28 October 2005

Plot Ninjas

Who knew? Who knew that plot ninjas could sneak up on you 5 days before NaNoWriMo starts and render your original, carefully planned story completely useless in less than 24 hours?

Not me. That's who.

See, I had the whole thing planned out: I wrote the original outline - in July, fershitsake - and very intentionally did not look at it until this week, because I knew that if I did, it would explode and I'd end up with 1,000 terribly interesting characters and 14 very complicated plot lines and the thing would never get written.

But I thought I'd be safe taking a peek this week to re-familiarize myself with the characters and the story. Maybe work out a few plot kinks - what could happen in a week?

A lot. That's what.

Like 1,000 terribly interesting characters and 14 very complicated plot lines... OK, I'm exagerating, but I did go from 2 characters and 1 plot line to 4 characters and three plot lines (each of the two new characters has their own agenda). It's all going to tie together very nicely at the end, but I don't have time to figure out the details.

So I'm ditching it.

Well, not ditching it. I'm incapable of actually throwing anything out, especially if I created it, but it is getting filed. In the filing cabinet. In the dark. Where it belongs for ruining my plan.

Now I have to proceed into the unknown. With No Plan. OK, a little plan. OK, OK! 2 vampires, 2 un-dead lovers, some attitude and No Plot. No Plot!!! Shit!!!!

16 October 2005

The End

I did it! I finally, finally did it – I reached ‘The End’.

For three months now, I’ve been trying – and failing – to get there. No, I haven’t read the entire Oxford English Dictionary. No! I haven’t finally mastered the art of eating a five-pound cheeseburger in a single two-hour sitting. And, no, of course not! Why would I even want to finish the novel?? Sheesh!

I’m talking about short stories. It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas. I had lots and lots of nice ideas, but none of them was willing to stick to the diet and stay around 5,000 words. See, every one I’ve started since I started ‘trying’ to write a Short Story has turned into a Damn Novel and had to be abandoned when I realized that ‘The End’ was nowhere in sight.

And then the vampire showed up. Followed by his girlfriend. And her psychopathic father.

OK, yeah, so none of them had any intention of keeping to the program either. As usual, they each in their turn started telling me their entire life history, which I was – naturally – compelled to cram into every available corner of the story.

But I beat them into submission. I tamed them . I trained them. I bloody begged them and finally, they listened to reason and gave up.

Here’s the secret weapon: I used my NaNoWriMo attitude on them. Uh, minus the word quota. And the deadline. In any case, it came down to this: if something wasn’t working, I said ‘Fuck it. I’ll fix it later.’ and moved on. A number of times, actually.

So, of course, the story’s a frikkin’ mess. It’s not so much a story as a sort of patchwork of half-written, loosely-related scenes that might possibly have a plot thread in common. If you look really close and understand Welsh. (The vampire, see, he’s from Wales. Don’t speak Welsh myself, so it’s been rough going.)

But it doesn’t matter. It’s written. From here on out, I’m not 'writing' anymore – I’m editing. Will that be better? No idea. Don’t care. Got to type the words ‘The End’. That'll do just great for now.

08 October 2005

October

Ah, Fall! The season of seasons! Crisp, cool air; clear, jewel-blue skies; gold, ruby and fire-orange leaves on trees.

Where are the hats?! Where are the mittens?!

Why am I still wearing SHORTS?!?!??

Welcome to October. October, that is, South of the M-DL: It’s 85 frikkin’ degrees. It’s humid. I still have to use the gorram air-conditioning in the gorram car so I don’t arrive at work smelling like a gorram construction worker who’s been out in gorram sun all gorram day.

FUCK. ME.

That’s how I fucking feel about that.

‘Cuz, see, it’s exactly THIS that drives me fucking crazy about this place. It’s soft. It’s warm. ALL the fucking time. I CAN’T TAKE IT.

Seriously – it gets down to 20 degrees and people Think They’re Going To Die. Shit, it gets down to 50 and they’re breakin’ out the frikkin’ parkas like the goddamn Arctic has Come To Town. It’s fuckin’ ridiculous.

I mean, c’MON! When I lived in Wyoming, I once walked the mile to work when it was 27 below. As in, 27 frikkin’ degrees BELOW ZERO.

Granted – not the smartest fucking thing I’ve ever done. Hurts, see. Air that cold, burns the FUCK out of your lungs. Feels like you smoked a pack of cigarettes inside of an hour, no shit.

But you know what I was thinking the whole time I was sucking air through the frozen snot in my nose?

It gets almost this warm on Mars! I could survive on Mars! In what I’m wearing! (OK, OK, yeah, and a pressure suit and some sort of breathing apparatus, but you get the idea.) Isn’t it just flat-out amazing that this fragile, hairless, vulnerable ‘sack of mostly water’ which is my body can be protected, insulated and rigged out in such a way that I could – potentially – survive in such extreme conditions?

I was reading a book about sailing today – gaff rig sailing, if you care, which apparently is some sort of outdated, half-abandoned, practiced-only-by-reactionary-nostalgists type of sail arrangement (research for the next book, donchaknow). Here’s a quote from it:

“...we are cushioned almost completely from the world in which we were designed to live.”

The author is trying to explain why anyone would bother learning to rig their sailboat in this backwards, technologically inferior and old-fashioned way. He’s trying to explain what it is that drives humans – some of us, anyway – to seek out challenges, push ourselves to our limits, dare the elements, brave the coldest, wildest, remotest and most dangerous places on this planet.

His answer, so far as I can tell, is this: because we were made to. And he’s right. Look at where people live: essentially, anywhere. The Arctic. The Sahara. Tibet. Mongolia. Siberia. Australia. Even, these days, Antarctica.

He’s saying, in other words, that humans evolved strung out on adrenaline and if the environment we live in doesn’t present us with opportunities to get a hit of it, we will seek them out on purpose to get some. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, why else would the husband hunt? He ain’t out there stalking Bambi ‘cause he’s hungry, trust me.

Which, of course, brings Me back to Me. Why else would this constant good weather make me miserable? Why else would I pine for ice and snow? Why else would the thought of another day spent in shorts be driving me Start, Raving MAD??

04 October 2005

Small Miracles

Small Miracle #1: Once again another grant deadline has passed and I have, despite all the odds against it, survived. This one was particularly heinous for a number of reasons. For one thing, one of us helper-types had the audacity to get married right smack dab in the middle of September (how dare she?!), which meant she wasn't there for the flurry of budget-prep and editing that preceeds Submission Day. It also meant that I worked twice as many hours as I actually get paid for for a couple of weeks. That part I don't mind all that much, since I get it back eventually, but for the moment I am Burnt Out.

The second thing that made it bad was that NIH - in its infinite frikkin' wisdom - says that if a grant deadline falls on a holiday or weekend, you have until the following business day to postmark your submission. In this case, that meant everybody had an extra weekend to work on their proposal. In my case, it meant another weekend chained to my computer. Joy.

Finally, we had four going out on the same day. That's not really all that many; I've heard of worse. Hell, I've seen worse. We even had one guy (he's a lab guy, and they're a pretty self-sufficient lot) take care of his all by himself - I mean he did all his own photocopying, binder-clipping, FedExing, everything. I could have kissed him.

Two of the others made the FedEx pick up in our building at 6:00PM, but the last one? Well, that was the killer. There were six subcontracts - SIX. The thing was colossal - we had to send it in a paper box. The body of the proposal and the Appendices BOTH required the use of large binder clips. And forget FedEx, we were still page-numbering at 6:00PM! It took six of us to actually finish it and get it out the door by 7:30PM - five women photocopying, double-checking, binder-clipping and - hovering in the background, I have to say somewhat uselessly - the PI (that's Principal Investigator for those of you who are uninitiated - pray you remain so...).

But it's done, it's finished and I don't have to think about it anymore. Until next time.

Small Miracle #2: I still make milk. It's been six months since she nursed and for the couple of months before she stopped, it was for all of ten seconds right before bed. In other words, there's been very little to provoke lactation for the last eight or nine months, and yet, I still make milk. Not a lot and it's not white anymore. It's more of a yellowish brown, like colostrum. I can't squirt it clear across the room anymore either. It just sort of wells out in tiny little beads that sit reluctantly on the end of my nipples and look around all groggy-like as if they're wondering why they're there.

But all the same, there's still milk and that's what amazes me. It's like my body is holding this capability in reserve. Just in case. Just in case that baby changes its mind, it'll be ready.

Small Miracle #3: You remember Jack, the big, bad spider in the window? Well, Jack ... is a girl. When her abdomen swelled up and got all glossy, I thought it was all the cicadas she'd been catching lately. But then she got me all worried, because she just sat there in the center of a deteriorating web for about three days. Normally, she rebuilds the web every day, so I thought she might be sick. (Are there spider doctors? I was ready to take her in.)

Well, we woke up yesterday morning and there was this magnificent egg sack up in the corner of the window. Check it out, it's the size of a ping-pong ball, fercrissake! And there was Jack, looking quite a bit smaller - since she was no longer pregnant - and moving very slowly like she was exhausted, as well she should be after creating her masterpiece. I'm just so proud! And to think, a few weeks ago, I was terrorized by her!

Unfortunately, the husband says he'll have to move the egg sack, because the babies will hatch soon and they'll be so small that they'll be able to fit throughthe cracks in the window. The three-year-old was well and truly crushed by this news.

"But I want to see the babies!" she wailed, looking at her father like he'd just cancelled Christmas.

Which I guess means she's not so afraid of creepy crawlies anymore either. Then again, I may have done my job too well. When the husband explained that we don't really want hundreds of little Jack's running around our house, she gazed at him agape with disbelief.

"Yes, we do!" she insisted.

Small miracles. Life's full of 'em.