Saturday, July 06, 2013

Dealing with sociopathy

While working on my new version of Double Edged Sword (I really need a new title for that) I realized that one of my main characters is a sociopath.

I've always known he was unrepentantly "evil", but as I've written him, and researched, I've discovered it's a bit more than that. He's not so much evil as... practical. He does what he must, and doesn't fret over guilt or self-flagellation.

In short: A sociopath.

This provides interesting opportunities. I recently came upon the blog for a diagnosed sociopath who often talks about love, and sociopathy. She says that while it's commonly thought that sociopaths can't love, in fact, they can. The intensity she describes is what I think is going on with my MMC; he is consumed by it. To the point of obsession.

So I'm going to continue to research this line of reasoning, and see where it leads me. It's certainly  already providing interesting insights. And a more nuanced character who isn't so blunt-force trauma.

I'm really enjoying my rewrite; it's slow going, but I'm letting myself take my time and think. The result is already feeling more polished. I swear, reading back over the original, there were so many colloquialisms and such that it was painful.

I may even hit my camp word count goal for the first time!

Monday, June 24, 2013

How McAfee is like Prison Sex

"Just do your shit and go away!"

~My Husband

So today, I spied an unwelcome logo on my husband's computer.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, McAfee is pretty well universally panned by anyone with even a modicum of technical sense, because it's little more than bloated malware with a corporate logo on the box. There's dozens of better, cheaper options. It's awful stuff, nearly impossible to uninstall, and so awful that even the guy who created it hates the damn thing.

Umm... not safe for work.

So I told my husband to move, and started figuring this stupid thing out. He says it came with an automatic update. Whether or not that's true, I dunno. He's not one of those wild downloader types. Probably came from Adobe or something.

Anyway, McAfee is an insidious thing. It's like that unexpected prison rape that happens when you drop the soap.

You didn't ask for it, you didn't want it, but you presented yourself in such an attractive fashion that they couldn't resist.

This "security scan tool" is like the anal spreader that prepares you for the unpleasant things about to happen to your backside. Or like that creepy plant in Seymour's back room, but instead of people it's asking for credit card information.

That's right. It doesn't even DO anything; it's just a "clever" marketing gimmick to convince people that their computer is at risk, and they should download something quick to prevent it.

Sound familiar?


McAfee has gone from a pretty decent virus scanner that had better, cheaper competitors to predatory bloatware that behaves an awful lot like malware. Half the time you can't uninstall it, it's so bad the company itself had to release a tool to remove stuff that a regular install can't.

It sneaks upon you when you don't want it, it doesn't want to leave you alone no matter how much you ask, and if you let it stick around, it's going to ask for more, and more.

I was able to finally remove that scan tool from my husband's computer. But I'll tell you one thing: My butt was clenched firmly shut the entire time...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review: Turned by Morgan Rice

Before we begin, I will state that there are many spoilers in this review. If you really feel absolutely compelled to read this book, I suggest you close this page and read no further, because we're letting it all hang out here. :)

I read this book on a dare, honestly; it was free for the Kindle, and I read it together with RJ Blain  - it's a good thing I did, because honestly? I'm going to need therapy after this. Having a support group to get through this is a must. If you haven't already, I also invite you to read her review of the same novel.

The Protagonist

I have never read a character I have hated as much as this protagonist. Caitlin is hands-down the must unlikable, self-centered, disgusting "human being" I've ever had the displeasure of reading. She is intended to be a "good" character, some kind of Messianic savior, "The One", but there is nothing about this person who even comes close to that label. In fact, if I had to label her with anything, she's a sociopathic nitwit who is so stupid that it takes her 114 pages to even wonder if there are such things as vampires, and that she might be one of them.

Keep in mind that this is after experiencing superhuman strength, blood lust, and killing a guy by biting him on the neck. She spends half the book all but slavering over people's jugulars, but it never actually occurs to her that this behavior is anything other than mildly interesting and a bit weird.

She's the least reactive, most bland character I've ever read about. At one point, after nearly dying, all it takes for her to wish for a day never to end is being carried around by a hot dude. Never mind that she's an orphaned outcast wanted for murder, homeless, and has half the city's supernatural and mundane authorities out to get her, this day should never end. Because love!

When her would-be love interest is brutally assaulted into unconsciousness, she has her first truly vampiric experience. She fights off the thugs, and then somehow teleports to her home, unharmed.  She never even has a moment of concern about her friend, Jonah, who should by rights be in the hospital. She just has a nice fight with her mom, and pouts in her room.

After her beloved brother (someone we are told she loves very much, though there's little indication of that in the book) runs away, at her suggestion, she's more concerned with her first date with her love interest than the boy who has served as her protector, and the only stable aspect of her life for 15 years. Instead of trying to find him, or calling the cops, or even crying in guilt-ridden remorse that she's ruined her brother's life, she grabs her clothes, forgets her phone, and heads out for her date.

Her mother is abusive, but when she is violently murdered, all Caitlin does is experience a few sentences of mild discomfort before she's again swept up into her own self-absorbed naval-gazing.

Caitlin's pendulum of love, however, is the shining jewel of this entire book. We spend the first half of the book meeting gallant young Jonah, a promising musician and Barack Obama look-alike with glowing green eyes and olive skin. (Yes, olive. He's half black, part Puerto Rican, and part white. With olive skin and green eyes. Sure makes me think Barack Obama!) We know that his eyes glow, because we are told so several times. I actually kinda liked Jonah, and honestly, wanted him to be the vampire she loves. I actually kinda cared a bit when he gets assaulted and his viola is crudely smashed, along with his hopes and dreams.

Caitlin, however, in spite of their deep, instant connection, can't remember him unless he's right in front of her. The moment a new fellow appears on the scene, the dashing Caleb, she has a moment of regret, comparing him to Jonah, before instantly falling into pouting love with the newcomer. And then promptly reacts with a temper tantrum when this person she has known for about ten minutes proves to not be in love with her, and has an ex-wife to boot.

She is actually upset that he saved a complete stranger from certain death not because he was in love with her, but because she happened to be immune to holy water, and therefore might be The One. I actually found myself imagining her with her lip stuck out, stomping her foot.

Caitlin apparently possesses vast powers that she can't control. Except when she can. Her first kill is immaculate, leaving no trace of her presence aside from two perfectly gender-appropriate holes in her victim's neck. A victim that she was watching perform on  stage moment before, and whom she passed up many other potential victims the entire length of Carnegie Hall to reach. Well, that, and the inconveniently dropped incriminating ticket stub stashed in her cocktail dress's pocket that conveniently fingers her as the killer to the cops. She can break bones, leap, roar, gnash her teeth, leap gracefully out of trash cans, exude an aura of "difference" and is an excellent speedometer.

Rank stupidity is a common vampire trait, however, so her complete and total idiocy is not out of place. A 3,000 year old vampire waltzes casually onto a crime scene swarming with humans, clamping annoying politicians' mouths shut at will, mind-raping alliterative cops willy-nilly, but it never actually occurs to him that this illegal vampire killing might be anything other than a vampire invading his territory to send his coven a message. Even after capturing her, not a single vampire he meets actually suggests that she might be a newly-turned vampire who doesn't know any of the laws. But hey, we have to assume that after 3,000 years or so, the brain cells are a bit mushy.

The entire vampire race (well, both of the individual "races" we've been presented with) appears to be little more than a squabbling nursery full of very old toddlers, so hidebound that they're unable to see even the most obvious of truths in front of their noses.

The Plot

I honestly searched for something good to say about this novel. The one positive plot point I found was in the very first chapter, when Caitlin finds her first love interest unconscious and being beaten by three thugs, that Jonah never leaps up and tries to save her. I expected him to be the enigmatic vampire, caught off guard, who then rises to defend her. It was actually a bit gratifying when no one saved her from the boys who were no doubt going to give her a very violent noogie.

Beyond that, however, the plot was formulaic, predictable. There was no rhyme nor reason for anything to happen; vampires acknowledge they must let the police find her, since they can't, but magically, they appear in the next scene in her living room. She simple appears next where she needs to be; unless she happens to be in yet another of the novel's endless, pointless chase scenes. She magically acquires her phone from a room no doubt swarming with cops, and is able to use it (even though the investigating police officers no doubt would have collected it when they investigated her house and found her dead mother.)

Caitlin is never truly in danger at any point in this book. In spite of being threatened with absolute death a number of times, or even grievous bodily harm, she never takes so much as a scratch. To be honest, I still have no idea what the point of this book was. As far as I can tell, it all exists simply to carry Caitlin around and how off what she can and can't do to who. She wakes up with no memory of how she arrived wherever she is so many times it starts to become a joke.

The only true relief is that the pointless, abrupt ending wasn't nearly as painfully awful as the rest of this book. It was simply stupid, contrived, and random.

The entire novel feels more like blunt-force trauma than skilled storytelling. Rice has a weak grasp of the English language, often misusing words, or repeating them clumsily as she echoes herself sentence to sentence unnecessarily. Her dialogue is stilted, unnatural, and does not change whether the speaker is a 15 year old boy or a 10,000 year old vampire. She shows no imagination at all in naming important entities. The "good" vampires are the "White Coven", and the "evil" ones "The Blacktide Coven." I use quotation marks because I honestly could not tell the difference between the two. there are no characteristics of these or any characters that distinguish them as good nor evil.

The main antagonist, the debonair, ancient Kyle, is a Deputy Leader.

I am reminded of the evil bunny Boingo from Hoodwinked as he pans one of his minion's lackluster evil name:

"Dolph, tie up the brat; Liesel, hold the book; Vincent, get the truck; and Keith... darn it change your name, please. That's not scary and I'm embarrassed to say it. Boris, try that. Keith, ya know, OOOO Watch out for Keith!"

I wonder if, while witnessing the crucifixion of Christ, someone nudged this evil fellow and said, "Hey Kyle, check out that Jew up there!"

I understand that this is a novel written for teenagers, but surely you could come up with a better Evil Council name than... The Assembly.

My one true solace that clumsiness aside, the simple language makes this blessedly short novel a very quick read. I was able to finish it in about an hour.

My final verdict: Trash the whole thing. Hire an editor. Because this shit is unsalvageable.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I need your help for my daughter

Thank you to each and every one of you who poured out your generosity on my family. Elisabeth has enough for her medicine this month, as well as some to cover the bill for her checkup next week to adjust her meds. The generosity of my friends, family, and just plain old-fashioned strangers will never cease to amaze me. And thank you from my little girl, who doesn't have to go without her medicine, thanks to you! 

I'm not one to ask for help often; I believe firmly in doing what needs to be done, and taking care of your family.

But sometimes, pride has to take a back seat to necessity.

On June 1, Elisabeth's Medicaid expired. Because I had the audacity to make $200 extra a month, we exceeded the income limit for the children over 6 medicaid program. By $1. Because of this, Elisabeth was summarily booted from the Medicaid program, and left uninsured. We can still get her on Peachcare for Kids (a state run program for uninsured children) but that's going to take time... up to 30 days. The earliest we could conceivably have coverage for her is July 1.

The problem? Her much-needed prescription for Concerta, an ADHD medication that keeps her sane, happy, and able to focus, costs $168 out of pocket. And she has one left.

That is a LOT of money, and frankly? We don't have it. We have the cash, but if we spend it, that leaves us with no money for food for the rest of the month. We won't talk about things like gas, etc.

Now comes the part where I swallow my pride, and ask for help.

I'm not asking for much, just what you're willing to spare. Every dime will go to Elisabeth's medication. This should be the only time I need to ask for help, because hopefully by the time her next prescription is up for refill, she'll be on the state healthcare plan, and we won't have to worry about it. Even if she isn't, I will be able to plan for it out of my next paycheck. We were given no notice of this... our review was on the 25th. I received her rejection letter telling us that she would no longer qualify on the 2nd. Copays I can handle. Out-of-pocket, with no warning, I can't.

If you're willing to help my little girl, then please, consider doing so. Even $1, or $5, or $10 will help. In the unlikely event that we receive more than we need, all money will be used to pay the doctor's visit next week (where she has a checkup to change her existing evening med from Adderall to something that doesn't make her sick.)

I have a Paypal account. If you're willing, send a paypal payment to - and if you're willing to include an address, Elisabeth and I will send you a thank you card for any donation over $10, customized by her. She makes adorable cards, as anyone who received a Christmas card from us this year knows!

And thank you, either way. Whether you do or don't, we love you, and thank you for the time you took to read this.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Organizing my World

After following a fabulous blog series on creating Story Bibles by Rebecca Blain, I decided that I could stand to organize the world of mine. I have a lot of details floating around in my head, but they tend to change, and I don't have them written down anywhere, so it can be hard to keep things consistent. I have at least two books planned in this series, perhaps more.

I have a few sparing notes in Scrivener, but otherwise, this is just a very basic sketch. So today, after some abortive attempts to find office supply stores to buy the things I needed, I found what I was after. (Click images for closeup view)

I am using a 1 inch 3-ring binder, with nice tabbed folder dividers for each section. I used a sheet of my daughters' colored construction paper for a cover to make it nice, since I haven't drawn anything worth using in years. Lots of construction paper. :) I have sections tabbed out, so I can start filling them. When I feel like it, I'll add to it, and start building on it. I even sketched out a rudimentary continental map that I've had floating in my head for a while. It's rough, and half of the countries aren't named yet, but it gives me some spacial references.

So yay for productivity! My transcription challenge is going well. In spite of one day of under 1,000 words, I'm still well ahead of my target right now for words. 6,338, and I haven't written yet today.

It's a simple start, but a pleasing one. I feel accomplished! Now to get back to my transcription.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Whips and chains may break my bones...

This year, as part of my New Year's Resolutions, which aren't really new because I've been working at them since last year, I have resolved to finish at least one novel. I have handwritten over 340 pages, and now it's time to transcribe them.  All of them. From my delightful chicken scratch.

Because Rebecca Blain is a vile, conniving wench who is entirely too good at manipulation, I have decided to set an actual schedule for this. See, I don't do self-motivation well, but as it turns out, I rather enjoy beta reading her current WIP, and well, she's promised that if I don't meet my goals, I can't read anymore.

I've never done a self-imposed schedule, but I've never done an outline either, and I have one of those, and since I have exactly zero finished drafts on my computer, the way I've done it in the past is not going to work.

So, I'm expected to maintain a pace of 1,000 words per day transcribed, minimum. That would mean that I would have the entire 80,000 or so handwritten words I have by. Weekly, I'll need to write 7,000 words. My goal is 2k total by the end of the night; since I'm at 1700 right now, that won't be an issue.

By January 31, I will have at least 27,000 words.
By February 28 I will have at least 55,000 words.
By March 25, I will reach 80,000 words.

That gives my deadline for complete transcription at March 25th.

If I manage to finish by my youngest child's birthday, March 17th (St Patrick's Day) I will expect an extra reward from my slavedriver. I will leave the choice of reward up to her.

Using Scrivener's project statistics, I have set up my deadlines, and it's autocalculating things. This is part of how I will reach my new self-imposed schedule.

See, this is why I bought this program. Well, one among many things.

So, here we go. 80k or bust!