Archive | May 2011

Only Checking In

I've tried starting this post three times. My brain realizes that it's been getting little sleep and that work wants to suck it dry right now, so it looks like I will NOT be regaling you with clever anecdotes from my convention experience. Not right now. Not today.

The weekend was an educational blur. I attended many practical and pragmatic writer sessions, with an emphasis on writing the other. I had some high moments which excited me about writing. I had some good meet ups with friends, and some great bonding with Dan and Lisa.

I felt I should have been home with Bryon frequently. He had an excellent visit with his parents this weekend, and that was great, but my concern about his state right now seems to work against my rational mind. I can expect this in spades on my Scandinavian trip, I think.

I'll write a series of articles, but today, well today, you should just know that I'm back. And well. And bone tired. Some writers aren't very good on 4-6 hours of sleep for 3 days in a row.

Catherine

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Caveat: This is certainly not my most pressing writing issue. I would go so far to say that I doubt that it will ever be my most pressing writing issue.

***

There was a moment this year when I was making my plans to go to Wiscon, and there was the possibility of staying on the Governor's Club level. I have always wanted to try this! I have always thought it would be fantastic to try to concierge, the bar, all the goodies. And I know that I would meet some fabulous writers who stay on the top floor. I'm at the point where I'd like to spend some time talking to folks about what it's like to be a published author very involved in the industry, and I'm thinking that this happens a lot upstairs.

Not that it doesn't happen downstairs. I think (in my rich fantasy life) that it happens a different way upstairs.

But life is complicated. You see, I attend Wiscon with two friends who are not aspiring writers. They are two of my oldest and dearest friends. This trip with them is a sacred pilgrimage. For me, it has become more about writing, but it also is the one big bonding trip we three take each year. As it is, I see them less than I used to, because they would, naturally, attend different programming choices, not being aspiring writers and all!

So, when the opportunity for the Governor's Club room came up, I sprang on it. I discovered that the available room was a double. No problem. Trundle bed, I thought. And then we three were in, baybee! And I would have my cake for dual purposes.

If you can stay in the Governor's Club, it's not expected that you would exceed the specified number per room. Got it.

For a brief moment, my mind flitted over the idea of keeping the room downstairs and staying in the Governor's Club by myself. Price (upcoming trip to Norway!) made me think twice about that. And a strange, vaguely collegiate piece of myself thought about sleeping on the floor, but that was discarded. That Bohemian lifestyle doesn't even sound good any longer.

But here's the real reason I didn't take the Governor's Club on by myself--how can I bond with my most excellent friends if I don't room with them? I do want to know more about the life of authors, and I will. But I don't think I can let my overarching career interest displace our traditional good time.

Next year, all three of us will be on the Governor's level, and we'll see if we like it. It looks like, for me, wise move or otherwise, that I'm okay with that. I'm not a schmoozer by nature. I am not good at strategically putting myself in a place where I might accidentally meet interesting people or make connections while sacrificing my integrity, which in this case called for me to stay with my friends and do what I do every year. Yeah, I know. Not very modern. Some might even say not strategic.

I guess if that means I will always be small potatoes writer, okay. I don't think that's the case, though. I think what I really need to do is write a good book, send it out, and hope for the organic process to kick in as I improve.

You know, I just don't want to be fake, or plastic. I just want to be myself, with some good books published. There is no secret way to meet the right person and have opportunity by-pass a lot of the mileage on the road of hard work. That's not what I expect on the top floor, so I am not heart-broken.

Next year, when you see me Governing, provided I can get my finger on the registration button at the right time this year, I'll be drinking at the bar for myself, maybe with Dan and Lisa. I am, however, a happy and friendly person, and open to conversation. Whether you can do anything for me or not.

Catherine

Finland and Norway Itinerary

Busy times here at work. We are hiring a new office assistant, and we're trying to get that done before I rush off to Europe. And on the home front, there's a lot going on. Wiscon coming up, getting ready for the big trip, supportive wife stuff. All this makes for a very full life.

Some of you have been asking about my upcoming trip abroad. A writer friend, Catrina Horsfield, and I are going on a writer research trip. She's going to research Finnish culture, and I want to get a good look at the nature and folklore of Norway. I will eventually use this information in the rewrite of the troll book, as well as the sequel to it. Here's the itinerary for the trip.

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Unextreme Make-over: Facial Skin Care

Let me see if I can get this done. I started at 9:30 am, but it's been a day.

Two things of note: It's the day of my fake birthday party, as I will be in Helsinki on my real birthday, and Bryon's like that. AND my vintage make-up and hair books came in the mail! They are as cool as they promised to be.

***

This is a more practical post, but a necessary one. As bodies age, they change in mysterious ways. One of the ways in which we change is our skin.

We all know that we get wrinkly and we lose elasticity in our skin. And I'm not going to get on that train. You can read a ton of articles about how to reduce wrinkles, or use botox, or have plastic surgery done. Guys, entropy rules. You can't fight entropy. Your face is anarchy waiting to happen. I like my laugh lines. I'm getting used to my saggy chin. We'll get used to the rest as it comes.

So, if you're looking for someone to give you those hot tips, there's a big Internet out there. Have fun.

My concern is using make-up so it doesn't make me look older than I am. And I use make-up as my skin becomes more blotchy, or my age and sun spots begin to show. In today's entry, I'm going to share some tips I've gotten about facial cleansing

***

Skin changes as it ages. Of course, as a young person, you probably analyzed your skin type. Even the guys out there might know how to take care of their skin if it's oily or dry. The problem with many of the ways we take care of our appearance is that we get busy with life, so our early training stays in place, and we never update it. Unless you truly do have acne, you should probably stop taking care of your skin like you do. In my case, my skin has increased in sensitivity, which is a common problem in light-skinned white women.

Happily, I can take some lessons to update myself. We still all have different skin types, so the most important thing as you age is to talk to someone about your skin. You know, a trained professional. Like the Avon lady. In my case, the Aveda folks and the Body Shop folks. I like both these stores because their products tend to be more environmentally friendly.

Here are some things I've learned.

My skin is drier than it used to be. To cleanse my skin, I use the Body Shop's Vitamin E Cleanser. It's an economical alternative, and helps to keep my sensitive skin from reddening. I also use a hydrating toner, especially on the days I use make-up. Usually, I'll finish off with a nice night cream, even during the day. Right now I'm trying another night cream just for kicks--carrot moisture cream.

Now, why is it important to start with a clean, moisturized face? Soap can dry your skin. So can the sun, and the weather. And of course, impurities can cause all sorts of blemishes. Blah, blah, blah. Elementary stuff.

Both Aveda and Body Shop have products which claim to help with wrinkles, fine lines, under eye shadow, and so on. Your mileage may vary. One of the ways in which I'm lucky is in fairly good shape for now, so a little under eye shadow cream and make-up usually take care of my blotches and discoloration. I'm still in the minor leagues with this.

My friend Jools recommends Philosophy's Miracle Worker. I'd be interested in trying it out to see if it works better than my current eye cream, which gets rid of shadow, but that's about it. I'll let you know what I think when I give it a whirl.

Just a quick note on the rest of you. Skin doesn't stop at your neck. Don't forget to moisturize the rest, or use a shower gel that does. I use many flavors of Body Shop body butter. Sometimes I get nostalgic for the smell of Jergens. My skin on the whole is in pretty good shape.

When we return to the make-over, we'll talk about make-up foundations for older skin.

Clarion Write-a-thon

Earth 2 me, Cath Schaffer, has written an excellent article on how to hang out in the bar for authors.

***

Some of you might remember that last year I participated in the Clarion Write-a-thon. We did make a little money for the effort, and I would like to do so again. My Viable Paradise experience has taught me that time away to be a writer, away from the cares of every day life is IMPORTANT. I'd like to help give someone else that gift.

And, as it turns out, a friend of mine is, in fact, going to Clarion West this year. This gets a little more personal.

So. This year, once again, I will be participating in the Clarion Write-a-thon. Here's my author page.

Just like last year, I want to urge you to participate if you're a writer, and you'd be writing anyway. The dates are June 26-August 6, the same dates as the actual workshop. Also, it doesn't matter who you donate to. Just help us raise some money!

My goal will be to continue pounding away on my 12 hours of writing a week as I continue to work toward my writing expertise hours. I've been thinking about how I could make this more interesting for those who contribute. Last year, Ferrett Steinmetz did a fantastic job with fund raising, and I think I will be taking a page out of his book . I need to generate lots of material for the Klarion books, so my plan will be to have a Klarion/Clarion blog (Isn't that cute?).

If you donate a mere $10, you will be part of the Klarion/Clarion community that can see me produce initial drafts of novel bits from the Klarion series (with author notes sometimes). I will also be happy to critique (drawn at random) from 3 contributors who contribute $25 or more (most likely after the write-a-thon).

Remember, festivities will begin June 26th. Get your ticket now! Only $10 for the price of admission, or if you prefer to think of it that way, one really exclusive latte.

And...if anyone would be kind enough to spread the word, in case you can't participate, but would like to get some donations vicariously, I'm happy to be linked to.

Catherine

Because Books Don’t Write Themselves

Let me get the self-denigration out of the way. Because I am amused.

This morning, in our efforts to be environmentally conscientious citizens, Bryon and I are juggling our schedules to take one car. We have failed in this effort twice this week, so we were extra cautious this morning. At 7:15 a.m., he dropped me off at Coffee Talk, and I picked up my latte and walked to work. It takes me twenty-five minutes to accomplish this task. I finished the drink, navigated the construction, and made my way onto the campus.

Here's where things get a little complicated. When I drive, that's one of the times I get my best story ideas. Walking too is a good time, especially walking alone, which I seldom do. So, I'm walking and thinking, thinking and walking, and I...sort of forgot I was walking. I was so immersed in my WIP, and my feet were tangled, and, well, I fell.

No injuries. Minor owies only. And no embarrassment, as no one was around to see me take my tumble.

This used to happen to me all the time when I was a kid! It was another option in that "weird kid doesn't fit in pack" that I bought before birth. Usually, this seldom happens nowadays, but I guess it still can if conditions are right. So, moral of the story--sit down if you notice a writing trance coming on. If.

Do any of you experience anything similar?

***

I've been working at the college an awful lot this week. All administrative, all the time. That makes me tired. It's been hard to motivate myself to write and do what needs to be done. But you know, I like having words to work with. I like falling into the trance. I like being able to say to my writing buddies, "Yes, I too have been working on...something" and then be able to pull something out to read.

I like that. And it would be awesome if it could be like that all the time. But there are times when you really struggle to find time to write. As a matter of fact, Miranda Suri just did a post on this. It's a busy time of year for academics after all, so I know I'm not the only one feeling the crunch and the drain. And speaking of the drain, sometimes that demanding life just doesn't let you feel like you're writing. And of course, the shadow of my father-in-law's situation and Bryon's depression isn't doing much here either.

But.

Birds gotta fly. Fish gotta swim. Writer gotta write. Books don't write themselves. Ain't no way I'll ever get to see Bryon's little face light up because I've bought him a Lost in Space robot if I don't write the book, send the book out, and do all those things. DO them. Not THINK about doing them.

Which is an easy trap to fall into. You know, I used to not have the time to write. Until I decided that I would make the time. I'll admit it's not always easy, but it's not like I can come back and find a manuscript ready on my desk. Unless I leave out more milk for the writing faeries.

***

Speaking of playing, nothing stimulates a writer to write like being around other writing writers. Or, writing writers write around right writing writers. Wiscon's coming. That's gotta help. And maybe some fellow writers and I could schedule some Internet play dates, once I get back from Europe.

***

Better get in some more work before there's another student call. Loves me some students, but today is not really productive.

Catherine

Unextreme Make-over: Lauren Rennells Hair and Make-Up Books

Here are a couple of cool things I found out about last night!

Retro MakeUp is a book that covers make-up styles from the twenties into the seventies.

Vintage Hairstyling shows a variety of old-fashioned hairstyles. This is the second edition.

Both books are written by Lauren Rennells, who has a ton of experience with make-up and hair in television, movies, and photography.

So, I'm ordering them, and I'll be playing with them.

***

In other make-over news, eShakti has not yet sent me my dresses. However, they sent me an email when it became clear that they wouldn't make their promised obligation of 3-5 business days, and gave me a 10 percent discount.

It has, however, been two weeks since I ordered from them, and I would like the dresses for Wiscon next week. I hope they come. I REALLY want them for my European trip, so they have a little time, but I did want to wear something cool to the con.

***

All right. Next make-over post, I swear, skin care for over 40. It's just that I had to share the coolness.

Catherine

Prospero Lost

I...grapple with my current work. It's a commitment of time and energy. Five books that will examine four generations of one family over ninety years. We take it one book at a time, with a different focal relationship for each book. Currently I am revising what I can save from the old version of what will become book three. But the time I've honed everything down, I might have about 30,000 words. Most of those events will end up in the finished story, even if the actual words I have characterized them with don't.

After I've done that winnowing, new writing begins. I plan to explore stories and arcs, see how they fit into my plot outlines and time tables, and focus on the tensions as well as the climaxes.

I've only stuck my toes in the shallows of this project. I can see the overall shape and vision of the thing. But from this side of the lake, I can't see the opposite shoreline of the completion of the entire project. It's huge and complicated. Worth doing, certainly. I want to do it well.

***

As most writers do, I read others. About a year ago, I saw the cover of Prospero Lost, picked it up, and thought that I would be happy to read a story with characters from The Tempest. I picked it up a couple of months after that, and just recently found my way to it in the big stack of books.

Here was the model of what I was missing. Prospero Lost is a story about the Prospero family. Told from Miranda's viewpoint, after she receives a cryptic warning from her father, she and airy servant turned fleshy detective Mab set out to warn her seven remaining siblings about a demonic danger. The siblings turn out to be other famous characters in history and folklore. Oh, and the family just doesn't get along anymore. Rife with melodrama, adventure, character conflict, and mysterious events, Miranda and Mab move through an increasingly complicated story which will be concluded in two more books.

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Notes on Future Topics

Yesterday at work, I sort of lost it for a bit and decided my brain needed a break. I spent some time researching our upcoming (next summer) trip to Disney Paris, and ended up looking at Disney Cruises as well. With the budget I have to work with for anniversapalooza, it looks like we can afford just the Paris side of our planned excursion to Paris and London, and The Man (TM) is okay with that. So, we plan to do a 5 day/4 night trip to Paris, focusing mostly on Disney, but with a side-trip into Paris, and maybe a side-trip into Provins.

Finally, these two Disney enthusiasts will see Phantom Manor.

Mind you, those cruises were VERY tempting. For about the same money as it would cost us to go to Paris, we could have doubled our time on a cruise ship. But that will come in the future.

***

Next year's fake family reunion, by the way, will feature VOW RENEWAL. This year's will just feature cool people. Got the invites out for that yesterday. For those of you who have no clue what that is, my counselor of a few years ago suggested that I celebrate the family I have and the life I have created from my humble beginnings. This one will be number three.

***

There is a trip to Finland and Norway coming up. I intend to put up the agenda soon(ish), and there will be some journaling on the trip. And some research posting later.

***

What else do I want to write about upcoming? Um... Prospero Lost (next entry), And it's time for another fashion post, probably on skin care for older women. I have a couple of requests for VP interviews out.

And there is the Clarion Write-a-thon again.

***

Right. Moving on. Next entry coming on the heels of this one.

Catherine

VP Profile #15: Irina Ivanova

Irina Ivanova is soft spoken. Yet, she writes a tough cookie of a heroine. Guess you never can tell what is beneath the surface.

Tamago: When did you first know that you were going to be a writer?

Irina: I wrote my first story at thirteen, for a literature class. The assignment was to come up with a 3 (notebook) page science fiction story. After an all-nighter (a first manifestation of a bad habit of mine), I proudly presented a 22-page story (again, a first manifestation of another bad habit of mine). At this point, I still didn't know I'll one day consider writing as more than a fun pastime -- that'd take another 20 years or so. But I haven't stopped writing since.

Looking back, though, I should have known storytelling would be my "thing." I was the four-year old who would entertain herself for hours by naming her color pencils and creating adventures for them (sadly, my character-naming skills haven't improved much since -- though I'd like to believe the adventures have). For years growing up, my favorite bedtime activity was to re-imagine books and movies the way I'd have liked them to be (I had, and still have, a mild fascination with evil henchmen -- as you can imagine, there was a lot of re-imagining to do there!). Oh, and I was also a compulsive reader. I figure my career as an engineer has had it coming from the start.

Tamago: What kind of genres do you like to write the most in? Why?

Irina: I don't necessarily have a preferred genre. I've dabbled in most subgenres of speculative fiction, but I play mainly in "hard-ish" fantasy and in science fiction (usually, with stories that are a tad less grand than space operas, fall a hair or two short of hard sci-fi, and/or border on social sci-fi). I guess one of my favorite parts of writing is world-building, so I tend to be drawn to genres that let me do a ton of it.

Tamago: Has being a member of two different cultures affected your writing?

Irina: Absolutely! It's the shove-it-down-your-throat version of gaining perspective by being exposed to others' beliefs and lifestyles -- and adopting or adapting to them -- or, alternatively, getting forced out of your comfort zone: a type of experience all fiction writers should have anyway!

Seriously, though, partly because I've been a member of different cultures and partly because of the specific cultures and the events that have influenced them in these past couple of decades, I feel I have a rich source of themes, conflict, imagery, and behavior patterns to explore -- or borrow -- for my stories. Otherwise, it's just another experience, in a way unique, and in a way not at all that uncommon, that's part of life. And life affects writing, whether we want it or not. =)

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