20 May, 2012

Everything is Clutterin'

Like a lot of people, I have a tendency to accumulate clutter. For me, the main culprit is paper.

I print out recipes, writing tips, cute sayings, quilt patterns, all kinds of things. I save magazines, newspaper articles and birthday cards. I'm a sucker for office supplies, catalogs, and freebie calendars. In short, papers pile up. Since the papers are piling up, I don't get other things put properly away either. Before I know it, there's a paper and clutter explosion.

Frankly, I'm sick of it.

Cables and office supplies and books and papers, oh my!
We switched the office and living room a couple of weeks ago. I loved having both rooms empty of almost everything but furniture. No extra stuff, no clutter. But to do that, we had to move the extras to the kitchen table, my sewing room, and other places. Since then, the crap has begun creeping back, mostly because we occasionally need to use the kitchen table, etc. Right this moment,  I literally have a long pile of miscellaneous useful-but-rarely-used stuff sitting on the floor behind me with no better place to put it. None. Why? Because its almost entirely clutter.

I'm tired of stepping over it every time I go to my desk. I'm tired of the dog knocking it all over the otherwise clean room whenever he comes running past to see what eeeevil dog is peeing in his front yard.

I have too much paper clutter. I have too many quilting magazines and patterns. I have too many kitchen do-dads, too much fabric, and I'm one more kitten away from officially being a crazy cat lady.

It ends today.

I have some big totes and a deep vat of determination to put my 'rarely used but don't want to part with it' stuff in the totes, all separated and categorized by function. Writing-related books and articles. Fabric. Quilting patterns and such. Kitchen crap. All of my big clutter-monsters. They're going in totes and going in the basement. If I need something out of one of the totes - like my notes and articles on The Hero's Journey, for example - I can go down there, pull out the folder, and get what I need. If I don't need it, it'll stay in the tote. Next year, if it's still in the tote, it's outta here. No exceptions.

If I don't use it on a regular (at least weekly) basis, it's going in a !(@*$^ tote, dammit.

14 May, 2012

The Nice Squirrel

As I start this, it's Monday, a bit shy of two in the afternoon. We've just completed a rather late lunch of grilled shrimp skewers and tomato salad. It's a gorgeous day outside and we have just about every window in the house open. Bill's mowing and the kid's downstairs working on her jewelry side business. I, however, am currently sitting in our living room/office at my desktop iMac - fwiw, I do almost everything composition related on my MacBook, a traditional keyboard doesn't work as effortlessly for me. If I'm sitting here at my desk then I'm not working/writing, I'm planning my grocery trip, paying bills, or futzing around online. Today I'm online. The iPod player in my sewing room is blaring Johnny Lang, and I've spent the last half hour or so trying to get through the stack of tabs in my browser.

I regularly pile up a lot of open tabs in my browser.

I intentionally research lots of things for the books, but I also follow links that sound interesting and take me to all sorts of odd places. Like Victorian death photographs. watching LMFAO music videos, and if consumption of factory raised chicken contributes to obesity. I call it the SQUIRREL!! factor. I see something that seems weird or quirky or thought provoking, or just plain fun, and I click.

I spend waaaay too much time screwing around online. I do. I admit it. It's that damn scampering squirrel, ya know?

SQUIRREL!! factor aside, most of my browser tabs are for recipes, quilting, or writing. Especially writing. Recipes and quilt patterns are usually printed, archived, or simply tossed aside. They're quick and easy to process through. Writing posts and articles, though, are a bit trickier. I follow several writers and publishing professionals (especially on Twitter) and, if their topic of the day interests me, I'll click. And I'll click, and click, piling up tabs like crazy. Marketing. Platform. Character Arcs. Theme. Pacing. Structure. Writing links are like nuts for my squirrel. Most end up being somewhat craptastic or utterly inapplicable to me. While I do enjoy reading about different processes and methods and all, I know what works for me and my writing brain, and what screws me up. A lot of the writing articles I read are simply discarded. Works great for them, not so much for me. But that's okay. We're not all supposed to do this job the same, after all.

Every once in a while I run across something that really intrigues me, or scratches a mental itch. Those things I'll print or bookmark. Even rarer are the posts and articles that make me nod my head in utter agreement. They're the posts I tend to share. I don't share much, but today I have two. Yes, TWO.

Today's first big nod was Don't Be An Ass case studies: Wheaton and Gaiman on I Should Be Writing. Immediately after reading it, I ran across Chuck Wendig's On The General Weirdness of Having Fans.

Let's start with 'don't be an ass'. Honestly, I think every public professional... no, screw that, every freaking PERSON, should have that branded somewhere on their psyche. I grew up with a professional musician and, starting as a small child, met many famous people. I worked as an advertising graphic designer for much of my adult life (more creative professionals and locally famous people), and have spent my whole life in middle America dealing with shop owners and loan officers and repair people and teachers, just like everyone else. I became a pro writer and rubbed elbows with some fairly famous authors. In all of those interactions, I've met supremely nice human beings, and utter shit-head assholes. As a regular person living a regular life, I refuse to work with assholes. I don't seek their expertise, and I sure don't buy any of their wares.

There are a handful of writers that I will not, regardless of how 'great' their writing may be, ever spend one penny of my hard earned money on. Heck, I won't allow their crap in my home, they're that awful as people (and no, I won't name names). There are other writers who are consistently so sweet and kind and approachable I buy everything they write even if it's not my thing. I've seen writers act nice to their fans then turn around to their friends and say something nasty about the fan that's walking away beaming after meeting their idol. The fan that spent money and time and gathered the guts to just walk up to them - as an introverted person, lemme insist for a moment that approaching someone you look up to is just about the most intimidating thing ever - only to be presented a false front or, even worse, utter disdain. Yep, I've seen that too. Treating fans like last week's dirty diaper.

Most writers are incredibly nice, but some are not nice at all, just like any other group of people. I've met Neil Gaiman (mentioned in the linky above) several times. He's nice. Supremely nice. Gracious, even. Despite never meeting Wil Wheaton, I have a lot of confidence he's sweet, too. He sure seems that way online, at least, and I really appreciate his 'don't be a dick' stance. As for myself, I do my absolute best to be friendly, approachable, and kind. I don't know how many free books I've given to fans. Lots. Signed lots more. I have - so far - responded to every bit of fan mail I've received, and I even respond graciously to the 'not a fan' letters. I'm happy to talk to writing groups, school kids, whoever wants to hear about this crazy job I found myself in the middle of. I answer all sorts of interesting questions and, more often than you might think, fans become friends.

The point of all that is Don't Be An Ass. There are a lot of amazing people out there, and if you approach the fan/writer equation with grace, kindness, and overall good will, it's a great experience for everyone, including the writer.

However, as Chuck Wendig (whose blog you probably ought to be reading if you're not already. Yeah, yeah, it's laced with bad words and references to bodily functions, but that's part of its charm) it is really weird to have fans. Don't get me wrong, I love my fans, but it's a bit of a mind-bender the first time (or the hundredth) a stranger rushes up to you squeeing about how awesome you are.

Frankly, I consider myself to be rather mundane, boring and, well, a bit of an air head, so there's always the moment of wanting to look over my shoulder to see what genuinely cool and worthy-of-attention person is behind me. Even when I'm at a signing table at a conference or have just been on a panel or whatever. It's WEIRD, okay? Especially when I know that I wash dishes and trim my toenails and change cat litter just like every other mortal. When I know that, for me at least, writing isn't 'special' or even remotely awe inspiring, it's a whole lot of lonely late nights glowering at my computer screen because what I'm typing is obviously a slimy lump of rotting muck. Ask my daughter. She'll tell you how boring I am. Fans make it rather surreal. They make it all surreal.

But without the fans I wouldn't have three novels still in print. I wouldn't be able to send checks to charity four times a year from the ebooks. I wouldn't have another novel being shopped around, two more in progress, friends scattered literally all over the planet, been to places I'd never thought I'd see, and I certainly wouldn't be sitting here on a Monday afternoon blogging about being nice to fans.

We all should strive to be kind. Always. Play nice. Be thankful.

If I ever don't do that, y'all have my permission to set me straight.

03 May, 2012

An incredible lightness of leftovers

I have this weird thing about frugality. I don't like to waste anything. I don't waste one thread of fabric I don't have to (it's one reason my quilts are all so scrappy). I don't waste money. And I don't waste food.

Nothing aggravates me more than finding something rotting in the fridge that I could have, should have, used up before it went bad. I can't say I've never thrown anything away - I do, on occasion, have to toss a slimy half-tomato or gushy hunk of cucumber - but I make a point to repurpose extra bits of food as much as possible, and make sure leftovers get eaten.

Today's breakfast was leftover fried rice that I'd cooked Tuesday from leftover chicken, leftover miscellaneous veggies, half an onion I needed to use up, some celery that was starting to edge toward limpness, and the last little smidge of soy sauce in the bottle. Other than the brown rice and a handful of frozen veggies to round it out, the whole batch was repurposing leftovers. And it's yummy, and cheap and, since it's homemade, reasonably healthy.

Last night I made burritos from Monday's leftover taco meat, some tortillas and a jar of salsa. I'll probably have some of them for lunch.

Remaking leftovers is awesome. And nothing goes to waste.

02 May, 2012

Miracle Kittehs

One of the surreal events of this past April concerns our cat, Echo. We got Echo last summer as a kitten, and had her and her sister Peanut spayed in the fall. In early April, though, Echo started to look uncharacteristically fat.

Actually, she started to look pregnant.

It's impossible, we told ourselves. But she kept getting bigger and her nipples became prominent. Our vet said it wasn't possible, surely a false pregnancy. Until we brought her in. He was as shocked as we were. She'd had one ovary attached to her kidney and there was some worry she'd managed an ectopic pregnancy, because cats rarely have multiple uteruses. Still, the vet kept insisting 'if the sperm can get in, the kittens can get out'.

I wasn't convinced, I was sure - in my heart at least - that she'd try to expel the kitten(s) and end up dying or something because her uterus had been removed. And Echo is a sweetheart. A bit of a wild child, sure, but a sweetheart none the less.

Anyway, I took her to our old vet near Des Moines who also worried about the ectopic pregnancy. She had me take Echo to yet another vet who specializes in tricky xrays and ultrasounds. Sure enough, she had a uterus and four kittens.

They were born weekend before last, right on time - according to all three vets - and absolutely perfect. Three white ones and a calico. Here they are, in a pic I took last night. Echo and her miracle kittens.

Echo. The cat born with 2 uteruses.
The remaining uterus will be removed soon.

01 May, 2012

It's May!

I have had an incredibly busy - and rather stressful - April, but it looks like life is finally settling into a more stable routine.

I am so, so relieved! I'll even get a 'sew day' once a week. Hey, at least it's pencilled onto my schedule. ;)

Now for writerly news. :)

I just received my quarterly earnings for the ebooks from Smashwords - thank you everyone who bought a copy!! - and I've already sent it to Project Night Night. The royalties came into PayPal this morning, and I sent them right back out tonight. I'm kinda digging the simplicity of it. :)

SPORE's first five chapters are off to pre-readers again - I'd made some pretty substantial mistakes the first time through - and it'll hopefully be a much easier edit this time. Planning to get it off to my agent around the middle of this month.

It's going well. Not great - that would be frightening and worrisome - but well. And for that I'm thankful.