Thursday, June 29, 2006

Take the Long Way Home

When I leave work, I have to make three left turns to get onto the highway for home. The first turn is a doozy; with all of the office buildings around me and everyone trying to leave at 5:00, I can easily wait 10 minutes to make one turn. So lately I've been making a right turn instead to use a road that roughly parallels the highway. Although this route can also get busy, traffic moves a little better than it does out of the office area. It's also handy if I need to run errands; I pass by the mall, Best Buy, a grocery store, Target, and Walmart. But what I like most about this route is the scenery. It passes through a small town that still has a bit of an historical atmosphere to it--old buildings, brick road in the middle of downtown, a park with a gazebo and flags for the Fourth--that type of town. I like the area so much I'd consider buying a house there if I only had myself to consider. Also, there are a lot of trees along this route, and I find it more pleasant to drive than the highway. It does take more time to travel this way than when I use the highway, which is why I almost always take the highway in the morning. But it works well when I want to unwind a bit before I reach home.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Evening with Laura Anne Gilman

I just got back from the library and a "meet-the-author" event. The author was Laura Anne Gilman; she writes a contemporary fantasy romance series. There were only a few people in attendance, though one of them brought in her little boy, and his running around kept us entertained before the event started.

Laura started by reading from her latest book, which came out Friday. It was a good thing I'd read the first book in the series over the weekend, otherwise I'd have no idea what was going on. Afterwards, there was a question-and-answer session. I didn't take notes, and I only asked one question (how long does it take you to write your books?). Here are a few things I remember:

She's an organic writer; she knows a few things that will happen along the way, but she doesn't know the ending until she gets there. She also doesn't write the last chapter until she finishes the rest of the book; once she writes the ending, the book is done for her.

She has lots of notes all over her desk, but she also keeps a lot of the world-building in her head, which would make it difficult for her to collaborate with someone.

Characters she intends to be "walk-ons" have grown into larger parts.

She draws inspiration from all sorts of writers, including mainstream ones. One of her influences is an old favorite of mine: Mercedes Lackey. She cites Lackey's character development and says that her characters live on once the story is over. (This is especially interesting to me because I get something different from Lackey; her character types tend to blend together in my mind after having read a lot of her books, but I find her settings to be very comfy and inviting.)

Since her stories are set in Manhattan, she does a lot of research to make sure the general setting is correct. For instance, when she had to write a scene about a bridge, she went to the site and took a lot of pictures. However, she altered a few minor details to make the story work. Her heroine's apartment building doesn't exist, but she knows the corner where it's supposed to be.

She thought at first this series would be composed of stand-alone books, but after inventing her male lead's background, the world became more complex and interesting. Her heroine develops from a child (even though she's in her twenties at the start of the first book) to a responsible adult who helps her community come together to ward off an outside threat.

She describes herself as having two separate brains that don't talk to each other, a lizard brain and a mammal brain. The lizard brain hides under rocks and leaves ideas laying around for the mammal brain, which does the conscious writing and is amazed by how well all the ideas fit together.

She broke in by pounding her head repeatly against the wall until it (the wall, not her head), gave way.

She admitted to a continunity error and found a typo during the reading. She says about 80% of the typos and other errors in a book come from the author, but the typesetter gets blamed for all of them. ;)

She says writers are crazy, but that's something I already knew. ;)

At the end, she signed my book. I didn't have a lot of questions, so I left right away to come back to my laptop. If I ever want to be as successful as she is, I need to put in more time writing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Party Pictures

Eugene sent me some photos he took at the graduation party yesterday:

Sophia, one of our flower girls, and her father, Dirk. (He's my cousin.) Sophia's grown a lot since our wedding!

My cousin's husband Al is in the background; Uncle Andreas is holding Ari.

There's one more picture, but I didn't save it to my computer.

Writing: I copyedited the first chapter of Crystals for Sue and did a quick edit of one of my own chapters in Lennon's Line. I corrected a few typos but didn't change much; it's nice to know I am capable of leaving my writing alone instead of tossing it all out and starting over with each draft. Still, editing and outlining don't satisfy my writing needs; maybe I can try writing out a short story version of the sequel to Lennon's Line instead of outlining it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Graduation Party

Eugene and I went to a graduation party today for my first cousin once removed (i.e., my cousin's daughter--I had to look up the exact relation), Maria. She finished high school a couple of weeks ago. I don't get to see my cousins too often, just for big events like the wedding last year, so it was good to see my aunt and uncle and cousins. My parents were also there, but they showed up over 90 minutes late because Dad had to finish watching the soccer game first. No wonder Eugene and my dad get along so well. I also met a couple of my old neighbors from when we lived in Elmhurst, including the woman who threw a baby shower for me. The food was very good; it should be, as my cousin-in-law owns a restaurant in town. I haven't been there for a while; we need to stop in sometime. We talked about getting the family together at a Japanese steakhouse sometime. Hopefully we can actually do this instead of just talking about it. I don't have any pictures of the party on my own camera, but Eugene took some. I can post them when he sends them to me.

Writing: After staring at a section of Lennon's Line that I've been having problems with, I stuck with what I had and decided to keep going. I can't really judge how well it works; I'll leave that to my reviewers. I should have a couple of chapters for Heather in the next couple of days.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

I Went to a Garden Picnic...

I spent most of the day running errands and cleaning (and no, I haven't gotten any writing done yet). Since the weather was so nice today, Eugene and I had a picnic at the Chicago Botantic Gardens. You can't actually eat inside the gardens, but there's a picnic area by the parking lot that you can use. We had wine, lemonade, sourdough bread, Brie cheese, German potato salad, meatloaf, and berries mixed with fruit dip. We enjoyed it, as did the birds and chipmunks hanging around. Afterwards, we walked around the gardens for a bit. We didn't see the swans this time, but we did see a great blue heron. Unfortunately, it was too far away for us to take a good picture; even Eugene's powerful lenses weren't up to the job. We left shortly before sunset and browsed a bit at CompUSA before returning home.

P.S. We did take some pictures, but since it's so late, I'd rather wait until tomorrow to upload them.

Friday, June 23, 2006

End of the Week

Ah, it's good to get something important accomplished at work by Friday. Exactly what I did I can't say, since the project will be moving into another phase next week. I relaxed at home tonight with Eugene. We made smoothies and watched a mini-marathon of Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Speaking of Whose Line, one of the bloggers I follow regularly hasn't posted since Sunday. Where are you, Russ? It's summer; you're not supposed to be working this hard!

Writing: I managed to get part of the buildup done by bringing up John's old friend Stu. I'm using a couple lines from one of John's letters to Stu in place of copyrighted song lyrics, so I wanted to bring him up to explain why John would be thinking of him (and singing those lines). Now I still have to write the actual moment when Jo hears John sing and show why she cries. This has been a big roadblock, so I hope to make better progress once I'm past this chapter.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Listening to Some Different Tunes

Things went better at work today, even though I didn't do as well at Family Business. But tonight I critted Sue's latest chapter and ripped a couple CDs I borrowed from the library. Nothing in the rock section called me yesterday, so I wound up borrowing some Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. I just finished listening to the Mikado. I've seen videos of it but haven't been to a live performance. Still, it's fun listening to it. I also checked out the Wurst of P.D.Q. Bach, which I used to have on cassette. (Remember those things? I still have my casette collection, but I don't listen to them much because I don't have a player in my car. Some of my favorites are getting too worn anyway.) My favorite song from P.D.Q. Bach is the Cantata "Iphigenia in Brooklyn." How can you resist kazoos and running noses?

Writing: Haven't done much so far, and it's getting late. If I can at least finish the scene I'm working on, that'll be progress.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How I Spent My Summer Solstice

I can't talk too much about what's going on at work, though I can say that I won two games of Family Business during lunch. (For those of you who haven't played the game, it's about famous mobsters. Each player runs a mob and tries to take out other players' mobsters while protecting her own. The survivor is the winner.) After work, Eugene and I went to the library so he could do some genealogical research. I checked out a few CDs and signed up for an author visit next week. Laura Anne Gilman will be at the library; she writes fantasy and science fiction. I've read a few of her books but not the most recent ones. Maybe I should get one from her latest series this weekend, though the last thing I need to do is add to my Twin Towers of Reading.

Writing: Beating my head against a brick wall. Melinda posted a synopsis on OWW, and I'm not sure how to go about critting it. She's focusing on character development instead of overall plot, and while I think she needs more of the external plot in her synopsis in her book, she might have a reason for doing it the way she did. Maybe I should e-mail her and ask about it before I try to crit her synopsis.

I'm doing something painful with Lennon's Line; I'm trying to replace song lyrics with uncopyrighted lines from John (from a letter he wrote to his friend Stu Sutcliffe). It's difficult for two reasons. First, I think the song lyrics do a better job of making Jo cry than the other lines do; the only reason I'm changing them is to avoid any possible problems with obtaining permission to use them in a published book (assuming Lennon's Line makes it that far). Second, I have to go back and set up the lines by mentioning Stu earlier. Even with that background, it still seems awkward; the lines are too personal for John to sing at a concert, especially at this point in his life. Maybe it would be easier to pay for permission to use the lines and have done with it. Of course, it would help if I could track down who holds the copyright to that song. I think the composer is still alive, but I don't know if he kept his rights. Maybe I just need to switch projects for a few days until I get past this block.


I think this news is big enough to deserve its own entry: Eugene and I are going to New York and London in September (yes, we'll be there for our anniversary). We found a good deal for a flight and hotel room through a magazine ad, so even though we were originally thinking about going to Rome, we changed our plans. (London was my first choice, and Rome was Eugene's. We each chose the other's first choice as our second choice.) We'll be arriving in New York the day before our flight to London, and we'll take a couple of days to recover from the flight back before returning to O'Hare. Hopefully we can visit some of our New York friends while we're in town. Of course, I also have to figure out how many Beatle sites I can see in London. Unfortunately we won't have time to visit Liverpool, so I'll still have to return to England someday. Liverpool is required for Beatle fans!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More Pictures

Eugene with another friend of his he met during his surgery internship.

A picture of us. I'm wearing my tango dress, but we didn't tango at the wedding.

First dance.

All Right...The Wedding Pictures

Since Russ is prodding me, I better post some pictures from the wedding this weekend. These are just a few of the ones I took; Eugene got much better shots of some things than I did. He hasn't sent them to me yet, though. (Humm, will anyone buy that as an excuse? Probably not.)

Lighting the unity candle. As you can tell by all the heads, I was sitting near the back of the church. That's why I don't have a lot of pictures from the ceremony.

Leaving the church.

I know Oscar's name isn't on the placecard, but he crashed the wedding anyway. At least he didn't eat much.

Eugene, Oscar, and the beaming bride.

Sunset by the lake.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wine and the Wedding

I was too tired last night to blog after we got back from the wedding, so here's a quick rundown of our weekend:

We spent some time yesterday morning driving around and looking for a local winery in the middle of nowhere. Despite our usual navigation misadventure, we found the place and were able to sample several wines and a couple of liquors. We bought six bottles, and Eugene signed up for the mailing list. There were a couple of other wineries in the area, but we had time to visit only one. Besides, it wouldn't do to sample too much wine before the wedding. ;)

After lunch, we changed and rode a specially chartered bus to a 19th-century church. It held over 260 people, and the place was packed. No wedding is perfect, and the ceremony had a couple of glitches: for reasons unknown, it started 18 minutes late (the priest pointed out in his homily that this was a church record), and a couple of the readers flubbed their lines. During the prayers for the faithful, the readers said that the bride's grandparents were no longer alive when they were very much alive; the audience laughed. The important thing, however, was that the couple did get married successfully , and they seemed quite happy. The bride beamed during the entire ceremony. This is the first wedding Eugene and I have been to since our marriage, so the vow exchange was quite meaningful to us. That didn't keep Eugene from asking someone with ESPN on his cellphone about the U.S.-Italy soccer game during the ceremony. Ah, I rib him, but I expect no less of my soccer fanatic. ;)

After the bride and groom rode off in a horse-drawn carriage, we took the bus to the reception, which was held at the bride's parent's summer home on a lake where the bride and groom got engaged. It was outdoors under a tent. Despite the predicted heat, it wasn't that bad, though the gnats did get annoying. The caterers did a great job. We wound up leaving early since Eugene's shoulder was bothering him. There was a post-wedding brunch this morning, though, so we got to spend a little more time with the bride, a mutual friend of Eugene and the bride, and some other Chicago-area guests. (I should also correct a previous blog entry: Eugene didn't meet the bride in vet school; they met during an internship he did at a surgical clinic. If I still didn't get that right, Eugene, feel free to explain it.)

We stopped to have a late lunch with Eugene's family before we made it home. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see my own dad today, so I called him instead. Hopefully soon we can treat him to dinner to make up for it.

I didn't get much writing done over the weekend, but I reviewed Sue's latest chapter tonight and went through some of Lennon's Line. Since Eugene did all the driving this weekend, I managed to read three novels this weekend--not that it makes much of a dent in my "to-read" stacks.

I'll post pictures tomorrow; I'm too lazy to upload mine right now, and Eugene's turned out better anyway.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Blogging in Benton Harbor, Michigan

That's where Eugene and I are tonight. We're here because tomorrow one of Eugene's friends from vet school is getting married. I took the day off of work so we could leave early. Despite the construction around Chicago, we got here around 3:00 (or 4:00 local time). After chilling in the hotel room, we drove around for a while. There isn't much to see in town, but we did learn about a winery/tasting room that we'll check out tomorrow morning before the wedding. In the meantime, we had dinner at Applebee's and made boats with the garnishes from our sangrias:

Tonight, Eugene is reading ahead for his genealogy while I revise Lennon's Line. I'm not sure if I'll have a chance to blog tomorrow, but if not, you'll hear about the wedding on Sunday.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Weekus Interruptus

That's what my week feels like so far. I "tele-experimented" from home last Friday and this Monday, but they didn't work out as well as we would have liked. So I repeated one of the experiments at home today. Friday is a vacation day so Eugene and I can go to a wedding in Michigan. I do have to go in tomorrow, and I'm sure it'll be a busy day.

Thought for the day: what makes people want to join/participate in groups, particularly in professional organizations? I'm on the Membership Committee for Broad Universe, which promotes women writers of SF, fantasy, and horror. We're trying to brainstorm ideas to increase membership. (If any of my writer-readers are interested in learning more about BU, please let me know.) Obviously we need to target the places where writers can be found, such as cons, bookstores, and libraries. But we also have to convince them that it would benefit them to join. I can speak from experience; I sold my short story because I learned about a dragon anthology from the BU mailing list. Of course, I'm still next-to-nothing on the SF totem pole, so I doubt my testimonial will offer much. Perhaps part of the answer ties in with Sara's recent blog about marketing : direct personal interaction might be the best way to go. So far, the best places for BU to interact directly with other writers have been at cons. They have a info table, readings, and occasionally parties. It would be nice if we could think of other venues for these events.

Writing: I finished critting Sue's latest chapter and finished editing Chapters Two and Three of Lennon's Line. Sue, of course, is way ahead of me as she reads it, but that's a good thing. Thanks for taking the time to reread the whole book, Sue; I appreciate it. I think for the rest of the night I'll stare at a different story and see if I can make some progress with it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Meeting Moby

After all of my cleaning for the last two days, Eugene and I took the day off to visit our friend Jen. (If you're reading this, Jen, say hi!) We had a grillout with turkey burgers (especially good with fresh basil and garlic), lots of veggies, potatoes, and fruit. Jen had asked to see our wedding album and video, so we brought them along. But the main entertainment was her Great Dane, Moby. As you can see from these photos, he's well-named:

I'm over here!

In Moby's mind, he's a lapdog. Doesn't he realize he weighs more than I do?

A nice profile shot.

Writing: I reviewed Sue's latest chapter and am currently editing Chapter Two of Lennon's Line. It's tedious work, and it's hard to make myself work on it. Maybe it would help if I set goals for myself, such as editing three-five pages a day. I am doing some of my usual "throw it out and write something different," but I'm trying to keep that to a minium. The main reason I'm doing it in some spots is to make the scene more immediate and in line with a 3rd person point of view. Jo could get away with summarizing some things when she was telling the story, but I don't think that works as well in 3rd person. One of these days I need to write a "Passing the Pen" essay about the POV conversion.

I'm thinking about also working on a short story I started a couple of years ago; I put it aside because I could tell I wasn't nailing the voice. Perhaps that's another piece that would work better in 3rd person than 1st. The main character of that story is a sentient computer, and it's challenging to use his perspective.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Dairy Queen

With the advent of warm weather, Eugene has been corrupting me by treating me to Dairy Queen. (Not that I've minded.) Normally we just pick up a couple of Blizzards via the drive-thru and head home, but this evening we parked nearby to eat them. It was a cool day here for June, with a little rain, so there weren't too many people walking up to the normal service window. A fair number of cars went through the drive-thru, though.

The experience made me think of times when my parents treated me to ice cream. When I was very young, we also went to Dairy Queen, though I'm not sure if they had Blizzards back then. (Didn't Blizzards come along in the 80's?) Later, when we lived in the small town of Delavan, they had an independent ice cream place called Anchor Inn. It's been so long since I went to that part of Delavan that I don't know if Anchor Inn is still in business. Much later, when we lived in Janesville, a city several times as big as Delavan, my parents would treat us to ice cream at -- McDonald's. I think Janesville does have a Dairy Queen and several other places to get ice cream, but I think my parents just preferred the soft serve at McDonald's. The only thing is that it's so very vanilla. Isn't it common knowledge that chocolate is one of the main food groups?

I may not be losing weight, but at least I have a backlog of memories along with my ice cream, and they're fat-free.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Hard Day's Night

I worked from home again today, so while my experiment was running, I got some chores done. I ironed, cleaned the kitchen and bathroom, and straightened out the hall closet. Later, I also baked a loaf of bread. Remember that afghan I talked about a few months back? I finished the crocheting part of it; I still have to tie fringe on the ends before it's finished, but I'm nearly done. And yes, I did manage to get a little editing done on Lennon's Line. I have a few more chores and errands to do tomorrow, but I should also have more time for writing too--not to mention more energy!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Foot Spa

Time for a lighter subject, I think. A pedicure should do the trick. Today I had a chance to try out my new foot spa from Walmart. It only cost about $14--cheaper than a pedicure at a salon. I hung out with Eugene and watched TV while soaking my feet. The foot spa produces massaging vibrations and air bubbles that feel very good. Bubbles and lavender foot soaking solution don't go together too well, however; the bubbles piled up halfway to my knees. Also, the foot spa doesn't heat the water, so you have to use warm water for the best effects. This is probably a good thing, since I'd soak my feet until they shriveled if the foot spa warmed the water. A little scrubbing and polish, and my feet are good to go. Of course, I can't wear sandals at work, so I'll have to wait for the weekend to do that.

Writing: I continued work on Chapter Two of Lennon's Line, changing a summary into a scene. I wrote about 350 new words so far, which isn't bad for me. Descripition is still pretty skimpy, though, but that will come on the next pass.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Numbers and Patterns

Well, today is a day people have been dreading: 06/06/06. It seems a lot of people interpret this as 666 when it's really 60,606 or if you leave zeroes out of the month and day (but not the year; I've never seen that done), 6,606. It's like zeroes mean nothing to people. (rimshot) Well, the worst thing that happened today was that Billy Preston, who played with the Beatles during their rooftop concert, passed away. May he rest in peace.

The fuss over today's date got me thinking about patterns and the human brain. If you read books by Michael Shermer, a skeptic, he points out that the human brain is programmed to find patterns, even if they don't exist. It's a trait that's helped us learn how to dominate the planet, but too many false patterns can create superstitions. All of us, no matter how educated or scientifically minded, are prone to the nonrational; it's embedded too deeply in our brains. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it can be hard finding the right balance between logic and intuition. I sometimes think that even though we owe our current society to developments discovered with reason, there's a hidden backlash against reason that makes people trust intuition more. Ever notice how stories encourage the protagonists to listen to their intuition? ("Use the Force, Luke!") They seem more common (or maybe more popular) than stories about heroes or heroines who use reason to guide them.

Writing: I finished editing Chapter One of Lennon's Line and am moving on to Chapter Two. So far I'm still working on the opening, making it more "show" and less "tell." I'm also trying to mix some first person (via Jo's journal) back into the story. We'll see how it works out.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Website Update

My writer readers (does that make sense?) may appreciate this update. I've uploaded my notes from half-a-dozen science fiction conventions. I've been to about a dozen, but at some of them, I took notes in longhand instead of on my laptop, and those notes are hidden somewhere in the chaos of my office. I've grouped the panel topics into broad categories of science; writing: the business; writing: the craft; and pyschology (which also covers feminist topics). They're pretty rough, and I unfortunately didn't keep lists of the panelists. Hopefully my notes will still be useful to people.

A Couple More...

Eugene and the swans.

He's awake!

In An Orca's Garden

Today Eugene and I took our friend Oscar to the Chicago Botantic Garden. We haven't been there since we took pictures for our wedding in September, and a lot has changed since then. They're shoring up the Japanese islands against shoreline erosion, so all the water had been drained from that area. The project should be completed this summer, however. The weather was gorgeous, especially when the wind came off the lake. But the highlight of the trip was a pair of swans sleeping at a lookout point on Evening Island. One was on the terrace; the other was on a rock not far from shore. We were able to get within a few yards of the one on shore, and it woke up for a while to preen and contort its neck like a floppy rope. Here are some pictures from our trip:

A mini powered sailboat being operated from shore. "Mini" is probably the wrong term to use, as some of these boats had sails as tall as I am. (Not that that's saying much.)

Everything's coming up orcas!

Oscar may be sitting in a tree, but he's not K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

Insert your own caption.

So much for the "The Thinker" pose.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Balcony Garden

I normally like to plant a few flowers on my balcony during the summer. Nothing fancy, just a few annuals in flowerboxes. I skipped it last year due to wedding planning. Now that things have calmed down from WisCon, I had a chance to take of the flowers. I picked some up at Walmart today: three heliotropes (a pretty blue), two miniature roses (dark red), and a tomato plant for Eugene. I didn't take pictures after planting them; maybe I'll do that later this summer. Of course, now that the balcony has some flowers, we have to spend some time sitting out there instead of always working on our computers.

Writing: I was pretty busy with other chores during the afternoon, so after dinner, Eugene and I went to the bookstore, where I wound up bringing about seven paperbacks home. Since we no longer have space for books, and since my "to-be-read" pile will soon overtake the Sears Tower, perhaps that was foolish of me. Someone has to keep the publishers in business, however. I had a fairly productive session with Lennon's Line; I got most of the way through editing the first chapter and added a short scene from Jack's (Jo's uncle) POV. The new section is still rough, but I can polish it later.

Sue commented in her blog about my discussion of characterization yesterday. One of the things she mentioned was that her characters had a counterbalance or foil. I do this too: George accepts his link to Beatledom with far more grace than Jo initially does, for instance. And John's clone, Paul, is the perfect foil to John. Character interactions can be quite complex and deserve more than the brief mention they're going to get tonight, as I should go to bed soon. But before I go, I also want to mention that Sue and commentators also thought that a character need not be completely likeable as long as he/she is interesting. Perhaps that's all I need from my characters in the beginning of the story, that they be interesting. As long as the readers don't end up rooting for the wrong people, I should be OK. But I'll be even better tomorrow after some shuteye....

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yet Another Blogthing

People Envy Your Compassion
You have a kind heart and an unusual empathy for all living creatures. You tend to absorb others' happiness and pain.People envy your compassion, and more importantly, the connections it helps you build. And compassionate as you are, you feel for them.

I Am X-Woman, Hear Me Roar....

You Are Jean Grey
Although your fate is often unknown, you always seem to survive (even after death).
Your mind is your greatest weapon, literally!

Powers: telepathy and telekinesis, the ability to project thoughts into the mind of others, communication with animals

Working at Home and Writing

Today I got to "tele-experiment" and work from home. I can't go into detail what I did or why I had to do it at home. You don't want me tracking you down, do you? That's not a good way to build a readership for this blog. After I was done, I had to go to work and drop off the products of my experiment. It wasn't very fun to have to change out of shorts and drive to work at 3:30 on a Friday, but I was a good girl and did it. I even did some paperwork while I was at the office. Tonight after Eugene and I had dinner, we got Blizzards at Dairy Queen and watched part of a Genesis concert, the one at Wembly Stadium. The music was good, but I can't say the same for Phil Collins' mullet.

Writing: I worked a little bit on Lennon's Line during the day when I had a few spare moments. Currently I'm editing/revising the third draft. I didn't get past the first page, but I did manage to make some changes to the opening paragraph. This is progress, since for the last couple of days I've been staring at the opening and drawing a blank as to what to do to it. Heather's comments gave me some ideas to make it clearer, but only today did they start to gel. I'm hitting the wall again, unfortunately, so I think I may switch stories and see if I can at least get some words down.

Since posting my latest review on OWW a couple of days ago, I've been thinking about characterization. This chapter was close to the opening of the novel, and one of the characters comes across as weak since he has trouble dealing with what's happened to him (granted, several traumatic events occur in succession; anyone would have trouble coping with all of them at once). I've read later chapters of this work, and the character does grow over the course of the story. But even if a character develops over the course of a story arc, do the readers ever get away from their first impressions? I've had critters comment that they've found several of my protagonists unsympathetic for various reasons: Paul started off on the shallow side, Ysabel seemed much younger than she actually was (though at least I seem to have fixed that problem in the current version of Day) and Gwen's arrogance puts everyone off. All of these flaws are ones I want my characters to overcome during the story. Paul's guilt over his mother's death forces him to mature very quickly; Ysabel's responsibilities help her become more self-assured, especially once she's away from her prejudiced father; and constant contact with others who weren't born into the nobility make Gwen more human. The problem I have is that I make my characters so flawed in the beginning that they can become unsympathetic, and if you lose readers in the beginning, they'll never see the characters change. Strangely enough, I didn't seem to have that problem with Jo and and Sybil. Perhaps using first person in their stories helped, or perhaps many readers also go around with chips on their shoulders. I think I may need to learn how to tone down protagonists' flaws a bit and play up their strengths. It's a delicate balancing act, and it's one that you can't really fix without the help of good reviewers to point out when they want to smack your characters.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Because I Promised Russ...

Russ (of "Don't Think Twice") tagged me with this list last week, but since I was busy with WisCon, I put it off until now.

Four jobs I have had in my life:

crew person at McDonald's
teaching assistant
technical writer
assistant scientist

Four movies I would watch over:

A Hard Day's Night
Yellow Submarine (see a theme here?)
Wings of Desire

Four places I have lived:

Delavan, Wisconsin (small town)
Madison, Wisconsin (need I say more?)
Oxford, Ohio (grad school)
Rockville, Maryland (internship)

Four tv shows I watch:

ABC Morning News
ABC Nightly News
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Four places I have been on vacation.

New York, New York
San Francisco, California

Four websites I visit

Favorite Foods:

Rotini and cheese (I make my own sauce)

Four places I would rather be:

Madison, Wisconsin
London, England
Rome, Italy
And just for fun, I'd like to visit Challen, a made-up city for my Season Lords trilogy. The setting is loosely based on Victorian England, but magic makes it more comfortable

Four Memorial Restaurants:

The Berghoff in Chicago (I've blogged about this one)
Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips (my mom used to take me there when I was a kid. The last time I saw one was in a mall in Ohio)
Boston Sea Party (I think Eugene mentioned this one, but I'll say it again since I also went there with my parents. Three long buffets of seafood--what can I say?)
Full House (another place I used to go when I was younger and living in Hanover Park, Illinois. I remember the pineapple from the salad bar and Ms. PacMan. This may have been the first place I saw the game.)

Four Friends I've Tagged Here:

Since Eugene already filled this out on Russ's blog, and since Russ, Sara, and I all read each other's blogs, this is tough. OK, I'll tag Sue, Heather, Maria, and a random lurker on this blog.

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