Fluorescent Cats and Other Writer Madness

I made one deadline and I need to finish up a thing for another deadline this week. I’m excited to be close to making these deadlines. I’m also starting a new story, and it started with a thought experiment a month ago or so and it lit my brain on fire. While catching up with a few panels that had been recorded at WorldCon, I remember why I love being around creatives so much. There’s no limit to what comes out of us.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-glow-in-the-dark-kitty-77372763/

So while talking about destroying things, someone had an idea that fluorescent cats might be a good idea at Chernobyl to keep people away, and I am just pretty positive that there’s a significant portion of the population that would simply yell KITTY and want one of those cats. (Okay, it’s not just me and my son, I swear.)

The point was about finding something that would be available for the next ten thousand years to keep people out of places that aren’t healthy for them – and I’m not sure there’s a universal thing that would do that. However, Fluorescent Cats in Chernobyl is the best band you’ve never heard with their breakout album of Disaster.

It doesn’t even work with my current random obsession with fungi. I hope someone will read that story soon.

WorldCon

I love WorldCon.Technically it is ChiCon8. It’s also the first Con where I had roommates, and that was a lot of fun, except I like to talk instead of sleep. (Like, we know we’re tired, and yet we still have more to discuss.)

Among the panels and finding old friends, we make new connections, visit the dealer’s room, and find parties. I’m watching and listening to some of those panels that I missed this week, since a friend had the brilliant idea of mostly going to panels that weren’t recorded to get more out of the experience. (Thanks, Athena!)

Lisa became my new breathing buddy – so when you read this sit down and do some diaphragmatic breathing. (Everyone should. It’s really good for you, I promise.)

Doug swears I can talk to anybody, and I find this really difficult to disprove. It can be a bad habit to chat people up in elevators and outside the escalators, but waiting around for my people to get out of their panels and back to the meetup spot can be difficult to keep quiet with all the conversations around me. I hear this is an ADHD trait, but I’m just accustomed to it from a lifetime of friendly conversations…

How do you figure out how to disprove that? Honestly he should bear the burden of proof, but I’m sure he’ll stick to his introvert excuse. Instead, I’ll show you some of my fun moments (because half the time I just forget to take pictures).

I’m excited to get back to writing- but if you’re the fun couple I chatted up by the escalators when the elves and dwarves came down- please comment. I love finding new people who read!

When Streaks Break

Today is the last day in August, and I have missed only 4 days writing this month. I’m proud of myself, because in July I think I missed more days than I wrote. As of today, I have a 13 day streak! I know that’s a lot different from when I was in the thousands of days, but this year is different.

Mom’s house is on the market. I’m slowly integrating the things that are hers into my house, which I’d only moved into last November. I’m not exactly sure where everything goes that we brought then, so I’ve had to go through things a few times this summer just getting my head around things. Finally I left it all in piles because I just couldn’t.

Story ideas are still popping in around the edges, but I haven’t been writing them all out yet. School starts tomorrow, and I also leave for WorldCon tomorrow.

The hardest part of breaking a streak can be getting it back together. I wrote only one day in March, and I gave myself permission for that. Today is 13 days and counting, and more ideas for things to write out soon.

Plot Twist

I’ve been reading one of my novel drafts. Usually I put it into online format for the zero draft. I find it acceptable for a read-through and markups since I don’t do line edits at that stage.

Imagine my surprise on page 161.

The last 60 pages are true single spaced. Could be worse, but still going to see if i can finish the draft within a week or so. Wish me luck. Good thing my notes are in another notebook…

May.

My aunt gave me book plates as a child. They had a little sketch of a bear with “I can’t bear to be without my books.” Of course, that’s always been true. Yet there’s another facet of that – when I can’t bear more, I surround myself with my books.

My family moved into the house in November, a week later I hit a deer. I had previously been in physical therapy, and then I went in for another issue. Living in the car a month to spend all the possible time with my mom before she was gone compounded those issues.

The issues are different now, but they keep coming. I turned to my books – I’ve been organizing them on the shelves when they had simply been tossed up there. I know by now the movers lost at least one of the boxes they put my books in. Somehow it’s easier to deal with an entire missing series than the trilogies where I have only book 3 of 3 and other holes. That’s not the kind of book owner I am – I find them and I read them and I do my best to give those books I love a good home.

I’m almost done organizing what I can, trying to put the rest in storage in the garage until I have enough shelves (yeah, movers broke those, too). It feels so good to be able to find them again, rather than searching fruitlessly among all of the shelves for the single book I’ve been hoping to find.

This isn’t an all-at-once occurrence. When it was one thing, I did the fiction. The next issue brought on the switching from the garage storage to shelves and back. It’s almost like I can’t leave well enough alone, and passing the books around brings me back to all of those manuscripts that are currently floating around on my office floor (or again, storage). Good thing I have them printed out, so that I’ll be ready to tackle them when things slow down, right?

It’s never going to slow down, though. It’s never going to go back to how it used to be. The difference is learning to juggle with the new things that have gotten thrown into the mix. The older I get the more I wonder why we’re looking for a new normal when there was never a normal before, just a slower shifting of changing ground around us.

I’ve been told I am doing an active grieving, but I think that’s just how I’m built. I do not stay in one place too long and I do not wait for anything to go back to how it was. Yet I’m very grateful for a gift of the book Tear Soup – it has helped me understand a bit more for my own process of grieving and the grieving of others.

Am I writing again? Sometimes. I wish it was every day, but I’ll get back to that – or maybe I’ll move forward into that again. Our language is accustomed to being used in certain ways by most of the people, and those cliches at times litter our thinking.

I’m moving forward. I will write again. It doesn’t have to be the way I have written at any other time in my life, because this is different and that is the way I am built: I change. I reminded my cousin this week that I was raised by the woman who wrote “The Getaway Car.” It’s an essay about part of my mother’s relationships with her vehicles. As my mother often wrote, it’s poignant and funny and leaves the reader thinking about her words long after it’s over.

So many of her friends think I am like my mother, and I can only hope that is true. Neither of us is perfect, but we do the best we can with what cards we were dealt.

New Year – New Goals

Starting a new year is always an interesting concept. Did we set resolutions? Did we start over with all of the things we really want to accomplish and create?

There’s something odd about trying to start things and putting a bunch of pressure on yourself to get through it all. Many times we do not consider what it will do to our normal routine in order to change the areas we want to change?

If I want to make dinner every night, I need a plan. Also, I’m going to need to do it before evening- because we have activities on different nights that make it difficult to find time. If I wanted to spend an extra amount of time at the gym, too, what kind of things would go undone that I thought I was doing before?

Resolutions always bring out the deep thoughts for me. We only have so much time and also that we’re managing to do so much and yet so little with it. We need time to adjust to the changes and also to figure out how we’re going to juggle the new stuff.

So do you figure out how to do the new schedule and change from your old schedule? Do you hold yourself to higher standards? Or do you let the other things go to create that new time for the new goals that create the new you?

Ideas are all there to do these things. But time doesn’t go slower as we age. Goals are able to be made at any time, but somehow these are the ones we try – every New Year. Sometimes I wonder if we just have a lot to learn. We don’t just wake up every day and say, how can we make ourselves and the world better? What would happen if we did?

What Makes a Monster?

It’s a good question, isn’t it? I’ve been asking myself this partly because I just had a story come out “The Monster.” I’m reading it tonight at ICON, and I’m pretty excited about it.

My writer’s group has decided I’m great with the creatures. They can usually identify those in my stories, and when they talk about the types of characters that we’re really good at, those are the ones who come up. Yesterday’s story had about four characters, and one was a dragon.

The monster story had about four main characters, and two of them being a spider and a tentacled thing that didn’t choose to resolve itself into an actual creature. Might be a squid, might be an octopus. Sometimes they’re like that.

So many times I find my favorite characters are creatures. R2-D2 might not count but Chewbacca, Groot, and Grogu are on my list. I never did figure out why I love understandable creatures who don’t speak English. The personality comes out a lot differently in the writing or on the screen.

Often I find my humans are more monstrous than many of my creature characters. That is directly related to how you define a monster. If you’re curious about my story the link is below.

Moving is Difficult.

It’s taking time to get used to my new city, and all of the new things associated with it. I’m not done finding things, but I am getting a bunch of them scheduled.

Lesson learned about myself? Too many phone calls with strangers can be draining, where phone calls with friends and family are not. It’s surprising, I know, but it is a thing to consider when I’m making a bunch of phone calls to all the contractors for my new home.

The pattern my family has established is to sell the house while living in temporary housing in our new community, then look and buy a house in our new area. It’s a great way to go through it. Though this time we didn’t quite match the school district we will stay in, and that’s hard.

My new house is exciting, though. I’m checking off the boxes slowly but surely. And- I’ve been writing. It’s hard when every day is filled with a bunch of things where my kid’s anxiety triggers my own. Silver lining – we’re getting better care for that here.

The writing is exciting. It’s been an adjustment, but I think I’m finding something. It feels good, even if part of it is only snippets. Snippets still feel good for expressing thoughts and feelings and finding whether a story is in there. Something longer, or if it is better as a simple vignette for understanding a concept that’s been locked.

I find there can be value in all kinds of writings, whether they’re true or completely impossible.

A Thousand Words?

 I spent a good portion of my daughter’s gymnastics meet taking pictures. Some of them are so interesting to look at on their own, and some of them make more sense in context. I still an unsure how the judges manage to be so critical while simply watching, but I also know they’ve watched so much for so long that it looks different to them than it does to me.

Yet, with my eye looking through the viewfinder, a different part of my brain engages. I saw that my daughter would scratch her vault before she made the decision. (The coaches asked her. She’d been planning on rocking it. Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.) I can explain it with just the one picture, and when I showed it to her, she agreed. It felt different to her, and she scratched it (meaning she didn’t compete that event) because it felt all wrong and she was afraid she would not be able to hold onto the table or hurt herself on the way over.

Because I was in the parent gallery, I couldn’t hear the coaches when they spoke to her. I didn’t know they asked her how she felt about it, and offered the spot (a hand in the right spot as she performs) if she wanted to take it. She’s got some good coaches, and I’m really glad they’re there.

I haven’t taken so many pictures for a long time. I don’t really like to do it with my phone. There’s lag time and it just won’t do what the DSLR will. And that camera is just fun to play with. I enjoy figuring out the different settings. Except some of them have flash, and I can’t take flash photos at a meet.

In college, I would look at pictures in my head and try to describe them with words. Sometimes it takes less than a thousand. Sometimes it takes more. It depends on if I need something specific to come through, or if this is part of the backdrop for the entire story. When I was younger, as soon as I got my first camera, I took pictures. With film. And I had to wait to develop it. Sometimes I developed them myself in art class, because i loved taking pictures.

For a while after college, I thought my mother was following me into writing. I didn’t understand how she had left it behind for so long and then picked it up again. But life gets in the way of these things. My mother’s a poet, and she has been recognized for that talent. I understand now, picking up a camera again and just taking pictures for fun.

There’s a bit of a dichotomy to having a camera. For one thing, you can record what’s going on – but with that kind of camera, you’re rarely the one in front of it. I asked an old classmate about a photo, and she said that I had taken it, but she wished I had been in it. I did, too, because I didn’t remember that moment. But I did take so many photos, I didn’t question that she remembered I had taken it. It made sense.

The relationship with the camera changes. It’s never a simple – are you part of life or are you recording it – because there are nuances that we don’t see when we reduce things to simple questions. Do you wonder about how many people spent so much time writing in a diary but never wanted anyone else to read it? Do you wonder about how many scrapbooks have taken so much time and effort but aren’t enjoyed as much by anyone around the person who created it (or sometimes the person who it was created for)? Do I still need a thousand words to get my image across in words, or have I still left things out despite my best efforts?

New Character?

It’s interesting, how different characters show up. At some point, I have an affinity for a rhinoceros. No, it doesn’t make sense. Why do I need a rhinoceros? I have no idea, but at some point there will be one in a story. It’s inevitable when I start thinking about something this much.

I can’t explain how we find the different characters we find. Some of them appear fully-formed and others like the draw out the mystery as long as possible. I have written pages from someone’s point of view trying to figure out their name and they just would not tell me. Anything else seemed possible, but not that.

Sometimes it’s the opposite problem – I find a name but a character won’t emerge for it. Not often, but I do have a few names written that I thought would be perfect somewhere, but never came to fruition. At least, not yet. It’s how I got my pen name, and luckily I love it, but it was hanging around for years without actually being used for a fictional character.

So, this year I’d like a rhinoceros to start talking to me – in my head, not necessarily in real life. If you’d like to send a hippopotamus for christmas, that might also be fun… I’ve definitely got pachyderms on the brain. Would you rather it be an elephant?

There’s probably a bunch of research in my future, too. Good thing I love learning new things.

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