Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Every Ending is a Beginning


image (c) Jason George (http://www.petramoon.com/wadi_rum.htm)



The end of the year is upon us.  This causes us to look backward over the past year, or years, and look to the future.  Many of us analyze goals and set new ones.  While this marks the end of the year, it also marks the start of a new year and this cyclical nature of life, where every ending is at the same time a beginning isn't just about the turn of the year.  The same is true for the ending of a novel.  It might be the end as far as the reader is concerned, but for the characters, it is just the start of a new chapter in their lives.  Now their next steps down their life journey might not be as exciting or dramatic as what they have just encountered, but it is a beginning in its own right.  Of course, if you are interested in writing a series, like I am, you know that it's a beginning because you've got another book floating around in your head, but even if you don't have another novel in store for your cast of characters, they do have lives to lead and other adventure to pursue and once the series is done, unless your main charector has died, they have a lot more living left to do.  Besides, even if the main charector has died the other charectors have a life left to muddle through and readers need to sense this continuity and continuation of these characters in order to leave your story wanting more (which in turn will make them want to buy your next book or leave the novel floating around in their heads)

Now to pull that back to life--goals.  It's a bit easier for me this year as I'm working my way through my 101 goals in 1001 days.  I know that I need to reassess some of the work related goals and I always intended to cut my list of 105 down to 101 like it is suppose to be, but I'll probably wait to do that until Spring after I've thought a bit more about my career goals (aka if I want to try for an MBA or not).

The end of the year also marks my anniversary (three years today).  It's hard to believe that time has flown so fast!  Tonight we are going out to dinner, which should be fun.  We aren't exchanging presents as it is so close to Christmas.   I got lots of very nice things from my wonderful hubby and family.  Although I think my favorite Christmas Present was taking my nieces and nephew to the arcade and book store, which was their present, technically, but it was lots of fun for Pete and me too :)  They are such good little kids and very thankful and good listeners.  Such a joy to be with.

And back to writing :), Do you have any thoughts about the continuity of characters' life novels past the last page?  Any authors that you feel did it particularly well?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holidays in Writing


The post title might be misleading. I don't mean how the holidays affect your writing or about taking a break from writing, but how holidays appear in your writing. Every culture has special days and different ways to celebrate those days. From a fantasy standpoint these days could be very different in underlying premise, but all cultures gather with those they love for their holidays. There are rituals involving food that we eat and drinks that we drink and games that we play. These days are something that every human has participated in throughout his or her life. These days are soaked in memories both good and bad. Some people lost a loved one around the holidays and forever after a bittersweet flavor penetrates. Often holidays bring back memories and can be a good way to naturally bring up little snippits of background. Often holidays are filled with tension between family members. Also, seeing our friends interact with their families gives us another dimension and understanding to them, in the same way this is true about seeing our characters interact with their families. How are they similar to those who raised them? How are they different?

If you are a fantasy writer like I am then you have the chore of developing something new and distinct to the world that you have created. The reward is a deeper feeling of reality that your readers will have. If you are not writing fantasy then in some ways you have a more difficult job. You have to be true to the cultural identity of your character and the holidays because someone, somewhere will read your inaccuracies and will get ticked off.

Are there any books that you have read that incorporate holidays to some extent (without being all about the holidays)? What difference do you feel this made to the story?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What I did over my Fall "Blogging Vacation"

Hello everyone out in blog-land! How I have missed reading your blogs and posting about my writing journey! I've been so involved and engrossed in classes plus work that I've had no time to do anything else. Well, that is not completely true. I have managed to work on some of my 1001 things to do. So, I figured that my first post back would be about all of the things that I have been working on. Most notably, and the main reason for not blogging......I finally gradated!

#38 Graduate from college! Not only did I graduate, but I also managed to get As in both my sr level math classes! I'd say not to brag, but in this case I do want to! :)


#51 Put up a place for Skittles to enjoy that is just for her. I got her a little heat reflecting pad and put it on the counter above the fridge.


#52 Decorate main room. We installed a new backsplash and put up a clock on the blank wall. We still have to seal and buff the backsplash so I'll post pics after we've done that.


#53 Refinance condo. This was a super big pain because of the economy, but we finally were able to do it!

#55 Out from PMI. We ended up going with a 15 year FHA mortgage and then didn't have to get monthly PMI.

#58 Get a financial adviser. We are going to use our insurance guy, but first before we can really leverage him we have to save up our emergency fund, which is number 57 anyways :)

#74 Swim with dolphins. We did this in Cabo over Thanksgiving weekend.


#77 ATV somewhere. We did this in Cabo as well.


#104 Do something with a friend they have never done before. My friend Rob who I met while doing study abroad in Australia came to visit and it was his first time in America. So showing him around counts :) That and I fed him homemade chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and he is going to make sure my beta readership is international :)



For the amount of time that this covers I've not done too much, but school took a lot out of me. Also, with the changes at work some of my professional goals have shifted so I might need to make new goals for some of those.

Anyhoo, now that I have completed school I have time to blog and to write! Yey! :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

My Mantra: When I'm done with School

I know that I've been fairly sporadic about posting, but when I'm done with school I'm going to resume my former schedule of posting 3-4 times a week. Actually, it's been kinda funny, but every time something fun comes up I immediately say, "I'm going to do that when I'm done with school". Class three nights a week after working 9-10 hour days plus all the study that I do over the weekend has sucked the life out of my life!


When I'm done with school I'm going to apply all the time that I've spent on my classes per week and put it towards my book. When I'm done with school I am going to start hosting weekly dinner parties every Tuesday. I will cook with food from the CSA program that I will join. When I'm done with school I'll take the dog on more walks and will teach her more tricks. When I am done with school I'll start exercising again. When I'm done with school I will go visit friends that I haven't spend time seeing over the past several months. When I am done with school I will finally make it to those membership committee meetings at yacht club and to my Junior League events and to the prospective member meetings for the Lincoln Park Zoo. I'll go to all the fundraisers for them, many of which I will help put on.

When I'm done paying for school, that whole extra bill that's bigger than my mortgage will be gone and I can start doing normal things like get cable or a second car so the hubby and I don't have to share.

These are just a few things. I hope I have enough time to do all the things that I want to do before I start to shift my focus towards grad school, which was the whole reason I went back to complete the undergrad to begin with :) But before that I will have my novel completed, revised and going through the submission process.


Tune in later this week for a fantasy world building related post about different types of calendars in different types of cultures.

In that vein, what's your favorite world building special detail that others overlook, but you make sure not to?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our Identities

I am not a "hype" person. I don't buy designer, instead I buy Indie or Target. I don't own an iPod, instead I own a Zune. I refuse to get an iPhone on principle. It is just too hyped.

But this Twitter thing. It's getting a lot of hype, and much of it makes sense to me. I like the idea of getting software industry links and news updates pushed to me. I don't really care to hear about the various ramblings of people (that's why I have facebook). But I like the premise of sort 140 character thoughts being shared.

I was looking through some old "tweets" by Twitter's CEO, Evan Willams, and read a response of his to a user named BrokeDad.

@brokedad I like your spirit, but I'm concerned about your name. How can you ever be not-broke if it's part of your identity?

Intriguing. And true. And I am not just talking about our online handle, but our general identities. How much of who you are is who you think you are? Williams was referencing BrokeDad's inability to become not-broke, by his name, but what about forming an identity off of who we would like to be. I am not talking about having unrealistic expectations of our abilities. But what if BrokeDad was DimeAtaTimeDad or PiggyBankInflaterDad? We need to see ourselves as the journey and the destination while recognizing where we are.

So, how does this relate to me/you/etc? As a writer I think that it's fairly ingrained that we have a path with a destination so I am not as worried about that particular aspect. I am also not talking about Image, or how we try to project ourselves out into the world, but what we identify ourselves as, deep down in our core. Images lie and I don't find anything wrong with that. Images are for our acquaintances and those we work with but aren't that close to, but an identity is our core.

I guess one's identity needs to be where they want to be, but within reason of what he or she can obtain. It's about keeping on foot in your past and the other in the future, while thinking about how the present can bridge those two. If you define yourself by your past then how can the present be a bridge. A bridge must have two ends. So, if you ignore your past or do not take full assessment of the pieces that form you, how can you keep from falling over?

This sort of brings me back to my inherent dislike for trendy items. Sometimes I feel like people use these items to help form their identities rather than struggle to figure out what their identities are. Sometimes people use what they had been in the past to form it without thinking as much towards the future. Just because you are one thing now doesn't mean that you can't be another later on after growth.

As a writer I think that we identify with certain aspects of writing. Some of us are aspiring. Others are published within a genre. Some aren't published but have a genre that they define themselves by. For example, I am an aspring fantasy writer. Also, going back to @brokedad, a writer doesn't just write. We revise. We market. We do so many things more than just the act of writing.

As a side note, I do have a Twitter account (http://twitter.com/laurenamundson). While it's trendy, I do like it :)

What is your identity?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rusty


After not writing since late July I've discovered that my skill has gotten a bit rusty. Re-reading my older pieces really drills in the fact that I've lost a bit. It'll come back quickly, I know. But it's still annoying. And since I'm newly back to writing I don't want to get frustrated and fall back off the wagon again. So I'm doing a short little book for my nieces about the daughter of a prison guard who can talk to horses. Their dad is a detective so I think they will appreciate the main character being a child of "law enforcement" and, like most girls in the third grade, they love horses. Blondie Girl more so than my Mini Me (who will be more impressed with the fact that there is a princess in the story). I'm making the MC not the princess because I want her to really be a rough and tumble dirty kneed girl. Sure, a princess COULD be that, but I want her to be the underdog. I've not ever really written for kids (or at least not since I was one) so it's fun and hopefully it will get the gears going again. This isn't indended to be published, just something to amuse my nieces :)

What do you do when you feel a bit rusty or need a change of pace creatively?

Friday, October 16, 2009

October? Seriously?

It's been about two months since my last post. That has been on purpose, but at the same time (and I know it's cliche) I can't believe time has gone by so fast. How can it be October already?! I've been feeling very overwhelmed between work and school. I'm in classes three nights a week this semester and two of the nights are out in Schamburg, which takes about an hour and a half travel each way. I didn't really understand exactly how much time that would eat up. And then work drama has been work drama. I've mentioned very briefly about issues in the past. I don't want to go into too much detail about the situation, but the old CEO ended up getting fired (which is a good thing). The new guy is great. But, still it's a new boss and there's all this drama. Make a great novel if my genre wasn't fantasy :) Maybe in a few years it might be worth a trip to something more chick-lit-ish.

Classes are going okay. Midterms start next week, which is great. I will finally be done in December. Only took me a decade. But, hey, I'll be done and I'll be able to focus on the book. I still want my MBA, but I've decided that I am going to finish up my draft, and revise until agent-ready before I start to study for my GMAT (which is the standardized test for MBA). If I don't then I think that I will never finish the book!

I have been so stressed and because of that I dropped writing. But now I've realized that writing was my stress release. My mind doesn't go round and round about school or work. It goes round and round about Hailey and Altis and the steam-punk-esque world that I've created.

So, I'm back. And while I might not be very active, I'm not going away. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Puddles and Awards

First off, I have recently received two different blog awards, but the same award. They are from Robyn at Putting Pen to Paper and Lady Glamis. Since each was suppose to allow me to list five bloggers, I have combined it to put ten. There are a couple others that I *really* wanted to add, but I kinda bent the rules as it was. So if your name isn't here, it was you that I was totally thinking of!


While this award is traditionally used to represent animal friendly bloggers, the writing community has embraced it as celebrating encouraging writer. So I will say five bloggers who have been encouraging me in my writing.

1) Lynn - My first commenter...so she deserves to be my first on my list!
2) Spy - Technically Spy is Natasha. She recently moved out onto the open road in an RV. She used to be a piano teacher with a blog called spyscribbler so I still call her the old name, but the new blog is super cool!
3) Shelli at Market my Words- Writes about writing from an interesting perspective--marketing
4) Stu - Stu is wrapping up his PhD, but always find time to write about various occurrences with his life or his writing.
5) Charles at Razored Zen - I've been reading his book, Swords of Talera and loving it. He's such a great commenter and always has something interesting to say.
6) Struggling Writer - Real name: Paul. He's a fellow techie, so that's fun.
7) Barry - He's been through so much with battling and defeating cancer and has over 600 followers, but still seems to find time to comment on my blog!
8) Christina - Just has interesting things and observations going on in her life.
9) GutsyWriter- Really named Sonia. She took her whole family to Belize in order to get her kids to be less materialistic. Seems to work because all three of her boys are doing very well for themselves at their various life stages (just after college down to high school, I believe).
10) Raph's Ramblings - This giraffe takes the time to talk to us earthlings about his interesting life on another planet--one full of giraffe-ie things.


Sooo...that was the "awards" part of my title. What about the puddles? Well, I am glad that you asked :-P

My husband and I have been trying to re-fi our condo. It's been a super pain because I didn't have any credit history until we got the condo two years ago (side note, parents of teens and college students, get your kids on some form of credit. Make sure they are responsible with it, but get them on credit. Our world is run by computers today and that little credit number is so important.)

Anyways, I took over my most recent set of documents to the mortgage lady today. It was kind of drizzling so I grabbed my starbucks in one hand and my umbrella in the other and set off. The walk over was fine. It's summery and I enjoy being outside. I gave Wanda the papers and set back off to work.

Unfortunately, the new shoes I was wearing had different plans for me. You see, as I crossed the street and attempted to step over a puddle, my heal (which wasn't properly secured, something that I normally look for in a shoe, but my others were literally falling apart and and been secured with elmers about ten times too many so I hastily got shoes that were moderately comfortable and ignored the fact that they were gloried flip flops with a wedge)--anyhoo, my heal slipped perpendicular to my shoe.

PLOP.

That was me. Falling. Into a dirty roadside mud puddle. On top of my umbrella. And under my Starbucks. Remember it's Chicago so about a hundred people saw me. I had mud up to my right knee. That was better than my left side. There was mud on my bright orange dress up to my hip. AND, the coffee was all over the road. I scrambled up. I didn't need to be hit by a car again this year. (Twas only a bump).

But then, suddenly, it began to rain harder. I put my umbrella above my head, but the mangled metal spikes sticking in all directions only seemed to direct the water onto my head instead of away from it. So there I am, covered in mud, underneath the el tracks with the rain cascading down. Empty Starbucks in one hand and smooshed umbrella in the other. Oh, and when I got back to my block, it had been closed so I had to walk around.

What else could I do? I tried to frown, but couldn't, I just laughed. What a perfectly horrible situation.

I am not trying to sound vain, but usually when I walk any distance, especially in a brightly colored dress through Chicago with lots of people, I get some form of complimentary comment, gaze or noise. I've got that whole cute, but not too pretty, approachable thing going on, especially since I try to always walk around with a bouncy step and a smile. People usually say hi. Don't get me wrong, on this walk I got looks. Far form complimentary, though. And given my laughter and overall appearance, some were down right confused and worried. But, seriously, how could you NOT laugh at yourself after doing that?!

Once the rain had gone away and I'd managed to clean myself up in the bathroom sink a little bit, I went for a new Starbucks. The sun was shining. Sun glasses on my head, Caramel Frappachino in my hand, sunny dress, sunny smile. Guy in truck whistled. I waved.

Rain; it goes away.

I love summer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Finals Week

So I didn't realize that this was finals week until Saturday night. I thought that it was next week. Oops. Looks like I have my work cut out for me. So, needless to say, I don't have time to write about My Town Monday. Anyhoo, I wrote something on my other blog that readers of this blog might find interesting. It's a little bit about me as a kid complete with a few pictures. Yes, it's a way to bail out, but...hey, finals. :) It's all just papers though, so that's good :).

A Bit About Me. I hope you enjoy

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Getting Back into the Flow of Things

I am recovering this week from my week off last week. First priority is school. That's almost all caught up. Second priority is writing. I've done a little bit, but this weekend Pete is the one with the busy social schedule and I am the one with nothing to do (by design). Friday and Saturday I will spend on writing. I will not make plans. I will not go out (other than to the coffee shop). I will stay in and write, write, write.

So, I've been patchy on the commenting, but now that I am back in the swing of things, that too will be better :)

New comments on the weight loss. I've lost 2 of the needed 10 pounds, but haven't been that great on the no drinking thing. I have cut way back as I've only drunk a couple times and both times only had one drink. However, I think that I have developed an alcohol allergy (in addition to maybe something else) so this will make giving up drinking even easier. Hey, there is always a positive thing. Per directions of a friend of mine who is an RN I am keeping a food journal and will go to doctor after I have collected 2-4 weeks of data.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Blog

I have decided to start a second blog, New-Fashioned Housewife. I plan on posting about recipes, dinner party ideas, cleaning ideas, dating one's spouse and randomness I deem somehow related to household management in a post-modern world.

We shall see how good I am about posting on two blogs :-P.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Motivation

Those of you who read by blog know that I am almost obsessed with goals, but from time to time my motivation totally takes a dive bomb. That happened last week, which really ticks me off since I had the whole week off. I did go into work one of the days, but the others...what did I do? A big fat nothing. Well, I went to a networking event and hung out with some friends on a few of the nights and did write a couple papers, but for the most part I hibernated. All that stuff was less than I do on a normal week. Admittedly, I wasn't feeling very well. But still. Mostly I feel bad because I promised Jill, my friend who I am starting a company with, that I was going to spend all week working on business stuff and I promised my crit partner that I'd read her stuff and I promised by beta readers that I'd get them two sets of my novel. Then I started to feel bad about it so did even less work. Bad cycle.

I don't talk about my ADHD on this blog much, but I'm unmedicated. The meds just make me lose all appatite (which I suppose would be good right now with the whole weight gain). I got down to 85 pounds when I was on it a few years ago, which was just unacceptable. I tried again later but kept forgetting to schedule the appointment to get more (yes, sterotype).

I'm bad too. It can be funny (hmm...how did my debit card get in the fridge??). It can be annoying (where are my keys??). It can be a time waster. Seriously, if anything is in my hand and I see anything at all what ever is in my hand is magically transported to the floor.

But this is why I am a list and goal person. It helps me get stuff done. I guess that I should have predicted this would happen. I need structure. Without it time just sort of evaporates. But now I feel so behind and bad. Back to the lists. Back to the schedule. I think that it will be good for me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Disappearing Me


So, one of my goals is to get back to my wedding day weight. I don't know if that is terribly reasonable since I was 98lbs on my wedding day (I am very short) and that was back when I was still doing some very low-level local modeling. Most of them were pin up style (but I put a normal one on here instead :-P) so when I was close to the old weight they were really motivating to lose weight, but now are just depressing!

I think it's reasonable to revamp my goals for my late 20's to be different than my early 20's. So, instead I am going to try to lose 10% and will be ecstatic :).

To do this I am going to cut out all beverages with a calorie count about 10 (primarily meaning alcohol) from now until my birthday (mid September) with the exception of charity events. I am also going to eat either cereal or a homemade salad for two meals of the day for the next two weeks. Also, no desert (besides my nephew's b-day party) until my b-day. I am hoping to have.

Any of my other blogger-friends out there interested in joining me in this last-ditch-before-summer-ends weight loss?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Month Two of 105 Goals


Below are the items that I have accomplished within the past month. I really didn't do much during the first month. It's only been about 8% of the time thus far, but I've done far fewer than 8% of the goals (which might have been to lofty and might need to be adjusted down a little, we shall see). My time is ticking away, but once school is done I will have more time to pursue these endeavors.

# 4 Burlesque class for three sessions (1/3) -- 1 added :)

I found a local studio that offers some nice classes and took the intro four week class. It's awesome. Very much all about feel confident as women.



# 18 Go to ten Chicago-area street fairs (2/10) -- 2 added :)
At the Taste of Chicago


At the Greek Festival (I am drinking a Greek beer in this pic...it was okay)


# 20 Go to a Cubs, Bears, Fire and Blackhawks game (1/4) -- 1 added :)

At Wriggly (cubs) with Mike, our new Financial Planner who took us. Sounds soo funny to say that. My guess is his real clients bailed so he took the nice-seeming ones :) I really liked him and his wife, also named Lauren. Good people. However, we have only done insurance with him...will wait to do actual financial planning once school is done and refi nightmare is over.

# 25 Take ten hikes out of the 60 Hikes in 60 Miles of Chicago book (1/10) -- 1 added :)

At Deer Grove Loop

# 26 Volunteer with Pete five times (1/5) -- 1 added :)

Pete at a little park off of Irving Park Road on the north side

# 33 Have a picnic (1/1) -- 1 added :)

At Lake Michigan only 3 blocks from the condo :) We took my sister and her family here on Friday night. The kiddos had a great time!

# 36 Do ten "touristy" things in Chicago (3/10) -- 3 added :)

At the 4th of July Fireworks

Rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier

Boat Cruise Along Lake Michigan (with my nieces and nephew--above is me and Mini Me on the cruise)


# 39 Get life insurance (1/1) -- 1 added :)



# 46 Get a grill (1/1) -- 1 added :)

Pete with his grill (actually got a portable one as it fit better in our spot, so in this picture we took it to the Chicago lakefront for the picnic we had with my sister's family)


# 95 Take each kid out to something fun three times (2/9) -- 2 added :)

Ice Skating with Mini Me

Ice Skating with Blondie Girl

ok, ok, it was at the same time, but I am counting it as two



# 99 Do twenty things in the heart box (1/20) -- 1 added :)

The heart box is something that I gave to Pete on our wedding day that had enough date ideas to do something every week for three years. We were suppose to then do something from the heart box every week, but that didn't pan out.


Us at Brassiere Jo's


# Do something with a friend that they have never done before

At the Butterfly Room in the Nature Museum with Meena, who had never been before. The flying butterflies were tough to catch, but they were all over the place!



So, to all of you out in blog land, I have a question. I am trying to think of something to swap out one of my classes with (I don't want to do horseback riding...too far away). Recalling that my other classes are: Ballroom Dancing, Piano, Spanish, Burlesque, pottery, woodworking?, something else artistic, project managment, Photography, Wine Class, Motorcycle, Martial Arts and Belly Dance, do you have any suggestions for a fun class to strech me creativily, mentally or physically?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fleeting Freedom

Sorry that I've not been around. My week off ended up being very, very busy and overly short lived. I *maybe* got 1000 words in and hardly did anything on my side company. What did I do? Besides some school work, I am not entirely sure. Mostly getting caught up on stuff around the house and related paper work. My sister's family is coming into town this weekend. They arrive today at 1pm. I am bubbling with excitement! We have a very full weekend with activities including the zoo, the beach, the lake front, Millennium Park, Navy Pier Fireworks and more. Sooo excited.

Now to finish cleaning....I will be around to comment on your blogs Sunday night :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two Weeks of Freedom

happy girlAs those who follow my blog may have heard me complain about in the past; the small company that I work for has been having some cash flow issues of late, as have many business both small and large around the world. After careful consideration, I am going to stick it out here even though I am unhappy for many reasons outside of the bounced/late paychecks, there are certain flexibility capabilities that I'm not willing to trade at this time...and the economy sucks anyways. There is one more shoe left to drop, but I've been told my job is safe. I will detail that particular story next week, after the other shoe has dropped.

Anyhoo, I am two weeks behind on pay as of Friday and will not see anything until August. However, everyone is getting two weeks off during July. Paid. This isn't a forced vacation where no one gets paid. This is a forced vacation to make up for late payment. Half the staff has off this week and the other half, which is the group that I am in, gets the week after off. Then I'll work another week and then have the last week of July off.

Sooo...I'm sort of going to be a full time writer!! I say "sort of" because I have to work on school and the company that my friend, Jill, and I are starting.

To work on

My goal is to work on writing for four hours, the website for four hours and school for two hours. That's a ten hour day, which with commuting is how much extra time I will have.

That is what I will do with my two weeks of freedom. :) I hope, by the end of the month, to be up to 70k words and to have some semblance of a rough draft done for every section, also Phase Pre-Alpha will be done on the website.

Normally I'd want to be hopping around on the beach as the sun sets behind me, as the girl above, but since I am going to have no income from mid-June through early August, I have to stick around town. Luckily Chicago is a fun city and I have tons to keep me busy :)

What would you do with two weeks of freedom?

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Town Does Fourth of July

Actually, it's my town does 3rd of July as that is the day of our Fireworks. The logic for this is, when 4th of July falls in the middle of the week you will want to be able to stay up late and not worry about work the next day.











We celebrate Independence Day with Fireworks over Lake Michigan, the Taste of Chicago, and an outdoor symphony at Petrillo Music Shell. The 85th Army band played this year, although we did not go to listen as we were claiming our spots for Fireworks. The Independence Day Fireworks are actually offered as part of the Taste of Chicago and is funded out of the same budget.

We started off our Third of July celebrations by checking out the 29th annual the Taste of Chicago. Every year three million people converge on Grant Park in downtown Chicago to sample the delicious foods that Chicago has to offer. The Taste starts on Friday of the weekend before Independence Day weekend and run through until the Sunday after Independence Day. 70 local restaurants had booths with various ethic and American food choices. $8 buys 12 tickets, which includes a $2 surcharge to cover security, clean up and entertainment. Most vendors had an entree sized selection for 6-8 tickets and small "taste portions" for 3-4 tickets. Pete and my usual method is to share these taste portions between the two of us for a wider variety of "tastes." This year we sampled ten different tastes ranging from Mexican, Irish, BBQ, African, Creole--and others. There were several restaurants that I want to go back and experience their real meal as the tastes of their offerings were amazing.

There is free entertainment all day and a little park area called "The Family Village" (not normally, just for this event) with moonwalks, a carousel, and a little Ferris wheel for the children. This Ferris wheel is dwarfed by Navy Pier's wheel, but the little kids taking it for a spin didn't seem to mind. There also was various educational activities and presentations in this area. We heard a "Raffi" clone singing songs that sounded much lamer than I remember them being, but the little kids seemed to like it, and that's the important part :). We caught some neat dance routines at the Best Buy Entertainment stage (yes, everything is sponsored by someone). If you ever go to the Taste, I would recommend going earlier in the day. It opens at 11am. If you go then you can be done by 2, just in time to run away from the heat of the day.

Actually, Grant Park is a pretty neat area and will be a topic of a future My Town Monday post. It always has various events going on. But, the real attraction for the day are the Fireworks that night. Walking over to the Taste we saw many people who took their fireworks seating very very seriously.





These pictures were taken at 11am. Fireworks don't start until 9pm. These people are serious. Yes, that is yellow caution tape marking off their little areas. It wasn't just these people, we saw it all over the place. Made me glad that our plan was to watch the fireworks on the dock at the Yacht Club. Anyhoo, talking about the Yacht Club, we actually parked there before the Taste so that we had some (free) parking that was easily accessible. Parking downtown on these days can be as much as $30. And then trying to get out of the parking garage after...yeah...

For those of you contemplating viewing the 3rd of July fireworks in Chicago in the future, the best places to go are Grant park, along the lakeshore at the Monroe/DuSable Harbors and Museum Campus. Northerly Island is a good bet too.

We biked home along the lake front, which was about 6 miles, not too bad. I'll blog about the Lakeshore Bike Path some other day. Was a nice day for a ride, but pretty hot. Many, many families were having cook outs along the path and the beaches were absolutely packed! We rode the el back downtown later on that evening with almost as many coolers and blankets as people cramed into the little el-car. The excitement was almost palpable.









Once we got downtown we high tailed it over to the Yacht Club where we were able to go out to the dock to view the fireworks. Around a million people swarm to the lake front each year so it was nice to be able to sit away from the crowds, even though we had to battle through them to get to the boat. I could definitely see why some people stake their claim out early. Although, I have been told that you can get a decent view if you show up an hour before.


You can't really see the crowds, but trust me, they were there. Short of being in the boats in the Harbor (which we were for Venetian Night last year) we had some of the best seats in the city!






Information and ariel picture from:
http://www.chicagotraveler.com/attractions/taste-of-chicago.html
(all other pictures are mine)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!


I hope that everyone out in the blog-o-sphere is having a great 4th of July. Pete and I are doing a Chicago stay-cation. In addition to visiting various places around town (the 4th of July specific ones shall be my topic for My Town Monday). Above is a picture of us at the fireworks last night. I have managed to get in some writing...and some homework.

There is a bit of a damper on all the 4th festivities, which I am not at liberty to currently discuss, but will share sometime next week. It's bad, but not my tell, until it's been told in real life.

Writing is going okay. I need to recalc and update my word count. I will probably do that tomorrow after I get my next set of rewrites out to my crit partners.


So far this is shaping up to be a great 4th weekend, despite aforementioned damper.

I wrote a really lame fight scene yesterday. Anyone out there in the blog-o-sphere have any comments or suggestions for fight scenes?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Revising Early Drafts

Just like in many areas of life, there is no right way to go about writing and revising a novel. Many authors prefer to write the whole thing and then circle back and start the revision process. Others, like me, prefer to write and the circle back as we go. The benefits to this approach are, you can see where you need to revamp to foreshadow, more agilely shift character motivations and more easily keep all the layers straight. It's harder to start something and not follow through since you are living in multiple parts of your novel at the same time. For me, it helps make everything much more consistent.

However, some people prefer to write straight through. I understand this feeling. Sometimes my muse is just flowing through me and the words and plot just spill out of me. But, normally I revise as I go. Not chapter by chapter. I try to stay about 20k words ahead of where I am revising. Sometimes I go back even further, just to make sure it is all flowing together.

Revising is not fixing typos or grammar. That's proofreading. Revising is not just about finding better word choices or reducing redundancy. That's editing. You definitely need to proofread and edit as you revise, but revising is much bigger than that. It's thinking through your ideas more fully. If you haven't thought through them, rewording isn't going to do you any good!

I am blogging about this today because, after my econ exam, I am going to go home and work on revising my third chapter set. (I'm adding to the plot line of the 7th chapter set right now.) This is the revision so that my beta readers can read without wanting to gag.

The following are the questions I am going to ask myself as I flip through these pages. (I print out...killing trees, I know, but at least I recycle and print on two sides!)

What is it that the charectors are trying to say?
Is there tension in this section?
Do we learn something?
Is a secret revealed?
Can I hide something or just hint at it?
Can I describe something better?
Can you show instead of tell?
What are the motivations of all of my characters? Why is this their motive and is that coming across (or being hinted at so that it can be revealed (or realized) at a later point in time)?



But, be careful. Don't get so stuck on revising that you don't move on. Otherwise you'll never get to "The End." Sometimes Often, I have a tendency to do this. However, usually revision ends up adding a couple scenes, but I have definitely been known to remove or simply change a scene. Since my first pass is very rough,y my word count typically goes up by about 30% during the first revision, which is the main reason I have to revise as I go along. I have zero clue of the word count until I have gone through a few cycles of revision.

Set a deadline. Give yourself a certain number of days or hours and after that, move on. You won't get it perfect. That's the benefit of revising as you go through. You'll revise again at the end. It's just that when you do your revision at the end, there will be much less to clean up!

How do you revise and what questions do you ask yourself as you do it?

Monday, June 29, 2009

My Town Monday -- Navy Pier


Navy Pier, a family friendly attraction and gathering place, is due east of Chicago's Magnificent Mile (shopping district). (Photo above from http://www.navypier.com/). Construction of the pier, which was called the Municipal Pier in those days, began in 1914, with the intention of utilization as a cargo facility for lake freighters and a port for travelers. It also contained a few public gathering spots and became known as a popular place for young lovers. The mass production of cars and trucks began to take a toll on the pier's capacity as a shipping hub and it proved far more useful as a public gathering space.

In the 1930s the pier contained various recreational facilities such as picnicking areas, dining pavilions, a dance hall, auditorium, and children's playground. Then during World War II the city leased the pier to the US Navy and it was used for training manuvers. Because of this, the pier's name was changed to Navy Pier.

After the war, Navy Pier was leased by the University of Illinois for a two-year undergraduate program to educate returning veterans. During this time, Navy Pier was the site of various public events including the International Exhibitions of the early 1960s which drew attractions from around the world. In 1965, the University moved to the Chicago Circle campus, leaving the pier an unused eyesore.

In 1989, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority took control over the pier and decided to return the pier to it's status as a family friendly attraction. (photo below from wikiepedia)

At the start (which is the bit connected to the mainland in the picture) is a mall-like area with shops, random live entertainment events, a food court and several sit-down restaurants. It also contains an IMAX with two screens. Typically it shows current family friendly movies. Towards the back there is a green house area called the Crystal Gardens with lush plants and water arches (photo to the right, from navypier.com). It's a great place to relax for a minute! My nieces enjoyed standing under the arches and trying to grab the water. Actually, I remember visiting Chicago back in college and doing the same thing :).

Inside this first building is also the Chicago Children's Muesum. This was actually started by the Junior League, but then was turned over to the community and eventually moved here to Navy Pier. It's a nice little place with some activities and learning for the kiddos.


Between the Crystal Gardens and the Pepsi Skyline Stage (mentioned below) is Pier Park, a landscaped area with various attractions including a 150-foot-high Ferris wheel, a musical carousel, an old-fashioned swing ride, and an 18-hole putt-putt course. Of all these attractions the only one that I have been on is the Ferris wheel. While it's $6 per person, it's a great view of the city. In an effort to do more of the "touristy" things around the city, we decided to give the wheel a try a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it was on a hazy day, but it was still nice. Beautiful view and all around fun :)


Also, there is a 4000 square foot fun house maze, a stained glass muesum and various exhibition halls. Once when we went with some friends to the Pier we decided to check out the exhibition halls and ran across a Turkish culture festival. Total surprize and a extra nice afternoon.

Every Saturday and Wednesday night you can view fireworks from the Pier. There's also a beer garden with live music and a theater called the Pepsi Skyline Stage. Right now you can see Cirque Shanghai and during the summer Shakespeare plays can be seen.

And if you continue past all of this and walk all the way to the end, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city.




Visit the 3-d google earth model for a virtual experience of Navy Pier.

The Pier does have so much to offer. Much of it I've looked at, but not had time to go to. I think that I'll have to make another trip to the Pier and change that!

My Town Monday is the brain child of Travis Erwin. For other locations to visit please go to Travis' site here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Writing Time and Other Updates

Unfortunately, I will not be an egg donor. That's part of the reason that I've not been online. First I was having some questions after I realized that it was against the teachings of the Catholic Church, but that became a moot point once I went on the birth control pills, which I'd never been on before. Let's just remain vague and say that they did not agree with me medically. I am okay now and feeling much better. But, egg donation is off the table.

Also, my paycheck didn't bounce, but one of the guys on my team had his bounce. Today is another payday. I am hoping that everything is okay. Offchance, do any of you know of any companies in the Chicago area looking for a Technical Project Manager?

I don't want this blog to be an update on my 105 goals so I am going to only update on my progress on the first friday of every month and must have at least ten other posts between. This blog is suppose to be about my writing, but I've not been doing much writing recently. I'm just so busy, which makes me mad/sad because I really want to get this book done. It really is a good premise, and I'm not just saying that because I'm writing it, but I know that it's good and has alot of promise.

So, my question for those of you in blogland is, how do you find time to write? When everything is going a thousand miles an hour, how do you make time? Any advice?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Accomplishments!



I know I've been awful and not updating. I have been trying to comment. It's just been really busy around here, BUT I've been making some decent progress, which is good! Each time that I do a goals update I will put a pic representing one of the goals or a story around my goals.

# 4 Burlesque class for five sessions- I had my first class on Tuesday. It was a lot of fun! The class is all about being active and feeling good about being a woman. As they said "there's no wrong, only better." I love that! I also told my mother who was, shall we say, under-impressed. Hah. It's just an exercise class. Geesh. :-P
# 19 Go to a concert at Ravinia- Set up to see Beach Boys in a month! I would like to go another time (if this goes well) to see something classical, but I have a group of friends who are going, which will make the Ravinia outdoor concert so much more fun :)
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks- While working on "Say Your Prayers" Sadie got a bit too enthusiastic and bumped her chin on the bench (she missed putting her paws there...she's a silly dog) so now refuses to the trick no matter what treat we have. The above picture is her laying next to the Bench-that-Bit-Her (but this was taken over a year ago). Poor little guy. She really whacked herself good. Still not sure how, though. Sadie, your paws are suppose to go gently, not your head violently! :( Will have to find a new trick.
# 37 Drive a stick shift car by myself ten times- My friend Ducky has offered to teach me. I was thinking about having the hubby teach me, but somehow I think that wouldn't go well.
# 38 Graduate from college- As always, had classes etc.
# 39 Get life insurance- Met with an agent today who is actually an all around financial planner so will work with him for more than just the life (and disability) insurance (# 58 Get a financial adviser and many of the other financial goals)
# 86 Create the Any Gift Site- Actually been swapped with a different business idea (see below). Been working a bunch on this recently. It is actually the primary reason that I have not been blogging too much the past couple weeks. No worries, I am planning on being better about blogging.



Changes/Swaps:
# 31 Put change in some one's expired meter changed to buy lunch/dinner for a table of cops. Several of the restaurants I go to are near police beats and from time to time I see them eating during their dinner break. Next time I will tell the waiter that I want to pick up the tab and to not tell them who, except for saying something who is thankful for their work.
# 86 Create the Any Gift Site to Create OurWorld Site- One of my best friends here in Chicago had a fabulous idea for a website AND asked me to do it with her. It's much better than the AnyGift site. I'm actually going to have an invitation only pre-alpha release which will just have a very small set of the social networking pieces live. Those parts are going to be yelp meets wikipedia, but for a certain industry. Sorry for being vauge. I will be more specific on my pre-alpha release post in a couple months :-P. All of you who are interested will be invited! Don't worry, wait to say interest until you know what it is that you are interested in :-P

Next week:
# 18 Go to ten Chicago-area street fairs- Will be hitting up 57th Street Art Fair this weekend. Should be good times.
# 38 Graduate from college - Will finish my econ paper this weekend (before the fair) and will email/call about econ midterm. Also, have other work to do.
# 50 Get some form of art for every room of the condo- With any luck will find something at the 57th Street Art Fair.
# 53 Refinance condo- Should be submitting paper work next week.
# 85 Finish writing three novels - I have been uber slacky on this front, but next week I am going to not go out much and really make an effort to get sections 3 and 4 out the door. I promise.
# 86 Create OurWorld Site- Top Secret :-P. (We just have to incorporate and get the pre-alpha live before I can really talk in specifics...sorry for the vagueness, I'm not trying to be cute/silly, it's just in the planning phases so we have to keep the specifics on the down low)
# 93 Write snail mail to the kiddos ten times- Will write a note telling them how excited we are for them to come visit.

Overall next week I am not going to go out as much as I did this week (where I've had something every night) so that I can work a bit harder on my internal goals. It is almost a month in and I've got a lot yet to do!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Weekly Goals Update


I had a pretty okay week. This was my first week moving towards my list of 105 goals. One down 143 to go.

These were the goals that I made effort towards last week:
# 38 Graduate from college: I took my exams, signed up for my last semester of classes and submitted my degree check. I also was able to successfully petition my extension on my correspondence econ class, which was good since I've not had much time to work on it. Great progress, but consumed pretty much all of my non-work-time existence.
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks: I started teaching Sadie "say your prayers." Eventually this will make her put her paws on a nearby chair (while sitting) and put her nose under one of her paws. Right now she can put her paws on the chair but then gets really excited and runs off to find a toy.... Pete is working on Roll Over. Not going very well.
# 25 Be an egg donor: I was picked by a couple!! I will give more details about this sometime next week. But basically, I have signed up to undergo a procedure to harvest a few eggs so that a couple with fertility issues can have a child. This will allow a future mother with problems with her own eggs still experience being pregnant with her husband's child.
# 17 Get a leadership position in JLC: I don't know if this counts, but last night at our general meeting, I was one of ~10% of associate (new) members given the shining star award. This basically says that you are a good member of the junior league and tried hard to do a good job. This means that people are noticing so is a very small part towards moving towards eventually having some sort of leadership role.

Next week I will work towards:
# 4 Burlesque for three sessions: I will sign up for a burlesque class. Forgot to do this last week.
# 53 Refinance condo: Pete didn't make too much progress. I will follow up with him some more.
# 38 Graduate from college: I will work on my first paper for that econ class.
# 85 Finish writing three novels: I have my next set of work due to my wonderful betas on Sunday.
# 32 Teach Sadie three new tricks: Going to try to keep working on "Say Your Prayers".
# 17 Get a leadership position in JLC: I am going to help approach Pompeii for them to partner with us. Not sure what that means yet. Will find out more soon.


I am okay with the amount of progress made last week because I am happy with the results of my finals, but I wish that I'd been able to work more on my novel. It makes me a little sad that the correspondence class is going to take up so much of my existence. Also, it's not on the list, but I am in the application process for a job and I have to write this little program. It's fun, and the basic part is done, but I want to wow them with my awesomeness, so that, too will eat away at a large part of my weekend. They sound great, but I am okay with where I am too, despite the problems. I definitely have an open mind though! I am more concerned about my career down the road and I'm not thinking where I am is that great long term. We will see.

A couple things that I found funny in reviewing my list: there wasn't too much that was directly work related...or at least not as much as there would have been a couple years ago. Perhaps this means that I am more comfortable with where I am professionally.


Starting next week I will upload images of me working my goals. If anyone else out there is thinking about starting your own list, please let me know :) I hope that I have maybe inspired someone or, if you found me because of my list and are going to start your own let me know and we can encourage each other :) What else is blogging about but that :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Motivations of Secondary Characters

Everyone intrinsically understands that the main characters have goals and motivations. But what about secondary character?

Ignore this being about fiction. Every person has some sort of goal or internal desire. Their lives might not be the stuff of Broadway musicals, but it is important to them and in his or her own way everyone has a complex existence. No matter how small a role a character in your story plays they must have some external driving force. Obviously you don't have time or care to delve into everyone that crops up in your pages, but, secondary characters who spend any amount of time interacting with the main character should have some goals and motivations both in line with and against your main character. We might not get to see all the complexities and nuances of their lives, but it should be at least alluded to that there is more behind the curtain. Show us that they have private dramas.

Motivations should not be stero-typical. The friend might be loyal, but, just like in real life, that loyalty isn't without bounds. A secondary character isn't just someone for the protagonist to talk to or the antagonist to plot with, a good secondary character will have driving reasons beyond just being helpful. However, you don't want the secondary character to overtake the story. Just like supporting actors can't upstage the star, a secondary character needs to be interesting without taking too much attention away from the protagonist.

A secondary character can be an agent of change for your protagonist. I don't know about you, but in some ways I interact a little differently with everyone I run across depending on who they are. For example, I act differently with my boss than I do with my Junior League friends, and I act differently with them than I would with my closest childhood friend. The same is true for your protagonist. In this way we are able to more intimately view the protagonist because we see how they interact with characters that are more complex. Everything rackets up a level.

The final thing that really interests me as a writer when working on secondary characters is the fact that no one is fully good nor fully evil and for the most part people want to do good or at least live up to their belief systems.


Secondary characters can be mentors, friends, friends of villains, neighbors, owners of a local store the protagonist frequents, family members or anyone really. Giving them lives of their own gives you plenty of fodder for sub-plots and themes as well as gives the protagonist a more robust life (by making those in his or her life more robust).

Some of my favorite secondary characters are:

  • Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
  • Sir Walter Elliot (Jane Austen’s Persuasion)
  • Alaris (Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart series--actually she has many great secondary characters)
  • Hermione Granger (Harry Potter series)
  • Soup Nazi (Seinfield)
Who are some of your favorite secondary characters?

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