Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wonderful Weekend

We had a good weekend, though Alex probably had the best time of all of us. ;)

Yesterday morning our favorite pair of babysitters came to visit. One stayed with Alex and took him to the park while I went to the mall with the other one. I meant to buy Alex some more summer pajamas, but instead I wound up buying a pair of slacks, a blouse, and a dress. Maybe this weekend we can use a gift card he got for his birthday.

After Eugene got home, we visited some friends we met in our birthing class. They now have two daughters; one is about ten days younger than Alex (but she really has great verbal skills), and the other is five months. We met the younger one for the first time yesterday. Alex enjoyed playing with all the toys at the house, but he didn't get to play in the pool due to the weather. He also got a belated birthday gift: a set of play golf clubs. (Alex gave Anna a book.)

This morning, I unpacked one of his birthday presents: a "megamaze" consisting of two tunnels, a toy tepee, and a tent. They're supposed to attach together, but they're too big to all have up in the house, and I don't want to leave them outside. Alex loved crawling through the tunnels so much he insisted I do it too. It must be much easier for a toddler than a grownup!

A friend of Eugene gave us free passes for the Brookfield Zoo, so we went after breakfast. By the time we arrived, Alex was already starting to get tired, but he held out long enough to tour the butterfly garden, eat chopped onions (and only chopped onions) for lunch, and visit a "play zoo" where he got to play animal doctor and stare at goldfish. (Yes, we drove 40 minutes for goldfish. Talk about anti-climatic!) He managed to eat some ice cream, but he fell asleep in his wagon on the way back to the car. We didn't get to see much of the zoo, but maybe it'll be easier once he's older. I don't have any photos because the batteries in my camera died.

After we got home and I made Alex pancakes, he was much happier. He played with his new toys and ate turkey burgers, mixed veggies, and watermelon--with ketchup. He wound up going to bed early since he had a short nap. I hope this doesn't mean an early wake-up call tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

It's been a few weeks since I last posted about my progress on Across Two Universes. I needed some time to catch up on things at home. Here's where I currently am:

Currently On: Chapter Nine, Page 100
Total Page Count: 295
Total Word Count: 95,000

I'm behind my schedule of two chapters per month, but this stretch has been tough. It's new material. Basically, I have to transport my characters from Denver to Chicago. They're going by train, so it'll take them about a day and a half. Trying to keep the conflict up during the ride is a challenge. Hopefully once Paul and Sean meet, it'll be easier. Some rewriting will be necessary, but it shouldn't be as much. Of course, I've said that before.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Back on the Blog Chain: Research

I'm up again in our writing blog chain. This time, Kat chose the topic: How do you do research for your settings, your story and your characters' quirks? What interesting tidbits about yourself and the world you live in have you learned along the way?

Anne posted before me, and Archy will follow me.

We've had people in the chain discuss how much research they do. I'm a person who believes in research. Even though I write in a genre where you can "make everything up," I find putting real-world research and details into the story and setting makes it more multifaceted and realistic. (Sorry, Elana.)

When I started writing the first book in the Season Lords series, Google wasn't around yet. (gasp!) I researched my setting (based on Victorian England) the old-fashioned way: I checked out books from the library on my subject, read them, and took copious notes. (Why, yes, I did walk uphill in the snow both ways to the library too.) I also took the opportunity to tour Victorian-era houses when I had the opportunity. (There's actually one called the Tallman House in the town where my parents live. Lincoln slept there one night; we got to see the bed that he used.) I kept a book called What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England by my side when I wrote to look up the odd fact I needed. Even now, as I read non-fiction books and magazines, I make mental notes when I find some interesting fact I can use for world-building.

These days, of course, I tend to use the Internet for most of my research. I have less time to go to the library and read books, but the Internet is almost always available when I'm writing. I normally start with Google. Sometimes this will lead me to Wikipedia. I don't completely trust Wikipedia, but I haven't found anything blatantly false on there yet. I also look for other sites that might be useful. For instance, in my current project, my characters are taking a train from Denver to Chicago in 1980. I've spent a lot of time figuring out the route they took, schedule, ticket price, and accommodations on the train, even though the train ride will only take a few scenes. I came across a great site about the California Zephyr, a train that ran from San Francisco to Chicago. In its heyday, the Zephyr was famous, offering premier service and hostesses known as "Zephyrettes" to assist the passengers in any way possible. Alas, that era ended before Paul and his friends get to ride the train, but they do use the same track and even some of the same cars. I wound up using Amtrak's current schedule and pricing as a guide.

Social networks can also help with research. I happened to mention on my Facebook status that I was researching this particular subject, and a friend saw it and sent me an article on the Zephyr (she got it from someone she knew who was interested in trains). This is a great way to solicit help from other people if you're too shy (like me) to approach them directly.

It's interesting that Kat asked us about researching character quirks. I don't think I've consciously researched character traits, unless it's an illness like manic-depression. Character quirks tend to reveal themselves over time as I work with my characters. For instance, Paul's best friend goes by Scott, but that's actually his middle name. His first name is Oliver, after his mother Olivia; Paul started calling him Scott when he was too young to say "Oliver," and it stuck. I've always known that Yvonne likes flowers, but she told me on this draft that she'd rather study botany than

Kat asked us to share interesting tidbits from our research. I've already discussed the trains, so let's see what else I can come up with. For my current project, I've researched theater layouts, poisons, space ships and space elevators, and scene orders in Hamlet.

That's all for now. Come back soon for another Blog Chain topic!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Alex's Animal Adventures

To make up for lost time during my trip, I've been putting Alex to bed since Wednesday. (Normally we alternate.) It's been taking longer than normal; he falls asleep after drinking some of his milk, then wakes up when I try to transfer him to the crib, finishes his sippy, and finally goes down for the night. I've been getting out of his room around 10:30 p.m., leaving me with no time or energy to do anything, let alone blog.

After all his hard work being "Mr. Mom" last week, Eugene gets to spend this weekend at a photography workshop. It's a pretty intense workshop from what he tells me, and he even got up at 4:00 a.m. today to drive downtown to the course. They're walking around a lot, so I'm not sure if I'd really call it a break. The important thing is that he has fun and learns a lot. In the meantime, I've been solo with Alex since yesterday morning. (Eugene got home last night after Alex was already in bed.) I spend almost every Saturday alone with Alex while Eugene works, so that's not so different. The twist here is putting Alex to bed by myself, since we normally split that. It didn't go too badly last night. The worst part of it was when Alex wanted me to "draw shapes" and I didn't have any bath crayons available. I was forced to use my own makeup. He wound up getting it everywhere, especially on his hands. Everything washed off, but I fear I set a bad precedent.

After a phone call interrupted Alex's nap yesterday, I took him to the mall to run a few errands. He didn't like the rides, but he really loved my smoothie. He also enjoyed going to a pet store and looking at the puppies.

Today I took him to a local petting zoo. I meant to take him on his birthday, but it didn't work out. Although he slept in until 8:15 a.m., allowing me to do some chores, he still fell asleep on the way over, around 11:00. He woke up once he saw we were in a new place. We started out in the barn, where he got to look at snakes, turtles, chickens, and goats. Then we moved outside. Among the animals on display were horses, donkeys, peafowl, turkeys, African geese (which he really liked), llamas, sheep, a cow, and more goats. I didn't want him to have too much contact with the animals since that's not recommended for such a young child, but we did feed a goat and pet sheep.

After we were done with the zoo, we played in the park. Alex kept going down the slide backwards on his tummy. I was happy to see him play, since he hasn't done much in our local park lately. Perhaps he needs some novelty. The last thing Alex did before we left was ride a pony. At first he didn't hold on to the saddle at all, but by the end he was practically bent over it--possibly fatigue. I didn't take any pictures as I was too busy supporting him. Maybe the next time we go to the petting zoo, we can go with Eugene so he can take pictures.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

More from the IFT

The IFT Expo is now over. (If you're not sure what that is, please refer to my previous post.) I didn't get around to blogging yesterday, so I'll talk about both days here.

I was able to get into the pool area both yesterday and today, so I went swimming before breakfast. After breakfast, I hung around in the hotel briefly before taking the shuttle over to IFT. Yesterday morning and early afternoon, I attended scientific poster sessions and symposiums. When my brain was ready to explode, I walked the floor of the expo, networking and tasting more samples than I can remember right now. I returned to the hotel around 5:00 p.m. yesterday. My co-workers and I were supposed to have dinner with a customer. However, I was so tired around 7:00 I laid down. The next thing I knew, I got a call from one of my co-workers. It's a good thing he called me; otherwise, I probably would have woken up in the middle of the night and completely missed dinner. Instead, I stayed in and ordered from room service.

My poster session was this morning. I got there about ten minutes before hand. It didn't take me long to set up (I had Velcro dots put on the back to make it easier.) Most of the poster presenters were students; it felt a little odd to have people ask me where I was from, since they assumed I was also from a university. I look young for my age, but I'm not that young anymore! I'd say overall the poster was well received. Several people stopped by to ask questions, take handouts, and request copies of the poster (or the poster file). I stopped by our booth briefly before lunch, then attended a final symposium. I was back on the shuttle to the hotel by 3:00. It was nice to change into casual clothes, but not so nice to hear from Eugene that Alex has pink eye. At least he'll be able to meet "Mommy's bus" tomorrow when I come home!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Live...From the IFT

OK, it's not really live, but it sounds better, doesn't it?

I'm in Anaheim, California, home of Disneyland. But although the convention center is next to Disneyland, I'm here for work, not for pleasure. I'm here for the Institute of Food Technologists Expo. It's an international gathering of people from universities and industry. I'm presenting some of my research in a poster format.

I flew in yesterday. Eugene and Alex dropped me off at the bus depot for the airport. All went well until Alex saw me getting on "Mommy's bus." Then he started to cry so hard I could hear him on the bus. Not exactly the best sendoff, but Eugene assures me Alex is doing OK. Plus I finished one book and one magazine on the flight, as well as writing.

I've been in California twice before, but it's always a bit of a shock to see huge palm trees everywhere. This time, I also saw a flowering purple tree (the flowers were purple, not the tree itself). I wonder what it is?

I was still on Central Time last night, so I went to bed early and woke up at 3 in the morning local time. At least I got to stay in bed another few hours. I got up right when the pool was supposed to open, but I couldn't get the gate open. Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, after breakfast, I ran into one of my co-workers before I took the shuttle over to the convention center. I wandered around for a bit before listening to the keynote session. It started late, and then there were various speeches and awards, so the session proper didn't start until over an hour after the official start. I didn't stay for the whole thing. Instead, I met my co-workers at their booth (they're giving out cheese samples I made), then wandered around the first poster session to see what it would be like. There are lots of posters, grouped by topic, that are essentially scientific reports. The lead author stays with the poster to answer questions. I hope my session goes well on Tuesday. After the first session, I sat in on an oral session (several scientists give short talks on their research, which is grouped by theme), then attended another poster session before walking around the Expo. There are lots of exhibitors here, though my co-workers tell me this show is smaller than previous expos. Some of the booths are so big they have a second story. Exhibitors include many food companies but also some suppliers. Many booths are giving away samples. So far I've had mango sorbet, dried blueberries infused with sugar, a green tea "gel," granola samples, carrot juice, a cupcake, and a brownie. One booth is even giving away beer! Too bad I don't care for the taste.

I haven't done much in the evening other than hang out in my hotel room. I guess I'm too lazy to go around much, but after going around all day in less-than-comfortable shoes (which are still the most comfortable sandals I brought with me), I don't feel like going anywhere.

Tune in tomorrow for more news from IFT.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Silence is the Enemy

I'm copying this from the Facebook page of the group Silence is the Enemy, a non-profit organization devoted to fighting sexual violence:

There has been a movement started on The Intersection and to raise awareness of sexual violence against women - with particular emphasis on the situation in Liberia where 6 years after the war ended, sexual violence has been used to control both men and women, and forced sex is regarded as a man's 'right'. It's not just women who are targets: 'more than 70% of the survivors of sexual violence treated by MSF in Liberia were children.' (Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders)

Several bloggers are donating all their revenue from their blogs to Doctors Without Borders ( who work at the frontline - treating victims and raising awareness.

There are many ways to contribute: Write and email Members of Congress (, speak at community meetings, encourage others to get involved, donate, and help maximize blogging donations by clicking on the urls below.

Spread the word. We want to make sure elected officials at multiple levels realize this is a global issue that matters to a large voting constituency!

As blog revenue directly relates to traffic, clicking on any of the blogs below increases the donations given to Doctors Without Borders.


The Original Letter at The Intersection

Today begins a very important initiative called Silence Is The Enemy to help a generation of young women half a world away.Why? Because they are our sisters and children–the victims of sexual abuse who don’t have the means to ask for help. We have power in our words and influence. Along with our audience, we’re able to speak for them. I’m asking all of you–bloggers, writers, teachers, and concerned citizens–to use whatever platform you have to call for an end to the rape and abuse of women and girls in Liberia and around the world.

In regions where fighting has formally ended, rape continues to be used as a weapon. As Nicholas Kristof recently wrote from West Africa, ‘it has been easier to get men to relinquish their guns than their sense of sexual entitlement.’ The war has shattered norms, training some men to think that ‘when they want sex, they need simply to overpower a girl.’ An International Rescue Committee survey suggests 12 percent of girls aged 17 and under acknowledged having been sexually abused in some way over the previous 18 months. Further, of the 275 new sexual violence cases treated Jan-April by Doctors Without Borders, 28 percent involve children aged 4 or younger, and 33 percent involve children aged 5 through 12. That’s 61% age 12 or under. We read about their plight and see the figures, but it’s so easy to feel helpless to act in isolation. But these are not statistics, they are girls. Together we can do more. Mass rape persists because of inertia so let’s create momentum.

See also this article on CNN:

I don't make any money from this blog, or else I'd donate that. But I do plan to make a donation later this month. Please spread the word, follow the links, or help out if you can. We're all in this together.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

I think I missed this last week since I was still catching up with WisCon. At least I'm not as sick anymore, though I still have some congestion and a barking cough. Here are my stats on Across Two Universes:

Currently On: Chapter Nine, Page 98
Total Pages: 288
Total Words: 93,000

Still painfully slow, but I have painfully little time to write. At least that should change this weekend. I'm off to California for a business trip. I'll be presenting some of the research I've done at a food expo. I'll be gone for several days, which will be rough on the whole family. At least I should have more time to write over the weekend and at night.

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