writing and work

I have a theory: working a job while trying to write is good for your book. Or, I think it is, in my case.

I’ve noticed that I don’t write as much when I’m not employed. Often times I’ll drop off writing entirely and try not to think about the novel. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps my entire system is thrown off without a rigid schedule. I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD since I was six, and most of the literature dealing with the disorder prescribes order and firm boundaries. The only class in college I got a well-earned 4.0 was also my hardest and strictest: History 401: War and Society, taught by a brilliant doctor with a military sense of discipline.

I’ve dabbled with finishing chapter twelve for a while. Months, actually. The difficulty of the plot I’m weaving is completely intimidating.

I start work at Nintendo on Monday morning.

here we go again

So. It’s been a six month absence since I wrote on here. My apologies to my online friends, for disappearing without announcement. It wasn’t my intention. I needed a break (though I don’t think I understood that consciously).

It’s funny, how much your life can change in six months. I’ve moved back to the Seattle area, where I grew up (from Idaho). I’ve broken off my engagement. My family’s financial position feels like an antique plane spiraling down to the earth, engine smoking, propeller struggling, loose fragments of a wing not quite torn off, but flapping in the wind. And through all of this, I feel like I’m leaning back in my seat, asking, “Where is this going?”

The purpose of this blog has been creative writing, with a few random pieces here and there thrown in. It has always been about writing, and that won’t change. But I understand now, I think, why there is only basic writing tips out on the internet. ‘How to make a character’. ‘How to plot a story’. And it’s because no one really understands what the heck they’re doing.

The more I wrote on this journal, the more I questioned what I really knew. Bits and pieces, fragments of thoughts and incomplete musings. (What do I know, anyway?) But incomplete or not, flawed thoughts or no, I think I’ll hang about a while yet.

It’s good to be back.

obligatory new year’s post

A quick note on the new year. It’s hardly original, I know, but why fight tradition?

Major things done this year:

  • Started a new job teaching computer science at the local college.
  • Met my boyfriend, got engaged. Did I mention the engagement?
  • Wrote the second half of Blue Crystal, version 3.0. Revised to 3.1.
  • Let betas tear apart version 3.1. Started 3.2.
  • Started ‘The Artificer’s Angels’! Currently have 56k on v1.0.

Goals for 2010:

  • Finish Blue Crystal 3.2. Edit for typos.
  • Take Blue Crystal agent shopping.
  • Get married. One week in Germany, the next in Italy.
  • Finish The Artificer’s Angels.
  • Finish my Beta-Reader website. I’ll tell you guys more about that later.

Anyone else have any ambitious plans for next year?

temporarily away from the blog

So, my CPU died on Monday.

It was a wonderful computer– I built it myself three and a half years ago, and it was a hardy machine. Everything in the computer was saved, of course; the hard drives are fine. The ram was good, but since it’s DDR2, I doubt I’ll be able to do much with it. The graphics card will come in handy until I upgrade it– a Geforce 7900 GTX. Top of the line three years ago, still a decent brand, but all good things must come to an end.

Point being, with my hard drive out of commission until my new computer arrives next week (I’m bastardizing a mac pro with Windows XP– just plugging the old hard drives in) I won’t be around much.

See you next week!

leptodactylous

The word of the day is ‘leptodactylous’ (lep-teo-DAK-teh-lus).

Adjective. “Having abnormally slender fingers and toes.”


See this? Ring size 3.75. I could have gone down to 3.5. 🙂 In the event of confusion, this is my new promise ring. Sortof like an engagement ring, but without stress, wedding plans, or formal announcements.

something entirely different… chickens!

Subtitled, “Who let Eliza have a camera?”

By request, pictures of the other distractions. My chickens. I have two ameraucanas, nine silver spangled hamburgs, five blue andalusians, ten silver phoenixes, and one ‘mystery chick’. The babies just turned four weeks old, while my ameraucanas are far elder at six weeks.

These are all photographed under their heat lamp– colors have been retouched to take away The Glaring Yellow. So, without further ado… chickens!

Rosamund

See the big girl? That’s Rosamund, one of my two ameraucana hens. She’s going to lay me some blue eggs. To the left, the black chick is one of the blue andalusians, and the black and white in front of her is a silver spangled hamburg.

Phoenix

A phoenix! Isn’t she pretty? These birds are impossible to photograph– they delight in turning their heads at the last second. I ended up with far too many pictures of chicken rumps.

Pat

Last, but not least, sleeping chickens. See the white one? That’s my mystery chick, Pat. S/he came covered in white down (not yellow– the palest of cream colored), single comb, four toes, no feathers on the legs. Now that s/he’s getting bigger, I’m noticing that there are tiny little spots of black and gray feathers growing in– the gray is at the top of both wings now, very pale, and there are three singular charcoal feathers on the back. I have no idea what the breed is. It looks to be a medium sized chicken, but other than that… I’m at a complete loss.

ElizaAlright. I lied. Leave an Eliza around a digital camera for too long, and there will be tragic, moody self portraits.

… Though I may put this in the ‘About the Author’ section. Anyone who wondered what I look like, here you are. Bad hair and all.

writing and death, as taught by chickens

Finals are over at school– I’ve still got assignments to grade, but for now, the worst is over. Academically speaking. I almost feel like a kid again. Summer vacation! Energy for my own projects! A return to my blog!

But… that’s a far cry from what I wanted to talk about today.

I’m a firm believer that to be able to write, and write well, one must have a certain amount of life experience. Artists can’t learn to draw the human figure without having a model to practice from, and a live model is always better than a photo; I think that describing a life when you haven’t lived one is even worse. My early novels in my teens reflected this– difficult problems would be trivialized, aspects of the characters underdeveloped, because I wasn’t aware that someone older than myself would have grown further than I could imagine. I see this in published novels as well, a one-sidedness to stories and a flatness in some areas that make it so very clear what the author thinks, assumptions she’s made about all characters. Flavored stories, limited by author experience and maturity.

I’m sure that I do the same. Like not being able to smell yourself, it’s not apparent until you’re four years older, find a cache of your old work, and either laugh or cry at how trite it all seems now.

A few weeks ago, I bought my first chicken.

I’d ordered some from a hatchery before then, and the anticipation could only be cured by ogling other chickens that I couldn’t have. I’d go to farmer stores where chicks would be put into wire cages with a heat lamp overhead, plastic water dispensers and feeders that resembled UFOs. And then I’d sit and stare at them. They’d cheep and mill about and be adorable fluffy beasts, only the tips of their wings grown in with feathers. They’d be colored like chipmunks, black and white, gray with crazy black stripes all about, or the cliche yellow, as seen in every other representation of chicks scattered over Easter decorations. It’s not hard to hold them– the pros showed me how, cupping their hands over the chick’s body so that only their head could stick out.

Then one day, I came into the store and found that there was only one chick left. A small, yellow girl, sitting on an open feeder and peeping like a car alarm– I’ve since learned that they do that when they’re lonely. It’s bottom had been stripped of feathers. Pecked by the other chicks was the guess. I’m not a country girl. I don’t have the sense of the farmers that shook their head in pity at the poor creature when they bought the others. The employee at the co-op gave me the chick for free, put air holes in a little box, and I took it home. I had the box, the heat lamp, and the food and water all ready to go. As said, anticipation leads to gross over-preparedness.

She never stood up. She rested on her feet and legs, knees bent. We tried to feed her with water from an eyedropper, ground her food into a puree mixed with water and a bit of sugar. She ate nothing, refused to open her beak, and died in a homemade nest of cotton balls in her sleep.

My parents attended the unnamed chicks funeral (yes, I’m a sap). I buried her near a tree, wrapped in paper towels. My dad made a speech. “Chicken, born of egg. Your life was short, but meaningful. May you ascend to the great free-range farm in the sky.” He paused for a long moment, I sniffled and tried not to giggle, and he found the final words for the service. “Thanks for not pooping on me.” My mother made me swear not to bring home any more dying animals.

A week later, I found the Americauna chicks that I’d very much wanted, that everyone else was sold out of. That I hadn’t been able to order from the hatchery. The breed is very popular– these chickens lay blue eggs. It was ten days before my shipment of chicks were to arrive. I bought three, and named them. Piper was a brunet chipmunk that could not stand still– she raced around out of control, bowling over everything in her path; I was completely charmed. After the unnamed chick, I wanted one with energy. One that wouldn’t die. Rosamund (formally Rosemary, but after seeing that her real name was Death To Bugs, I felt that Rosamund fit better) was black, with just a hint of brown on her head. Anna reminded me of my little sister, Annie, just a bit. She was a blond chipmunk, and the first thing she did when she got home was to start grooming herself.

Anna and Rosamund did well. Piper stopped running around after the first day. She had the same symptoms: lethargy, a declining interest in food, then a noticeable difference in size. Anna and Rosamund outgrew her in days. Out come the eyedropper, the pureed food, the isolated nest. She lived three days ofter I bought her, and died on a sunny Monday morning.

Point one: Never, never treat healing magic as trivial in a fantasy world. The power to heal changes everything.

Point two: There is a good reason outliers are looked on as bad. A practical man will never take home anything with unusual traits. They’re the first to die.

The Monday after, last week, in fact, I had a box of day-old baby chicks, shipped from the hatchery through the postal service. Ten silver-spangled hamburgs, five blue andalusians, and ten silver phoenixes– a fluffy pure white chick with a single comb thrown in as my bonus for ordering them. They were put straight under the heat lamp, and they shivered for several minutes until they were warm again. Except for the wet chick that I found on the bottom of the box, stepped on by her litter-mates, barely moving and almost certainly near-dead. I did a count of the others, and decided that this was my tenth phoenix.

What do you do with dying birds? There’s really nothing to be done. Keep them warm, provide food and water, and hope for the best. I separated her from the others and held her close to the heat, and watched her brown and white feathers dry. She was noticeably smaller than the others– she barely weighed anything at all. I decided that she’d probably die, too, and kept her in a tuperware partition in the box.

… Except.

She dried out. She started pecking at the food. She yelled at me when I tried to dip her beak in the water. One week later, I can’t tell her from the rest. ‘Runt’ happens to be any phoenix that looks small and helpless.

One week later, one of my hamburgs has stopped eating. Once the same size of the others, she’s now much smaller. Her wings were different– mostly white with some black, as opposed to the standard black with a little white. Today she’s stopped eating and only wants to sleep. I’m guessing she’ll last until Wednesday– two days seems to be standard once the symptoms kick in. And I’m fairly happy that it’s just one out of the twenty-six. I’d expected to lose at least five.

I think my ultimate point is that I don’t think that I can treat character death the same way I did last month. The meaning has changed, and fairly quickly.

It only took a few chickens for me to catch on.

not quite dead (and an anniversary!)

Wow. That was something of a hiatus. Two months. I didn’t think it would be that long.

I blame stress.

Some things have changed since I was last here. The word count meter has gone up several thousand words– I’m a chapter away now from finishing my third draft. It looks like I’ll have a nice steady job teaching here in Idaho; they’ve added a third class for next fall. It’s not a high-paying job, but I enjoy it when it’s not driving me crazy. I also have gotten myself a new boyfriend. His very catholic family has not met me, but very much do not approve nonetheless (mostly because I’m protestant– I feel as if I’m in Ireland). Oh, and I’m getting some baby chicks in a few weeks. In the mail. It’s all very strange.

Moving on!

I promised everyone an anniversary announcement. As of last March, this blog is one year old! As of today, we’ve seen 13,857 hits since opening. Huzzah! Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to this blog! You’re all wonderful.

I’ll be busy for a few weeks yet, then blessedly free when the school semester ends. Nonetheless, I’ve neglected this blog for far too long. Expect regular posts from me in the near future.

Cheers!

Eliza

jitters

I haven’t worked on my novel for two days– I’ve been scrambling to put together my materials for class.

I didn’t expect this. I’m terrified. What were they thinking, hiring me on?

Classes at the college start tomorrow, but mine is a Tuesday/Thursday class, so I’ve got one more day before I’m facing my first students at the head of the room. There’s also an online course, which I feel better about– just like blogging, with homework. Still, I was told very late that I’d be doing this, less than a week ago, and not all of my instructor information has come through, which means that I’ll have a syllabus with no office hours, personal campus phone, or even a college email. I’ve been rushing to review the lesson plans, even as I cut out the badly written sections out and replace them.

To go on top of everything else, I constantly get asked what high school I go to. I look like a fifteen year old. People keep trying to tell me that that’s secretly a good thing (after they’re done apologizing when I mention that I graduated from college years ago). It’s not when all the eligibly men assume at a glance that you’re jailbait, or when you blend in perfectly with your students. Just one more thing to worry about.

I usually keep a rule that I don’t talk about my personal life on this blog, but I needed to rant. It’ll be back to books when I’m comfortable again.