Saturday, December 30, 2006

On all four wheels

As I’ve mentioned before, vacation doesn’t agree with my husband, so we took a day trip yesterday. Aside from getting lost at one point, it was a great day, but as we headed home, it suddenly sounded like a helicopter was hanging over our car. As I looked at the night sky like an idiot, my husband pulled over into the shoulder. Our tire had blown up.

I really mean exploded—I’ve never seen a tire in such bad shape. Of course, the tire needed to be replaced and we both knew that.

I waved goodbye to the hubcap as it rolled onto the interstate before our car had even pulled to a full stop, but my husband’s comment was something about how much hubcaps cost. Miraculously, neither of them got hit by a car when he ran after it.

After fretting over the fact our road side assistance had expired 500miles back, my husband managed to HeMan the wheel off and get the spare on. Now a spare is supposed to be good for 70miles or so, but we were still over an hour from home, with at least 70 miles of interstate left, and this wasn’t our first time using the spare. What choice did we really have though? It was too late to take it somewhere so we either had to stop at a hotel or try to make it home. We chose to go home—the fur-babies were waiting for us and they tend to expect things like dinner.

So, going 55 in a 70, we made our slow way home. Stretches of silence were broken by tense jokes as we both waited for the spare to give out. We joked about how the cars passing us traveled in packs, but since we were the gimpy ones, we were obviously lion food. We also stared at the abandoned cars on the side of the freeway, discussing which had tires that would fit our car. Finally, we made it home, relieved to be through with the little adventure.

So what has everyone else been doing with their between holiday time?

Friday, December 29, 2006

What I'm Reading

In a post earlier this month (hard to believe that was only a couple weeks ago) I wrote about an (unammed) book that kept throwing me, and blamed the reason on the fact it was written in present tense. Well, reality loves to make a liar out of me, and I just finished an absolutely amazing book, that just happened to be written in present tense.

Vacation doesn’t agree with my husband. While I am accustomed to hours on end locked up in a little room working on a single task, such activity makes him stir crazy. So, he has been dragging me out as often as he can, and one of the few places close by that we both agree to waste away hours is the bookstore. On yesterdays trip, I was wandering through the stacks and Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold grabbed my attention. Might have been the name, or the striking cover, but something possessed me to pick it up and read the back. My first thought was that it would either be a really good book, or horrid, but the premise didn’t sound like something the author could just squeeze by with—she had to nail it. I picked up two other choices, just in case, and settled down in the cafĂ©.

After the first chapter, I was hooked.

The worries I had upon reading the back flap proved to be nothing more than what usually plagues back flap-blurbs—too much and not enough information rolled into one with a bit of oversimplification. Written from the perspective of an autistic woman who can only communicate in quotes, (think Shakespeare, Chaucer, the Bible, ext..) Ms. Lindskold has created a masterpiece. Set in a world only slightly more advanced than ours, the reader spends a chapter or two wondering just how insane the main character is because her toy dragon speaks to her, and if the back flap hadn’t told us walls talk to her (which starts much later in the book) I think this would have been an even stronger effect. Of course, if the back cover didn’t say anything about that, buyers might not realize it was a fantasy novel. (They say hindsight is 20/20, but really it isn’t, I don’t know if the elements that almost scared me off from opening the book were removed from the description if I would have still picked it up--then it might not have sounded interesting enough. *shrugs*)

When a voice announced over the loudspeaker that the store was closing, I knew I couldn’t stop reading and had to take the book home with me (thank you gift cards.) Starting back up in my living room was actually the first time I really noticed the book was in present tense, so I guess when done well, present tense doesn’t throw me after all.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Broken, and it's my fault

I'm not sure, but I think my cat had a seizure last night.

She is just over a year old, and we were playing with one of her Christmas gifts, a mouse on a string. She is a ball of energy and a bit of a spaz, so she was jumping around and running in circles after the toy. After a couple minutes, she suddenly crawled onto a blanket, and for a second I thought she was humping it before I realized something was seriously wrong. I wasn't sure what was happening, her mouth was open like she was coughing or choking, but no sound came out, and she pulled her legs and arms tight to her body and seemed to shake. I picked her up and pulled off her collar, thinking it might be hurting her, and then I just rubbed her while she shook. Her heart was racing, and since she'd been playing so hard, it might have been a heart attack, but I've never seen a heart attack or a seizure in a cat, so I don't know.

After maybe half a minute or a minute, she stilled and let out a pitiful moan, then jumped out of my arms and ran into the other room. When we dragged her out of her hiding spot, she had bubbles around her mouth and it smelled like she'd thrown up (though we never found where if she did.) Her bowels didn't release, though I think her anal glands did. (she smelled very bad.) After all that, she calmed and seemed to be all right. She sprawled on the bathroom floor for about twenty minutes, panting, then got up and investigated the room like she'd never seen it before. My husband gave her a treat, which she swallowed without chewing, then she investigated his hand for more and bit his finger hard (which she has never done before.) When my dog walked in, she arched her back and puffed up her tail like she didn't know him, and typically she loves the dog more than she loves my husband or me. That's when we realized she might have brain damage. We went through the night routine of feeding the animals (though they had already eaten, the cat constantly begs for more food.) She didn't react to the sight of her food bag, or even to the sight of the food scoop, but she did eat when we put the bowl in front of her (though she had trouble and didn't chew.)

This morning she is acting more like herself, I woke with her sitting on my back, purring because we slept through feeding time. She ran right to the kitchen when I opened the bedroom door and asked for her food like normal. I guess time will tell if there has been permanent damage.

Is anyone reading this familiar with cat seizures? Was this a seizure, or something else? Could it have been an isolated incident from the extended play, or was it inevitable and this just triggered it. I'm scheduling a vet appointment, but I don't know how we will afford any expensive tests. If anyone can share advice, it will be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Good Impressions

My poor little brother.

He met his girlfriend’s family for the first time over Thanksgiving and was invited back for Christmas. She goes to school out of state, but her parents live instate, only about an hour away from my brother, so he picked her up from the airport with the intention of taking her home after they did a little Christmas shopping together. Apparently one member of her family (an uncle, I think) had a birthday yesterday, which they needed to attend. So, trying to make a good impression, my brother made cupcakes.

He isn't really a baking kind of guy (though he can cook amazing meals) and he definitely isn't a cake-decorating kind of guy. So, to make things easy, he bought cupcake mix, canned frosting, and colored gel with decorating tips. There were two different gel color tubes side-by-side at the store, one with pastel colors and one with darker colors; my brother chose the darker.

Maybe around noon yesterday, I got a call from him because he was making 'lava' cupcakes (with gooey chocolate filling) and he had messed up and the 'lava' ended up all on top of the cupcakes and not inside them. I told him just to let them cool and frost them the best he could, and I assured him they would still taste fine. Well, he did that, and he and his girlfriend wrote 'happy birthday' on all the cupcakes. She must not bake often either, because neither of them realized anything was wrong when all the colors came out nearly black instead of green, blue, or red.

Late last night I got another call. People were enjoying the cupcakes, but no one could figure out why everyone's mouths were changing colors---It wasn't decorating gel, the tubes (though they externally resembled decorating gel) contained straight food coloring! Someone eventually pinpointed the cupcakes as the culprit for the color changing lips and teeth. (And for those of you who don't know, food coloring stains. Only days away from Christmas, they may still have blue teeth and lips for the holidays)

I'll end this the way I started it. My poor little brother. All he wanted to do was make a good impression.

Friday, December 22, 2006

the encroaching holiday (rant)

I feel like I have been knitting and knitting and knitting constantly, with the only interruptions being sleep and baking cookies. I haven't even opened a word document since Saturday (well, except to spellcheck these short blogs. I couldn't spell my way out of a hat.)

The next time I decide it's a great idea to knit gifts for Christmas but wait until only a week ahead of time to begin said knitting, someone kick me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A story from Christmas shopping

My husband wanted me to share this story:

So, the other day while we were out at the village doing our shopping, I stopped in front of the Bath and Body Works window, looked at my hubbie, and asked "Do you think your mom would like something from here?" Just as the last word left my mouth, a child of maybe three ran up to the other side (inside) of the window, did a temper-dance-all jerky arms and stomping feet-and then pointed at us. Well, that was a enough of a sign for both of us. We walked on without going inside and found the perfect gift for her a few stores later.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Art Update

I think I will try to make a weekend art update every week, that will give me a push to actually paint. (A habit I've been lacking since graduating college.)

If you remember from the first post on this subject, I began two paintings last week. (Scroll down a couple days if you would like to see the paintings) I did not get around to working on 'Fire Faerie' but I did a good bit of work on 'untitled'

Well, it's starting to look like a painting at least. I worked on rendering the flat forms today and blocking in the faces and hands (*gripe* Did you know portrait painters in the 17th and 18th century charged extra if you wanted the painting to include your hands because hands are freaking hard!) My palette consisted of: White lead, burnt sienna, raw sienna, burnt umber, raw umber, red ochre, terre verte, and cerulean. The only medium I’m using currently is Liquin, and any mixing is done on the canvas (very rare for me!) This painting is out of my comfort zone because of the method I’m using to paint it. I usually work monochromatic in the initial stages of a painting (which is how I’m working the other painting, so I’ll show some examples of that next week.) This painting is forcing me to be much more intuitive with the paint, but so far I like where it’s going.

Well, that’s all for this week. Check back next weekend to see the painting progress.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weather Roulette and Christmas shopping

My hubby and I did all our Christmas shopping today (except for gifts for each other.) We went to the new 'mall' (it's called the village and it's actually out doors so not really a mall) and I was very comfortable wearing a spaghetti-strap top. It’s a strange thing to be wandering the streets laden with shopping bags full of Christmas gifts, looking into windows with decorative snow, and everyone around you is decked out in summer clothes. But then again, that is just mid-December in my hometown. Not that it never gets cold, mind you. Last week it dropped down to 17 degrees, but a few days earlier, while the majority of the country got snow, it was nearly 80 degrees here. Up and down, up and down, welcome to weather roulette, now do I need my winter coat today or can I get by with a tee-shirt? I’m told this is cold/flu weather because the body never knows what to expect. I’m not sure how true that is, but it does mean I never box up out of season clothes. That may sound great, but one day I would like to move north and get to know a real winter, and hopefully see some snow.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A productive day

I finally had a day I felt was really productive. I needed one. It had been a while.

I tackled a huge chunk of revisions for DH today. I hope to have this edit finished soon so I can sit on it and reread it before sending it to my agent. This is the first edit I’ve done where I ended up adding more words than I deleted. It’s sort of weird, but by far not a bad feeling. I’ve been thinking about the scenes (decided on based on responses from editors) I’m adding for over a month now, letting them work themselves out, and I think it is flowing together nicely. I’ll see how much I like the additions next week. That’s usually a good indicator. Hopefully I’ll have one of those (very few and far between) moments where I go “I wrote this? Wow, I don’t remember it working out quite this well.” Usually I just look at anything I do and go “OMG someone get the defibrillator because this baby is crashing!” (I know I’m not the only one who does that, right? *looks around*)

I also dropped a short story in the box today. I’ve never submitted to a magazine before, but I’ve been sitting on several stories recently that I thought were, you know, okay. I suppose now I need to forget it’s out there. I hear magazines are far slower with their rejection slips than agents.

I have one other short story (okay, not that short, like 9k, but it needs editing…) sitting around that I keep saying I’m going to look at. I wrote it over a year ago now, looked at it for the first time maybe six months ago, cringed, and put it back in the drawer. It’s not that it is a bad story, I actually love the story, it came straight from a dream and is the closest I come to rainbows and fuzzy bunnies. But, I never spent anytime letting the dream mature, I just wrote it as soon as I woke up. (It actually took me the better part of two days to write because it was 13k originally and 6k is about my limit even if I’m on fire and fall asleep at my keyboard..) So the first edit only fixed the obnoxious language that must have sounded really cool to my muse while she was having a dream-high. I didn’t actually fix any of the other problems the story is plagued with. One day I really will drag it out of the drawer.

But I digress, I was talking about the story that I actually worked on. I’m excited. It’s the UF short that I wrote before nano and then the main character kept showing up and kicking me because she wanted a whole novel. I hope someone somewhere likes it. That might give me some encouragement to figure out what her (novel length) story actually would be about. (That pesky plot thing always gets in my way.)

So all and all, a good day spent in front of my computer. I really do feel better about myself when I’m productive. You would think that would be rewarding enough to make it happen everyday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mistral's Kiss

If I had to point a finger, I would say Hamilton was the biggest forerunner in the blooming Urban Fantasy subgenre as it is today. There are variations out there on what people call UF, but the largest emerging trends in the genre include:
• First person, smart ass, female characters who kick butt. (there are several great UFs from the male pov, but the majority seems to be female)
• Modern or futuristic-modern settings
• Some preternatural or supernatural characters/occurrences

Hamilton may not have been the first to combine these things, but on my bookshelf, Anita Blake was one of a kind for years. Hamiltion’s work definitely has had an effect on my own reading and writing habits. I read only high fantasy before I stumbled on her books, anything remotely modern was an instant deal breaker. (Boy how that has changed…) I think I picked up my first Anita Blake book when I was 14 or 15. I quickly grabbed up everything that was out thus far, and since then have picked up the new novels the morning they hit stores. I remember this one time in college, I went to the bookstore before my first class, but I had a test that afternoon and I knew I’d miss class if I started reading. I carried the book in my bag until after the test. I don’t even think I bothered driving home; I just scurried to my studio (on campus) and stayed there (all night) until I had read the book cover to cover.

I guess I’m a little bit of a fangirl. And this devotion (and habit) makes it difficult to judge her novels the same way I do most books I pick up because I am both an avid fan and judging it on the merit of the whole series. I was disappointed with the last Anita book though (Danse Macabre) I usually try not to say anything bad about books online, and only mention the ones I would recommend, so this post may disappear. But as I was saying, I was sorely disappointed with DM, the plot was flimsy at best and (what I feel is) one of the staples of the Anita books was missing, a murder mystery. I really felt 90% of the book was sex, and I’m someone who usually only skims sex scenes to start with. I also wasn’t thrilled with Incubus Dreams (though it was much better than DM) so, I promised myself I wouldn’t rush out and buy the next book the day it hit the shelves.

So, I rented Mistral’s Kiss from the local library. (And I’m obsessive enough to have been waiting for them to put it in the catalogue as ‘on order’ so I was 2nd in a reservation queue of 50 or so) I’m more lenient in accepting all the sex and random partners that Merry (the main character in this series) has than I am with Anita. I’m not sure if it is because this series started that way, or because the sex seems to have more plot following on its coat tails. MK is very short, (only 212) but stuff happens and things are accomplished. (Though I’m annoyed that the characters still haven’t made it to the event they were planning on going to in the second book and this is the fifth. I think maybe 1 full day and a night has passed in the last three books.) But, I closed the book and actually felt like something happened within it’s pages… though I could have wished for more. (Well, I almost always want more at the end of a book in a series, that’s what makes people buy the next one, but what I mean is I wanted a little more meat.) I enjoyed the read though.

The jury is still out on whether I will go out and buy the book now, or wait for the paperback. If I wait for paper, it will be the only book of hers (except Nightseer and Micah) that I don’t own in hardcover. The collector in me wars with the dirt-broke part of me, and I’m at the point I don’t think I can honestly judge Hamiliton’s books (the fan in me wants them all to be masterpieces.)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Painting day 1

I started two paintings today and I thought I would post the preliminary stages. *shrugs* Maybe someone will be interested in seeing the process I go through with a painting.

The first painting (currently untitled) is the largest piece I’ve ever tackled at 36x40in. In fact, it didn’t fit on the easel I typically use and I had to improvise. The second piece (“fire faerie”, FF) is only 5x7in and is very small for an oil painting. Okay, that’s a pretty diverse little pair, so on to the first step I used in starting these paintings:

-inspiration. Eons ago I decided I wanted to paint a faerie for all four elements. Water is finished (you see part of her up there in my title image) but I never got around to the rest. It seemed like time to fix that and fire was the next element that called to me. As for the untitled image…well my mother made a comment a couple weeks ago that got me thinking, and the idea simmered under my skin all through nano, so it was ready to burst out by now.

-Bodies. What…bodies? Yes. I have enough trouble with proportions and anatomy when I’m staring at it, you don’t want to see what happens when I go straight from memory. So, I have to go in search of bodies. Stock photos, magazines, friends, and the mirror are the more common sources. A live model is best, but I’m poor. The mirror is my best friend while painting, even if I take the proportions from a photo graph, the mirror tends to end up solving issues I couldn’t figure out otherwise.

-The sketch. Ah finally something people would consider art…well maybe not this time. With some paintings I do very elaborate concept sketches, but not always. I did some very basic thumbnails to figure out placement for the untitled piece, and I didn’t do any sketching for FF. (click pic for larger image)

-Ground. Time to pull out the paint. For both pieces I started by putting down a ground. (a solid color over the entire canvas.) For untitled I used sap green and for FF I used Alizarin. I’ve never actually used either of these colors as a ground before. Typically I use an earth color as a ground (I count indigo as an earth color, and it is my favorite ground though a more traditional would be sienna.) Both paints I used today are typically used to glaze with (so they are far more translucent than earth colors.)

-Blocking. With a dry paintbrush, I lifted paint away from the canvas to block in my image. I immediately noticed a problem. When using an earth color for a ground I can usually pull paint away enough to make a very rough rendering of form. With untitled, the sap green was too light to get much value difference. So much so that I could barely see what I’d wiped away and what I hadn’t. I don’t like working wet on wet, but I was desperate to block in more values, so I pulled out raw sienna to put in some of the darker of the darks in the foreground. I quickly remembered why I dislike working wet when the sienna pulled the green up in some places and not in others. Needless to say, that stopped the painting for the day. FF worked out a little better. The alizarin was dark enough to show some good contrast, but it was also too loose to blend well. So at the end of day, I only got the most basic of blocking done for both paintings. Untitled should be good to go again by tomorrow, but alizarin tends to dry slower in my experience. I cut it with a good deal of liquin so we will see.

Images: Day one. (click for larger view)


Not very pretty huh? Never are at this stage. This is not a point I usually show anyone, but here it is for the world to see....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Present Tense

I almost gave up on the book I read yesterday.

Not because it was a bad book. For the most part the story was very interesting (though by the middle of it I found myself skimming the large sections of history and back story that cropped up every other break and interrupted the action.) Over all, I was intrigued by the premise and interested in the characters. No, the problem, my problem, was that the book was written in present tense and I kept being thrown by that.

I’m sure I haven’t always had issues with present tense. In fact, my first noveling attempt, back when I was maybe eleven, was in present tense. So what changed in the last thirteen or so years to make present tense such a deal breaker?

I honestly don’t know.

Other writing styles don’t throw me as much. For instance, my current preference is 1st person pov, but I easily get immersed in books written in 3rd person pov and will accept a certain amount of head hoping without it distracting me. Most of what I read and everything I write is past tense these days, so it could be a familiarity thing. Maybe if I read more books in present tense it wouldn’t surprise me with every sentence.

Question: What throws you out of a story?

Monday, December 04, 2006

What I've been reading

Well, I read far too many books during November. (I think my final count was around 10 books… yes, that is one of the reasons I didn’t meet my 95k word goal.) Out of those books, I want to point out a couple of my favorites:

I’ve been really impressed with the LUNA publishing line, they’ve been putting out some real winners. Poison Study and Magic Study by Maria Snyder are probably my favorite books read this month. It’s been a while since I read a high fantasy novel I couldn’t get enough of. I think the magic of these books are that she combines what I love from UF (first person, kick ass female character) with traditional fantasy elements (roughly medieval setting and magic.) I highly recommend Ms Snyder’s books to any fantasy lover!

I’m a huge fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels, so when I heard she released a book on writing, I had to pick it up. How I write was fun to read and filled with great advice, but if you’ve read other writing books, you probably won’t find anything new. I enjoyed reading about Ms Evanovich’s process in writing the books and her comments on the excepts she chose to use as examples. If you love the Plum novels, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Sometimes books I’m really looking forward to reading get lost in my TBR pile. That was definitely the case with my copy of Don’t Look Down. I had the wonderful opportunity to see a panel about the book by Jennifer Cruise and Bob Mayer last February and scored the book shortly after. Both writers were hysterical in the panel and I left really excited about the book, but by the time I picked it up, other things got in the way of my reading it. I forgot I owned it until the middle of last month. This book was as funny as the panel indicated, and I couldn’t believe how well their voices complimented one another. In my experience, consistency is a problem in co-authored books, but these two pulled it off wonderfully. Having heard them talk about the book before reading it made the experience even more fun.