Friday, June 30, 2006

Big Name in SF Gone

On Wednesday, June 28, 2006, Jim Baen, one of the founders of Baen Books and a SF publishing icon, died. For an excellent review of his impact on SF publishing (and the genre and industry in general), read this by one of Baen's authors.

I'm very new to the "inside" world of publishing--so new that I'm not a part of it yet but am looking for my way in (read: writing the best damn book I can)--but this is a big loss to the SF community. It seems that Baen had a detailed emergency measures plan that has since been put in place, so nothing's going to happen to Baen Books anytime soon. But I'm still left wondering what this significant absence is going to do to the world of SF publishing. Having started writing at the tender age of 24, I figured out pretty quickly that, even if I didn't get published for another ten years, I was still going to be a part of a different publishing world from the one I first learned about. It's simple math and biology. I plan to write until I die, and I hope to live until I'm old enough to mumble "uphill in the snow both ways" stories to my great-great grandkids. This means that I'm bound to see some big names in publishing come and go.

It makes for a strange perspective on the nature of the job I'm in. Publishing is, at its heart, a subjective business. It's all about writing the best book you can and then having everything connect so that the right agent or editor reads it at the right time and can pitch it to their colleagues at just the right time to get that book published. Any number of subjective, human factors can derail that line. From my understanding, Jim Baen was very much involved in the running of Baen Books on nearly every level. No matter how well-detailed a plan he put into place, he can't transfer his subjectivity to anyone.
While I pause a moment to mourn his passing, I'm also going to watch and learn and see how we adapt without his voice and vision.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Moving Right Along

Two weeks until Mark defends the thesis he handed in on Monday. Total job applications: 1 (with a second one ready to go as soon as references are confirmed). Total job offers: None so far, but keep those fingers crossed.

It seems unreal that in six weeks, I can start working part-time (that's when Mark officially becomes a postdoc, even though he'll have defended his thesis and officially "graduate" a month before). And as those job apps keep going out and more and more things start clicking into place, I'm starting to get frazzled by the sheer amount of Stuff to get done to pack us up, move, and start a "real" household.

I suppose it's no wonder I got sicker than a dog this week. Although, I think the late nights spent helping Mark tweak his thesis didn't help my immune system either. And I know that the two hours we were up past midnight Monday morning fixing the 11th hour formatting issues that struck the document didn't help matters (wheee, it's so much fun cutting and pasting text one page at a time on a 105-pager to fix very stubborn page numbering issues).

It's just so hard to believe that everything we've been working toward for the past six years is about to happen, right here within our grasp. It's one of those moments when you have to admit you're a grown-up even though you feel the insecurity of a lost child.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Writing With or Without a Map

Just as there's often a big back & forth on the 'net about writing as art or business, there's also a frequent debate on outlining a novel vs. writing "blind." Sheila's post got me thinking about this particular debate. It seems to me that I've read more eye-rolling or dumb-founded reactions to people who aren't strict outliners than to those who are. Could be my own bias showing through, could be that "organic" writers are a minority, could be...who knows? But every time I see someone question or lambast or frown at organic writing, I always wonder why.

As I've mentioned before, I'm an organic writer. My scientific nit-picks about the term "organic" aside, this basically means that I write by the seat of my pants, letting the book grow as it will without all those funky preservatives and pesticides and inorganic compounds. (OK, so I really didn't set aside my scientific nitpick there. Sue me.) In other words, I'm not one to map out a book and then write it to that map. It's the writing equivalent of hopping in a car and deciding to drive from Denver to New York all of a sudden without a map, without getting the car tuned, without packing any clothes, without budgeting for piddly things like gas and food, without anything other than the knowledge that you've got to go east for a while and then north for a bit. Maybe you've figured out that you can swing into Grandma's for a few nights along the way, or that there's a great National Park you want to check out for a week that's somewhat on the route. Makes for an adventure that can be exciting and frustrating (and more than a bit terrifying if you've got a deadline for getting to the destination).

Sure, it makes a lot of sense to map out the route, draw up a budget or three, and pack. But if the whole point of the journey is to have fun, something about having every day, every pit stop, every twist and turn sketched out really leaches the fun out of it--for me, at least. One thing I've learned, though, is that, more often than not, if I've got the destination, then I've got the map in my subconscious. I just have to trust in that and be open to it.

For example, I recently had to write a scene where I kept tripping up on the basics of setting up a camp. When I realized that the logistics and specifics were holding me back from getting to the part of the scene I was ready to write, I forced myself to write a few very crappy paragraphs that held the vague idea of what I thought might be involved in setting up a camp, made an all caps note along the lines of "RESEARCH AND FIX", and moved on. When I had to write the scene in which they left the camp, I realized that I had to research taking down a camp and getting it mobile...or did I? As I had been writing the scenes in between the setting up of camp and the taking down of it, I put in a few more details about the culture of the nomads in the camp and did some more thinking about these people and their role in the book. I realized that I didn't need them to set up or tear down the camp because the camp was a permanent camp, but the people who stayed there rotated through it. This makes much more sense for the image I had of this culture in the first place and what they do in the book.

Here's another Organic Writing Click. Airen has to overhear something that clues her in to a few other things going on at one point. It's a conversation between two agents of a group trying to orchestrate a coup of sorts. At first, I had her overhearing this simply to give her motivation to keep going on the path she's been forced to walk. But as I was writing the conversation, one of the two agents just kept sounding remarkably inept at his job. With each line that came out of his mouth, I got more and more confused as to why this guy had traveled as far as he had, in the way that he had, to say what he had to say. It just seemed remarkably dumb. But I kept writing, trusting that it would make sense to me. Then I had Airen actually turn around to get a look at the guy, and I saw who he was, and it all made sense. Airen has no idea who this person is, but I do and the readers will as well. And this one little thing connects a subplot in a way I knew was there but hadn't seen yet and can carry me on to the end of the novel.

There's no way I could've plotted these two things out ahead of time before I got into the thick of my novel. Just as there's no way I could've detailed out my characters before I got into the thick of my novel. When I start a new idea, I only ever have a vague sense of what's going to happen, but as I move forward, I always ask "why". Plotting before I write gets me lost in the details and sucks the fun out of everything. Plotting as I write, as all these connections come together and make all of the threads intertwine, is what makes writing so much fun for me. I trust in the muse when an idea says "Hey, I belong here," and I wait for the moment when it all clicks. I've never been disappointed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Blogging the Commute (Not Live), Part 3

Read Part 1 and Part 2, in which I detail my current commute.

There is so much beauty to be seen in Arizona that even a commute through a decidedly urban area feels extraordinary. When I worked in a lab at the University of Arizona just north of the center of town, I had a thirty-minute drive from the far northwest town of Oro Valley (though the post office still considered it Tucson). In order to get into Tucson Proper from my house, I had to drive around the Catalina Mountains, work my way through one of three major town arteries, and navigate through the western edge of campus, looking for a parking spot. And the return trip home involved the same choice of streets and doglegging around the Catalinas again. With the obvious exception of driving around mountains, sounds pretty mundane, right? Nope.

The Catalinas are the predominant range in northwest Tucson. (I know this confirms my geekdom, but check this out for a neat explanation of how the Tucson Valley was formed.) I got to soak in the northwestern face of them every morning, the sun hidden away behind their peaks or just cresting them to cast strange shadows.

When I wasn't looking at the mountains, I was contemplating the growing subdivision where we lived. There was always something new going up, whether it was a road or a new grouping of houses or a school, etc. Progress is a bittersweet thing. On the one hand, it's comforting because it means that Life Goes On. There's something reassuring about watching an area thrive and seeing people take ownership over a little chunk of land, tend it, nurture it, and do the same for their house and (hopefully) those inside. On the other hand, there's still enough untouched desert running up into the Catalinas that it doesn't take much to get caught up in the idea of what this land was like before humanity invaded in their modern manner. I often wondered what it would look like to see the area just as nature created it, with no rows of houses, no dots of business complexes, no scars of roads in the light brown of the land.

I had several options of routes to take me to my destination once I dog-legged around the Catalinas. They each had their own pros and cons. The main city drag of Oracle was only used when I was very rushed and needed the higher speeds because it wasn't very aesthetic and the traffic got heavy and stupid the closer this road got to Speedway, one of the University's primary roads.

The very scenic route of Ina to First was used when I had a lot of extra time and the heat index wasn't too bad. The land there (at least the last time I saw it) is composed of large stretches of undeveloped desert with houses getting toward swanky dotting the landscape (the really swanky houses crop up further east on Ina and on the northern parallel streets). This road also treks along the foothills of the Catalinas, which presents its own spectacular beauty regardless of the development by the street. The only break in the beauty of this route, driving along sweeping desert up to a valley crest, was the blanket of brown smog covering the Tucson Valley and marring the usually bright blue sky.

Very often I took River to First, though, as it was a good compromise between the speed of Oracle and the scenery of the northern section of First. The best part of the River Road route is that the road parallels the Rillito River, which is a large dry bed except for a few weeks every year during the monsoon seasons. Still, seeing that river bed always awakens something of the geologic and cultural history of the Southwest for me.

On the return trip home, I got to stare at the southern face of the Catalinas. While beautiful in and of itself, the view was made even more spectacular during the monsoon season: all those jagged, rocky peaks against purple rain clouds so dark they were nearly black, the lightning zigzagging across the sky. Outside of monsoon season, a quick glance to the east would show a typically magnificent color show of a sunset, the little moisture in the air catching the sunlight and twisting it into oranges and pinks and purples. The only view that might've bested it would've been to be driving into the northern face of the Catalinas during sunset. The sun strikes the rock and turns it a vibrant red.

There's really not much more to my drive home. I mean, what could compete with that spectacular mountain or sunset view stretched in front of me? Well, there was that amazing swath of open desert between the main drag and my subdivision with a view beyond to the Tortolitas.

Man, I miss all of this. Keep your fingers crossed that Mark gets a job down there very soon! And stay tuned for the final commute blog, Part 4: Adventures in Germany.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Point and Scoot

For a couple of weeks now, Drew's starting this thing of touching everything with just his index finger. It's usually a very deliberate touch. His hands will be curled into a fist, grabbing his pacifier, or maybe stretched out flat, smacking the coffee table. Then he'll see something he wants to investigate. The fingers curl in except for that pointer finger (and sometimes his thumb will stick out and form an "L" with his hand), and he'll slowly and with great precision reach out with that finger and touch the thing he's curious about. Then he'll repeatedly touch the object with just that finger. It's both very cute and really odd to watch. Tossing Cheerios onto his highchair tray really brings out this behavior, and then he'll push the cereal around and around, eventually grabbing it between his thumb and index finger. Sometimes he'll try to get the Cheerio into his mouth. Usually this doesn't work as his grip morphs from between thumb and index finger to clutching the Cheerio in his fist in the short time it takes to bring his hand to his mouth.

Sometimes he'll combine the point with a scoot. If Andrew's sitting on the floor and sees something not directly in front of him that he wants to investigate, he'll do this strange scooting in order to face the object before he embarks on the Long Crawl to his goal. This scooting is hard to describe, but I'll give it a whirl. His legs are more or less straight out in front of him. He'll move his legs in a scissor-like fashion, swinging one in the direction he wants to face, and swinging the other one to reposition, repeating until he's facing what he wants to face. Then he'll lean forward onto his arms, bring his legs underneath him, and crawl to whatever's grabbed his curiosity. Soon he's bringing that index finger up to investigate.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An Author a Day and Adventures in Book Tours

Here's a neat concept for a blog: a group of thirty authors joined together, and they each take a day of the month. Always fresh and unique, spreads out the responsibility so no one has to provide original content every day, and offers a variety of perspectives. They do seem to be very male and very horror/thriller, though. (And I really wouldn't have noticed the gender had the issue of sexism regarding a Big Name short fiction spec fic mag not been making the rounds on the blogosphere.)

Via Lee Goldberg, I've added another item to my list of Advice Garnered from Writers on the Web. A mystery/thriller writer did a gig at an independent bookstore and, when all was said and done, asked the indie bookseller for directions to the nearby Barnes & Noble so he could sign some stock. Drama ensued. Seriously, both Barry Eisler and the bookseller were, for the most part, very cordial and civil, though I think the bookseller got a bit carried away in even mentioning that other indie booksellers would consider the incident enough to thwart an author's career. And things get even more interesting when the bookseller mentions the Japanese culture and how asking for directions to a competiting business would be a revenge-killing offense. I'm hoping the 'seller was being intentionally melodramatic there for some sort of comedic effect. But before you can get all bent out of shape about the 'seller, read through the comments of that post, and Mr. Eisler mentions that the supposed gaffe occurred after the 'seller offered him a ride to his hotel. It's unclear if Mr. Eisler said, "No, thanks. Can you drop me off at Barnes & Noble instead?" or if he just asked for directions and was going to walk himself there and find his own way to the hotel after that. If it's the former, than I think I can understand the 'seller's indignation a bit better. It's one thing to give someone directions to a competing business; it's quite another to be asked for a ride there.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Checking In?

I think Spaceballs will be a great movie for Mark and I to watch very soon. We need some brainless yet clever comedy right about now. Sigh. The marathon of crunchtime has begun, and we both struggled with it. I think, though, that this stumble will help us better deal with all the fast-moving events that the summer has in store. After all, if you figured out where you've failed, your less likely to fail again--at least in that particular way. At any rate, we know our warning signs better in this heightened stress mode. I think we're going to institute weekly check-ins similar to this post so we can make sure that each of us as individuals are doing OK with the craziness and that we're doing OK as a couple and parents. We actually did this very well during my maternity leave, especially the first few weeks of Drew's life. We'll get back in the habit quickly.

As for the writing, see above. It was so caught up in my stress that each second I couldn't spend on my projects was a blow, and the time I did have for writing never seemed like enough. But this is an old frustration of mine, trying to juggle the necessary DDJ with the drive to write.

As for the blogging, I'm very happy with this week of posting. I even managed to schedule some posts for several weeks out. Once I get comfortable with this routine, I'll have to figure out a way to direct more traffic here. Well, the best way to do that would be to publish a book and put this blog under a domain with my full name in it. I'm going to assume that's not going to happen any time soon, though, and see what I can do to increase my readership in the meantime. The more readers of my blog I have before I get published translates into more readers I have after I get published. That's the plan at least. See, you are all a part of my grand scheme! Muahahahaha!


Friday, June 23, 2006

Ooo, Shiny! New Items at HollyShop!

As you saw by my previous post and my updated sidebar, the HollyShop has a few new items up for your reading pleasure. I haven't had a chance to write up reviews for all the items as yet, but I did want to make a special mention about Holly Lisle's Create a Character Clinic and her worldbuilding series.

The CCC is a fab book. I have breezed through it without doing the exercises, more to get a feel for technique, advice, and general characterization trends. It's a great book for helping you get to the heart of your characters (which is what I was using it for), and it looks to be an excellent way to create characters from scratch should you need that first inspirational push with an idea or to just break past a block. There's also a great section at the end that discusses the traditional gaffes of writing characters (looking in a mirror to describe your MC, etc.) and how they can be spun into something unique and valuable to your story. An excellent writing tool.

This is the first installment of Holly's worldbuilding series, and I must say that I am eager to get my hands on this gem. Putting together a language for Velorin wasn't very easy. I had pulled together info from a couple of sites that seemed authoritative, but it just didn't click well for me. I like the basics of what I developed, but I really wanted a step-by-step process for generating a believable language. As soon as this whole thesis insanity is gone, I will be picking this up for use with SoZ. You can look here and here for an inside peak at this book. (Keep in mind that those are draft snippets, but the heart of the content will still be in the final product.) I will be posting a more intense review as soon as I can.

By the way, if you'd like to make a buck or two in support of some great writing resources and excellent e-fiction, read this. Sure, I'd like you to join up for the affiliate program by following the "KHazell" link, but I'm willing to share the love and give you a choice of Holly's list there.

Zette Gifford's Two-Year Novel Course

I highly recommend this book. I've been taking this course in its on-line format via Forward Motion. Zette is a very gifted teacher and writer, and using her course has helped me better organize my own writing process. This is a bit of an odd review as I haven't actually read the book, but I know its content from the course. I started the course just a couple of weeks before I found out I was pregnant, and I chose Soz as the novel I was going to write in the course. Well, then Drew came along and made it very difficult to actually write the novel during the course, but this course prodded the Muse into high-gear regarding Velorin and the novel ideas I have for that world. Keep in mind that this is an idea that I had been trying to coax into bloom for two years without luck.

The first part of the course is geared toward intensive worldbuilding. I still haven't addressed all the factors she mentions, but they're there in the back of my mind, percolating and simmering and gathering juice for a richer world. One of the best things about the course is that Zette is adamant about her students finding their own best process. She provides several different approaches to writing a novel, focusing of course on the one that works best for her but offering ways it can be adjusted to suit individual writing needs. The exercises for the worldbuilding part of the course were very helpful in solidifying the ideas I had for Velorin and in making my world even richer.

In short, the course has helped me break 60K, think ahead enough so I'm not writing completely in the dark, develop a rich background, tease out characters, and generate a more cohesive and coherent approach to writing a novel. And that was just in the first year, which is the material on which this book is based. Stay tuned for the second year's material in a second book.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Final Countdown

OK, I'm going to have that song stuck in my head. And, really, I suppose that it's not the most appropriate title. Oh, well. It'll suffice.

My alert readers will have noticed that the countdown at the top of my website has skipped ahead a day. That's because Mark's set the date for his thesis defense: July 13. Now, while this will be a glorious day for Mark and his stress level, it isn't quite the miraculous date we had thought it would be. He won't start earning a postdoc salary until Aug 15. And then there's that teeny, tiny matter of, you know, getting a job using that bad-ass degree he'll officially have in his hands as of Aug 15. As soon as we get some dates on that front, I'll be putting up another countdown, more for my own pratical use than for any uplifting effect. As soon as we get a date for a new job and start putting the move into the works (even if we stay here, we'll be moving into a house), I'll need to keep close track of the days so I know how much time I've got left to get us packed up and shipped out.

Did I mention my daycare provider has been hinting at retiring in August?

There's insanity lurking right around the corner, I can feel it.

Still, July 13 will bring a great relief to all of us. Any bets as to whether or not Mark will be coherent for any appreciable amount of time after we put Drew to bed that night? To help educate those bets, we have half a bottle of tequila in our liquor cabinet. Call Vegas for the odds!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Writing as Art or Business

Every now and then, I'll see an Internet debate about whether or not writing should be treated as an art or a business. The answer to me seems obvious: if you're going to make writing your career, it should be both an art and a business. However, that's my answer, and I think every writer should decide for themselves if it makes more sense to treat writing as an art or as a business or as something else.

I think this is something not particular to writing. In every job you have to balance passion and the cold, hard facts of whatever field you're in. I couldn't tolerate the business aspects of academic research and public school teaching without losing the passion for either job, so I'm not in those careers. With the DDJ, I've found something that I can handle in both the business and art (passion) sense, I just don't overly enjoy it, so I'm considering this as a "fall-back" career should my number one choice not pan out.

With writing, I've found a career in which I can create a piece of art and then handle it as a product to sell without flinching. Perhaps this is because I don't see writing as merely art. Writing is just another interaction with the world and its inhabitants, a participation in the collective consciousness. If you want that world to see your interaction (i.e. get published), then you need to have at least some appreciation for the business of writing. However, it is possible to get so wrapped up in the business that you can't find the art, the passion anymore.

How to say this right? I knew I wanted to be a writer not after I had started my first novel, but after I had gone to my first critique group session. To take something I had created and discuss its merits and flaws in terms of things like plot arcs, character motivation, theme, sentence structure, etc., made something click inside me. It was such a joy to hear others get what I was trying to say, and it was a fun challenge to puzzle out how to improve something when they clearly didn't get what I was trying to say. I'll never forget the natural high I felt driving home after that first crit group session. It was pretty overwhelming. It confirmed everything I had felt as I was writing on my own, and provided a big, flashing neon sign that said, simply, "HOME."

I guess that's why I don't have a hard time thinking of anything I write both as art and as a product to sell. To me, the selling aspect is a part of the art. Or, rather, I don't see any huge distinction between writing as art and business. That being said, I can see how others make the distinction toward both extremes. It's gotta be hard to write in either case.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Blogging the Commute (Not Live), Part 2

This is a continuation of last Tuesday's post.

My current drive home isn't nearly as engaging as my drive to work. That's not to say that the views aren't spectacular, and that I don't see pretty much the same things on my way back. It's just that my brain is so full from the day that my surroundings don't register as much. There are a few exceptions.

During the winter months, the sun has pretty much set by the time I'm trekking it back home. In December, this is great as it gives me a chance to see all the elaborate yet tasteful Christmas lights of those swanky homes I get to drive by. Also, I can see the large lit star that the town of Boulder rigs up on one of the lower foothill peaks. It looks fairly small from ten miles away, but it's still a comfort.

In the summertime, I can sneak peeks at the storms building over the front range or purpling the sky over the eastern plains. If it weren't for the bright sun heading to bed in the west, I'd stare at the front range and the higher, more impressive peaks of the Rockies behind it. Longs Peak is especially intriguing with its strange tapered yet blocky summit, and the jagged spikes of the Indian Peaks usually have stubborn snow and glaciers dotting their gray tops. I do love all the sun we get here, but sometimes I wish it wasn't shining right in my eyes as I admire the Rockies.

Regardless of the season, one of the first things I see on my drive home is the teeny tiny lot that has been developed into teeny tiny townhomes in the year and a half I've been making this commute. When they first started clearing the land, I figured a couple of stores or a strip mall would be going up in that area. Then I saw advertisements for townhome lots and just about fainted. I thought at best they'd be able to fit a whopping three units in the space. But, true to the cram-it-in attitude of new housing developments in this area, they shoved a good fifteen or so units in there. It actually looks pretty quaint--as quaint as a can of sardines can look. The color scheme is the trendy darker jewel tones that seem to be everywhere around here. I often shake my head as I pass by this development, but the other day my jaw sagged as I passed it. The sign advertising the available lots happened to catch my eye. In fancy, schmancy script was the word "Townhomes," and beneath that, "From the $230s." That wasn't what shocked me, though. Just underneath that price tag is another word in equally flowing script, "Affordable Townhomes," and before you can recover from that comes the price tag, "From the $190s." I wonder what the difference is between the two. And why would you want to make that sort of distinction? Are people actually in the market for real estate they can't afford? Was the qualifier for the first category of townhomes something like "Aw, hell, we know you'd love to live in one of these things, but you'd have to sell your soul to Satan, auction off your first born, and prostitute yourself in order to live here"? That bend of the road, though, affords a good view of Longs Peak and is at an angle at which the sun doesn't blind me, so I've taken to admiring the view and ignoring the strange world of real estate and advertising in that little chunk of land.

Dipping into the valley that's so impressive on my way into work isn't nearly as stunning coming from the south because the elevation difference isn't as stark. Still, it feels like home in that valley. There's just something so comforting about the presence of ponds and farms and horses. The best part about the valley on the drive home, though, is to watch the poor saps driving home from Boulder, trying to make their way to the interstate or the state highway to the east of my humble little two-lane road home. The traffic snarls up as drivers wait to take their left turn off my road, and it stays snarled up just a little bit north where all that Boulder traffic turns on to my little road. I always feel the urge to shout a Nelson-like "Ha-ha!" at all those cars. They're trying to beat the traffic on the other major eastern-bound routes out of Boulder, and the little road that could just can't accommodate them.

There's one particular piece of property that always catches my eye on the way home. It's not a grand house by any means, it's merely comfortable. But that house always has a particular decoration at the fence's gate: a small scale knight in armor. I've seen nothing else of the people who live on there except for this little figure. It's charming and intriguing. Do the owners have a Ren Faire fetish? Was it a child's school project done superbly well? Is it a statement? Once or twice it seems like the little knight has been holding a sign, but it's always a cardboard affair, hard to read as I drive by.

As I approach the home stretch into town, I pass by the last grouping of expensive homes before we get into the more affordable houses that border the main road. At the juncture of the loop road for that development and the street I'm on, there's a small shrine. I'm pretty sure I know the story of the life that ended there. A teenager was backing out into the road at that spot, and a semi hit him. At least, I think that's the right intersection. My boss at IBM lost a neighbor in such an accident, and I think that was the neighborhood in which she lived. I've always wondered, though, every time I pass by that bunch of flowers and small cross. I'm not sure if my boss had enough money to live in such a neighborhood, and the idea of someone, even an inexperienced driver, needlessly backing out from a good-sized street onto a rather busy road seems a bit of a stretch. Still, even as my mind dithers with such pointless musings, I always still my thoughts for a moment and hope for peace for that soul and those who mourn it.

By the time I'm in the town itself, though, all my thoughts are focused on Andrew as I'm only five minutes away from seeing his amazing smile and kissing his cubby cheeks. This can often be the longest part of my drive. The moment the two-lane road turns into the four-lane town street, I veer into the right-hand lane. It's a conscious effort, one that makes my heart sing. Up until this year, I never had to move out of the lane that carried me all the way from my job. We live on the west side of this street, but Drew's day care is on the east side. Every evening, I tell myself with a smile to move into the right-hand lane as a sort of ritual reminder of the new life I'm living. It's the same drive, same scenery, and yet everything's different. I pass by the road onto which I had previously turned, remembering the times I took that path both before Drew and when I was pregnant with Drew. On one occasion at that very turn, I experienced my first Braxton-Hicks contraction. Now I take different turns to get me to the same place. Familiar roads, but a brand new perspective with my son in the backseat. I don't always think in these terms as I babble with Andrew, waiting for a break in traffic to turn left into our apartment complex, but such ideas are usually there in the back of my mind, giving me a strange sense of sadness for the comfortable routine lost, joy for the amazing new patterns and surprises, and anticipation for what future regular drives will be like.

Up Next: From Northwest Tucson to the UofA and back!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Caution: Ankles May Get Moist

Another Drew post without a picture. I know, I know. I think Mark might have some time this weekend to download some pictures and post them on the web. Too bad we can't post video because the Drew Monster has mastered crawling and pulling himself up to stand. As soon as he gets his teeth, ankles will be in danger of some nibbling. Right now there just in danger of getting gummed and soaked with drool.

Drew's not really interested in crawling unless it means he can get he diapered butt into something fun, such as the coffee table that has lots of papers on top of it (not to mention the remotes) or the TV cabinet that has all sorts of things to grab in it. Also, he seems most interested in crawling over to something that will let him pull himself up into a standing position. He loves to stand and walk along the furniture.

But the best part about these new tricks is the sound he makes while he does them. He blows constant raspberries, so he sounds like a little moist engine motoring around on the floor.

He's already earned a few war wounds. He hasn't quite figured out that opening the TV cabinet can also result in getting his fingers pinched if he can't keep the cabinet doors opened. He hasn't fallen down from standing too much, and that surprises him more than anything else.

He's also started clapping--softly for the time being--and he's getting interested in high-fives and paddy-cake. Now, if only those darn teeth would come in....

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Fun with Names

Keep this punchline in mind as you do this exercise, although it might work better if you use this generator instead.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Cranky Momma

The theme of this week on the homefront was "No Sleep for Teething." It probably wouldn't have been so bad if I had gotten a nap last weekend, but between Mark finishing up his research and writing his thesis and me scrambling to squeeze writing in and around that and a suddenly very crazy DDJ, no nap for Momma. Bad time management didn't help either. Hey, at least I had a great birthday.

On the blogging front, I'm very happy with my "pro blogging" effort this week. That time management thing will help in the coming weeks to make sure I've got good posts ready to go each day. But the biggest focus of the time management issue will be to squeeze in more writing time for me while life goes bonkers for the next few weeks.

As a treat for me that had the benefit of being 100% free, I went to a spa "happy hour" and got a makeover and massage (the quickie versions) while I nibbled on munchies and sipped wine. The wife of one of my coworkers owns a spa and had an open house last night. As a marketing tool, it was very effective: I'm already mentally shifting my budget to allow for a couple of massages before we move instead of buying more books to add to my crazy To Be Read pile (although that was exactly what I did with all of my birthday money: buy more books!).

All in all, not the best of weeks, but it had a lot of bright moments despite the constant Sleep Deprivation Shuffle.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Bliss of Good Vocals

A couple of years ago, I received some training to be a director of a barbershop harmony chorus. Most of this training was "on-the-job" and resulted in me actually directing a song during a concert and at several more informal performances. In addition to bobbing my hands in the right rhythm and such to get the chorus from the beginning to the end of the song in the manner I wanted, I also had to listen for bad vowel sounds, slurred words, non-blended notes, bad notes, tempo issues, etc. The experience instilled in me a tendency to wince when I hear such issues on the radio. This is why I love bands that have a great sound without sacrificing vocal quality.

Blue October is one such band. I cannot express the utter glee I feel when I hear the song "What If We Could" and can bask in the amazing ability of a singer to use the words "meet you" without it sounding like "me chew." Justin Furstenfeld has an amazing voice, and the man can enunciate and have good round vowels and perfect dipthongs without sounding pretentious, without sounding like he's working at it. When he does flatten a vowel or otherwise wander away from good vocals, it's because there's something going on with the song that requires a harsh or dissonant sound. For example, during one of my absolute favorite tracks on Foiled, "Congratulations," at one point the words come out as if through clenched teeth, which makes perfect sense because the lyrics indicate he's sad he missed his chance to say how he really felt about a person, and now he's trying to tell this person he's happy for her in her new relationship.

There are many great things about Blue October's vocals, but it makes me beyond happy to hear words that are clear. In fact, the words are so clear in what they are that you actually get a chance to ponder what they mean. The lyrics are often like poetry: images and phrasings and combinations of words that describe something beyond their literal expression. This makes listening to them both a pleasure and a challenge, for me at least. Poetry has never been one of my strong suits. However, I can take cues for understanding the lyrics in the way the vocals are presented and in the music itself. And let me tell you how much fun that is. The music in and of itself is great, but if you want to go deeper, you can. Plus, you don't have silly things like random, superfluous notes or wince-inducing vowels and consonant combos to distract you.

Now, if only other great bands would follow this example. I'm thinking in particular of Depeche Mode and Garbage. They've got such a great sound, but then they do the standard "me chew" instead of "meet you" crap that throws me right out their music. I've tried to ignore it, honestly, but after those few months of directing barbershop, it's impossible. I can't shut down that part of my hearing. Unfortunately.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me!

Twenty-eight years on this Earth, and I still feel like an infant in many ways. Hey, at least that will let me relate to Andrew better! :)

The other big milestone today: Mark and I have been together for five and a half years. We call it our Half-a-versary.

We'll be celebrating both occasions with some special dinners at home this weekend, although one of those dinners will be doubling as a Happy Father's Day treat. Too many celebrations for one little weekend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Before I figured out that I was a writer, I loved places like airports and train terminals and hospitals and doctor's offices and any other place that gathers people from disparate situations into a common cause. Each location presented a unique opportunity to witness the comings and goings of humanity or to take a snapshot of the human condition. I would often stop and look around me, wondering at all the stories, all the series of events that brought those people to that one location at that particular time. As a writer, I pay even more attention to the way those people carry themselves and the expressions they wear and see if I can move a step beyond wondering into creating.

So when I went to my final urologist appointment today and nearly walked right into a couple of deputies escorting a man in handcuffs and shackles off the elevator, my writer mind went nuts. It's my own damn fault for nearly plowing into the three men. The first deputy to get off the elevator looked right at me and said, "Wait one moment." But mentally I was already halfway to my car, so my body sort of tried to get on the elevator (the other deputy and convict were blocked from my line of site, and two other people had already gotten out, so I figured I was in the clear). I pulled myself up short just in time and managed an apology as I got into the elevator.

Oddly, my first thought as I traveled down to the ground floor was, "He wasn't wearing an orange jumpsuit." My second thought was, "Handcuffs and shackles are much shinier than I thought they would be. Really catch the eye." And then I was just confused as to why the sheriff's office would be escorting anyone in shackles around in an HMO when there was a perfectly functioning general hopsital not twenty feet away, and there aren't any prisons nearby that I can think of to begin with.

I wish I had been paying more attention as I waited to get on the elevator, though. I had just experienced one of the strangest and most notable intersections in one of the locations I note for such possibilities, and my most overwhelming concern was for how stupid I felt for not being aware enough to heed the deputy's request. Still, those few seconds of my day will be ample fuel for the creative fires even if I could've garnered more fuel by not having a Blonde Moment at the time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Blogging the Commute (Not Live), Part 1

About this feature: I've been lucky enough to have primarily beautiful and traffic-free drives to work and bus rides to school, and that's given me a remarkable chance to spin stories and marvel at nature daily for a big chunk of my life. Maybe these posts will have you looking at your own commute a bit differently. Maybe they'll just be entertaining. At any rate, here's a peak at how I've handled that "down time" between getting from home to work and back.

My current commute is a straight shot down one road that takes me through three towns, through suburbanish centers, across a broad plain of farmed fields, through farmed valleys, past a couple of very ritzy neighborhoods, past upper middle class house farms, past well-to-do farming establishments, past mom-and-pop farms, and, of course, alongside the Rockies. Most of the time, I'll listen to a selection of music that provides inspiration for whatever writing project I'm working on at the moment, but sometimes I just take in the sights.

It starts with dropping off Andrew at daycare. Not exactly a positive start, but he usually gives me a huge smile as I wave good-bye, so I leave smiling all the same. Then it's a trek down a major town artery through urban accoutrements such as grocery stores and Starbucks and McDonalds. But the majority of the business has come up in the six years I've lived here, so I often find myself marveling at the engine of our economy. It may not be perfect, there may be better ways, but there's something extraordinarily comforting that, no matter what hell I have to deal with at the DDJ or what crisis is rearing its head in my life or in the country or in the world, that restaurant will be busy at lunch and packed at dinner, and there will always be people coming and going from this grocery store, and the stores in the mall will be having a sale, and there will be several movies showing that night.

Then I cross over the tracks, pass by one last housing bastion of the primary township, and the fields start with some mighty expensive houses in the distance. One of said houses had the largest "Bush/Cheney 04" sign I've ever seen proudly displayed from the balcony. I think there were even lights directed at it for those early morning & late night drivers in the winter months. I probably would've spared several thoughts for what it was like to live in that neighborhood, but once I saw that sign…suddenly the neighborhood had that much more personality. It's one thing to put an average political sign in your lawn, lots of people do that. But this guy might as well have put a neon square around that puppy. It made me wonder what sort of person could be that enamored of any party or politician.

Next up is the intersection that will forever be etched in my memory for the moment when, as we were rushing to the hospital because we thought I was in premature labor, I had Mark pull over so I could hurl into the grass. I remember the way the sun was striking that particular field through some trees. I remember the refreshing breeze as I shoved open my door. And I remember hoping I could last long enough to lean out just as far as necessary to avoid hitting myself or the car. Gotta love food poisoning at 35 weeks pregnant.

Then it's up a slight hill with a few expensive houses dotted in such a way that you can see one without seeing the other from the road. The first time I noticed that, I got a great idea of a satirical romantic comedy in which some poor motorist has a breakdown and goes to the first house she can see, but it's the house just beyond that's the home of her One True Love. The house she stops at, though, is the house of her next Asshole Loser Boyfriend. Ah, the difference of a few feet. I always chuckle at that one point of the road, thinking about the ways to spin that story.

I cross over a major state road, and suddenly I’m driving through a large open plain that seems to stretch from the Rockies to the sunrise. On a clear day (of which there are many here), I can see the faint dark bump on the horizon that could be Pike's Peak (some 100-150 miles away). I haven't actually researched whether the distant peak I'm seeing is Colorado's most famous one because to find out it isn't would detract from the power and mystery of that particular stretch of my commute. On this plain, in sharp contrast to the comfort of commerce, I get to wrap myself up in the comfort of people doing what has been done since humanity tacked on "gathering" to their list of activities. I don't mind the smell of manure. I don't mind the blow of dust or tumbleweeds. I love to watch that land through the seasons.

But my favorite part of the commute occurs just when the seemingly endless plain takes on a boundary. You can tell you're about to crest the lip of a valley. At this point, the next batch of expensive houses garner almost no notice from me. I'm too excited to see the valley. And it's beautiful. Lush, green, dotted with a few ponds, and some islands of interesting trees. In the mornings, there's often an ethereal swath of mist and fog covering the valley floor, and starting the descent down makes me feel like I'm driving into a cloud.

Strangely enough, politics intrudes into the commute again as I pass a house with a "Kerry/Edwards 04" sign just as big as the opposing sign at the other house. This house isn't as grand, and the sign is tacked onto a big fence. While the other fellow's sign was down within a week of the election, this guy kept his sign up well into my pregnancy, and perhaps afterward (I wasn't making the commute for several months then). At first I just felt sorry for the man. To have such faith and passion and belief so proudly displayed after it was no longer an issue. But when someone went and obscured the sign with layer upon layer of graffiti (I never could make it out), that sign stayed up still. That's when I wondered what sort of attention that man paid to his property. Political fervor or no, a graffiti-laced "Kerry/Edwards" sign clinging to your fence a year after the election is just sad.

The next stage of my commute takes me into a more congested urban area, and it gets a little boring. A few stores to note, one or two neat houses, the occasional golfer to study. The road dog legs a bit, and then I take my turn into the DDJ. Even in bad weather, that commute keeps my chin up. There's usually something interesting to look at and ponder, there's usually no snarled traffic or beyond stupid drivers (although there was the time that a carpool of five guys in front of me caught my attention with their in-car behavior; one guy puts his arm around another one, not a big deal except that arm stays there for the next fifteen minutes and I'm getting very curious; just as my interest is starting to wane, the be-armed fellow stands up as best you can in a Jetta, and the friendly guy next to him does something below my line of sight to the standing guy's legs; I nearly followed them when they turned off the road, I felt like I was watching a soap opera on mute).

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I blog the return home.

Monday, June 12, 2006


I have an absolutely perfect picture for this post. Unfortunately, I took it yesterday and haven't been able to transfer it from the camera, Photoshop it, and transfer it to my flash drive to pub here. That's a Mark thing, anyway, and he's very busy writing his thesis, so we're not going to bother him.

Andrew has developed a strange mishmash of flopping, sitting, rolling, and crabwalking in order to get him from point A to point B. He'll get himself onto hands and knees, but when he tries to move one knee forward, he doesn't move his hands. This translates into pulling his knee up far enough that he can swivel from a crawling stance into a sitting position. If he doesn't pull himself into a sit from the crawl position, he'll flop forward onto his chest and inch his way along the floor.

He's very adept at pulling himself up to a stand. I think this is in part because he enjoys to stand so much and when he decides to move into a crawl-like stance from sitting, he often locks his knees so he's tottering on hands and feet. All it takes is a convenient ledge (such as, I don't know, his crib railing), and he'll leverage himself up to be standing tall. I discovered this when I went to check on him when he was supposed to be napping. He was standing in his crib, gripping the top of the rail, staring proudly at the pacifier he had spit into the center of his room. And he was very quietly proud of this.

Our boy doesn't make much noise when he's doing his strange moving thing in his crib. Unless he's unhappy he's awake, then we'll walk in to find him sitting in the middle of his crib (because he's learned how to sit up from being on his tummy--a position he often doesn't appreciate waking up from).

All this translates into having to lower his crib to its lowest setting already, not even a month after setting it to the middle height.

That Drew Monster's going to skip that whole ankle-biting phase and go straight for knee-biting. That is, only if there's not a paper product within reach instead.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Private School Stereotype Rears Its Head...Again

I did have a long rant about a thread over at Making Light in which both Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden take a young political blogger to task for sloppy language in a post. But why waste my time and my readers' time? The short of it is that making assumptions about a person based solely on their alma mater (or appearance, as comes out in the comments) is very silly, but effective for the person being stereotyped. That is, if someone wants to dismiss me because I'm a young, blonde Notre Dame alumna who grew up overseas as the daughter of an Air Force officer, they can do so with my thanks and appreciation for effectively removing themselves from the group of people with which I should concern myself.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Murphy, Thy Name is Mud

Of course, the week I decide to turn over a new leaf in blogging is the week that Blogger goes wonky, the DDJ sprouts a raging fire garden, and the homefront has a hiccup. But, this is why I'm making an effort to be a blogging pro now. I'm learning how Real Life can snarl up the works and demonstrate how I need a great deal more posts ready-to-go and a better schedule so the blog is maintained despite the sort of insanity mentioned above.

Still, my plan for the blog is gelling a bit better in my mind. Drewbie Mondays is a keeper as I'm never at a loss of words or pictures about him, and Monday is a good day to have as an "easy" posting day. Even fifteen minutes at the DDJ can garner me a good Monday post this way. Wednesday is going to be a writing post day, either about my writing in particular, or about the industry. Friday is going to be pop culture day, and all posts on that day will be reserved for movie, TV show, book discussions/reviews/observations. Chances are those will be evening posts more often than not. Saturday will become my check-in days, quick posts in which I can analyze what worked and what didn't with the blog, the writing, life in general, etc, and formulate a plan for the coming week. I want these to be quick posts so I don't get bogged down with over analyzing the week. Sunday is going to be the odd grab bag day. Sometimes it'll be random links, sometimes it will be ruminations on recent blogosphere happenings, sometimes it'll be fun exercises. Tuesdays and Thursdays will be my semi-regular feature days.

This, of course, is subject to change.

While the execution of the Pro Blogging effort faltered this week, the spirit was still there. I think this is a good idea, and I look forward to better implementation this week.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Slicin' and Dicin' a Classic

One thing I've noticed as a parent: I'm way behind on the new movie releases. I consider myself doing well to even have some clue as to what films are on the big screen at any moment. Thus it may seem strange that I finally got around to watching the 2005 release of Pride and Prejudice this week. That being said, I didn't make an effort to see it earlier because the five-hour BBC version is sacrosanct in my eyes, and I rather doubted that any two-hour version could do the story or the characters justice.

I'll get what I liked out of the way quickly: the soundtrack is beautiful and I will be getting my hands on it shortly, Mr. Collins was cast very well, and the Darcy proposal scene had a sexy love/hate thing going on that I thoroughly enjoyed (though I can't quite decide if it fit the characters; but the rain and the anger and the attraction worked just so damn well...sigh).

I'm on the fence about how they portrayed the Bennett household as a clutered, shabby affair, though I understand the reasoning behind it--when you've only got two hours to tell this story, you need far more visual cues to distinguish class and social standing in place of the character-driven ones the BBC version developed. I'm similarly torn on the tweaks they made to Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Bingley, and Jane. They didn't have time to develop Charlotte's personality and thus her reasoning for marrying Mr. Collins, so they made her an ugly spinster who was desperate to be settled in order to secure her future and ease the burden on her parents. The ugly old maid is a nasty cliche that could stand to be shelved for eternity, and I think the BBC (and, IIRC, book) spin of a non-romantic view of marriage provided much greater social depth. But, again, I understand why it was done, and it didn't take much away from the movie as a whole. Flattening Bingley from a happy-go-lucky man into a vacuous idiot made me wince a decent amount, but he was still charming and very much in love with Jane, so it worked out in the end (and it provided a great scene in which Bingley practices his proposal on Darcy). Jane's character was adjusted so severely at times that she came across as vapid rather than reserved, but this provided a great moment during said phenomenal proposal scene in which Elizabeth could explain that even she can't read her sister at times, and thus what right did Darcy have to assume Jane's indifference?

As for the things that nearly had us turning the movie off without finishing it, no excuse of time contraints can make them palatable. Darcy became merely a misunderstood shy guy who is never brought to task for his horrid manners toward Elizabeth at the first ball (slightly forgiveable, given the movie's limits and the fact that Elizabeth manages to zing him back in this version) or for his insulting proposal (unforgiveable!). Elizabeth loses all personality after this proposal and turns into an angsty, lost, forlorn woman in love. It's like her spine oozes out of her with the rain in that above-mentioned perfect scene. Mr. Bennett is a clumsy, absent-minded drunk who can't speak clearly and seems to be only slightly more witty than his wife. Wickham is a cad by proxy in that he flirts with Elizabeth and then is off-screen until Lydia returns to Longborne a married and suddenly self-aware and devious woman. Darcy's motivations for paying for that arrangement are baffling with these plot and character tweaks. The Lady Katharine de Burgh is such a non-entity that her intrusion at the end of the movie is just that--an intrusion into the viewing experience. It's only used to provide a reason for Darcy to be wandering around that morning, hoping to find Elizabeth so he can propose again--which is a non-issue, given the way they've handled both characters and all the plot issues. If the Darcy in this version of the story needs his aunt's shenanigans and Elizbeth's response to them in order to galvanize him, then he's not that great a catch.

Overall, in trying to tell this story in two hours, they kept too much in that they should've cut, thus making the entire experience feel rushed and dizzy. The things they did cut and change butchered the story more than a drastic adaptation for the time frame would have. Still, I love the soundtrack and that one scene is so blissfully perfect that I'm tempted to purchase a copy of the movie for it alone. But as for a film experience of a classic book, stick to the BBC version. It may be five hours, but it's a fabulous five hours.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Andrew Thomas: Literary Critic?

Here's Drew mulling over a recent James Patterson novel, Maximum Ride. I wish I knew how to interpret his opinion. Does chewing on the cover mean that it's a delicious read or that it's good...< best Triumph the Insult Comic Dog impression > for him to drool on? < / impression > Of course, given Drew's penchant for putting any sort of paper product into his mouth, it probably means nothing. Maybe I'll restrict his future novel reviews to a test as to whether he grabs for the book or not.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Shadow of Zehth: Bonsai Style

In trying to find this week's writing prompt/grab bag o'links/something interesting, I stumbled across the Bonsai Story Generator. I dumped in about 3000 or so words from the first four chapters of The Shadow of Zehth and got back a very odd mix of gibberish, strange imagery, and the ocassional deep thought. I don't think I can link to the full text, so here's a sampling.

  • The light from previous cleaning.

  • Those days, at her chronometer, startled Rayn out to the stable.

  • Today you're the local wells.

  • Strange Imagery
  • She pushed away from the horse's blanket, wanting her reaction to his lips and tried to wait.

  • The silence was sick and protection for control of the sunset struck the burnished brass dome of paper.

  • Soft laughter bubbled out of the daunting stack of paper.

  • She walked over her shoulder. Then she fought for control of her mouth.

  • Deep Thoughts
  • Airen had no desire for Velorin.

  • He moved back to the flaws and destruction.

  • Suppressing a powerful race that controlled the world.

  • These story generators and such can be a blast. The one thing I found most interesting about this exercise is that generator managed to harp on two lines that are very important to the story. Variations of those two lines are used over and over. That was interesting to see and reminded me of some thematic elements, as did the surprising Deep Thoughts I found above. A fun way to look at a piece through different eyes and find the craziness and beauty within it. That's probably far too deep a reaction for the original intent of the generator, though.

    Saturday, June 03, 2006

    Pro Blogging

    No, I'm not a professional writer yet, but it certainly doesn't hurt to start blogging as if I am. That is, treating this blog as a tool to reach readers and establish an audience. What exactly does this mean? I'm going to start having regular features and other such things to help get me into certain habits (such as, I don't know, posting every day). No, this does not mean my blog is going to become a dry writing rag with no personal vignettes or Drew Monster pics. I've been blogging for over three years. I'm familiar with the terrain, I'm comfortable with the medium, I'm ready to use this as the tool it can be for my writing and career. Er, at least that's the hope. Basically, when I get published, I want to be able to go live with this blog to a pro website without having to worry about how I'm going to handle the blog as a pro writer. There's enough a newbie pro has to mess with, and having a solid self-promotional tool already up and functioning as a well-oiled machine seems that it would diminish the insanity. Plus, it'll be fun for me now, and should be just as much fun for my readers, even the family members eager for those cute baby pics.

    What exactly do I have planned in the way of features? I'm going to do a weekly something or other, either fun links or writing links or writing prompts or…something. Still thinking there, and I'll probably try out a couple of different ideas to get a sense of what's fun for me and my readers. I can make another weekly feature by always putting Drew posts on a particular day, probably Monday. And then there will be the themed semi-regular features. For example, I have several posts in the works about my various commutes over the years. I've been lucky enough to have primarily beautiful and traffic-free drives to work and bus rides to school, and that's given me a remarkable chance to spin stories and marvel at nature daily for a big chunk of my life. I might even include some of my walks to my primary buildings on Notre Dame's campus. Those are posts that I'll write as an exercise at the beginning of my writing nights to get the fingers and mind moving together.

    The goal is to have interesting content as often as possible and to develop a routine/habit for the blog as to that content. That way, when I have my first contract in my hot little hands, I'll have a working blog ready to roll out. Something that's professional, comfortable, and me.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    Attitude Adjustment

    I think I can trace my current difficult attitude back to the day after we came back from Grand Forks when I found out that someone--no, an entire department--at work had neglected to do an involved, rather important job for seven weeks, and I was told to take over and get it back up to speed in four days. Then I got into a car accident that night.

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was the day when some internal balance got skewed.

    It was probably building for a good month. I could give a long sequence of reasons why I never regained that balance, but it's pretty much a long list of excuses as to why I didn't sit myself down and go, "Yeah, there are things that suck right now, but you have no control over it, and ranting about this in various ways is just making you more and more angry and frustrated. End this." Well, I'm doing it now.

    It's hard to say if it was something at the DDJ that triggered this, or if it was something about writing, or something of both. All I know is that I snapped about something at work, bitched about it to a colleague, then tried to get the matter addressed (yes, professionally; I know when to bitch and when to play diplomatic businessperson). When I got the usual pushback, something clicked. I did not like letting others have power over my own attitude.

    So it's stopping today. Or, at least, I'm making a concerted effort to get it to stop. Baby steps, Kellie. Baby steps. Can't quite undo two months of damage in a day. Maybe two days. :)

    On the work front, I can only control my own job performance. If someone isn't doing their job in a way that reflects poorly on the company or prevents me from doing my job, then I tell my manager and move forward with the things I can do. That's all I have the power to do. And I'm going to do my best to not fall into all manner of dramatics when I get frustrated with what other people aren't doing, even if that makes my job impossible. No more whiny outbursts over an unprofessional email or interaction. No more immediately calling a colleague to bitch. No more. I've likely only got two to three months here, and then I'm gone (perhaps maintaining a remote contractual position, perhaps not; but boy would that be a different dynamic). I'm not going to make those months horrible for me and those who have to hear me whine (even if they're whining themselves).

    On the writing front, the drama surrounding Carson's Learning made me realize that I'm far too reliant on external validation for my own view of my writing (at least with this one piece). No more. I'm still very happy to have others read my work and get their feedback, but that's not always going to be possible for every single thing I write. If I gave the piece my best, then that's good enough. Maybe not enough to get published, but enough to let me put the story aside and move on without all this angst.

    And that's the strategy, the method, the grand scheme to wipe the scowl off my face. I'm fully capable of a better attitude. I had it for the first three months of this year, and at various times since then. I'll get it back, and I'll be much happier, as will everyone who has to interact with me.

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    And I Had Such Grand Plans

    This past weekend wasn't just a three-day weekend for me. It was a monster six-day weekend. And, boy, did I ever have ideas on how to use all that time away from work.

    Drew's daycare provider is on a well-deserved vacation, and I took the first half of it off to stay home with Drew while Mark is taking the second half of it off. My eyes got huge at the thought of six straight days without the DDJ. I still drool about it now. I was going to work out every morning, walk with Drew every day, spend tons of time making my little boy laugh, and when he was more amused with a piece of paper than my smiling face, I would hang out next to him and do plotting and research for SoZ. It was going to be a blast.

    Last Thrusday, the first of the six days, I did work out and walk with Drew, but I spent the rest of the day playing with him or watching him play. I figured I had earned a day to just be a mom. Friday was going to be different. I was all set to do some research in the afternoon during Drew's solo playtime, but it turns out Drew is teething in a bad way and "fussy" was putting it mildly that afternoon. Saturday went much the same way. And then Drew woke up Sunday at 3AM crying for a bottle--and I woke up with him, moaning for a bucket and clear path to the toilet. I spent all day Sunday sicker than a dog, Monday recovering, and Tuesday suffering a relapse. And then it was back to work.

    Still, it was very nice to be away from work and spend a lot of time with Drew, even if he was fussy. He does love his walks, and I love watching him just take everything in. Plus, I got to be there when he figured out how to stand up in his bassinet. (That prompted the lowering of his crib and the removal of the bassinet in favor of the much higher-walled playpen.) So I didn't have the amazing productive, relaxed, fun weekend I had planned, but it was certainly enough to just be Momma again.