Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Didn't Win

Nope, not a chance. I'm not popular enough to have gotten enough votes to win, but at least writing the story for the Gaelsong contest was good practice. So now I will share my entry with you all:

by K.E. Skedgell

Every Halloween, Betty took delight in watching the neighborhood children dressed in costumes go door to door for treats. And every year she hoped at least one child would stop at hers. From her parlor window, she watched a young bee begin to waddle up her sidewalk, but the bee's mother grabbed hold of their arm and said, “No, not here. This is the home of that old witch.”
Betty sighed and her heart sank as all the children passed by her lighted porch. Another year without handing out candied apples to even one child. Every year she said, “Why do I bother?”
She looked about her home to her favorite things: her collection of owl statues, the crystal balls she used to read fortunes from, now gathering dust, her books of Shakespeare and Poe, a skull engraved with Celtic knots that used to bring her luck. Red votive candles glowed warmly as she petted her cat Mr. Black, but none of those things could heal her cold, lonely heart.
A young couple with a plum fairy princess stopped. “They will pass on by like the rest.”
They didn't.
The mother urged the little fairy up the sidewalk to the porch. Betty's heart sang. “A child! Oh blessed be!”
She rushed to the door as quick as her old bones allowed and grabbed the tray of candied apples from the table beside it. The door bell rang and Betty opened it, smiling.
Trick-or-Treat!” the little fairy said.
Here's a candied apple for you.” Betty placed the treat into her bag. She glanced to the joyful parents. “Here, have a few more, for your parents.” She placed two more in the fairy's bag.
Thank you, lady. These are my favorite.”
My name is Betty, little princess.”
I'm Rachel.”
Up and down the street other parents gave looks of distress and disgust. None would come to her door, she knew, and this family must be new to the neighborhood and not yet heard of their hurtful rumors. She emptied the tray into Rachel's bag and said, “Take them all. You and your family, enjoy!”
Thank you!” the fairy said, and bounced back to her parents to show them her bounty.
Every Halloween after, Rachel remained the only child to stop at Betty's. Even as a teenager, when she felt too mature to trick-or-treat, she'd always stop at Betty's for her candied apples. Rachel departed for college, married, and had a daughter of her own. One year she returned to town to take her daughter trick-or-treating and to meet her namesake when she heard of Betty's passing. Rachel, with little Betty dressed as a plum fairy princess, stopped at old Betty's house, the gardens over-grown, the house rotting from neglect, and set at the front door a candied apple, a small owl statue, and a card that read:
Thank you for the candied apples, and for the wonderful Halloween memories.”

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Entered A Contest...

...of sorts. It's called the Samhain Visions Cover Story Contest where you write a story, poem, or essay about the photo on the cover of Gaelsong's catalog. So I wrote a short story (the name of it is "Betty") and I think it's an okay little story. I need more votes though to win the big prize (hint hint) since the stories are voted on by your peers. Hence, it doesn't really matter how good the story is, or how well it's written, just as long as you can get enough people to vote for your story. Anyway, the voting runs until the 29th of October and you can vote on a story once a day every day until the the voting ends. I'm just looking to be somewhere near the top, I guess, and not dead last. I have ten votes as of writing this. Hope I get more.

In other news...

My progression on my Lake One Gothic romance novel, or novella, or whatever it'll be, is coming along slowly but surely. I have over 12k words written, some of which I'm sure I'll keep in the editing, but let's not talk about editing right now. Much too soon for that. I don't have much to say on this project until I have more written, other than I keep thinking about it more than I actually write it. Me thinks I need to set myself goals like I did with Draculești if I ever want to get the first draft done. Even if I don't reach them, at least I'll have something to work towards and get this thing rollin'.

The other day I had a friend of mine take some pictures of me all dressed up and looking Gothic while in the cemetery and quite a few of them turned out pretty nice. I needed some updated photos of me and the autumn season and the beautiful cemetery in my home town make for a nice back drop. One of the photos is my about me photo in the upper right of this blog. She's not a professional photographer, she's still learning to use her new camera so I thought since I needed some new pictures of myself for internet purposes, and she needed some practice, a little photo shoot would benefit the both of us. And we had fun doing it. A few for your viewing pleasure.

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain

Photo by Anita McIlvain


A few weeks ago my anxiety decided it wanted to fuck with me. I ended up having a bad panic attack when I went into work and cried uncontrollably. Not only that, the heart palpitations would not stop. I had to go home early from work twice which I did not want to do. I didn't want the points, and I didn't want to lose the time and money. I had no choice--I couldn't work the way I was. At the end of this month I finally get to see a doctor for this, but it isn't for an actual appointment, it's for a meet and greet, whatever that is. I guess doctors want to know you before they decide to take you on as a patient or something? I have no idea. I just want meds to make myself better again. The past week my anxiety has nearly vanished, but I know it'll return sooner or later. I still get the palpitations once in a while, though not nearly as bad as a few weeks ago. Anxiety sucks, big time. I don't wish it upon anybody.

So that concludes what I have to say for the time being. I really do need to update this blog more often, but what the hey. At least it gets updated, even if it takes a month or more between posts.

Now, click on the linky at the top of the post and cast your vote for me, even if you don't read the story (it's 488 words, it's not long at all) but please do. Let me know what you think. It's the first short story I've written in a long time. I don't think I did too badly considering, and that my word limit was 500. I even managed to keep it down below that. Ta ta for now!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Came To A Conclusion

Now, this is going to sound like I'm making up excuses, and maybe it really is, but I think I came to a conclusion as to why I'm having so much trouble writing this year as opposed to previous years, even when I was going through a spell of depression. The reason--my family.

Now, I love my family, and it's not them personally that is making it hard for me to get in the writing spirit again. The problem is that there is never a time when I have the house to myself. Never. There is always someone here in this house, whereas when I lived with my ex there were numerous times I had the house to myself, and that's when I got most of my writing done. When he was in the house I had a hard time concentrating on my work. He could be very quiet and still; yet, it was like the light shut off on my imagination until he went to bed. When he was gone and I had the house all to my very lonesome, I could turn on some music, light some candles, you know, set up an atmosphere, and have the comfort in knowing no one would be around to bother me and bring me out of my zone.

It was nice. And last year, when my depression started to take its hold on me, was when I did the most writing I had ever done. I had finished the first draft of my book at the turn of this year. I was proud, things were looking up in regards to my writing.

Then the ex and I split. That took its toll on me for a while, but I'm over it now. Yet, I still can't seem to focus because I know there are people in the house (and I have a cat of constant licking that never leaves my room). And I'm away from my comfy writing zone, my own place that I shared with my then significant other. I keep thinking to myself, if only I had my own place where it was quiet all the time, I could get some writing done. It just isn't feasible for me right now, money-wise, to have my own place.

I've toyed with the idea of taking a pad of paper and pen to the cemetery and sit there to write, away from the house and where most likely no one will bother me. I don't know. Like I said, I may be making excuses not to write, but whenever I open the document and start to pound the keys, I just can't get far because I hear people moving around (or a cat licking) and it takes me out of the zone. Perhaps I'm going through some sort of writing doldrums and I don't know how to snap myself out of it. I've tried, and have managed to edit my first finished piece, which still needs more editing, and I've written some new stuff, but not like I've done in the past. Maybe I need to take the energy I'm using toward whining on my blog and turn it toward writing my stories instead.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Not A Lot A Happenin'

I haven't made a new post in over two months for good reasons. Not much has happened. Well, maybe a little. I have a job now, which being jobless was really taking its toll on my sanity. It's nice to finally have some money rolling in. I've been in a depression funk for quite some time and it still has yet to lift, but it's getting better. Not enough for me to get back into my writing, though I did start on a new project, sort of. I have about 3000 words written, The direction I wish for it to go is horror on the Gothic side, but since I'm a 'by the seat of the pants' type of writer, it could turn out to be anything. The working title is Lake One, and here's the gist of it:

During the summer of 1923, strange murders plague the "friendly village" of Nashville, Michigan, and the residents don't know who could be behind the deaths. Young women and children are found drained of blood laying on the bank beside an old boathouse on Lake One. Jennie suspects newcomer Josef and is bound to prove that he is not so innocent as he claims to be, and warns her best friend Millie to resist his charms and to stay away from him. Though Jennie always thought of him as no good, never in a hundred years did she think of him to be a vampire. Vampires don't walk during the day. Constrained to his "family" for being a daywalker, Josef has no choice but to abide their demands of him. His love for Millie turns horribly wrong, and the guilt has him seeking Jennie's help to end not only his suffering and to avenge Millie, but to prevent future suffering onto others in the village.
Main St. Nashville, Michigan (1920)

So, being that it takes place in my home town, you would think research for the story would be pretty easy. Well, it is somewhat, but the town has changed a lot since 1923. Some of the buildings that were around then are still here today, but the businesses have changed, whereas others are no longer here and have been replaced with a different building or turned into parking lots and so forth. It's going to require a lot of research, and the library here has rooms dedicated to the local history and lots of historical pictures and documents that I could search through to help me with making 1923 Nashville as accurate as possible. But--and here's the big but--the library does not like people going into those rooms alone and must be accompanied by a chaperone. Which is understandable, a lot of what they have in those rooms cannot be replaced if they are damaged or stolen. What could be fairly easy access to first hand documents to help with my research has been other than. Since the idea of the story blossomed back in mid-June, I have only been able to access their local history rooms once and for only two hours. Granted, I waited out the month of July and half of August for the story to percolate in my head a while longer so I could get a better idea of what I needed to search for for the next time I would need to go there, but it is such a pain to have to wait and wait and wait for a time when my schedule and theirs coincide so I can have a chaperone take me to the rooms. Which will be next Wednesday. So I have until then to think of what I really need to look for that is important to the story so I can search for that information first since I will only have an hour or two to do what I need to, because afterward there is no telling how soon I'll be able to get into those rooms again.

Putnam House (early 1900's), now Putnam District Library. Was donated by the Putnam's to be turned into a library, which it did in 1923.

I'm also on the hunt for a map of the village and I think I have a source, but from what I can tell it's going to be pricey. Will it be worth it to me? Certainly. Even if the story never gets finished, or if it does and never sells, or whatever, I can frame the map and use it as a wall decoration. I like maps, and a map of my home town in 1923 hanging on the wall would be pretty cool. I'm working on acquiring a map through this company, EDR, which handles the historical Sanborn maps of which give nice details of the buildings and streets for most any year for most towns and cities in the USA going back to 1866. I'm still in the process of finding out if they have one for the year I want, but I'll update here as soon as I find something out.

As for my Draculești novel, I still haven't looked at it since I got my beta critique. I'll go back to it once I have given myself a long distance from it so I can go through it with a more critical eye and use the beta's notes as a guideline. Summer is almost over and summer is usually the time of the year when I lose interest in writing and go into gardening mode, which is what I have been putting most of my efforts toward on my time off from work. Once autumn comes I know (or hope) that my writing muse will return. Usually does. And maybe I'll update this blog a little more often, too.

Oh, and last but not least, my efforts to lose weight are finally showing some results. Especially over the course of this last month since I started working. In March I weighed in around 170 lbs. The past few days I've been down to 151-2 lbs. My goal is to be in the low to mid 140's range and lose most of this belly flab. My pants are fitting loose on me now, which is a good thing. I haven't changed my diet other than eating less at suppertime and drinking more water and avoiding pop and juice most of the time. I also go for walks as much as possible. When I wasn't working that was every night, about a mile and a half to two miles for each walk. Since I started working, which is very physical in itself, I don't go every night, but those days I don't work I do go for my walk and days where I'm not that tired out from my job I go as well. Another ten more pounds or so and I'll feel like myself again. I'm happier with myself now at 151, but I'll be even more happy to fit into the clothes I haven't been able wear in four or five years.

And now to try to get some writing done. Does this blog post count toward my word count for today?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dudes, I'm Freaking Out!

So I have myself a few beta readers now and they're actually reading my story! Uh, yeah, I mean that's what I want, no doubt about it, but see, I'm used to handing off the first chapter or two for friends to read to get their opinion (and granted this was back when my writing sucked insert expletive) and the usual caveat was no reply back. Ever. Even though my writing is somewhat decent nowadays, I expected that to happen again after finding me a few betas.

Well, the first one that I hitched up with hasn't responded to me in two weeks, and I gave them the first six chapters three weeks ago. Gave them some time, thinking, okay, people have lives and they probably can't get to it right away. No biggie. Got an email saying they were still working on their notes and would send them to me in a few days. Sweet. So I waited, and waited, and still no email. That figures, I thought. Well, perhaps my story really does suck insert expletive. I tell peeps, if it isn't your thing, let me know so I don't go on wondering if you've read it or will finish, but no one ever does what I ask of them. Like, in my whole life. Ever.

I have now regarded the beta as a no go. But then I got another offer. Sweet! So far this beta has made it through the first several chapters and has sent me their notes, and boy did they have notes.

Now I'm freaking out!

Oh lawd!

Someone is actually reading my story, and making notes, and giving me their opinions, and I am scared that they'll say the book I've been scribbling away at for four years (off and on) sucks insert expletive. I've never had anyone read past the first chapter or two before, and now they are getting into the meat of the story and tearing it apart. I mean, this is what I wanted, isn't it? I wanted someone to read it with a critical eye and show me, in their opinion, where I need improving because I'm much too close to the work to see my mistakes. This is what I wanted.

And still do, and now I have three other peeps reading my story, and so now I'm freaking out more, and all I can think about right now is that there are more people reading my silly little 180k word (okay, not so little) story, and will they finish it? Is the story that ridiculously dumb and full of grammar mistakes? Why am I freaking out? Am I just in a particular mood right now and in a few days it'll pass? Maybe I need to drink some wine and calm the hell down.

Dude, just chill.
It makes me wonder if I'm the only one who has ever freaked out about having other peeps read their work or if this is normal? The more notes I get the more I think my writing is crap and that I should give up. Then I think, you idiot, don't give up over one person's opinion, or over several people's opinions. Believe your work is good, and whatever advice they give use only what applies to you. I know how I want my work to be better than anyone. Still, I don't know. Maybe it's the anxiety and depression I've been feeling lately, but I know this feeling will pass sooner or later. It has to. I worked to hard to let crits bother me. They're supposed to help, but in my mind right now for whatever reason is making them as if they are an attack on my ability to write, and they aren't even bad. I've even had compliments on many aspects of my writing. If I let crits, which are meant to help, bother me, then what am I going to do when or if I get published?

So perhaps I should take Jabba the Curbside Cat's advice up there. Work on a new project for a while to take my mind off of this one (I do have an idea for a new story, just need the motivation to start plotting it out), and chillax.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Reminder Of My Failure

For the past couple of months I've made it a point to go for a walk every evening, or most evenings after supper to burn off the calories I had ingested. I was growing tired of my midsection expanding further and further and needed to do something to put an end to that nonsense, so I started taking long walks. So far I've lost ten pounds since winter, not a lot, but the weight didn't come on suddenly either. It was a gradual gain and will be a gradual loss.

This post isn't about my weight loss, it's about what I discovered a month or more ago on my walks that has reminded me of my failure in life, my failure to have a good job or career, to have money in the bank or even for recreation, let alone for retirement and what have you. It stands on the corner of Washington and Middle streets in my home town, in all of its Victorian, tan brick, and purple shingled glory. Yup, a house. But not just any house, it's the house that since I was a young girl had dreamed of owning some day. Some day, when it would go up for sale, when I was an adult and had a job and money, I was going to buy that magnificent house and it would be mine. This house right here:

Not its best side, but look at it, it's so pretty!

I love this house, it has a mysterious, creepy old look to it, like a witch would live there, and that's what has drawn me to it. It fits my personality and style. And it's for sale. At a great price. And I'm too broke to buy it, and my credit is too fucked up to even get a mortgage to pay on it, thanks to my past dumb decisions and a certain ex who drove my excellent credit into the ground.

So therefore I walk past this house, depressed that I may never have the chance to buy it. I daydream as I walk past it that I will one day live there, and landscape the yard and make it all so pretty. But it's all it is, a daydream. Someone will snatch it up before me, without doubt, and whoever does, I hope they take good care of that house. It was my dream house, since I was a girl. And it looks like it will remain that way. (And BTW, I learned it's 123 years old. The history!)

As much as it depresses me to think I could never own 404 Washington St., it also gives me a bit of a kick in the ass to do something about my shortcomings. It's a reminder that if I want something, I need to do something and stop this moping. Get to work on my dreams instead of relying on others, and don't let anyone talk me into doing something I know in my gut is wrong and will ruin me. This house is telling me I need to work on my dreams, I need to become more self-reliant, need to build up something for my life, because when a golden opportunity does come and I'm no where near ready for it, it will pass me by. So I'm back to working on my books, looking to find work and start new on my life, and that means without a significant other. I must hold myself up first and foremost, and not let others bring me down. I will have a career in writing, whether I make millions or a pittance, I will succeed one way or another. Though millions would be nice, I would settle for enough to be able to afford a good down payment on 404 Washington, but to do that I need to get to work and get to writing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Draft Three Complete!

And the search begins for beta readers. I have a few willing readers already, that's if they can make it through all 180k words. Yeah, I failed to cut it to my goal of 150k words, but doing so would have taken out large chunks of the story that I would have had to rewrite and possibly change the story to where I didn't want it to be. Maybe I'm just too attached to the thing and maybe a beta or two may find something that can be cut or reduced (hopefully not expanded on, it's a doorstop as it is).

My next task at hand is to search for another couple more betas, see if any of them will be a good fit for me and my work, and begin working on book two and a query letter. I may hold off on the query letter for a while yet until I get some more feedback from my betas in case any major restructuring will have to happen, which I doubt but you never know. Ideally I would like at least one beta that knows their stuff about 15th century Romania and Hungary and can help me make the setting and characters a little more authentic (like the use of slang or terminology, though it's all written in English and assumed to be translated from these languages). It's a historical fantasy, so I have leeway to fudge things more than a straight historical, still, I'd like to keep the historical parts I choose to keep authentic as close to authentic as one can get.

So tonight I'll go hit up the peeps on Absolute Write in the beta forum and see if I get any nibbles, and swallow down my fear and let some stranger tear apart my work, preferably in a civilized manner.

On a side note, the search for a bill paying job continues and today I went in for a second interview at a casino I applied to for a job working in housekeeping at their hotel. I think it went well, the head housekeeper seemed really nice, he made me laugh and I learned more about him I think than he learned about me. Being that the place is an Indian run casino, as he explained it to me, anyone with at least a quarter of Native American blood, especially if they are of the tribe running the casino, will have precedence over anyone that is non-Native American, and I may be the most qualified person for the job, but they have the right to pass me up for someone of their tribe that wants the same job as I do, because on the casino's land, it is their tribe's land and state and federal law does not apply there concerning the Equal Opportunity law found elsewhere in America. And possibly other laws as well. Their hiring process has been quite slow, it had been nearly a month when I went in for the first interview and I had pretty much given up hope to get an invite for a second. If I do get another invite for another interview (I have no idea how many they do), I wonder if it'll be another month before I hear from them? In the meantime, I'll just keep looking and applying for other places (and not hear back from them), work in my flower gardens and now book two, and wait. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

An Evening Romp Through Quaker Cemetery

I have a fascination with cemeteries because of the history of the dead laid to rest in them and their peaceful atmosphere. A friend and I went to this little hidden gem of a cemetery yesterday in eastern Barry County Michigan, only a few miles south of where we live, located in Maple Grove TWP on a dirt back road. It's easy to miss it if you don't know where to look for the drive, partially hidden behind wild shrubbery and grasses, looking every bit like a private drive. The drive is a two-track that goes up a steep hill, full of ruts from the heavy rain we've had lately here washing out parts of the drive, and on either side wild growth trimmed just enough to not scratch up your car too badly. However, not all the tree and shrub branches are cut back far enough to avoid scratches, so taking a car you wouldn't want scratched would be a good idea, or leave the car parked at the bottom of the hill off to the side of the road and walk.

Entry of the cemetery. No signs to let you know there's even a cemetery here.

View of drive going toward the cemetery.
View of drive from atop the hill.

Perhaps driving the Cadillac up there wasn't a good idea.

Once you reach the top, the drive ends in a tiny little parking area big enough for maybe three vehicles. The cemetery sits on a sandy hill surrounded by woods, a swamp, and someone's property to the south. There are several very old maple trees growing there, from their looks I would guess they had been there as long, or almost as long, as the cemetery. At first I thought they were oaks since I had never seen maples as huge as these before, but their leaves gave their identity away. The headstones here are sparse, according to records there are only 61 known persons buried, most of them during the 19th century with a few buried in the early 20th century, but is still maintained by the township. The headstones on most are hard to read, worn from the weather and time. As the name implies, those of the Quaker faith were buried here and the motifs used on many of the headstones imply such.

There's a sign as you enter the cemetery that tells you a little about the place and the history of the area, and I do mean little. The first settlers in the area were Quakers, and once they had disappeared, so too did most of the remnants that they had even settled here, except the cemetery and the brook named after them, Quaker Brook. At least, that's what I gathered by the sign. I hadn't done any research on the place, but after my visit my curiosity is perked, and I may do some more.

Perhaps what is best know of this cemetery with the locals is that it's supposedly haunted. I think that goes for any cemetery, but there have been stories of lights in the cemetery after dark, or of a man with a shot gun at the top of the hill if you drive up it after dark with the car lights off, or other men wandering the cemetery or some other nonsense. Apparently one is supposed to get a sinking, sick feeling when they enter, but my friend and I only experienced joy and amazement when entering this little place. In fact, the whole day up until we went there my stomach had not been feeling well, but afterward I started feeling better. So, take what you make of that. But then, after I uploaded the pictures onto my computer, I noticed this picture:

Those are tree shadows upon that headstone shaped like a human figure. Creepy! But other than that, neither of us experienced anything out of the normal with the place. Perhaps a drive to the cemetery at night is in order? Hmmm...

Our stay there wasn't very long. After several snapshots of the headstones, landscape, and the big old trees, we headed back home. I would like to go back there again, but next time with paper and charcoal and rub some of the headstones to see if they can be read that way. It's sad that many were broken, but at least they are still mostly there. A few were repaired as best as they could be, others are so worn that they are unreadable. Since I have way too many pictures to share on this post, here's a link to my Photobucket album that you may browse through: Quaker Cemetery.

A Revolutionary War soldier, Sergeant John Quick.

He was a soldier of the revolution
Under General Washington cms(?) at valley forge
Inst(?) at the battle of trenton.

Enjoy the pictures, and if you are ever in the area, stop by and take a walk through this little piece of history.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Year Old Today

Yup, today my blog becomes one. The main purpose with this blog when I first started out was to share my writing experiences with y'all and some history stuff, and whatever else that floated into my noggin' that I wanted to share. Lately I've been quiet, my writing has ceased which is mainly the reason for my silence since this is supposed to be a writer's blog. No writing, nothing to share. I've even ceased with the random song of the week since it didn't seem to be very popular. Eh, it had its run.

I've been in a funk lately, as is usually the case this time of year where my mind switches over to gardening mode and my writing sits on the back burner. Last year I was in neither gardening nor writing mode, but I did write more last summer than I had ever done before, and managed to finish the first draft by the turn of the new year. Still working on draft three slowly but surely of book one, very slowly, and haven't touched book two in a long while. Perhaps I have just fallen out of love with the story right now, and distance away from it will help spark that love of it again. I'm usually not in the mind to write during the summer, but come fall I'm back into it through winter and early spring until the warm days strike and I'm in gardening mode once again.

It could also be depression, too.

I should also update the look of my blog since it isn't winter anymore (finally), but that requires effort I'm not into right now.

So happy birthday blog, and despite the dropping of page views lately because of my lack of updates, here's to another year!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Last Few Days Have Been Something

I'm sore, burnt, and have tons of work to do. Last Friday my mom, a friend and her son, and me, all went down to Ohio 200 miles away to my ex's house to dig as many plants from my flower beds as we could fit inside the little 4'x8' trailer and the backs of both of the SUV's. And we didn't get them all. So Saturday my mom, brother, and me, went back down there while we still had the trailer and hauled some more. Still did not get all that I wanted, but got the majority. I could have grabbed a few others that would have fit, but I was so tired from digging I just didn't care anymore. I have roughly about 400 plants that I brought up here.

I suppose it's a good thing that I didn't grab more, now that I have some of them spaced out around in the beds I made, I wouldn't have had room for more. I'm afraid I won't have room for all of my hostas. Some may have to go in pots and I may have to dig out more grass. In the meantime, they'll get planted pretty close together and will be crowded for a while just so I can get them in the ground.

Speaking of planting, the soil from which they came is a sticky, clumpy clay loam which was saturated when we went to dig up the plants. We kept soil around the roots to help keep them alive until I can get them planted, but it is so compacted around the roots that I have to blast the soil off with the hose. I cannot plant them as they are, the soil here is sandy and that compacted soil, when it dries out, will act as a barrier keeping water from getting to the roots and make it hard for the plants to establish themselves. Right now it's raining, so I'm hoping the rain will wash off some of that soil.

This is just the daylilies, the hostas and other perennials are packed around the shade of the deck, their bed can't be seen in this picture.

I have a long week or two ahead of me to get everything in the ground. I'm exhausted already. I've put in a lot of work prepping for my plants, and now it'll take a while to get them in the ground. At least this is getting me outside, exercising, and maybe lose some weight (already lost a few pounds). I doubt I'll get much done writing-wise, I haven't even looked at my manuscript in almost a week. I may just have to work on editing a little here and there, but after a full day of gardening, and now looking for a job, I think I'm just going to be too exhausted to care. My goal this year was to start querying by June--perhaps I need to stop making such goals when it comes to my writing. I never seem to reach them, always something gets in the way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Long Time, No Posts

It has been nearly three weeks since my last post. Nothing of any merit has happened since then. I've been outside digging my mother's yard for the last couple of weeks in preparation for the plants I'll be bringing up here from Ohio next weekend, assuming the weather cooperates. Speaking of weather, this has been one cold, wet, nasty spring up here in Michigan. Welcome back home, my home state says, enjoy all the cold and rain and yuck. Rivers and lakes are flooding all around, some of the worst around the Grand Rapids area. Low lying areas around here are underwater, the ground is just so saturated that it can't hold anymore. Except for my mom's yard. It's a sandy loam soil, so it drains really well, which will be good for my plants and will be quite the opposite of which they are growing in now, poorly draining clay loam.

On the writing front, sadly, not much has been done. I've barely started my second pass of edits (I decided to make a third draft after all). I removed a male on male (M/M) sex scene not because I was afraid to have it in there, but because it didn't make sense for the characters to do the deed considering their circumstance. I suppose when I originally wrote it, I wanted the two characters to have this intimate moment with one another because I knew a couple of chapters away one would lose his life, and that they would not have the chance again. But I decided it best to keep them from having their moment because I came to the conclusion it would be a dumb, selfish move on their part, even though nothing happens and they could have totally done it. Cutting out that scene took out another 1200 words from the manuscript, so that helped a little in cutting down my word count, and got rid of a scene that would have made a reader shake their head and say, "What are you two idiots doing?"

Also, it was kind of a long scene.

Still haven't touched book number two. Writer's block, or laziness, or maybe both, I don't know. I have the info I need to continue, but it's just easier to nit pick the manuscript that's already finished. And I have a cat that constantly licks himself whenever he's awake, which is in the evening, which is when I like to work, and which drives me absolutely nuts, so I put on my ear buds to drown out the sound, but then the music distracts me and I putz around on the internet and nothing gets done.

See, nothing of merit. So I guess I'll end the post here, go toss my bedsheets from the washer into the dryer, and get to work on something, which will be when Jake wakes and decides he needs to give himself a sloppy bath.

It takes work to be this sexy.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Random Song Of The Week #42

Ludovico Einaudi -- Newton's Cradle
Album -- In A Time Lapse (2013)


Yes, another Ludovico song. I love his music, and this is a dark and chilling piece from his newest album. The video I found on YouTube is a time lapse video, and it's awesome. Do watch! Of course, to get the full effect of the music, it's best to listen on a headset or ear buds, but if you don't have either, watch this anyway and turn up the volume.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'm Still Alive

I've been rather quiet on my blog lately, with good reason. I've been working on the edits of my manuscript for the past few weeks now that I'm out of my funk from having broken up with my boyfriend of seven years and moving back home with my parents. I still get mopey from time to time, but I'm doing better.

Today I finished my first pass of edits on this draft. I don't plan to have other drafts other than the first and this one, I just don't see the point in keeping so many versions (but, who knows, I may change my mind). I'll just hack away at this one until it's as tight as I can make it. I didn't get anywhere near my goal of cutting the manuscript down from 189k to 150k, I managed to cut a measly 7000 words. I'll let the manuscript sit for a week or so and then I'll start on pass number two. Hopefully I can cut more then with a little distance from it. Afterward I'll be seeking betas and their advice or suggestions. I've never edited a piece like this before, so perhaps I just don't know what to look for to cut when editing.

So while book one is marinating, I'll go back to book two which I've sadly neglected for a long while now. Though I'm sure Vlad is in no hurry to go into a war.

On a side note, it looks like spring may finally start to arrive. One side of me wishes for it to get here, the other side hopes it stays away for a while longer. Once the weather warms I'll be busy digging new beds around my mom's house to make room for all of the plants I will be going back for in Ohio. No way am I leaving my babies there. If I have to dig up half her yard to house them until I can find my own, hopefully permanent, place, then so be it. She won't mind, though. She likes flowers as much as I do. And all of that time spent in the yard will be time taken away from my writing, of which I usually neglect during the warmer months. At least I don't have a job yet taking over the rest of my time, though I have been looking. Me needs some monies. So that's why I've been putting most of my energies toward getting this book done and neglecting the blog. I'm running out of winter!

Soon, my preciouses, soon. Momma will miss you.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Random Song Of The Week #41

Pearl Jam -- Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
Album -- Vs. (1993)

I seem to recognize your face
haunting, familiar, yet I can't seem to place it
cannot find the candle of thought to light your name
lifetimes are catching up with me
all these changes taking place, I wish I'd seen the place
but no one's ever taken me
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away... 

I swear I recognize your breath
memories like fingerprints are slowly raising
me, you wouldn't recall, for I'm not my former
it's hard when, you're stuck upon the shelf

I changed by not changing at all, small town predicts my fate
perhaps that's what no one wants to see
I just want to scream...hello...
my god its been so long, never dreamed you'd return
but now here you are, and here I am
hearts and thoughts they fade...away...
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away...
hearts and thoughts they fade...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Random Song Of The Week #40

Richard Burmer -- A Story From The Rain
Album -- Across The View (1988) & Sunday Morning Coffee (1991)

Electronic ambient artist and Michigan native, Richard Burmer. If you have a good set of headphones or ear buds, you may want to listen to this on those, then turn the sound up and prepare for your skin to goose pimple.

Rest in peace, Mr. Burmer.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New Specs

So Thursday I finally went to see an ophthalmologist to get my eyes examined and to get some new contact lenses, only I didn't get new contacts this time around (yet), I got glasses instead. And let me tell you, wearing them feels strange! It's been since the early nineties when I last wore glasses, I've always worn contacts because of the comfort of not having something sitting on my nose and being able to wear sunglasses. Putting them on for the first time in many moons is such a weird sensation, everything seems farther away and rounded and distorted and when I walk or even move I feel dizzy and out of balance. I'm sure in a few days I'll adjust, but until then I'm not driving or going into public.

I've always told myself for the past several years that I should have a pair of glasses in case something should happen to my contact lenses, or to give my eyes a rest from wearing them. But I didn't, and now I'm paying the price for my procrastination and laziness. You see, I'm terrible at taking them out at night, and rarely do. Granted, the ones I have been getting are extended wear contacts made to be worn day and night. Still, I should have taken them out more often than not at all or when they irritated my eyes. I also had the bad habit of keeping them long after I should have thrown them away.

So on this last visit, my doctor found deposits building up in the cornea of my right eye which indicated an infection from wearing my contacts for too long and not taking them out. So now I have to take these prescription eye drops, which cost a pretty penny considering I'm amongst the millions with no insurance in this country (won't get into that rant), and have to put them in both eyes for the next week to clear up this infection. I couldn't begin to tell you what the name of this infection is, I'm terrible about remembering medical jargon, but the doctor told me had I gone on with what I was doing with the old lenses in my eyes, my eyes certainly could have gotten to the point where I could lose part or all of my vision, at least in the right eye.

So now I'm wearing glasses because with the treatment I'm not supposed to wear contacts. I pretty much had no choice but to get glasses now, but once this is all cleared up I'm going back to contacts, I'll just have to not be lazy and take them out every night, and wear my glasses more often. I certainly don't want to lose my vision. For someone like me who loves to write and draw, and garden, losing my sight would suck greatly. I'm just glad I went to the doctor when I had and caught it when I did. Let this be a lesson to those who've done the no no I've been doing. My lesson has been learned.

Shitty, grainy webcam picture of me in my new specs.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Random Song Of The Week #39

Madonna -- Take A Bow
Album -- Bedtime Stories (1994)

Take a bow, the night is over
This masquerade is getting older
Light are low, the curtains down
There's no one here
(There's no one here, there's no one in the crowd)
Say your lines but do you feel them
Do you mean what you say when there's no one around (no one around)
Watching you, watching me, one lonely star
(One lonely star you don't know who you are)

I've always been in love with you (always with you)
I guess you've always known it's true (you know it's true)
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye

Say good-bye (bye bye), say good-bye

Make them laugh, it comes so easy
When you get to the part
Where you're breaking my heart (breaking my heart)
Hide behind your smile, all the world loves a clown
(Just make 'em smile the whole world loves a clown)
Wish you well, I cannot stay
You deserve an award for the role that you played (role that you played)
No more masquerade, you're one lonely star
(One lonely star and you don't know who you are)

I've always been in love with you (always with you)
I guess you've always known it's true (you know it's true)
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye

Say good-bye (bye bye), say good-bye

All the world is a stage (world is a stage)
And everyone has their part (has their part)
But how was I to know which way the story'd go
How was I to know you'd break
(You'd break, you'd break, you'd break)
You'd break my heart

I've always been in love with you
(I've always been in love with you)
Guess you've always known
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye

I've always been in love with you (always with you)
I guess you've always known it's true (you know it's true)
You took my love for granted, why oh why
The show is over, say good-bye

Say good-bye (bye bye), say good-bye
Say good-bye

Saturday, March 2, 2013

QUILTBAG Characters

QUILTBAG. What does that mean? Here's the definition according to the Queer Dictionary:

QUILTBAG is an acronym. It stands for Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. It is meant to be a more inclusive term than GLBT/LGBT and to be more pronounceable (and memorable) than some of the other variations or extensions on the GLBT/LGBT abbreviation.

When I first came across this acronym, I thought, what the hell does QUILTBAG mean? It can't mean a bag made out of a quilt, because, you know, silly me, that's the first thing that popped into my mind. So I looked it up and it all made sense to me. The acronym itself is befitting, like a quilt it represents patches of the different aspects of queer life, all wrapped up into one acronym like a bag.

The representation of queer folks in entertainment has grown in the last several years as the world becomes more accepting: from books to TV and movies to music, QUILTBAG characters are finding their place in different genres. I remember when queer characters were starting to make their way onto the small screen they were portrayed as cutesie, even silly yet adorable people. Will & Grace springs to mind, which is okay because I liked that show, and maybe it's my craptastic memory, but the gay male characters were never shown having relationships in the show (kissing, embracing, holding hands, that sort of thing), they were always talked about through the dialog. I don't watch much TV nowadays, but I've noticed the trend of showing queer characters in relationships like their straight counterparts, kissing and hugging and laying together in bed and such. Which is a step in the right direction, I think. People are still squeamish when they see two chicks or two dudes kissing and having a relationship; loving, lustful, or otherwise, and the more it is portrayed in a positive light not only on TV, but in other entertainment media, including books, perhaps, just perhaps, people will become more tolerant and accepting. It may be asking a lot for the human race since we still cannot get over our issues with different skin colors, let alone same sex couples and other queer people loving one another.

Different cultures during different eras of history were accepting of queer people and same sex relationships were not anything to garner attention, they were just as normal as hetero relationships. The ancient Greeks come to mind. But other cultures frowned upon it, and still even to this day, resulting in the death of a person who was found gay, whether they partook in sodomy or not. Uganda comes to mind. Other places throughout history have been a mix of different levels of acceptance, but the act of sodomy has been an issue in many a culture and time period resulting in different levels of punishment. Writer Oscar Wilde did two years hard labor in prison for his relations with young men.

When it comes to writing QUILTBAG characters, the most important thing to remember when writing them is to write them as people. That's it. I've seen on writing forums people asking how to write a queer character, and the most given answer is to write them as people: give them flaws, give them likes, dislikes, fears, a goal—just like any other character. When it comes to showing relationships, show them like one would with a hetero couple having the same nervous first kiss, the same butterflies in the stomach, uncertainties that a love interest likes them in return, show them having spats and quarrels. Show them being human. Of course, there are the prejudices, the fear of others showing malice toward them for being who they are, so on and so forth. It's going to come up, unless you happen to be writing your story in a fantasy world or during one of those periods in history where being queer didn't much matter. For all those uncertainties in writing queer folks, one can always join forums and discuss the issues one has questions about, and people will be gracious in helping you, as long as you're not being a dumbass.

In my work in progress, Draculești, I have a few QUILTBAG characters of my own. The main character, Vlad, being one. When I first wrote him I had no intention of him being bisexual, he just sort of sprung it on me one day. Yeah, it happens. Even he didn't know he was bisexual until he was gifted a carved wood statue of his beloved Frisian horse by his soon-to-be male love interest, Miklós (who I didn't know was Bi when I first created him either), which sparked a strange and curious feeling in Vlad, one that he could not ignore. Once he learned the feeling was mutual between them, Vlad explains to Miklós that the desire to want to be with a man must have always been there, he just never knew it until the day he gave him the gift, and soon afterward they have their first kiss.

The two end up having a secret love affair of which only Vlad's servant boy, Izsák, knows about and keeps secret. At the time Vlad is married to a powerful Hungarian family and he and the in-laws were not on very friendly terms, and if his affair were to be known, either or both of them would be punished for their crime. In Vlad's days, men caught partaking in sodomy often times had their privates cut off and/or were burned alive. Or any other various tortures, often leading to death. Now, I'm not certain how gay people were perceived 100 percent during the time my book is written in Hungary, but I've portrayed it that Vlad doesn't trust the Báthory's (his in-laws) with his and Miklós's affair and so that element of danger is there, and despite it, the two fall deep in love and sneak around to seek the others' company.

Over the course of the story, through hints I wrote here and there, I show that Vlad's servant boy, Izsák, is gay. When I created him I didn't know he would be gay but a little further into the story he begins crushing on Vlad, but it would not be Izsák whom Vlad has his first man crush. Izsák is only twelve when they first meet, Vlad seventeen, and at the time he has no interest in his obnoxious servant, but he comes to love the boy as a friend.

And then we meet Anna. Anna is a healer (don't dare call her a witch) who serves Vlad's wife's aunt with her healing abilities to keep her well with her chronic illness. With Anna, as was the case with the other QUILTBAG characters in my story, I didn't know she would end up being asexual, not until near the end of the story. Anna is sweet and nurturing to many of the other characters, except toward Vlad and Miklós. It isn't that she hates them, rather she treats them with mild aggression in order to distance them from her as a coping mechanism to keep them from making any kind of an advance on her. And it works. Anna has no interest in forming any kind of relationship, sexual or otherwise, and she makes herself unavailable because of it. Interesting, I wrote her with this aggression toward Vlad and Miklós without really knowing why, not until toward the end when a light bulb flickered on and I realized the reason.

Instincts, my friends.

And that's what one needs to do when writing QUILTBAG characters. Trust your instincts, that voice in your noggin. When I write my QUILTBAG characters I don't force them to be something they aren't. The same goes for my straight characters. I let them develop naturally through the story and if they are gay, fine. Straight, fine. With the exception of my historical characters that have a known orientation (except for Vlad, little is known of him other than being Vlad the Impaler's second son and having a son himself, so he has become, in a sense, my own creation), I often don't know if they are straight or queer when I first create them, they develop as I write them. Which I think is the best way to write any character. Unless you're writing a story about queer people, one shouldn't force a character to be gay just because one wants one in there to even out the playing field. Same could be said for any type of character. Write them as real people, and everything will come out naturally in the end.

That's my opinion, anyway.

And now I end this post with a drawing I made of a scene with Vlad and Miklós at the budding of their relationship. Vlad senses Miklós is nervous around him, with good reason. Vlad, the son of the Impaler, a noble also married into one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Hungary, is trying to make a move on a mere stable hand. So he tries to quell Miklós's nerves with conversation and getting him drunk on wine.

   Vlad rose from his seat and stepped behind Miklós. He leaned over him and, with the cup of wine in his hand, wrapped his arms about Miklós's shoulders. His body tensed in his arms. Vlad realized his being so close made him uneasy. He pressed his cheek to Miklós's ear and in a low voice said, “Tell me. Does my being this close make you nervous? Do you not wish me to be?”