Thursday, December 30, 2004

Farewell, 2004

I've been blessed--in some odd way--to have had enough good things happen in any one year that I can never write off an entire year as bad no matter what icky things happened. Or maybe that's just a sure sign that I'll never be successful at pessimism. Take 2002. In that one year, I quit a PhD program and a teaching job and as a result shattered the self-image I had spent more than a decade cultivating. The situations surrounding both departures were not pleasant, and I spent a good deal of that year sobbing and trying to figure out just what in the hell I was going to do with myself for the rest of my life. But 2002 was not a bad year. Mark and I were married that year. That summer, I discovered my muse, found a critique group and several writing communities, and started seriously writing HD. Mark and I took two amazing trips that year, and I was able to build a fantasy world out of the beautiful parks we saw. I could never call 2002 a bad year.

I find myself looking at 2004 in the same way. I started this year with the realization that I was bored and heading toward depression each day I stayed at my secretarial job. My writing was suffering for it, and I was no closer to addressing the issues that made 2002 so life-altering. I decided to find a job that would still let me write but also keep me more engaged for forty hours every week. Good plan. Said plan was still in its infancy when I was laid off. Five months of unemployment while the hubby is in grad school do not a happy Kellie make. At first I thought that unemployment would be a great way for me to get my writing on the right track. Instead, those five months were essential for me to get myself on the right track. I learned so much about myself in those months, most importantly that the self-image I had shattered in 2002 was a false image to begin with. I found the culprits behind some personal demons and put together morning routines and rituals to help me stay true to myself and lessen the hold of those culprits and demons a little more every day. How can such a year be bad, even if I was unemployed for five months and am now facing yet another unstable work environment?

Also, I finished my first major revision of my first novel this year. I did a lot of research, outlining, and planning for a new novel that I'm nearly 30,000 words into. I went to my first science fiction convention and made some writerly connections. I submitted HD to about ten agents. I wrote an eight-page synopsis in a weekend that actually reads very well and submitted it and the first twenty pages of HD to a contest. I wrote two short stories (I guess they're technically novellettes) this summer, and they sparked a universe for The Masque. I created a comfortable and personalized writing space for myself. And, possibly my greatest accomplishment of 2004, I beat both Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy X-2. :)

2004 wasn't easy, but it wasn't bad, either. I started the year hoping to achieve balance in many ways: work and writing, play and writing, past and present and future. I spent the year tossing the dead weight that kept pulling me to the sides and depriving me of balance. I've still got a ways to go before I've got the kind of balance I dream about, but I'm solidly on my way there. It will happen.

2004 was a growing year, and those can never be bad.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Holiday Scam

It was lame when it was "genuine", and it's even more lame now that it's not. Try again, Local Internet Hoaxer.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Lazy Holiday

Spent most of the weekend staring at the TV in some fashion or another. Watched a lot of Simpsons (we'll be picking up Season 5--one of Mark's favorites--this weekend when we do our Costco shopping as they have the best price), played video games. Our big accomplishment of the weekend was cooking the big turkey meal. Oh, and we did the laundry. And I guess you can count a quick trip up to the local gambling town (Blackhawk; and we broke even).

Mark did get me a (much more affordable) copy of that Amy Brown book I was drooling about before. My father's package didn't arrive before Saturday, so we'll get to celebrate Christmas again sometime this week. And Sheila decided to do something very Santa-like and give galleys of her March 2005 vampire book to everyone who entered a recent drawing. Have I mentioned lately how much I adore this woman? :) Go read her books!

My brother was able to call my mom for a few quick minutes on Christmas Eve. He was pretty excited that everyone in his platoon (or was it the entire battallion?) got two beers for Christmas. And he's apparently going to be moved from a field assignment to an actual base assignment sometime early next year. This means he gets to stay in an actual barracks rather than curling up in a sleeping bag under a tent or hanging out in a tent. And, wonder of wonders, he'll be bunked with only one other soldier and they will have their own shower. He's looking forward to that.

So, all in all, a great, relaxing holiday. A belated Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Best Christmas Gift EVER

It's nice to be crying happy tears for once. To see my brother's Christmas Video Greeting, click here* and select the "Hazell" link under the Golf column. Requires Windows Media Player. I'm so happy that technology has made this possible, and I will be playing this ALL DAY LONG today, tomorrow, and Saturday for sure.

*After a brief time up so family and friends could see it, I've taken the link down just in case anyone might click there with nefarious intentions.

Updated link: Click here

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Creature Comforts

The snow, while pretty, didn't exactly get me raring to go outside and get to work this morning. So I decided to forego the journalling (with the Addy Cat sitting watch next to me) in favor of snuggling under a blanket on the couch and cuddling with Nosey, our "I think I may be canine" cat. Her warm fur and more than enthusiastic purring and meows gave me the smiles and energy I needed to get out the door.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Wild Card Ride

It's beginning to look a lot like playoffs. You know that something is going on in the Wild Card race when my husband, a diehard Buffalo Bills fan who refers to the team from Miami only as "The Hated Dolphins", cheers loudly and enthusiastically for said team. The reasoning? Because Miami beat New England last night, the Steelers won't be in a fierce battle with the Patriots for home field advantage when the Bills play Pittsburgh in a couple weeks, thus making a Buffalo win more likely. Ah the joys of football. Beyond all that, ya gotta admit that it was fun to see Brady tank that game. Evil spawn of Michigan he be.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Ugh & Stuff

The company party was Friday night. Lots of fake smiles and laughter, and a few unsettling hints about that spiraling situation I mentioned earlier. The food was dry and gave both Mark and I some serious indigestion. It was so bad that poor Mark had to go to the store at 2AM to get Tums because we were out and both hurting. But the chocolate mousse desert was amazing. Incredibly rich, but delicious. Most of Saturday was lost in trying to recover from the ill effects of the party. I did get out and about, but that's another post. Then I woke up with the worst headache I've had in years on Sunday. And the damned thing wouldn't go away. I plunked myself on the couch, played video games, napped, and generally tried to pretend my head and my body weren't all that attached to each other. The Bastard Headache from Hell left its progeny to keep me company today. As they are baby headaches, it's much more survivable.

This morning saw amazing high winds on the drive in. I think they just now calmed down. I drive a road that has a lot of high plains prairie type sections of it and let me tell you how much crap blew all over the car this morning. Rocks, dirt, tumble weeds, bark, bubble wrap, you name it. My favorite was a rather large tumble weed that smacked into the car and then lodged itself under the passenger side mirror. It hung out with me for a good five miles or so. I had almost decided to name the thing when it blew away.

I did get some fun ideas for The Masque on Friday and Sunday, but I haven't had much of a chance to do anything with them other than jot them down in a notebook. I'm hoping to get some writing time today at work (more dialog sketching than anything else in order to finish up a scene that's been open for a while) and then it's on to a Big Action Chapter tonight. Peril on Mars in those space suit thingies. Someone dies, someone else dangles into a canyon. Yippeee!!!

Friday, December 17, 2004


A very touching montage of what our soldiers are doing in Iraq. You'll need flash, and be sure to turn your volume up to hear the music that accompanies.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Precious Diary

Excellent post. Must read later to appreciate full effect.


I'm a master of this art. I distract myself with writing issues so as to avoid the writing. I distract myself with small, seemingly easily controllable issues in order to avoid thinking about the problems way beyond me. Currently I'm trying to distract myself from a bad, spiraling situation. It's not working very well. And as I pondered this, I realized that I had failed to mention an incident that occurred at Borders on Tuesday night during my crit group. Two high school kids set off alarms in the Cafe area as they bolted out the door with a stack of CDs. Fairly ballsy, I guess, but really, really stupid. They could've used some distraction. Plus, it didn't help that one of them went through the door first, setting off the alarm while the other was still five feet away from it, prompting him to have the most comical expression I've ever seen as he froze then ran out the door after his compadre. Of course, there is the possibility that these were two ill-timed yet unconnected thefts. Doesn't that suck for the second guy? He decides to steal something, only to have all attention drawn to him as some other idiot just a few seconds ahead beats him to it. But none of this matters anyway as there were cameras everywhere, catching them in the act. Good luck with that life of crime, gentlemen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Life Imitating Art Department

Remember how I got spooked into writing HD? How I left an ethics class and was terrified as to the loose way certain future scientists thought about things? That experience birthed Eugene and the entire theme and concept of HD. Here's a real-life example of that inspiration. The story gets even more convoluted here. And that Tramont guy keeps sounding more and more like Eugene. And boy, oh boy, do these articles get the story juices flowing.

After I got over the initial shock of similarity, I started really burrowing into this latest bump for the NIH. First of all, I actually understand a lot of the junk they're talking about, from both the AIDS science perspective and the clinical trial perspective--thanks to my job. That's pretty exciting, especially because the sort of audits that revealed the problems in Uganda is the work that I'm trying to do more and more of here. So it was pretty spiffy to see a direct application of the importance of such work. Second, doncha just love how Tramont can veto all sorts of concerns because he's got four decades of medical experience AND because he really doesn't believe the people raising the concerns could possibly understand AIDS. Aside from the flaming arrogance of that attitude, the implications of such a statement are just thoroughly horrifying as are other ideas expressed by Tramont. And finally, despite all the arguments from Tramont (and I think some other mucky-mucks at NIH) that the science of the study was just fine and dandy and needed to continue, it turns out that the drug confers a resistance to all other similar drugs used for AIDS treatment.

The Tramont-Eugene parallel is really eerie. This man obviously sees the dire need for AIDS treatment in Africa, especially for children of infected mothers. He finds a promising drug, one that there was likely political pressure for given Bush's plan to stomp AIDS in Africa. He sees some good science, some good reasons to get the drug into trials where people really need it. He gets sick of the bureaucratic steps that the FDA requires of anyone wanting to set up clinical trials for a new drug. He pushes a few things here and there, telling himself it's OK because the standards for Uganda human research have got to be different than they are here given the state of technology and living there. And, besides, the research is going to save lives, so push, push, push. Then the research backfires, the pushing is revealed, and it's determined that the pushing may have endangered more lives and perhaps even the NIH and all clinical trials in Africa. The road to hell, man.

This story gives me the creeps. A big shot at the NIH dismissed the opinions of those trained and paid to assess security, health, and regulatory concerns of clinical research because he felt he knew better. A big shot at the NIH altered reports to put a better appearance on troubled research so the Prez could endorse it and visit the sites without scandal. A big shot at the NIH sanctioned the idea that it was OK to have lower standards for health and human safety in clinical trials in a third-world country because the quality of life is so much different (read: worse). Basically, a big shot at the NIH took advantage of a situation and gambled big with the lives of Ugandans already afflicted with a terrible disease. And he lost. Those subjects are now most likely unable to receive any similar AIDS treatment because they're resistant. As if we needed more problems with pharmaceuticals and research and AIDS in Africa. And the NIH and Tramont are adamant that he did the right thing.

Excuse me while I consider removing HD from its very comfortable and concealing trunk and see if I can fix it. I hadn't realized just how necessary that thing was going to be so soon in the future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Pardon the Silence

Before I get into the meat of why I've been quiet for almost a week THIS time, I'd like to share a completely random thought. I'm thinking about adjusting my blog a bit. Not the color scheme, or anything major, but the titles. "Experiments in Writing, Singing, and Blogging" has felt cumbersome since I first typed it, but I couldn't think of anything sufficiently witty or more original than "Kellie's Blog". Also, I'm not sure I like the format of post title and post being on the same playing field. Changing the former is difficult in that it requires friendly linkers to change their sidebars, and even more so in that it requires me to get creative (I know, and me a writer, whatever to do).

But back to task. My silence.

I'm still pretty freakin' afraid of my Writer Within. I thought I had analyzed it to death and dismemberment this summer. Apparently not. This fear is rather entertaining because it takes anything going askew in my life and puffs it up into Giant Writer's Block size, singing me songs of "everything would be fine if you didn't have to work and could just write full-time". It's a clever disguise of the real issue. It makes me think that I'm accepting the Writer Within and working with it because I'm just trying to get to that "full-time writer" status. Ingenious, devilish bastard. Meanwhile, all the moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth about how Life Sucks and how Tomorrow Will Be Better conveniently keeps me from appreciating today and the energy, time, and passion I have to write at this moment (when not slaving away at the day job and dealing with boredom and stupidity there…. Oops, see how easy that was?).

I won't bother you with the details of how this fear tripped me up this time and how I figured out what it had done. Suffice to say, Mark will tell you that life with me is never boring and that I know how to fall off a horse (the writing, live-in-the-now horse, people) with great drama and flair. I will share an example of just devious this fear is, though. I got stalled out on my writing just over a week ago, telling myself that I was afraid of the revision process for this book, that I couldn't see the plot lines the way I wanted to, and that I needed to do some more outlining and research on revision before I'd feel comfortable with forward momentum on The Masque. See how that works? I cleverly diverted myself from my writing with other writing issues. Granted, those are things that need to be addressed, but not at the sacrifice of my regular writing schedule. Eventually I'll get smarter than this annoying fear, and it won't have this same power over me. That's the hope, anyway.

So hopefully posting will get back to the promise of regularity that last week offered. "Promise of regularity" is a rather disturbing phrase, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Another Wow, But Not a Positive One

Via Sheila and Holly, the Mundane SF Movement. The basic premise is that SF has a duty to laugh off the futuristic improbabilities of faster than light travel, alien encounters, and all things space operatic in favor of the actual probable future of the planet and humanity. What bothers me most about this is the assumption that only Mundane SF can discuss "a new focus on human beings: their science, technology, culture, politics, religions, individual characters, needs, dreams, hopes and failings." (The indication that the forces behind said movement believe that adherence to the principles of the movement produces better SF is hardly surprising given the arrogance and ignorance of the previously mentioned sentiment.)

There are snippets in the Manifesto that give me hope that the Mundane disciples might not take themselves as seriously as the overall idea indicates, though. I provide the following as evidence that at least some of the creators were laughing at themselves and their ideas: "To burn this manifesto as soon as it gets boring." But then they go and say something like "we also recognize the harmless fun that these and all the other Stupidities have brought to millions of people and the harmless fun that burning the Stupidities will bring to millions of people." (The Stupidities including the improbabilities of human futures that are the stuff of space opera and, dare I say it, "popular" SF). Glad to know that I'm hoping to devote my life to "harmless fun" that can either be burned or read for mass entertainment purposes. They also think that any story that takes us to other planets and alien societies "can encourage a wasteful attitude to the abundance that is here on Earth". Wait a minute, I thought my space opera was harmless fun? I love it when my work is both dismissed as benign fluff AND deemed as conducive to the destruction of the planet. For more fun, arrogant inconsistencies, check out their piece on Evolution.

Also entertaining is the idea that Mundane SF is a minority, little-known subgenre of SF. I find this attitude fascinating because the general population is often only exposed to SF books in the form of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and such other literary SF classics. Yeah, no mundanity there. I do have several suggestions for folks who seriously believe that the only good and worthwhile SF is that which sticks to humans, Earth, and our immediate spatial surroundings. The first being: remove head from sphincter. The second: SF and fantasy are often shoved together in bookstores; just consider space opera as part of that "fantasy" stuff and keep your little "we're the true SF" party to yourselves.

The overall point of my little rant? Science fiction that pertains to the mundane is as vital and necessary in literature as space opera, fantasy, romance, mystery, literary fiction, horror, Westerns, etc. We need all these genres because every person on this planet is different and they are reached in different ways. (Yes, people, I am saying that there are worthwhile themes and character studies to be found in ALL those genres - and it is in those elements that fiction tries to teach something, to contribute to the greater good.) As a secondary bonus point, I feel it's imperative to mention that the very nature of science is to question what we know (and when it comes to the realm of quantum mechanics, we know very little). Therefore, calling on SF authors to refrain from writing what science considers now to be so improbable as to be impossible and stick to the generally accepted probable goes against the entire purpose of science. As a scientist, I find this attitude rather offensive and much more destructive than writing stories in which we discover an abundance of life and livable ecosystems in the universe.


If at all possible, go see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert. And if you can't do that, then go get all of their albums. And then make a Christmas wish that their next album (a non-Christmas one, I believe) is released as soon as possible.

The concert last night was amazing. Every single person on that stage was having the best time and just seemed absolutely thrilled to be doing what they were doing. And they really know how to put on a show. The music was phenomenal and the light and pyrotechnic elements wicked cool. And one of their singers absolutely has to be heard live to truly appreciate his voice, though the recorded version is still wonderful, of course. This man is a stage actor, and he definitely has the voice for it. I'd do quite a bit to get him to sing stuff from The Phantom of the Opera, assuming it's not too high for his range--I'm not good at discerning the male voice parts beyond Bass and Tenor.

If you haven't heard this band at all, change that as soon as possible. They are truly talented artists who love their craft and are all about entertaining.

Friday, December 03, 2004

And Now the Rest of the Story

Well, it's been over a month since I went to my first science fiction and fantasy convention. And I still haven't posted the second half of my report on the experience. Granted, what follows is not nearly as detailed as it would've been had blogger not eaten my first post about this. But I've apparently left a couple interested readers in the lurch, so here are the highlights at least.

The Panels: I didn't got to all of the ones I wanted to because I was so exhausted from the combo of insomnia and volunteering at 6AM in the game room. I did attend a couple, one featuring Elizabeth Moon and another with Connie Willis. They are both fascinating women. Connie had a lot to say about writing humor, and Elizabeth said much about writing and researching about autism. I had the chance to chat with Elizabeth after her panel, and she talked a lot about restoring her Texas prairie land. Really nifty stuff. I also attended went to the awards and closing ceremonies, and it was fun to see all the guests of honor together and cracking jokes and such. But, overall, I wanted to attend a couple of other panels. I'm going to manage my time and my insane need to volunteer better at the next con.

The Art Auction: There was some beautiful work at the art show. I had bid on a couple pieces. One of them I got free and clear because no one else bid on it, which surprised me because it was such an intriguing piece by a really gifted artist. The other went into a bidding war, which I'll talk about in a second. The last few seconds of the bidding brought me a run in with Guest of Honor Charles de Lint. While killing time until bidding was over, protecting my one bid, I found a piece of jewelry that no one had bid on and the bidding price was $3. And of course I was without a pen. I asked the woman next to me if she had a pen I could borrow. Her husband turned around and said he had one, and I found myself scribbling down my bid with Charles de Lint's pen. I'm surprised it was still working after all those autographs.

I somehow got finagled into volunteering for the art auction later that day. That was a blast. When I get published, I hope to use whatever popularity I have to put more butts in the seats at auctions like that. There was some amazing work there and it went for far too little to keep those artists eating AND doing their work. So if I become a hot author, I'm going to volunteer my services as a runner at those auctions. It was so much fun, walking around, displaying some amazing art like I was Vanna White or something. And the auctioneer was a riot. I happen to run the piece that I had bid on that had gone to the auction. The auctioneer had a blast with that, trying to get me to up the price or not really display it. It was great. In the end, I didn't get the piece. The price went up into the $30s, and I couldn't afford it.

The Costumes: I also got roped into manning the costume contest green room with one other volunteer. This made for an incredibly long evening (at one point, I was holding open a door for an hour straight; at least I was able to sit while doing so), but fascinating. There some amazing costumes. The winner's ensemble was titled "Dor'c, First Prime of Adoophus". When he told me how much it cost to make the thing, I was too tired to feel the sticker shock, but it was there. And I made a quick mental note that professional costuming was not in my future, no matter how much fun it looked.

The Authors: Despite being totally exhausted by the end of Saturday's festivities, I went to the Author Chat at the bar and somehow managed to stay up until 1AM talking with Carol Berg--and be coherent throughout. That last is the really amazing part. Carol, in addition to sharing some great writing advice and just being fun to hang out with, got me in touch with another aspiring writer. The reason I mention it is that this other writer is about my age and has left a scientific career for writing. I was beginning to think I was a unique creature in that regard, and I'm very glad to know I'm not. (By the way, I'm the aspiring writer Carol mentions in her own Con report; groovy, eh?)

Overall: I'd do this again in a heartbeat. I highly recommend checking out a local, well-done, middle-sized con as an introduction to the World of Cons. It's a little easier on the pocketbook, too, than just heading off to World Fantasy or World Con. I think that covers the rest of my experience there. I'm sure there was more that happened (probably just that I got locked out of my room a couple more times or something), but this covers the big items. It was a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to the next one I can attend.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Sidebar Inspiration and Other Unexpected Things

I'm sure my observant readers noticed that I updated the "Currently Writing" section of my sidebar some time ago. My very observant readers might have noticed a project titled Princess Incubus and wondered how a male demon, the incubus, could also have a female title, princess. When I updated the sidebar, I meant to write "Princess Succubus" but my brain obviously wasn't quite in gear. It also took me a good day to realize my mistake. But I left it because something niggled at me about the way that incorrect title looked. A few times I've thought to correct the gaffe, but always that little "something's there" niggle stopped me. The really annoying thing is that I have no idea what this niggle is trying to tell me. The short story idea with this incorrect yet somehow right title is very much in the early development stages. So early, that I have no idea what's going to happen at the end. I think this odd misnomer holds the key, though.

In other writing issues, I've been a little cranky lately. I figured it was just backlash from my brother's horrid Turkey Day experience. But I've also been dying to write a particular scene and haven't found the time to do it this week. I finally just wrote during my lunch break, even though I grouchingly whined that a half hour was only enough time to get really immersed in something and then I'd have to stop it and get back to work and how would that make me feel better. I wrote anyway. Got 500 words and feel a whole lot better. So writing during the lunch break will become a must if I go through a funk like this again. Good to know. And wouldn't it be nice if I could write 2500 words every week a work over the course of all my lunch breaks?

Calendar Fun

In writing The Masque and even HD, I've been frustrated that I couldn't find an application to calculate what day of the week it was or would be at any given point of my book's timeline. I finally found one I like here. And this Mayan calendar calculator might be interesting for a few other ideas I've got. I'll have to let that stew in my head for a while. It's possible that if we dissolved all national borders and became a united world goverment and start living in space, on Mars, and in the Alpha Centauri system (as happens in The Masque) that our calendar might change. But I have no idea how, especially if the space- and non-Earthfaring life--not to mention the world government--is in its infancy. So I'm just going to stick with the calendar system we've got for now to prevent any unnecessary headaches.