Wednesday, October 31, 2007


As promised.
Just the right blend of bad Halloween pun and science-nerdiness for my taste.
The wig is my special accomplishment.  The costume shop didn't have what I needed, so I bought a granny wig with a bun, lopped the bun off and frizzed up the rest.  It turned out pretty much how I pictured it.
The makeup is what I get for buying the cheap stuff.  It's coming off as soon as I get home.
I wish I'd had the chance to make myself an E=mc2 t-shirt to wear under the lab coat, though.
I would have made the fact that I'm FrankEinstein a little more transparent.  *g*


Much discussion is going around about withdrawing from the internet for the sake of writing focus.  I probably need to do the same, to a greater extent than I have the past two months. 
Sure, my blogging presence has been scanty, and I've only popped into the Forum occasionally, but my activity on Facebook is regular, and I have a "loop" of websites I'll check in all free moments (ranging from local news to LOLcats) that distract my focus and take time that, technically, I could use to write.
The most productive I have ever been at work was the month or so they told us our internet usage was being monitored, and we could be fired for too much.  At the time I left my Gmail open all the time, and frequently popped on to other sites to look something up whenever the mood struck.  But I was running scared, so I checked my e-mail only in the morning, at lunch, and while I was pumping (Little Boy was still nursing then).  Then I.T. told us it wasn't real, and we who are salaried wouldn't be as much under focus as long as we were keeping our workload up.  It's been over a year and I've gradually slipped back to my old ways.  But no longer.
Game plan: severely restrict my internet time and the sites I'm allowed to visit.  I will remove Google Reader from my Google homepage (I have over 50 subscriptions now) - after all, the posts will still be there for me to read when I'm done - and allow myself on CompuServe, Facebook, BabyCenter, etc. only once a week (Claire's idea).  I will turn off the WiFi on my laptop (Jen's idea) least until I hit my daily word goal.
I will continue to check in with the 70 Days of Sweat challenge, to keep me moving forward.  And I do have my Group Novel chapter and the November X on CompuServe, but once those are done I'll be pretty scarce.
One thing I can't abandon is e-mail.  Call it addiction if you want, but it's also my primary form of communication - with DH while I'm at work, with my brother in Germany, with my family hours away, with you my friends scattered all over the globe.  I will continue to check that daily, though I will attempt to limit the number of times I log in.  If you need to get ahold of me, e-mail.  If you don't have my e-mail, leave a blog comment (those get e-mailed to me).
Speaking of the blog, I can post from my e-mail.  That's what I'm doing now.  An active blog usually indicates progress for me, since I will post updates and small snips.  So I'll keep doing that, but try to keep the posts short.
Look for pics of my Halloween costume later today, and then we enter the blackout.  I think a lot of us are taking NaNoWriMo seriously; if not the 50K goal at least the spirit of writing intensely.  See you on the other side.  *g*


I have only written 2K in 2 months. And that all in one day, a couple weeks ago. Other than that one day, progress has been nonexistent.

This LOLcat sums it up:

I guess I'm not one of those people who is energized as they near the end; I'm paralyzed. Most of the remaining scenes are the ones I've been skirting, dodging around for the past year or so, and don't know how to go about writing. On top of that, I am thoroughly into the "this book sucks" phase, which I had hoped to avoid until rewrites, and the sheer weight of how much emotion and complexity and continuity I am trying to include and likely not succeeding with is bearing down on me and crushing the air out of my figurative writing lungs.

Okay, I guess I don't think the book sucks. I know in my heart of hearts this is a good idea, a good story. I still get excited thinking about plot details. What I think sucks My writing.

This goes beyond the doldrums. I'm not just waiting for a breeze; I need someone to bring me a new sail, because mine is gone and even if the wind were to pick up, I don't know how I'd catch it.

All the momentum I built over the summer is gone. A lot of it was stolen by the rest of my life, which came crashing down in September after I'd put it off for months to concentrate on the book. Then I was just burnt out and fatigued and couldn't drag myself to the computer in favor of sleep. It doesn't help that Little Boy is near impossible to put to bed anymore, and even when he finally gets quiet, it's much harder to start writing at 10 pm after a long day than it was at 8 pm or even 9.

Over these two months other short-term projects have intruded, and I told myself I'd take a few weeks off the book, then a month, then a few more weeks, and now it's become two months and the end of October - a point at which I'd hoped to be done and into rewrites preparatory to entering a few major contests - is looming tomorrow with me no farther along.

Tonight I was finally reasonably well-rested, caught up enough in life to devote an evening to writing, Little Boy went down at the early hour of 9:30, and my frustration at the delay in finishing the MS was great enough to get me Butt In Chair.

Only, once I actually connected my data stick and prepared to write (after dealing with the minor emergency of some corrupted files - hooray for backups), I froze.

All the places I could have picked up and worked felt dead to me, the scenes wooden or lacking, to the point where I couldn't even bear to open the files and read what tripe I had written there. I faced the ultimate fear of writers: I couldn't hear or see my characters. It's not a disconnect from them, specifically, because I can hear them for the House Party scenes. It's that I can't see what they want to do - what I need to write - for the MS.

...There's this thing I do, a state I get myself into. I call it "variable overload". My nature is to hold in my head all the aspects of a situation, spread out mentally so I can analyze, utilize, compartmentalize, optimize. It makes me a good problem solver. I use it for anything from finding the way to pack the most objects into a space (such as organizing closets or loading kilns) to finding the most efficient order/route to run errands. The problem arises when there are too many variables. My brain goes into this endless loop of "but what about this? and this? and this?" and I end up having a mini-meltdown, stressed out and unable to choose any path. Usually at that point DH has to step in and make the decision for me, and even though I want to protest ("but have you considered...?!") I go meekly along for the sake of doing something, anything.

Right now I'm in variable overload with the book. My brain is a jumble of story arcs, relationship progression, character motivation, settings, dialect, historical details, style and craft...all screaming for my attention, pressing me to work them seamlessly into each scene.

Objectively, I know they don't all have to be in place in the SFD. It's called that for a reason, after all, and that inherent ability to analyze will help me in rewrites once I can see the Big Picture. But I can't get to the Big Picture because I'm frozen, uncertain, stressed out by my inadequacies and the sheer enormity of what it takes to write an outstanding book.

And DH can't make these decisions for me.

Now is the time when perfectionism is a curse.

But I'll work through it, and blogging this is the first step. This is not a plea for pats on the back, hand-holding, and "there-there"s. I just felt I needed to come clean about the fact that, for all that I've been maintaining a facade of progress and enthusiasm, I really haven't done much of anything. And to tell the truth, I do feel better and more motivated for getting it out in the open.

*deep breath*

Tomorrow is a new day, and the day after that is a new month. NaNoWriMo, in fact, and though I'm not taking that particular challenge hopefully there will be a charge in the air - the collective subconscious of so many writers in the country who are energized and focused. I think I can tap into that, and overcome this last and greatest hurdle. By the time a new year rolls around, I'll be where I want to be.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rough Cut Covers

A very nice lady I met through my "birth club" (March 2006 Babies) who happens to be a dab hand with PhotoShop made these cover designs for me. They're not what a publisher would put out, by any means (though I've seen worse on some e-pubbed books) but I think they have a good feel for what I'm going for in a cover. I.e. no shirtless kilted man, no bodice-ripping, no pictures of people who look nothing like my characters. And they are WAY better than I could ever come up with. Mad props to her for doing them.

If I ever self-pub (if I ever get this darned thing finished, more on that in a later post) I might use one of these or something very like it.

What do you guys think?

Just in time for Hallowe'en

And marginally related to my own book, a fun and interesting article from Slate on
Even if you don't believe - I like the author's self-description of "charitably dubious" -  there's some fascinating history and descriptions of several castles.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I'll be at one of our satellite facilities all day Monday, so likely no internet presence for me (even with a roaring house party going) until tomorrow afternoon/evening.  And tomorrow's TV night.  I'll see what I can do.

At least I know I'll have my evenings free from baseball, as the Sox completed their sweep of the World Series tonight.  DH is very excited.  *g*

Sunday, October 28, 2007

My Church

From's front page (!) this morning:

This article

That's my church.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Google Meme!

Deniz didn't really tag me for this, but I thought it would be fun anyway.  *g*
Five Google searches that return my blog as the first hit:
3. jenny elspeth alec (is that cheating?)
4. sailor's blessing doldrums (I get a lot of traffic from searches like this, for some reason.  Nina posted the blessing in the comments.)
Close, but no cigar:
kilchurn breadalbane - I'm the second hit, right after a Clan Campbell society!
medical physicist romance novelist - also the second hit, right below Deborah Hale (see below)
alec glencoe massacre - again, second...after EE's discussion of my query!
I'm finding a pattern...a lot of the hits I'm getting are to one specific post - this one.  I guess it has all the really unique combinations.  It's loooong, too.  *g*
Interestingly enough, searching for "Alec and Elspeth" pulls up hits to another book, Remembering Laughter by Wallace Stegner, several posts to this blog, and quite a few of my CompuServe posts.  (I have been formerly immune to the CompuServe-Google link as I don't post under my full name and even that is so commonplace that I am buried in the pile.)
The MCs' names plus a story location (i.e. "alec elspeth glenstrae" or " alec elspeth glencoe") will almost always get me as first hit.
Kind of funny: there is an Elspeth Martin who did math and physics at Glasgow University in the early 90's *cue Twilight Zone music*
And apparently there is an author of Historical Romance named Deborah Hale who is married to a medical physicist.  (I've requested her most recent book through PaperBack Swap...she writes Regency, my other preferred subgenre.)
The search "compuserve forumites" did not pull my blog up on the first page, much less the first hit.  That honor belongs to Claire, hehe.
Another string that I got first hit on, but not to the blog, was "kilchurn glenstrae glencoe", which linked to the House Party "I" hosted on behalf of Alec and Elspeth over the summer.
Quite a few of the strings I tried pulled up my CompuServe posts.  But then, if you're doing these searches, you likely know me anyway, because they are pretty random combinations.
Okay, now that's my Friday-afternoon-blow-off and I have to get back to work if I'm going to see my husband and son tonight.
P.S.  Close game last night, but the Sox prevailed.  I may actually get to write tonight and then the Series resumes in Denver tomorrow and Sunday...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pitch Critiques

Jessica over at the BookEnds Agency blog is offering "Perfecting Your Pitch" critiques. Just leave your one-sentence or one-paragraph pitch in the comments, and she'll choose as many as she can to critique on the blog.

In a fun coincidence, Agent Kristin is talking about the same thing right now (though not offering critiques, alas).

Because I can't help myself, and figuring out this whole query thing is a long-running obsession with me, I spent all my writing time this morning working up a new version and posting it. I tried to take the advice of both agents, which basically boiled down to "try to make it read like back cover copy".

So that's what I did, trying to set up the situation and give a feel for some of the external conflict (Breadalbane, political climate, etc.), while coming right out and saying that Elspeth and Alec fall in love, but only hinting at the separation that drives the story from climax-resolution.

It may look like 3 paragraphs, but if you count closely you'll note it's only 5 sentences long. *g* So we'll see if it gets picked and what she has to say.

I left out everything about why they can't have a relationship, and Elspeth's trade-off with the Earl to save his life after his capture and sentencing - and their "one night" together that the title draws on - and Alec's journey into the present to find her...which is kind of my core idea and the crux of the whole story. I wasn't thrilled about it. But I was matching the tone of cover copy for books in my genre, so again I guess we'll see.

My problem is, whenever I get it worked down into what I feel is a nice, tight little package (like I did for EE) the commenters always want to know this or that, and answering everything baloons my tight 5 sentences out into 2-3 paragraphs, almost like a short synopsis but still trying for a hook instead of revealing the ending as a true synopsis would.

And often the "sucessful" queries posted have much longer bodies, with more detail. So which to use when I actually get to the query stage?


Personal status update: Sven is angry with me, but I married into Red Sox Nation and watching the first game of the World Series with DH last night pre-empted any writing I would have gotten done, just like the ALCS pre-empted it last week. I hope the Sox take this thing in 4, because I don't think I'll be very productive at home until it's over, and work is too busy right now to sneak in much writing time here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taking the Plunge

I succumbed to peer pressure *g* and entered the brand-spanking-new version (as in, it came to me last night in bed as I was drifting to sleep) of my opening to Nathan Bransford's LIFPC.
Precie entered, I know.  And I saw Jen's openings up there, too as I skimmed through the numerous entries .  So good luck to all!
And don't forget to give me costume ideas in the post below...

I need ideas.

Halloween falls on a weekday again this year, and we are allowed - practically encouraged - to dress up at work.  Fun times.

I need ideas of cool/creative costumes I could put together with minimal effort/expense.  Last year I went as Puss in Boots and had a pretty good time of it.  All I had to buy was the mask and cape.

I wanted to do a seventeenth-century getup this year, but finding or making the skirts and shift and bodice was just too difficult and time-consuming, even if I cheated and used department-store plaid flannel for the arisaid.


Friday, October 19, 2007

Project Night Night

Sweating with Sven is off to a slow start.  Guess I'm taking some of my "free" days of the challenge right out of the gate.  *sheepish grin*

Besides work kicking me in the @$$ like never before (and I thought it was bad enough previously!) I've been hard at work on a very worthy cause: I'm organizing a donation drive within my local playgroup - we're fairly large, almost 90 families - for Project Night Night.

PNN is a national program based in California that collects stuffed animals, books, and blankets and bundles them into tote bags to be donated to homeless shelters and given to kids that come through there.  They end up with warmth and comfort (in the form of blankies and lovies) and a book that encourages reading.

I'm very excited because lots of people in our group have "extra" stuffed animals and books, and more are pitching in to buy the blankies.  I think we'll have enough to split between the Salvation Army shelter for women and families and the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program shelter.  Then PNN will step in and continue to send them packages to meet their further needs, though we are welcome to continue to contribute.

But yeah, between that, work, and an indefinable exhaustion and general funk this week, it's been hard going.  Things are looking up, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Be the Hammer

I almost missed it, but check out Alec - I mean, Martin (looking an awful lot like Alec) in the new Cadillac commercial.

Thanks to DH for pointing that out to me the other night.

...Of course, it has to be Martin.  Alec can't drive.  He's somewhat afraid of (call it "morbidly fascinated with") automobiles.  *g,w*

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sweating with Sven...Again

Seventy Days of Sweat, Round 2
Today is the kickoff and I'm back to story wordage, even though I'm not done with my bios and timelines.  I'll keep working on those on the side.  I need between 750-1000 words a day to stay on top.  Since tonight is TV night with DH, I planned to get those words at work.
Ha.  After a three-day weekend?  No dice.  Too much to catch up on, AND Little Boy gets his flu shot this afternoon, AND one of the Four Mewses has an appointment for yearly vaccinations and we're taking one of the dogs along for his cortisone shot.  Many needle sticks in store today.  And THEN I need to get the grass seed down on all the huge dead patches of our yard before the scarce and blessed rain tomorrow. 
Total words managed this morning: about 170.  Hey, at least it's something.
Kicking off with a deficit is a less-than-auspicious beginning, but I'm confident I can make it up.
Watch for a challenge wordcounter, so I can see how many new words I write even as I begin to cut and revise.
A shout out to my fellow Forumites and Sweat participants, Precie and Deniz (you did sign up for round 2, right?), and then it's back into the fray for me.
Oh, and a friend from my BabyCenter birthclub has worked up some awesome cover drafts for me, to use in case I do enter the Amazon contest.  I'll try to get those up soon.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Status update

I took the day off work today, paying myself back for working 12 hours - unpaid - on Saturday and until midnight Wednesday night.  We painted the spare bedroom a really nice denim blue during Little Boy's nap (he slept long, thankfully).  That room is going to be his "big boy" room when he moves out of his crib, and we're keeping the tiny nursery as, well, a nursery for when the next one comes along.  (At this point, we're not planning on starting that process until next year sometime.)

I'm back to my nightly B-I-C routine, warming up for the next round of Sven starting Monday.  I'm almost done with Alec's bio.  I've enjoyed doing it, and it prompted a few realizations about his motivation at a several key points that will help me with some of the remaining scenes.  Elspeth's up next, then my historical timeline, and hopefully by Monday I'll be back to story wordage and steaming on for the end.

Oh, and a published author in my subgenre has offered to read my MS when I'm done with it.  Woohoo!

Monday, October 08, 2007

What I've been up to

Still not a huge blogging presence from me, but work continues behind the scenes...
Right now I'm in a researching/planning phase before I hit the last major unwritten scenes (Glencoe, Elspeth's kidnapping, etc.).  I'm currently in the middle of a character bio for Alec, getting all my thoughts and decisions on him - family background, beliefs and tastes, what he thinks of Elspeth, and his reaction to present day when he gets here - down.  Then I'll do one for Elspeth.  I've done these for other minor characters, but let the MCs grow as I went.  Now I want to get it all down so that in rewrites I can smooth it over and make sure the characters are consistent and grow throughout the story.
I'm also going to hit the books hard for more historical detail as I come into the really historical scenes, namely Glencoe.  I have a "character/story events" timeline but I'm going to write out a historical events timeline for the 9 months Elspeth spends in 1691-92 so I can get the correct political nuances in and make references to the right characters and happenings.
Then it's back to the nitty-gritty and finishing up the SFD.  The static word counter over there is starting to bug me.  *g*
I've signed up for the "Seventy Days of Sweat: Round 2" to begin a week from today and run through January (allowing down time for the holidays) and my stated goal is to be done with the first draft and into rewrites by the end of the challenge.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Y'all, seriously, I checked my "sitemeter" stats and someone actually found this blog by Googling "what do medical physicists do?"
I'm assuming it hit on my then-most-recent post, which was all the (bad) physics jokes.
Boy, did they not get exactly the info they were looking for.
Though they might have gotten a little unwanted insight into the mind of one particularly cheesy medical-physicist-cum-aspiring-romance-novelist...
Oh, and an actual writing update: 1700 words today and going strong, baby!  I am out of the rut!