Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Writing Excuses Podcast Homework



I love the Writing Excuses podcast.

For those who didn't listen to it, at the end of each episode, they give a sort of writing prompt/homework assignment for their listeners to do related to the topic of that particular episode. I don't usually do them. I have done some - like the ones where you ask friends to send you pictures of random items and then make a story out of them. I've posted those stories on this blog in fact:

Love Squash
Making Space

But usually, I just listen, and try to use what I've learned on whatever project I'm currently working on instead of starting something new for the writing exercise.

That is, until I got to season 10. Now, I'm fairly far behind. I think they are on season 12 at least now. In season 10 they are doing what they call a writing master class. So each episode (most anyway) will be a lesson and the lessons will build over the season. I'd like to participate with this season in the spirit it was created, that is - as a class. So that means I should actually do the assignments. However, I've learned there is a second reason I don't do the exercises. I forget what they are when I'm home with my writing materials.

I listen to podcasts and audiobooks when I'm out for my walks. I am not going to carry a notebook with me to do assignments while I am out for my walk. I think I will do it when I get home. Then I get home, walk through the door, and my family wants to talk to me, my cats want dinner, etc. and I don't remember that I was going to do a writing exercise. Or I walk on my lunch break and when I get back I have to, you know, go back to work. If I do remember it's when I'm getting ready to go for another walk and realize I can't listen to the next episode because I haven't done the homework from the last episode.

Tonight, however, I am getting caught up. I am doing the exercises from the first three episodes that I've already listened to. Writing Excuses has all the instructions up at their website, so I don't actually need to remember what to do -I can look it up.

If you are an aspiring writer, I can't recommend this podcast enough. There are so many other podcasts that discuss publishing, but this is about craft, and the advice is detailed and wonderful. Go listen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mirtazapine in Cats

Bob in his Gryffindor scarf. photo by Kara Hartz
Mirtazapine is a common appetite stimulant used for cats. Over the past couple weeks I've given Bob two doses, and he is eating great. Mirtazapine is used because it works really well. Cats who take it, eat. When you have a sick cat that refuses food for significant lengths of time, despite being offered many tempting options, cat people get frustrated and hopeless feeling. Something that gets the cats eating again is a godsend.

Another plus, for anyone who has tried to pill a cat is that it only needs to be given every 3 days. The hospital where I work now carries a new form of Mirtazapine that isn't a pill, but is a soft dissolving tab. So it dissolves quickly in the cat's mouth as opposed to them needing to swallow it. However, it needs to be given every day.

What is talked about less is a common side affect of Mirtazapine.  Even some of the doctors I work with didn't know about this. Most cats I know who have taken Mirtazapine has some degree of behavior changes. Agitation, restlessness, increased vocalizations and similar behaviors are what I've mostly seen or had reported to me. Knowing to expect, or at least not to be startled by these changes when they happen can keep cat people from worrying that something new has gone wrong with their beloved.

For Bob, the restless is the worst on the first day of his pill and decreases over time. I haven't tried the dissolving tabs with him, but since they don't last as long, I wonder if the side affects would be lessened too. I'd be interested to hear your experience if your cat has taken the daily form.

Bob's level of agitation was so bad yesterday that I started rethinking if I would continue using it with him, but today he is his usual happy self, ad I'm torn. The old dude really needs to eat. *sigh* The stressful life of the elderly kitty guardian.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Vixen and the Temporal Portal



The first time Vixen ran through the temporal gate, she'd been running from something large and noisy. She didn't know for sure what, but a young fox didn't wait around to find out if they had any sense at all. The charged air made her fir stand on end, and if she'd approached slowly enough to feel it ahead of time, she never would have gone through. The disturbing tingle wasn't the only shocking change. It had been deep after moon rise when she had been out hunting, but suddenly it was just after dawn. The forest also suddenly held twice as many trees. In fact, she had to swerve in her run to avoid a giant trunk that sprung up in front of her.

She stopped, looking frantically around. Everything was different, but familiar at the same time. Some of the trees smelled the same, but there were new kinds, with new smells. The nearby creek smelled much stronger. Despite the change from night to day, the air was cooler. She crouched, remembering she was fleeing from a threat, but now didn't hear anything but the wind. 

Moments passes, and after a time, she heard a rustling nearby, but this time it was the noise of something tiny. Despite the strangeness of the place she knew prey when she heard it. She stayed crouched and still, watching the direction the sound had come from and was rewarded a second later with a wood rat crawling out of a pile of dried leaves. She was on him in a blink and the creature never knew what hit him. 

Grasping the carcass in her teeth, she trotted toward home this time feeling the prickling along her skin ahead of time, but so hungry and anxious to get her meal back to her burrow that she pressed on despite the discomfort. She didn't remember the last time she'd had such a big, plump rat. Possibly she never had. 

She remembered that rat, and the tingling that came with it. It wasn't too much longer before she searched for that tingle again. Her mate had stopped bringing food to the den. She had tried to search for him, but had no luck. Her pregnancy was advancing, and she was hungry often. She was drawn to the place of abundant smells and fat rats. 

Over the next week she hunted there regularly. She would trot or dart through the gateway to minimize the discomfort with the transition. She lingered in the new lush land longer at each visit, until she began to tire and wanted to snuggle into her burrow back home. Then, completely by accident she found a nice cozy abandoned burrow. Not perfect, but a good fit, and it could be adjusted to be even better. It was near time for the kits to come, and living here would mean no more icky tingles. She'd caught a young rat this time, and took it into the new hole. She never went through the temporal gate again.

Unknown to Vixen, that decision marked the official extinction of red foxes in 2042, and their spontaneous reemergence in 2197 thanks to the Temporal Species and Habitat Restoration Program (TSAHR), and one of the Program's greatest successes. 

prompt - moon, skin, caught

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I Liked Him Better Chubby

Thin Bob. photo by Kara Hartz

He isn't eating enough. I'm starting him on appetite stimulants, but they make him act goofy. Why do cats have to get old?

Monday, September 11, 2017

3 Books (and a cat)

Meeko with my current reading material. photo by Kara Hartz
I'm overwhelmed with great reading material (again). I picked up The Healer's Legacy by Sharon Skinner at San Francisco Comic Con last weekend, and started reading it on the way home. The author presented a writing panel I attended, and I remembered seeing her last year as well, but I didn't have a chance then to go back to the dealer room to buy a book. So I made a point to do so this year. I'm enjoying it so far. The main character has a panther and tiny dragon friend. So - what more do you need?

Then at the library I spotted Seven Stones to Stand or Fall by Diana Gabaldon on the 'Lucky Day' shelf. The Lucky Day books are popular books that they don't let you renew, and you can't put a hold on them. I think there are other copies of the same books you can hold, but they save some just for the Lucky Day shelf- the idea being that when you come into the library and find a great book that you've been wanting, that makes your day, Lucky! Now, I HAVE been wanting to get this book because it is a collection of Outlander short fiction. I've already read most of the stories, but there are 3 or 4 of them that I had not yet tracked down in their original publications. So yea! Problem is, I'm already reading the above book, but I had to grab this one when I saw it, and can't renew. So I get to read extra. My Sunday is reading day!

Then, a great co-worker gave me The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. (When I went to get that link I noticed the ebook is on sale for $1.99 if you want to grab it - not sure how long the sale goes.) I've heard good things about it, so it's going next in line because she just told me her sister wants to read it too. I can't lollygag too much with getting it done and back to her.

Other books I'm looking forward to hopefully getting soon are the last in the Broken Earth Trilogy: The Stone Sky by N K Jemisin, The third book in the Tawny Man Trilogy: Fool's Fate by Robin Hobb, and Terminal Alliance by Jim Hines - it isn't out yet though so I get to wait for that one. (Ack! When I went to get THAT link I saw he has a Magic ex Libris short story available called Chupacabra's Song for only $0.99 that I then had to buy. Perhaps I shouldn't do these posts about what I'm reading if they are going to result in me finding even more things to read. . . oh who am I kidding. There is always room for more great stuff to read.)





Friday, September 8, 2017

Camping Under the Falling Star - Flash Fiction Friday



As Allie waded through the shin high grasses and prickly weeds her flashlight scanning back and forth, her feet sore, she thought more and more that her quest was foolish. She should come back in the daytime when she could see better. She knew she had to be close to the meteorite impact spot. She'd been lying in her sleeping bag, watching the stars when she saw the tell-tale streak through the sky, but bigger and brighter than any she'd seen before. It disappeared, and just seconds later, she'd felt the ground vibrate. She knew what had happened, and she felt she knew which direction the vibration had come from. Now she couldn't help but question how she thought she'd been so sure to head out in the dark of night.

To hell with it. She would go back to camp and come look again in the morning. She was in the middle of nowhere for Pete's sake. It wasn't like someone else was going to sneak in and snag it out from under her.
She turned and started wading back across the field. When she thought she should be getting close to the tree line that would mark the edge of the forest she was camped in she swung the beam of her flashlight up higher, looking further out. No trees. Apparently she had gone further afield then she realized at the time. She kept walking. 

Several minutes later she was still walking and still no trees in sight. Now she's wondering about her perception of the walk out. Her feet were sore. She stopped, turning slowly, shining her light to the end of the beam. The field looked Identical in every direction. By the time she had turned all the way around she wasn't even sure she was still pointed the same way she had started.

Her legs folded and she sat suddenly, tears overwhelming her. The tall grass brushed her face and stickers poked her ankles as they lodged in her socks, and made everything feel just that much more hopeless.
She knew when the sun came up she would be able to orient herself and get back to camp. There was no point in continuing to wander. Still, she let herself wallow and weep and feel hopeless. Maybe she could wear herself out emotionally and she could fall asleep here in the foxtails and weeds. The tears faded out, but her exhaustion manifested in staring off into the dim distance with a blank mind. There was no sleep.

She didn't know how long she sat there, it felt both an eternity and momentary. In time however, she noticed a change. Treetops began to show against a slightly lighter sky. She stood up. The tree line was off slightly to her right; she hadn't been so very off in the direction she'd been headed. Just far off enough. 

Bending to pick up her pack, she saw it. A black rock in a shallow depression a foot from her bag. She'd sat next to it all night long. She touched it tentatively. Quickly, pulling her hand away assuming it would be hot, but it wasn't. She picked it up. A fine soot coated the surface, and she smiled as it came off on her fingers.
Cradling the meteorite in her had, not even bothering to put it in her bag she walked back to camp with plans to nap and celebrate. 

Writing prompt: Rock, change, lost

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thinking of Houston

We moved to Cypress, a suburb of Houston when I was 12. We moved away, to Midland in west Texas, when I was 13, so we didn't live there all that long, but it had a big impact on me. I'll be honest and say that I didn't like it there very much, but in hindsight I think it had more to do with my being 12/13 and being moved away from my friends to a place with a different regional culture than I was used to at the same time I was starting middle school and having to adapt to THAT new culture as well. It was an ugly time personally for me, so perhaps it's time I stop blaming Texas for it all.

I remember some computer program we had back then that would let us track incoming hurricanes. No biggies ever hit near us while we lived there, so the hurricane tracking was more 'for fun'. Coming from tornado territory before our move to Houston when I was woken in the middle of the night by my parents and moved to sleep in the basement, the hurricane thing felt like more of a novelty at the time. It's been sad watching the storms get worse over time.

I was talking with my dad a couple days ago and we were wondering if our old house is flooded right now. He had tried to find it on maps or looked for reports of flooding specifically in Cypress, but didn't find much helpful. So we are assuming, from the reports of how widespread the flooding is, that it probably is. That got me remembering some of our neighbors back then, and wondering if they are still there, and how they are fairing.

For all I had personal issues when I lived in Texas there are some wonderful things there that I really loved. If, when Houston gets back on its feet - as it will, you have the chance to visit I'd recommend:

The Johnson Space Center. This was one of my very favorite things in Houston. In our short time living in Houston we visited more than once. Perhaps even three times? I don't remember for sure, but it is an amazing place. If you have any interest in Space exploration, or history at all, you'll love visiting. In case anyone doesn't know, The Johnson Space Center is the Houston in the famous Apollo 13 comment, "Houston, we have a problem".

The Astrodome. We got some sort of youth ticket package deal when my sister and I were kids in Houston, so we ended up going to a lot of Astros games. I liked baseball before this, but I loved it when we lived in Houston. I've tried since then to get that love of fandom back, but I can't recapture it. I'm back to just liking. That couple years of being an Astros fan is a fond memory I'll always carry.

Galveston. While not in Houston - obviously since it's Galveston - it's only a short day trip away, and I remember loving it there. I haven't looked for Galveston specific stories, but I would assume they are in as bad, if not worse shape than Houston is since they are directly on the Gulf Coast. We were visiting there once on Mardi Gras and we didn't know it. Until, as we walked all by ourselves on an otherwise empty beach, a parade appeared out of nowhere, came by us, covering us with plastic coins and mardi gras beads and disappeared again into the distance down the road. It was a weird, surreal moment that was so weird and surreal that as an adult now I can't help but wonder if I'm remembering it wrong. Later we went into town and full Mardi Gras celebrations were underway, and it was a blast.

So, here's my thoughts going out to Houston and the surrounding areas. If you can help the relief efforts, please do so - because you are going to want Houston to be there so you can visit it see all the cool things it has to offer.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Found Files

Last weekend we spent a day deep cleaning the house. I came across 2 memory sticks (thumb drives?). One holds backups of my novel - so I must have that backed up in multiple places because it wasn't the drive I am currently using to back it up. The other has drafts of old short stories and miscellaneous writings. One story in particular I thought I had lost when out external backup drive failed. It had held all the files from the desktop computer I had before this one. Most of my other stories were also on my laptop since that's what I use the most for writing, but I know I'm still missing a few stories.

This one in particular was still in progress, and I still really like the concept. The execution needed some work yet, but there were a few scenes that I remember being really proud of, that came off just like they were in my head. That's tough for me. My plan had been to start from scratch someday to rewrite that one, but now I don't have to. I just have to finish. I'm pretty excited to reread it and get back to it.

If only I was so greatly rewarded every time I cleaned, maybe my house wouldn't be such an embarrassment most of the time.

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