Tuesday, December 4, 2012

November was eventful

Well, I made it out of the Grand Canyon after taking 8 students backpacking for 10 days, doing over 50 miles with full packs and at least 15 miles of day hikes without packs. It was great. This year's group took a bit more work than last year's in terms of getting organized and ready in the mornings, but they hiked considerably faster than last year's group which made up for that a bit.

I wrote almost every day in the canyon, and came out with an additional 10,000 words from when I went in, but those words were hand-written in a small notebook and had to be typed up. So on Nov. 16th I had  14,324 (ish) words and I was supposed to have 26,600(ish) words by then. Then, the husband and I flew out to Austin to visit my awesome brother and his amazing wife, and my mom came out too, and we celebrated Thanksgiving (and the days leading up to and away from it) in true McClain fashion, with large amounts of good food, good drinks and good company. I got in two 5 mile runs to try to make up for the feasting, but it was really a token effort, luckily I left behind a considerable amount of body mass in the Canyon so I had some to room to add on. In addition, I managed to set aside enough time to transcribe my notebook from the canyon, but I got no new writing done. So, I was still at 14,000 words by November 25th.


I hate losing, especially to myself. Last year, when I was unable to finish NaNoWriMo for the first time in 5 years, I managed to convince myself that the perfect storm of two weeks of Field Trips, followed by the week leading up to Thanksgiving/my wedding during which the majority of my family and part of Corey's descended on our home and let's not forget me getting the flu... was just not going to let me get 50,000 words written, and after a great deal of beating myself up, I'm finally ok with that.

This year I refused to give in.

So, from Sunday the 25th to Friday the 30th I became a writing MACHINE. At 3am Friday morning (or Thursday night if, like me, you didn't go to bed until 3am) I reached the 50,000 word mark with my novel. WOOT!

I ordered a winner's T-Shirt. It says 50,000 words, 30 days, 0 excuses.

Ain't that the truth?

So... Now it's December and life seems free and easy, even though there's still tons to do, including keep working on the Novel that is nowhere near finished at the 50,000 word mark.

But life is good, and with one week down I only have 2.5 weeks of classes left before winter break, something for which I am quite grateful. I may post some excerpts from the novel in progress over the coming weeks.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Into the Canyon

Tomorrow morning I depart for the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On the morning of the 7th we'll have just enough time to find out who has won the presidential election and then we will disappear into blissful technological blackout for the next 10 days.

I have written 4342 words for my novel thus far. I'm a tiny bit behind, but I'm hoping I'll catch up during and out of the canyon.

Prepare for radio silence.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And so it begins...

November, the best month of the year, starts today. It marks the end of my grading and comment writing, it marks the beginning of me writing a new novel, it marks a short number of days until I disappear into the Grand Canyon for 10 days of blissful exertion and communion with nature and it marks the month in which I get to go see my family and stuff myself with turkey. Awesomeness.

And now, with 50,000 words waiting to be written, having just finished all of my grading and comments for the fall trimester I am off on a run, because my body needs to be outside a bit.

Hope all is well with everyone reading this, especially those affected by hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Randomness and a really good speech...

First, my apologies for the lapse in blogging but this week has been quite busy. Lots of preparation for my two weeks in the Grand Canyon coming up along with getting students wrapped up with the first term and ready for final exams. I've tallied up my itinerary and it looks like we'll be doing a grand total of 74.2 miles over 10 days and 49.2 of those miles will be with full backpacks on (packs will weigh between 50-70lbs). Woot! I'm going to be in excellent shape just in time for Thanksgiving gluttony, score! On a more somber note...

Lots has been going on this week politically and I have no interest in jumping on the bandwagon with analyzing the presidential debates. There's so much ridiculousness from both parties that I wouldn't even know where to start and I certainly don't want to rehash any of it here. 

Yet there are some political issues that I feel strongly enough to share my views on. Gay rights is one of them. I'm not a fan of legalizing treating people like second class citizens. Apparently neither is this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8JsRx2lois 

Please watch the video to it's conclusion or you'll miss the good bit. 

I normally refrain from sharing my political views online because I think that people are inundated with enough of that without finding it in unexpected places; such as a blog by a writer that is generally just a blog about life and writing. However, equal rights for all humans is something I feel rather strongly about, and how we can still be discriminating against so many different minorities in a country that claims to be the leader of the free world disturbs me to no end. 

I think the Reverend in that video makes the point far more eloquently than I am making it here, so I'll just let you watch that video a second time, savor the awesomeness, and I will go to bed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Flaming Oak

There were two trees at the end of the world. One was a desolate clawing thing, that grasped at the clouds on the edge of the world and clung to the cliff side in a desperate attempt to stay among the living. The other was a tree of fire, a tree so alive with color that it danced against the sky, raged against the dark grey of the storms that played around it, a tree that screamed that life was joy, celebration and a struggle against the pain and darkness.
Everyone understood the first tree, the first tree was predictable, the first tree you could depend on. It was what you expected of the tree at the end of the world. You saw it and thought, “Ah yes, here I am, world’s end.”
No one ever suspected the second tree.


*To access the remainder of this story check out the short story collection Rain on a Summer's Afternoon on sale now for kindle and coming soon to paperback

Getting it back...

It's been over six months since I had surgery on my knee; almost eight months since I tore my ACL. Today I finally climbed 5.10 again. For those of you who aren't familiar with climbing ratings that won't mean much. For those who are familiar with climbing ratings, you'll probably think, "whoopdee doo" and I don't blame you, especially because it was in a gym and not on real rock. Still, I've only had a few chances to climb since my knee has been well enough to do so, and I was pretty sure when I roped up today that I would be struggling on routes that I would have found easy 8 months ago. I am pleased to report that this is not the case. I was just getting back into climbing shape after a two year hiatus before I injured my knee, so I was flashing 10s consistently and working my way into the 11s. 8 months later, I'm just pushing my way back into the 10s but that's still a lovely achievement.

For those who know nothing about climbing think of the following: anything from 5.0 to a  5.4 is like walking up steep scary stairs that you might need to use your hands on occasionally 5.5 to 5.6 is like climbing a ladder made of rocks. 5.7 is like climbing a ladder that is missing a rung or two. 5.8 is climbing a ladder missing a rung or two requiring a bit of creativity. 5.9 is climbing a ladder that's missing quite a few rungs and may have consumed some illicit substances just before hand. 5.10 is either a ladder with very few rungs that's trying to lean over to touch the other wall and possibly also kick you off, or a ladder that has almost no rungs left, but which you can sometimes get to the top of by shimmying between the legs or digging your fingernails in deep. 5.11 has never met a ladder in its life and wishes you stop trying to climb it. 5.12 thinks that you're very silly for trying to climb it and would like you to know that that tickles. 5.13 wants you to know that unless people are paying you to climb you're probably barking up the wrong tree. 5.14 laughs in your face if you even think about climbing it and if you can climb it and people aren't giving you money to do so they really should be. 5.15 is the hardest climb in the world.

For those wondering, yes, the decimal scale is clearly stupid if it's going to go past 5.9. When it was started it wasn't supposed to go past 5.9, now it goes to 5.15 (and yes we're pretending that that's higher than 5.2 - it's not a mathy thing).

So, anyway, I'm excited to be back to climbing 5.10 and looking forward to pushing back into the 5.11 territory. It is a life goal of mine to one day climb 5.12. I'm never likely to climb harder than that, and I'm very much ok with that. Getting back into climbing at all is a huge relief and I'm seriously looking forward to making progress this winter and getting strong for the Spring. A big part of this for me is losing weight (via running, biking and swimming) because it's a lot easy for me to haul my ass up a rock face when my ass doesn't weigh so much. It's all about strength weight ratio, and as a female it's easier to close that gap by losing weight than by building muscle.

Anyone who isn't a climber has probably had their pants bored quite off their bodies by now. I apologize for the breeze and hope to make up for it by posting a new short story in this next post. If you'll just put your pants back on... we'll wait...

Ready? Good. See you in the next post!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Did I just wash curtains?

My mom would be so proud; I just threw my curtains into the washing machine, by choice, because I thought they were a little too covered in dog fur and red dirt to be presentable for a guest that's coming to visit. That feels a little too grown up.

In the meantime the rest of the house is immaculate and I think all is ready for our guest. The husband is taking a nap and I am considering going for a run, the only problem is that all my running clothes are currently in the dryer... They've been in there a while though so I might be able to dig some out.

I've been pretty good about writing and about working out, but this week has been thrown slightly by parents' weekend and the subsequent long weekend. I didn't get a run in yesterday (though I got in a decent hike) but I'd like to get one in today if possible. Which means instead of typing this I should be off running. So, I guess I'll go.

I'll let you know how the curtains turn out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Beauty of Life

The sun was just setting as I finished my run and the light was perfect. The tall grass and wild flowers, juniper trees and cacti, were lit in a warm glow and the breeze was blowing just enough to dry the sweat from my body as my feet padded down the trail. My dog was running full out ahead of me, her tail stretched in the wind created by her own speed and the smell of earth, sun and wind filled my lungs and made my spine shiver.

Students excelling at things that they're trying for the first time. A boy who has never played music becomes the star of the rock band. A girl who has never acted before takes the lead part in a performance. Students show off their talents and have fun together on a stage, the joy they take in their parts contagious to each other and the audience.

A hard earned, cold beer consumed after a long day of things well done. Laughing and talking with my partner in life while the dog snuggles quietly into the bed and sleeps off the exertions of the day.

Healing puts things in perspective. Things that were once easy, are now things I'm lucky to be able to do at all. Progress is sometimes hard to see, but it's always there. It seemed, after surgery, that I would never walk again. That was never the prediction, it's just how things felt. For a procedure that to me appeared instantaneous (the beauty of anesthetics) it changed my life considerably. Of course, what it really did was enable me to once again be able to walk, run, hike, bike, play, to have a functional left leg. Yet it seemed, at the time,  to disable me completely. Post surgery I could do nothing. I couldn't even get in and out of the bathroom on my own.

Recovery has been long. Or, at least, it has seemed long.

But here, six months later, I can do all the things I used to (though perhaps without the same vigor and with the use of a brace). Every day I get stronger. Every day I can do a little bit more. Between me and a knee that is as good as it was before I tore it lies another three months, but I finally appreciate what these six months have done for me.

I can run again.

Let me repeat that: I can run again!

Life is beautiful.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September was tougher than I thought it would be...

I suppose I should have known that the first full month of school would be busy enough that I failed to write as often as I hoped, but I still find myself disappointed in my performance. I not only failed to write as often as I wanted (though it was still a vast improvement over the month of August and most of the rest of the year) I also failed to exercise as often as I wanted to (again an improvement over the last few months, but not as much as I should have done).  Even at this reduced rate I still managed to write 10 short stories, some of which may never see the light of day. It's a warm up for November at best, but it's better than nothing.

After the struggle of September I decided that this month, I would give myself no excuses on either count. I wrote out a schedule with all of my classes and other obligations for work and then I added in scheduled times to run, bike, swim and write. I left weekends open to do whatever I like, but now during the week I am obligated, by my own agreement (with myself), to run four times a week, bike and swim twice a week each, and write five days a week. On weekends I can do all or none of those things as I choose (I generally choose to do some of each), but during the week, it's part of my schedule. Thou shalt not mess with my exercise and writing schedule. So sayeth Gwen, so shall it be done. 

October, watch out.

As yesterday was Sunday I was not obligated to write, but as those of you know who read yesterday's post I wrote a bit anyway because I was having trouble sleeping. So, here's a small taste of what two in the morning writing gets you, and now I'm off to do some of my "scheduled" writing. Yipee!


There were two trees at the end of the world. One was a desolate clawing thing, that grasped at the clouds on the edge of the world and clung to the cliff side in a desperate attempt to stay among the living. The other was a tree of fire, a tree so alive with color that it danced against the sky, raged against the dark grey of the storms that played around it, a tree that screamed that life was joy, celebration and a struggle against the pain and darkness. 

Everyone understood the first tree, the first tree was predictable, the first tree you could depend on. It was what you expected of the tree at the end of the world. You saw it and thought, “Ah yes, here I am, world’s end.”

No one ever suspected the second tree.


...is not something I'm generally afflicted with, but tonight seems to be the exception. My brain refuses to shut off, and as I was lying in bed for the last hour I was unable to stop thinking and rest. So be it, it must be time to write.

In fact, I don't want to spend the time that I'm awake writing this blog, so I'll head over to Scrivener to get some creative writing done.

I'll leave you with another (longer) excerpt from the story I so briefly introduced the other day. The story is entitled Pretty Chains and in this next segment we find out more about the past of Asha, the same woman who hates the silver bells that adorn her. (As usual this is an unedited work in progress, so please ignore all typos, run on sentences, misschosen words etc.)

As they wandered the halls that led to the Sultan’s chambers she tried not to think of that day so many years ago when she had briefly tasted freedom, but it was too late. Once those memories surfaced they were impossible to suppress. She let them float up as she followed Ravi’s dark bulk through the corridors, passing rooms full of light and laughter, rooms full of the Sultan’s harem, the Sultan’s chefs and food, the Sultan’s menagerie. She let the sounds and smells that came from those rooms wash over her and she watched the memories bubble up in her vision. 

The light faded from her mother’s eyes and her throat worked convulsively to contain the grief that was threatening to erupt and raise the Sultan’s ire. Ravi stood behind her, a young man still, and still untrained enough that his effort to keep from embracing her was noticeable. 
The knife that the sultan held clattered to the floor and he left the room.

“Bring her to me, Ravi. She should know why her mother has died,” he said as entered his bedchamber.

Asha sobbed and turned to run away. She didn’t know why she was being summoned to the Sultan’s bedchamber, but it didn’t matter, whatever that man wanted with her was not something she wanted to give. Her mother had died trying to protect her from it, and the blood still ran on the floor. Ravi’s shaking hand clasped her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, dear one.” He said, his muscles shaking with an effort she could not fathom. “I’m so sorry, but I cannot disobey… it would cost…”

Asha raised a hand to his lips and shook her head. “I know, Ravi. It’s not only your life that would be forfeit if you disobeyed.” She sobbed as she spoke for there was no way for her to resist someone of Ravi’s strength, and even then, she would have to pass hundreds of the palace guards before she could be rid of this place. There was no avoiding… whatever was coming.

Ravi grabbed her shoulders more tightly and began to turn her towards the Sultan’s bed chamber. She shivered and Ravi hesitated. 

“Perhaps it won’t be so…” His arms convulsed as though fighting an invisible enemy. “Your mother died to keep you from him. I should not let you go to him.”

Asha held back a sob. Her mother was dead, DEAD. The realization wracked her body, but she resisted the temptation to collapse.

“And should your mother die too?” She asked, searching the depths of Ravi’s eyes, as if it might hold some secret weapon she could find and use for protection. “And your sisters? Your father? Should they die to, just to protect one girl?”

She sighed and stepped forward. “My life isn’t worth that much.” She said, as she approached the door to the Sultan’s room. Sobs still wracked her, but she moved forward. The pain of her mother’s death was just beginning to sink in, but she already knew beyond doubt that she would do nothing, NOTHING, that would lead to Ravi, or anyone else, feeling the way she did at that moment. Nothing. Not even to feel that sweet absence of pain, that sweet breath of freedom that she had felt so briefly. So very briefly, when her mother had removed her chains.

The memory faded as she stepped to the entrance of the Sultan’s chambers. Memory mixed with reality as she felt the strong hand of Ravi on her shoulder. 

“Where are you, child?” He asked as she shook the last traces of memory from her mind.

“Another time, old friend, another time.”

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My dog is a badass...


So, when I went to go live and work in Japan for two years, the saddest thing by far about the whole experience was leaving behind my canine companion. Artemis, a beautiful mutt whom I adopted as a puppy, had been my companion in all things for the three years leading up to my departure for Japan. Prior to my move to Japan Artemis had accompanied me on many an outdoor excursion, rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, crossing rivers, climbing over boulders, you name it and she came with me. But she couldn't come to Japan because the flight alone might kill her, then quarantine might kill her, and then we would never be able to find an apartment that allowed dogs. Leaving her behind broke my heart.

But she was in excellent hands. For the first year of my absence she stayed with my mother who loves her dearly and for the second year she was with a very good friend of mine who has another two dogs and is a wonderful animal person. Both my mom and my friend treated her like gold, and loved her in my place. She was happy, and well cared for.

I came back in August of last year to find her happy and healthy and very excited to be reunited with me (as I was with her) and I whisked her away from my friend's house to bring her down to Arizona and start our new life at our new job and everything that went with it.

Not long after arriving I started getting back into my various outdoor excursions again, and of course, I took Artemis with me. The first thing I noticed was that she didn't seem to like swimming anymore. Crossing rivers and streams seemed to sketch her out and make her whine and hesitate. I could have sworn she liked swimming... Did I make that up? I have been gone for 2 years, maybe I mis-remembered. Maybe I'm losing my mind, maybe she never liked swimming and I just thought she did because I like water so much.

I seriously had those thoughts. I also considered myself a horrible dog parent. How could I be so wrong about my dog's personality?

Next, I noticed hesitation about getting up and down large boulders or other tall obstacles. Again, the whining and prevaricating about what to do.

I began to worry about different causes. It's been two years... Maybe she's getting old. She's only five, but maybe she has sore joints, maybe this stuff hurts her now... Those thoughts made me very sad, because Artemis has always been my partner in outdoor crime. (You can't expect me to poop in the woods without an accomplice can you? - ermm... nevermind. Don't answer that.)

So, I continued my outdoor excursions and I kept bringing Artemis because she seemed to enjoy them despite the anxiety and I continued to wonder but I never really got anywhere towards a solution.

In the last two months I noticed she'd gotten much more comfortable around water. I took her through a canyon a couple weeks ago and she seemed way more chill about large obstacles and water she had to cross (although still with some anxiety). I found this cheering, but didn't want to make any predictions about how things would turn out. Let's say I was cautiously optimistic.

Today I took her through a canyon and she was completely chill the ENTIRE TIME. We came up to a body of water that required swimming (if you're a dog) and she just jumped in and paddled across without even looking back (which happened more than once!). We came to a body of water that required crossing a narrow log to get to the other side dry and she just jumped right on it and padded across like it was nothing. We crossed numerous giant log jams and boulder piles and she blithely climbed over them and jumped down the other side like it ain't no thang. In other words: my dog is a badass again.

And, suddenly, I realize: she was just out of shape. Maybe not physically. Certainly, even if she wasn't going for runs with my friend or my mom she was getting out plenty, and once I got back Artemis and I were both running regularly, so it wasn't that. Mentally, however, she was totally out of shape. She had spent two years living with people who, while quite active, don't generally plunge through canyons, or up and down mountains, or over large boulders, or across rivers and streams on a weekly basis. It apparently took her just about a year to get her head back in the game.

Right now she's sleeping peacefully at my feet because we had an epic (in a good way) day. I don't know if I'm back to being a badass since my knee surgery yet, but my dog sure is, and I'm happy to count that as a vicarious win. Woot!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A small taste of some of my most recent work...

Here's a very short excerpt from one of my most recent short stories:

The anklets were delicate works of art, finely crafted, the small metal beads brushed off of each other to make the sound of a million stars twinkling in a midnight sky, the sound of frost forming on an icicle, the subtle music of nature, a sound to touch the soul. She hated them with all that she was. 

Sorry about that...

I seem to have disappeared.

Between internet outages, grading piles of tests, entering grades into a frustratingly slow data entry system, and still having to teach that whole time, I haven't had much time for blogging. In addition, every time I sit down to blog I keep toying with a blog post that I started a few weeks ago and haven't yet finished/decided to publish. Then I feel guilty about not finishing it and so decide not to write anything else. Stupid really, but there you have it.

Today, I'm sick on top of everything else, but as I've used that as a reason to back out of many of my obligations for the evening it also means that I find myself seated on the couch with not much else to do but write. Yay! That is an upshot to being sick if ever I've heard one.

Unfortunately my brain's not working all that well, so creativity isn't high, but at the very least I can knock out this blog entry, right?

In the moments of free time that I've felt the need to squander recently, I've been spending a lot of time looking at kickstarter campaigns. I've backed a grand total of six of them so far. Corey and I were just looking at some of the campaigns that have been funded this year and we were getting inspired for our own  projects. It's such a great concept, and I'm really happy to be supporting other creative people whom I've never met before in this way. I'm working to come up with ideas for rewards for my own project which I hope to launch in early October. If you have any suggestions for things you think would make good rewards let me know! If you haven't ever looked at kickstarter.com I recommend that you check it out.

In other news, I'm having a hard time finishing any of the short stories I've started here in my September project. I think I need to spend some time this weekend just wrapping up the stories that I've started and then tag on a few more. It's looking like 30 short stories will be quite the stretch, but I think I might be able to round off 10-15 if I push it. I've had 20,000 word weekends before, I can do it again!

In the meantime, November is coming ever closer and that means so many things to me that I don't quite know what to do with myself! It means two weeks in the Grand Canyon, it means flying out of state to visit family for Thanksgiving and, most importantly, it means NaNoWriMo 2012! Last year, was my fifth attempt at NaNoWriMo and the first time I've ever failed to complete the 50,000 words in one month goal since I first started back in 2007. Now, in my 6th attempt, it's particularly important to me not to fail. I consider last year a perfect storm. The combination of two weeks backpacking in the Grand Canyon, being sick, planning and executing my wedding and having the family visit for wedding/Thanksgiving was more than I could handle, though I did still manage to write about 18,000 words, defeat reared it's head and snatched my best intentions from my grasping hands. This year I will tell defeat where it can shove itself.

For now, though, I am struggling with a balance of work, playing outside (known as exercise to some) and writing. I need to work on that balance from now through October and get myself thoroughly even keeled in time for National Novel Writing Month. Perhaps adding the maintenance of a Kickstarter project to all of that isn't the best idea, but I'm probably going to try it anyway. If I talk myself out of it then I'll have to start the kickstarter gig in December instead. I don't know what the seasons are like with Kickstarter, but I imagine the run up to the holidays is a good time to catch people who want to spend money and the fall off afterwards not so much... So me thinks October may be the best time. Yarrrr!

Oh, yeah, that reminds me. I dressed up and got my "Arrrr" on for Talk Like a Pirate day. Did you?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekend server crash

I've been suffering from Internet outages all weekend so I haven't been able to post. This is just a quick update while I'm stealing signal to let people know. Hopefully, we'll be up and running again by the end of tomorrow. In the meantime, still writing lots!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Kickstarter and Mars and other heady topics...

Well, I took the weekend off from everything, well except school because I was on duty (read: in charge of entertaining high school students for the weekend). So I didn't write over the weekend, despite my lofty intentions to do so. Instead, I drove some students around, took a group out for a day hike through an awesome canyon, watched a few movies and generally avoided being productive in any of the ways I had intended up until Thursday night.

Today, however, was back to work (teaching) and consequently back to writing. The truth is when I decide to shut off my brain, I really shut it off, and writing will do no good when my brain is shut off. However, weekend over, Monday back to work, and suddenly, I have the motivation to write once more. If my brain must be on anyway, let's put it to good use!

Yet, writing, for me, always comes with its fair share of procrastinating, and on many days of late that means browsing the various projects presented on kickstarter. Have you heard of Kickstarter? If not I suggest you go check it out immediately. No, it's ok. We'll wait. Go right ahead. Look you can google... ok fine. Just click here. Let us know when you get back...

Right, so as I'm sure you saw. Kickstarter is an amazing website that allows everyone with an internet connection the chance to discover and financially back amazing creative projects produced by... anyone with an internet connection and an idea.

I had heard of Kickstarter long ago and thought it sounded cool, but I had never checked it out until two weeks ago when one of the authors of a webcomic I enjoy (lfgcomic.com if you're interested - warning, not overly funny unless you're a WoW nerd) posted a link to his awesome kickstarter project, which he posted because it's completely unrelated to his webcomic and is something very different (and something I think everyone should check out, especially new parents). From there I did some casual browsing and lo and behold I'm now backing four different projects on kickstarter.

This is particularly important to me because I plan to launch a kickstarter project of my own in October. The short stories that I am currently writing, I plan to self publish using createspace.com which enables me to publish with no overhead as the whole thing is on demand (of course that lowers my profit margin, but whatever, it ensures that there IS a profit margin no matter how many books are purchased, so it's well worth the price in my book). I'd like to use kickstarter to help me out for this project.

"But, Virginia!" You say. "Didn't you just say that there's no overhead. Why do you need funding if you're doing on demand self publishing?"

An excellent question. There are multiple reasons. One, I'd like to pay someone to make the cover. I could do it myself but it probably won't be very good. I have a couple of friends who are graphic design wizards and I'd like them to help me design the cover so it looks like something people really want to own. But, I don't like asking people to donate their artistic talent. I like artists to get paid, even when they're my buddies. So that will cost some money. Also, I would like to promote my book. I'd like to throw out a couple of ads, and I'd like to drive some places to do some readings and signings. Those all cost money. So, to raise money, I plan to run a kickstarter project. Should be fun. Look for more info in October!

The other thing I've been doing lately to procrastinate is looking at pictures of Mars, because, come on, how f***ing cool is it that we've got a new rover on Mars? Pretty f***ing cool.

So, that's what I've been up to lately. Fear not, I've also been writing. I'm hoping I'll have a worthwhile excerpt to throw up here sometime in the next two days. I have a hard time choosing excerpts without stopping to edit them, but right now is about writing, not editing, so I have to just suck it up and copy and paste them mercilessly despite their being semi-formed and not really ready for the world.

My husband asked me the other night why I bother posting excerpts that are unedited. I told him that based on my experience with people who follow authors on the web, people like feeling like they're in on the process and people enjoy getting sneak peeks at artistic works. I get that, because I feel the same way about some of my favorite authors, so I figure it doesn't hurt to share. However, it also reminds me that I don't have any of my finished works up on this site so, I'd like to get a couple of those up too so that people can see that my writing isn't always riddled with typos and tangents and other things that wind up getting cut.

Await the completed works page! Coming soon...


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's all about timing...

I'm sure many other bloggers have noticed this, and to be frank I should have remembered this from my days posting writing on websites that rate popularity of posts based on views and approval, but if you post things in the middle of the night they don't get much action on the web. I hadn't thought of it much, especially since right now 99% of my web traffic is friends and family, but even amongst friends and family the wee hours of the night are not popular hours. So, posting to this site and then spreading the word through facebook or google + in the middle of the night does me no good whatsoever in terms of getting people to read it. Which is a bummer, because that's often when I'm most productive.

But here I sit, in the middle of the afternoon for once, with some time to write and the motivation to do so. So this will go up before the end of the work day, and will consequently be more popular. However, it won't be nearly as popular as it would have been if I had posted it just before or after lunch time, or in that 2-4pm afternoon slump. It's crazy to witness, but if you've ever checked the popularity of a forum comment or the reactions you get on facebook posts, they are most popular in the MIDDLE OF THE WORKDAY. Turns out, people love to procrastinate, and following a link to an article via facebook is one of people's favorite past times. As is checking forums that people are stoked about, or checking RSS feeds to their favorite websites. Don't believe me? Go to your favorite forum and check the posting times of the threads with the largest reply count. I bet you the majority of them were posted in the middle of the day. 

Anyway, all of this has made me think that what I really should do is write a post whenever it suits me, and then wait to post it until the middle of the following afternoon. I don't know if I'll stoop that low though. In truth, I mainly write for me. I get a kick out of other people reading it, and it's a total ego boost to see lots of hits on my website, or to get positive comments etc., but probably not enough to get me to change my writing habits. We shall see. After all, a blog is by definition for other people, so posting at a time when other people won't see much doesn't make much sense. 

In other news, I scared the crap out of a number of high school students today by making them pick up and carry (for a few seconds) a full backpack that is about 15-25 lbs LIGHTER than the backpacks we will be taking into the Grand Canyon in November (those packs will be between 60-80lbs at the start of the trip). The students I frightened with this act were, of course, the students who will be joining me for this trip. The reactions were humorous, but the good news is, no one fell over. Oh underclassmen... you are so small and easily scared. 

Falling behind...

So, it turns out that working full time can be very distracting when one wants to write. Not that I'm going to let that stop me. But of course, I'm going to blog about that instead of actually getting down to writing, because I need a warm up.

Today has been filled with many things that were not writing. I had to teach (nothing surprising there), I had to coach (again the norm), I had to be on duty in the dorm (again par for the course), and I also had to attempt to organize the community service part of the trip to the Grand Canyon that I'm organizing for November (this is also a part of my job, but this particular piece - organizing the service par to the trip- is new to me this year). All of these things combined (with a cold coming on too) have not helped my writing efficiency. Now, to detract from it even more, I am writing this blog entry instead of writing fiction. Yargh...

Despite all of that I did manage to write yesterday, and I've written a tiny bit today, and will write more tonight once I'm not longer on duty. Come on 11pm! In the meantime I'll leave you with the following excerpt from one of my short stories I'm currently working on: (It's completely unedited, I haven't even looked over it once since I wrote it, so no need to write in with corrections, typos, or suggestions. This is the roughest of rough drafts!)

She awoke lying flat on her back. At least, she thought she was awake. The dark was so complete that she couldn’t see any part of herself or of the world around her. She wasn’t convinced that her eyes were open until she put her hands to her face to confirm it. She supposed this was what being blind was like. She had experienced darkness like this before so she wasn’t prepared to worry yet. 

Sitting up did nothing to aid her sight, but it made her feel slightly less vulnerable. Slightly. As it was she had to sit up extremely carefully, since she could see nothing she had no idea what obstacles might lie between her and sitting up. Yet nothing collided with her as she raise her head and shoulders. She considered standing, but decided that was folly. Since she was essentially blind it made no sense for her to put herself at risk to possibly walk over some unseen obstacle, or worse, precipice. 
She couldn’t recall how she’d gotten here or where here was, but as she sat and adjusted to her surroundings a faint roar brought flashes of memory to her. Sparks of color in the darkness as her mind supplied images her body couldn’t see. A waterfall, the cascade of power down slick stone, the pain of water, the cradle of it. A voice? Hadn’t that all been a dream? Surely she would never have been foolish enough to push herself through that waterfall. Was she dead?

“She never harms her children.”

Was that the roaring water in the distance, or was that truly a voice? Had she heard that voice before? It sounded familiar.

“Hello?” She asked. Not sure if the voice was real or imagined but sure that sitting still in this blackness wasn’t going to get her anywhere.

“Hello, Child.” Definitely a words, but they still sounded as though they were formed from the distant roar of the water.

“Umm… Who’s there?” 

“I am Mizuchi.”

The voice sounded like water cascading off stone, but the words were clear enough. What confused her was why the voice had a Japanese name. Was there a Japanese tourist in here with her? The voice didn’t sound human, but since she’d never yet heard anything that wasn’t human speak with words she didn’t know what else it could be.

“Do you have any kind of light with you? I can’t see anything.”

If a waterfall could laugh, she was fairly certain that’s what she had just heard.

“I could provide light,” the voice said. “But I don’t think you would feel comfortable if you could see me.”

“Are you an extremely large water dragon then?” 

Silence, filled with the constant drum of water against stone was the only response.

“Are you still there?” She asked. 

“You know me?”

“Know you? I’ve only just… erm… met you. Or that is to say heard your voice for the first time. For all I know I’m talking to a recording while trapped in a lightless box somewhere.”

“But you said… Can you see me?”

“Didn’t I just say I can only hear your voice? I can’t see anything! Why do you ask?”

In response the room began to lighten, or perhaps it was more accurate to say that the dark receded. Certainly, it seemed as though the center of the room, without any push from something as mundane as a light source began to grow less dark. That ball of “less dark” slowly spread outward until it encompassed the entire space. The space slowly revealed itself to be a very large cavern. Something that would have surprised her and even had her full attention had she not been focused on the very large dragon in front of her. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

World Renowned!

Well, I know I threatened to post parts of completed writing today, but that hasn't worked out. Turns out I had to prep all of my classes (silly day job!) and spend time with other humans (silly social obligations) and while I did get a fair bit of writing done, I didn't get a chance to pick out something to show you.

Instead, I wanted to point out that here on only the second day of my new blog going up, I have gotten visits from six different countries! Woot! We will, of course, pretend that I don't have friends all over the world. We will not, of course, mention that all of the hits on this blog have come from the facebook and google + links that I posted. We will, therefore, pretend that I am actually world famous and not just a person with lots of friends in different countries who were kind enough to visit my page.


We will also glory in how stalkeresque the stats page for this site is! Do you feel somewhat self conscious knowing that I can tell what countries you've visited my site from? Would you feel even more self conscious if you knew that I can also tell what browser you're using?

Well you shouldn't feel too creeped out. I can only tell what country you've visited from, not what part of that country, and I can tell what browser and where the link you followed originated (if you followed one), but that's about it. As it happens, my old website, which I used to pay for, enabled me to not only see what country you were visiting from, but would drop a freaking PIN on a MAP showing me where you were, like down to the area of the city you lived in. Now that was creepy. Fear not, I have no such stalking abilities with this site.

So, for those who are fond of statistics (or just numbers): yesterday I wrote 1,272 words. Today, which was largely spent doing research in preparation for writing (do you have any idea just how many water deities are out there in the world's mythology?) I wrote 537 words. Then I had to do work that I actually get paid for. I do still have plans to write more today, but I have to go to bed soon, so I doubt that I'll break 700 before bed.

Ah well, I'll do better tomorrow. Tomorrow I hope to break 2000 words (for the day that is). Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Virginia Interviews Herself

...much to the amusement of all involved. Ha! Get it? 'Cause it's just me... Never mind.

Let's see... Better yet, I'll have one of my characters interview me. That'll be more fun. For one of us at least... (I'm all about ellipses today, not sure why that is...) Teehee. See what I did there?

Wow. Well that was disturbing. Let's get Gwen out here and see if she can stop this nonsense.

Hey, Virginia.

Hey, Gwen. How's it going?

Well enough, I suppose. I was just hanging out in my backyard enjoying some mountain air and watching Simon fell some trees for his... whatever he's making next. 

That sounds nice. Well, do you mind helping me out for a few minutes?

Not at all. What are we up to?

I need to tell my new readers (assuming I have any) a bit about myself, but I hate writing bios. I was hoping you could interview me.

Umm... You realize that's the same as talking to yourself right?

Well, no. You're not really me. You're a character of mine. What you would do and say is different than what I would do and say so...

So, it's like letting one personality from a multiple personality disorder interview the other?

No. It's like letting one of my characters interview me.

Right. Totally different. Forgive me.

Look, are you going to help me or not?

As it happens, I have nothing better to do. But I would like to point out that this is much more Luke's kind of thing.

I do not need Lucifer interviewing me, thank you very much. That would turn into something totally... inappropriate.

Ha! Quite possibly, but he would enjoy it.

And you won't?

I won't answer that.

Very politic of you. Can we start now?

Sure. What should I ask you?

Pretend you don't know me, and you've never read my stuff and you want to know things that will entice you to read my stuff.

Well, that shouldn't be too hard. I never have read any of your stuff.

Well, that being the case, you're still very familiar with at least one of my novels.

Only because it's my life.

A tiny portion of your life. Look, are we interviewing me or what?

Fine. Ahem. What's your name?

Everyone knows that already but Virginia McClain.

Is that your full name?

No. But I'm not putting my full name on the internet. That's my real first and last name. That's enough.

Fine. Where are you from Virginia?

You had to ask the hardest question first!

The hardest question? That's generally considered one of the easy ones.

Yeah. For most people... Look, I'm from... Everywhere.

Everywhere? You can't be from everywhere.

Sure I can. You are.

Yeah, but I'm a goddess. I really am from everywhere. You're not.

Ok. I'm not from everywhere the way that you are, but I am from a LOT of places.

Such as?

Such as... look do you really want the whole list?


Seriously? It's long.

Well, you asked me to interview you, and that's what we're going to do. Are you going to be this difficult on EVERY question?

No. Ok fine. Here's the list: Maryland, Arizona, Germany, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Spain, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Canada and Japan.

You're not from all of those places!

I've lived in all those places and I haven't lived in any place long enough to dominate the others. So YES I am from all of those places.

What's the longest you've ever lived in one place?

In a stretch? Six years.

What place do you consider "home"?

Wherever my bed is, but if you insist on pinning me down, Colorado.

Where do you live now?


Can you be more specific?

 I could but I don't feel like it at the moment. How about Northern Arizona? Is that better?

 I don't know. Is it?

 Ha! Yes, I think it is.

What do you do for a living?

I teach languages at a small private school.

Why do you write?

Because if I didn't write I would go insane. Imagine if I had conversations like this out loud all the time.

Hmm... yeah, I can't imagine they'd let you hang out in public much. 

Right. So, there you go. That's what makes writing so vital to me. Brain spilling over with stories and characters, I need a place to put them.

Makes sense. Must be crowded in there.

You have no idea.

I might actually.

Good point. I suppose you might.

So, what kinds of things do you write? 

I write novels, short stories, and humorous nonfiction including this blog.

What genres do you write in?

That depends. My short stories tend to be action adventure, but a number of them are fantasy or sci-fi. My novels tend to be largely fantasy, with a couple of exceptions.

Interesting, I guess I'm in one of the exceptions then.

Sort of. I mean, you're kind of fantasy, a bit... I mean... you are a goddess.


Well, gods and goddesses aren't commonly accepted as... living among us.

But, you're the ones that believe in us.

Yes, well... There's believing and... believing. Look. Can we talk about this later?

Hmph... well, I suppose. But make no mistake, we WILL talk about this later.


Hmm... let's see then... Where were we... Ah yes. What have you had published so far?

Ah... well. Two short stories.

And your novels?

None of my novels have been published yet.

None aside from mine you mean?

Umm... no. I mean none including yours.

What? How is that possible? It's FINISHED. Isn't it?

Well, that depends on your definition of finished... I've done a few drafts on it. But it still needs some major revision.

I thought you were talking to a publisher about it?

 I was. I am! But, I still need to make some changes before I can send him a draft for publication.

So MAKE them.

I plan to. I've been... busy.

Busy? You've been on summer vacation until three weeks ago.

Yeah, and I was busy being on vacation.

I see.

Look, Gwen. I'm sorry. If it makes you feel any better I haven't published any of my other completed novels either.

Why would that make me feel better?

Because you're in good company?

Why was that a question?

Because I'm afraid of you?

Stop it.


Look, let's try another question shall we?

Sure. What have you got?

Why are you such a lazy piece of crap when it comes to submitting your novels for publication?

Hey! I am NOT lazy when it comes to submitting, I'm just lazy when it comes to revision!

Right. The result is the same. How many novels have you written? At least in terms of finished first drafts.

Umm... Three full first drafts and one over 100,000 words.

This interview is over.

What? Why? You haven't even asked me about my personal life!

This is silly. You should be writing. No, better yet, you should be REVISING!

I know, I know. But I AM writing. I just started a new project that I want to tell people about. You should ask me about it!

No. YOU should finish your other projects instead of starting a new one.

But I need a distraction before I get back to revising Gwendamned.

Hmph. A likely story.

It's true! Look. I promise I'll finish revising Gwendamned before the end of the year and send it off to the publisher.


I promise!

Fine. Tell me about this new project.

I'm writing a collection of short stories that I plan on self publishing.

Well that sounds interesting. Will I be needed for any of them?

You might. I haven't decided if they're going to be themed yet or not. The first one doesn't have much to do with you yet... but actually, it could. Might make a nice prequel to your and Simon's story.

Sounds intriguing. I look forward to reading them. I guess, I don't need to look forward to finding out what happens. If they're prequels I guess I've already gone through it. 

True. I suppose you'll just have to look forward to finding out which adventures I choose to share with the world.


Yep. So...?

Get to work.

But - I... Ok. Fine.

Rain, and Summer Afternoons...

...or why I've named my blog after them.

September brings many important events with it. It's the first month after the month in which I turned thirty, it contains International Talk Like a Pirate Day, the school year really gets going, it rains a lot here in the desert, and I decided to challenge myself to write between 20 and 30 short stories this month. 

All of those things are positive. Turning thirty is no big deal and stepping into the month after my birthday is kind of fun, like starting a new adventure; what's this life thing like on the other side of 30? International Talk Like a Pirate day is one of the best holidays ever, because, let's be honest, what beats dressing up like a pirate? Only talking like one all day. The school year getting going is always a fun experience with new students arriving curious and slightly afraid, returning students arriving excited about the year (and yes, the school I work at is awesome enough that the returning students were truly excited about coming back) and new twists on old activities. The rain is a much needed life bringer in the desert and it makes for blissfully cool days if it stays cloudy. As for my self-imposed challenge, writing is always a good thing in my life and this time I have big plans. 

I've named the project "Rain on a Summer's Afternoon" because the first short story written for the project (first draft completed today) is inspired by the current weather we're enjoying, and said story may also bear that name. In the meantime, I like the title enough to name this website after it. After all, summer rains are my all time favorite weather phenomenon, perhaps closely seconded by giant winter snowfalls. You may have noticed that both of these weather phenomena share one common thread: they are fun to play in. Puddle jumping, splashing through newly formed creeks, dancing in the rain and rolling in the mud are all high on my list of things to do when it's warm enough. Making snow forts, running through untouched snowfields, hour long snowball fights, making snow creatures, playing with dogs in the snow and skiing and/or snowboarding are also high on my list of things to do. It's a tough call between the two events really... who knows, perhaps when winter comes I'll change the title of this blog to "Snow on a Winter's Morning." The only problem is that we don't get much snow where I live, but summer rains? We get plenty of those... well, enough anyway.

I suppose I ought to introduce myself for those who've never read any of my stuff before. My name is Virginia McClain and... I'm a writer. I'm a lot of other things too, but if you asked me what the one thing I couldn't live without aside from air, water, food and the ability to go play outside the answer might well be writing. Well, reading would be up there as well, as would numerous forms of exercise, my husband, my dog... Jeeze it's easy for that list to spiral out of control. The fact that writing is my gut reaction to that question should tell you something though. 

Blech... writing about myself in biography form always seems so... well dull. Despite the content, which I at least find quite interesting. Perhaps I'll make my next entry an interview with myself. Yes, that sounds reasonable. Talking to myself is always entertaining. Hopefully no one will question my sanity overly since the interview will be in writing and with a purpose. People seem willing to overlook a great deal of "crazy" as long as it's in writing.