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Smoking Pigeon Sighted in Rogers Park
Jennifer Stevenson's blog
my journal
July 2010

Date: 2010-07-18 09:45
Subject: Skating without a net
Security: Public
For three weeks I've been skating on my own, as our speed team prepared for National competition.  (Lots of bronzes and a gold for our women's relay team Kola Loka and Beth Amphetamine!)  Now the whole club is on hiatus for a month.  I have to figure out how to get a respectable workout 3x a week, so I don't have a silly-putty body when practices resume in August.

Been skating two places so far: Fleetwood for public open skate sessions, on days when it's too hot to be indoors, and the Skokie Lagoons for outdoor practice at the freakin' crack of dawn, so I don't get mowed down by hordes of white guys in spandex on expensive bikes.  Also, early morning is cooler.

The Lagoons skates are more rewarding.  Great blue herons soar overhead.  Woodpeckers peal out their calls, invisible in the deep woods.  Squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks, and mice scurry across the path, thankfully well ahead of me.  I can step over about anything if I see it coming, but those little buggers are fast.  Poison ivy grows lush among fruiting raspberry canes, and the wild roses climb twenty feet up into the trees.  The lagoons themselves are still, brown water, rather unappetizing, but big white water lilies bloom on the surface, and the muddy water conjures phantom alligators in my imagination.  It's too cold for gators here, but it'd be fun, huh?

Last time, I saw a dead fawn by the side of the road and, later, a big live adult deer bounding across the path.

The path is well-maintained.  Still, sticks fall on it, coyotes poop on it, and every now and then a maintenance path crosses it.  These crossings are a menace because those paths are gravel, and gravel always gets onto the asphalt skate path.

My usual route takes me 17 miles round trip.  This is enough to make me rue my birth about halfway there, but by then of course I'm stuck.  Skate all the way back, or die now, and dying is too slow, plus the mosquitos while you wait to perish.

Skating outdoors is good for building quads, butt, and lower back: the "pusher" muscles you need when sprinting on the straightaway or at the start gun.  Starts are my worst skate skill, so hopefully I'll return to practices all buffed up, and surprise hell out of those smartypants twelve-year-olds who smoked me a month ago.

On the other hand, outdoors does nothing for the abductors, the crossover muscles on the outsides of your hips, so mine are getting flabby.  I have exercises I can do in my own room for that.  Am I doing them?   Not.  And public sessions indoors are so crammed with small children that I can't really work on those muscles to any purpose.  It'll have to be the indoor exercises.  Ugh.

Last week, proto-derby-girl Dangerspouse did the 17 miles with me and didn't whine once.  That girl is on her way.
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Date: 2010-07-15 12:56
Subject: Book View Café Announces Winner in Steampunk Photo Contest
Security: Public
Tags:book view cafe, steampunk

Christa Newman has won first place in the BVC Extraordinary Steampunk Photo Contest for her photo of a leather apron-clad steampunk diva. Ms. Newman will be given a copy of BVC's THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY: Tales of the Steam Age, Vol. I as well as Vol. II when it is published in December.

Second place goes to Randolph Fritz for his photo of two stempunk characters in masquerade. Readers’ choice goes to Randolph Fritz as well for his steamy cityscape photo. Photos by Travis Lilley and Patricia Rogers won honourable mentions.

Photos of the winning entries can be viewed at: http://www.bookviewcafe.com/index.php/News/Shadow-Conspiracy-Photo-Contest-Winners

Selected contest entries may be used in Volume II of THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY.

Congratulations to our winners!

Pick up your own copy of THE SHADOW CONSPIRACY in the Book View Cafe bookstore:

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Date: 2010-07-06 08:55
Subject: Man, that's annoying
Security: Public
I was stuck for something to post today, and then I found I couldn't post until I was forced to watch a video advertisement.

You have all been here diligently for the past year, so you've hashed this through already.  But for me, it's news.

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Date: 2010-06-16 19:50
Subject: Still ready to party
Security: Public
Whoa—long time no write.

What’s up?

I put out two ebooks at Book View Café. Fools Paradise is being serialized here every Friday, so if you’re too cheap to spring $1.99 for the whole book now, you can nibble away at it, week by week. Warning: it's in about 40 installments, and I'm only up to #23.  Keep an eye on my bookshelf for King of Hearts to show up, real soon now.


I joined the Fleetwood Speed Skating team for real, and next year I hope to compete on quads in the Grand Veteran division (over 55) against fearsome national champion Benita Harms, a.k.a. Batterin' Gram, an official with the Minnesota Roller Girls. Last week I whupped two Windy City Rollers, including one All-Star, so I’m feeling pretty cocky at the moment.

I’ve seen Billy Elliott in Chicago twice—really great show! SO political, plus all the children cursing in a north country accent, the cross-dressing coal miners, and the grandiose eville Maggie Thatcher puppet. And dancing! Nonstop dancing.

The summer crows are possibly twice or three times more numerous than they were last year, which means that the survivors of the plague have been mating and raising viable babies. Yay!

I quit eating sugar. Again. (Sheesh.) Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Diet. But...there’s always bacon!

I hate to admit it, but most of my online activity is over at my Facebook page. If I could figure out how to feed that to my LJ, this page wouldn’t look so lonesome all the time.

And that’s the news here. 
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Date: 2009-11-15 18:58
Subject: Back from the dead
Security: Public
Music:The Addams Family *snap* *snap*
Tags:crows, nature, writing
but not partying much. Holy crow, it's been a long time since I posted here. Lots of changes, but lots of fun.

1) I'm on LOA from the Windy Ctiy Rollers farm team, as I have been given one more six-month cycle in which to become draftworthy, and (being ooooold) I know it will take me more like a year, so I am "banking" my last cycle and taking the next six months or so to skate with the Fleetwood speed skating team and try to get my skills up. When I swim I can go up, down, sideways, backwards, and do immelmans; the water is part of me. I'm pretty comfy on a horse, too--most any horse. I can't say that about my skates yet, and I'll need to before I'm boutworthy.

2) I'm getting a book ready for release on Book View Cafe which I dearly love and have wanted to see out there forever: FOOLS PARADISE, a romantic comedy about stagehands. For my friends who have kindly been beta reading it for me for the past two years, this is the one that begins with a Targa full of live smelt. It's kind of Romeo & Juliet, only blue collar, and funny, and sexy, and nobody dies. Look for it there no later than January 1.

3) Last week my car broke down and I had to use the bike to get everywhere. The very day the car was done, I wiped out on the street and fell heavily on my right knee (the "good" knee). I thought the knee was frangleberried. However, it is merely pissed off. If I can get it calmed down enough to restore full range of motion I'll be on skates again by Tuesday, thank god. Because at my age, when you stop exercising for five or six days, the entire chassis puffs up. It's like dropping a marshmallow into hot chocolate, only you also have to run out and buy new pants a size larger.

4) Kyle Thiessen, Eden Robins, Ling Ma, and I did the voice exercise and then goofed off with collaging the other night, which was loads of fun. I now have a haflway decent collage started for my new Slacker Demons series, which I think I will love if I can figure out some heroines. My heroine is always my weak spot. I tend to phone her in until I realize that my lazyass-writer default heroine is a raging bitch, and then I have to rebuild her from scratch. This time we will do better.

5) It's been an incredibly lovely autumn here in the Chicago area. There's an ornamental fruit tree people use a lot here whose name I don't know, but it flowers a pinkish-white in spring, very fragrantly, and in autumn it turns yellow, orange, flame red, dark red, and plum red, plus green, all different colors at the same time. Ridiculously colorful. I don't recall these trees being so colorful in past years, so perhaps the conditions have been just right for the showiest version.

6) Migrating crows are coming back to the Chicago area for the winter. Yay!

7) I was privileged to see an invited dress rehearsal of THE ADDAMS FAMILY MUSICAL a couple of nights ago. This show is AWESOME! Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane. I'm a huge Bebe fan, so it was a thrill. Seriously, you will wish you could get tix.
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Date: 2009-06-21 14:41
Subject: review: AN OFF YEAR, by Claire Zulkey
Security: Public

Just got Claire Zulkey's first novel, AN OFF YEAR, young-adult from Dutton.  Really sweet story about a kid who chickens out on her freshman year of college at the dorm room door.  She just turns around and makes her dad take her home.  No stated reason.  She spends the next year working out whatever, very carefully neveridentifying anything specific that somebody could then force her to fix.  My favorite parts are the shrink sessions.  I have a terrible weakness for fictional and cinematicshrinks.

Zulkey's heroine is way true to life.  I want to slap her and yet I know I have been her, so I side with her anyway.

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Date: 2009-06-08 12:31
Subject: Hurts so good
Security: Public
Tags:exercise, roller derby

I know I’ve officially lost  my mind because I find I enjoy getting hit at roller derby almost as much as hitting.  After that first good slam, I don’t feel anything except jazzed.  Could this be what my Danish and German ancestors meant by ‘berserk?’  36 hours later the Ooog, or Good Hurt, sets in.

Short of injury, I love it.  Anything that goes crunch, or Ow after a minute or so, or blood, not so much. Athletes know that there is a Good Hurt and a Bad Hurt.  Now you know.

Yesterday I learned three things that may get me to the next level. 

First, tuck yer butt!  The lower back should be slightly rounded, the tailbone pointed at the ground.  This not only engages the abs more securely but also lets the glutes take over some of the work that, in a more up-heinie or baboon-like posture, is thrown upon our overworked quads and hamstring muscles.

This is the opposite of what we do in horseback riding, where an arched back and a popo-prominent posture are approved.

Second, when crossing over, the weight transfers from right leg to left leg in a natural progression, timed to allow the left (inside) leg to r-e-a-c-h as far as possible so you get the most snap and greatest acceleration. 

I’ve been doing everything but. . . keeping my weight on the right leg the whole time, which makes the pull with the left skate a weak sister, or transferring my weight too soon, which prevents a long reach and again, weakens the pull. 

 Three, do all your turning with your hips.  This prevents the shoulders and arms from swinging around, soaking up energy you want put into forward motion. It also helps keep the right hip and the bottom right ribs almost in contact on those tight end turns.

This time, the lightbulb went on thanks to the ministrations of Pominatrix,who took over our speed class.  All hail Pom!

These wonderful things result in the Good Hurt:  sore glutes and sore lowest-band abs, two areas that I have a hard time getting to work. 

If you know any glute or low-ab exercises, shoot ‘em over!

Jen alias Flash Hottie - read my stuff here.

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Date: 2009-06-02 01:05
Subject: It's fun again!
Security: Public
Location:cloud nine
Music:"Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
Tags:roller derby
Back in the derby game after a knee injury, worrying whether I'd have fun or just be too tired to roll--tonight's practice was like that big cannon staring me in the face, with the fuse lit.

But it was SUPER FUN!  Turns out, I get energized by hitting other women.  And by hitting back!   Damn.  The skating around in circles for twenty minutes at a time makes me tired, but hitting and being hit, WOW what fun!!!  And it turns out that if I'm gonna get hit, and take the offensive and hit first before they can clobber me, they kind of  lay off me after that.  Just a little bit.  Heh!

I hit the ground a lot tonight.  Couple of three-girl pileups, plus some serious clockation from time to time.  I think I'm supposed to hate that, but I just -- Plain -- DON'T!    I love it!  LOVE IT!!!

I'm supposed to be asleep right now.  Instead I'm lying awake, grinning into the dark, reliving the flying-through-the-air-and-falling just as much as the zooming-up-and-clobbering.

Okay, somebody go get her meds.
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Date: 2009-02-10 07:43
Subject: Awesome derby practice!
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby
Last night we did the closest thing to real roller derby we've had, and I'm WOOTING!  OMFG it was fun.  We paired off, two blockers defending against one blocker and one jammer, and we had FUN FUN FUN!  I learned that with even one blocker on my side I jam a heck of a lot better, that two average skaters can whup two pretty darned good ones if they have a plan, that indeed the best defense is a good offense, that psychological intimidation can work against someone who scares you, that if I kept my feet moving I stay on them . . . oh fabulous things!

This picture is an invitation to everybody in the Chicago area to come to the Windy City Rollers fundraiser.

Feb 13, 2009 8:00 PM Union Park Lounge
228 S. Racine, Chicago, IL

Drink Ticket w/$10 Donation

Karaoke, Silent Auction, Raffle
Chance to win tix to a bout
Chance to win track-side seats to a bout
Grand Prize Season Tix
Drink Specials:
$5 Pitchers of Miller Lite, Bud Lite and Coors Light
$5 Martinis

PLUS you get a chance to see all your favorite derby girls in prom dresses!

Although maybe not me.  Secret about me: the dress my mother bought me for my senior prom?  It was all white lace, a very prim narrow-bell Edwardian thing with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a high, tight collar, of COURSE utterly unlike anything fashionable at the time, and it later served as my wedding dress.  Which I'm sure she planned when she bought it.  I have no idea what I'll wear. 

Oh, yes I do.  But I won't tell you here.  You'll have to show up to find out.
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Date: 2009-01-21 21:39
Subject: the deep stuff
Security: Public
Tags:crows, nature
Snow, that is.  We're up to about two inches over our entire average annual snowfall here in Chicago, and it's only mid-January.

Today I saw two peregrine falcons within ten feet of each other in Edgewater.  Clearly mates.  They may be the ones who nest on top of that retirement hive at the NW corner of Devon and Broadway.  I've been finding pigeon carcasses plucked by hawks in that area for years, so I'm betting yes.

Two days ago I surprised a red tailed hawk as it was ripping nibbles out of a roadkilled bunny on a quiet, snowy street in Skokie.  Took pix with my phone, which I will spare you.  It ignored me where I was parked 30 feet away and watching, until someone drove up from the other end of the street.  Then it flew into a low tree nearby and looked daggers at us.

Crows continue to come around--with all the snow, the bitter cold, and sometimes both at once, they have decided they like my feeder enough to spend much of the day hanging around.   Two of them in particular will hang out in front of the house and try to lure  me playing into copycat, which I will do if I'm already outside, but not for long in this cold.  Some crows have been "dogfighting"--usually a mating behavior, unless it's pure gimme-that-peanut behavior.  Kind of early for that.  Usually they begin the mating flight behavior in February.

I've been in my pajamas since just after noon.  Pure luxury!

Wrote 22 lame-o pages of a comic book story.  I didn't expect much of it; just wanted to string some episodes together and see if and how they sucked.  Yup, they do, and I think they need more intense, more focused conflict.  Need to get this done by Friday for a contest, only open to derby girls writing about derby.
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Date: 2009-01-06 22:05
Subject: Blue Mounds, wild turkeys
Security: Public

We visited friends for New Year's Day at their amazingly beautiful vineyard/farm in the Blue Mounds area outside Madison, and spotted this piliated woodpecker on a tree right beside the road.  He was shy, but he got used to us.  I got the lame-o photo above with my cell phone.

It was GORGEOUS.  Bigger than a crow, black back, grey breast, a looong neck with vertical black and white stripe down the side, a huge beak proportioned like a heron's beak for major tree-whacking, with a streak of red and yellow along the lips and a long scarlet crest on the crown.  WOW.  I mean major WOW.

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Date: 2008-12-24 18:32
Subject: Happy Holidays!
Security: Public

Go watch this.  It'll put a smile on your face.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao

Dunno 'bout you all but I'm bushed.  Shopped out, sick of shovelling snow and ice, and WAY tired of driving in the slush among my fellow pre-holiday motorists.  Ye gods.  May we all sleep in tomorrow, enjoy a relaxing day with our loved ones, and experience transcendent and lasting mellowness.

Peace out, lovely ones!

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Date: 2008-12-21 14:00
Subject: Feeding crows again
Security: Public

They're baaaack!  As soon as the snow covered everything, they were at my house.  They're out front now, yelling, though I've fed them about twelve pounds of dogfood, soaked in hot water and drenched in melted bacon fat, already today.  Here's a decent picture,might be from last year but the view is identical (especially, it's snowing, ugh!).  LOTS of crows at the feeder this year.  I just took a pic (inferior to this) of eight of them on the feeder tray itself and another dozen or more on the ground, plus more swooping around or sitting in the trees.
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Date: 2008-12-21 12:44
Subject: Wow the coyote
Security: Public
Just found this blog through a link on a list.  Some woman in Wyoming found a 4-day-old coyote kit and is raising him.

Mostly pictures.  But some words, which I need.  I'm paging through the archives as I write this.

Hot damn!

We have coyotes here in the Chicago area.  Rich and I were walking in a Mettawa forest preserve, through a meadowy part, and saw coyotes sitting around a brush pile on a farm.  They watched us but did nothing.  Did I post the pix?  argh, must check back...
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Date: 2008-12-12 22:14
Subject: still sore, but happy
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby
Well, I'm three weeks into my official standing as a farm teamer with the Windy City Rollers.  We have a new team name--The Haymarket Rioters--and we have had three practices so far.  Each one has left me less tired than the one before. 

Tomorrow we will have the first boot camp since I joined.  This is "dry land" strength and agility training--no skates.  I'm giving up a riding lesson to do this.  From all reports, I can expect to get my behind hammered.  Woo hoo! 

Today a couple of us went over to a quiet rink and practiced dropping to one knee and getting back up without stopping forward roll; also slaloms, swizzles, and "whistle turns," which means you sort of jump around and end up skating backward, then jump around and end up skating forward.  Also, I may have had a breakthrough with the baseball slide, but maybe I'm kidding myself. 

Very soon, we will scrimmage!  Real derby girls (our coaches) will try to knock us down!  It will be fun!
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Date: 2008-12-07 22:49
Subject: Help Vera
Security: Public
I've never done one of these, and the technology alone is liable to dumbfound me, but here goes.

Via the LJ community HelpVera, I'm trying to auction off four autographed books:  THE BRASS BED, THE VELVET CHAIR, THE BEARSKIN RUG, and TRASH SEX MAGIC.  Covers here:

More details about why Vera Nazarian needs help are available at HelpVera on LJ.

The auction for these books will run until a week from today, December 12, 2008.

I'll probably have to edit this post several times.  Bear with me!

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Date: 2008-11-21 08:46
Subject: Book View Cafe has launched!
Security: Public

Omigod, it's been a busy week.  I put off this post until the hard hard launch, and then the launch swept over me like half a dozen speeding roller derby girls.  Yowch!

Here's the official ballyhoo.


BookViewCafe.com launches today. Twenty-five authors are offering free or cheap online reads. There’s something new every single day at Book View Cafe.


If you have an iPhone, you can also get BookViewCafe reads free through the TextOnPhone function, including the full text of my sexy, funny paranormal, The Brass Bed.


Who’s in Book View Cafe


Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Brenda Clough, Kate Daniel, Laura Anne Gilman, Christie Golden, Anne Harris, Sylvia Kelso, Ursula K. LeGuin, Rebecca Lickiss, Vonda N. McIntyre, Nancy Jane Moore, Pati Nagle, Darci Pattison, Irene Radford, Madeleine Robins, Amy Sterling, Jennifer Stevenson, Susan Wright, and Sarah Zettel.


We also blog




After three days we  had nearly 1900 Google mentions.  After five days we have 165 registered users.   The Guardian made Book View Cafe their Site of the Week.  Scalzi, Galleycat, SFcrowsnest, and www.SCIFI.co.uk have noticed us, among many others.

I'm totally awed.  I'd say I didn't know it was loaded, but we've been working like dogs on this since April, so it's no surprise we're already taking off.
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Date: 2008-11-16 06:22
Subject: Two more Windy City All Stars wins!
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby
Windy City vs. Rat City - 157 - 63!

Windy City vs. Texecutioners - 110 - 97!

I was not present, nor (as I was at a party) could I stay glued to the DerbyNewsNetwork.com running on wifi in the corner of the party, but there was much rejoicing and animal cries of glee when we heard the news.

Next up to taste the steel of the slaughterhouse city--Gotham Girls--I THINK.  I can't find the score anywhere online.  Certainly it's time to set right a few little misunderstandings from Madison.  Thank goodness there's nothing on my plate today to get in the way of me watching the final boutcast!
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Date: 2008-11-12 21:40
Subject: White cat watching black cat watching ?
Security: Public
  The neighbor's black cat can actually catch squirrels--I've seen him do it--but he doesn't do much with them.  Sort of 'dribbles' them, like a soccer player keeping the ball between his feet as he moves downfield.  The squirrels seem to enjoy the exercise.  They toy with him.  Bob watches the whole thing through the window.
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Date: 2008-11-12 21:34
Subject: More tacky pix of this glorious autumn
Security: Public

My phone doesn't do such a bad job.  Here's some glorious stuff from the past two weeks.

Reading from left to right, we have turning sumac, stinkbugs on a milkweed plant, couple of shots of the forest preserve we like, and three trees in Skokie side-by-side.

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Date: 2008-11-12 20:55
Subject: But it's a good hurt!
Security: Public

Informal derby practice Monday night--an easy skate, though  I fell down a lot, and next day my chiropractor had to adjust one knee, one foot, one elbow, one  hip, and my neck.  Speed skating at Fleetwood Tuesday night including Coach Jason's pliometrics (sp?) session at the end, and I came home with five blisters but no serious decomwabulation.  Wednesday finds me filled with a strange lassitude, as if the chassis is requesting six months off to hibernate.  Speed skating tomorrow night, with extra lumps from Coach Dave for the derby girls.  Thank goodness somebody's carpooling with me, so I won't fall asleep at the wheel.

What am I saying?  I'll have blisters on my blisters.  At least my feet will be awake.

Right now I don't see a huge improvement in my speed or stamina.  Since my behind was whupped last night by a seven-year-old and then by a four-year-old, both of them pupils of this speed class, I guess there's nowhere to go but up.   Maybe it'll show in a couple of weeks.  Honest to god, that four-year-old barely came up to my knees.  And I have short legs.   He beat a lot of us.

I seem to remember I had some pictures to show y'all.  Continued on next rock fer that.

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Date: 2008-11-05 19:53
Subject: In tears of joy
Security: Public
Weighing in late behind the world already celebrating.

Today I drove past George Armstrong Custer Elementary School (not making that up) and stopped at a stop sign while two young black girls, maybe seven and twelve, walked across the street to school.  It occurred to me suddenly that they would not grow old believing that something like this could never happen.  They would not grow old with that hopeless Not For Me feeling.  Their entire lives stretched before them with this win embedded in their childhoods, setting the bar of possibility higher than it has ever been for children like them, ever.

I burst into tears behind the wheel, and the older girl cut her eyes at the crazy white lady looking at her and crying in her car.
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Date: 2008-11-01 23:48
Subject: OOK OOK!
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby

Gotta woot!  Ti-ra-ra-la-i-tu!  I gloat!  Hear me!

I tried out for the Windy City Rollers farm team today and GOT IN!

Twenty of us signed up.  Only ten or eleven would be chosen.  Two were no-shows and one was sick.  A fourth bailed early.  That left sixteen, all but about three of whom were, may I say it, bitchin' good athletes.  I mean, some of them were leaping off the ground like rock stars on crack, and others were incredibly fast on skates, and still others could do pushups like nobody's business.  All of them were younger than I by about twenty years.

I was pretty anxious about this tryout.  But other than some darned hard mat and warmup exercises, it was nothing new.  When we get to the bumpin' and fallin' part, I expect to be surprised. 


Of course this means I have to stop eating sugar again.  Argh, argh.  But it'll be worth it.  Once again I'll be coming home from practice feeling used up, take two days to recover...and on day three, NEW MUSCLES!


This is just AWESOME.

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Date: 2008-10-29 15:53
Subject: Stealth blog visitor: DIANA PHAROAH FRANCIS
Security: Public
Tags:guest blogging

Diana Pharaoh Francis’s latest book, The Black Ship, is the second in her Crosspointe Chronicles series. It a novel of adventure at sea, friendship, betrayal and magic, and will be released November 4th, 2008. 

1) What was your inspiration for writing The Black Ship?

Well, there were a couple of things that led to writing this book. First, I meant for it to completely stand alone, so very little of the first book in the series, The Cipher, ends up in this book. A bit of it is there as backstory, but this book is really about Thorn and his big mouth and the trouble he gets into. At the same time, I wanted to tie into the unrest and political events that started showing up in The Cipher, but hopefully those flow naturally from Thorn's story. Probably most importantly, I wanted to get my characters out onto the Inland Sea because it is such a marvelously strange sea. It's a magical see where what was shallow a moment ago is now deep, where the currents shift in the blink of an eye, and it's filled with magic and monsters. Many ships don't survive. Exploring the sea, more than anything, is what pushed me to write this book about these characters. And once I met Thorn and Plusby and several others, I had to tell their stories.

2) What do you find most interesting about Thorn?

I’ve become very interested in flawed characters—in people who don’t always do things in their own best interests, or who are contradictory and sometimes dangerous to themselves. These flaws can be incredibly valuable, when you think about people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others. Yet those flaws can be dangerous, too. Thorn fascinates me because he ends up in a place where he’s torn between doing one version of right and doing another and he doesn’t know which is the more right thing to do, but he can't do both. That and he’s snarky and sometimes rude and he was huge fun to write.

3) What is it about fantasy that attracts you?

I think it’s the possibility for real heroism, and that an individual can have an enormous impact on his or her world. That a person’s decisions matter to the larger world, and that honor is worth something, and so is sacrifice.

4) What sort of research did you do to write this book?

I did something incredibly bizarre. I set this book on a square-rigged clipper ship, even though I’d never been sailing. Ever. I didn’t know anything. So I did a lot of research on clipper ships, square-riggers, the commands that are used, the feeling of being on the sea, life aboard and so on and so forth. I went out to Washington to take a short cruise on The Lady Washington and asked a whole lot of questions. I read all sorts of sailing accounts and manuals and fiction about sailing. I looked for diagrams and slang, I looked for everything that might have anything to do with sailing anywhere. I watched The Deadliest Catch to see a cold, vicious ocean in action. The process was wonderful. I think that when people read this book that they’ll really feel like they are aboard a ship. At least I hope they get that.

5) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

I have so many favorites. Wow. Well, early on I read the Narnia books over and over, and of course the Madeleine L’Engle books. But I remember that the books that really jolted me into reading broadly in fantasy were Zelazney’s Amber books. I still don’t know what it was about them that appealed so much to me at that time, but after that, I became an avid reader of fantasy, almost excluding anything else.

As for favorites now . . . I love Carol Berg and Robin McKinley. I’m a fan of Marjorie Liu, Anne Bishop and Guy Gavriel Kay. But really, I’m a voracious reader and I have so many favorites that I couldn’t begin to cover them here.

6) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

I have always been a storyteller, but I didn’t start writing until I got into college. Then I tried to write mainstream sorts of fictions. They were bad. My heart wasn’t invested in them. Eventually I began to write fantasy, which made me so much happier. As for how I got where I am now? Hmmmm. Where am I? Essentially I did some short stories and published a few of them, but I am really more a novel writer—short fiction doesn’t really come to me very often and it's uncomfortable to write, not like novels. So I worked on a novel, then another one, and then another one. At the same time, I was getting my MA and my Ph.D.

Then one day a friend (Jennifer Stevenson) asked if I’d like to do a novel in a week. I said . . . “wha…?” She explained that a novel in a week is when you take time off from life. Most people can carve out a single week of life from work, family, and other obligations and totally focus on writing. The idea is to write as much as you can during that time. When you’re done, you’ll know if you’ve got the beginnings of something (or maybe a complete draft if you’re really kicking butt on the writing), or you’ll know if it’s not worth pursuing. Either way, you’ve only lost a week to it.

So I did this, and found that I was really rocking on a novel I liked. It turned out to be Path of Fate, my first published novel. I did the submitting rounds and it was picked up by Roc.

7) What does a typical writing day look like for you?

There’s no such thing as typical. I’m still working full time, and I have a family with kids, and so I end up squeezing the writing in wherever and whenever I can. I’ve become a lot better about getting more accomplished in shorter bits of time, but really, I’m always scrambling to keep all the balls in the air and hoping none of them shatter if they fall.

8) Where do you write?

I usually write in my office. It’s a room in the upstairs of my 1917 house. It’s painted purple and has a bank of five windows that looks out over the front yard and lets in a lot of light. It’s got wall to wall books and my ‘desk’ is an old kitchen table from when I was growing up. It is about eight feet long and about five feet wide. It’s also piled with papers and books, my computer, printer and scanner. On the walls are swords, a battle ax, a munch of maps, and a bunch of pics. I also have two lava lamps, one shaped like a space ship.

9) What is hardest for you as a writer?

You know, it really all depends on the day. Like many writers, my ego is sometimes fragile so some days it’s just hard to believe that what I’m writing isn’t utter dreck. Then other days, it’s squeezing out time to write. And then maybe it’s getting through a particularly tricky scene, or figuring out how to fix a scene that just won’t work the way it is. The hardest thing changes every day.

10) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

The Path books (Path of Fate, Path of Honor, Path of Blood) are traditional epic fantasy. The first focuses on Reisil and how she has to make a choice to do something she absolutely doesn’t want to do, even though everybody else thinks is a great honor. In the second book, she finds out that not everybody is what they seem to be, and that evil can be really seductive. In the third book, she finally comes into herself and must really embrace who she’s become.

The Cipher is the first of the Crosspointe Chronicles, and is about Lucy and Marten. They are both very flawed characters and must come to terms with their flaws. In the course of it, they do some pretty awful things, even though both want to be good peopel. I really like them both. This world is not your usual epic fantasy world and has a lot in common with Victorian England.

11) How do people find out more about you and your novels?

First, thanks everyone for hanging out with me. I appreciate it. To buy the books, head over here to Mysterious Galaxy , Barnes and Noble , or Amazon.  For more about me, a taste of the books, or random useful information, go to my website. Here’s a link for my blog, Mad Libs.

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Date: 2008-10-17 10:52
Subject: The writing life, so far
Security: Public
I'm dead beat.  I'm developing five projects at once, kinda, going to workshops, showing my face at author fairs, working like a maniac on the Super Secret Cool Project that will debut sometime in late October or early November, skating three times a week, riding horses twice a week, and swimming every day.

Last week I attended a workshop with Kim Castillo, a writer's virtual personal assistant with such illustrious clients as Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, Edith Layton, and Madeline Hunter.  Kim talked about her job, told us what her bestselling clients are doing for online promotion, and brought us up to date on how her part of the biz is changing.  I got some good ideas, and a nifty free book by Edith Layton.

This here is Kim:

Since she's a virtual assistant, she doesn't have to live where her clients live.

I gotta say, I'm tempted.  But can I get a virtual assistant to clean up my office?  That'll be next.
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Date: 2008-10-17 10:45
Subject: Some things stay the same, thank goodness
Security: Public

This is Tony Del Ciello, from the Italian town of that  name, who lives mostly in Chicago these days and blesses us with a little chunk of life the way it could be.  Once a year he pedals this wagon through my neighborhood, ringing his bells, and people come out of their houses with armloads of knives, which he sharpens by hand on this stone wheel.  Dirt cheap, may I add.  I must have had twenty knives sharpened by him today.
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Date: 2008-10-17 10:45
Subject: Derby goddess
Security: Public

In the excitement at the Eastern Regional Finals in Madison, I was only able to get one good photo:  This is Ying O'Fire of the Manic Attackers from the Windy City Rollers league, seen here in her Windy City All Stars uniform.  Ying is famous for her light-hearted style and amazing, athletic, and unexpected leaps and stunts.  Be sure to watch her and Malice With Chains warming up before bouts!
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Date: 2008-10-17 10:41
Subject: (no subject)
Security: Public

Man, is it beautiful here this fall.  The trees are turning, one species at a time, first the honey locusts going brilliant yellow, then the sugar maples flaming up, then the oaks going pink.  WOW.  Here's some pix from our favorite Lake County forest preserves.

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Date: 2008-10-17 10:19
Subject: Joliet Author Fair 2008
Security: Public
Tags:joliet author fair
Here's some buddies show showed up to the Joliet Author Fair.  The Black Road Branch of the Joliet Public Library puts on a heck of an author fair in early October.  Great fun, lots of authors, lots of goodies & raffles.

          Sherrill Bodine                                       Frederica Meiners                            Margot Justes

       Cathie Linz                                              Maureen Lang

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Date: 2008-10-11 22:28
Subject: Windy City wins against Carolina!
Security: Public
Music:"We are the champions" ... almost
Tags:roller derby
AWESOME bout against Raleigh's Carolina Roller Girls this evening!  I actually watched it on my computer, live streaming from Derby Network News at http://www.derbynewsnetwork.com/leadjammer.  Tune in tomorrow at 4pm central time to see Windy City do battle with ... argh ... Gotham. 

Final score: Windy City 106 to Carolina 66.

Notable bout in that most of the time, most of the skaters were in the penalty box.  Two ejections--Princess America (Carolina) from the first half, Megan Formor(Chicago) from the second half, but so late in the bout that she got her licks in pretty much the whole time.  Look out for number 1980! 

The DNN announcers seemed to be getting a little tired of Windy's "crushing" game, and I understand their feelings.  It's tough to be on the receiving end of this amazing team, which has a killer defense, physical but intelligent, loads of eville strategy, and the fastest and nimblest jammers in the country.  I was proud to see our gals do so well!  Shouting out to the skaters I saw skate with Megan in this evening's bout: Belle Diablo, Malice With Chains, Ying O'Fire, Kola Loka, Shocka Conduit, Hoosier Mama, Donna Party, Blossom Bruiso, Athena De Crime, Yvette Yourmaker, and the so-speedy Varla Vendetta.  I have a feeling I caught a glimpse of Goldie Shocks and one or two others for brief spells, but I had to walk away from the computer sometimes, argh argh.

Pardon me while I woot in a bloodthirsty manner.

Nobody seems to be taking any bets on who's gonna win tomorrow's final final bout.  That's cuz our girls are soooo good.
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Date: 2008-10-03 20:07
Subject: Autumn
Security: Public
Tags:outdoor skating
Skated to the health club today.   I get a ridiculous charge out of figuring the best routes--smoothest, quietest side streets, best way to get down that hill without sticking a wheel in a chuckhole, passing through route bottlenecks smoothly and quickly.

Fall has set in here in Chicago.  We gots 40+ degree nights and 60+ degree days.  The sky is an incredible blue, when we can see it.  I've been tantalized by crow sightings, a pair here, a trio there, always too far away to call to.  Pretty soon, though, the winter crows will start trickling into town in batches of 16 and 25.  Wonder what they'll say when they see the high school training fields all plowed up and (in some areas) resodded.  Something pithy in Crow, no doubt.

One of the nicest aspects of this fall is that I'm remembering trudging to school during fabulous weather like this, and sighing.   Now I can go skating, or drive up to the Botanical Gardens and walk through gorgeous landscapes, or hang out in a coffeeshop and write.

I didn't hate school but I didn't love it.  It was a warehouse.  I read novels behind my textbooks, and peeked out every five or ten minutes to see that the class, like a daytime drama, had inched one paragraph ahead, so I ducked back into my book-inside-a-book and zoned out.  Sometimes a teacher would try to catch me out at that.  I still had the answer for her.  Because, hello, I'd seen in coming ten minutes ago.

I wonder if school is like that for any kids now.  They say that college-bound kids are under "incredible pressure" to perform well, get excellent grades, have extra-curricular activities that make them look good on paper, blah blah.  Starting in grade school.
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