Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Remembering My Grandfather

My grandfather died yesterday after fighting cancer for nearly two years. He went peacefully, surrounded by much of his family. The rest of his family arrived later in the day to wish his spirit well and join together in celebrating his life. He and my grandmother raised eight kids, and he saw eleven grandkids and one great-grandchild come into and grow in this world. And all of the kids, most of the grandkids, and the great-grandchild are here now to remember him.

I have many memories to choose from when thinking about my grandfather, but the one that will stick with me is from our trip to Grand Forks last year. Grandpa worked the trip in between his chemo schedule and still had the strength and will power to drive himself and my grandmother all the way from Chicago as he would usually do despite his illness. During the trip, he was just as spry, alert, and happy as I had always remembered him before he was diagnosed. We have a great video of him playing with Drew in the hotel pool. It's hard to tell who was having more fun.

Over the next few days, I'm sure I'll have a lot more memories to share. Hopefully I'll have the time to hop on-line and share them here as well as with my family. In the meantime, those of you who pray, please light a candle for my grandfather and for my grandmother, his wife of more than fifty years. For those of you who don't pray, please spare a moment to think kind thoughts for my family during this bittersweet time.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Random Observations During (But Not Necessarily Connected to) the Upheaval

1. I figured out fanfiction. But it took a fanvid for me to do so. The problem with fanfiction is that I get caught up in the conventions of story and, thus, the concept of "playing in someone else's sandbox" completely confounds me. If I'm writing a story, I like to have all the control, and that means create my own backstory, tweak the characters, spin plots to the extent that what is left is only a kernel of something I found interesting in another series or show. And that kernel is usually a character arc or a juicy bit of conflict I wanted to insert into my own universe.

Somehow watching a House/Wilson fanvid on YouTube set to the musical restylings of Clay Aiken made me figure out in a way that stuck that fanfiction isn't about story at all. It's about call and answer. The call is the work of art itself: the show, the book, the car wreck that is a celebrity's tabloid-infested life. The viewer or reader or rubber necker has a response from that call, and they feel compelled to answer. I can understand this in a video medium because film is not my thing. I wouldn't feel compelled to put a story to my response--or, rather, the story wouldn't be my purpose but would be something Other that I might add for fun. So I get taking pits and pieces of clips from a show and putting them together to a song in a fashion that shares what the call is evoking in you. And in the case of the above it is that House and Wilson relationship is rife with sexual tension. The answer was crafted in a fashion that demonstrated what the viewer saw to get that response.

I can thus understand fanfiction. Still can't write it because writing for me is all about story, even if the impetus for writing something was a response to someone else's work. My need to tell a story very quickly overrides my need to answer the call I felt in another piece of art. Hence why I ran out of steam on my short story that was very, very loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest.

2. About a month or so ago, I questioned why I still watched Battlestar Gallactica and why I still seemed to enjoy it. I realized why after the "season" premiere last week: Helo and Athena. Damn near cried at the beginning last week. If only we had more of them and less of the nauseating Starbuck and Apollo tug of war.

3. It seems like every big move creates a vortex in which precisely one box is lost and never seen again. Now, we still have a couple of boxes to go, but our hopes of finding the box in question are dwindling. This box was a random assortment of books, knick knacks, a lamp, a serving dish, and a shower curtain. I have a need for each of the last three items it seems once a day. Here's hoping one of the last few boxes is this missing box.

4. Hanging up pictures, even two small ones, can turn a room into something infinitely more like "home" than it was before.

5. There are worse things than living ten minutes from your mother. Try living within a few blocks of not only your parents and sibs, but also your husband's parents and sibs. Yeah, I met one of my neighbors and she mentioned that just about her entire family and her husband's entire family has moved or will be moving into this development. She thinks it great. I can't even imagine the insanity.

6. The one benefit to Drewbie getting sick this week is that I had ample time to read while he was sprawled on me. I finished Scalzi's Old Man's War and Bear's Carnival. I enjoyed both very much, in very different ways. It was strange reading OMW after a year or so of reading Scalzi's blog, particularly when it came to how the main character's wife was portrayed and that her name began with a K. Whenever the main character would start on about his wife, I often got the sense that I was reading a blog post in which Scalzi was talking about his wife. That's just a peril of reading the daily bits of someone's life and then also reading a novel by that same someone. You get confused, most likely through no fault of the writer. More likely due to an inability to realize that, though a blogger is sharing a great deal of their lives with you, you really don't "know" them or the folks they talk about in any real sense.

7. When trying to figure out which book to start next, I thought I'd like something "up." But Tambo's latest, Valley of the Soul, was burning a hole in my bookshelf, and the only other book I knew to be "up" was a novel that had a fun, snarky main character but conflict and tension that was resolved in cloyingly sweet ways just about as soon as it was introduced. I've been about two-thirds through that book for the past three months, and I don't see myself finishing it. I hate books that set you up for a good character struggle and then don't deliver. I'm betting the write flinched. It's hard to write that stuff.

8. Working from home isn't as wonderful as it's made out to be. The Drew Monster gets confused because he sees me home and wants to play but I keep turning him away to get work done. Very often days go by where I try to compromise and end up feeling like I'm failing both at my job and in giving Drew what he needs. I'm waiting to see what happens when the boxes are all unpacked, the pictures are up on the walls, and the feeling of novelty shifts into a feeling of normalcy. I've been working from home for over three months, but have yet to actually be settled in my home or my own skin for that length of time. Probably the source of my issue right there.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Turning the Corner

Ugh. It's been a while since I've felt comfortable in my life--like, since, I dunno, maybe early September? Stuff's just been coming at me so fast and furious that I've done a nifty turtle-trick and have been running on a somewhat engaged version of autopilot. I've had moments of feeling connected and normal, but they've been the exception.

It didn't take but a couple of weeks after moving to AZ that I realized how safe and secure I felt in our situation back in Colorado. Sure, it wasn't ideal and there was only a brief three-month period in 2002 that we ever thought it might last for a few years beyond Mark's PhD. But. Despite its flaws and inherent transitory nature, the situation really grew on me and gave me stability somehow. Thus, I spent a lot of the past three months feeling lost and, in the very bad places, wondering why we ever moved.

This lost sensation, in and of itself, is not exactly novel. But when coupled with the odd side effects of living with my mother again...how to explain? It took me a while to realize what the side effects were, but I figured it out when I was traveling a couple of weeks ago. As I was driving in the rental to the DDJ, I had this odd, proud, smug feeling of "Look, Ma! I did this all by myself!" The only reasion I dissected the feeling was because I remembered having it when I traveled back to the DDJ in December. I must've had a truly horrified expression on my face when I told myself, "Kellie, you are twenty-eight years old! You've been a Big Girl for quite some time now. Of course you can do this all by yourself."

That's when it hit me. Every child (and parent) can tell you that moving back in with the 'rents is no picnic. It's not fun to give up your hard-won independence (or your hard-won empty nest). But it's more than that. Without realizing it, I fell into old patterns of thought and behavior from my formative years. Because, well, I was living with my mom. I shudder to think how complete my transformation would have been had my parents not gotten divorced and I was living with the both of them in a home completely filled with the flotsam and jetsom of our family's history instead of only partially so. I was completely unprepared for what this aspect of living with my mom did to me, and it's going to take some effort to settle back into my own concept of self from September.

We'll be unpacking the last of the boxes this weekend and hanging up our photos and such. I think that will get me out of transitory mode and back into normalcy. Having a week in which we're not moving (or still tying up the loose ends associated with a move), having a car break down, taking care of a sick kid, traveling, and so on will help as well. It's two weeks before I have to go back to the DDJ. Here's hoping one of those two will be the one.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

And the Hits? Well, They Just Keep On Comin'

Andrew was fussy and feaverish all night long, and this morning he progressed to pukey. I'm trying to see if he'll nap in his crib at the moment, but I think I'll end up taking him back out so he can nap on me instead. Ah, the glamour of motherhood.

From the Good News Department: they are towing our car back to the shop for free and will most likely complete the repairs for free since it's quite clear they royally Fucked Up yesterday.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Mark got our car back today, and it drove like a charm all the way home. Then I go to have my first few hours of alone time since well before Christmas (unless you count my business trip a couple of weeks ago), and the car is mostly dead. The only sign of life is the sometimes working dome light and the occasional flash of the security light on the dash. Das ist alles. Mark and my mom's significant other are toying with the freakishly expensive driveway ornament as I type this.

We can't catch a break with this car. We've got to do number crunching and figure out when we'll reach the point of wasting money on the thing and need to buy a new (to us) car--and hopefully we won't find that we've already passed that point.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Update the Fourth

The pile of rock "magically" moved from the street in front of our house into our backyard with a neighbor's friend's piece of heavy machinery. This cost us some cash, but seeing as how Mark was sick for several days last week and I was watching the Drew Monster, the money was well spent to get that damn pile of rock out of the way.

There are now only eight boxes left to unpack in the garage, and most of those are either books or photos/wall art.

We have a fully functional guest bedroom.

I have a fully functional office, though there are still Things to be Done before I am content with the space as "finished." Though it feels settled enough that I wrote for the first time in eighteen days last night and will be getting back to the writing tonight as soon as I post this.

Hell broke loose last week at the DDJ and may yet prove itself uncontained this week as well. There is discussion of having me fly back to Colorado not once but twice in February--yes, February, the shortest month of the year.

And, because all our cake needs right now is more icing, our car is in the shop for the fourth time in less than three months, this time for funky ignition problems, a busted central computer, and a cracked radiator. All part of the "normal wear and tear," we're told. Color us reassured.

Hopefully I'll be able to get back into the swing of regular blogging sometime this week. Ish.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Update the Third

We have a pile of rock in front of our house and have only managed to transport and rake out a small portion of it into our backyard. This week is going to be painful.

Right now I'm waiting for the washing machine's first run to finish (it's been telling me there's only 1 minute left (estimated) for about the past fifteen or twenty minutes--that I've been looking, anyway).

Drew has discovered the joys of climbing on boxes and furniture and is helping us out by moving chairs and the like around whenever he thinks to do so.

Hopefully some semblance of sanity will return in the near future. I wouldn't put any money on it, thought.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Update the Second

All of our junk (minus the usual bag/box of stragglers) is in the house. Or, rather, the garage. Drewbie's room is basically the most settled, with ours being a close second (unless you look in the dresser, armoire, and walk-in closet). And there's even enough room in the garage for our car (if we re-arrange a few boxes). Now, excuse me while I abscond to the master bedroom suite with a bottle of wine and some fancy cheese. It be time to celebrate. (Or at least toast the new house before we pass out from severe exhaustion.)

Friday, January 12, 2007


We have acheived internettage.

And the family room, living room, and the Drew Monster's room has been painted.

On tap tonight: paint the master bedroom, laundry, and writing room, time permitting.

By the way, it's supposed to be a high of 42 degrees here tomorrow, just in time for the major move in. The weather hates us.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

An Argument My Cell Bio Prof Should Heed

Back in the terrifying academic year that was my sophomore year of college, I had a nemesis: my cellular biology professor. This guy threw everything but the kitchen sink at you in his power point slide lectures (he expected you to know about the kitchen sink by reading the course text book, which was a hefty 1000 pages). The slides were so overloaded that text and images often did not fully fit on them or were so small that, even sitting in the first row or five of the lecutre hall, you had to lean forward, squint, and argue with the guy sitting next to you if that word was "mitosis" or "meiosis." The professor also would not in general refer to the text, but talk tangentially to it, and we were required to know the information contained in his verbal diarrhea as well.

There were two ways you could pass that class: ace the lab portion (which wasn't separated like most other science classes) or track down people from previous years who had literally copied by hand every test after he posted them on his office window and memorize the answers (he never changed his tests; truly stupid in such a dynamic field of science). I didn't know about the latter until the day of the final, so I thought the former was the only way. Becaus I learned after the first test that studying and knowing the material wasn't going to get you far--there was too much of it to retain for the tests--I went with the former option and kicked the stuffing out of the lab portion.

Well, I was trolling Making Light's Particles for something interesting for my Sunday Grab-bag post, and I found something I would've loved to have shoved down that prof's throat. A very detailed and interesting breakdown of how NASA abused power point (not intentionally, but because of the same thinking that led my prof to abuse it similarly) in its discussion of the foam that broke off of Columbia prior to the shuttle's re-entry. Fascinating in that deer-in-headlights way to understand how knowledge dissemination and traditional teaching methodology/understanding can cloud an issue more than clarify it.

I'm crossing my fingers that the Graduate Teaching Program at Boulder wasn't the only one of its kind. It was focused on providing TAs with the tools and training they needed to be effective instructors. Hopefully it's required at Boulder and more universities are catching on. This is how vital such a thing is.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Countdown Check-in

By this time next week, we should have all of our stuff in our new place (with oh, about 90% of it still in boxes or in the garage, but it will be in our house). We'll be doing the (hopefully) last bit of painting while the Drew Monster sleeps in his crib in his room (which will receive its coat of "Endless Sky" on Thursday night).

It's gonna be a marathon week.

I'll be in Colorado Monday and Tuesday. I scheduled this trip on purpose because I need to be out there earlier in the month rather than later and no way in hell was I going to be traveling just after a move like I did in October. The only way traveling just prior to a move is going to work is due to the fact that nearly everything it packed up and ready to go. The stuff that's not will either be in use until next Saturday or will get packed up tonight after I finish dithering with the blog.

I have to be my mother's chauffer the in the mornings on Thursday and Friday so I can have a car with which to buy necessities for the house for that evening (toilet paper will more than likely come in handy) and so I can actually, I don't know, get to the house so they can give me my keys. (There's apparently a big song and dance that goes with the giving of the keys. I'm sure I'll snark it creditably in an Our First Home post.)

Friday I need the car so I can once again get to the house (we're not going to have our beds to sleep in it until next Saturday; no time to move the furniture until then; well, no time to move those bits of furniture when the Drew Monster isn't sleeping in one of said pieces of furniture until Saturday). This is to have our internet installed. We have to do this microwave broadband thingy since our development is far enough from the main part of town that high-speed internet isn't available yet. After we get the internet installed, it's off to get groceries for the house so we can actually eat there by next Saturday. More painting that night.

Saturday will be the truly insane portion as we'll be shuttling our stuff in my mother's truck and trailer and in our car from her place to ours. Keep your fingers crossed that my mother's back and/or my wrists don't trick out that day.

But we did the most important thing today. No, not talking about buying and arranging for the delivery of 20 tons of Grande Rose 1/2" rock (that'll be a particularly interesting Our First Home post once we have to haul said tonnage into our backyard and scatter it appropriately). Today, Mark and I picked up a bottle of wine and some nice cheese to toast the new place Thursday evening before, during, and after we paint. We just have to remember to buy cups, plates, plastic utensils, and a corkscrew to make sure we can actually imbibe instead of stare at the treats as if they were still art.

My internet presence may be spotty this week.

Friday, January 05, 2007

More SciFi Wierdness

I'm confuzzled. Battlestar Gallactica will be returning for a new season in a couple of weeks, making their break from the last "season" a whopping month. However, SG-1 and Atlantis won't be coming back from their mid-season break (which started in September/October) until April. What is SciFi doing with their line-up? I liked the fall break set up. But it seems like their going to stop that. Particularly because the second half of Atlantis's third season will be finishing up just a few weeks before the start of its fourth season in July (if they're going to keep to the same summer start like they used to). Oh, and Eureka won't be starting its second 13-ep season until May. WTF?

I suppose it makes sense to start SG-1 later, especially if they've already started filming these movies that are supposed to appease the fans instead of continuing the series. If they've got a movie ready to go by the end of the last ten eps, then that's going to mean better viewership for the movie. If the movie wasn't going to be around for a few months after the series "concluded," then interest is going to flag in the more casual viewer.

But why delay Atlantis? Are the two shows intertwined in those last ten eps? Do they hope that they can do the same sort of (hypothetical) thing as the SG-1 movies by trying to keep the more casual, I'm only here because this show's between SG-1 and BSG viewership with back to back seasons?

SciFi's just making my head hurt a lot lately.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Best of Me, My Muse, and I, 2006

I've never really thought about putting together a "Best of" list for the blog. But there was enough insanity this year that I thought it might be interesting to give it a shot. So, here it is, my year in review (by topic).

And Just How Insane was 2006?
The Flood
The E.coli
The Drama
The Car-B-Q

The Drew Monster Collection:
Meeting his Great-great Grandmother
How Drewbie investigates the world (prior to walking)
The Boy broadens his palette
Drew's first birthday
Padding the kid's resume
The Joy of Nudism

Personal Writing Musings:
When short fiction didn't keep me sane
Observation skills
Drug-assisted writing perfection
Let's (re)start at the very beginning...
Journey to SF (via V and Germany)
To Be Organic

General Writing Observations/Rants/Discussions:
Are we artists or businessmen?
Does genre matter?
No, really. Does it?
Know Thy Audience
A sheep in wolf's clothing

The Random "Other":
The Vagina Monologues at Notre Dame
Blogging the Commute
Where in the World was Kellie Hazell

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My First Rejection with Feedback

Last Friday I received my first rejection with feedback. 'Twas not positive feedback. In fact, it was the very first time any of my characters have ever been called 2-D (the actual words were "cardboard cut-outs"). This is not to say the feedback was in any way overly harsh or vitriolic. In fact, the rejection made me do a lot of heavy thinking about just what I was trying to accomplish with the story anyway.

So after I swallowed the first sting of "No," I started assimilating the feedback. The critique focused on several details I had used that seemed to the editor to create very generic characters. Aside from one of the details mentioned, the others were not character signifiers but societal and class markers. More like brushstrokes to paint the background. So I was very confused with how they had been taken as character details. This has resulted in my logic twisting itself into pretzels as I try to figure out how much I agree or disagree with the feedback.

I moved away from the details as quoted and got to the characters he said were flat. I approached them more in terms of how I would usually determine whether or not I had well-rounded characters in my stories. What was the motivation? What was the background? I didn't get far for two of my characters (the two involved with the majority of the details quoted). So I agreed with the feedback and started to look for ways to flesh these folks out.

Then I stopped because it seemed like adding more details to distinguish these characters would detract from the point of the whole scene, which was to describe in an entertaining, everyone can relate to this fashion how something wasn't happening (with the lead-in scene keeping folks suspicious as to why the certain thing wasn't happening). Then I stopped and took a bird's-eye view of that thought and realized that I had just owned up to writing a plot-driven scene. This necessitated a closer look at the purpose of the scene, which was really an exercise of showing not telling the actions of a different character in carrying out the wishes of yet another character. All the character-driven aspects of the scene were there, just not for the characters actually in the scene. If that makes any sense.

By this point I'm feeling good because I've re-assured myself that I'm not a plot-driven writer despite that seemingly plot-driven scene. In fact, through all this hamster-wheeling, I realized something I do have to look for during revision for my short fiction. All of my writing is idea-driven. That is, I get an idea that involves both plot and character (usually a small piece of each that I then have to build on). In my novels, in order to make sense of the scale of the idea, I have to figure out why these characters are doing these things, and the writing of the book thus shifts from the idea to the characters. In my short fiction, I basically purge the idea, making sure I get from A to B as it came to me, thus shifting the idea to the plot. I'll have to be very aware of this in my revisions.

Speaking of revisions, I was back where I started with this feedback. How much do I agree with the comments? Do I flesh out the two characters and hope the details don't detract from the purpose of the scene? Or do I leave them as "insert yourself here" placeholders and acknowledge that such a device is going to make it nigh impossible to get the story published? Or do I take the feedback very literally and just adjust the details as quoted to something more unique even though that wouldn't be true to the characters and probably not even to the intent of the critique itself?


I'm going to have to leet this one stew for a bit. But it helped me figure out a few things about revising my short stories.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Our First Home: Buying the Paint

On Saturday, Mark and I did our own walk through of the new house. He's not going to be there for the official walk through tomorrow, and I wanted to make sure his eagle eyes had inspected everything as well. More on that next week.

On Saturday, we also bought all of our paint and painting supplies. We also bought our washing machine (my mom's giving us her old dryer). We are so very excited. We'll be painting the night of the 11th and the night of the 12th. Hopefully we'll get it finished those two nights, maybe bleeding out onto the night of the 13th.

Let me just take a moment to note the colors we picked: Dried Chervil (a lovely green for our bedroom), Endless Sky (a great blue for Drew's room), Comforting (a "comforting" brown for the family room), and Baked Biscotti (a sliverish beige cream for our formal living room, which will feature our cool space prints). And we're nabbing the extra paint my mom had after they painted their house (lavender for my writing room and a quirky magenta for the laundry closet). I'm curious to see how they'll turn out. I'm also curious to see how long it takes me to despise painting, as I'm told that's the usual reaction. I'm just too excited about personalizing a house in this way.

One last thing to note about our paint purchasing excursion was how Drewbie helped us shop. The poor guy was quite restless so we were letting him wander through the show floor and the appliance area. He happened to find the rack of heating elements and burner trays. Wanting to participate in the experience, the Drew Monster picked up a heating element, toddled his way back to our cart, and hurled that sucker into the cart. He repeated this four times. We didn't have the heart to tell Drew that our new stove is one of those electric surface jobs, so we didn't need heating elements. We just quietly removed the elements from the cart and returned them to the rack.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Drewbie's New Year's Resolutions

1. Say "da-da" at some point just to see what Daddy does. It would be best if I am pointing to a woman or an inanimate object when I do so.

2. Track down every single piece of Elmo merchandise and reach for it while grunting and grinning.

3. Investigate applying crayons and pens to a medium other than walls. Perhaps windows.

4. Chase the cats daily.

5. Pick up each rock in the backyard to make absolutely certain that no two are the same. Wouldn't want Momma and Daddy to get cheated out of their landscaping budget.

6. Find all of the great hiding spots in the new house, preferably while Momma and Daddy are not looking. The hiding spot will not be considered great unless it takes at least five minutes for them to find me.

7. Discover new food as often as possible outside of the confines of my high chair.

8. Learn to take off all of my clothes by myself, including my diaper.

9. Read a new Seuss book every month.

10. Smile and laugh as often as possible. This gets me lots of hugs and kisses. I like those.