Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween and NaNo

I am a bit less than three hours from NaNo. I might even be almost ready. This year's plan is to write one novel I want to get done, and if I have time and feel like it, I'll do some relatively short (50k at least) books. Or book. Or not at all after I get the first one done.

My hand is still giving me a lot of trouble. There are things going on here (like the possibility of Russ moving to New York in mid-month) that really hasn't helped my NaNo-mood. I have Vision up, I have FM updated, I got the new Sangre story posted last night, and I have a little bit more writing to do on Silky2 and I'll be done with it. I have an outline for my novel (better print that off!), and notes besides, if I can find them. About midsummer I bought the NaNo poster with the little squirrels and such on it, so I need to get that up. I have cleared the top of my hutch so that Edmond and Zaphod stop rolling off the books and falling on me -- pulling down books with them.

There are so many things I haven't done that I don't even want to think about it.

But I'm here anyway.

Here are my totals from previous NaNo's. I don't expect to do as well this year:

2001 -- Return to Faneh Thenyal -- 70,436
2002 -- Freedom and Fame -- 101,654
Whispers of Winterwood -- 75,101
2003 -- Mirrors -- 72,081
Journey to Winter -- 84,264
2004 -- Bad Connections -- 106,042
Darkness Falls -- 84,123
2005 -- Kat Among the Pigeons -- 102,619
Feather in the Wind -- 50,191
The Time and the Place -- 51,185
2006 -- Summer Storm -- 67,769
The Servant Girl -- 102,085
Dancer -- 98,258

That's 1,065,813 words. Maybe it is time to slow down a bit!

I will try to post snippets each day, but I'm really very busy and just keeping up the word count is going to be difficult this year!
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Friday Snippet -- Kat Among the Pigeons


Yes, I missed last week. I am so incredibly busy that I'm going to go crazy soon. That is not stopping me from taking part in NaNoWriMo again this year. I need a fun break, and writing like a maniac seems like a good plan. I'll likely drop snippets of my story in here about every day. I do that during NaNo. It's part of the insanity

I wrote the novel I'm snippeting -- Kat Among the Pigeons -- for NaNo two years ago. I don't have anything nearly as much fun to write this year, though I do have some interesting stuff just about ready to go.

(Oh -- empty box where picture should be at the top of the blog -- that will be fixed soon. It's another problem related to the loss of Jatol, and now I'm having trouble getting control of my domain name back, but we're making progress.)

Here's a bit of set up for this round: David is a photographer who has arrived to do an assignment with Kat, who is a feature writer for magazines. He's just 'met' Shakespeare (the parrot) who started shouting at him, but then calmed and let David pet him.

"That's a good sign," I said, pleased with the reaction. "He's a very unsettled bird. The park rangers took four days to find him after some people drove up to the highest part of the park and set the bird free to be in the wilds again."

David looked at me, one eyebrow raised. "This bird. Free in the snowy mountains? Didn't the name African Grey Parrot mean anything to them?"

"Apparently not." I laughed and came over to pet Shakespeare as well, glad to see the bird so calm again.

"Rendered me mad and deaf and blind!" Shakespeare all but shouted and fluffed his chest feathers as he spread his wings.

"He does this often?" David said, startled again.

"Yes. And rarely the same quote twice."

"That's incredible! I'd heard that African Greys can be incredibly smart, but I think this might even be exceptional. What could posses people to just throw out such a bird?"

I smiled while David gave him the last of the crackers. "Who knows what the owners thought, though having Shakespeare for four months with the odd poetry now and then, I'm tempted to think that he just drove them crazy."

Shakespeare reached over and bit me on the finger. Hard.

I yelped and headed for the bathroom to get my hand cleaned up and stop the bleeding. I trusted that David would be careful having seen what the bird could do.

Cato had followed me in and jumped up on the counter.

"That bird is a menace, you know," he said.

"He's troubled."

"So are most mass murders and dogs. That doesn't mean you should take them into your house." He shook his head in a very human like gesture. I thought he might be spending far too much time with me. "There's something just not right about that bird."

"I know." I patted him on the head. "But he stays."

I could have used magic to heal the wound, but not after David had seen it. So I just made it far less of a problem. I didn't want to spend the day wincing at everything I did.

David had finished feeding the bird and had gone over to look out the window.

"Finger all right?"

"Yeah, fine," I said and smiled, waving the bandage.

"Lovely view," he said. "I bet this is exquisite at nightfall."

"Nightfall, dawn, bright summer days and the middle of winter," I answered. He smiled again and gathered up his pack. I found my bag and slung it across my shoulder, giving a last nod to Cato and a look of warning to Shakespeare.

We went out the door and I pulled it closed, listening to the still frantic twitters of far too many small birds, somewhere out behind the house. They were growing louder, and I hoped we got away before they came to talk to me. Then I remembered that while I rely on magic to keep the place safe, David didn't know it. So I foraged around in my purse looking for the house key. I didn't actually find it, but I found another key and pretended it was the one, using magic to mask the truth.

The morning tasted of pine and wood smoke from some place down the hill. A nuthatch swept past me, twittering still.

"Big wings, big wings, fly, fly, fly!"

I just waved it away and followed David down the rock-lined path to where his fancy Subaru sat side-by-side with my beat up old Jeep. I almost winced at the comparison, but I suspected he wouldn't judge me or the car by how it looked.

The Jeep runs mostly on magic. The engine looks and acts like a real engine, though it runs without gas. I stop now and then and pretend to fill up, just for show. The pieces for the car were all hand-formed by my cousin, who took considerable pains to make it look real. Why go to this trouble rather than buying one off a lot? Because a real Jeep worked with technology and any fae using it would have to damp down her natural powers or risk everything blowing up. This way I could still run around town like a human without being powerless. Besides, cutting off our natural powers isn't easy or practical for long stretches of time.

The car is also equipped with baffles so non-fae can ride in it and not have their fancy watches and PDAs die on them. That made even putting the photography equipment in the back safe from the car and from me.

As we reached the car a couple more nuthatches swept past me, panic growing again. I waved them on, but as I opened the driver side door a flock of nuthatches flew up into the air, at least a hundred of them, twittering in panic as they took off down the hillside.

David looked at me, surprised.

"Birdfeeders behind the house," I hastily explained.

"Ah." He opened his door.

Before we could get into the car more birds rose into the air, the din of their yells growing louder. A few lifted up over the house, and then more, then hundreds -- a thousand? Most were nuthatches -- still screaming about big wings -- but I saw several other small birds caught in the panicked swarm that literally covered the sky. For a heartbeat they blocked out the sun before the birds turned toward town and flew to the west. I watched in shock and a little dismay, and then finally turned back to David.

"Must cost you a fortune in bird food," he said.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Snippet -- Kat Among the Pigeons

This is a little section from Kat Among the Pigeons that was originally in the first chapter, but really didn't fit there. I'm moving it to chapter two or even later, but I think it's a fun bit, so I'll drop it in here for now.

To recap a little -- and explain a couple things you haven't read -- Katilyn (the first person POV main character)is a fae border guard living in Estes Park Colorado, and keeping an eye on a piece of The Edge -- the area where the magical world brushes up against ours.

Katilyn can talk to and understand cats and birds. In my first snippet you met Cato, her cat. She also has an African Grey parrot named Shakespeare. The parrot was badly traumatized and the only sounds he makes are random quotes of poetry -- in other words, he doesn't speak 'bird' at all, so Kat can't talk to him and find out what's wrong.

In this snippet she's gotten some friends who own a bird shop to make a recording of one of their parrots so that she can play it for Shakespeare and see if that gets him to speak.

"We're going to try something new." I held up the little tape player so we could both look at it. I finally found the 'play' button and hit it on.

What would have been a lot of screeching for most people became the sound of excited bird voices in the background discussing weather and the shop owners bad taste in clothing. Just as well people couldn't understand what they said most times.

"Is this recording?" Richard asked, obviously holding the machine close to his mouth. The feedback got both Shakespeare and me to jump a little. "Yes. Good. I'm going to see if we can get Telora to speak. Come on lovely. Make some nice little birdy sounds for the poor African Gray. Come on my sweet --"

She began squawking in parrot, which I, unfortunately, could understand all too well.

"What is that?" Telora asked, worry in her voice. "What is that silver thing? Why is he pushing it toward me?"

"Very good, Telora. Nice bird. Say a few more things now."

"Oh gods of all feathers! He's going to kill me! Help! Help! I told you! I told you they EAT BIRDS! I saw it! Fried BIRDS! He's going to kill me! Help, help, help!"

"Not quite so loud, sweet."

"Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods! I'm going to be fried! The humans will kill us all! Someone help me, help me, help me!"

The other birds grew louder, a general mayhem of panic that Telora spread through the shop. I looked over at Shakespeare and shook my head, certain this was not going to help. I almost turned the recorder off, but suddenly, somewhere in the background, I could hear the very clear voice of a cockatiel speaking in badly accented parrot.

"Will you SHUT UP!" he shouted. I could even hear the shaking of a cage. "If I have to put up with this damn drama queen bullshit one more time I'm going to squeeze through these bars, break into your cage, and peck your eyes out! Shut up!"

"I thought they loved me. I thought they cared! They were only interested in food. Help! Help! Help!"

"Shut up! If they aren't going to kill you with that silver thing, I will. I'll shove it so far up your fancy feathered ass they'll be calling you mirror bird every time you open your mouth!"

"Help! Help! Help me!"

"Not so loud now, love," Richard said. "Calm down. That's a good bird. You're doing very well! This seems to be going well, Deb!"

"Look the human woman is coming!" Telora cried. She was almost gasping for breath now. "She's going to bring the knife! Oh help me, help me, help me --"

"I'll help you," the cockatiel shouted. The cage rattled again. "Just give me a chance and I'll help you! Let me out of here! Let me at her! I can't take any more of this crisis of the day crap! Half a year of this is more than you should ask of any bird! Let me kill her! She'd be good fried!"

"Just a little bit more, my sweet."

"I don't want to die! Don't let them kill me! Help! Help! Help!"

"I can't take any more! I can't stand it!" I could hear the sound of splashing water and odd, distorted bird sounds. They stopped after a moment. "Oh gods. This pathetic little water dish isn't even enough to drown myself in!"

"Gaylord, you silly little bird, what are you doing? Do you want a bath? Would you like to say something to the lovely little African Gray?"

"Oh yes, oh yes -- take the silver thing away," Telora said, sounding quite happy. "Kill the cockatiel instead. Yes, much better choice!"

"I'll remember that, sweetie."

I shut off the tape, gasping for breath and trying to laugh too loudly. Shakespeare didn't seem in the least little bit impressed.

I had to leave the room before I started laughing and Shakespeare took it badly. I went back to the room and fell face down on the pillow, trying to smoother my laugher.

"Oh good! Nap time!" Cato said and bounded up on the bed. "Under the covers, please. The morning is a bit nippy."

(And if you are wondering, Gaylord does become a major part of the story.)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I am a writer

I hate the days that are this busy. I want to sit down and write, or get back into the fun of reading snippets, or doing just about anything but whatever it is that I'm working on rather than the writing I would like to be doing. Today is a real sign of a day like that. The newsletter work went odd, and then, after having worked for days on the thing, some links didn't work when it went out. That's so frustrating! But we're working out a system where I can try the redirects before the newsletter goes live. Otherwise, I have no real way of telling until it's too late.

I've been in an 'interesting' conversation with a rather rude person over on, in the Writer-readers group. He's decided that only people he deems worthy enough are writers, and the rest of us are all hobbyists and wannabes. Oh, and those of us who take part in NaNoWriMo are mocking real writers. Really -- that's exactly what he said. I admit that I laughed so hard at that point that the cats went running. What a pretentious twerp! (Don't worry, he's called me far worse in his blog -- though, for the record, I don't knit and I don't write romantic fantasy.)

It did make me sit down and define what I see as a person worthy to be called a writer. (This guy has wrapped up way too much of his personal self-esteem tied up into the word, so if others use it whom he doesn't consider good enough, it takes away from him, you see.) As I wrote in a thread there, I think the important part of being a writer is to write. There are wannabe writers and they're the people who talk about writing, who write a chapter or two maybe, and who never really complete anything. They just talk about it. People who are actually working at their craft, who may be slow writers or fast writers, are writers. They may not be published or professional writers yet, but they are writers. There are good writers and bad writers, just as in every age, but I am not going to judge their work when I haven't seen it. (I mentioned to this guy that he could make a fortune working for publishers with that ability to make judgments on manuscripts without ever seeing them. Just think how fast it would be to get through the slush pile! Hell, people wouldn't even have to send stuff! He could just sniff disdainfully and tell them they aren't worthy, and it's settled!)

I also think that in order to be a known-name in a given genre, the person has to understand what the people of that genre really want, and if the author provides it, then they are a good writer. They may not be a great literary giant, but they are good at what they do. Danielle Steele, who is not one of my favorites, was mentioned. Oh, and Stephen King, of course. The argument seems to be that if you're popular it's because the readers aren't smart enough to know you aren't a good writer, no matter if you give them exactly what they're looking for.

All-in-all, it has been an interesting look into how totally pretentious and self-absorbed some writers can become.

I'll base a character on him someday, because he's so far over the top that a character of that sort would make a good comic relief, I bet. I think maybe I could work one into the sequel to Muse if I get a chance to write it. (grin) This may actually get me moving on writing that sequel, now that I think about it.

And now... and now it's cold here! We have a frost warning tonight again. It's not early for this kind of weather, though it always seems like it is when it first hits. But the colors around here are incredible this year! (The painting today is based on a digital picture, of course. Click on it to see it larger. It really is quite nice.

Oh, have I mentioned that I think I'm going to buy a Canon camera this time around? It's the Canon S5IS, which turns out to be less expensive than the Sony I've had my eyes on for so long, and has some of the same features -- and some others that the Sony doesn't have. I don't know when I'll get it -- depends on finances over the next couple months, of course (and if websites don't need to move and be paid for yet again) -- but it looks like an interesting camera to work with. My hope is that by the time I'm ready to move on from it, the Sony Alpha group with have a live view option for their Digital SLR. Once they have that, I can go back to using my lenses from my old cameras.

Though, to be honest, I do alright with the SLR-Like cameras. I might not like carrying those big, heavy lenses around any more.

We'll see. Right now, though, it's time to go to work on Silky 2.
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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Friday Snippet -- Kat Among the Pigeons

I decided I was not going to miss another snippet week. Yes, it's late. And yes, I shouldn't have played around with my graphics programs and made the picture, which took even more time. But you know what? It was fun! And I don't do that kind of stuff often enough these days.

This week I'm starting with the opening to Kat Among the Pigeons. I wrote this one for NaNo in 2005, so it's appropriate to bring it out to show people now, with NaNo only a few weeks away. It's a fun story. I hope you enjoy the pieces I drop here.

Chapter One

The incessant tapping of small bird beaks against the bedroom window brought me out of a deep and blissful sleep.

Tap, tap, tap.

"Go 'way," I said, pushing my head under the pillow. Cato, the big lazy lump of a yellow cat who slept on another pillow by my head, made a sound of protest. I started to fall back asleep. . . .

Then I began to hear the little voices.

"Big wings! Big Wings!"

Tap, tap, tap.

"Don't care."

Tap, tap, tap-tap-tap-tap. "Big-big-big wings!"

I cursed and rolled over, pausing for a moment to stare at the ceiling as I considered what kind of ecological disaster would be sent upon the earth if I wiped out the nuthatches.


Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.

It sounded like a badly sung round robin, with the drummer out of beat as well -- and it was not a sound a person could sleep through. I finally sat up, brushed hair from my eyes and looked toward the window where a dozen or more panicked nuthatches were clinging to the wood around the frame, some of them hanging upside down, and all of them tapping ceaselessly at the window. Their little voices rose in high-pitched cries of frantic worry.

"Big wings, big wings, big wings."


"Yes, yes. I got the idea. I'm getting up!"

I yanked on my robe as I stood. The light through the window showed it couldn't be more than a few minutes past dawn. Cato lifted his head from the pillow and blinked sleepily. He didn't look any happier than me, but he gave a huge yawn, stood and stretched before he padded over to the edge of the bed closest to the window.

"What is wrong with the little nuts?" he asked through another yawn.

"Not nuts," I answered batting at his head as I went past. I missed and he just stretched again. "Nuthatches."

"All the same to me," Cato said and laid back down, his tail curled up around his nose. "Do you think you could quiet them down a bit?"

"Sure. I could throw you out the window and they'd probably find that interesting enough to shut up about the eagle or hawk or plane that upset them this morning."

Cato snorted and mumbled something I didn't quite hear. Probably just as well.

Understanding animals is fairly common among the fae. It's what makes us good at our work, even on this side of The Edge. But. . . . Well, I'm not blessed with the ability to understand all animals like most of my kind. No, I got lucky enough to just catch two: birds and cats.

It's not a good combination.

Like the rest of my clan, I work as a border guard, sent to watch over parts of the human world where The Edge is unstable -- usually wilderness areas, since magic abhors technology, and even wild magic like The Edge stays clear of large settlements. I've been here on the outskirts of Estes Park for the last four years, living in a lovely A-Frame on land which had been owned by my family for generations.. Just down the hill a busy road curves up toward Rocky Mountain National Park. It's lovely, and usually quiet and peaceful.

Except that sometimes little birds get upset by things. It's especially true this time of the year, with the seasons changing from winter to spring, and the migrations coming back through. It's not their fault that a big bird of some sort came sweeping over where they were gathering bugs and scared the little guys.

I buried my anger about getting up and cranked the window open. Nuthatches held on, some of them upside down as they looked in at me.

"Big wings, very very very very big big big wings."

"It's okay guys," I said. They stopped tapping on the window, at least. "The big wings aren't here."

Dozens of little heads turned, craning around to look up at the sky between towering pines and the edges of the mountain that come right down beside my house. They scanned left and right and back again.

"What are the little guys saying?" Cato asked, lifting his head again. His nose twitched a couple times.

"Something big frightened them. But it's not here." I looked out into the still gray yard and saw quite a few more nuthatches. "Whatever it was, it must have really set them off."

"Ah." I looked back and saw his nose twitch again. "Do invite the little ones in for breakfast, Kat."

"Why? You're so fat and lazy you couldn't catch one if it landed on your head."

"I resent that," he said, with that prissy sound that only an annoyed cat can get. "And I'd like to see you catch one."

"Like this?" I asked, holding out my hand. Four came to cling to my fingers.

"Show off." He put his tail back over his head again.

I spent the next few minutes doing my best to calm them. More than a dozen came to my fingers while I stood there. The day brightened, and the fact that no big wings were around the house helped to settle them again.

Nuthatches, like most of the tiny birds, panic at everything. If I weren't here they'd just fly off in all directions. But I'm like a beacon to birds. And cats. I could see three of the local strays lolling near the pine now, eyeing breakfast on the wing if the birds weren't careful.

"Don't do it, guys," I said to the cats. They'd been hanging around for over a year now, and I saw them look my way with a moment of 'dare I pretend I don't understand?' in their eyes. "I'll bring food out as soon as I get dressed."

"Some of the canned stuff," a big grey tom called Pawford said with a flick of his tail. "If we're not going to get the birds, I don't want just the dry crap."

I leaned out, looking at him. The nuthatches had all headed upward on the tree, except for the few that still clustered on the side of my house. Two suddenly burrowed into my hair. I plucked them back out, but didn't stop staring at the cats. They were getting nervous about it, too. Ears flickered up and down, tails twitched. Then Pawford gave a great sigh and dropped down into the dirt, his head on his paws, and looking dejected.

"Food would be nice," he mumbled. "Anything you can spare. Thank you."

I smiled and drew my head back into the room. Cato had sat up once he heard the other cats and looked far less interested in the birds now. He and Pawford had had a few clashes in the last year, and he had two nicks out of his left ear to prove it. I think Cato surprised Pawford when he proved he could hold his own. He may live in the house, but he's not soft.

I'm not even certain how he got to be a house cat. He just wandered in one day and I found the company... well, nice enough for a cat.

Not lonely here. Nope.

"Everything is all right," I told the nuthatches, brushing my finger over all the little heads that came my way and using just a whisper of magic to settle them. "It's all fine now. The Big Wings are gone."

They did that scan of the sky again, and this time included the trees and even the cats, as though they would suddenly sprout wings and come after them.

I leaned back away from the window, waiting a moment to make sure the little guys were settled, and then cranked it shut again. I pulled several feathers from my hair and dropped two of them down in front of Cato's nose.

"Tease," he said, without opening his eyes or moving his tail.

I laughed and headed for the bathroom, and then on to the kitchen. I grabbed the cat food, including a couple cans for the guys outside. They were good for strays, and they knew how to behave around the house. I can't stop them from doing what's natural to them elsewhere, but here -- where I can understand the screams -- well, they just know better.

But as I leaned down and opened the cabinet I felt such a surge of magic in the area, it snapped me back up, spinning around so fast that it startled Cato who had followed me into the kitchen.

"What!" His ears had gone back and his fur fluffed out, making his tail look twice the normal size.

"Magic," I said and lifted my hand. The surge of magic had unsettled me. It's like nails on a chalk board -- free magic running through the ether doesn't feel right. Some fae don't mind it -- or at least say they don't -- but it's always made me uneasy.

"Is it all right?" he asked, looking around, eyes narrowed and ears back still.

"A surge, but nothing solid I can feel. And it came from far back into the park -- but damn that was a lot of magic from out of nowhere. I hate it when The Edge starts acting up like that!"

Cato made little sounds of agreement, but he'd noticed the open cabinet and at the sight of food he would pretty much agree that he was a bird and could fly if it would get me to open one of the coveted cans for him.

I closed my eyes, and reached out with magic, but I still didn't find anything out of place. Maybe the worries of the nuts... the nuthatches had affected me.

Most of the time I love my job. I like being settled here, in this little bit of nowhere on this side of The Edge. Yeah, I miss home, too -- but we all have to work this side for a few years, and there are far worse places to be. This is a relatively stable area, and they gave it to me because I'm not the strongest person in my clan. The rest of them were out in the really tough areas like the Sahara, the Gobi and places that make Tibet look like an easily accessible vacation destination.

Free magic can play havoc with the weather, though, and we were already having a very stormy April. If The Edge continued to act up, I feared it was only going to get worse for awhile.

"Meow?" Cato said.

"Very funny." But he did make me smile.

"Hey, you're standing in the magic place," he said, and purred as he rubbed against my legs. "I had to get your attention before I fell faint from lack of food."

"Oh yeah, you look like you're going to starve, pudge."

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