Sunday, November 30, 2008

Quick Update

Despite the long weekend, I've been too busy doing things to blog. In brief, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my inlaws, took Alex to Chuck E. Cheese, Sam's Club, and the mall on Black Friday (though not all in the same trip), went to Christkindlmarkt, and attended a little girl's birthday party. Oh yes, and I baked three batches of cookies so far. I would have baked another recipe tonight, but Eugene needed to finish some cookies he started earlier. Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

My Blog Chain entry will have to wait until tomorrow; it's too late to work on it tonight.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Love Your Blog....

Abigail at Blogging Experiments nominated this blog for the "I Love Your Blog" award. Thanks, Abi! That was sweet of you. Recipients are supposed to pass this award on to five other blogs (like a tag), so here are my five nominees:

Maria Zannini--for her professional approach to writing and marketing.

Autopilot--I enjoy his sense of humor and his political analyses--even if at times I can't follow them.

Carrie Harris--Another very funny writer.

Don't Think Twice--For your posts on autism and "Dora."

And finally, Shrinking Violet Promotions for realizing writers may be introverts and have a hard time promoting themselves.

I could have picked more, but I figured I should stop here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Justifying an Addiction

Since I joined Facebook, I've been trying lots of the applications people keep sending me. Some of them I try a couple of times and decide I don't care for them too much, but some of them can be practically addicting. One of the latter is Pet Dragons One (a sequel is in the works). It's a simple premise; a friend gives you a dragon egg, and you hatch it and raise the dragon. Every day you have twenty actions, or turns, you can use in feeding your dragon, letting it collect gold, or training it for combat with other dragons. There are a variety of different strategies one can use in this game; you can try to be the biggest dragon, the richest, the best fighter, or an all-around type of dragon. Although the game really doesn't require a lot of time (you can use all of your turns in a few seconds, and once you send your dragon off to combat, it can take up to twelve hours to resolve the battle), I still find myself checking the game constantly and learning as much as I can on the forum. I'm also looking forward to Pet Dragons Two, which should be coming out in the next month or two.

It didn't take me long to realize that a group of people who are interested in dragons might be interested in reading about dragons, especially the Firestorm of Dragons anthology. When I set up my dragon, I named her after a character in my short story, and I based her profile on that short story too. I did mention the anthology on the forum, though I did so in a thread devoted to dragon books. And tonight, when I earned enough gold to buy a custom title, I chose "Firestorm of Dragons." I wanted to make it "Read Firestorm of Dragons," but it didn't fit. I don't know if this marketing will have any effect, but I figure it's my best chance at turning the game gold into real cash.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back on the Blog Chain: Writerly Gems

It's time once again for another (cue deep, echoing voice) Blog Chain Poooost! (end voice) This time, Michelle has asked us to share a favorite poem, quote, joke, anecdote, or anything of the sort that deals with writing, writers, the publishing industry, or the other strange and unusual tidbits that belong to our little world.

I'll share four little gems with you today. The first is the Chinese rejection letter. I don't remember exactly where I first saw this; I think it may have been in a book, which I then copied and saved. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I still have the paper. Luckily, I did some Googling and found this link, which explains the Chinese rejection letter and offers an example. (I think my version was more poetic, but that's the price you pay for convenience, I suppose.)

The second example I'd like to share with you is Nancy Fulda's "Let There Be Write," published by Strange Horizons in 2005. To respect her copyright, I'm simply providing a link instead of quoting the text, which is a writer's version of the Creation myth. I think most of us will agree with the ending.

If you're a fan of Whose Line is It Anyway?, then you can probably picture Colin Mochrie saying, "As long as there's been writers, there's been songs about writers. The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and Sting--these are just a few of the artists who threatened to sue us if we mentioned them on the air." But I couldn't resist throwing in this video:

Finally, I'll end with a personal ancedote. In the early days of my con-attending, I'd dress up. No, not in costume, which would have been fun; I'd dress up in blazers and slacks and skirts, hoping to impress an agent with my professionalism. (These days I just dress casually, since so many of the pros do anyway.) One year at WindyCon, as I was attempting to enter the con suite, someone sitting in the hallway must have thought I didn't fit in at the con. He challenged me with the question "What is the meaning of life?" I responded, "If you have to ask, you'll never know." He acknowledged that was a good answer and let me pass. What does that have to do with writing? Well, if you have to ask, you'll never know. ;)

Anyway, I'm sure the others in this chain have plenty of other gems of their own to share, so I'll turn you over to Kate. I'll be picking the topic next time, so please check back December 1 (I'm sure I'll blog before then, but that will be my next Blog Chain entry) to see what we're discussing next!

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Eugene saw an ad in the paper the other day for a Christkindlmarkt going on the first couple of weeks in November at a nearby mall. Long-time readers of this blog know we go to the one in Chicago every year, but we thought that we'd try this one. After all, if it was in a mall, it would be inside, and we wouldn't have to go when the the weather gets even worse than it is now. So after we got everyone ready, off we went. What we didn't realize, however, is that this mall was an outdoor mall. So we were out in blustery weather anyway, which made me feel bad for Alex, who has a cold. (The poor guy already has cabin fever; as we were leaving, he led me down the driveway to the park. We let him go around for a few minutes, but the equipment was too wet for him to play.) We stopped in at Crate&Barrel/Land of Nod to warm up. Alex fussed to get out of the stroller. When I get him out, he was all over grabbing things. He especially enjoyed Land of Nod, where he got to play with a wooden train, grab paddles for an air hockey game, and play the tambourine. Somehow, we managed to leave without breaking or buying anything.
Eugene and I were disappointed by the Christkindlmarkt. It was smaller than the one in Chicago, and some of our favorite booths weren't there. The only thing we wound up buying was a shirt for Alex:

Also, Alex made up for his long nap yesterday by waking up early from his nap screaming. I gave him Motrin, and Eugene calmed him down. But I didn't get to take him to the library to play again. So it turned out not to be one of the most fun or productive Sundays we've had in a while. At least Eugene did get to put up some floating shelves in Alex's room and the study. We've had this house for almost a year; it's about time we decorate a little.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Shop Til You...Sleep?

Continuing the patriotic theme from Election Day, I decided to do some shopping today to help the economy. (How's that for a segue?) Of course, that wasn't my only motivation; it's always nice to get out of the house with Alex on Saturday while Eugene works, and there were some things I wanted/needed. Poor Alex wanted to get out of the house too; he kept looking and pointing outside, and when I finally managed to herd him out to the garage, he tried walking down the driveway (accompanied by me, of course) toward the local park. Unfortunately, today was too cold and drizzly for the park. But eventually I got him, the diaper bag, and the stroller loaded in the car, and off we went to the closest strip mall.

We stopped first at Linens N Things, one of the victims of this economy. Their bankruptcy is my gain. I took advantage of the reduced prices to replace the seat cushions for the kitchen chairs (the old ones originally tied onto the chairs, but the strings came off years ago) and get new towels/area rugs for the half bath downstairs. I even got Alex some iced animal crackers.

I placed my bags in the car, transferred Alex to the stroller, and headed to my next store on the list, TJ Maxx. This store tends to be hit or miss for me, but today was a good day. Since the owner of our company is stopping by next week, I need some dressier clothes than jeans. I bought myself a pair of black slacks and two wool sweaters, plus a new wallet. I also found a couple of outfits and several books for Alex. While I was browsing through the children's clothes, I noticed he looked very tired. The next time I looked at him, he had fallen asleep, despite the cookies I had given him. He stayed asleep while I finished shopping, transferred him to the car seat, drove home, and brought him upstairs to the crib. He wound up taking the longest nap he's had in a while: about four and a half hours. I was able to get most of the laundry done and pick up around the house a little, but I worried a little about him. He had fallen asleep earlier than normal, and I hadn't been able to remove his coat. It also seemed that he stumbled more often than normal this morning. I heard him stir from time to time, but when I went in there to check on him at one point, he had flipped over but was still sleeping. By the time he got up, it was too late to bring him to the library to play there and return some materials. He ate, read books with me, and got poop on my jeans when he sat down on me as I was changing his diaper.

We were supposed to go to an improv show tonight; unfortunately, my parents had to cancel babysitting Alex because my dad hurt his back. We were all disappointed, but since we couldn't find anyone else to take our tickets, I guess next time I shouldn't order them in advance. We wound up returning to Linens N Things to buy more items for our house, including floating shelves, artwork, new pillows, and a couple of kitchen gadgets. When it comes to spending money, "Yes, We Can!"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


In Honor of Election Day....

A little blast from the past to celebrate this historic day:

If you haven't voted get, go out there and do so. I went to my polling place twice, actually. I was up early thanks to Alex, so I drove over to the school around 6:50. The line was out the door, so I turned around and went home. I took Alex to daycare and then returned. The lines were shorter this time, but due to a snafu I still waited for over an hour. It's still worth it to have my say, even if I'm only one voter among 130 million. We'll see how much of the election coverage I watch tonight--sugar is no substitute for sleep!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Back on the Blog Chain: Angst and Creativity

Yes, I'm back on the Blog Chain (think, "Back on the Chain Gang") again. This time, Archy picked the topic: Some people argue that creative people need “angst” to produce good work. Do you? What emotions drive you as a writer? Archy said while there may be some overlap between "creativity" genes and "mental illness" genes, mental illness may make it difficult to be creative. Michelle argued that strong emotions are easiest to tap into. I come after Michelle, but as there are others posting after me, I'm not exactly the tiebreaker.

As a sidenote, whenever I hear "angst," I'm reminded of Evard Munch's The Scream:

One of my classmates in grad school had a blow-up doll of the Screamer (I kid you not), and her license plate was "ANGST." G., I hope your life is less angst-full now, wherever you are.

Anyway, when I read Archy's post, I was reminded of my patron muse, John Lennon. John had a traumatic childhood. John's father was a seaman, and while he was away, John's mother became involved with another man. When John was five, his father returned and attempted to make him choose between his parents; John initially chose his father but then returned to his mother, who turned him over to his aunt and uncle so they could raise him. John's mother sparked a love of music in him and gave him his first guitar, but she was killed in an accident when he was 17. All of this family drama remained inside of John for years, resurfacing after his primal scream therapy in his album Plastic Ono Band, particularly in the song "Mother."

John's emotions are so intense on that album that I find it hard to listen to it, even though it's good.

So, in John's case, his angst did fuel at least some of his work. In fact, Paul McCartney also lost his mother as a teenager, and this commonality helped establish the bond between them.

Does angst also inspire writers? Yes and no. Yes, in that I agree with Michelle that writers need to tap into strong emotions to bring their stories to life, and dark emotions like grief or anger tend to be powerful. Also, unlike painting or songs, which can be purely joyful, stories are all about conflict. Reading about someone who has no problems would be uninteresting, so writers often pile obstacles and raw emotions onto their characters. When I was just starting out as a writer, it was difficult for me to place characters in conflict, but I can do so now, even if I feel with them.

On the other hand, like Archy, I agree that too much angst in a person's life can be overwhelming and make it impossible for someone to write. However, moderate emotions can be sublimated into writing. For example, if I feel angry at someone, I might use that anger when writing a scene. This is a positive way to deal with emotions.

Ultimately, I think writers need to handle a variety of emotions when they write. Some of the darker emotions may drive the writing at times, but under all of them (for me, at least) is the desire to connect with someone else through writing, and that's a positive thing.

That's all I wanted to say on this topic, so I will extend the chain to Abi. I know she's feeling a little angsty about this topic, but I hope that will ultimately inspire her for her post.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Blog Tour Schedule

Here's the schedule for the blog tour promoting Firestorm of Dragons this month:

November 1 (Authors and Characters Interview) Time with Tannia
1 (book Information) Tree Lady

3 (character interview) The Book Connection 3 (Information) Interview Joy in the Journey

5 (summary) Brenda Weaver

6 (Summary) Kim Richards on Live Journal
6 (summary) Kim Richards on My Space
6 (summary) Kim Richards on Blogger

10 (character interview) The Book Connection

13 (Kim Richards Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat

14 (Review of Anthology) Bibliophile's Retreat

15 (summary) Cathi's Chatter

16 (review) Cathi's Chatter

17 (character interview) The Book Connection

20 (book trailer) Cathi's Chatter

22 (Bios/book information) Books and Authors

24 (Karina Fabian and Vern Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat

25 (Sandra Ulbrich Interview) Bibliophile's Retreat

Thank you to all of the blogs featuring us this month! Please go check them out.

Whirlwind Weekend

It's feast or famine around here when it comes to my blog. After going through a dry spell when I didn't have anything interesting going on, I now have more blog fodder than I can manage. In fact, I missed my 20th high school reunion and a Halloween party for Alex this weekend. Why does everything have to happen at once?

It all started Friday, on Halloween. This year, Alex had two costumes: a dinosaur and a little devil. He wore the dinosaur outfit to daycare, where they had a little parade and a party for the kids. I don't have the pictures from that yet, but here's Alex earlier this month:

And here's his devil costume:

Notice he doesn't like wearing the caps that come with his costumes.

I left work early on Friday to get ready for a trip up to Madison. After I had most of the packing done (I admit I overpacked, but with a toddler, you need to be prepared for anything), I picked up Alex and took him trick-or-treating to a few houses. Most of the kids came later--and there were lots. I bought five bags of candy; we would have run out if we had stayed for the entire trick-or-treat time. Although Alex wanted to go outside when he saw all of the kids, he was excited enough to hold the candy and wait at the door. At one point, a little girl in an angel outfit came. Eugene said, "Devil, meet angel," and the girl's father replied, "Devil, stay away from my angel." Too bad I didn't get a picture of them together.

We drove up to Madison Friday night and checked into our hotel, a Holiday Inn. This one featured a whirlpool bath in our room (which only got used for Alex's baths, alas) and a water park that we didn't use either. Unfortunately, we didn't have a suite, so when Alex woke up in the night, he could see us, and that made it harder to calm him. We wound up having to bring him into our bed--something we don't plan to do in the future!

On Saturday, we went to the Farmer's Market. I don't have any pictures from there, but Eugene took some. Instead of getting food, we bought a personalized piggy bank for Alex and a toy parrot for a friend's son. I browsed through Wintersilks but didn't find anything, and with Alex needing a nap, we skipped a trip to the Soap Opera. We let Alex sleep in the car while we took turns visiting Borders (one of us stayed in the car with him). We picked up lunch at Whole Foods; Alex woke up and ate a fair portion of a Honeycrisp. Later, we visited our friends for our annual Faux Thanksgiving reunion with our college friends. The food was good, and we enjoyed talking with everyone; unfortunately, I don't have any pictures. All of the kids are growing up, though.

We didn't have a chance to have brunch with our friends this year, since we were supposed to meet my family for lunch at a Polish restaurant. We did stop at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens briefly. Although we lost track of time, it was neat seeing the Thai Pavilion:

Finally, we left Madison to celebrate my grandmother's 94th birthday with my mother's side of the family:

Luckily, at this point, it was a relatively short drive back home. It was great to go, but it's good to be back. Even with an extra hour today, I still have a lot to catch up on.

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