Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Links

I've added a few more links to the sidebar.

The first is for an online writing conference in October. The deadline to register is September 1, so if you're interested, better hurry!

Next is Fantasy Book Spot, a site for book reviews and more.

Finally, there's RallyStorm, a site where you can create your own forums to discuss any topic you like. Check it out!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

Finally, for my non-writing friends, something they can relate to!

We took Alex on his first trip to the zoo today since the weather was fantastic. Alex's sleeping/meal schedule got messed up, but although he had a few fits, overall he did OK. We weren't able to see everything, though, and by the end of the day, he was too tired we skipped the carousel. There's always next time. We took him to the Farm in the Zoo, where he got to see various farm animals. (He's still too young to feed them.) Here are some of the pictures:

The swans with their cygnet.

A deer--I can't remember which one.

A flock of birds in a tree.

A real tiger....

and Alex with a stuffed tiger to take home as a souvenir.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blog Chain: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

As I mentioned in my last post, I've joined a blog chain created by members of QueryTracker, a site devoted to helping writers keep tabs on their submissions to agents. (I'm a member too, but since Across Two Universes isn't ready for submission yet, I haven't used the tracking feature.) The current topic is, "Where do you get your ideas from?" You can follow the chain by going here and here. I've also linked to all of the chain members' blogs in the sidebar, so go ahead and check them out.

It's interesting that this is my first topic in the blog chain, since I wrote an essay about ideas for my website back in 2002. You can still read it here, if you'd like. In that essay, I talk about how the Beatles, particularly John Lennon, inspired the novels I was working on then. One of those novels got sent around to various agents (and to Tor) before being trunked; another has gone extensive revision and is currently titled Across Two Universes. Of course, I wrote that essay six years ago, and I've had other projects come into my life since then. I'll summarize briefly what inspired them.

Much of my inspiration comes from my daily life. My short story "A Reptile at the Reunion" came about from the combination of an invitation to my grad school reunion (which I skipped) and a writing challenge in a magazine. Other short stories (which I've started but not finished) came from a bout of insomina I had this winter or non-buyer's remorse I felt after passing on a beautiful silk blazer on sale up in Madison. These incidents made me think of ways to lure the "sheep of sleep" (the ones you're supposed to count) back into a person's life or what it would be like to discover a chest full of the things you once wanted but didn't get. Interests such as dealing with the conflict between evolution and science inspired me to create an alien race that has a unique way to handle this conflict--except that for one individual, it doesn't work. Yet another short story I need to finish.

Other times I get ideas from reading. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when I find too much of the same type of story on the bookshelves of my local B&N. There are stories that I think need to be told, even if they don't use "conventional" (i.e., commerically popular) types of heroines or themes. For instance, other than Julie Kenner's Demon series, I don't see too many mothers featured in stories. You could say my NaNoWriMo project from last year, about a working mother who gains the ability to turn into an owl, was inspired partly by a desire to find more stories with heroines I could relate to. Part of this idea also came from everyday life. I often see red-tailed hawks as I drive around, so I wondered what it would be like for one of them to be a human in disguise. I thought at first of a stay-at-home mother, but since the character I came up with is divorced, she has to work to support herself and her daughter. I also changed the bird to an owl so she could go around at night (and interact with werewolves), but I have plans to bring a hawk-person into that story as I re-think the plot.

I mentioned before that one of my short stories was inspired by a writing challenge in a magazine. After Firestorm of Dragons was published, I recieved an invitation from the editor to submit something for another themed anthology. (I don't know what the status of this project is, so I don't feel comfortable sharing the topic here.) This might be one of the hardest things for an author, to find an idea about a topic someone else picked. I did some research and thought about what kind of characters could bring a fresh perspective to this topic. Ultimately I did come up with an unusual take on a stock character, which then helped me determine the rest of the plot for the story. Unfortunately, I didn't finish the story before the deadline, but I may go back to it at some point.

I'll finish this post by repeating a point I made back in 2002; an idea alone isn't enough to make a story. Sometimes you need to combine several ideas before you can create the characters and plot necessary to make an idea come to life; other times, you need to interrogate the idea to generate the characters and plot. But when you learn authors such as Mercedes Lackey can write stories about paper bags (see "Roadkill"), you realize there are more ideas out there than you can ever write about.

OK, I think this finishes the blog chain for this topic. Tune in soon when I go Back on the Chain Gang!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shadowing Scientists

I normally don't blog about work, but I thought I could share this with you. Today one of my co-workers brought in her niece to do a shadow study in the lab. I only found out about it this morning. In a way, it's too bad that the niece came in this particular day, since it was relatively quiet in the lab. My boss spent a good deal of time talking to her, and I did show her some of my work in the morning. She did say that she got a lot out of it, even if it's not quite what she's interested in (something to do with the polar regions). But it is good to see students who want to pursue science; there just aren't enough of them, IMO. Given how quickly science and technology advance, I think we need to increase scientific literacy in this country so voters can make informed choices.

In other news, I may be joining a writer's blog chain. One of the members is H.L. Dyer. It's already in progress, but apparently there's always room for more. Maybe I'll post some "catch-up" posts about the topics they've already discussed.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

From Fred Allen:

"I can't understand why a person will take a year to write a novel when he can easily buy one for a few dollars."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Updates to Website

I finally updated my website. I didn't add a lot of material, but I updated my biography and the information about Firestorm of Dragons. It took me a while to get this done. First I had to do the edits in FrontPage, but when I tried to save the files on my computer, I ran into problems with the FrontPage extensions. Although I couldn't figure out how to fix this, some Googling helped me realize that I could edit the webpages another way. I haven't uploaded my latest notes from WisCon yet; that'll come later. Right now I'm too tired.

Alex had a rough night, waking up around 3:30 and not going back to sleep until about 7:00. He literally nodded off in his highchair after breakfast. Luckily I was working from home today, and I was able to get my project started while I waited for him to wake up. Then I brought him to daycare while I finished the job (and, I have to admit, rested/relaxed while I was waiting between steps). He was very upset at daycare, refusing to play outside and tugging his ears, so I brought him to the urgent care clinic after picking him up. For once, he doesn't have an ear infection; he apparently is just having some trouble teething (molars are coming in). I hope he sleeps better tonight; all three of us need sleep desperately!

Friday, August 08, 2008

It's Eugene's Birthday!

And I'm plastering the news all over the Internet. :grin:

We don't have much planned for the day. Given that Alex woke up between 5:00 and 5:30 this morning , perhaps that's just as well. We'll pick up dinner from a local restaurant (easier than eating there with a toddler). Maybe I'll make some ice cream--white chocolate. After that, who knows?

Happy birthday to a wonderful husband and father!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Firestorm A-Brewing

Now that it's August (we're expected to reach the 90's today, but with all the storms we've had so far, I don't know if that will happen), it's time to start thinking about Christmas. At least, that's what my co-authors and editors have decided. They want to promote Firestorm of Dragons as a gift for the dragon-lover. (But why not go ahead and buy it now? It's always reading season in my universe!) So we're going to do a blog tour in November. I don't have many details yet, but I'll post them as they become available. One thing that I do know is that there's a Yahoo! group set up specificially for this book tour, and it's open to bloggers/podcasters as well as the authors. If you know anyone who might be interested, please tell them or pass me the contact information. In the meantime, I'll need to increase my presence in the blogging community to help promote this book. I figure by November, Alex should be past the point where he needs to grab Mommy's fingers to walk around the house. Instead, I'll only have to jump up every five seconds to prevent a walking/climbing/exploring accident. I'm sure I can accomplish a lot with the other four seconds....

ETA: Maria makes a good point; I should include the link to the Yahoo! group. Here it is:

And I can't believe I forgot this (though I've forgotten a couple of other things at work today too); it's the trailer for the book on YouTube:
As always, links to the official website for Firestorm of Dragons and the publisher's website are on the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Kristi's Wedding

My friend Kristi got married yesterday. She met her husband right before Eugene and I had our wedding; I remember asking her if she wanted to bring her then-boyfriend, but she didn't feel ready at that time. Every time I've seen Lyle with Kristi, he's been very supportive of her. So I was very happy when she announced her engagement. I was also honored when she asked me to read a passage from the Bible (part of the "Love Chapter" in I Corinthians) during the ceremony.

Normally, when Eugene and I have a special summer event, it's dreadfully hot that day. Even our wedding, which was in mid-September, was in the 90s. Naturally, we were expecting that pattern to hold for Kristi's wedding, since hot weather was predicted for that day, but our streak was broken. We were not disappointed by this turn of events. The wedding was held not far from the apple orchard where we pick apples, only instead of being on a farm, it was held outdoors in a gazebo overlooking a lake with a fountain. The view was gorgeous, and I'm sure Kristi and Lyle took a lot of pictures there.

The ceremony was probably about a half-hour long, much shorter than ours. Although I came to the rehearsal (with Alex) on Friday, I was late, so I wasn't sure exactly when my reading was. But several people told me afterward that I did a good job, so I guess it all worked out.

After the ceremony, Eugene and I went through the reception line and caught up with Susan and Tina, some friends of mine that I hadn't seen in a long time. We all sat at the same table, which was named for the Beatles. (Yes, Kristi is as much of a Beatles fan as I am; that's how we met.) Kristi did a great job of putting a personal touch on the table names, favors, and other decorations. The food was also good, though if I had to nitpick, I would have to say our table seemed to be one of the last to be served. But the cake was especially good, and they had other sweets as well.

Eugene and I shared a slow dance, and I danced solo when they played some of my favorite songs, but we couldn't stay for the full reception. We had to get back early to relieve my parents, who babysat Alex for us. (He did fine, though he got upset when I called to check in.)

It's time for me to call it a night too. Here are a couple of pictures, though:

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