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Fic: The Personal Touch

The Personal Touch
By Barb C
Characters/Pairing: Buffy/Spike
Rating: Teen
Summary: It wasn't the big dramatic confrontations that threw her for a loop, oh no. Buffy was prepared for those, and so was he. It was the little things that caught them both off-guard.
Notes: Barbverse. This story takes place in the same universe as A Raising In the Sun, Necessary Evils, and A Parliament of Monsters. It's set during the summer between Necessary Evils and POM. Written for the Seasonal Spuffy Summer Solstice Free-For-All day. This story is not exactly fluff, but then, it's not exactly not fluff, either.

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Vampire-friendly dining!

OK, it's just crab-and-pig's-blood soup from the local pho place, but I bet Spike would like it.

I did manage to get something out for Seasonal Spuffy at the very last minute, in a great hurry. Yay?

Spent several days this week helping a friend deal with excess cats and move out of her old place. Today the remnants of Hurricane Bob blew into Phoenix, and we had measurable rain for the first time since March. Quite heavy (well, heavy for AZ) in some parts of town, though it was just enough to get the grass too wet to mow here. We took advantage of the unseasonably low temperatures to whack down the bouganvilla in the back yard -- it's got to be trimmed way back as the first step in getting ready to replace the chain link fence. As usual when you deal with bouganvilla, we both ended up bleeding and cursing. We got about two-thirds of it cut back, but it exacted its revenge.

We also started going through some of the boxes of books in storage. With much regret, I think I'm going to get rid of most of mine. We just have no place to keep them, and I can't read them when they're packed up in boxes. I'll keep ones that have sentimental value or can't be easily got in digital form, but most of them will have to go. :/

Anyway, what with lugging boxes of one sort or another for several days in a row, not to mention the vicious bougainvilla attacks, I'm feeling wiped. And I've got to get up early and hope the lawn's dry enough to mow tomorrow morning. I also need to go read all the other SS contributions and leave comments. Maybe tomorrow my brain will be in working order again...

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The coming Grapocalypse

We're well over 100 now, and so far, the roses we planted this year are doing all right. I'm watching them like a hawk and watering the hell out of them.

The grapes are not ripe yet, but they're just at that point where they're starting to go from sour to kinda bland tasting, and that's the point at which the birds descended upon them last year. Last year was the first year we got a halfway decent crop of them, and this year (thanks to Peasant's advice about powdery mildew) we have a much better crop. So I decided to see if I could keep the birds off. When I was a kid, we used to put nylon mesh bags over them, but they never worked very well, as a determined bird can peck right through the bag. Upon googling I found one site which suggested using brown paper lunch bags, so I've decided to give that a try. They're certainly much less scratchy and annoying than nylon mesh.

Before and after:

I left some of the smaller bunches exposed, in the hopes that if the birds have something easily accessible, they won't go after the bagged ones as much. And so I can check for ripeness without taking the bags off. We have three grapevines there -- two green seedless, which I have come to think of as The Good One and The Slacker, and one red seedless, which is a couple of years younger. The Good One and the red seedless have about two dozen bunches of grapes a piece, while The Slacker has maybe half that, and they're smaller and sparser. I was thinking seriously about just digging The Slacker up to give The Good One more space, but maybe I'll leave it as the annual Bird Sacrifice.

Have some bonus pomegranates:

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Whedoncon 2018

Kathy and I went to Whedoncon a couple of weeks ago and met up with the most excellent [personal profile] rebcake and feliciacraft. It's a pretty small convention, but for its size, the quality of the panels and the guest list was excellent. James Marsters and Sean Maher were the big name guests, but they also had Mercedes McNab, James Leary, Georges Jeanty, the actress who played Kathy, Buffy's demon roommate in "The Freshman," Camden Toy, and a bunch of others. All the Q&As were good -- having read con reports for the last fifteen years, I know for a fact that JM has been asked 99% of the questions he got at this one a million times before, but he's damned good at making out as if every single one is the most insightful and original question he's ever been asked.

There was a private for-pay party with the Big Name Guests Saturday night, which we did not attend, but the free-for-all Shindig cum-cosplay contest afterwards was very cool. The other panels were quite good, too -- standouts were the fanfic panel, Drink & Draw with Georges Jeanty (Feliciacraft managed to snag his abandoned demo sketches of Buffy and Spike and Angel afterwards!) a presentation of a BtVS/Twilight musical parody crossover, and several cosplay panels. There were quite a number of Actor Encounters of various sort on the schedule, as well as autograph and photo sessions, but I didn't do any of those, so I can't say how they went. Overall, A1 con will definitely try to attend next year. One of the few downsides, that the hotel they were in was a million miles from the airport, is going to be remedied next year.

This way to the crappy photos!Collapse )

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Project: Steampunk valise

Some time ago, I found a cool old-fashioned faux-leather bag at Goodwill, and this weekend I finally got around to modifying it as a prop for one of my steampunk costumes. I picked up a crappy old clock at the same Goodwill and disassembled it, using the pieces to modify the bag. I used some leatherworking brads and a handful of bolts to affix the various pieces to the bag -- I had to drill holes in the the clock frame, and use the drill to widen some of the holes in the metal pieces to get the bolts to fit. Would have been nifty if I could have figured out a way to get a working clock in there, but that's a bit beyond my skill.

The finished product:

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Sunday did not turn out as I expected

Sunday morning we got a call from a friend we hadn't heard from for a while (long story) to let us know that her husband (the reason we hadn't seen her for awhile, even longer story) had died. I'd always feared he'd come to a bad end, but it turned out to be stranger and sadder than we could have imagined. In his usual fashion, he left behind a huge mess for other people to clean up, in several senses of the word. :/ So we're going to try to help her ream out the house she's in to the point where she can get a roommate to help with expenses. Worst part is, he'd started to hoard cats before he died, so we have to deal with that. Shelters around here are always overflowing, so it's not going to be easy, but I've heard back from one that might be able to take some of them, and got a line on someone who knows someone who deals with ferals, so knock on wood.

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And that's a wrap, or almost

Urgh. Well, that was without doubt the Worst Yard Sale Ever. Only about half a dozen people, tops, and only half of them bought anything. I’ve never had one that terrible before. We had an unexpected windstorm during the morning, and I strongly suspect it blew the signs I’d posted down; it certainly played havoc with the one in front of the house, so potential drive-bys may not have realized that there was a sale at all. We’d put a few things out on the driveway, but obviously not enough to lure people in to where where had the main sale set up. And the temperature cracked triple digits this weekend, which didn’t help any.

So the sale was a total bust, and we closed up early. I’d already decided that this would be the last time we tried this, so we separated everything into Goodwill boxes and Local Consignment Place boxes, which took up the next several hours. Kathy hauled the Goodwill boxes off to their fate, and we’ll take the consignment boxes over tomorrow. The only things left in the shed are a box of old dolls and Mom’s Phoenix Bird china, which is still a hell of a lot of china. I need to go through it and pick out a set for my brother, and any unusual pieces that will Ebay well, and then the rest of it goes to the consignment place too. I’ll have to look at the dolls and see if they’re worth slapping on Ebay. Mom had a habit of assuming that if something was old, it was valuable, even if it was in terrible shape, and I could never convince her otherwise.

And that, finally, will be the end of it – the only things of Mom’s I’ll have left are the things I chose to keep, the ones that mean something to me. I hadn’t realized how much of a relief it would be to get rid of all the rest of it. It will be awfully nice to have room in the bike shed for, like, the bikes.

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New email

PSA for anyone who needs to get in touch. It's the same as the old one, just Centurylink instead of Cox. The old one will be active for another month or so but will be going away soon.

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Musing on concrit

A while ago, over on Tumblr, there was a post about feedback making the rounds which went more or less like this:

Person A: Don’t give writers critical feedback. People who give critical feedback suck.

Person B: But I want to hear people’s honest opinion of my work.

Person A: How dare you assume your readers are dishonest? Besides, fanfic readers don’t care about the quality of the writing as long as the storytelling’s good.

This same series of posts went on to make a comparison between writers who don’t want critical feedback (they are nice people making cookies for their friends) and those who do (they are competitive [implication: not nice] people trying to win a bakeoff).

I am not advocating that people should send concrit to writers who’ve said they don’t want any, or even to writers who’ve expressed no preference. But if you create a culture in which concrit is universally discouraged, people aren’t going to leave it even for writers who explicitly invite concrit. Not to mention that the “don’t give writers concrit ever” rule tends to expand to “You can’t discuss or analyze fic ever anywhere because what if the author sees it and gets their feelings hurt?” Which just means that readers take fic discussion underground. (And if any writer thinks that doesn’t happen, I got bad news for you. If someone posts a story in a public forum, people are going to have opinions about it, good, bad, or indifferent. There’s nothing a writer can do to stop that.) It also means that fanfic, which is both a social activity and an artform, only gets taken seriously as an artform when it’s written by non-fans, which is sadly ironic.

It’s true that many, possibly even most readers of fanfic are primarily there to see their two favorite characters bone, and will be very forgiving of the precise way in which this is accomplished. But that’s beside the point. Even if I am baking cookies for friends rather than the Great British Bakeoff, I want them to be cookies that people look forward to eating, and don’t just nibble politely because they’re socially obligated to do so. Yes, I am competing when I write. But I’m not competing with other writers. I’m competing with myself. I want to write the best story I can write. Sometimes I want to write a better story than I’ve ever written before. If I try and don’t succeed, well, I can learn something from the failure.

I can’t do that without occasionally hearing the truth about how what I bake, er, write is coming off to readers. Hopefully that truth comes from my betas, before I post it, but while I love my betas to death, they aren’t - they can’t be – every reader in the world. And no two readers read the same story. Every now and then, someone who isn’t one of my betas is going to have a critical observation about something I’ve written, an observation which I might find valuable in some way. Will I enjoy hearing that critical observation? Probably not. I mean, it’s critical. Will I find all critical observations equally valuable, or valuable at all? Of course not. If I do find one valuable, does that mean I’m going to rush out and revise an already-posted story? Probably not, but you never can tell. Will it influence the way I write future stories? Absolutely.

So what kind of feedback do writers who do want concrit find valuable? Letting us know about those pesky typoes, for one thing. Spelling and grammar errors? TELL ME. Canon and continuity errors? Sure, I want to know. Either I’ll fix it, or it will make me come up with a fanwank as to why it’s different in my AU. Plot that doesn’t make sense, or is hard to follow? YES DEAR GOD TELL ME. Like I said, I may not rush out and change that story, but it will help me avoid the same problems in the future. Characterization seem iffy? Well...

Characterization is a tough one, from both sides of the aisle. It’s hard enough to get people to agree on characterization in canon. If you think that I’ve mangled someone’s characterization, I’m interested in hearing why, but in many cases, those conversations are going to end in “Agree to disagree.”

And then there’s the last two, which boil down to “You didn’t write the story I wanted you to write,” and “The kind of story you like to write is intrinsically bad.” I’ve gotten variations of those two a lot over the years, and it’s sometimes hard not to take them personally. I suspect that most of the antipathy towards fanfic discussion among writers comes from this kind of crit. It’s certainly the kind that gets my back up the most. (Though ironically, most of us are writing fanfic because on some level, canon didn’t write the story we wanted it to write.) And there is often a strong, strong temptation on the reader side to conflate “What I like” with “Well-written.” Even some people who, as writers, complain bitterly about people criticizing their own work on the grounds that it’s not the kind of thing that particular reader likes, will turn around and, as readers, do the same thing to other writers. I’m sure I’ve done it myself, though I try very hard not to. Preferences are fine and dandy; everyone is allowed preferences. The rub comes in assuming that stories that conform to our preferences are objectively better written, or that when someone fails to write to our preferences, it’s due to some personality flaw on their part. If you find yourself making sweeping generalizations about an entire genre of fic, or about the motives of an entire cohort of writers, chances are that maaaaaybe your personal preferences are eclipsing your critical skills. And that? Definitely Not Helpful.

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What time is it?

It's SEASONAL SPUFFY TIME! So get on over to to the LJ sign-up post and sign up!

Taken yesterday:

Flowers!Collapse )

Today we did a six mile hike -- we hadn't intended to go quite that long, but we ended up taking the scenic route. I forgot to bring my phone, which annoyed me, because the sahuaro were in bloom, and in the middle of the park, where there's a basin where several dry washes that converge, the palo verde and and the ironwood were just masses of yellow and pink flowers. There were so many bees flying around that the whole basin just rang with the buzzing. I don't know if there was a hive nearby, or if a vast bee armada had converged from elsewhere, but it was amazing. We didn't bother them, and they didn't bother us. We saw several quail and a few hummingbirds, and ran across some Mystery Tracks which I thought at first were of a large dog, then thought maybe were bobcat tracks because they weren't the same shape as all the other dog prints on the trail. But having looked up bobcat tracks, they were too large to be that. They actually looked kind of like the pictures I've found of cougar prints, but while cougars do show up on the edge of town every now and then, it's very unlikely that one would be strolling around in a high-usage park in the very middle of the city. And the tracks we saw were in loose, dry sand, so the details were blurry. So I'm back to large dog, I guess.

I started setting up stuff for the yard sale we've been putting off, and it's obvious that we need to go through things and winnow a bit. Some of it is just flat out junk. Urgh. And I haven't even got to the boxes of Mom's stuff we've been storing since we sold the house three years ago.

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