All Worked Up And No Beneficiary

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The problem with writing erotica, romance, or even a plain old love scene is that it gets you all worked up. Why is this a problem? It’s not, really, unless you have no one to gain the benefits of your creativity. You think the stereotyped gamer geek is frustrated? That’s nothing on the lonely romance writer. I’ve been both places. Trust me.

What’s the solution? Stop writing? Not really an option. Here’s what happens to writers who stop writing: they have to stomp so hard on all those ideas flying through their brain that the ideas end up in a box labeled “REPRESSED”. Those ideas then come back up in therapy as actual memories. (It could happen.)

Could another solution be to put those scenes behind doors? That might work for mainstream or even SFF. Certainly some genres are amenable to this kind of treatment. Doesn’t work so well with romance or erotica. The other problem with relying on this method, even in mainstream, is that sometimes those scenes provide a crucial piece of information about the characters or, heaven forbid, something that pushes the plot forward.

Other than the couple of obvious solutions, I don’t see what can be done about it. On the whole, though, it’s a dilemma I can work with. Psychotherapists have a wonderful word that applies: sublimation. In essence, it’s channeling the pressures of various emotions in a positive manner. What does this mean for the writer? Turn that frustration into better sex scenes, better fight scenes, better resolution scenes.

Word Counts: The Ultimate Procrastination Tool

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Setting a word count goal is a massively useful tool for chronic procrastinators. I set a word count goal and immediately accomplished several chores I’ve been putting off. There’s just something about having a concrete measure that encourages me to say “I can make it up after I (fill in the blank) .”

The writing program “Scrivener” has a couple of ways of tracking your word count. So if the session goal isn’t enough for you to finish your chores, you can go back and check your entire manuscript word count for that extra boost you need to clean the cat box.

Not only do you gain the benefit of having an extra-clean house, by setting a word count goal, you finally have proof that your inner negativity can point to to justify all your “I suck at the writing” urges. Why is this good? I’ll tell you. It allows you to later rebel against THE MAN by spending time creating bad writing.

Imagine! Just one tool can give you an extra-clean house, a way to satisfy those masochistic “I suck” urges, AND stick it to THE MAN. How cool is that?

All joking aside, though. Having a word count goal is an excellent way to concretely measure your productivity. It’s a great way to counter the “you can’t measure creativity” arguments. Aside from that, there’s always something satisfying about crossing a finish line. The Tour-de-France is not raced all at once, it’s a series of successive races. Writing a book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much the same. It’s not written all at one sitting; it is written in a series of sessions.

Even if you consistently fail to meet your word count goal, just having it means you have something to reach for. Just as with weight lifting, you keep trying, building strength in increasing weights until you can lift your goal consistently. Consistently is the key, not ease of doing it. Once you have consistent success, then you increase your word count goal per session.

I have my word count goal as 2,000 words per day. Lately, I’ve barely been able to get 1,000. But I know there are times when those 1,000 words are all that’s necessary to say what needs to be said.

(BTW: The word count for this blog, including this message is: 385)

Cat Wars: The Beast Pt. 2

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The Mighty Huntress sprawled in the center of her Home Territory. The enemy hadn’t come sniffing at the crack under the Great Barrier in a while. All was well with the world. If she was lucky, Two-Legged Alpha would bring a sample of the extra-tasty treats he occasionally found–or caught, she could never figure out which.

In the midst of this very pleasing contemplation, the Great Barrier opened–and stayed open! It wasn’t yet prowl time, and this development confused and worried her. She jumped to the top of Soft Plateau and asked for reassurance. Two-Legged Alpha rubbed his fore-paw over her, but the distracted feel to his touch failed to entirely comfort.

After only a couple of strokes, Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the floor, clearing out a lot of clear space. The Mighty Huntress was slightly reassured. He’d done this periodically. It wouldn’t take long, and peace was quickly restored. But not this time.

Two-Legged Alpha rummaged around on the Tiny Plain outside the Great Barrier. Taht was odd. The only times he’d done that, he’d awakend….

VROOOM!

The Beast was invading!

As the Beast crossed into her territory, the Mighty Huntress vanished and reappeared in the caves under Soft Plateau. Onward came the Beast! But Two-Legged Alpha was stalking it. He’d managed to grab it!

It was a mighty struggle. Back and forth they surged, covering the entire cleared space. Finally Two-Legged Alpha managed to rake it with a hind claw and the Beast went silent. Two-Legged Alpha dragged the corpse back onto the Tiny Plain.

A significant clearing of space had occurred, and not just in the center of the room. Two-Legged Alpha paused to look at the hard outcropping next to one end of Soft Plateau. To her shock, Two-Legged Alpha picked up the outcropping! He not only picked it up, he moved it to the other end of Soft Plateau and placed in line with Soft Plateau’s length. Then he left, leaving the Great Barrier open.

The Mighty Huntress followed him out the door, but stopped at the top of the stairs and watched him turn the corner at the bottom. Then she went back to her Home Territory to investigate the changes in landscape. She sniffed the hole where the outcropping used to be, but could discover nothing.

Moments later she heard something outside the opened Great Barrier. A quick look over her shoulder showed the Mighty Huntress that Two-Legged Alpha was struggling with another outcropping! She returned to the caves under Soft Plateau. Two-Legged Alpha placed the new outcropping where the previous one used to be.

This new one was bigger, sturdier. It had more space and two levels of caves: one on the floor, one just under the top. Though the second level smelled strongly of The Mastermind. It definitely belonged to Two-Legged Alpha first and The Mastermind second. The Mighty Huntress would have to make do with the floor level. Nothing new with that. She settled in to make it her own.

Top Search

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I just want to thank all of you who made “creepy stalker”, and variations thereof, register on my top search list. For some reason I find this extremely amusing. It’s good to know that some of my more bizarre and ironic posts (or at least the titles) are being enjoyed by so many. Though I halfway expected “cat wars” to be a little more popular.

Cat Wars: The Beast

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This past weekend, I decided it was time to clean and do some minor rearrangement of my room. Knowing how the cats of the house feel about each other, I made sure the Downstairs Faction was locked up before opening my door and propping it open. Why open my door at all? I thought I’d give the cats an opportunity to leave the area for a while. Though the rearrangements I’d planned were minor, any change has the potential to freak a cat. Especially when I bring in the vacuum cleaner.

The vacuum cleaner is a Noise-some Beast. The elder of my two cats, Teazer (the one I refer to as the Mastermind), rarely shows the body language of fear. She’s cautious and tends to avoid any confrontation, but rarely actually fearful, much less terrified. Her first encounter with a vacuum cleaner went something like this:

Noise-some Beast: VROOOM!
Mastermind: *vanish* *reappear under the couch* *watch wide-eyed*
Noise-some Beast: *searches the room while roaring* *approaches couch* VROOOM!
Mastermind: *slips out the back and perches on the backrest* *glares*
Noise-some Beast: *searches a little longer, then slinks quietly off to sleep*

And that was it. She quickly learned that the vaccuum cleaner was no real threat, especially if she waited out its periodic incursions perched on a desk or bookshelf. She’s even gone up and sniffed at it while it was “sleeping in its den”.

The younger of my cats, Rika (the one I call the Might Huntress), is another matter. Judging from her body language, she likes to think of herself as an alpha-cat. Since Teazer tends to avoid confrontations, Rika is rarely given reason to doubt her alpha-status. Unfortunately for her, she is very skittish and frightens easily. Definitely not the temperament of an alpha. Her first encounter with the vacuum cleaner went very differently.

Mighty Huntress: *lounges indolently in the middle of the floor*
Noise-some Beast: *enters the room and pauses at the edge* VROOOM!
Might Huntress: *jumps up and flees to hide under the bed with a now empty bladder*
Noise-some Beast: *stops moving but continues to roar as Two-Legged Alpha cleans*
Mighty Huntress: *watches the Noise-some Beast from under the bed, panting and slicked down fur*
Noise-some Beast: *starts moving again*
Mighty Huntress: *voids bowels and crams herself into the far corner under the bed*
Noise-some Beast: *gives up and leaves*

Rika has since learned that turning the floor into a litter box is not necessary, though she still insists on hiding under the bed instead of getting on top of something.

Cat Wars: Return of the Paw

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The Mighty Huntress awoke at the sound of snuffling at her territory border. She slinked towards the Barrier that defined the edge of her territory. Yes. A shadow moved on the other side, and a nose appeared at the base of the Barrier. A little closer to sniff. Ah! It was indeed her hated rival was on the other side. It had been a long time since her rival had dared attempt the lair of the Mighty Huntress.

A paw darted under the door, streaking toward the Mighty Huntress, claws extended. She leapt up and back, landing with back arched and her tail bushing to make herself look bigger. The Mighty Huntress took stock of the situation. That paw couldn’t extend far into the room. She watched it wave wildly about for a minute, then purred contentedly to herself. No. It couldn’t reach her. In fact….

The Mighty Huntress edged closer…closer. She hunkered just out of range. So her rival thought to intimidate her. Tucking paws under, the Mighty Huntress assumed the position called “Kitty Loaf”. The paw retracted to the other side of the Barrier. This wouldn’t do at all. She purred loudly. The paw reappeared and flailed wildly…futilely. The Mighty Huntress’ purr took on a distinct note of contentment. She rolled on her back and assumed the spine-twisting, but oddly comfortable, position called “Kitty Yoga”. Yes. Much better. Her rival’s flailing paw whacked the door and carpet in an uncontrollable rage before withdrawing. A moment later, she saw her rival’s shadow slinked off dejectedly, beaten by the Barrier and her taunting.

Pres-sing Difficulties

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We are in the final week of preparation for our end of season performance: long rehearsal on Wednesday, extra rehearsal Thursday, and a dress rehearsal on Saturday. We’re singing Bach’s Cantata No. 37. The Saturday rehearsal is with the orchestra. I’m way out of my depth.

My personal music background is primarily a couple decades of playing violin. And one semester of beginning voice. Fifteen years ago. I sang with the church choir for a year or so at that time. After a decade and a half, I rejoined the choir four months ago.

I still have a basic grasp of music theory (from a violinist’s point of view), and a rough of idea of the mechanics of musicality. Unfortunately, that’s about all that transfers. After twenty years of focusing entirely on treble clef, now I need to teach myself bass clef. Also, the layout of the music on the page is very different. As a violinist, the music is mostly laid out as a single part. You read it kind of like you read a page of text, left to right, top to bottom, one line after another. In other words, the only notes on the page are ones I play (with a couple of exceptions such as high-low split within a section). In vocal music, all four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and the accompaniment are on the page. It’s kind of like trying to read only the fourth line of every paragraph in quick succession.

Then comes the issue of sound production. Having been around various musicians all my life, I’ve heard lots about “breath support”. I even understood, in an academic way, what it meant. Convincing my body to do it is another matter. Doing it without letting the rest me tense up is also an interesting proposition. Why is breath support necessary? First, the obvious example, when was the last time you tried singing full voice for an hour and a half? Without breath support, I (at least) start losing my voice half an hour in. Another reason? Try singing at whisper levels without slipping into actually whispering AND with projection.

Then comes the intonation issues. I’m fairly good at determining in/out of tune at the register of the violin. I’m also decent at fixing it. Tuning not only a few octaves lower, but also adapting to a totally different sound characteristic is difficult at best. Now, after four months of tuning myself to a piano, we’re tuning to an organ and an orchestra.

After all the equipment differences, sound production, and intonation difficulties have been overcome. That should be it, right? AHAHAHAHAHA! Now comes pronunciation and enunciation. (Yes, there is a difference. Look it up.) I’m constantly amazed at how many ways there are to sing the sound ‘ah’. Oh, yes. Did I mention we’re singing this in German? Here’s the list of languages I’ve taken: Japanese, Russian, Kyrgyz, Latin. Here’s the list of languages I can usually sound out: French, Hebrew (with transliteration), Spanish. Oh look. No German.

Despite all these barriers, singing in a group is fun. The barriers make it challenging, make the effort worthwhile. Putting vocal music together is a challenging and multi-level puzzle, at the moment. Getting the mental components to line up with the physical components is a test of almost spiritual agility. When it work, the reward is nearly sublime. Even if I don’t particularly like the music being sung.

Putting this performance together has been frustrating, difficult, embarrassing, and a whole lot of fun. The icing on this rather bizarre cake? It turns out that my elementary school music teacher is one of the sopranos of the choir.

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