I just shouldn't make promises during the holiday season, right?

Yeah, I underestimated how much post-Christmas crap I had to do, so sorry about that. I'm getting my shot today instead of tomorrow in hopes of getting started sometime this week (although December is also Birthday Season in my family, and we've got yet another coming up--makes for a LOT of shopping at a time when sensible people try to avoid the mall).

Anyway, I've tidied the Web page a little, and I decided that I'm going to revamp the cover of the YA fantasy novel when I have the chance. I like the general concept, but I think putting a visual reference to video games on the cover sets up the expectation that the book has something to do with video games, which it absolutely does not. So I think I'll do something similar but using a more natural-looking dragon (which I shall probably cobble together from photographs of snakes and lizards, since I still can't draw).

Progress report

Yes! It is Christmas Eve, but I am making a progress report!

Some back story: The allergy shots were chugging along, and I only needed two more to reach the maintenance stage when I had a much more serious reaction to the shots than I'd had before (nothing life-threatening, don't worry). But the dose I reacted to was high enough that they can just put me on maintenance at a slightly lower dose. That means that instead of having a shot every three to four days, I can have a shot every two weeks--which is a much easier schedule.

With recovering from the bad reaction, the holidays, and the fact that I'm just kind of out of practice, I haven't been doing much--but my next shot is Tuesday, and I really wanted to get started before then.

So today I read over the Trials chapters--it's good! I'm looking forward to working on it! Tomorrow will be off for obvious reasons, but then I'm hoping Saturday through Monday will be a productive time....

I receive the third degree

I have two nieces, one seven years old and one ten. Last night, my sister and her husband wanted to go to a concert, so I baby-sat.

Everything was chugging along normally--I was reading in the kitchen--when the younger niece trundled down from upstairs with a copy of Trang in her hands.

NIECE: Who's Mary Sisson? [We're all named Mary, so at home I go by a family nickname.]

ME: That's me.

NIECE: Why is your name on this book?

ME: I wrote it.

NIECE: Do you think it's a good book?

ME: I wrote that book.

NIECE: Why does a curse appear [older niece joins in from the next room] just a few paragraphs into the book!

Le sigh. I went with the younger niece into the next room and explained to both children that a curse word appears on the first page because the soldiers curse a lot, and I wanted people who were bothered by cursing to know what they were getting into sooner rather than later. The older niece is just generally less prudish than the younger, so we spent a few fun-filled minutes imitating people who throw books across the room, shrieking, whenever they encounter a bad word.

I went back to the kitchen and my reading--and the younger niece joined me, opening Trang up on the kitchen table.

NIECE: I can see that bad word right there.

ME: That book is not for kids!

NIECE: Then why is it in the house?

ME: Because I wanted my sister to read it, and she isn't a kid!

NIECE: [Shuts book.] I know that bad word. I know five bad words.

I changed the subject, but when my sister got home she assured me that, had I asked, the niece would have been happy to share those five words with me....

How things are looking

So, a good deal of the things I was having to deal with earlier have been put to bed--there will still be maintenance, and I suspect March/April will be a busy time, but systems are in place, routines are being followed, and these days I almost never find myself fantasizing about tracking down some smooth-talking suit and shooting him in the head.

I'm still doing the allergy shots--there have been a couple of hiccups, but it looks like I will be able to finish the series, so yay. I've discovered I can keep to a two-shot-a-week schedule as long as I don't expect to get anything meaningful done on more than one front: Just one project, plus shots, that's it. I'll be traveling next week (something I look forward to in no small part because it will be a holiday from the shots) and then Thanksgiving comes along, but after that--we're keeping Christmas low-key, so the one project I work on could possibly be writing or editing, no? Maybe? Fingers crossed.

The shots should wind up in late December--early January at the latest---which should be very helpful.

Straight Outta Wherever

I just saw Straight Outta Compton today--oh, man. It's pretty great (it just kind of ends, but other than that, it's awesome), and one of the things I thought was really excellent was the enormous focus on how artists get screwed.

Spoilers ahead!

Ice Cube is the one who first gets suspicious of N.W.A.'s manager: Eventually the manager wants him to sign a contract without having a lawyer look at it first, and Ice Cube just walks away from the group completely--he knows he doesn't know enough to understand a contract without a lawyer, and he has a sensitive-enough bullshit detector to know when someone is trying to screw him, so that's that.

Later as a solo artist, Ice Cube gets fed the "We'll pay you after you hit it big. Oh, you just hit it big! Well, we're still not going to pay you." line from a record company executive, so in a scene that made me cackle uncontrollably with delight, he smashes the shit out of the guy's office with a baseball bat! And tells the executive that he can take the cost out of the money he owes him! (Apparently this really happened! I love you, Ice Cube!)

And yes, settling your problems with a baseball bat is not the best way (and I should point out that sometimes the guy with the handy office is not the guy who is screwing you), but Jesus Christ, can I ever relate to the urge.

Most recently we dealt with another attempt to take advantage of an elderly relative, and it bore many similarities to N.W.A.'s problems.

That might sound odd, but a scam is a scam, whether you're a rapper straight outta Compton, a little old lady, or a writer. As I've mentioned before, people who don't want you to use processes you can trust are not people who you can trust.

So here's a little list of things to look out for that mark potential scammers:

1. They target the weak. I can't get specific for obvious reasons, but the elderly relative entered into a business agreement. Then we of the younger generation legally took over authority.

Now, I will say that I never felt good about this agreement. Why? Because the elderly relative was already somewhat addlepated when they made it, and I was open to the possibility that they were being taken advantage of.

Nonetheless, I was willing to carry the ball on this deal, since that's pretty much my job these days. In fact, I was the one who made the phone call informing the other side that authority had legally shifted.

What was truly interesting was what happened next: Nothing.

At least not to me. The other people who took over authority along with me started getting all kinds of calls and e-mails, while I did not.

Isn't that odd? In a business deal, why not communicate with the person who initiated communication with you?

Oh, because that person was most likely given that job because they were the one best-suited to handle this kind of thing? And the last thing you want to deal with is someone who might know the score.

I wonder why that is?

2. They threaten you with doom/promise you the moon. This was the thing that made us all stop and go, Wait a minute. These guys weren't just calling those who they hoped were weak--they were threatening them.

And their threats made no sense. None of us are lawyers, but all of us readily agreed that, given what little knowledge of the law we had, these threats were both remarkably vague and quite extreme.

In addition to the vague threats, there were the gauzy promises of fortune--someday. (And God, the elderly relative just ate that shit up.) Someday, we would make HEAPS of money--HEAPS!!!

Not now, of course. Now we'd get nothing. But SOMEDAY!!!!!!

3. They are not shy about making it personal. Do you give a fuck about how I get along with distant cousins I've met maybe a handful times in my lifetime? No?

These guys did--they cared so much. They were so concerned that we not alienate people whose contact information we don't even have by tanking this deal. Because tanking a bad deal would be disadvantageous to these cousins in some way. This is assuming that they hadn't already tanked the deal for themselves, and we didn't know about it, which was entirely possible, given that we don't actually know each other and don't talk.

And of course these guys stroked the elderly relative like nobody's business, because they aren't business partners--they're friends.

At least these assholes didn't pester the elderly relative after we took over in hopes of getting them to pressure us. Other assholes have.

4. Lawyer? What's a lawyer? Since the elderly relative was merely addlepated, not fully demented, a lawyer did draw up the original deal.

But the amendment to the deal that these guys wanted us to sign? Oh, nobody needs a lawyer for a silly little thing like that.

We're silly little things, so yes, we did get a lawyer specializing in that particular area of law to look at it and tell us that signing the amendment would be (and this is an exact quote) "crazy." Also, we can undo the deal whether they want us to or not.

So what is the other side doing now? They're pretending like our lawyer does not exist. They've been instructed more than once to communicate solely with the lawyer, but they are acting like nobody told them nothing. (And HA! you should have seen the lawyer's professional reserve just vaporize in a red-hot fury over that one!)

Why are they doing this? Please familiarize yourself with point #1 above.

I'm still here

Yeah, I'm still alive. I had to travel to take care of some family stuff, and I figured I'd get writing once I was back. Now I've got six banker boxes of financial records that I need to go through thanks to that trip, but the thing that's really been killing my time is that I finally decided to see an allergist.

I'd always had allergies, and moving out to farm country made the hay fever bad enough to send me to the doctor, but it's definitely one of those things where I didn't realize exactly how bad it was until I started trying to address the problem--I'm much more allergic than I thought. Some of it has been good (I put a dust-mite cover on my mattress and slept 12 hours a night for something like four days straight), but getting shots has been difficult both because I don't function very well on antihistamines and because it turns out that I don't react very well to the shots. The last reaction was bad enough that I'm going to have to start the shot series over again, this time with MORE antihistamines on board.

I'm hoping to get up to the maintenance dose as quickly as possible (I don't want to have to worry about missing shots because I'm snowed in), but we'll have to see how things go once the new antihistamines come in. I was trying to do two shots a week, but each shot was wiping me out for two days apiece, which is unacceptable. Hopefully on the new regime I can keep to that schedule and still write, but we shall see....

All eaten up

Well, the plan to turn my attention to a few other things before getting started on Trials turned into HAVING ALL MY TIME EATEN BY MONSTERS. Some of its good (the house appears to have a new buyer), some of it really needed to happen (I finally got a check-up), some of it is upsetting (another attempt to rip off an elderly relative), and all of it is time-consuming. Hopefully this squall will end soon, because I'd really rather be writing.

Progress report

I read over what I've already written of Trials--there's definitely rough spots (like the places where I just wrote "FILL IN BACK STORY--MAGIC MAN"), but overall, I think it's working pretty well. Again, when you take a long break, it's much more like you're reading something written by somebody else, and I was finding it pretty entertaining, so that's a good sign.

Tandem noveling

So, I've got the rough draft of the young adult novel finished (YAY), plus about 34,000 words of Trials. So what I think I'm going to do is my first! ever! experiment with writing two novels at once.

The idea (and we'll see how this works in practice) is that working on one helps clear the brain to edit the other. So I'm planning to get back in on Trials, finish that draft, then edit the YA book, then edit Trials, etc.

Where I really see this breaking down is once things get to the production stage--I don't see myself laying out two books in a row and living to tell the tale. But that just means that, at that stage, I can choose which book goes out first--and I'm thinking that book should be Trials.

Anyway, all this of course relies on sleeping (I woke up at 4 am today and had a bloody nose. Either I'm a cokehead, or it is allergy season) and the general cooperation of life. We'll see how it goes.

Progress report

2,270 words done! The fourth part of the grand finale is finished, as is part of the fifth part. Which, if you're curious, is also the last part of the grand finale. (There's an epilogue to be written as well.)


I seem to have found a buyer for my old house, so that's been a distraction. Once it's done, though, that will be one less time-suck to deal with. It's going to be REALLY nice not to have to commute out there to mow and weed and replenish the flyers and make sure none of the dumber real-estate agents have managed to destroy the place. (No lie: Last winter some genius turned off the furnace during a cold snap--unbelievable!)

Let me do a tally, anyway: 23 chapters and 37,900 words. Length-wise, that's pretty much in line with where I want it to be.

Progress report

1,410 words done! The second part of the grand finale is done!

You know, it's funny because it's been pretty easy to keep the book appropriate for a young adult audience, but right now I'm trying to establish a little romance, and it's surprisingly tricky. It's like, they can't be too into each other, you know what I mean? It's really different than writing for Philippe, who would never say "Nice rack!" but it's not like he doesn't notice....

Progress report

So, yeah, things got busy, and then on top of everything, allergy season has kicked in with a vengeance (even the cat is sneezing), which makes it really hard to sleep. But today I edited the past several chapters, so hopefully things will flow from there.