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


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A big map

I typically try to blog about writing on Wednesdays, but I can't think of anything to discuss this week.  Editing on the novel is on a steady, even keel (slow, but steady) and I also revisited a story this week, but nothing happened to spark conversation.  So instead, I'll show you a way in which I wasted a good deal of writing time a few months back.

I decided I wanted a detailed map of Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, and the surrounding area so I could have an accurate picture in my mind of where everything happens in my novel.  After spending a long time online trying to find a printable map, I gave up and made one from google maps, one six-inch square at a time.
In case you're interested, there are 53 squares here.  Hubby was amused by the new wallpaper in the office.  And yes, this is my way of dragging my heels when intimidated by the task at hand.  I've moved past this particular bout of writers block though, and I'm glad I have this reference.

What's the most time-consuming task you've done to distract yourself from writing?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kiddie Scifi books

It's been a long time since I reported on Kiddie Sci-Fi books that we've read.  I'm certain I've missed some, but here are the highlights of what I remember.
Green Wilma:  Frog in Space by Tedd Arnold was definitely an amusing one.  The meter was easy and helped the story flow, and the story was funny to both child and parent.  The premise--that when an alien spacecraft stopped to allow their child to stretch his legs they accidentally beamed a frog back up in his place--created hilarity for all involved.  I liked the humor in the background illustrations as well.  Definitely recommended.

Merry Christmas Space Case by James Marshall is a sequel to Space Case, which was, I believe, the first kiddie scifi book I wrote about.  This book wasn't quite as tongue-in-cheek as the first, and so I didn't enjoy it quite as much.  Zaxxon still enjoyed it though, even though it had been so long that he didn't remember the first book.  The alien returned for Christmas, just as he said he would in the first book.  I didn't really like the bullies in the book (which the alien helped the boy to repel) mainly because Zaxxon is so young that he hasn't encountered bullies yet, and I didn't really want to explain those nuances of childhood to my son.  The main character of the book in in grade school so the book is probably aimed at a slightly older audience--and since I don't have any grade school children yet, I don't know how much longer they read picture books.  At any rate, we both enjoyed the book, but I can't recommend it as enthusiastically as I did the first book.
Our first introduction to Oliver Jeffers was The Great Paper Caper and we decided that he was... weird.  Weird from the illustrations up.  The characters all have little stick legs and noses that make a reddish U-shape that dominates their faces.  The humor is often subtly (or not-so-subtly) adult--for example, in Paper Caper each character explains, by means of an illustration, that s/he has an alibi, and one character's alibi was that he was peeing on a tree.  Not exactly the sort of thing you'd expect in a children's book.  There were no words there, so the kids only saw a character looking at a tree up close, but the parents sure knew what was going on.  Very strange, and the plots are somewhat non-linear as well.  The thing I do like about his stories is the spontaneity and the off-the-wall things that take you by surprise.

The Way Back Home was similar, although not quite as adult.  A boy crash-lands his airplane on the moon, a Martian crashes his space ship, and they have to work together to get home.  It was bizarre, but enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Case for Worldbuilding

I didn't do much worldbuilding with my novel.  To be honest, I didn't do much planning of any kind, I just got the idea and dove on in.   There were times when I knew research of planning was needed, but largely I just blazed past them, making notes to come back.  The result was that I managed to keep working through without losing my thread or my enthusiasm, and I finished my first novel.

The downside is that I have a LOT of work to do on the rewrite.  I knew that this would happen, but I hadn't anticipated how much there would be to do.  In addition to all the elements I left behind, there are lots of things I didn't think about ahead of time but which ripple forward and back through the narrative, and nearly all of them wouldn't be issues if I'd done proper worldbuilding.

My novel takes place on Earth about 30 years out.  My opinion of the future is that many things are going to be the same.  Unfortunately, I left too many things the same.  It's so easy (and ingrained) to say a character picked up the receiver of his phone or pulled the computer keyboard closer to himself--but as I read through these references again I'm realizing that one way in which the world will change dramatically in the next 30 years is in the technology.  So now I'm stopping to examine all references to technology and figuring out how they should evolve, which is eating up a lot of my time.

The lesson:  worldbuilding benefits everyone, even if your story isn't too far from the here and now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solar Eclipse in Colorado!

Yesterday evening, we packed up our dinner as a picnic and headed out to a nearby park in order to watch the eclipse.  It covered 80% of the sun at maximum viewing, which was only about 20 minutes before sunset.  My parents were kind enough to pick us up some eclipse glasses a few days ago, so we had a safe way to watch.
Not a bad picture, considering all I did was aim my point-and-shoot camera through the eclipse glasses!
The weather was not ideal--partly cloudy, the sun kept popping in and out of clouds.  Once the sliver of sun got thinner than this, my camera couldn't figure out what to focus on, especially since it was rapidly moving behind clouds as I tried to aim.
Zaxxon observed that the sun looked like the moon.  We enjoyed examining its shape, and observing that first the crescent pointed down, and then as the eclipse began to wane, the crescent pointed left.
We found it amazing how powerful the sun still was.  You couldn't tell at all, by trying to glance at the sun, that anything different was going on.  Now, if it had been noon as opposed to nearly sunset and if it hadn't been cloudy, then perhaps the light would have dimmed enough to take notice of the change in light.  However, we felt that we were nearly the only people at the park aware that anything special was going on overhead.  The park was crowded--I think a soccer game had just ended--but we passed only two people we were certain were watching the eclipse.  They had either a very small refractive telescope or a very large zoom for a camera, mounted on a tripod, aimed at the sun.  I wanted to walk over and chat, but by the time I was ready to do so the sun had just set, and they walked off in the other direction.  Oh well.
Don't I look cool in my eclipse shades?
Trying to keep Zaxxon eating while balancing an eleven-month-old on my lap (who kept sticking his fingers into my food) and periodically putting on the eclipse shades or trying to snap photos through them was quite an experience.  I was actually reminded of a story by Connie Willis, which I looked up after we got home.  It's called "And Come From Miles Around," which appeared in 1979.  It's the story of a young mother who drove 700 miles with her husband, his coworker, and their two-year-old to watch a total solar eclipse.  The weather threatens to be horrible but she figures out, based on things she saw whilst chasing the child around, that special visitors came to see the eclipse who would assure good weather during the show.  I re-read it last night and felt kinship with the protagonist and her attempts to keep her daughter occupied.
The playground behind us helped to keep our brood occupied.

We had fun, and decided that perhaps we'll take a road trip in five years--the next time there's supposed to be a total eclipse in the USA.  It would be neat to see the whole thing.  As for something nearer, there's supposed to be a transit of Venus sometime in early June, and we're wondering if that will be visible without magnification through the eclipse glasses.  I also wonder how expensive solar filters are for telescopes.  If I can get something cheap, perhaps it's time to dust off my old six-inch reflector and have an astronomy party.  One thing I'm not sure of though:  how does one align a telescope to true north during the day when the north star isn't visible?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mountains

The family and I went to the mountains for a week-long retreat two weeks ago.  We do this yearly, and hubby and I traditionally use it as a writing retreat--we have no "chores" to take care of except meals, so we spend a good deal of energy on our creative pursuits.  Unfortunately, as the boys get older, our time in which we can write has dwindled dramatically.  This year we barely got any done until the last few days, when we finally managed to coordinate their naps despite having to put them in the same room.  Alas.  It was still a nice family vacation.

The awesome thing was I finally got to test my waterproof camera (which I've had for the better part of a year) in actual water.  I love this camera!
How often do you get to see this?  Half in and half out!  The quality is SOOOOOOOOO far above and beyond those dinky disposables.

It can even take video.  So even though I couldn't take you with me, dear readers, you may now experience the water slide.  Enjoy!
video

Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Allergy Awareness Week

So apparently this is Food Allergy Awareness Week.  I never used to think much about this sort of thing because I was accustomed to my allergies and in a familiar routine.  Even when Zaxxon was diagnosed with allergies (different from my own, how inconvenient) I didn't worry too much.  Now, however, as he gets closer and closer to preschool and I will have to leave him in someone else's care on a regular basis... well, I'm putting more thought into it.

I thought, in honor of the Week, that I would share with you legislation that is working its way through the House and the Senate.  The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act will encourage states to adopt laws allowing schools to have on hand “stock” epinephrine auto-injectors – meaning epinephrine that can be used for any student or staff member in an emergency.  While a lot of schools are helpful and supportive about emergency medication (you can bet I made sure Zaxxon's preschool will be,) many still aren't.  A little girl died at school in Virginia early this year because she didn't have access to her Epi Pen.  The act is incredibly bipartisan, so you don't even have to guess at my political leanings.

If you're interested in supporting the act, here are sample letters taken from FAAN's (the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) website to send to your senators and representatives.  Thanks for caring!

Find your senators
Find your representatives

Find out if they already support the act (cosponsors):
Senate
House

If they don't support, send an email!
Senate:
MODEL Letter of Support for the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act

Note: Please paraphrase. It is important that Senators do not receive duplicates of the same letter from different individuals. Also, under your name, be sure to include your full address and phone number.

The Honorable (insert Senator’s name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator (insert name):

I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor S. 1884, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act sponsored by Senators Dick Durbin, Mark Kirk, and a bipartisan group of 25 U.S. Senators. I am the parent of a child with severe food allergies. (Personalize here by inserting a brief description of your child’s allergies.)

Children with food allergies are at risk for anaphylaxis, a systemic allergic reaction that can kill within minutes due to asphyxiation or extremely low blood pressure. To prevent death, anaphylaxis must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine. S. 1884 would encourage states to ensure that epinephrine is available in schools and that school personnel are trained to administer it in an emergency. Epinephrine is safe and easy to administer.

The need for S 1884 was underscored earlier this year when a Virginia first-grader died when she suffered anaphylaxis at school that was not treated promptly with epinephrine. Nearly six million American children have food allergies and are at risk of anaphylaxis. Schools need to be prepared to treat allergic reactions in the event a student’s personal epinephrine auto-injector isn’t available or the student is having a reaction for the first time.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is not a controversial bill. It is endorsed by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of School Nurses, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and other organizations.

I hope you will join your many colleagues of both political parties in co-sponsoring S. 1884 and working to assure passage of this legislation. Thank you for considering my views.

Sincerely,

Name
Address including city/state
Phone and/or email address

House:
MODEL Letter of Support for the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act

Note: Please paraphrase. It is important that Representatives do not receive duplicates of the same letter from different individuals. Also, under your name, be sure to include your full address and phone number.

The Honorable (insert Representative’s name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (insert name):

I am the parent of a child with severe food allergies, and I am writing to ask you to co-sponsor H.R. 3627, the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by over 40 Members of the House. (Personalize here by inserting a brief description of your child’s allergies.)

Nearly six million American children have food allergies and are at risk of anaphylaxis, a systemic allergic reaction that can kill within minutes. To prevent death, anaphylaxis must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine. H.R. 3627 would encourage states to ensure that epinephrine is available in schools and that school personnel are trained to administer it in an emergency. Epinephrine is safe and easy to administer.

Earlier this year, a Virginia first-grader died at school when she had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut that was not treated promptly with epinephrine. Schools MUST BE PREPARED to treat allergic reactions in the event a student’s personal epinephrine auto-injector isn’t available or the student is having a reaction for the first time.

The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act is endorsed by the National Association of School Nurses, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other organizations. It is not a controversial bill.

I hope you will add your name to the list of House Members, both Republicans and Democrats, who have co-sponsored H.R. 3627 and work to assure passage of this legislation. Thank you for considering my views.

Sincerely,

Name
Address including city/state
Phone and/or email address

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Novel editing progress

"Novel editing progress" is the name of the email I'm sending to myself daily now.  As a backup, I'm emailing any modified documents to myself each night.  It gives me peace of mind.

Greater peace of mind comes from the fact that I'm actually making editing progress these days.  It's slow, but not as slow as it has been before.  I'm catching the rhythm of what I'm writing and more easily incorporating the changes that ripple throughout the novel.  I keep asking when I'll reach a chapter that won't require several major changes--my husband's response was "when you move on to the next draft."  Yeah, that's probably true.  At least at the moment, I'm motivated.

What keeps you motivated through the long slog of editing a long piece of fiction?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Geeks Unite! Let's fly on the Enterprise!

Yesterday evening, I walked into the office to see hubby reading an article with this title:

Starship Enterprise could be a reality by 2032, engineer says


An in-depth news article is Here, and the actual website is http://www.buildtheenterprise.org/
 
Basically, this guy believes we can build a spaceship with the design of the Enterprise, and he says, "It ends up that this ship configuration is quite functional."  It wouldn't have everything, of course, and there would be no warp power, but he believes it would be capable of exploring our solar system within a decent timetable (90 days to Mars.)
 
How awesome would it be to have a real starship Enterprise?  Hubby and I will be celebrating our ten year anniversary next year and intend to take a cruise for the occasion (our honeymoon was a cruise, and we are ever-eager for more.)  Now we know what our 30th anniversary cruise will be too!
 
The website, which was just launched about a week ago, is aimed at trying to convince...well, Everyone...that this is worth the investment.  He's aiming at NASA and Washington, but it seems to me that his target audience ought to be private investors.  I've long thought that the future of space exploration will probably come from the private sector, because that's where the people with the interest and money are (in fact, that's part of my novel.)  Find the Star Trek nerds with large disposable incomes and get them onboard.  The rest will follow.
 
Anyone care to meet in Ten Forward in twenty or twenty-one years for drinks as we sail to the Moon or Mars?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!  Past, present, or future, Moms Rock!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

April Stat Check

During the month of April, I wrote/edited on all 30 days
I edited my novel and did a little work on planning another
I made 6 submissions
I received 1 rejection
I have 9 stories back in slush pile circulation (3 more await me throwing them back out there)
I made 5 blog posts
I took no days off

Analysis:
Meh.  This was kind of a slow month.  We got our house refinanced though, just under the wire, so that made everybody breathe easier.  I'm also nearly caught up on some photo projects that I've been meaning to do for a l-o-n-g time, and we've joined a new playgroup.  Socialization for everyone!

Editing on the novel has been slow but steady.  It's picked up a bit in the last week or so, with me covering more ground each day.  My daily schedule has degraded into something where I'm shunting writing into the wee hours of the morning when I'm most tired, so that needs to stop.  But nothing has stood still.  Submissions are similar:  I got a fire lit under me to get them back out, and spent much of last week getting some of that done.  There are three more with no reason to wait, I just need to make the time to do it.  At least most of them are no longer languishing.  My blogging has been sparse as well.  I just haven't been in the mood.  I'm in the mood to have finished products, but not to organize getting myself there.  I suppose that could be due to the general sleep-deprivation I'm coasting on these days.  We'll see.

Happy May, everybody!