My First Con

Instead of camping with my family this weekend, I went to Madison, Wisconsin. The 33rd annual WisCon conference was held there over the holiday. It started Thursday night and ended sometime Monday afternoon. There were workshops, panels, art shows, vendors, and parties. As an added bonus, there was also good food and chai tea within walking distance.

The worst part, as expected, was the ride there and back. I'm not a huge fan of hours long road trips. If I'm not driving, I usually read, but since I was a tag-along passenger, I thought I'd try to be sociable. I think I managed for the most part.

But I bet you're more interested in the Con itself.

I found it interesting, entertaining, and exhausting. There were many times when I wanted to voice an opposing opinion, but wisely kept my mouth shut. Well, for the most part. There were a few times I felt compelled to interject my viewpoint or experiences into the conversations. I probably sounded like an idiot, but that's never stopped me before!

I think perhaps the two most memorable panels were on Warrior Women and Marxism and Beyond. The first I found enlightening and disturbing. Personally, I believe you can have a warrior woman and a strong male in the same book. I don't think a helpful male presence automatically disqualifies the woman as a true warrior. I also don't see the need or want of love as an automatic fail either. I think a woman can be soft and strong, lovable and brutal. I think a little bit of emotional complexity is perfectly acceptable and even desirable in any character, even the gun-toting or sword-bearing types.

As the second panel dealt with social constructs and barriers it could have degenerated into a shouting match. People can get very tense when they believe they or someone they know has been wrongfully maligned, something that has apparently happened in previous years. Luckily, the moderator and panel members were excellent at maintaining focus.

Of course, these weren't the only two panels I attended. My days (Friday, Saturday & Sunday) were filled with panels. I attended book readings, academic presentations, and panel discussions from 8:30 a.m. to midnight or thereabouts. I was sometimes amazed and sometimes disappointed.

However, it was also very neat meeting with agents and editors. I was able to ask Jim Frenkel of Tor what he thought the handwritten note I had received all those years ago might have meant. His answer: lumpy gravy. Hm. Interesting. What exactly does that mean? Well, he thought perhaps I had a few too many info dumps in there. (You know I'm going to have to check!)

I also have a couple of business cards I need to follow up on. One's for an agent, the other for an editor at a major audio publisher (think books-on-tape).

I did attend a couple of the parties, but was, dare I say it, rather bored. Not exactly what I had anticipated. This is probably why I was okay with attending the late night panels.

As you might imagine, I was completely wiped out by the time we got home last night. I didn't pull in my driveway until 11:30 p.m. This means we had been on the road for over 13 hours. Egads.

What a day!

We had a lot of fun at our friend's party Saturday night. We certainly stayed a lot longer than we had intended - I guess that's a sign of a great host and hostess! However, as we're experimenting with this whole "you're old enough to be the babysitter" idea, we were a bit anxious to get home. Of course our trust in the oldest boy was well-founded. He did awesome!!

This morning we rolled out of bed around 9 and hubby cooked up some french toast. After that it was a beeline for the shower. We had lots of chores we wanted to do today, so I threw on an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. Hair in ponytail, we were off to the local greenhouse to buy more flowers than anyone should buy in one visit. But it worked for us. Our busy schedules don't lend themselves to days of leisure very often, so tackling all five flowerbeds at once was more of a necessity than an option.

While the hubby used the mantis to till up the soil, my youngest and I planted and planted and planted.

If you're curious to see how the flower beds turned out, be sure to visit my Flickr stream. I uploaded a bunch of pictures tonight. The flowers are so pretty...I only needed to Photoshop one of them to get the contrast right.

After helping the hubby with the mulch, it was time to get some laundry and homework done. Thank goodness my homework tonight consisted of finishing The Great Gatsby. I soaked in the tub while I finished off those last few chapters and believe me when I tell you, my sore muscles appreciated the soothing warmth!


Uh Oh.

I can't believe I forgot. I mean really, how could I? I've been looking forward to my first ever writing conference for the better part of the last four months. I even managed to submit my packet for the Writers' Workshop on time. Got approved for a scholarship to help pay for it. Have been asking inane questions about what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect.

Now for the Fail. I haven't critiqued a single manuscript yet! I have three hefty packets I need to read, comment on, and write a page or two about. Oh, dear. Between writing final papers, reading short stories and novels for class, and the craziness that comes with two children, I just plain forgot!

As you can imagine, whatever spare time I can find this weekend is going to be spent on manuscripts! I just need to fit them in somewhere between dishes, laundry, a birthday party, mopping my floor, finishing the Great Gatsby, and research on the French Riviera in the 1920s. No problem.

As Promised.

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Our Lives This Week

The day-by-day breakdown:

Sunday:
Mother's Day meant a visit to the in-laws (I saw my mom on Saturday to avoid the two houses on the same day nonsense). I took my camera with me and got some great shots of the wildlife and other pretties surrounding their house. Here are a couple of my favorites.

Caught in Motion

Cutie

Bleeding Heart

Of course, after I took the picture of the Bleeding Hearts above, my youngest son had to show me that there really are hearts inside them. He quickly plucked one off the plant and peeled away the pink outer layer to reveal this:

The Heart Inside

After spending a couple hours there, the kids and I headed for home while the hubby stayed and tried to get the new bathroom faucet installed. While he was laboring away in perhaps the world's most poorly structured home, we lounged around in our jammies and watched movies.

Monday:
After work the hubby and I each grabbed a kid and went our separate ways. The youngest had an away game a few towns over, so the hubby dashed off in that direction. The oldest had a band recital in the High School auditorium, which I videoed. The video did not turn out because my child was completely blocked from my view. However, despite the odds, I was able to zoom in on his cast to at least show an approximation of where he sat. After his recital I rushed home to make sure I was there when my sister dropped off the youngest; hubby had left the kiddo's baseball game early so he could make his softball game.

Tuesday:
Work. School. Late night dinner and laundry. American Idol. (Go, Adam, Go!)

Wednesday:
That's today, right? Right. Although the youngest has yet another baseball game, I will be sitting in the Whiting Autitorium watching my 6-year-old niece perform in her annual dance recital. I can't wait to take pictures of her in her costume! Here is one from last year:

Ballerina Girl

Isn't she so darn cute?

I'll probably have pictures of this year's costume and hairdo up by tomorrow morning. Look for them!

Thursday:
While I'm in class, the youngest will be at his first soccer scrimmage. Poor hubby is doing a lot of solo acts this week!

Friday:
Beer Festival. I've volunteered to be the DD. Although the vendors serve more than just beer and I could indulge in a few small samples, I'd rather make sure we all get home in one piece.

Saturday:
Soccer game in the morning. Birthday party for my nephew in the afternoon. Adults only party at a friend's house in the evening. I am not volunteering to be the DD at this one!

Sunday:
My hubby wants to completely redo our flower beds so it sounds like I will be picking out flowers and planting. I should also read the first 5 chapters of The Great Gatsby for class the following week. Oh, and perhaps squeeze in some research on the French Riviera in the 1920-1930s for my research project!

Whew! That's one busy week!!

The Lives of Rich People Bore Me

After reading several short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I have come to the realization that I can only handle so much "woe is me" from the obscenely rich. The first few stories in this collection were amusing. They were, dare I say it, cute. However, after reading pretty much the same sub-context in the next four or five stories, I became rather weary of Fitzgerald's obsessive fascination with crossing the boundary from rich to filthy rich.

I think the problem for me is that I don't care about the characters because they don't resonate with me. With the exception of one short story, there is nothing in them that I can point to and say, even on a very fundamental level, "I get that". The sole exception here was in Bernice Bobs Her Hair and I believe that's because of the gender dynamics he explored. The interactions between the girls could have really happened. The reaction of the boys at the dances and after the climatic haircut seemed plausible.

Another thing Bernice Bobs Her Hair had going for it was the conflict. The conflict in the other short stories has been less than compelling. I just don't care. I'm ready for something with a bit more substance!

I Heart Faces Week 18 Entry - Laughter


We had a lovely time at the tea house on Saturday. After eating three scrumptious courses and drinking a variety of teas, we decided to try on a few hats. There were also gloves, tiaras, boas, and fur stoles. It was fun being a little girl again, even for a few minutes. We giggled and we laughed, which made this shot possible:


A Little Laughter


I Heart Faces Constructive Feedback


Never done this before. Hoping for sound advice on how to get a group of people into focus. The original can found on my Flickr account here. As you can see before I photoshopped it I had some real issues with white balance and focus. I don't think the photoshopping helped all that much, but it was fun experimenting!

Here are the SOOC photo stats that might be relevant:

Camera: Nikon D40
Aperture: F/5.8
Flash: None
ISO Speed: 400
Focal Length: 18.3
AF Area Mode: Dynamic Area, Closest Subject
AF Point: Center
AF Points in Focus: Center
Light Source: Natural
Exposure Mode: Auto
White Balance: Auto

For Full Details: Check the Flickr metadata page.


Photoshop CS3
Sharpen Edges (duplicate layer with Mask to erase overly sharpened sections)
Adjusted Curves
Added burnt edges.

Fire away, ladies & gents! I really want to get group photography down and focus seems to be the biggest challenge. I'd love to hear what settings everyone else uses and whether or not they use manual focus (something I'm just staring to experiment with).

No Limits by Alison Kent

So a few weeks ago I was gifted with a copy of Alison Kent's No Limits. At the time I was finishing up a final project for class and, even though I would have loved to, I didn't really have time to sit down and indulge.

Until last week.

Faced with my ever growing TBR (to-be-read) pile, I could have picked up anything to read. A week or two before my name had been drawn for another book giveaway and had received Larissa Ione's Passion Unleashed in the mail. However, there were two factors working in Alison Kent's favor. First, I knew her book was getting ready to hit the shelves. Since she had been kind enough to send me a copy (thank you Twitter for giving her a platform to hold that little e-mail contest!), I wanted to get a review up for her as soon as possible. Second, look at that cover. Visually appealing? I'd say so!

Now this is the first Alison Kent book I've read, but let me assure you my first exposure will not be my last. I enjoyed Kent's voice, the quick, snappy pace she set. More importantly, I found her characters enjoyable. While the damsel may have been somewhat distressed, she wasn't helpless or hopeless. Unlike so many of the romances I've read over the years, this heroine had no trouble admitting her desires and acting upon them. No blushing virgins here! In fact, my only warning to my blog readers is that if you're looking for PG-13 romance, look elsewhere. :-)

My Evenings

American Idol last night bummed me out a bit. I really like Allison Araheta and was sad to see her go. Still, the girl went out with style. And I'm sure we'll be seeing her again. She's too good not to get offered a deal.

As predicted, I've also been reading. Surprisingly, I'm still able to squeeze in some No Limits along side the Fitzgerald short stories. This is a good thing because No Limits is a fun, fast read. More on that later!

One of the most time consuming things I'm involved in right now is baseball. (The hubby is also tied up with Soccer practice, but I'm in class on those nights and, therefore, don't feel the strain of the second sport). The kidlet has games twice a week. Here's a few pictures from last night's game.

concentrated

not so concentrated

from the pitcher's mound

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Trevor - after scoring a run.

Lots of Reading to Do

There will not be any writing updates in the near future. I am officially "in school" once more and what few free hours there are between work and children's sports will now be consumed by Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

As a matter of fact, I'm cutting this short so I can finish my lunch with my nose in a book! Later, gators!

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Ken and I took the boys to the movies this afternoon to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine. We met our best friends and their two boys at the theater, where we all indulged in a bit of popcorn and over-sized sodas. Then we settled in for a couple hours worth of big screen entertainment.

I liked the movie. Quite a bit, actually, when I think of it in terms of character development. I'll certainly be looking at the first three X-Men movies with a slightly different perspective. Given the context of the Origins movie I think his need to keep himself detached from everyone will take on new significance and the loss of his lady love in The Last Stand will resonate a bit more.

I realize the movie probably strayed quite a bit from the comic books, but I'm okay with that, mainly because I've never read any of them. Not coming to the film with any preconceived notions of how and what should happen can sometimes have its benefits.

The Next Season Begins

While the oldest may be out of commission thanks to his broken foot, the youngest is going to keep us hopping this spring. Soccer started a few weeks later than normal, which has pushed it right into baseball season. We had our first practice tonight and will be at the field again tomorrow. Monday is his first baseball game.

The first soccer game was supposed to be tomorrow morning, but it got pushed back to next Saturday so we get a bit of a reprieve. This worked out great because I have my first race tomorrow! No soccer means the hubby can come take pictures of me, my sister, and my sister-in-law.