Archive for the ‘Random Wanderings’ Category

Planning vs Dreading

January 2, 2019

What Creature Do YOU See?  (My Answer At The End)

As everyone knows, the big question at the heart of Science Fiction – and even most Fantasy – is “What if?”

Humans are certainly not the only creatures who plan.  Many animals store food for the winter. Many animals build nests and dens not only as residences, but also as protection from both predators and the elements.  Many types of animals live in small groups during the “fat” times of the year, then band together for mutual support during the harsher seasons.

In contrast, I’m tempted to say that humans are the only creatures that dread.  Then I remember how often I’ve seen domestic animals hide or cringe when they know they’ve broken rules and are dreading the repercussions. Let’s take this one step further.  Would so many dogs fear the sound of thunder if they couldn’t dread in the abstract?

Humans do seem to cross the line from practical planning into crazed dreading more easily than do other animals.  Where I live, the weather reports over the last week or so have provided an excellent example of this.  Meteorologists have luxuriated in predicting snowfall of record levels.  In most cases, this dreaded event has not occurred.  Anyhow, even if we did get a foot of snow, is there a need to keep harping on it?  Once you’ve laid in supplies, made alternate arrangements for social events or jobs, what difference is there in how much snow actually falls?  What will be will be.

As we begin the New Year, I find myself trying hard to balance planning and dreading.  Jim and I are going into 2019 with a host of unpredictable elements regarding ill or elderly family members.  Although the most difficult part of Jim’s recovery from his knee replacement surgery is completed, we’ve been told that he will need to work on rebuilding strength and flexibility for the next nine or ten months.  He also will be facing the challenge of how to arrange his new post-retirement life.  For someone who has been working one job or another since he was in his late teens, this is not a minor challenge.

Me?  Well, I have a host of writing projects to balance against each other, to the point that my planning is verging on dreading.  Every day I don’t move forward feels like moving backwards.  My “What If?” brain is surging full speed ahead, and not always in a very helpful fashion.

At times like this, I realize just how close are planning and dreading.  While I don’t want to do without the former, I realize the latter can be paralyzing.  Why do anything when you’re going to fail?

So, as the snow drifts down, as the cold causes the water in our pond to creep up the fountainhead, as I wonder just what unexpected complications the New Year will bring, I also try to remind myself that I’ve planned as far as I can.  Now is the time to stop asking, “What if?” and focus on “What next?”

I think that “next” just might be trying to write down some of the material I’ve been tossing around in my brain whenever there’s been time to think during this busy holiday season.

But I’ll also take the time to notice that the ice around the fountainhead has formed into the shape of a turtle.  And I’ll remember to smile.

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FF: Under the Tree

December 28, 2018

Ziggy Is VERY Impressed

Santa, well, actually, my husband, Jim, gave me a phenomenal present for Christmas: audiobook versions of the first five volumes of Will (and later Will and Ariel) Durant’s ambitious historical synthesis: The Story of Civilization.  In the past, I’ve read some of the volumes, and I own the entire set in print.  This last can be very useful when the audio makes a reference to an illustration.  I’m incredibly excited!

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper.

In Progress:

The Grey King by Susan Cooper.

Our Oriental Heritage: The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.  Audio.  I’ll be listening to this for a while…

Also:

The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Audiobook. I had to give up on this one.  Too pedantic.  It’s possible that some of this may have been due to the reader’s style, so I may eventually check out in print.

Post-Christmas Post

December 26, 2018

Ogapoge Claims Some Presents

So Christmas is over, except it really isn’t.  My mom’s still visiting.  We’re going to be making sausage today or maybe cannoli.  Or maybe both.  A lot depends on the weather and whether we’ll have guests dropping by.

Did you know that today is Boxing Day?  Do you know what that means?  I didn’t until my dear friend and sometime Thursday Tangent collaborator filled me in. For your amusement, I’ll include a link to our chat so you can astonish your friends and neighbors with your wealth of wisdom.

I hope that whatever your winter celebration may be, you have or have had a lovely one!

Kel Under the Tree

Floodtide of Ideas

December 12, 2018

The Soda Dam: Jemez River, New Mexico

Just a couple of weeks ago, limbering up my imagination so I could write even a few sentences was a time-consuming and not very rewarding task.  Last week was the first since Jim’s knee replacement surgery (which was on Halloween, for those of you who haven’t been around) that I managed to write every day.  As I’ve mentioned, the problem wasn’t so much lack of time as that my imagination was busy with other things.

One of the exercises I assist Jim with involves stretching out his quads.  A side benefit is that it helps keep scar tissue from constricting the knee.  We do this exercise at least five times a day, and the benefits – while not dramatic – have been visible.

Apparently, pushing myself to write at least some Monday through Friday of last week stretched out my healing imagination.   Where early in the week I had to push to write even a few pages – Tuesday was particularly tough – by Friday even a late start didn’t keep me from completing four pages.  Even better, while I didn’t write over the weekend, all sorts of little connections began to fall into place.

As I turned on my computer on Sunday to take just a few notes, I felt very cheerful.  I’ve always been a character-driven writer.  Now my character were expressing their opinions as to what they wanted to do next – as well as revealing certain things they had been hiding from the other characters.   (And from me!)

There’s just one problem about this new flood of creativity. It’s not restricting itself to the novel.  Instead, it’s popping out in some very unusual areas.  The last session of the RPG I’ve been running triggered some interesting thoughts that I really should write down.  Then there’s a niggling feeling that I’d really enjoy writing a short story or two.

Professional writers often have people come up to them with the following suggestion: “Hey!  I have a great idea for a story.  Here’s what I think we should do.  I’ll tell you my idea.  You write it.  Then we’ll split the money.”  Writers tend to think this suggestion is very funny since lack of ideas is very rarely the problem: the problem is lack of time.

So, what does one do when this embarrassment of creative riches occurs?

In my case, I try to prioritize.  Working on the Firekeeper novel is my current “homework assignment,” so I try to write on that every day.  This helps keep me from losing touch not only with the flow of the story, but with my enthusiasm for it.  Then I consider the other ideas that are clamoring for attention.

Game notes?  Those don’t need to be in my best prose, so I can knock those off pretty quickly.   An added benefit is that when I have enough game notes, I can pretty much ignore game prep as a writing project for a while, at least until my players do something I didn’t anticipate and I need to consider the ramifications.

Short stories?  This depends on how much the idea is obsessing me.  Sometimes I’ll start a short story so I don’t lose touch with it.  If it “catches fire,” then I try and write it side by side with my novel.  Sometimes, I even put the novel on side for a day or so to finish the short story.  This is not as detrimental to the novel as it might seem.  If part of my subconscious is occupied with a competing story, the novel will inevitably begin to slow down.  Getting the other story out of the way re-opens the floodgates.

However, if the short story doesn’t catch fire, then I keep the part I’ve written, but I put it on side until I have more time to think about it.  Maybe what I have is the seed of a story idea, not a full-blown story.  The time I spend “planting” the seed isn’t usually wasted.  At the very least, there isn’t a little voice in my head saying “Don’t forget that cool idea!  Don’t forget that cool idea!”

Sometimes I just scribble a note to myself on a scrap of paper and toss it into a box on my desk.  It’s full of similar scraps, and when time permits I pull them out and review them.

It feels good to have the ideas flooding through my head.  I have about twenty minutes before I’m needed anywhere.  I think I’ll use them writing out some of those game notes, so I can write more of my novel this afternoon.

FF: Emotional Commitment

December 7, 2018

Variety Rules!

My reading this week has been intruded upon by my spending more time writing, but audiobooks are coming to the rescue.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Death Comes As the End by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Set in ancient Egypt with lots of period material.  Very enjoyable, although the POV character might strike some as too vague and dreamy.

In Progress:

Always Look On the Bright Side by Eric Idle.  Audiobook.  Read by the author.  Alternately funny and thoughtful, brilliantly presented.  I’m enjoying.  This one was recommended by my friend, Alan Robson, in his book review column.

Treecat Wars by David Weber and Jane Lindskold.  Not really a re-read.  I haven’t read this since it was in proofs, which is a very different experience indeed.

Also:

Although I’ve found short fiction tough to read unless in one sitting, I find magazine articles easy to read when exhausted before bed, so I’m plowing through the accumulated issues.

I wonder if it’s the fact that short non-fiction of this sort lacks the need for an emotional commitment on the part of the reader?

Thinking About Thanking

November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Bounty

Rattle, rattle, rattle, rumble, scrape, scratch…

Jim just trundled across the room.  He’s still using his walker, but he’s pretty much moving at his usual pace.  We’re hoping to see him graduate to a cane pretty soon, and to be able to dispense with pain meds even sooner.

That’s a lot to be thankful for.  My dad died from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  When Dad stopped being able to walk, he knew he’d never walk again.  For a man whose idea of fun was to go hiking through his forested property, locate a downed tree, then carry it back to where he could cut it up for firewood, this was hell.  Painkillers couldn’t touch what was hurting him.  He was dying by inches, and all too aware what was happening.  That broke his heart long before the disease had finished breaking his body.

Somehow Thanksgiving has come to be about wanting more, not being thankful for what you have.  The Black Friday promotions for pre-Christmas shopping have a lot to do with this, because, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the emphasis is on the sales to Get More, not on reflecting on everything you have.

Did you walk to your computer?  Can you pick up your tablet or phone?  Instead of feeling sorry that you can’t get the latest model, think about the wonder that are those fingers that you can move, the legs you can walk on.

If you’re reading this post, you have something to be thankful for.  You can see.  You can read.  You can process information.

These last couple of weeks I’ve been immersed in caregiver mode and, I’ll admit, sometimes I’ve been too tired to think straight. Nonetheless, I’ve also known how lucky I am to be taking care of someone I can expect to get well.  That hasn’t always been the case.  The bulk of caregiving for my dad fell on my sister and brother, though I did what I could.  But, when I was in my early thirties, I cared for my then-partner, Roger Zelazny, through the cancer that killed him.  I was with him when he breathed his last.

But, you know, I’m thankful for that, too, because I was there and Roger was wonderful.  We lost against the cancer.  But we won, too, because we held on to each other til death did us part.  There are worse things.

Things to be thankful for are all around you if you bother to look for them.  The picture with this Wandering features ghost pumpkins that were a gift from our friend, Patricia Rogers.  The turkey pot was made by another friend, Mary Weahkee.  Jim made the wreaths…

Thanksgiving is not about Black Friday, folks.  It’s not about Turkey Day and football games.  Thanksgiving is about taking one day out of the 365 we’re gifted with each year to stop wanting more and take a look at what we have.

I hope you can find things to be thankful about – and if you’re caught in the dark, I hope you can find a way to reach for the light.

FF: Two For One

November 9, 2018

Keladry Contemplates Fafhrd and the Mouser

With Jim recovering from knee replacement surgery, my reading time has been seriously crimped, but I usually manage a little here and there.  Here’s what I’ve been reading these past couple of weeks.

For those of you just discovering this part of my blog, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Swords in the Mist by Fritz Leiber.  I’d forgotten how smart Fafhrd is.  Definitely not the dumb barbarian muscle in this pair.

The Moons of Barsk by Lawrence M. Schoen.  Audiobook.   Quite good, although somewhat unevenly paced.  The opening parts seem to repeat a great deal of information, leading up to an ending that’s an emotional rollercoaster.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones.  Darker than many of her novels, but good.  The ending felt rushed, and left a few details out I would have liked to know.

In Progress:

Swords Against Wizardry by Fritz Lieber.  Much more coherent than the prior volume.

Also:

Some catalogs.  The items that people will buy and sell are endlessly fascinating.

What the Cats Think

November 7, 2018

Kel and Ruby: Supervisors of PT

Many thanks to all who sent Jim good wishes for his knee replacement surgery.  I’m happy to report that overall things have gone well.  He’s up and walking again (with a walker) and diligently applying himself to his PT.  Sure, there have been rough times, and there are certain to be more rough times, but he’s doing as well as could be expected.

Before the surgery, Jim and I did everything we could to prepare our household for the disruption that was certain to follow.  We stocked up on groceries.  We did lots of laundry.  We made up the bed in the guest room, just in case one or more of us would need it.  (We have.)  But there was one important issue we couldn’t deal with in advance: We couldn’t prepare the cats for all the changes to come.

(This is not to slight the guinea pigs but, although they interact with us, as long as someone shows up with treats and rotates them through their various domiciles, they’re not too picky as to which of their humans it is.)

Halloween night, when I staggered in from more than twelve hours at the hospital, the immediate question of “Where’s dinner?  In fact, now that we’re on the topic, where was lunch?” rapidly changed to “What did you do with Jim?”

The most immediately upset was Ogapoge, who thinks Jim is his personal property.  However, when I crawled into bed, I felt every cat take a turn walking up the bed and inspecting where Jim should be.  When they didn’t find him, they came and poked me, as if I might be hiding him.  However, they weren’t overly upset.  The last few months, Jim has had to be away for several days at a time, and they figured that this was more of the same.

They were more indignant when I vanished again on Thursday to spend most of the day at the hospital with Jim.  I work at home, you see, so I am supposed to be available at all times.  It probably didn’t help matters that I came home with Jim’s scent on me.  I found myself imagining the cats conferring, wondering if I might be keeping Jim imprisoned somewhere.

When on Friday I brought Jim home, the cats’ initial jubilation changed to consternation.  Jim smelled wrong.  He was walking funny – and never without this horrible rattling thing in front of him.  Again, Ogapoge was the most upset.  His pet was back but changed.  Kwahe’e was fairly mellow about matters but, at sixteen, he’s seen the world.  He came over, buffed Jim’s shoes, then went back to his basket.  Keladry was watchful, while Persephone – who is the most social – was mostly concerned because Jim would not let her jump up to sit on his lap from the right (the surgical side), only the left.

By this writing, the cats have all adjusted to the change.  Keladry has appointed herself Supervisor of PT.  Ogapoge forgave Jim when he learned Jim could still play with him and feed him – and that the rattling monster didn’t seem inclined to do anything without Jim’s supervision.  Kwahe’e figured out he could get up on the guest bed to check on Jim, so that was fine.  Persephone decided that the amount of time Jim spends sitting means there is more lap time available.

So we’re settling into a new normal here.  I’m not back to writing yet, and I probably won’t be for a while more, since my creative energy is going into finding new ways to do old tricks.  However, like the critters, I’m relieved to have Jim home again – and I appreciate how the rattling of the walker lets me know when he’s up and about and might need my help.

I hear it now.  Later!

 

FF: Pending…

November 2, 2018

Hi Folks…

Jim’s doing okay, but by the time I get home from the hospital, I’m too tired to do much on the computer.

Friday Fragments will resume, probably next week.  For now, tell me what you’re reading!

Kwahe’e: My Guardian!

Hard Right Turn

October 31, 2018

Jim’s Halloween Diorama: Beaded Spiders By Jane

So, today is Halloween, and with singularly poetical timing, Jim is having knee replacement surgery on the one day of the American calendar when it is considered perfectly appropriate to wear a mask.  The surgeons should be very happy.  This event is the next hard right turn in our lives, which I hinted about at the end of last week’s Wednesday Wandering.

Depending on when you’re reading this, I’m either getting ready to go to the hospital, am at the hospital, or maybe even am home from the hospital and racing around taking care of all the chores that I didn’t do because I spent the day at the hospital.

For the next few weeks, my social media presence may be limited.  Unlike some people who would doubtless be posting updates every half-hour or so, that’s just not my thing.  And, hey, I don’t even own a smartphone, so even if it was, I couldn’t.  I will check and respond to e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook as I can, but taking care of Jim and our home are going to be my first priorities.

Jim is a good candidate for knee replacement, being more or less in shape (other than having a knee that doesn’t work right), relatively young, and supremely determined.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that these days almost everyone either knows someone who has had knee replacement surgery or has had some joint replaced, that doesn’t change that this is a major surgical procedure with a long recovery period.  (As in several months, minimum, perhaps a year before full strength and flexibility returns.)

Yes.  We know that Jim needs to do his PT.  Yes.  We do know pain control is important.   Yes.  We do know he’s going to hurt like hell but, in the end, be so glad that he did this.  Thank you.  Please don’t share your horror stories about what went wrong for you or for a friend of a friend.  We’ve heard those stories.  They don’t help.

Since Jim has always done his share of chores around our house – up to and including cooking, laundry, and pet care – I’m going to have a lot of extra work, above and beyond being the only driver and the main caregiver.  If and when I have any extra energy, I hope to put it into writing.  That may be a fantasy.  I won’t know until I get there.

So, Happy Halloween.  Wish us more treats than tricks…  I’ll catch you when I can!