Well, after yesterday's template bashing, I feel a lot better. Unfortunately this is the second day after going out and climbing up and down the hill. Leg cramps in both legs. Right leg still swollen but not as badly as yesterday. Much more painful though. Back spasms and general body aches, fairly extreme. This is annoying.

I live alone now.

There are no parents telling me to clean my room. There are no roommates bitching about the state of the living room or that I haven't done the dishes. No one in the world is bugging me about stuff but me. That makes it truth time about my disability.

I'm not sure if I'm whining or ruminating. You be the judge.

It's hard for anyone in the world to get stuff done while they're sick. This is just a fact of life. Happens to the best of em. That is the way life goes, and I notice and pay attention to it now when other people are under the weather. Many of my friends suffer migraines. Those are, by observation, completely debilitating. Yet too many of the migraine folks will wind up apologizing for it and desperately trying to keep up as if they didn't have migraines.

There's a fairly famous, knee jerk assumption that the Work Ethic is central to American culture.

We are supposed to admire and respect people who work themselves into the ground. Paradoxically we are supposed to judge whether they do by whether they make a lot of money at it. This means a significant level of society doesn't work itself into the ground except on psychological or psychosocial pressure. People who have a lot of money already do not need to work themselves into the ground and deny pleasures and ignore pain. They can take off and just relax and play golf if they want. There really are some people out there who could live on their investments. Most of them don't. Most of them stress out and worry and keep striving to acquire more, because they got that rich on being obsessed with getting that rich and getting a foot in the door on the money chase. Some of them exist just on shoving money around.

I question the whole principle.

Because of this disability, I have had to pursue real efficiency in my day to day living. I have to live in ways that give me maximum results for minimal effort. That isn't hard work for hard work's own sake. It's avoiding hard work that will drive me into the state my body's in right now, where sitting and thinking things out is a lot more effective than busting my buns trying to get it done the "simple" labor intensive way.

Associated values of simple life and denial of luxury create an attitude where you're not supposed to actually enjoy the results of all that hard work. Puritanism is in many ways self defeating. It sits at the root of a lot of neurotic anxiety and rests self respect on what other people think of you - something that can be changed in a split instant by one gossip's nasty criticism, which might not even be true. When it's perfectly acceptable in the Puritanical philosophy to criticize everyone around you and that's one of the few pleasures left in life for those that commit to it.

Hilariously although those ideas grew out of a branch of religion, many of the people who live by them aren't religious. They're promulgated commercially.

This is about to head into the Chocolate Rant.

I am not a chocoholic. Many of my friends love it, to me it's just a flavor. My favorite is butterscotch, big deal. But going into puritanism with religion filtered out of it, the obvious example is the Chocolate as Sinful jokes. Butter is on the list too. Any number of rich foods that are treats get held out as sinful or wrong and the knee jerk reaction is to cut them entirely out of your diet rather than just enjoying them as treats.

Ideas of balance and harmony appeal to me. Keeping my intake of cigarettes, alcohol, butter and sweets reasonable so that I never have to quit is how I approach life. I like these things, they're physical pleasures and I try to keep them in balance.

People will go to much greater lengths for social pleasures than any physical pleasure, and the one pleasure puritanism provides - a moment of feeling holier than thou - seems to be more irresistible than anything real in life they might enjoy.

In laboratories, rats wired for direct brain stimulation of their pleasure centers will ignore food, mating, nesting, any other behavior to keep hitting the lever in a Skinner box that delivers the rush. Runners talk about the "runner's high" and physically that's an endorphin rush brought on by sustained effort. Intellectual pleasures all give that internal reward and social instincts are deeply tied into it.

Doesn't it seem strange that a person can be put down for idiosyncratic food tastes? If the group agrees a certain food, say Spicy Buffalo Wings, is wonderful, but the person in the group who's allergic to pepper has no experience of it that isn't pain and really doesn't like it or think they're missing anything says so, the group's offended. The group has an identity of its own. The group likes Buffalo Wings and the allergy makes that other person an outsider. The allergy itself is sufficient excuse - it will make me sick - but inevitably the reaction of the group is sympathy. You don't know what you're missing. You'd love it if you could eat it.

When I know, as the allergic fellow, that before I couldn't eat it, I didn't like it. That simple, I didn't like spicy food and still don't like mayonnaise.

Not liking mayo is not a birth defect or a physical allergy. It's just an individual trait. But I don't have the social rewards that might make me want to bother to acquire an acquired taste - substituting social rewards of being part of the group that likes mayo for my real disgust at the flavor. For all I know, my not liking mayo is just as psychosocial and some situation in childhood involving mayo disgusted me because I didn't want to be part of the group that liked mayo.

Rambling from mayo, which probably has social assumptions but I can't identify them because they're so bland and inoffensive, can't even remember what the group that likes mayo is actually, there's the current big puritanical witch hunt against smoking. It's starting to resemble Prohibition. But it has one major psychosocial factor undercutting it so deep that anyone who wants to genuinely discourage smoking is losing a lot of people.

Example: the commercials for a local hospital's program combine a) raves about how good their surgeons are at dealing with cancer, b: raves on the effectiveness of their quit-smoking programs and c: the thing that would keep me out of those quit-smoking programs even if I ever chose to quit smoking. On principle, I wouldn't. On principle I would rather exercise more will power and cut down to one cigarette a day than quit smoking, because I don't like All or Nothing solutions and get offended by the puritanical idea of denying all pleasures in life. The less I smoke, the more I enjoy it. There is my view of smoking and health - and it is borne out by statistics, light smokers have a very small health risk counterbalanced by some little-known health benefits. Science magazine ran an article statistically looking at Alzheimers, Parkinsons and other tremors and neurological diseases, finding that caffeine and nicotine reduce the incidence of tremors and memory loss! Okay... so it's take a mild lung risk versus the risk of losing my mind. The body's a whole. Keeping a good balance in my body is keeping my health, so I am not decaffeinating either. (If you don't smoke - six or seven cups of coffee a day is optimum for the mild stimulants reduce odds of senility thing. Choice of mild stimulants is entirely yours).

The twist on all of this is that the same hospital commercials rest on a host of things that have nothing at all to do with smoking or health. The patients are inevitably presented as having done so virtuously out of a sense of responsibility to a nuclear family with children. The white picket fence lifestyle of marriage and children and taking care of yourself only to take care of other people is what's presented right along with it. I have not seen ONE anti smoking program that presents any image of life after quitting smoking other than Healthy Conformist Americana. The message along with the quit smoking, drink milk, get exercise lifestyle is tied to "Try to be just like everyone else and live Wholesome Lives."


Seriously, not everyone wants that life. I don't drink much and I do know a lot of alcoholics who have to quit completely in order to get their lives under control. Alcoholism is a disease and alcoholics can't drink without it taking over. That's what alcoholism is. Some of them crash and burn on their recovery efforts because of that social shift in self image, because after sobering up they're expected to make the prescribed behavioral changes to "desire only a mainstream lifestyle." Many of the successful ones break that pattern too and go off and find some other social indicator that they are not just like everyone else. They might take up a weird profession. They might take up hiking across the country instead of running a mile daily in order to be Wholesome and Healthful. They might not wear shorts. They might take up an unconventional religion like Buddhism or paganism. They might not wear suits and ties. Heck, they might buy a motorcycle and sink all the money saved on booze into parts and fuel and leather jackets.

Paranoid bloggers might accuse the media of attempting to control public opinion. I'm a writer. I know better than that. It doesn't take conspiracy for that kind of thing at all. It takes only a lot of people who just respond to what's out there as part of what's out there, who don't bother to examine and decide on every little specific thing in their lives because if they did, they would be overwhelmed in a mass of detail.

People rely on culture to tell them how to live.

In high school, my fellow black clad social critics and I all carped about Unexamined Lives and called anyone who lived one a Sheep. We exchanged ritual insults with the Wholesome Crowd and hilariously, at least in my high school, we took over the school. I was a core member in the most popular clique. The school itself turned into an Arts School because the Art Club collected so many talents in so many different Arts that it became just the arts watering hole and a Midwestern miniature of Greenwich Village. By sheer numbers we overwhelmed the rest. It got to the point that we creamed the school bullies with intellectual snobbery and it was an interesting bit of successful subversion.

Not smoking is associated with getting up early and doing calisthenics. Then eating a healthful diet of mostly rabbit food and doing what you're told all day. Then working hard and cheerfully at your dull day job and going home at night to clean up the house and do your fair share of taking care of the prescribed kiddies who are all clean and appropriate and cutesy playing with the labor intensive dog in the suburban yard. Yeah, right. And living in economic blackmail from the boss at that day job because supporting those kids in the lifestyle of Extreme Mediocrity means brand name breakfast cereals and brand name clothing and approved sports and activities, an entire way of life that isn't for everyone. It can get neurotic in the extreme. It hangs on one upmanship sometimes. It has its dark side - and oh, the Art Club pointed out its dark side constantly. We too had the privilege of criticism.

I have an artistic license and I learned how to wave it in high school.

So here is the challenge to all of the anti smoking faction and all of the health contingent.

Show me how I can improve my health in a way that doesn't strip away that artistic license. Show me a lifestyle that is not standardized, homogenized and Normal. I don't personally hold Mediocrity as an ideal and I think it's a sick pattern of culture to do so. I'm not willing to run a Red Queen's Race, two steps forward and three steps back, just to be like Everyone Else. And I am not an Olympic athlete physically, so I don't need to swap off smoking and having free time for physical extreme success - that image doesn't grab me because it's not what I am and what I do. You show me how the alienated, the outsiders, the weirdos and the artistic can live in a healthy balance without caving in to the Suburban Dream and then maybe I'll think about it - if I don't manage to keep my health by balancing it anyway.

Reality - if I have a cold or my allergies kick in, I smoke less and make myself comfortable.

Think about it and what you're telling yourself about who you are when you take up habits or quit them. Because if your health does demand cutting out sweets or cigarettes or something for a medical reason, you might get a lot more success by finding other flags of who you choose to be when you have to deal with other people.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (He got deep. I went to sleep. I'm cute.)
Oh well. Guess the board goes down on weekends and it being quarter to six on Saturday morning EST means it's time to get some sleep. Chat was severely interrupted, so were some postings. Had a sick horror idea just as I was getting ready to go anyway, an exercise with a sweet little topic spurred something twisted. Would be, will be fun to write.

Might not be that long but it will be fun to write.

And well, it's been a good day except for the 'day after Thursday' aches. I really do need to move somewhere that's not on top of an impassable hill...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I like laying on top of the highest bookshelf on top of the radio!)
Tweaking again... this time just made all three links headings bold. And remembered to put in the link for Forward Motion for Writers where I hang out so often I practically live there. Duh. I'm beginning to feel my way around this template business. I also found out through a more adept friend, sswain, that the blue line on the template is a template .gif - so it's now an odd permanent feature. I don't care, I like the purple better. You would scarcely notice it if I didn't mention it, since the value is the same anyway.

Fuzzy little Ari has flopped in my lap and gone to sleep. He's getting a lot more snuggly lately, something I appreciate.

And just as it often happens, the ex dummy who learned one new computer bit of lore immediately winds up answering the same question for a newer newbie when the expert's not in chat! Go fig. This happens now and then, which is why I'm sort of an intermediate Dummy instead of a full fledged Dummy any more, of the sort who asks where the "Any" key is when the screen says "press any key."

So how's the writing?

Well... tonight I hit paydirt on the Master Word Count Dare - and soared over by almost a thousand words. The scene would not put me down. That means it's really time for the rewrite, though I've got that planned pretty well - and now a few other stresses are knocked out of the way I'll be able to blitz it.


Robert and Ari >^..^<


Oh well. The blue streak is there to stay. But the scrollbar matches the rest of the blog now.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Oh boy! Soon it'll be time for Think Tank at Forward Motion)
Ok. I fished out all the references to the previous background color and previous colors. I discovered those were the only colors used so I should now have a purple scrollbar.

Robert and Ari >^..^<
There! Got the purple background in too, even if in a couple of places it looks as if there's odd dark blue details creeping into it. There's some kind of .gif in there too and I wouldn't be able to alter the .gif - so live with the blue streak. I'm happier with the new look and I don't mind the blue shadow on the heading at all. That's probably what the sodding gif is anyway.

Looks like the lid of a mailbox fallen open.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm looking out the window on a full tummy!)
Esthetics. This stage I've got purple input areas and a blue shadow on the headline and a blue inline that I like. I still have blue scrollbars. I'm very tempted now to just try to change the darkest blue to a very deep purple or black and otherwise quit messing with the template. I like the light lettering on the purple, it looks good.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Oooh cat food! Oh boy!)
Yay! The changes worked! Whoohoo! I am so proud of myself. Thank you to sswain who talked me through this terrifying process in chat. When the changes didn't come up right away on "view web page" I wondered if I got it wrong. They looked okay in Arachnophilia after all.

"Did you publish?" he asked.

roflmao - yes, that's how much of a Dummy I am sometimes. I think that's on a par with "Did you plug it in?" for useful questions. He helped with a lot more than that, but I thought you might enjoy the laugh.

Onward... one of these times I will dare mess with the template and change out the warm navy blue and warm dull blue for shades of deep purple and purple. But I think even with deep purple the text colors work pretty well.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Time to sit enigmatically in the middle of the room with my tail sticking out)
Testing the changes to this blog. I'm trying to put links in the left side column. If it works I will add more links later on. I put a few of my sites and a few of my favorite other blogs.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I am sleeping through all this HTML stuff. His foot's a comfy pillow)
Wow, I didn't post this yet...

A double dose of good news in my mailbox. A friend found me a hand me down computer. On at least one level it's better than the one I've got but she worried that it was obsolete. NOT!! It sounds heavenly and best of all this friend (who may want to be anonymous, so I'm not mentioning who yet - really deserves a huge public Thank You for this! You know who you are!) is a serious ubergeek who offered to install Linux on it.

Talking to Dstar, my other beloved ubergeek buddy who's been a Linux Missionary as long as I've known him, I found out Linux WILL do everything I need Linux to do. Which means that even with a smaller hard drive, less of the hard drive will be taken up by OS - and this computer actually has more memory than the present one. I am ecstatic. I am in heaven with this. It's exactly what I dreamed of - I'll still be trying to repair my old system with other spare parts, but that will give me the two computer setup that I hoped for. No monitor, but the hospital program I'm in might buy one for me and if not, there's also just waiting and watching online till I see a good used one super cheap or picking up a salvage monitor off the street on Trash Day. The monitor I'm using now is a salvage monitor. Pricewatch had a super bargain the other day while I was browsing - an LCD monitor for only $34 and it wasn't even crazy on shipping. Getting hold of another monitor so that I can run them both at the same time seems very doable.

And the second bit of good news in the same mail box - confirmation that Godaddy.com has registered my site to me. YEP! It's mine! Great glee! www.selfhelpforwriters.com will not be vanishing from the Net. When I move it, I think I can set it up so that it still has the same URL but it's just on a different server. This is of course reason to consult Dstar on how to do that. There should be a way, a fairly simple way to do that.

All the fears that I've had are starting to fall away into just what they were - fears. Worst case didn't happen. Where I stand now I really do have a lot more that I can do than I thought I did.

I wrote my application letter for Breakout Novel Course and stored it for the sendoff day. I also backed that up with Dstar for him to send it in if Murphy's Law just crashes me specifically during those three days - that is covered. So either way, whether I get in or just audit, I'm not going to miss the course I've been looking forward to all year. I'm reasonably satisfied with my email. I didn't describe my project idea at all, that wasn't the place. Just more or less what I've done and what I want out of the course and that I expect it to improve my writing. Which it will, things like that work when you work it. Just reading the book improved my writing tremendously.

My life is actually going well. The trouble and inconvenience I have in it is not on a scale with what it used to be, even if some of it never will go away.

Some of it will, in a big way, when I manage to beat that brick wall long enough to break through and get published. But all the steps I'm taking now along the way are having their cumulative effects too. I'm a lot better off. I'm going to be moving even if I don't know when, and the next apartment will not have the problems this one has. The hill's effect on my general health will go away when I'm not living on the hill.

I'm getting ankle and leg trouble now from the hill. The past few weeks, every time I go out, the day after I've gone out I get swelling and muscle cramps. That scared me a lot, but then I read something in a blog that put my mind at ease, that swelling can be caused by muscle strain. Duh. Yeah, me and exercise again. The swelling goes down after a few days if I rest up and elevate it. It bears no relation to what I've eaten lately so it's not gout or diabetes or anything like that.

I used to get that in high school too. When I remember how large that school was and how much overexercise I did trying to keep up with normally abled kids, I'm now not surprised at all that sometimes I wound up not making it to school on chronic fatigue and odd injuries that seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn't diagnosed but it was just as real. I'm amazed I got through it at all. It's possible the doctor that wrote my gym slip made it possible for me to graduate - even though at the time I was also very embarrassed about the gym slip and thought that I was just whining and had cheated to get it.

I am still fighting that inner battle over "Lazy" - and I can keep on fighting it.

I may not be able to change my body's limits, but I can certainly change my attitude about them.

It takes work. I've been ruminating on this for at least a couple of years, from the point I started getting accurate diagnoses of what's wrong that causes what's wrong, because the symptoms don't always seem to come directly from the problem. The most demoralizing symptom is chronic fatigue from overexertion. That led to a lifelong "weak health" condition because when I did overexert myself, my body reacted as sanely as anyone's does under stress. My immune system would let up and let some cold or minor illness flatten me for a few days to make me rest.

To my surprise, this year I have not gotten sick nearly as often, because I am no longer trying to keep up a normal person's level of activity and no longer trying to walk farther than I can or climb more than I can or go out more and otherwise satisfy people who, looking at me, don't see anything wrong because there isn't some giant iron brace on my leg or something.

I have to repeat this to myself, because there's a side of me that also remembers moments of bitter embarrassment whenever I had to tell people I was hanging out with that I couldn't do something. Right before I went into the shelter, I went to Pennsic War with the people I was staying with. Everyone pitched in for setting up and breaking down camp and all the things around the camp that needed doing, it was a high energy group and a high energy camp. I kept up with it more or less, especially at first. But by the end of the two week event, I was passing out from heat exhaustion even if I had been drinking a lot of Gatorade to keep from dehydration. The heat got to me was what I thought.

I know better now.

It wasn't the heat. We were packing the stuff and I was stopping to rest, but every time I did, the guy that drove me there started bugging me to get up and help and everyone else in the camp was very busy packing down and policing the site. SCA people are the greatest campers in the world. If you invite a Society for Creative Anachronism group to use your camp site for an event, afterward it will have been cleaned up as if you hired a crew to do it, the camp ground will look better than it did at the start. This is just common custom.

The couple that invited me to come and drove me up there did not really know I was disabled or how disabled. I didn't even know. There was a huge misunderstanding about it and both of them wound up very angry at me for not doing my share, even though I was sick as the proverbial dog by the end and pleading that I was genuinely passing out. Till I moved out, they were disappointed and resentful that I hadn't pulled my weight in terms of chores.

The reality? If I had been physically healthy and capable of a normal level of activity, I would have done my share and probably gone a little over the top in gratitude to them for everything they did. They had an honest beef. They didn't know and I didn't know.

That gives me perspective on every group of roommates who ever got on me about not doing my share of the cleaning up.

Sometimes they were right.

They weren't because I was already pushing it to the limit, but I am actually breaking out of the "sprint and crash" way of life. I can keep it up for a little while. I can keep it up for a few days but I pay for it afterward adn eventually wind up with the same set of symptoms coming in the same order that they always have.

It was a birth defect and not a defect of personal character.

That affects my plans. But today I was thinking of those friends, they were very good friends to take me in the way they did and move me to New York and get me started here. I miss them, we haven't been in touch and I don't know if they're still angry about how "lazy" I was that fall and summer. They really did need help and when I think of what they're like - if they had known, they probably still would have taken me in like that and might have helped steer me toward the resources I'm using now a bit sooner.

I needed to do this. And when I think of what's coming up with the move, it will not be as bad as the last time. Peter is large and strong and has already said he'd help with it personally, including helping with the packing. Alison my case manager (not to be confused with other real and fictional Alisons) is taking me out to Wal Mart on Tuesday, where I will get more plastic storage tubs and drawer units and bookcase.

If I just accept all that is going to take the effort it does instead of measuring results by what other people could do, I won't have to beat myself if the result of the trip to get tubs is that they sit empty for three or four days while I rest up before starting to sort stuff and put it away in them. Or if I do fill them right off, but work for twenty minutes and rest for an hour or two between. That slow steady "keep picking on it" approach to organizing and cleanliness has some results already.

I look around here now and it just isn't as slobbish as my New Orleans apartments got. That matters. It means that every time I make an effort to get it beaten into shape, the results last a little longer and I move toward living in a comfortable way where anything to do with cleaning up is minimal effort maximum results. Most people would not want to put that much forethought into their housecleaning. But I live alone and do not have the option of swappign sit down chores for the ones I can't do in a group household.

I don't have to live with roommates if I stay up here with this setup. That's important. The reality is that I wouldn't be that good a roommate regardless of how much effort I put into it, because I can't keep up with my share of the day to day chores but other people, any other people, will make messes as if it wasn't much trouble to clear them up. It really isn't that much trouble for them.

But it's just as unreasonable for me, if I moved in with other people, to demand they keep things up to my level of cleanliness if I'm not willing to do the bulk of the work to keep it that way. Moving in with slobs is not the answer. Living alone and only keeping one cat and taking care of myself with more strategy than muscle power is the best long term answer - and I think I'm reasonably satisfied with what I've accomplished in it.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I don't clean up at all and I'm happy. I like to play!)


Postscript to the original topic: getting over the fear of rewriting is also breaking down the task into specific manageable smaller tasks. Checking the spelling is one. Checking names is another. Doing the infodump just right is that last dash of seasoning before it's done. Changing the point of view on the first scene is probably the biggest but that's not too bad once the rest is sorted out.

The affirmation that I'm beating into myself is that when I hit those doldrums of "this is horrible and no one would ever like it or me" I have to redefine what 'lousy' is. I have to break out of "all or nothing" thinking. I have to start believing instead that I was right at the point while writing it when it was the best thing I'd ever written. It certainly was the best rough draft I've ever written. I am more skilled today at the polishing and finishing work, sanding and varnishing a very sound construction, than I was last time I went around to do this. So the next one will be better. This is a natural progression. It's indefinite, it's lifelong and the point that my skills growth track intersects a publisher who's actually got money to buy a new author's good book and doesn't have another one just like it sitting in the lineup or something else they want more in the lineup is just the point those two curves intersect.

I think honestly that I am already in the gray zone.

I've read worse in print. I hit that with Raven Dance. People luck, and I wasn't one of the lucky Cinderfella success stories. Big deal. I've been up past the level of Tolerable Hack where if you like the genre this is comparable to a recognizable genre piece for a long time now. I've been chicken about sending things out, which has seriously slowed my career. Otherwise I might have broken in by now on sheer persistence. Certainly if I'd given small press the attention I've been giving pro press that might have happened... and I would have had editorial help with some of those earlier books.

I have to detach market success from internal victory.

I have to do this thing for internal victory and follow my own guidance for when any given novel's right. I may well at some point write a very good book that's not at that time marketable by topic or slant. I grew up on the New Wave, which apparently got old and crotchety in some of its elements. They were breaking out of some genre restrictions in SF that were at the time as tight as the genre restrictions on Romance. They did break out and change the field. To do that, I have to write incredibly well. Way beyond minimal hack live on a penny a word type quality. The curve of my skills growth is not a zero sum game. That simple. No matter how good I get at this, I can always get better at the technical skills needed to say what I've got to say.

In a real way I think that same attitude is going to be a cushion against overconfidence the first time I get a good bite of financial success with it. I am a craftsman. I do this complex work that human beings have done for a few generations now and learn from all the others who've ever done this wonderful thing. I love the process of doing it. The more practice I get at it, the more satisfying even the practice is.

Of course I want to get rich and famous and collect six figure advances by way of Donald Maass becoming my agent. But part of that vision itself is to become the kind of steady, skilled elder craftsman that could take something and run with it as well as the last time. Maass doesn't want a one book wonder. I have got milestones achieved and milestones ahead. I am in the middle of my career, and I expect to be in the middle of it now till I quit breathing and stop being this guy, Robert A. Sloan.

Ari just stood up and stretched on his hind feet, resting his soft furry arms against my arm to give me a priceless blue-eyed look of love. Time to fold the blog and head for the day - the day off when I relax and draw fun little pictures on envelopes to match the stamp, so that I can swap them off with other collectors.


Robert and Ari >^..^< (Breakfast would be nice, Papa)
112 words last night on Shadow of the Assassin after I blogged. Counted up what I had and after the big chapter, I'm only 2,999 away from finishing the Master Word Count Dare. Best of all, the book is absorbing enough to keep me sane while I'm dreading the deadline at the end of the month. That will be six out of seven Dares done. Actually I need to finish the last bit of the last nonfiction article and rewrite that to have the Master Nonfiction Dare complete, but that won't be too much trouble and seems like something to tuck in around rewrites. I know I'll get to it and get it done.

The rewrite on Quest of the Perilous Blade is probably the toughest part of what I set out to do at the top of April. Rewriting does not come as easily as writing to me. I'm getting better at it and better about doing it, but it's still a hard thing to face. Most of this is an attitude problem that I'm working on and haven't completely licked.

I'm blogging about it to share, because it's not just my problem. Too many friends in chat have shared the same feelings now and then. That moment in doldrums when it seems like the WIP is the worst thing you've ever written, no one in the world could possibly enjoy it and for me at least, life seems meaningless. Admittedly I do hang more weight on my writing for self esteem than some people do. My writing is the part of my life that's going right. My writing is the part of my life that is more or less under my control. When I step away from my writing and look in the mirror, I see a guy who can't make it down the block and has no money in his pocket. I remember the shelter and know I did belong there. I'm like anyone else who was there except for that one thing. My writing is hope.

In some ways it's gone past the idea of writing as therapy. I tend to break up my themes and tackle each of them in different stories or novels. The biggest therapeutic benefit wasn't always direct anyway. It's being able to do what Stephen King's character did in Misery and drop through the hole in the page into far more exciting problems than mine. What I have to do to deal with my real life problems is just wait and be patient. I can't just take them out back and shoot them. Much as I'm tempted sometimes, that's really not an option. Though I do have the option of taking the ugliest of them and adding scales or fangs to do a good monster for a horror story, take it out back and shoot it on paper. The stories work because the things that just bug me are the same things that bug readers. I might be very weird and different in some ways, but the things in life that are annoying are annoying no matter who they happen to.

That isn't quite a drift off the topic of rewriting because at the moment I am dissecting a fear.

One aspect of that fear is public embarrassment.

Major public embarrassment and something that happens to everyone from grade school on up. Even if they were lucky enough to have parents who thought they were a writing prodigy and then sometime in high school lucked in love and wound up in a good relationship with an adoring partner who really likes their writing, thus covering the two biggest bases for outside support or discouragement, in between there's all those other people. Socially, writing and to some extent anything in the arts gets subjected to one impossible condition. It is expected that the Gods handed out Talent. And that what Talent means is that while you are a child or a beginner, when you are just learning, what you produce will have the kind of technical craft perfection that a professional who's been doing the work for twenty years has. This is what Talent means to people who stand outside it. They'll point at Mozart, who was writing tolerable pieces of music and performing them as a little kid. I like Mozart. His kid stuff was fun. His adult stuff is incredible perfection. But there are also a lot of people who think it's tinkly junk that all sounds the same.

Expecting everything to be perfect every time and from the first go is unrealistic.

Perfection really is attainable in finite quantities. In any craft, it's possible to do a project, even a beginner project, so right that it does achieve that the first time around. Those moments are misleading. Even those moments come out of fooling around with all the technical ways to do it and reading about it and playing with it in your head before tackling a project that's ultimately made up of very simple processes done with mindless care. Some things are more difficult than others. In art, which really is a major hobby of mine, it would be like the difference between oil painting and watercolor. You'd think oil painting would be harder. Oil painting isn't harder. Oil paints stay moist on the canvas and if you ruin it you can just paint over the spot that didn't work and keep going. In oil painting, you can put white over black as easily as black over white. You can change anything about it and the sketch doesn't show. But the paints and the canvas cost a lot. A real oil painting by someone who watches TV and follows something like the Bob Ross show reasonably well is going to command a decent art fair price even from a weekend hobbyist.

In transparent watercolor, which generally doesn't get as pricey in the galleries and is not always taken as seriously, the materials are very cheap. It's possible to get good materials for it, but even there it won't run you what it does for oils. The kicker comes in when you start to work up from the sketch to the finished painting. You can't put white over dark. Period. It's transparent. It looks good if you get it right on the first pass and any decision you make with the brush must be worked into the finished painting or you have one of those blobs that winds up in a bottom drawer. The sketch itself will show through the paint, which means you do have to master pencil drawing before you can get it right.

I read about pro authors and their techniques look a lot more like oil painting. Sketch out the book in an outline like a sketch on the canvas. Work over it in layer after layer of gradually improving prose until the finished novel gleams with a tremendous gloss of finite perfection in every paragraph. Vincalis the Agitator by Holly Lisle reminds me of this kind of painting. I could flip that book open to any page and pick it up in the middle and be just as gripped as the beginning. It holds together as a coherent whole, its theme is so strong it might have been a charcoal sketch and its characterization so brilliant it shouts with a world of color. I can imagine how many times she rewrote it. I have a good idea from her blog and the record of her rewrites on the yet unpublished The Wreck of Heaven which promises to be just as good. That's the oil painting approach.

I actually do transparent watercolor.

I reinvented Reserved White all on my own in an art class when I was about ten, because the art teacher insisted it was impossible to paint without using white. I showed him all right. I sketched a cat climbing over some rocks on my little kid canvas board, squeezed out a little yellow and a little green and most of the tube of black on my palette. I proceeded to create an acrylic painting I'm going to do again someday: Black Cat Climbing Out Of A Coal Cellar. I also reinvented the use of the palette knife and impasto, because the black on black cat hair was all rough brush strokes in the direction of the fur and the boards of the coal cellar going in perspective and the lumps of coal were all done roughly with a palette knife. I just didn't paint the cat's eyes except to do them in yellow, shade with green and put in the pupils. Knowing what I do know about illustration, I'd widen those pupils a lot and shade the interior to get the glow of a cat's eyes in the dark and I might reserve one speck of white for a highlight. But I could do that today and not screw it up. Was probably the best painting I did as a kid. Heck, even for theme it was all right. The cat was coming up out of the coal cellar. Just like my books, begin in horror and end in hope.

I think deep down I knew that I'd get out of my personal coal cellar because I'd outgrow being a kid. I'd reach a point where the adult world had to give me the same rights as anyone else even if I was weird. I could make choices in life that weren't the same as everyone else's and they couldn't stop me. Since most of what I wanted in life was free and legal, it worked. I did grow up to be a writer.

But somewhere along the road I wound up treating writing like transparent watercolor. Trying to get it right on the first go, or rather in layers that didn't conflict with each other at all. Reserving the white, blocking in the shadows - I rarely change my plots and I wind up stumped at some of the types of changes people like Holly Lisle or Sheila Viehl do to some of their books. Changes that big, it would be easier to grab a fresh start and just go from the beginning with the new story. It's not the same one, it's a similar one with a drastic change.

I cheat on the definitions. I don't count line editing as rewriting, even though it is rewriting. Even if that and checking for typos and grammar is a major part of rewriting for almost anyone. But that goes back to the transparent watercolor analogy, because what I'm doing there is detailing the middle layer of the painting. All the darks are roughed in but I'll go over them again laying more shadows into the shadows, working around the highlights, working over them in various delicate transparencies without picking up the colors underneath. I don't do transparent watercolor that often because it's a pain and takes forever to do something well! And there are still things I don't do in it because I haven't gotten the knack - and sometimes, not the materials either. To avoid buckling, I tend not to do those wet into wet washes in the backgrounds because I don't have a hobby area set up to soak the paper and prep it and set it up on a proper drawing board and all. I work little and without much water, leaving a lot of space around the art. It works well for doing paintings on envelopes for First Day Covers but it's not gallery art.

Yet in Quest of the Perilous Blade there's that whole layer of rewriting that has to be done too. The spelling of King Rellin's name changed a couple of times during the book while I was still deciding his name. Before it became memorable enough that I just knew the guy and knew how to spell his name. I made the name of the goddess and the name of the villain too similar. Argh. Silly things like that, details! That's the easy part of the rewrite. That and looking for sentences that aren't esthetic. It helps a lot to break the ones that come up too long. Most of my awkward constructions resolve into good prose if I just aim a machine gun loaded with periods at them and spray. I keep the ones that read better long.

Now to the middle level. I need to work in a little more of the backstory. I've overcompensated. Just the way I overcompensated learning to leave out the three page weather report at the beginning of a story, I've successfully kicked the habit of inserting three page essays on the history of magic and how it works. The result is that when I sent it out to several different friends for critique, all but one said the same thing. The one friend who has read all the other books that share some of its backstory just liked it. I didn't bore him with repetition of backstory. The novel chugs right along at a good clip with plenty of conflict. Good. That worked. But the friends who had not ever read anything set in that universe in any of its permutations got a little lost at some of it.

For an example of how to put in lots of alien information in very little space, I have to turn to StarDoc. Sheila Viehl can sum up an alien race that may become critical to the plot because of its alien biology in less than a paragraph, making members of that species perfectly understandable later on when they act on it. She manages to compress the information. She manages to deliver it in the best timely way, when it's critical to the conflict on the page it appears. The books never bog down into Natural history of the planet Arrakis even if I sometimes like books that go off into excess infodump. That's the way to do it.

I made some backstory decisions specific to the world of Quest fairly late in the book, things that need to be revealed and set up in the early chapters. I need to fold that information forward gracefully, so the rewrite will have to focus on seeking out places where I can drop just a sentence or two of it. Preferably in the course of someone's argument. I have one moderately familiar non human race, elves, which are worked out in my universe in a very Sloan-specific way that still falls loosely within the modern legend. They're recognizably elves, cousins of Tolkein and numerous others. Cousins, not identical, there are things about how the elves work in my universe that go right down to the roots of it and make the elven culture something of a structural wall rather than an attractive add-on. In my backstory, I've got a loose genealogy of primary and descendant races and the elves are one of the root races for humanoid sentients. I don't have to tell the whole thing here or in that volume. It's not all relevant to Quest.

After elves and humans, reasonably familiar races to any fantasy reader, I took a sharp left turn into SF. Elves and humans in many fairy tales have magic castles and various objects of power that are sentient. If you go back to The Wizard of Oz and read the entire series, you'll find that literally anything in the books once in Oz will become sentient. Oz is a child's world where the toys come to life. Very familiar territory for anyone growing up in Western culture. Very familiar theological territory too, for anyone who's pagan and actually takes those pantheist tribal traditions as serious religion. The nonhuman world is living and often sentient and has spirits. Well, in this book the magic castle, being sentient, being a person and not a one dimensional character, had to be a person of a race that was magic castles. Being that I read way too much science fiction in my youth, I was already very familiar with the idea of inorganic sentience and it's got a neat little thought experiment involved.

When I am dealing with any nonhumanoid sentience, its physiology will strongly affect its outlook in life and its conscious sentient behavior. Its instincts will be real and not the same as human beings. It will react to them constantly on about the level that human beings react to human instincts like primate dominance or hoarding. I honestly think in real life that humans have a squirrel instinct to hoard food and valuables, for all the good reasons squirrels do, and that this instinct is what gives comic book collectors a real biological pleasure in acquiring Spiderman #2 after years of searching. So I had the evil castle Karactis and its backstory worked out right down to the particular character growth that led that individual to become that evil. It has a different perspective on good and evil. Its kind show up in other books. This is the first time I put one of those center stage, and it became the villain.

I have Piarrans. They're humanoid. They need to be explicated. They're an extreme of development in one particular direction - the most psychic of the humanoid races. Culturally they have a specific answer to how to live with extreme psychic development and that, when I was done writing at least six or seven books involving them, eventually became what I recognized as a model of human social interaction. Their cultural barriers against telepathic invasion are metaphors for internal psychological barriers against social invasion. Holding boundaries is what it's all about in any telepathic culture - going outside my own writing, one reason the Vulcans in Star Trek with their extreme reserve and stoic culture deny all emotion is that they're denying the display of emotion. Because all the rest of the telepathic Vulcans will get hit with the downer if a depressed Vulcan is projecting that all over the town. Asceticism isn't the only way to deal with it, but the Piarrans do have their ways of dealing with it and I do use that pretty heavily in the book because one hero, Blade himself, is half human and half Piarran while another one, Dorayan Keeneye, is full Piarran and raised by elves. Kind of makes the point color isn't culture too. Keeneye is a lot more elven than Piarran in his outlook and would be a little out of place at home.

I have the third nonhuman race rampant throughout the book. On the same principle as Karactis, I dealt with the whole question of magic swords of kingship in fantasy fiction and the Tired Old Object of Power thing by doing that as a race. The swordfolk are a lot like artificial intelligences, because they are that. Most of them are AI's running on a platform of magic in hardware that conveniently is a blade weapon made of metal. Blade is a halfbreed with them because he initiated to deliberately become that. He's a magical cyborg hanging with the AI's on one side and the meat people on the other. Makes him a bridge. In SF he would be one of these guys that jacks into the ship's computer and could with his stand alone software and wiring, take the place of the ship's computer OS and run the ship. It was a good direction for him anyway since he started out as a halfbreed, when both humans and Piarrans tend to run a little racist depending on background and he's not one or the other. Keeneye could go back to their home planet. Blade would have to mutilate himself to go settle on a human world if it was racist, but on the Piarran side he's too human.

I've got other races, this is a manageable number for one book. They're all very familiar to me and not very familiar to readers. Piarrans are for me what the Jorenians are to Sheila, a race I've had around for a long time and worked on in depth and detail, holding many resonant personal fantasies. They aren't numerous, but boy are they fun to write. And I have that unusual villain to explicate in this book.

After basic infodump, beyond that, the biggest changes I need to make are in the opening scene and the final chapter. This is hilarious because those are exactly the chapters I need to send to Holly to get into the Breakout Novel Course, the first fifteen pages of the book and the last fifteen pages of the book.

The opening scene is still the same event: Blade gates in from his past, which only comes up obliquely in flashbacks and most of all in his reactions to things. He culminates his lifelong quest simply to become the sword saint, learn all the magic of the swordfolk well enough that he can forge a magic sword that's a cyborged part of himself and join their community. So for him it's renewal. I showed that from Mergali's point of view. Mergali is the elven girlfriend of Dorayan Keeneye, whom I honestly thought was going to be major in the book. Unfortunately for him, if he was, the good guys would have been whipped early on. He didn't have the experience to deal with the problems! There's a prequel version one of this book where a classic quest story with a small band of elves and humans and Keeneye set off to defeat Karactis and got whipped, ending tragically when Keeneye tries to become a sword saint and instead just burns himself to death horribly because he didn't have the magic to survive that. A little like laying your bare hands on the power lines, for the SF analogy. So I picked up the moment before the tragic end of the book I didn't want to write adn Blade stomped in, veteran, sarcastic, seasoned and more than ready for said initiation, to boot Keeneye out of the sacrificial martyrdom spot and just do the job. Great opener. Wrong point of view. Keeneye doesn't get point of view again except for a few side character scenes that give a little more background to Blade's presumed youth that he rarely talks about. Mergali, his girlfriend, doesn't get point of view again at all. Wrong characters, right scene.

Then last night, the satori about the opener really kicked in. If I show that scene from Blade's prepared point of view, he actually understands what he's doing and what was about to happen to Keeneye. First thing he does is save the heroic but naive kid, followed in rapid succession by a classic "boot to the head" explication chewing out said kid for trying to grab said power lines bare handed, et cetera. This will also get the Swordfolk explication right out there in the first scene in the middle of a handy conflict, along with the Piarran explication because the half breed has a little bit of stored up resentment of the naively aristocratic pureblood that can come into it. Gives the reader the weird stuff fast and hard with someone's sympathetic life hanging on it. The kid isn't that bad. The kid is just a kid and may be much more important in the sequel. He's just not the MC in this volume. No spoilers, but the new version of the scene will tie much more tightly to the final scenes, plural, and one thing I have to remember is in the quick cuts between different points of view of the final scene to include Keeneye's. Opener will rapidly establish Keeneye is student. Ending, Keeneye will realize what he's learned. The sidekick's arc has a nice completion to it and by the end, Keeneye, with the stuff I already have in there, would be capable of what he set out to do at the beginning, barely, if he had to. The middle works as if I'd already written it that way.

I need to pick up the ugly villain of chapter 8 and give him a little more space in the book. I probably should show what happens to him at the very end. The end as I have it written is somewhat ambiguous and the soon to be renamed evil sorceror is going to need completion. Looking at the rewrite, I think whether he lives through the book or not is going to depend a lot on him in his onstage final scene. I could replace him. He might just stand as an example of a typical wannabe Dark Lord sucked in by the real villain, Karactis. The kind of idiot that led Karactis to just get fed up and take over on its own. Or he might live to turn the tables and show up in the next book as villain in his own right, somewhat more powerful for all the trouble he's had. We'll see whether he wimps out at the end or not. I'll know when I get there.

I haven't been working on the rewrite for Quest.

But I've been working on the rewrite of Quest from the day and the hour I got it done. I think through these things in background and I'm immensely grateful to everyone who critiqued it. I literally couldn't see what did or didn't need to be explained in the backstory till someone who'd never seen any of it read it. In a way this blog itself is another sketch for the rewrite, because half of what I need to explain quick and concise to the readers is paraphrased in this blog. There is no way that within the book, which is described within terms of its own magic, I can get away with saying "just like SF, he's a cyborg half breed between humans and the telepathic race." But boiling it down this way makes me look at what's essentials and what's ornamentation. It is not relevant to this book how many moieties the Piarrans have or which one Blade belongs to, if any. Their architecture isn't relevant. Blade went off to settle on a mixed race mostly human world about the way someone who's equal parts Asian, African and European might settle on a port city like San Francisco instead of an area where he'd be lower than the low for not being one thing or the other. There's a lot I don't have to bring in yet. 90% of what I left out should be left out. But that critical 10% that is necessary to make the world work is going in, and I think I finally have a handle on how to detail it.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm contentedly sitting right next to the chair now thinking zen cat thoughts. Things like this never bother me.)


3,544 so far today and that brings chapter 3 to a close at 4,902 including the last batch. Whew! Really charging into that final round for Master Word Count, one more chapter will do it and go over it - and at that point there's no excuses for anything else. The last Dare gets done.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Word counts make him so happy. Purr)
Shadow of the Assassin going good with 1,400 words or so on it in a word war. Sorted out the camera and reduced the stuff in the gallery to only 201 pictures, not the 500 or so that I had. Getting there. Want to knock out 2,000 today... while I think of how to redo that opening scene in Quest to make it far more grabby.

Robert and Ari >^..^<
Chores done so far... been busy this morning. Got the longhand stuff from Monday typed up and after some serious trimming, it came to just over a thousand words. Better words than the original six pages, I might add. What is it that makes me write worse longhand than typed? Is it the look of scribbled paragraphs versus seeing bad sentences more easily on a screen?

When I got done with that I cleared up My Documents, finally putting away dozens of class transcripts, jotted URL's, stories into More Stories since my friend backed up the loose ones into yet another folder, nested several novels back into Novels, and ultimately managed to reduce it to only about a dozen loose important files and fewer folders. Now it opens and I can actually see everything that's in it. I still haven't done this to the pictures in the QuickCam. I probably should. I'd use the QuickCam more if I did actually move all the old pictures out of it.

At least while I'm procrastinating I manage to get other things done that need doing. I sometimes think most of my time management consists of juggling procrastination. My apartment's getting to the irritating stage of messiness, with laundry in a heap because clean hasn't been put away, a few too many loose papers and so on, boxes, junk. But I know next week I'm getting those containers and drawer things. This will help a whole lot. I can't wait to get a bookcase and put the books up in a more organized way. I can't wait to get the food in the pantry organized instead of sitting in a heap on the dresser next to the microwave.

I live alone. I do not have roommates or relations bugging me about how messy it is. It's hit the point where it bugs me, and my threshold of when it bugs me keeps rising. Somewhat by how much storage containment I own too. How clean my residence is has a direct correlation to how clean it looks after I've put in the effort to pick everything up. If it would still look junky and horrible after organizing, it's a lost cause. I basically expect results - and of course the long term benefits come in when, after having cleaned up like that, anything that got organized into real containers is a lot easier to clean up the next time.

I think I have to accept that getting the place I live comfortable is a gradual ongoing process, not something to try to do in a day of blitzing.

Onward. I'm ruminating on the rewrite and if I can't quite decide what point of view is right for that first scene and critical first sentence, I can always clean up the QuickCam first...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (He can organize stuff. I can sleep under the desk being cute)
Sent the last... and found out just how many Unsorted stories including unfinished ones I had sloshing around. I'm going to have to go through all this again a bit more slowly, actually reading them to see what's finished or not. What's just an older version of another story or not. And make up a folder for each story with all its versions, all its critiques, under the newest current title but complete with a history of submissions. And then organize those folders by genre.

I have a year's worth of filing to do and it ain't gonna be pretty...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Sure it is. I'll sleep right through it except when I rearrange things on your desk)


Another small bit of sanity ... a friend volunteered to archive my short stories for me. I haven't sent them out to anyone else to store on their hard drive because a) there were too many and b) they were scattered through many different folders on my hard drive. But after five hours they're all sent off.

Urp. Except that I didn't go through My Documents itself for what might be a story or story in progress instead of those I sensibly stuffed into folders before. Whoooops...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm sleeping. That got boring)
Yay! Purr! My blog is back! Just clicked on a link and it's right where it's supposed to be. Ari is jumping for joy and swatting my arm with soft paws.

I went out today, had a good lunch at a diner with Alison, my case manager. (Not to be confused with Allison my friend who blogs, but it's one of those names that like Holly, tend to mean Good People). She's with the hospital program, the one that's been providing all those logistic necessities of life in such a sensible way. She came through for me again for the move. For one thing, she let me know it's been put off now again and that Peter thinks it'll be hard finding another apartment. Thought so. Should not have gotten all excited about that, should just roll with news like that when it comes and believe it when I see it. The good news - next Tuesday, a Wal-Mart trip for more plastic containment including those plastic stackable drawer units. And book cases! If I can manage to reduce the stacks and stacks of unsorted used books that have accumulated from way too many trips to Bruised Apple this year to a nice organized set of shelves and use the crates for oversized single stacked reference books, it will help a lot. I could, if there's space for all of them, even organize the crates topically so that I know the Middle Ages is in one place, the crafts stuff another, and so on. And if all the loose stuff currently cluttering anything resembling surfaces in this tiny apartment is sorted and put away into plastic tubs and drawer units, the move will become as simple as "put all of those in the living room and all of those in the kitchen" - and I won't have to rely on people who are scared of books to pack things.

That will mean tearing into those last two cardboard boxes that aren't sorted - the one in the living room and the one in the bathroom. There's a reason the one in the bathroom is in the bathroom, it's all bathroom stuff that won't fit in the cabinet. But put one of the plastic things with drawers in there and the bathroom stuff's completely organized. I do not care if the big thing of 20 rolls of toilet paper is out without a cabinet, that's not a problem. It's fairly obvious what it is and that it's where it belongs. What's more annoying is a cardboard box that has everything from the band aids and Peroxide to the spare little bottles of hotel shampoo friends gave me that I'm still using up tumbled together in it in a way I can't find half of it. So I won't bother sorting that till next week when I have someplace to put it.

Does this seem familiar to you, gentle reader? That the time you actually go through all your stuff and decide what to keep is when you're facing a move? At least with next week's plastic run, this time it will be a step toward permanent organization. I've done this before. The last of the crafts stuff wound up in "easily used, easily put away again" shape after the previous plastic run and the thought of book shelves has me jumping for joy with Ari.

It will also reduce the amount of stuff ruined by rambunctious young one year old cat who thinks he's still a kitten when he weighs over ten pounds. Cats are arboreal. If there's a high spot in an apartment, they will occupy it. They mightily resent any other objects sharing their sleep shelves too. Inconvenient lamps, books, boxes, stuff all get kicked down to make room for the mighty Cousin of Leopards who has to watch the floor in case very small wildebeest come thundering through, or maybe a herd of cockroaches.

Speaking of indoor wildlife, that too is motivational. Couple of days ago I had an interesting adventure. Something brown and quick and chitinous, about the size of my thumb, scuttled near the desk running from the bookcase to the art materials chest. Hair rose on the back of my neck. Terror seized my heart and chilled my veins. I moved North. I should not have Palmetto Bugs, cockroaches big enough to mug the mice fo r their lunch money, invading a Northern apartment in New York State! Those monsters fly. They are great at identifying the phobic too, and have attack patterns similar to Hueys. They can't be killed. Cats who catch them won't even eat them, just pull all the legs off and give it to you for a toy because it's the biggest, best cockroach in the whole world.

I dared to take a second look.

Whew! It was only a giant spider! I'm not afraid of spiders. It's a good thing I'm not, because that's about the fith or sixth species of spider I've found in this apartment. Body about the size of the first joint of my thumb, nicely proportioned thick legs, looked a little hairy or spiky. Exactly the shade of red-brown as a Palmetto Bug, which is why it scared me in the first place.

Second thought. That might be poisonous and Palmetto Bugs wouldn't kill my cat in self defense successfully. Or it might bite me in my sleep. Got to move the critter. This isn't one I can just ignore, live and let live, keep around to hunt the three species of little roaches that infest this dump. Not unidentified anyway, and it's big enough it would attract Ari if he saw it. Got a plastic microwave container, approached slowly. Ari slept through the whole hunt. Crouched carefully the way he would, gently laid container over spider, slipped a Writer's Digest ad for a selection I didn't want between the chest and the spider and he was caught. Gently tossed him outside into the grass. I really do like spiders and don't like killing them. They just don't belong in my house.

Current problems with this apartment: the high hill stops me from leaving it without seriously damaging my back even on one day's trip. The heat is erratic and electric and thermostat is subject to delusions, kicking on when it's hot and off when it gets cold. The water heater was the next to go, it went out completely for about a week, they fixed it and now it runs lukewarm when the hot water's on. Latest problem: the oven just refuses to work. Which means that the landlord's man will be over again and I do not want him to have any basis to get on me about how messy it is, which means I do have to get the plastic run done and everything battened down and put away before I call him in on the trouble. It's a little nerve wracking to have to call him for repairs, because there's been a personal conflict ever since the landlord got caught renting me a substandard apartment at the old place. The handyman asked me to lie to the inspectors and tell them I was a relative of the owner, a man I'd never met.

I'm not a natural liar. I'm probably one of the world's worst liars unless I settle down and call it a story and make up a character. I also didn't know the man. I did try to tell teh handyman that, but he blew past my objections and insisted and worse, told the inspectors the lie and THEN told me I was supposed to cover for him when they came by. He just assumed I was both willing and capable to lie on behalf of other people. Most Americans lie or cheat in little ways all the time, right? Isn't that the way people live? Doesn't everybody do it?

Nope. I objected and told him honestly that I couldn't keep up a lie like that and objected to having to do so at all. He said "Well, then just don't tell them anything." I could agree to that.

Needless to say, they got caught. Little bits of evidence like this guy mentioning the owner by first name and my giving him a blank look because I didn't know anyone by that name, let alone this fictional "close relative" that I was supposed to be just staying a few days with, made it clear. I was horribly embarrassed by the whole thing. He did it and he faced worse - and he's been petty-nasty taking it out on me since. One reason why I hope the new apartment comes with a different landlord, one without a grudge. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to having him come over for any reason. Or having to play phone tag to get hold of him to fix something, even if that's his responsibility.

So - no ammunition. When I'm done getting all this sorted out then I'll call him in and the most likely result is he'll pull a stove from a different unoccupied apartment and pull this one out. This is what he's done whenever it was something wrong with the fridge or whatever. I've got enough microwave food that I won't starve waiting for a few days. In fact it might have gone out anytime in the past couple of weeks, because I've been mostly eating microwave stuff to reduce standing time at the stove. So it's not critical - and it will be a lot easier to stand him down and call him on the mind games if I'm doing so in a reasonably organized if unvacuumed apartment.

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm through throwing things for a while. Think I'll sleep on his feet and be cute.)
Yarg. Still does Page Not Found even on View Web Page from here. Blogspot must be down or something...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (Now I'm on the bookcase. What can I throw down?)
Whoops - all the links leading to my blog seem to say Page Not Found, that's when I look for them from other pages. Ouch! I have no idea what's going on or whether it's that the Blogspot server had a glitch. That happens sometimes to N54 so maybe that's all this is. But I'll need to find out.

Apparently I can still post to it though. That's good.

Now to see what happens if I want to see the page...

Robert and Ari >^..^< (I'm on the desk! What can I throw off the desk?)


Posted. If I do this in multiple entries a crash during an entry won't lose as much. The basic update is up now. Two friends offered to help by sending old equipment and that is the difference between panic and hope. I have a plan. Deep breath. I have multiple plans and it's not as if I'm facing the deadline tonight. More battening down so that IF I don't manage to get online again by June 1, I have some way to apply for Breakout Novel Course again by proxy - because with what they're sending, I will be able to put together at least one and possibly two complete systems.

Stage next on the plans, after paying the phone bill hope that the housing people's dangled offer of leaving more of my benefits in my hands will let me buy things like a second modem, additional hard drive and so on to build up the two computer system into something stable on both sides. Shopping list then will include cheapest new monitor so that I could actually do the sensible thing of having the WIP open on one computer and chat on the other computer - changing keyboards instead of screens when writing in chat. And daily backing up the WIP between both machines, which means getting one of those cables that runs between the two computers to throw files back and forth. I know what I need to do and if this works out with the housing people, I should be able to do it in a couple of months up to the point where both systems are running well and functioning as backups to each other.

If I look beyond the immediate crisis, I can see the crisis is kicking me into action on something I should have done some time ago - get hold of people about spare parts and build the backup system. If I had, I would not be having problems with what I'm supposed to be writing and rewriting today. I'd just be working on it and even if the modem walked between machines that wouldn't be a biggie.

Robert and Ari >^..^<
Crashed again and actually saw the slow ugly reboot process. I think Dstar is right and it's the power supply. That would account for the startup being that slow and painful. The screen flickered intermittently and stopped again and again for long minutes, then flickered blue and went dark, then came up with the blue screen warning that it was going to run scandisk before booting.

Then it booted.

Each time it works I feel lucky. This hurts. This is so rough. I'm fighting panic every time it goes down, but I've got to keep my head and remember that more than one friend has offered to send hand me down hardware and if I'm creative, I might be able to pull it all together. The hard drive isn't bad. I just sent the latest chapter of Shadow of the Assassin to Dstar, who archives all my novels.

This is one of those times I really wish I'd gotten that PDA and had that to write offline with.

I'm going to use the fear. The guy in Shadow of the Assassin is a lot worse off than I am and I'm going to work on that longhand and only then keyboard it, so that I've still got something in hand if I don't get back online. I will have to use Shadow of the Assassin to stay sane if it goes down for days, not hours, before help gets here and packages with hand me downs arrive.

I have been through this before. I just haven't been through this before under these circumstances where I don't have a lot of friends in literal dropping-over nearby distance where they'd be over at my house this afternoon doing the geek party thing. Or hang out at their house and get online at least to check mail and check in, it was a matter of a big group down there and up here I feel very isolated.

Calm. I have a plan.

I did make some plans this morning. I organized what I'm doing. I'll work longhand on the book to keep sane. If the system stays up any length of time I'll work on the rewrite of Quest and start preparing that email to audition for the Breakout Novel Course. If I don't manage to get Quest rewritten by the end of the month I lose a Dare, big deal, I have missed Dares before. Nice if I can do it, impossible if the computer's crashes don't give me time, work right up to the midnight minute if we can get it stable because I know I can do good work under that kind of pressure. That ain't over till it's over.

I've got ten days. If the system stays up that's plenty of time for the rewrite.

I might have to do it in a lot less if the machine goes down and won't come back up at all - but I have Worst Case Plans and that's the important thing. Worst case, minumum I need to do to apply for Breakout Novel Course is make sure the first and last fifteen pages of Raven Dance, which is in print, are in Holly's hands with a well written application email.

I need to describe what I want out of that course in about 200 words or less, and I think I can do that.
I think some of the pressure I've got about it is just that I feel some pressure about it anyway and things are going wrong. That is worst case. Best case, Ema will stabilize and stay up without blue screening and limp along right on through letting me rewrite and write online, finish my Dares on time, the stuff friends are sending will arrive well ahead of deadline, Dstar will walk me through putting all the pieces-parts together on the phone and I'll get it right the first time without too much panic, then roll on through and finish my rewrite on time with plenty of time to go and ... hey, that's also a thought!

Some parts of the rewrite CAN be done offline and keyed in. Not the line edits on the scenes I'm keeping but the points where I'm going to replace scenes with better versions. I know what those versions ARE anyway, having decided them in all these days of thinking about the crits. There are serious problems with the opening scene. It needs replacing. I didn't even work over the opening line because I know I need to really tinker with opening lines. Sooo... if I have to go offline I can definitely work on that scene.

And in and out - if I don't have a printer hooked up yet (and won't till the power supply thing is fixed since I can't use the CD ROM) I can key in rewritten portions and store in Yahoo briefcase offline in case of weirdness, like getting online by way of someone else's computer in the window of opportunity and having to grab my sample pages from the Net instead of from my hard drive. This is contingency planning. I'm also now wishing I had gone ahead and done a lot more rewrites, the year's half over and I don't have enough in the Visor Fund to hit ebay for a used PDA or something. If I had made 100 rejections and kept squeezing out the pennies, I'd have enough to get a pda and keep working.

I sent a newsletter delaying Launchpad another month. Blam. Knock one worry right out of my head. That reduced the stress, they all know their stories are still under consideration and dang it, Yahoo isn't going to delete everything I've got in there so I've got it all in offsite storage. Barbara didn't have a final on the cover either. The anthology's just facing troubles that are like anyone else's troubles. Computer trouble can hit anyone, big or small.

But out of this disaster, a new resolve.

I'm definitely going to work on trying to get two computers together. I need redundancy. I've got friends helping with hand me downs and with two coming in and the parts from Ema, it won't take much for me to squeeze out enough to get enough parts to rebuild into twins - so that I don't get crippled by hardware trouble again. If one's down the other will be running.

I'm considering downloading the drivers from Lexmark, but at the moment - last night actually - Windows is unstable and without the CD ROM there to restore Windows on Ema, I don't know if the drivers would cause the crash I was dreading in Worst Case Scenario - ie it goes down right after this blog and I can't get it back till hand me downs arrive.

Any and all spare parts from friends, I'd be very grateful...

Robert and Ari >^..^<


Right on the heels of one problem, a greater one reared its ugly head. The occasional problems with overheating resulted in major computer crashes. It even crashed while I was running Scandisk, which one chatter recommended. Right at the end of the long thorough scandisk too. Ouch. But this morning my friend Dstar was in chat during the 15 minute window when it was working - the problem was weird. It would go down and refuse to restart. If I didn't unplug it, it would finish rebooting in its own sweet time hours later. It's also slow and hard to reboot when it does, which is why I'm afraid to turn it off.

Makeshift solution: after some trial and error I wound up unplugging the CD ROM from the power supply and then running the machine with the cover off. This seems to be working. More long term, cannibalizing an old case as soon as I get it and putting all that's good in Ema into the new case and then rebuilding the outside of it with cardboard. Dstar did some checking and they do not sell power supply by itself, it's "with case" but it's reasonably cheap if I can get some money. Dang weird and frustrating.

I hope this thing with Peter works out that I do wind up with less taken out of my benefits, because that makes it time for me to deposit money to my online bank so that I've got it in that account so that I can start ordering parts from Pricewatch - what I really need is to put together that two system system and I have run Frankensteins before. After getting one of them into running shape the next thing is to make sure to get a new hard drive - even the bottom end ones are now huge compared to the one I've got - and try to build it up into where I have two machines. So that if there's trouble one's functioning and I'm not offlined unable to get to support.

The loose plan I've had is to try to put together enough to get the under $200 bare bones system from Pricewatch - they vary, they're specials from different suppliers but they're basically generic computer without OS. Or just get parts and put it together slowly. I don't know which would be cheaper. I don't know which would be more doable, have been equivocating for a long time. But whichever way I do it, one goal is to put together a second system that will run on Linux and thus be virus free.

There's a lot of free software out there for Linux. I was looking at some sites with free software you can download including a windows emulator that can run some other things and a free office suite, it seems as if it will be possible but a real pain in the neck to set up the Linux box to do everything the Windows machine does. Which is one reason I'd ideally like to put it together at a time the regular computer's working fine so that I'm not depending on it to get online while working on it and can get kibitzers.

At any rate I am very glad to be online even if the fix was weird - and I do have to think about the cost of a CD ROM in there because installing anything is now going to be difficult to impossible without one. Dstar suggested that if the CD ROM was failing it might be drawing too much power from the power supply and thus crashing by overheating.

That and when past the necessities things like getting more memory would be very good. I look around my house and see a lot of *stuff* but no way really to make any money getting rid of it - which is one of the things that's coming to mind as what to do about the problem. Hm. It's tempting, real tempting to try again to auction one of the quilts on ebay or something like that, but I don't know what I'd get for it or if I'd get enough to make it worth the month's work that went into making it...

Robert and Ari >^..^<