Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ice Storm Part II

Walking sticks sort of help. I still had to crawl in places.

 The storm hit yesterday. I stayed home. I crawled across the driveway to the barn because I couldn't stay on the slick wet ice. It was either chop a path or crawl back to the house.

Today we lost the electricity. Amazing what an attitude adjustment that is. I had to put on my thinking cap to figure the best way to make do. First thing was put a blanket over the tropical fish. They may survive a cold snap better if the water cools slowly.

All the food from the freezer and fridge went outside in coolers since there is no chance of a thaw in the foreseeable future. Hubby bought water and canned food. (Tuna and soup?) There is wood in the barn and piled outside, not a problem. We have a few days of grace.

For cooking we have a burner on the grill. (Love that.) I've been told that you can bake a meat loaf in a pot on the grill. We'll try that tomorrow.

There is a fire in the fireplace. I've got all the other rooms closed off. The house stayed in the fifties until the sun went down. Then we battened down the windows. The rest of the house is chilly, but the den is just fine. Hubby, the three dogs and I are bedded on the floor in the den.

The big discovery for the night was the solar lanterns. They run on AA rechargable batteries. I bought four into the house. They have switches that turn them off. So we have one lighting the room and three in reserve. My mp3 player takes AA batteries, so we have music.

There are also three warm dogs to keep away the chills.

Good thing we are snug, the electric will be off for several days. This stupid front is rumored to have moved in for seven to ten days. Crap.

Ice Storm Musings

Ice Storm Part III

Ice Storm Part IV

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ice Storm Musings

Trouble warms himself by the fire.

We get at least one ice storm every year. I've seen some bad ones, and this one is gearing up to take the prize. The sun on ice is gorgeous, but this is white on white weather. Damp air, slick and nasty roads, a thick sheet of ice over 2 days of snow. I'm holed up in the house with the dogs and a quilt.

I skated on the way to the barn. The porches are iced over as is the driveway and the stuff is still coming down as drizzle. There was a half-inch of ice on the car this morning. It took an hour to break it up enough to get in the car to start it.

I'm not going to let the horses out of their stalls until this is over. We have hay, grain and water. They are fine in their nice dry stalls. But I have opened the barn doors a crack to let the chickens & ducks out. I doubt the poultry will wander far. They can all fly so a tumble on the ice won't hurt them. A bad fall could kill a horse.

Went out this evening, the back yard is a lake of ice. I slipped twice and finally crawled across the driveway. There is no more horrible feeling than sliding uncontrollably sideways. Getting back I used a ten-pound tamper to smash the ice so I could use a stick as a pick to make a step for my feet. My husband laughed at me, but I got back without falling.

I wish I had ice cleats or knew how to make them. Maybe I could wrap my feet in chicken wire.

Now the electricity is flickering, I have the laptop unplugged so it will stay on while I need it.

The rain coming down is going to freeze solid by morning. This is going to be a nightmare. Hopefully I will not have to leave the house until Thursday. They should have the roads clear by then.

Thank God I'm not working in Louisville anymore.

Ice Storm Part II

Ice Storm Part III

Ice Storm Part V

Monday, January 26, 2009

Progress at Last

I've been sweating bullets over the ABNA contest pitch, and I finally have one that I'm proud of! It actually says everything that I want it to say.

Seriously I've been working on some form of this pitch with my queries, some 6 months or so. This is sweaty grunt work, pitches and query letters, researching agents. The publishing industry is multi-layered, obscure and mostly hidden from sight. Like the computer industry you can find a niche, or a niche market, if you follow the threads of information scattered on the infinate and changing Internet.

The amount of information that I've had to process is staggering. Books, writer's groups, forums, blogs, agent websites, blogs, magazines, more blogs, e-publisher's sites, and their blogs. I can say truthfully that I've spent 20 hours a week on this topic for the last 3 months and 10 hours a week for 3 months before that.

I've barely scratched the surface. I'm not half-way up this bell curve, yet the view from here is pretty darn good. Just as I learned software, hardware, pcs, then networks, internet and tech support, I've studied the road to publishing until I can say my feet are firmly on the path.

I just haven't gotten anywhere, yet.

This is a process not an event. I have to gather information before I can apply it. I purchased my first pc for the word processing program, and have made my livelihood with words ever since.

This is just another step on the road.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Content Advisory in Effect -- Not!

Been slaving over the pitch for Breakthrough Novel Award. I can hardly spell discipline without looking it up, however, that is exactly what I need.

The horses are outside and hungry and the hubby has collapsed, I have to find time to finish that stupid pitch! Add to this two Jack Russels, a mutt, a cat and a sick husband - all clamoring for my attention, well the pressure is on. Now that I've declared my intention to enter this contest, I've had to re-write my first Chapter, ripping the first six pages out to get to a place where I had relevant dialog to start with. (Ack!)

However my opening quote is a good one. "So what does a guy have to do to get a plate of fried chicken and French fries in this place?"

I think of this as the 'grunt' work of writing. The pitches, the queries, the contests, researching markets and struggling to turn this beloved story into something more than a mere file on a disk. Without 'readers' writers aren't anyone. But finding the way through this maze to the prize of publication at the end - well that's a different can of worms.

Yet, for the writing to have meaning (ie. Readers) traversing this maze is required. (Oh Joy!)

Blogmanship has it's advantages. One can pretend that people are reading a blog, even if no one is, they might.


I've started thinking that networking sites could easily outlive the people who put them up, as a blog could. There's something to keep you up at night, eh? One hundred years from now, which web-sites will be 'national monuments?' perhaps? I've got photos up there, will I be leaving that for posterity when I am no more? Hey there's a happy thought -- Not! I have a few photos that I'd like to post of my favorite teen years. Wonder if the other person involved would object?

This brings me back to the photo issue for the contest. Can you believe they want a photo of the author. (Me?) My very first publicity shot is a old tin-type of me in a hat with a bottle in one hand and gun in the other. (Rotflmao)

Why not?

My wicked mind reels at the prospect. Better not. Anything that much fun would get me into trouble.

Can you tell that I'm punchy from slaving over that bitch of a pitch?

I'm getting close, I'm tripping over my own feet to have this come out better than any other blurb I've ever written.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Horse Play in the Snow

After playtime is nap-time - in a thick bed of hay.

It is snowing, thick feathery flakes, like duck down. When I opened the barn this morning the mares went out reluctantly, but Ned went out at a canter. He's been leading the girls in play all morning. The sky is so gray that it's hard to see the horizon. The snow isn't sticking to the ground.

The mares are leaping around, noses tucked, legs flying in extension. Ned lumbers after them, he's collected himself, a black behemoth in the dim light. They buck and twist about, swapping ends in mid-air, or dancing about on their hind-legs. They've whipped the dogs into a barking frenzy.

Tana, the youngest, nips Ned, squealing and kicking. Oppie, her mother has more dignity, she's racing around with her tail flagged, running circles around them. They cross from side to side, keeping to the hill where the footing is best. Then stopping to graze.

I'll bring them in early tonight, but for now, I'll let them play.

I recall, many years ago, when the old mare was a filly; her first real snowfall, in Ohio where a foot of snow was fairly normal.

Born in Florida, kept for years in a barn, Oppie spent her first day at our place running from stall to pen, in and out, over and over. I'd left her the night before standing in the stall with her head outside watching it snow.

When I arrived to feed the next morning she was stock still in the middle of the pen. There was a perfect blanket of snow on her back at least four inches thick, from her ears to her tail. I don't think she'd twitched an ear all night.

I got out of my car, greeted her, then as if she'd waited all night for this moment, she squealed and exploded. Up on her hind legs, then leaping high and lashing out. The blanket of snow became her own private blizzard. She bucked around the little pen, gleefully scattering any fragments that may have stuck to her coat. I got covered with it, of course.

She wasn't even damp. Her coat must have captured and held every degree of body heat. We had a good laugh, she and I, then I threw a couple of snowballs at her. She came back to get her breakfast proud of her joke.

Silly old mare, she's still full of tricks.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Getting Hay

I went down to Sonora to buy hay today. It is a chill winter day, 20 degrees this morning, only 30 degrees at noon. I bundled up in an old jogging suit that is lined and will keep the wind out better than jeans. When it is particularly cold, I'll wear long johns under this suit. The damp cold of Kentucky is not the burning cold of the Siberian Clipper winds I was raised with, but it's still darn cold.

I have to drive through the bustling city of Elizabethtown. The heavy post-holiday traffic is still clogging the roads. Still, as I get off the Bluegrass parkway and turn south, it is like going back into time. 31W runs from Louisville south. Once passed the city limits of E-town, the area gradually becomes suburb, then country, then farm.

The Amish use these roads. The gray pavement has sinuous chalky scuff-marks from metal buggy wheels and barium shod hooves. The bay horses are shaggy, but they move out at a good clip. I am always careful while passing, not so fast as to scare the horse, and not too close.

The countryside is mostly muted tones of brown, here and there are the bright greens of winter wheat. But most fields are fallow, resting. Spring will bring the impossible purple of crown vetch, but not yet. Dark cattle graze the fields, I hear that there are more cattle in the county than humans still, but the people are catching up. More sub-divisions are built every year. "It's hard to farm land worth eight thousand an acre," someone said to me. I agree, but someone must hold off the developers.

We stack the truck full of hay, then look outward from the barn, where the Earth sleeps in muted tones of taupe and gray. Even the serrated clouds are muted blue and gray-white. There is the sharp scent of snow on the breeze. The rolling countryside stretches for miles around us.

My farmer friend tells me that he's found a lake close by where he can learn to wind surf. His father, nearly ninety, gave me a couple of sticks of corn bread, cooked in a pan almost 150 years old. The old farmer told me that the pan had traveled from Kentucky to Kansas and back with his family, when they were homesteaders. The family has spent four generations on the farm, in that house.

The air is damp as I drive home, a light haze that blurs the edges of the trees and bleaches the road to a gray ribbon, under a blue-gray sky. When I arrive home, the horses come to greet me. They see the hay and nicker for it. We'll throw it in the loft, where it will last a month or more.

Then I will drive back to Sonora again.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Trouble with "Paranormal Romance"

I've been reading everything I could get my hands on since I was itty bitty. Now I'm attempting to write and get published, so I'm reading what's popular. The current standby in women's fiction is Urban Fantasy aka Vampire Sleaze, or as one honest editor called it: Vampire Porn.

The allure of the Vamp, beyond the obvious titillation factor escapes me. Call it what it is: thinly disguised hardcore porn B+D, S+M. It's all about power, domination, anger, spiced with kinkiness and some bestiality. To call it a "Paranormal Romance" is an ironic play on words. One of these books should keep a Freudian shrink chortling for many years.

I get that the writer is doing this for money. Sex sells in mass-market woman's fiction. Okay, sex sells everything from cars to beer to toothpaste. At least the 'dominate' in most of these books is female. Angry, ass-kicking female in tight leather pants and a libido to make a pony stallion very, very, proud.

Still if you delete the sex from one of the latest 120k word novels by a 'best selling author,' there is about 60k words and very little plot. Delete the discussion of, and angst about, the sex and there is one chapter of plot. The last chapter, by the way, is the only chapter where the title makes sense. Ironically it is a very short chapter.

One chapter is hardly enough for a short story.

This all dates back to Rice and her vampires. Of course, in Rice's books the vampires didn't have sex. There is something deeply ironic about these books 'coming out' around the time of the Aids epidemic's first wave. Rice's vampires were all gay men, at a time when sex with a gay man could indeed be the 'kiss of death' between the 'undead' and a living victim.

While Aids has spread beyond the gay community, world wide, I wonder if Rice had a lot of gay friends when she wrote the books? The parallels are there, my morbid imagination may be running amok, but I wonder.

For teen Vampy Sleazy the vampires 'sparkle in the sunlight.' All the 'after dark' is gone, so little Mary Sue won't miss curfew and can be up for school. Mary Sue never misses a day of class. She is, by definition, a perfect teenager who doesn't have sex until the 3rd or 4th book. Imagine 500 pages of teenage angst and hormones but nothing to show for it for four books. The plot gets sillier from there. Again, remove all syrup and we have only a chapter or two of plot.

Where is the lyrical darkness of Rice's work? Where are shadowed places in New Orleans, where the Spanish moss drips thickly from the trees? Where are the garish streets and the flavor of the nightlife? Missing, all the atmosphere is missing. Instead we get rain and a prom night. Where is the freaking horror?

The feeling that the dreaded Undead are truly undead is also missing. They just have dietary challenges, like meat-eaters in a vegetarian world. There are no bloodsucking monsters.

I suppose the Vampire is the ultimate bad-boy. The 'demon' with the 'heart of gold' who sacrifices "all" for the love of his (undead) life.' Kinda like a reformed gang-member without the drug habit.

Maybe what is missing from the vampire in this genre is the evil. The vampire no longer cringes from the cross, because faith has been lost to the world? I wonder sometimes if our society has lost its belief in evil as well as good? We can have the most vile of bloodsucking myths scrubbed squeaky clean and marketed to teenagers with nary a qualm, since little Mary Sue never misses a day at school, and doesn't have sex for 2 thousand pages? The soulless undead who has traded humanity for eternal damnation, is a now rich kid in a Mercedes, the perfect date to take home to Daddy, 'cause he's got money.

Gag me.

Vampires may be the archetype of the jaded nobility who preyed on the young girls of the villages. England had some really strange customs at one point. Girls spent their wedding nights with the old lords, in the castle, not with their husbands.

Even the werewolf, the mythical beast in the human soul, is no longer the rabid wolf who kills all it sees, raging with killing lust. Instead it is little more than the pet dog on the rug. Complete with fleas.

Poor buggers, is there nothing scary left in the world?

(This post was published previously, it has been edited and expanded.)