Weird Typos and Other Distractions

Dena Wesley Smith has a post up today about typos.  In this case, it’s what every blogger has probably experienced–someone zooming in to inform us that they caught us in a typo.

You have sinned!  You made a typo!

I don’t know what it is about typos, but they bring out the worst in people.  I suppose if you attach writer to that and suddenly we’re supposed to be perfect with the words.

Hmm.  Tell that to my fingers.  I am constantly making corrections because I am a lousy typist.  My fingers get tangled up and sometimes I have words that are mostly spelled correctly,  but have an extra letter in there.  Particularly as I’ve gotten older (to the point of reading glasses), it’s harder for me to tell if I have too many i’s and l’s, especially if the font is small or condensed.

But then sometimes extra words creep in, and where they’re not supposed to.  I wandered into an existing scene, did a quick spell check (three typos, not too bad), then read it.  Found this:

Hope passed added the flatware to the plate and passed up up, but left the glass behind

Clearly I was thinking it too many directions when I wrote that!

I like checking soon after I write because occasionally I run into one where I have to stop and think about what I was trying to say.  If it’s too long after, I have to strike the sentence entirely because I don’t remember.

Working on Multiple Projects

This week, I was part of an online INTP discussion, which was quite fascinating.  Filing was actually the major part of the discussion, and how hard it is just to put pieces of paper in files.  It’s like details, and I don’t have much tolerance for it.

But, also my natural state, I like hopping between projects.  Sometimes it’s a break, or a way to get a different perspective.  Sometimes I even get bored.  Doesn’t mean the story is getting boring, but that I need a break from it.

At the moment, I’m working on a science fiction novel, a mystery short story, and a fantasy short story.  Both the short stories are set in Morro Bay, California.  I’m thinking of wandering around between them, following the flow of what I want to work on.  I ended up getting hung up on the fantasy for a week because of a combination of getting stuck (let critical brain in and went in the wrong direction) and wanted to get it done.  The result is not as much done as I wanted to. I probably would have figured out the problem if I’d hopped to a different story.  Sometimes I need a little time to process where I need to go next.

Washington DC’s big party: The Inauguration

That’s only a few weeks away now.  We will be shut down close into downtown because all the streets will be closed.  Expect it to be cold.  We were 11 when I went out to my car yesterday.  Probably no better.  But that’s typical weather for this time of the year.  At least things will finally get back to whatever normal is after that.

Only six more weeks until Spring!

Snow, Power Outages, and Pantsing

We’ve had some very typical weather for Washington, though most of it is waaaaayyy early.  We don’t get frigid weather until January or February.

It was in single digits on Thursday.  Saturday started the day with freezing rain.  The ground was pretty slick.  Maryland had a 67 car accident on the freeway (no, that is not a typo!), and we had a 23 car one in Virginia.  People drive like it’s normal day, and we have major accidents.

Then the freezing rain turned to snow, and it warmed up a bit.  Was kind of nice on Sunday until 1:00 when a very cold wind blew in.  My power went out about 10 times between 1:00 and 5:00.  I want to write, and I have to get off so I don’t fry the computer!

I’m about 27K into the story, which translates as 10K.  Yes, I’ve written about 15K that is going bye-bye.  It takes me a while to write my way through the story. Some of my process is kind of like throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks.

My learning point on this is working on a B-story.  I thought it would be X when I started and even have a scene for it.  But as I wrote, a new character introduced herself into the story, and she’s very clearly the B-story.  So I’m thinking on some additional scenes early on for her.

But also as I got further into the story and events unfolded, some in quite unexpected ways, I realized that my opening chapter isn’t the right thing.  It served its purpose–get me started. But I had to learn more about what else was going to happen in the story so I could figure out how to open the story.

Being a pantser always means being open to change as the story evolves.

Military, Snowmen, and Washington, DC

After all the snow we had this last week, I ran across this fun photos from the DOD Website, courtesy of the Navy.

A Navy petty officer looks up at inflatable snowman.
151217-N-OI810-080 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Dec. 17, 2015) Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Godson Bagnabana, from Gadsden, Alabama, erects an inflatable snowman on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

You can find the original here:

Snowzilla, The Aftermath

But the snow was anything but fun for us living in the Washington, DC, area. We had about 22 inches of snow where I was at, and the Federal government shut down for two days (that turns the area into a ghost town).

One of the problems of this area is that it’s a car culture. Everyone assumes you will drive everywhere (this, in spite of encouraging everyone to take public transportation). I’ve been out to some of the developments where construction companies build monster houses. The houses are in a maze of cul-de-sacs. No sidewalks, and pretty much out in the middle of nowhere. As I kid, I could walk to the library, to the grocery, to the drugstore, to the park. Here, I might have to take a car.

The result is that the sidewalks didn’t seem to be much of a priority to get cleared, even when the children went back to school. Mind you, I’m not talking down to pavement, but cleared enough that they were safe to access.

But there seemed to be a disconnect with the cities saying they wanted everyone to not drive so they could clear the roads, and then not realizing that people might walk instead.

I was getting my oil changed on Saturday. This is a full week after Snowzilla. The roads are pretty good, though there are places where we lose lanes. While I waited, I walked to one of the local department stores half a mile away. The sidewalks were buried under huge mountains of snow. I was forced to walk out in the street with cars going 30-50 miles an hour past me. Some of the drivers keep an eye out for pedestrians, but a lot of others are like, “You’re in my way, and I’m not slowing down.”

The good news is that a lot of the snow will melt off during the next week when we’re in the 40s and 50s. The bad news? Flooding.

Yup. That’s Washington, DC.

The Groundhog Lied!

Hate. Snow.

I’m sick of the snow.

Of course I was sick of it when it first started. I don’t like snow.  There is nothing fun about being cold and wet.

I’m from Southern California. Winter is 80. We get hot dry Santa Anas.  Snow?  What is that?

Washington, DC gets snow, and because of the way the region is, it can be horredenously bad in one area and hardly anything in another. Of course, the snowfall is always, always during rush hour. Just to mess with us.

We’re now into March when it should be in the 50s and maybe the first buds showing up on the trees. Instead, we’re getting snow, freezing rain, and rain.

Spring please.


Writer of Contention: “We Are Outliners. You Will Be Assimilated.”

Virginia’s still in frigid-land today, though — it’s hard to believe I’m saying this — it’s warmer at 23 degrees.  That’s because we don’t have the extreme wind chills of the last few days.  Of course, tomorrow, it’s supposed to an icy mix, right when morning rush hour starts … Argh!

Off to the subject which starts as a prompt from The Daily Post: Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.

I actually don’t like taking sides, because the answer is often more in the middle.  If someone is pounding their fists and saying “This is so!” my first reaction is “What’s the other side say?”  I read a conservative newspaper and a liberal newspaper so I can get both ends of the news.

But in writing, I keep running into sides when it comes to the process of writing.  Now for readers, it doesn’t matter about the process that created the book, as long as it’s a good story (we won’t get into what makes a good story.  That’s a sticky area of opinion that’s hard to define).

Yet, it irks me to see blog posts called Plotters vs. Pantsers, Pros and Cons of Plotting and Pantsing, and “The Great Debate.”  Nearly all of these are framed in such a way that Pantsers (people who don’t use outlines when they write) just need to get with the program and haven’t figured it out yet.  Worse are the posts that are “I’m a reformed/recovering pantser” or “confessions of a pantser turned plotter.”  They just sound like pantsers are unsavory types lurking in the doorways of abandoned buildings at night.  What is there to confess?  What is there to recover from?

All of it ends up going to the suggestion — sometimes subtle and sometimes not — that people who don’t outline are doing it wrong.

I took a writing lecture from Dean Wesley Smith on “Writing into the Dark” (he doesn’t think much of the term pantser).  The thing that amazed me was that I had naturally gravitated to all but one of the things he suggests.  Then I moved away from them because the Writing Collective (like the Borg Collective) kept saying that they weren’t a good idea, for a variety of reasons.  I find it now another way to pressure pantsers into conforming by outlining.

Ys, I’m now doing all of those things I moved away from again, because they were essential to how I write.  When I didn’t do them, it made things worse.  No assimilation here.  I am me.  I do it the way that works for me.

And since I talked Star Trek, a quick video of Borg Squared:

Hot is my favorite time of the year

Until I was an adult, and in the army, I really didn’t know there was much in the way of seasons. In Los Angeles, it’s largely hot most of the year. Yeah, it gets cold, but their idea of cold and what Virginia was like this last year … well, that’s apples and oranges. It was a really, really big deal when it got cold enough to actually freeze the water pipes,which happened once.

This photo is very typical of how Southern California looks.  It was taken during the winter:

Rocky mountains covered by scrubby bushes against a blue sky backdrop
February in California


I didn’t even see snow until I was 25, and that was also while I was in the army. It gets cold enough in Los Angeles for snow maybe once every 25 years or so. Maybe.

My first year after I transferred to Washington, DC, we had a blizzard. I’d seen some snow in Washington State, but not a blizzard. I locked my keys in my car while I was trying to shovel snow off it. I got stuck multiple times in the snow (the army said, “Come to work in the snow.”). I had to wear Class B uniforms in the snow, and it wasn’t made to keep warm … exactly how is snow fun?

We had 56″ inches of snow one year, which was a record. People were leaving cars parked in the middle of the street because they got stuck. No one shoveled off the sidewalks, so pedestrians walked on the streets, competing with the cars.  Pedestrian paths on the sidewalks were human foot wide, so it was easy to fall and get snow onto my clothing, which now meant wet and cold. Then my heat went out during the coldest time and I was freezing! Exactly how is this fun?

So by the time I’m nearing the end of winter, I just want it to be warm again, so I can go around in tank tops and shorts and soak up the sun.

Mmmmm. Hot. Sun.

Up angle of palm tree against a blue sky backdrop.
Virginia Beach, VA in June


This was from a writing prompt at The Daily Post.

Kindness in Washington, DC is an infrequent thing

After being in Washington, DC for a number of years, the one thing that’s struck me is that city is conceited and arrogant. Maybe it’s that political climate, but every person seems to be in it for him, or her, self, and anyone else is only a means to get to the goal, or in the way. I see this every day:

  • People drive like they’re the only one who is important. They will drive up a line of cars waiting to get off the freeway and force their way in, or immediately speed up if you even look like you’re thinking of changing lanes.
  • Customer service is nearly non-existent in a lot of places, as if the stores just want to take your money and push you out the door.
  • The DC government focuses so much on making money from parking tickets that if makes me wonder if they even like business.

So it’s was a surprise to me when a stranger came up and not only helped me, but everyone else who was around.

We’d just had a big snow storm that dumped 8 inches on the city. The DC area is never very well-equipped to handle it, and any sign of snow is immediately followed by school closures, government closures, and maybe federal government closures.

Snowy covered street
This is what we usually look like after a snow storm

The sun came out and brightened up the day, making the snow pretty and sparkly, at least for a little while. The people came out with the sun, all bundled and trudging out to see how bad their cars were.

My looked like a snow covered mound, and I began clearing it off. It was still cold enough that my breath came out in little clouds.

Then this Indian guy bounces up and starts helping me clear the snow. I’d never seen him before. In a short time, we got the car cleared off, I thanked him, and then he bounced off to help the next person. I sat in my car, letting it warm up, and watched as he went around the parking lot and helped anyone who was cleaning the car.

He didn’t have to do that, and it was nice that he did.  It’s a shame that Washington, DC seems to be losing even basic kindness.

This is a prompt from The Daily Post.

Photos: Snow in Washington, DC

Snowy covered street
Snowy morning in the Washington, DC area. This was taken at 8 am, and it’s supposed to get worse.  It was about two inches at this time.


Again?  Seriously?


Photos: Snowy Mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah

Traveling back from California became a challenge. My first flight from Burbank to California was canceled, so I routed to Salt Lake City. This scene was so awesome there was a bunch of us at the windows taking pictures.

Airport runway with snowy mountains in background.
Salt Lake City snowy mountains from the airport terminal

One of the airport employees said that it was pretty cloudy out. Apparently you can see more mountains when it’s clear!

A view of Salt Lake City from the plane.
Salt Lake City from the plane.

The airlines are now letting us operate some electronic devices during take off, so I took this photo from the plane as we flew out of Salt Lake City.

I was lucky I got out when I did.  A friend flying out from Denver just two days later had three cancellations, finally got to another airport, and then that flight was canceled.  It was not a good weather time.

Seasonal Changing of the Military Uniform

In an area where the seasons change, the military uniforms change with the seasons.  But it’s not like the soldier looks out the window and decides to put on a field jacket today because it’s cold or rolls up her uniform sleeves because it’s warm out.  Every change in the uniform was directed, so everyone looks alike.

We wore Battle Dress Uniforms (BDU) for our regular work.  Every morning, we’d have a formation where the First Sergeant or Company Commander put out information.  When the post commander decided it was time to roll up our sleeves for summer, it would be sent down to all the commanders.  On the specified day, our first sergeant would tell us to roll up our sleeves.  Then we would all jump to getting them rolled up and helping anyone who was having trouble.  After that, we reported to work every day in sleeves rolled up until some point during the fall when the post commander decided we should roll down our sleeves again and the whole process repeated itself.

The same thing applied when we went to Desert Storm.  We had both the BDUs and the Desert Camouflage Uniforms (DCU), but because supplies were low from the mass build up, we were only able to get two DCUs.  So our first sergeant picked two days that we would wear the DCUs and the rest were BDUs.  The only exception was this one sergeant who was unable to get any DCUs.  He was very tall, and they didn’t have any in his size, so he just wore BDUs and stood out in green in formation!