Ah Wonderbook! It seems that I am not even going to be able to wait until I’ve finished you before I talk about you.


My writing has been in transition for quite a while, and thanks to Taos Toolbox, Walter Jon Williams, Lou Anders, and Jerry Schechter, I have begun to be a plan ahead writer. What seems to be my pattern is that I write and plan, and then things sort of readjust themselves in my head into a new plan, sort of a hybrid approach. But I’ve been spending a lot of time in plot and structure, and I’ve appreciated the gifts of knowing where I want a story to end up.

What I’ve been missing lately is a sense of play. I picked up Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, Matt Cheney, and Jeremy Zerfoss, in October, and put it into my stack of to-reads, and kept putting it off. It is a gorgeous book full of the kinds of drawings that attract me to graphic novels like Courtney Crumrin or Hopeless, Maine. As I read, I found academic critiques of style coupled with fresh diagrams and suggestions. At the same time, the book emphasizes a mystical approach to fiction. That is to say, Wonderbook is not without its pragmatic, useful structural ideas. It does say that writing is hard work.

I’m so very tired of writing being hard work. I’m so very tired of talking to writers about how much work we do. So many writers seem to have lost track of the joy that brought them to writing in all of our discussions about why we don’t publish or have agents. Not all of us, no. But I am so glad that Wonderbook also says incredible things like, and I paraphrase, “Write for yourself first,” which is the most liberating thing a writer can do. And “Play. Let your subconscious stay open.” Wonderbook crew, just…thanks for that.


I have been working slowly but steadily on the novel that is now called A Lasting Storm for about a year. I am slogging my way through the middle, which sounds sort of tin to my writer ear right now. Yet, I have been showing up for at least an hour every day, and I’ve usually followed the slog with some Wonderbook, which I’m finding hard to put down. The engagement of me and my subconscious going to work every day did something last night, and when I got to sleep finally at 3:30 am, I had figured out how to tighten the plot and move things around. I realized I need to write Lucy character bits, and then I needed to go through, put notes in the draft, where I will change structure and when events occur, and I need to send Lucy to the Abyss almost immediately after the first act of the book (using My Story Can Beat Up Your Story terminology!). And I realized that I need to go back through and be much more precise with my language, to give it that Klarion feel that I love, and my readers in the past have loved.


It would be great if I could lay all this squarely at the feet of Wonderbook, but that would be a bit of a discredit to myself for showing up and working, and wading my way through the morass of the long dark teatime of the book. But what has helped, and what I credit Wonderbook with is reminding me of the origin of my writing, that I have stories to tell, fun to have, and adventures to experience, and reminding me yet again that this angst, this slow, agonizing finding the story is quite normal.

Oh yes. And to not worry about the publishing thing. But you know me. This year I will be zen writer! The nicest writer you reject! Still, the point is that my art is mine. I’m gonna write this in omniscient third with a bit of a zoom, 3 characters, plot moving forward, full of drama. Hey we all say that. But I think I’ve found my way back into the story, with Wonderbook‘s encouragement.

Like Schechter’s book which will always be open while I’m writing for frame, Wonderbook will become a book I go back to when I feel dry or discouraged about story. Its many articles and helpful words, opinions and playfulness may well help remind me what I want my writing to be.

So, a special shout out to Jeff Vandermeer, Matt Cheney, and Jeremy Zerfoss. Good job, lads. What about a sequel?

Scottish Independence Part 2

It is so cold outside that I am working from home today. We just returned from running the cars up and down the black top to make sure they could still do their thing. Success, but man! You don’t want to be out there. It looks deceptively sunny and pleasant, but that wind is killer.

My psychic abilities are in tact. I had predicted 2 hours late Friday and no school Monday for Bryon, and indeed, this has been the case. I predict 2 hours late tomorrow, although I need to be at Kirkwood at 9:30 for a meeting about planning interviews for next week. It’s cold, but tomorrow we’ll be seeing above zero temps, so that’ll be good, even if the high will be 1F.

The bad weather is playing havoc with the eyes, nose, ears complex. Like last year, I’m a little dizzy occasionally. Yes, I have meclazine. And the eyes get dry. Yes, I have drops. And I get sinus ache. Just bought a humidifier, and that helps. Poo. Moving to Florida can’t come soon enough. (And as soon as it can come is 2020. If I’m lucky.)


You might remember that I started an article on Scottish Independence. I had laid out some history and background, and pointed out the Scottish tendency toward nationalism. Today, I’d like to talk about some of the pros and cons I’m hearing about why the vote should be yes or no.

1. North Sea Oil. Many pro-independence Scottish will tell you that Scotland deserves all of the money made from North Sea oil. The idea is that the revenues from the oil would put about 500 pounds of extra money in the average Scottish pocket, and that the English and Welsh don’t deserve this clearly Scottish revenue. Unification Scots suggest that the price of oil is volatile and nothing can be guaranteed regarding this revenue.

2. Economics. Scots for independence are convinced that the average Scot would be better off without the additional tax burdens of Great Britain. Scots for continued unification don’t see the benefits here.

3. Scottish input into world politics. The arguments in this case seem to support the unification Scots. Britain could lose its seat on the UN council if the countries divide up. Scotland is a tiny country and would have less influence than it does even with the auspices of Britain.

4. How do you divide up the pie? Regardless of which way the country goes, certain issues regarding infrastructure, national debt, banks, and government agencies would have to be resolved. A debt free Scotland is not in the cards, given the amount of national debt Great Britain has.

5. Who gets to make the decision? These days it’s hard to define who’s a Scot and who’s not. My own family are from the South, and depending on the revolution, they could have been English or Scottish on a given day. I know my granddad’s roots are English and my grandmother’s are Irish, but their families were Scots longer than my mother’s family has been an American. There are guidelines for who can vote and who can’t, but the integration is solid.

6. Culture issues. When I was last in Scotland, I was proud to see a mobile unit for teaching children Scots Gaelic, the original language of my people. BUT very few people use Scots Gaelic in the world, so a return to it, which no one is advocating, would be difficult. However, the Scots have always been pretty free to preserve aspects of their culture. I wonder what would happen with an increased climate of nationalism.


The movement for Scottish independence currently has more support than it ever has, but polls seem to indicate that the majority of the country supports the idea of the United Kingdom. I think the farther north you go, the more likely anti-English sentiment grows, and that makes sense, given the history of the Highlands.

If I were to vote, I would vote no. I am proud of my Scottish roots, but I would worry about the economic impact and infrastructure of a newly independent Scotland. And my suspicious Scottish side wonders if this is a jettison maneuver from the English to help them economically. Color me paranoid, but it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve used my people’s resources to help them get along. (Let’s talk about chasing peasants off land so you could have more sheep for your estates, yes?).

For me, the issue is this: until Scotland has a sound infrastructure that is less reliant on a unified UK, I would suggest no. If Scotland is to be independent, let us move slowly and deliberately in a gradual fashion, getting her the support she best needs for her people. Perhaps this is already being done, but I worry that it has not yet been done sufficiently.

Scotland: Independence?

Man, it’s cold out there! That’s nothing compared to next Monday, when the high is supposed to be -13F, so I’ll just smile a lot, and bundle up. Talking to a friend in Australia, I guess they are breaking heat records. We are a planet of extremes.


I understand that Scotland will be voting for independence in 2014. September 18th to be exact. This issue interests me very much. Until my mother brought my grandfather over from Scotland in the mid-80s to take care of him in his old age, she remained a British citizen, and on my mother’s side, I am a first generation American.

It’s hard not to have ties to Scotland. The Scottish are a fiercely nationalistic people. They take pride in things that are Scottish or are perceived as Scottish. It’s an interesting pride. I mean, some would question the worth of haggis or bagpipes. I run the risk of being drummed out of the Scottish club by even doing so. For the record, I love bagpipes, and can eat haggis (and do once a year at Robbie Burns birthday) although I’m not wild about it.

The Scottish are a very wronged people. We started off as fierce, and Hadrian’s wall was built to keep us the hell out of the south part of the island. But the English have this problem. They have been historically an aggressive nation that likes to conquer and colonize, and what better place to start with than with your near neighbors, eh? So, when did Scotland become unified with Wales and England? In 1707. In 1745, Charles Edward Stuart, known more popularly as Bonnie Prince Charlie, led what many Scots consider the last real attempt at rebellion. Stuart wanted all of England with the assistance of the French. He was supported largely by the Scottish Jacobite movement, but not the English one. The Scots and Stuart were defeated soundly at Culloden. Stuart exited the political arena and lived in exile, but this is considered by some the last great Scottish attempt.

Scotland has been part of Great Britain for 307 years. Our Scots Gaelic has been traded for English. Our farmers and shepherds have been driven from their land for English estates. Our country has not been treated as a conquered people for quite some time, but we really are. When I was in Edinburgh in 2004, the tour guide at the castle joked that England joined Scotland after Queen Elizabeth gave the throne to James. But yes, it is, economically, the other way around.


I had written another part of this post comparing and contrasting reasons for and against, and unfortunately it was eaten. I will continue this post, and recapture that data soon, but I don’t have any more time to devote to it today. It is certainly a complex matter.

Last Night’s Dream

It’s only going to get colder, Catherine, so bundle up and don’t whine.


Last night I had an interesting dream. Most of my dreams are often stressy, but this one had that prophetic feel that my dreams occasionally have, like I’m trying to tell myself something in symbols. No, I’m not a mystic or a believer in dream interpretation. And yet, sometimes, there are these dreams where I feel like I’m choosing an awkward way to tell myself something.

A few years ago, for example, I dreamed I was a small dog, and I lived with my family of origin in a post-apocalyptic world. My mother sat on a rock and watched the grayness of the landscape and decided she would stay there. And as the dog, I worked very hard at getting her to follow me, but she would not. I think I understand that dream.


This one? Well, here we go. Last night, I dreamed that my friend Lisa was pregnant. Now, Lisa and Dan have no interest in having children, but in this dream, Lisa, whose father has died recently, told me that she wanted to have a child, that she saw the importance of love across generations now. I was accepting of this and supportive, and I thought that the best way to support Lisa would be to have my own child, but I was worried that since I was 48, that was an incredibly bad idea, and I wondered why no one was worried about Lisa having a baby at 45. This was a non-issue in the dream, at any rate.

I woke up, and the dream stays with me still today, rather than disappearing in the process of eating breakfast, cleaning up, and going to work. I find myself thinking that I know Lisa’s life has changed, and she has much going on, and she is involved in a transformation, and perhaps that is the significant part of the dream, and I want to help, but the way things are now, all I can do is wish for that, because the circumstances allow for nothing else at the moment.

Which means that my heart is in the right place, and I can see what’s going on. But why babies? And why now, a couple of months after Lisa’s dad is gone? It certainly is not a desire on my part to have children! I love children, but I’m good.

What I think is that sometimes your brain reminds you of what you feel is important, whether you can act on it or not.

Getting in Shape: End of Week 10

Here’s the holiday edition of Catherine loses weight and gets more wellness into her life. First of all, it doesn’t get more wellness than a week of going to bed at 10 pm and getting up at 8 am. That ends tomorrow, when the cold, cold brutality of 5:30 am comes back until about March, I’m afraid. But this week? Definitely recuperating from the day job.

Also, doing a lot of exercise, deep breathing and meditation.

It comes as no surprise to anyone that I have gained some weight over the holidays. The plain fact of the matter is that there was a lot of food to negotiate, and I didn’t work that hard at negotiating it. Remember that I don’t have an official Weight Watchers weigh in until next Tuesday, and I am hard at work negotiating food now. Also remember I expect the Wii will tell me I’ve gained anywhere from 1-2 pounds tomorrow morning at 5 am, because there will be a 3 hour difference in my wake up time so these numbers may not be as good as they look.

Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 12-31-13: 211
Total: 12.8 pounds

and I gained about 0.2 today, which I am happy with after the grilled cheese and chili extravaganza last night. Mind, I worked out like 2 hours yesterday, so there you go.

What’s going on here: About a pound of candy (gone now) and dessert, albeit a light dessert, you can’t have it four times in a week, and not see something. Also some pizza slices, some food from Southern Iowa that wasn’t good, but I ate anyway, some trips to favorite restaurants, and even some really good wine.

Importantly, I enjoyed all this food, except the fake ham dinner. 🙂 I knew what I was doing, I exercised some, and so forth. It just wasn’t enough to offset the excess, and there was too much excess in too short a time. In short, the usual Christmas and New Year’s Drill that we all experience.

As I sit here in my new size 14W pants (!) and I contemplate that I gained a whole 1.3 pounds over Christmas, I can deal.

Now, let’s talk numbers. I started the diet mid-October and lost about 12.5 pounds. That wasn’t full of too much deprivation, so I wonder if I can do similar in another 12 week period? My next goal is to head for “one” derland, or get below 200, and doing what I’m doing, I should be there around, let’s see, around April 1st.

At any rate, that’s what Christmas was like.