Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More Pictures

Before the day gets away from me and I forget again, we've posted some more pictures of Andrew. There are more coming, but it requires updating the driver for our scanner for the last roll of film before we got the digital camera. In the meantime, these are cute.

Friday, February 24, 2006

It's Only a Model, Part 2

Sigh. Everything is finally back in it's proper place. Well, except for the stuff we had to pitch, which wasn't too much. A lot of wrapping paper and gift bags, a few magazines--and all six of my Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. I had never meant to keep them as the collector's items they've apparently become, but I did hope to pass them on to Baby the Second, should it be a girl. All the remaining damage is to our books. The humidity generated in blowing the carpets dry warped over a hundred books. I've cataloged everything. Now I have to research their replacement costs. Fun.

But having renter's insurance has certainly paid off. We'll get reimbursed for everything. The folks upstairs aren't so lucky. No renter's insurance, and they're getting the bill for all the damages since they caused the break by turning off their heat. Ouch. So a move designed to save them a few bucks on their energy bills turns out costing them several grand at the very least. If they had renter's insurance, they'd have a small deductible to pay.

Now's a good time to talk about lessons learned. First lesson: always have insurance, especially if you're going to leave the heat off in an apartment during a record-breaking cold-snap. Second lesson: maintain an inventory of the items you own that you would not want to lose forever (side lesson: it may be wise to transfer all your pictures to digital data). Third lesson: back up your data someplace away from your property. I cannot begin to describe my horror when I thought there was a fire in the apartment above us and I realized that the quickest thing I could grab (my flash stick) would only have my two current works in progress. Grabbing my laptop would've saved nearly all of my typed writing, but all my paper-only notes, all my critiques of HD, The Masque, and SoD, all of my research would've been gone. I have remedied some of this situation by making sure I have multiple back-ups of my Word docs, and I will be researching off-site data storage. But I have to impletment a better habit of typing up my writing notes on a more regular basis and scanning what I can't type. Means a lot of extra time, but I can't ignore that punch to the gut that I experienced last Saturday.

And the final lesson of this ordeal: we need a clearly defined emergency response plan for our little family. We may have had one before Drew came along, but we certainly haven't put one together since. And it was painfully obvious as we scrambled to get ourselves safe. We will fix that.

All in all, as far as disasters go, this was minor, and it taught us a lot for a rather small price. Granted, it would've been nice not to have experienced this and to have done everything this taught us without the direct lesson. But lemonade from lemons, and all that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

It's Only a Model, Part 1

The following is a post I wrote up on Sunday. There's more to the story, but I haven't been able to write anything up yet. Stay tuned.

I was all set to hop on-line Saturday evening and type up a quick writing update post. My company, for some reason, decided to give us President's Day off, and I realized that I would be able to get a decent chunk of draft creation done for SoD on Saturday and Sunday and then spend Monday revising Carson's Learning (a novella set in The Masque universe) for submission to an anthology. Seemed like a great plan. Just a few minutes before I was ready to write said post, I heard an alarm coming from outside the apartment, but close by. At first I thought it might have been the tornado siren (it being the only outside alarm nearby I could think of), but a quick reminder that not only was it below zero outdoors, there was also a good few inches of snow out there too. A tornado seemed a bit unlikely. So Mark went checked and discovered an alarm on our apartment building was going off. I immediately thought "fire" and go into a panic trying to bundle up the boy, bundle me up, and figure out how to grab what I could of my writing before it went up in smoke.

That's when I heard the water.

Standing in the nursery, I hear what sounds like a lot of water dripping, and not just going through the pipes like you can hear when the folks upstairs flush. I'm holding Andrew and his jacket and Mark is half in a shoe and half out of one as we try to figure out just what the hey is going on. Then water starts pouring from the lights, vents, and sprinkler in the bathroom off the nursery. Drew goes into his bassinet in the living room as we dive for towels and get everything off the floor in the bathroom. Then it starts coming through the sprinkler in the nursery and the living room and the light fixture in the hall. By this point, someone from the office is helping us move shit out of the flood.

That's when I remember the closet in the nursery also has a sprinkler--and that's where I keep ALL OF MY PAPER ONLY WRITING NOTES AND MY TWO BACKUP COMPUTERS.

Cue Andrew crying inconsolably unless Momma's holding him.

I go to the master bedroom with The Boy, keeping him from going nuts, while everyone else dashes around the place like mad rescuing my notebooks, our videotapes, the computers, etc.

That's when I remember that my wedding dress is also in the now-flooding closet.

At this point, I just hug Andrew and stop thinking about everything, waiting for the water to stop and for the insanity to ease to a low boil. I watch as maintenance men arrive with buckets and wetvacs and hear pounding feet in the apartment above ours. The lady from the office tells me that they forgot or just plain didn't set their automatic thermostat to stay above 64 before they left for vacation, which wouldn't have been a problem until we hit frickin' 13 below that day. She hands me a key, telling me we can stay in the complex's model apartment, which is pretty much our same layout.

So I bundle up Drew and manage to find shoes for myself before heading over to the model across the drive, and Mark begins making multiple trips with stuff we'll need for a couple days and nights out of our place. This includes two very irate cats. We get Andrew bathed, fed, and to bed and then finally we order some take out and pour ourselves some rather strong margaritas.

The tequila helps us as we discover that our temporary digs is most certainly a model: maximum looks, minimum function. The plentiful TVs and stereos are all plastic. The master bed has a ton of pillows, none of which are suitable for sleeping. The king-size bed has a gorgeous bedspread--and nothing else but the crazy 80s fabric of the mattress itself. There is not a single square of toilet paper. The stove isn't hooked up. And so on.

But we have my laptop and Battlestar Gallactica Season 1, so we snuggle under the bedspread, trying to convince ourselves that the slippery feel of the mattress is kinda like satin and therefore luxurious, and settle in for some tipsy viewing of good SF.

We're one episode in when Andrew starts to cry. Poor little thing is congested and keeps waking himself up to breathe. Cue yet another trek back to the now extraordinarily humid apartment with many industrial fans blowing under the carpets so we can get the "What to Expect" book, a humidifier (yes, the irony is appreciated), and Drew's Little Noses Saline Drops. By the third episode, we think we've managed to get Andrew breathing well enough to sleep somewhat longer than an hour at a stretch.

Most of today has been spent keeping The Boy occupied as he is fussy after his night of so-so sleep. He's slept on Mark. He's slept on me. Hopefully he'll sleep better tonight. And tomorrow he goes to daycare so Mark and I can check out the apartment for damage, start the cleanup process, and get much needed naps.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Valentine's Day First

For our first Valentine's Day, Mark proposed. Not at some swanky restaurant, not over champagne, not with flowers in one hand and chocolate in the other. I was teaching a developmental biology lab course and had several projector slides to show examples of chicken organ tissue. The last slide was supposed to be the final example of a particular region of the liver. Instead, up popped the words "Kellie, will you marry me?" Mark, who was my "assistant" TA for this lab section, got down on a knee and held up a ring. My first thought? Honest to God, I looked at that slide and, even though we had already decided to get married a couple weeks before and even though we had even picked out the ring together that weekend, I frowned and thought, "That's not the liver." My students thought it was a joke. Mark and I had been living together for the entire course to that point (OK, so it was a whopping four weeks), but they had no idea we were even dating.

Now here we are five years later. We've done the fancy dinner thing, the flowers thing, the chocolate thing, the "naughty undergarment" thing, and the jewelry thing. (Actually, Mark gives me jewelry for just about every birthday, anniversary, and holiday he can afford to. Not so much because he thinks he ought to give me jewelry or even because he wants me to have it, but more because he loves geology and gets a big kick out of looking at unique stones. Last night he gave me a beautiful pink rhodocrocite slice.) Last year was very low-key as I was suffering through morning sickness and the idea of chocolate was enough to make me green at times. This year was set to be low-key as well since the Drewmeister's around and we don't exactly have a long list of baby-sitters. But this V-day took a unique turn even for us.

I'll be going to the dentist, hopped up on valium, finally taking Step 2 in the root canal from hell--the seating of the crown. Step 3 will be two to four weeks from today when they actually screw that sucker into my jaw. I'm sure there are less romantic things than spending a Valentine's Day evening with your numb-lipped, drooling, spaced-out-on-drugs sweetie, but I can't think of them at the moment.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Aspiring Writers Take Note

Tobias Buckell has a great promo idea for his new book, Crystal Rain. It's sort of like the bonus features of a DVD. If you've got a copy of the book, you can access goodies such as short stories with the characters and universe of the book, a sneak peak at Tobias's next title, and author commentary on what it was like to write a scene or why it was written the way it was. This is a very neat idea, one that I'll put in my toolbox for that glorious day when I get published. Not only does it give buyers more bang for their buck, but it gives Tobias and his book an edge over the crowd as this is a new thing (or I think it is...have I been missing out on cool extras for other books?) and grabs the interest and attention. I know I'll be visiting his site often to see what new features he's added (there's a "coming soon" spot for deleted scenes). Maybe this is the writer-geek in me just going "squeeeeee!!!!" but I think this is something that even the casual reader will find interesting. Go. Buy. Get the goodies.

Drew's Quirks

My son is quite the grinning fool. Honestly. He just finds the pre-flash light of our digital camera to be fascinating, which is why I have a ton of serious pictures of Drew and not a whole lot of him smiling. His face was probably all scrunched up in a joyous grin just seconds before I took this picture. I mean, this is a boy who will go from passed out asleep to a full-face grin quicker than you can blink. It's very rare that he doesn't wake up with a huge smile. Well, make that a huge smile as soon as he sees Momma or Daddy peering into the crib. This kid likes to grin so much that we have to be careful while he's eating because he will try to suck on the bottle AND grin with obvious results.

Speaking of eating, The Boy can put away 6oz every two hours, but he's the skinniest thing (as far as babies go, Drew is in the 17% weight-wise). Conversely, he's ramarkably tall for four months (84%). Guess he's working on beating Daddy's height of 6'2" as soon as possible. I'll be the shrimp at 5'8" before he turns five, if he keeps this up. :)

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but Drew continues to despise being on his stomach. He likes to kick around on his back (loves the changing table), and he's even perfected a half-roll onto his side. I'm waiting for the day when he completes the roll and realizes he just put himself on his tummy. That ought to be a very fussy moment.

More than laying on his back, Andrew loves to stand. He's almost able to stand on his own by gripping something for support instead of just standing in Momma or Daddy's lap while we hold him. He enjoys standing most of all when he's in front of a mirror. And he thinks it's even better if he's in his birthday suit, just before his bath. By the way, he gets the biggest kick out of his baths. We have one of those detachable showerheads, and everytime it gets close to his face when we're rinsing him off, he opens his mouth to try to drink some of the water. It's very cute.

And then there's the Mutant Eyebrow. Sometime in his first couple of weeks, I noticed what looked to be a stray hair on his temple and brushed it away. A few days later, it was still there and I thought it was just another hair and brushed it away. Two days after that, I thought I was going crazy with this damn hair and tried to pick it off his face and toss it away instead of just brushing it. The darn thing was attached! It's this very long, curly thing now. He gets it from his father, who also has mutant eyebrows, although his are white and never stop growing unless he clips them.

So those are Drew's quirks of the moment. I'm sure he'll abandon some of these and acquire others as the months march on, but I thought it would be fun to share a quick snapshot, sort of a day-in-the-life thing. For my own memory if nothing else.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Writing Space

A while ago, there was a sort of blogging meme going around the blogosphere about posting pictures of your writing space. I had meant to post, but, due to image uploading issues from my home computer, never did. So here it is now, Kellie's Writing Space.

This is where I used to write, looking at the space from within the room. Comfy chair, inspiration board with lots of fun cartoons and quotes and pictures, nice big desk with room for scented candles and such, and easy access to my bookshelf with a ton of reference books.

Here's a shot coming into the room. If you look at the items on the right, you'll see assorted toys that make it clear this is now a nursery. I do miss this spot. It was quiet, it was comfortable, it was me. But now it's Drew, and he deserves his own space, even if he can't stand on his own yet.

Since Drew showed up, this is where I do my writing. Glorious isn't it? When I'm done, I close up the laptop and store it on top of the electric keyboard just out of frame to the right. I keep a couple writing notebooks stashed there, too. Must be mobile until we move and I (hopefully) get a space of my own again. I know Mark also wouldn't mind a better spot for his big scope. I wouldn't mind either. It kinda dominates this area, which is supposed to be just for eating. Ha.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Writing: The Hunting Metaphor

Lynn Viehl (aka S.L. Viehl, aka Jessica Hall) is an extraordinarily prolific writer. She routinely writes at least five books a year, all for paying markets. Last year, she wrote nine. Did I mention that she also has rheumatoid arthritis and has to dictate her novels? No, I'm not kidding. As a former moderator of the Forward Motion think tank, on-line class instructor, yahoo writing group leader, and blogger extraordinaire, Lynn has spent a lot of time helping aspiring writers learn and improve their craft. Me included. Now she's written an e-book to help writers improve their productivity.

Way of the Cheetah is a quick read, full of helpful, easy-to-apply hints, and it's as entertaining as Lynn's voice always is. In addition to the basic tips that are standard fare in many general writing how-to books (how to develop a schedule and stick to it), Lynn also blends in some of the emotional/mental analysis that make Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way such an amazing book. But Lynn doesn't stop there. She also provides a chapter on how to maintain writing equipment and how to store your writing for a minimum of data loss headaches. She finishes up the handy advice with a chapter on physical health maintenance and its impact on writing. At the end of each chapter, she has several exercises to help incorporate the her advice into your writing world. These exercises range from the simple to the advanced, depending on where you might be at in your writing journey and in life in general.

I enjoyed Lynn's no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is look at writing beyond just getting the words on the page. While not every tip she has may be applicable to every writer, I found that all of her advice helped me analyze my own process and gave me ideas for improving it. This great resource for maximizing your output is available for download here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

January Lessons Learned

I made some general goals at the beginning of the year: Lose weight, stay sane, and write more. I put a few specifics to those goals, but I really kept everything vague. "Finish a draft of SoD" instead of "Write 3000 words a week" or something. I had a good reason for that. Andrew doesn't really allow for as structured a home life as I'm used to. Gotta go with the flow, roll with the punches. So I resisted putting together a real schedule as I knew I would be more likely to get depressed, discouraged, or monumentally frustrated with The Plan when I kept having to abandon it because Drew decided he didn't want to take a nap on Sunday like he did on Saturday, and so on and so forth. But I also decided to review my goals and my steps toward them on a regular basis. Here's what I learned in January.

In the staying sane department, I learned the hard way that I'm not going to get good sleep--at least, I'm not going to get what I used to consider good sleep. A good night nowadays is one in which Drew only wakes up wanting his pacifier and will go back to sleep. This still means that my days of six or seven straight hours of sleep are gone, or at least very rare. And in the month of January, I had a hard time with that. It didn't help that The Boy decided at Christmas that sleeping twelve hours straight was cool and did so consistently and then suddenly decided it was uncool two weeks ago and likes to start whimpering loudly every three hours or less for his pacifier, sometimes waking up fully for more food. My bod did not appreciate the sudden reminder of what good sleep felt like followed by the abrupt shift back into the normal operating procedures of caring for an infant. I drank a lot of coffee, tried to catch extra snatches of sleep by playing the "snooze button" game, and just generally went a little nuts. I learned that focusing on being tired and on the sleep I'm not getting makes the sleep I do get suffer. And sleep-deprivation of this sort (not the first six weeks of baby sort, which is entirely different, mainly because I wasn't working full-time then) turns me into a deranged Super Woman. I know I'm not getting sleep, and I know I have so much to do, so I go crazy trying to get everything done, and then my brain never really shuts off at night, and the cycle repeats the next day, and my brain keeps this constant stream of babble going that drives me crazy.

Luckily I realized what I was doing after only a week and a half, went home early one day, left Andrew in day care (hey, we're paying for a full week's worth; why waste the money?), plopped myself in bed and read Jenny Cruisie. I tried to nap, but couldn't (might've been the coffee I had had that morning), but by the time evening rolled around, I actually felt tired, not overworked and overstimulated and overwound in general. I've been sleeping better and feeling more productive ever since. Now I can objectively look at my goals, what I did right in January, what I did wrong, and how I can improve.

As for weight loss, I did manage to lose three pounds. Four more to go before the docs consider me healthy, twelve more before I'm back at pre-Drew numbers. The Monday morning treat and Thursday night take-out pattern went well, though the sleep issue made me cheat things and buy more snacks and such. But at least I know this plan will work. Again, the sleep issue kept me from doing weekday workouts, but I did manage my Sunday morning one well. That will work, and working out the sleep stuff will help for February. Something else I learned about my weight loss goal: I absolutely CANNOT try on my pre-Drew pants and skirts until I'm at least within five pounds of my pre-Drew weight. I can't conceive of them fitting me until then, and trying them on beforehand gets me very, very depressed. I don't need that craziness right now.

Regarding writing, I did not do myself proud in January. I did OK, but I know I can do better. It was that damn sleep thing again. I often decided not to write when I could have because I was just "too tired". And I learned that it's hard to forego time with The Boy in favor of writing on the weekends. Especially when he was only taking naps when I was holding him for a while. That's why I really, really need to put together some sort of schedule, something to help me manage my time better, particularly on the weekends.

January wasn't a bad month, but it was certainly a learning experience. I needed that month to figure out a few things about life with Drew and the DDJ. I needed to see how my goals worked in my day-to-day. I certainly did make a lot of good steps toward my goals in January, but I know I could have done more. Now, armed with the lessons of last month, I should get closer to my goals in February and hopefully learn more to close the distance faster in March.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A New SF Adventure

Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell reminded me of a Tootsie Pop. While the hard candy coating isn't bad, you know it's covering the gooey chocolate center you'd rather be eating. Which is why I always bite into those things instead of waiting for the candy coating to be licked away. I know, that's a strange comparison to make, but let me explain. We're given a strong hint of the fascinating SF backstory on the back cover flap, and then only vague or fleeting references until two-thirds of the way through the book. While the adventure story is well-written and certainly enjoyable as it vividly describes a blended Caribbean culture under attack from an Aztec-like society, it didn't hold my interest as much as that frustratingly brief and rare glimpse of the backstory did. And, just like the Tootsie Pop, once we were thick in the backstory, it was over much too quickly. But I'm certainly invested in the primary characters now and am already looking forward to the next book.

One of those characters is Pepper. As I struggled to get to the gooey SF goodness of this book, Pepper's chapters kept me hooked. Buckell did an excellent job of making him a distinct and enjoyable voice, even if the subject matter of Pepper's thoughts wasn't so pleasant. While Buckell creates a fabulous and compelling conflict toward the end when John deBrun recovers his memory and must marry the two distinct lives he has lived, Pepper is the more complex and natural of the two. I'd recommend this book for Pepper alone.

Even though I wanted the last third of the book to be drawn out more, to delve more into the information and emotion and detail once the backstory is revealed, I still enjoyed the read. Maybe not as much as I could have, but enough to get me drawn into the Buckell's world. Should be a lot of fun to read more adventures in the setting that Crystal Rain introduced.

This book will be released in hardcover next week. If you'd like to read the first third fo the book before you commit to the $25, click here.

UPDATE: For unique DVD-like bonus features (author commentary, deleted scenes, short stories in the Crystal Rain universe), click here.