Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hefafu, or, Why Won't Men Just Ask for Directions?

When Ambrose and I were hiking to the start of the trail to Scenic Lake in the Sawtooth Wilderness, we stuck together for most of the morning. But after the second stream crossing I went on ahead of him. I was feeling warmed up and ready to go. I zoomed off, and soon reached the cairn and sign that marked the turnoff to Scenic Lake.

I decided to wait for Ambrose there. The sign was fastened to a tree, and I dumped my pack near the trunk and pulled out my birdseed bag to sit on. Then I spent some time being quiet and listening to the birds.

Then I heard voices. I didn't think it would be Ambrose so I sat up and looked around. Two male hikers were coming down the trail from the other direction. I stayed sitting up and watched them approach.

When they were close, I said hello. The guys didn't seem interested in talking to me. They were intent. As they walked past me, I heard, "It should be right here."

I almost spoke up. I almost asked them if they were looking for the turnoff to Scenic, but they walked past very quickly, not turning.

If they had turned, they would have seen the sign.

When Ambrose caught up to me a few minutes later, he revealed that the guys had indeed been looking for Scenic.

How did he know this? Because they asked him.

I was highly amused by this. I was sitting practically on the junction and they didn't have a word for me. But they run into another man and ask for directions.

Now, Ambrose contends that they may have just been tired, hungry, thirsty or in a hurry. And that's why they didn't ask me. I don't know. It seemed a bit sexist to me. But it didn't hurt me in the slightest.

It would have served them right if I were hiking alone and they'd gone all the way back to the trailhead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Nominee Project Cancelled

In an effort to read more contemporary science fiction, I tried reading the Hugo award nominees for the last two years, and the Nebulas as well. It was a fun project, and I found several new authors to read.

I read books that I wouldn't ordinarily have read, and that's a good thing. But, I'm one of those readers who refuses to put down a book once it's started. No matter how much I find myself despising the book, or being bored by it.

As a result, I've done some hate reading, which isn't my favorite thing to do. And, in light of the strange turn of events involving the Hugo nominations (not going into it, check here for a run down or search sad puppies or rabid puppies if you want to live dangerously), I've decided not to do the project this year.

I am prejudging that there are works on the Hugo ballot that I won't particularly want to read. I'm also prejudging that the Nebulas nominees will likewise not be my cup of tea. I just haven't had much luck with getting into the Nebula nominees or enjoying them. And I want to find books that I enjoy.

I avidly reread books that I like. And I am going to go with the premise that I will learn more about how to write stories I like if I reread and analyze books that I like. Reading books I don't like is an interesting exercise, but not a productive one. I mean, I can point out why I'm stopping a read, but to continue past that point only gets me a larger list of negatives.

I want to find some positives. To examine what an author does well and try to see if I can make it work too. This is definitely something that I have seen floated as advice here and there through the years, but I have to credit Dean Wesley Smith (again) with giving the final push to this iteration.

I think that reading those award nominees, regardless of whether I like them or not, only gives me a sense of what is being published currently by publishing houses. If I'm not even going to try that route, then there's no sense in figuring that out. I only need to write what I like, publish it, and write the next thing better.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Blackhawks Win! But Who Was Watching?

First, congratulations Blackhawks, 2015 Stanley Cup Champions and Bettman dubbed Dynasty.

Now to business: as my Blackhawks have progressed this year in the playoffs, I have kept in touch with hockey. I read articles on NHL.com and on Yahoo's Puck Daddy. As long as my team is in it, striving for the Cup, I'm invested. I'm watching, reading, listening.

But last year, when the LA Kings got a lucky bounce in overtime and eliminated the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, I stopped watching, reading and listening. I couldn't bear to watch the Kings beat up the Rangers. It should have been us beating up the Rangers! My hatred for the Kings outweighed my desire to watch playoff hockey, especially with such fine summer weather outside.

On Puck Daddy, there was an article lamenting the fact that hockey playoffs simply don't draw the kind of national audiences that even the least watched basketball or baseball playoffs do. The author suggests that the NHL needs to cultivate its star players in such a way that hockey fans are interested in them the way basketball fans are interested in LeBron James. Hockey interest in neutral markets could be raised by such a star player.

But I think the more important point in the article is the "tribalism" of hockey fans.
Internal research from the NHL suggests that hockey fans are “the most tribal” when it comes to postseason viewership. Hockey fans aren’t as engaged in the championship round as the “Big Four” if their team isn’t involved, or if they don’t have a rooting interest.
And I get it. I checked out when my team was defeated last year, not because I'm not interested in watching playoff hockey, but because I was bitter. I didn't want to hear calm, unbiased sports broadcasting about how the damn Kings were doing. I didn't want to hear the excitement of a goal by that team. Or even their opponents.

Petty, yes. Childish, yes. True, hell yes.

And it's really all the fault of the handshake line. Hockey players must be good sportsmen after the end of the series, unlike other sports teams that may slink away after a devastating loss and only face the press rather than their triumphant opponents. Because of this, we, the fans, must bear the bitterness for our teams by turning away from the playoffs themselves to honor the petty, childish behavior that our players cannot openly embody.

But I'm here to offer a solution. It is rare for an NHL game to be broadcast in Spanish (no matter how awesomely they call the goals). That means the SAP is wide open for NBC to hire some funny broadcasters or comedians who like hockey to call the game in a way that the fans of the teams that have been eliminated, or never made it to the post-season, can appreciate without feeling that we've betrayed our teams.

I mean, when you're team loses, you kind of owe it to them not to rejoice when some other (clearly less worthy) team hoists the cup. You turn your back on the entire sport, because you love your team and you hate the other teams.

So, give us a mock-filled hatecast NBC. One that would allow the fans of the unlucky and the almost-rans a chance to embrace the hate-watch that the playoffs must become when your team is gone. One that plays up every mistake and hardly notices a goal. One that would have spent the entire intermission talking about Hedman and Bishop running into each other - but without mentioning Sharp's goal.

Start by getting the rest of hockey fandom on board with watching the playoffs after their teams have been eliminated and the neutral markets will come.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Novel Realized

Back in April, I promised that I would publish my novel after letting at least one more trusted reader go through it. As it turned out, I sent it to two, but only got a reply from one. And so, after waiting three weeks after the promised delivery from the other reader, I went ahead and worked through the suggestions from my replying reader.

When I spoke with Dean Wesley Smith in May, I mentioned this project of mine. He helped me pin down the fact that I was indeed writing a romance, since the story focused on the romantic relationship between two characters. And he gave me a look with a tinge of horror in it when I mentioned having another reader go through before I published. He cautioned me not to let any suggestions change my voice.

That suggestion gave me some trepidation. I wasn't sure what form the edits from my readers would take. I hesitated for a few weeks after receiving the feedback to even read it.

But once I did, I was relieved. Mostly my reader caught typos and a few extraneous articles. There were a couple sentences that didn't make sense in context and a continuity issue with a specific object. I don't feel that any of the changes took away from my writing voice.

With the text complete, I created my ebook cover and submitted it for publishing last night. I will be creating a paper version (and sending a signed copy to my trusted reader). And I finally decided on a title. Running into Love is available now on Amazon.

Now to write the next one!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Burden of Proof

When my husband and I drive out to the woods, we do not go completely unprepared for the kinds of car contingencies that we may encounter. Even in our old car we had materials that once enabled us to rescue a truck that had gotten bogged down on a sandy beach. And, in our new car, we have an air compressor designed for cars. It's even powered by car lighter plug. It's for cars, and I'm well aware of that fact (though we have also used it for bike tires). 

On the way back from a training hike weekend on Sheep Creek, I reached the car before Ambrose did. Not an unusual occurrence. As I approached it, a truck pulled in and two women, one man and what seemed like ten dogs (though there may have only been two), piled out and prepared for a day hike. To include fishing, judging by the poles sticking out of the man's pack. 

The dogs kept running over to me, no doubt because I smelled... fascinating. Let's say fascinating, after that weekend's training. I ignored them, because if I petted them then I'd have to wash my hands due to allergies. And there weren't exactly convenient places to wash one's hands out there. 

I was getting ready to head down to the river to give myself a bit of a cold rinse before putting on clean clothes when another car pulled up to the truck, heading towards Boise. I could hear the conversation that the male passenger exchanged with the male from the truck. The car had a flat tire and wanted to know if they had a pump. Unfortunately, they did not. As the car made to drive off, I pointed and yelled. 

"Pull in!" 

They continued to drive off, so I waved and shouted again. "Hey, pull in, I've got a pump!"

The car stopped and the male stuck his head out, giving me a look I can only classify as dubious. 

"A car pump?" he asked. 

Alas, sarcastic wit fled my tongue and I simply pulled the compressor out of the trunk and held it up as proof. The car pulled in, and I got the compressor out and set and we proceeded to start the filling of the low tire. 

And it was really low. So low that the pressure gauge on the compressor hardly registered anything. They might have made it to Twin Springs (population 2), but then again, they might not have. While it was filling, the female driver thanked me multiple times and the male passenger groused a bit about how long it was taking. 

So when Ambrose showed up, I headed down to the river without waiting for the tire to finish filling. 

The encounter bugged me, though Ambrose didn't see anything odd about it. I can't help but wonder if the passenger would have asked Ambrose if he had a car pump, or would have just pulled in at his suggestion. 

I mean, if I was offering a pump, then that clearly implies that I overheard the conversation and knew what the heck he was looking for. Doesn't it? 

And yet, he almost went right on by me and my pump, because, for whatever reason, he judged that I had nothing to offer him until I shoved it in his face.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Taking a Swing at Fear

Of all the pieces that I read in Smith's Monthly #3, I learned the most from the one I expected the least from.

Though I played golf with my dad while I was in high school, I haven't had a good deal of interest in the sport for some time. Even when I was playing, I wasn't that focused on it. My fondest memory on the course was hitting the golf cart of my dad's buddy when he teased me about not being able to hit the ball very far. Satisfying, yes, sportsmanlike... not so much.

So I wasn't very much interested in the section of the magazine giving golf advice, "The First Tee Panic: And Other Very Real Golf Stories." However, I'm a compulsive reader. It takes a lot to make me stop reading a book or skip an article in a magazine. So I read it. The golf advice wasn't particularly interesting to me, but it was presented in an engaging manner.

And if I hadn't read it, then I never would have read the lines that are still turning around in my mind. "Fear is a part of the game of golf, as well as in life. Learn how to play with fear, and how to use it."

Fear is a tool.

The idea that there is nothing to fear but fear itself only diminishes and shames the feeling of fear. Rather than rejecting fear as a valid emotion, here Smith suggests accepting the fear and using it. After meeting him, I had thought to start trying to up my fiction game by actually writing again. But I found myself still in fear.

I was afraid to continue the story that I'd started back in February. For no reason I could explain, I just froze up when I thought of continuing to write it.

But after I read that line, that piece of advice about golf... I went ahead and finished it on Tuesday. I had fun with it. I let myself play with the idea and write the story without getting in my own way.

When a fire is raging in the woods, it is a danger. But when fire is a torch in your hand, it is a tool. A light. I took the fear in my hands and found a way to use it to illuminate my story.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Author Encounter: Dean Wesley Smith

I’ll admit I was a bit upset when I realized that my weekend plans were already set before I found out that an author whose blog I have been reading for nearly two years was coming to Boise. Boise, of all places! And there’s no way I would want to cancel the first excursion into the woods of the year. It had been too long since I basked in the greatness of the outdoors. But I had a hope that, just maybe, I’d get back into town in time on Saturday.

And, not because of any planning, but because of a fallen log blocking the road, my husband and I ended up staying at a different campsite than we had planned. And, in the end, we got home in plenty of time for me to shower, get changed and ride my bike downtown to Rediscovered Books.

I wasn’t sure where they would be holding the signing, because I’d never been to that particular bookstore before. And since it was part of the Saturday Market, for all I knew there was a booth where they’d stuck him, outside in the not-so-fine spring weather. So I took a peek inside the store, and there sat Dean Wesley Smith, easily recognizable thanks to the pictures on his blog.

I popped partway in, then out, and then, decisively in.

For The Last Unicorn Tour, there was a rather large crowd, and although I got the impression that Peter S. Beagle would have been happy to chat with each and every one of us for hours on end, his handlers kept the line moving briskly. The Distinguished Lecture with Salman Rushdie offered no chance to meet the author, and the one with Margaret Atwood I chose not to wait in the line for a chance.

But here, in this local bookstore, sat an author whose blog I much admired - nary a line nor handler to be seen. So I made brave to walk right up and speak.

“I feel like I’ve won a scavenger hunt! Since you didn’t mention this trip on your blog,” was my opening gambit. He seemed a bit surprised by it, but was open to conversing as he explained that he and his wife preferred not to advertise in advance online when they would both be absent from their house. Perfectly sensible, I agreed.

From there I managed to introduce myself as a reader of his blog, one who had not yet read his fiction but was looking to purchase something that day. He made a suggestion based off my expressed preference for science fiction and fantasy of Smith’s Monthly #3. I explained that I was too shy to comment on his blog, though I intended to do so after our conversation. He, in turn, made it clear that I was welcome to email him if I had a question and didn’t want to make a public comment.

We spoke of writing. I told him about my published backpacking books and he was very encouraging. I even got some advice as to the genre of my not yet published novel. I didn’t feel like it was romance because it isn’t like romance that I’ve read. Dean pointed out that if the center of the story is a relationship and the story ends on a happy/hopeful note, then it is a romance. So now I have a better idea of how to brand it on the cover and back copy.

I felt, for the most part, quite comfortable, and would have been happy to chat for hours, but I could see another person hovering and didn’t feel it was right to monopolize him. Even though I wanted to. Especially because the other person was wearing a name tag indicating he was participating in the Idaho Writer Rendezvous conference and would get a chance to attend sessions with Dean… grumble grumble.

I left happy though. I got my magazine signed and some writing encouragement that I really needed in the moment. Not to mention the magazine - itself a lesson in layout as well as story. If I ever get the chance to see Dean Wesley Smith again, I will definitely go for it.