Service Guys

I always wonder what they expect when they come to a particular house. Today we had a whole-house humidifier installed to the furnace. It’s a straightforward, time-consuming job. The guy who showed up was young, had a smile, and seemed pretty understanding that I hadn’t gotten my kids to school yet because we expected him tomorrow.

If he’d shown up tomorrow, husband was on track to work from home and be on top of everything he was doing. Instead, I got to sit in the mechanical room and chat with him. Most of these guys are good-natured. I learned a lot about them during my internship in college, where I worked for an HVAC controls company, so he’s literally the kind of guy I worked with back then, except it’s no longer the 90s and stuff.

So I ask him about what else he’s doing, and we commiserate about how birds get in the way. He’s never quite sure how a job will go. My husband prepped the water line that goes into the humidifier, and he had a large mechanical room to work in. The next job he’s going to today is in a closet, in a condo, and he’s not even sure water is hooked up in there. His height is another barrier – closets are not made for men over 6′ to comfortably work in generally. I hope he has good luck, but often not so much.

His manager called, and he forgot to tell that dude that he was expected tomorrow. I told him that was very important to express to the managers. While the service guy laughed, I know he understood my point. However, I think my tomorrow will run smoother despite the mix-up, and today I am working with a short time to do a few things. Luckily I’m flexible.

One of my favorite parts of listening to him today was how he didn’t have “real” tools. He even had to borrow my broom to clean up after himself. I wish I could write a note to those managers: He needs all the tools. They send him into all the jobs, and sometimes he has to call someone else to show up at a job. Every job brings something unexpected, and sometimes they’re good things- like the waterline this morning- but most often the other way. Be kind to any service people who come into your home. They most want the job to go smoothly and everything to work when they’re finished.

Competitive Streak

Do you ever look at one of your friends or even just a challenge, and think, “I can do this!”? One of the times when this competitive streak shows is during NaNoWriMo. The challenge was created to out-write your internal editor, and if someone can do it, why not me?

Some days it’s the same thing with those grading sites. Marketing Grader and Tweet Grader were mentioned today, though we’ve also compared Klout on occasion. If you send us (and I’m talking about a specific friend who shares my competitive drive) one of these tools, we try to integrate it into our knowledge base.

And why? What does it matter if my Klout score is 15 or 57 or even 95? [For the record, it is none of those.] That won’t sell my books. It doesn’t matter if the Marketing Grader says my website is 0 or 100 out of 100. Did any of you check the scores before buying a book or a service from someone?

I think it’s even funnier that I can admit that those scores are geared toward businesses selling a product online, but many of the people I know who try to learn from it are online but not necessarily selling a physical product. [Yes, I know books are physical products, but bear with me a moment.] I can look through all of the stats and see whether I’m capturing an audience by Twitter followers, or Tweet Graders or other options. I can figure out what I’m doing on Facebook by fans and shares and other activity. My blog has subscribers and links to various social media.

So what are we doing with it? Just checking. It’s a sliding scale to see whether we’re engaging someone or just talking in a bubble. Are we using the platform not as intended but as we can to get conversations moving?

And then, when it’s quiet, my friend and I try to outdo each other strictly by the numbers. If you’re curious, we have the same Klout score and our Marketing Grades are a single point different. It probably helps that she and I share information and little tricks when we find them and also encourage and support each other to keep up with blogs and tweets and posts. It’s a crazy thing to try to keep all of these things up, but somehow it works.

I’m really grateful that she’s there to help keep me motivated and focused on the target. My target isn’t a number – I’m just here to talk and share and learn as I write and publish. Life and work are good, but it can be good to remember it isn’t just a numbers game.

Except I can’t stop trying to get those numbers higher!

The Time for Plotting Never Passes

Some people can begin at the beginning and keep writing until the end. I don’t happen to be one of those people. I find myself mired in the ways that the story could go, and somewhere in the middle it fizzles out if I don’t know where I’m headed. Conventional wisdom says to dump something in a sagging middle like a dead body or have aliens land, but it doesn’t always work for me.

It always returns to plot. I have less trouble with my characters getting in line. I have been taking time out this month to try to correct my plot fizzling issues. Somehow I know there must be a way to carry everything through to the end while being true to my original vision of what the novel is supposed to say (and why I don’t have aliens land on the kitchen table in my contemporary YA).

To that end, I have been trying out several different ways to see a plot through, from randomly typing out from the beginning (which is why I know it isn’t working for me) to setting everything out scene by scene (which I know runs a large risk of me taking a left turn about halfway through).

I always liked the look of traditional outlines but never thought they fit me very well. Or maybe I just liked that they had such an orderly form with the roman numerals and all the other stuff thrown in. Lately I’ve also attempted to type a bare bones summary in prose form to see where that led me. Turns out the answer was ‘in circles’. I still use that method to organize my thoughts to find connections between pieces that I’m not sure fit together but seem to have possibilities.

Then I also stumbled into some worksheets. You can find them in books, too, like First Draft in 30 Days or Book in a Month. I haven’t progressed to filling them out in order, but taking time to pour over them has pushed my thinking into that kind of system. What was the climax? What is my internal or external conflict? What else do I need to get my characters from point A to point B or what obstacle do they need to overcome in order to get to this spot?

While they can be a good tool, I’m also trying not to stuff too much into them. I like giving my characters a little room to breathe while they get through the novel. When I originally drafted Don’t Tell Your Mother I only had a vague notion of what the end was going to be, and then as I got to each segment I’d write a sentence about what the next scene would be so I wouldn’t lose my place in the story if I got interrupted. [It really is a bummer, but there comes a time I must sleep.]

I’ve also read lately about Scrivener (which I thought I had blogged about, but apparently I just looked at it) being a good tool for novelists because of the functionality to rearrange things at ease. There are other software programs that also do this kind of thing, and I’m sure each has advantages and disadvantages.

It’s going to take some time for me to perfect my method of plotting, and I might just come to the conclusion that each project takes something different and it will depend entirely on my inner vision of the story. If nothing else, I’m enjoying learning the different methods and how each might be implemented to help (or hinder) my progress.

What do you choose to use to plot novels? Have you tried other methods? What did that teach you about your writing and plotting?

Today’s Topic: HTML

Oh, I’m not sure why I haven’t really picked this up yet. Right- I haven’t really built a web page.

Sure, there was that one, way back right after I got married, that my friend built. But I only got the pictures together and provided captions. The two girls with me worked on scanning them and putting them together on a pretty page to share.

Definitely not the way to actually learn how to do it.

I’m finally sitting down with books and other resources (an online writer friend/recovering enginerd and and putting things together in my head. It really isn’t that hard. I’m actually enjoying it.

Why? Doesn’t everyone need a website at some point? I might hit that point, and I’d really like to see if I can manage.

I also don’t want that to get in the way of the writing, but the writing has been on a precipice for awhile. My goal of creatively putting it off until the pressure builds into a necessity is slowly gaining speed. I’m thinking about my current project more, and the pieces have been falling together.

I have no idea why this strategy works so well for me, only that it’s doing its job to refocus me for what I really want to happen to the book.

It also helps that I have a tutoree or two in my target audience right now. I do the typical adult responsible thing with texting to give the proper info, and I get a one-word reply.

It makes me smile and think of Ethan and all the new and improved obstacles I’m going to throw at him. Let’s see if he makes it through all this unscathed!

I love pouring on the drama, as long as it isn’t my life the drama’s going to seep into. All right, I’ll admit it. I only love fictional drama!

With New Distraction

My husband gave me my mother’s day gift last night: a new pink Sony e-Reader. I didn’t expect pink. He said they were out of silver.

So I spent a good while last night, this morning and again this afternoon looking at books and putting some in there. Some meaning 60 – a few I had on my laptop and the rest downloaded classics.

The pink is growing on me.

Classics might be a broad term. Everything from Wuthering Heights to Frankenstein to Alice in Wonderland to War and Peace to “2 B R 0 2 B” (a short story I’d never heard of by Kurt Vonnegut stuffed in the science fiction section). How’s that for jumping in with both feet?

I think the pink did it to me.

Now that it’s loaded and charged, I’m ready to go. I think I’ll try to read at least one book on there before I peruse more titles. The size and feel is pretty good; all I have to get accustomed to now is the interface. Silly me, yesterday I was changing the time while I was trying to navigate off that. Maybe it’ll teach me to read the directions.

Then again, maybe it won’t. It really isn’t that complicated.

It was probably just the pink messing with my head.

Geek Appeal

Northwestern University is using nanodiamonds to deliver insulin to fight infection and heal wounds. Perhaps they’re not just a girl’s best friend anymore? Just kidding, nanodiamonds would never be visible or good for resale. Read about it here.

It’s actually very interesting to have new ways to beat infection. Nanodiamonds are something I haven’t heard of. I might have to do some research to figure out what else they could be used for!


Another one? Yes, there must be about fifteen million different software adds to write novels. Check out Super Note Card.

While this might help me learn to use actual note cards, I find it’s difficult to replace the feel of paper note cards. I don’t use them often, or very well, but I want to. Does that count?

I use my computer to do most of my notes, but I’m still learning to organize my thoughts better for my projects. I think I’ll write a book about how not to write a novel – but only because I seem to know more about that than how to do it the ‘proper’ way. Still, if it works for me…

Technology and Art

We watched Dilbert the series – the episode with the Blue Duck.

I love the stereotypes when shown in a humorous way. Engineers are not supposed to know about art. The appreciation of art is supposed to be beyond them.

Dogbert has the idea better than anyone. Tell people what they want and then sell it to them.

Do you ever wonder if it’s that easy with art? My character, Janie, from The Art of Science might be disappointed if it’s true.

Geek Appeal

More about the Sun? Think we’ll find another Earth?

Through a Swedish Solar Telescope, they’re learning more about the sun. Hannes Alfven won the Nobel prize in 1942 for theorizing about waves that he couldn’t prove existed. Recently, scientists have figured out how to explain the waves that make the surface of the sun near 5,000 degrees, yet the photosphere is near 1,000,000 degrees.

It’s hoped to learn more about the Sun to figure out how other stars work and how they affect planets like Earth.

Even with this new information, they’re not thinking it’ll be easy to find another Earth-like planet out there with an Earth-like orbit. In 2013, they’re launching a new telescope that might help.

“The study also considered planets orbiting red dwarf stars. Such stars, called type M, are the most abundant in the Milky Way – far more common than yellow, type G stars like the Sun. They are also cooler and dimmer than the Sun, as well as smaller, which makes finding an Earth-like planet transiting an M star easier.”

This part reminds me of Star Trek – M class planets anyone? Sometimes science fiction has a basis in science. I think it’ll be interesting to find planets by the signatures of their atmospheres by colors with the new telescope. Guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to see what they find.

Gadgets to Read

Read about it here.

Because scanners didn’t catch on well, they upped the ante by creating one that will read to you. They call the voice Jill. You still have to turn the pages, but the rest is her job.

I’m amused by the fact that “Jill” can make it through medical jargon but has difficulty with numbers, charts, and occasionally just mashes two words together without any way to separate them.

Seems like it might be prematurely on the market, if some of the buttons don’t work and there isn’t any way to customize it. I’m imagining the poor reader trying to puzzle its way through my science fiction stories. Sure, most of the words would be fine, but character’s names, species, and any other made-up words I find I need. I can’t think any names would come out better for fiction series.

Maybe the next one will be able to have a few dictionary features to learn new words.