Monthly Archives: January 2007

Nobody Expects the Hungarian Inquisition

Thought I’d be writing a daring escape through the streets of Budapest running from the Hungarian Inquisition…and wound up writing the first kiss…and stopping right when they arrived in Budapest. Oh well. I’ll have the escape to write tomorrow…and the heroine’s reaction to the kiss…

Took me 9.5 pages to write all that, so…

Fixing to head into town. The streets look pretty melted, and they’re predicting upper 40s today (about 8.5 C) in Amarillo, so I should have no problems, as long as I don’t stay so long they freeze again before I get home. Okay. I’m gone!

I made the Front Page of the Paper!

Okay, it was only my name, not my picture, and it was for the sledding excursion the fella and I took last Sunday, (they just said we went sledding–I guess it was news ’cause we’re grown ups…) but we were in the paper…

The picture is of the jump on the hill to the west (the jump is to the west, not the hill–we were on the same hill) of where we were sledding. This is a big lo-o-oooong (as in wide, not tall) hill, so there was room for lots of people to sled. And we did NOT go over the jump (which you would know if you read my Snow Bunny post).

Anyway, I’m sitting here in my office with the two big windows, with the little space heater running and my new dry socks on, because I ventured forth into “Texas in the Snow Land” to go get mail from the post office, and it was slushy out there!

Fortunately, all the cars that passed me (and there were enough to constitute a rural Texas rush hour–meaning two cars sitting at an intersection, only one of which has a stop sign, and the one without the stop sign is waving for the other one to go through–honest! This happens to me all the time–anyway, there were lots of cars on the street) were kind and considerate enough not to splash me with the slush. Which I appreciated, since just walking splashed up plenty of slush. I got my socks wet, and my pants. Some of it was ’cause it was splashy, and some of it was ’cause it was deep! Over the tops of my tennies deep.

And the parking slots in front of the post office are just Pure-D Ice! The parking area is on the north side of the building, so (like my patio) the ice from the ice storm didn’t melt off before the snow from the snow storm hit. Only people have to go to the post office to pick up their mail, because if you live in town, they don’t bring the mail to you. You have to go to the post office. (This is why I only have a P.O. Box for my snail mail.) And all those cars parking there packed down all the snow on top of the ice, and turned it into ice, and the sun can’t get to it to melt anything, so I had a really slippery time getting up to the part they salted. But I got my newspaper and saw my name in the paper.

Okay, mini-rant here. There was a “guest column” in the paper from some numbnuts who lives in Utah whining about the snow removal on Interstate 40, about how the snow plows were pitiful and nobody salted the road and he slid off the highway three times, and when he got to the New Mexico state line, everything was perfect. He wanted to know if the snow was just too much for Texas. (Failing to observe, of course, that the snow storm that dumped all the snow in the Texas panhandle skirted New Mexico and didn’t dump much, if any, snow over there.) My answer:


This is TEXAS. We don’t have mountains here in the northern part of the state, like New Mexico does. We don’t get much snow. We do get some, which is why there actually snow plow blades to fit on the fronts of the pickups. Further south in Texas, you don’t even get that much. And I’m sorry, I’m not going to advocate spending that much tax money for something we might need maybe every third year. Last year, we didn’t get a lick of snow. That’s why we had a million acres burn last spring, because we got no snow, no moisture of any kind. (Duh!)

And most of the time, when it does snow, it’s usually 40 degrees (about 4.5 C) within a couple of days so everything melts off quickly. (It’s above 40 here today.) So all you whiners from Minnesota or Utah–shut up! Wait a coupla days, it’ll warm up, and you’ll be on your way. Cause we aren’t buying a bunch of stuff that’s not going to get used. Deal.

Okay, end of rant.

Wrote 9 pages so far today.

Spent too much time looking in my old historical atlas, but I did discover that I can’t send my hero and heroine to Bucharest when they run from the mountains. It’s way the heck and gone the wrong direction, and over on the Ottoman side of the mountains. So they’re going to Temesvar first, before they hit Budapest.

In 1863 (or 1864, depending on how old I decide my heroine is), the Carpathian mountains were part of the Grand Principality of Transylvania, which was in turn part of the Austrian Empire. I knew the bit about the empire, but didn’t know it had a fancy name…

Spent a lot of time working out new stuff about how the magic works before I got started, too, but that paid off. It all came out in the story.

I’ll shut up now.

The Writing Progresses

Not as much as I’d like for it to, but it progresses.

I wrote 9 pages yesterday, and 8 pages today. I’m going to try to get more written later in the day, but I do have a lot of other stuff to do.

I had to make notes today not to forget Crow’s presence. I don’t know why this crow is important, but I’m bound to figure it out sooner or later.

I also need to find out:

When did “bleeding” stop being an acceptable medical treatment?


When was Europe generally wired for telegraph? I know they had it in 1863 or 4, but how far did it penetrate into various areas?

Yeah, I know I’m cheating by posting my questions here, because I know one of you lovely people will find the answer for me. This way I can spend more time writing the story, right?

(Watching the Methodist preacher shovel out his driveway across the street, and spread salt…)

We may all be in Paris soon–but I think the Paris action will move to London in sections… We shall see…

Snow Bunny

Yesterday, it snowed. Today, the weather was sunshiney and butt-tingling cold, and the fella talked me into going out to go sledding.

The hill from the college gym down to the track is probably the best hill in town–there are other hills at the college, but most of them are either too shallow, or have a street with potential cars passing right smack at the bottom. (I could just see these crazy kids sliding down the hill and shooting all the way across the icy street right in front of cars…There were a couple with their water-ski tube standing out by that hill…)

Anyway, we loaded up the classic wooden toboggan and the purple plastic sled and drove out to the college. Two or three families were already there, but they were at the part of the hill where one of the crazy Carter kids had built a … ski jump–except since it was a sledding area, it was a sled jump, I guess. The junior high kids were aiming right at the jump. The littler ones were going around it…or sometimes their sleds would poop out before they reached it. We walked back toward the street to a semi-packed area that didn’t have too many footprints on it, and I was given the privilege of “first sled.”

So I climbed on the purple sled and took off (it was hard to keep the thing from sliding out from under me). And before I’d gone three feet, the silly thing spun around and I went the rest of the way down the hill backward, laughing like an idiot. Then I had to climb back up the hill. It’s not a real long hill, but I’m really out of shape. And I’m a Gigi (okay, I’m old). I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top. I rode both sleds down the hill a couple of times. We rode the sleds together. (I got snow on my backside because my backside is wider than the sled is. But if you repeat that, I’ll deny it.) I did the belly-flop ride down the hill…the plastic sled was less likely to turn around and go down backwards if you did it that way.

And of course, every time we got to the bottom, I had to get up off the ground, which, with my knees, is quite a production. Oh, and I had to wear a pair of the fella’s cowboy boots because I don’t own a pair of shoes that will keep the snow off my socks…so my feet were slopping around in the boots while I climbed the hill so many times. (Not that much. He has little feet, and I have big feet…probably if I’d put on 3 more pairs of socks, I wouldn’t have had a problem.)

Anyway, it was a lot of fun. It was really, really cold–so cold my whole face felt like “coming back from the dentist” on the way home–and I got really winded climbing up the hill so many times, and my knees got to burning a little. Maybe they’re getting stronger with all the working out. And us old folks put on quite a show for all the kiddies out there sledding. 😉

Oh, and thanks SO MUCH to all of you who sent answers to my questions. I didn’t really expect anybody to go out and hunt the answers on the internet, and I totally, completely appreciate you doing it. (Yes, Catie and Becky and Kathy, this means you!) All y’all (yes, that is an all-encompassing plural indicating everyone who reads this blog) are the bestest!!

Today was Sunday. I didn’t write anything. Didn’t take a nap either. Played games on the “backup computer” instead. (sigh) And watched The Dresden Files. :)

Things I have to look up.

So. It’s snowing like crazy outside, and has been pretty much all day. Snow’s probably halfway up my shins–or would be if I were crazy enough to go outside in it, which I’m not, so we’ll never know just how deep it is…until somebody tells me, I guess.

Anyway, I actually wrote a little bit this morning, which I don’t usualy do on Saturdays. But today I did. And I put so many things in the margins that I need to look up, that I started a separate “Things to Look up” page, so I can just go look them all up at once. I’ll have to go back in the MS and note down all the other stuff I need to look up from earlier in the week, but today, I have:

1. The number of bones in the human body?

2. When did Prince Albert die (you know, the guy Queen Victoria was married to)?

3. How long has banking been important in Geneva and/or Switzerland? When did they start the numbered account thing?

4. How long does it take to wash a henna rinse out of hair?

5. What is the Hungarian equivalent of “Mister”?


6. What was an important Romanian city in the early 1860s?

Anybody who knows the answers to these burning questions is encouraged to e-mail me the answers or post them as comments (preferably with documentation so I can make sure you’re right…not that I don’t trust you, but…you know the saying: In God we trust, all others Verify…? Well…)

I did get 6.5 pages today, which with the two pages I wrote last night, and didn’t count with yesterday’s pages, makes 8.5. At least I’m more or less consistent…

Hey, I got my books to judge in the RITA contest yesterday. I have things to read. Seems the delivery service couldn’t find my house, so the guy took it to the Sheriff’s office, and one of the deputies brought it by the house. I guess that’s what you do these days–if you can’t find some place, take it to the cops…


Getting Things (Scenes) in Order

Okay, first of all, I am a “beginning to end” writer. I know there are a fair number of people out there who write scenes in whatever order they come, and then put everything together at the end. And that’s a perfectly valid way to write a novel. My friend Robin D. Owens writes that way.

I can’t, because my scenes don’t come in “whatever” order. This happens first. And because that happened, then something else happens and the characters react this way–everything builds on what came before. However, sometimes I do realize while I’m writing away, that I should have written a scene that happened earlier. And most of the time, I will stop and go write that scene before I go on, because I can’t really go on until I know what’s going on in that scene.

In the Victorian steampunk book I’m currently working on, I realized somewhere in Chapter 5 that I really ought to write a new series of scenes about what’s happening in Paris while my hero and heroine are busy in Transylvania. So, twice, I had to pause in the middle of the action and go back and write a scene that I’d forgotten to write when I came to the proper place for it, and write about Paris.

Today (and I’m really proud of myself for it), I switched locales to Paris right when I needed to switch. Mostly it was because things were getting dicey with my hero, and I had no clue what would happen next. Or, I knew what needed to happen, but I wasn’t exactly sure how my heroine was going to pull it off. So, I went to Paris and wrote about that. It worked. I kept writing even though I didn’t know where I was going.

Of course, I still have to figure out what my heroine is going to do, but… hopefully, when I sit down and write, it will come.

8 pages today, so far.

Annoyance While Reading

I am freezing my ears off!! Because I believed the lying thermometer in the window off the back entrance that looks onto the patio when it said it was 40 degrees out. It may well be 40, but the stupid thermometer doesn’t have a clue about a little thing called “Windchill”, so when I went out in my windbreaker to walk to the post office, I FROZE!!

Okay, that wasn’t what I wanted to blog about. This has been bugging me ever since I finished the book last night, and will continue to bug me till I vent, and you are my vent-ees of choice.

So. As pretty much always, when I went to town yesterday I stopped at Barnes & Noble. And I bought a book off the remainder table. The story–a historical romance–was pretty good even though I skipped all the redundant love scenes, as I usually do with this author, but I paid less than paperback price for the hardback, so that didn’t bother me so much. What jerked me right out of the story was something I probably wouldn’t have even noticed a few years ago, but really caught my attention now. Basically, it was this:

Oil paints do not dry overnight!!!

A major part of the plot to this book was the painting of a portrait. A full-length painting in oils on canvas in what we would call a “photo-realistic” style. The kind of portrait artists did back before we had photographs, back before the Impressionists came into fashion. One in the style of the Old Masters. And it made me CRAZY. Because the artist decided the painting needed to be done in a hurry, so he was working like mad on it every day.

You cannot do that with oils.

Now, I’m not saying you can’t paint an entire painting in one sitting. You can. There’s even a special term for it: alla prima. Which is Art-ese for “all at once.” But see, if something has a special Italian name, you can bet it’s a special sort of technique, and it’s a technique that really didn’t come into its own until the latter half of the 1800s with the advent of the Impressionists, after this story was to have taken place. And it’s something that has to be carefully done, because it can very easily turn into muddy smears. The Old Masters mostly did not paint alla prima, unless they were painting frescos on walls–and that was done with egg tempera or other water-based paint (which dries quickly), not oils.

However, the Old Masters’ techniques in oil were based on layering paint, sometimes in transparent glazes where the colors beneath glow through and sometimes using the opacity of certain shades, like white. When one is painting wet into wet, it is almost impossible to get truly bright highlights and truly dark darks, because the paint blends with what’s already on the canvas (and often turns into dull, ugly, muddy colors when it does). I like painting in oil because of that ability to blend on the canvas, something that is impossible to do with acrylics because of their almost instant drying time. Oils stay wet for days which means that you can continue to blend the colors, almost as long as you want to. That can be a good thing. However, there usually comes a time when, if you do another thing to the paint, you’ll mess up what’s already there. You have to just stop and let the paint dry.

See, this is another benefit of painting in oil. Once it dries, you can paint over it and it won’t disturb what you’ve already put down. You can layer in highlights, punch up darks, intensify the brights, and it won’t mess anything up. (You can also paint over mistakes.) But if you don’t wait for the paint to dry, it will just make a big mess. And oil paint doesn’t dry overnight.

Depending on the paint used (white takes the longest to dry), the ambient temperature and the amount of humidity in the air, it can take five (5) to seven (7) days for an oil painting to become dry to the touch. This is why, in my weekly art classes, I usually have two or three paintings going at once, so that when I reach that “time to stop and let the paint dry” point with one painting, I can pull out another and work on it. By the next week, the next class, the paint will be dry enough to put on the next layer. And this is in warm, dry West Texas…

If you touch the paint before it’s dry, not only will you get paint all over you, you could smear the paint and ruin the painting. And it really ought to dry for the minimum of a month (in my warm, dry climate) before you frame it, because at only one week, the paint’s usually still tacky enough to stick to the frame when you nail it in. Artists won’t varnish paintings until they’ve been drying for a minimum of six months, preferably a year. Yes, it can take that long before an oil painting is really, truly dry.

Which is why it blew my mind when, in this book, not only did the artist have a “great unveiling” of this very important portrait the Very Next Day after it was completed–without ONCE saying “be careful of the paint, it’s still wet” (something I say frequently to my spouse and house cleaner when I bring a new painting home, especially if anything more than the highlights are wet)–but they apparently framed the sucker and transported it cross country on a carriage!

Now there are–and have been for the past two hundred years at least, maybe even since Carravagio–specialized shipping boxes for transporting still-wet paintings. But you’d think the author would have mentioned having to take special care with the wet paint, or have the characters worry about the villain smearing the paint and thus destroying the value of the portrait, or something!! But no! Nothing!! It wouldn’t have taken a lot of explaining, not much alteration to the story to give the painting time to dry here and there… Really, I’m pretty sure this is the primary reason portraits can take months to paint, because there’s so dadgum much Drying Time that has to be built into the process.

Just a sample of the silly little stuff that authors don’t realize can cut into a readers’ enjoyment of the story. Makes me worry about all the things I haven’t researched all that much that could mess somebody up. But really, for such an important part of the plot, don’t you think she could have at least interviewed somebody about painting in oils, instead of just reading a book about it? Books don’t have space to talk about drying time…

Oh, and I only got 7.5 pages written today. Couldn’t get to sleep last night till way, way, WAY too late. Slept late this a.m., then my mom called, so I got started late. But I still got halfway to my 15 page goal. I know. Excuses, excuses… Tomorrow is another day.

Heading to Town

It’s above freezing for the first time in a week or so, the ice is melting off the street, I think I can get out of the driveway, so I’m heading to town.

This means I’m stopping for the day at 9 pages. (14 total yesterday)

Wow. This means I’ve written 53 pages so far this week. No wonder my arm and shoulder hurt. (For some reason, the black ink pens don’t flow as smoothly as the blue ink pens (I alternate between black and blue from one day to the next, so I can track how much I write a little easier.) and I find myself gripping them harder–today was a black ink day)

Anyway, off to the “big city.”

The main streets are dry, so if I can get off my street, I’m home free, and it’s looking really good. So…

Writing Lots

So, I started this writing push yesterday. Before this week, I was satisfied with writing 30 pages in a week. Between yesterday and today, I’ve written 30 pages. (Okay, 28. But I’ll write 2 more after the Fella turns off Boston Legal in the other room…my office has no door…)

The writing is somehow also organizing the rest of my life. Okay, I haven’t called Frances yet to tell her I traded months with Elmonette for hosting the Art Club lunch, but today, I watered all my plants and moved the bougainvillea and the Christmas cactus back in front of the window. I baked those really, really ripe bananas into oatmeal cookies, and to be fair to the fella, baked him some of the World’s Easiest (and best) Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten free). I even got out of the house for a few minutes.

I had some things that needed to go out in the mail, and after I didn’t freeze when I took out the trash, I tested the ice on the driveway. It was pretty slick, and the street looked slick too, so I decided I’d be safer on foot than trying to drive. So I put on my big coat and my gloves and I walked to the post office. (It’s only 3 blocks.) If I walked on the grass, I had plenty of traction, so I slipped and slid across the streets, kept to the grass the rest of the time, and did just fine.

And now, I have written through the Ordinary World, the Call to Adventure, the Meeting with the (scary) Mentor, the Threshhold Guardian, and my heroine has answered the call and is off on her quest.

Anyway, 15 pages Monday, 13 pages (so far) today.

Getting the Year Underway

So. I’ve had my week to recover. Spent some time judging contests. Spent some time thinking about story plots and goals for the year. (Goals sounds so much more do-able than resolutions…)

And next week, I’m going to be doing Candy Havens’ Fast Draft. I have a couple of people on my “team” to help encourage each other in writing 20 pages a day. (Ack!) And I spent this a.m. thinking on paper about the plot for New Blood. That’s what I’m going to be writing. I am not sure how I’m going to tie all the elements together, but I did think of one way to bring part of it in.

I’ve never really tried to write that many pages in a day, and since my longhand pages (yes, I’m still going to work in pen and paper) average out to just over one page of standard ms. typed, I’m going to aim for 15 pages rather than 20. That should be a good equivalent. It is going to be a definite challenge. Which means I’m going to have to go to bed at a reasonable hour at night so I don’t fall asleep in the afternoon over my paper.

I’ll try to report back in on Sunday–I do take time off at least one day on the weekend–and let you know how it’s going, if not before.

Hmm. Art class starts this week too, but I’ll have to finish my pages before I can go to town to paint. I started a portrait of my youngest and got enough finished to give it to the spouse for Christmas, but I need to finish it, cover up the pencil marks from the drawing, that sort of thing. I need to take pictures of the new paintings, but it’s too cold to do it today.

It is COLD outside. And snowy. Not much snow, but the dusting of snow is layered over a thin sheet of ice, so it’s very slippery. And very, very cold. With the two windows in my office, it’s even colder here, so I’m going to stop and go have lunch and warm up my cold little pinky fingers. (And all the other fingers too.)

Wish me luck in the writing.