lydamorehouse: (??!!)
 I'm trying a new crockpot recipe  I have varying success with crockpot things, but I wanted to have something going that would not require me to heat up the kitchen too much later this evening.  I had some skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts in the freezer (they were on sale) and so I found a kind of spicy Italian recipe that would only require me to make some spaghetti later to serve this over. I have no idea if it will be any good, but it's worth a try.

Shawn is home today. She woke up not feeling great--her tummy was bothering her, but just looking at her, I suspect a migraine is coming.  Unfortunately, as she's gotten older, she's been getting new symptoms for her migraines and upset stomach is now one of them.  So much for all those reports that claimed that, as she aged, migraines might become less severe. :-(

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for Mason to wake up so that I can take him off for his second driver's lesson.  We tried out a parking lot yesterday. He did actually very well, considering it was his first real time. The first few stops were panicked and jerky, but by the time we were done, he was getting the hang of a smooth stop. Turning was still a little baffling for him, until I took the wheel for a while and realized that part of the problem was that the wheel needs a certain amount of acceleration in order to turn itself back to true.  

I think that's been the most challenging part of teaching Mason so far. I have not had to articulate the mechanics of driving... ever, and there are so many things that, after decades of driving, I do completely unconsciously.  So, it's been a struggle to use all my words, as it were. Shawn found me a lovely parent guided course on-line, which has had some good ideas for how much we should try to cover in a single day.  https://www.teendriversource.org/learning-to-drive/practice-driving-lessons

The other big thing we did for Mason yesterday was get him a teen checking account. He now has his own debit card.  He'll have the ability to check his own statements on-line, etc. Shawn found him a check register, so he can keep track of his finances the old fashioned way, too.  

We are doing our best to get our teen ready for adulting, as the kids say.

I'm really glad we're starting some of this stuff now, when he'll still have plenty of time at home to work out any kinks, as it were.  Plus, I'm hoping that it will ease some of the natural desire for independence at this age. He'll have a good deal of freedom and discretion when it comes to his own money, and, eventually, he'll have the physical freedom to take the car to places.  

Oh, that reminds me. I'd better call our insurance company and get him added to our policy.  That'll be... expensive. 
lydamorehouse: (Default)
 The lake weekend was wonderful. I spent a lot of time, unplugged, staring out at our friends' garden watching the hummingbirds.  I managed to get a good picture of one:

A hummingbird sitting still for a photo. NO. REALLY.


Now it's the regular week and I'm trying to get back into the groove of things.  Today I took Mason back to Washington; he had a robotics planning meeting.  They're starting to look forward to next year, and there is some talk of a demonstration and/or competition of some kind at the State Fair.  (I can only be as clear and detailed as my son was to me, so that means: not very.)

Tomorrow, we are headed to the DMV to see if Mason can pass the written test and get his learners' permit.  He just took an official practice test and got a 90%. So, fingers crossed he can repeat that under pressure.

Otherwise, I'm trying to decide if I want to catch any Fringe shows this year. Last year, I went to see my friend [personal profile] naomikritzer do her thing and so I am now on the Fringe's mailing list. A lot of the people I know in SF/F fandom are also theater geeks, so a number of people I know are involved one way or another in Fringe... and some of their shows seem pretty interesting. Plus, it was fun to hit a show last year and I'm wondering if I should pick one or two and do it again this year. Since my family isn't up for it, I've found it easiest to pick a late night show and go.  

One year, I'd love to invest in a VIP pass and go to as many as I can fit in, in the week.

Meanwhile, I've been catching up on correspondence and enjoying not having as crazy a work schedule as I did last month. Tonight, for instance, I was able to make pot stickers (a family favorite) and not have to dash out the door to go to Roseville or some other place.  I've been working a LOT of Monday nights this last month and it almost feels weird to be sitting at home.

I haven't been feeling like writing ANYTHING lately, but I suspect that will pass. I think my brain is just doing a little 'reset' post-class. I got my evaluations from the Loft. Most are glowing or non-descriptive, but I had one comment that's been haunting me. Someone wrote on the "things you wish there were more of in class" section. "There was no freedom." I have no idea what that means in this context.  I, of course, have been spending many waking hours trying to puzzle it out. The best I can figure is that I very much teach in lecture-style. It's possible that this student was hoping to get up and move more.  Or perhaps my structure was too repetitive?  I did have people write via prompts, but I always said that you could use any writing time as free writing, so....?

This will now be the mystery that occupies my life.
lydamorehouse: (Renji talking smack)
 I'll be doing light cosplay today at my Loft Class.

We made some off-hand comment about cosplay. When the students found out that I've cosplayed in the past, they were like "Do it! Bring it!" and we all know that if you agree to such a challenge, you really need to follow through to the best of your ability.

Particularly when dealing with teens.  

But, now I have arrived at class and realized that I have forgotten a critical part of my shinigmai uniform at home! The kosode!  I have a captain's haori, but gah! I'm wearing it anyway.

The other challenge of today is that it's a wrap-up day. As in, "let's talk about anything we didn't previously cover."  So, it's going to be the least prepared, by its nature.  But, I will be teaching it dressed as Aizen, so I will have all the narcissistic confidence of a GOD.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo freaked)
...which means I'm sitting at the coffee shop this morning, wondering exactly HOW I should structure the next three hours of my life, a.k.a, my Loft class.

Today's entry on the syllabus reads:

Day Four: Calling a Rabbit a Smeerp and Other Problems of World-Building

World-building is more than just giving things we already know weird-sounding names, because how annoying is it to be reading about something called a smeerp that looks and behaves exactly like a rabbit, even though it’s supposed to be the native life of the planet C-43? If the class is interested, we may pull out a few (and only a few, because, man, is that list extensive!) of Pat Wrede’s world-building questions to see what answers we would come up with—both as a reflection of the work we’re already doing or as story/world idea prompts. Beyond working with her thoughts, we’ll also discuss our own tricks and tips for building believable fantasy and alien worlds.
 

Sounds pretty good, but these students chew through material like hungry wolves.  

On the other hand, spending some time just talking about worlds that they love and why they love them--with this class--is often a gold mine.  I have to say that I've been extremely lucky. I have some of the most out-going students that I've had in a long time.  And, a really decent percentage of people who want to share. Even some of the people who won't read their writing out loud (which is... let's admit it, even *I* hate doing that from time to time) still contribute ideas to class.  

Yesterday went really very well, too. So fingers crossed that I can keep up this winning streak for another couple of days.

The last class is Friday and then I drive home, pick up my family, pack up the car, and we head to Siren, Wisconsin to hang out at a friend's cabin. Sounds like just in time, too. It's supposed to start getting warm again.

I have to say that I've been LOVING this cooler weather.  Good sleeping weather, and I think that's actually one of my concerns today. I actually got enough sleep last night and now I feel kind of... well, like I'd rather STILL be sleeping. And, my ability to roll with the class and lead them and teach, entirely depends on the energy I have to give. I got myself some food, though, and a coffee, so I should be okay.

Wish me luck again! It worked last time.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I'm at the coffee shop early trying to prep for class, but I keep getting distracted by my review blog. (A couple of comments came in while I was sitting here).

I decided to go to a movie last night with friends (Ant-Man and the Wasp) and that was fun, but now I'm feeling a little crispy around the edges because I stayed up later than I normally would. I also feel wildly unprepared for class.

I probably haven't managed to mention this earlier (see above blog about how insanely busy July has been), but I've been teaching a week-long science fiction/fantasy class at the Loft called "Not Just the Zombie Apocalypse." It's part of their teen summer program. My attendance is once-again extremely healthy. I have 16 teenagers, all of whom are willing to show up for an 9 am class, and, on top of that, all of whom have been (crossing fingers that this trend continues) enthusiastic participants.  

BUT, because of said enthusiasm, I've been tearing through material in class.

I'm ahead of my synopsis by about a day--so I'm thinking today is going to have to cover stuff I hadn't planned on doing, so that we can match back up/get back on track. I think to that end, I'm going to loop back to character design/development. We touched on it only briefly earlier, so it's time to go back to that.

This means, of course, that I don't have writing prompts ready to roll and I'm doing that last-minute scramble to find fun ideas.

Sometimes I wonder how i survive.

In this case, I survive because it really takes almost nothing to get my class talking. In fact, I intend to start to day getting them to list some favorite/memorable characters. Then, we're going to do some deep thinking about why these characters stood out: was it just their story? Was it some unusual personality trait? Was it they way they "talked" (aka the narrative voice)? Was it a special ability we all wish we had (world's greatest detective/wizard/etc.)?

I think we'll do some thinking about how do you make characters distinct from one another. We'll talk about how important (or not) physical description is, naming, dialogue quirks, etc. I think maybe I'll ask them to do an exercise where they write dialogue between two characters without ANY dialogue tags or "blocking" with the express purpose of focusing on making voices distinct enough to be recognizable without the 'he said/she said tags." (And then we'll have to discuss why huge blocks of dialogue like that are actually a TERRIBLE idea in actual fiction. :-)

Okay, I'm feeling better.  I'm going to head out so I can get there early and settle in. 

Maybe I'll also grab a second cup of coffee for the road.
lydamorehouse: (aizen's return)
 Saturday's class went astonishingly well. I was expecting eight students, but ended up with an even dozen.  They were all lively and ready to play.  It could not have been a better crew.  

I mean, maybe I will get a evaluation or two that says: "Teacher was very random" and/or "too accommodating," but that's just my teaching style. But, from what I could tell, everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Did they learn anything?  I hope so. I did have a couple of bits of wisdom to impart, but... you actually never know what sticks with a student.  I've had people say to me at conventions, "Do you remember saying [this one thing]? It stuck with me for years. Can you expand in it?"  And, 9 times out of 10, I have zero recollection of having said the thing. Unless it sounds completely unlike me, I tend not to let on and just go ahead and expound on whatever idea it was.  Because that's the thing. You really don't know what, out of the zillion things you say, what's gong to seem the most meaningful.

Mason came home from his last debate kind of late, somewhere closer to 5 pm. That worked out really well. I ended up having to wait with a student who had forgotten her phone until her dad arrived to pick her up.  From there, I stopped at Subway and picked up dinner for Mason and I.  We ate separately because Shawn was off to a work party on Saturday night.  

I could have gone to the party, but, once this extrovert wound down from the high of teaching, I was pretty pooped out.  Plus, Shawn is starting to be invited to the kinds of parties where the directors and board members are in attendance and... those upper echelon people baffle me. I can't compare Louis Vuitton bags. In fact, I don't even own a pair of dress pants any more. If I had been planning on going, Shawn and I would have had to go to the store to buy something appropriate for me to wear.  And that seemed stupid (not to mention expensive) for just one party. Admittedly, another big part of not wanting to go is the feeling that I'm cool enough any more. I'm not writing and I haven't published since 2013.  If people asked me what I did for a living, I'm not sure what I'd even say. 

So, there's that.

Yesterday, we got our Solstice tree up and decorated. I'd love to post a picture of it, but Facebook is being very weird.  So, maybe tomorrow.  We did our annual dash across University Avenue lugging a giant tree. It's become quite the tradition.  It starts with a walk over to the "Y's Men's" lot.  They used to set up directly across University from us in front of the YMCA.  However, now that Dickerman Park/the City of  Saint Paul has reclaimed that area, they've moved to a parking lot just up Wheeler on that side of University.  After finding the tree, paying for it, getting the bottom trimmed, we inevitably have this conversation:  

Them: "Where are you parked?"  
Us: "Oh, we're walking."
Them: "With the tree?"  
Us: "Yep! We live just across University."
Them: [looking vaguely confused and alarmed] "Good luck."

I'm sure we're quite the sight to the motorists on University Avenue.  I'm only glad we were able to talk the light rail people into giving us a pedestrian crossing. Otherwise, we'd have to walk down to Fairview, cross there, and then walk all the way back. That'd add several blocks.  In some ways, having the pedestrian crossing has made it a little easier. There were years when Shawn and i would be standing on the little concrete island between lanes for minutes waiting for a break in the cars.  Now, because the light rail has signs saying to keep an eye out for pedestrians, we will occasionally actually get people who will stop.

Then there's the semi-traditional arguing while we try to make sure the tree is properly in its stand.  We actually didn't do as much of that, probably because Mason is now old enough to stand at the door and direct us.  Before it would be: adjust, adjust, crawl out from under the tree, see that it's crooked, swear a lot, and rinse and repeat.  

I work today for three hours, starting at 11 am.  I get to try to brave this new dusting of snow all the way out to North Saint Paul. I'm sure it will be fine.  I can return eight of the volumes of Nana that I read over these last few days.  North Saint Paul is usually fairly quiet, too. I'm probably just covering some folks' lunch hours. 

Mason has a robotics field trip today, so I'm picking him up a little later than usual. Last night he went to Rosemary's. They switched to Sundays because of debate, but this meant he was home late last night and ended up staying up at least an hour over bedtime. He has a real problem with bedtime.  We harass him a lot, but there also comes a time when you have to say, "Okay. It's on you." No surprise, he woke up really rough this morning.  Anyway, I hope we can get him to bed earlier tonight.  Sigh. Teens.

Right. Well, I tried one more time to post to FB, but it's not working at all. And, now it's time for me to get ready for work.  

See you all again soon!
lydamorehouse: (ichigo hot)
I teach today at the Loft from 1 to 4 pm. It's a one-day workshop for teens writing science fiction fantasy called "The Dawn of the Attack of the 80-Foot Writer" (which is possibly my best class title, ever.) However, despite my dazzling title, I have only 8 confirmed students, and I think that's why I'm not feeling super-anxious. Eight is normally a very manageable number for me. Of course, it could all go horribly wrong if every one of those 8 students is a complete introvert...and no one talks or offers suggestions at all. Though, I have been known to fill my own silences, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see. I'm very much of the attitude, "It will be what it will be." Which might be awesome... or dangerous.

Mason is off again today at a debate tournament. It's the final one of the year, but he informed us yesterday that he'd like to be a debate judge. I guess that's going to involve a lot of us dropping him off at various school campuses around town, but I'm up for it. I'm really pleased that he's found something like this that he enjoys so much.

Though it's weird for Shawn and I to find ourselves with so much alone time. We continued our earlier binge watch of the last season of "Longmire" I spent much of last night dreaming about Wyoming. I think after this we're either going to finish up the weird set in the arctic show "Fortitude" (spoiler: cannibalistic zombie police procedural) and/or watch the third season of "Broadchurch." Meanwhile, while doing dishes I've been working my way through the anime of Mushi-shi, which I've been really enjoying.

In about a half-hour I'm going to do a Google hang-out with [personal profile] jiawen  , which should be fun. I've been writing a lot of letters to her in Taiwan, but we haven't chatted for a number of months.  

Well, I suppose I should see if there is, in fact, anything I need to do to prepare for class.  Hope you have a nice Saturday!

lydamorehouse: (??!!)
 Every time I teach teenagers, I take a moment to gather "market" information. I ask them what they're reading/watching/playing and what they wish they'd see more of.  For YA authors out there, here's what my Loft teens would like most of all:
  1. Assexual representation.  They want a character who is explicitly ace who DOES NOT FALL FOR SOMEONE BY THE END.  Please more GLBTQIA+ representation in general. Non-binary/Genderfluid/Genderqueer, too, please. (Ace comes up every year, by the way.) 
  2. Supernatural creatures who are *not* run of the mill vampires
  3. NO MORE ROMANCE.  Or, if there must be romance, can it please be something more than the tradition love triangle.  Better yet, let the triangle end in a poly arrangement (yes, my teenagers asked specifically for poly).  
  4. More dystopia, but no more Divergent rip-offs. How about a post-apocalypse that has nothing to do with the government dividing people by their skills/factions/what-have-yous?

Obviously, this sample size is small.  My class this year had twenty students, only four of them male-identified, one non-binary, and the rest using she/her pronouns. The majority of the class was female.  There were only two obvious PoCs. All of the students, except one that was there on a scholarship, came from families that could easily afford a $300+ class for their kids. Most were urban/suburban/Metro area, though some came from the 218 area code (I can't remember how many without checking my class list, but it was at least two. I remember because it surprised me.)  

The only other thing of note is that this is the first class where we've had to have a few discussions about the technical aspects of writing. Every year I teach, I try to have an opportunity for students to have their work critiqued. It's best when the whole class can participate and I can teach "how-to" peer critique, BUT with twenty kids it was strictly voluntary and I took their work home and typed up my response to their opening pages.  I bet half the class participated.  

Their abilities ranged wildly, but I was expecting that in a group of 13-17 year olds.  What I wasn't expecting was at least three students who seemed to have zero concept of paragraph breaks.  Their writing was otherwise good, it was just presented as a giant block of text.  I'm not sure where this comes from, and I had to take some time to remember how *I* was taught when a good paragraph break should come.  Of course, much of it comes from osmosis, from reading.  But I do remember someone requiring that we learn about what should be contained in a paragraph... I wonder which grade though?

Anyway, that was the only 'surprise.'  It's tempting to blame the lack of paragraph breaks on the internet.  But, I'm still not convinced that the Internet is ruining young writers. I suspect this lack of breaks comes from generally not being much of a reader.  (Voracious readers always have an obvious 'ear' for how stories are structured.) Or from reading things, like graphic novels or web comics, that come in a differently consumed format.

It was a weird year at the Loft this year, but, ultimately, the class was great.  My boss asked me to be sure to propose something similar for winter quarter.
lydamorehouse: (Bazz-B)
Today was the first day of my class at the Loft, Not Just the Zombie Apocalypse: Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy. Right off the heels of CONvergence, I got up this morning and taught 20 eager-to-not-so-eager 13-17 year-olds at 9 am.

Yeeeeaaaah.

I'm fairly wiped out now, to be honest. I think tonight is going to be an early night for me, especially since I have to get up and do it again tomorrow. In general, I'd say the kids are good. The kids are always good. The question is really, can I engage them. I think I did pretty well actually, since my measure of success is: did I get a bunch of them to open up and talk out loud in class? I did. So, day one: fait accompli.

I also thought today was the deadline for my review of The Wendy Project, a graphic novel by Melissa Jane Osbourne/Veronica Fish for Twin Cities Geeks so I read that again and wrote up a review.  I have a critique project I need to start working on.  

AND, tomorrow at Quatrefoil, I'll be giving a talk with the Gaylaxicons about Precinct 13. So, lots to "keep me off the street" as my grandmother might have said.
lydamorehouse: (Renji 3/4ths profile)
 Who on earth thought it was a good idea to teach a class AT BEDTIME??!!

For those of you who don't know this about me, I've been a lifelong 'lark.' A morning lark is the opposite of a night owl.  Even when I was a teenager, I used to regularly get up an hour or so before my parents and make coffee, go for walks, and generally enjoy the solitude of the early hours. To be perfectly honest, in high school, I often used the extra hour or hours to do All the Make-Up and my hair. (Hard to even imagine now, isn't it?)  

These days I wake up a little earlier than I'd like. Mason's school starts at 7:10 am (first bell) and so our house is up starting anywhere between 5 and 5:30 am.  That's a bit early for me, and a lot of days I push it by pulling myself up long enough to brush teeth and get dressed and then I collapse back into bed until 6:00 am, which is much closer to my natural wake-up time.

I also typically really prefer to get 8 hours of sleep. So, staying up past 10 pm gets rough.

My Loft class **STARTS** at 7:30 am and goes until 9:30 pm. Yesterday was my first class and it went well--aided by a bit of caffeine from the coffee shop at Open Book.  I have an even dozen students, who all seem very smart and engaged. I think we're well-primed to have a good class in terms of discussion, etc.  For those of you who have taken classes from me (or, frankly, have seen me on panels at local conventions,) know that I put a LOT of energy into my teaching.  I'm also an extrovert, which means I leave class with INCREASED ENERGY.  Coming home and bouncing around until 10:30 pm = NOT GOOD COME 5 AM.

SUPER. NOT. GOOD.

I was Madame Cranky-Pants in my typical low point (--my biorhythm is such that even on good days I'm lackluster from about 2 pm - 4 pm.) I may or may not have shouted at my family, "I'm not passive-aggressive, I'm just aggressive! No, I'M JUST ANGRY." But, luckily, at this point Mason and I were lugging this ridiculously heavy kitty litter box out to the car and alternately yelling and laughing. Even so, I had been seriously bitchy previously.  

I'm NOT made for late nights.

And, yes, yes, you night owls are all laughing your heads off about how "early" this all is.  Just try to imagine having to teach a class at 6 am and you might understand.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
...An overcrowded, stuffy room in the State Capitol building, apparently, at least for me, today.

Sometime ago I got invited to the "traditional constituents luncheon" for district 64. It sounded like a very relaxed sort of affair, boxed lunches for $11 from Cecil's deli, and "conversation" with my Minnesota Legislators: Dick Cohen (Senate), Erin Murphy (House 64A, my district), and Dave Pinto (House 64B).  Senator Cohen looked out over the standing room only crowd with more than a little trepidation and apologized profusely, "We don't have enough seats. Honestly, we normally expect about ten people."

Well, they got at LEAST 50, possibly more. I'd guess close to 80.

These are Democrats, representing staunchly Democratic districts in Saint Paul.

Let me tell you something, these people were all woke.  When they spoke, they mentioned specific bills, by number! (I was really pleased that I'd been following WatchYourReps MN enough to at least know which ones were being talked about by reputation, if not actual number.) And more than that, most of the people in the room leaned HARD Left. The biggest applause (nay, it was more of a spontaneous CHEER,) happened when Representative Erin Murphy suggested they push for Medicare For All for Minnesota.  

Meanwhile, poor Senator Cohen was having a little trouble reading the room. After her big cheer, he cautioned that he'd be behind that, but it'd have to be economically sustainable, (which I actually agree with, but DUDE. CLEARLY, the 80-some people here want to hear you leading, radically, up in the front of the pack!)  But, I ended up liking Cohen. He reminded me of our governor, honestly. Kind of a slow build to any kind of fire, a bit plodding, but secretly very, very liberal.  Also, he's a career politician, with simple ambitions. It was a little hard to trust Rep. Murphy because she's running for governor.  So, she has been reading the room and knows EXACTLY what we want to hear. My sense was that she was at least somewhat sincere, but I watched her playing that room--calling certain people by name, waving to others as they came and went.... so, you know, grain of salt there.

The room was also damn near lily white. Only two easily discernible PoCs in the crowd that I noticed, which given the population of my district is... wrong.  On the other hand, this "luncheon" was clearly meant to be something for retirees and self-employeed people like me who can make time to be at the Capitol at 11:30 am on a Tuesday.  Especially since it officially went until 1:30 pm.  Also this was NOT MEANT as a town hall type meeting (though it kind of turned into one) and Senator Cohen kept stressing that normally this is very informal, but because so many people were there they basically were forced to make it a rapid-fire Q&A session rather than a conversation.  Apparently, there is a town hall scheduled for my district, so I'll have to look into attending that, too, and see if it's a different population or if this is basically my SUM (Stand-Up Minnesota, our Indivisible breakout) District group. (The invite to this luncheon got shared on my SUM group e-mail, which I'm not sure was 100% kosher, since I *think* this was an invite only event. They asked for RSVPs.)

Things I learned as far as activism goes:
     1) Go ahead and call and write the governor's office if something passes that's egregious. He's not likely to veto EVERYTHING, but he'll probably veto MORE if he knows we have his back.  This was good to know. I've been hesitant to bombard his office like I have been the legislators'. 
     2) You can contact representatives out of your district on bills/issues, but they really stressed that should only be done if you have a strong, specific story that relates.  Better to get friends and relatives who ARE in that district to bug their legislators.
     3) Corporate interest show up at these things. I was really, really surprised to hear someone in the audience identify as a business owner (NOT RESIDENT) in the district, and they pointed out several other people in the room who were the same.  I'm really, really glad residents--actual constituents--outnumbered these people or this would have been a very different meeting, at least with a very different tilt, I suspect.  As it was our legislators all heard that what we wanted was strong defense, strong leadership, and for everyone to go as hard left as they possibly could.

So, that's about it. It was a fairly interesting time, I'd say, honestly.

Now I'm getting ready for my Loft class (12 students!) which STARTS at bedtime.  OMG, I don't know how I'm going to do this whole starting teaching at 7:30 pm gig.  WISH ME LUCK.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
For those of you just tuning in, I've been partnering with voice actor Jack Evans to record and produce audiobooks through ACX.com.  They've already produced Archangel Protocol and now they have just finished Fallen Host!  Because ACX is a subsidiary of both Audible and Amazon.com, you can buy my book exactly the same way in which you could buy any Audible book--on Amazon, on iTunes, or on Audible!  Here's a link to the Audible site: http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Fallen-Host-Audiobook/B01JQCXSW4.

What's cool about this particular project is that because it's just Jack and I and no middle-person/company, we're getting a royalty split similar to a self-published book. So, if you buy this audio version, Jack and I get the majority of the profits!  So, if you're looking for ways to support me more directly, this is definitely one of them.

In other news, Naomi Kritzer and I are teaching a class together at the Loft on short stories.  Don't worry, I'm not asking you to sign-up.  I've done my sales pitch for the blog.  We actually already had our first class on Saturday.  It's a LONG class: 3 hours and it's only two sessions. I feel like the class went very well, but I might be hallucinating because since the class started at 9 am and went until noon, I had nothing to eat but a WHOLE LOT OF COFFEE.  To say I was high energy during the class might be a slight understatement.

I think, too, my teaching style is.... okay, positive words would include: dynamic, flexible, and organic.  It worked pretty well to teach in tandem with Naomi because, as I told her beforehand (and the class, during,) that while I feel as though I'm a successful writer, I don't feel that short stories are necessarily an area of expertise for me.  I know a good one when it comes through my writers' group, but let's put that in perspective. I have Eleanor Arnason and Naomi Kritzer in my writing group, and between them they've had short stories nominated for and have won pretty much every short story award there *is.*  

So my job during class was to facilitate discussion.  To draw out ideas that Naomi has about writing short stories and to get the class to participate in ideas, etc.  Adult teaching, too, means making sure that adults leave class with a sense of having accomplished a specific goal. Adults like to leave class with something concrete in hand, so we had to structure the class in a way that provided students with some time to write and time to analyze the writing, etc.  And, despite the fact that the 3 hours slipped by much faster than we anticipated, we managed that.  The good news is that we have a second class to underscore the more important points, some of which we only skimmed over in the first class when we realized we were running out of time.

On the other hand, I'm a big believer in doing is learning, so the fact that all six of our students produced work they COULD take home and continue made me very optimistic that the second class is going to go as well as this one did and that all of them should be at least somewhat satisfied with their experience this last time.

Or I was high.

I could have been high.
lydamorehouse: (crazy eyed Renji)
I've been terribly neglectful of Tate's WIP on Wattpad. I updated today, finally, after a several month hiatus.

There a lot of reasons I let the work languish. The first and foremost is that I felt like the story had gone off the rails some time ago. It's super easy for that to happen when you're writing like this, out loud, as it were, in front of an audience. Normally, I tend to write everything away from the public eye, so, when I make mistakes or go down a rabbit hole, I can pull myself up and revise before anyone is the wiser (besides my writers' group, of course.) Not being able to do that this time stymied me. I knew it could, and, while I normally don't worry overly much about looking like an idiot in front of a crowd, this tangle fed into my general sense of failure.

Yeah, I know I'm not a failure, but as I said to someone who poked me for an update on Wattpad, Precinct 13 and its universe is a particular trigger for my... well, for lack of a better term, depression around writing. I've been on the verge of being clinically depressed, so I don't mean to use this term lightly. There should be a word for the behavior that mimics depression but isn't quite it... because that's how I sometimes get around my Tate projects. I _want_ to do them, but when I think about finishing Unjust Cause/writing an e-book or e-novella, and even when I work myself up into a bit of excitement around various ideas, when I finally sit down to write... my first impulse is to crawl under the covers and not come out.

It's very unlike me.

Normally, I'm very self-motivated. I would not have gotten as far as I have in writing if I weren't. So, I don't know why I have this block and, as I've said in numerous other posts, I've determined that this is the year I push past all that.

I wish I knew what worked. I started to type that it helps me when people ask after projects, but what's funny is that that kind of thing only works when it's STRANGERS (fans/readers/FB friends/casual acquaintances/con friends) asking. If you're my relative (or gods forbid, my wife) asking, I double-down into a weird, bitter resistance-- a very 'don't tell me what's good for me' kind of attitude.

Well, regardless, the plan is to get over THAT.

This weekend I had another sparsely attended Loft First Pages. This one was writing "fan fiction" and was supposed to be a teen event, though I ended up having an adult sit through it (I tried to tell the folks on my FB feed that they should come, even if they were grown-ups!) The First Pages are generally hard to do because the way they were explained to me, at least, you're meant to show up in a state of unprepared preparedness. The Loft wants the experience to be walk-in, drop-by, and flexible. So, while there is a general theme, I'm supposed to be ready to go whatever direction that the participants want. Luckily, I teach all the time, so I can lecture on a lot of writing-related subjects without too much prompting. However, I always end up feeling like I'm flailing around since, at least when I teach, I do quite a bit of prep work or at LEAST review some things other people have said on the topic. This time I knew I might have one student since a friend of mine told me her daughter was planning on coming, so I had done a bit of research into "common fan fiction mistakes." I based my rambling on that.

It still felt like rambling, though.

But at least I had people this time.

I also read all of MY REAL CHILDREN by Jo Walton over the weekend. I powered through that book, which is very unusual for me since I'm slightly dyslexic. It's a funny book because it's not action-packed in any stretch of the imagination, but I found it weirdly gripping. Maybe it's just because Jo Walton is such a good writer. I loved her Small Changes series and this is very similar in that there's a strong alternate history vibe going through it. Now, I'm on to THE BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS by Michel Faber.

I also gardened in between the bouts of rain. Now we've got a forecast of FROST, if you can believe it.
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
This weekend, the only thing I had 'on' was a Loft "First Pages" at Maplewood Library at 2:00 pm on Saturday. I was meant to be facilitating "Novel Writing for Teens." At last count, they had seven students signed up.

And... it was so gorgeous outside that not a SINGLE SOUL showed up.

I would feel bad about it, but this is fairly typical for these Loft First Pages, in my experience. I don't know if other instructors have an easier time getting warm bodies to fill chairs, but I have had zero luck. I think the MOST successful one had, maybe, three students? Talking a little to the teen librarian at Maplewood, we decided that a big part of it is that it's generally hard to get teenagers to make a concerted effort to come to an event like this (which is to say, free and of unknown value,) especially given all the other choices available (or required, ala soccer or what-have-you.) Add on top of that one of the first truly spectacular days of spring?

Yeah, I'm not surprised no one came.

I get paid regardless. The whole idea of "First Pages," actually, is that they're meant to be drop-in and casual. I'm supposed to be ready to facilitate (notice my careful avoidance of the words teach or instruct) anywhere from ten to one participants. They specifically chose facilitators who are flexible and ready to offer any kind of help/lecture/prompts, etc. So, if I sit there for 90 minutes and chat with the librarian, so be it. The whole idea is that if someone wanders in with 3 minutes to spare, I give them whatever they might need in that time. The Loft only asks that I'm there and that I'm ready for whoever shows and whatever they want to talk about.

Plus, the librarian I chatted with on Saturday is THE person who is responsible for Maplewood's extraordinary graphic novel, comic book, and manga collection. So, we had things to natter on at each other about, no problem!

Then Sunday was gray and rainy and a perfect day to cuddle up and read. I finished a book I really enjoyed called A DARKLING SEA by James L. Cambias. I found this book on the Locus Award's long list in the debut author section. The story takes place on an alien planet where the life there is a lot like the things they've found here at the deep ocean depths--volcanic vents that support huge colonies of life. Human are there doing research and things go off the tracks pretty early and soon enough there's first contact with the natives *and* then the arrival of a third alien race that we'd previously made contact with who are unhappy with our "meddling."

It's a quick read, too.

Now I'm about a hundred pages into PEOPLE IN THE TREES by Hanya Yanagihara, which I'm also finding really gripping. This one is a written as though it's a biography of a famous scientist, complete with a forward and footnotes. I chose to read this one first because it's the one due back at the library soonest, plus it's also one of the ones that was up for a Kitschie and I seem to be going through those for Bitter Empire.

I also bounced out of LAGOON by Nnedi Okorafor after about 30 pages. In this book, Okorafor does a lot of what I'd call "head-hopping" (where the narrative switches p.o.v. without any obvious transition or other signaling, like a space break, etc.) and I got lost really quickly. Plus, I felt a little robbed when one of the major events (alien contact??) was glossed over and told in disjointed flashbacks (little one-liners from various p.o.v. characters). So I felt really unanchored, like I was just floating through the story without any sense of who I should care about or why. So, I set it aside. I might or might not give it another try later. It's probably just a style issue, but I've given up on other books in this challenge, some of them much further in, like Ann Leckie's ANCILLARY SWORD. (Interestingly, I bounced out of MOST of the books up for the Nebula this year.)

I'm not sure what to do about the books that I bounce out of, but since I'm doing this mostly for myself, I've been trying to give the books I read a "fair" chance to grip me. I arbitrarily decided to give most books 50 pages. I didn't quite make that with LAGOON, but I also gave up on GOBLIN EMPEROR after only about 20 or 25 pages (that one was just too high fantasy for me.)

Honestly? I feel a little guilty admitting to giving up on books, especially books I've challenged myself to try to read. But, the truth is, I'm actually a slow reader due to my dyslexia. Because it's hard for me to read, if I'm not INTO a book, I slow down exponentially. I COULD push my way through some of these books, but I think it would be at the detriment to how many books I'll be able to read and finish this year (and possibly massive library overdue fines!) I don't know that the number of books I get read is really all that important, but I also don't really intend to review anything I didn't finish.... so... I dunno.

Some of these books, I could return to. And maybe I will. But I might as well read the ones that grip me first. I feel like, at least, I'm getting a good sampling of what's out there and up for awards, and some books I gave a hundred or more pages--I gave up on both ANCILLARY SWORD and THREE-BODY PROBLEM well after 100 pages. I kept going with both of those because, particularly Leckie, is up for SO MANY awards and THREE-BODY PROBLEM is that book that everyone is talking about. (I dropped out of both those books, interestingly, because I just didn't care that much. The authors failed to give me a human/heart to hang on to, and I'm just not an idea-driven reader. I need to have some reason to care beyond 'whiz-bang.' And, I'm very fond of whiz-bang, as I read a lot of graphic novels/comic books/manga. But trust me, all the ones of those I love also have a human core--I don't need much, just something or someone whose story affects me.)

At any rate, I thought I'd confess all that here. Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned...

Teaching!

Mar. 11th, 2015 01:18 pm
lydamorehouse: (ichigo being adorbs)
I just got confirmation from the Loft that I'll be teaching my "Mars Needs Writer's" class, which starts in a couple of weeks (03/25/15–05/20/15 | Wednesday | 6:00-8:00 p.m.) If this suddenly looks like something you'd like to sign-up for, the class is by no means at full capacity.

This also means I should probably look at my syllabus and figure out what the heck I'm doing! But, hey, I have a little time to figure it out, which is good.

I'm at the hospital clinic right now hanging out while Shawn does her follow-up with her surgeon. She's feeling 100% better now that she's off all the drugs. Honestly, I think the worst part of all this was how SICK the medicines that were supposed to be helping with pain and nausea made her (which included the unmentionable gastrointestinal problem, which is, of course, a well known side-effect of narcotics.)

So, hooray for that.

Now that the weather is turning nice, my friend Naomi and are going for walks, ostensibly to exercise, but really we tend to walk to a coffee shop or otherwise hang out at a place like that afterwards. So, I won't be losing weight. However, Naomi took me out to Fort Snelling to walk around near the abandoned barracks and officers' housing. That place is amazing. As I was just telling a friend, it's easy to believe in fairies because you have to wonder how it is people don't really know about this place, despite the fact that it's a ghost town that's almost in the middle of the city. While we were wandering around imagining being billionaires who could turn this into an upscale boutique town, two deer came bounding out of the underbrush--a mama and her spotted baby.

Seriously, people: Fairy land.

I wish I'd brought my camera.

Thursday!

Oct. 16th, 2014 12:24 pm
lydamorehouse: (Default)
Mason and I will have a podcast once I'm back from teaching at the Loft's Youth Writing Conference today, but while you wait impatiently for that, you can read the newest chapter in the School for Wayward Demons that Rachel Gold/Calish and I are writing: http://entertheunseen.com/01-07-ben-takes-a-side-job/
In the aftermath of Theo's capture, we learn some interesting things about this strange new world she's stumbled into...

K. Have to keep it short for now. I've got to prep for class. But, when I return, I should have stories of that as well as a podcast.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
I am so amazing and busy, you can hardly keep up with me, can you?

Today is Tuesday which is my super-duper productivity day. I've posted a new installment over on Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/76031780-unjust-cause-part-26-choices-made. In this chapter, Alex thinks she's got everything figured out. So, of COURSE, the universe throws her a curveball... in the form of one Spenser Jones.

Also, Rachel Calish/Gold and I have updated our School for Wayward Demons, which you can read here: http://entertheunseen.com/01-06-everyone-catches-up-to-theo/. In this chapter, the demons finally catch up to our cheeky thief, Theo. Will she manage yet another daring escape? Tune in to find out!

I reviewed a couple of things up on MangaKast, too, in case you were curious about how I felt about the latest Ao no Exorcist chapter (61) http://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/ao-no-exorcist-61/ or its spin-off Salaryman Futumashi Okumura Yukio no Aishuu http://mangakast.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/sorrows-of-the-salaryman-exorcist/, which, in my opinion, has the best tag line in the history of strange manga tag lines, ever: "This is my seriousness!"

Okay, wow. Impressed yet?

If not, you should know that I also taught the Loft's Open Pages class on Fan Fic last night at the Savage Public Library last night. Savage! Savage, Minnesota, which is somewhere down there with the other suburbs like Apple Valley and Burnsville. I did find it last night. Drove right to it, thanks to Google Maps, in fact. The crowd was tough, though not 'savage.' I had two students, which was twice as many as I expected. In fact, in case of disaster, I'd brought along my Japanese to study. One of the librarians decided to stay and.... I guess add warm bodies, but I find that the addition of an adult can make things awkward sometimes. Though, tbf, I was plenty awkward on my own. I had a HELL of a time speaking. Like, words... I stumbled, very uncharacteristically, through my own introduction, but I managed a fairly decent recovery (I think.)

Because there was an adult (beyond me) present, the two kids took some warming-up.

Teenagers, you know.

Plus, the whole point of Open Pages is that the class is supposed to self-direct, so I intentionally come under-prepared, with the idea that if the consensus is "We want to talk about how hard plotting is!" then we do that. But, mouths stayed firmly shut in the presence of another grown-up, so I had to run though that list y'all gave me of 'fan fic pet peeves." Luckily, my teaching style (chaotic good) lends itself to interruption and discussion, so going through that list seemed to spark thoughts, etc., and by the end there was a lot of chatter among the three of us. Also, one of the students boldly asked for time to write, so we spent the last half hour doing just that.

I never know with these things, but it felt, to me, ultimately, successful.

Probably that means I bombed.

I'm constantly surprised by why teens take a class on fan fic... and the levels that they come in at. Like last night, I had one student who didn't entirely seem clear on the concept. When it came time to write, she needed much more than a prompt. She seemed confused as to the point of fan fic, event though we'd been talking about it for about an hour. I explained that some people use fan fic to fill in the corners of a story--the bits you don't get to see, but might like to. So, for instance, if she wanted she could try writing about two of her favorite characters doing something mundane, such as grocery shopping or shopping for shoes. She seemed to thinks this was silly, since most of the time the heroes were in a life-or-death situations. When would they have time to shoe shop? I said, see, that's kind of the point. To take them out of the the plot and see what they're like in their ordinary life. But, then again, I said, not everyone likes curtain fic. So, maybe instead, I suggested, you could do a fix-it about something that bothered you in the story that you wanted to change or write something that happened after canon had finished... like the story of what Harry Potter is doing with his life after school.

Finally, she seemed to settle on something, but it was kind of baffling to me, especially in comparison to my other student who not only instantly started writing, but also said that they had a FanFictionnet that they'd been active on until they forgot their password.

So... two VERY DIFFERENT students.
lydamorehouse: (Default)
It occurs to me that people who read me here may be interested to know that I have several fan fiction writing gigs that I'll be teaching via The Loft Literary Center coming up:

First, for TEENS:

On Monday, October 13 from 6:00-7:30 pm I'll be the Loft's "First Pages" instructor for "Writing Fan Fiction" a program for teens at the Savage Library. The library is located at 13090 Alabama Ave South, Savage, MN.

The program description reads: Do you long to carry on the amazing story lines of your favorite novels, and live with your most treasured characters beyond the final page of the final chapter? That's what fan fiction is for! Learn how to carry on your favorite story lines--and invent your own--in this engaging class on extending the lives of your favorite characters.


On Thursday, October 16 as part of the Teen Writing Converence I'll be teaching a 75-minute workshop called "Capturing Kudos: Pro Tips for Improving Your Fan Fiction

The program description reads: Some people might tell you that writing fan fic is 'easier' because so much has already been established in terms of characterization and world-building. The people who say that, however, probably haven't actually tried it. The truth is, fan fiction requires all the same skills as writing anything, plus the author has to be constantly aware of canon and how it reflects on what they're writing (even AU), as well as readers who might scream OOC! This workshop will give you pro tips on how to improve your writing in general and in specific to fan fic's quirks from the perspective of someone who is not only a professionally published author, but also a prolific fan writer as well. As part of this workshop, we will practice beta reading for each other with an eye on setting, themes, conflict, and sensory details.

Second, for ADULTS:

My friend Rachel Gold and I will be co-teaching: "Using Fan Fiction to Improve Your Writing" on Wednesdays, 6-8 p.m. from January 21 to February 25, 2015--which will be part of the Loft's winter course catalogue.  Technically, we're waiting for Rachel to confirm, but I wanted to get this info out there so that people can plan ahead. The Loft classes can be pretty pricey, but keep in mind there are always a few, limited number of scholarships available.  

I haven;t yet heard from the Loft about whether or not my solo proposal for an in-class winter Science Fiction/Fantasy class is going to go, but I'm excited to be co-teaching with Rachel, if nothing else.  Should be a blast. I'll post our course description once everything is 100% confirmed. In fact, you may be hearing about this class a lot, since I really want it to be successful. First of all, I think there's a huge market for it and it would be wonderful for the Loft to recognize that and offer more classes like it.  Second, it would just be nifty to have a legit way to get paid to talk about fan fic!  :-)
lydamorehouse: (more renji art)
Sorry I've been away... we were up north. I'm going to slowly chronicle our vacation over the next several blog posts, because otherwise this would be huge and would probably take me another whole week to write (and y'all would think I was dead.)

First, though, Tate has updated UnJust Cause : http://www.wattpad.com/55131739-unjust-cause-part-12-the-innocence-of-dragons. I doubt a lot of you are going from here to there, but I feel the need to, you know, social media this so if it fails, it isn't because I didn't get the word out.

Secondly, I may also be punctuating my vacation travelogue with tidbits about the class I've been teaching at the Loft. Here's a post about how it felt: http://tatehallaway.blogspot.com/2014/06/well-that-was-flail.html and here's one that's about the thinky-thoughts that came out of my first session: http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/2014/06/changing-times-and-importance-or-not-of.html. (Also, I have had both breakfast and lunch, so I'm ready for today.)

Okay, so the trip...

I'm sure I've told this story before, but, in case I haven't, here it is:

When Shawn and I started talking about all the things surrounding marriage, we brought up the idea of a honeymoon while we were all having dinner. Mason got this bright look in his eyes, clasped his hands together, and declared, "Oh! I've always wanted to go to Paris!"

So for us, there was never any question that Mason would be coming along on our honeymoon.

Perhaps you'll say we're doing this wrong. But, the truth of it is, Shawn and I had nearly twenty years of a honeymoon before Mason came along. And, really, at this point, it's not so much about snogging like bunnies so much as it is having an excuse to spend some serious money on a family trip.

We didn't pick Paris because that's a little out of our price range. Mason's other suggestion had been a long weekend at the Waterpark of America, but that seemed not quite "celebratory" enough for us. So, we went to Bearskin Lodge, just up the Gunflint trail, for a WHOLE WEEK. As part of that, we meandered our way along the north shore of Lake Superior and stopped at all the beaches and sights that interested us.

The first time we made the trip to Bearskin in 2010, we brought along a book Shawn had picked up from the History Center called "61 Gems on Highway 61." We brought that along again because it had steered us to some very lovely and memorable sights.

First stop was the break wall in Two Harbors.

IMG_9033

IMG_9047

Break walls/safe harbors are kind of fascinating. On a clear day, like this one, it seems kind of useless: a big long, somewhat ugly looking structure built out into the water. But on our drive back when the wind was crashing HUGE waves against the shore we stopped at the Grand Marais break wall and the difference was... astounding. One side of the wall was getting HAMMERED by the waves; the opposite side? The sail boats in the harbor barely bounced in the calm.

Science, man. It's kind of amazing.

Okay... that's not much, but all for this time because my internet is being wonky with the pictures. I'll have more for you tomorrow, though! Now I'm off to teach my second day of "More than the Zombie Apocalypse." Wish me luck!

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