Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hello Again & Reading Aloud to Each Other

I apologize for leaving off on the blog for so long. I took a much longer blog break than I had intended!

The book is still coming along. It was going very slowly there for a while, at the rate of a chapter a month. I have since picked up the pace, and now I am writing chapter 19. I have approximately 30 chapters planned in my outline, although that may change with my revisions. The first draft is clicking along again, however, and I'm mighty happy about that.

I also wanted to share something that my husband and I do together that is very special. We read aloud to each other. We've read several books this way, mostly when we're tooling about in the car, with him driving and myself reading. I don't have the greatest reading voice in the world, but it is a great way for us to read a story at the same time and discuss it. In fact, very often we'll stop in the middle of some dialog and discuss/debate/argue about it for a few minutes ... or for miles and miles if we're on our way to Florida. It's a great bonding experience and a good way to while away the time when you are stuck somewhere.

It's easy to feel self-conscious at first if you aren't used to it. But if you pick the right book, soon you will be lost in the story and find yourself reading aloud better than you ever thought you would.

We read the entire Harry Potter series this way. I made a serious attempt to do all the accents, but I just couldn't keep it up for those ten hour drives to Orlando, so eventually I stuck with my own Tennessee twang. I did have fun with the HEM-HEM's with Dolores Umbridge, though.

Some books read aloud better than others. This does not reflect the quality of the book overall; it is just one aspect of the book. For example, I love love love Dragonriders of Pern, but I have a very difficult time reading it aloud. For one thing, I guess I'm not enough of a Pernese fan that I know how to pronounce all the names. Also, the narrative is very flowery, and my delivery is just not suited for that high of a writing style. However, the more conversational tone of "The Hobbit" makes it a very fun book to read aloud.

I got the idea from one of my co-workers at my previous employer. She said that her husband and two kids would get together once a week and take turns reading a chapter or so out loud, and they really enjoyed the time together. It also builds public speaking skills. Even though you are reading someone else's words, it helps you put together your delivery and trains you to project your voice. I would expect to stumble a bit if you are reading it cold. I do; I'm not creating an audiobook. I haven't studied a script. Most of the time, I am reading the words for the first time. I do spend some time re-reading a little dialog because my tongue got tangled!

Other books that we've read that were fun:

By John Scalzi, the "Old Man's War" series, the first 3 books, "Old Man's War", "Ghost Brigades", and "The Lost Colony".

Mr. Scalzi has a style that flows across the tongue. The dialog is a lot of fun, and in this case it was easy for me to change my voice for each character. John Perry, the main character and the narrator of the first story, is a real hoot to read. There were times that I had to put the book down because I was laughing so hard that I was crying and could no longer see the page. It's not as ha-ha absurdly funny as Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett, but it does have some very funny bits that made me stop for a breathing break. If you like space marine stories (my favorite!!!!!), I highly recommend this series.

In fact, with his style, you could read just about anything out loud by Scalzi and be happy with it. Some stories may not be suitable for the very youngest of readers. If you are reading with your kids, I suggest reviewing any book first if you have concerns about content.

I haven't read any Adams or Pratchett out loud, but I believe they would do quite nicely. I loved the radio dramatization of "Hitchiker's Guide". As kids, we listened to it over and over!

We just finished "Enemies & Allies" by Kevin J. Anderson, one of my favorite authors. Just about anything by Anderson will read aloud well, as he has a very smooth style that lends itself to the voice. This particular book is a book about Batman and Superman in the fifties and how they first met. It's a fun story. If you are a comic book fan and enjoy the World's Finest comic series, you will like this book, as it is written with a comic book aestethic in mind. I love reading Perry White's dialog, although it's possible I try to make him sound a bit much like Jolly Jonah Jameson.

Again, "The Hobbit" is a priceless read-aloud. Don't worry about the accents if they are difficult. Just enjoy the story.

Up next for us is the "Anne of Green Gables" series. I haven't read the books yet, but I have watched the series. I am really looking forward to reading in Marilla's voice. Colleen Dewhurst was seven shades of awesome in the show as that character.

Well, time to go. Until next time -- and I hope it isn't long -- take care of yourself! READ! And be excellent to each other, as the Great Ones would say.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Astrobiology & "Whom Do I Send?"

I did not realize until today that I had neglected my blog for so long! For that, I apologize. I have some catching up to do.

My husband has published his first book, "Legacy of Dragons: Emergence". It is the first book in a planned series, "Legacy of Magic". We are very excited about its emergence into the world! Please take a look at his blog and see if it tickles your fancy: T.D. Raufson - Legacy of Magic

Astrobiology Class - For the past five weeks, I've been a student of the Coursera course "Introduction to Astrobiology". This is the last week, and I'm sad that it is over now. It was taught by Professor Charles Cockell of the University of Edinburgh. I have truly enjoyed this general introduction to astrobiology. The Professor and his team created some wonderful video lectures. I actually looked forward to Mondays, for once! I truly hope that there is an Advanced course offered later.

Astrobiology is a fusion of many disciplines (including biology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy). It involves the study of life. This includes life in our own backyard as well as "life out there", as our own local biology can give us at least a base to start from. The lectures were never above my head, although he did throw out a detail or two that I needed to look up on my own. Of course, having a few things to search for on one's own is never a bad thing. The class gave me a better understanding of some of the topics presented on, especially the bits about the Curiosity mission and the search for exoplanets.

In this last week, we discussed some of the social implications of first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence. One point of discussion was, who would best represent Earth if we did meet somebody? If the aliens requested a delegation from Earth, whom would we choose?

I think it's an excellent question. Even if we never get the chance to make such a choice, I think it's an interesting thought experiment. I sat down and thought about it for a while.

The question was, would we send scientists? Diplomats? My opinion is, we would need a group with a variety of technical talents. However, I think the personal qualities of a representative are far more important than their technical skills. Are they adaptable? Are they used to working under extreme pressure? Do they represent a wide variety of viewpoints? Do they respect forms of life other than human? In light of these qualities, I would probably select... the Dalai Lama.

Here are my reasons: he loves and respects all people. In fact, he often speaks of "sentient beings" in general rather than just "humans", so I think he would be open to speaking with other species on an equal level. I think he would meet them with equanamity and calm. He's been trained as a leader and a speaker/debater since his childhood. He has traveled the world over and is familiar with many parts of it and many of the people in it. He may be sheltered somewhat from the average life, but I think he would have a good idea of what he was representing. The Chinese government would not approve, but you can't please everybody. I think he would still happily represent the Earth, China included. I also think he is capable of working on a global level, not just for his own nation.

Of course, I wouldn't send him alone. He would be one of two leaders. He would be my olive branch. The other would be my "big stick". I would want someone with military experience. Not a warmonger, though. Not someone whose first instinct is to go to war. I want someone who will act and speak with wisdom and determination but will also give the impression that we are not doormats. I would send someone like Colin Powell. He's been a general AND a diplomat. I think he would prefer peace, but I think he would work to defend us well if that became necessary. If the aliens are pacificsts anyway, well, no worries. If they aren't, it's possible they will have respect for a big stick, even if it isn't used. Say, if they were more like Klingons than Vulcans, they might be more willing to treat us as equals if we had a seasoned general on the team than if we didn't.

I'd have some scientists, along, of course, but ones with people skills, those used to dealing with the public. Dr. Pamela Gay is an astronomer. She hosts with Fraser Cain. I love that show! She really knows her science, and she communicates well. She is friendly, has a good sense of humor, and is well-traveled. And yes, she is a woman. I think a diversity in ability, gender, nationality, and race is important to demonstrate who we are as a planet (as long as other requirements are met).

If Carl Sagan were still among the living, I would include him for sure. I am certain there are others around the world in SETI that would be a good part of the team.

I'm sure there are others in the world that are qualified to go, but they simply aren't in my "mental address book", as it were. We have a rich, full world, with many nations of both the wise and the foolish. Do you know of any scientists/diplomats/artists/linguists/other people that are not in the mainstream English-speaking sphere that might be a good representative of a good chunk of people on this planet? Whom would YOU send?

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Peaceful End to 2012

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday, whatever you celebrated. We spent a week with the Florida branch of our little tribe, and then we had some days with the Smoky Mountain branch. We spent some time at Universal Studios. We bought some coin medallions at one of the vendor booths and whiled away some time chatting with the fellows there, including Sir Cumference and Cap'n Blackheart. If you ever go to Islands of Adventure, pay them a visit. They are a HOOT! My niece rode grown-up roller coasters for the very first time, and I was happy to ride them with her on that grand occasion. It's good to have rides like the Hulk to let some good screams out. With the help of Brother David and Milady Robin, I acquired the Lucius Malfoy cane/wand for the mister. He in turn found a lovely Raven statue for my comic book collection at one of the Orlando comic book shops.

We shared Christmas itself with my parents, my younger brother, and my older brother & his family. I made some eggnog bread -- some of my cooking that didn't burn, yay! -- and the mister made some wonderful sweet potato casserole. The Christmas Dinner table groaned with good food made by my mother and other family members. We have so many now that we cannot fit around the kitchen table all at once, so we spilled over into the living room. We had some great laughs with dear people. It was a grand reunion all around.

The Fur Babies were joyous at our return. They are making up for lost Lap Time to be sure. I wasn't aware that I had a two-cat lap, but Ergo (the Magnificent) and Cassie have decided that they can both fit in my lap at once. Last night, they were warming the mister's lap whilst he played round after round of the LEGO Lord of the Rings game. He told me how he thought that LEGO Samwise was the Swiss Army knife of Hobbits; that fellow can do just about anything. That's fine with me; I always thought that Sam was the hero of LOTR anyway. The cats don't care as long as they get Lap Time. So peace reigns at Twin Cedars once more.

Writing continues! My husband is within days of releasing his first novel, "Legacy of Dragons: Emergence". The cover art is nearly done, and I must say it is stunning. I am heads-down on my third chapter (still) of Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea, but it is getting close to completion. It was a very long hard chapter to write, as it includes descriptions of parts of the ship that I just didn't have very clear in my head for a long time. I finally came to a good (or at least workable) design for this scene. That made it easier to write. I find that a section is difficult to write either because I don't have a clear idea of the scene in mind OR I'm simply going in a direction that the story doesn't want to go. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which is the current problem. I finally found out that it was the former. Once I mapped everything out on real paper, I had a way to move forward. Sometimes I have to use a pencil instead of a keyboard to make that kind of progress!

I am still hoping to publish my novel in Spring 2013. Now that the Holidaze Season has passed us, I hope to focus more on the work of actual writing. We'll see how the rest of the Winter goes. I will post updates here as time moves along.

Happy New Year, everyone. Stay safe and Be well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Take Two Cats and Call Me in the Morning

What an exciting weekend! On Sunday, we traveled down to Hotlanta for a very Creative Event. My husband's debut novel Legacy of Dragons: Emergence is on the verge of release. It's edited and ready to go except for some final polishing, including the cover. To create that cover, we worked with a photographer, a model, and two body painters to create some stunning visual images. I was absolutely floored by the work they put into the photos. The room fairly crackled with the artistic energy that was bouncing off the walls there. I have been forbidden to post any previews of the pictures, but I think you will enjoy the final product when the book is released.

I did have the honor of making a prop for the shoot, and I hope it turns out well in the finished product. Polymer clay and Swarovski crystals. That's all I'm sayin'.

Special thanks and shout-out to Jessica Moss (model), Grace Moss of Bodhi Tree Photography (photographer), Lynn Cole of Lynn Cole Body Art (body painter), and Rio Sirah (body painter). You can find Bodhi Tree and Lynn Cole Body Art pages on FaceBook if you are interested. I believe Rio is there as well. If you have an Atlanta area event that just screams for face or body paint, please give them a look-see. They are very professional and LOADS of fun to work with.

Also, they can be found by following these links:
Grace the Photographer
Lynn the Painter
Rio the Painter

I think I have a Creativity Hangover! Still recovering from the outpouring of generosity and beauty of that day.

A word about body painting ... this is more than just a touch of make-up. This is a body treatment, and it is a beautiful form of art. I experienced a taste of it a few years ago at DragonCon, when I cosplayed Black Lantern Terra. Lynn Cole and Rio painted a group of us as the zombie-ish Black Lanterns from DC Comics, and the results were deliciously terrifying. I have seen photos of their work, from simple face paint to a full-body job. It is a beautiful art treating the human body as a canvas, and it can bring out the beauty in all of us.

My husband (nom de plume T. D. Raufson) has a web site with more information on his urban fantasy novel, due out by the end of the year: T. D. Raufson Blog

The creation of my own novel continues to roll, but Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea has a long way to go before it sees the cover treatment. Can't wait, though, if it's this much fun.

Have a great week and a beautiful Christmas / Solstice / Kwanzaa / Hanukkah! If you are feeling down due to holiday stress, take 2 cats and call me in the morning.
Furry Hugs from Cassie (the Calico) and Ergo (the Magnificent). Hobo (not pictured) sends her love as well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Of All the Things I've Lost, I Miss My Attention Span the Most

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday and got to spend time with those they love.

I've had something on my mind lately. I wanted to see if anyone else in the writing community is experiencing this particular issue.

Back in my salad days (in the Golden Age of the 80's), I was able to read for hours at a stretch. I could read anywhere and tune out the world for as long as I wanted, spending time with Laura Ingalls and Bilbo Baggins and exploring far-off worlds that enjoyed a long life in the boundaries of my imagination.

I can't do that anymore. After a few paragraphs (if I get that far), my eyes and my brain start wandering off the book's track.

I'm not sure why. Is it that now I'm a dreadful adult and have more responsibilities tugging away at me? Do people feel more comfortable interrupting someone who is "just reading" now? Is it my attention graying along with my hair? Is it that I've run out of good books to suck me into those worlds? Or have I simply lost the ability to focus and sit still for that long?

If I lost it, where did it go? How did I lose it? I remember tearing through Kevin J. Anderson's "Saga of Seven Suns" not too many years ago. But now I have problems even finishing a much shorter Y.A. novel. My husband and I devoured the Harry Potter series as we read them aloud to each other. Now I can't seem to finish the side of a cereal box. What happened?

It bothers me deeply that I am having trouble doing something that i used to love, that used to be such a central part of my life. I was a bookworm! I still have many of those books lounging around the house. I say lounging, as I haven't touched them in many moons. It also bothers me that this lack of focus is affecting my ability to write as well. I find that I can only sit in front of the keyboard for a few minutes at a time. I can only blame so much of the distraction on my Furry Companions. Even if they aren't dancing on my keyboard because it's Kitty Nap Time, I can't seem to focus on my story for more than a few minutes before I have to be moving again. I've gotten this far by doing what I call "drive-by typing": typing for a few minutes, rushing to another part of the house to do something else, thinking of something, then typing only long enough to get those words saved on my flash drive.

Does anyone else have this problem? Has anyone seen my Attention Span? I think I dropped it somewhere and replaced it with the span of a gerbil somehow. If you happen to see it wandering by, please drop me a note.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Current Shenanigans

Happy November, friends! It's going to be a busy month here at Twin Cedars. I'm still plugging away at my first novel, "Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea". The outdoor cat has decided that it's the time of year to transition to "indoor cat", at least at night. Currently Hobo is comatose on the credenza behind me, and the other indoor furries are actually letting her sleep. For the moment, peace reigns.

Free College-Level Classes

Some friends introduced me to a new web site this week: Coursera. This site is part of the new college trend of offering a selection of courses for free to the public. This site offers a wide variety of classes from various big-name universities. It's a little different from some sites where you just pick a video and watch it (though those are still very cool). These are actual classes with a start date, a finish date, some course work, and a letter of completion from the professor. It's more like an actual class. It does not grant actual credit toward a degree, but it can be a good way to introduce yourself to a new topic for personal learning. I have signed up for an Astronomy course that begins later this month and an Astrobiology course that starts in late January. I am very excited about them, and I think the work will help me in my quest to write solid science fiction.
Some of the course offerings are quite exciting and off the beaten path:
  • Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach
  • Writing in the Sciences (I may consider this one in the future as the current one is in progress now)
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Control of Mobile Robots

Some of these classes are for the beginner; others are aimed at people with specific backgrounds. The class descriptions describe the intended audience. Looking at the course list, I kept thinking, "Ooooh! Story fodder. Like it. Cool. Story fodder. Story fodder! Story fodder!!!!" and "Where was this when I was in college!" But, you know, it's never too late to learn. I'm 42 years old, and my brain is still hungry.

Astronomical Events This Month

Speaking of astronomy ... we do have a few interesting Astronomical Events coming up this month - a couple of eclipses and the Leonids Meteor shower are on the menu for our skies in November.

November 13 - Total Solar Eclipse. Oh goody! Eclipse! Oh no, it's only visible from the South Pacific area. Never fear, in the Age of the Internet, everything is broadcast! The SLOOH Space Camera will broadcast the eclipse on November 13 starting at 2:30 PM Eastern. I intend to log in and have a gander. If you do live in the area where it will be visible, please take the normal eclipse viewing precautions with filters and glasses.

November 17 - 18 - Leonids Meteor shower peaks after Midnight; bundle up and makes some hot cocoa. I'm going to drag out my favorite viewing chair and a warm blankie.

You can see more events for the rest of the year on the astronomical events calendar at the Seasky web site .

Indie Author Newsflash

When I'm writing, I don't get a lot of time for my first love -- reading. However, I did take advantage of the recent free downloads from Amazon to pick up a few books from fellow indie authors. At the moment, I'm reading the YA novel "Cassidy Jones and the Secret Forumla" by Elise Stokes on my tablet Kindle app. I am enjoying it a great deal. I've been a comic book/superhero fan since the 80s (Titans Forever!!!), so I always enjoy a good teenage superhero tale. I'm still reading it, but I have really enjoyed it so far. Cassidy is a fun young lady. I look forward to reading more about her; I just wish she'd been around when I was 13 to read! :)

Ok, back to the keyboard for more writing! (*whipcrack*)

Friday, October 19, 2012

National Day On Writing

Today is the observation of the National Day On Writing on Twitter! This is a day created by US Senate Resolution 565. While it seems a bit of an odd thing for the Senate to be interested in, it is kind of nice to have a day set aside to show off our work!

This year's theme is "What I Write". So, what do I write? Just about anything. I'm not picky. I do like some genres more than others, though. For example, I'm not really into chick flicks or chick lit. I'll watch or read it if someone has something that they highly recommend or if I'm on a Girls' Night Out, but I don't pursue it. I like my romance punctuated by Killer Robots. I mean, The Terminator is one of the most romantic movies ever made. Dude came back through time just to be with her! It's just like Somewhere in Time but with more explosions. Don't get me wrong, I loved Somewhere in Time. Christopher Reeve going back to the '20s to be with Jane Seymour did make me swoon a bit. And there was time travel involved. You can't beat that with a boomstick.

But I digress, don't I? My writing career is in the nest, still, trying to figure out how to fly. My first novel involves my first love, military (or in my case semi-military) science fiction. From Starship Troopers to Old Man's War to Midshipman's Hope, I can't get enough Space Marines. I don't know why. I also like military movies that take place on terra firma, especially submarine movies (Hunt for Red October, Crimson Tide, Gray Lady Down, you name it). These movies and the many comic books that I have read (and still read) over the years have fueled my imagination. My parents bought us many books over the years and always encouraged us to use our brains and to be creative, and I am thankful every day for that. All of that reading and watching has been a heavy influence on me -- with a lot of Monty Python and BritComs mixed in for good measure.

I have written Teen Titans fanfiction on since 2005. That was my first real exposure to showing my work to the world. The fanfiction community is a lot of fun, and I have made a lot of friends in that particular corner of the internet. I have one last story in the major arc that needs to be finished, and hopefully I will be able to finish it before my nieces are grandmothers! I love superheroes and writing about them, and who knows, perhaps there will be some spandex-wrapped characters in my professional future as well. Ya never know what's around the corner.

However, I don't want to be limited to JUST science fiction or superheroes. I think I have other stories bursting to jump out of my head and run around the room screaming. Some are more fantasy and some are more slice-of-life. I jot down the ideas as they seep into my skull from ether. They incubate for a while. Maybe a long, long, while, and perhaps some day, they will see the light of day. The genre itself is less important than the fact that I'm getting to use my noggin and that I'm letting other people into my own mental playground for a while. Now, letting others into your head is a tricky thing. It's a variety of intimacy that leave you vulnerable to the wilds of criticism. But it's something you must withstand if you are going to tell your story to the Universe.

I went round and round trying to think of something to post for today as part of the celebration. I have settled upon releasing a portion of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress, Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea. It is a sequel to the The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. I call it my "steampunk space romance". It attempts to answer the question of "What did they do with all that alien technology lying about after the Martians died?" And yes, there is a connection to Verne as well, so the naming of the novel is not as off-base as it seems at first. Just be patient.

I have finished the first draft of the first two chapters. Currently, I am hard at work on the third chapter, and I have many notes on the rest of it. My hope is to publish it as an e-book for the Kindle, the Nook, and anyone else that will take it in Spring 2013.

Here is the snippet. Enjoy the sneak peek!

Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea

Chapter 1 Excerpt

"Have no fear, Miss Llewellyn," the captain said. "I've done this before."

He touched a crooked finger to the corner of his sharp green eyes, as if to tip an imaginary hat. He lowered it quickly to allow the white-coated technician to continue strapping him into the seat next to her. Gemma Llewellyn had schooled her posture as much as she could to conceal her nervousness, but there was so much of it that she supposed it was still leaking out and making her face as pale as the technician's suit. That was fine. After all, a total lack of fear would draw too much attention. She hoped she seemed just nervous enough without tipping over into real hysteria.

"In fact," he continued, "most of the crew members have experienced at least a half a dozen launches via the rail-gun system by this point." She thought he sounded somewhat British, like her, but not quite. There was something broader and flatter about the way he pronounced certain words. Was he Australian, perhaps? "We've launched continuously for several years without a major incident--"

"Bloody hell, I suppose the crash into Mauna Kea last summer was only a minor incident, then," said a voice in the row behind them. Most definitely a Brit, that one. "I suppose one must be at least a midshipman before having one's grey matter smeared across a mountainside is considered a major incident, eh?"

"There is a lady present, Doctor Pugh!" The captain tried to turn in his padded seat, but he was too well strapped in to do much more than wriggle. His tall, lean frame was well ensconced in the padded chair. Gemma thought he looked quite young to be a captain; he appeared to be not much older than her own four-and-twenty years. With his angular cheekbones, short chestnut hair, and thin mustache, he could have blended right in with any group of young university men.

"Lady, my arse, Christophe," the voice replied with a snort. "You haven't seen any of them since you left Wellington. A 'New Woman', perhaps. A lady would be home tending to her knitting, not strutting about in a bifurcated pressure suit. Sophie the Steamfitter, indeed!" He snorted and fell silent.

Gemma looked down as her own attendant snugged up her straps and pretended to focus on that young lady's tightly snooded hair. Gemma supposed that she was a sister "New Woman". Mrs. Brightman had instructed her that it was usually best to allow men their quibbling and not bother to argue against such statements, as it was a waste of one's breath. The suit was a bit odd, yes, but she supposed it would be just as awkward on anyone that had not already spent a great deal of time in orbit. She wondered what the Rational Dress Society would make of it.

"They ort to save that rot for the bloody tentacle-heads," her attendant whispered as she pulled back and gave Gemma a sympathetic look. "The rails should be close to full power now, Miss. They just loaded your trunk in the boot, too, so that ort to make this easier. Been up to the station twice meself. It's not so bad. Don't worry, love. You'll be on your way shortly." She gestured for Gemma to lean forward while another worker maneuvered the copper-clad helmet over her head. Gemma nodded at the young lady. It wasn't the rail-gun that worried her.

"Kindly restrict your remarks to the weather, Pugh," the man next to her said. His voice took on a muffled quality as his own helmet was locked into place. "And that's Captain Moreau to you."

The attendant disappeared into the haze behind the helmet's faceplate. The girl's exasperated expression was on the last face she would see on Earth until their over two years. Gemma had thought that they would be surrounded by reporters shouting questions, especially since this was the last rail-gun launch to the ship before their departure; but it was just the three of them and a few technicians. She had thought that they would have taken a daguerreotype of them at least before they climbed into the capsule. Strange to have so little attention paid to an event that the entire world had anticipated for over two decades. It wasn't the mission's visibility that worried her, either.

As preparations continued around her, Gemma thought about Dr. Pugh. Since she had been a (quite literally) last-minute addition to this venture, she had only met Captain Moreau and a handful of other members of the crew so far. She had spent the last few days just getting to the launch site in the middle of the Pacific Ocean; it had been a very long journey by airship and steamer from Britain. Then it had been two days of very intense orientation on the Launch Loop and the ship itself. This would not have been possible before the Invasion, Mrs. Brightman had told her, as they had based the ship's design on information found in the Martian cylinders. They had adapted the design to accommodate humans, of course. Since she had been but an infant when the Martians landed in 1901, she had known no other world except the one in which travel beyond the boundaries of Earth was a human possibility. Soon space travel would be a human reality. It would be a reality that included Gemma Llewellyn. For her, right now, that was the most important thing. In all that bustle, there had been no time to introduce her to a team that was already in orbit. There would be plenty of time for that once they were en route.

Except for the three of them, the crew and the scientific cohort were already on board the ship. Since the Military Industrial Alliance had built it in orbit – it would not fly within an atmosphere – very few people had seen more of the ship than drawings and schematics. The newspapers were rife with headlines that proclaimed the imminent and permanent defeat of the Invaders from Mars by the M.I.A.

Dr. Pugh, whose voice she had not heard until now, was the lead scientist for the expedition. She had only seen one daguerreotype of him, standing next to his mentor, the celebrated naturalist Professor Arronax, when he was much younger. She had no idea what he looked like now, and it would be several hours before she could look him in the face.

So, here was her superior, and he was insulting her even before their formal introduction. Mrs. Brightman would not approve. Behind the veil of the helmet, Gemma allowed her face to melt from the ladylike mask that it normally wore into a scowl. In about five hours, she would have to speak to him, ready or not.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My "I Can't" Is Invalid

Did you watch The Jump on Sunday? I was on the edge of my seat from the time Felix's balloon left the ground until his feet were back on terra firma. I am so happy that he was able to complete his dream and walk back to his friends and family when it was all done. I am certain that someone will take a photo of his perch at 128,100 feet and caption it with "Your Argument is Invalid".

Speaking of arguments, I had one with my tablet last night. Rather, I had it with the Kindle app for said tablet. I was trying very hard to load the Kindle app so I could download some ebooks (and hopefully provide reviews for them later). I went round and round with it, having never used my tablet this way. I got so frustrated that it wasn't funny. If you try to load the Android Kindle app to a non-Kindle device (like a tablet), and you have issues, make sure you have done this things (assuming you have already registered the app with Amazon):

- turned on the 1-click option. Open the "Your Account" drop down menu and Select the "Your Account" option. Look for the "Settings" list (third grouping) and from there select "1-Click Settings". On the new page, look on the right side of the screen at the small box that indicates the 1-click status. Make sure it says ON for you. If not, click the button below it to turn it on. Kindle purchases can only be done via 1-click, so it needs to be turned on for that kind of download. Mine was not turned on by default when I created the account.
- set up a street address for the 1-click option. This is also done on the "1-Click Settings" page mentioned above. Use the "Enter a new address button" and follow the directions.
- set up a payment method Under "Your Account" / "Payment Methods". My first download was a "free" ebook, but it still seemed to want a payment method in the setup before it would let me proceed
- Be patient. If everything seems to be set up correctly & it still won't work, just walk away for a couple of hours. It may take a while for the registration information to show up on the web site. My main issue was that the Kindle store kept telling me that I didn't have a registered device, even though I had used that registered device & app to get to the store! They were not showing up in the 1-click download list on the purchase page for the book I wanted. After I did the above and waited an hour, my devices showed up. You may just have to log off and go get a cup of coffee and watch some Babylon 5 for a while, then check again.

This is not an exhaustive troubleshooting list by any means, but I thought I would share these solutions in case someone has similar issues.

In other news: The National Day On Writing is on October 20th; but since that is a Saturday, Twitter will be celebrating it on Friday the 19th. For my friends who are authors and/or teachers, this might be a fun event.

I hope to post a writing sample here on Friday. I'm not sure what I'll do yet. Maybe a writing exercise, or maybe a snippet from my novel-in-progress. We'll see what turns up.

We had a lovely bit of fog here at Twin Cedars this morning. I used it for a quick writing exercise to get my gears rolling, as I got up far earlier than I usually do. "Fog" is a great topic for writing exercises, as you can summon almost anything out of the mists. It is a rather target-rich environment; it seems so empty and yet teeming with the unknown at the same time. Brrrrrrrrrr. Maybe I should add "paranormal romance" to my genre list!

See this website for additional details:

Remember, NaNoWriMo is just around the corner!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Felines on My Mind

The weekend again. We are perched at a table in Panera for our normal Saturday morning writing session. I finally have a music player that I like. My beloved Zen was stolen back in the summer (bastards!), and we just now replaced it with an Archos tablet. It has great sound, and now I can write at Panera in peace. I love the atmosphere here, but it is quite noisy. The beeping and whirring of the kitchen equipment is outpaced in annoyance only by the muzak. The morning muzak is fine -- soothing classical and borderline Renaissance fare -- but once they hit lunch, they change stations to Muzak jazz filled with saxophones -- and not the cool E Street Band kind of sax, either but the really whiny stuff that winds on ad nauseum -- and they jack the volume all the way up. I'd rather curl up with my Train and Def Leppard and type my fingers off.

Yesterday, the Feline Overlords decided that Catterday would be a day early. I was at the bathroom sink, bent over to look into a mirror, minding my own business, when Cassie jumped up on the counter and sauntered over to me. She jumped onto my back and sat there. I was bent over at close to a 90 degree angle, so I was a fairly stable surface at the time. Knowing how she locks on to unstable surfaces, I remained as I was until I finished examining my eyebrows. In the meantime, she proceeded up my back and perched on my head. I now had a cat hat. Remembering the Clawing Propensity, I had to proceed carefully. Remaining bent over, I shuffled back into the bedroom, cat on head. I slid onto the bed onto my belly and finally straightened out, never raising my head in the process. The hat decided that this was a pleasant turn of events and walked to the small of my back and curled up for a nap. Score One for the kitties. I know when I'm defeated.


Monday, October 08, 2012

Grey, grey day. It's rainy and cold. It's not my ideal Tennessee October sky, but it's what we have today. I am wearing 2 sweaters, and I'm still cold.

Over the weekend, I added two new bits of software to my writing aresenal:

- New calendar software! I have used a paper planner for some time, but in the past couple of months, I just wasn't keeping up with it. My husband discovered the Pimlical planner for both Windows and Android a little while ago, and he really liked it. I decided to follow suit. I installed it this weekend, and it seems to be working well so far. It's really nice to be able to put in the dates for the next DragonCon without working through a pile of pages in a box! We'll see over time if it works well with my mad methods!

As a fun aside, the proceeds from this calendar are donated to wildlife preservation. The developer named it "The Planner of the Apes". Love it!


- Natural Reader Software - This is a screen-reading program that my husband is using to edit his own novel. This program will read text on a screen out loud. It comes with some basic voices, but you can purchase additional ones. It is amazing to hear the text out loud. So far, I have caught several errors that I missed during several rounds of silent reading. It was also fun to hear the story out loud and pick out what is really good about my story and not just the errors. It is a good text-to-speech system for a limited budget. It took a little while to install, and it can be a little tricky to use at times, but so far it has been a great tool.

A free demo version is available if you want to try it out. It works with almost any text document, from Word to Excel to pdfs.


Chapter one of "Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea" is in good shape. I am really hammering away at chapter two now. I made some good progress yesterday. One interesting thing about writing (among many) -- you write when the iron is hot, which is often outside normal working hours. Sometimes, way outside.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Keeping Sane

I have been on this full-time writing adventure for two months now, and I'm starting to realize a few things. Mostly I was aware of these things already on a textual level, but now I'm getting to really know them on an in-my-bones basis. Writing can be a very lonely affair.

I'm a bit of a lone wolf anyway, so time alone is necessary. I do spend a lot of time with my characters during the day, but I do find that some interaction with flesh and blood is helpful in keeping one's sanity in check. At least, the brand of sanity I have at any rate. I try to preserve one day a week as "Errand Day" to get out of the house, go the post office, forage for food, and visit the yarn at Joann's. Last weekend I went even further. I attended the Jewelry Television "Jewel School" at their headquarters in Knoxville, TN.

I think it was the best twenty-five bucks I've ever spent. That was the registration fee, and I got it back in the form of a gift certificate for their retail store. I got to hang out with some of my local craftsy friends and met new ones. They fed me lunch for three days and threw chocolate at me every time I turned around. I took classes in all sorts of jewelry making skills: wire wrapping, chain maille, and beading, among others. I really enjoyed the mixed metal collage class. It was very difficult for my little dyspraxic self, as they wanted us to work with torches and acidic-type substances. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that KT and Fire (or acid or anything sharp or anything requiring knots) are always an explosive combination. However, I managed to anneal that sucker without burning the building down (with lots of help and supervision), and I teased some gorgeous colors out of the copper to boot. Most of the students were creating pendants, but I decided it would be more fun to make a brooch. I love how it turned out. I brought it home and attached some chains and skeleton key "findings" to it and turned it into a chatelaine. I thought, well, I'm writing steampunk, let's have a steampunk chatelaine. It's copper and brass, and I love it. Hmmmm. It may be time to buy some nippers and a blowtorch. And more fire insurance.

Here are some photos of my projects:

Chatelaine. I hope to find some charms that represent other normal tools on a Victorian chatelaine, such as a pair of scissors, and add them over time. The class was taught by the lady that invented the Wubbers line of tools. She was a lot of fun and very down to earth. I'd love to take another class from her sometime.

Wire wrapped ring, pinwheel style. This was a lot of fun to make. This might be cool for a faerie or elven costume in the future

Chain Maille Bracelet (Work in Progress), Persian Weave. I have done chain maille before, but this is an advanced weave that I had not tried yet. This was one project in which we were not expected to finish during the allotted two hours for class time. We were expected to complete about an inch of it so we could learn the pattern and then complete it at home. Love love love this weave.

Crochet beading. This was probably the easiest class for me. I already knew how to crochet. I just never done it with beads or stones before. This made a really cute necklace. It seemed a little chaotic for me at first, but its mix of colors makes it coordinate with almost any outfit I have. I think I wear it more than anything else that I made.

Five-strand knotted bracelet. I like this one, too, and it was easy to make with the Knotty Board. I may have to get one of those. This will make great Bellydance Bling.

I think I'll be going back next year! If you enjoy the same sort of activity, I highly recommend it.

I like to keep my hands busy. When I'm not writing, I like to pretend that I'm a fiber artist. If I'm not knitting or crocheting, I'm working on my costumes for DragonCon. (I often sound like a character from American Pie: "And one time, at DragonCon...") I also like to make jewelry, although it usually takes the back seat to the fibery crafts. Who knows? That may change.

I did get more work done on chapter one this weekend, and it's almost ready for my intrepid beta-reader to view. Chapters two and three are shaping up into something very story-like. I really rocked yesterday during our weekly Panera Day. Corvus Corax and Clanadonia really get one a-typing! The rest of the story is sketched out in one giant document, and over time I'll be extruding more chapters from the brew with twists and turns galore. It's raining frogs and camels today, so there will be no sunny outdoor distractions for now. To the keyboard!

Terra Vigila!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Novel Skills

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. The mister and I took a short trip to the ATL to do some shopping. Not for shoes (though I am fond of boots), but for electronics parts. It's a real demonstration of my form of ADD. I quit my day job to write novels. Therefore, I am building a robot.

Okay, okay, that is a bit of a leap. I'm learning how to wire up an Arduino board. Yesterday, I made an LED blink. Then I made it blink really fast. Next step ... how to wire a servo to the same kind of board. Then I can make something move! I have a degree in Computer Science, so I am comfortable with the software side of all this. It's the hardware that has always puzzled me. When I went to college, CS degrees involved mainframes. We did not get to touch the hardware; and if the dumb terminal broke, someone else got to fix it. Later, when I worked for a large corporation, there was an entire department dedicated to fixing our hardware, so I couldn't touch it then, either. So any knowledge I might have had back in my DOS Guru days slowly faded. It's nice to be learning something about the innards of our electronic pals.

I am still writing. My current novel does not involve robots or androids. (Not yet, anyway. Potential!) My hope is that learning such skills will make my later stories that do include robotics more plausible. At least, I do need to know the difference between a diode and a resistor.

The Furry Ones are truly enjoying my being home most of the time. Another new skill --typing with a cat in my lap. Ergo the Magnificent takes up a lot of personal real estate, so it is a bit of a challenge. Bengals are not small critters. When this cat naps, he naps HARD. The rain is falling now, so all of us are feeling a bit drowsy. Rain, fully tummy from lunch, purring cat stretched across my shoulder ... it's hard to not take a nap...

As for the book ... the working title is Twenty Million Leagues Over the Sea, and it is a steampunk-ish space adventure. Consider it a sequel to several of the original "steampunk novels" that were written before the term was ever coined (and are now thankfully in the public domain). At the end of The War of the Worlds, the citizens of Earth were left with a pile of dead Martians and a lot of interesting technology. What did they do with it? In this story we find that if Necessity is Invention's Mother, then Revenge is its Father. Terra Vigila!

My goal is to have this ready for publication on the Kindle and the Nook in Spring 2013, hopefully May-ish. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We're back! After a 3-year hiatus on this blog, I will start posting again. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Great Idea for Health Care Reform

Hello all,

I hope everyone is well. The crafting adventures continue.

- the cross-stitch rendition of "The Kiss" is about 75% complete. I'll post a picture when it is done

- the prayer shawl is about 60% complete. It's gotten so bulky that it is not portable any more, so I can only work on it when I am at home

- the Green Lantern costume: I have spandex, I have a serger, and I know how to use it. I haven't cut the fabric yet. However, I have carved the wax master of the ring. I have just bought my Knead-a-Mold and some resin. I will attempt to make the ring negative with the Knead-a-Mold in the next couple of weekends, when I have a large block of time. I'll keep you updated on that one. I haven't done resin casting before...

Health Care Reform

Anyone who knows me is aware that I did not vote for Obama, and I am still a bit wary of his policies and platforms. However, I did read something today that I did like, about what Mrs. Obama is supporting:

Michelle Obama Supports Healthy Lifestyles

This is probably the best idea I've ever heard about health care reform. One of the best additions we can make? Preventive care. Preventive care is almost always cheaper and is definitely better for people in the long run than reactive care. Isn't it better to prevent illness where you can, or at least reduce its likelihood, rather than treating it? At the very least, let us reduce the occurrence of problems and illnesses that crop up from an unhealthy lifestyle. We can't prevent everything, but we can stop contributing to our own problems and making them worse with our sedentary, empty-calorie-laden lifestyles, can't we?

Less spending would, hopefully, slow the increase of premiums as fewer claims are needed. On top of the savings, we would actually FEEL BETTER, which is more important than money.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a wonderful New Year’s! Take a deep breath and get ready for the ride that will be 2009.

We had a great holiday week. We trekked up to see my family in the Smokies for Christmas. I had a wonderful time visiting with them and playing with my nieces. I got to spend some time with some old friends that I had not seen in a while. My sweet husband gave me a SERGER, among many other gifts, so now I’ll be just a sewing fool! I’m so excited! Now I can properly sew my costumes!!!! Who knows, maybe I’ll take a wild hair and sew some mundane clothes or some drapes while I’m at it, now that the Holidaze are over.

We held our annual New Year’s Eve bash, and it was bigger and better than ever. I think 13 people showed up this year, which is a record for us. It is also the standing room only capacity of our den. We put out buckets of the Colonel’s finest chicken, set up the Wii, and turned our guests loose. One friend brought Guitar Hero, and we all rocked out to some Ozzy and some Eagles and some Pat Benatar and had a grand old time, watched the ball drop on TV, poured some bubbly (carbonated apple cider, since I can’t drink) and toasted each other (my toast: “It’s 2009, and we’re still standin’.”), hoping that the new year would bring us good things.

2008 was a rough ride for a lot of people. Hopefully we’ll pull together and make things better for all of us this year. There’s something psychologically comforting about the rolling over of a year, even though really it is just time marching on as usual. There’s an underlying feeling of a clean slate, a chance to start over, even if only for a little while. It’s a good thing to take that feeling and run with it and really start again on those things that you want to change.

I would like to thank everyone for all their love and friendship in the past year and say that I am looking forward to even more this year. I wish all of you love, comfort, lots of hot cocoa with big fat marshmellows, and all the contentment you can stand.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crafty Happenings

Hello all,

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the Christmas season. Can you believe that the solstice is almost upon us? I am happy about that, as I am ready for the days to start getting longer. It is hard to leave for work in the darkness and drive home in darkness... I feel like a vampire at this time of year...

I've been up to a lot of crafting lately, and I thought I'd show you two of my works in progress. I can never seem to get my mind straight for writing, so I'm trying to still be productive with my knitting and my cross-stitching.

My friend Meowr gave me a set of size 15 knitting needles for Christmas. They are HUGE! My hands can barely hold them, but they are fun to knit with. You can create inches and inches of scarf in no time with these. I decided to create a prayer shawl for her with my new toys. I bought 2 skeins of Lion Brand Homespun yarn in the Fiesta variegated color. It changes color from turquoise to burgandy and everything in between, but there is a constant thread of gold throughout it, and it is gorgeous! And it feels great in my fingers. Basically, the Homespun is a yarn created from many threads loosely bound together by a single red thread. It is wavy in texture and makes for lovely stripes. Here is a picture of the shawl in progress, still on the needle:

The pattern is pretty simple.

I cast on approximately 60 stitches. I don't remember the exact number, but it pretty much filled up the needle!

I knitted the first 5 rows for a border.
Then I alternated rows of K1, *yo, k2tog* K1 with rows of straight knitting to create a lacy fabric. I thought it would be too heavy of a shawl with just straight garter stitch. My friend lives in a more tropical climate than I do, and I didn't want the shawl to be too hot!

I have 2 skeins of the yarn. I haven't finished the first one yet. I'm going to knit until I either decide it's long enough or I run out of yarn, whichever happens first! I'll try to put up a picture of it when I get it finished. I hope it turns out.

My other project... for you Gar/Raven shippers... I present a cross-stitch rendering of the pencil version of "The Kiss" from Teen Titans #30:

The original was, of course, pencilled by the wonderful Tony Daniel. I pulled the pencil picture into my cross-stitch rendering software to create the chart. This software (PC Stitch) does a wonderful job of rendering pictures into charts. It's the same software that I used for my other Raven cross-stitches earlier this year. It's far from done. I'm alternating working on it and on the shawl, so it will take some time to finish. It is HUGE: 200 stitches wide! It's so wide that I had to mount it on my scroll frame sideways, and I have to hold it sideways to stitch as well! Plus, there is a lot of detail in it, and the color-switching makes me crazy sometimes. It's not as simple as the monocolor Raven ink sketch. However, I think it will be worth it in the end. I'll post the final on this one as well, whenever I get it done. I'm halfway done with Raven's hair. Once that is done, I will tackle Beast Boy's hair and the rest of Raven's hand along his jawline.

The mister has been busy as well. He is learning about leatherworking. His initial goal was to create his own bracer for his archery practice. He used his wordworking skills to create a "stitching pony" to make stitching the leather safer... awls can be pretty dangerous! He built it using plans from a book by Al Stohlman, The Art of Hand-Sewing Leather, and it is officially called the "Al Stohlman (Quarter Horse) Stitching Pony". I am very proud of what he's done. It took him several days to build it, but it works very well. (I'm hoping he'll make some yellow bracers for my Speedy costume... I'd love to have REAL LEATHER for that costume!) Here are some pictures of his "pony":

The pony can be detached from the chair and moved about. It is very light and portable. The artist sits astride the wooden column in the front. The leather item is held tight in the clamp, and the artist can sew with an awl from side to side. He started with a simple lock stitch, but he can also do saddle stitch (using 2 needles, one on each side) using this setup. He can manage about 100 lock stitches in an hour... which is great considering the amount of effort it takes to make a single stitch in this craft! He is still testing it out, but it seems to work well so far.

I am thinking of learning some leathercraft myself some day. So many costuming possibilities... elf, barbarian... and BOOTS! lots of BOOTS!

Until later, have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Crisis = Danger + OPPORTUNITY

Hello all,

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while, but I'm back. I've been cogitating a lot lately (like everybody else and their brother-in-law) on the current financial situation. But I'm taking a slightly different tack with my thinking, and I wanted to share it with you. It's just another way of looking at things.

Everyone has heard the old saying that crisis is made up of both danger and opportunity. I think we've heard about the "danger" side of the current Financial Crisis until we are sick of it, but we've heard very little about the "opportunity" side of it.

You heard me. I used the word "opportunity". I honestly think some good things can come out of this debaucle, if we can just be conscious of them.

  • The opportunity to re-evaluate : A large factor in this whole mess is the fact that our mainstream culture is convinced that a person's value is measured by their paycheck. I, too, have long considered my personal worth to be based on the number on my pay stub. But basing my value as a person on that is so very wrong. My dear great Aunt never got a paycheck in her life, but she was one of the hardest-working, most loving, and most wise people that I have ever had the honor to know. Her death was a great loss. Her wisdom and gentleness are greatly missed, and she contributed more to my life than any 401(k) match ever could. The loss of money that we are experiencing now gives us the chance to step back and look at the importance that money has in our lives and to change our attitudes.

    In the past few decades, money has become not just the most important thing, it has become the only thing. And this ought not be. Of course money is important; in our non-agrarian culture, we need it to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. However, it shouldn't be the most important thing, and it definitely should not be the only important thing.

    We have neglected our hearts and our spirits to worship a golden idol. And you don't have to overtly kneel in front of something to worship it. Putting an overwhelming amount of focus on an object, person, or idea is a form of worship, too.

    I just read a great interview with financial advisor Suze Orman that puts a lot of this into perspective. I think her description of the current situation is pretty accurate:
    We have built an entire economy on lies and deceit. It's like building a home or an entire building on a sinkhole. You have a foundation, supposedly. But a little crack, if something goes wrong -- a little earthquake, a tremor -- and it starts to open, everything starts to all down and ... that is exactly what has happened in the United States of America.

    You can read the rest of the article here . I agree with her statement. We have built our wealth on a false prosperity. We have generated wealth "on paper" with nothing real behind it. It was an illusion of wealth built on credit and money that wasn't actually there. Now that false prosperity is crumbling away. But once we are aware of the illusion, we have the chance to back away, turn around, and start to build a prosperity that is real, one that includes the spiritual and energetic aspects of reality, not just the financial aspects.

    When I was in high school, I took a local history class. For one project, we had to interview one of our family elders and ask them a series of questions. One question was "How do you measure someone's success?" Most people came back with the answer of "money". This surprised me, since a lot of the elders in question had lived through the Depression. I expected a different answer from them. But when I asked my grandmother, who had worked a great deal of her life, that question, her answer? "Happiness. If you are happy with where you are and with what you have, no matter what you have, then you are successful." I liked that answer. I still do. I like the thought of contentment.

    One co-worker of mine said it well when he said, "Advertisements just kill our contentment. They absolutely squash it. Because if we're content, we won't go out and buy more stuff." He is right. A lot of corporations can't afford for us to be content. They have to keep convincing us to buy the latest gadgets, the latest fashions, bigger houses, newer cars, because they have to feed their monster. The monster will die if contentment is found. And they have to keep the monster of Wealth alive. There is nothing wrong with having something good or something new -- just don't expect to get your contentment from those things. Contentment comes from somewhere else, from inside of you.

    Let's take this opportunity to re-evaluate the place that money has in our lives and to decide what is truly important. Let's re-learn what contentment means.

  • The opportunity to reconnect: Over the last few years, I've heard story after story about families that spend very little time together and are scattered to the winds by a packed schedule of soccer, ballet, etc., etc. But over the past few weeks, I've read other stories that say that people are starting to cocoon at home because gas was too expensive for that kind of running around (or in the Southeast, nearly impossible to find at any price). Well, here is an opportunity to reconnect with our families, to slow down from our constant buzzing about and actually be together for the first time in many years.

    Let's not whine about what we can't do because we can't go anywhere. Let's discover what we can do at home or in our neighborhood. We can learn that baking bread from scratch is actually a lot of fun (just did that last weekend and loved it). We can read a good book. We can even read a good book to each other! My husband and I read aloud to each other all the time and have rather lively debates about what we've read. It is great fun and great fuel for family conversation, and it is definitely more interactive than watching another rerun of "Desperate Housewives".

    You don't even have to buy books if you don't have the budget for it. You can rediscover the neighborhood library, trade books with other families, or even download some classics from the Project Gutenberg website. Many books whose copyrights have expired can be found here for free. It's even legal! There are lots of wonderful books by the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Jules Verne, Shakespeare and Mark Twain. (I am currently reading a download of Following the Equator, which I have heard is one of Jimmy Buffet's favorite books and inspired some of his songs. If you are a ParrotHead Completist, you must read it.)

    And of course, the Bible has been a best-seller for millenia and can be read online for free at many web sites, including here. Reading the Good Book right now certainly couldn't hurt, to be sure.

  • The opportunity to change the economy from a credit-based to a cash-based economy: This was suggested in the interview with Suze Orman that is linked above. We need to stop living from paycheck to paycheck if we can. I know not everyone is able to do this right now, but more people are capable of it than they think. Christmas is coming up; let's resist the urge to max out the cards on gifts this year so that we're not paying for them until the next Christmas. Let's not buy more "extra" stuff than the cash that we have now can get for us. (I include myself in this admonition as well!)

    If you are just now getting out of school... please learn from the experience of those who have been out there for a while. If you can avoid debt, do it. Pay off you college debts, if any, and please start saving some money, even if it is just spare change at first. Avoid the cycle of debt if you can. Don't be lured into the credit card trap by the siren song of building up your credit record. Lots of credit records get ruined that way. If you want the fun stuff, please save up for it and buy it outright... don't be paying for it long after it has lost its lustre for you.

    I never knew how much of this economy revolved around "credit", which is actually money that doesn't truly exist yet. I guess I new that there was a lot of short-term credit out there for businesses, but I didn't know how much of it was used to make payroll. Has it always been this way in our industrialized nation? If not, when did it change? How did we get so dependent on credit that we couldn't pay our employees what we owe them on time without it? Again, the reaction to frozen credit tells me that we as a nation rely on it far too much. The prosperity we have is just an illusion at that rate.

  • Other Views on the 'Net:

  • Spiritual Opportunities: A great essay on the spiritual side of what I'm talking about can be found at the Christian Science Monitor. For those of you not familiar with the CS Monitor, it is a media service sponsored by the First Church of Christ, Scientist, organization in Boston (not to be confused with Scientology, which is totally different). I am not involved in that organization myself, but I do like their web site. They have an NPR-like style in reporting the news. They tend to stay away from the more tabloid-gossip-stories that are all over the other major outlets.

    One quote stuck with me:
    Instead of relying on bank accounts and bailouts for our stability – however much they provide some answers – we can put our trust in the divine economy. Then, what needs to end – such as greed and dishonesty – will come to an end, replaced by revival and stability.

    I have often thought that there were 2 "economies": one financial and one spiritual. The financial one, of course, deals with the exchange of money. The spiritual one deals with the exchange of spiritual energy, whether it is between individuals or within a culture or between a human and a divine being. We have paid a lot of attention to the financial one but neglected the spiritual one. I think the two economies affect each other; when one suffers, the other will suffer in time as well. I think that is what has happened to us. I think the current situation really highlights how much we have neglected our spiritual sides... and now that we see it, we have a chance to correct it.

  • Environmental Opportunities: I have found someone else who also feels that this is a time of opportunity, the No Impact Man. I highly recommend this blog. I have read it off and on for about a year now. Although I am not as extreme in my views, I like a lot of what he says about happiness and contentment.

  • ... more to come as I continue to think of new opportunities here... if you think of any that you think should be listed here, please leave me a comment! I would love to hear what other ideas are out there.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Just When You Thought I Had Enough Hobbies...

    I just got (another) book from Amazon... "The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook"! It's a lovely book about a form of Japanese quilting. When I get more of my Christmas knitting done (and some writing on Dawn Child!), I'd like to try some of it. It is a beautiful art, and a wonderful one to add to my fiber art skills repertoire!

    Some additional information on this form of quilting:

    Purl Bee Sashiko tutorial

    A Short Sashiko History

    Sashiko FAQ


    Anybody else ready for Titans #5? I'm bouncing up and down waiting for it to come out tomorrow to see what happens. I also want to see 6 and 7... I'd really like to have Joey back and in his normal body for more than 5 minutes!


    I discovered another podcast site whilst at DragonCon. The AstronomyCast site features half-hour shows, updated weekly, on various topics in astronomy. The hosts break down the information into digestible bites. I've always liked astronomy, and of course I am interested in writing some original science fiction when I get Dawn Child finished (and I will!!!!). This is some great knowledge to have in my noggin so that I can make the stories as plausible as possible.

    If you enjoy astronomy, give it a listen:


    I will add it to my list of favorite podcasts as well. If you listen to it, let me know what you think!


    Anyone else for Steampunk? This technological vision of the Victorian era is absolutely fascinating. If you are into it, you might enjoy this link on creating your own Steampunk clothing:

    ThreadBanger's Steampunk episode

    Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Recovering from the Con - Updated 9/6

    I still have bits of costume strewn about my study as I clean them and organize them for storage until I can wear them again. I've got the same feeling now that I have after every Christmas, that empty feeling before everything starts up again for the New Year. In fact, it seems that a kind of year rolls over for me at this time, as I turn around and start thinking about what I would like to do the next year...

    I did meet a lot of new friends this year (still missing Beast Boy, *sniff*), and I also found a wonderful new blog at one of the podcasting panels. If you love Celtic music, and if you ever listened to the Thistle and Shamrock on public radio, you will love this:

    Marc Gunn Celtic Podcasts

    Check it out if you have any Celtic Soul in ye!

    We saw several bands at the Con with a Celtic sound, including Emerald Rose, who performed there several times. They perform traditional music AND con filking that is rather hilarious. I highly recommend them.

    I grew up listening to Andy M. Stewart and Silly Wizard and the Chieftains and Dougie McLean and Clannad... and too many others to name here. I hadn't listened to any of that for a while, and I didn't know how much I missed it until I heard it again. I love fiddles and penny whistles and the sometimes whimsical, sometimes wistful, Scottish and Irish (and Welsh!) music. I am of Irish and Cherokee descent (as well as English and German), so I suppose the music calls to something in my very marrow sometimes. I have always felt comforted by it.

    And now for some pictures! Part I, anyway:

    We finally found garb for the mister. We purchased it over different booths at the Con. I think he looks rather fine in it:

    Someone call the Colonial Marines!

    The band Emerald Rose (which I mentioned above)

    Top O' the Mornin' to Ye!

    A Steampunk "Automaton" -- steam punk was HUGE at the Con this year. We are thinking about indulging in a couple costume in this genre, since it is one we both like:

    My OYL Raven did make an appearance on Friday. Yes, that is a different wig than the one I wore for the McKone outfit:

    Another OYL Raven pic:

    Another McKone Raven of me that I found. Full Disclosure, yes I did photoshop my poochy belly just a wee bit, just to see what I WILL look like in the future:

    Black Adam and Isis

    Ted Kord Blue Beetle!

    I saw a couple of comic Starfires this year, which is new. I've only seen the animated Starfire's before.

    The only other comic Raven that I've ever met at a Con. She was more of the Wolfman-Perez version and used a different approach than I did in construction. I thought that the tailored waist was a great idea. I thought she was beautiful, and I do feel a little clumsy when compared to this version. She was very nice and stayed in character.

    Replaying a scene from "Hancock", which was a great movie...

    One of the coolest costumes EVER... This kid and his dad made this costume out of cardboard and spray paint. It looks great. What made it even better is that he actually transformed! His dad would take his helmet off, he would dive down to the floor in some kind of yogic child's pose, moved the flaps from behind him forward, and he was a tank! He won the Children's Costume contest, and I think the prize was well-deserved. People went nuts when he came on stage.

    Steam Punk and Punk Rock

    A group of Green Lanterns from NY in the parade...

    I thought she was a beautiful Green Lantern. I think she used the same pattern that I used to make the McKone Raven (I just had to alter it from pants to a skirt). She did a great job with the alterations on the pattern.

    And a GL Batman and GL Superman! How cool is that! And they waved at me and recognized my Raven costume. SQUEEE!


    Not my gumdrop buttons! The Gingerbread Man from Shrek

    The guys from ConNooga, which is a convention in my town of Chattanooga. Here we have a variety of characters, including Mork from Ork.

    The little guy from the Six Flags commercial. Makes sense, since Six Flags Over Georgia is nearby

    Here's one that Frank will like... a SteamPunk Batman!

    More later...

    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    DragonCon 2008

    Well, another DragonCon has come and gone. We just got back yesterday, and I'm back at work. I am still decompressing. It takes a while to get used to NOT seeing spandex, Klingons and Jedi everywhere. There are no stormtroopers here at home to work security, and now I'm nervous! I'm sure I'll be fine. Just give me a few days.

    We had a great time this year. We ran into some old friends that we see every year, some from Chattanooga itself and some I just get to see at Con, including one wonderful lady from Chicago who is a grand Harry Potter fan. I always enjoy seeing her. (However, I didn't get my Beast Boy hug this year! I scoured the Con for Dave and Robin and Frank and Rick, and I couldn't find them anywhere. I am sad. :( It's just not a complete Con if I don't get to say hi to them. I don't know if they didn't make it this year or if in the milling thousands of people there I just couldn't find them. Maybe next year. Sigh. )

    Anthony took lots of pictures, which I will be posting later. For now, I do have pictures of my costumes for this year. I wore the OYL Raven again this year, but you guys have seen that one already.

    Here is a better picture of Speedy than last year. It fits better, since I have lost 16 pounds and cut off 10 inches of hair since last Con:

    And here is my new McKone Raven outfit. I finally got a wig! I had to take it off eventually. The wig cap underneath it was cutting off the circulation to my scalp.

    And here is another shot so you can see the dress and the boots. Hmmm. I'm still a little on the pudgy side there. I have a little more weight to lose before this looks the way I want it to.

    I'm really proud of that one. It's the first costume that I made all by myself. Well, I didn't make the actual boots, but I did make the boot covers. There are a few corrections that I'd like to make to it before I wear it again, but it's my most comfortable costume so far... plus, this one suffered none of the wardrobe failures that I am famous for. I had to be careful of the wind outside (we were getting wind from Gustav all the way in Atlanta) to avoid any Marilyn Monroe moments. Thank Heaven for dance bloomers, just in case.

    I did see one other comic Raven this year (finally!). She was the Wolfman-Perez version. She looked so lovely. I'll post her picture with the others later. She stayed in character way better than I did. I think I probably smile to much to be a convincing Raven. Doesn't matter, I was having fun. The Con is like a great big family reunion and gives me the chance to hang out with 50,000 people just like me. Not something I get every day. It's a great holiday and a break from the real world.

    More later. Gotta get back to work.