Thursday, December 29, 2005

A Shower-Shower A Day...

OK, I don't normally post about work, but I think I can talk about this without giving away any company secrets. Besides, Eugene and I have been teasing our friend Russ on his blog, so I guess I should atone by making a fool of myself online.

Since I work in a lab, we need a constant supply of purified water, so we have a filtration system in the lab. My boss noticed a couple of days ago that it was leaking by one of the filter cartridges. They needed to be replaced anyway, so we ordered a new set, which arrived today. (Actually, one of the filters is the wrong kind, and the customer service rep seemed to think I ordered the wrong kit even though I looked everything up on their website first. She's replacing the cartridge for us anyway; I just hope she sends us the right one.) I had a little trouble finding the manual since it wasn't with the rest of our instruction booklets. So I gamely went ahead, turned off the power, and started trying to yank out one of the cartridges. Sploosh! The water supply was still connected, and water sprayed me and the floor. I mopped it up, found the manual, and figured out where to disconnect the water. Then I went ahead and removed all the old cartridges. Needless to say, this is the point where I realized we have the wrong cartridge. After calling customer service, I reinstalled the old cartridges. The last cartridge (the one that's leaking), didn't go in properly, and in the process of trying to make it fit I got splooshed again by the water still in the system. I cleaned up and got that job finished so I could take care of some other things in the lab. Later on, I checked the system. It was still leaking; in fact, it looked as if the cartridge itself was leaking at the bottom, as if excess pressure was making it come apart. I decided I should go ahead and replace that cartridge immediately, even though I wanted to replace all of them at once. As before, I shut off both the power and the water before trying to remove the cartridge. SPLOOSH! There must have been a pressure buildup, for the water came out even more violently this time. I got sprayed right in the face and had to dry off my hair with paper towels. I did manage to install the new cartridge, and when I left, it seemed to be holding and not leaking. Let's just hope the lab isn't underwater when the boss gets in tomorrow morning, or I can kiss any chance of a raise good-bye. But since this is our one-year proposal anniversary, Eugene made my day better by bringing in strawberry pastries from a bakery I used to go to when I was a child--and he didn't even know about the water filters. Guess that's why I said yes to him, even if I made him wait on his knees first. ;)

Writing's been going slowly the last couple of days, as Eugene and I have had to do some things in the evening. Tomorrow we're supposed to have dinner with a cousin of his from the Philippines. I'm going to bring my laptop in to work so I can go to a bookstore before dinner and try to write there. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

And There Was Great Rejoicing...

Eugene and I have finished selecting pictures for our wedding album. Maybe now that I don't have to worry about page counts or poses or color (oh my), I can get my mind back on writing. It's been a bit slow the last couple of days, though I did manage to put down 150 words on Key. I'm falling behind on my crits too, but hopefully tomorrow I can work on that too.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Trying the Pictures Again....

The pictures posted out of order, and I don't feel like reloading them. But at least you will get some idea of how the evening went. Here, Eugene's brother Mike offers his tribute to his dad (seated), while Eugene (in background), Jason (middle), and my mother-in-law listen.

My father-in-law blows out the candles on his cake. Look at that smoke!

Guests wait for my in-laws to arrive.

Eugene and myself.

My mother-in-law and father-in-law as they enter the room.

The Holidays Part Two: With the Almazans

Yesterday (Christmas Day) was my father-in-law's 65th birthday, so we had a special surprise party for him to celebrate. It was at the same venue where Eugene and I had our reception; those of you who were there can imagine my excitement at returning. My mother-in-law had the food brought in by a Filipino caterer; I don't think I can spell the names of the dishes properly, but at least I can describe them. There was sticky rice, fish, beef, noodle casseroles called pansit or ponsit (see, I told you I can't spell these dishes), fried shrimp, "stuffed chickenless chicken," and a roast pig. There were probably about a hundred people there, though I'm not sure as some of them came in later. My father-in-law was quite surprised by the party; he didn't even realize that Jason, Eugene's youngest brother, had moved his karoke machine to the hotel. He was very touched by the whole affair, though. After dinner, Jason and his mom gave a slide show presentation of pictures of his father from his teenage years to the present. Then my father-in-law got to open a gag gift from his partner (and one of our wedding sponsors) Jan, featuring all sorts of things he would need at his age. Then Eugene and his brothers gave short but moving speeches about their father and what he meant to them. In particular, they pointed out the legacy he had in the many friends who had come to the party and his inspiring generosity to others. Then there was a cake and dancing. Everyone had a good time--especially when they came up to me and asked if I was pregnant yet. In case you're wondering, the baby is on backorder. We'll let you know when it's here. I think I need to write that on a sign and carry it with me to all family events. ;)

I've tried to upload some pictures three times now, but it doesn't seem to be working. I'll try again later.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Holidays Part 1: With the Ulbrichs

My family always celebrates on Christmas Eve, so that makes celebrating the holidays easier for us. We drove up to Wisconsin yesterday for dinner and a gift exchange with my parents, my brother, my niece, and my grandmother. While we were there, we also got to watch our wedding video, which we just picked up yesterday. Here are some photos:

My grandmother (Oma) at the dining room table.

My parents put up a small tree this year, but at least it's not so hard to find room for it.

Eugene and my brother Rodney talk computers/photography while my bored niece Nicky waits for the highlight of the evening: the presents.

My parents during the gift exchange.

Eugene entertains Heidi (not pictured).

Afterwards, Eugene and I drove home so we could spend our first Christmas morning together. After exercising, we opened our gifts to each other. I gave Eugene a book from his wish list and the new Billy Joel box set; he gave me three books and a couple of CDs. Then we had breakfast: baked French Toast with apples, fruit salad (I attempted to blog yesterday about the abuse I inflicted on the citruses, but the Internet connection died on me before I could publish it), and fresh-squeezed orange juice. Needless to say, it was all very good. Later today, we need to work on the wedding album (again) before we have Christmas with Eugene's family. I doubt I'll get much writing done today, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Eve Eve

My family traditionally celebrates on Christmas Eve. I had the day off, so I did a few chores around the house and took care of some last-minute things for tomorrow. We're going up to my parents' house for dinner and a gift exchange. Hopefully we'll also be able to bring along the video from our wedding; the videographer is burning it onto DVD now. Eugene made my dad's favorite cake, a flourless chocolate one, and it's baking right now. I'll take care of it while Eugene finishes up his shopping.

On the writing front, I'm continuing to edit a novel for a friend, and I'm working on both Day of All Seasons and The Key to All Locked Doors. I may only write a couple hundred words on each per day, but at least it's progress. Still haven't started reading the second draft of Lennon's Line, even though it's sitting here on my desk. Maybe I can read it after Christmas is over.

In case I don't have a chance to blog tomorrow and post pictures of our family get-together, I hope everyone reading this blog enjoys the holidays, no matter which one you celebrate. Spread joy and love to everyone you know.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Poetic thought for the morning: the trees are mocking summer with their winter foliage of frost. (That line occurred to me as I drove to work this morning, so I wanted to get it down. Maybe sometime I can use it in a story.)

In an attempt to clear the tumbleweeds blowing over this blog, I'd thought I'd pose some questions and see if I can raise a response from readers. A couple of things in real life and in other people's stories have made me think a bit about people who seem to need other people's opinions to make decisions of their own.

Have any of my readers noticed someone in real life doing this?

If so, did you offer your opinions or leave them to work it out on their own?

Do you see yourself as self-reliant or as seeking other's opinions?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of each trait?

If you're a writer or reader, would you rather write/read about one type of person over another?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Getting Carded and Titling

Today I made scallops l'orange for dinner. One of the ingredients was orange liqueur, so I had to pick some up at the liquor store. When I checked out, the clerk asked me for ID. At my age, that's a compliment! The ironic aspect of it all was that the clerk looked too young to be selling booze herself. Perhaps she was being a stickler to her job training, or perhaps she was so new to the job that she wasn't a good judge of age. I suppose I should have asked her for ID!

The other interesting (well, to the other writers out there) thing that I encountered today was this link:

This is a tool that allows writers to compare their titles to those of best-sellers and see if they have what it takes to make it. You type in the title and select a few options to describe it. The site will then rank its chances of becoming a best-seller. Here are the results for my books:

My first (but certainly not best) novel: Let Silences Be Broken--44.2%

My Season Lords trilogy:

Day of All Seasons--10.2% (ouch!)
Fifth Season--69.0% (that's much better)
Summon the Season Lords--20.1%

The Consciousness Corollary trilogy (featuring Paul Harrison)

Lennon's Line--83.1% (woo-hoo!)
Catalyst in the Crucible--26.3%
The Key to All Locked Doors--26.3%

My overall average is almost 40%, which could be better.

So, what seems to make the difference? Names are important; I think that's why Lennon's Line ranks so high. Length, literal vs. figurative title, and the use of nouns and verbs also make a difference. But I don't think this title analyzer tells the complete story. It ranks Smith's Line just as high as Lennon's Line, even though the latter has alliteration and a celebrity's name. I'm certainly biased, but I think this tool can't account for the intrigue of wondering what the Day of All Seasons is. So I'll keep my titles as they are right now. Besides, if one of these books does get accepted by a publisher, they'll probably do their own title analysis and revise it at will.

OK, time to shut up here and start getting these stories finished....

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Weekend in Review

Saturday I did some cleaning, baked a loaf of bread, and printed out all of Lennon's Line so I can read it and make notes as I go along. I better mention to Eugene that we need to kill a few more trees, as I used nearly 400 sheets of paper. The first draft was shorter, around 104,000 words, if I recall correct. This one is about 154,000, and I don't want it to grow any longer during the next draft. This may be a problem if I want to add more details to the first half, but maybe I can slash something in the second part.

Later that day, Eugene and I met my cousin Megan in Woodfield Mall so she could review the wedding proofs. She saw some of them online, but we have the full set. In retrospect, I should have suggested we find a less busy place to meet. At least we did find parking eventually. After we were done, we went to my company holiday party at a restaurant not too far away from the mall. The crab legs Eugene and I had were huge, even bigger than the ones we had in Alaska. The party ran quite late, though; we didn't leave until about 11:30, and I have to admit I was showing my fatigue.

There wasn't much rest for the weary (or wicked), as Eugene and I had to get up early so we could work out and finish our laundry before driving up to Wisconsin to visit my parents. We had lunch with them and dropped off the wedding pictures so they could figure out which ones to order. We also brought them a tin of cookies, which were well-received. But the real star of the show was Heidi, my parents' toy poodle. Despite Eugene's "vetness," she spent most of her time trying to get him to play with her favorite new toy. Above is a picture I took of her while she was staring at her bear. I told my dad about this blog, so let's see if he checks it out. Then Eugene and I did some shopping and had dinner at Panera before going home. I've spent most of the time since just catching up on e-mail and my forums. Let's see if I can get some writing done before I keel over and crash.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I'm momentarily caught up on crits for OWW, and I even finished my Christmas cards. Of course, soon Sam will post the rest of his novel, and I still have 70 pages to crit for Heather (hi!), more pictures to select for the wedding album, etc., etc., but at least there's progress on some front.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I suppose the holidays are extra-busy for everyone, and I'm no exception. I'm making progress with the Christmas chores; I only have two more presents to get (and I'm not telling whose, just in case Eugene reads this ;) ) and about six more cards to write. Eugene and I haven't sent out all of our cookies yet, but we need more boxes. Plus we're still dealing with Night of the Living Album as we cope with the torture of deciding which photos make the final cut and how to lay them out. But what really keeps me busy are the reviews. I think my regular critters must conspire; several of them posted all within a short span, and I've been scrambling to clear my crits. I think I'm making progress, but if I say that too loudly, the review gods will punish me still further. ;)

Progress on my own writing is slow but steady. I'm undecided on how I want to end the current scene I'm writing in Day, so I've been working on Key for a couple of days. I doubt I'll post it by the end of the year, but I would like to get it done eventually. I also got a review today on Chapter Two of Day that gives me a lot to think about. I need to reread it and mull it over so I can get back to the reviewer with a thank you.

I just finished reading John, Cynthia Lennon's latest book. I never got around to reading her first one about John, but this one is more complete because she's more open about some of the cruel things John did to her and Julian. None of it is completely new to me, but it does make the portrait of John a bit darker. It is pretty sad reading about the breakup of her marriage and the problems she and Julian have had since John's death. But I wanted to read it in case I decide to use any of this information when I revise Lennon's Line. Based on Cyn's book, I may shade how I portray John's Aunt Mimi, for instance. I may also give Cyn a brief appearance when Jo hears John play at the Cavern, but that could complicate the plot, since I don't think John would want to talk to his "American cousin" when he could spend some time with his then-girlfriend instead. Maybe I can have Cyn have to go directly home for some reason. I'll still stand by having Joanna and the rest of her side of the family be descended from Yoko and Sean, however. One of the reasons I didn't use Julian is that I doubt he plans to become a father anytime soon. Sean's still single in this world, but I intend to present this book as taking place in a universe where Sean marries his first girlfriend and then divorces her. Granted, I could set up a world where Julian has a child, but I also like being able to use New York for some of the scenes and to give these fictional descendants more money; it fits in with what I have planned better.

I told myself that after I finish Cyn's book, it's time for me to start revising Lennon's Line. Of course I need another ball to juggle--not! But I would like to finish this one and see if I can do anything with it. What I plan to do next is put it all in one big file and re-read it start to finish to get my own impressions of it. Then I'll have to plow into the pile of reviews I have stashed somewhere on my desk. I have some ideas for revising the first part, but I don't want to start with that until I've gone through everything and am sure that it's the right way to go.

Speaking of going, it's time for me to do so. Shall I go work on Day or go play? I guess if I want to keep all of my books in the air, then I'd better be good. Now if only Santa would bring me some good news about the anthology I'm supposed to be in, that would be a nice reward. But I digress.

Monday, December 12, 2005

As Promised, Pictures

Here's the Christmas tree in the Walnut Room in Marshall Fields, or at least the top half of the tree. I took this picture from the floor above the Walnut Room.

Eugene pointing to Cloudgate, a.k.a. the Bean, where he proposed to me last December.

Returning to the scene of the crime. We're standing where we were the night Eugene proposed. The buildings behind us are reflections in the Bean's surface.

Ice skaters at Millennium Park.

Woo-hoo for Sue!

Sue, one of my regular critters on the writing workshop and a reader of this blog, just had her first short story published. It's called "Justice," and it's about a young woman who attempts to aid an enemy prisoner. You can read it at

Way to go, Sue! Congrats, and may this be the first of many sales!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Time in Chicago

Eugene considers it his responsibility to drag me away from the computer once in a while so I can see what Real Life is like--as if I have time for that. ;) Today we'd planned on having breakfast in the Walnut Room at Marshall Field's in Chicago. We got up at 6:30 (which is early for us on Sundays), worked out, showered, got dressed, and drove in. We arrived around 9:30, and the line was already so long we had to wait half an hour just to pick up a pager. By the time we did, we were told we wouldn't be able to get in until 12:30, and we couldn't wait that long. We did manage to take some pictures of the tree from the floor above before leaving to find a deli. The place didn't have the ambiance we were hoping for, but the food was more important. Afterwards, we wandered around downtown for a bit. We visited Millennium Park, which is where Eugene proposed to me. It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since then! Then we walked to the Daley Plaza to see the Christmas tree there. There was also a Kristkindlemarkt there, which is basically a German bazaar. Some of the vendors were in tents; others had more permanent shelters. They had many different things to offer, including Christmas tree ornaments, wood carvings, lace, and candles. Plus there were treats such as mulled wine and cider. We wandered around for a bit, drinking cider and buying a couple of ornaments and gifts, before we had to drive back home, running a few more errands along the way. Despite the disappointment with the Walnut Room, Eugene and I enjoyed ourselves. After all, this is our first Christmas together as a married couple.

Later that afternoon, a couple of friends came over to look at pictures from the wedding. We all went out to dinner afterwards. We had a good time. Unfortunately, after dinner, we had to catch up on some other things we've been putting off for a while, such as sending out the cookies. We just bagged bunches of them and placed them into tins; along the way, Eugene coined a new word: "orphanated." (Bags of cookies without recipes have been orphanated. I guess you had to be there.) It's late, I'm tired, I have a backlog of chores and reviews to clear, and I didn't get any writing done today. Hopefully tomorrow will be better, even if it's a Monday. In the meantime, I have to crash. I'll try to post the pictures from our Chicago excursion tomorrow. Stay tuned....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Girl Time

I meant to commit an Act of Blog last night, honest; I just wound up being too tired.

Last night was one of the rare occasions when Eugene and I had different plans for the evening. He went to a basketball game with his family, and since I'm not much into sports, I stayed home. (I'm glad I didn't have to drive in to meet them anyway, given the snow we've been having.) What did I do with all of that free time? I had a nice chat with Sue over Skype while I wrote two reviews. One of my reviews was on a short chapter I'd seen before, but this time so many questions came to me as I read it that my review was nearly as long as the chapter. The author thanked me, though, so I hope it was useful for him. After that, I spoiled myself for a bit. I gave myself a facial--steaming, mud mask, the works. (Russ, you're going to have some competiton for the title of Best Skin Care Blog! ;) ) Then I soaked in the bath for a while. By the time I got done with that, I was too drowsy to write, so I went to bed. Exciting, huh?

I haven't gotten as much done today as I'd hoped. I did do laundry and start another review (which I didn't finish), but I haven't written anything or even printed out labels for Christmas cards. Bad Sandra! And of course I haven't written today yet either. But I did get to talk with another friend of mine, and she had some exciting news. No wonder I've been distracted, but I'm happy for her.

Eugene should be home soon, but maybe I can start something before then (he might be delayed because of the snow.) I don't know if we'll go out tonight; if we do, I think it'll just be to B&N. Writing in the bookstore is easier because I feel I have to work, not goof off.

Til later, then....

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Patron Muse

As John himself said, "I don't wanna face it."

It's about 9:10 here at the moment, which means in New York City, it's 10:10 p.m. On this date twenty-five years ago, at 10:50 p.m., John was shot five times in the back as he was returning home to say good-night to his son Sean. With that horrible act, the world was changed forever--and the stage was set for me fifteen years later to be drawn back into writing.

As I've said before, I barely remember John's murder; I didn't pay a lot of attention to public events like that when I was ten. As I grew up, I became a casual fan. I remember listening to Sgt. Pepper in a friend's house when I was in high school, and I had a tape of some of their hits. (Yes, a tape; for some reason, I didn't bother buying CDs until I was well out of college. Could be because my stereo didn't actually play CDs, just tapes.) So when the Beatles' Anthology aired in November 1995, I was interested enough to watch.

Some background is necessary here: during this time, although I had a job in Madison, my favorite city, I hated my job and didn't get to see Eugene too often--maybe once a month or so. After watching the first episode of the Anthology and getting "Free as a Bird" (a lot of fans don't count this as a real Beatles song, but it has special meaning for me) stuck in my head, I had a new interest. Twenty-five is relatively old to become hooked on the Beatles; most fans I know at Beatlelinks, one of the forums I belong to, became fans as kids or teenagers. I made up for lost time quickly by buying the CDs (yes, I had discovered CDs by now) and reading as many books as I could. I didn't have a favorite at first, but the more I learned about the Fab Four, the more interested I became in John.

Why John? Well, the first thing that drew me to him was our shared interest in writing. But the more I learned about him and his many contradictions, the more fascinating he became. And to be honest, the Beatles made for good eye candy. Don't worry; I'd been with Eugene for five years before I became a Beatlemaniac, and in my life, I love him more.

So, what does it mean to me to have John as a patron muse, so to speak? For those of you who've read Lennon's Line, that should be obvious. ;) John and the other Beatles with their four-fold synergy inspired me to create my own quartet: the Season Lords in Day of All Seasons, which I'm currently running through the workshop. But John has influenced me in other ways too. John had a "sideways" way of thinking, as can be shown if you attempt to read his books. They may be in English, but you really have to think to follow his wordplay. I'm very much a left-brained person, very methodical, logical, and linear, so John can shake up my thinking. He's also made me write some difficult passages. Five years ago, on the 20th anniversary, I wrote a scene about his death from his POV (set in the afterlife). I never used that scene anywhere, but after writing it, I feel I can write on any subject I need to.

I'm not listening to John's solo work tonight; it's too intense. I did listen to some of my favorites of his while commuting to work today. One of the songs I heard was "God," which includes the lyrics:

The dream is over; what can I say?
The dream is over, yesterday
I was the dreamweaver
but now I'm reborn
I was the Walrus
But now I'm John
And so, dear friends,
You just have to carry on
The dream is over.

John's dream and the dream of the Beatles is over, but now it's up to us to carry on, to make the most of our talents, to love each other, and to make the most of our lives before fate makes other plans. Now it's time for me to have a moment of silence for John and for all the other victims of violence, reread a chapter of Lennon's Line, then go on writing. Today of all days, it's important to keep writing. To borrow some more lyrics (this time from Peter Gaberiel's "Biko"):

You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flames begin to catch
The wind will blow it higher

John may be dead, but we are still here, and we can combine to create our own fire. Seize the day.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch

There's not much I can say about the actual work I do, since I don't want to have to kill anyone brave enough to read this blog. ;) I think I won't violate any confidentiality agreements to say that today we got to have a free lunch, courtesy of our landlord. (We lease our office space.) The meal consisted of breadsticks, chicken breasts (can't really describe how they were prepared), Swedish meatballs (too salty), mixed veggies (mostly green beans), and mashed potatoes, with chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies for dessert. The buffet was in another building, so I and my co-workers had to go pick up our food and bring it back to our place. (Something else it's safe for me to say is that we play Uno during lunch.) While we picked up our food, I looked at a tree in the lobby. It had "wish lists" for the holidays from needy children. I picked up a tag from a six-year-old girl and went shopping for her after work. I got her a sweater, a pair of pants, a pair of shoes, socks, and a Pet Doctor Barbie. I'd been thinking of doing something to help others during the holiday season anyway, so this was a good way to do it. Now I just have to remember to stop by and drop off the gifts tomorrow before I head into work. Just call me Sandra Clause. ;)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


As I watched the news this evening, I finally put a name to what's been bothering me for a while--PAJLMS: Pre-Anniversary of John Lennon's Murder Syndrone.

This time of year is hard for Beatles fans. George passed away on November 29, 2001, and of course John was murdered on December 8, 1980. This year, with it being a "special" anniversary (25 years), the media is flooded with news stories about him. I use the term "news" lightly, since many of stories are about things dedicated fans already know. For example, on World News Tonight, they played sound clips from an interview John gave in 1970, after the Beatles broke up and John had undergone primal scream therapy. True to himself, John disses everyone left and right--Paul, the Rolling Stones, even the fans. Well, maybe this may shock the casual fan, but I've had a transcript of that interview for years. Personally, I think a better choice would have been excerpts from the interviews John gave David Scheff of Playboy. John changed his mind as often as he changed his socks, but the Scheff interviews took place only a couple of months before he died. They would have given a better picture of his state of mind at the time, but since he was at peace with himself by then, his comments wouldn't be so contraversial. Humm, does the news go for truth or what sells? Why do I even ask?

Anyway, I apologize for the rant, but after seeing this story and reading countless articles about John and the murder on Beatlelinks, I'm feeling a bit numb but still sad. Yes, it's been 25 years, and I barely remember the actual day myself. I was only ten and knew very little about music or the current events of that era. Now that I'm older and more involved with John's music, his murder matters more, especially since I had to research it for Lennon's Line. Come Thursday, as I go throughout the day, I'll be able to think "John was getting his hair cut" or "John was posing for photos at this time" whenever I look at the clock. I don't even know if I'll be able to listen to his solo music that day; it's too intense. Maybe I'll start a Beatles marathon instead so I can absorb some energy from Please Please Me and With the Beatles. I'll be blogging more about what John means to me on Thursday as well. In the meantime, I think I'll cheer myself up with another dead celebrity's work: A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Our Holiday Party of 2005

Every year, Eugene and I throw a small party around the holidays. Last year, we invited a few of my Beatle friends over, so this year Eugene picked the guests: some of his friends from vet school who are in the area. Party prep started a few weeks beforehand when we picked out the menu. (Part of the reason we finished our baking so early this year is to have cookies available for our guests.) Earlier in the week, Eugene made the desserts, and I shopped for groceries Thursday night. Then on Friday, I made one of the side dishes, and we both cleaned. (I even used up all of my vacation time to get some things done.) We ran a few errands Saturday morning, but otherwise most of the day was devoted to cooking and cleaning. Here's our menu:

Beverages: Mulled Cider, Chardonnay, a Spanish dessert wine, and coffee
Appetizer: Homemade Lo-Cal Spinach Dip with fresh veggies
Salad: Orange and Almond Salad
Main Course: Lemon-Thyme Cornish Hens
Side Dishes: Cranberry Sauce; Twice-Baked Potatoes, Green Beans with Almonds and Parsley; and Sage, Sausage, and Apple Dressing
Dessert: Homemade Premium Vanilla Ice Cream and Cran-Apple Pie with a Cream Cheese Crust

Despite all this food, we turned out to have only two other guests. (One of the other guests told Eugene ahead of time she might not be able to make it; we think the other didn't come because of the snow.) We still had a good time, though. The conversation ranged from everything from combining utilities to a wedding riddled with problems. After dinner, we showed them some of our wedding proofs and let them pick cookies to bring home. They chose a few from almost every type we made, not surprising when they have three small children. They had to leave around 11:00 because of the babysitter, but I have to admit I was pretty tired by then. Eugene and I managed to get the dishes done before we crashed, though.

Today we slept in late and ran a couple of errands. We were supposed to meet one of my bridesmaids so she could see the wedding proofs, but that didn't work out. Hopefully after I finish this entry, I can get some writing done. I didn't get anything done yesterday and very little on Friday. Part of it is trying to "block" out what to include in Chapter Three now that I'm breaking it up. I want to make sure there's a good hook at the end. Hopefully Jenna will provide me with one.

BTW, I finally took a picture of our crooked half-tree that I described before. It could be worse, couldn't it?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

If I'm Not Blogging, I Must Be Busy....

I guess the more there is going on in my life, the less blogging I do every day, which means there's more to catch up on when I squeeze in some time.

If I had had time to blog on Monday, the entry would have been called "In Sickness and In Health." Eugene woke up with a severe headache that wouldn't go away. He tried going into work anyway, but he had to turn around and come back home. Let's just say he made it back just in time. He felt better by the end of the day, but we're still not sure what he had. It might have been a stomach bug, but a friend suggested it could have been a migraine, even though Eugene has never had one before. I hope that's not it.

I managed to finish Chapter Two of Day and posted it on the workshop late Monday night. So far it has three reviews. I got some praise for it and some comments about character development and something else that's eluding me at the moment. (I'm too lazy to look up what it is.) Currently I'm moving forward with Three. The original version was over 8000 words, so I think I'll split it in two. I have to decide what scenes I want in the next chapter, though; I'm not sure the chapter break comes at a good hook.

In other news, I'm finished with cookies for this year. Eugene and I frosted the sugar cookies tonight. I didn't bother doing anything fancy as far as designs go; I just spread frosting on the cookies and added occasional sprinkles. We have alien "gingerbread men" this year. Eugene used green frosting on some of them; I then tried to use food coloring to make brown frosting, but I wound up with gray instead. Maybe for next year we should find cookie cutters with pointy Vulcan ears. ;) Eugene also brought over some more ornaments for the tree, and we finished decorating it. (Well, not quite: we need to take a picture of us for "Our First Christmas" ornament before we hang it up.)

And on that note, I think I'll finish this entry so I can crash.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Seven hundred sixteen words on Day! Part of me wants to stop so I can goof off, but part of me feels I should ride this writing wave for as long as I can. Now if I can bring some of the energy to Key, that would be great.

Half a Tree Is Better Than None

Back in my single days of oh, two months or so ago, I never bothered putting up a Christmas tree in my apartment. (Of course, two months ago it was still September, and that's way too early. But that's beside the point.) I spend more time in my office than in my living room, no matter what time of year it is. Since I spend Christmas Eve with my parents, why go through the hassle of putting up a tree, decorating it, and taking it down several weeks later? I wasn't a complete Grinch; I put up some Christmas decorations, like lights along the bookshelves and stockings by the balcony. Once I even tried to string lights and ornaments on my ficus tree, but Mr. Ficus didn't seem to appreciate it. (He doesn't like it when I take the pruning shears to him either, but if I don't, he'd take over the living room.) Anyway, now that I have a husband living with me, we want to make our home more, well, homey. (Not to be confused with homely.) So today we temporarily ceased the 2005 Holiday Bakeathon to go to Walmart, since we need tins to ship out all these cookies anyway.

We picked a nice big tree with the idea that it should be big enough to work in a house, since we hope to have our own house by this time next year. We dragged it upstairs and started to assemble it when we realized it was too wide to fit in the tiny space we'd allocated for it, and there's not enough room here to move things around to accomodate the tree. So we compromised; we squeezed the tree into a corner and only put on enough branches to cover the "public" area. The floor doesn't seem to be quite level in that corner, and with all the weight on one side, we had to use both a counterweight and some yarn tied around a fixture to keep the tree from toppling over. This is in keeping with all of the misadventures Eugene and I seem to get ourselves into, so I find the whole thing hilarious. But we put some lights and the few ornaments I have on the half-a-tree, and suddenly it seems as Christmasy as a whole tree. We're not done decorating yet; Eugene has some ornaments at his parents' house he plans to bring over, and we might get some others to fill things out. At least we don't have to decorate the back of the tree! When it's done, I'll post a picture; I'm too lazy now.

Eugene and I should be done with our baking in the next couple of days. Here's the recap of what I've made so far:

Peanut Butter Blossoms--Very good.
Lemon Slice Cookies--One of my favorites. The dough was a little dry this year, but they still turned out well.
Choco-Mint Snaps--Another of my favorites. Usually they're pretty moist, but this year they seemed dry. I wonder what I did wrong.
Pfeffernusse--I'm German; I have to make these! They were good.
Sugar Cookies--I'm a sucker for frosting, but these were still good even plain. Once we get some larger bins so I can store them properly, I plan to make buttercream frosting from scratch and decorate them. Ummm, frosting....
Chocolate Florentines--These were a disappointment. They're supposed to be sandwich cookies with a chocolate layer. I always make them too big, and I lost two trays' worth when the cookies wouldn't come off the foil. Next time I try these, I should use the parchment paper Eugene swears by. By the time I sandwiched these, I only had fourteen left. Oh well.
Lemon Madelines--This is the only batch I still have to make. I'll probably do them this week, since Eugene has taken over the kitchen to bake biscotti. He'll have to add his own baking report.

Despite all of this baking, I managed to catch up on the crits I owe on OWW. (Sue has graciously suggested I skip reviewing her latest novel, since I've seen it before and need more time to work on my own stuff.) I even had time to chat with Sue. And yes, I'm writing too. Haven't done much with anything in the Lennon's Line saga recently, but I'm making progress with Day. I'm working on the final scene of Chapter Two, where I introduce Jenna. I think she's coming across as more sympathetic with some of the changes I've made to her situation. The chapter as a whole doesn't have enough descriptive "texture" yet. I can tell a good book by the details that make the world vivid, and this draft doesn't have enough of them yet. It's as if trying to juggle description along with character, plot, and dialogue is still too many balls for me to handle. :( I must work more on this; I have an idea for a short story that might help me work on description. Still need to thrash out the plot and characters, though. Anyway, I hope to get another chapter of Day up on the workshop soon, though with all the holiday prep still to do, who knows how long it will take?

And on that note, I should shut up and write. If this was my novel, I'd be very happy with all the words I'd written today. May the Muse be with me, please!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Playing with Pictures

OK, just for Russ, I'm going to try adding some pictures:

Eugene took the picture of me on the left a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I'd already brushed all the curls out of my hair, so it's a bit anticlimatic. You have to look next to my face to see any of the layers; they blend in with the rest of my hair. Adam and Natalie took pictures when we were at the restaurant, so if they send me a copy, I'll post that so you can get a better idea of what my hair looked like this afternoon. Sorry, Russ! (And no, I'm not trying to hide my identity with the glasses; I wear them most of the time because I can't wear contacts in the lab at work. I do have contacts for special occasions.)

We had dinner tonight at Maggiano's with our friends Adam and Natalie, who were visiting the Chicago area. Their picture is on the right. Both of them were in our wedding, so we had lots of proofs to show them. We had a fun time and wish we could see them more often.

I have more pictures to post, including some of the get-together in Madison and of Thanksgiving, but I think I'll add them tomorrow. I'm not sure how many pictures I can have in each blog entry anyway.

Give Me a Head with Hair...

This should be newsworthy; I got a haircut.

I'm very conservative when it comes to changing my style, and though the length may have changed a bit, my hairstyle has been pretty much the samee for the last eight or nine years. Lately, however, I've been feeling like I'm in a rut, so with the new marriage, I decided (with a lot of nervousness) to get a new haircut. I looked at a couple of websites for ideas, but nothing really appealed to me. Finally, I went into a salon today and asked the stylist for suggestions. He recommended layers to frame my face. They're not too short--around chin length--so hopefully I can still French braid my hair. He also blow-dried it in a way to take advantage of the waves in my hair. It almost looks like a perm now, but I can still comb it straight. So far I'm happy with the cut, but I need to live with it for a few days to see how well it works for me. I wonder what Eugene will think when he comes home. He's leaving work early tonight so we can have dinner with our friends Adam and Natalie, who were in our wedding. We have lots of pictures to show them!

Anyway, since I spent the morning baking cookies, I haven't done any writing yet today. I may as well try to do something before we go. I'll post about the dinner tonight or tomorrow--and maybe I'll stop being lazy and figure out how to add pictures to my blog.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Time for a Quick Update

Well, since I last posted, I did get to read the EC review I mentioned in my last blog entry. It was one of those reviews where even if I agreed with some of the points, a good solution didn't come to me right away, so that was frustrating. One of my regular reviewers also told me she liked the original first chapter I'd posted back in May better, so now I'm wondering if I need to go back to that. Perhaps I can combine elements of the two. At least I have a good excuse for setting the rewrite aside for a while; I need to move forward with the book. Opening chapters are crucial and do need a lot of rework, but at the same time, you don't want to get stuck revising them endlessly. Better to get all of Day through the workshop before I revise again. I just hope I can manage it faster than I did with Lennon's Line.

I took a day off from writing last night because I was tired, but today I wrote about 250 words on Day and finished Luke's scene. I'm not sure if Chapter Two has enough tension, but I do need to introduce my other main characters here. We'll see how it plays on the OWW.

Time for some non-writing news. Eugene and I have officially started our annual bout of insanity known as Holiday Baking. Between us, we're making about a dozen types of biscotti and cookies (he does the biscotti, I do the cookies). I've already baked two of the six types of cookies I plan to make this year, and tomorrow I'll do a third. We want to get it done early so we can get the calories out of the house--I mean, share the goodies with our friends and family.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, today was the first time I didn't go to my parents' house for Thanksgiving. I called them this morning, but it was still a little strange. At least I've had T-day with Eugene's family before this, so I knew what to expect. We showed off our 971 pictures to Eugene's aunt, brothers, and cousins. We're just starting to select the pictures for our album, and it's going to be tough. At least we're doing it a little at a time.

I should have more interesting things to post tomorrow night or possibly Saturday. In the meantime, if anyone wants to comment on the story so far, please do so. I know my friend Sue tried to post comments a couple of times, but they don't show up. I changed the settings for comments, so let's hope I don't get Spamalot. The musical was great, but spam and blogs just don't mix for me.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Editor's Choice

Well, Eugene and I came home after doing some shopping about an hour ago. (We bought some items off our registries at Crate and Barrel and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.) I checked my e-mail and found out that the first chapter of my fantasy novel has been selected as an Editor's Choice. Basically, what that means is that one of the professional writers/editors associated with the workshop is going to post a review of my chapter in the next newsletter. Some workshop members look on this as a sign of distinction, but what I think it means is that the editor has something to say about the chapter that he/she thinks will be useful to the workshop as a whole. So that probably means there are some aspects of the chapter that need improvement. Heck, I know it needs improvement, and thanks to the crits I've already received, I know there's too much of an info-dump in the beginning, the end needs work, etc. I wonder if the editor will go beyond that and point out other things as well. It's a little nerve-wracking, the idea that this review will be sent out to hundreds of people. I've done face-to-face workshops before, but those were with smaller groups of people. I guess I should be honest; deep down, I'm still the perfectionist I've always been, and I want my work to be as good as I can make it before I show it to other people. But in the long run, the critting will make my work stronger. Hopefully, the crit will be constructive and teach me something. And there are a couple of advantages to having my chapter be reviewed in the newsletter; it may encourage more people to read/review my work (yes, I know I gripe about my crit workload now, but I've lost some of my regulars and could use some fresh sets of eyes), and it gets my name out to a lot of people in the SF field. Any publicity is good publicity, right?

In other writing news, the second chapter of Day is going slowly. I've written three scenes with three of the main characters; now I need the scenes for Luke and Jenna. I'm changing some things about Luke's character, so I'm throwing out his entire scene and starting from scratch. Once I figure out what to do with his scene, I should be able to make some progress. I don't plan to do more than tweak Jenna's scene, but knowing me, once I read it, I'll decide I should throw that out too and write it all over again. I must learn to stop doing that. ;)

In non-writing news, there's not much to report. Eugene and I are making plans for Thanksgiving weekend. We're spending it with his family this year, since my dad is still recovering from surgery. Next Friday, we're having our annual Thanksgiving get-together with Adam and Natalie, friends of ours from the East Coast. They were in our wedding, so we'll show them the proofs. We're also starting to plan our holiday baking extraganza and getting ready for the party we're throwing in a couple of weeks. Busy, busy, busy, but it should be a fun busy.

And now I should really get writing busy and figure out what to do with Luke. Good night, everybody!

Monday, November 14, 2005

I Am Not Dead Yet....

Or even pining for the fields. ;) I've been juggling the various demands of work, housekeeping, spousekeeping, and, of course, writing. My friend Russ just posted in his blog that the only people allowed to say they're busy are parents of little kids. Ever try to write a book, or worse, several books? They're all like hyperactive toddlers running screaming around my brain, insisting on my attention when I have to do something else but not cooperating once I'm finally in front of my computer. I'm afraid of what they would be like if they were teenagers. ;)

So, if there is such a thing as a reader of this blog, the hypothetical reader may be wondering how my writing is going. I've been working on both Day of All Seasons (Chapter Two, where I introduce all of the new Season Lords) and The Key to All Locked Doors. For Day, I finished rewriting the second scene, with Ysabel. I think I still need to weave in a few details about her mother to set up later events, plus I also have to decide if I want to alter Kay's character, since she comes next. Key is moving like molassess, as usual, but I did get some work done on it today at the doctor's office. It would be nice to finish this chapter by the end of the year, since I posted the first chapter on my site well over a year ago. High time I get the first draft of this done, isn't it, especially when I want to revise both Lennon's Line (and decide if I really want to keep it about the Lennon family or if it would be more prudent to file off some of the Beatleness, no matter how painful) and Catalyst in the Crucible. I also have four crits to do on OWW. I've been trying to put my stuff first, and I do write better when I start earlier at night. It still takes me hours to crit some chapters, even if I don't nit the grammar. Other things I want to do are update my website and finish going through my wedding photos by Thanksgiving.

In real life, I did a couple of interesting things. Saturday, Eugene and I went to a holiday party for his mother's company. They had a raffle, and I was feeling lucky, punk. Sure enough, we won...drum roll, please....a black light shaped like a light saber. We are now fully prepared should Darth Vader invade our bedroom at 2 a.m. We can even check him for ringworm at the same time.

Saturday, Eugene and I drove up to Wisconsin to visit my dear friend Liz. She was maid of honor at our wedding, so we wanted to show her our pictures. We're also good friends with her parents, and they enjoyed the pictures too. Liz had a bit of a headache, unfortunately, but it's always nice to see her because it's so hard to schedule something with her work hours.

Anyway, I think that's enough for now. Time to see if I can crank out a few more words for Key before retiring.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I've spent the last two days trying to review a single chapter on the Online Writing Workshop. (Names and titles withheld to protect the innocent or not-so-innocent, as the case may be.) I didn't get all my comments done in a single session, so I posted what I had as of yesterday afternoon, then worked on it again last night. Unfortunately, as I was finishing up, the OWW logged me out, and I lost all of my changes. That'll teach me not to write it up in Word first! It was frustrating having to review it twice, but at least I had a better idea of what to say the second time around. Still, I'd like to make more progress and clear more of the crits I owe before more new chapters get posted. There are days when it would be easier to push rocks uphill in Hades! (Just kidding, really.)

Needless to say, I haven't gotten far on my own work. After the log-out yesterday, I did manage to write over a hundred words in The Key to All Locked Doors, the latest installment in my Lennon's Line saga. One of these days, I hope to finish the chapter. Of course, I'm also revising the second chapter of Day of All Seasons before I post it to the workshop as well. And once I finish reading some of the recent Lennon biographies, I should start revising Lennon's Line. And people think I spend too much time at the computer as it is. Sigh.

Not much going on in real life at the moment. Eugene and I are starting to plan our annual holiday frenzy of baking and entertaining. With all of the people we plan to send cookies to this year, we'll be very busy! At least I have an excuse to try some new receipes. I'm slowly going through our wedding photos and picking out my favorites; I'm only a third of the way through. Two months isn't enough time to get the album figured out. Let's hope Eugene and I agree in our scary way on what we want to do with it.

Speaking of Eugene, I assume he might like it if I spend some time with him, so I'd better call it a night.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Busy Evening

I had a lot of chores to do today. I left work early so I could go pick up my car. (I was in an accident a couple of weeks ago when I had to stop for traffic that had stopped for deer. The car behind me hit my right rear bumper so hard I got knocked into the other lane. Is that the real reason deer cross the road?) It's nice to have my own car back after driving a rental for over a week; I'm much more comfortable with the controls. Then I had to stop at the store, run a few loads of laundry, and get dinner going before Eugene came home. Once we got the laundry folded, I started a project that will take me a while--going through all 971 of our wedding proofs and marking which ones I'd like in our album. I figure I'll review two or three books a day. Of course, even after I finish, Eugene and I will have to decide which ones will make the final cut, how to lay them out, and so on. Good thing we have two months; will that be enough time?

Since I was running late, I decided to skip reviewing the next OWW chapter on my list and work on my own stuff. Words came slowly tonight, but I managed about 200 on Day of All Seasons (part of my fantasy trilogy). Hopefully I finished the scene I was working on, though I'm not sure I like the final sentence. We'll see what I decide to do tomorrow--and if I'm able to revise the next scene without throwing it out and starting over. For some wierd reason, that always seems easier than revising the words on the page. ;)

If all work and no play makes Sandra a dull woman, then I guess I should shut up for the night and goof off with one of the games I've downloaded from Yahoo! Sleep? I don't need no stinkin....zzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Sunday, November 06, 2005


It's all Heather's fault that I'm blogging. :)

Heather is a friend of mine who recently started a blog of her own. I wanted to post a reply, but I couldn't unless I registered. So here I am. I suppose it's inevitable, given that college friends and some of my writing friends are blogging as well. Whether or not I'll find time to keep this up is another story.

A little about myself: I'm 35 and recently married to a wonderful husband named Eugene. My day job is as an assistant scientist in R&D for an enzyme company. In my copious seconds of free time, I'm a science fiction/fantasy writer. I've sold one short story to an anthology which hasn't been published yet. I'm currently working on two separate trilogies, one science fiction (involving time/space travel, alternate universes, quantum mechanics, space colonies, an AI, Shakespeare, and John Lennon's clone--but otherwise nothing much) and one quasi-Victorian fantasy centered around a group of four magical women. Plus I'm also a member of OWW, an online writing workshop for science fiction/fantasy writers. This means I spend lots of time reviewing other people's work and getting reviewed in return. It's helpful, though; I couldn't have sold that short story without the reviews I got from other people. Add in taking care of the apartment and monitoring my favorite forums, and some days I'm lucky if I get five minutes to read. Sigh.

Believe it or not, I do get away from the computer once in a while. I was up in Madison this weekend for the World Fantasy Convention. I attended a bunch of panels on writing and got to meet some people from OWW in person. Eugene and I also had an annual get-together/dinner with some of our friends from college. I haven't downloaded the pictures I took yet, but I'll do that in the next day or so.

I should probably explain the title of my blog. As an SF/F writer, I spend a lot of time thinking about my stories. While I do care about what's going on in the real world, I don't devote much attention to the latest TV, music, movies, and so on; I focus instead on my writing. So how much do I have in common with other people who aren't writers? It's as if my real country is Writing, not Mundania. While I'll discuss other things going on with my life, I intend to talk about writing and my current projects here as well.

Speaking of writing, I think this is enough for one post. I didn't get much writing done at the convention, so it's time to return to fiction for a while....

Site Meter