Returned from the Midwest and COBRA

We got home safe and sound. The snow stopped; the roads were clear. Hobkin was glad to see us and has spent the last couple days cuddled against my side–which makes it difficult to do anything but lie there being a skunk pillow. But now I’m refreshed and recuperated, and Hobkin is adhered to fosteronfilm‘s side. Time to charge back into the trenches.

Received official word that my COBRA benefits expire at the end of August–a fact I knew, but having them send me a reminder letter has ramped up the stress. I’m hoping that my HMO will be willing to continue covering us under an individual policy, but I’m not sure how likely that is, considering all my pre-existing health conditions. And if they do, I have no idea how much it’ll cost. Of course, if they don’t, I’m royally screwed. I keep wanting to go “I’ll worry about this later” but it’s almost April. Too much later and I’ll be out of time as well as medical coverage. Urk.

I could really go for a national health plan about now. Stupid country.

   


Writing Stuff

Alas, I didn’t make it onto the Campbell Award ballot, but I hadn’t really expected to. However, I have to admit being rather crestfallen that Tangent didn’t get a Hugo nod. Pook.

Crits for “A Thread of Silk” continue to trickle in (thanks aliettedb, basletum, and wbledbetter!). So far, it’s being well received. I’m seriously dwelling upon splitting the epilogue into an epilogue and prologue.

During a very long stretch on I-24, I plotted out the next couple scenes on my novel. If the muse is kind, I want to get those on the page today.

Received:
- Contrib. copy of Here & Now #7. Finally.
- Contrib. copy of Oceans of the Mind XIX.

Snow??

Err, it’s snowing up here. That’s . . . unexpected, not to mention worrisome on a couple fronts: we’re taking fosteronfilm‘s dad in for some scheduled labwork today and I don’t like the idea of him being out in the cold and snow, and also we were planning on heading back to Georgia tonight. We can certainly handle some snow driving–fosteronfilm and I are both Midwestern-born and learned how to navigate snowy expanses–but I don’t like it.

Plus, it’s almost April. What’n heck is it doing snowing? Apparently I’ve forgotten some of the vagaries of the Midwestern climate.

   


Writing Stuff

Nothing on the new words front has happened for the last couple days, but I hadn’t expected it to.

Received:
- 15-day sale of “Shim Chung the Lotus Queen” to GrendelSong
- Status update from Aeon on a story I subbed there in December letting me know that they’re behind on their slush and catching up.
- A pair of Critters crits for “A Thread of Silk.”

DIL update: much relief and happiness

Thank you to everyone who sent their support, thoughts, and well-wishes about fosteronfilm‘s dad. The news is all good. We arrived at the in-laws yesterday morning, checked in with my MIL, and then went to visit my DIL in the hospital.

He looked and sounded fantastic and was eating with appetite. The lung specialist dropped in, followed by the heart specialist, and we got the complete rundown about his condition and his prognosis, which is much better than originally thought.

He was indeed in critical condition when he came in last week, but they’re thinking that was due to an acute condition–most likely lingering effects from the infection from his earlier angiogram a couple months back–rather than a sudden worsening of his chronic heart/lung troubles. When they did an echo cardiogram of his aortic valve on Monday, it showed that what had been a critical blockage of the opening circumference on Thursdays had returned to its previous “severe” blockage–with “severe” being leaps and bounds better than critical. It’s still functioning at less than half normal, but it’s manageable and what he was at before Thursday.

It’s a degenerating condition, and they expect he’ll need to go in for the angioplasty procedure in a year or so–and it’s a variation of the standard angioplasty so needs to be done by specialist-specialists–where they’ll knock off the accumulated calcium around the valve. The procedure only has an effectiveness of about six months, due to the nature of the disease–the calcium accumulates again very rapidly–but it can be repeated. There’s 5-8% risk of stroke with the procedure due to danger of the dislodged calcium entering the bloodstream in addition to the other dangers with these sorts of procedures. But he’s holding steady now, on more meds to improve his breathing capacity, on oxygen round the clock, and they expect he should be able to maintain this level of functionality for a year, until they need to re-visit the angioplasty option.

I almost burst into tears (again) of relief when I heard the news. (I’ve been fairly useless this whole trip.) I’m so, so happy at this turnabout.

Matthew and I brought DIL home yesterday, and we all had a nice dinner together and called it an early night. Matthew’s brother swung by to get updated and caught up, and plans to come over again tonight. Matthew and I are running some chores for the in-folks today–grocery shopping and a trip to the hardware store–and we’re cooking dinner. Trying to make sure that his mom, who is intent upon bustling about and doing the attentive hostess thing, doesn’t, and instead takes it easy. And, of course, striving to ensure his DIL is comfy and doesn’t overexert himself.

I feel like the monster-beastie that’s been sitting on my chest for the last week has finally gotten off. A million hurrays.

   


Writing Stuff

Received:
- one no, one still pending, and one “this seems like more of a Weird Tales story so I passed it along to them” from Sean Wallace of Fantasy Magazine at 38-, 80-, and 79 days respectively.
- Contract from Jason Sizemore for “Nothing of Me” for Aegri Somnia.
- 48-day audio reprint SALE+contract of “The Storyteller’s Wife” to MechMuse. On a serendipitous note, I burned to CD the MP3s of issue #1 of MechMuse for the drive to Illinois and listened to over half the stories in the car, so now I’ve had a chance to hear what sort of publication it is. And lemme say that I am very impressed. The actors they hire are excellent, and the stories I’ve heard have been top notch, especially the two by David Barr Kirtley (who also happens to be a fellow Phobos Winner). The editor informs me that “Storyteller’s Wife” will be in the May ’06 issue alongside a story by Kevin J. Anderson. Sweet.

Heading north

Got a call from fosteronfilm‘s mom. They’re not doing the surgery today, but possibly tomorrow. Matthew and I are heading up there later today. Rushing to drop Hobkin off with his godmother, pack, and get everything organized. Not sure how much I’ll be online for the next few days.

   


Writing Stuff

Received:
- My check from Cricket for “Li T’ien and the Demon Nian.” Shiny.
- Email from the editor in answer to my query regarding whether he’s still interested in considering “A Thread of Silk.” His answer: yes. But he also told me that the funding for his project got slashed, so the pay I could now expect if he wanted to buy it would be significantly below “pro” rates. Hmm. That news will require some pondering. I’ll worry about it later.

Editing:
Many passes on my rewrite of “Nobodies and Somebodies.” Stuck a fork in and sent it off to my Aberrant Dreams editor. I think it’s a stronger story; here’s hoping he agrees. It’s slated for their July issue.

Club 100 For Writers
      12

Adderall and Chinese communique

I think I’m well and truly addicted to Adderall. I’ve skipped my last couple “weekend holidays” because I didn’t want to risk the drop in writing productivity. The resultant ramping up of tolerance has me fretting. I actually popped an extra 10mg the other day to keep me going when the 20mg wasn’t doing the trick.

(I needs me my speed.)

But I am well aware that that road can only lead to a bad place. Ergo, I’m taking today off as an overdue break to give my system a chance to detox. I suspect there will be much caffeine. Or would that defeat the purpose? Urg.

(I wants me my speed.)

I wrote before I was on Adderall; I can still do it, dammit.

   


Writing Stuff

Received a letter from my folks–my stepdad thanking me for the birthday card we sent him, and to let us know that their apartment flooded and they’re staying with his younger son until they can move into a new apartment. They also suggested that I send them some of my previously published works and they’d see if they could find a Chinese publisher to both translate and publish it, maybe as a collection or something. I have no idea how the publishing industry works in China, but that would indeed be cool.

Received:
- A note, along with contract, from Greek ‘zine Ennea (9) that “Fade to Black” appeared in issue #292 in February. Sweet.
- My contrib. copy of Sages and Swords in which I fulfill a longtime ambition: sharing a ToC with Tanith Lee. I’d squee, except I’m too logy. The anthology’s a very nice production, glossy and redolent with that “new book” smell, although I think the title font is a little utilitarian (I blame dude_the that I even noticed). Of note, it seems the title of my story was changed from “The Wizard of Eternal Watch and the Keeper of Forever” to just “The Wizard of Eternal Watch” which I’m okay with–it was, after all, a pretty unwieldy title–although I would have liked to have been notified of this alteration in advance.
- 7-day email from Jason Sizemore of Apex Digest that he liked my story, “Nothing of Me,” and wants it for the Aegri Somnia anthology. Woot!

And as a reminder, only two more days until Jason’s birthday. They still need sixteen new subscribers or renewals to make their challenge. Subscribe, pleeease?

New Words:
200 on “A Thread of Silk”
Not one of my more productive days . . .

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
5,597 / 7,500
(74.6%)

Club 100 For Writers
      6

More Jane Austen

Watched Emma last night. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure if I would have as much if I hadn’t seen Clueless–which I consider to be the superior adaptation and a straight-up excellent movie. At the beginning, I had a difficult time keeping all the characters straight, and it wasn’t until I started comparing them to their Clueless counterparts that everything gelled. Still, both Gwyneth Paltrow and Ewan McGregor were pretty.

Also watched the 2003 Pride and Prejudice (it came up on TV), and while I hoped this would be like Clueless, a modern-day adaptation full of wit and cleverness, it . . . wasn’t. It had all the ingredients for something that should have been good, but it fell flat, as in thud.

I wish Netflix would hurry up and send us the rest of the Colin Firth Pride and Predjudice. They sent us disc one last week, but I don’t want to watch it until we get the second. Foo.

   


Writing Stuff

Huge congrats to dsnight for selling his two novels Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero to DAW Books!
WOOOT!

Another writer I can add to my “I knew him when . . . ” list.

Received:
Contract and check for “Honor is a Game Mortals Play.” Talk about speedy! This is the first time I’ve received the check in the same envelope as the contract. Man, I wish the norm was pay on acceptance instead of pay on publication. A writer could get used to this.

New Words:
700 on “A Thread of Silk.”

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
2,535 / 4,500
(56.3%)

Club 100 For Writers
      2

500/day
      10

Howl’s Moving Castle and Mary Sue

My Things To Do list is about to overflow the screen and drown me, so a very quick update:

Yesterday was the first Dragon*Con all-staff meeting. I should’ve emailed my staff before now to confirm who’s coming back; I have no idea what my numbers are currently. If any of y’all who I haven’t already heard from about working Daily Dragon staff this year are reading this, please (email me) eugie (at) eugiefoster (dot) com to lemme know your status. If you’ve already contacted me this year (amazing, wonderful people who obviously have their acts far more together than me), we’re cool.

Watched Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro) last night. It was absolutely delightful. I was charmed by the incidental and secondary characters–the scarecrow, Hin, Calcifer–as well as the world and whimsical setting. And I found the love story between Sofi and Howl very satisfying. I also liked how the metaphors, what there were of them, were understated. Howl’s magical meltdown as allegory for teenage angst and insecurity was nothing short of brilliant. Very well done.

But it wasn’t Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

   


Writing Stuff

From discussions via my DC2K writers group: Are your characters suffering from an excess of author-identification? Are they thinly-veiled wish-fulfillment? In short, are they a Mary Sue (or a Gary Stus)? For fun, and maybe a bit of writerly insight, take The Writer’s Mary Sue Test and see how they score.

Received:
- Payment from Dragonfly Spirit for “Kaawwa, Naagan, and the Queen’s Diamond Necklace.”
- Contract from Faeries for “Returning My Sister’s Face.”

New Words: 400 words on a new Japanese fantasy because my muse is an unrelenting shrew who likes to torment me with ideas when I already have too much on my plate to deal with. And I, of course, cannot deny her. Gah!

Club 100 For Writers
      Erm. I lost count. But it feels like I’ve been working like a maniac. I’m calling it “10.”

The Punisher and sale to DAW anthology

Weird night. I fell asleep early on the couch and woke up around midnight. Hobkin was curled at my hip so I booted my laptop to do some work downstairs. fosteronfilm turned on The Punisher, a movie I was somewhat curious about when it hit the theaters but didn’t end up going to.

I’m a wimp when it comes to scary movies, but I consider myself pretty tough-skinned and jaded with regard to action/adventure flicks, so I didn’t expect to have any difficulty with The Punisher. Apparently, IMDB classifies it as Crime/Drama/Thriller, but I don’t always understand or agree with IMDB’s classifications. Plus, the movie’s based on a comic book. Action/adventure/crime/drama/thriller or whatever, one scene squicked me out so totally and absolutely that I shrilled at fosteronfilm “turn it off! turn it off!” astonishing both him and me.

So yeah, I found it so disturbing I couldn’t watch it all the way through. That doesn’t happen very often. Normally I know if I won’t be able to handle a movie, but this one tossed me a big ole curve. Didn’t get back to sleep until around 5AM, and I had bad dreams to boot.

However, despite the questionable night, I’m having a great day, thanks to dsnight!

   


Writing Stuff

Received:
dsnight liked “Honor is a Game Mortals Play” and wants it for Heroes in Training! Squee! I’ve got a bookshelf full of DAW titles, many of which I read and fell in love with when I was just a wee fangirl. I’m thrilled giddy to have one of my stories in a DAW anthology! Squee SQUEE SQUEE!

Published:
“Kaawwa, Naagan, and the Queen’s Diamond Necklace” is now up at Dragonfly Spirit. In addition to the cover art featuring my tale, Lauren Francis did another absolutely charming illustration for it.

My inner child is indistinguishable from any other inner me

Yep, I’m a grown-up adult (so says my driver’s license and mortgage). But it’s the comforts I treasured as a child that inevitably give me peace when I’m seeking a bit of serenity, not the more sophisticated pleasures I’ve acquired a taste for–which, while enjoyable and enervating, can’t give me that tranquility I remember taking for granted as a little girl. I’m fully convinced that we are who we were, no matter how many years we rack up. It’s the folks who suppress their childhood indulgences who are deceiving themselves.

Insight brought on by a Saturday spent pandering to my inner child, starting off with a several hour marathon of Saturday morning cartoons. Ever since I was a wee girl, I have loved spending Saturday mornings camped out on the floor in front of the TV, basking in animated goodness. Sure with the cartoon network, the Disney channel, and other cable cartoon outlets, I can (and often do) watch cartoons whenever I like, but there’s something special about waking up on Saturday for them.

Netflix sent both Madagascar and MirrorMask. Perfect inner child food.

I’d heard some questionable reviews about Madagascar, and I’m way underwhelmed by Chris Rock and Ben Stiller, so I went in not expecting much, but I ended up totally charmed. The penguins were brilliant, but even the Rock/Stiller dyad was well done. And, of course, the various homages stuck in for the parents to appreciate were gigglesome. Very much enjoyed it.

MirrorMask was gorgeous. I loved the fairy tale mood, although there was a certain “This is a metaphor! *bam bam* We’re being deep! *thump*” happening too. But aside from the ham-fisted extolling to revel in the symbolism NOW, it was absolutely lovely. Reminded me of Labyrinth, which I guess is an inevitable comparison, since the hand of Henson was in both. But MirrorMask is an older, more sophisticated movie than Labyrinth, with characters that are unnerving and alluring instead of just cute and fluffy.

And I got a package in the mail from zhai, a GoPets t-shirt for Hobkin! An opportunity to inflict “dress up” upon the fuzzwit. Mega thanks, zhai!

Now Hobkin isn’t exactly receptive to the idea of wearing clothes, so my first foray into getting him into the shirt was a dismal failure:


“You want me to do what? No way.”
More pix of the epic struggle:

To Review or Not to Review

I recently got an email from a writer asking whether I was going to have Tangent review an audio ‘zine their work was published in. And thus, my dithering on the issue comes to a head.

Adding audio publications to Tangent’s review lineup is something I’ve been mulling over for a while now. As a writer, I’ve been ecstatic to see my work narrated by Escape Pod. As Tangent’s Managing Editor, I’ve observed the growing popularity of podcasts and the inevitable rise of audio publications accompanying it with interest.

But here’s the thing. While I’m a huge fan of audio storytelling–stories have their basic root in an oral tradition, and it stirs something both poignant and primal in me to hear a story well told–there are some very salient arguments against adding audio ‘zines to Tangent’s rotation.

1. Varying production values. Tangent’s mission is to review stories. While some commentary on layout, cover art and other ancillary items often sneaks into reviews, I discourage it. The words on the page (or on the screen) are what my reviewers are evaluating, not how beautiful the illustrations are or how easy the font is on the eye. My reviewers know to separate the production values from the stories in their reviews, or at least they’re supposed to. However, in the case of audio publications, it’s much harder to divorce the production values from the fiction. An excellent voice actor has the ability to turn a mediocre tale into a fantastic one, and likewise, a second-rate voice talent can make even the most brilliant story dreary. And that’s not even touching upon such things as sound quality, mixing, and background music/sound effects.

2. What makes for a good audio story isn’t necessary the same as what makes for a good written one. Guiding reviewers on how I’d like them to approach this sort of discrepancy is uncharted ground.

3. My reviewers are already bearing a pretty hefty load. Adding audio ‘zine(s) means pulling resources away from reviewing print/electronic publications–of which there are many queued up that I’d like to add to Tangent’s rotation but simply can’t.

4. There are logistics issues. A number of my reviewers are on computer systems that can barely handle PDF review copies. I find it likely that many will have a difficult time dealing with big honking audio files, and perhaps won’t be able to play them at all. Amazingly enough, not everyone has an MP3 player. This isn’t insurmountable–I can always download files, convert them to .avi, and burn them to CD and mail those out, or request CDs directly from editors–but it’s another complexity and potential drain on my time.

On the other hand:

1. I’m fully aware that by not reviewing audio publications, Tangent may end up overlooking some truly excellent stories–a disservice to both readers/listeners and the specfic community at large. It’s Tangent’s purpose to review short genre fiction, no matter how it’s presented. No doubt there was hemming and hawing about ezines when they started cropping up, and of course publications like SCI FICTION have proven that short stories don’t have to be on paper to be brilliant. Good fiction is good fiction. So how can I justify drawing a line at audio?

2. I may be severely and unjustly underestimating my reviewers. They may be able to separate the story from the production just as easily as they can with written presentations. Plus, I’m betting there are some who would absolutely love a chance to review audio fiction, and I very much like to have happy reviewers.

3. I really, really love the format, both as a fan, hearing fine tales presented as an oral narrative, and as a writer, having my own work read aloud. If I love it that much, then other folks will as well. Ergo, I can expect it to be a growing trend. I’m going to feel pretty stupid when a story in an audio ‘zine wins a Hugo and I didn’t deign to have Tangent review it because it wasn’t in print.

I’ve also considered having a single dedicated audio reviewer for Tangent, but that comes with its own problems and complexities.

And so the pondering continues.

   


Writing Stuff

“Honor is a Game Mortals Play” is up at Critters. Go critique, yo!

Received:
- An email from my Cricket editor letting me know that my check for “Li T’ien and the Demon Nian” was not lost down some bottomless chasm, but is in fact making its way to me via convoluted and circuitous Accounting Department channels. Huzzah!
- Editorial feedback and suggestions from Aberrant Dreams on “Nobodies and Somebodies.” They think the ending could be stronger, and I agree. Going to burn some brain cells and see what I can come up with.
- An email from one of my local(ish) writer’s group peeps sounding me out on doing a talk at her daughter’s middle school. She was chatting with her daughter’s Gifted English teacher and mentioned knowing a published, up-and-coming children’s lit/YA author (Aw, shucks. Am I really up-and-coming?) and would she be interested in having me speak/read to the class. The teacher said yes, and so I’m contemplating speaking to a classroom of gifted 13-14 year olds, which might also lead to an actual paying, much larger, assembly-type speaking gig at that school and perhaps the adjoining high school if I do good.

Obviously, this is a fantastic and potentially fun chance for me to promote myself and my writing directly to one of my major target audiences. And it might even lead to money. However, not only does public speaking petrify me–and I’m talking panic attack, “I’d-rather-be-dead-than-speak-before-a-group” petrify–but children that age intimidate me.

Granted, “Gifted English” helps a lot. I’m much more comfortable around bright kids. They tend not to remind me of the kids who made my burgeoning adolescencehood a thing of profoundly terrible misery.

I really need to get over my sundry neuroses. I write a lot of children’s lit. I would be very stupid to pass up this opportunity. 21 bright kids in an English class–I have even been assured that they are well-behaved and polite–is as safe as it’s going to get, (barring the whole shut-in option, which is still under serious considering).

My brain gets it. My stomach and blood pressure, not so much.