Jun 30, 2010

Back in the Saddle

So to speak.

Catching up after a week away. It was a good trip. Long hours spent on planes and in airports, especially last Wednesday where I spent too many hours at O'Hare. Thankfully, I found an outlet and had my new netbook to entertain me.

I actually did get some work done while I was away. Love that little netbook. It even has me thinking about converting this beast to Windows 7. Going to test one thing before I decide on that and I'm going to finish editing the novel before I go screwing with changing the OS. It would mean reloading all my software, which is a time-consuming pain in the patootie. So, I'll not think about it seriously until the manuscript is done.

I'm not as far as I would have liked to have gotten, but farther than I would be without the netbook. I quite enjoyed the mini computer and with the new mouse 6000 that works wireless on any surface, I was comfortable using it. Mostly. I have an ergonomic keyboard on this beast and still have not adapted to using a straight keyboard. It feels weird.

The vacation was fabulous. Seeing my family was fabulous and too short. We went out for a sinfully delicious dinner to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary one night. Although my middle feels expanded, I don't regret it. Got together with my old high school friends. We went up to the casino at Niagara falls. I won $10. Woo hooo! I'm not a big gambler. Obviously. LOL I had great luck with machines with cowboys on them.

It was great to catch up and make new memories with family and friends. Going back to WNY always leaves me feeling like I have one foot in different worlds. WNY is so familiar. In a way, it is still home. Yet Bend is home, too, and I don't want to have to start over anywhere else. I love living here.

The cats are so happy I'm home, they woke me up about 500 times last night for cuddles. Although slightly annoying, it was nice to be so missed and loved. They've been smiley all day today.

Currently on my third load of laundry. What a fun day! After 13 hours of travel time yesterday, my brain is still a little mushy. However, it did not prevent me from copying my edited manuscript over to the beast here and get at it. I realize August looms large. I'm pleased with how it's going. Just wish I could get it there faster.

Missed you all. Hope you had a great week!

Jun 21, 2010

Forging Ahead

How was your weekend? Hope you enjoyed it. Enjoyed a date with my husband Friday night for our 16th anniversary. He got me the netbook as my anniversary present. Great gift as I can keep working on the go. Going I am this week. The netbook is pretty much all set up and ready to go. Need to add my documents and some pictures to it and then recharge it.

Saturday night at the observatory was a total bust. It was rainy, cloudy, foggy and cold. I ended up leaving before sunset. The fog made things wetter. The mirrors and eyepieces get waterspots if out in the wet. So, we weren't going to open the dome or get a smaller scope out. The mountain was completely socked in. We saw no hope for magic and there were only about 5 people visiting anyway. So even if magic did happen, they didn't really need me. I got to the bottom of the mountain and I could see Venus and the Moon. It happens a lot that way. At least, it did last summer.

Met with my critique group Saturday. We had a lot of housekeeping to take care of as our chair resigned. We changed the day and time of our meets to Monday nights and decided to take turns as leader. We reformatted things so meetings will be more constructive for all of us. Afterward, they helped me with my character GMC's again. Had some great brainstorming over character plot which led to revisions in the plot. It's no big deal, because I didn't write those parts yet where it comes in. It means very light revisions / redirection to the chapters I've done, but nothing major.

So, I'm excited and refreshed about finishing the novel up. I'm 60,000 words in. I have 40,000 or less left to go in which I have to bring it to a satisfying end. It worries me some as I have a lot to cover in those 40,000 words. But now I know exactly what I'm doing and feel good about it. If I need to cut, I'll figure that out later. The business end for getting the pitches ready is closer to done, too. I'm feeling good about that. Still worried as to how much is lef to go on finishing the novel though.

I have many hours to kill in airports and on planes over the next week, so that should be good for my productivity level. Thus, the gift of the netbook. I have to have access to wifi to be online. Most times I won't, so I will not be back online until end of next week. I will sneak work in where possible around visiting with family and friends. But will not attempt to sneak in my usual cyperspace activities.

Everyone have a great week. I leave you with a picture to caption or write a story for. Let that creativity flow.

Jun 17, 2010

Thrilling Inspiration

Switching back and forth from daywalker to night shift during the observatory season is hard on me. Especially now that I am trying to get my novel all spit and polished by beginning of August. I'm kind of resigned to the fact that I probably won't be done by then, but I'll be close. Close enough to pitch. I can put an expected completion date on my one sheet if need be, or say so aloud when speaking. Maybe I'll surprise myself and be closer to done than I'm estimating. Although, I must say that rarely happens. It usually ends up taking more time not less.

I quit second guessing myself on my death star / solar system killing scenario. At least, for now.  Been diligently working on my one sheet and my pitch this week. Making sheets with summaries, blurbs, GMCs [character goals, motivations & conflicts], platform, etc ... My synopsis needs work, but I'm going to wait until I get most of the rewrite done to redo it. End of July seems a good time to revisit it. My one sheet is looking purty. I need a new photo of me. I told husband when I get my hair done in July we shall get a nice new photo of me.

Anyway, last weekend up at Pine Mountain observatory was fantastic. It was new moon and we had crystal clear skies. My favorite objects made their reappearance signalling the coming of summer. I literally gasped when the Lagoon Nebula came into view. It's my favorite. I gasped again when my second favorite - the owl cluster under Cassiopeia - came into view.

I found M5 again and some other star clusters I've not found before. Also got one of my nemesis objects - the Dumbbell Nebula - in. No luck with the galaxies in the big dipper. However, the big dipper is almost straight over head right now, which makes it hard to aim at. New were M93, the Eagle Nebula [although that dang swan keeps eluding me] and ... I'd have to go look up the others on my star charts.

It was cold as usual. I turn into a sort of human air conditioner. Husband claims he can feel the cold radiating off of me when I walk in the house. Sometimes I do not feel warm again until well into the next day.

This weekend I am taking Friday night off as it is Husband & I's 16th wedding anniversary. He says he'd like to see me. I'm also busy getting ready to go away next week. I have so much to do, it keeps me up at night. I lay thinking about pitches and one sheets and GMC's and what to pack and what I need to get loaded onto the new netbook. I get up at 1 a.m. to go scibble ideas down or add things to my lists in the closet or the bathroom. I feel closer to ready in having the business end done. Maybe soon I can focus solely on completing the spit and polish of the novel. Please me! Please get to the rewrite of the section you're thowing out and redoing next week. If you do that, I'm in really good shape. If not, you're going to drive me crazy.

Working at the observatory helps keep me calm. It rebalances me. Recenters me. I dream of the stars I see through my telescope when I get home. I see them when I write my stories and draw on the thrill of discovery to inspire me. I'm going to need a lot of rebalancing through August. A lot.

Jun 15, 2010


So, I read on Sunday at the library. A poetry group in Bend sponsors the program Second Sundays in which they invite in a published author to read. Afterward an open mic is provided and that is when I read.

It is now expected I do. When I walked in it was said, "You're reading, Mary, aren't you." It was more an expectation or a demand than a question.

I take that very positively. They want to hear me read and want to cheer me on. They like my stories and welcome me into their group. More encouragement is very welcome. Acceptance into another group of writers is very welcome.

I read my poem DreamPlay, which is on my website: http://www.mpaxauthor.com/ Under the tab 'M. Pax Works' it is listed. As I am over my head in the rewrite / revision /edit of my first novel, I've not had time to write anything new.

Full focus and energy is on the novel until it is done. Met with a writer friend this morning who was kind enough to offer me advice and feedback and help. I've come to discover it takes a village of brainpower to write a novel. Although it is my style and my voice, my work, sweat and research, the novel would not be near as good without the input of my friends, family and colleagues.

Thank you all most heartily.

Jun 14, 2010

Terror in the High Desert part 5

I'm moving this serial to every other Monday. Fridays are just too busy for me during observatory season.

Tunnel of Death

Brett collapsed at the top of the vertical tube panting for breath. The maddening hum had filled her, vibrating the pulse of her blood and gone silent. Where had it come from and where had it gone?

She moved herself around peering down the hole. "Where did it go, Paul?" She peered intently into the pitch black looking for the bauble of his headlamp. She couldn't make it out. Was he that far behind her? "Paul?"

Full lamp light on the ropes, she could see the line lay slack. "Paul!" In fright she sat up and pulled on the ropes. He wasn't there.

Her back against the solid wall of lava, Brett sobbed in great gasping gulps. Jen had been mutilated. Is that what happened to Paul? A beautiful day of spelunking shredded into ruins. By what?

Brett dug a lantern out of her rucksack. She tied it and her camera onto the rope. She set the camera on video and turned it on. With care as the spin of the camera slowed, she lowered them down into the pit.

"Paul?" She called soft and hoarse. She expected no answer. Brett took her time lowering the camera inch by inch into the fathomless dark. A bump vibrated through the rope whenever the camera or lantern scraped against the walls. The bump reverberated through her hands more solidly when she hit the bottom. The pull of the objects went slack. With the same care, she pulled them back up.

Anxious to see what the camera recorded, she pressed the replay button. The battery sign flashed. There wasn't enough power to obey her command. "Damn it!" Using the side of the cave, she pulled herself up onto her feet.

"Paul! I'm going for help now. If you're down there …" Where else could he be? In answer a glow rose up from the abyss like the thing that had come at them while they screamed over what remained of Jen. 'He's coming back,' Brett mouthed in silent terror. Then she screamed, "He's coming back!"

Previous episodes:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Jun 10, 2010

It's Worse Than That, Jim


Husband and I have been watching Star Trek: TOS. We started with season two at Christmas, because I mistakenly ordered it instead of season one. We got season one for Valentines and got season three, because we finished the other two. It's been so long since I've seen it, it's almost like watching a new show. It's still as loveable as it was. Still relevant, too. What's also fun is naming all the other sci-fi shows that did similar episodes to TOS.

Ah, to create something so timeless ... every writer's dream.

With my hand health improving, I've been able to get back at things this week. Yay. The revisions are going all right. Slower than I'd like, but they're going. Chapter 31, which was the bane of my existance, is probably now one of the best I've ever written. Frustration and hate can lead to something beautiful. It was a relief to figure out why I hated the chapter. Sometimes you can't pinpoint it right away. It was just wrong. The wrong mood. The wrong emphasis.

Moving on ... Hope to start on rewriting the part I'm throwing out and redoing next week.

My critique group was kind enough to help me with brainstorming my 'elevator pitch' / 'hookline' over the weekend. That led to several ideas yesterday, which made me feel better. I was having real trouble with it. I also have trouble with titles sometimes. The title for the novel I'm editing probably took a year or longer, bouncing ideas back and forth with my video genius. At any rate, the consensus was my hookline needs to be unique and not taken from popular references [such as Stargate or the like]. I suppose that's where the difficulty lay for me. But it always helps to have the use of other people's brain power when stuck.

Maybe this is wrong, but I also printed out the novel up to where I've revised and started reading it. This led to some minor fixes in prologue through chapter 4.

Whatever your goal, there's only one way to reach it: keep going. That's what I'm going to do. :)

Oh, Second Sunday is this weekend. Can you guess which day? LOL I plan on reading my poem, DreamPlay. Can watch or read it here: http://mpaxauthor.com/biblio.php?storyid=14

If you're in Central Oregon, Bend Public Library, 2:00 p.m., Brooks Room.

Jun 9, 2010

Getting my Fight on with Nagging Doubt

Don't tell me that I'm the only one who has periodic bouts of insecurity and thoughts of, 'This whole thing just sucks!' I'm not alone, am I? [LOL That sure sounds insecure]

It comes around less frequently, but it's still there. It's an odd dichotomy, because part of me is also quite confident while this naggy, Doubting Thomas syndrome clings on. Klingon?

I've started to recognize it as a symptom of frustration. Usually it stems from my perfectionist tendancies and knowing something is not perfect. For instance, I made a note that I never described the interior of one of my spaceships. It's a very minor thing and it's easy to insert that later and I know exactly where it needs to go. Yet I start to feel like the whole manuscript is a mess because of it.

It goes a long way to recognize the insecurity for what it is -  a detail is hanging loose that I noted to fix later. It bugs me, eats away at me like those worms that ate away Chekov's brain in one of the Star Trek movies. Six? Was that six?

So, I invented routines to get myself back on track and away from obsessing on the minor detail. I remind myself of priorities. The priority is to finish this round of revisions / spit and polish on the manuscript. I'm sure there are other minor errors I've missed. But, I can fix them later and it won't take long to do so.

Perfectionism is a hard thing to give up. It's important though. To make progress, move on and finish anything started, it's important. I learned that in other things I've accomplished. It applies here, too. It applies everywhere in my life. I can't obsess about one tiny cloud when the rest of the sky shimmers with rainbows. Sometimes it takes longer than others to talk myself out of staring at the cloud. I eventually manage to pry my fingers loose and let go.

Stuck? Mired in doubt? Bogged down in frustration? Make a plan to nudge yourself out of it. See the bigger picture. Concentrate on what's going right. You may have to try a lot of things before you find something that works. The effort will be rewarded in the end though.

Write on! And remember the Klingons eventually became allies.

Jun 8, 2010

Spaceward, Ho!

The sun has been elusive around here, lately. We ended up with some great sky Friday night up at the observatory. It was cold, though, and I forgot to put on my thermal socks. I'll not be making that mistake again any time soon.

It took some doing to get my telescope focused and the telrad adjusted as I've not used my telescope since last September. But once that was done, all was well. At first the sky was very spotty - Venus, Mars and Saturn peeping in and out of the clouds. But then magic happened and the sky became almost completely clear.

Not too many guests showed up, which was good. Gave us some time to get reacquainted with the sky. The boyscouts didn't show up until after 10. They didn't come up by 11. I was pretty much done freezing by then. I think people think because we're an observatory that we're there all night. When it's warmer we stay later. Warmer being a big factor. And staying awake for the drive home.

Found M13 and M4, the Ring Nebula and the Dumbbell Nebula. It was nice to see old friends. Tried to find some new ones, but had no success yet. Will try again this weekend, if the sky cooperates. My favorite objects aren't up yet [blocked by the summit], but they should be soon - the Lagoon Nebula, the owl cluster and Andromeda.

Then I got too cold, packed up and went home. Hours in the wind on a mountain top gets quite chilly. I blasted the heater as much as I could on the way home, but I have to balance that with staying awake. It's a long, lonely drive back into town. So bouts of heat are interchanged with open windows and stiff, cold breezes. Been listening to "Outlanders" by Diana Gabaldon on cd to and fro from the observatory. The crying she invoked on the way home helped keep me awake, too. What will happen to Jamie & Claire? Don't tell me.

What irks me most is the dastards that don't dim their brights. Grrrrr. What is wrong with people? That invokes a different kind of crying.

Saturday was completely socked in. We didn't even bother to open the dome. We didn't set up. Didn't get out any telescopes. No one came to see us either. We hung out and chatted.

When we left to go, it was so dark outside we kind of got lost the short distance from the residence to the parking lot. There was no moonlight. No starlight and all's we had were red flashlights. Some white light would have been very useful. Honest, you could see nothing. Absolutely nothing. Dark like that is very disorienting. I beeped my car a few times for direction checks. It's rather interesting how off course we'd get in just a few steps, thinking we were going the right way.

"Why'd you stop?"

"That's a tree in front of me. And more trees. I don't remember so many trees. Where'd they come from?" Hmmm. Maybe trees walk around after sunset. There's a story ...

No wildlife encounters, which is odd - no deer, no bunnies, no nothing. No Yeti. No cougars, although one has been spotted recently in the parking lot. Maybe that's why wildlife is scarce lately. I was teasing Gary out on the pad, that the cougar was probably in the bushes watching us. LOL

Jun 7, 2010

Nice Tights

How would you cap this picture? Or would you write a story?

I love these old movies. It's nice to start the week with a smile. :)

Jun 3, 2010

Immersion, Tech Difficulty and The Lie is ...

I needed to update my website blogs. So I did. http://mpaxauthor.com/writersdesk.php My tutorial on writing description / setting. It's one of my greatest strengths, so I'm sharing.

My right arm has been acting up for the last week. I've probably been working too hard. So, I'm limiting my computer time. For those not in the know, I've had bilateral carpal tunnel since the early 1990's. With my ergo keyboard & trackball, I usually don't have trouble these days. But it likes to act up a few times a year just to keep me on my toes I suppose. I do have voice recognition, [purchased in the fall when both arms were acting up] but I busted the headset. I tried to replace yesterday at Best Buy and Office Max. Niether had what I needed. Dragon is a bit of a diva, so I need a particular headset made by plantronics. The headset that comes in the box doesn't work. Nice, huh? Anyway, I ended up having to order it online. So, excuse my light commenting until the arm heals. I am reading though.

Yesterday, the lie was #4. The exact opposite is true. My karma makes computers do awful things for me - like software never loads for me. Sometimes when my computer is really giving me grief, I have to have my husband come in here and touch it for awhile. Computers do love him. And I am no computer whiz. I am maybe slightly better than average as a user, but that's it. I don't know how to program or anything like that.

Have a great day. Be kind to your body.

Jun 2, 2010

What's Up With That?

Got a caption or a story for this?

Lies or Creativity? Hmmm.

I was given this award by the very lovely and talented, Paty Jager. I can either give you 6 lies with one truth or 6 truths with one lie. I think I will go with six truths and one lie. Can you guess which? [hmm, maybe my website will help you figure a few out]

1.  I spent my childhood in a stable as one of the few 'cowgals' on the east coast.
2.  The first story I ever wrote was about a horse. "Wesco". I was about 8.
3.  I'm a lawyer.
4.  I am a whiz with computers. I have like a natural karma. They love me.
5.  I was once a punk rocker with pink spiky hair.
6. My favorite subject [beyond astronomy & sci fi] is Sumer.
7.  I know the Canadian national anthem.

Jun 1, 2010

Frozen Toes and Uncooperative Skies

How was your weekend? I look forward to checking in on how you're all doing.

Moody skies and weather persist in Central Oregon. Summer is taking its sweet time, as always. So while most of you were digging your toes in hot sand and wearing shorts and T-shirts, I was donning my winter gear. Thermals included. And, I wasn't sorry.

Friday was one of the coldest nights I ever spent up at PMO [Pine Mountain Observatory]. Icy. We watched the thermometer dip to 31, 30, 29 ... It got down to 28. Despite thermals, 2 sweaters, gloves, scarf, hat & hoods, I froze. We only had 5 visitors, so I didn't even bother taking a smaller telescope out onto the pad. I stayed int the dome where there is at least protection from the wind and 5 degrees more of warmth. It didn't matter Friday. We all froze. By 10:30 p.m. I was on my way home with the heater cranking. We did get to see Saturn, Mars, M5, the Sombrero Galaxy, M13 and Spica.

An hour to get home and I was still shivering climbing into the down comforter. I awoke several hours later way too warm, but it was nice to be too warm instead of icy.

I've gotten smarter since my first year working at the observatory and take a thermos of hot tea with me instead of cold water. If I'm not yet cold and drink cold water, I get cold fast. It does me less favors if I'm freezing. Hot tea is much kinder.

Saturday looked less promising in the morning, but the day improved considerably by the time I made my way out to the mountain. Big fluffy clouds with lots of clear sky between and it was warmer. Compared to Friday night, Saturday seemed balmy. That's one positive about the cold Friday. The rest of the year will seem nice in comparison. However, as soon as we opened the dome to get the telescope ready, it clouded over. We managed to show Saturn, M5 and a star before a window of opportunity closed off.

I saw a small group of antelope on my way up Saturday. Very elusive beasts, they were pretty to see. That was my only wildlife spotting. No gangsta cows. No bunnies. No deer. How odd. One of my fellow volunteers said they saw a cougar sauntering down the road earlier in the week. Wow.

No Yeti sightings. They're as elusive as the antelope and cougar.

For the brave souls that spent a couple of very cold nights with us, thanks for visiting. Hope you can come back when we have a warmer night with better sky.