Adventures Through Theory-land.

This semester I've been wading through some pretty intense essays on theory. I'd say Lit Theory, but the truth is most of the excerpts we've read have very little to say about literature and a lot to say about things like language construction, signs, economy, culture, and gender. Applying said theories to literature is never really demonstrated.

As you may well imagine, these theories are easier to discuss than they are to read. Although, without our guide, someone who is already familiar with the hills, valleys, swamps and rivers of this intimidating landscape, I'm not so sure I could discuss them intelligently. And that's still up for debate.

The truth is there have been many nights when I've read every dreadful word and not comprehended a single thing. I've been forced to wait on our instructor's explanations and clarifications. It's funny how his simplified language makes the laborious seem evident. Luckily, I don't feel as if I'm the only one who finds this stuff challenging.

Theory is hard. It's dry. It's mind-numbing and confusing.

Until we get to Marxism. And Feminism. Apparently, these two are familiar enough that I can decipher the theorists' meanings on my own. The most important and notable thing for me, though, is that I am once again able to comprehend what I read. It's a lovely, lovely thing!

Now I only need to get my grade for the last assignment, write one more paper, and contribute on a Paired Exercise. The end, as they say, is in sight! And I couldn't be happier.

An Achievement

I figure this post is overdue. I should have posted it last week after the wrestling meet, but didn't. I'm sure I have a reasonable excuse.

In any event, the important thing is that I take a moment to document the little man's biggest wrestling achievement to date: bringing home his first chart. For those of you who have no idea what this means, it's just another way to say he finally took first place!

Doesn't he look so proud of himself? I know we sure were proud of him. He worked hard for it and finally all the hard work paid off.

A lovely weekend at home.

It's been so long since we've had a nice, relaxing weekend that this one felt insanely overdue. Just the idea of sleeping in both days made me feel a bit giddy. Add to that lovely idea the fact that I was able to pick up my new Final Fantasy game on my way home from work on Friday? That I didn't have any serious homework to worry about over the weekend? That we had an adult-only party planned Sautrday night? Yeah, I couldn't stop smiling.

The game, by the way, is great. The young man behind the counter at Game Stop told me to be patient when I started. "It takes about five hours for it to get good," he told me. "Well, about five hours for it to look and feel like the other Final Fantasy games." Good to know because it's the truth. The very futuristic, scifi introduction of this latest installment definitely gives this addition to the Final Fantasy family a completely different look and feel from its predecessors.

The characters are on the run, they have a mission they can't agree on, and there's trouble a-brewing. Snow has earned his Eidolon and has just been taken captive by "the strange woman". The other four are off venturing through the Deadlands. Everyone is powering up nicely, I'd have to say.

On a completely different entertainment topic, I started The Lightning Thief. And I feel like I should be reading it to my boys. In fact, I stopped reading after just a couple pages because I'm debating on whether or not they'd actually listen and whether or not I want to set myself up to be irritated with their inability to sit still. Hmm. Decisions, decisions.

Not that I planned on reading to them this weekend. I knew we'd be out late Saturday at the adult-only party my brother and sister-in-law hosted for the wrestling parents. We didn't get home until after 1 a.m., way past the children's bedtime. Not that they were asleep when we finally pulled into the garage. Oh, no. They were still playing video games and had to be motivated to get upstairs and into bed.

Considering how late our Saturday night turned out to be, it should come as no surprise that we slept in. What's crazy is that I didn't get out of bed until 10:30! What's better (or worse, depending on your perspective) is that I changed from one pair of jammies into the next when I finally decided I should get showered. Totally lazy day at home. Did some laundry, did some reading for school, and worked on the wrestling DVD when I wasn't playing my game or watching movies with the fam.

Amazon + blogger...What do you think?

Have you seen any info on this new partnership? If you don't want to click on the link, here's a brief summary: By adding a monetize feature to my blog, I could make linking to books and other items in the Amazon catalog oh so easy.

Here's the thing.

I've never tried making money off my blog. Mainly because, well, hello, not that many readers! Not that I don't love and appreciate every single one of you, because I do. But it seems to me the only time it might make sense to partake of such a venture would be when it might be fiscally beneficial.

Yet, I'm tempted. Not because of the money. Nope. Because I am lazy and anything to make my life a little easier seems like a good idea. I link to Amazon a lot. Not because I'm expecting any of my readers to buy from them, but because that's where I do a lot of my buying.

Don't hate me.

I'm lazy. I thought we had established this...

Anyhow, I'm tempted. But I'm also wary of the "make your life easier" gimmick to be just that: a gimmick. Any thoughts?

Where I've Been Hiding

I know I've been a bit absent this week, but I have good reason. On Sunday evening I flew into Chicago and took a taxi to a lovely hotel on the Miracle Mile. That next morning my coworker and I attended the first of many panels at the Midwest Educause Conference. Tomorrow we'll attend our last and take a taxi back to the airport.

Since this is my first visit to the Windy City, I must admit I am charmed by everything. The skyscrapers, the shops, the restaurants, the Starbucks on every corner (or nearly every corner)...all of it delights me. It also makes me very anxious to return in a few months with my hubby and our two boys.

I don't have pictures to share from this visit. I left the camera at home with the family so they could get pictures of the Regional wrestling tournament the boys competed in this last weekend. But, I'm okay with that, because I think I'll cherish the ones we'll be taking in August much more.

LuLu Takes Another Step Forward

I've been aware of LuLu for some time now. I keep looking, browsing, and contemplating. I look at the cover art and read the descriptions. I look at the reviews and wonder who wrote them, how well the reviewers know the author and whether their opinions are unbiased. I look at the prices and the ordering options. I look. However, after reading about award-winning author John Edgar Wideman's decision to experiment with self-publication through LuLu, I might actually be enticed to start buying from the site.

I also have to stop and consider what John Edgar Wideman's bold move means for the publishing industry as a whole. Is this the first small pebble in the pond? Will other established and traditionally published authors risk the loss of their next advance and the subsequent royalty checks? It seems hard to imagine, but yet here is evidence that not everyone who has been accepted into the publishing fraternity is content with their membership.

Of course, John's royalties from previous books will continue to be forwarded to him. That's something to consider, too.

I know I'm rambling a bit, but this defection, if that's what this is, could be the first step to taking the sting out of the self-publishing stigma. Or not.

Why do I care? Well, it's stories like this that whisper to me that perhaps self-publication isn't a completely dreadful idea. Because while I want the Holy Grail of Publication, the reality is that my book has to land on the right desk at the right time in front of the right person. Basically, the stars must align and, since I've been waiting for seven months to hear back from the agent who has my full manuscript, I'm thinking I'll be old and gray before the stars do their thing.

So I consider self-publishing for myself. For my family and friends.

Because the reality is, I don't expect to become the next Nora Roberts, Stephen King, or J. K. Rowlings. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'd love to hit it big, but the likelihood of such a thing happening is slim. That's reality.

Isn't reality a downer?

Strangely, this rather pessimistic outlook hasn't prevented me from writing and finishing my manuscripts. Writing is something I do, publication is something I aspire to.

And I've got options. I can try my luck on the path of tradition, but I can also widen my search to include e-publishers, something I've yet to attempt. However, for those rare instances when an e-book simply will not do and the traditional path seems too difficult to traverse, I may just turn to Lulu.


I haven't opened the WIP in a couple of weeks. I've been a bit preoccupied with school work and everything else that happens - or should happen - between the hours of 5 and 11 p.m.

And I don't see a significant change occurring anytime soon. Not with Grad papers and reading assignments due.

So, there's the rather bleak writing update I've been avoiding.

Just Because It's Amazing

I first watched this YouTube video on Paperback Writer's blog. Just had to share!

Wrestling, Conferences, and Scrapbooking, oh my!

I'm going to miss the boys' regional wrestling meet this weekend. Can't say I'm sorry. In fact, if I'm honest, I'm somewhat relieved that I have a legitimate excuse. It's been a long, grueling season. I'm ready for it to be done. I'd say I'm looking forward to a break, but there's a pretty persistent rumor that baseball practice is going to start up soon afterward. Maybe, if I'm really lucky, we'll get a weekend or two off.

I'm not that lucky. Not when it comes to finding down time, that is. Busy, busy, busy...that's us! We've got wrestling practice twice a week (at a minimum), at least one day tied up in wrestling meets, Tuesday night classes for me , and Thursday night bowling for the hubby. If we're lucky, we get a Friday night to chill at home and one day on the weekend to catch up on homework and housework. That's the routine. Throw in the occasional birthday party, photography session, or shopping trip and things get really hectic.

So, imagine how much I'm looking forward to a weekend of scrapbooking with the girls? I'd say bring on the frufru drinks, but we're going to a Christian campground where alcohol is prohibited, so instead I'll celebrate with a Diet Coke and some healthy trail mix.

Now, if it weren't for the fact that I'm leaving the scrapbooking event and catching a plane to Chicago, I'd be leaving early anyhow to go watch the boys wrestle their little hearts out. But, did you notice the bit there about catching a flight to Chicago? Yep! It's true. My office is sending me to Chicago to attend a conference. Wahoo!

Now I just need to get ready for both trips. Here's my to-do list:
  • clean up my scrapbooking room
  • pack up my scrapbooking materials (dependent upon completion of item #1)
  • pick up photos from Walgreens.
  • pack clothes (mostly PJs) for scrapbooking trip
  • wash the piles of dirty clothes sitting in the basement before leaving on scrapbooking trip
  • pack suitcase and laptop case for business trip
  • remind my dad to take me to the airport (hubby and kids will be at a wrestling meet)
  • print off itinerary
  • make sure cell phone charger is packed
  • throw all my scrapbooking stuff back in the basement before my dad picks me up
I'm sure there's a few things I'm forgetting, but those are the big things. Well, those and making sure I say a proper goodbye on Friday night since I won't be seeing my guys for five whole days!

The Paradigm is Shifting

The true indicator of change will be when the first big brand name fiction writer bypasses traditional publishing—that is when the Perfect Storm will have arrived. ~ Bob Mayer

I think what Bob said in this article is pretty much what I've been thinking for, well, a while now. If you pay any attention at all to publishing and this pesky new invention called the Internet, you might already have an idea of how many changes there have been inside the industry. To say publishing is being reinvented seems a gross understatement.

While signing a contract with a major publishing house is still considered the Holy Grail of wannabe writers everywhere, myself included, there are other viable options to consider. In trying to remember all the different delivery methods I've experimented with as a reader, I've come up with a brief list of my favorite Internet-spawned venues.

I read a lot of blogs. On any given day my RSS feed contains over 150 unread posts and the majority of them are written by writers who post snippets, offer free reads, or hosts contests in which they're giving away books (sometimes their own).

And, in many instances, I've been inspired to leave the screen behind and actually purchase the tangible product. The influences come in a variety of forms, too. Everything from a good book recommendation, a tantalizing snippet, or a free partial delivered via PDF, has motivated me. I've become a fan of writers I'd never have otherwise stumbled across.

Of course, there are risks here for the wannabe writer. Posting too much of your story can be problematic if you do end up getting a major house interested. First publishing rights mean a lot to the gatekeepers.

So, while it's a good platform for building a following, it's probably not the ideal place for wannabe writers to showcase their skills.

If you're a short story reader/writer, this is an interesting market.

Some E-zines pay, some don't. According to those already published in the field, the serious writer should only consider selling to the paying market. (I think the idea here is that if they can pay, they must have paying customers. Membership or subscription dues must be collected in order for the E-zine to be solvent enough to pay for its authors.) '

On the other hand, there's this idea that getting your name out there is worth the pro-bono short story.

This one is huge. E-books started out as rather shaky and unimpressive venture. However, they have developed into a real market, real enough that the major publishing houses have started to include e-books in their contract agreements. With the Kindle and other readers hitting the market, there was a demand for a larger variety of titles than the small independent e-book publishers could provide.

But, let's be clear, those independent e-book publishers are a market unto themselves. They make money. They make their author's money, which lends an aura of respectability to those author's who choose to release their book in electronic format with only the slightest possibility of seeing their book in print. Because, yes, many e-publishers are now releasing some of their stock in printed form.

Of course, there's still a bit of a stigma, but where is that coming from? The readers? Perhaps. Perhaps not. After all, if you own a Kindle and you're shopping through Amazon, you could very potentially end up with a title that wasn't released by one of the traditional publishers. Maybe the chance of this happening right now by accident or happenstance is relatively slim right now, but it could happen.

And what if Stephen King or Nora Roberts or Neil Gaiman decide to circumvent their publishers? People don't search for books based on their imprints. They search for a book by the author and by the title. If any of the big names ever decide to take a step away from the publishing houses and do things on their own, I believe they would succeed with an online audience.

Would that be enough, though? Probably not. While more and more people are shopping online, there are those who still don't own a computer or hold firm to their beliefs that the Internet is one big identity theft gambit, not to mention full of nothing but porn.

But, back to my point about the big names stepping away from their publishing houses...people will seek out their favorite authors because they're fans. And they'll buy from whatever venue they need to in order to get their fix.

Free podcast fiction.

In my opinion, this is one of the more intriguing choices in building your writer's platform. The first time I ran across an author who was offering up their entire novel for free, I thought I'd hit the jackpot.

In some cases, so did the authors. Some of them even ended up getting their free novels published at a later date through small presses or, in a couple of instances, through the major publishing houses themselves. Why would they ignore the whole "first publication rights" issue here? Let's put aside the fact that the stories were entertaining and focus on the fact that the podcasters had followers. Lots and lots of followers. They were about as safe a bet as the houses could make.

Self-Publishing Sites

I admit it. I look at them. I browse their titles, admire their cover art, and read the sample chapters, if they have them available. But I haven't bought any yet. Mostly because I'm afraid of what might be inside the pretty outer wrappings.

I want to think that these are the authors who have talent, but are sick and tired of playing the "shopping around" game. I want them to be worthy of the slightly higher prices, although my fear that they're not has kept me from giving any of them a fair shot.

Still, they're an option, especially for the writer who really doesn't care about feeling legitimized by the system. They're an option for the writer who just wants to hold their book in their hands regardless of who may or may not read it.

Here in the Clouds, though, I'm holding out for the Holy Grail, but I'm also watching these other trends and weighing my options.

New Design

Yep, I got bored once again. Not to mention I was really tired of the dark colors used in the last template. Since Spring is approaching - yes, it is! - I thought I'd add some bright and sun-shiny colors.

My only disappointment is that the YouTube videos still hang over the edge of the main column.

I love my PS3.

Not sure which gift I love more: the PS3 from last year or the laptop computer from this Christmas. It's a mighty close race. Hubby did good with both.

And, because I really don't have any writing related news to share, I thought I'd give you the top five reasons why I love that little piece of insanely-priced equipment.

Reason #5.
Media Center. It's not an exclusive capability to the PlayStation 3 platform, but it's a nice little perk. Of course, since I only have the 60K version (I think), I'm worried about filling up the harddrive space, so I try to limit my uploads. Right now, the majority of the pictures and music are meant to be enjoyed during the holiday season. The Christmases Past slideshow gets me in the heart every time. My, how my kiddos have grown!

Reason #4
NetFlix Instant Queue on demand. While the movies aren't the newest, there's enough variety there to provide hours and hours and hours of entertainment. All I have to do is insert my NetFlix disc (provided by Netflix, of course) and my online Instant Queue is loaded. Select a movie or sitcom. Push play.

Reason #3
PlayStation Store's free downloadable demos. Seriously, this is genius. I love the fact that I can try a game out before I trot off to the store and buy it. After you've been burned a good half-dozen times, you soon learn there's no guarantee that the game will, in reality, live up to the expectations created by the preview, because believe me, developers have learned the art of bait and switch. Jerks.

This weekend I downloaded three games.

Reason #2
Blu-Ray Player. When movies like Avatar come out, I can't wait for them to be released on Blu-Ray because its like a graphics buffet is suddenly accessible from the comfort of my couch!

And Finally...Reason #1
Gaming graphics! While I can't compare the XBox 360 to the PS3's graphic capabilities, I can comfortably say the other systems out there just can't compare. When I spend $50-60 I like knowing the graphics are going to be worth the hard-earned cash I'm forking over. (The demos are good for sampling, but to truly play the game you must buy it.)

So, there are my reasons for loving my PS3.

They're also the reason my husband claims that I've taken over the television, but I blame that on the DVR. Can't miss my shows!