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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Science time

Vasovagal reaction: A reflex of the involuntary nervous system that causes the heart to slow down (bradycardia) and that, at the same time, affects the nerves to the blood vessels in the legs permitting those vessels to dilate (widen). As a result the heart puts out less blood, the blood pressure drops, and what blood is circulating tends to go into the legs rather than to the head. The brain is deprived of oxygen and the fainting episode occurs. The resultant fainting is synonymous with situational syncope (pronounced sin-ko-pea)...

I saw one of these reactions today - in my youngest son. It scared the h*ll out of me. We'd received a note from his school advising us that he needed his Measle/Mump/Rubella booster. (He's 16 - apparently you need to get them from time to get even after they're babies.) So today I'd taken him to the doctor to get that done, as well as our annual flu shots. The doctor did all the usual check ups - height (6'1"), weight (137 lbs - wow I'm jealous), everything appeared fine.

Time for the 'situation' that caused the syncope. The shot.

Now Curly is not afraid of needles - we've had flu shots every year since he was little, he had his HepB shots in grade 7 ... it's never bothered him, he's never had a reaction. He didn't appear nervous, shrugs off any questions regarding anxiety - even now.

The doctor gave him the shot, asked if that hurt ... "nope, not at all," answered Curly with a grin. Two minutes later he's pale, sweating and announcing he's not feeling well, that he's going to be sick. The doctor rushed over to him, told him to lie down but before he can move, Curly slumps in the chair.

Now, all those stories I've read that tell of eyes rolling up in the head when someone faints? Or eyelids fluttering closed? Nope, that didn't happen. What I did see was this blank dead stare - like the stereotypical 'light went off but nobody's home' cliche, and his eyes stayed open the whole time. It was eerie as heck. And as his mother, absolutely frightening.

The doctor tipped the chair over so Curly was lying down. And then Curly jerked like he was having a mini-seizure (This I've seen before when Curly went into convulsions when he was in grade 5 as a reaction to a medication, but I'm not sure if it was a true seizure today or just the blood getting back to the brain and the synapses firing up.)

Less than a minute later, that 'light' came back into his eyes like someone had flicked a switch. He stared up at me. And started giggling.

He says he doesn't remember that - I figure it was the lightheadedness that was doing it. We spent the next half hour with him lying down in an examination room, and the doctor giving him milk and cookies to bring his blood pressure back up. For scientific/writing purposes, a good blood pressure is 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). [the systolic rate (the higher number) is the force the heart uses to pump the blood through the arteries, the diastolic (lower number) is the resting rate.] Curly's systolic after he regained consciousness was less than 80 so the doctor wouldn't let him leave until his systolic reached 115.

How is he now? Just fine, though embarrassed. I've told him not to be, but try telling that to a 16 year old who's just found himself flat on the floor in a doctor's office. Yeah, I probably would be too.

But the awful part of it was that the whole time it was going on, a part of my brain was thinking "I've got to remember this so if I ever have to write about someone fainting ..."

Bad mom!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Finding Echo words

I have a nasty tendency to use the same words over and over again without realizing it. Once, when I was first starting to write and actually showed other people, a crit partner pointed out that I'd used the word 'then' 47 times in 5,000 words. Ouch! So now I carefully check that I don't use that word very often. But each new manuscript I find a new word creeping in there. This manuscript I've got three weed words - 'trailed', 'shoulder' and the granddaddy of 'em all -- 'against' coming in -- tada -- 24 times in one chapter! - 'He leaned against the wall, he pulled her against him, he drummed his fingers against his thigh ... well, you get the drift. *bangs head on desk*

If you wonder if you're repeating words or phrases there are several programs available for you to use to check your own writing.

Or you can use the Word Frequency Counter here.

You simply copy and paste your work into the text boxes and click submit. Notice that there's also a link for checking phrases - very helpful if you reuse the same phrases "narrowed her eyes" or "shook her head."

One word of warning - you can get hung up on the numbers. Don't get caught up concentrating on the trees and forget to see the forest. (yeah, I know, Margie Lawson would have me marking that as a 'cliche alert.' But I did 'sort of' change it up.)

If you know the words you tend to overuse, you can also use Word's Find or Find and Replace feature. Go to "Edit, Find" or if you like the keyboard shortcuts CTRL + F, and type in the word. Then click the 'Highlight all items in Main Document'. When you do a 'find' it'll come back with a count of the number of instances of that word that it found and will highlight them for you.



If you want a permanent reminder so you can go back and find them later, click on the Replace Feature.

Type in the word you wish to 'find' in the 'find what' box, then enter it again in the 'Replace With' box.

But you're not done, so don't hit replace yet!



Now, take a look at the picture of the replace box above. Do you have the bigger version of the dialogue box or a smaller one? If it's smaller, find a button that says 'More' and click it, so it'll look like mine.

If you're looking for a word like 'than' or 'press' you may want to click on 'Find Whole Words Only', otherwise you may find words like 'thanks' or 'express' being highlighted accidentally.

Down at the bottom are two buttons - Format and Special. Click on the Format button. You'll see a new pull down menu - font, paragraph, etc. Choose 'Font'.



In the middle of the Font dialogue box, you'll see 'Underline style' click on the little arrow on the right and pull it down to see what type of underline you want to highlight your word, to make it really stand out - especially if you underline to show italics, change the colour of the underline, that's the option to the right. Or if you don't want to underline, change the font colour (the option to the left). Whatever will make it stand out for you when you're editing later. Once you've made your selections, click OK. And then you can 'Replace' or 'Replace all'. And presto-chango, all those pesky repetitions will now show up and scream at you, reminding you to change them. Or not.

If something screws up, you can always hit the 'UNDO' button. Don't forget to clear your Find/Replace options when you're done. Simply hit the 'No Formatting' box and all those strange notes beneath the find or replace boxes will disappear.

Then the real challenge will begin ... editing!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

A vote for Gerard as Jamie Fraser



I love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander - her hero, Jamie is absolutely delicious. The ultimate manly man without being over the top alpha. And what could be more delicious than Gerard Butler as Jamie! (Thanks, Martie, for pointing this one out.)

And another ... not as nice music accompanying but great visuals. Which just makes me ask again ... Why on earth haven't they made a movie of Outlander yet?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

It's all a matter of perspective

My 22 year old son is a little peeved this morning.

He works night shift at a local business and most mornings I pick him up to give him a driving lesson. Occasionally, as I did this morning, I go into the store and buy supplies, especially since he can get me a ten percent discount. I don't think he'll be too quick to offer that to me any more.

You see while I was there, one of his co-workers asked him if I was his girlfriend.

Me. His Mom!

What's worse? Apparently, it's not the first time it's happened.

So he asked them how old they thought he was. Here's where I can see why he got a little cheesed off.

"Between thirty-two and thirty-seven!" two of them replied.

Ouch!

So while I'm feeling pretty darned smug this morning that I might still be able to pass for someone fifteen years younger than I am, he ... well, as I said, he's slightly grossed out. And more than a little disgruntled.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Opening my Bag of Tricks

No, not that type of trick! Sheesh! Get your mind out the gutter! I meant my Lazy-A$$-How-to-Do-This-Easier-in-Word Bag of Tricks.

A couple months ago, Gizmo Guy complained that whenever he opened his manuscript he found himself re-reading the entire thing so he could remember what had already happened. Naturally this used up a LOT of his writing time and was taking more with each addition. Now being a former instructor of the MS Office suite, I have a lot of little tricks up my sleeve (or in the aforementioned bag) - usually because I'm lazy and want to find the quickest, easiest way to save myself time/energy. So I revealed my magic button that lets you jump to specific chapters or scenes without having to endlessly scroll. And I recently shared it with my editing partner for Margie Lawson's course as she was having similar difficulties. In my discussions with her, I realized that a lot of people don't know it exists.

No, I'm not talking about Find. Or even GoTo. I'm talking about using Word's Document Map feature.

It's fairly simple to use, and makes it so much easier to organize your doc. (One word of warning - I've read that people using older versions of Word - older than 2002, the Doc Map isn't reliable. But for Word2003 it's REALLY easy to use and will save you a lot of time.)

If you've set up your chapter headings using the Headings styles, your doc may already be formatted for doc map. It's easiest to do it as you're going, although it's not that much more work on an existing doc. I regularly apply the Heading styles to lectures from courses so I can easily reference specific sections later. Go to each chapter heading and change the style of them to "Heading 1, 2, 3..." (This is done best by using the pull down menu in the Styles box although you can set up keyboard shortcuts, but that takes a tad more work and a LOT more explanation.) Even easier, I have added an "Apply Heading 3" button on my toolbar that I use for all my headings in my manuscripts.

Then if you look on your Word Standard Toolbar, you should see an icon that looks like a Page with a tiny magnifying glass on it. Click on it. (It's a toggle switch, so it'll turn it off when you don't to view it anymore.)
A sidebar will open up on the left side of your page and all those lovely chapter headings will appear. You can now click on any one of them and that page will be brought up on your screen like magic.

And you can layer them. Maybe you've taken a course on Historical Clothing, you can divide it up into Era. Elizabethan, Regency Era, etc.(Style Heading 2) There can then be subheadings of "Men's Clothing" and "Women's Clothing." (Style Heading 3) And they can be broken down into further groups - shirts, trousers, hats, undergarments, etc. In the screen shot I've got to the left here, the title "Clothing Through the Ages" is Heading 1, Elizabeth Era and Regency Era are both Heading 2 (see how they're indented a bit), and Men's and Women's Clothing titles are Heading 3, and the subgroups beneath them are Heading 5.

So if you are trying to dress - or better yet undress your Regency heroine - you can simply click on the 'undergarments' in the Women's Clothing section and you will find yourself right there, no scrolling involved.

In a regular manuscript, you may want to follow Gizmo Guy's lead and create markers within the chapters - Chapter One - "John gets phone call from Tom", "Leah goes to work", Chapter 2 may have "Leah goes jogging," "John meets with Tom", Chapter 3: "Leah gets kidnapped" "John gets the ransom message". YIkes, what's he planning? You however may want to leave notes like I do such as 'First sex scene' or 'First turning point' or that dreaded 'FIX THIS SECTION! note. Whatever important note you feel you may need to reference later.

Handy, eh? (Yeah, I'm Canadian, I really do use 'eh'.)

If you have a really long list, you can click on the little minus sign beside the title, and see only that one layer. If the sidebar's too wide, you can resize it by hovering over the vertical line until you see the arrows and drag it wider or narrower 'til you're happy.

And it's really easy to get rid of the headings if you're putting them in as temporary markers for your first draft. But that's a lesson for another day.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Yup, they really used to say that ...

Yesterday, Eve Silver spoke to the members of the TRW about writing dialogue. One of the things she mentioned was the danger of overusing dialogue tags like 'groaned, bit out, spat', etc. (When she demonstrated how hard it really is to 'groan' while you're speaking, it made sense. I'd never thought of it before.

While she was speaking, I remembered a term frequently used in books written in the 1800s, but in today's books it would have a whole different meaning. So I shouted it out, and apparently Amy couldn't get it out of her head for a while.

What was the tag?

'He ejaculated.'

I got the impression Amy thought I was making it up, so I did a quick search over on the Gutenberg site (an excellent resource for books that are no longer protected by copyright) and sent some examples to her and Wylie in an email.

I thought I'd share some of the examples with you here:

From Emma by Jane Austen:
"Ah!" said Mr. Woodhouse, shaking his head and fixing his eyes on her with tender concern.--The ejaculation in Emma's ear expressed, "Ah! there is no end of the sad consequences of your going to South End. It does not bear talking of."

From Sense and Sensibility (also by Austen)
Astonished and shocked at so unlover-like a speech, she was almost ready to cry out, "Lord! what shouldhinder it?"--but checking her desire, confined herself to this silent ejaculation.

From Mansfield Park .. yeah yeah, you've got the pattern now, don't you? (And my critique partners complain about me writing LONG sentences!)
She went, however, and they sauntered about together many an half-hour in Mrs. Grant's shrubbery, the weather being unusually mild for the time of year, and venturing sometimes even to sit down on one of the benches now comparatively unsheltered, remaining there perhaps till, in the midst of some tender ejaculation of Fanny's on the sweets of so protracted an autumn, they were forced, by the sudden swell of a cold gust shaking down the last few yellow leaves about them, to jump up and walk for warmth.

Charles Dicken's Bleak House:
Sir Leicester leans back in his chair, and breathlessly ejaculates, "Good heaven!"

and further down ...

Here Mr. Smallweed, seized with a fit of coughing in the midst of his triumph, breaks off to ejaculate, "Oh, dear me! Oh, Lord! I'm shaken all to pieces!"

...from Nicholas Nickleby!
In rejoinder to this sally, old Arthur again raised his hands, again chuckled, and again ejaculated 'What a man it is!' which done, he dragged the low chair a little nearer to Ralph's high stool...

Dickens work is riddled with the term ...from David Copperfield:
"It's a boy." A boy! Yah, the imbecility of the whole set of 'em!'

The heartiness of the ejaculation startled Mr. Dick exceedingly; and me, too, if I am to tell the truth.

and further on in David Copperfield...and probably my favourite:

'Oh, go-roo!' (it is really impossible to express how he twisted this ejaculation out of himself, as he peeped round the door-post at me, showing nothing but his craft old head); 'will you go for fourpence?'
That last one really gets me - what an image it brings to mind. And not a clean one at that!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Don't forget to Save ...

Something very odd is going on with my documents lately. It started off on the weekend. I was surrounded by family but neck-deep in homework with Margie's course. So I moved myself into the office and worked on my desktop. I saved my doc onto a flashdrive and when I got to the desktop pulled it up and started editing. I spent six hours plugging away, saving faithfully. Then thunderstorms started rolling into the area. So I click on the little disk icon and save it. Then close the doc up and go to 'My Documents' and copy the doc from my C: drive onto my flashdrive so I can take it to my laptop and keep working without having to rely upon the electrical grid. The little warning saying "a document named XXX already exists, do you wish to replace?" I confidently hit Y.

Big mistake. Huge! (yes, I'm channeling Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman there.)

I hadn't realized that I hadn't been saving to the C: drive all that time, that it was saving the new sections onto the flash drive that I'd pulled it up from. So when I copied the doc from the C: drive, I copied an old version and replaced the new work with old.

OUCH! All that work lost. I was nearly in tears. Ok, I'll admit it I WAS in tears.

A couple days later, something similar happens. I downloaded my ms from googledocs - my Editing Partner and I have been using that so we can easily comment on each other's works. And again work away. Now I use Mozilla. And it says in my Mozilla that any downloaded docs are saved to my 'My Download' folder.

That's not where it saved it.

I discovered - the hard way - that it saves it in the 'temp' file. The temp file that Mozilla clears whenever I exit it. Yup, another day's work gone.

Today ... well, I download the latest edit from Googledocs - and very carefully save it to the proper folder on my C: drive. And begin to edit it - stripped out comments and adding sections. (Yes, I have the backup feature turned on), and I saved it regularly. Yet somehow when I went to look for it later, all the changes had disappeared.

I have NO idea how this one happened. Now admittedly I was probably preoccupied, distracted - at one point I had about 3 IM's going - which is why I usually never turn on my IM during the day. And I was comparing my new doc with the original doc, and had several of Margie's lessons open for easy reference. But multiple programs/screens are nothing new to me, and usually don't challenge me. Back in my tech support days it was normal to have to have about 15-20 programs open in order to help the clients.

So what happened to all my work? I haven't a clue. But I find it annoyingly ironic that the teacher who used to stress so often to her students to SAVE THEIR WORK (back in the old days it was - don't forget to hit F7 every ten minutes!) has screwed up so many times this week.

So learn from my frustrations. Check the drive and the folder and the document name before you hit save. And make REALLY certain that you DO want to REPLACE the doc. Stay on the safe side - rename the doc. It's better to have an extra copy than none at all.

And all that is what Margie would call ... walking the dog!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Seriously Sleep Deprived

I've been working hard to keep up with Margie Lawson's Deep EDITS course - there's a LOT of material to be absorbed. Good stuff, but my brain is on meltdown after so many courses this year. My Editing Partner and I have been going over each other's first couple of chapters of our WIPS using GoogleDocs so we can share our comments easily - handy except you can't download comments. And if you try to upload from Word, it strips those comments out too. (A PITA, but what can you do?)

On Sunday I edited from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m. (while managing to cook a Thanskgiving dinner too). Monday, Tuesday, worked from about 9 to 6, and yesterday started at 8 a.m. Stayed up until 12:30 then crawled into bed. That's when my brain decided it wasn't bedtime after all. No, it came up with a new short story idea that it insisted on dictating to me. In detail. This happened a couple days before too and I thought I had some very good scenes/changes to make in my story for the next day but didn't write them down, figuring I'd never forget such excellent ideas. Except when I awoke my memory was a blank slate.

So last night - this morning - I ended up hauling myself out of my comfortable bed at 1:30 a.m. and trudged downstairs to start up my laptop again. Three hours and 2800 words later, I finally shut it down and went back to bed. Only to have the alarm clock go off at 6:30 because I had to take my car to the mechanics to get it ready for the Drive Clean inspection - hubby thinks there's a hole in my muffler :( Always happens right before you have to have that danged inspection!

But at least I have the story drafted out and some scenes already written - and considering it's got a limit of 15K I'm fairly well into it!

Nighty night!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Snowed under - metaphorically speaking, that is

Turkey's just about gone - thank the Lord for that. It's getting boring. Monday's oppressive humidity of 34 dropped to the much more reasonable 11 it is now. (Converting for my US friends ... 93 to 51F)

My forward writing on my Jewel story, and the Delving Deep sequel have stalled while I'm working on Margie Lawson's course. BUT the good news is I'm applying her lessons to Delving Deep and I think it's tightening it up and improving it in so many ways. Although earlier my brain went off on a very bizarre tangent while writing a simile. It was SOOO bad ... no, I can't share it yet as I was writing it as a suggestion for my Editing Partner ...

...and speaking of my editing partner, I've been blessed in pairing up - totally randomly but with serendipitous results - don't you love how that happens? - with Marley Delarose from Louisiana. We have totally clicked!

Oh, and I've signed up for NaNoWriMo ... let me know if you are too (Amy, I know you have) and we'll see if we can 'friend' each other whenever they get the site fixed.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!


This may turn into a 'You have to be over 18 to read this blog' blog. And if you aren't vegetarian, you may be after this ...

Tomorrow is officially the Canadian Thanksgiving. But because my eldest is working tomorrow night, I'm preparing the turkey and all the 'fixin's' today. The 'Mom' part of me came out and I asked my eldest to help me clean up the kitchen and prepare everything - figuring if he ever marries a vegetarian the way I did, he'd have to do this himself. (To which he replied, "No, we'll just come here.")

One of the most disgusting jobs involved in preparing the turkey is removing the neck and gizzards. I'd bought a frozen turkey on Thursday, it's been defrosting ever since. The gizzards were packed in a nice little bag in the back end - easy to get to, easy to remove. The neck? Well, the neck wasn't quite so easy. It had been stored deep in the 'belly of the beast' so to speak. And it decided it didn't want to leave its nest. So I wash my hands with the anti-bacterial soap, remove my wedding ring and 'delved deep'.

Here's where the over 18 warning comes in.

I grab the part of the neck that I can reach inside the chest cavity and pull it, though the far end stays attached. Got the picture? Think about it - my hand wrapped around a turkey neck that's protruding from an open orifice. My eldest makes the comment about ... well, yeah, basically what it resembled, how it looks like I'm giving someone a hand job.

Talk about crack me up - I was laughing so hard. And, yup. I could see the resemblance. As you may gather, ES and I have a fairly open relationship where we discuss everything, pretty much no holds barred. (One day I'll admit to a discussion we had on Friday about what I'd named my heroine's boat and why he was horrified.)

Anyway, I finally free the dang necked from the chest cavity and ... (if you're thinking of turning vegetarian, this might do it) hanging from the neck are several large feathers, and the wattle. Yup, they'd actually left the wattle attached. Sort of cool and gross all at the same time.

In the meantime, the turkey's cooking to a lovely golden brown and I have no compunction in enjoying cutting into it tonight and slathering it with gravy and stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Busier than a ...

(Finish the title by providing a twist on an old cliche in the comments section.)

It's been a busy week - laying a carpet in the basement then moving the kids' computer and playstation, gamecube, Xbox, etc down there, so I'm not bothered when they play Guitar Hero at all times of day and night; finishing up Mary Buckham's Power Pacing course; starting Margie Lawson's Deep EDITS course - which looks like it's going to take some major attention.

Margie's course is great, I'm learning a lot - sometimes it's not that she's teaching something new but providing a name for a technique I've used instinctually. Like Anaphora, and Anadiplosis. I've used 'em before, just didn't realize they had a name. And now I can justify my writing to any critiquers who object. Now I just have to master the rest of her rhetorical devices and figure out how and when and if to use them. Ha! There's one right there! (She's right about the 'New Toy Phenomenon.' I do see it creeping in ...)

And while trying to accomplish all this, I've been trying to write forward on a new short for EC's Jewel series. Got over 2,000 words today at least. Of course I'm behind on some of Margie's homework. Thank goodness she leaves a few days between assignments.

Strange thing is that I've discovered that for this story - a contemporary ... fantasy? paranormal? my voice has completely changed. It's totally different from my usual writing. But I'm loving it!