Friday, January 30, 2004

Fun Blogging "Chain"

You know those emails that are going around with a list of questions you're supposed to answer and then forward on to a whole bunch of people and send it back to the person who sent it to you? There's a blogging equivalent. Sarah posted her answers and an invitation to keep the fun going. I opted for a stab at the chain. Here are Sarah's questions and my answers.

1. What bad science spouted by people who think they know everything makes you see red?

Excellent question. There are quite a few statements that make me twitch. It's worse when it's in a movie, because then you don't have an opportunity to correct the misunderstanding - shy of standing up in front of the theater, "pausing" the movie, and giving the audience a quick lecture. Which is something I should've done several times during "Mission Impossible 2". But if would-be bioterrorists see the movie and think they can jump into a Biohazard Level IV lab through a central air shaft and that they will be protected from the extremely dangerous agents found therein by a ski mask and a ten second chemical dusting, then hey. Who am I to correct them? They'll be easier to catch that way.

And a non-science person saying anything about DNA is likely to put a nice red haze to my vision. It's amazing what folks think about genetics - or don't think. The general conceptions about cancer are pretty amusing as well. I'm pretty good at explaining science in "layman's" terms, and I enjoy doing it. So I don't hear a lot of bad science that stands uncorrected. That and I'm usually fairly surrounded by science geeks.

2. You're walking in the woods and stumble across a magic pool, which clouds over and clears to reveal an image of your 60th birthday party. Who is there celebrating it with you?

Mark better be there. My future children and possibly some grandchildren. My brother better drag his ass to that party as well. I'd like my parents and in-laws (inluding Mark's brothers) to be there - they should have no problem living that long with the science we've got going. As for non-relatives....I've bumped into quite a few folks throughout my life. Any of them would be welcome to share the day with me, assuming I could track them down and send them an invite. I'd be really bummed if my high school buddy and bridesmaid Matt (you heard me) couldn't make it. And a whole host of others. I'd even be curious to have my assholish ex-boyfriends there, just to see what they had made of their lives and how I saw them through older eyes.

3. What's the best thing you've read in the last year?

Toughie. All of Sheila's (S.L. Viehl and Jessica Hall) books. And her short stories. Everything I've read since the Stardoc series has been held up to my experience of those books. I've been disappointed quite often since then. The other books that have matched or come very close to my enjoyment of Sheila's books have been Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, Transformation by Carol Berg, and Nevada Barr's mysteries. Oh, and how could I forget Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? Or Kristin Britain's Green Rider? I'm not trying to think of the long list of disappointments.

4. Aliens take over the world, but they're a very practical species, and keep the world running much as it has been (though without a lot of the war and excessive pollution -- they don't like it when people break their things). In exchange for all the help you've given them over the years leading up to the invasion, they offer you the instant-brain-implant-training and the opportunity to have any job you want. What would it be?

First of all, why was I helping the aliens invade Earth? Would I really enjoy being that person? And what series of events led me to be the aliens' go-to gal? And wouldn't that be a fun novel? *scribbles the idea down in her handy idea notebook that never leaves her purse*

So, basically, what would my dream job be? I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My dream job would be to write full-time and be successful at it, giving me the flexibility I want so I can raise a couple of rugrats. My never-in-my-wildest-dreams-would-it-be-possible job is to be a terraforming expert for Moon and Mars bases. I would love to work on the biochemistry such colonies would need, how things would need to be engineered so people could live in space as they would on Earth, etc. I remember reading about Biosphere II in junior high, thinking how cool it was. Then I saw the thing in college, and couldn't stop thinking of all the neat things we could research in such a place (nothing that was being done there at the time, unfortunately - more akin to how would human life impact a small-scale, enclosed environment; how would humanity have to adapt; how would the environment have to adapt; how would disease spread there; etc). And now that I'm writing about terraformed colonies on Mars, I would love to know all the inner-workings of it: how it was first built, how it's maintained, how things break there, how things are fixed, etc. Excuse me while I wander around with my head in the clouds for a few moments.

5. You save the life of a brilliant and influential (and wealthy) inventor by pushing him out of the path of a falling piano. He's so grateful that he gives you access to his time machine and tells you that you can have a casual conversation with anyone in the world, living or dead. Who do you pick, and why?

Forget the chat! I want to race 100 years into the future to see what it's like! Or go back to Ancient Greece and see how it's possible to be seduced by a swan. Sure, they're pretty, but.... Or use the machine to go back and figure out if there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll for sure, etc.

I suppose it would be neat to chat with Marie Curie (assuming the inventor also had a Universal Translator) or Gregor Mendel or Louis Pasteur or anyone who made a radical and new discovery that drastically changed what we knew of science. These big discoveries have been common knowledge my whole life. I want to know what it's like to have the rules of science as you know it turned upside down.

The Obligatory Rules of this Exercise:
1 - Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 - I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 - You'll update your journal with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 - You'll include this explanation.
5 - You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

So who's next on the Hot Seat?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Crisis Averted, But Damage Done

The family crisis from this weekend was settled by Monday evening. I don't want to talk too much about it at the risk of spilling the beans to folks who are going to be told via other media beyond my blog. Suffice to say, it was handled to everyone's relief and happiness. Unfortunately, it was just stressful enough for my stomach to decide it needed to get back into the business of acid reflux. The crisis alone wouldn't have caused it, but added to the stress of my Pity Funk, my second rejection, rumors at work of layoffs and the resulting "should I get a different job" thoughts, and, last but not least, the possibility that I was pregnant (I'm not, but I didn't know that on Monday when the acid started churning with gusto).... I guess the effect of those combined stressors was just too much for me, and my stomach took the fall. I've got a prescription acid reducer that doesn't seem to be doing the kick-ass job the doctor and pharmacist told me it would. I'm hoping this relapse is like the handful of others I've had since I was twelve - they all required a few days to subside, and then they left me alone for months, even years. The worst it ever was before now, I had to munch on ice cream to soothe my tummy. I'll give that a try again. And Tums shall be my friend. My bestest friend.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Mars Mania

I mentioned a while ago that my setting for The Masque is Mars. Now that the twins are safe and (relatively) sound, there's a ton of stuff to be found on the red planet, and much more to come. Some of the really neat (and really strange) links I've found:I'm hoping to find more neat links and add them. I may even move this page to my bio's science page to immortalize it forever. The best part about this is that I can write all time spent on it as research. Cool. Writing is wicked cool.

The Funk is Over

My little Poor Me funk is on its way out. It was actually completely gone on Saturday. I did some revising, Mark and I took a pal out on a nice birthday dinner, and then we all went to a showing of Opportunity's landing at our local satellite lab. I was riding a nice buzz after watching NASA's live feed of the landing and clapping along with everybody and thinking about all the cool things we're going to be learning this year. And then I came home to a less than happy message on my answering machine, denoting the beginning of a small family crisis which consumed the rest of my weekend. I read a book, did the laundry, and made cookies instead of revising yesterday, mainly because I could just feel the tide of depression getting ready to break every time I looked at HD. Family matters have a way of consuming everything. And of keeping you up until 1 AM, sorting out the phone call you just finished at 12:30 AM. And of intriguing the muse, giving her a chance to scribble notes while muttering, "This is drama. I can use this. Much better than those silly plots she keeps insisting I inspired her to write." Staying awake so late also provides the opportunity of hearing your husband snore, gently prodding him awake enough so he stops, and then hearing him say, "Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to fall asleep." To which you can say, "No, it's OK. You're allowed to sleep right now." And then he'll respond, "OK, thanks," and mumble a nearly unintelligible "Love you" as his meager struggle with consciousness ends.

Travelin' Woman

Via Andi, here's a map of all the states I've been to in my life.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Friday, January 23, 2004

Brave New Scam

There's a new virus/fraud scam out there. It's entertaining to the intelligent receiver, but frightening to one who may not know better. It'll be from your bank or, as I just received today, from the FDIC. I got one from my bank on Monday, saying that my account had been closed. Curious, I called my bank to ask, "What the hey?" I was told that it was a scam (the return address of the sender - some name "" - should've been a big clue, though the link the message asked me to click to verify my identity looked extremely legit, not that I clicked on it, just the url) and to forward it to the real banker guys for their investigation. I sent it on, laughed, and continued business as usual.

Just a few minutes ago, I got a similar email from the "FDIC". This opening has got to win a prize somewhere: "To whom it may concern; In cooperation with the Department Of Homeland Security, Federal, State and Local Governments your account has been denied insurance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation due to suspected violations of the Patriot Act." And how 'bout this closing: "Failure to provide proper identity may also result in a visit from Local, State or Federal Government or Homeland Security Officials. Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter."

If you get any sort of email from your bank or some banking official, call your bank to confirm it before doing anything with it. And let's hope they don't tack on a "launch upon opening" virus. Another big clue: the emails had an attachment that was in no way referred to in the email.

Bad Day

Yesterday started out pretty great. Then 2PM hit, and it all went to hell. I spent a good part of the day catching up with a high school pal, and then I roamed the internet for pictures of my high school and the base I used to live in and the castles I visited. Teared up quite a few times, lost in memory. That barrage of nostalgia, though, got me thinking about my goals and dreams during those years. And that led to the realization that I was doing Nothing compared to what I had hoped and planned. And then I started thinking about how my writing isn't all that great, I'm wasting my life, I can't do anything. Negative snowballing can be fun, eh? I would've found some way to deal with all that nonsense when I got home - watch a DVD with some commentary, play video game, anything to keep my brain from having too much fun with those thoughts. But then I checked the mail.

I received my second rejection letter yesterday.

"That was fast," you say. That's what I said too. I mailed it Jan 10. They mailed their response Jan 20. This agency advertises a 1-3 month response rate. Nice to know my letter was so intriguing that it didn't even make it through the first round of cuts. And, of course, the rejection was a form letter. "Dear Author." The agent wasn't "sufficiently enthusiastic" about my submission. Thank you, junior staffer, for your quick response. With this sort of whiplash reaction, I just hope that someone read the damn query letter. And that I don't go mad trying to analyze what about my letter caused such a knee-jerk "no".

Needless to say, my night did not improve when I got home.

The Sigh Heard 'Round the World

Spirit is apparently back on-line. I would say that the NASA folks would sleep easier now, but their second rover lands tomorrow evening, so I doubt it.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Mars Curse

There's a long string of failed probes and such to Mars. NASA's latest update suggests that Spirit might be doomed to the same fate. I can only hope this is a temporary glitch and that Opportunity lands with the same success as its twin. And when we do get to Mars one day, it will be very interesting to see the remnants of all those probes and rovers and try to figure out What Went Wrong. I can see it now: And astronaut bounds into Gusev Crater, investigates, replaces a 9 volt battery, and Spirit is up and running again.

The Military Family

Military members get tossed all over the world as they serve their country, and their families get moved around with them. People come in and out of your life very quickly, and yet amazing friendships can form in just a year. The other neat thing about the military is that it's very hard to lose touch with anybody. The networks and connections that you form are intricate and plentiful. And strange coincidences are prevalent.

That's why I wasn't surprised that I heard from a high school buddy via email this week - just days after I thought about him and wondered what he was up to. Turns out he lives just a few minutes away from my mother in Arizona. I wish I had known that in time for our Turkey Day trip.

The really neat thing about this friendship is that we were at the same place for six years straight - an unheard of thing in the military. Both his family and my family were stationed at the same base at the same time and had the good luck to stay there for two tours (a tour being three years). Our first aquaintance was during the rocky times of junior high. But we managed to get over that through our church youth groups. We've seen Fatima, Rome, and Lourdes together. We've worked on Catholic youth retreat teams together. And we graduated from high school together. There's a great shot of me, him, and another six-year-long youth group friend locked in a group hug on our high school graduation video. It's at the end of the ceremony, as the video fades from color to grayscale and goes to slowmo to show a montage of everyone hugging and celebrating. That moment of the video means more to me than the five minutes of my Valedictory address (most of which I roll my eyes at because I sound so naive and could think of a million better things to say now) because it represents so many years of my life in Germany, so many experiences, so many friendships, the depth of my faith at that point in my many amazing things.

Now I'm getting all teary-eyed. Excuse me while I smile at a few memories and wallow in fond nostalgia.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004


No words. Just read this.

Power of One?

Both HD and TM are sitting at scenes in which the heroines are struggling with the idea that they can do anything to stop big, bad things from happening. I've been empathizing with them far too much. Can one person really do anything? The best one can do is try and see what happens, I guess. But it's a very disheartening realization that you're pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. Staying there too long leads to depression. On the other hand, believing for too long that you can and will change the world leads to arrogance, or at the least a blind spot to life's harsher realities. So the middle ground of "live your life, do what you can, keep moving forward" seems the best idea. Sometimes it's very hard to stay there, though, when you see so much crap happening that you want to fix or that you know you can't fix.

So this is nothing new, but I needed to put it here as a reminder to me all the same.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Another Update: Added a link to my bio at Forward Motion. This is what I did yesterday instead of write. It's a work in progress. And I got pretty verbose in a few spots, no surprise there.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Bad Muse! Bad!

I was exhausted yesterday and eagerly fell into bed around 11PM. Only to toss and turn and stay awake until 2AM. The reason for this bout of insomnia? A fun bit of dialogue that morphed into a character who morphed into another novel idea. And the ideas just kept coming. The whole first scene is written partly on a scratch sheet of paper when I got up to munch on something and partly on the notebook by my bed. I still haven't seen what the notebook looks like - I wrote a good two pages in the dark. I'm pretty irked at my muse. I had a decent day of revising yesterday. It looks like I'm on track to (finally) finish the revisions for Part 2 this week. And I was able to do a decent amount of writing in The Masque on Friday. All in all, it was a good writing weekend, of the sort that I haven't had in quite some time.

Apparently my muse got a little carried away with the spirit of things.

I don't mind the new idea. Svink is a cool character, very irreverent, very unlucky, very fun to write. He's the sort of character who I can just turn lose in a story idea and see what sort of trouble he causes. All the while making me laugh internally and sometimes even chuckle out loud. And this is just after one scene. Of course, I can't do much with him right now. I've got two projects (technically three, counting worldbuilding) that have higher priority. I suppose I can use him as a carrot and Block Breaker (my "blocks" are project specific).

But I can't quite sing my muse's praises. I mean, 2AM??? She couldn't have dropped this idea in my mind earlier that day, say at 8 when I had called revising quits for the day and was playing video games with Mark? Work with me, Muse! I'm not good to you when I can't keep my eyes open.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Profitable Detour

Mark and I decided to run up to Blackhawk yesterday on a whim. The town bills itself as the Las Vegas of the Rockies. There are quite a few casinos but one, maybe two hotels, so the comparison is a little optimistic. We had a spare chunk of change that we wouldn't mind parting with. The first slot I sat down at yielded the second to highest payline (unfortunately, I was only betting one credit per line, so all I won was twenty bucks for it, but the game had been nice to me before then, so I tripled my money). Some wins and losses occupied the next few hours, with Mark doing very well at Black Jack and me feeding the slots to play some fun bonus games. The last slot I sat down to turned my last twenty into eighty. I was happy to stop gambling then. But Mark had one last twenty to spend, so we decided to use it on the dollar Winning for Dummies slot, which had been very kind to us in Canada last summer. We took turns hitting the "spin" button. We weren't doing so bad, winning just enough to keep us from going bust, when I decided to start hitting the "bet max" button to activate the big bonuses. On my third try, we got back $200. This plus my $80 gave us quite a profit for the day - more than double what we went in with. We decided to call it quits and head back down the mountain. On the drive, we agreed to use some of our profit for a fancy Valentine's Day meal.

All in all, I didn't mind losing a day of writing for this little adventure.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Finished It

Stayed up a little later than I should've, but I finished Kushiel's Dart last night. That was a damn good book. I'll have to bide my time getting the next too, though. Cashflow and reading time are issues. And I have this wierd feeling that having that book unfinished was keeping me from sleeping too well. I really can't say why, but I did just realize that I've been sleeping poorly since I started reading that book. And today is the first day in a while I haven't felt bone tired. It's probably coincidence, but it's an odd one. So the remaining two books in Carey's trilogy will just have to wait a month or so. By then I should be done with HD, so I'll have a tad bit more time as I recover.

The book didn't make me squirm nearly so much as I expected, given all the billing as "erotic" and descriptions of it as the life of a consort. But it did make me squirm, and I really care about the main characters. I have two very teeny tiny gripes: word choice got repettitive (it always use the word "pontificate" and remember how much you like it, and damned if that sucker doesn't show up a good three more times before the end of the chapter, etc) and Phedre was a bit too modest and humble toward the end - nothing too much, but I wanted her at some point to go "Yeah, and I bloody well deserve your thanks too", or at least think it. Those two niggles were so miniscule though.

Be forewarned - this book is an alternate history set in Europe of a sort. I usually don't like that kind of book, my only experience being The Golden Key - and I had no idea that was supposed to be alternate history until the last hundred or so pages of the book and was extremely miffed. KD tells you right in the first five or ten pages that it's based in this world. And that worked for me.

I think the reason I didn't sleep well while reading the book is that my subconscious sat down with my muse to see if they could figure out how to write such multi-dimensional, gripping characters. I still can't believe this is Carey's first novel - and that she was able to sell it as a 900 page doorstop. It does much to keep my own dreams alive.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Science may have gone too far this time. It seems I left science just in the nick of time. Here's hoping Mark will finish up his thesis before a robot can beat him to it.

A Tale of Shenanigans

I've tried to map out what I would post about this group. And more and more memories keep popping up. From the first time I saw the group perform until I got an email informing me that the group had gone bankrupt and was disbanding. Not quite the full span of my four years at Notre Dame, but very close. No matter what I think about the group and all the folks I sang and danced with in it, Shenanigans shaped my college experience.

This group took me to Florida for Spring Break my freshman year. There I got to rub shoulders with several important alumni and hang out with the Glee Club a bit as our Spring Break tours had some overlap (Shenanigans was created by several Glee Club members in 1980-ish). Because of Shenanigans, I sang solo and dueted a couple times - extremely nerve-wracking the first time, fun after that. As the group's treasurer for nearly two years, I got to see the inner workings of Notre Dame - right down to the bureaucratic red tape just to sell burgers before a football game. I also spent a decent amount of time with the President of the Alumni Association (a Big Deal, trust me) because he, through some odd trick dating back to the group's formation, was our club's sponsor and had to sign paperwork and approve things as such. Shenanigans also gave me two out of the three non-senior-portrait pictures I have in all of the four yearbooks I received while at ND (the third being one of me and my roomie playing video games; it was taken by a guy I was dating at the time who happened to be on the yearbook staff). The club also gave me a reason to hang out on campus for a week after finals because we performed for the seniors and their families during the week before graduation. And all that singing and dancing provided a nice break from my studies and kept me fit.

However, Shenanigans had the "Gay" stigma. After all, only fags would want to sing and dance, right? It didn't help the stereotype that a year or two before I arrived saw the outing of two men in the club. Thus we were a bit of a laughing stock with the student body. Thus we didn't get a whole lot of folks auditioning for the group. Thus we had to choose (among the men who tried out) from "decent voice, manageable rhythm" and "voice we can't mask, rhythm we can't hide" and a few shades in between. Thus my second year in the group we became all women for a semester. This was the same year that I took over being treasurer of the group and had to plan our Spring Break Tour (which was supposed to pay for itself and give us a profit besides). This responsibility put me in the Alumni Pres's office quite a bit - and gave me the disappointment of hearing that The Powers That Be frowned on an all-girls group going on a trip. In short, we had to cancel our Spring Break Tour that year. I was furious, indignant, and crushed at the time. Crushed because I hadn't believed that such a gender issue would rear its head among such people.

Remember that Spring Break Tour to Florida I mentioned above? That's also the trip where a Glee Clubber whom I hardly knew told me that I was a flighty bimbo (and other things) because I had only painted my big toe nail that day and my sandals displayed the quirk. That's also the trip where I learned the hard way why the halter top dresses we wore when performing required a safety pin to hold the halter top straps together (long story short: I nearly flashed the audience after standing up from a bow - thank God for long hair).

That last moment alone should taint my memories of the group, but let's not forget my fellow Shenanigans. The women were great. Except the one who wouldn't listen to my treasurer's advice and bankrupted the group shortly after I quit. The men provided me with two of my more assholish of exes, a dance partner who reeked of alcohol during every Sunday morning practice, another dance partner who couldn't dance and ended up wrecking me knee (seriously, I had to skip out on that year's Spring Break Tour in order to go home and have surgery), the only man who ever intentionally got me drunk (he then proceeded to give me unwanted kisses as he walked me home, a fact which sobered me enough to tell him I'd yell "rape" if he tried it again; he stopped), a stalker, and two great guys who are like older brothers to me still.

And if I had to do it all over again, I would still join the group. I would make different decisions about who I trusted in the group and who I dated, but I would be in the group all the same. Now, off I go to find some candy to get the taste of that near strip-tease out of my mouth.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Jack Nicholson is my Dentist

Or at least his long lost twin brother. Actually, the similarity might be more an effect of looking up at him from the requisite chair with the requisite light shining in my face. Still, his eyebrows and lips moved in just the same fashion as Nicholson's Joker (less the make-up and with a Southern accent). Why am I chatting about my dentist? Because my appointment this morning was the highlight of not only today but yesterday as well. Yeah, it's been a fun week.

And because it's been such a fun week, I'm just going to link to this. I've actually got a ton of neato Mars links (The Masque is set on Mars), but I'll save all those for another time. Enjoy the wit of The Onion.

Monday, January 12, 2004


I've updated my sidebar. I had updated it not too long ago, but it needed it again. Mainly due to my epiphany about romance. I don't want to write it. Not as strict romance genre novels. I'll have romantic subplots in my books, and love is apt to be a thematic element in most of my books. But I don't want to write romantic suspense or historical romance or whatever. It took me a year to realize that it wasn't my cup of tea. However, the original love story behind Red Rocks will have to be written. There's just no question. It's too good. I'll just have to supplant it into one of my science fiction ideas. Or fantasy ideas.

This means I have 30,000 + words of a novel I will never finish as such. I'll take a deep breath and get over it. I hope.

As for the rest of my writing, I've mapped out what I hope to do with it this year. I'm finishing Human Dignity by the end of February. I'll allow a final readthrough to take me until March, but that's it. I'm not one for strict deadlines, but I'm getting sick of lingering. I also have a list of five agents I hope to query this year - barring a very long response time from one of them, or an acceptance. For The Masque, I've decided that this definitely a novel, and it's the next one in the que. For Strings of Betrayal, I really want to finish worldbuilding for it this year. And keep playing around with a few scenes and characters to get familiar with the world. I'm hoping to write it next year.

Overall, I want to devote more time to my writing, take it more seriously, stop being so easy on myself (meaning it's too easy for me to give in to a little bit of frustration and go off and be lazy on the couch instead of write my way through an issue).

Everything is updated, the goals are stated (in several places), the attitude feels better, 2004 awaits.

Lazy Weekend

I know that one of my New Year's Resolutions was to be less lazy. But it's too much fun to lounge around on the couch with Mark and watch movies and play video games. And now that he's getting closer and closer to finishing up his thesis research, there may not be a great many opportunities to have such a lazy weekend. So I took advantage of it. I would've done some revising in Saturday while Mark was at work, but my brief trip to the mall to buy Mark's gifts for his birthday and Valentine's Day turned into a three hour tour. I've managed to work out a way in which this was all Mark's fault. But it's flimsy at best and reflects poorly on me, so I won't mention it.

Plastic is evil. I am now fully aware of this. I walk into the mall looking for just one thing. The first store I walked by was Lerner New York, and they were having the most amazing sale. I figured I'd check it out, see what they had. I had thought I was safe since the last time I wandered into the store I couldn't find anything I liked. I wasn't safe. I was in imminent danger of Spending Too Much. But when the cashier rang up my total and said, "Wow, you saved $130 today!" and I hadn't spent more than $90, I felt good. Then I walked by Victoria's Secret. They were having a huge sale. There went more money I don't have (but you should see the really cool hose I got). Then I walked by Bath & Body Works. And they were having a huge sale. The salt scrub I got is magnificent. And then I walked by Victoria's Secret Beauty. And their sale was also gimongous. I don't want to think about the total damage I wrought. Suffice to say, it wasn't pretty.

I came to three realizations Saturday: (1) Sales are great, but evil when combined with plastic; (2) I'm truly blessed to have a husband who is fully aware of my spending evils and loves me still; and (3) my multi-million dollar writing contract will not come a day too soon.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Not Alone

Came home to a plethora of magazines stuffing our mailbox. A couple outdoorsy things (we like to see what they say about National Parks we plan on visiting), a science one, and one from my alma mater. I usually read only one thing in my alma mater's magazine: the briefs on what members of each class are up to. I actually know the guy who writes the one for my class, which means he'll use more space for my update. I get a full three lines instead of the one line "Kellie Hazell was recently married" summary or somesuch. So I like to read what he's gleaned from the Class of 2000. This time, I remembered a few names but couldn't place a face to them. Or, in one case, I knew one name, but couldn't for the life of me remember who his soon-to-be-wife was, though her name looked familiar. I was curious enough to drag out the yearbook and refresh my memory. Which led to me skimming the entire magazine, looking for names I might remember. Or at the least the "00" notation that indicated a fellow classmate. And I stumbled across this article.

I'm pretty sure Mary Beth roomed with a fellow former Shenanigan (I hunted and hunted for a link, but the group went bankrupt and disbanded my senior year, taking all web traces of their existence with them in their demise, apparently; take home point: Shenanigans is was a singing and dancing ensemble, a show choir). And if I'm thinking of the right gal, then Mary Beth was one of our biggest fans, at all the concerts with posters and cheers and the general support we all too often lacked (for a whole mess of reasons, some good and some bad, most unfair). That's an odd mess of memories - the group brought some of my best and worst moments at Notre Dame. Actually, come to think of it, most of them were bad. Hmmm...methinks I need to post about my Shenanigans experience.

Anyway, I read Mary Beth's article and suddenly realized I'm not the only Domer floundering in a job light years away from where I'm "supposed" to be. I'm not the only alumnae who fudges the "profession" blank a wee bit in order to hide the awful truth. Although one form I think I might have checked "other" and written in capital letters "ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT" just to see if I could piss anybody off or get my name removed from those donation mailing lists. And to make me feel even better, Mary Beth's got dreams of being a writer. She's also blonde with master's degree, working with a bunch of technical folks in a job that makes next to no use if any of her training. There the comparisons start to feel forced or diverge, so I suppose I'll stop. But it gave me a warm fuzzy all the same. I may write her an "I'm right there with ya, sistah" letter.

Another reason why I enjoyed my perusal of the ND Magazine: I found out that the infamous fan at the Cubs game who reached for the ball in left field was a Notre Dame grad (see the third bold name). Go Irish! I actually remember thinking about fellow Domers being at that game while I watched it on TV. It's a quick bus, car, train ride to Wrigley Field. I imagine some dorms even arranged treks to the Championship games. They did back when everyone was counting Sosa's HRs.

And there I go, getting all nostalgic. Which inevitably leads to dwelling on my resume and how woefully overqualified I am for my job. Which leads to remembering the dream I am chasing. And then I'm better. Until the next bout of nostalgia.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004


That alphabet soup is my critique group. I brought my query letter last night for their feedback. And I'm so glad I did. It's very easy to get so close to something and so focused on one element that you miss the obvious. Some of the more amsuing things they caught:

  • I misspelled "suite" in the agency address. But "squite" looks pretty cool, so I may end up finding another spot for that little typo.
  • I neglected to mention the title of my book anywhere in the letter. I laughed very hard at this.
  • I never asked for representation anywhere in the letter.
We also had a five-minute discussion as to whether you should write "an SASE" or "a SASE". And the group understood at once what I was doing with my mention of BNW and thought it was very clever without overreaching. Woo-hoo! We also had a new gal there who has extensive experience in non-fiction proposals. Hearing her two cents was great, although I'm not sure how much of her advice to take. I'll let the feedback roll around in my head for another day or two and then spruce up the letter to send it out by Saturday. It feels good to be doing this. Exciting. And yet I'm already prepared for a rejection and considering what needs to happen to the letter to be ready for the next agent on my list. I like this sudden bout of realism. It's refreshing and empowering.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Stereotypical Failure

Well, if all full-time writers sit around in their extravagant pyjamas, eat bonbons, and fight through their hungover stupor to squeeze out a few words, then I'm in trouble. It didn't work for me. I finished one scene and started into another one, only to stall out, despite the silky nightgown and fistfuls of chocolate. I don't think the alcoholic haze would've helped. To be fair, the real problem was an uncertainty as to how the next couple scenes would play out after the one I was writing. I kept thinking about what I had to do after I finished what I was writing at the moment. Couldn't concentrate. I took a break and read some of Kushiel's Dart. Which led to me reading for the rest of the night. Here are the excuses I used for not delving back into the problem scene: Addy had stolen my chair again and slept in it for the rest of the day (and into the night); I didn't feel like changing out of my black silkish pyjamas; the book was really, really good and thus could be construed as research.

The plus side of yesterday's splurge was my inspiration for query letters. I keep thinking about my novel in terms of explaining how something like Brave New World can happen. Yet I've never used that thought in how I describe my book to editors, agents, even friends. So I grabbed Mark's copy of Huxley's book to flip through today, trying to remember if Huxley had put forth some sort of history of how Things Transpired to create his world. In Huxley's foreword, he says that the folks in charge of his world aim to create social stability: "It is in order to achieve stability that they carry out, by scientific means, the ultimate, personal, really revolutionary revolution."

And there it is. Exactly what I was looking for. The connection between HD and Brave New World. I had suspected it was there, and even known it, but had never been able to articulate it. Because that statement sums up Eugene Weber damn near perfectly. The road to hell.... And now I have something concrete to use in my query letters. Said in humble terms that could in no way be interpreted as comparing my book to Huxley's. My book, if anything, aims to be a prequel to Huxley's. A potential prequel. To explain in no uncertain terms how exactly such things can come to be. Oddly enough, that was always my biggest question when I had to read BNW in school. And it was never explained adequately to me. And my reading of BNW was poorer for it because I had a big question mark preventing me from accepting Huxley's future. Which would explain why the original idea of HD stuck with me in the first place, three and a half years ago.

I owe Aldous Huxley and Brave New World more than I realized. Damn. Guess that means I need to reread the book.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

The Decadent Life

Somewhere there's a stereotype that won't die. Professional writers have such an amazing life. One of glamour and riches and self-indulgence and the list goes on. One of the images a lot of folks seem to have about full-time writers is that they stay in their pyjamas all day, eat bonbons, and occasionally face their angsty computer. Oh yeah, and a lot of alcohol is usually involved too.

I decided yesterday to give this stereotype a whirl. I was going to stay dressed in my long, black, silkish night gown, burrow in my huge green terry robe, and write. I didn't have any bonbons, but I figured I could dig up some stray chocolate leftover from the holidays and that would be close enough. We had wine, but I wasn't going to drink it unless I was eating dinner, so that part of the image would have to be ignored. I was all set for my day in the life of decadence. After some lounging, I did journal. But then Mark called on his way home from work with an idea to go out for dinner. I couldn't pass that up, so I finally took my shower and got dressed. So today will be the day I put the stereotype to the test.

I've written in my pyjamas before. Usually the outfit was a pair of flannelish pants and a sweatshirt with Tigger on it. No bonbons in sight those times either. And these episodes either occurred after I changed out of my work clothes or on the weekends when I didn't have to go anywhere. So today I'm going for the classic silk - or silk-like material. And maybe I'll send Mark out to get me those bonbons.

Friday, January 02, 2004

New Year, New Rooms

It all started when I realized that I don't like the couch we snagged from my father a few years back. It's the couch that my family bought ten or twelve years ago. And four cats and a dog have, at various points during that time, added to the demise of this piece of furniture. Addy and Nosey have done the most damage, probably mostly Nosey with the daggers she used to have. It's got that "I've been around for a decade or more" musty smell. And the sofa's sleeper mattress is about as comfortable as a bed of assorted and ill-placed rocks. At some point while we were in Oklahoma, I saw one of those "no interest financing until 2007" commercials for a furniture store and realized we had a way out of Couch Hell. I brought this up to Mark, and he agreed we could take a peek at what was available and consider our budget.

Tuesday night we decided to peruse the sofa selection. (This was after we went to two Best Buy stores in attempts to spend the gift certificate my father and stepmother gave us. What kind of idiot buys only 19 copies of "Pirates of the Caribbean" for a store the week after Christmas? This same idiot will apparently keep the store stocked with at least 200 copies of "SWAT".) We wandered the store's showroom, finding a few possibilities. Then we found it. The color was perfect, the style was perfect, the price was pretty good. The store only had no interest financing for a couple months, though. Thus began the budgeting discussion. I might point out that I was the voice of caution in this talk. Mostly. OK, so I did say (once) that we could make the old couch work, I wouldn't like, but we'd make it work. But only once and it was uttered between two very serious financial concerns. But Mark said we could afford it. So we bought the couch. And the chair and ottoman to go with it. I still have trouble figuring out how that happened. I can follow the logic, but it was just so different from my expectations and even wishes for the furniture shopping night.

Buying new furniture means you have to make room for it. We were up past midnight after we chose the sofa, preparing the apartment for it. This involved rearranging the study - something I had already been thinking of doing before the sofa issue. My desk had been crammed into a corner and the entire layout of the room seemed contrary to what I needed in a writing environment. Not that it had been a problem since I was revising and using the dining room table to get more space. But I imagined it would become a problem in 2004 as I started writing new stuff again. So Mark and I tossed around some ideas and came up with a great new look for the study.

Both new rooms were put to the test yesterday. Our furniture was delivered bright early in the morning (7:30 - we went back to sleep after it arrived). Mark watched football on the new chair and promptly approved of it by falling asleep in it. Nosey immediately found a new perch on the ottoman and the sofa back. Addy is still on the fence about the new furniture, but she loves the new study set up. We moved our old chair into that room. This chair has been Addy's favorite sleeping spot. She really enjoys its new location. It's much more secluded than it used to be, and a little patch of sun hits it. In fact, Addy so loves the new spot that I had to fight her for it yesterday. I would get up to take a quick break from writing and go back to find my cat curled up and sleeping on the chair. This continued all day long. I also like the new set ups. The chair in the study became an excellent spot for revising. And my computer is more accessible now, allowing me to spend quite some time last night grabbing songs of my CDs so I can put together novel-appropriate playlists.

It's nice to start the new year with obvious physical changes. Makes it easier to work on those internal changes. More thoughts on what I hope to change internally later. The ideas are still rather nebulous in my brain, but I do know it involves the concept of balance.