Sunday, April 29, 2012

in which I do not run

 Other people ran or walked or ran/walked 10 kilometres through the streets of Victoria. I drank tea at the Union Club, surrounded by leather couches and wood-panelled walls. Then I trotted down to the finish line to be a support person, with a bag of bananas and pullovers.
 I tried to photograph Mark at the finish line but what with the temporary fencing and the crowds, I missed the moment. But here he is a couple of minutes after, swigging water before walking through the tents offering free juice, chocolate milk, fruit slices, yogurt, and cookies.

 We had to wait a bit for the rest of our party, giving time for Mark to debrief with his personal trainer (Marie-Claude) and for me to take more photos. The TC10K doesn't attract as many novelty runners as some do, but I was somewhat gobsmacked to see the firefighter team, who ran in full gear including tanks and hoses.

 There's a noticeable shift in body-type from the first wave of runners through, who tend overall to be long and lean, to the later arrivals, where you see more short thin people and more tall bulky people
 Kind of heartwarming to see the families coming through together, mothers and daughters, dads and kids.
 And here's Shona, completing our party triumphantly. Then we all went for second breakfast at the Union Club, where the runners had luxurious showers and changed into clothing appropriate for the setting.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

nice smells

 The first two loaves from the bread machine. One white, with a slightly milky nutty flavour and very light fluffy texture. The other French, with more sturdiness and less distinctive flavour.
I'd been thinking of getting a bread machine (used of course) to try making gluten-free bread for our non-gluten or celiac friends. Then we were given a Sunbeam Breadmaker, by one of said non-gluten friends (Marie-Claude), in a grand passing-on of GF flours and baking supplies.
So I guess bread will be this year's New Baking Thing, like last year's jelly making, and pies the year before.
Now I just need to find a GF bread recipe that doesn't require more than 3 different hard-to-find kinds of flour.

And outdoors, the apple trees are blossoming, with the Transparent (which fruits in August) being the first to open. The scent is faint but sweet.

I brought some of the pruned twigs inside and put them in water, but very few opened. Instead I discovered... (cue chords of doom)

Do you see any caterpillars in that picture? The little buggers are there, though, invisibly working their nastiness. I've cut three small tents off the Spartan and the Golden Delicious, but not all of them announce their presence so clearly. Some curl up inside leaves and blossoms, and the first you know is that the leaves are eaten to lace or the blossoms drop from broken stems.
I'm anxiously watching the plum tree; so far no sign of renewed canker, so my fingers are crossed for luck.

Tomorrow Mark will be running in the Times Colonist 10K run. I will post about that, possibly with photos, though I will be holed up somewhere drinking tea and writing, because I am not a runner.
Now I must go and work on the Rescue from the Vampire Care Home scenes, if I can just get my characters out of the pub. I hope my story is not infested with caterpillars, eating out plot holes and chewing characters to cardboard.

Monday, April 23, 2012

International PIxel-Stained Technopeasant Day

A free story for you! A little outdated now that vampires have gone sparkly and cuddly, but hey, free!

Bride of the Vampire
B. Gordon

Of course the wedding was at night. The Gothic granite of St. Andrew's, tinted Halloween-orange by the sodium streetlights, made a perfect backdrop. Joe centred its square tower in the viewfinder, then tilted down past the glowing rose window to the blocked intersection. A gaggle of black-draped teenagers held pairs of red and white roses and pointedly ignored everyone, even the street-theatre group parading giant puppets of skeletons and politicians.
He panned along the sidewalk, where vendors stood guard over displays of t-shirts: Bite Me; I never; Vamps Suck! and occult jewelry. "Moonstones, the mystic jewel with the power of the full moon! Real silver, for protection!"
A phalanx of pastel-suited protesters lined the sidewalk of the Baptist church across the street, clutching signs, ready to wave them when the cameras or the couple appeared. Distracted by the arrival of the Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered protesters, they hadn't spotted Joe. The two groups traded uneasy glances.
Middle-aged women were scattered in knots among the crowd. Some held banners: Best Wishes Nikolai and Julie from Anne Rice Fan Club; LKH Fans Nikolai. A few dragged cringing husbands, but most looked set for a girls' night out, dissecting the bridal gown and self-written vows over drinks and desserts.
The motorcycle cops leaning against their propped bikes looked uneasy. Nerves or embarrassment? Other media were out in force; Joe and Anna would have to fight through the scrum to get near the happy couple when they showed up.
He shouldered the camcorder and looked down at Anna Chan. "Who do you want to hit first?"
Questions from the studio audience.
Kimmie Franton, 37: Julie, I just love paranormal romances. Is your fiance as hot a lover as those vampires?
Laughter. Julie blushes and glances at Nikolai. He smiles, revealing long white canines, and pats her hand.
Julie: Well, we're not married yet, and Nikolai is kind of old-fashioned, so I can't really answer. But he's really romantic. He fills the house with roses and candles, and makes me feel like I'm the centre of his universe. So I guess I'd say yes, and even more.
Albert Whitaker, 48: Has he bitten you yet?
Julie: That's, um, kind of personal.
Whitaker: When he bites you, it's not just you and him. You're sharing blood with everyone he's bitten in his career. Have you considered the health issues--
Nikolai: If I may answer for my beloved. There are so many misconceptions about the Undead lifestyle, tragic misunderstandings which have led to my people's persecution for generations. The sharing of blood, for instance....
As Joe approached, the protesters shuffled into formation and raised their signs. Anna glanced up to check that the Record light was off, then muttered, "Undead stay Unwed? And I thought Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve was a lame slogan."
Joe grinned and pointed at a sign in the back. Adam and Eve not Dracula and Eve.
"Lamer," Anna said. "Why not something straightforward like Fangs off our wimmenfolk, Bloodsuckers?"
"Leviticus 17:12? Is that the bit about not eating blood?" People who expected Joe to know the Bible by chapter and verse made him want a good stiff drink.
"Probably. Looks like he painted out 20:13, men lying with men. Think they've given up protesting gays or will he repaint it every time?"
Taped interview on Sunnyside.
Rick Klofski: Nikolai, after your marriage to Julie, you'll have Honorary Living status. What do you say to those who suggest that's the motive for your marriage, taking a shortcut through the bureaucracy of the Re-naturalisation process?
Nikolai: What those narrow-minded bigots forget, Mr. Klofski, is that many Undead simply pass as Living. But when I met and loved my dearest Julie, she inspired me to openness, to her and to the world. If that exposes me to slander, even to personal danger...such is Life.
Rick Klofski: Gay activists charge the Undead with riding the coattails of their same-sex marriage fight. Can you comment?
Nikokai: It is a pity that we who strive for the right to exist and love openly should fight amongst ourselves.
The young women with roses did their best not to look at the camera, but Joe caught the sidelong glances and just-too-loud chatter. They'd act blase about being interviewed, but afterwards most would ask quietly when the segment would be aired.
"If I can find a vamp who'll bring me over," said a plump girl with black-outlined eyes. "I mean, why not? Now it's legal to be Undead, who wouldn't want to live forever?"
"Really," said another, tossing her matte-black hair. "What's so great about going out in the daytime anyways?"
"No way I'd marry one, though. Not if they're all like Nikolai. That centre of the universe masterful thing? So last-millenium."
A girl with bird-bones twisted into her thin braids stared at Anna. "I'd do it. But only if marrying a vamp made me legally dead instead of him legally alive. That would piss off my mom so bad. Hey, aren't you Anna Chan? Your undercover Bad Jobs articles rocked."
Questions from the studio audience.
Lee-Anne Tremblay, 26: Julie, would you ever consider becoming a vampire yourself?
Julie: Oh no. I know people worry about me losing my soul, but really, Nikolai loves the life in me, he says I bring sunlight to him for the first time in centuries. I'd hate for him to lose that.
Marilla Houston, 52: What about children? Can you have children?
Julie: Um, no, I don't think we can. But lots of couples can't have children, and there's so many babies in the world who need good homes...we might adopt.
Nikolai: If my darling wants to adopt children, I will fight that battle as I fought for marriage rights. But we have not even had our honeymoon! Let us think only of each other, for a little while.
The black stretch limo growled up to the roped-off sidewalk. Tinted windows must be a selling point for the Undead, Joe thought, and checked his sightlines. To get a better angle on the vampire and his bride he'd have to trample bystanders. Anna would do it in a heartbeat, but Joe was squeamish and camcorders were expensive.
The crowd hushed. Joe's neck prickled. The buildings facing St. Andrew's had been searched, but a high-powered rifle reached a long way, and the night air was dead still. There had been threats.
"Solid line of cops in front of the fundies," Anna whispered.
Nikolai stepped onto the red carpet. A sigh billowed out around the street as humanity's night terrors were embodied in one tall, impeccably dressed man. His shoulder-length hair swung over his bone-white face as he bent to help Julie out of the limo.
Virgin sacrifice, thought Joe. The girl looked so young, so alive, ripe as a peach and asking to be bitten into, to be devoured--He didn't know whether he wanted to protect her or devour her himself. Okay, straighten out. The craziness is getting to you.
Nikolai's hired security filed around the couple in a wall of dark-suited muscle.
Questions phoned in from listeners.
Devon Harman, 18, from Abbotsford: How many humans have you killed in your life?
Nikolai: Young man, you have been reading trashy horror, the sort I hope will soon be prosecuted as hate literature. The blood sustains us, true, but it must be given willingly....
"There," Anna said. "The blond guy, brown jacket, thirties. Following the Laurell K. Hamilton Fans."
Joe swung the camcorder and found the LKH Fans Nikolai banner. The guy blended in pretty well. It took Joe a minute to see he wasn't attached to any of the women. Something about his body language. Other men glanced at their wives or girlfriends, stuck close for fear of being swept away in a sea of estrogen. This guy watched everyone around him, not any one woman. He moved with the crowd, but his shoulders were tight and his head cocked alertly.
"How long till the cops spot him?" Joe kept the guy in the viewfinder. If he filmed the takedown, that would be something. Maybe not enough for Anna.
"Come on, Joe. This way, and keep the camera on him." Anna elbowed through the crowd at an angle, aiming for the spot where their target would intersect the police cordon.
The blond reached under his light jacket as two cops spotted him through the barrier. Anna closed the gap and leapt. Her smooth dark hair lifted and fell like a hawk's wings. Her arms wrapped around him, tangling his hands in the unzipped jacket. He fell hard, Anna on top. Glass shattered under him and he screamed.
"Silver nitrate in lightbulbs, I bet," said a teen in a Hellsing t-shirt. "That's what they used in Portland." His girlfriend nodded and took a picture with her cell.
Special evening filming of Winnie!
Winnie: Nikolai, is it true that vampires live forever?
Nikolai: My dear Miss O'Fray, how long is 'forever'? We are long-lived, yes. I myself am two centuries old, but only when I found Julie, my lady of light, did I understand how lonely those centuries had been.
Winnie: I hate to bring up sad thoughts on a happy occasion, but Julie is human--right, honey?--and she's going to age. What will that mean for your marriage?
Nikolai: Beautiful as my love is in her body, her soul is yet more beautiful. I will never tire of her mind and soul.
The St. John's Ambulance attendant was cleaning Anna's skinned knees when Nikolai and his security came in. The vampire bowed. "I am told, Miss Chan, that it was you who saved my darling and myself from a fanatic. I am greatly in your debt."
Anna squinted up, and her card appeared in her hand like magic. "I'll take an exclusive interview the night after you get back from the honeymoon, and call it even."
He laughed, flashing white teeth. "A true newswoman's instincts. Consider it a promise." He turned at a flurry behind him. "Cara mia, stay where it is safe."
"Oh Nikolai, I had to thank her. She saved you!" Julie pushed her way between the suits, her Belgian-lace veil lopsided and her antique-cream train dirty from the pavement. "Ms. Chan, you were wonderful. So brave! Thank you so much!" She bent over Anna, hugging her enthusiastically.
Joe got it all on tape. He had instincts too.
"He was right there." Joe said, as St. John's packed up. "Where were your trademark penetrating questions and put-'em-on-the-spot attitude? Was the old Dracula charm working on you?"
Anna shook her head. "Wait for the exclusive, when I can corner him. I know his type. Shitloads of charm and a controlling bastard. Like my husband."
"I didn't know you were married."
"I'm not." She paused, and Joe decided to drop it. "She's what, twenty-two, twenty-three?"
"Twenty-three." It had been in the press release.
"Still a kid. She'll grow and change, he won't."
"Why not?"
"He's dead, Joe."
"Well, it's over now. The circus has left town, and you're a hero. Buy you a drink?" He put out his hand and pulled Anna to her feet.
She looked down at her bandaged legs and sighed. "Sure. Hah, you think that was a circus? Wait for the first vamp divorce."


Sunday, April 22, 2012

one-step, two-step progress

Storyline Two chugs along, slower than I would like. I haven't hit the estimated-halfway-wordcount yet, which disappoints me, and the characters seem to talk an awful lot. And go to the pub to talk more.  Maybe this is wish-fulfilment on my part, since I'm supposed to not drink alcohol or carbonated beverages? They're drinking all the cider I can't have. Now I must infuse those scenes with all my thwarted passion!

I have to remember that my agent told me it doesn't have to be perfect, it's a first draft, and that she will want changes anyways, so a fine polish is not required.
And maybe Storyline Two won' t be 50k in the first draft. Maybe it will be 30k. I wonder how much wordage it needs to balance out the estimated 150k of Storyline One?

As far as actual measurable achievements go, I've frozen three bags of rhubarb and made a big batch of gluten-free cookies (this recipe from Make It Naked blog) for a birthday present. And on Thursday I did 15 real (not girly) pushups, and three sets of 22 crunches. Which is a lot of crunches.
With which I must be content for the moment.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

interior grumblings

Beset by language puns. And no, this isn't to do with deadlines and wordcount (though frankly those aren't coming together as tidily as they ought), but with physical stuff.
Besides my arthritis, which is properly Palindromic Rheumatism, I was diagnosed some years back with irritable bowel syndrome, for which I prefer the alternative name of Spastic Colon (because it sounds like a punctuation error). Back when I got the diagnosis, along with the cheerful news that it could be more painful than appendicitis, there wasn't much information about how to deal with or avoid episodes. I think hot baths were recommended, and stress was to be avoided.
Fortunately I never encountered the 'worse than appendicitis' level, and for some years I'd nearly forgotten I had it. Until recently, when I had a stomach-ache for two weeks, which eventually reached the doubling-up-in-pain stage.
Again fortunately, now there is the internet, with lots of info about any kind of ailment you can imagine. So, armed only with a laptop and my finely-honed critical faculties, I set out to discover why me, now?
Conclusion: guess I shouldn't have tried to be healthy by having yogurt and granola for breakfast those two weeks.

For the next two weeks, I tried to be nice to my gut, and ease it back to its usual quiescent state. This meant pretending to be lactose, fructose and gluten-intolerant. Also to avoid fat, caffeine, chocolate, and alcohol. Yes to rice, oatmeal, barley, applesauce, soy, and (fortunately) sourdough bread.
Dropping chocolate and coffee, not so hard. Since I don't drink carbonated drinks or use artificial sweeteners, I didn't even have to drop them.
But cheese? Oh gosh I miss cheese. I want a nice big chunk of cheddar.
Which may be why we (who barely see one movie a year) went out and watched John Carter (of Mars) and Cabin in the Woods. Because if those movies aren't both big chunks of cheddar, I don't know what they are.
I enjoyed the heck out of both of them.

Wordcount is slower than I'd like, but I'm happy that I've moved past the twitchy self-doubt stage and am getting a better and fuller sense of the modern-day characters and the progress of events, with a couple of developments that surprised me (always good when that happens).
I am wondering--possibly as a result of Cabin in the Woods--whether the modern storyline is going to be too light compared to the kinda-grim 1600s plot. At present I'm not seeing any casualties among the sympathetic characters, even though my agent suggested that the mentor-ish character should die in the kaiju big battel scene at the end. Which may still happen, I'm just not finding inevitability in it so far.
Also, need to work on making the troubled teen come across more angry and destructive. Not outright disturbed, but aimless and impulsive.
Two things to write on post-its and put at my desk:

Friday, April 6, 2012

writing and self-doubt

turns up something like 50 million hits if you google it. Clearly, writing is an endeavour all set about with self-doubt, like the Limpopo River with fever-trees (Just-So Stories reference).  Then there are the hopeful writers, often self-published, who have no self-doubt at all, but let's not get into that just now. The point is that one doesn't have to look far on any writers forum or blog or board to find quite good writers meebling and wittering about how they've just written the worst sentence ever in the history of sentences, all their characters are made of delaminated cardboard, the middle of their novel sags like a brothel mattress and their similes are even worse than that one.

Oddly, considering my crap self-esteem (my self-respect is okay, though) and my general lack of confidence in my ability to do anything, I'm pretty confident in my ability to write a good coherent sentence / paragraph / scene. I believe I can write dialogue in which the speakers can be told apart, and characters of at least bas-relief dimensions. I fall short in big-picture structure, but I'm getting better at that. Also, my commas are pretty good.
I am not, for all that, under the delusion that my work will sell easily or automatically be popular. Being a reader first, I'm aware that different readers have different tastes in style as well as in genre.

Since I'm not given to wibbling and wittering and meebling in the way of omg this writing thing how have I gotten myself into it I can't possibly do it I will have to change my name and move to another province... it was disconcerting to find myself doing that very thing last week.
And why? Because the modern storyline has archaeology in it, and museum practice, and possibly rival institutes getting snooty at each other. As I set myself to writing those sequences, I became paralysingly aware that I have never worked at a museum, and I have never excavated or conserved a bog-body, nor engaged in museological infighting. I was second-guessing every detail and every line of dialogue.
Gosh what fun.
When I'd had enough fun, I sought consolation and bracing good sense from Mark and from the Furtive Scribblers. Which netted me contact information for two experienced field archaeologists and one employee of the British Museum. And reminded me that I have been behind the scenes at the Museum of London and its Angel Wharf archives, briefly at the Victoria & Albert, and have penetrated deep into the inwards of the British Museum, with the accents growing posher each time we passed through another locked door. And that I work at a university, where the academic infighting can't be that massively different.
So the meebling has been reduced considerably, and I have somewhere(s) to go for those questions not easily answered by book and online research. But this has been a salutary lesson in how self-doubt lurks skulkingly about and can pop in at any moment.

Now I'll find out how many pages on the conservation of Lindow Man I can read on Google books.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

vaguely resentful

I signed up for Facebook. Because the cousin I lost touch with about three years ago is on it, and it seems like the only way to regain contact.
Despite the fact that I've only sent a friend request to one person, and that one blood-related to me, FB is showing me vast lists of people I know from the SCA and prompting me to contact them. I'm a bit worried that I've somehow let the vampire across the threshold here. I mean, they can't go and loot my SCA address book unless I actually let them in, can they? Not just by my using my SCA-specific email as the contact email for validating my registration?
Just glad I didn't use my personal email address.
Already I'm regretting the fact that now whenever I sign a petition for human rights or labour rights I won't be able to blithely dismiss the followup 'Like Us on Facebook! Promote us on Twitter!' Though as Mark pointed out, if I don't go and sign up a bunch of friends, it won't matter what I put on my page, wall, thingy. And if I did sign up a bunch of friends, they'd get bored pretty quickly and block me, or whatever it is.
People do this for fun?
Excuse me. There are a bunch of middle-aged people on my lawn and I need to go shout at them to get off it.