30 April 2008

Trying Times

I love Boss Lady, really I do. But some days she just wears me out.

Today would be one of those days.

Why she cannot understand that it is bad idea for her to make changes to the same document that I am making changes to, I shall never understand.

To the end of my days. Never.

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29 April 2008

Pilates. The New Pain.

One of the many, many wonderful things that I love about working at Fabulous Private University are the benefits. They're seriously great. Seriously.

Take the free health club, for instance. It's free! Anything and everything I could possibly want to do while there is free - machines, weights, showers, towels, lockers, a lock for my locker, and any of 28 different 'group exercise' classes. (Really, there are 28; I just counted.)

There's aerobics. There's Tai Chi. There's Ab Blast. There's Upper and Lower Body Blast. There's Yoga. There's Power Yoga.

And there's Pilates.

And yesterday. I tried it.

I got talked into it because a bunch of the gals in the office started going, and - in front of them - I opened my big mouth and started complaining about how slowly my efforts at Hip Reduction were going. So they bought me a mat and made me go.

And so I went.

And today.... it hurts to breathe.

And you know those abs I miss so much? I know exactly where they are right now.

Other parts of me hurt that I didn't even know I had.

The thing that hurts the most though - my pride. I mean, I knew I was fat. No denying that. But I really had no idea how badly out of shape I had become. That fact was made quite clear yesterday.

I had to stop. I had to rest. There were things I just couldn't even do.

It was quite pitiful.

And something must be done about it. So I'll go back.

But maybe not to Pilates. Not right away. "Stretch It" and "Gentle Yoga" sound much more my speed, so I think I'll start there. Maybe work my way up to Pilates. Eventually.

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28 April 2008

Seven Outrageous Things About Lars

OK, so Susan at West of Mars started this meme-thingy. Well, sort of. I guess somebody else started it, but I read about it on West of Mars, so that's what counts for me. :)

Anyways.

It sounded fun, and I'm always up for poking Lars with sticks (he deserves it, believe me).

Some background: Lars is one of the original characters from Novel #1, which is a quivering mass of plot spaghetti, which is mostly Lars' fault. Lars is basically a sidekick to one of the main characters. Well, he was supposed to be...


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1. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence, but Lars is seven and a half feet tall, which is outrageously tall for his world.

2. Lars has outrageously unruly and very long, very red hair.

3. Lars has four outrageously strong-willed older sisters. They made damn sure he knew his place in the world (well below them), no matter how big he got.

4. Lars is outrageously loyal to Fenn, even when Fenn doesn't deserve it (which is most of the time).

5. Lars smiles. All the time. Even - and perhaps most especially - when he's outrageously pissed off.

6. Lars is outrageously disrespectful of my outlines. He routinely ignores them and thinks nothing of hauling my plots off to the most harrowing of situations. Where he promptly shuts up and starts smiling. It's like he's saying, "Have fun getting me out of that one, Writer Lady! Oh - and you're welcome."

7. Lars is outrageously loud, even when Fenn has a hangover. OK, especially when Fenn has a hangover.

*******************************


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27 April 2008

Gone, Daddy, Gone*


Yep. I did it. Couldn't take it anymore and hacked it off this morning. And I do mean hacked - take a close look at the upper end.

It's been a long time coming - I've been threatening to do this for at least a year and the only thing stopping me was my general loathing of the whole hair salon experience. But I was feeling cantankerous enough to just go in and say "I don't give a hoot what you do, just fix the hacking".

And so they did, and now I'm sporting something that is just on the cute and flippy side of '80s art gallery'. (All I need now is some pink hair dye...)

Regrets? Are you kidding? Not a one.

Well, only that it's not short enough in the back. But I suppose I can have them buzz it down when I go for a trim.

Wonder if The Husband will faint when he comes home from his outings today. Heh, heh, heh...

[*Bonus points if you can name the artist and song the post title is from.]

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26 April 2008

Annotation #3: Lynette R Cook

I recently added a link to Lynette R Cook's Extrasolar Planets page under Brain Food, because, well, it's just damn cool.

In the Time Before Children, I spent many chilly hours in my backyard with my telescope at night and many more hours (rather warmer ones) reading about extrasolar anything. The very idea of planets orbiting another star has been fascinating to me since the first time I saw Star Wars.

So when I started writing fiction again a few years ago, the idea of an almost-but-not-quite Earth-like world was a natural springboard. Right about that same time there were a bunch of news reports on a whole new batch of extrasolar planets that had been discovered. In one of them was this image:


That one image spawned a whole world.

A world in which half the night sky was taken up by this enormous red 'moon'. A world in which the rest of the night sky, and some of the day sky, hosted a parade of smaller moons. A world which would be subject to the massive magnetic field of the 'mother moon'.

What would it be like to live on such a world? How would the many moons in the sky warp the belief system of the people who came to inhabit that world? What would the magnetic field do to the human brain?

Novel #1 was born from those questions, and NaNo's 2006 and 2007 both take place on the same world. I might, eventually, have come up with something similar, but really a lot of credit goes to Lynette's art work, which gave the brain the original spark.

When I get my Fiction Writer website up and running, I'm hoping I can afford to use her images somewhere. In the meantime, many thanks Lynette!

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25 April 2008

Friday Snippet - Mutagens #3

Here's another, more snippet-sized, bit of the Mutagens story. I just re-wrote it, but I'm still pretty zonked from the battle with the Evil Pollen Pixies, so things that suck or don't make sense, well - I blame the Zyrtec... ;-D

In case you missed them, the first snippet in this story is here and the second one is here.

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*******************************


Einstein was worried. He’d called warning after warning from his perch on the lamppost.

‘Get away! Get away!’ his raucous voice urged. He did it again while Corva waited in line at the water monger’s stall. ‘Get away! Get away!’

She ignored him. She needed food and she needed water and she didn’t have a lot of choices about where to get them. It was the market or stealing, and she'd already pushed her luck stealing the eggs. The market was safer.

At least, it had been until she’d noticed the tall boy with the bow and arrows. She was sure he was following her.

She finished trading her eggs for a beat-up two-liter of water, and Einstein insisted they leave.

'Home! Home!' he cawed and soared over the causeway to scout ahead.

Corva hurried down the hill to follow him. They’d been away too long already.

Wild roses grew along the banks of the causeway. In the warm weather, they had bloomed again. The fragrant blossoms looked and smelled out of place, though, right next to the ripening rosehips. She ought to stop and pick some of those; they were loaded with vitamin C.

‘Careful! Careful!’ Einstein called, as he returned from a sweep behind her.

She took a surreptitious glance back towards the market. Damn!

The boy with the bow and arrows was loping down the hill. He kept well back, but Corva had been followed enough in the last year to tell when she was being tailed.

Well, he probably wouldn’t go through town without a gun. She didn’t want to go through town herself even with a gun.

She took a left a block short of the square. You didn’t go through the square, no matter who you were or what you had on you for firepower. Not unless you were part of a pack.

Einstein kept up a constant worry overhead. He didn’t like this part of town either – too many raven hunters hiding in the shadows.

‘Careful!’ he called, from halfway down the debris-lined street.

His call was answered by another raven, unseen but not far off.

Mid-glide, Einstein suddenly veered across the broken pavement. He called again, his tone urgent, but dramatically different.

‘Feast! Feast!’ he announced. The excitement in his call was unmistakable and was echoed by tens of others. A flock was gathering over a big white house.

‘Einstein!’ Corva called after him, but she knew it was useless.

He disappeared as the flock descended all together in a whoosh into the parking lot behind the house.

Irritated that he would abandon her for food, Corva marched up the driveway to retrieve him.


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24 April 2008

Thursday Thirteen #2

You see the picture up there? The one you click on to go to my profile? Yeah, yeah, that one.

It’s there, in part, because I don’t actively hate it. (And there aren’t many pictures of me that meet that criteria.) It’s also there because it was taken Way Out West where part of my soul still lives.

But mainly, it’s there because it reminds me that - once upon a time - I had abs.

And you could see ‘em.

However, that was 10 years, 1 wedding, 2 dogs, 2 cats and - perhaps most tellingly - 2 pregnancies ago. Hence, my Thirteen for this week…




Thirteen Reasons I Need to Lose Weight


1. My arms don’t sit right on my body. Instead of going down, they go out first. Then down. I’ve never had that before. I don’t like it.

2. My fat clothes don’t fit. Last time my fat clothes didn’t fit, it was because I had lost so much weight they were too loose to stay up. Sadly, that ain’t the case this time.

3. Three years ago when I was back down to my high school weight, I bought all these great clothes. I can’t wear them anymore. Any of them.

4. Ms. Five can run faster than me. That ain’t right.

5. I keep accidentally knocking stuff off tables as I walk by ‘cuz I’m actually wider than I think I am. That ain’t right either.

6. I miss my abs.

7. Parts that shouldn’t jiggle, DO.

8. Bending over to tie my shoes is difficult and somewhat uncomfortable. Kinda like when I was pregnant. Only I’m not now.

9. The curves that I should have disappeared under curves that I shouldn’t have.

10. There is a tire under my chin. No really. A tire.

11. My thighs have to rotate oddly to get past one another when I walk. It is really very strange. And I really don’t like it.

12. I utterly refuse to buy clothing in that next size up. I just won’t do it.

13. Because of my job at FPU, I know waaay more than I ever wanted to about the health effects of being overweight. Losing excess weight is the single best thing you can do for your future health.

So I’m gonna do it.

Right after this brownie.

I’m kidding. I started last week. And I’ve gained two pounds. Stupid scale.

Meh. Maybe it’s muscle mass coming back.

(Hey, I can dream…)



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!







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23 April 2008

urgh .... drugs .... urgh ....

Thanks to the Evil Pollen Pixies, I woke up this morning with my eyes stuck shut and otherwise looking like 2-day old roadkill.

So I hiked over to FPU's Medical Center and got in to see one of the nice residents, who told me to take cetirizine (a.k.a. Zyrtec) and "hit the Flonase hard" (yes, those were his exact words).

I already had the Flonase, but had never tried cetirizine. I got some and noticed that, compared to the 825 milligram antibiotics I was taking last summer, they're tiny: only 10 milligrams.

Doubtful, I wondered if they'd do anything, popped one and went about my business. For about 20 minutes.

And then I got knocked flat on my fat ass for the next 2 hours.

The Husband claimed he called during this time and that I sounded "high as a kite". And perhaps I did. I don't remember much except having extreme difficulty concentrating on more than one thing at a time. By the time he got home with dinner, it was all I could do to stay awake, and once he was in the house, I gave up on that and took a nap.

10 milligrams. Tiny.

Moral of story: Do not judge a pill by its size.

[Oh, and besides knocking me out, it actually works - my eyes no longer look like marshmellows and the itchiness has descended into the realm of the bearable.]

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22 April 2008

Allergy Eyes

You see the eye on your right?



That is actually the eye on my left.

And yes, it is swollen and bloodshot and it itches so badly I am about to rip it out of my frikkin' head to end my misery.

The Evil Pollen Pixies, as you can see, have finally found me.

In June, it will be 5 years since we moved to Itty-Bitty City from Way Out West - 5 years that were blissfully sniffle and itchy-eye free. I thought perhaps the Evil Pollen Pixies had given up their search for me, that I was to be permanently spared their hexes and curses, that I would be forced (albeit willingly) to give up my long-held title, The Snot Queen.

Clearly, that is not the case.

Clearly, the Evil Pollen Pixies are far more persistent than I ever gave them credit for.

Clearly, I will soon be (re-)embarking on my quest for the mythical Elixir of Relief, available only from the wise, wise Wizards of Scritch, Scratch and Suffer.

Let's hope they have better drugs these days.

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21 April 2008

O Come All Ye Faithful...

So I have a religion or three that I need to flesh out for Novel #1. To date I've gotten away with peripherals - a temple here, a ritual there, a couple of priestesses and an Abbess thrown in for good measure.

Fine, as far it goes. And then I ran into Luci and Lars.

Luci is a priestess having a crisis of faith and Lars is ... well, Lars. And a pain in my ass. So it should have come as no surprise when he started dropping hints that he is, in fact, a Believer in his local religion.

This makes me nervous.

Religion, in general, makes me nervous, but the prospect of building my own is daunting, since as a failed Buddhist and the child of an athiest and an ex-Catholic, I have next to zero life experience with this 'Believer' thing.

I mean, I went to Sunday school as a kid, but only when I asked to because my best friend from across the street did. When my interest waned, I certainly wasn't made to go.

There was a brief spate of church-going when I was a teenager, but that was to a Unitarian Universalist church, and Unitarians will believe anything, so I'm not sure that even counts.

When I got to college I tried Buddhism and I tried Wicca (and probably several other things I've forgotten altogether), but no matter what I tried, I just didn't 'get it'.

Maybe I'm lacking a 'faith gene' or something. I don't know, but it's making things difficult when it comes to my characters that do (or did) 'get it'.

I'm just not sure how to approach things, I guess. I could certainly read about religion (I've done plenty of that already), but that's not the same thing.

I need to know what it feels like to see the world through the lens of The One Truth (as it were). Or to have that lens shattered.

I'll figure it out. Probably, I just need to sit and think about it for a while. But for those of you who have been (or are still) there: What's it like to be a 'Believer'? How does it make you feel? What do you like about it? What don't you like about it?

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19 April 2008

Major Progress!

Today was one of those rare days in the learning-to-write life that was a really fun adventure rather than a damp and dreary slog through the Swamp of Despair.

OK, so I didn't write anything on the actual story (and perhaps that has something do to with avoiding a trek in the Swamp...), but I DID finally, finally connect the ending of the dragon murder mystery, which I've had in my head for two years, with the beginning! And, more importantly, I finally, finally know Who-Dun-It!! Finally!

And it's not who I thought it was...

Which was shocking and weird, but in a good way.

Now all I have to do is figure out all the details. Heh.

Let's hope that doesn't take me two more years...

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Silly Fingers

Or: Off-Season Nanoism

So I'm working through my issues with the dragon murder mystery using one of the tools from Holly Lisle's Plot Clinic which involves asking questions of The Muse.

Now when I do this, I don't look at what I'm typing. In part, I don't look because I usually need to keep one eye on a kid, but mostly I don't look because if I do, I automatically edit and go back and correct typos and rethink what I've written, etc, etc. These things interrupt The Muse, who then gets pissy and shuts up. Which is bad.

So I asked my question, which has to do with a hazy character, Etienne, who is trouble but I don't know why yet. I asked what he did for a living and I'm typing merrily along, one eye on Ms. Baby who is getting into her sister's art supplies, but not destroying anything yet. I glance at my screen, just to make sure I don't have my fingers on the wrong keys or something and see this:

He provides for Robert and June, although Robert would rather he didn't and June doesn't need him to because her husband (an Englishman) is a finance wizard and makes millions playing the stork market...

The stork market. Yes, well, how interesting. Apparently June's Englishman husband sells babies for a living. Not quite the twist I had in mind, but ya never know.... it could work....

Or not.

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18 April 2008

Friday Snippet - Mutagens #2

In case you missed it, the first snippet in this story is here.

This week's snippet below is actually intended to be the first scene of the story, so probably I should have posted it first. But I didn't. :) It needed some work and, since I was hoping to keep my Friday Snippets to around 500 words, it's a whole lot longer than I would have liked. But I couldn't find a good place to break it up, so here it is, out of order and way too long for a snippet, but whatever.


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The Landis brothers. What a couple of freaks. Jonathan wished to God he’d never met them. Their five-gallon jug of water sat heavy on his dining room table, and he was just about done being polite about it.

He gave the jug of water another shove in their direction and tried – for about the third time – to explain why they needed to take it and leave.

“Like I told you,” he said, trying to sound testy. “I’m not interested.”

They had stopped by late in the afternoon, Colin and Jack, to see if he wanted the job. Now they were sitting there like they thought they were a couple of little kings whose word was law. The shitty thing was that it might as well be.

Colin, tall and thin, slouched regally at the opposite end of the of the dark oval table and said nothing. His angular face was placid under a deliberately unkempt crown of dark hair. Only his eyes betrayed any irritation. The washed out blue seemed to frown down the length of the table, though his mouth didn’t move.

Colin’s brother Jack sat closer, with his chair kicked out to face Jonathan. The exact opposite of Colin, except for the eyes, Jack was short, round and never shut up. A close-crop of thinning peach fuzz did little to hide the sheen of sweat on his skull and he was constantly grinning as if it amused him that his own ears stuck out almost ninety degrees from his head.

“Consider it society’s payment for riding the world of that wolf-man,” Jack said in a voice that reminded Jonathan of thick, dirty motor oil.

“I don’t want it,” Jonathan replied stubbornly. And who did they think they were kidding, anyway? There was no such thing as ‘society’ anymore.

Jack sighed. There was a pause and then Colin rose to his feet.

“Keep it,” Colin’s deep voice rumbled. “Just in case.”

“In case what,” Jonathan asked.

“In case you change your mind,” Colin replied. Then he nodded at Jack and showed himself out. The screen door clattered behind him.

Jack rose, too. But instead of making for the door, he stood there as if torn by indecision, which Jonathan doubted. Jack flashed another one of his weird grins that squinched his eyes nearly shut and seemed to show most of the inside of his mouth but hardly any teeth.

“We could use you, Jonny,” he said, his voice lilting with casual regret. “We’re gonna put some order back in the world around here, kid. The mutants – we gotta get rid of ‘em. That’s the first step. To do that, we need a good shot.”

“Good luck finding one,” Jonathan replied, folding his arms over his chest and not returning the smile. He hated being called Jonny by anyone other than his mother, and his mother was dead.

Jack’s grin faded and something that Jonathan figured was supposed to be a sober frown replaced it. Jack shook his head and drew his eyebrows together.

“The bitch laid that old woman out,” Jack said, his washed-out blue eyes going wide in apparent consternation. “She went through her pockets and then cut her open stem to stern, Jonny! I saw it with my own eyes. Who knows what else she woulda done, if she hadn’t caught sight of us and run off! Probably sat there and ate her up! We can’t have monsters like than running around, can we?”

Jonathan didn’t reply. What was he supposed to say to that? Of course, you couldn’t have monsters running around. But he wasn’t convinced he wanted it to be his job to take them out. Not when every one of the ‘monsters’ had been a perfectly normal person once. When he didn’t reply, Jack shook his shiny head again and went on with the air of a second-hand car dealer making a show of compromising with an unwilling customer.

“Look, Jonny,” Jack said. “I know right now it seems like we’re asking you to hunt someone down in cold blood. But she not human anymore. It’s no different than stalking a deer through the woods. You’ve done plenty of that, right?”

Jonathan shrugged, not willing to see the similarities. “Am I supposed to mount her head on my wall afterwards?”

He was being sarcastic, but Jack took it as some kind of joke. He guffawed loudly and slapped his thigh.

“Just give it some thought, kid,” he said, and then he pulled two bottles out of his coat and put them on the table. Not water this time, but beer – beer – and some kind of micro-brew, no less. In spite of himself, Jonathan’s mouth watered. He had to concentrate hard to cover the shock of seeing actual beer on his table.

“These are on the house, kid,” Jack said with a wink. “And listen, you remember what Colin said: really long black hair and unnatural pale skin. You can’t miss this chick. She’s somewhere in our district. A bunch of people have seen her ‘round here, so you might too. Now, I’m not saying you got to shoot her right off, but you might follow her – track her, you know. Just see what she’s up to. What do you think? “

Jonathan shrugged and did his best to glare. He hated to admit it, but that almost sounded like a good idea. There were monsters out there, after all. It didn’t hurt to know where they were.

“Listen, Jonny, I’ll make a deal with you,” Jack said, lowering his voice and glancing at the door as if he were about to impart some great secret that he wanted to keep from Colin. “I’ll throw in another jug of water just like this one. Just keep an eye out for her. If you see her, you tell me where and when, and you’ll see another one of these on your table."
He tapped the jug, then went on, "Can you do that much for us?”

Jonathan realized he was grinding his teeth and made himself stop. The impression of Jack as a used car salesman morphed into a televangelist asking for money.

But, shit. Another jug of clean water. It hadn’t rained in weeks, and rainwater was the only water you could trust. Jonathan’s rain buckets were almost dry. And his mouth was watering again.

He shrugged again and glared at the jug on his table. “I’ll keep my eyes open, sure,” he said. Then he added, “but I’m not shooting anybody.”

“OK, man, that’s great! That’s all we ask,” Jack said, as if that’s all he’d ever wanted in the first place. “Flag us down if you see anything. Colin and me, we’ll be around.”

Colin and Jack were around all right. Their big black SUV was hard to miss – it was the only damn thing on the road.

Jack flashed another inside-out grin, then he let himself out like his brother had.

Jonathan sat there for ten minutes, staring – and then glaring – at the bottled fortune on the table. Water. Clean water that he didn’t have to worry about turning his insides into a jellified, tumorous mass.

And beer.

He hadn’t even seen beer in over eighteen months. Not since somebody – terrorists was the going theory, these days – had
put some kind of mutagenic poison in the water that had killed half the people on the damn planet. And they were the lucky ones.

Jonathan would have died himself, if he hadn’t been off in the woods hunting that weekend. His family hadn’t fared so well – his dad, his mom, his little brother, the dogs, his grandparents, everybody. They were all buried in the backyard.

While he sat here at the dining room table.

By himself.

With a big jug of clean water that was either going to keep him alive another couple of weeks or get thrown at Jack’s head to crush that grin right off his face the next time Jonathan saw him.


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17 April 2008

Thursday Thirteen #1

OK, I decided this Thursday Thirteen thing looked fun. No guarantees I'll actually manage it every week, but ya never know...


Thirteen Things on My Beloved Subaru that Need Fixin'

1. The doors lock and unlock themselves. At random. For no particular reason. (And I thought electronic locks were so cool when we got My Beloved Subaru (MBS)…)

2. The headlights go out constantly. It's not the bulbs, though. The bulbs are fine. It's the wires that supply them with power. They keep melting. Yeah, I know, melting.

3. If the RPMs drop too low in 2nd gear, the transmission violently ejects the gear shift back into neutral. The transmission does this, I am told, because the “synchos are going”. Whatever that means, the results are rather alarming. According to The Husband, it is not actually harmful, although it is a very certain indication that the transmission is well on its way to being utterly useless.

4. Subaru Legacy wagons have half doors – just the lower half, where the windows live when they are down – and therefore, they do not have window frames. When the windows are up, they are supposed to seal to the weather stripping attached to the roof and side posts. Supposed to. When they don’t, as is the case with the front passenger’s side window on MBS, at high speeds they emit anything from an earsplitting, high-pitched whistle to a deafening, wind-tunnel roar.

5. As a result of #4, we have what we refer to as “The Paper”, which we stuff between the window and the weather stripping to force the window of MBS to seal, thereby preventing unpleasant side effects. Such as deafness.

6. The backlight for the heat and air controls has never worked. The hazard lights button – right above the heat and air controls - works fine. The CD player – right below the heat and air controls – also works fine.

7. If the car is locked, we can’t open the hatch with a key because one broke off in the lock a few months back. (In downtown Atlanta. At night. Thank goodness we had a spare in the hotel room.)

8. The remaining key is in love with the ignition and frequently protests being removed from it. In fact, sometimes I have to wrestle the steering column to get the key out. I do wrestle very gently for fear of a recurrence of #7.

9. The driver’s side floor mat has this annoying habit of sneaking forward until it somehow makes it impossible to let the clutch pedal out. This almost always happens at a stoplight, so you have to sit there holding up traffic whilst swearing and fishing around by your feet for the floor mat so you can pull it back to its assigned spot so you can let out the clutch, engage the engine and GO already.

10. The gas gauge works just fine. Until it gets down to the 1/4 tank mark. Then, quite suddenly, the needle careens down past E until it’s actually sitting on the little peg at the very bottom the gauge. The tripometer works also works just fine, and believe me, I know exactly how many miles I can get out of a tank of gas, which in and of itself, is sorta wrong.

11. The rearview mirror is loose, so every time I drive over a bump it gets jarred and points lower and lower and lower, until pretty soon instead of glaring at the A-hole tailgating me, I'm glaring at Ms. Baby's feet (or the bottom or her carseat, depending on whether or not she's in it). It's a small thing, but annoying all the same.

12. The Check Engine light is on and has been for months. The Husband took it to Autozone, and their computer said the engine is misfiring, which – if that is actually the case – would be bad. It may also be a bad sensor. Here's hoping it's the sensor.

13. The front passenger-side wheel well makes this awful clattering sound every time I make a right turn. It’s the CV joint and it makes the awful clattering sound because it needs to be replaced. Again. (This will be the 3rd time.)




The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!



16 April 2008

Customizable Quote Widget

So I have this collection of quotes that I like. I keep it in a Word document on my computer, which is nice because all the quotes are in one place.

I have often wished, though, that I could display them somehow - have a new one pop up every day when I turn my computer on or something. I haven't found anything that will do that yet, but I thought, hey! surely there's a widget that I could put on my blog that would do that.

I commenced searching.

And I discovered that there are LOTS of quote widgets out there, but most of them are stocked with someone else's idea of a good quote. Now that is all well and good, but I wanted to load my widget with my own collection of good quotes, and short of learning java and programming a widget myself, it was looking like I was going to be out of luck.

And then I found this:

http://blogger-hacked.blogspot.com/2006/09/quote-of-day-widget.html

Pretty much exactly what I was looking for!

Now in order to add your own quotes, you do have to get in there and edit the code, which might be intimidating, if you've never done such a thing. But it's pretty straightforward as long as you don't forget any "s or ;'s, or put any "s inside of other "s. Heh.

Seriously, the author of the code actually seems to be pretty responsive to questions and requests for help in the comments to the post linked above. He'll take a look at your code, if you're having problems and tell you how to fix it, which is really pretty cool.

Anyway, I now have my very own, customized quote widget sitting over there at the top of my sidebar, which is, as they say where I come from, wicked cool!

13 April 2008

A Vehicular Dilemma

My Beloved Subaru turns 13 this year and her age is really starting to show. The list of Things That Need Fixin' goes on and on, and so we've slowly, reluctantly come to the conclusion that we will need to replace My Beloved Subaru and probably sooner rather than later.

So I started looking at cars.

We need something that will get me from the Heart of Suburban Hell to Fabulous Private University 4 days a week without costing us a gazillion dollars in gas. Yanno, like a Prius.

We need something that will tote 2 little girls and all their associated crap and still have room for things like breathing. Yanno, like a minivan.

Since my commute takes me into the middle of Itty Bitty City and I sometimes get stuck in traffic, The Husband thinks we need something with an automatic transmission. Yanno, like most people drive.

We wouldn't mind having something that sits up a bit higher and therefore has a bit more visibility. Yanno, like an SUV.

I want none of these things.

The Prius? Too small and too expensive and doesn't look fun to drive. The minivan? Oh, dear dog, no - I can't really be than uncool and they don't look fun to drive. The automatic transmission? GAG me - SO not fun to drive. The SUV? Not on your life will I ever drive anything that gets such crappy gas mileage and besides, they're so big they can't possibly be fun to drive.

In other words, I have discovered to my surprise that I really want something fun to drive.

How incredibly impractical is that?

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11 April 2008

Friday Snippet - Mutagens

Welcome to my very first Friday Snippet! (*bites lower lip* nerves, nerves...)

This is from a story called 'Mutagens' that I started a few years ago after having to edit a paper on childhood cancer. I had to do a fair amount of background reading on teratogens and mutagens and oncogenes and such like. Naturally, my imagination chewed on the science-y stuff, twisted it up with a bunch of other stuff bouncing around in my mind at the time - terrorism, homesickness, being a mommy - and next thing I knew I had this story idea burning a hole in my brain.

This part is actually a bit that I cut when attempting to force the thing to be a short story, which it adamently refuses to be, so it will probably go back in in some form eventually. Anyways, here 'tiz:

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She took James up onto the roof to play in the warm afternoon sun. So late in September the heat felt good, even though the light had taken on that glow that said in no uncertain terms that it was fall and that winter was going to find New England sooner rather than later, no matter what promises the temperature was making that summer would never end.

James gurgled and tried to stand up. It was hard for him since he didn’t have hands to steady himself with. She helped him when he got frustrated, holding him up by his chubby little torso as his downy wings flapped for balance. It wouldn’t be long before he could do it himself. He was a feisty kid.

He’d be a year old in a couple of months. She had enough food cached away, she hoped, to make it through the cold months. She had been smart – Einstein and his mate had taught her not to put everything in one spot. Many hiding places was best. She ran them through in her mind, like a mantra, a talisman against the hunger that had almost killed her and the unborn James after the poisoned water had taken Peter.

She had picked places people didn’t like to go – graveyards were good. She had three caches in the big graveyard by Little Harbour, two in an older one by the South Mill Pond, one in the park down the street from it. There were several in this building and a bunch down by the water.

James fussed and started mouthing her chest, so she picked him up and nursed him. His eyes closed slowly to the rhythmic suckling sounds.

A big black SUV drove slowly down Maplewood.

Its windows were tinted black, so she couldn’t see in. Even if they hadn’t been, she couldn’t have seen much – it was all the way across the vacant lot between her street and Maplewood.

She stayed perfectly still as she watched it go by. Probably, whoever was in the SUV wouldn’t notice her. Probably, from a distance she would just look like one of the old A/C units on the roof. Probably.

Wonder who that is. Someone with a lot of money, or whatever it's equivalent was these days. Drinkable water. Food. Firepower. That was about it. Whatever they had, they must have a lot of it to be able to get enough gasoline to drive that thing around.

The SUV crossed the end of her street and disappeared over the bridge as the wind kicked up bringing a tang of salt and chill off the ocean. It blew her hair out in ripples like a long black flag from her head. She had almost cut it all off when Peter died. Grief made you do strange things. She was glad she hadn't. It was warm.

Einstein soared overhead calling for his mate, who answered from their nest in the covered corner of the balcony below. The fledglings called too, their little voices shrill in the breeze. Instead of going to see them, though, Einstein flapped down onto the roof and waddled toward her.

'Amy!' he croaked in his familiar sing-song. 'Amy!'

"Corva," she corrected, gently. "It's Corva now, remember."

'Corva,' Einstein repeated sounding just as doubtful as a raven knew how.

"That's right, Corva," she crooned to him.

He croaked softly and shuffled his feet as if he couldn't get comfortable. He croaked again, then reached over to run the side of his beak over the crook of her arm next to the baby's head.

'Amy!' he said with a note of finality.

"You don’t listen very well. I must have misnamed you," she muttered sidelong at him.

Einstein cocked his head at her and then cawed loudly and took off to visit his family.


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Sorry I can't figure out how to get the Friday Snippet code from Mr. Linky, but if you comment, please leave a link to your own snippet too!

EDIT: OK, I think I got the Mr. Linky thing figured out. We'll see if it works...




Hey, whadya know - I did it!!

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09 April 2008

Flitting

I have this problem with finishing things. It is, unfortunately, inherent in my personality. Because I like learning new things, I like starting new projects more than I like finishing old ones.

This makes it really hard to get any writing project from the Work-In-Progress stage to the Ready-To-Submit stage. It also causes me to flit from project to project whenever I get stuck (i.e., really, really often), which contributes to my tendency to never finish anything.

That's what's happening now. I decided I wanted to focus on one thing: finish plotting the dragon murder-mystery, so I could finish writing it. And I did manage to put some time in on it every day last week.

And then I got stuck.

And now my mind keeps wandering off towards several other projects, cajoling me with thoughts like: "Hey! Remember that story about mutagenic water? That was SO COOL!" or "Oooo! Shouldn't we draw up ALL NEW plot cards for the vampire story? Yeah!" and "Dude. Great new idea for another go at the first chapter of Novel #1. No, really, this one's a winner."

It's really frustrating, especially because one of my goals for this year is to complete and submit something. (I said 'short story' in that post, but I just don't know that I'm capable of writing anything that short, so 'novella' may have to do.)

Plus, this just keeps happening. Every time I get stuck, instead of sticking with it and doggedly working my way through the various methods of getting un-stuck, I allow myself to get distracted, convince myself that a couple of days spent working on that other project will give me the distance I need to come back to the first project with fresh eyes and poof! all will be revealed and whatever issue I was having will dissolve in a flash of inspiration.

That's not how it works and I know it.

Flashes of inspiration happen, and they're great when they do, but depending on them showing up is not how stories get written. Stories get written by writers who keep at it and keep at it and keep at it until the story is told.

I can come up with a hundred and one excuses about why I can't do this - Ms. Baby was sick all winter, I have 7 manuscripts to edit and 4 grant proposals due next Thursday, Ms. Baby hates sleeping, Ms. Five has a soccer game or practice every night this week....

The list goes on and on and on, but the fact is this isn't a time issue. I can and do find time for writing. This is a focus issue - specifically a staying focused issue.

I can do this for work-work. It wasn't easy, but I learned how to keep myself from letting projects fall by the wayside once my initial interest in them waned. I keep To Do lists. Five of them. Color coded, in fact. The yellow one is the master list of everything I have going at any one time, the others keep track of the details of each project. I LOVE checking things off even more than I love starting new projects, so just having the lists keep me motivated to complete things.

Hmm. Maybe I should adopt a similar system for my writing projects. I suppose it could work... wonder why this never occurred to me before....

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08 April 2008

Ouch!

So yesterday I got this invoice from the publisher of one of our papers, and they're charging us $3.00 for every correction we made to the page proof (a grand total of $117.00).

Normally, I would have no problem with this -- I understand that it's a pain to change things once they've gone to the publisher.

However.

In this case, the publisher is charging us for correcting things that the journal changed when they copy-edited the paper and didn't check with us about first. THAT ticks me off.

I mean, if you want to copy-edit the articles you publish, fine. GOOD, in fact, because another set of eyes looking through something is never a bad idea and if you want everything you publish to reflect your house style, that's fine, too. But if you're going to do that, fer Pete's sake, check with the people who wrote the damn thing to make sure you're not changing the intended meaning before you send it to your publisher.

I know, I know - I'm ranting. But I put a lot of time and effort into making sure things are clear. It's important -- the science is hard enough to understand without the language used to describe it being vague or impossible to decipher.

For example, this sounds very nit-picky, but there IS a difference in clarity between 'personal interview' (their version) and 'in-person interview' (our version). We always say 'in-person interview' to differentiate the interviews we conduct with our study participants from telephone interviews. According to some experts, it can make a difference in the accuracy of the data collected, so we want the people reading our papers to know exactly how our interviews were conducted. (In fact, this is something peer reviewers will call you on if you aren't clear about it.)

So now I'm going through the paper - again - correction by correction and checking to see which ones we should and shouldn't be charged for.

And then I'm going to call the publisher and explain my point of view.

Very, very politely, of course.

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07 April 2008

The Twelve-foot Tower of Torani

I like coffee. I like it a lot. I like it black and flavored (think hazelnut) and really, really hot.

Unfortunately, it does not like me that way.

If I put a little cream in it, I can get away with drinking actual coffee-coffee once a week or so. More often than that, it tears the crap out my stomach.

So I have to drink lattes (have to - we don't want me going around without coffee, since I turn into a nasty, crabby bitch).

Lattes work because the coffee bit is diluted enough to not bother my stomach -- if I use (or ask for) soy milk, since I can't drink milk-milk anymore either (dang, but getting old sux).

So lattes solve the stomach problem, but leave me flavorless unless I put syrap in with the soy milk. Usually, this is chocolate sauce, because my favorite form of flavored latte is mocha. Chocolate sauce is also cheap and easy to find -- on any given day, Wally-world has tons.

But occasionally, I like to branch out: caramel, raspberry - even mint, when the mood strikes.

These flavors are not so easy to find.

I was spoiled when I lived Way Out West - there was a little, bitty health food store downtown that carried every flavor of Torani syrap they ever made. It was great and easy to find, if not incredibly cheap.

Then we moved to HSH. And Torani was no where to be found in any flavor.

I searched and I searched. I tried the grocery store brands - all two flavors offered (vanilla and raspberry - um, woot). Wally-world started carrying a cheez-mo version (also two whole flavors).

I tried them. They just didn't do it for me.

The vanilla was vanilla-ish, but not vanilla. And the raspberry was just ... well, I've had better tasting cough syrap.

Now, one thing about HSH, which is both good and bad, is that it's really up and coming. There's a TON of development going on - new shopping centers, new restaurants, new stores, a new stadium-seating movie theatre (a necessity of life when you're a short person like me).

And recently, we got this place called World Market.

I had never heard of it, but one day last weekend I somehow managed to escape the house without the children and I decided to check it out, since one of my mothers-in-law told me they had "gourmet beer". Not being in any sort of a hurry to get home, I wandered aimlessly through lovely-smelling aisles of candles and soaps and pillows and rugs and patio furniture and basketry of all description.

Then things started getting interesting.

Wasabi snacks (love 'em). Godiva chocolate (Godiva!). Pete's Wicked Ale. St. Pauli Girl. Harp!

And then, there in a stack between aisles, cases of Torani syrap. Only vanilla and raspberry, but still Torani! And it was on sale!

Hyperventilating just a little, I grabbed a basket and snagged a bottle of each, resisting the urge to grab a whole case for fear of injuring myself trying to get it into the car.

I took a deep breath. Very pleased with myself, I continued perusing beers.

Then I rounded a corner and saw it: the Twelve-foot Tower of Torani. Every flavor they make - guava, grapefruit, mango - you name it, there it was, sitting on a shelving unit that went almost to the ceiling.

I literally stood there staring at it for 10 minutes. And grinning.

Life in HSH just got a whole lot better.

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04 April 2008

Another Annotation: Joely Sue Burkhart

I was planning on posting an updated one-sentence summary for my dragon murder-mystery story today, but Ms. Five has been home sick for two days, and at the moment I’m tired and grumpy and can’t stand the sight of my own writing. So I’m going to talk about somebody else’s writing, instead. (Yes, I’m copping out. Get over it.)

“Somebody” is Joely Sue Burkhart, whom I recently added to my “Brain Food” list. In a word, Joely is great. Her blog has become required reading for me, not only because of posts like the one I found so inspiring the other day, but also because of her snippets, which appear fairly regularly and are awesome. Especially the ones about Gregar. :-D

Joely is a fantasty-romance writer and does a lot of things really well - many of them things I wish I did well and don't (yet). World building, for instance. The best word to describe it is deft. As a reader, you are imperceptibly drawn into the worlds her characters inhabit until you are there, no info-dump necessary, thank-you-very-much. I envy her skill at this, and it's lovely to read. There are other technique-y things I admire too - her characters are complicated and interesting, her plots are well constructed and tight (and decidedly not full of holes like mine!). The heart of the reason I like Joely’s writing, however, is how well she balances the fantasy and romance elements in her writing.

Now, before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight: I am NOT a romance reader. At all. I think I picked up a romance novel in high school or college once and I just didn’t get it. (What, no swords? No magic? No murder? Huh? What kinda book IS this?) And so I proceeded for years to read nothing but fantasy and murder mysteries, with the occasional Prodigal Summer or The Red Tent foisted upon me by my book club.

I was perfectly happy.

And then something weird happened.

A couple of years ago, when I had the time to actively participate in Critters (which, alas, I don’t these days), I crited a short story. It was basically a love story – a romance – only it had really strong, really well-developed fantasy elements. The weird thing? I loved it. The author of that story, in her notes at the end of it, wondered whether there was a market for a story like that, I found myself wanting to shout “Yes - ME!”

This reaction was really quite shocking, given my reading history. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I like to have a love story in my fantasy, and even though a lot of fantasy stories have a love interest/aspect/what-have-you, they rarely get into the details of emotional turmoil and conflict (and, let's be honest, sex) that I discovered I enjoy. While this epiphany did not make me run out and buy straight-up romance novels, it did put me on the lookout for other stories like that one.

And lucky me, that’s exactly what Joely writes and writes well. Yahoo!

I highly recommend checking out Joely's blog. You can pick up her stories either through the links on her blog or by going directly to Drollerie Press.

And while I intended to review those stories as part of this post, as I said I'm too tired and grumpy today. :( Hopefully, tomorrow (if everybody stays healthy - cross your fingers).

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02 April 2008

Joggers

What is it about early morning joggers (or any joggers for that matter) that they HAVE to jog IN THE ROAD?

I can forgive them doing this when they are on the correct side of the road and going in the correct direction (that is, my side and facing me) when - and only when - there is no sidewalk available, which admittedly is rather more often than not in the Heart of Surburban Hell (HSH).

But when there IS a sidewalk available - and it's ludicrously early and still dark and I've had maybe 3 sips of coffee - WHAT do they think they're doing in the road besides begging to be accidentally run over?

NOT a good way to start anyone's morning, that's what I say...

AN IMPORTANT EDIT

Please read Susan's comment to this post and read her post on a similar subject:

Dear Neighbor

I had always assumed that traffic laws stated that pedestrians should walk facing traffic, but that may not be the case. I'm going to find out what my state says (unnfortunately, they have nothing about it online - at least, nothing that was easy to find).

And I shall strive to be more tolerant of joggers in the meantime... :)

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