Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who's Doing NaNoWriMo?

It's time to start gearing up for NaNoWriMo!  I actually have a smidgen of hope that I might hit 50,000 words in one month--yesterday I wrote 1,676 words, which is about what one needs to hit each day for the month of November.  I know it's at least possible for me to do it!  I had hopes of doing the same today, but then the kiddo woke from his nap early, and was constipated, and well... suffice it to say I had to stop at just under 1,000.  I could do more now, but today has been the worst pregnancy evening I've had so far so I'm about ready to go to bed.  I won't say it's the worst possible, because I haven't actually bowed to the porcelain god, but it's the worst I've had with either pregnancy.  With my son, I didn't get nauseous at all--with this one, I feel icky a lot.  I can only hope s/he will make up for it by being more cooperative in the turning-head-down-in-time-for-the-birth department!  (Unlike my son.)

ANYWAY...  I'm wondering if anybody else who occasionally graces my corner of the blogosphere will be doing NaNo?  If so, please leave a comment with your screen name.  I'm ScienceFictionMommy over there, and I'd like to grab a couple of writing buddies.  Brian, I know you are and you can expect a buddy request soon.  But anybody else?

Thanks all!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Emerging from the Black Hole of a Birthday Party

Yes, as you can see, I've been absent from the blogosphere for nearly two weeks.  Getting ready for my son's second birthday party has taken a complete monopoly of my time.  Plus, I've been exhausted for a reason I will elaborate at the end of this post.  However, I am proud to report that I have, at least, continued writing during this crazy time.  The ticker is correct, I'm now at 49 days of nonstop writing!  I'm never going to make the 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo at this pace, as some days have been as few as 250 words, but at least I've kept going!

But this particular post isn't about writing.  I'm here to say:


Here are a few highlighs of the day:

The biggest time-sucker was getting the cake ready.  Why?  Because in keeping with the "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" theme, I made individual train car cupcakes.  This is three boxes of cake.
Hubby participated with the decorating, but it still took us several combined hours to complete all this.  It was particularly difficult since we have to bake without egg, which makes the cakes more crumbly.  They had to spend a lot of time in the freezer to keep them from falling apart as we worked with them.

But despite the amount of work, I am happy with the result.
Here are the favors.  Also trains, containing a stuffed monkey (they came with monkeys,) a matchbox car, a frisbee, and two glider airplanes.  Planes, Trains, and Autos.  I blogged here about the favors when I finished painting them.
This is my son playing with his nifty new Train Table.  The most beautiful part of this gift is that I got it at a garage sale, meaning it was a lot cheaper than such things usually cost.  It's in very good condition too.
We gave him the table the night before his birthday because I wanted him to have a chance to claim it as his own before having to share with other kids the next day.  The problem was that he did NOT want to go to bed that night.  In fact, he pretty much wants to live in the basement now.  At least I know he likes it!

A few random party shots:

The obligatory cake-smeared birthday boy face
The party consisted of family and friends, and after he opened his gifts from his friends, Hubby and I had him open this gift in front of everybody.  Here's a picture of him wearing it.
Yes, that's a t-shirt that says "Big Brother."  We are expecting another!  Early June.  At that time, Science Fiction Mommy will become a Mommy of two!  And things will get even more crazy than they are now.  Let twice the fun commence!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I'm finding that the more days in a row that I write this novel, the more I want to write it.  It's not just a feeling of obligation or the sense that I don't want to break the streak (although I don't,) but I'm feeling more enthused about this project, I'm definitely more into the story, and writing it is more fun and exciting.  Even though I do the bulk of my writing in the evening, and even though I've been depriving myself of sleep lately (mostly to do more writing), taking a day off hasn't been much of a temptation.

It'll be interesting to see how long I can keep this streak up.  Will I one day be celebrating 100 days of solid writing?  1000?  The latter seems unlikely.  I'm very much in favor of vacations and taking time to recharge the batteries, although I have written on vacations in the past.  And it's quite a different thing when I feel like I'm obligated to work on a project and when I want to.

Some of my writer buddies have discussed Steven King's "On Writing" recently, and I think perhaps this is my opportunity to bring up one point in the book.  I only just read it a few months ago, and I remember his suggestion that people feel a natural inclination to do things that they're good at.  This also touches on discussions of whether being good at any art comes from natural talent or dedication and practice.  I'll leave that argument for other places, but my experience over the last few weeks argues that a natural inclination can be a result of dedication and practice.  I dedicated myself to writing daily to work on this book, and after several weeks (some of which were easier than others) I suddenly want to write daily to work on this book.  I don't just want to write daily in order to get a finished product, but because I'm thoroughly enjoying the process.

I'd like to believe that I'm decent at this craft, though I know I'm always learning, growing, and developing my talents--but this is new for me.  Never have I been so enthused about a project for so long.  On the other hand, it could only be because this is the first time I'm working on a novel.  My enthusiasm to write daily may wane when it's over.  Perhaps my enthusiasm was proportionately shorter before because I've only ever written short fiction?


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Terrible Twos aren't so Terrible

"Wait," you might say.  "Your son isn't quite two yet."  Well, yes he is.  Even though his birthday is just under two weeks away, I've been considering him Two on the behavioral front since he started getting more willful and stubborn, about a month or six weeks ago.

Stubborn and Willful are what the Terrible Twos are known for, after all.  But really, it isn't that bad.  Yes, we've had some crazy days where I've been tempted to drive to my husband's work, hand my husband his son, boot my husband out of his cubicle and take his place, even though I don't know the first thing about the systems he supports.  Or simply hand my husband his son at any time of day and run screaming for the wilderness without stopping to look back.  But let's face it, I've had occasional days like that since the beginning.  They come in waves, but as long as I do take time to myself after hubby gets home, I'm usually fortified for the next encounter.

But despite the fact that my son always wants to do things His Way right now, I think this is a wonderful age.  He's starting to show empathy (he recognizes when other people--or stuffed animals--are hurt and will comfort them), his cognition is growing by leaps and bounds, his language skills keep expanding, he's joyous, inquisitive, he's developing a sense of humor, and his personality is blossoming left and right.  I love watching him concentrate as he tries to figure something out, I smile at the joy he experiences when he learns something new, and I take pride in each accomplishment even though it brings a pang that he needs me just that little bit less.

We've even managed to keep his misbehavior relatively low because I'm learning how to work around it.  His tantrums don't last for very long, but that's because I ignore them (I've been ignoring them since they started) so mostly I think he does them to blow off steam rather than out of any expectation that he'll get something from them.  And when it comes to tantrum triggers, I do my best to avoid them if I can.  I try to give him warnings when we're about to end something fun, I give him options so he has some choice in what we do, I look for ways he can help me with a task when it's keeping me from playing with him ("can you put the salad dressing on the table for me, sweetie?"), and I strive to find better ways to say things (instead of "you need to put your airplane away" I'll say "can you show me where your airplane belongs?")  I've started just trying to put his pullup on before bed so using the toilet can be his idea instead of my suggestion.

Yes, we still butt heads.  Yes, I still have to discipline him, take toys away when they don't get put away, put him in Time Out (we call it "exile"), raise my voice or pick him up to make him do something, but mostly we've figured out how to get through the day with the fewest speed bumps.  And as I said before, I love watching him explore his world, especially at this age when he's so interactive.  I know a day will come when I'm no longer the sun in the center of his universe (me and his daddy) and I want to enjoy this time.

What I'm looking most forward to is more language breakthroughs.  A month of two ago he figured out the two-word sentence, and I can't wait for the next step.  I'm looking forward to having actual conversations with him.  To find out what's on his mind beyond pointing and naming all the objects he knows.  To find out what his favorite color is rather than just guessing based on what crayons he uses most.  To find out what he dreams about.  To find out what he's scared of.  He's my son, and I want to know, and I know he's only one or two language milestones away from being able to tell me.

Until I can, I'll just go on enjoying the wonderful child he has become.  I can't wait to see how he reacts to the overstimulation of a birthday party and whether he'll be bold or shy during Trick-Or-Treating.  Two really is a beautiful age.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Did I Miss Banned Book Week?

Well, to be honest I've never actually participated in anything to do with the week, but I do take pride in reading the books.  In fact, as a writer I think I would take a certain amount of pride in having people try to ban something I write.  It would mean I was saying something.

My high school had a science fiction class, which I took during my junior year.  (More than 10 years later, I still think that's cool.)  It was an excellent class, and introduced me to many great pieces of literature.  But the thing I remember most about that class was something the teacher told us one day:  "If you haven't offended someone, you haven't really said anything."  I don't believe he was the originator of this quote, but he is the person who introduced it to me, and it had a profound effect on me which has lasted to this day.  People get offended by things, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth saying.  Sometimes it means they're worth saying even more.

The sad thing is that I don't even remember this teacher's name.  I should probably go check out my yearbook--since he had such an impact on me, I owe him that much.  Hang on...

It was Mr. Ron Elms.  Thank you, Mr. Elms!

One of my facebook friends posted this article yesterday, about libel lawsuits that kill books far more efficiently than trying to ban them.  It's worth reading for any author--and readers as well.  It's a good idea to make dramatic changes to anyone living that you don't plan to show in a good light, or so it seems.  But isn't that one of the great things about science fiction?  You can imagine a horrible outcome to a current event, but place it so far into an exaggerated future that no one can really point fingers.  In fact, if you do it right, people from all sides of the political/religious/scientific/whatever spectrum can look at it without taking offense, because if it's good they can claim people of their beliefs would bring it about, and if its bad they can blame it on people who don't agree with them.  (George Orwell, anyone?)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Funny Thing About Formula

I received something amusing in the mail yesterday.  It was a notification about a recall on baby formula.  I found this amusing because I haven't used formula in more than a year, and when I did use it, my son got approximately one or two bottles per week.

Though I was primarily nursing, I gave my son formula for two reasons.  One, I wanted him to be familiar with using a bottle in case a) I needed/wanted some time off or b) there was some kind of emergency.  Two, I wanted him familiar with the taste of formula for reasons a and b above.  My motivation for this mostly came from a horror story my mom tells of a time she was out with her sister, and then stuck in traffic, when I was a hungry infant.  I flat-out refused the bottle of formula my dad offered me and by the time Mom got home I was hysterical, she was engorged, and nursing was uncomfortable for both of us.  Apparently I also gave my dad the crustiest look when he handed me over, at least according to my aunt.  I wanted to prevent any such thing from happening with my son, especially as I wanted to not HAVE to be his only source of food 24/7.

Okay, there was your story for the day.  Anyway, I mostly got the formula I used from free samples, but I also joined all the formula clubs so I could get their checks and coupons.  I purchased two, maybe three cans of formula total.  Eventually the checks stopped coming, probably because I seldom used them.  The formula club is the only way I can think of that Similac got my address to inform me of this recall.  But really, you'd think they'd realize that I wasn't using formula anymore considering that my son is almost two and I used so few of their checks.  Are there really people who keep giving their kids formula for this long?

The most interesting thing about this recall notification is the manner in which they sent it.  It came in an 8x11 inch padded envelope, and yet there was only one folded piece of paper inside.  I suppose they were counting on the uniqueness of the envelope to catch my attention--which worked, I opened it right away--but wouldn't a normal envelope with the bold words "ATTENTION:  BABY FORMULA RECALL" on the outside attract just as much attention?  At least for parents currently using formula?  It was a voluntary recall too, not even a known health threat.

All right, I'm through musing on this subject.  At the very least, it gave me something to talk about.

"Days Without Not Writing" New Counter

Once again, I'm pretending I know how to write code.

Apparently there aren't many Count Up Timers available online, at least if you only want to diplay days (as opposed to counting by the second or millisecond.)  Therefore, I thought I would provide a link and details about the one I found and am using for my new "Days Without Not Writing" Counter.


JavaScript Countdown/Count-up Timer/Clock/Ticker for Web Pages

Cost-free and advertising-free. But a link to his page is appreciated (by him, duh.)
Note: This service comes with NO GUARANTEES. No liability is assumed.
(Science Fiction Mommy assumes no liability either)
  • A free and simple JavaScript countdown/Count-up timer/clock/ticker to/from the target date and time of your choice. Just copy and paste to your Web pages. You can also customize the display format, foreground and background colors of the countdown timer.
  • You can omit most parameters. Default values will be used in that case. CountActive is used to enable to disable counting. If you only want to show a fixed static time-remaining message, set it to false. It'll save on browser resources.
  • DisplayFormat allows you to format the countdown/Count-up display to your liking. For example, instead of the default English, you can use terms from your own language, or make any other desired adjustments, like omitting the Seconds segment.
  • Use FinishMessage to display a desired message (or nothing, i.e. ""), when countdown reaches zero. Obviously never displayed when counting up.
  • CountStepper specifies the step value or period (in seconds) for the counter. Use positive number for counting up, negative number for counting down. Value is rounded up to next integer. When specifying positive (count up), be sure to specify past TargetDate, otherwise only the finish message is displayed.
  • Single digits are displayed with leading zeros, unless LeadingZero is set to false.
  • Here's the simple JavaScript countdown/count-up code (copy and paste to your Web page):
Note from Eileen:  you'll need to change the [ to < and the ] to > every time they appear--keeping the code as code just added the timer to this post

[script language="JavaScript"]

TargetDate = "12/31/2020 5:00 AM";
BackColor = "palegreen";
ForeColor = "navy";
CountActive = true;
CountStepper = -1;
LeadingZero = true;
DisplayFormat = "%%D%% Days, %%H%% Hours, %%M%% Minutes, %%S%% Seconds.";
FinishMessage = "It is finally here!";
[script language="JavaScript" src=http://scripts.hashemian.com/js/countdown.js][/script]

See the top right of my blog for what this looks like with days only, Verdana font size 30
  • Countdown FAQ
  • Please consider putting the script on your own site and save him (me too!) from high usage warnings.
  • Since this countdown/count-up runs on the client browser, it's best to append to the target date the appropriate UTC (Universal Time Coordinates) offset for the location of your event.
  • For example, if the sample code above is for US Eastern Standard Time, you'd specify TargetDate as:
  • "12/31/2020 5:00 AM UTC-0500". This way an accurate countdown is displayed for all users regardless of their geographic location. Thanks to Justin Carter for the tip.
  • Mun Rashid has modified the JavaScript code by using object wrapping to allow for multiple countdowns on one page. Download Mun's JavaScript code here. Download the sample HTML here.
  • Tilesh Khatri has written a simplified script based on the countdown code that displays multiple clocks on one page. Download the HTML.
  • (Go to the page I got this from for the above two links)
  • To reset the clock and count up with every page visit set TargetDate to "new Date();" and CountStepper to "1". This will effectively show visit duration. Leave out the double-quotes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Welcome to the New Science Fiction Mommy!

As you can see, I've done a little redesigning.  Firstly, I now have a button you can grab and imbed on your own webpage if you'd like a fancy link to me--it's just below "About Me."

The whole blog redesign basically centered around that.  I've been wanting to make a button for a while, but didn't know how and didn't have an image either.  I finally started browsing royalty-free clip art and discovered that there were some alien images that came close to what I wanted.  So I copied them and got busy editing and tweaking to my heart's content.  I not only made the button but the fancy new header and a banner I can add to message board signatures (if they allow such things.)

I found this very detailed article on ehow telling me exactly how to add the code for the button and text box to my blog.  It was far easier than I'd imagined and wasn't worth the worry I've given it during the months that I've been putting this off.

Then I decided that a lighter background might be easier on the eyes (I got a bit of feedback on that a while back), so I found a new one.  I've also added nice, fancy links to NaNoWriMo and Critters, as you can see on the right.

I'm very happy with the new look, and am proud of myself for figuring out how to do it.  However, I think I'll stop pretending I know how to write code and go back to my novel.  Enjoy the new features!

Friday, October 1, 2010

September Stat Check

During the month of September, I wrote on 25 of the days!
I wrote five chapters (approximately 12,000 words) of a novel
I made 5 submissions
I received 4 rejections
I have 7 stories currently in slush pile circulation
I took between 1 and 14 days to resubmit a story after a rejection
I made 11 blog posts
Between writing, the blog, and Critters, I took 3 days off

When it comes to the craft, this has been my best month ever.  I'm on a streak at the moment:  24 solid days of writing and counting!  Some days have been small (200-300 words, one as low as 150) and others are much larger (1300 words.)  I'm very happy with the fact that I haven't had an overwhelming desire to stop and do nothing--and each day of this streak makes me want to not break it even more.  I think if I can get over 30 days, I'll be posting a ticker on the side of my blog saying "Days Without Not Writing."  Of course, I'm going to take a day off sooner or later.  We all need breaks, even from things we love, or we can burn out.  But right now I'm really happy with this streak.

I know that I really need to kick my word count into higher gear though.  As I've said before, I'm planning on participating (in one way or another) in NaNoWriMo this year, and the minimum daily word count to reach 50,000 in one month is 1,670--and I haven't hit that yet.  My husband already knows he'll see less of me that month because I'll be escaping to my office and closing the door regularly, leaving the boys to play together.  It's just for a month, after all!

My goals for October are to keep plugging away at my novel, catch up on Critters (been neglecting it, oops,) do research and outlining for my next novel, and make about 10 blog posts.

Happy Pumpkin Season!  (I plan to make Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies either tonight or this weekend!  Yum!)