In Loving Memory of Two Good Dogs

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Duke

On Monday, my sister-in-law’s dog, Duke, passed away. He’d been ill for a short while, and when the diagnosis came last week, it was the worst news. Advanced cancer. He wasn’t quite ready to go–he still menaced the rabbits in the yard, and brought Karen his tennis ball, still wanted to go on walks, albeit slower ones. But he couldn’t eat, and the day came when the tennis ball was ignored and the painful decision had to be made.

My heart aches for my sister- and brother-in-law, and for my nephews, who’ve lost a loyal and loving family member.

Woody

Woody

Their loss also brought back vivid and visceral memories of our first Jack Russell Terrier, Woody, the first dog I ever owned. We picked him out as a puppy when our son was 2, because, I rationalized, a boy needs a dog. But the boy didn’t get the dog. I did. Woody came with me everywhere. He was my shadow. He cuddled the boys because he knew they were special to me, and sat curled in the triangle I’d make of my legs every time I relaxed on the sofa. On leash-less walks he never wandered more than a few paces from my side, always in view—his view. Because, while I thought I owned him, he thought he owned me. He trained me up just right.

He got very suddenly ill, sepsis set in and within 24 hours of first recognizing he was sick, he was gone. But thankfully I was there at the end. I’d been working at my kids’ school, so I missed the first call, when his lungs failed and his heart stopped, but the emergency vet, angel that she was, kept him on life support and kept calling, so I could say goodbye. I petted him and told him I loved him. I wanted to be sure the last words he heard from me were ones I knew he’d understand:

You’ve been a good dog, Woody.

And you were a good dog, too, Dukie. May you both be chasing rabbits and squirrels to your heart’s content, and if, perchance, we  see you once again, you can be sure we’ll have treats in hand and a loving caress for our loyal companions.

Duke, d. April 27, 2014

Woody, d. June 7, 2005

 

Revision(ist) History

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Book Pic_compressedI’m getting close to completing the 5th draft of the first novel I’ve ever actually finished writing. Yes, you read that right. @_@ F-I-F-T-H

Okay, It’s not quite as bad as it sounds. Draft 1 was completed in 30 days for NaNoWriMo 2012. 107,000 words in 30 days.  Well, you can imagine. It was rough. Draft 2 was complete 10 days later. I had a mission, you see. Avon had made a crazy offer to NaNoers in the Romance Forum. Get us your imperfect NaNo novel by December 10th and we’ll take a look. Too bad my manuscript was at least 27,000 words too long. I cut and slashed and basically turned the story into mincemeat, although I did take care to eliminate at least half of my typos and grammatical errors, if not the required number of actual words.

Draft 3 came after Avon’s Form Rejection, an attempt to rebuild what I’d ruined. I found myself a few beta readers who, needless to say, replied “Nope, not ready.”

At that point I gave up. Even though I’ve been writing most of my life, I simply didn’t know how to go about revising a novel. But people who’d read it kept asking me about it. Something had clicked. After a few months break, it started preying on me like a mutant alien in a recurring nightmare. I’d be weeding, or walking the dogs, and my characters would start…conversing. And they Wouldn’t. Shut. Up. By this time I’d waded into the Water Cooler at Absolute Write, so even though I still didn’t know how to revise, I gave it another shot, and then I got new betas. I still didn’t hit the mark, but this time I’d gotten some terrific feedback. Some direction. And a lot of support. I decided to try again.

Only now…now that I’m close to the end of 5, I’m dragging my feet. Somehow I’m mired in what is for me, a new and insidious form of procrastination: Procrastination by Doing Stuff. My usual procrastination style is, yanno, sitting back and not doing stuff. Fiddling. Twiddling. Ignoring. But yesterday I wrote an entirely new chapter. 3500 words worth. Bearing in mind I need to be cutting, not adding, this was dismaying in the extreme. I resorted to chardonnay.

One of my writer friends said getting to the end of something you’ve worked on for so long is frightening. I thought I was over that after 4 drafts, but no, apparently not. I have Other Story Ideas waiting on the doorstep, in fact they’re pressing their faces to the windows and tapping on the glass, but this unwelcome guest of a book won’t leave. “More tea, dammit?”

So now, this is me, putting myself on DEADLINE and using this platform for a good ol’ public shaming. One of two things will happen no later than May 6: my 5th draft will fly out of my computer and land in the inboxes of my newest betas, or…it’s the trunk for you, baby. This doggie’s gotta get a move on.

I know I’m not alone. Does your procrastination style have a name? Have you had revision nightmares? Share. We can all laugh and cry together.

And It Lived Happily Ever After. A Follow Up.

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I hoped. I kept good thoughts. But in a tiny black part of my heart, I didn’t truly think it would happen. And then on Saturday my husband’s phone rang. “Hi there, did you lose a ski at Aspen?”

Now let me tell you, a lot of wonderful things have happened over the course of my life, and some not so wonderful things, which I’ve managed to write off as experience.

So after our not-so-adventurous adventures in Aspen, wherein Nick’s ski was swallowed by the mountain, (detailed here in an earlier post) I hoped we’d get the ski back, but so much had to go right. I honesty didn’t believe we’d see that ski again.

Back to Saturday, the culmination of our adventure, and the confirmation of a son’s ridiculous good fortune. It’ll cost him the price of shipping, which, when you’re a college kid, might hurt a lot, but it’s less than the cost of new skis.

We’d like to be able to acknowledge the person who found the ski and turned it in, but we have no idea who it is. Still, there was more than one person who made it possible, so to all the lovely people at Aspen who kept an eye out, who kept track of our Lost and Found report, and the person in the office who made that happy call and will be shipping the ski back,  THANK YOU for giving us a happy ending to this crazy tale.

 

Photo attribution: By Devastator pc (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Screw that, LPGA

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My husband is a golf nut. He plays, he watches. Last night our TV was tuned to the Golf Channel for the final holes of the LPGA event from Oahu, Hawaii. Michelle Wie was finishing up her win. I didn’t pay much attention to the golf part, but a few minutes later, I looked up and saw the uber-talented Ms. Wie in the middle of…a hula line? Well, alright, she was born in Hawaii, the tournament is held in Hawaii, and the hula is a traditional Hawaiian dance. So maybe she’s accepting the trophy there among the hula dancers.

But Ms. Wie, the winner of a professional golf tournament for which she earned $255,000, didn’t have a trophy in hand, Instead, she was being asked, urged, to participate in the dance. REALLY? Could she not stand aside to watch and appreciate the skills of the women performing in her honor? Give them a polite golf-clap? Did she have to be made to stand in the middle of the line and hula with them?

Michelle Wie deserved better. She looked embarrassed and grossly uncomfortable, and the more she tried not to participate, the more she was prodded to keep going. I found it disgusting and degrading. The camera zoomed in for a close up, Ms. Wie smiled halfheartedly for the national audience—and the sponsors of the tournament, no doubt— and I ranted at the TV (and my husband, by extension, poor guy).

Had Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson ever been required to HULA?? On TV, as a winner of a tournament? I highly doubt it. And I feel quite certain, had anyone dared to ask it of them, they would have flat out refused. Why? Because it demeans their professionalism.

I wish Michelle Wie would have refused.The LPGA should have prevented it on her behalf. Seriously? A woman wins a golf tournament and is shown, not raising her trophy, kissing the sterling silver or cut crystal, but HULA-ING. Are you kidding me?

But then, the LPGA is apparently all about the tempest in a teapot. They recently decried the use of a scantily clad Pauline Gretzky to promote women’s golf on the cover of Golf Digest (see The Guardian article here), not so much because she’s scantily clad, but because, as stated by the LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan, the LPGA wants their golfers to be the cover girls. Not a model who is the girlfriend of a male golf professional. One of their own.

Excuse me? So it’s okay to sexualize your game as long as it’s being done by members of your association? Is that what you’re saying LPGA? Put ’em on magazine covers—wearing appropriate golf attire, I should hope, not a sports bra and capri tights—and then, when she wins, go for the close up of your champion doing the hula! Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for!

Don’t give me that crap about reaching an audience, or promoting your game. You know what? Men promote their game by excellence. By hitting the ball 275 yards, making a chip shot stick and spin back toward the hole, by showing steely nerves on the putting green. The svelte young guns and the pot-bellied, balding guys alike are lauded for their skills. But if you’ve got two X chromosomes, somehow you’ve got to sell your game with a whiff of sex and a spritz of pheromone perfume. Maybe a bit of cleavage and a coconut shell bra for good measure. ‘Cause…yanno…eyes.  elbow-wink-nod

Am I being hypocritical because I write romance novels and romance stories? Some would say so. I cater to whiffs of sex and more than a spritz of pheromone perfume. I cater to—mostly—women who enjoy reading about relationships and sex and even sexual adventure. I’m promoting fantasy. I’m honest about it. I’m not trying to sell high literature by luring you to my stories with a peak of cleavage or six-pack abs.

I get it. Sex sells. It’s only that I prefer my professional athletes—both male and female—to show off their skills, their athleticism, their grace and beauty under pressure on the field of play. That’s alluring enough for me, and it’s certainly how the game should be promoted. The LPGA is filled with incredible golfers. If showcasing their skill sets is good enough for the men, it’s good enough for the women, LPGA.

Because if complaining  about the use of a sexy magazine cover promoting your game one one week, and then making your champion hula for a TV audience the next isn’t hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.

 

Pot-ty Thoughts

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By Rotational (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI was heading into the grocery store today and I walked past the “smoker’s bench” placed 25′ from the door, as required by law. There’s always someone there on a break from work, or waiting for a friend or family member who’s inside shopping. But the whiff of pot as I passed by caught me off guard, caused a hitch in my step and wrinkle of my nose, before I thought huh,that’s going to be a lot more common.

Because I live in one of the two states who’ve so far legalized marijuana, a long overdue change in law for which I voted yea. Personally, I don’t like pot and the state won’t be getting any cannabis-tax dollars out of me, but then, I don’t like cigarettes, either. I do like wine. They get plenty of my tax dollars there.

A lot of people I know—a much higher number than I was aware of before it became legal—smoke pot (or vape it, or consume it in any number of edibles) at least on occasion. It does strange things to my brain so I steer clear, but I find it hard to comprehend the push to keep marijuana illegal and on the black market. By my completely unscientific estimation (in other words, by my observation), weed is less dangerous, to both the user and others interacting with the user, than either cigarettes or alcohol. I don’t, for example, personally know anyone who’s died of marijuana-related lung cancer, although maybe it’s happened and I was just unaware. It could be argued, I suppose, that marijuana-related disease numbers skew low because it’s an illegal substance, thus making the disease connections under-reported. Still, I feel confident in saying it’s not WORSE than alcohol or cigarettes. No, I’m all for legalizing it, taxing it, regulating it, letting those petty drug offenders out of jail and not locking up any new ones.

I’m eager to watch how this plays out across the country, to see how fast or slow the legalization process goes. Oregon, Alaska and California are on our tails, and though I’m not as familiar with attitudes on the east coast, it seems Maine is close. I assume there are other liberal or libertarian-leaning states contemplating the potential cash cow that is legal weed. Washington has been overly conservative and micro-managing of the process to get stores open, but Colorado announced it thinks it will out-pace their cannabis-related tax revenue estimates by 40%, the federal government is quietly turning askance a few degrees, and the United States As We Know It is not coming to an inglorious, hippified end.

That said, I don’t think I’ll get used to the smell of pot wafting by on the air. I probably won’t like walking by the “smokers bench” inhaling the second-hand smoke of a plant I find smelly and makes my head fuzzy, same as I don’t like being in the presence of tobacco smoke. So when I scurry past, I’ll probably still wrinkle my nose, but I assure you, it’s not because you’re a pot-smokin’ weirdo. In fact, in my heart, I’m glad for you. Any extra money you want to contribute to the state’s coffers is fine by me.

 

Photo Attribution: By Rotational (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Heartbleeding Frustration

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This Heartbleed thing has my panties in a bunch. 

 

By Fwaaldijk [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Fwaaldijk [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

As a writer, I’m a fan of good communication, and I cannot for the life of me understand why I haven’t received the slightest notification from the companies I deal with who have been affected by Heartbleed. I’m talking to you in particular, Google. I have three gmail addresses: one accidental, one because Verizon made me do it, and one for my writerly things. But none of those addresses has contained a note from my provider.

Problem is, Google can ignore its users. It’s not like there’s going to be a mass exodus from Gmail. The number of Gmail addresses worldwide is huge. In June of 2012, Google announced Gmail had 425 million monthly active users. Google houses about 13 % of the world’s email addresses, and while that may not sound like a lot, when one company controls that much real estate in cyber-space, they’re pretty much an empire.  With one short and informative email, Google could notify more than 425 million users, “Hey, there’s this Heartbleed thing. Our secure servers have a hole. But DON’T DO ANYTHING YET. We have to fix the hole first, then we’ll let you know when it’s safe to change your password. We owe it to you for unwittingly being party to threatening your security.” They don’t even have to take any blame.

But emperors don’t do such things.

Instead we get…silence. Not even crickets. Just…nothing.

Google and all the others can tell themselves everyone’s heard about Heartbleed from their local nightly news, or on various websites that have been getting this story out—Thank you Mashable!—or around the water cooler at the office They can say Ah, we’d just be bothering our customers, or decide it’s up to the customers to inform themselves, or fret that they shouldn’t say anything until they have a solution in place.

I’ll tell you though, the ostrich approach to customer service rarely works, folks. Just ask Target. As a user, what the failure to communicate does is remind me that my interactions with the companies who claim to want me as a customer are one way streets. Google can put ads on the baby videos I post on YouTube, they can cruise my email contacts and spam me to expand my Google+ interactions, but tell me about a problem that affects my cyber-security? No, that won’t happen.

I suppose it’s good for me, then, this Heartbleed. Bumps me out of my naiveté. Makes me do some thinking about who I really want to be doing business with. It is my choice, after all.

But because Google houses so many of the world’s email addresses, and because it bills itself as forward thinking, I feel especially scornful toward their customer disservice. Still, they’re far from the only culprit. I haven’t heard from Facebook or Twitter either, nor a bank I use, nor Yahoo, Turbo Tax or you, WordPress.

An honest email saying “We’re aware of it, we’re assessing our vulnerability and we’ll keep you posted.” would go a long way toward maintaining customer loyalty. Google tells Mashable its customers don’t need to change passwords but better safe than sorry. Huh. Guess they couldn’t tell me themselves.

If you can search my contact list, you know where I am, Google. Drop me a note some day, would ya? I’d love to hear from you.

 

A Strange Quality of Light

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An autumn morning view from my window

An autumn morning view from my window

When you live in Seattle, you wake up to a fair number of gloomy mornings. I look out my window at a lot of green and brown and gray. But there are mornings, like today, when the gray is southward, in front of me, but the sun is rising from the left through a break in the clouds, slanting through my neighbor’s trees. It shines like a spotlight on the trunks of our firs, and the air takes on a surreal quality I’m forever hard-pressed to describe. But every time I notice it, my brain starts churning for the proper words.

It’s like a bruise. The atmosphere is tinged a dirty, yellowish-green. It’s a maddening quality to try to describe. It’s also a mallet to my head of how limited are my powers of metaphor, how bare is my ability to string together imaginative combinations of words. I think a second grader could come up with “bruise” to describe that particular quality of the morning light. And no matter that I’ve sat here hundreds of mornings trying to pin it down, I can come up with nothing more lyrical or uniquely worded than bruise-y. As a writer, this makes me nuts. I yearn to be lyrical.

Instead, I am almost painfully rooted to reality. Continue reading