Thursday, November 13, 2014

7qt, mostly about writing stuff


This morning the kids have emptied out the bookshelf and are now using my pastry brush to paint the front door with water.  I should probably stop them, but on the other hand, they're getting along!

This past week or two has been a really rough one for Michael.  He was sick with a fever on Sunday and Monday of last week, and subsequently he has just been unusually crabby.  Meltdowns in the middle of nowhere, involving screaming and flailing and hitting.  They say wraps are great because the baby can nap and you can get stuff done.  But really there is no way to hold a sleeping baby and "get done" the soothing of a truly mad toddler.  In fact, odds are good you can't accomplish either, because the toddler is flinging himself onto you screaming at a zillion decibels, grabbing any part of you OR the baby he can reach, and then once he does wake the baby, the baby is hungry and you have to take care of her instead of the toddler.  But it's hard to feed a baby either while someone is screaming and climbing up your face.

Nights have been bad too, but on the bright side John handles wakeups with the boys almost exclusively.  And a good thing too, because when I try to get involved apparently I do it wrong and they get really upset.  When he had that fever, John was up with Michael every hour or more ... and that was the day of the election, so he got up early after that night, shaved, and was off to the polls!  He's kind of a hero like that.

Marko feels neglected in all this, so he chooses to wait for a moment when Michael is FINALLY playing quietly, then walks up to him with some treasured toy and says, "This is mine, and I'm never going to share it with you ever ever."  You can imagine how that goes down.

BUT, the past three days or so haven't been bad.  There has been significantly less pinching and biting.  You know things have been bad when you hear yourself saying, "Today's been pretty good, Michael only had two meltdowns of half a hour each."  But, well, improvement is improvement, I'm not going to knock it.


Yesterday was the last really nice day of fall.  At least I assume it was.  It was 60 degrees, blue skies, the last of the leaves looking really gorgeous.  We went for a walk by the river because that day was MUCH too good to waste.  Today the highs are predicted for the forties .... boy am I glad we took that walk while we had a chance.  Have I ever mentioned that I hate cold weather with the fiery heat of a thousand suns?  (If only the heat of my hatred for it would warm it up!)

We had a little adventure with our heater recently.  We did our usual beginning-of-winter call to the oil company to order our oil for the year.  The fellow came out in the torrential rain to go fill up the tank.  I was just discovering a diapersplosion on Miriam when he came around the house and knocked on the door.  His eyes were squinched shut and he wanted a rag.  Apparently when he tried to fill up the tank, the oil went in just fine, until suddenly it built up a lot of pressure and shot the nozzle out, complete with a fountain of heating oil in the poor man's face.  Heating oil eats through raincoats, apparently, and is none too good for eyes either.  Luckily after I let him in to wash himself off, he said he was fine ... but his raincoat would have to be thrown out entirely.

So of course this is the moment that we had to ask the kids, "Did either of you put something down there?"  I was certain they hadn't, because I watch Michael like a hawk and Marko knows better.  But nope, Marko immediately fessed up.  He'd had a friend over, and he's utterly squishy in the face of peer pressure, so when she suggested opening up that valve he's not allowed to touch and stuffing it full of leaves and sand, he had gone right along with it.  I cannot figure out why he won't obey me that blindly.

Anyway, we had a plumber out last night, and he quickly set it right for not much over a hundred dollars.  Next step is to have the oil people out again to finally fill us up for the winter.  And the moral of this story is, if you have an oil heater and the pipe is on the outside where the kids can reach it ... just put a dang lock on it.


I had a picture to show you, but unfortunately my camera cord has gone missing.  Last time I saw it Michael was trying to use it as a necklace.  I think I took it from him, but I don't know what I did with it after that.

So just imagine a monkey stuck to the fridge in the pose of crucified Jesus.  Marko put it there, but Michael kept trying to take it off because he didn't want the monkey to be crucified.  (Of the two of them, Michael is less of a psychopath; he seems to possess some grains of empathy.)  John and I, being morbid, just got a big laugh out of it.  We thought perhaps there had been a monkey rebellion and he was just the unlucky tenth monkey to get decimated.  Maybe you had to be there.


I was talking with a friend yesterday about good qualities it's important to have in a friend.  Can you think of one to top kindness?  I can't.  And that's particularly good news, because kindness is something anyone can develop if they value it enough to put in the effort.  My friends vary a lot, but they are all kind people.  I think I can get along with anyone who is kind.

This is doubly true for marriage.  If any of y'all are single, pass by the "bad boys" and the "hot jerks" and just marry someone who is truly kind.  If he's considerate of the waitstaff in a restaurant and sweet to his mother and wouldn't dream of being mean to a homeless guy who asked him for change, just marry the dude.  You won't do better.  Someday, you'll hurt his feelings and he will be mad at you, so find a guy who is decent even to people he's mad at.

John is not only kind, he's considerate, so double win for me!


I've realized, on looking over the one book I've finished, one book I have to rewrite, and one book I've begun to outline, that my writing may be a bit formulaic.  Yes, the plots are all different, but I have some particularities about characters.  It just seems a book isn't complete unless it has:

-one protagonist who needs to overcome or accept the flaw that's been holding them back their whole life
-one false flag love interest for the protagonist
-one real love interest
-one young girl working on her coming-of-age journey, after which she will be ready for love
-one mother who needs to face the demons of her past
-one very serious man who is good at fighting
-one younger man who is a bit more lighthearted
-one member of the royal family, with the magic powers that entails
-one prophet
-one elderly but cryptic sage

These are often combined -- you know, the prophet could be the love interest or the mother or (who knows?) both; the protagonist could be a young prince with magic powers or a girl who can see the future.

My question is, this is a bad thing, or just the way the game is played?  I don't want to be boring and predictable.  On the other hand, fantasy is one of those things that comes with tropes people just expect.  I have to be careful not to rewrite the same book a bunch of times; however, writing a book with no mothers in it is just not something I care to do.


At any rate, I am having ideas and fun but not really making much progress.  It's kind of always like this.  Starting a book is like pulling teeth.  Once I reach the halfway point and am really invested in getting the characters out of their messes, I stop eating and sleeping and bathing in my eagerness to write, and 5,000 words a day isn't hard to crank out.  Right now it's more like .... two paragraphs.  And then the next day I erase one of them because it sucks.  And then I find out that in 2000 BC, England didn't have snow in the winter and I have to rewrite ALL the descriptions, only I don't want to so I waste my whole evening reading blogs.

Sigh.  This is not much of a NaNoWriteMo, unless you want to call it "national NOT writing month."  Oh well, the main point of this isn't to wind up with a book any time soon, but to fill my head with fun stories and ideas.  Someday, though, I want to get these books done.  There will be four.  And when they are all done, then I'll figure out what to do with them.


For the sake of clarity, let me just list the books in this series, because I'm afraid I tend to be confusing:

Book 1: About 16 pages written, and lots of ideas floating around.  I want to write it now but I have to research a LOT before I can really start ... which is tiresome and I don't think I'm quite up to it at the moment.
Book 2: One draft written, but it sucks.  I am going to have to rewrite the whole dang thing.  Still, I love the basic idea and I'm pretty excited to get started rewriting it.  I think I should turn my efforts in this direction since Book 1 is stymieing me so thoroughly.  To that end I have checked out two books about Celts from the library.  When I first wrote it I didn't think it was going to be about Celts, but it turns out it is.
Book 3: This is the one I wrote the third draft of last year.  I went through last week and made all the edits I'd been meaning to do, so I think it's actually DONE.  And I still like it, so maybe it really is good.  I don't know.  Some of you read it and gave me some useful feedback, but no one said it should be scrapped, so I'll assume it's good.
Book 4:  This one comes immediately after book 3 and has all the same characters, which means I'm excited about it already, but I don't think I can close off the series until I've finished books 1 and 2 ... I need to know more precisely how I am going to set up the main story arc of the whole series before I will know how to tie off all the knots.  I have ideas, though.

It's funny that I'm writing fantasy, but since it's historical fantasy, I still have to do bucketloads of research.  You would think a big reason to choose fantasy would be so that you can make stuff up instead of having to stop and google every five minutes "pictures of ancient Camulodunum" and "distance from Manchester to Bath, walking directions."  But thank goodness for the internet.  With Google street view, I can even see what every inch of the route looks like.  (And I do my due diligence.  I have nothing but contempt for authors who put potatoes on King Arthur's dinner table, or allow people to cross distances in a day that earlier in the book took a week.  This is one of the reasons I have to rewrite some old stuff -- I was anachronistic and sloppy a LOT.)

Still, next series is going to be either in a made-up place or somewhere I've actually been.  England has such fabulous mythology, but I don't know what the air smells like, and that's a real downside.

How was your week?


The Sojourner said...

Off the top of my head, my books consist mainly of:

-Men who don't talk to their fathers. (Generally the father in question is just stern/distant, but sometimes he's abusive and other times dead.)

-People (usually women, but at least one man) with intimacy issues as a result of abuse or trauma in their past.

-Single mothers, frequently with three children. (I have at least two stories with three children and one story in which the single mother has only two children but the male lead is a widower with one child, so there are three children altogether.)

-People with substance abuse problems. (No wonder; they have to live in my novels!)

That makes my novels sound really depressing. I hope there are a few other tropes in there that make it less so. (Come to think of it, there's usually at least one wise priest per novel, for example--though sometimes they are recovered alcoholics. ;))

Sheila said...

"Men who don't talk to their fathers" is a trope in real life, too, I think!

I remember getting a lecture from my creative writing teacher years ago about orphans. Why do people always write about orphans? Well, some of my characters have living parents, but if they do, they don't have good relationships with them. Pretty much guaranteed. Because, well, if they could just go ask their dad for help they wouldn't take 80,000 words to work out their problems!

The Sojourner said...

You'd think a creative writing teacher would know that orphans are a trope for precisely that reason. You can't have a child protagonist getting into zany adventures if his parents are helicoptering over his every move. :)

Sheila said...

True -- her warning was mainly against killing off people's parents just for shock value (it isn't shocking if everyone does it) or failing to account for how being an orphan would affect a person. I wish I could remember all she told me about the psychological problems of orphanhood .... considering that I, too, throw orphans in all over the place.

Enbrethiliel said...


Although I don't think Gertrude Chandler Warner's Boxcar Children series is all that great, I kind of like the way that she glosses over all the psychological and economic baggage that four orphaned children would have. She does it by not letting the story begin with them in it; instead, she makes them enter it, walking out of a thick fog and giving no explanation of where they came from. It's like Athena springing fully formed from the head of Zeus!

I know that it's not realistic and not the sort of thing you're writing, but I do think that the detail of the fog is what makes it easy to believe in all the other stuff in the book. So if you like your orphans but realism is getting in the way, maybe you could make them "mystical" orphans in some way, too.

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