layla: grass at sunset (Default)

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and finally decided to make a post/braindump out of it.

As some of you know, in 2009 (wow, has it really been that long?) I quit my well-paying 9-to-5 job, first of all to go back to school, and subsequently to try to make a go at freelancing and novel-writing. (This part is still a work in progress.) I’m a fairly risk-averse person, have always been, and this was terrifying to me. Since I started working at the News-Miner in 1998, there had only been a period of a few months when I was unemployed, while I was changing jobs after moving to Illinois. This is mostly a case of “right place, right time” luck, as well as having a skill set, as a newspaper layout artist, that was, up to the mid-2000s, highly employable. (The fact that by the late 2000s this had stopped being true was one of the main factors in my decision to go back to college and finish my degree. A career that had seemed a guaranteed job ticket a decade earlier was now teetering on the brink of going the way of buggy whip manufacturers.)

I’d occasionally worked part-time while freelancing or working on my creative projects in my spare time, but not having a regular job at all was an order of magnitude more intimidating. I have a TON of respect for people who start their own businesses, all the more so for those who are single or the family’s major breadwinner, because I was in basically the best of all possible worlds as far as doing this (my spouse has a good-paying job with excellent job security and benefits) and it still felt like stepping off a cliff. Stepping off that cliff while being entirely responsible for keeping a roof over your head is something I have trouble contemplating.

Still, it’s been very interesting to suddenly, in my mid-30s, have a whole new world open up in front of me: the world of people who aren’t tied to a 9-to-5 work schedule. You wouldn’t think this would feel so life-changing for me, because I grew up in a household in which my parents were largely unemployed or self-employed throughout my entire childhood. As an adult, though, I had primarily been around other adults who were white-collar workers, like me. And I was married to one. It’s an oddly self-selecting thing, because when you work a 9 to 5, you mostly associate with other 9-to-5ers by pure happenstance. You’re just not in a position to meet people who are on a radically different schedule. I did, of course, have self-employed friends who were artists or old school buddies or whatnot, but I tended to see them on my schedule, rather than theirs. In a way, the difference between their lives and mine was largely invisible to me, because I was fixed to my schedule (free only on evenings and weekends; had to get to bed early to get up for work, etc).

And it’s a startling thing, now, to be exposed to a whole new demographic, a whole world of people who (for example) shop at the grocery store at 2 in the afternoon or 10 p.m. on a weeknight. And there are a lot of them! I don’t think I’d ever realized how many. There’s an interesting kind of tunnel vision you develop when you work a 9-to-5 job, where it feels like everyone else is doing the same thing (but only because that’s the people you largely associate with) and it seems as if having an employer and a 401K and a steady paycheck is the only path to adulthood. It’s not, of course, but once you’ve gotten into that lifestyle, it’s strangely difficult to think outside that box until you get out of it.

Crossposted to Wordpress, Livejournal and Dreamwidth. Comment wherever you like.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)

I’ve never been all that much of a holiday person, and I haven’t decorated the house for Christmas (or anything else, really) since we bought this place in 2004. But I’m in my mid-30s, without children, and I’m starting to kind of miss Christmas. I enjoyed last Christmas at my brother’s place — they have an 8-year-old, and my sister-in-law really gets into doing all of the things for all of the holidays. So this year, inspired by that experience, I’m going to make the house all pretty.

I went out this morning and bought some garlands and ornaments and things. The back half of our 11 acres is a spruce-infested swamp, so I figured I’d go back there today and cut a Christmas tree. I said something to Orion about this, asking if the chainsaw was working, and he said, “Just use the hedge clippers.”

My response was basically along the lines of “Hedge clippers? Pshaw, you can’t cut a Christmas tree with hedge clippers! Don’t be silly.”

However, faced with trying to get the chainsaw running at 30 below zero, I grabbed the hedge clippers and trekked back into the swamp, and damned if he isn’t right. I seriously underestimated the sheer puniness of the Alaskan swamp spruce. There is hardly a tree in the swamp that has a trunk any bigger around than my wrist, and most of the trees under 20 feet look like broomsticks with a few little clumps of branches sticking off here and there.

Undaunted, I picked my tree and clipped off the top five feet, which is presently defrosting in the garage. I figure that you can hide anything with sufficient quantities of ornaments.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

So, this afternoon, off and on, I’ve been hearing what sounds to me like a dog howling, somewhere in the neighborhood. But I can’t get a good fix on it, because I only ever heard it from inside the house, while I was doing something else. By the time I stopped to listen and open a window to see if I could hear it better, it had already stopped.

I kept trying to figure it out, because it’s really cold today (-20F or so) and I was worried that perhaps a neighbor dog had got caught in a trap or accidentally left outside or something. I couldn’t hear it well enough to tell for sure, though, and I wasn’t even 100% sure it was an animal, because sound carries a long way when it’s this cold, and I often mistake snowmobiles for animal sounds — their rising and falling pitch sounds animate, until I stop and listen and can tell for sure that it’s a snowmobile somewhere far off.

When I walked Lucky in the afternoon, I made a point of roaming around the edges of the property, hoping to hear the howling again (if it was howling) and get an idea of where it was coming from. At the edge of our driveway, I found the kind of tracks that I have, in the past, assumed are wolf tracks: enormous dog tracks (~5″ across) in a straight line, as wild canine tracks tend to be. In winters past, I’ve only ever found a single set, but this time I was pretty sure there were two different ones. But again, two of our neighbors have large dogs, and I wasn’t entirely sure it might not be them.

For some reason I didn’t put 2+2 together until I was out, again, with Lucky at dusk, and heard the howling again, and this time I heard it well enough to tell that it was two different howls responding to each other at different distances, catching and carrying on each other’s signal, as Huskies sometimes do. And then the penny dropped and I went “Oh!”

What I’ve been listening to all afternoon is wolf talk.

Of course, I could have done without having this epiphany at dusk, a quarter mile from the house. XD

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

Status of the me:

I’m going on vacation! \o/ … to visit my sister in Ithaca, New York, from Oct. 1-24. So I will be kind of intermittently available; I have no doubt I’ll still be online quite a bit, but I will probably be slow (slower than usual, I mean) responding to comments, emails and whatnot.

State of the books:

I have ordered proof copies of the Freebird book. I’m on track to have copies available the first week in November. Sadly, I’ve missed the deadlines for the local holiday bazaars (… fail, self, fail). But unless something horrible happens with CreateSpace, I should have it available in a few local stores and online by November. Sequential Tart interviewed me for their November issue; I will link to the interview when it’s up!

I’ve also been working on the Hunter’s Moon book, and have realized there is a lot less prepwork to do than I’d thought. I actually typeset it back in 2008 … so really, it’s just a lot of miscellaneous work to update those old pages and make sure they aren’t riddled with inaccuracies. I’ve done updates and corrections on a number of pages since then (fixing typos, changing titles …), and I need to find a bit more filler and proof all the text to make sure there are no references to parts of my website that no longer exist. I still don’t know for certain what I’m putting on the cover, either. But it’s not like I’m facing a blank 360-page document. I think I’m going to shoot for a February or March release date; that’ll let me get through the holidays and then focus on it in 2013.

Now if I could just figure out why I can’t seem to draw pages, despite knowing (at least in general) what I want to put on them. Is there such a thing as artist’s block?

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)

SO. TIRED. Autumn is really hitting us with a vengeance, but I finally have nearly everything battened down for winter. I got the garden harvested on Friday, and then we were hit with our first frost Friday night (a major, unforecasted, plant-killing frost, too! If I’d been one day later with the harvesting … I definitely feel like I dodged that bullet by a hair!). The greenhouse is all cleaned up and ready for spring, the chickenhouse is repaired, tools and things are tucked away, we have a load of coal coming next week … there are still a few things I haven’t done (my planters of pansies are still blooming, so I think I’ll wait to put them away until they die back), but all in all, I think we’re basically ready for winter. Which is good, since it’s starting to look like it might be an early one.

On the creative front, I want to start making more posts about writing. This would be easier, I guess, if I was actually selling things, so I could announce story sales rather than just rambling about the writing process. But … I feel like I’m getting closer? I have a novel that I plan to start submitting to agents this winter (it still needs one more rewrite), a handful of short stories that are currently being shopped around, and a novella that I just finished rewriting this week. Sadly, the comics have been suffering, because I’m still having a lot of trouble shifting back and forth between “comics mode” and “prose mode”. I do plan to work on that! And to post more in this blog, in general.

Originally published at Layla's Wordpress blog. You can comment here or there.

layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I keep meaning to write something in here, but really, it's just life, life and more life.

We had a wonderful time earlier this month visiting my husband's grandparents in Florida. His Grandma passed away a few days later; as much as it hurts to know that, I'm very glad that we were able to see her first.

We're starting to see tiny glimmerings of spring. There are patches of bare ground showing on the banks along the driveway. It's light 'til after 9 p.m. now ... a small taste of things to come. We had some depressingly chilly weather right after we got back from Florida -- nothing sucks the anticipation right out of spring like going from 70-degree weather to 0-degree weather. But Weather Underground claims it's supposed to get above freezing during the day for the upcoming week. Well, it has to warm up eventually.

I got my approval notice from the graduation office, so after seven more weeks of school, I'll have my long-deferred BA. I haven't decided yet if I want to take classes in the fall. Technically I'll have my degree, but I still get free tuition courtesy of Orion, and there are still a number of courses that look interesting. Maybe I'll just take one, to keep my hand in. As frustrated as I've occasionally gotten with some of the classes I've taken, I'm loving the feeling of learning new things and being exposed to new ideas. On the other hand, taking a year off to work on creative projects is awfully appealing ...

Speaking of creative matters, I think I might revise my creative targets to be more goal-oriented than word-count-oriented, because while yes, I've been pretty much keeping up with my word count goals (which is awesome!) I'm not really finishing anything. The word count/page count measure of progress works quite well to get from start to finish on a large project such as a novel, but otherwise, I think I might do better to focus more on finishing things (say, a short story a week) rather than trying to hit an arbitrary word count, which seems to result in me trying to make the target by writing bits and pieces all over the place. And I'm worried that it's becoming actively counterproductive when I'm working on short things -- well, okay, let's take this week: I've still got 3000 words (or so) to make my week's goals, so rather than picking up a short story that might just need a round of revisions and 500 words to finish, I'll try to find something, ANYTHING on which I can write 3000 words, even if I don't end up getting anywhere. That's not productive. It just means that I end up with dozens of half-finished projects that aren't ever going to be finished without hefty revisions ... revisions I'm not inclined to make because they don't count towards my word count goals. Yeaahhhhh.

So I guess my general plan from here to the end of the semester is to try to finish something short each week; then after the semester's over, I'll get a novel underway and go back to focusing on word counts. That sounds good.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I am now officially among the ranks of the unemployed. My last day at the News-Miner was July 24th; then I was traveling, and now I am back, taking stock and figuring out what the future holds for me.

It's a cool, brisk sunny day with a taste of fall (and a frost warning for tonight, zounds) -- a good day for making a cup of tea, taking stock and thinking about the upcoming semester and beyond!

*makes tea*
*returns with tea, and chocolate*

Planning )


Apr. 8th, 2009 07:54 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
So, in my continuing inability to keep my creative work on the same website/codebase/blogging platform for more than a couple of years at a time, I'm thinking about jumping ship from Livejournal to Dreamwidth (when it opens - April 30). Or, well, cross-posting and maintaining friendlists in both places, but having Dreamwidth be my main blogging platform for this blog.

Dreamwidth is a new LJ-style blogging platform that's opening up this summer. There have been a few others that cropped up over the last few years (Insanejournal, Journalfen, Greatestjournal, etc) but they've been either specific to a certain userbase (i.e. Journalfen was only for fandom) or hampered by varying levels of fail.

I guess it remains to be seen if Dreamwidth will suffer from fail too. I guess the thing is, I've interacted with one-half of their main development team around fannish circles for a few years now, and she seems to be a smart and dedicated person who has a good business head and is willing to put her money where her mouth is when it comes to free speech and protecting the interests of their userbase. Both of DW's main developers used to work on LJ's development team, and set out with a goal of fixing LJ's buggy and bloated code and lousy customer service. Their stated goal with DW is to build a sustainable blogging site that's user-friendly in as many different ways as possible: easy to use, doesn't allow its growth to outstrip its bandwidth/support, allows its users maximum freedom of expression, and so forth. And I've been watching

Some links:

- Dreamwidth's wiki-style FAQ

- Dreamwidth's changes from LJ along with a brief account of its founding

- Dreamwidth's diversity statement

- Features available on Dreamwidth's different account levels

- A listing of posts by LJ users talking about why they're switching to Dreamwidth

So ... why am I considering moving? Cut for nattering )

So, Dreamwidth's accounts go on sale April 30th. At this point, you need to either buy at least 1 month of a paid account ($3/month) or get an invite code from an existing user in order to get in. I'm still dithering about it, as I do, but right now I'm definitely leaning in the direction of buying myself a Dreamwidth account for a month and checking it out.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
1. It's cold again. Woe.

2. We have a sick chicken. I'm not sure what's wrong with her, though looking up chicken diseases online, there are several dozen different things it could be and they all have the same basic symptom ("Chicken looks unhappy"). I was honestly expecting to wake up and find that she'd died in the night, because she was looking terrible when I brought her in last night -- hunched and fluffed up, labored breathing, eyes shut, unresponsive. But this morning, she was looking around in the cardboard box where I stashed her in the garage, and I think she'd had some water to drink. Maybe she was just hypothermic or dehydrated or something. Here's hoping she's perkier yet when I go home tonight. (Now I'm wondering, seriously: do you have to harden chickens off like houseplants? Can you just take an animal that's been living inside and put it back outside again?)

3. Last week I made my writing goals. Go me! This week is not looking great. The current KCL story wraps up on Feb. 11 and I'm still dithering about which one to do next.

4. Car failed. Car is now fixed. 'nuff said.

5. I really want to do a decent roundup of posts in the Cultural Appropriation/Racism in Sci-Fi/Pro Writer Blogfail, because there's a lot being discussed that's very pertinent to writers of speculative fiction (of any color) and to us as SFF fans and as human beings, but I'm not even sure where to begin. Seeking-Avalon has a timeline of the basic bones of the main argument, and [ profile] rydra_wong has been keeping an extensive series of link roundups. A few links that I've read lately that had particular resonance for me (your mileage may, of course, vary): [ profile] kate_nepveu writes an open letter to white people in SFF fandom; [ profile] coffeeandink presents How Not to Engage in Discussions of Cultural Appropriation (a deconstruction of this post) with interesting discussion following in comments; and [ profile] nojojojo points out that we worry about it too ("we" meaning writers of color; "it" being cultural/ethnic sensitivity and [mis]representation).

6. I found this post, on breaking a novel down into three "acts", potentially useful as one way of managing a large project. I may try this on the next big project I tackle (possibly the next Kismet book, since so much of it is still unformed). And a link from Elizabeth Bear's blog (which, granted, I feel a bit guilty about linking to, but she does have good writing stuff on there, and yes, I still have her on my reading list): PTSD is not sexy, and survival of violence is not merely an interesting character flaw.

And now, back into my hole to wait for spring.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
This is the first time he's ever toured in Alaska, and it was FUN! Really, really fun. The Carlson Center, sadly, has the acoustics of a hockey rink -- unsurprising, since that's what it is most of the time -- but it was still a very good show; I loved not just getting to see him perform in person, but the different arrangements of the songs for solo piano without a backup band. And he looked like he was having fun, too.

Any fellow Fairbanks people who were there, if you happened to notice a 6-foot neon "ELTON" sign made of glo-sticks towards the back of the floor seating area (it was sort of hard to miss) -- that was a co-worker of mine waving it around. :D
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
There's snow on the ground, and it was almost dark already at seven freakin' p.m. when I took the dogs for a walk. Not far off are the days of getting up in the dark, driving to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. Which is why I need a list like this, to remind me not to pack up and leave.

10 things I like about winter in Fairbanks )
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I am not really sure why people think cats are intelligent, though it's possible that we just have an unusually retarded cat. I don't blame him for not being able to figure out things that he doesn't have the hardware for, such as social learning -- cats just can't *do* other critters' motivation; they're not pack animals.

I do blame him for having the reasoning ability of a two-by-four, however.

Today, for example, I took the dogs for a short walk down the driveway. The cat was prowling around in the swamp beside the driveway, heard us and came to join us. (He likes to go for walks.) Unfortunately the direct line from him to us happened to encounter a puddle, where he crouched down and made sad "help me!" cat sounds.

Me: Go around, stupid.

Cat: *niiaaaauuuuu* (translation: "Moat! Help!")

Lucky eventually noticed the cat and came running to say hi, immediately encountered the puddle, turned and (duh!) went around it, said hi to the cat (who was unimpressed), ran back around the puddle to me, and then went through it a few times for good measure.

Me: See? Even the dog can figure it out! GO AROUND.

Cat: *niiiaaaauuuu* (translation: "There's still a moat! And now there's a DOG in it!")

Me: *sigh*

I went back up the driveway to a point where the puddle was no longer in the way and called him. He made a catline for me, and rubbed all over my ankles in joy: "I saw you, but I couldn't reach you! There was a MOAT! And a DOG!"

Me: How do you SURVIVE?
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
There have been many "my typical day as a writer" posts by various writers.


It also sounds disturbingly like *my* day as a writer/cartoonist. Husband: Do not read this. You will insist that I go back to *real* work immediately.
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
Still trying to name my graphic design/comics/publishing business. Right now, I'm dithering between Icefall Press (or Icefall Graphics, Icefall Comics, however I need to adapt it for whatever application I'm using it for at the time ...) and Fireweed Studios. The big problem with Fireweed is that it's one of those regionally over-used business names -- between Alaska and the north of Canada, there's basically every kind of business you can think of that uses Fireweed in the name.

Whatever I come up with, I want it to be Alaska-themed, to have some kind of personal meaning for me, and to sound good to other people as well. (That was the problem with Susitna Mythographics -- I loved it, but people didn't get it.) Fireweed is perhaps my very favorite northern flower, and its blooming season also coincides with my birthday. It always went really well with the other, more traditional July birth month things -- ruby (birthstone) and rose (official flower).

Icefall ... that's a little more obscure, but I've been thinking on my walks with the dogs that one of the things I most love about this particular piece of land on which we live, is the massive overflow in the First Chance Creek ravine. It's unique and cool and I love going out there every day to see how the ice has changed. "Overflow" just sounds silly, but "icefall" (according to Wikipedia, the fast-changing part of a glacier) seems like a perfect metaphor for what it's doing in that ravine. It also has kind of a cool fantasy sound to it.

... Damn it, I just dropped a piece of chocolate into my keyboard. (Yes, I'm eating Cadbury eggs again.)
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
It's WARM. Well, 35 degrees, which is warm by the standards of the last month. *stretches luxuriously* Of course, we're almost out of coal and now the line from the house to the septic tank appears to have frozen up. *sigh* Helloooo, outhouse.

Speaking of signs of spring, whatever happened to chocolate-filled Cadbury eggs? I can't find them anywhere! I should've bought a few years' supply last Easter ...

You know, if Cadbury truly wanted to own my soul (and my waistline), they'd make dark chocolate eggs. I bought a few of the Russel Stover dark chocolate/raspberry-whip eggs, which sound kind of awful (fake raspberry filling, yum!), but they're divine.

One of the advantages to being a non-religious person is that every holiday is defined by what kinds of chocolate you can buy ...

I cleaned the fridge today. My informal spring resolution is to clean something every day -- doesn't matter what, doesn't have to be a big something, as long as I do something to clean and prettify the house.

We're a two-dog household again; I took Sparkus to the vet on Wednesday after he'd gone off his feed and was acting ill (I mean, more ill than usual) and the diagnosis was system-wide cancer. The lumps that he's had on his leg and chest ever since I've had him are tumors, and the vet thought that it was in his abdomen and spleen and heart as well. He wasn't going to get better, he'd only get worse, and as droopy as he was, there wouldn't be a whole lot of worse that he could get before his life wasn't worth living anymore. So I petted and held the poor little guy while they put him down.

The place is a lot quieter with only two of them.

I found myself looking at the FNSB animal shelter's website yesterday, browsing for kittens or puppies. DANGER WILL ROBINSON! Actually, while I think we might be able to accommodate another cat, three dogs is really too many. Two is just right; they keep each other company, but there aren't so many of them that it's difficult to give them individual attention, which was kind of a problem with Sparkus around.
layla: (FEMA)
... has eaten my brain. This is SO COOL. I finally broke down and downloaded the Mac OS version, and this is most definitely NOT how I was planning on spending my day, but ... SO COOL! Right now I'm in Kyrgyzstan. I just can't get over the awesomeness of being able to zoom in on these places that I've only read about. I've always loved maps, and this is like maps only about 50x cooler.

Let's see what Tibet looks like!

I cleaned!

Feb. 28th, 2007 05:26 pm
layla: grass at sunset (Default)
I'm so darned impressed with myself (probably somewhat out of proportion to the actual accomplishment) but I cleaned my workspace and it looks so nice! I can find things again! My art supplies are organized, all my books and notebooks are organized; I found stuff that I'd lost or totally forgotten about. I actually have ROOM to do art again instead of having to shove aside piles of stuff in order to work! It's wonderful! Things were actually getting to the point where it was inhibiting my ability to work, because I'd end up asking myself, "Do I *really* want to do this enough to locate all the art supplies and then make room in which to do it?"

Now if I can just keep it this way. *sigh* Ever so slowly, I'm evolving mechanisms for keeping my mess in check. The trouble is, I'm a total packrat, and I can't stand to throw anything out if it might be useful 20 years from now. Gradually I'm learning to work within this limitation; the key is having a box or drawer or folder or shelf for every conceivable class of objects that I might lay my hands on. This results in a workspace which is slightly crowded, but at least it's crowded neatly.

For those who haven't been to our house, we have a large upstairs loft and Orion and I have divided it down the middle. He's got half for his projects and storage of crap, while I've got the other half. And right now my crap is as tidy as his ... for a change! ^^

Of course I'm doing this to avoid working on other projects (why else does anyone clean anything?) but the house is benefiting greatly from my procrastination.


layla: grass at sunset (Default)

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