November 29, 2007

Four More Years!

Ha, you thought this was some political rant, didn't you?

No, it's my personal chest-thumping post to say that two days ago I flew past 50,000 words in my quest for my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo achievement. I still have about 5,000 words to go to finish the manuscript, which will weigh in at about 60,000 when all is said and done. Since it's young adult genre, that's in the ballpark from what says about manuscript lengths.

Here is a brief history of my NaNoWriMo experience:

Before I Discovered NaNoWriMo:
I was among the legions of tortured souls who know that someday they will write a novel. My problem was that I'd get a terrific idea and then write the first two chapters and discover, to my horror, that my writing was mediocre, my plot trite and also full of plot holes, and my characters contrived and flat. So I'd abandon the effort and plan to start again when I had time.

NaNoWriMo 2004: "Jumping The Stream"
I sort of snuck into the deal, telling only my wife that I was trying it. She showed support in the way that a mother might show support for a five-year-old who says he is going to grow up to be president of the United States and drive a backhoe. "That's nice, dear." So I wrote the first two chapters, then the third and fourth. I thought my writing was mediocre, my plot trite and full of plot holes, and my characters contrived and flat. But I wrote on, ignoring the problems, committed to hitting 50,000 words in 30 days. And I made it. And I finished the full manuscript at about 65,000 words in late December. And I set it aside. And I read it a few months later. And I saw that it was not utter crap, that it was passable. And a friend read it and said it was not utter crap. But this was a lonely, solitary experience.

NaNoWriMo 2005: "Crossings"
I resurrected a plot I'd developed some years earlier for this one. I went into it full of confidence and vigor, knowing that if I could do it once, I could do it better the second time, and I'd have a literary masterpiece, a best-seller on my hands for sure. Turns out that although this one was not quite utter crap, it was little better than the first one. But I wrote it, it had some good moments in it, and I was proud of it. Sort of. I set it aside. This NaNo I started attending write-ins and joined the online forums a bit.

NaNoWriMo 2006: "Forced Air"
NaNo 2005 led to my connection with a great writing group, which led to a frenzy of short story activity for me. In 2006 I sold my first three short stories to small, literary magazines Thereby Hangs A Tale, THEMA, and The First Line. So when I went into NaNoWriMo in November, it was with the confidence of a home run hitter fresh off a BALCO treatment of "flaxseed oil." I had another literary novel brewing, and while I liked the characters and the premise, the middle was a bit lacking in clarity when I started. But I dove in anyway. After 20,000 words, my characters revolted because the story was so boring, and one of them killed another, and I was whisked away into a frenzied thriller. This schizophrenic novel was not literary enough to be a literary novel, yet it was not really a thriller either. I shelved it.

NaNoWriMo 2007: "Gold Miner's Daughter" (working title)
I really feel I have something this time. For two years I've wanted to try my hand at Young Adult, having enjoyed reading many books with my 11-year-old son. So finally I decided to have a go. The plot and characters came to me in mid summer, and by the end of October I had a workable plot. I've heard happy noises from those who've read excerpts so far, but these are people who have to like me. Like my wife and my friends. When my 11-year-old son reads it, I'll get my first brutally honest feedback. I've hit the 50,000 word level and have just a little to go before I'm done with the first draft.

I've learned a lot over the past few years. I learned I love writing more than I realized. I learned why so many people never finish their books (lots of reasons). I learned why most novelists don't publish until their 3rd or 4th manuscript. I learned how the publishing industry works, and how easy it is to fail. And I learned quickly how much I had to grow as a writer in order to get to where I am today, and how much farther there is to go before I reach my goals.

I'm proud to have written four novels and sold four short stories in the past few years. I'll be much more proud when I see this new manuscript on the shelf at Borders and Barnes & Noble. After learning why the first few manuscripts were not really salable, I believe I've got a shot with this one.

... the marching band refused to yield...

Because it NEVER gets old.


November 28, 2007

November 26, 2007

The X-Ray

Here's what the doctors had to work with. Sam is still complaining terribly of pain in his thumb and first two fingers, but there is no pain in the elbow or the arm. This would imply some problem with the median nerve, but all the tests we can perform show that the nerve itself is not necessarily damaged. His fingers work and wiggle and flex and extend, and the coloration is good and there's little swelling. And, certain positions in which he holds his arm seem not to cause the pain in his fingers. So I am guessing that something is pressing on that nerve somewhere. Even though we went in and had the cast loosened slightly, it hasn't improved and tylenol and motrin don't seem to help that much. I'm hoping when we visit the orthopedist on Tuesday (tomorrow) and they re-cast the arm that the pain will go away.

Poor little kid.

November 20, 2007

Cast on!

On vacation in oregom

November 17, 2007

he chose a green cast...

So here's the story to go with the two previous photo posts.

On Friday a little after noon, Sam fell from the monkey bars. He was swinging and lost his footing on the landing platform (about three feet off the ground) and fell backwards, landing right on his elbow. Thank goodness he didn't hit his head.

We took him to John Muir, one of the best trauma centers in the area, and they took one look at the x-ray and pawned him off on Children's Hospital in Oakland. By 4 p.m. we were checking into the E.R. at Children's. It wasn't until about 6:30 that we met the orthopedic intern, who told us we'd like not get it fixed that night, and Sam would have to stay overnight but that they could probably get him fixed by 8, maybe 9 a.m. This was to be our first lesson in timeframe expectation setting and hope dashing at the hospital.

All this time, Sam was given morphine. Now, the only two things I know about morphine are that they gave it to dying soldiers in World War II (at least in the movies), and that my father-in-law had it during his final days of cancer. Neither of these is a real confidence builder, so I tried to ignore the whole morphine thing. But anyway, poor Sam was drifting in and out, and his arm looked like that point in the train tracks where the switch has the track jogging a whole lane to the right. It wasn't a Theisman, but it definitely looked unnatural.

About 7:30, we were excited because they said they had a room for him upstairs in surgery admitting, and we could get out of the noisy, busy ER room we were in. What we didn't realize was that surgery admitting is a big barn of a room with the nurses' station in the middle and eight beds separated by curtains only. Each bed had room for approximately one Barbie-sized backpack and half a fold-out chair, so Maria and I had to share the chair, which was roughly fourteen inches wide. But at least it had solid arms on the sides so we could be nicely squished together like those pop-n-fresh cinnamon rolls in the commercials.

Sam managed to sleep OK even if we didn't. (All this time, Ethan was staying with his friend Chris.) He woke at 6:30, and so did I. At 8 a.m. we naively awaited the doctor. At 9 a.m. we saw the intern again, who had come to tell us he did not know when Sam would be fixed. At 10 a.m. we met the orthopedist who came to tell us that there was an appendectomy ahead of us and he didn't know when Sam would be fixed, but we'd likely be done "this morning." By noon we were counting the minutes and wondering where all the doctors had gone. At 1 p.m. I finally piped up and asked please please please could they call the doctor and find out any kind of time frame... Sam had not had a bite to eat in 15 hours (they said NO food after midnight), and he was beginning to come unglued from the slipping schedule and not being able to move for now 25 hours and Cal's horrible football game losing to Washington on the TV next to his bed. Oh, no, wait, that's why I was coming unglued. Sam was just ready to be done with the hospital by then.

Finally at 2 p.m. they started his procedure, and by 4:15 p.m. we were out of the hospital on our way home. By 7 p.m. he was eating normal dinner and watching Star Wars, and by 8:30 p.m. he was changing himself into pajamas for bed. 27 hours waiting for a 2 hour procedure. Tough on the little kid.

His procedure consisted of knocking him out with general anesthesia, then pushing the bones around until they were in the right place, then firing three pins into the bones. (They did not have to make any incisions.) The pins stick out and get integrated with the cast (Sam picked green). We go back in a week for a checkup, then he gets the cast off three weeks after that.

So that's that. It means he couldn't finish the tryouts for winter soccer today, and he'll miss the makeup games for the end-of-season tournament, and he couldn't go to his friend's rock-climbing birthday party today. On the plus side... well, we'll figure that out at some point.

November 15, 2007

Evanescence ROCKED

I'm glad I got my 3,200 words done early yesterday because we went all the way south to San Jose last night to see Evanescence in concert at the San Jose State arena. They rocked. Amy Lee is awesome. We saw them when they were in San Francisco, but this concert was better--I think the band seemed more into it, and the opening group (Sick Puppies) also rocked like crazy.

Some observations from the concert:
There was a surprise third group that opened before Sick Puppies, and although they were fun to listen to, they were surreal in a Spinal Tap way. I don't even know the name of the group, but I couldn't tell if they were taking their image seriously or not. The singer had a good voice, reminiscent of Depeche Mode, and technically and technologically they were good. But their image was just... weird. Part heavy metal, part new wave, part "too sexy for my shirt." It all added up to a Spinal Tap experience.

I was surprised to see quite a few young girls, like 9 years old, in the audience. The concert did not end until 11, and Sick Puppies in particular dropped the F-bomb numerous times. The kids looked like they were having a good time.

It's weird to have pretzels and hot dogs and popcorn at a rock concert like this.

There were tons of older, bald guys. So I fit right in. While the San Francisco show had a lot of teenagers in goth outfits and heavy black eye liner, this was a much more suburban looking crowd. There were a lot of women showing off big cleavage, though (mostly bouncing around above big, round bellies, not the type of stick-figure-with-fake-boobs you might see at a country rock concert). Some black lace gloves and taffeta tu-tus, the occasional bustier, but mostly the same type of crowd you might see on the street at lunchtime or going to a Warriors game.

Speaking of the Warriors, it's hard to believe someone might spend $60 a seat for one of those miserable games when they could have spent just $35 a seat for this totally awesome rock-out extravaganza.

The only problem with the whole night was that I didn't get to see Sam trying out for the winter select soccer league. It was his first-ever tryout for a team, and I really wanted to watch it. Won't know if he's selected until next week. I'm cautiously optimistic--he's younger and smaller than most of the other kids and only 50% make the team, but he's also very coachable and eager and actually a good little player.

November 11, 2007

rained out!

Of the fourteen people I talked to about our town closing their sports fields today because of the "rain" last night, exactly zero thought it was the right decision. This means that Day Two of our two-day soccer tournament for the under-nines is postponed three weeks. Meanwhile, when the kids' tournament was canceled I ran out to play in my over-thirties game on a field in a nearby town. That field was in the best shape it's been all year; the light rain softened it up, but not enough such that it was dangerous to ankles or such that cleats would destroy it.

And the day was G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S. Sunny, warm, brilliant. Perfect soccer weather for mid November.

On the plus side, I was able to get in two hours of writing today and managed over 3,200 words. This is a Good Thing because when I started the day I had just finished all the scenes from my first planning session and was a little unsure what came next. But it all came to me in the shower, and the words began to flow. Now I've got some more momentum and am approaching the next big plot point. Started slow, but I'm really beginning to like this book I'm writing.

November 7, 2007

has it been a week already?

Hard to believe it's already the 7th of November and I'm already 11,000 words into this year's NaNoWriMo, which I wasn't even sure I'd do because everything else was so busy. But I'm keeping pace and gaining momentum as my story grows out of the intro phase and gets into the meat of the plot.

Keeping word count up is tough, though. Last weekend I lost the entire weekend to a cub scout campout. Thirteen scouts and seven dads on a local mountain where the weather was simply perfect. We all expected to be in clouds at about 40 degrees when we woke up Sunday morning, but it was sixty degrees and clear, and we didn't even need to break out the sweatshirts. Unfortunately, the only camera I had was in my cell phone, so the photo of the campfire and sunset doesn't nearly do it justice.

This coming weekend I'm coaching three or four soccer games in the U9 boys tournament, and we have our end-of-season party as well. I expect to lose two days' worth of word count, so I'm trying to forge ahead of pace so I'm at least on track when next Monday rolls around.

So if I'm not blogging, you'll know where I am... hard at work on this year's NaNo effort, "Gold Miner's Daughter."