Monday, March 30, 2009

What Would You Be for a Day?

Shrinking Violets Promotion posed the question today for introverts: what would you do if you were an extrovert for a day? I said I'd want to be at a convention so I could network with other people. I also posed the question (with no response so far): would an extrovert want to be an introvert for a day? Extroverts by definition are not as interested in their interior mental life as introverts are, so perhaps the question would never occur to them. Also, introversion isn't considered as desirable as extroversion, at least in our culture. This makes sense to some extent, as humans are social animals, so someone who didn't find social interaction especially rewarding would be at a disadvantage. However, introverts are less impulsive, and introversion is associated with intelligence. I'd like to keep those qualities, so I'll stick to being me. ;)

Switching places with someone of a different social class (or pretending to be someone of a different social class) is a common motif in fiction. From fairy tales to Shakespeare, characters have pretended to be different genders or of a higher rank than they really are. Sometimes this change is permanent, such as when Cinderella marries the prince and becomes royalty. More often, though, the person returns to her normal situation at the end of the story, hopefully having learned something from her experience.

So, let me pose this question to my readers: if you could become someone else for a day, who would you like to be? Would you want to experience being the opposite sex, someone stronger or more beautiful, or someone else altogether? Leave a comment and let me know!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alex Meets the Easter Bunny

Despite the nasty weather last night, we felt like going out for a bit. We'd heard about a play area in a nearby mall, so we took Alex there. It was a big area, with little slides and bridges and other structures (Looney Tunes characters) for kids to climb on. Unfortunately, it was also very crowded with lots of bigger, older kids who weren't paying attention to what other kids were doing. (It didn't help that their parents weren't paying attention.) Alex enjoyed going down the slide and exploring oversized marbles, but after he got knocked over a couple of times, we decided it was time to leave.

We went around the mall a bit and came across the Easter Bunny. We hadn't taken Alex to see Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny yet, since we weren't sure how he'd react. We decided to give it a try. It helped that we didn't have to wait very long. I thought about changing his shirt but was afraid he wouldn't cooperate. Alex didn't put up a fuss at being given to the Easter Bunny; he just kept on munching some Cheerios. He didn't cry either, but he didn't really smile. The best we got out of him was a slight smirk. We ordered a few pictures anyway. I don't think we have any digital versions of the picture; otherwise, I'd post it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

For Want of a Ring...

Whoever is writing my life these days sure knows how to put obstacles in my path.

I have a big project at work for a customer; I'm supposed to analyze their samples for a couple of common chemicals. (I can say no more.) This process involves purifying each sample so I can analyze it via HPLC (High-Performance Liquid Chromatography). I have over twenty samples, with duplicates of each, and I'm analyzing each sample, including the duplicate, twice. The purification procedure involves a step where I can only centrifuge four tubes at a time, so it took me two days to finish all of the samples. But Tuesday night, as I loaded the HPLC, I anticipated having all of my data by Wednesday morning.

That was my first mistake.

I came in Wednesday and reviewed my data. Most of my samples had usable data, but some of the runs didn't work. I set up the HPLC to run them again overnight. Again, some of the runs worked, but many didn't.

As I was setting up the HPLC to run the samples a third time, I noticed a problem. I asked a co-worker who has more experience with this machine to help me figure out what was wrong. We found that a white O-ring in the pump was out of round, causing the pump to leak. We didn't have a replacement on hand, so I looked in the manual, found the part, called the company, and faxed in an order to have more O-rings shipped here overnight.

A couple of hours later, I realized I never got a confirmation that the fax went through, so I sent it again. I left without getting an order confirmation from the company, so I wondered if I would get the ring today.

As it turned out, I did get the order. But when I opened the package, the rings I had ordered were much too small to be the right part.

I called the company again, and they put me in touch with a local serviceperson. I had to talk to him twice. The first time, he gave me the part number I'd already ordered. We discussed sending him a picture of the part, but I managed to lose it before we could take the picture. (Has nobody looked in the wash basin?) I had my co-worker describe to the serviceperson exactly where the part was located. We wound up getting a new part number, and the serviceperson said he would e-mail me a picture of it to confirm we have the right part. I'm still waiting for the e-mail. I'd like to order the part ASAP so we have it by Monday, but there's no point in getting another wrong part again.

Anyway, I managed to sneak two movie references (they're from the same movie) into my tale of woe. Kudos to the first person who can identify the movie. If you know my favorite music group, you have a leg up on the competition.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

I missed last week's Work in Progress Wednesday since I posted about Flogging the Quill. The last couple of weeks have been slow anyway. I know where I need to go with Across Two Universes, but the logistics of getting there are a bit difficult to figure out. I'm tossing out a lot of previously written material to improve the pacing and tension. Here are my current stats:

Currently On: Chapter Six, Page 55 (out of 295)
Word Count: 96,000

At this rate, this will be the shortest novel I've ever written. (grin)

On a positive note, our current blog chain writing challenge inspired me to work on a short story. It's a prequel to the Cupid/Psyche myth. So far it's only about 280 words, but I'd like to keep this one short, perhaps even flash fiction. Of course, first I have to finish the thing. Hopefully I haven't jinxed myself by discussing this project.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back on the Blog Chain: Writing Challenge

Since Michelle has already posted her contribution to our latest blog chain, I'll post mine, even though it's a few days early. For this round, Jessica has issued us a writing challenge:

WRITE! I want a short story. (Mine is 250 words. Feel free to write one hundred, three hundred, five hundred...whatever! words) Yesterday's poem was a hint because it had a heart involved and that's the only stipulation I have. Somehow, someway, heart(s) must be involved.

So far, all of the stories have been incredibly polished, as if everyone spent a month on them instead of a couple of days. We've also had some bitter/sad stories about immortal hearts, bitter hearts, and broken hearts. And now for something completely different. That's right; my story is inspired by Monty Python and The Holy Grail/Spamalot. (Eugene and I saw Spamalot in Chicago the night we got engaged.)

Two Knights, One Heart

Sir Lancelot and Sir Galahad pulled up in front of the evil sorcerer Knogudnis’s castle. The moat was so fetid their horses were able to walk across, despite their heavy armor. After dispatching the zombies spilling out of the portcullis, the knights entered. Inside, a mat of cobwebs draped the hall from the doorway to the staircase at the other end.

“Who dares trespass here?” a booming voice called from above.

Lancelot started to charge the stairs, but Galahad held him back and replied in a falsetto, “Avon calling!”

“I’m not buying!” A door slammed.

“That wasn’t very knightly.” Lancelot stared at his companion in disbelief.

“We need to learn Knogudis’s weakness before we can engage him in combat.” Galahad pulled a parchment titled The Compleat Idiot’s Guide to Slaying Villains from a slot in his armor. He unrolled about a third of the scroll. “Here we are. In order to kill an evil sorcerer, we have to destroy his heart.”

“No problem.” Lancelot unsheathed his sword. “One stab to his chest should take care of that.”

“It’s not that easy, Lance. Sorcerers often magically remove their hearts and hide them in some strange place, such as in a white hare hidden in a black swan hidden in a red doe...”

“Is that like turducken?” Lance smacked his lips. “That’s good eating!”

“What sort of creature is that?”

“You weren’t at the Christmas feast last year, were you, Gal?”

“Don’t call me that.” Galahad smoothed his blond curls back under his helmet and made a mental note that it was time to brave a visit to the barber. “Anyway, we need to search for the hiding place of Knogudnis’s heart.”

Since no maids, buxom or otherwise, were available, the knights were forced to clean the hall by themselves. The cobwebs were so tough they dulled the swords. Eventually, however, the knights discovered furniture, a fireplace, and tapestries on the walls.

“Hey, Gal – I mean Galahad, look at this.” Lance pointed to one of the tapestries. “That’s writing, isn’t it?”

Galahad squinted. “This looks like a reminder list. ‘Notes to Self: The zombies only eat brains, check if you left your wand in your robe before doing the laundry, and your heart is behind the third brick from the left, fifth row of the fireplace.’” He shook his head. “It can’t be that simple. It can’t be...”

A door creaked open. “Are you still there? Begone before I turn you into toads!”

Lancelot approached the fireplace and began counting, referring frequently to his fingers. “Hey, Gala, which way is left?”

Galahad sighed. “It’s this brick.” He tapped one with his sword.

Lancelot unstrapped a battle-axe from his back and swung mightily at the brick. It crumbled into powder on impact. Something dark and shriveled rolled out from a cavity in the fireplace. Galahad skewered the heart with his sword.

A high-pitched wail assaulted their ears, and an emaciated body with white wild hair and gaudy robes tumbled down the stairs to land at their feet.

Galahad prodded the body with a toe, then rolled up his parchment. “Well, no one ever said Knogudnis was a smart evil sorcerer.”

I hope that was good for a chuckle or two. Head on over to Kat's blog to read her story!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Publically Flogged!

We interrupt this busy work day for an important announcement: a critique of my novel opening is up at Flogging the Quill. For those of you who aren't familar with that blog, the author who runs it looks at the first sixteen lines of your novel (essentially the first page) and offers his opinion as to whether it has enough tension to make him turn the page.

So, did he?

He did.

He said it was close, though. He wasn't fazed by my mention of two universes in the second line, but he did suggest I could cut some lines of dialogue and get straight to the problem (Paul's mom being sick). I think that's a good suggestion and will use it in the rewrite.

Feel free to look at his critique and add your own comments. I'll post my "Work in Progess Wednesday" entry tonight. Now, I have to get back to my experiments.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alex at the Childrens' Museum

It's been hard finding time to blog lately. Perhaps that's due to a lack of energy, which is due to more sleeping problems with Alex. When he wakes up in the middle of the night, no one gets any rest. But when he's interested in something, he keeps going even without a nap. Take this last Sunday, when we went to a first birthday party for the daughter of one of Eugene's family friends. They held the party at the Kohl Childrens' Museum. Unfortunately, the time slot they had was from noon to 1:45, right during Alex's normal nap (and I think also for the birthday girl). The party included general admission for all of the guests, so after lunch and cake, we were able to take Alex around the museum. Even though he's not yet two, there were a lot of things he was able to do. Here are some of the pictures:

We didn't notice he had his hand tucked into his overalls until I uploaded the picture to my computer.

Alex loves yellow. Between the yellow interior and yellow balls, we thought we'd never get him out of there!
Looking at the outside.
Steering a boat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

Better brief than nothing....

Currently On: Across Two Universes, Chapter Five, Page 51 (16.8%)
Total Pages: 304
Total Words: About 100,000

I have the Incredible Shrinking Novel on my hands. I feel like the middle needs more tension and increased stakes, so previously written scenes are disappearing. I have some ideas for replacements, but they still have to be refined and organized.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Back on the Blog Chain: Marketing Your Novel

It's time for another Blog Chain Post. This round, Heather chose the topic:

What plans do YOU have to market your novel? How will you make sure the public finds your work?

Michelle posted right before me, so be sure to check out her thoughts on this topic.

I think the principle of marketing is pretty simple: you need to identify your target audience and let them know in an enticing way that your product exists. The problem is figuring out the best way of doing that.

I have some experience with marketing my work, since I had a short story published in an anthology last year. Among other things, I announced the anthology on my blog and my website, read from my story at WisCon, and gave author interviews for a blog tour. I would definitely do these same things again to publicize a novel. I'd probably attend more conventions after the book comes out; I'd bring bookmarks to leave on the freebie tables and sign dealers' stock (that way, they can't return the books to the publisher.) I'd send sample copies to reviewers. For other ideas, I'd check out Maria Zannini's blog series about Killer Campaigns. She not only lists ideas for publicizing one's work but also analyzes how effective they are.

Probably the most effective resource a writer has for publicizing herself is the Internet. It's accessible to anyone anywhere at any time. It's also a great way to make connections. Several of the previous posters in this Blog Chain mentioned that as introverts, they're worried about having to appear in public. I'm an introvert too, which is why I find belonging to writer's groups such as BroadUniverse and The Online Writing Workshop useful. They not only help writers meet other writers but also publicize their success stories. In particular, BroadUniverse is dedicated to promoting women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; the group puts out an annual list of works by its members. With two e-mails to the mailing lists for BroadUniverse and OWW, I can reach over 2000 people. I also plan to use Facebook; I belong to other writer and reader groups there, so I can post information about my novel to those groups too. Since most writers tend to be readers as well, hopefully some of them will be interested in buying the work of a writer they know or have heard of.

(As a side note, I recommend being active in writer groups as much as possible. It not only increases your reputation or "whuffie," but it's good karma. I've donated time and money to BroadUniverse; I'm also the admin for BroadUniverse's group on Facebook. Although I haven't been able to crit much on the OWW recently, I do buy members' books to support them.)

Writers aren't the only readers I plan to target. My book features a fictional version of John Lennon, so I also plan to let Beatles fans know about my book. I'm involved with a Beatles forum, so I could post about my book there. I'm not sure if I could promote my book at The Fest for Beatles Fans; it depends on who I talk to, I suppose. I could also invite people to enter a trivia quiz about the Beatles for a chance to win an autographed book.

Previous posters in this chain have discussed some really creative ideas, such as making a book trailer or creating a piece of jewelry to give away. I haven't made a book trailer yet, though I may have that done once I sell Across Two Universes. Copyright might be an issue there, especially since it would be tempting to use photos of John Lennon. A gold necklace with a cross plays an important role in my story; I could also hold a contest to give one away. Of course, then I'd have to publicize the contest itself. ;)

One final piece of advice I have for other writers is this: if you want to use your name as an address for your website, secure it as quickly as you can. My late writing teacher, Kathleen Massie-Ferch, was unable to use her name because someone else squatted on the domain name and wanted a high price for it. That's why I set up my site years ago, before I had any sales to promote.

That's all I have for now. Head on over to Kat Harris's blog for her marketing ideas.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

Hard to believe it's been a week since my last blog entry. Alex hasn't been sleeping well, so I haven't been sleeping well. Heck, I don't sleep well even when he does. I've either busy or too tired to blog, but updating my status doesn't take too long.

After reading the post on the QueryTracker blog about manuscript formatting, I decided to switch from Courier to Times New Roman for my font. Consequently, the total number of pages in my manuscript shrank dramatically since last week:

Currently On: Chapter Five, page 45
Total Pages: 309
Total Words: About 101,000

(As you can see, I pulled out some text as well, though I put it in a separate file in case I decide to use it after all.)

For comparison, last week I was about 12.7% through the manuscript; now, I'm at 14.6%. Not too bad, given I didn't get much done over the weekend.

My chapter ending did well during Authoress's Drop the Needle crit-fest last week. Most of the suggestions were nits, pointing out some repetition and sentences that could be tightened. Otherwise, almost everyone wanted to read further. I'm pretty pleased, especially since that scene is new.

Time to get back to work; I left Paul after he revealed his secret to his friends. They're reacting differently to different parts of it, so there's lots of potential here for conflict. My latest Blog Chain post will appear by Friday or Saturday, so come back soon!

Site Meter