marley Delarose, Author. It's her first post today. She's written about how the internet has changed the way we deal with life and can connect with each other. I'm sure she'd be thrilled to hear how it's changed your life, and the friendships you've made as a result of blogging and online courses ...
**Edited at 10:00 pm** Well, I got a bit more done - up to 1600 words for today anyway. So I think that's the minimum I have to write. It's coming along - I just have to cut out the distractions.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
First, I started my manuscript for NaNoWriMo today. Because I'd been so busy with Margie Lawson's course, I hadn't had a lot of time to plan for today. So I dusted off an idea I'd hurriedly outlined in the middle of writing Delving Deep. It's an urban-fantasy/futuristic/paranormal type of story I've entitled An Inconvenient Enemy ... which may give you a hint as to what inspired the plot. After spending months in editing, I actually wrote 1700 words today.
More good news, it was announced today that Walmart and several other stores are going to start selling books at the lower American price, not the higher Canadian price that's printed on them. (For my American friends, take a look at the prices listed on paperbacks. If you pay $7.99, we've had to pay $10.99 or more) Now I could see that when the Canadian dollar was worth .57 cents to the American dollar, but now our dollar is now worth $1.06 American - the highest it's been in 1957! So let's keep lobbying for all the prices to be brought more into line ...
Continuing down the list of good things that happened today - Martie, my editing partner, suggested I try a free writing program called Ywriter which helps you plot and write your story. It allows you to keep track of the goals, conflicts and outcome of each scene, who your characters are and their background, etc. I think it may be quite useful, and has a word count ability written especially for NaNo. Oh, and it also has a word tracking system to let you know if you're using the same words over and over again.
And I mustn't forget to mention that present I received in the mail from Martie - a pile of books by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Robert Parker, and Suzanne Forster and Annette Blair. More reading to add to my list on the right - and more ways to distract me from writing for NaNo of course ;)
But I've saved the best for last for nestled in that pile of books was a digital voice recorder. Now I no longer have to get up at 3 a.m. to write down those pesky ideas that keep me awake. Of course I'll have to remember to take it up with me, but hey, I can record those thoughts without getting out of bed. Cool! Thanks, Martie!