NaNo.

Nov. 22nd, 2014 11:34 pm
lenora_rose: (Default)
I've been doing NaNoWriMo, part of the reason I haven't been posting. It's been overall a different experience from last year.

Last year I was plunging through the rough draft of a story where I already had around 40k words written and had been thinking it through and working around the idea for a few years, had revised and rejected any number of alternates and options in the daydreaming, plot summary, and planning stages. So while it was raw text, I retained a pretty good idea how it ought to go. AND, it's in a secondary world of a sort that doesn't require a lot of research I didn't already know. (The very very last thing I looked up during the revisions of it sticks out for me; the air dates of certain Doctor Who episodes. Not exactly what one would call deep research...).

This time I'm doing the zeroeth draft of a story where I have only the vaguest outline of what will be coming, have been thinking about the plans and characters for months at best, many of which months were eaten creatively by Labyrinth's revisions. I have a total of 3700 words of plot summary and character sketch (And some of that added after I started NaNo), and already know I need to do multi-book intense research on some very basic aspects directly related to the plot. And no time now as I pour on words, so this time it's fake it with the most shallow Wikipedia glance, write, and research later. Meaning that I might end up realizing whole sections simply need to be scrapped or replaced wholesale because the Boat/Surgery/Arachnid Doesn't Work Like That. (It helps to have a couple of relative kids on board. They get to not know stuff.) But it feels a lot more like wading through fog and mud with a hand-drawn map whose ink is running from the wet, with a dying flashlight. In the company of strangers.

Just starting a story with no plan beyond a neat idea is something I did in my teens a lot, but while my style of laying down prose is Still closer to pantser than to planner, and while I still tend to store more notes in my head than on paper, I tend to leave a lot of stuff churning in the backbrain a lot longer. For instance, I have a whole chunk of the third book of the Serpent Prince series wholly unwritten - but I started the first draft of the Serpent Prince itself back in 2002. I've lived with even the newest characters for a few years now. When i turn to that project, *even though* there are some key plot things in the climax I haven't figured out (There were for Labyrinth, too), it's not going to feel this lost. I'll be heading there WITH Ketan and Rosor and Teo and Jes, and I KNOW them.

The last, closest thing to this I've done was probably that first draft of the Serpent Prince, in fact. Which, again, 2002. And that was with medieval daily life as the key not-researched enough area, which is one where my knowledge, pre the rest of the research, was already at least enough to make it unlikely I'd fall into the worst "you learned that from Hollywood" pits.

So this feels alien, outside my comfort zone a bit, in a way last year's NaNo wasn't, because even Labyrinth as an idea that dates back at LEAST to 2010 (That's the last saved date relevant to it I can find in my files. I'm pretty sure if I scoured LJ I'd find evidence from 2008-9).

So I'm not enjoying pouring on the words quite the same (Tonight I'm ahead enough I opted for a break to write non-fiction, IE LJ posts, instead. In part because I actually do know some of the next scene, which means I'll be able to add words at a good clip.)

Also, as I confessed already, I had one night where I was so frustrated and stuck on the next scene that as I sat there, thinking, "I don't know what to do now, I don't want to write this, I'm horny but Colin is off to bed and his MOTHER is in the house..." and I switched to a new file and ended up awake far too late, with 4400 words of extremely naughty PWP (With unrelated unnamed characters). Which, since the next day I managed to pour on the words on the real project quite happily, I think was useful in unjamming the story itself, and EVERYONE to whom I've mentioned it said Go ahead and count it as NaNo Words, it's fiction and 4400 is a HUGE single-day word count, which fits the spirit... but still feels half like I cheated.

Well, if I make 54400 words at month's end, I can stop fretting it. If I just make 50k, well, then I can worry.
lenora_rose: Happy JoJo @ 2.3333 (YAAAY3)
I've been wanting to write a general stuff happening post but was kind of stalled by the fact that i had a heap of words sitting here in saved form on another topic. SO. Stuff happened:

JoJo:

- has been quite enjoying going to the park again, and getting outside.
- he also seems to be enjoying getting out of his clothes more. We've had a couple of interesting moments and had to get a bit more creative with his sleep gear.
- Began potty training in earnest about, oh, today.

Household:

- My in-laws are here (And were gone until yesterday for a week in Ottawa). Probably to the end of July, though the exact day of departure is still kind of open.
- The last patch of garden to be dug out this year was finally planted Today. This, a month after I should be saying this, has been par for the course for the year. The previous garden beds, done just over a week ago, have had days of morning sunshine followed by afternoon rain, or daytime sun and nighttime storm, or... from a newly planted plant's perspective, probably perfect weather, though the humans could have used less rain and more sun. It has been a coolish summer thus far, after our horrifically late spring.
- Mostly flowers this year, but we have tomatoes and cukes too (And mint). I tried a raspberry bush, but we'll see if, in its establishing year, any of the fruit makes it to humans. I may toss down some basil seeds just to see if anything comes; it's an annual here anyhow so no sweat if the season is too short for it to establish.
- Our neighbourhood bunnies include a bitty one who's possibly a baby but definitely adorable. Thus far, they seem to be favouring eating the dandelions over the plants I care about.

Family:
- My grandmother has had a steady decline in her health, and the end result is that she is now in a nursing home, albeit on the low-care end as far as they're concerned. Her mind is fine but her strength is gone and she needed a lot more help than Mom and her other children and grandchildren could give - and more than home-care alone would support. The place she's in seems nice as these things go (more after hearing someone else's story about the place her aunt is staying), with her own room and a fair amount of respect. The big disadvantage is that it's far across the city from pretty much everyone's place. She's on a waiting list for a closer one.
- Even grandma, now she's there, seems to agree this is an improvement in her life. As long as her kids continue to visit. Next step; Get her the hearing aid she was supposed to be being fitted for right when her last hospital stay began. (Literally, as in they had to cancel the appointment)
- The symptoms of tiredness etc Mom was having, and even some of the sadness she attributed to the care for her own mom, proved to be B12 deficiency, and having learned that, she's already improving, after just a few days of it. (Jeff claims placebo effect. He would. But even if he's right, I think Mom's happy at any improvement. :P )


Writing:
- A nightmare, an old story idea, and a second nightmare seem to be coming together as yetanother vague idea for novel or at minimum novella, this one about a world where everyone has one of two kinds of dopplegangers, one usually evil (Nemeses) and one usually not (Greens). And a weird creepy take on faerie and attempts to lure children away from the mortal world. And evil ice cream. For now I've been using the code name Nemesis, though the only Nemesis so far on screen is actually a good guy. I'm debating about whether he's up front about the fact or not.
- The issue I have with this is that I already have one relatively new half-baked story idea that's about perfect for using for NaNoWriMo if I want to participate again. I don't need another. But I have at least one scene to write along with all the notes I've scribbled so far before I set it aside wholesale.
- Otherwise, I have just switched from trying to make forward progress on older works and into the (much dreaded And much anticipated, at least by me) rewrite for Labyrinth. So far it's been the extremely crude cut and paste, forcing scenes into what seems like a reasonable order from the two separate files I had (there being two separate plotlines), and almost no in-scene work other than a few typos. I'm half afraid skimming over it enough to organize the scenes and move them around has already made me too aware of what's on paper to rewrite it with the harsh objectivity the job requires, but I'm gonna give it a go anyhow. (The other possibility is that it has given me the shape of the story sufficiently firmly that I know what I'm aiming for much better and can thus make my rather shoddy prose that much closer to the ideal in my head.)
- My main ambition is that by the end, I *will* have a better title, and fewer total words. (I would rather 120 than the current 150, and I know several spots I dither and the characters just talk -- I also know of at least two scenes that need writing out, alas.) I make zero promises of quality. :P

Other:
- Folk fest getting fearfully awesomely close.
- Fringe soon after. It's THAT month coming, alright.
- Life feels pretty good overall.
- Books recently finished, all pretty good: Silvia Moreno-Garcia's This Strange Way of Dying, Sherwood Smith's Banner of the Damned, Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to life on Earth.
- Smith's book took me a while; it starts at what feels like a slow pace, and it's only afterwards that one realises how very important all that puttering about in Colend and Colendi politics and romances and their more-alien-than-it-first-seems mindset is - how much MORE important than the "action", ie, violence, which the lead finds so reprehensible yet which we as readers are likely to find more familiar ground. Also, the unreliability of the narrator (who claims, correctly, to be able to state the definite truth about other peoples' opinions and perspectives) doesn't become clear, or relevant, until about halfway or more. and then it starts getting scary how much she denies - to herself - along the way down. I was actually reminded a bit of my reaction to Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, and how it felt at the start, because it was so alien, and how it took time to sink into the culture and grasp what was going on from that internal perspective (Or at least the reader/watcher's illusion thereof).

- painting the mural has been going painfully slowly (As in very few opportunities to do so) and I've mostly been working on landscape details, but here's an update pic:

lenora_rose: (Default)
This is purely self indulgence, written because it interests me. It's the first time I've had to do this much intensive almost ground-up worldbuilding since Labyrinth was first started (Because Labyrinth is set in a wholly different world). Every other story I've had to *refine* extant worldbuilding, do further discovery, but the basic sketches were MUCH more firmly set.

Cut because seriously this goes on a long while. )
lenora_rose: (Default)
Writing:

I'd been working pretty steadily on the Blood Rose, until I hit a point where, as I put it to Colin, the characters are trying to do the sensible adult thing and I have to figure out why they can't. (This feels like the opposite of my usual problem these days, where I have to remind myself when writing that teenagers aren't always sensible and often do give in to their first impulses. In this case, though, it's grown-ups who ahve to be stopped by some circumstance from doing the best possible action in their situation and the "But really secretly I want to just give up and do the wrong thing" while present, isn't remotely sufficient even if it does mean they'll breathe easier at an excuse.

Into that pause a brand new story idea started poking itself.

It's a portal fantasy and a sea voyage, and at least partly the fault of reading Ana Mardoll's often-excellent Narnia Deconstruction posts. but it's also not just "Let's fix the Voyage of the Dawn Treader with Liberal Feminist politics" which sounds like a recipe for a pretty awful story to ME - it may have started sprung by an idea in those deconstructions but it's wandering all kinds of places.

See, on my map of my fictional world, there's an ocean which takes up pretty much all of one hemisphere (Like the Pacific, but possibly even more so, as the land masses on the other side don't add up to the size of all Earth's continents). And it's canon that NOBODY goes there. Well, you know, there's ocean trade to some close-by islands and the like, but the heart of it? Is a big no-no. All that's really known or suspected is that what's there is part of why most selkie cultures are pathologically against the acquisition of gold or wealth. And that sometimes boats come back, but when they do, nobody on board can remember their own names or families, much less anything they saw there.

And of course, even I, the maker of the world, who has at least a couple of paragraphs sketching out pretty much every other land, even the ones I have no stories to write about (The whole southern continent - which unlike our Antarctica goes far enough north to have sapient-habitable places) didn't really know what was up with it.

And now a God is sending one poor vessel right in there, on what even He isn't pretending is anything but a suicide mission - and he's going to be dropping some people from our world into it (For as it happens sensible and relevant reasons other than 'they need to learn some big Moral Lesson' - that IS one of the few Lewis-things that is even at this stage being beaten into a small pulp). And I already have some ideas what they're going to find. It's really weird, having the big empty blotch on the map start to fill itself out so thoroughly and so fast.

Of course, I live in the centre of a continent and have approximately zero experience with sailing ships. And it's definitely age of sail - though with what minuscule bit of initial reading I've done, I think I may be basing the main ship(s) on something more like junks or other not-as-recognizeable-to-fans-of-Patrick-O'Brien vessels. (Which leads to the question how many of the most familiar nautical terms are essential to the ships themselves and how many are out of European tradition, which is a messy can of worms...*)

And the mother of a toddler isn't going to be able to take off for a random set of how-to-sail-a-sailboat lessons, as Amy Raby did before writing some of her current books.

So. Lots of reading in my near future. And I think I'm going to have to start with Jim Macdonald's quick-and-dirty research method of beginning with books aimed at kids, not just because it's quick and dirty but because my knowledge is THAT far behind.

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*For instance, why would a ship from another world with different traditions use port and starboard? Would they necessarily have historically put the steering oar to the right and thus dock at a port on the left? Would they be using the differing colours of lights or some other means to signal side, and would they have the same tradition of who gives way when to avoid a collision?

And of course, what's *worth* changing to say "Different world, dudes" versus worth leaving alone to say "I like you to be able to read the meat of the adventure and not get confused by trivialities"?

Scattered

Oct. 8th, 2013 09:53 pm
lenora_rose: (Plot Bunnies?)
I have now officially managed to put actual word count on four different projects in the last month, three of them within just over a week (One near drabble might be finished, at least for this draft.) And have contemplated others.

So I think it's time I picked a project. Or two. But not more than that.

Options:
For length )
lenora_rose: (Default)
Last Wednesday, serendipitously, the healthy baby topic was "introducing your baby to solid foods." (it had been requested by several of the other moms, even though it was covered relatively recently, as in about three months ago). Serendipitous because I'd been sort of hoping to ask about just that. In any case, it did help decide me to do just that, though the first stage is hardly solid. Nonetheless, as of last Wednesday, Joseph's been eating a bit of rice cereal once or twice a day. So far, he seems to rather like it, and he certainly gets the idea of a spoon, even if he needs to work on some refinements. (Ie, he still ends up with food all over). I let him try to handle the spoon a bit; really glad it's a soft tipped, as I wouldn't be willing to do that with a metal.

Plus, as a bonus, I'm offering him sips of water from a cup. It will be a while before he gets to hold *that*, I can say. I have no sippy cups for him yet; they're not strictly a necessary thing, as I understand it, though convenient as anything, it seems to me.

He made the most interesting faces when I tried him with egg yolk, though. I was thinking for a second try I should mix it with milk, not water. but first I'd need some means to Get milk that doesn't involve hand expressing, because that hurts. I'm not practiced at it, and I have no desire to be if I can avoid it.

Anyhow. Yay for strange food exploration.
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Sigh.... a friend of mine started calling Joseph "JoJo", and while we were in Spain, I realised it stuck in my head, too. Iulianna, I have a bone to pick with you.

Better than Joey, I guess.
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I started going through the pictures from Spain. May post some soonish, along with a bit of babble about what we did. As much for my own record as for anyone else's curiosity.
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Sigh. I should make a new icon for myself. I haven't been to archery in a while. Ineed to get to dance practice, if only to prove I have no intention of dropping the SCA.
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Apparently, I'm considering revising The Serpent Prince again. Actually, I started.

Here's what happened. In that writing meme I still haven't finished, one of the unfinished questions questions is "the ten worst things about your novel." It's unfinished because I didn't get to ten. But two of the things I did get down are the general fight with doing things in a patriarchal setting, and the difficulties that causes, and an issue specific to Serpent, which is that in the course of the novel, a woman gets Refrigerated*.

I could have lived with one or the other, but the combination was nagging at me. Because of the nature of the patriarchy they're in, I already felt I was stretching the bounds with the number of active female characters I had. And there wasn't a lot of room to make more of them active; Ketan is focused on the events that lead to the big ending. As to the Refrigeration, her death starts the whole climax and collapse, and has effects that carry over into at least the second book. She had to die. It's unfortunately very in character for the one who did it to slaughter innocents, knowing it hurts the people he's punishing worse than killing them would. But I still found it rankled. I don't tend to like Refrigeration in other peoples' stories. There are a few cases where it worked; in all of them, the woman had agency and personality before it happened, and was About more than her death. This female character has some personality, but the constraints of novel length and the main plot don't give her as much on-the-page time as would be needed to really make her shine.

So I started worrying again at ways to make this better. Give her more screen time. Leave her as is but get even more female characters up and active. Again and again I bounced off the fact that there just seemed no more room for a change. Count on the rest of the books in the series, or the rest of the books I write, to make up for it? Didn't seem like enough.

And of course, I'd already turned yet one more character female in the second book. I really couldn't do that again...

Two days after we got back from Spain, and suddenly, I found myself thinking there WAS one character I could feasibly turn female. A major player in the story. Someone whose gender would alter the whole dynamic of the story and happily spit in the face of the whole damned patriarchal setting. Mostly because it would highlight a whole lot of hypocrisy. Theo.

Instantly, I started going through his scenes and revisioning them with a "her", and trying to see if they would fit. Some of the scenes and plot points made even More sense than they had; she or her antagonists had stronger motivations. Some didn't -- until I started debating definitions of legal versus actual gender and how that might work in this particular culture. (In this case, it's More transgressive for her to be a cis female than it would be if she were transgender -- because if she wanted to be male, the Gods would just grant her wish, and the whole gender flip would pretty much end on the first page. And if she was born male, it also wouldn't work as well, for reasons that would involve getting too far into plot and culture for an already overlong ramble.)

And the name was easy. At VP, I had a lot of people who didn't much like Theokoi anyhow; one person said they stalled on the "koi" because they saw Fish, and therefore associated it with Japanese, when most of the stuff around it was obviously Europeanish (French for the Serathi and Cerissan, Scandinavian for the Germainesh). But as soon as I wondered what feminine thing I could use instead, I immediately remembered Jo Walton's Tiffany Problem, and she was renamed Theophanie. And thinking how to shorten it, my brain instantly went "Teo", pronounced, well exactly like Taeyo. (The "th" in French is usually a t with a bit of aspirated sound after it, not a th as it tends to be in English. Most of the 'e's in all the other names are already pronounced as if they had an acute accent over them.)

And yeah, I started right in; saved a new copy of the last draft and started poking away. I really think it could work.

(A friend of mine said that when she has thoughts about changes that big, she just writes another novel. I considered that, and my brain immediately rebelled, because adding another unfinished novel would be far far worse than doing even a major rewrite.)

Of course, I'm already trying to sell the story. So the real question is, do I keep sending samples and queries to agents, or do I stop again so I can finish yet another draft? The draft I have is finished and polished enough that I don't think they have anything to worry about re: newbies trying to sell unfinished works. Without Joseph, I think this might be the work of a month, maybe two. But I *am* slowed down by the baby...

Well, I'll see if it stalls partway through. I do still have the whole and complete novel with the guy Theo to fall back on.

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I can't help think I make a very poor feminist. EVERY time I've changed a character's gender, it's been male to female (In one case, one female character replaced not one but TWO male characters from the prior drafts). Because, Labyrinth aside, I keep shortchanging the women and focusing on the men. :P I suppose it's a kind of consolation that other than this series, most of the men are gay or bi. But really, too many ingrained assumptions.

And yet, obviously these things do matter to me or I wouldn't keep worrying at them.
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* For the few of you who don't know the term, this means: a female character is killed JUST so a male character can have massive Angst and Manpain. She's not killed for anything she is or does, but entirely because of her relationship to the man. It got its name from a comic book wherein a woman is literally killed and stuffed in a refrigerator.
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
I Really need to buckle down on this stupid book if I really intend it to be done before the baby makes an appearance.

Of course, things were complicated by going back to make a POV change for several major scenes. I had to go through the scenes a couple of times to be sure where I should have the changes, which I can't do easily on the Dana, so the usual solution of "Run off to the library to type without distractions" wasn't as feasible as it should be.

__________________

Green Arrow: Year One (Andy Diggle and Jock)

This comic is four years old, nigh on five, so not exactly new, but I decided to pick it up because I always liked Green Arrow, and a Year One story, being a retelling of a character's origin, is going to be a newcomer-friendly entry point. (Not, I grant you, usually a major issue with your average superhero, but I've read enough other comics of other genres, especially manga, where that isn't the case, I'm allergic to reading too much out of order).

Anyhow, I recall the Green Arrow origin story always involved him being stranded on a random island with a bow and a need to survive. I don't recall if it always involved discovering criminals on said island, and beating them to get off, but it sounds like typical super-hero stuff, and that twist didn't feel new.

This version of the story is well written considering how much was crammed into its length, and the usual restrictions and assumptions of comic-book heroism (this version of Green Arrow is right back to maiming rather than killing people, and devising trick arrows to prevent needing to shoot deadly bolts at anything other than animals), but falls right into the obnoxious, noxious and undesirable territory of "What these people need is a Honky" when the current incarnation of criminals on the island turn out to have enslaved the local population (Those they didn't just murder and dump down a well -- that particular discovery scene was... effective), to grow their massive secret poppy crop. Of course, they're helpless to save themselves until some blond guy comes by and does it for them. I *don't* recall the original story being one of these, so if I'm right, that's a regression.

On that basis, I'd dismiss it as an uninteresting entry. But there's *one* character who does interest me, because in a story whose base narrative type was a bit less pernicious, she could have been a lot more. Taiana first appears as a helpless slave, heavily pregnant. She looks like a wide-eyed innocent with the only note of interest being her willingness to approach the site of a helicopter crash and try to help the men therein. Classic lovely native waif stuff, also classic set-up for the person who draws the Honky in to the local culture if anyone does (In this case, there's no time for that step in the mini-series, so they skip nigh straight from "White man meets natives" to "white man saves natives".)

However, on her reappearances, it turns out that Taiana is a fully-trained doctor, even if one forced to work with primitive tools, and a calm leader of her people. When Green Arrow is slow getting back to rescuing the slaves, she makes her own attempt to free them, which GA mostly aids and abets by creating a distraction to keep her from getting shot in the back. She's the one who gets the slaves to a boat, and finds them guns. Ultimately, she saves his life at least once by pointing a gun at someone (But not shooting, of course. The only people who kill are bad guys.) And, if certain hints in the last pages are to be taken, is doing the last section while in early labour (She gives birth pretty much instantly once her people are free).

I'd call that a thoroughly awesome character, and I would totally read a book just about her and what she does then and afterward (Opening a free clinic, or a series of them, wrangling to get adequate medical supplies against the odds, turning over assumptions about what her people, and particularly a woman therefrom, can do, all while raising a toddler alone) ... except that she spends too much dialogue telling Oliver Queen he's important and he's special and he made all the difference. Because that's the narrative voice of the "What these people need is a honky". (To some degree, it's also a part of this mini-series being Green Arrow's story, and partly a flaw in superhero comics that the super-hero must always be the most important person). But it doesn't matter how awesome the woman who does it all backwards and in high heels while heavily pregnant is. The guy has to be that little bit better -- or at minimum, she has to think so.

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There are times I really want to write the story of Therien Damina.
The gist of the story idea is, he comes to the New World with the Hudson's Bay Company (And yes, there's a background story behind someone with a French name ending up with a British company -- but I don't know that one), and starts to talk to the native population. But then Therien, in his eagerness to help and his too-shallow understanding of the Cree nation, makes some severe mistakes and screws up royally, causing the actual central problem (the only part of which I really know at this point is that it involves a very angry Bear Spirit, which he reads as A Bad Guy, something to be rid of, when it's nothing of the sort). Things only get better when he gets out of the way of the Cree people and lets them fix what he made wrong. The actual heroes I rather intended to be the elders of the people, with some hope that, with sufficient study, I can be sure the ultimate hero is a woman.

Then there are all the times I know why this story is not for me to tell. At minimum, not yet. No chops, no research, no research discipline, not nearly enough grasp of the history or the people. Not nearly enough of the actual story nuggets (Most of which would need to come from the research - even the bear spirit thought popped up due to an essay read for another subject - so won't hit spontaneously the way that the Serpent Prince plot kernels did, which only required looking at an extant story sidelong and asking a stupid question.)

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A thought I mentioned in passing a few times, but which I think is worth chewing on.

When shopping for baby clothes, I looked at what i have so far, and the question "what if we're all wrong and this turns out to be a girl?" popped up.

My conclusion on the spot, and which still seems true looking at what I have, seems to be that there's not a thing clothes-wise that i wouldn't also put on a girl, no problem. NO shade of green or blue that screams boy to me, though some will to other people, no depiction of animals, or dinosaurs, or rocket-ships, that couldn't be put on a female body. The only one that felt even fractionally iffy was the one with the construction trucks, and that one I probably wouldn't have bought for a boy, either, left to my own devices (mom did. And it's pale blue and fuzzy, so I decided it was acceptable.)

The reverse would not have been true. There are still some colours (and I include colours I like, like lavender, not just the pinks I often don't) and some subjects that I would have bought for a girl and hesitated about using if surprised by a boy.A girl can wear blue, dammit, and who cares if she's taken for a boy by random strangers, but a boy can't wear lavender with flowers. Gasp. He might be *mistaken for a girl*. And that would be awful.

Fortunately, I don't seem to have this same sticking point, so far, about picture books (The only children's playstuff I have already in the house besides the everygender-safe stuffed animals), whose stories might actually influence the growing mind, or about most toys (The majority of baby toys and many toddler toys I've seen are pretty gender neutral. This changes as they get older, and turns into a whole different ball game. But the worst examples of female-gendered toys, the ones I would consider the least suited to give to a boy, are the ones *I* didn't much play with as a child and wouldn't buy -- like Barbie.)

But I do see this as a hint of what has been pointed out about current attempts to address gender equality - girls can be more masculine than they used to be and still be girls, but woe betide the boy who is feminine.* Even though the latter takes (at least) as much personal courage.

(Random side point. I've always thought I'd take "men's rights" groups more seriously if, rather than wanting to reclaim already-masculine things from those grubby female hands, they wanted entry into traditionally female spheres. If, rather than wanting to have men-only gaming groups to counter womens' desire to occasionally game with each other instead of always pushing into a male-majority space, men's rights advocates wanted to have men's nights that involved giving one another manicures, or learning embroidery and crochet, instead of being the minority, if present at all, at famale-majority get-togethers of this kind. And that's before you get to the "Men's Rights" types who are effectively rape apologists, a group for whom I have two words.)


* Transgender and genderqueerness add piles of complication on both sides. This point, however, is mostly about the cisgendered cissexual boy who still likes 'girly' things, or the cisgendered cissexual girl who likes "boy stuff".
lenora_rose: (Default)
(If you want baby thinkies or renovation updates or the like, ask me later. There's stuff going on, to be sure.)


Getting closer and closer to the end of Soldier. And oh boy is this last segment going to need editing later.

The problem is both that a lot happens and not much happens. Contradictory? Well, yes. Right now, I have long segments which boil down to hobbits soldiers walking. I have stretches where I felt a particular character fell out of sight and needed a moment on stage again. I had stretches where I wanted to establish what the heck the pattern of the caravans and the mountain passes are like. Some will be cut. Some will be abbreviated. Some - and not always the ones I first expect - turn out essential for a character, thematic or world-building reason.

It's because of the last that I seem to have to write them all out. Because what feels essential when I'm drilling through may prove to be one of the first things cut. And what feels like extraneous rambling -- well, I'll be honest. If I think *as* I'm writing it that it's probably unnecessary, it's often cut. Sometimes before the editing (I lost a four-hundred word scene in less than 24 hours this week alone). But that's not usually how I feel while I'm writing. I'm interested in the characters, in working out their banter, in the slow travelogue bits. The fact that much of this will end up extraneous in the long run, and even the fact that I KNOW this, isn't the same as not having fun while writing it.

Once in a while, when the word count piles up, I wish I were the sort of writer who could plan it all out ahead, and write only what I need, and not have to add bits that will only get chopped later. However, when I do know, that well, what's going to happen, it turns as often as not into a bit of a slog for me. I prefer to be surprised. The little moments when someone turns around and says something that is just so true to their character in particular, or commits some small act that makes me rethink their whole personality... those can't happen if I don't allow myself to write a pile of extraneous pages of hobbits soldiers walking.

_____________________

I have another problem with this book.

I've said before that these books overall are my most heteronormative, masculine-focused traditional fantasy stories. The Serpent Prince is mostly the coming of age of a young man in a patriarchal society. I think I fit in enough women (and a few gay characters) with agency and intelligence not to have it come across too badly. However, only two characters carry over into the next book, and both are (straight) men.

Soldier of the Road does not include much female point of view or agency. Period. (It's pretty weak on gay characters, too, moreso since there's a streak of homophobia among some of the soldiers). He meets women and he treats them as humans, but most of their roles are passive. The active players are fellow soldiers and caravan guards, a profession strongly skewed masculine (Also strongly skewed to young and physically healthy males). It's not until halfway through, and a particular frizzy-haired middle-aged wizard, that we have a woman with her own active role.

Oh, and the villain and her daemon both (Though nobody knows, or considers, the gender of a huge invisible daemon-monster while its ripping their limbs off.)

I've been trying to figure out whether there are any characters whose gender I could change. But this is made especially hard with the soldiers, because the difficulty of finding someone with whom to have heterosexual sexual relations with *is* a plot point. Twice. (Since Ketan can't even conceive of trying it the other way). The two most obvious active roles that could change without hurting that plot point are both characters who get killed off, which... has its own problems. (Book one already skirts Woman in Refrigerator territory once).

At one point, I started an attempt at the opening scene from the woman's point of view, because A) I like occasionally giving an outside view of Ketan, B) I have one other section in this book from another point of view, and right now it feels structurally odd to have only the one POV switch (Serpent had three, which worked much better) and C) she could give another perspective on events at the end of the prior book which gives one a way to give a synopsis that doesn't bore those who read said book. But I didn't think it worked, in part because getting even a fraction of her story about why she meets him dragged like all the other hobbits soldiers walking, even if this time it was a farmer walking.

The other thing is, books three and four don't have this problem. Some people finally recur from the first book, and others are introduced, and at least one more woman gets a point of view. And it really is one big story in the long run, divided into books mostly for purposes of structural cohesion and commercial viability.

Which makes me wonder how much I should worry about book two of a long story failing not only the Bechdel test, but several other measures of reasonable gender balance. Since it is a long story.
lenora_rose: (Plot Bunnies?)
I noticed that I never did blog about the event two weeks ago. Not that it’s likely of much interest to anyone else, and it feels too late now. It was low-key but good – I missed more of it than I’d have liked.

Still working – they keep extending my hours one week at a time, while they look for a permanent receptionist. I am NOT minding much at all.

I had another plot kernel pop the other day.

I’ve been trying to figure out a basic problem in the Labyrinth story. Heather is bisexual; she goes into the maze to save her estranged wife. The problem is, the character she gets help from, and ends up attracted to, is male.

Happens in real life, of course – but in fiction, it’s very easy to make this feel like it’s saying “She’s not really bi, she just played a bit in college”, or other attitudes that similarly trivialize alternate sexualities. The fact that she cared enough to marry this person didn’t feel like enough, since they’re already pretty broken up by the start of the story.

And, of course, since the wife was stuck in a tower in the middle of the maze. I had been thinking she couldn’t do terribly much to protag, or to show up at all until late. Which meant that if I wanted to establish the relationship as just as real and just as valid, I had begun to think I’d need to do flashbacks to Damina-Earth instead of the broken world of the maze, because even Heather thinking so wasn’t quite holding up its end. (It also seemed to me to be really unfair to have a living breathing person act as a macguffin, with no part to play in her own fate and no actual need for a personality – it’s the thing I dislike abut Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, that Aurora is an object, not a person, and the plot is ABOUT Prince Phillip and the Fairies.)

Until it finally twigged: it’s a maze of illusions. The spouse might be effectively trapped in a tower. But does she know that?

Turns out, she doesn’t. I thought abut this a while, trying to figure out what she could possibly be doing that wasn’t either a near-identical run through the maze, or otherwise unrelated and effectively useless?

About a week ago, I went digging through my LJ archives to find the place I’d first summarized the plot for the Labyrinth story, back when Heather’s rescue was her sister, not her spouse. Alas, it wasn’t on the tag I first thought it was under, so I had to search more intensely. In the process of skimming through several possible files, I tripped over one of my old dream-records. And of course, I just *made* a new, if brief, such dream commentary, which also brought the older ones back to mind.

And while I was thinking, this came to mind – and – BANG! Plot Kernel exploded. And triggered two more nasty-dream recollections to join in, as for the first time, I had a way to string them together into an actual coherent storyline. I’ve scribbled down enough notes – and then some – to be sure it works. And it does link up with Heather’s after a while. And works to not make this new protagonist an object, as well as to detrivialize their relationship.

It showed up just in time, too. I don’t actually know the next couple of things that happen to Heather once I finish the current scene (Even though I have already written part of what happens to her in a few more days – since she loses and regains a companion, I can’t *quite* just skip the in between.) So I can go back and start lacing in the other character.

Lots and lots of writing to come. Yay!
lenora_rose: (Default)
A business language "what not to do":

Strategic, I understand, is a happy business buzzword, so I can understand (Big Company X, a vendor for the company I work for most these days) wanting to use it for a customer service e-mail address, even if I think it's silly. And "Customer Associate", their chosen term for customer service rep, does naturally shrink to C.A.

However, the net result is an e-mail address starting with:

Castrategic

Which just makes me wince. And I'm not even male.

____________________

This last week, I ended up at two reception jobs with a lot of time on my hands. The result was a LOT of writing time (The first place was set up ideally for hiding the Dana from visitors/casual viewers, and the staff I worked with didn't mind. Especially as I got the odd jobs they found for me done in very short order first, as well as picking up the phone in a timely, friendly fashion.)

It went... oddly, though, as writing can. It's all officially on the same project, which is called the Ginevre books in my brain, but which I usually called "my only heteronormative traditional mediaevalesque fantasy trilogy (with dragons)". Except it's not a trilogy anymore, it's a four book series; The Serpent Prince, Soldier of the Road, the Poisoned Word – which title is based on the name of a dragon, and is thus an epithet as well, to match the other three – and the last book, which is either called the Dragon Queens, or Dragonchild.) And I'd like to think I do enough things to subvert all of the above or at least have thought through what they mean. (To my chagrin, the story has no overt lesbians. Ketan spends too much time in virtually male-only company. To *his* chagrin, as he's about as straight as you get.)

Except that, I started out picking away at Soldier of the Road, which I've been worrying at for a good couple months now when writing at all -- then, the next day, out of some whim, opened the file on the Dana for the Serpent Prince, which I'd almost removed as not needed.

Since then, the two have been running neck and neck – which one I pick up in a given writing session, or whether I trade off halfway through, changes each time. Admittedly, some of the new stuff in Serpent did inform how the very next scene in Soldier goes – as a book should do to its sequel – but it makes a strange synergy to cope with the same people at different moments..

I've been thinking a lot, though, over the age of the main characters. Ketan is 16 for the majority of the Serpent Prince, and Theo's 19. Pomal is probably within a year of Ketan, though she never specifies. Rosor is 18 (actually, her being two years Ketan's elder also goes virtually unmentioned, come to think of it). Vess is 15 for most of the book, and barely 16 when she marries Theo.

Yet by the end of the Serpent Prince, Ketan has already been faced with marriage, wars external and civil, political dissent, blasphemy (in a world where the gods have a lot to say directly about same), betrayal, and judging in trials for murder and high treason. (Also nepotism, stupid behaviour about girls, arguments with dad, doing the right thing for the wrong reason and the wrong thing for lack of experience, but those go with being a teenager. Although, granted, arguments with dad are a lot different when you have to be extremely careful not to accidentally cross the line into treason just for saying you don't like his rules.)

I keep wanting to flinch on this. I keep thinking, nobody would bat an eye if I quietly added two years to everyone. The thing is, I want to face the fact that they're a bunch of younglings. I want there to be a subtext about how fast you grow up when the consequences for failure aren't social embarrassment but murder, or a curse from a god. About how to act when age isn't considered an excuse for not knowing, when you can't say "But I'm just 16!" and expect anyone at all to pause for anything, be it asking you to act as judge or slaughtering you in battle.

About irrevocable life-altering mistakes you make when you're nine, or 15, or 20. Because while these are not impossible to do in our world -- where you could end up in an unskilled labour job because at 16 you weren't thinking seriously about the fact that you want to be a doctor but can't afford University without a scholarship, or a dislike of condoms or a missed pill could make one's future VERY different indeed -- we now consider these bad things, and have a number of steps and means that such a person can get support so they can try again. A change I DO approve, compared to the world I write in. ***

The thing is, I'm not trying to MAKE that point. I'm not trying to have that debate about better or worse. Indeed, I suspect that that aspect of the books will go under a lot of radars, and hope it will; it's not even a theme, just a thing.

The entire point, indeed, boils down to, "This isn't our world. They don't make our choices or have our assumptions." A point which is lost if I do add even two years. Because while that still feels uncomfortable, it downplays it. It asks that it sneak under the radar for fear of troubling sensibilities. To not be different enough from 21st century first world ideas, gods and unquestioned monarchy**** notwithstanding, to bother those who like it here.

I think I fail too much as it is; I'm sure the boys have attitudes that give away the writer's 21st century assumptions. And I don't want that. But it keeps whispering.

I can't quite tune it out entire. There are times it's legitimate to ease the way of readers, and isn't a case of abandoning a vision; Bear chose to write the Stratford Man not with complete Elizabethan dialogue, but with something between that and modern idiom, that people might actually make it through the splendid book.

I don't think *this* is the time to listen to that voice. But to silence it whole it is to lose a possibly useful editorial tool in the future. Which means it gets to annoy me now, whent he decision is made.

_______________

** Not sure why I did the last two: Soldier should be a viable entry point for the series if I had to sell it separately, but I'm dubious that the other two could stand or sell alone.

*** Conversely, there is something to be said for the arguments against overprotection, or for how little we allow our teenagers to accomplish or experience. Everything is, after all, a matter of balance, and as often as not, more information and less protection might have *prevented* some such bad choices being made. But I will never say it's wrong to try and mitigate the effects of a bad choice made young.

**** Ketan actually does fail to consider the idea that a patrilineal monarchy is bad. That surprised me; he really does end up questioning so much else, right up to the decrees of Gods - though he *also* never considers the idea of not worshipping something, even in the face of the fallibility of deity.

* there is no single star footnote because, feeling too lazy for html, I used single stars framing a word for emphasis.
lenora_rose: (Default)
A business language "what not to do":

Strategic, I understand, is a happy business buzzword, so I can understand (Big Company X, a vendor for the company I work for most these days) wanting to use it for a customer service e-mail address, even if I think it's silly. And "Customer Associate", their chosen term for customer service rep, does naturally shrink to C.A.

However, the net result is an e-mail address starting with:

Castrategic

Which just makes me wince. And I'm not even male.

____________________

This last week, I ended up at two reception jobs with a lot of time on my hands. The result was a LOT of writing time (The first place was set up ideally for hiding the Dana from visitors/casual viewers, and the staff I worked with didn't mind. Especially as I got the odd jobs they found for me done in very short order first, as well as picking up the phone in a timely, friendly fashion.)

It went... oddly, though, as writing can. It's all officially on the same project, which is called the Ginevre books in my brain, but which I usually called "my only heteronormative traditional mediaevalesque fantasy trilogy (with dragons)". Except it's not a trilogy anymore, it's a four book series; The Serpent Prince, Soldier of the Road, the Poisoned Word – which title is based on the name of a dragon, and is thus an epithet as well, to match the other three – and the last book, which is either called the Dragon Queens, or Dragonchild.) And I'd like to think I do enough things to subvert all of the above or at least have thought through what they mean. (To my chagrin, the story has no overt lesbians. Ketan spends too much time in virtually male-only company. To *his* chagrin, as he's about as straight as you get.)

Except that, I started out picking away at Soldier of the Road, which I've been worrying at for a good couple months now when writing at all -- then, the next day, out of some whim, opened the file on the Dana for the Serpent Prince, which I'd almost removed as not needed.

Since then, the two have been running neck and neck – which one I pick up in a given writing session, or whether I trade off halfway through, changes each time. Admittedly, some of the new stuff in Serpent did inform how the very next scene in Soldier goes – as a book should do to its sequel – but it makes a strange synergy to cope with the same people at different moments..

I've been thinking a lot, though, over the age of the main characters. Ketan is 16 for the majority of the Serpent Prince, and Theo's 19. Pomal is probably within a year of Ketan, though she never specifies. Rosor is 18 (actually, her being two years Ketan's elder also goes virtually unmentioned, come to think of it). Vess is 15 for most of the book, and barely 16 when she marries Theo.

Yet by the end of the Serpent Prince, Ketan has already been faced with marriage, wars external and civil, political dissent, blasphemy (in a world where the gods have a lot to say directly about same), betrayal, and judging in trials for murder and high treason. (Also nepotism, stupid behaviour about girls, arguments with dad, doing the right thing for the wrong reason and the wrong thing for lack of experience, but those go with being a teenager. Although, granted, arguments with dad are a lot different when you have to be extremely careful not to accidentally cross the line into treason just for saying you don't like his rules.)

I keep wanting to flinch on this. I keep thinking, nobody would bat an eye if I quietly added two years to everyone. The thing is, I want to face the fact that they're a bunch of younglings. I want there to be a subtext about how fast you grow up when the consequences for failure aren't social embarrassment but murder, or a curse from a god. About how to act when age isn't considered an excuse for not knowing, when you can't say "But I'm just 16!" and expect anyone at all to pause for anything, be it asking you to act as judge or slaughtering you in battle.

About irrevocable life-altering mistakes you make when you're nine, or 15, or 20. Because while these are not impossible to do in our world -- where you could end up in an unskilled labour job because at 16 you weren't thinking seriously about the fact that you want to be a doctor but can't afford University without a scholarship, or a dislike of condoms or a missed pill could make one's future VERY different indeed -- we now consider these bad things, and have a number of steps and means that such a person can get support so they can try again. A change I DO approve, compared to the world I write in. ***

The thing is, I'm not trying to MAKE that point. I'm not trying to have that debate about better or worse. Indeed, I suspect that that aspect of the books will go under a lot of radars, and hope it will; it's not even a theme, just a thing.

The entire point, indeed, boils down to, "This isn't our world. They don't make our choices or have our assumptions." A point which is lost if I do add even two years. Because while that still feels uncomfortable, it downplays it. It asks that it sneak under the radar for fear of troubling sensibilities. To not be different enough from 21st century first world ideas, gods and unquestioned monarchy**** notwithstanding, to bother those who like it here.

I think I fail too much as it is; I'm sure the boys have attitudes that give away the writer's 21st century assumptions. And I don't want that. But it keeps whispering.

I can't quite tune it out entire. There are times it's legitimate to ease the way of readers, and isn't a case of abandoning a vision; Bear chose to write the Stratford Man not with complete Elizabethan dialogue, but with something between that and modern idiom, that people might actually make it through the splendid book.

I don't think *this* is the time to listen to that voice. But to silence it whole it is to lose a possibly useful editorial tool in the future. Which means it gets to annoy me now, whent he decision is made.

_______________

** Not sure why I did the last two: Soldier should be a viable entry point for the series if I had to sell it separately, but I'm dubious that the other two could stand or sell alone.

*** Conversely, there is something to be said for the arguments against overprotection, or for how little we allow our teenagers to accomplish or experience. Everything is, after all, a matter of balance, and as often as not, more information and less protection might have *prevented* some such bad choices being made. But I will never say it's wrong to try and mitigate the effects of a bad choice made young.

**** Ketan actually does fail to consider the idea that a patrilineal monarchy is bad. That surprised me; he really does end up questioning so much else, right up to the decrees of Gods - though he *also* never considers the idea of not worshipping something, even in the face of the fallibility of deity.

* there is no single star footnote because, feeling too lazy for html, I used single stars framing a word for emphasis.
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
Stuff:

housecleaning and such randomness )

Between that and a rather nice girl's night (which resulted in me getting very pretty, if somewhat pale, henna on my leg), I've been mostly in a pretty good mood.

Mostly.

Work woes )

Somewhat more positively again,

Writing progress )
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
Stuff:

housecleaning and such randomness )

Between that and a rather nice girl's night (which resulted in me getting very pretty, if somewhat pale, henna on my leg), I've been mostly in a pretty good mood.

Mostly.

Work woes )

Somewhat more positively again,

Writing progress )
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
So. Bird of Dusk's current draft is finished. (See my last post for the whole call for critiques thing. Yes, I did that first. I figured that revisions to chapters 30-35 could be done while I'm sending out chapters 1-6. Turns out I caught an error in chapter 4 and tweaked a thing or two in 5 anyhow, oops. But no harm done yet)

130,000 words (Actually, I think it ended out at 131k). Two characters got squished into one, chunks of text near the end went away. I hunted down and destroyed all instances of certain words in the wrong contexts. I still feel like there must be something in the closing sections to reduce, but I figure it can wait for crits.

Also, the story I've been pecking at on the Dana is going to get thrown back into the dark pit of my psyche. (It's not the good kind of dark pit of the psyche, that involves facing your demons, making yourself uncomfortable and stretching as a writer. It's the other kind, the kind that seems exploitative and in it for the bad thrills. And which, if you feed it too much, turns off the parts of you that think about the consequences of exploitation.)

I know my *very* next projects (2), but both are short fiction and shouldn't take long.

So now I'm thinking about what to work on. It seems like I've been reading a lot lately that involves entourages (modern and older) and how they tend to surround celebrity and royalty, and I've been wanting to work some of that into the Serpent Prince, etc. (There are reasons neither Prince nor Duke have much entourage during some parts of the story, but there are places I glossed it over; partly because I'm in first person and Ketan wouldn't think to comment on it, but more often because I didn't think about it enough.)

However, of all projects, the Labyrinth/DWJ pastiche has been kind of sitting in my mind. And I'm thinking that one might be a good one to move onto the Dana. It certainly has the "This is a raw draft" effect. It also has the "this should be fun" effect.

I'm also finding that the current course; editing and writing one more advanced project at home and doing crazy first-drafty work on the Dana at lunch hour really works for me. Being in totally different geographic locales, It's easier to keep the editing monster and suck monkey away from the first draftiness, and it's easier to corral them to work when i need them at home.

But I'm considering a few other things, too; between projects, my mind tends to recall and cling to bits from all over in a desperate effort to shake off the last project. because it's *real* easy to end up thinking more about Bird of Dusk. That's what I had my brain trained to do for the last month, after all. So. As good a way to decide as any. Let me know if anything sounds good:

First lines )
lenora_rose: (Labyrinth)
So. Bird of Dusk's current draft is finished. (See my last post for the whole call for critiques thing. Yes, I did that first. I figured that revisions to chapters 30-35 could be done while I'm sending out chapters 1-6. Turns out I caught an error in chapter 4 and tweaked a thing or two in 5 anyhow, oops. But no harm done yet)

130,000 words (Actually, I think it ended out at 131k). Two characters got squished into one, chunks of text near the end went away. I hunted down and destroyed all instances of certain words in the wrong contexts. I still feel like there must be something in the closing sections to reduce, but I figure it can wait for crits.

Also, the story I've been pecking at on the Dana is going to get thrown back into the dark pit of my psyche. (It's not the good kind of dark pit of the psyche, that involves facing your demons, making yourself uncomfortable and stretching as a writer. It's the other kind, the kind that seems exploitative and in it for the bad thrills. And which, if you feed it too much, turns off the parts of you that think about the consequences of exploitation.)

I know my *very* next projects (2), but both are short fiction and shouldn't take long.

So now I'm thinking about what to work on. It seems like I've been reading a lot lately that involves entourages (modern and older) and how they tend to surround celebrity and royalty, and I've been wanting to work some of that into the Serpent Prince, etc. (There are reasons neither Prince nor Duke have much entourage during some parts of the story, but there are places I glossed it over; partly because I'm in first person and Ketan wouldn't think to comment on it, but more often because I didn't think about it enough.)

However, of all projects, the Labyrinth/DWJ pastiche has been kind of sitting in my mind. And I'm thinking that one might be a good one to move onto the Dana. It certainly has the "This is a raw draft" effect. It also has the "this should be fun" effect.

I'm also finding that the current course; editing and writing one more advanced project at home and doing crazy first-drafty work on the Dana at lunch hour really works for me. Being in totally different geographic locales, It's easier to keep the editing monster and suck monkey away from the first draftiness, and it's easier to corral them to work when i need them at home.

But I'm considering a few other things, too; between projects, my mind tends to recall and cling to bits from all over in a desperate effort to shake off the last project. because it's *real* easy to end up thinking more about Bird of Dusk. That's what I had my brain trained to do for the last month, after all. So. As good a way to decide as any. Let me know if anything sounds good:

First lines )
lenora_rose: (Default)
I'm still stuck at the last scene. I redid everything leading up to it, and I think I did so right, but exactly how to pull together the last chapter is still unclear.

And enough of my brain seems to be focused on the problem that I've been rereading Diana Wynne Jones or otherwise reading fluffy escapist stuff (And all my recent watching has been re-seeing movies or watching shows with comforting predictability and shameless comedy, like Get Smart and Jeeves and Wooster). I'm still in the middle of Treason's Shore, but that seems to demand more thinky than my brain wants to put into entertainment right now, and is also more serious than it seems inclined to.

I decided the last few days to listen to the signals, and not push it. Not pushing it still got me through the edits and revisions, so it's not total fallow time.

I've also been trying to kick myself into doing more exercise again.

Tai Chi starts next week if I get my payment in in timely fashion. I intend to contact them Wednesday (I can't seem to sign up two people at once, even though I tried to set up my account with a family member, and can't figure out why she didn't show up. or amybe when they say family, they don't mean moms.)

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