Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Space Between

This is my entry into The Clarity of Night "Silhouette" Short Fiction Contest.  Entries were to be based on this photo, and there was a 250 word limit.  I'm reposting it here simply to have it handy for my own reference.

The Space Between

Two of us were lunching at a sidewalk cafe, just bitching about our boss, when a pigeon fell from the clouds. Plop, right next to our laptop bags.

Plop. Plop plop plop-plop-ploploplop.

Now we could see the sky was a wrong-colored pall, settling.

Millions shrieked and scattered. Every being above ground succumbed within minutes, but hundreds of thousands poured into the cavities below. To escape the gas, we gushed through the subways and sewers. To escape the crowds, we flowed through unmarked doors, down unlit stairwells, and seeped through hatches into yet more secret places.

Finally there was only a crawlspace, a black horizontal crevice between the concrete city and the damp earth, wider than we could perceive but barely two feet high. Perhaps a few hundred of us oozed quietly through it, distributing like cells smeared on a microscope slide. No one spoke or cried here; there were only grunts and stifled squeaks as bloodied fingers and knees met the dry crunch of former tenants.

When I collapsed onto my back at last, his hand groped my arm. He whispered my name. “How long do you think we have?”

I felt for his hair, and said into his ear, “less than an hour.”

I’d never touched him before.

“Does your phone work?”
“No. Yours?”

We’d never be with our own families again. That life was already over. These minutes were something else.

I held his face against mine as he reached under my shirt.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Not much to say.  Working furiously to get a few more Koala Points.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Cure

I'm no longer broken.  The day after I complained about not having finished reading a novel in ages, I started one, and just finished it, and will start reading the sequel shortly.

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

If you haven't read it, go do so now.  Yes, it's YA.  Yes, the narrator is a sixteen-year-old girl.  But I don't care who you are, this is a great book.

Rabbit Hole Day

I had the most fantastic day!

My husband sat down with me this morning while I was painting my toenails.

"Honey," he said, "I'm sorry, but I just don't believe you.  You're an established night owl.  You oversleep every morning and you're always late.  Right now you should be sprinting through the place throwing on mismatched clothes and taking off without your phone."

“Awww,” I intoned.  “You’re just the bestest husband ever!” I exclaimed.  “I can’t wait to go to bed tonight...”  I breathed.

He grimaced and shook his head.  “Honey, that is really distracting.  Just say it, OK, dear?”

At my usual lunch place I ordered a heavenly soft, buttery cloud of an orange muffin stuffed with bursting juice-jewel cranberries.

Stu-the-Cashier smiled down at me and said, "Dial it back, kid.

“Also,” he said, “you know your hair doesn't need to be so tediously shiny and thick and silky and flowing.  Lustrous would be just fine."

I thanked him until he shooed me on my way.

At work my boss called me in to his office.  He asked me to close the door behind him.

"So Kate, we need to discuss a few items.  For starters, I understand you're expecting a promotion."

"Yes sir, I believe we'd all be best served if you make me the surprise choice to head up the MacGuffin Project.  It would inspire my friends to rally 'round me, and my rivals to hatch insidious plans to humiliate me.  They would go a little too far and inadvertently create a massive crisis that would require me to set aside my personal demons and save the world."

"I see,” he said.  “The problem is that you started here as the plucky temp who caused a brown-out attempting to operate the coffee maker.  According to my records, that was... Monday."  He pressed his fingertips together and frowned.  "You see the problem, Kate.”

Then he cleared his throat.  "And that brings me to the second item," he continued.  "For four hours yesterday your name was Stephanie."

I tell you, I’m just so lucky to have these people!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tomorrow is Rabbit Hole Day

Look for a special fiction post here tomorrow in honor of Rabbit Hole Day.

I'll post links to other writers' Rabbit Hole posts as I come across them.  I invite you to link to your own in the comments.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Seem to be Broken

Something very odd is happening -- disturbing, even.

I haven't finished a novel in three or four months.

Even worse, the last one I did finish was... Twilight.

I was reading it as a break from Gravity's Rainbow, which I never did finish.

I used to average a novel or two per week, and now I can't seem to relax into a novel at all.  Believe me, I've tried.  I have a stack of great books by authors I love, all with bookmarks less than fifty pages in.

I really don't know what happened.  I suppose it *might* have something to do with negligible free/alone time and that being interrupted every three seconds.  Or it might have something to do with taking up writing seriously and the way I feel guilty when I'm not working on it.

But now I think I'm starting to feel some negative effects of novellessness.  I'm having trouble single-tasking on anything except writing, as if my brain is rewiring.  Maybe reading novels is actually a useful mental practice after all, like yoga.

Well, I hereby give myself permission to read one novel per month even at the expense of other chores.  Let's see if that helps.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is it Sping Yet?

It's been positively springy here in North Texas this week, but then Texas does like to tease me.  Nonetheless, the calendar says it's almost my favorite time of year: gardening time!  Here's a peek at the entrance to my back garden taken last spring on my iPhone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is it Just Me?

So, I told you a while back that I got myself a new desk.  One I'm not sharing with anyone.  One that's always ready for me and whatever I want to do.  I'm pleased to report I'm enjoying the heck out of it.

However, it has not made me thinner, taller, more beautiful, or a best-selling author.  Clearly, I didn't spend enough money on it.

But I digress.  The great thing about my desk is that it is in the corner, facing the room.  As a matter of fact, this is a requirement for me.  I cannot work at a desk facing a wall.  I have never been able to sit with my back to a door either.  I never once did homework at the desk in my bedroom growing up, and although I didn't realize it at the time, it's because that desk was always in the only place it would fit: against the wall opposite the door.

I could go on and on about atavistic/paranoid psychologies involved here, but let's just take them as self-evident.  I simply want to know: anybody else?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Pins, Needles, and Porcelain

Sorry for the relative quiet, folks.  As mentioned, I entered that Clarity of Night contest.  Well, with privilege comes responsibility - I felt obligated to read every entry and vote in the Reader's Choice Poll.  This took a wee bit more time than expected.  Commenting on every entry was simply not possible.  Results are to be announced tomorrow.  Best of luck to all the entrants!

Also, we've had some kind of vomit plague roll through our house.  It's mostly passed now, and I'll spare you the details.  I just mention it because I HATE HATE HATE puking.  Seriously.  Seriously.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Once Upon a Dot Com

I was at Barnes & Noble last week.

Actually, I was at Barnes & Noble five times last week.  It’s my happy place.

Anyway, I was looking for a book on iPhone App development.  I browsed through half a dozen or so, picked the one I liked best, and checked the price.  I was not pleased.  On a whim, I checked the Barnes & Noble Store app on my own handy-dandy iPhone.  That's how I discovered the book was eight bucks cheaper from B&N online, shipping included.

*Sigh* Of course.  They have to do that to compete with Amazon.  Amazon, Amazon, Amazon.  Some days it seems like everything comes back to Amazon.  Well, it’s not as though they didn’t warn me...

The year: 1999.  Everybody’s got a job.  Everybody’s got stock options for their job.  Everybody’s got options, period.

I’m practically a veteran after only two-and-a-half years at my consulting firm, but I’m burned out on ninety-hour work-weeks and hundred-percent travel.  I’m lonely.  I’m also dead certain I can make more money.

A company called flies me to Seattle to interview for a developer position.  Amazon is THE dot com.  It’s THE dot com when every business wants to be a dot com and every one actually says “dot com”.

Its stock price is famously overvalued.

The recruiter who meets me is named John.  He’s wearing a T-shirt that helpfully informs me a life with Amazon is what I need to “Make Friends. Make Money. Make History.”

I roll my eyes while his back is turned.

My technical interviews go well, but they can tell my heart isn’t in it.  John wants to know my concerns.  I tell him I have a new house on half an acre back in Ohio.  “Oh, you’ll never have that here in Seattle,” he says.  I tell him I’m worried the stock options won’t be worth anything by the time they vest.  He’s visibly offended.  I tell him I’m a little sad about moving away from all my friends.  He wonders if I can handle the stress.  He tells me that Amazon dot com is so very important that if a problem arises on Friday and it takes until Tuesday to fix it, no one goes home until Tuesday.  I try to tell him I’ve spent two years doing really important stuff under a lot of pressure, but he seems to think I don’t understand the definition of the word.

I’m still in Seattle the next day when he calls.  “We’ve decided not to go ahead with you.”

“Yes,” I say, “I agree that’s best. Thanks so much for-“

“I don’t think you understand what you’re giving up here!  This is where everything is happening,” he says, “this is the future!”

I try to keep my tone even.  “John, with all due respect, if you aren’t going to extend an offer, what difference does it make?”

He’s quiet for a moment.  “I just can’t understand why you would want to go back to Ohio.”

I don’t tell him I’ve decided to accept the offer from Microsoft.

Anyhoo, I put the iPhone book back on the shelf.  I decided to order it when I got home, then forgot, and then decided I didn’t really need it after all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010


I spent most of this morning in a conference room.  It's a nice room, clean and cool with two walls worth of windows overlooking the sunny Dallas skyline.  Working from home as much as I do, I actually enjoy the occasional meeting.  (It helps that I love the people I work with.) This meeting was particularly pleasant because the agenda gave me plenty of intervals to daydream.

I imagined I was in a meeting about my novel.  For the purposes of revision, I had spawned an entire organization of Mini-Mees, and now the department heads for Character and Pacing were negotiating the fate of a back story.  The Director of Plot, flanked by the Conflict and Action Managers, worked out some problems with the Language Committee.  Meanwhile the Show-Don't-Tell (SDT, not to be confused with STD), and Does-It-Make-Sense (DIMS) Leads were trying to reconcile their cost-benefit spreadsheets.   The Director of Dialog was muttering to herself; the Punctuation Counsel frowned.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest

My entry for the current Clarity of Night Short Fiction Contest is now up here.  I hope you'll take a moment to read it along with some or all of the other entries.  Plus, there's still time to enter yourself if you're game!

I'm really excited about this contest as I'm a little desperate for feedback right now as I start the second draft of the novel.

Just kidding!  I'm a writer, therefore I'm desperate for validation.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Feel-Good Lie

Sometimes I have a problem separating how it feels to write something from whether or not I think that writing is any good.  Do you know what I mean?  Sometimes the words flow with such ease and satisfaction that I can't help but associate them with good; these are my darlings.  Likewise, I look upon the words I struggled for with a jaundiced eye; these are the red-headed stepchildren.  In reality, there is no correlation between first-draft effort and quality, so the feel-good lie just leads to bad self-editing decisions.

The obvious solution is to set the work aside until the emotional memory fades into a more objective perspective, then revise, then repeat.

When to stop revising is another question.  While time and exhaustive, iterative revision invariably improves my writing, it sure isn't improving my throughput.  But this gets better with experience, right?  RIGHT???

Thursday, January 7, 2010

We Must Start Thinking of Content as Service

My new nook, successfully rescued from its polycarbonate chinese puzzle box of a package, has brought one of my pet subjects to the fore.

Look around you. You probably use less than ten-percent of the objects you own on a daily basis.  I bet a third of the mass you bring in to your home goes right back out as trash.  Meanwhile, the consumer culture of mostly-unused objects is breaking economies and wrecking the earth.

So I'm going to put this bluntly.  In the future, we won't pay for things.  We'll pay for the use of things.  We'll pay for the service that things provide to us.

Specifically, we won't pay for books; not even e-books.  We'll pay for the privilege of reading them.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Nook Arrived!

I hold my brand new Barnes & Noble nook in my lap.  Unfortunately, I'm having trouble removing it from the packaging... despite having illustrated instructions on how to remove it from its packaging.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do You Have a Lot of Books?

I estimate our family has around 3,000 books.  We made our entire formal living/dining room into a library, and still every shelf sags three rows deep in book.  We love every tome, but we frequently repurchase books we lost, thought we lost, can't remember who we lent them to, or forgot we ever purchased.

If you read this blog, you probably have a lot of books too.  So I would really like to know: do you have a system of keeping track of them?  What is that system?

The Problem of Uniqua

The Backyardigans is a very popular TV show for preschoolers on Nick Jr.  Its popularity is well-deserved; I could easily list fifty fantastic things about it.

But there's one interesting little problem.  Every episode involves the same five charming characters: Tasha the yellow hippo; Austin the purple kangaroo; Pablo the blue penguin; Tyrone the orange moose; and Uniqua the pink... lady bug?  slug?  alien?  They never say. 

Here we have a show in which every item, setting, and situation is imaginatively rendered but essentially recognizable.  Four out of five regular characters are known, reality-based types.  And then for no reason that is ever explained, the fifth is something completely different.  After online debates as to her species raged to the point of ugliness, Nick Jr. finally stated on their website that Uniqua is both her name and her species and she is the only representative. 

Uniqua entirely defies labels.  This fact is wonderful, healthy, and in a way, it's possibly the most realistic thing on television.  But it drives people crazy.  It's the elephant in the room.  It makes no difference to the stories, certainly no difference to the other characters, and probably no difference to the target audience of tiny children.  But to adults, whose brains are wired to quickly categorize, compress, and dispose of information, anything that defies our personal taxonomic systems gums up the works.  It's like that thing someone gave you but can't figure out where to put it, so it sits in the front hallway tripping you up every time you pass.   Eventually you'll see it as part of the decor.  But for a long while, it's hard to ignore.  And that makes it ingenius.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

And... We're Back!

Hello one and all!  I hope you all had fantastic holidays and I wish you a truly wonderful 2010.

I've had a lovely break myself, but am more than ready to get back into the groove.  In fact, you'll see a quite a few changes here over the next month.  But for the sake of tradition, let's start with the New Year's Resolutions, shall we? 

Actually, I dislike the work resolution because it sounds very permanent - like closing doors - and I like to keep my options open.  So instead, here is my list of 2010 goals:

  1. Finish revising the novel.
  2. Spend more time doing things that make me happy.
There you go.  Simple, right?