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

Friday, April 29, 2011

I have had it with my depressed immune system!!!

Okay, so babies are parasites.

I'm not saying this in any derogatory way, but the fact is that a baby is a parasite in its mother's body.  As such, the mother's body depresses her immune system so as not to attack this loveable parasite.  And I'm thinking this has got to be partially responsible for the sheer number of colds I've contracted since Christmas.

Sure, my son has been sick a lot, and he usually gives his colds to me, but generally I'm a pretty healthy person.  And lately I've been trying really hard to keep him healthy--especially making sure we remember to wash our hands the instant we return from any outing, etc.  Well, this time he didn't even get sick.  Just me.  And I'm so tired of filling up every trash can in the house with kleenex.  I think I'm ready to have this baby so my immune system can go back to normal.  And so my hip joints will stop feeling like they're about to fall apart on me.  And so I can walk without waddling.  And stand up without hefting myself.  And tie my shoes the normal way again....

*sigh* 6 more weeks.  And the baby needs them.  We do too, to finish the nursery, make a few purchases, and agree on names (hee hee.)  Just six more weeks.

In other news, I finished revising the last story I got critiques from Critters for.  It was a bit of a challenge since it's a piece of flash fiction (1,000 words or less) and people wanted more details/characterization.  I had two words to spare when I started, so I had to figure out what could get cut in order to add tidbits here and there.  (I didn't add much, figuring keeping the character generic would help show that he could be anybody, but I did clarify a few things.  Besides, it's flash!)  But in the end, I wound up with 14 words to spare!  Still not quite sure how that happened, but hey, I'll take it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Using my MPC

And just like that, I've got another story out to the Critters community.  (I only just finished reading the other ones two days ago!)  Then I'll have another one out in two more weeks--I'll be on the revising fasttrack for the next month, I guess.  That's all to the good--I'd like to increase my output before baby comes and drags me to a screeching halt.

This story is much longer than last week's, at 6500 words.  As before, I think I'll wait until they all filter in before reading them.  That way I can get them all read in a few days and not think too hard about one critique, only to find it was in the minority.

In other news, hubby and I have been working on a screenplay for an animated movie together.  After he gets home we spend approximately a half-hour each night down in "our" office (I've officially moved all my stuff out of the new baby's room and our computers now get to cohabitate) getting it written down.  Hubby is the "scribe"--he knows all the formatting stuff, after all--and we talk scenes, dialogue, and action over and get them in the document.  Things are going well, so far.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April Kiddie Crafts - E is for Easter

And a Happy Easter to all!

We've finally been unpacking our family photos, so I put our crafts on a different wall this month.  I still put a few up high, but he's started requesting they be lower.  I've agreed, though I do often have to remind him not to remove them from the wall.  Here's the new craft wall.

My son kept wanting to play with his icky, dried-out play doh at the beginning of April, so I finally decided to make some new stuff.  (Bleah!  The cut-out shapes were nearly permanent, it was so unworkable!)
I made him several Easter colors while he played with the yucky stuff one last time, and then I traded them out for him.  Much nicer!

I introduced him to the letter "E" in preparation for Easter, but also because there were some other "E" projects I wanted to do.  I got this first idea from this blog.  We read the book Green Eggs and Ham while eating these green eggs.  Now, my son is allergic to real eggs, so we couldn't make a green egg breakfast.  What I did was melt white chocolate chips and place dollops of it on waxed paper, and then had my son place green m&ms in the middle for the yolks.  He resisted this project at first, but then had a blast and requested Green Eggs and Ham for a bedtime story for several days--and "green eggs" for dessert for, well, he still asks for them, even though they're all gone!

Next we did "E" is for "eyes and ears."  I made the face with hair, a nose, and mouth, and had him attach the rest.  I thought he did a great job of getting the placement of them.

I got the idea for this next project from my friend Sela.  We used a balloon and gray paint to paint an elephant, with the idea that the balloon would leave a wrinkled pattern resembling elephant skin.  It sort of worked (though the wrinkles flattened out as it dried.)

After that, we plunged into Easter crafts.  I found this bunny online, which is made entirely of hearts.  My son decided to swap the ears and feet, though, so it looks a little strange.

Since Valentine's Day, we've been lacing a garland to hang across our breakfast bar.  For Easter, I cut out eggs and bunnies for him to lace.

Then we decorated a giant Easter egg by putting tape across it, painting it, and then removing the tape.

I also found this idea online and hadn't decided whether I wanted to use it for Easter or save it for the letter N, but after we read an Easter book () in which a bunny gives up his basket for a robin to use as a nest, my son declared he wanted to make a nest.  So we did, using strips of paper and watered-down glue.  Messy!

I decided we would decorate another giant egg, this time painting bubble wrap and pressing the egg onto it to get little colored circles.  My son liked this so much, we put paint on all the extra eggs and bunnies left over from our garland, too.

Then I helped him make a bunny ear headband (he loved the stapler once again.)

And then, borrowing once again from my friend Sela (I love that my son is old enough to do some projects from her archives) we made sheep from a handprint, cotton balls, and googly eyes.

The last craft we did before Easter was to take some letters I cut from one of his extra paintings and make a garland saying "Happy Easter," which is on our door to welcome our guests.

We also did a new Easter themed sensory bin.

It's essentially a large Easter basket.  Easter grass, a small basket, eggs, porcupine balls, tiny chicks and bunny erasers.  He loved hunting for the erasers.  I discovered that four bags of Easter grass was far too much.  It's been so long since I actually purchased any, I didn't realize it expanded so much!

Next week we're going to do the letter "B," which will lead us into lots of baby projects to help our son get used to the idea of a baby coming.  Seven weeks and counting!!

Once again I'm linking up at Tot School.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I Did It!!!

Well, by sacrificing sleep, a great deal of online socializing, and a multitude of other things, I managed to read and critique ten stories for Critters this past week.  I earned myself an MPC (Most Productive Critter) award!  I now have a jump-to-the-head-of-the-queue-free pass, which I intend to use next week in order to get two more stories critiqued before baby arrives, instead of just one.  (If baby refuses to come out on its own and I have to have a repeat c-section then I could get a third, but I doubt I'd be paying much attention to them as they'd be due two days before the c-section would happen.)

Doing all these critiques has another bonus too.  You have to do approximately three critiques out of every four weeks in order to have stories critiqued by others, and I now have about 8 extra critiques--meaning I could not participate for 8 weeks before my ratio would dip below 100%.  If I keep up with one per week up until baby's arrival, these critiques could get me well into the maternity leave I intend to take for myself.  What I'm hoping to do is get a few more stories into the queue and then I'll just let the critiques filter in after baby is born.  Then I'll have feedback waiting for me once I feel ready to tackle a rewrite!

If you're wondering what I look like these days, here is the most recent baby bump photo of me:
Yup, I feel ready to pop, but I still have 7 1/2 more weeks to go.  Yeesh.  But I do need those weeks, things aren't ready yet!

The data feeding my theories regarding how many Critters critiques one will get was further complicated this week.  The story I submitted was only 1,000 words long, which only counts for half credit for critiques.  I'd wondered whether that would mean I would get fewer of them--because people would rather read something a little longer and get full credit for it--or if the short length would mean a larger number of critiques because it's a faster read.

Well, as the week started out, it seemed that my second guess would be the correct one.  I got 10 critiques on Wednesday and Thursday of last week alone.  "Wow," I thought.  "It'll take me forever to get through all of these!"  But then I stopped getting them.  After a few days I even opened up my manuscript on the website to make sure it still loaded okay.  Finally, yesterday and today I got four more critiques for a total of 14.  My theory on this is that other people like myself, who were trying to get MPCs, were reading the really short stories first because they're easier to cram a few into one day.  Then the rest of them might have been people looking for something short to read at the last minute to make sure they get something done.  Or I could just be looking for patterns where there are none.  Who knows.

Of course, because I was so busy critiquing others this week, I haven't read a single one of the critiques sent to me yet.  But I will soon.

Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to getting myself an earlier bedtime again.  Sleep never looked so good.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I guess I'm not that kind of blogger

I learned some interesting things last week during the Ultimate Blog Party, both about myself and the world of blogging.  One of the most interesting to me is the fact that some people hoard followers like many people I've encountered hoard Facebook friends.

It seems like there's a big competition to get as many followers as possible, regardless of whether said followers actually read your blog.  I got quite a few comments from people who were blog hopping saying nothing but "hi from the UBP, I'm your newest follower, I'd appreciate a follow back."  Some of these people aren't even following (or if they are, they did it in some way that's invisible to me--is there a way to know if someone subscribed to one of your feeds in a way other than Google Friend Connect?)  One person really did follow but removed herself a day later after I made a return trip to her blog but didn't follow her.  Well, I have a confession to make:  Google Friend Connect means nothing to me.  I used it a little at the beginning, but I didn't really like the layout.  Now if I build up a rapport with other writer-bloggers (meaning we both make several visits to each other) I'll eventually add them to my "Fellow Writers" blogroll, which best helps me keep track of when they post something new.  The other blogs I check regularly I just have bookmarks to.  If I start reading a larger number of non-writing-related blogs I might eventually have to start using some sort of feed burner, but I haven't felt the need so far.  I joined some blogs just for giveaways a while back, and to be honest, I don't even know what I'm supposedly "following" anymore.  Which, I suppose, means I could follow people just as a favor, but mostly I don't see a point.  This isn't to say I don't like connecting with people, and if people joined my blog out of a genuine interest they are MORE than welcome here.  But I just find it interesting how followers and following blogs seems to be a status symbol for many out in the blogging community.

Now, I guess some people with really commercial blogs might want those followers for something to do with sponsors and money, but that's also not me.  Don't get me wrong, I would love for this blog to start earning me revenue--I did sign up for Google AdSense, after all, not that anybody ever clicks on my ads.  At the rate I'm going, I'll get a $100 check once every 6 years or so.  (Yowza, I'm rich!)  I also signed up for Amazon Associates at the beginning and that probably had a better shot of earning me income considering that 1) my blog is book related and 2) I have plenty of friends and family who would have gotten to Amazon through me when they needed to buy stuff.  However, Colorado passed some weird tax law not long after I signed up, causing Amazon to drop all Colorado Associates.  Since that time I've decided that while it would be nice to make money from my blog, I'm not going to put the time and effort required into getting it to that point, because frankly, I'd rather be writing.

This has mainly made me stop and think about what I'm blogging for.  And the biggest benefit I've received from blogging is that it helps me hold myself accountable with my writing.  Scroll back up to the top of the page, if you would, and take a look at the very first item in my right sidebar.  The blue number with the pale green background.  Yup, that's the number of consecutive days that I've spent writing fiction in some form or another.  Some days I've written thousands of words, many others it was all I could do to write 150 or 200 sleep-deprived words before dragging myself off to bed; some days it's just editing and rewriting, and yet other times it's research, but it's always directly related to a piece of fiction.

I long wanted to get into the habit of writing every day, but years went by without my pulling together the self-discipline to do so.  But then something happened last year around about September:  I was really enthused about the novel I was working on and I wanted to work on it every day.  After I hit 30 consecutive days, I thought it would be fun to put a counter on my blog to keep track of how long I could go without stopping, kind of like the "Days Without Accident" counters at construction sites.  And as more time went by, I found I really didn't want that thing to reset to zero.  And I still don't.  Telling the world (even this tiny corner of it) what kind of progress I'm making has been a great motivator for me, and has really helped me become a more disciplined--and therefore more productive and better--writer.  Some days are better than others, of course, but I've managed not to stop.  And that has been a tremendous accomplishment.

Connecting with people has been a great benefit as well.  It's nice to get encouragement from others, whether it's a "congratulations" when I accomplish something or a "you can do it" when I express frustration.  And I don't blog exclusively about writing.  It goes back and forth, but I try to maintain about a 50/50 ratio between writing-related posts and posts about my wonderful son (or life in general.)  I enjoy posting about things my son has done and the projects we do together.  Being a stay-at-home-parent can be isolating (especially in my neighborhood, which we unfortunately failed to move out of) so I like being able to show my son off, share both proud and frustrating parenting moments, and connect with others on that score.

Since I've noticed that I'm different from most of the bloggers at the UBP, will I do it again next year?  Probably.  But I'll likely limit myself to looking for other writers and returning the visits of those who came to visit me.  Although in another year or two, I hope to have a prize to give away that would interest other parents (the blog hosting the party is called 5 Minutes for MOM, after all):  I'm hoping that soon hubby and I can get our children's Christmas book published, and a children's book would be something that would draw parental interest.  (Only one person answered my question and said in her comment that she would like to win a scifi anthology, and that person also happens to be a real-world friend of mine.)

In conclusion, if you became a follower from the Ultimate Blog Party, please don't think I don't appreciate you.  If you're actually reading this it means you came back for another look, something I suspect the follower-hoarders don't do.  I will be trying to keep up with many of the people I connected with through the party, though I will likely be sporatic because, as I said before, writing takes priority in my limited free time.  But please don't get offended if I don't follow your blog--that's just not the way I read blogs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Won a Prize!

So I was a little disappointed in the way the prizes worked for the Ultimate Blog Party this year.  They had a prize form to fill out on the 5 Minutes for Mom site, and I'm sure it was much easier for them than last year's process (where they randomly chose winners from the thousands of comments and then had to check out the person's blog to see which prizes they preferred to win.)  However, I was upset that they required at Twitter identity in order to enter.  I've had no desire to join Twitter as of yet, but there was no way around it, so I didn't enter.  Bummer, since I won a prize last year.

However, some of the blogs I visited in my whirlwind week had giveaways of their own, and I won one of them!

I won a giveaway from Christie over at Average Moms Wear Capes.  I got to choose a necklace from her etsy shop, and this is the one I've requested:
Pretty cool!  Thank you Christie!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Plunging Back into Critters

My flash story, "Disconnect," went out to Critters today.  This one snuck up on me.  It had been so far down the list on the 13th that I thought for sure it would get bumped to the 20th--so I was surprised to get an email saying my story might get held unless I got caught up on my critiques.  And then I wasn't sure whether I got my critiques in early enough (I did my last one in the wee hours of the morning last night.)  But I was pleased to see that I still made the cut--barely.  My critiques were obviously received early enough, but I was still perilously close to getting bumped to next week:  I'm the last one on the list!

This is the first time I've sent a piece of flash fiction through Critters, and it'll be interesting to see how many critiques I receive.  In the past I've noticed that shorter pieces tend to get more responses, but if a story is under 2,000 words it only receives half credit--so it will be interesting to see whether people avoid it in favor of something that will get them full credit.

This, too, is the week I'm going to try for a Most Productive Critter award to get a free Jump-To-The-Head-Of-The-Queue pass.  I've just sat down at my computer and am going through the list of options to read this week, and I've noticed that it seems to be very high on the Fantasy side.  I don't want to read chapters out of a novel (since I don't foresee myself keeping up with the whole thing) nor do I want the time commitment of agreeing to read someone's entire novel right now, so I've got 16 options remaining.  8 of them are fantasy, 6 are scifi, and 2 are horror.  Okay, so I guess it's not as big of a gap as it seemed like, but I had considered trying to get an MPC last week, and that week seemed to lean towards fantasy also.  I wonder if that's common?  I've never compared the numbers before.

Well, time to get critiquing!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm Wordy

I've know this about myself for some time, but I tend to be very wordy.  I always overwrite first drafts.  I've come to accept this, and just let myself ramble when initially writing.  That's what editing is for, after all!

The amount of overwriting I do tends to go up when I'm having difficulty with a section.  I guess if I'm having trouble writing, I'll say too much just to feel like I've said something.  But sometimes that can mean that a 200 word passage will get cut down to 125 words when I go back to it.  That's a lot of extraneous wordage!

I recently did first edits of the four stories I penned right after finishing my novel, and one of them in particular required a lot of trimming.  Here's an excerpt:

First draft:
"I grabbed both my wands, my time machine, my emergency bag, and my emergency stash of food and then peered out my window. There were a few cars across the street with people sitting in them. They could be watching my building, though I hadn't been paying attention before so I didn't know how long they'd been there. I decided another distraction was in order; just to make sure I could safely get away."  (74 words)

Second draft:
"I grabbed both my wands, my time machine, and my emergency bag and fodder stash before peering out the window. There were a few cars across the street with people in them. I hadn't been paying attention earlier so I didn't know how long they'd been there. Another distraction was in order."  (52 words)

That's a reduction of almost a third, and I think the second one flows much better.

I'm not sure why I tell things too blatantly the first time around, but I've learned that my writing goes faster when I just let myself do it and don't self-edit right away.  If I try to write things succinctly the first time around, I might not get more than a paragraph or two written in the course of a difficult day because I'll be too busy trying to make it sound right.  And that can really disrupt the flow of a story.

Do other people do this?  What's your process like?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Our Solution

A few weeks ago, our washing machine ceased to drain and spin.  I'd been thinking it took too long to drain for some time now--possibly for its entire life (~18 months) but it's hard to say for sure since this is the sort of thing you don't write down until much later.  In retrospect, it was probably only a few months.  At any rate, I was really upset that our washer went kaput when it was so young--but past the end of the warranty.

Hubby, on the other hand, consulted our good friend Google and found some promising leads--promising in that it was user-maintenance, so we could attempt it without spending money on a service call.
It turned out that one of our son's Halloween socks (missing since, you guessed it, Halloween) had somehow gotten sucked into the drain pump.  Don't ask me how; I really can't fathom it.  I mean, the drain holes in that washer (and all washers, really) are TINY!  However, it happened, and has been acting as a filter to catch lots of gunk for the past five months.  I don't know whether it just got forced into a completely blocked position recently or if it just happened to catch enough dirt now to complete the clog, but this was the cause of the machine's failure to drain (and consequently, spin.)

I was glad we were able to do this work ourselves, although it was a PAIN!!!  It took 3 1/2 hours (not including the time to disconnect/reconnect the water supply hoses, move it in and out of position, etc.)  The most time consuming and obnoxious part was getting the black drain hose in and out of the machine.  The clamps holding it in place were darn-near impossible to work with.  Now don't get me wrong--I'm very glad they're tight and keep water from spilling all over our floor--but a really tight clamp holding a flexible rubber pipe to a small surface area is hard to manipulate.  Getting it off took several minutes, but getting it back on took close to a half hour--with sore arms and small nicks from the rough metal edges of the machine to show for it.  Hubby says this makes us officially parents--not only have we done home-repair work, but it's home repair work directly linked to our child.  Without him, we wouldn't have needed to do this.  (And he didn't even do anything!)

Despite the fact that I can't figure out how the sock got through those tiny holes, Hubby and I now faced a dilemma.  We're going to have tiny socks in our lives for a long time still to come.  So how do we keep ourselves from having to repeat this adventure?

Our solution:  the sock bag.
This bag is a reusable mesh produce bag sold at King Soopers.  We had five already, and decided that buying another 3-pack was in order.  Each child now gets a bag to hold their socks in the wash.  This way they can't get sucked into the ether, plus they won't get lost in larger pieces of clothing.

(Betcha didn't know the washing machine really CAN eat those socks that go missing!)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Late March Kiddie Crafts

We're going to have to rethink our craft wall soon, as we've been unpacking all the personal effects we hid when we staged our house, and this wall used to be (and will again soon be) a family photo wall.  I'm not sure whether we'll just put his crafts lower (more on his level), try to rearrange the photos, or perhaps just use a smaller space on the other side of the hallway.  Probably the latter (I don't trust that the more tactile pieces will stay mounted if he can reach them,) but we'll see.  Here's the current state of our craft wall.

After St. Patrick's Day, I introduced my son to the letter "L."  I also let him get some cutting practice in using the scraps from that day, since obviously he won't get any better (or safer) without practice.  Here he is with the confetti he made.
After that we took some shredded red paper that had come as packing material and put a mane on a lion, because "L" is for "lion."
We also did "L" is for "Ladybug."  I had to do most of the pasting to get the shape right, but he happily attached the pom poms.  (I was going to make it red, but he wanted it to be orange.  I guess it's closer to the color found in nature this way!)
"L" is for "Lollipop."  (He learned to say Lollipop while doing our "L" poster, so I decided to make some big ones out of paper.
This same week, I did a pH and nutrient test on my garden.  After it was complete, I decided to clean the tubes out rather than toss them, because there's a strange allure to tiny tubes.  My instinct was right.  I'd been planning to save them for a future sensory bin or to use as a bath toy, but my son witnessed me washing them and immediately appropriated them for his own purposes.  He played with them for quite a long time.

We've got a lot of birthdays in our family starting in late March and running through mid-May, so interspersed throughout the other crafts we started making birthday cards.  Many I can't show as certain recipients haven't gotten them and might get a spoiler, but these have already been delivered.
After letting my son paint the inside of the cards, I used him as a paintbrush for his Grammy (hubby's mom) and Great Grandma (hubby's grandma)'s cards.  Great Grandma loves butterflies, and Grammy loves dragonflies, so we attempted to create said creatures out of painted footprints.
After all that, I thought it was only fitting to let him do some more painting himself.

We also helped him sign the cards and traced his hand on the back.

The last "L" project was "L is for lacing," in which he laced a big letter L.  He seemed to enjoy it, though he wanted us to take turns, too.

Once again, I'm linking this post to Tot School, where you can see what other parents are doing with their little ones.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Stat Check

During the month of March, I wrote on all 31 days!
I spent 2/3 of the month rewriting an older story, made minor revisions on three of the newer stories I've written, and started revising a fourth
I made 3 submissions
I received 2 rejections
I declared one market dead and allowed the story sitting with them to move on
I got every story back out the day I received a rejection (that's a first for me!)
I reactivated my Critters account, submitted two stories to the queue, and made 1 critique
I have 7 stories currently in slush pile circulation
I made 13 blog posts
I took no days off

March started slow, partly because we've been working feverishly on our house (see this post for details) and partly because I didn't know where the story would take me.  But once I finally figured it out, I was able to pick up the pace quite a bit.  My biggest achievement from March was the fact that I managed to get every story back out into the world the same day I received word that a market didn't want it--or in the case of one of them, the day I decided that I wasn't going to hear from the market.

In April I hope to do more revisions/rewrites, seriously figure out the submission process for my children's Christmas book, start writing an animated film script with hubby, and get a Most Productive Critter (MPC) credit for Critters.

Hubby and I have been outlining our script for the last month, so that ought to go relatively smoothly--we just have to figure out when we'll write, who will be the scribe, and whether we'll both be in the room for all writing or if we'll pass it back and forth.

I'd like to get an MPC because I'd really like to get a handful more stories into submission circulation before the baby arrives, but with a cycle of every 4 to 5 weeks on Critters, I'd only be able to get critiques for two before D-day.  My goal is to see whether I can do 10 critiques in a week (without stopping the daily writing) and if I can, perhaps I'll do it a few times.  That way I'll be able to get my stories back sooner (especially since some of them feel pretty close) and get my critique ratio high enough that I can ignore it for a little while and still get critiques back (which will allow me to let them trickle in after baby's arrival and help me jump back into my stories after my self-imposed maternity leave.)  The only question is, can I cram 10 critiques into my schedule?  We shall see.