If at first, you cannot sell . . .

. . . cut, cut, cut again.

And so, East of Yesterday (or Highway to Yesterday, I can never quite decide), which was once over 116,000 words, is now a trim 95,000 words. My latest cut was 11,400 words all at once, when I decided some pretty lengthy scenes were unneeded backstory that was written from the wrong character’s point-of-view.

I’ll be able to rewrite what is needed for the story from the right character’s point of view, and I don’t expect to take anywhere near 11400 words to do so. I may even be able to cut some additional things toward the end.

I just wanted to celebrate that little triumph with you. Back to the rewrite.

Oh! Do you have a preference? Do you like East of Yesterday as a title, or Highway to Yesterday? I find the first title nicely subtle, but the second title is a little more obvious as a time travel novel, and it is my current working title.

This Danged Growing Older Thing!

So a few years ago, it was bifocals. Now, for the second time after an x-ray, I heard the A word.

Arthritis. So.

On the one hand, at least I know what is causing this new, unwelcome pain.

On the other, it’s chronic. I gotta learn to live with it.

On the one hand, I also have arthritis in my shoulder, and after some therapy, I have learned to live with the pain, and most of the time, to avoid experiencing it in the first place. When the pain strikes, I know what to do.

On the other hand, in order to get to that point, I gotta have that therapy. For which I must wait.

In the meantime, it’ll take gentle back stretches, heat packs, anti-inflammatories, and time. Oh, and Aspercream. I may also look into tai chi.

There are some other things that might be contributing to this issue, one that can be somewhat controlled with diet (and which I manage to control most of the time) and the other which may be fixable with surgery. Maybe in the next year. Not now. I’ll try the therapy first.

So, now that I know what’s going on, and now that I know that the painful act of sitting is not actually causing any damage (even though it feels like it is), I am going to attempt to resume my usual activities. And, with a little discipline, I hope for that to mean that I resume a more regular blogging schedule. 🙂

A Walk in the Woods – a Picture Post

There are few simple activities that I enjoy more than a walk in the woods. I’m fortunate in that in this part of North Florida, we have some pretty nice woods–not too swampy most of the time.

Today, I wanted to take a walk in the woods, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. Therefore, I thought I’d post some pictures of my last walk in the woods just a few short weeks ago.

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The Shadowy Ones — my daughter and me

It’s just a simple park–really, a woody spot that run alongside a highway, where no one would have build anything, anyway.

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Note the highway beyond the trees.
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After another bend in the path, or two. Seems like hours had passed, but we were only there thirty or forty minutes.

In the next few photos, I’m trying to be artsy.

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I love taking these dizzying “up” photos.
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And I try to frame things.
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This up photo has a more prominent subject.

And finally, a small field and a swamp … er, a pond.

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This is probably the biggest field in the woody part of the park. (There’s also a soccer field and a playground, but I don’t count those.)
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A swamp that tries to be a pond.

Dig those lilly pads!

I must admit that I do miss the more vibrant–and less buggy–woods of Northern Arizona. And I have some fond memories of wandering in some woods in Northern Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Northern England. Each had their own charms.

Do you have a favorite outdoors spot?

Life and Stuff. Plus Some Books.

It seems like a year since I posted last, even though I know it hasn’t been so long. But it HAS been a rough year. Not terrible–just a little rough.

After the most productive writing year of my life, during which I completed two novels (2015), I had the LEAST productive writing year of my life. I blame insomnia for making me just tired enough to make writing (including blogs and submitting said books to agents) a chore rather than a pleasure.

Chores are no fun.

My insomnia seems to stem from persistent intestinal gas that strikes at about 4:00 AM every night. No matter what I eat. I don’t like to go to bed particularly early, since I like to squeeze as much living into my life as possible, but when I am up at 4, it makes it difficult to function when I don’t go to bed until 11. When I went to bed earlier, the gas would merely strike earlier. I’d still be awake for about two hours, resulting in oversleeping, getting into work later than I wanted, and therefore working later into the evening than I wanted, resulting in a vicious cycle.

The good news is that melatonin seems to be helping. I still wake up with the gas, but the melatonin makes me sleepy enough most nights to be able to get back to sleep without lying there for hours. I am still working on getting a solid week of at least 6.5 hours of sleep. I’m not there yet, but I’m closer.

So that’s all.

I’m thinking about renaming my blog to something like Life, Writing, and Stuff. Yeah, I know that name sucks. I may play with formats and titles over the next few weeks. I also need to figure out if I want to move this blog out of wordpress.com and into a self-hosted site. I meant to do it last year (and the year before, and the year before), but I had that terrible infection. Yeah, yeah, excuses. And–oh, yeah–I did say that was all, didn’t I? One more thing …

What I’m Reading Now

I am slowly reading The Dreaming Hunt by Cindy Dees, which is the sequel to The Sleeping King. I meant to review The Sleeping King last year, but see above. I’m almost done with it and it has been pretty entertaining because it is much like reading the adventures of a RPG group going through a long-term campaign. Five adventurers (or maybe six) fighting their way through battles with all kinds of fantasy races, while constantly being healed and even resurrected when necessary. Maybe I’ll review both books together when I’m done. (However, any such review will be WAY more informal than those I used to write. I am still not considering myself a book reviewer. It’s just stuff I’m reading.)

That really is it, this time. What have you been up to? Any good fantasy book recommendations?

Aah … Autumn!

I hate it when I start a post, and then I can’t finish it for days! The original title of this post was Summer’s Over Tomorrow! My life is too hectic.

Since I live in Florida, the end of summer is definitely something to celebrate. Now maybe, I’ll come out of my hibernation. The weather has actually been much better than usual in recent weeks. We had a brutally hot July and early August, but a tropical storm passed by a few weeks ago, and brought milder weather with it. I’m hoping the hot summer means we have a nice, cold winter. We have not had a cold winter in several years.

And now I can feel autumn in the air! Our Chinese Flame Tree is ready to flame up!

I have not been reading as much as usual. When I do read, it has been nonfiction. The first is Cicero by Anthony Everitt. I have a fascination with Rome and especially Cicero, who Everitt brands as “Rome’s Greatest Politician”, and I’ve had this book for quite a while, now. I’m slogging through the chapters on his early life right now. I’m hoping I’ll see more of the writings by Cicero in the chapters ahead. Also, my boss is being a good mentor and sent me home with a technical book called Design Patterns. It’s actually much more engaging than you might think.

We did not go anywhere this summer, other than two trips to Melbourne. We keep talking about taking a trip to Pensacola, and I hope to make that happen sometime this fall or winter (or spring).

That and writing is most of what I’ve been up to. How about you?

~*~

Got a book in the mail called The Dreaming Hunt by Cindy Dees. It reminded me of a book I read a while ago called, The Sleeping King. I intended to review it, but never did, so I hope to work on that this week. I don’t normally review books anymore, but every once in a while, I make an exception. I do still like to read, and I do still like discussing books, after all!

New Infographic! How to Troubleshoot and Revise a Scene

I was looking for something else on my hard drive when I stumbled across this infographic that I had written a few years ago, and which turned up missinRandRSceneg. I remember looking for it and not being able to find it anywhere. I gave up, assuming that I had closed Word without saving.

But it turns out, I had dumped it in the root My Documents directory. Where I never put anything. Or so I thought. Turns out there’s all kinds of miscellaneous stuff in there, which I now should go through. Maybe I’ll find another hidden treasure.

It’s based on this post:

How to Troubleshoot and Rewrite a Scene …

It now has top billing at my Infographics page.

Making Some Changes

I had to adjust to a new reality recently. In fact, I’m still going through it.

Losing over 40 pounds has not been without its side-effects. You never hear about the drawbacks of weight loss, only the benefits. Well–not to discourage anyone who is trying to lose weight–my particular drawback has been a new sensitivity in my hips and tailbone.

Do I want to gain the weight back? Absolutely not. So far, the benefits still outweigh the costs. I am now down to half a blood pressure pill a day, and the Florida heat hardly bothers me at all anymore. I fit into the world better, making it more comfortable. But I realized that I needed to do something about this chronic pain if I want to get back to my old writing schedule. And I started in the past few weeks.

The first change is I moved my recliner into a different room, and moved an old reclining couch back in our family room. The reclining couch does not recline back as far as my old rocking recliner, so all my weight does not end up concentrated in one place at the base of my spine. I also realized that some strategic positioning of cushions has been making the problem worse, not better.

The second change is to move my writing area back to an actual desk, instead of any recliner. So I bought a nice office chair and started working at an old writing desk I had. However, my laptop is too large to fit into the area designed for the smaller laptops of yesteryear (ok, so the desk isn’t that old), and the drawer prevents me from pulling my new office chair all the way up. I looked around for a nice corner desk, but they were all too elaborate and expensive, and looked too difficult to move. (I know because I’ve had such desks in the past.) I will be visiting a used office furnishing store this week to see if I can find an old Steelcase corner unit, but in the meantime, I have pushed two 4-foot tables into an L shape. It is comfortable enough that I have been able to work here off-and-on for most of the day. My next book finally feels like it is taking shape.

The last change I am making is exercises to pump up my — er — derriere. There’s no fat at the base of my butt anymore (although there’s still plenty higher up), but I know there’s muscle back there, so if I can bulk it up a bit, maybe it won’t hurt to sit anymore. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past ten years, is to not let your muscles atrophy. It actually causes pain. My shoulders usually don’t bother me anymore, and if they do, a nice round of the same exercises that my therapist taught me is as good as a pain pill. The same kind of thinking keeps my feet from hurting. An old friend who was born with no kneecaps told me that if she had not kept exercising over the years, she’d be in a wheelchair by now. So where there’s pain, I tend to add exercise. I’ll report later if it helps–I just started yesterday.

I guess these are good problems to have, rather than the problems my obesity were causing and threatening to cause to my health. Still, a problem is a problem, and it’s encouraging to take some steps to solve it. The last step I intend to take is to mention the issue at my annual physical, which I need to schedule. Hopefully the doctor will be able to recommend some things I haven’t thought of.

Slacking off!

Wow, I’ve been slacking off here quite a bit. I won’t bore you with excuses; instead, I’ll let you know a little of what I’ve been up to.

Reading

I mentioned a while back that I was knocked flat by some very powerful antibiotics. I believe I am fully recovered from that, but am now plagued some other annoying stuff while my system keeps getting back into whack. While doing that, I’ve done some reading, including the first book of The Legacy of Gird: Surrender None, by Elizabeth Moon. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if the ending was a bit anticlimactic. Gird was almost as likable as Paks was, but Surrender None failed to bring me to tears or to establish quite as deep a connection. But that’s not much of a critique because Paks was one of my favorite all-time characters. That bar is a bit high to reach.

I am now struggling through the second book in the set, Liar’s Oath. To me, the characters in this book just aren’t as engaging as Gird was, and I just can’t care much about Luap. I fail to muster much curiosity as to the true identity of Autumn Rose. I am not sure I’ll get through this one. I wonder why Moon felt–and apparently, continues to feel in her current series–that she had to write about other characters than Paksenarrion. The current series actually lost my suspension of disbelief because so much havoc is going on and Paks is nowhere to be found.

I also tried a reread of The Once and Future King by T. H. White, also one of my all-time favorites. However, I’m wondering if the hardback I purchased used is some sort of unabridged version, because really is plodding along. The version I read years ago was much better-paced. I have skipped over vast tracts of story, especially where pointless dialog just goes on for page after page. Eventually I gave it up to pick up The Legacy of Gird, which had languished on my bookshelf for quite a while.

While I read these books, my daughter is chewing through some Mark Twain. She read (and laughed) her way through Tom Sawyer, and then had to read a book for school that she didn’t enjoy nearly as much, and she picked The Prince and the Pauper to read next. In order to establish good reading habits, I have been reading beside her every night for a half hour before she crashes.

Writing

I am now shopping two books (both books in the Forthcoming section of this site), and while I do that, I’ve been planning the second book in each series. I am further along in the time travel series, but I have an entire five-book arc planned in the fantasy, and those books will be much easier to write.

I worked out some plot complications yesterday afternoon while taking a walk, so I do believe I’ll work on that now.

A Study of the Foils of Darth Vader

I finally saw the new Star Wars movie. To me, it was a mixed bag. The heroes were very likable, but the villain was flawed, and not in a good way. Overall, I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars. But this is not a Star Wars review.

I was trying to pinpoint why the villain didn’t work for me. To do so, I compared him to his own hero, Darth Vader. I was explaining to my husband about how Vader was made more sympathetic through the skillful use of foils, when I wondered if that new Star Wars villain is, in fact, a foil for that other evil dude. But then I realized that that didn’t work–we didn’t see nearly enough of that other guy for him to require a foil.

What do I mean by a foil? Here is Wikipedia’s definition:

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character.

I have no way of knowing if this is what Lucas intended, but I could identify two Vader foils. In A New Hope, it is Grand Moff Tarkin.

Grand_Moff_Tarkin

This is the general-like character, who is first introduced in a meeting of Imperial officers when he orders Vader to stop his choke hold on another character. Vader obeys with an “As you wish,” and immediate obedience. It makes an impression. We already know Vader’s a badass–and this is the guy that Vader obeys.

The movie hints at a bit of friendship between them. In a later scene, he says to Vader, “The Jedi are extinct. Their fire has gone out of the universe. You, my friend, are all that’s left of their religion.” He seems sincere when he calls Vader “my friend”.

How does he contract with Vader? One way is to examine the reactions of characters who know him.

  • Leia, when first seeing Vader: “Darth Vader. Only you could be so bold.”
  • Leia, when first seeing Tarkin: “Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader’s leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board.”

Vader is merely “bold”, while Tarkin provokes a somewhat unhinged response.

Finally, we have Vader’s preferred method of coercion vs. Tarkin’s. Vader uses a torture robot brandishing a needle and a high-pitched whine. Tarkin blows up an entire planet.

So yeah–Vader is bad, but Tarkin is much more ruthless. At the end of A New Hope, he’s blown away, so we need another foil. A bigger, badder foil.

Enter, the Emperor.

Emperor_RotJ

With the Emperor, we have two movies to establish him, and contrast him to Vader. As the movies reveal the Emperor, they are also revealing Vader. We first see Vader without his mask–albeit from behind–and we know that there’s a terrible reason he wears it. But there is a man under there. He is no cyborg. The Emperor barely looks human even though he has skin. Something has twisted him.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, there is evidence of discord between Vader and the Emperor when Vader proposes that he and Luke rule the galaxy as father and son.

It continues in Return of the Jedi, where we see and hear much more of the Emperor. Here’s a good scene that shows the contrast:

Moff Jerjerrod: The Emperor’s coming here?

Darth Vader: That is correct, Commander. And, he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress.

Moff Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts.

Darth Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.

It makes you wonder, because Vader has hardly been forgiving so far. We especially see Vader’s struggles in the scenes with Luke, especially this one:

Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.

Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.

Luke: Then my father is truly dead.

The words, “It is too late for me” is laden with regret. After the scene, Vader is left alone in the corridor, and there is a moment of silence.

~*~

So what do you think? Do you agree that these two characters served as foils for Vader? Can you think of any foils for the other major characters?