Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons in Life, Death and WordCount

I learned some important things today.
  1. If the cat is desperate to get out of the boat and onto the dock, there's a good chance there's a dead critter somewhere on said dock that he wants to get in his jaws. :P
  2. I am capable of writing more than ten pages of fiction in one day.
No. These things aren't really related, but fortunately for me, life is slow enough right now, that these were the day's stand out issues.

That I can write lots of words per day really shouldn't come as a surprise. I've done it before. On rare occassion. And I didn't know why or how I'd managed to pour on the wordcount. Add into it that this has been a truly lackluster NaNoWriMo for me and you may begin to see why I'm suprised by 13 pages of new content in one afternoon. Is it any good? Oh, heck no. It's pure brain dump. Rough draft in its roughest form. But I can fix that.

I'd gotten up this morning with the determination that I was going to write and I was going to do my darnedest to write fast. There was a scene knocking around inside my head. Good. I at least had some notion of what I intended to get on virtual paper. But it didn't click for me until a fellow chapter member posted a link to a blog written by Rachel Aaron about how she'd significantly increased her productivity. It's a great post that does a terrific job of identifying and quantifying what made my rare high word count days work. As soon as I read the breakdown, the 'of course' bell went off in my head.

Now, I know what I need to make each day a high word count day. Time, a rough story map, and investment in a scene. Read Ms. Aaron's breakdown in the link above. It's detailed and well presented.

It is a bit more involved than keeping the cat away from the poor disemboweled duck we found on the dock this morning (otters? an eagle? messy and sad.) The cat glared at me in horrified astonishment when I muttered a brief blessing over the duck and nudged its corpse into the water.

I think I'd rather keep trying to increase my word counts than have to prevent the cat from dragging dead things back home.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Wrong Aliens

NOTE: Reposted because I had to edit the post just to prove I knew the difference between its and it's.
This is a good news/bad news post. The good news: the 'habitable zone' - the distance from a star in which life could conceivably survive is growing. Space Daily reports that models suggest Pluto may have a liquid ocean under its ice cover. New Horizons is going to check that out. Since water seems the most likely place for us to find extra terrestrial life (as we know life, at any rate), the habitable zone suddenly extends much, much farther from the sun than most of us ever imagined. A book written by a pair of scientists in the late 90s called Rare Earth, does a great job of laying out the case for complex life (animals, plants, etc) being exceedingly rare.

If New Horizons finds an ocean on Pluto, none of that case changes. We aren't likely to find a society of merfolk swimming the dark ocean of our erstwhile ninth planet (now, officially a 'planetoid' - it's been pretending all this time. Who knew?) We *might* find single celled organisms. If Pluto were to offer up a jackpot of submarine life, we'd find a couple of multi-celled critters. Honestly? Assuming a probe were ever to actually make Pluto, land, bore through the ice and end up in the ocean with all sensors still intact, we'll be lucky to find some kind of primordial goo.

Remember. This is the good news.

The bad news: If the insulation of liquid water expands the habitable zone so dramatically, are science fiction romance authors pairing their heroes and heroines up with the wrong kinds of aliens? Maybe we should be coming up with unlikely love stories between an air breather and one of those Plutonian merfolks I mentioned probably didn't exist...

Granted, we're assuming that Earth isn't the only planet in the universe positioned in such a way as to support complex, humanoid life. It's probably also worth assuming that *our* form of complex life might not be the only form of complex life in the universe. But isn't it interesting to contemplate how a species that evolved in a dark, cold ocean would go into space? Why would they? And what would their senses be like? Vision wouldn't work. Not in the dark. Unless it's thermal.

Okay. Now this is getting interesting.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time to Prune

It's the dark time, despite today's sunset (which happened around 4:30pm). Our unseasonably fabulous weather comes to an end, the weather service tells us, around midnight tonight when a storm is supposed to blast in and leave us all shivering. Tis the season, I guess. But it's also, to quote Richard the III in a really terrible way "... the winter of our discontent..." Winter? Not yet. But for me, November really is my season of discontent. It's the full first month of dark - by which I mean the time between Halloween and Yule. In the northern hemisphere, the plants are dying back - all of the exuberent summer growth and expansiveness - shrivelling.  

I feel a little like a part of me wants and needs to do the same - as if I could prune back aspects of my life in order to conserve resources and thereby ensure I survive the winter. Yeah, yeah, I know. Unless the zombie apocalypse hits between now and March 21st, 2012 my survival isn't really in question, but work with me. We're surrounded by animals going into hibernation, vegetation pulling resources and energy back into the vital core. It's only natural that we respond to those same rhythms.

I've noticed a pattern. I get really, really down in November. I'm angry, anxious. I feel like I might be going right off my rocker in a subtle, but terrible way. That's when I start cutting. I begin examining my life and pruning away the bits that aren't serving me or that are actively dragging me down. Time and again, I'm stunned and dismayed by how much of my time and energy has gotten syphoned away. I saw that as if I weren't complicit. Clearly, I let my time and energy get scattered. Randomized is how we described it at work. That's how I feel until I start chopping back all of the useless energy and time sucks. Some of that is hard because it's family I have to say 'no' to. Some of that family understands. Some of them do not.

It won't matter. When you feel like you're living your life for everyone but you, when the things you hold most dear are shoved into the background - it's time for a bit of compassionate pruning. No need to be mean when saying 'no' to someone. Recognize that helping others is only helping when there's an exchange of some kind. When there isn't, you aren't helping. You're enabling. And that's not healthy for anyone.