Monday, July 31, 2006

Drew's Favorite Toy

No toy is as much fun as the box it comes in. In Drew's case, no toy is as much fun as those items in the house not meant to be toys. The Boy is amused for long stretches of time by things like remote controls, stacks of paper, and DVD jewel cases. But his absolute all-time favorite toy-that-is-not-a-toy is his humidifier.

It's a sweet number we got to keep his little nose from drying up. It's got twelve different settings that you can cycle through by pressing one button. It's got a "filter quality" gauge. It's fairly quiet.

A couple of weeks ago, Drew discovered that pressing a button on this device will make some lights flash and turn the blower on. He further learned that continual pressing of said button made the device flash more lights and change the timing and intensity of the blower. The first time he made these discoveries, he was not so thrilled. But he kept going back to the humidifier. Now he squeals every time he turns it on and makes the blower go. He talks to the humidifier. He leans on it while standing. He bounces around it. He does his index finger thing to it. He smacks it with the flat of his hand.

He loves this thing.

I wonder if he'll accept a newer model humidifier in place of the Super Ninja Power Morph Tamagachi Elmo (or insert over-priced, way too friggin' expensive, extremely loud, over-hyped marketing ploy here) that he'll be wanting for Christmas in three years.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Gone Baptizin'

There wasn't a post yesterday as we had relatives and friends hanging out with us, waiting for the big event of dunking Drew's head in a baptismal font. And then Drew treated us to a lavish meal and celebration afterward. He's a generous one, is my son.

Seriously, the bapitsm was very quick but not quite that painless. There was a miscommunication with the time, so Drew was sedate and curious when we arrived, but by the time the priest had everything prepared, the Drew Monster wasn't at all calm. It's been a long time since I've had to hold on to him while he squirmed non-stop. He also spit up in the middle of the ceremony, so any pictures of him past a certain point will show a nice yellow stain on his otherwise pristine white outfit. By the way, he looked absolutely adorable in that outfit. Thanks, Gramma Robida! Despite the extreme restlessness and rather frequent and loud babbling, everything went well.

My week was a bit nuts with preparing for yesterday and trying to keep my sanity at the DDJ. The week caught me by surprise. I was so caught up in getting Mark through his thesis and defense that I kept telling myself the baptism was later, not to worry about it. So when all of a sudden it was Monday and we had relatives coming soon, I was thrown off-kilter. Didn't help that I got a great writing idea on Monday, wanted to immerse myself in it, and was forced to sit through work. I hate it when I have weeks like that. Most of the time, I'm pretty good at finding a way to get some of the writing done and still get all my work done. But the "sudden" craziness of the week kept me from doing that. And then, of course, I didn't get any time to write in the evenings (family comes first, no matter what my job is; if family is visiting, then my evenings are spent with them; if I didn't have the DDJ, then I might've been able to work out some writing time even during the visit, but that's an idea for when I dont't have the DDJ in the future).

So not a bad week, more a mix of extreme frustration at work and fun with family and friends when not at work. Still, I'm looking forward to this week, now that I don't have any curveballs that I know are coming. The ones I don't know are coming are easier to deal with, actually.

Friday, July 28, 2006

SciFi Friday is Back! Well, Kinda...

The bliss that is the 'gates has returned, but it feels a bit lonely without Battlestar Gallactica (I really don't understand the logic behind putting BG up against the major networks' Friday night line-ups; not that I don't think the show can hack it, it just seems odd; it's also a gamble with its core viewership since the 'gates will be in reruns in October when BG starts...*sigh*).

At any rate, I'm very much enjoying SG-1 as always and looking forward to this season of Atlantis (which surprised me). I love that Valla is a primary cast member now, should make for some interesting moments between her and Daniel. Daniel, by the way, has arced in such a great way. Some of last season, and so far all of this season, there's been this great sense of "been there, done that, and it was fun, but let's move on to the new stuff" attitude from Jackson that I just adore. It acknowledges the weight of the past nine years of adventure, acknowledges that not all of that weight is hard to bear, and acknowledges that there's still so much more to do and it will be Good. It's this attitude alone that makes me think SG-1 can run for another 200 episodes. As for the Ori, isn't it about time we got a complex and dangerous female Messiah? Maybe there have been others running around on TV and in books and I've missed it. Maybe I see the Orisei as something special because of the child-parent dynamic they've used. Regardless, I like this character and the conflict she brings.

As for Atlantis, I unfortunately missed the end of the last episode. I really hope that they didn't destroy Michael. His character and what he represents (the good guys doing something really bad not once but twice in trying to defeat their enemy, as well as a conflict-laden connection with the enemy itself) is fascinating and pretty damn good drama. I hope that's a focus of this season. If it is, I'll be hooked. If it goes back to Shepherd and His Lady Loves like it was last season, I may stop watching the show all together. Joe Flanigan is not hard to look at, but his exploits last season had a distinct Marty Stu pall (for those of you not familiar with that term, try Mary Sue or Jack Ryan).

But it's always nice to have new stuff on SciFi Friday again. Good to see what the genre is doing and where it can do better and where it can do worse.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Constant Learner

It's been an odd week, as I'll talk more about in Saturday's "check-in" post. Luckily, I've had some fun things to keep me occupied when my brain wanders into the icky territory. The first is the great series of virtual workshops that Sheila Kelly is doing (first installment, second installment). Sheila is great at sharing what she's learned and making valuable information very accessible. Plus she's giving away great goodie bags for folks who comment. Why is she doing this? Other than the fact that she's a great person, she's very much aware that lots of folks in the writing world are at the Romance Writers of America national conference. She's pretty vehemently against conferences as the social things they are, but definitely likes the idea of sharing knowledge with other writers. Hence, she's doing the workshop. Great fun!

The other item that made this week interesting (and difficult) has been a sudden idea I had for a story that requires me to research Chaucer and the Canterbury Tales. I remember vaguely studying this in high school, and my memories of the content are just as fuzzy except that I recall there being some naughty elements to the tales. As I started fleshing out this particular idea, I dug into the wealth of information on-line about the tales and Chaucer himself. I never thought I would find literary and rhetorical analysis fascinating, but I'm really enjoying myself. I don't think I would've enjoyed it nearly so much if the sorts of essays and themes I was finding didn't mesh so well with the idea itself.

These two things represent what I love most about writing: you are constant learning new things. Other writers share their wisdom and experiences, putting things in a new light that refreshes your own perspective or gives you something new to chew on. And new ideas make you dig deeper into things you glossed over in school or were forced to read or whatnot. Writing means you get to be a student for the rest of your life, and I love that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And Now, Deep Thoughts...

When I started reading and writing stories for pleasure, I inherently focused on story. In fact, whenever I came up against a heavily used or relied upon trope (Merriam Webster is telling me that "cliche" works just fine, too), I'd get pretty annoyed. I read a lot of mysteries until late in high school when suddenly all I saw was a formula loosely connected with some story elements. How is that a fun way to spend my free time? I studied formulas day in and day out in school. Why would I want to read them? When I got serious about writing, it wasn't to trot out tropic themes and elements, it was to tell a story I wanted to share or read myself.

I've come up against tropes twice that I can think of. The first time was as a frequent visitor to the Melanie Rawn Bulletin Board. Someone decided to go off on the Exiles series because it wasn't really fantasy. His argument could be summed up in how the books didn't follow standard epic quest tropes. I thought that was a very odd argument to make. Why deride a book for not adhering to a formula? Wouldn't you want to judge the book on the merits of the story it told? But the argument must've stuck with me, because when I sat down to puzzle out Velorin, I looked to tropes. OK, I'm gonna need a map of my fantasy world, and a creation story replete with gods, and a journey by some average folk to save the world from destruction. As I got deeper into the story that wanted to be told, though, I turned each of those tropes into something different. (Well, maybe not the map; I consider that a functional part of the book, like page numbers; but wouldn't it be fun to find a way to turn that convention on its head? I feel another story brewing....)

The second time genre tropes hit me over the head was at my first writing conference. I was told (by an unpublished writer) that Human Dignity wasn't science fiction. It was a tech thriller or something. And I thought, "Um, but the majority of it takes place fifteen to thirty years in the future, and it has fictional science things such as nanotech and flying cars." I happened to get the opportunity to ask Teresa Nielsen Hayden if she thought my book was SF (she had read the same ten pages the unpubbed chick had as part of a workshop). I think she said something along the lines of "Don't worry about that, that's my job. Just write a good story."

That's the same basic line I was told at Forward Motion, and I'm very glad that I've had those experiences. Who really cares about genre boundaries and definitions so long as the story is compelling and well written? But apparently there are those who think otherwise, and enough of them to drive the marketing practices of categorization. I guess I'm lucky that I'm looking and listening and reading elsewhere.

Similar to what TNH said to me is this essay by Anna Genoese. The driving force behind that essay was a reaction to frustrations she heard from authors who want to publish their gay romance novels. She discussed market definitions and realities and the challenges of trying to create an audience, but in the end she said to write an amazing story and the publishers would go for it and figure out how to market it.

Recently I've found a couple of "movements" that work to challenge genre boundaries and definitions, and it's got me thinking more about how tropes fit into my writing.

Right around the beginning of the year, I happened upon the Interstitial Arts Foundation's call for submissions. Reading into the foundation's mission, I found this essay, and it got me thinking about Carson's Learning and the classifications of all my ideas in general. By the time I had finished my revisions of CL, I tried to figure out how to label it. I think I came up with something like "an erotic psychological thriller standalone installment of an epic military SF space opera." And yet it was none of those things, as well. I had a sense of that back in January, which is why I set about getting CL ready for this anthology. As I've looked deeper into the IAF and works they recommend as representative of the label "interstitial", it seems that they are more geared toward works that flit between literary and commercial classifications. And that didn't seem quite right for anything I've written or anything I want to write (with the possible exception of Human Dignity). I most certainly have a commercial voice. Still, I think CL would be great for their anthology.

A few months later, I caught wind of a group blog by a gaggle of writers called Deep Genre. They started their blog with a few definitions of what exactly (or inexactly) the term "deep genre" means. Reading through those entries, I put together my own definition of Deep Genre. Deep Genre is a work that doesn't take genre tropes for granted to tell a story, rather it examines those tropes and twists them into something the same but different. For example, a space opera that requires faster-than-light travel to get the characters around to fulfill the plot might turn out to be about the damages FTL does to the human body (there was a Star Trek: TNG episode that explored something similar in that it showed the "environmental" impact of warp travel; I'm also thinking of the CS Friedman book This Alien Shore as a work that twists the FTL trope). This can be dangerous because the work looks like standard genre fare for a decent amount of the time, but turns out not to be so standard by the end, thus potentially disappointing genre fans who want genre tropes to be genre tropes and not elements to be re-examined. The trick, as mentioned many, many times above, is to tell a compelling story.

To sum up: genre may have been a marketing ploy, it may have developed into a comfort zone, it may have a grab-bag of expected plot devices and characters, but genre is not absolute; it can be overcome, it can be re-defined. Readers will journey far and wide with you if you make it worth their while.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where in the World was Kellie Hazell: East Germany, 1988

About this feature: As a military brat, I've moved a lot and seen a lot. My dad's job took us to Europe for nine years and gave me the opportunity to become a world traveler at a very young age. This series of posts will chronicle some of the more memorable trips.

Believe it or not, there's already a piece of this trip immortalized on the Internet. My ex was a photog for The Observer (Notre Dame's campus paper) and someone on the staff decided to do a piece about student perspectives on the 10th anniversary of the fall of the wall and my ex kindly supplied my name. Actually, now that I look at the date, I think we were still dating at the time. This is where my memory gets foggy, as I seem to recall doing this phone interview in the spring, but it was clearly the fall. All I know for certain is that I had a major biochem exam the next day and somehow managed to grab a brownbag dinner from the dining hall and gave the interview between bites with my notes and textbook spread out all around me on the floor. And the interviewer (probably the chick who wrote the article, but I really can't remember) was somewhat testy because she wanted me in the paper's offices to do a "proper" interview and snag a photo.

Seriously, the article was pretty cool, got front-page billing (including a quote from me right above my fellow Ramstein High School grad Luis Matos's smiling mug; he was the lead in a play of The Metamorphosis, he rocked, and this is coming from me who had to sit through countless rehearsals and performances on the sound crew), and was generally a fun little bit of egoboo for me. Even if the interviewer never managed to understand my status as a military brat in a foreign country. Rereading this thing, it comes off as if I'm a German national at times--which, if you were to believe the gal from one of my freshman year mixers, was true (no matter how many times I tried to explain the facts to her, she kept introducing me by saying, "She's from Germany"). The interviewer also doesn't get that there was also a wall--OK, so a hefty duty, Big Ass Fence with lots of nasty levels of barbed wire--along the border between East and West Germany. More than a couple of times, she tweaked quotes and used description that made it seem as if there was only a wall in Berlin. I also had that whole "little bit of knowledge" syndrome in some of my quotes about the tenor of the nation: I had taken a couple of classes in German language and culture at Notre Dame. Never fear, though; in the same volume, they also had a bigger article or three using quotes and analysis from the expert profs on campus.

But I'm not writing this about an article that's been the top Google result for my name for the past seven years. This post is about my trip through East Germany to Berlin in 1988.

As the article mentions, my dad had to go to a class before we could travel to East Germany. I'm not exactly sure what the class entailed, but given the nature of my dad's job and the mission of Hahn Air Base in general, it was probably in-line with the signs posted around the base hospital that said certain folks couldn't take certain drugs that might cause them to blurt out things they shouldn't. All I know for sure about the class was that it gave my dad a binder full of very explicit instructions and directions for driving from the East German border through to West Berlin. The instructions included pictures of each road sign and appropriate gas station and the time in which we had to complete the drive or else folks would come a-lookin'.

The first very tense moment came when we were at the border between East and West Germany. We couldn't roll down our windows. We had to press our open passports against the glass and wait. I remember getting a very stern "be still and behave" speech from both Mom and Dad. It wasn't pleasant. When we were through, the relief was short-lived as my mother kept that damn binder open in her lap, trying to stay as on top of directions as possible and the usual beauty of the German landscape abruptly changed from rolling green hills and valleys to yellow and brown fields and gray, drab buildings. We didn't stop anywhere along the route. At the border into West Berlin, there was another silent, passport-against-the-window check, but I rebelled against the intensity of the moment. I had been listening to a mix tape on my Walkman, and sought out some sort of release by replaying A-ha's "Take on Me" over and over while imagining the cute border guard falling hard for me and risking all to escape the evil government (don't remember if I called them communists or not--I probably lumped them in with the USSR; although it's just hitting me now that East Germany called itself the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, which translates into the German Democratic Republic, while West Germany called itself the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, which translates into the People's Republic of Germany; doesn't the latter sound more like a communist regime to you?). Of course, I tried not to stare too intently at the guy as I didn't want to draw any attention that would get us in trouble. I think after the eighth run-through of "Take on Me", I fast-forwarded to Wham's "Freedom" and conjured a significantly lighter day-dream that still amounted to this poor border guard falling helplessly in love with me.

Yes, I was ten. Hush, now.

We spent a day sight-seeing in West Berlin, and another day in East Berlin. That border wasn't nearly as tense, or maybe I was overloaded with serious situations and shrugged off any intensity. Might've helped that this time there were MPs within spitting distance along with all the trappings of the military lifestyle I knew so well. The trek through East Berlin was actually more interesting to me than West Berlin. Can't say why. Maybe because it was so different and yet so similar to the culture I saw everyday in West Germany? It only got a little weird when we stopped for lunch in a big square/plaza. That's when I noticed the East German military duo hanging around. I didn't quite put two and two together at the moment, but it still put an odd spin on the rest of the day, and I was happy to get back to the hotel in West Berlin. I'm not sure if my parents told me then or when we were home that we were followed and watched by the "bad guys". It puts a very odd, Clancy-esque pall over the trip.

As for actual monuments that we saw, I only remember three. The first is the Wall. I remember thinking that it wasn't all that impressive. I had built it up as something much more melodramatic and imposing, and it turns out it was just regular, old, spray-painted concrete. You could walk right up to it on the West. On the East, you had to admire its uniform gray paint job from a distance. I don't remember the bullet holes that Luis mentions in the article, but I'm sure they were there. The second monument I remember was a TV/radio tower thingy in East Berlin. I just remember it was tall, and we went up in it, and then we came down, and we might have gotten a snack at the base. At the time, I didn't understand why it was such a big deal that we should put it on our sight-seeing list, and I still don't. I'll see about tracking down some info on it, if I can remember anything else about it. (Here's the Wiki article on the TV Tower. Apprently it might have had some sort of "We are bad, we are awesome" symbolism for the East German government. I don't remember the thing rotating.)

The third monument that I remember from this trip was the Brandenberg Gate, or, rather, what we could see of it from a distance. It was pretty much right up against the Wall in East Berlin, so you couldn't actually go near it. I hadn't seen a whole lot of castles and ruins and monuments in my European adventures at that point, but I had seen enough that it struck me as remarkably unnatural that such an impressive structure would be for all appearances abandoned by the people whose ancestors had created it. I think that sight alone is what really drove home the whole concept of physically dividing a nation and a people. I distracted myself by playing with the pretty cool pen I had bought (I still have it, actually; it's a smoothed, thin piece of wood housing a cylinder of ink).

I don't remember much of anything about the drive back to West Germany, save that as soon as we were out of East Germany, I didn't so much as breathe a sigh of relief as I drank in the beautiful colors and scenery of the country that was kindly playing host to my family.

The next summer is when the Iron Curtain got rusty and riddled with holes and East Germans literally poured out of their country first into Czechoslovakia, then into Hungary, then into Austria, then into West Germany. I cheered for them and shuddered at the memory of that trip. And then it was November 9, 1989, and the Wall became a stage.

Next week I'll detail my return trip to Berlin in 1996.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Watch Out! He Can Bite Now!

Two of Drew's teeth finally cut through this weekend. Of course, you can't really see them just yet as they slowly drop. But he's gotten very good at biting his spoon during feeding, an act made much easier by the fact that it's both an upper tooth and a lower tooth that have popped out. The attitude change was amazing, though. He laughed and smiled and grinned and had a ball this weekend, much more like his usual self from before the teething business started a couple of months ago. He's also ravenously hungry, as if the teething also kept his next growth spurt at bay.

In other Drew adventures, I promised a tale that prevented me from posting last Tuesday. We had a diaper blowout. Big time. And we didn't notice it right away because he was playing in his ExerSaucer. This gave Drew all the opportunity he needed to spread the joy of said diaper blowout all over himself, the ExerSaucer, and Mark (when he unwittingly picked up the Boy). It's a peril of parenthood that you will get covered in more of your child's disgusting substances than you care to think about. Drew's subsribed to the equal opportunity school of thought when it comes to getting his 'rents all messy, and he's been kind enough to do so when both parental units are around so both Mark and I get to take care of the clean-up.

That's the news on the Drew-front. He's getting baptized this Saturday, so be sure to read next Monday's post on who the little guy deals with that.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Overheard in a Bookstore

Right around my birthday, I was in Borders for one of my many book runs thanks to the generous gifts of my family and friends. While I was puttering around the romance section to look for a couple of authors' new books, I heard these two teenie-boppers (or maybe they were college pukes--give me a kid, and I suddenly lose all perspective on age and general categorization skills) come up to the romance section saying something along the lines of "Gah, who would ever read romance?" I wanted to turn around and say something quippy or biting or ironic or witty or whatever. Instead, I just ignored their general rudeness (I mean, you're welcome to have whatever opinion of any genre, but is it too much to ask that you have the class NOT to deride groups of readers when you're standing right in front of a member of said group?) and went about my business. Sometimes I am way too nice.

It got me thinking, though. Comments like that usually roll right off my shoulders. I've developed some decently thick skin during my four years of critiques. So why did this one bother me? Oddly, I have my critique group to blame. Sometime over the four years of meeting every Tuesday (or every other Tuesday, as we did for a bit), that particular store has come to have a feeling of home for me. Everything from the color schemes to the basic layout to the neon sign hanging over the door. I walk into that store, and everything feels comfortable, like I'm visiting with relatives. It's a little strange. Other stores feel stuffy or overcrowded, like I'm in a rich person's house, and the idea of leaving an imprint of my ass on one of the chairs makes me uncomfortable.

But I suppose that just spending every Tuesday night in a bookstore doesn't give me the right to rail at a couple of idiots. It may feel like home, but it's not.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Back on the Horse Next Week

A series of errors prevented both Tuesday and Thursday posts. For the Tuesday fun, stay tuned for Monday's Drew Monster post. For the Thursday fun, send a bouquet of flowers to the DDJ. We're mired in some unknown circle of hell, and I find myself tearing out my hair. Now I understand how folks studying quantum mechanics must feel. I wonder if they mutter, "If I only had this variable, I'd have a universal theory of everything in nature."

As for the writing, I'm trying to piece together an outline for everything I've written in SoZ so I can do some revisions and get back on course for the rest of the novel. Live and learn: as I write novels, I will outline behind me. There's a lot more I can include on an outline as I finish each scene/novel.

All in all, another good week. Should be back on track for regular posting and writing next week.

Friday, July 21, 2006

...And Really Bad Eggs

Actually, there's not a bad egg in Dead Man's Chest. The second Pirates movie manages to combine all the fun of the first movie with some serious character arcs and dark plot elements. By fun I mean things like a three-man swordfight that starts on a beach and ends in a rolling water wheel. Yes, I said in. By dark I mean things like romantic tension in unexpected areas and a very desperate Commodore Norrington. (I'd like to take this time to predict that, depending on whether Disney Disney-fies the third movie--which it really didn't feel like they did in this one--that things are going to end well but badly for that man.)

It's a bit confusing in the beginning, setting up the whole Davey Jones bit, and it took a very long time to understand that it was the East India Trading Company being set up as the bad guys. Chances are this isn't as confusing as I remember, but there was a lot to see and absorb in the first thirty minutes. I'm taking that as some unspoken advice on SoZ, by the way.

As a very random aside, I'm very happy to see that Mr. Bloom seems to have put on weight since Troy so he no longer resembles a walking twig who looks good with scruff.

It's going to be very hard waiting for the third movie as they ended this in true second of a trilogy fashion with a cliffhanger. But it's definitely a must-see this summer in the theaters. Really. The swordfight I mentioned above alone is worth the cost to see on the big screen.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dream a Little Dream

Last summer, I posted my dream-shots for providing enough money so I could quit my job after Andrew was born and never work again. As expected by that oh-so-rational part of my mind, none of them panned out.But they were still fun to think about, and anytime I can con convince that rational part of me to try some of that power of positive thinking or imaging therapy, to do my part to influence the collective subconscious, I take advantage of it. How easy it is to bring my rationality over to the Dark Side depends on how strong my gut instinct on a particular issue is.

For example, my gut wasn't really telling me much about that previous round of dream vocalization, but the rational mind saw that there wasn't really any risk involved and it made me look at things in a healthier way. So the rational mind did a little shrug and my closet mystic took over.

Another example: my goals for 2005. Sometime at the end of 2004 or the very beginning of 2005, my gut started screaming that 2005 was going to be big. Every instinct in me started clamoring about Big Things Afoot. I set up my writing goals accordingly, thinking that the Big Stuff was about my writing. And then the Drew Monster showed up. 2005 was certainly a big year, I just misinterpreted my intuition.

When I started putting together Carson's Learning for the Interstitial Arts Foundation anthology, intuition began whispering. It started as a small sense of "You should do this." As I completed the project, intuition was shouting "This is your big break." I remember a great dinner out with Mark after I had finished the primary revisions. I detailed my dream to him, the step-by-step analysis of the possibilities that my gut insisted could happen. Since then, my rational mind has teamed up with my inner critic and pulled me down from the rafters, leaving me with a happy feeling of possibilities regarding CL and with the knowledge that the worst that could happen would be rejection.

Now that I have not one but two short stories under my belt (I finished another one this weekend, just a couple of words over 2.5 K; I'm so jazzed), I'm starting to hear my gut again. Nothing specific, just a sense of a lot of things clicking into place. It's enough to let my intuition override the tag-team of my rational mind and my internal critic. But this time, instead of posting all the details of my particular dream for CL and these other short stories and my writing career in general, I'm just going to give them a public nod and keep them between me and Mark and my journal. I'll know if the CL part of the dream takes steps to turn into reality some time in August or September. As for the short stories, I'll be submitting those probably by mid-August. Who knows when I'll hear back about those?

Believing in dreams is important. Trusting your instincts is important. Acknowledging your intuition is important. Hopefully doing all those important things will twist everything into motion.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Houston, We Have a Bleeder

Ah, the adventures of locomotion. Yesterday morning, Mark very generously gave me some extra shut-eye. I was deep in a dream when I heard Andrew cry, so I incorporated said wail into my dream and carried on. Next thing I know, Mark is holding out a screaming, bleeding baby, telling me to investigate the bleeding while he cleaned up the carpet.

"Huh?" doesn't even begin to describe my confusion.

Drew was crawling and took a very light header into the carpet, but he managed to hit his lip just so and start gushing blood. And, of course, he was wearing a white onesie and had drooled blood all over it, so the little tyke looked like he had gotten into a serious battle something sharp and pointy. Confirming that it was just a lip wound was a challenge, though, as Drew is very vehement in preventing anybody from touching his face. He twists, he squirms, he strains his head from side to side, he kicks, he pushes away with his grubby hands. I think he was more upset about all the fingers in his face than he was about the actual boo-boo.

But the bleeding did stop and Drew went on his merry way, crawling about the apartment while gripping one of his two prize possessions: any slip of paper or the small stereo remote. Sometimes he will make off with both. I really wish I knew why he has such a fascination with paper products. I suppose I should be grateful that at least now he doesn't immediately put all paper products into his mouth.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Dr. Robida, I Presume

Pardon the silence. Keeping Mark sane this week during the countdown to his defense was a job in and of itself, and it didn't help that the DDJ elected to increase its insanity level this week. It also didn't help matters that my brain chose this week to dither on whether or not to revise Velorin before continuing on. And I got not a lot of good sleep. Crazy, crazy week.

But it's over and Mark passed his defense with flying colors. Lots of high praise got tossed around during the obligatory champagne and cake session afterward. Much use of the word "doctor" too, althought he's not officially Dr. Robida until Aug 12th, the official summer graduation date. Still, we're all callin him "Doc" for kicks. It's hard to believe that he's really done, that these six years are finished but for the getting of a "real" job. I'm so very happy for Mark and really proud of him. Now it's time for him to be the major breadwinner and let me live my life of writing bliss and luxury. Ha.

Now I can focus on the blog, my writing, and sorting out the DDJ better. Normal blogging should resume this week.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Little Drama King or "I Want my Mum-mum!"

This picture fairly well encapsulates how Drew and I spent last Wednesday--except he wasn't always sleeping. Yup, the Drew Monster spent pretty much all day in my arms, very often moaning his discomfort. While it was true that he had a low-grade fever, some congestion, and teeth trying to push through his gums, he also had Tylenol and teething rings. By the time he was moaning almost as an afterthought while doing his index finger exploration of my thumbnail and hand, Mark and I suspected that little Drewbie may be developing his Momma's penchant for the dramatic. We fully expected him to flop onto his back, hand to forehead, and utter his first words: "Oh, I can't possibly go on!"

Or it could be that last Wednesday was the first day he made known his "only Momma can soothe this teething pain" attitude. Since that day, every time I've left the room, Drew has looked around for me, started to cry, eased himself to his knees, and crawled off in search of me, babbling "Mum-mum-mum-mum" through his tears.

Regardless of whether it's high drama or the first signs of Momma-clinging, it's clear that this teething business is having a pronounced impact on the Boy's moods. His top two teeth are right there, the tiniest bit of gum tissue remaining as a barrier, and the bottom two teeth aren't too far behind (actually, they could be just as far along; Drew doesn't like to let us look at them, but boy do we get a good look at those top teeth every time he hollers when we try to wipe his snotty nose). Here's hoping those teeth pop out this week.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Moving Checklist

Or, rather, a non-specific general hoard of info that is related to hauling our butts to wherever it is we're going to be going next. That's what we're putting together this weekend. All in the hopes of helping us feel a little less like the world is spinning out of control underneath us. OK, so all in the hopes of making me feel like the world isn't spinning out of control, but Mark admits it'll help take the edge off of things for him too. If I weren't trying to juggle writing, a day job (and the seemingly unlimited permutations thereof depending on the job that Mark gets), and that whole motherhood thing, I think this bout of uncertainty would be easier to take. Or if I only had to juggle a job and motherhood. Or just writing and motherhood.

Wait. Since when did three things get to be too much for me to handle while dealing with the insanity of a move? I'm an Air Force brat, for cryin' out loud! Geez, I must be losing my touch.

Another good blogging week despite Drew's day of being sick and my general "I hate it when I can't plan to the end of the year" malaise. Also a decent writing week as I finished a draft of my first ever, real, honest-to-God short story, and I also made some good progress in Velorin and have a nice sketch of the next few chapters floating around in my notes.

So, good week overall, with the more and more frequent moving insanity. Next week's check-in will involve much celebration as by then Mark will be done with that whole PhD thing. Be sure to read that update for all the tales of jubilation.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Soundtrack, Too?

A few weeks ago, I got a little huffy about the recent Pride & Prejudice movie, but I commented that the soundtrack was gorgeous and I was going to snag it.

And snag it I did, only to discover that the choppy pacing that plagued the movie also visits the soundtrack.

It's only 41 minutes long. Yup, that's right. And because it's got some fancy schmancy pianist and orchestra creds, it also costs a bit more than the average CD. Most of the tracks are 1.5 minutes long or a bit longer. You get brief moments of rapture and joy in delightful piano and orchestral pieces, and then they abruptly end. Or they're done long before you want them to be. "Liz on Top of the World" is an excellent example. It's such a gorgeous piece of music, and it's a startling 1:42 in length.

As if the super short tracks weren't bad enough, there's also the issue of the tracks being out of the order in which they appeared in the movie. Good-bye continuity and mood and theme and...sigh.

To top it all off, they didn't include a shot of the fab proposal scene in the CD insert. I didn't expect it, but it was such a great scene and they both looked wonderful and would it have been too much to ask to have had just one quick snapshot in and among all the other pictures they stuck into the insert?

Sigh. This movie was such a disappointment on so many levels.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blogging the Commute (Not Live), Part 4

Read the previous entries of this feature: My current drive to work, my current drive home, and my various Tucson commutes. This is the final part of "Blogging the Commute." It's been a blast for me detailing all the neat aspects of my current back and forth from home to the DDJ and wandering down memory lane to recall all the fascinating scenery I've had to good fortune to drive or be driven by as I get to where I need to go for the daily grind.

I lived in Germany for nine years, between the ages of nine and eighteen. My father was stationed at two different Air Bases, and we lived in three different villages over four and a half years before moving on to the base itself (and if you think your current apartment ain't all it's cracked up to be, I could spin stories of something infinitely more like a can of sardines). While we lived in villages, though, we still attended the Department of Defense Dependent schools on the bases themselves (not military school in the sense that you would think of it, but not a public or private school, either; very hard to explain if you're not familiar with the military). We were bussed back and forth to school and home. It's been ten years since I've seen the routes, and fifteen since I traveled any one of them regularly, but there are still a few images that stick with me.

Now that I think of it, the only memory of the first bus route left in my noggin is of waiting for the bus at o' dark-thirty--and it was really o' dark-thirty. That's the odd thing of living at the latitudinal equivalent of Nova Scotia {Prince Edward Island}: it does get mighty dark mighty early, and stays mighty dark fairly late. And it's too bad as we lived in a very nifty little nook in the German countryside.

My next route was pretty nifty. One of my strongest memories of that route is after we wove our way through the towns, picking up the horde, we turned onto the main drag that would take us to the base. It happened to be a very foggy day, and instead of snow, inch-thick ice crystals had collected on everything. It was like driving through clouds, through heaven, everything around us dripping in white with traces of the mundane colors peaking through. It was a great, dreamy moment, and I think that was one of the first times I felt transported and wondered how I could recreate that.

But the regular route itself was fairly otherworldly. Our bus stop was by a fabulous old oak tree along the main drag of Buch (a great village I've linked before). As I mentioned in that post, my bus route took us into a valley and right past the ruins of a fortress. Out of the valley, the rest of the route was a meandering path through several more villages of various shapes and sizes and content. It was always a neat drive to just stare out the window, getting lost in the comings and goings of so many closely located yet unique and distinct communities.

Actually, the most interesting part of getting to my house in Buch wasn't on the bus route at all, now that I remember. Instead, you could see even more interesting things taking the more direct route from our village to the base. Or, rather, from the base to the village. The first thing of note was a military post that looked like a few buildings in a forest clearing of the side of the road. I believe it was called Metro Tango, but that's trusting the memory of a twelve-year-old. I have no idea what went on here, as we primarily drove past it, and I don't think we ever went into the post. Not too much further down the road was another military post, slight bigger, called Wueschiem, I believe. We did wander into that one, primarily because it had a little shoppette, I think. The one thing I remember about that posting was that there was a secured area separated from the rest of the post by a double fence, within which MPs strolled with dogs. I have a slightly better of what went on here, and you might, too, as I describe the next thing I remember about the drive to Buch. Turning off the main road, we start to get into some dotted farmland, quaint barns and rolling hills. There was one barn in particular that caught the eye: on the road-facing side, someone had painted a giant cow stepping on a nuke with another pierced by one of his horns. Getting the drift of what went on in those military areas now?

The last bus route was the best, though. Not only did it twist and turn through some towns and villages, it also crested a valley to present the most gorgeous view (which I've also linked previously) and climbed into and out of another one, also impressive. In fact, the valleys were tight enough along this route, that you could emerge from a forested road to find yourself at the base of something beautiful that stretched seemingly forever, with houses and such sprinkling the road and the valley's top. The bottom of one valley was cut by a stream that had a few ponds that pooled out of it and looked mighty inviting on some of the muggier spring and fall afternoons. There also, if I'm remember right, seemed to be evidence of history long gone peaking out of various nooks and cranies in that valley's floor. I wish I could remember it better. It might've been my imagination. But the best part of that bus ride, beyond a doubt, was cresting the valley that overlooked Neunkirchen am Potzberg. It was absolutely magnificent. It didn't hurt that I could see my house, or that I could see the hillside down which my friends and I had run and sled and explored, or that I could look at some of the patches of thick trees and know that they hid a horse pen in one spot and someone's summer home grounds (upon which us kids had shamelessly trespassed in good weather). It really didn't hurt that a castle sat on top of that hill and just put a lovely romantic spin on everything.

In short, all of my bus routes lent themselves to my sordid day dreaming tendencies, which in turn have lent themselves to my current writing tendencies. One day I'd very much like to wander through those routes again, stop the car, get out and wander and actually touch the sights that fill my memories of going to and from school. I'd like to show Mark. I'd like to show Andrew. There's a lot to see in Germany, but those three routes could probably show a lot about German culture and history, all while avoiding the tourists. Some day.

I hope you enjoyed this feature. The next mini-feature will be a similar recall of some of my more memorable travels around the USA and Europe. Sort of a "Where in the World was Kellie Hazell" thing. Hey, that might even be the title! Hopefully Part the First will be ready to go on Tuesday. I'm thinking I might start out with a real humdinger of a trip: East Berlin when the Wall was up.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Look, Ma! No More than 3.5K Words!

I write this with Drew grousing in my lap. Seems Ol' Pukey decided to follow last night's fireworks with generally longterm fussiness associated with a feaver (low-grade). So it'll be a quickie post.

Gentle readers, you may not believe this, but I have written a standalone short story that came in at 3,494 words first draft. Finished it Sunday night. Needs some revision, but nothing horrible. And, even more unbelieveable, this story is completely standalone. No epic connections, no to be continueds, no further stories for the characters. I'm extraordinarily proud of myself and happy with the end product. I'm also trying like mad to see if I can shake another such idea out of the muse and build a backlist of short fiction to keep ready for submission. And to see if I can do a better job of not sacrificing progress on my bigger projects in the creation of said backlist.

But, just thought I'd share my litterally little accomplishment.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day!

I was all set to post my fourth and final installment of "Blogging the Commute (Not Live)" when I realized that it wasn't a Saturday but a holiday, namely the 4th of July. I will post the last segment on Thursday.

As for our fourth, we went to a coworker's BBQ and ske-daddled as soon as the rain started spitting (plus, it was past the Drew Monster's bedtime and he needed a bath due to his partaking in the splendors of the backyard at the BBQ. As soon as we got into the car, the rain came down in sheets and buckets, necessitating a run into the house which soaked everyone. Drew was not amused. And he let us know it by projectile vomitting all over his crib while I was making a mad grab for his bath stuff. Funny how everything stops moving (except for the stomach contents) when something like this happens. Time seemed to stand still as not only the crib slats but his bumper and fitted sheet and the duster and the carpet and the rubbermaid container filled with shoes he's never worn just became covered in the evening's portion of mushed squash. And then I felt a little warm and looked down to see my blue shirt and jeans had turned a strange shade of green. Amazing how well that "yellow and blue make green" rule works.

So while Daddy cleaned up the mess in the room, Momma cleaned up herself and the boy--who was screaming by this point. Once everything was all shiny again, I bundled up the boy and held him in the rocking chair and Daddy read a quick story until the Puke Meister was all but asleep. Now he's out for the count and the parental units are hoping that the evening's stomach shenanigans were due to the freakish/alien sound and feel of the rain, or maybe the result of a swallowed piece of grass or somesuch that Momma couldn't quite keep out of Drew's mouth. Hopefully he'll sleep though the fireworks, which are set off not too far from our place.

At any rate, Happy Independence Day! Be safe and stay out of the path of the mouths of babes! :)

Monday, July 03, 2006

All I Want for Christmas, and my Birthday, and the Next Christmas, and...

It's hard to tell if Drew really wants that telescope, or if he was just fascinated with tearing the 'scope catalog Mark got to shreds. That look on his face is so expectant, though...

The long awaited next round of Drew pics is up. There are lot of him gettin' mobile. Hopefully the next batch will include some pics of him with teeth. We keep feeling a couple of bumps on his gums that make tooth-poppage seem imminent, but his smile remains stubbornly all gums. Sigh. At least it doesn't seem to bother him too much anymore.

Oh, we did manage to get some great video of the Drew Monster doing his sit and spin on his own. Mark was waiting to get some more video and pictures built up before sending out another CD, but I know one Grandparental unit is already chomping at the bit for the sit 'n spin vid, so we may have to amend that plan.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Great Marriage Debate, Phase the Next

At some point, I think all the furor over the sanctity of marriage will switch to something like this and this. (Have I mentioned lately that I love The Onion?)

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sickly Check-in

If I hadn't have gotten sick this week, I would've finished a short story. As it was, I only got halfway through (1.5K words or so). Work was a zoo, and it's only going to get worse. Things were little more sane on the homefront once the thesis was handed in. And another good week of blogging despite everything. Now we've entered July and I can't help thinking what's going to be going on at the end of this month. Hopefully Mark will have had some interviews if not some offers by then.