Dream of the Dolphin
a.k.a.
Confessions of a Post-Graduate Pity Whore

Free Story!

Sunday, October 30, 2005
 

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Having had pause to reflect on yesterday, I was left with a few observations.

One, Erin observed upon walking in during hour 12 that my hair looked really good. Not being under any misbegotten impressions that twelve hours of fitful not-quite-sleep on a pillowless uncomfortable hospital bed while shivering under one's coat is good for the hair, I can only conclude that I have one hell of a hairdresser. Which I knew.

Two, sleeping in the hospital emergency room is damned near impossible. If it's not the lights and the nurses walking in to check your blood pressure and temperature, it's the "patient to go", "Spaceship to go" or "PETER!" intercoms that do it. Though the snatches of sleep you do get result in odd waking dreams that turn your best friend blue and lead to the two of you constructing a giant hamster ball out of wire and beads and rolling it through the ER in an escape attempt.

Three, would it have killed them to give me a pillow or a second blanket?

Four, my day was as follows: Was admitted in about 10 minutes, got an IV, got 2000 mL of saline and two bags of meds, had some blood taken, an x-ray, and ultrasound, and was given tylenol 3 and sent home. This took thirteen hours. I'm thinking that since they're complaining about not having enough ER beds, they could fix this problem by not keeping people like me there for thirteen hours. One step in the right direction would be not having one ultrasound technician for two hospitals.

Though I do have to say, the doctor who did my ultrasound impressed me. He came in and took over from the tech because he wanted a closer look at what turned out to be my hemmoraging ovary, and when he noticed me peering at the screen, he actually turned it so I could see and pointed out my ovary, the cyst, and the blood pooling around it. This impressed me immensely. Of all the ultrasounds I've had done, nobody has EVER actually told me what they were looking at. The cyst, incidentally, turned out to be 4.5 cm long and 2.9 cm wide before it ruptured. An ovary is about the size of a walnut. It explains a lot of the pain. Though I also have to say -- T.V. Ultrasound (you know what the abbreviation is if you ever had to have one)? In a word -- GAH!

And my final observation -- more people have called me today than I usually hear from in a month, just to see how I am. Which makes me feel so warm and fuzzy I can hardly put it into words.

( 10:49 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Saturday, October 29, 2005
 

Sarah's Happy Day O'Fun

Today was supposed to be such a good day. It was dress-up day at the ROM -- I was going to unveil my Hermione costume that Marisa, my assistant, had praised to the kids. We were going to do a kick-ass craft and give away movie passes. I was going to meet up with Karina for brunch at Insomnia before meeting Chris for the final day of IFOA at Harbourfront.

Instead I spent thirteen hours in Emerg at Toronto Western.

Long story short, a cyst on one of my ovaries hemorrhaged and caused lots of extremely painful complications. My day o'fun was distinctly not.

I'm doing okay now, with orders to rest up tomorrow and not overexert myself, but I'm actually really happy (okay, the tylenol 3s help -- we like the codeine! But seriously). Because Erin, Leah, Chris, and especially Karina (who waited the entire thirteen hours with me) went above and beyond to be there for me and make sure I was okay. It's one of those things -- the families you make can be truly wonderful things, and I realized today that am very, very lucky to have mine.

( 9:57 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, October 28, 2005
 

Magical Mystery Midnight Mambo Cheesecake



Last night Erin and I ended up baking a chocolate-caramel crunch cheesecake. At midnight. During a night with an unintentional Latin theme (we began singing Navidad Nuestra, one of our Christmas choir pieces, on the streetcar home from an apartment viewing that ended up in a deke into the Latin American craft store, followed in rapid succession by Feliz Navidad, the Mask of Zorro on TV followed by -- in a blinding burst of irony that left us hysterical with laughter because all we could hear from the kitchen was the music -- Desperado).

Why, you ask, were we making this cheesecake at midnight? Because we spent too much of the rest of the evening crafting. Erin on her odd Mexican shrines (again contributing to the Latin theme), and me on this.

Which really brought home how much more I'm going to enjoy it when I'm doing stuff like this and writing for a living. When your work is fun, it doesn't even feel like work.

( 4:03 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Thursday, October 27, 2005
 

Ooh, Shiny!

If you haven't been over there yet, we now have stock pictures up at Stellar Magpie's journal. See the shiny. Ooooh, shiny.

( 12:37 PM ) Sarah Jane ~


 

My Day So Far

I get up, and spend a very uncomfortable hour disagreeing with my ailing stomach on whether or not it's acutally going to function today. This makes me late for work. I decide to forego packing my book or wire knitting because I won't need it and don't have time to pack it.

Because I am late for work, I run out the door at the same time as my roommate. My roommate pulls out her keys to lock the door, and I run to the streetcar. I get to work -- late -- and dig through my bag in the elevator. I realize that my keys are in the house. On my desk. Locked in by my roommate when she locked the door behind us. Which I would have noticed had I not been late and had to lock the door myself.

Also on that keyring are my keys to the office. Which is empty and locked.

I prevail upon the lovely ladies at the office next door (who give me their washroom key whenever I lock ours in the bathroom) to let me use their phone to call our House Manager. He is less than impressed. He tells me to go to Timmie's downstairs to wait for him. I didn't bring my knitting or book (see above). So I spend an hour at Timmies reading over my Navidad Nuestra score and practicing the Spanish lyrics, because I have nothing else to do. People look at me funny.

I get a message from my parents' lawyer stating that the inheritance which would really help cushion the hole left by my sick-days-I-don't-get-paid-for is still hung up in probate.

And I have to pray my roommates are home tonight, because I have no way of getting into the house.

And -- hurray -- it's just turned lunch time.

( 12:35 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, October 21, 2005
 

Writerly Stuff -- Why me?

This was originally supposed to be a post in response to a thread on Julie's newsgroup, in which Jana discussed an editor's role in selecting stories for an anthology. It got me musing on the writer's side of things, and my musings somehow turned into a three-page essay.

Why yes, I do have length issues, why do you ask?

And also, YAY AMANDA!!!!

*****

In a perfect world, we would all write stories that come in at exactly the right length, hit the editor's idea of theme so squarely you'd think she'd painted a bull's-eye on it, tie up neatly and yet be so creatively individual that the editor would have to stop to pull her socks and shoes back on before writing you a feverish acceptance letter.

In a just-shy-of-perfect world, authors at any stage of development would be able to accept rejection with a smile and an airy wave as they go about their day.

In a perfect world, we would also live in a musical with choreographed song and dance numbers. But I've yet to see this happen.

Unfortunately, for many of us still starting out in this business, the world is just a little less than perfect. We don't live in a musical, we're still learning about the craft, which means that for a number of reasons, we're just slightly more likely to make the mistakes that push us from an acceptance to a rejection (sometimes close, sometimes way off the mark). And unfortunately, it's still too soon for many of us to be able to greet rejection with a sunny disposition.

Though I'm often met with howls of incredulous laughter when I discuss my venerable five whole years of submission experience, it remains that it's five years of learning things about dealing with rejection that I wish I'd known when I started. And since I've not yet been at it long enough to develop my Writerly Hide (this develops faster in some writers than others, and I know of some writers who are born with it, and some in whom it never really developed), I find it helps to keep certain things in mind.

Sometimes we get stuck writing a story that takes on a life of its own. It becomes the story that it wants to be, and all of a sudden veers off the absolutely spectacular this-will-fit-the-theme-perfectly idea you had. So you have three choices. One, you can wrestle it back where it was supposed to go. This is especially hard when you’re a new writer, as your Writerly Rasslin' Muscles haven't built up yet. Two, you can write a new story. Unfortunately, especially when you're just starting out, you may have those pesky things like day jobs (multiple), illness, children, jewellery businesses, etc. etc. etc. getting in the way of writing time, so this may not be an option. Third, you can make the story the best story you can that's still fairly close to the theme and hope that it's good enough. No matter what happens, the choice you make is the choice you make, and us grown up type people have to live with the consequences of our actions. Which, in this case, may be rejection.

Rejection is not personal. It's not a rejection of you, or your writing, it's a rejection of this particular story at this particular time. I know we hear this time and time again, but that doesn't make it any less true (or make rejections any less painful, cause let's face it, for many of us, they still smart something fierce). Try looking at it this way. The editor has set an assignment. It's just like homework. And like homework, you can write a kickass essay on the socioeconomic influence of feminism in sub-arctic territories, but if the assignment was "discuss the use of pathetic fallacy in King Lear", it doesn't matter how kickass your essay was, it still ain't gonna get you a passing grade, no matter how nice your teacher is. But that doesn't mean you don't still have a kickass essay on your hands.

Similarly, the editor is just doing her job. She's no different than the rest of us in that she wants her job to be one she enjoys. She wants her job to be more fun than work. Now are you going to make this easier on her by cheerily accepting your rejection, or are you going to throw a tantrum about how blind she is not to see the genius inherent in your analysis of sub-arctic socioeconomics? What reaction makes it more fun for the editor (okay, the answer may be different if she's a total sadomasochist, but you get the point)? Which experience would the editor like to have again during her next anthology? Which experience is she going to recommend to her editorly friends? See where this is going? If you prove yourself a good and professional author who's nice to work with, chances are you'll see an invitation again. If you prove yourself a petulant brat, you're going to hear a lot of crickets chirping whenever you open your inbox. Don't take it to the other extreme either, though -- butt-kissing and grovelling are just as unprofessional as tantrums.

Most editors are lovely people and some of them, in a community as tightly-knit as genre communities tend to be, may become close acquaintances or good friends. Good editors are the ones who don't let personal relationships get in the way of a rejection. Good authors are the ones who don't let a rejection get in the way of personal relationships. The one who has the power to change what's between the two of you is you, by how you deal with your rejection. That's a lot of power, and it's on you to not make it personal, because I can promise you with 99.9% certainty that it wasn't personal for the editor.

I know that often times you receive a rejection that says: "Hi there, wow this was a great story and I loved it, but it just doesn't quite fit with the theme", and read it as: "Hi you stupid moron, your story sucks and I hate you". This means that you still have to learn how to take the Newbie Rejection Goggles off and read what it really says. It's a hard thing to do, because those goggles are stuck on tight with one of those safety straps your mom puts on so you don't lose them during soccer, but it's worth it when you finally wrestle the suckers off. The real rejection is usually not as bad as it seems.

That doesn't mean that rejection hurts any less. No matter how professional you want to be, no matter how you can academically acknowledge the above, for many of us at this stage, we feel rejection like a stab from something pointy. Some are worse than others, depending on how badly we wanted the acceptance; the pointy objects can range from a staple in the finger to a big honking scimitar in the chest like the one Morgan Freeman threw at that crazy witch lady in Robin Hood. And that's okay. As long as you deal with it properly.

For instance, it's okay to rail at the cruelty and unfairness of the universe while gorging yourself on chocolate. Most of us have that knee-jerk reaction. This is normal. Doing it in the company of your stuffed animals, cat, or very good sympathetic friend are okay, because if you're doing this, chances are good that you realize you're just venting frustration over what is probably a failure of your own making (sucks, but in most cases, true -- you're the one who wrote the story and likely failed to Rassle, or rewrite, or realize there was a problem in the first place).

On the other hand, railing at the cruelty and unfairness of the universe in a crowded arena, convention, or message board at www.ih8stoopideditorz.com is a very bad idea. If you're doing this, chances are you actually believe what you're railing against, which should be setting off the Massive Klaxons of Doom. Unless your rejection letter actually said: "dear author, I hate you and you suck and I hope your cat gets run over by a car", railing in earnesty is, point-blank, wrong. You're being unprofessional, and you need to take a time out until you can start seeing objectively again.

But probably the most important thing to remember is that, in the grand scheme of things, this is one story. A drop in the bucket. And you need to move on. It's okay to cry, but it's much more productive if you use your tears to wet the seal of a submission envelope (just try not to cry on the actual manuscript -- few things are more annoying to an editor than opening a submission and reading: "the fabric of Mandragoria was sundered for ever and eternity the day Her Most Exalted Nurianta discovered [illegible inksplotch]"). Mourn your rejection, pick yourself up, and put it behind you.

And learn something from it.

Because at the end of the day, you should be writing because it's something you love. Something you take passion and pride in. Publication is the tasty chocolate icing on the cake, but the actual cake part is pretty damn good too. And that cake gets better each and every time you make it, because you learn a little bit every time you do.

I have a book that has become my source of inspiration in many areas of my life, so I shall close with a few words of wisdom from its pages:

I cannot say why I am good at what I do, but I can say that I work very hard at it. Nor am I aware of any conscious career decisions. I've always found that one thing leads to another, and that I've moved from project to project in a natural progression.

Perhaps one thing that has helped me in achieving my goals is that I sincerely believe in what I do, and get great pleasure from it. I feel very fortunate because I can do what I love to do.

….

If you care about what you do and work hard at it, there isn't anything you can't do if you want to.

--Jim Henson

( 7:57 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Monday, October 17, 2005
 

Enter the Magpie

Now that we're rolling merrily along, the time for coy taunting has passed.

Karina and I have been obsessed with sparkly jewellery for a long time, now. I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later our habits of collecting sparkly things would evolve into producing our own. But Karina's already said it perfectly well, so I'll leave it to her. :o)

As some of you likely know, both Sarah and I have a deep love of sparkly jewellery -- as do so many other fans of science fiction and fantasy. (I know that I've spent more time at some cons lusting after others' earrings than I have over anything in the dealer's room!) So, when a stockpile of beads, a trip to the Canadian National Exhibition, pliers and a dream about Doctor Who collided in an interesting way, we hit upon a very fun idea ...

Announcing Stellar Magpie Creations (aka "Two Girls with Pliers"): a new, Toronto-based jewellery design company specializing in beaded and chainmail earrings, woven and knitted wire bracelets and necklaces, glittering bookmarks (in both hardcover and mass market sizes, of course) and other fine crafts sure to catch any magpie's eye.

We currently have a selection of pieces displayed in the window and central display case at BakkaPhoenix Books in Toronto, and will be making our first in-person sale appearance at the 18th Annual Macville Craft Show in Bolton, Ontario on October 22.

We'll be setting up our website soon, but in the mean time we have a Stellar Magpie LiveJournal to keep everyone up-to-date on our newest designs, upcoming appearances and the joys, pitfalls and unexpected surprises of setting up a craft business. We'll be posting many more pictures shortly -- there's just a few little ::ahem:: delays with the digital camera.

http://www.livejournal.com/users/stellar_magpie/

Please feel free to swing by, see some of the "sparklies", leave comments -- and if there's anything that you see and like, yes, we do ship worldwide. :)


In other, non-sparkly-related news, I had a wonderful weekend. I'm still sick -- long story short, I'm now on ulcer meds, my blood sugar is really low, and I have the energy level of a narcoleptic sloth. But despite that, I taught my first day of Saturday morning club and met up with Tami, who I haven't seen for almost two years now, and her friends Chris and Christine. I missed her so much it's hard to put into words, so I was incredibly happy for the rest of the day (despite being absurdly tired). After a visit with Julie, in town for a signing, and one Stellar Magpie bookmark and some Bakka and J&S shopping later, we went to the Thai place for lovely dinner (despite an alarming absence of deep fried mango) and back to my place for presents and Enter the Haggis (two new Haggis Heads, hurray!).

I also finished the Anthology story, and it's too long, but it's done and out of my hair. It's in the editor's hands now, but no matter what happens I now have a much better story to shop around, so I'm quite contented with that. It's amazing what five years of experience, a kick of inspiration from an author you admire, and the eyes of really frelling good critiquers can do to a story.

Next in the queue is the long-overdue Elysium, though I may be bad and sneak "Cultured Pearls" in there first.

( 10:46 AM ) Sarah Jane ~





Saturday, October 08, 2005
 

Motivation

I've met more than a few authors since 2001, some in a personal setting and some through the bookstore. While most have been perfectly lovely people, there are three who made a very distinct impression on me in terms of "if I ever become a FFA (Famous Fantasy Author), these are people from whom I'd like to take my 'how to act as an author' cues": Terry Pratchett, Julie Czerneda, and Neil Gaiman.

(Yes, I'm aware that sentence was atrocious. Shut up, I'm sick.)

Today, despite total caloric intake of about 20 oz. of rice with tofu and a dinner roll (which is now all I'm capable of eating without my stomach protesting violently) I managed to finish a half-shift at work and drag myself to the Neil Gaiman event down the street, for which I've had tickets since they went on sale. Hell, I figured, it's just sitting and listening. I can do sitting and listening.

The event itself was immensely enjoyable, made me laugh a lot, and gave me a few opportunites to think and reflect and perform some "you know, that's a good idea"-type musings. I did miscalculate my ability to handle the signing a bit, which would have meant standing in line for two hours when I'm barely capable of standing for two minutes (I can't even hold a cup of tea these days without my hand shaking). But one perfectly wonderful staff member and another equally wonderful couple arranged things so that I could sit in a pew at the front of the line and sneak in when they reached it. So I only had to stand in line for five minutes.

Neil is extremely generous in that he'll stay and sign until he's seen everyone (or he's bodily wrestled out the door by the publisher, whichever comes first), but this also means that, in the interests of getting everyone home before midnight, he converses with you while he signs your book, meaning his eyes are on the page and not you.

When I reached him, I reminded him that I was one of the 2001 Award-Formerly-Known-As-Asimov's Finalists, and he glanced at me and said "Oh right, we met at the ICFA thing". As he signed my copy of Coraline, he asked how the writing was going, and I told him about my two anthology sales and my very first DAW anthology invite.

He dropped his pen, gave me this absolutely massive grin, shook my hand and congratulated me, and then said the five words that put a smile on my face to match his.

"I'm very proud of you!"

And he meant it.

Then he drew a rat in my book. ::rat love::

I'm not one of the "AAH Neil is teh best thing EVAR OMG!" crowd. But I love (most of) his work, I admire him greatly as a writer and admire how he relates to his readers. I do these things enough and meet him with sufficient rarity that he's one of the only authors I actually get nervous around anymore. And hearing something like this from him was... priceless. It was validating, motivating, inspiring, and for one shining moment, I was on a cloud so high that I didn't even feel sick.

It's such a little thing. But sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.

( 11:58 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Friday, October 07, 2005
 

Things I Do Not Find Encouraging

When, as the ultrasound technician is staring at the monitor while probing a particularly painful spot on my abdomen, she hisses and presses her hand to her mouth.

Unfortunately, I won't find out anything for two business days (so, Tuesday at the earliest). I am not encouraged.

( 2:04 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Tuesday, October 04, 2005
 

Serenity, Health, and Writing, in no particular order

Not so much my thoughts, as my finding of people who say what I felt, only more eloquently. I think said it really well: (highlight the spoilery blank space)

And I am super, super tired of Whedon's nastily killing off characters with the "oh, I do this to show you how awful war is" and then you get the criticism "Oh you can't handle dark mature stuff" if you protest. Character death has to be earned. It has to make sense. It can't just be something you do to shock the audience and make them feel OMG no, the author could kill EVERYONE! as if the author were some weird perverted version of Caligula or Stalin ("I could KILL YOU ALL, isn't that funny?"). And Whedon does it so often that it is fracking inevitable at this point, and I get bloody bored by it.


Yeah, that earning thing? That's exactly why it bothered me.

The_red_shoes's full review is here, which brings up more things than I actually had issues with. Poisoninjest posts a review closer to my feelings on the movie here, which also goes a long way toward clarifying some of my muddy feelings.


In personal news, briefly, I've been sick for a week and nauseated for two, which may, in part, be due to gall bladder issues. Whee. I have to schedule an ultrasound so they can rule that out. So if anyone's wondering why I haven't responded to their messages, that's why. I'm feeling better, though, and I hope to be functional again soon.

And in amongst doctory proddings, with 's help (and poking), I managed to finish the first draft of the DAW Anthology Story, which in an attempt to rewrite it so it was a) better, and b) not twice the requested length, ended up being a) better, and b) twice the requested length plus 800 extra words to boot.

Thank God I have a week for revisions.

( 10:50 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Sunday, October 02, 2005
 

Surface

I started watching "Surface" because the promo material makes it look like "The Abyss", which was one of my very first Favourite Movies Ever. My love for the Abyss was why I started watching seaQuest, which I then continued watching because of my gleeful love for the show itself (at least until they started firing all the older cast members and bringing on young women with large breasts and small acting abilities instead).

So, seeing all the Surface material, I was gleeful.

Less gleeful upon watching the first episode, which was just overwhelmingly "meh" for me, but I continued on to the second episode, until I got to this exchange:

Scientist Dude: "A clear set of... gills, yes... hagfish are all over this thing... extreme infestation...

Creepier Scientist Dude: "Feeding off the carcass. You should see a digestive tract... that should lead you to the--"

Scientist Dude: "Lungs! Yes, I can see them." [turns to Creepier Scientist Dude] "You were right."

Army Dude: "Right about what, Dr. Creepier Scientist Dude?"

Creepier Scientist Dude: "It's a mammal."

At which point I had to pause it for a moment to deliver my response, which was a prolonged "BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!"

I realize this may not be as funny to non-biology-geeks. But it was the best unintentionally funny thing I've heard on TV in ages.

I'll still watch the show, for a little while at least. I admit, I'm curious to see if the skiffy biology is based on theories we're not privy to yet. But thanks to that one exchange, their attempts to ground it in reality just no longer hold water for me.

( 3:48 PM ) Sarah Jane ~





Sarah Jane Elliott
The often frustrating progress of my life and writing...

(Once known as "The Mystic's Dream", now known as "Dream of the Dolphin", but inclined to change title depending on what's stuck in my head)

Okay, I liked "Confessions of a Post Graduate Pity Whore" a lot more than I thought I would. That line is still hilarious. But I've started writing again, so it's time to go back to before. :o)





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