Friday, January 25, 2008

A Big Step Forward (an Ostrich Post)

Okay, folks, I've managed to make you fear for my life in my canary posts, so here we go, a new category...ostrich post :).

Where the canary bravely lives life on the edge (though usually not by choice), the traditional (not real) ostrich buries its head in the sand and hopes for the best. Don't know whether this is just a laugh or something useful for character study but...

I'm a nurturer. This has served me very well over the years and has been an incredible blessing in trying to manage the myriad of ways that my life changed when I married and when I had kids for example.

However, it has a downside. Very simply, it's hard for me to put my needs first. I have trouble buying things that I need if I can make do without them, I tend to get bowled over because I don't put my foot down, and being noticed makes me uncomfortable. Simple things that often go unnoticed in our "first person" world.

Well, today you should cheer for me...through your gales of pitying laughter of course ;)...because I have made a huge stride forward :).

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, my mother-in-law took me out to get some pregnancy clothes to places that honestly I could never have afforded on my own. Now remember that thing about not buying things for myself? Well it works out to being very uncomfortable when things are bought for me as well. But we muddled our way through my intimidation and discomfort quite handily and ended up with some clothing that while it could accommodate my physical changes, was also flexible enough that I'd be able to wear it more than nine months or even eighteen. (I wear clothes out, so ten, fifteen years later, I'm still in the same ones.)

Which brings us to the present (yes, all that was back story and if this were a short story, I would have to cut it out :p). My oldest turns fifteen on this very day. That means the whole preggy clothes purchase was some sixteen years ago.

Now many of the clothes purchased that day have worn out over the years, but I still have the leggings, mainly because I only wear them under jeans when cold because molded clothing is something I don't tend to wear...well, except for jeans, but I'm a bundle of contradictions :). One pair is my absolute favorite. It's good thick cotton with ribbing and is both comfortable and warm enough to make a difference. Given my preference, this is the pair I'd choose every time, except...

I have a long torso and short arms. This might sound like it has no relevance, but it is critical. It means that 90% of the tops I purchase, whether off the women's or men's racks, are not long enough to stay tucked in my pants as I prefer to wear them. So there's a tiny gap, okay, of several inches, of bare skin with nothing between it and the icy cold air.

And when I wear the pair of leggings I absolutely prefer because they're so comfortable and wonderful, their horribly scratchy and irritating label is right on that bare skin where it irritates until my back has a red itchy patch.

Now an age ago, I still clung to the belief that over time the label would get less scratchy, that as I washed it, the material would soften and become just another part of these comfortable leggings. Some sixteen years later? It's a bit long and WAY too many washings to hold on to that delusion. So instead, I just suffered. Accepted the bad with the good, accommodated to the world around me as I am wont to do. I still wore the leggings, just wasn't as thrilled or hopeful when I pulled them on.

However, this morning a crazy, wild, amazing thought crossed my mind.

Hmm, what if I...removed!...the label. I could do it. Just a few stitches snipped and my wonderful leggings would be wonderful all over. No one would care. No one would even know (a bit late for that now ;)).

So to make an already long story come to an end, that was my victory. I forced the world to conform to my needs for once. I changed my own environment to suit me. I snipped off the irritating label!

/me peeks out the curtains.

And the label police haven't even shown up yet as I sit here enjoying my now completely comfortable leggings :).

So, don't leave me out on a limb. Maybe I'm completely strange and out there, but I'd guess not. Share one of those moments where something becomes obvious that should have been all along so I'm not out here by myself :).

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mike's Meme

Now I don't normally do tags because I struggle to come up with something to say, but I got tagged by a friend, Mike who's just as thrown by these things as I am, so I figure it's only fair :). Of course now I have to find six more to keep this going...eep! And the scary thing is that not only did I come up with six but I came up with more than six...and six not on Mike's list. As suspected though, it took all day to come up with six things to say.

1) When I was little, I was a matchstick white-blond who loved to wear mirrored dresses. Don't have a picture online of me back then, but the dresses looked sort of like this: Mirrored Dress. And in checking, I went to my parents' site to see if they did. They don't, but if you've ever wanted to do one of those semesters abroad on a ship, you might want to check out their blog: ScholarShip. Dad's teaching and Mom's coordinating offshore trips for a semester at sea.

2) I just recently started playing the guitar again with some seriousness (a friend is teaching me Spanish guitar) but I have a broad collection of instruments that I love but do not have time to play. Actually, it's more that I don't have anyone to play with, as for me, making music is not a solitary activity (Does this count as two?)

3) I had to put on my banned website lists in my browser because I was playing too much and it made my hands hurt...then I couldn't get the browser to stop banning it!

4) I appear all organized, but the reality is that I struggle to maintain order in my life and my study. I swear gremlins manufacture papers behind my back.

5) I have a fascination with large birds of prey. I love to watch them fly and want to be one with them up in the sky...which is bizarre considering I'm afraid of heights :).

6) When I was in sixth grade, I used to spend recess letting the bees dance along my arms and fingers. I never once got stung outside, but have been stung by bees at least twice inside my house, once in Virginia and once in California.

Here are the rules

Link to the person that tagged you
Post the rules on your blog
Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself
Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs
Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their website







Friday, January 18, 2008

2008 Read Books

Here's the list of books that I read in 2008.

TitleAuthorFromDate addedDate ReadReadBlogged
Bad GirlMaya Reynoldsblog contest on 
Winter MoonMercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, and C.E. MurphyXmas present12/24/200701/10/2008x 
Over the EdgeSuzanne BrockmannSteph Tyler ( in exchange for the progress bar05/18/200501/16/2008xx
Albert's RainAnnette SnyderBlog contest by Rachelle Arlin Credo at
Out of ControlSuzanne BrockmannSteph Tyler ( in exchange for the progress bar05/17/200501/30/2008xx
Emmissaries from the DeadAdam-Troy CastroEOS Advanced Reader Review copy01/27/200802/05/2008xx
White LiesLinda HowardSteph Tyler ( in exchange for the progress bar05/16/200502/12/2008x 
Writers of the Future Volume XIIIDave Wolvertonordered11/01/200702/29/2008x 
EvermoreLynn ViehlValentine's Present02/14/200803/04/2008xx
Rose DaughterRobin McKinleyXmas present12/24/200703/14/2008x 
The Defiant HeroSuzanne Brockmannbookstore12/27/200703/24/2008xx
Heart of StoneC.E. Murphybookstore03/01/200803/31/2008xx
DragonFireDonita K. Paulborrowed03/01/200804/08/2008x 
Twilight FallLynn ViehlARC04/04/200804/13/2008xx
Her Sister's ChildCynthia ThomasonWe Hear You04/12/200804/16/2008x 
Long Hot SummoningTanya Huffborrowed12/24/200704/22/2008x 
The Accessible AuntVanessa Graybookshelf01/01/200304/25/2008x 
CetagandaLois McMaster Bujoldbookshelf03/03/200804/30/2008xx
Magic BurnsIlona Andrewsbookstore04/30/200805/06/2008xx
Sharpe's BattleBernard Cornwellbookstore12/31/200705/13/2008xx
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - July 2008Gordon Van Gelder 05/12/200805/20/2008xx
House of CardsC.E. MurphyMother's Day05/11/200806/07/2008x 
Fanged & FabulousMichelle Rowenbookstore08/04/200707/13/2008x 
The Last LectureRandy Pauschborrowed08/20/200809/04/2008xx
Force of NatureSuzanne Brockmanngift09/01/200809/11/2008xx
Omega Games: A StarDoc NovelS.L. Viehlbookstore08/01/200809/14/2008xx
Lady and the VampMichelle Rowenbookstore08/24/200809/18/2008x 
Chill FactorRachel Cainebookstore08/24/200809/21/2008x 
AllyKaren Travissbookstore06/02/200709/23/2008x 
The McKettrick WayLinda Lael Millergift10/05/200810/18/2008x 
Nicholas and AlexandraRobert K. Massiegift07/10/200810/30/2008xx
DustElizabeth Bearbookstore08/24/200811/20/2008x 
RuinsLazette GiffordHolly's Store09/13/200712/01/2008xx
Texas BabyKathleen O'BrienWe Hear You04/12/200812/15/2008x 

David Weber and Honor Harrington

It's been a bit of time since I gave a content post, and I've accumulated a new backlog of comments because I've been reading a lot, so I thought I'd give an overview of the Honor Harrington novels that I have read, a three for one deal.

As soon as I post this, I'll be updating the book table as well. Hmm, maybe I should make a new table for 2008? We'll see :D.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber

(Acquired: family)

My family has been trying to get me to try Honor Harrington for years and it's not that I was resistant, just that it never came to hand when I had a spare moment. Well, I was down there visiting and my older sister shoved the first book into my hands (stole it from my parents' shelf actually ;)). I started reading and then asked for the next books in the series. Honestly, I don't know if I would have enjoyed it when they first started, and may even have tried it before back then. This book is space opera, something I wasn't much into until reading Stardoc by S.L. Viehl. But then, my tastes were very much into hard science fiction or anthropology (genre or mainstream) and have only started branching out in the last 15 years or so. Anyway, suffice it to say that I'm reading the second book now...and enjoying it.

The Honor of the Queen by David Weber

(Acquired: borrowed)

I'd guess that my family (who have been trying to get me to read this series for years) already knew this, but it didn't become clear until my husband said he didn't like David Weber because it was military SF. Anyway, I have figured it out. This is Hornblower in space! Sigh. If only I could come up with good taglines for my own novels :). Anyway, another good novel. There are some points that are old style and so jarred me, but I enjoy the interactions. I do think there is a nasty twist at one point where I got my hopes up twice only to have them dashed both times though. It's a fun read that doesn't pull any punches, and besides the main character, it seems everyone is potentially at risk. And hey, if I don't understand the battle scenes from a physics perspective, at least nothing in them threw me out because it was implausible. I have to laugh at the occasional nods to "this is military SF not space opera" with comments like that an explosion should have blown their eardrums if sound travelled in space.

The Short Victorious War: We Love Our Honor by David Weber

(Acquired: borrowed (actually, my parents wanted theirs back so bought me the series except this one wasn't available, so I snagged it from their shelf over Christmas :)))

Well, it's hard to come up with something new and original to say as this is the third Honor Harrington book I've read. Honestly, this was the weakest of the three because the scope was so large that it was hard to remember who was who and what had last happened to them. The ending made this very clear because of how huge crises were wrapped up just as summary of events mentioned by some of the players. I understand how the climax would have been too confusing if it displayed two major battles simultaneously, but that doesn't stop me from feeling as if the threads weren't really resolved. Ultimately, I enjoyed the Honor parts. I felt this one was a little more messagey than the previous two, which may have contributed to me not particularly liking the parts that were so distant from her career as to be in another empire. Will I keep reading the series? Of course :). It's still Hornblower in space as far as I'm concerned. I definitely wouldn't recommend this one as an intro to the series though. What's odd is that I've said that about two books recently but for completely different, in fact opposite, reasons. This one because the scope moved so far back that it was too broad to take in. The other because it moved so close that you needed the grounding in the character to understand the full significance of the events.

So, have you read David Weber or Honor Harrington? Have you read Hornblower? Are you going to give it a try?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Workshop on Using an Outline to Edit

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the late notice, but I just realized I should mention my workshop on my blogs in case anyone is interested. The workshop is an expansion of part of my Muse Online 2007 presentation with a whole month to complete the work and, I hope, a lot of enthusiastic fellow workshoppers to provide dynamic feedback.

The program is a hands-on exploration of how an outline can help in the edit phase whether you're an outliner or a pure organic. This is the first in a series of workshops designed not only to teach the techniques but give participants experience with them both through completing the exercises and through commenting on others' offerings.

Anyone who is interested is welcome. To take the course you must join Forward Motion, but membership is free. We have to do that to protect first electronic publication rights as we will be sharing portions of our work to get help.

Join using the "Join" link:

Here's the link to the class board once you're logged in:

The first exercise is posted so hope to see you there. Oh, and a warning from the person who helped me edit the class...come expecting to work for your learning ;).

I'll be posting the second exercise in the next couple of days, but it's a forum-based workshop so coming in late is fine. If you think this might be useful, please come check it out.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Well, I haven't managed to keep up with the one post a week, but I've still been more prolific in posting than I was before I set that challenge. Hope you all are enjoying what I've put up.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

(Acquired: bookshelf)

I read American Gods not because I ran across it and thought it might be interesting, but because a handful of folks told me to...and another handful told me not to waste my time.

Interestingly enough, having reached the end of the novel, I have to say I fall right smack dab in the middle of the two. I do not regret reading the book and Gaiman is beyond question a talented author. I think my reaction had more to do with where I am as a reader than the book itself, though that doesn't make the reaction false.

I found most of the individual scenes appealing. At the same time, nothing drove me to keep going except my innate need to finish what I start. I don't have great stretches of time to read, nor can I muster up the focus to do so when I do have that long a period. This very fact worked against American Gods. With reading times short and stolen from other tasks or using energy I don't have to spare, a book needs to compel me to get back to it. As it was, I read two other books while making my way through American Gods. I didn't want to toss it aside, but at the same time, I needed something more juiced. Though it's not reflected in the back cover blurb, or even in the novel's beginning, this book reminds me more of The Drifters or other such novels where the point is that people wander about experiencing things. That's not a horrible fact at all, it's just a different type of novel than I was expecting.

From the start, the characters in American Gods warn the reader that a storm is coming. But we're held bound within the one character who has no idea what is going on, who is literally adrift, having lost his sense of self to prison, and his wife and job to a car accident. Then even worse discoveries undermine his sense of his past as well. He takes a new job from a stranger to do whatever he's asked up to but not including hurting people--unless it's an emergency. This job he carries out faithfully as he goes along, sometimes offered a glimmering of the truth, but most times kept on the sidelines. This is what both gave me the sense of drift and removed all urgency. If the storm wasn't important to the character whose head I shared then it wasn't important to me.

There was a time in my life where such a story would have been a mystery and a lovely thing to dwell on. I'm not in that space right now. I want my reading to build to something powerful, to accumulate pieces until the tension is unbearable and something has to break. It doesn't have to be world shattering. It can be something as simple as a personal realization. Ultimately I didn't feel that though I did put the pieces together before they were revealed in the story. I'm stuck with Mr. Nancy at the very end who doesn't understand why Shadow feels the way he does (yep, as obscure as possible to avoid spoilage).

For me, despite everything, Shadow doesn't change. At one point, he talks about how all that he learned has seeped away from him and I couldn't help but recoil from the possibility that this would end in the classic, "and then he woke up" space. It didn't, and couldn't, but in some ways it did. For all that we went through on this journey, for all that he experienced and learned, I think his choice at a crucial point to embrace nothingness is the most telling. His wife said he wasn't living. With the exception of two flashes in the dark, I agree with her all the way through the book.

Sigh. And now it sounds like I hated it, which isn't true. The individual writing is often fabulous; the scenes when read as a series of short stories are compelling, interesting vignettes. I think there's lots to enjoy in this book if you know what you're getting into. Don't expect a strong, driving plot. Don't expect an active protagonist who pulls you through so you don't want to put the book down. But if you're looking for a meander through a world that co-exists with ours, populated by people who echo back into the many traditions that have immigrated to America at some point or another, American Gods will fill that need in spades.