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Smoking Pigeon Sighted in Rogers Park — LiveJournal
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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Date: 2008-10-01 21:09
Subject: On slowing down
Security: Public
This is not something I do well.  Many people urge me to slow down.  Some I tell to jump in the lake.  Some, I  just look at them.   I mean, you don't tell a woman my age to slow down.  This is what women hear all our lives.  We slow down so much, we come to a standstill, sometimes for years.  That's not good.  Some women forget to rev up again.  And get bitter later.

There's another kind of slowing down, though, and that's the good kind. The "not chopping your thumb while cutting onions" slowing down.  The "not getting into a vehicular accident" slowing down.  And the "breathing autumn air and watching the leaves turn yellow against a killer-blue sky" slowing down.

That's my excuse today, anyway.  I slowed down as I left Northbrook Court to look into the catchbasin at ducks, geese, and seagulls hanging out in the water far below.  The prairie plants in the basin are so sere, it looks as though they did a burn there, but they didn't; it's just the parched grass and the dry-ripe Queen Anne's Lace stalks and flowerheads going darker and darker brown as summer dies.

When I got home I made a crock-pot soup with a couple of thick slices of beef shank--braised in hot bacon fat, then dumped in the pot with diced potato, yam, onion, and garlic--and lunched off boursin garlic cheese on apple slices, and a hunk of carnitas I bought at Rogers Park Fruit Market.  They have wonderful meat there.  Tastes extra-meaty somehow.

Then I watched "Bachelor Party" made sometime in the seventies, with all that baaad seventies hair and "Bachelor Party 2" made more recently.  They perfectly complement one another.  As a recent convert to the Judd Apatow school of entertainment about late-blooming stoners, I got off on the stupid male tricks, big time.  Am I crazy?  Will they cancel my bitch card if this gets out?  The ancillary material to the second movie says that they were deliberately subverting the "what guys expect to see in a bachelor party movie" tropes.  But I wonder.  Will I be ruining it for everyone if I say this feels like a new, relaxed form of feminism for guys, with silicon breast implants to make it feel comfy? 

I would have cut the bookend scenes making fun of the fat older black woman, however.  Really.
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Date: 2008-10-01 07:03
Subject: Mindy Klasky, guest blogger
Security: Public
Tags:sneak guests
Meet Mindy Klasky, guest blogger for today.  The third book in her excellent Jane Madison series is out as of yesterday, tra la!

Mindy Klasky is the author of nine speculative fiction novels, including MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, the third volume in the Jane Madison series, about a librarian who discovers that she's a witch.  You can learn more about Mindy at her website - www.mindyklasky.com/- including reading chapters from each of her novels. 



Available at Amazon:  http://...com/4s6vw4

Available at Powell's:  http://...com/4x79qr


(And available at most online and bricks-and-mortar bookstores near you!)




1. Why this book? What made you want to write this story?




I started writing the Jane Madison series because I wanted to play with a world that was light and fun, with a clearly defined supernatural influence.  (I had just finished the dramatic, dark, magic-less Glasswrights Series, along with a trunked novel about a world-destroying conspiracy of evil-doers who torture children, murder scholars, and do other depressing dastardly deeds.) 




Despite the lighter tone, Jane confronts some serious questions in the books - most often about the nature of friendship and family.  MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL was specifically sparked by my interest in how friendships change over time, particularly as we get older and more settled, losing some of the angst that cements some ... younger relationships.  I think that it's the perfect conclusion to the Jane Madison Series, wrapping up loose ends, while letting readers envision a future for their favorite series characters.

2. Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?




I have always enjoyed authors who build incredible characters, giving them realistic plots through which to navigate. Over time, my list of favorite authors has evolved to include more Young Adult authors (such as Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld.)  I find myself veering away from authors who take political stances that I find distasteful, particularly when their politics stray into their storytelling.  (Orson Scott Card?  I'm looking at you!)




3. Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?




I love the opportunity in genre to answer the "what if" questions.  I could certainly write a searing indictment of contemporary culture, drawing on "ripped from the headlines" stories about spousal abuse, abandoned children, tortured prisoners, etc.  I find it more intriguing, though, to structure my inquiries in speculative terms.  Readers free themselves to think more broadly when the framework for their thoughts is patently impossible.  Jane Madison readers can ask themselves about their relationships with their mothers, grandmothers, best friends, and romantic interests without needing to cut too close to the emotional bone.  Readers are less defensive and more expansive when they are freed from the direct constraints of the real world.




4. What do you find most interesting about Jane Madison? 




Jane is a bundle of contrasts and insecurities.  Usually, she knows what she should be saying and/or doing; she just doesn't remember to state those words or take those actions in the immediacy of the moment.  (Her judgment is even more impaired when the men of her dreams are around....)  I enjoy structuring Jane's foibles - mostly because she is, at heart, an educated, eloquent, strong woman who acts in her own best interest and in the best interest of those around her.  (That action becomes even more challenging in MAGIC, when Jane meets her true love, only to find that "the course of true love never did run smooth.")




5. You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

I've been a lawyer and a librarian.  I'm a wife, a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.  In between juggling all of the professional and familial hats, I am an avid reader, a cat-wrangler, a baker, a quilter, a movie-watcher, a Boston Red Sox fan, and a scrapbooker.  (Basically, I can't just sit and watch TV; I need to have something in my hands.  I get most of my quilting done during the World Series.)




6. Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do for writing?




For each of the Jane Madison books, I've conducted a lot of "spot" research, doing quick online searches for information about specific crystals, individual runes, and other magical paraphernalia.  Jane and her best friend often quote Shakespeare, challenging each other to identify the play, act, and scene.  I usually start out knowing the quotation, but I need to research the specific reference.  MAGIC is heavily tied to Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST, so I re-read the play in preparation for writing this volume.  I can't write without a live connection to the Internet (although I have to restrain myself from checking my email every twenty-seven seconds!)  In the rare times that I've tried writing without an Internet connection, I leave myself cryptic notes (e.g., "Find Stomach Crystal.")

7. I see a lot of food, especially baking, in this book. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?




I've always enjoyed baking, although I am almost always dieting.  Creating the Cake Walk bakery gave me a chance to indulge my sweet tooth in low-caloric ways! 




This fall, my baking interest is going to grow beyond the four corners of the Jane Madison series:  I'm launching a charity calendar that will include some of the Cake Walk recipes, along with favorite recipes from a variety of paranormal, urban fantasy, and mystery authors.  All profits will go to First Book, a charity with the mission of getting underprivileged children their first books to own.  (Details will be posted on my website shortly!)




8.  Jane's best friend, Melissa, goes on numerous disastrous first dates throughout the series.  Do you have your own share of first date disasters to tell?




Every one of Melissa's horrific dates has a seed of truth in one of my own first dates.  (In one horrific year, I went on 28 first dates - a record that convinced me that I was perfectly happy to live the rest of my life alone.  A couple of years after swearing off dating, I logged on to match.com (in response to prompting from my concerned, married brother.)  I reluctantly completed my dating profile, clicked on "match" and the first profile that came up belonged to the man I married 17 months later.)




9.  What are you writing now?




I've started a new urban fantasy series, the As You Wish Series.  The first volume, THERE'S THE RUB, will be in stores in October 2009.  It's about a stage manager who discovers a magic lantern with a wish-granting genie inside.  Alas, her wishes don't go precisely as she plans....




10.  Anything else that we should know about you, your writing, and the Jane Madison Series?




In addition to selling the Cake Walk recipe calendar, I am raising money for First Book by auctioning off a stunning, handmade necklace-and-earring set inspired by the Jane Madison series.  The glass jewelry was created by a prominent librarian and jewelry artist specifically for this First Book fund-raiser.  Details (including pictures of the incredible themed jewelry) will be posted on my website on October 1; the auction will close on October 31. 




Thanks for taking the time to ask these questions!  I hope that people will stop by my website and/or email me any questions at mindy@mindyklasky.com.

Thanks for stopping by, Mindy!
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Date: 2008-09-25 23:28
Subject: Delicious summer
Security: Public
Some pix at last offloaded from my phone.  The flooding in Chicago didn't disturb us much--some water in the basement, but nothing unusual.  The back yard was awash, however, so wie:

Here's one of the lovely meadows in the Lake County Forest Preserve District:

And an excellent tree I spotted in somebody's back yard on Russian Hill in San Francisco this summer.  I think it's a sumac, but don't take that to the bank.

I have no idea if anybody gives a darn about these pictures, but I love my phone camera.  I love being able to grab an image anytime.  The pix also do not suck, as pix go, considering my photography skills and the level of the technology. 

If I can figure out how to upload a sound file, I'll give you a recording of sea lions on Fisherman's Wharf in SFO.  Can I do that if I don't have the sexy, expensive version of LJ?  If I do?
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Date: 2008-09-25 22:08
Subject: Last appearance of 2008! be there or be a rectangular thing!
Security: Public
Tags:shameless plugs

Yet another quickie  Jennifer Stevenson’s Newsletter


On Saturday, October 4, I’ll be appearing at an Author Fair:


Saturday October 4


Joliet Public Library

Black Road Branch

3395 Black Road

Joliet IL 60436


Free admission!      Free parking!      Free raffle tix for prize baskets!


Check the library’s website for more details, including special events and the list of all fifty attending authors and their home sites. This Author Fest is co-hosted by Joliet Public Library, Plainfield Public Library,Shorewood Public Library, and Des Plaines Valley Public Library District.


Get your copies of The Brass Bed, The Velvet Chair, and The Bearskin Rug  signed on the spot, and I’ll throw in chocolate.


Quote for the day:

         “Where have all the brainless horndogs gone?”

              -Jewel Heiss, The Velvet Chair

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Date: 2008-09-24 08:20
Subject: Ook ook! New book!
Security: Public
Just got a copy of AN EVIL GUEST *signed by the author* ook ook!  Started reading it in the car on the way home from brunch.  Gene Wolfe!  New book!  Oook!
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Date: 2008-09-18 22:48
Subject: Synopsis Project II: evil stepchild of The Synopsis Project
Security: Public
by Jennifer Stevenson

Ex-con-man turned fraud cop Clay hears from his stepmother, Griffy, that his father is being vamped by a golddigger. Knowing he has no influence with his father, Clay hires Lucinda, a professional matchbreaker whom he knows by reputation. He advises her that his father loves antiques related to famous cons. Lucinda's cover is to try to sell Virgil the Attraction Machinkus, whose maker claimed it could make anyone irresistible. The golddigger, Sovay, recognizes Lucinda as the matchbreaker and vows to defeat her.

Fraud cop Jewel has great sex with her lover Randy, a former sex demon, but she complains that Randy, himself promiscuous, wants Jewel faithful and handy to rescue him from magical imprisonment.

Sovay daringly calls the fraud squad, claiming that a matchbreaker is selling her boyfriend fake antiques. The boss smells a weirdo. This case is for Jewel and her partner Clay, who is half in love with Jewel.

The criminal records show that Sovay is probably a golddigger. The matchbreaker was once married to a notorious criminal who was never caught. Virgil looks clean. Only Clay knows Virgil is a retired master con-artist. Clay is sweating. He never dreamed this situation would haunt him at work.

Privately, Clay phones his father, asking permission to investigate Lucinda. Virgil agrees to conceal their blood relationship, but criticizes Clay for being a lousy con artist. He thinks Clay will learn something watching Lucinda.

Clay volunteers to pose as a credulous historian interested in antiques. He'll try to get close to Lucinda. Randy can get Sovay in bed and read her mind by magic. Jewel hates this idea. Randy says Sovay looks hot.

Next day Jewel and Randy visit Virgil, warning that a criminal is in his house: Clay, an antiques burglar who works the inside stand. Virgil, tickled by the tortuosity of the situation, invites them to be his guests so they can watch Clay.

Lucinda and Clay do rival flim flam riffs over the antique machinkus, which supposedly makes on irresistably attractive. They try it on Jewel, reluctant guinea pig. It works!

At first Jewel loves it. The men are all over her. Randy is jealous. Sovay is jealous, too.

To teach Randy a lesson, Jewel lets Clay seduce her. Then she finds she can't turn it off. Every guy on the street is after her. Lucinda reverses the machinkus and Jewel is cured.

Lucinda convinces Griffy to try the machinkus next, so she can compete with Sovay for Virgil. Now that she's irresistible, Griffy almost seduces Randy. Virgil is finally shaken.

Jewel is really mad at Randy. Clay gets her into bed again.

Sovay decides to secretly try the machinkus. But Lucinda "suggests" a possible boobytrap outcome. The machinkus works on suggestible Sovay--but every word out of her mouth turns into a snake, a beetle, or a toad. Sovay has to stay silent for the next two days.

Randy now sleeps with a silent Sovay to make Jewel jealous. Jewel hits the roof. Randy vanishes, teleports into a bed somewhere in the house, and is trapped.

Jewel seeks Clay's help in searching the house for Randy's prison. Clay admits to Jewel that Virgil is his father. He stands guard so Jewel can lie on each bed in turn and summon Randy. Jewel finds him in Sovay's bed. Clay finds Sovay has six checkbooks, all in different names, ane he steals one check from each. They are interrupted. Jewel must abandon Randy's rescue.

Clay reveals to Lucinda that he is her client. He asks her how to break up Randy and Jewel. Lucinda questions him closely about his relationships. Clay tells her, Griffy is like a mother to me. Though he wants Jewel, Clay is miserable. He realizes he can't bring himself to break up Randy and Jewel.

Griffy's tactic works, and Virgil snaps. Griffy and Virgil have a loud argument.

Sovay is frantic--her window of opportunity is open but she can't speak! Her secret is comes out when they discover the machinkus been smashed under its cloth cover. Despairing, Savoy screams, "You can't leave me like this!" and snakes, toads, and beetles fly out of her mouth. Virgil cries, Out of my house! Lucinda promises to reverse Sovay's condition if they can fix the machinkus. This seems impossible.

Clay confronts Virgil, demands that he give up Sovay for Griffy's sake. Virgil is astonished at his son's backbone. He tells Clay the truth: Virgil has been conning Sovay while she thought she was conning him. Clay gives Virgil the six checks he stole from Sovay. Virgil is again impressed. Clay starts trying to fix the the machinkus.

While Clay works, Lucinda and Virgil talk privately. It turns out Lucinda is Clay's mother and Virgil's long-ago-abandoned ex-wife. They agree not to tell Clay.

Jewel kicks Sovay out of her room and climbs into bed. She and Randy have magical sex, Randy is rescued, and Jewel and Randy patch things up.

Once Clay restores the machinkus he performs a transcendent shower of flim flam. Sovay is cured and slinks out. Griffy asks to be cured, to Virgil's surprise. She confesses to smashing the machinkus so she would always be attractive to Virgil. Virgil tells Griffy he was only after Sovay's money, which he now has. Virgil apologizes and Griffy forgives him.

Jewel and Randy reappear, beautifully moist. Clay announces that he can't conceal a secret any longer: last night he found himself tempted to make himself irresistible to Jewel, but his conscience won and he, too, smashed the machinkus.


Okay, this is the weird card in my assemblage of successful synopses. I'm including it in this synopsis project precisely because it doesn't resemble the finished novel. Not even the title is the same--a version of this story became The Venus Machine (briefly) and then finally The Velvet Chair, which you can buy now in bookstores everywhere.

This was the second of two synopses I submitted to win a two-book contract. You can see the first synopsis (for The Brass Bed) at this permalink: http://smokingpigeon.livejournal.com/15603.html

Please note that for this synopsis, my agent and editor both said, "Uh, this Lucinda character--she's kind of a fifth wheel in this story, isn't she?" And I said, "Just wait, I'll make her fabulous, you'll love her."

Well, I wrote the book. I turned it in. They said (again) "Yanno, this character really isn't necessary." And dang me, but they were right. Soooooo... I deleted her. I still hope to put Lucinda to good use somewhere, somewhen. Oh well.

Also of interest, if you have read The Velvet Chair, you note that there are two antagonists who don't appear in this synopsis at all: Dr. Gustavus Adolphus Ketterfelto Kauz, and Mellish, the sinister butler. My editor said (with a studied casual tone) when she received the draft, "Hm, this mad scientist guy doesn't appear in the synopsis, does he?" And I replied in what I hoped was a sunny voice, "Nope." Fortunately she seemed to like Gussie Kauz much better than she liked Lucinda. She didn't comment on Mellish at all, possibly because I clocked him with a can of silver polish before he could make any real trouble.

What she didn't say, and I didn't have to remind her, was that editors are accustomed to getting books that disresemble the author's selling synopsis. If your delivery draft doesn't include the amazing sexy dragon villain you promised in your synopsis, it doesn't make the editor's job in-house any easier, if she has been (for example) talking up your amazing sexy dragon villain in interdepartmental meetings for the five months between her accepting the synopsis and you delivering the manuscript. However, they generally accept these authorial vagaries with grace.

Still, I don't suggest that you abuse the privilege.

If you enjoy reading about synopses that sold, you can visit the blogs of all the authors in this Synopsis Project at the following links (mostly) on September 19, 2008:

Alma Alexander (Will post on the 20th instead.)

Sam Butler

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Daryl Gregory

Simon Haynes

Jay Lake’s comments and his synopses

Kelly McCullough

Joshua Palmatier

Jeri Smith-Ready

Jennifer Stevenson

Edward Willett
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Date: 2008-09-14 16:44
Subject: testing
Security: Public
Just deleted about 300 messages. Hoping I didn't wipe my journal.
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Date: 2008-09-14 14:05
Subject: Noah? It's the Lord, Noah
Security: Public
Second solid day of rain. My basement is about an inch deep in some spots, nothing in others, and the good news is, it's still running down the drain instead of coming up. The back yard is awash. The front lawn is awash. There's three inches in the parkway. It's not supposed to stop for another four hours or so. Little birds flit around the front door, as if waiting for me to come out so they can cuss at me about the weather. I feel like apologizing, but really I didn't do it.

In Skokie, where they block the neighborhood sewer lines to keep the main sewers from backing up into basements, the neighborhood streets are four to five inches deep, right across the street.


Or should I say Quack!

A virtual cookie to anybody who can identify the quote that's the title of this post.
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Date: 2008-09-11 23:35
Security: Public
Okay, this is the Query Project, assembled courtesy of Joshua Palmatier. Below you will find a query letter I sent to an actual editor, and the result. Look well, O wolves, and learn!


Ms. Editor June 16, 2002
Major New York Publisher
New York, NY

Dear Ms. Editor,

I want to send you a single title romantic comedy, My Superhero,
complete at 100,000 words.

Four people in two bodies.
One wicked uncle.
And the great debate over the decent thing to do.
MY SUPERHERO is a romantic comedy about two people in
disguise who find each other. A repressed corporate headhunter
meets a millionaire superhero on her windowledge, and becomes his
court-appointed shrink.
The hunk on Morgan Hardcastle's office windowledge is
wearing a cape! He's Decent Guy, the insidiously persuasive
alter-ego of Chad Younger, a happy-go-lucky, irresponsible
millionaire. He thinks Morgan is sexy, even if she does let her
mother pick on her too much. Morgan thinks he's a nut.
Caught between Chad's manipulations and her own tender
heart, Morgan becomes Chad's court-appointed counselor. If she
can't straighten him out in thirty days, his crabby uncle will
have Chad put away in a loony bin. Morgan is just a corporate
headhunter. She knows zip about psychology. But she has fallen
hard for Decent Guy. She wants to save him.
Decent Guy won't let Morgan help him until he discovers her
secret identity--supervillainess Morgan Le Fay, who avenges
hypocrisy. Now he's trying to fix her psyche by tackling her
libido! Her ethics forbid her to mess with a client. But Morgan
will have to strip herself naked in more ways than one before she
can find the key to Decent Guy.
These two masters of disguise peel away one another's masks
until nothing is left between them except decency--and love.

I am a member of RWA, Chicago-North Chapter, and of SFWA. My
short fiction has been published in science fiction mass market

I look forward to sending you a proposal or completed manuscript.

Enclosed please find also the first five pages.


Jennifer Stevenson

snail mail
SASE enclosed


What you should know about this query letter is that it, and my five pages, got me a request for the full manuscript by return mail. What you should also know is that the full MS wasn't nearly as good as the query or the first five pages! My story fell apart in the middle, as so many do. The editor was right to reject it.

Note, however, that the query letter reads like book jacket copy.

It begins with high concept.

The next paragraph is a one-paragraph expansion of the high concept--an elevator pitch.

The following paragraphs resemble a "selling synopsis"--they show the development of the story up until the "and then stuff happens" point and then finish with hand-waving and the promise of a happy ending.

I think it's significant to note, in retrospect, that I didn't have much more than hand-waving in the manuscript. If I had had a really solid story, then the mini-synopsis in the query would have shown more high points leading up to the climax, and the query might have been even stronger.

Credit is due to my RWA chapter, Chicago-North, for critiquing this query before it went out. They didn't have to read the whole book to fix the query. You can get and give this kind of help with your critique partners, too! It is ALWAYS easier for a friend to write your high concept stuff, and your back cover copy, if they have NOT read the whole manuscript. Their minds are not clouded with too many facts, as yours are.

Here are the permalinks for all the other writers participating in The Query Project. Check out what they have to offer on this important topic.

Paul Crilley

Chris Dolley

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Gregory Frost

Simon Haynes

Jackie Kessler

Glenda Larke

John Levitt

Joshua Palmatier

Janni Lee Simner

Maria V. Snyder

Jennifer Stevenson

Edward Willett

David J. Williams
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Date: 2008-09-10 16:03
Subject: Breaking news
Security: Public
Long time no post.  Some news.

COMING SOON!  A new Joshua Parmetier writer's assist called THE QUERY PROJECT.  You may remember THE SYNOPSIS PROJECT some months ago.  September 12, Friday, a bunch of writers will post actual real query letters on their blogs, queries that got them noticed by editors or agents, which is the job of a query letter.  Watch this space for my query letter and my discussion thereof, and for links to all the other participating authors' blogs.

Here's some book news about great books coming or recently released from great authors:

David Henry Sterry, MASTER OF CEREMONIES: A true story of love, murder, roller skates, and Chippendales.  He wrote CHICKEN, a memoir about a young man for rent, which totally rocked.  I'm looking forward to reading this.  http://www.davidhenrysterry.com/

Ysabeau Wilce, FLORA'S DARE, sequel to FLORA SEGUNDA.   Flora is Harry Potter for girls, but smarter, and totally wonderful.  There will be a third Flora adventure!     www.crackpothall.com

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, ZAHRAH THE WINDSEEKER and THE SHADOW SPEAKER.  Fabulous Africa-set fantasy for girls, really gripping, with unforgettable smells and gut-real magic.  http://www.nnedi.com/

Nalo Hopkinson, THE  NEW MOON'S ARMS, an unforgettable book about mermen, menopause, and magic on a made-up Carribean island.  http://www.nalohopkinson.com/

Lawrence Schimel, FAIRY TALES FOR WRITERS, a bunch of really silly poems about the craziness that is a writer's life.  http://amidsummernightspress.typepad.com/

Blythe Gifford, INNOCENCE UNVEILED, a new medieval romance from Blythe, ook ook!  Great history, great angst!  Plus a next year comes a sequel to THE HARLOT'S DAUGHTER.

Patricia Rosemoor, THE LAST VAMPIRE, with Marc Paoletti.  Definitely not a Rice-style New Orleans vampire--this one's scary, not cuddly!

Pamela Mordecai, PINK ICING, ass-kicking poetry.  www.pamelamordecai.com

Coming but not out yet: 

Hiromi Goto, HALF WORLD, out Jan/Feb 2009.  Head-twisting, fever-dream fantasy.  Nothing like it out there!  See also her HOPEFUL MONSTERS collection from Arsenal Pulp Press.

Sherrill Bodine, TALK OF THE TOWN.  A gossip columnist in Chicago takes on her publisher, hoo boy!  Loaded with authentic Chicago society lifestyle details. http://www.sherrillbodine.com/blog/?p=2

Marilyn Brant, ACCORDING TO JANE, a fun contemporary story about a girl who hears Jane Austen talking to her in her head.  http://www.marilynbrant.com/
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Date: 2008-08-25 13:18
Subject: techology woes
Security: Public
Tags:luddite rants

Does everybody hate their iPod as much as I hate mine?

I've been trying to sync my iPod for about an hour and a half now.

This is supposed to be the easiest technology on the planet.

I hate it.  I hate it so much.

The basic thing--putting songs on your iPod--IS NOT EXPLAINED anywhere in the little booklet you get when you buy it. Nor is it on the e-version of the booklet they so thoughtfully send you to when you go online screaming HELP HELP HELP.

What  makes it extra special, of course, is the dire warning you get everywhere, from friends to the documentation to the screen messages, DO NOT UNPLUG YOUR IPOD!  DO NOT DO IT!  JUST DON'T!  

So I'm not unplugging it. 

This is the only reason it is not choking my toilet U-bend right now.

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Date: 2008-08-10 05:57
Subject: New skating pleasures
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby

So day before yesterday I tried out the Central Community Center (yes, that's its name, it's on Central Road) in Mount Prospect.  They have a really big track for in-line hockey use.  When I was there, on a Friday evening, there were two small kids pottering around for most of my hour-long skate.  The floor is kinda weird, made of foot-square plastic tiles that are clearly easy to maintain--click in, click out--but they also, well, click.  Every tile you skate over clicks.  With four wheels per skate, I'm clicking a LOT.  Took a bit of getting used to.  It wasn't a really sticky floor, like a poured rubber floor, but it wasn't slick like hardwood either.  They play girly hiphop, which was fun to skate to.  Cost: $5.

Not as gorgeous a facility as the Lombard Roller Rink, but a lot closer to me.  I give it an 8.5.  It'll certainly do when winter comes and I can't skate outdoors.

Something I noticed was that, with no one else in the room, I didn't push myself as hard as I do at derby practice, or at Lombard (often crowded), or outdoors.  The outdoor skates are often the most testing, because I don't turn around until a preset point, and if I'm tired by the time I get halfway there, the trip back to the car is the "push yourself" segment.

Later today, we practice on a hardwood floor.  Ook!

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Date: 2008-08-07 11:00
Subject: More RWA & SFO con report
Security: Public
Tags:con report
So I'm sitting in the 'internet cafe' portion of the Marriott bar when I see out of the corner of my eye these red shoes going by.  Tell me if you think they'd turn your head, too.  Plus, the red dress on top of 'em.


Denise Rossetti, Australian author of Extremely Hot Romance, and her red shoes.

Now that I have  your attention, here's some sea  lions we saw off Fisherman's Wharf.  They made an ungodly noise, too, which I tried to record--on my PHONE, did you know your PHONE can do this? I was stunned & thrilled--and if it works I'll upload it here.


Hm, I don't see quite  how to do the sound yet.  Will dig around.

Also, near our hotel is this lovely doorway to the James Bong Building (I am not making this up).

And finally a school of anchovies making anchovy tornadoes.  Extremely cool.  

The still photo doesn't begin to show how cool it is to see them whirling around you--literally around you, because the aquarium is a tube lying underneath the tanks, and the wild things swim over you and around you on all sides except the floor.  Other animals in the exhibit include three or four kinds of sharks, couple of rays, some flat fish, white sturgeon, I forget what else.  You can also pet the sea slugs, sea urchins, and starfish in a separate exhibit.  Enlightening, but cold.  These are cold-water creatures.

Speaking of sea slugs, apparently there are some amazingly beautiful sea snails, very tiny, down at the bottom of the darkest trenches.
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Date: 2008-08-06 07:29
Subject: post-RWA prostration
Security: Public
Tags:con report
  • Well, that was exhausting.  Let's do that again, like, next  year.  ecause there's a ton of work staring me in the face.  Plus, derby practice last night was low-key and I'm still toast.

    Things you might quite like to know about the RWA National Conference:

    It's run by paid staff of Romance Writers of America.  There are ten of them, and I think all but one luckless soul get to go work the con.  

    We get continental breakfast every morning including tasty bread-type carbs, classy fruit, and even classier cheeses.  The San Francisco Marriott worked hard to keep us happy, foodwise.

    I thought the bar overpriced until I went to other bars in the area.  Hoo boy!  SFO is a fabulous, fabulous town, but its main income source is tourism.  Bend over and reach for your wallet.  On the up side, it isn't Dallas, particularly Dallas in late July, which pleasure we enjoyed twice in recent years.  

    Pretty much every program event has real content in it.  No one ever says, "I don't  know why I'm on this panel."  Ever.

    The parties are goooood.

    There are so many women that I forget to think in certain ways, and when a man does walk by, I catch myself frowning in puzzlement, like, where did that come from?  Talking Heads noted that the girls want to be with the girls.  This week at least that is entirely the case.

    My favorite event for sheer volume of signal to noise was, I think, Bob Levine of Grand Central Publishing (formerly Warner) talking about a day in the life of a sales rep.  Takeaway points new to me:
  • A high-level sales rep such as himself (who handles all mass merch and paperback) looks at the internet all day, consulting point-of-sale sales reporting sites from major accounts, sometimes hourly.
  • A ditto (at least at Grand Central) attends and participates heavily in acquisition meetings--where they decide whether to buy a specific manuscript--and works up a pre-meeting report based on stuff like, wait for it, an author's website.
  • Sales has progress meetings on how well the current list is doing.  These guys remember every nickel every book in history has ever earned, what the advance was, how quickly it earned out, when it was remaindered, and other such dirty-laundry details that authors are hazy about

More random information of a writerly nature:

Greg Frost gets interviewed at wyrdsmiths.

MJ Rose is blogging at Ninc today.

There's a new issue of IROSF out.

My friend Marilyn Brant sold her first book, ACCORDING TO JANE.

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Date: 2008-08-02 18:13
Subject: RWA San Francisco
Security: Public
So here I am with 1800 mojito-swilling, pink-sweater-set-sporting, pear-neckleted romance authors, AND LOVING IT!

The Rita Awards are tonight.  For you sfnal types, this is our Nebs weekend and World Fantasy Convention rolled into one.  Only it lasts longer, the drinks are better and more frequent (and more often paid for by publishers), and the girls get to use the men's rooms, wherever they've managed to tape over the word MEN and put plastic flowers in the urinals. 

Plus the Harlequin party.  I was invited to attend this party by a Harlequin author with 84 books to her name, most of them HQ titles, and the Senior VP of Everything confirmed my acceptability as a guest, so I DID NOT CRASH.  However, I ate as much as your average crasher.  I also danced for hours and hours until Legba departed, leaving my body a broken, lamed thing.  What a blast.  It was good to see so many dignified professionals getting down with their bad selves.

The massive literacy signing, which this year featured over 600 authors and collected over $50,000 for adult literacy programs, had many features of interest.  I sat next to Susan Stephens, who was giving away Flake candybars (totally eclipsing my pallid Dove snackies) and offering her latest sheikh romances.  I scored three of these for my friend Helen, who lusts for sheikhs, fictional ones that is.  Also loaded up on books for my niece. 

Here's Sherill Bodine, looking svelte in (another) designer original. Her new book Talk of the Town comes out in December.  Best shoes on a book cover for 2008, I guarantee it.

Then this afternoon I signed books at the Ballantine signing.  That was cool, but exhausting.  Mary Jo Putney sat next to me, which was even cooler.

oracne and I did drinks at some point--that was a little fuzzy--and today we had Mexican at some chi-chi Westfield type mall on Market St.

Tomorrow I'll probably play tourist. Patricia Rosemoor wants to hit the aquarium and look at seals, which appeals to me.  Are there any ravens in the area?   Any suggestions? 
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Date: 2008-07-26 21:36
Subject: physical culture
Security: Public

I would never in a skillion, berjillion years have thought, twenty years ago, that today I would call myself an athlete.  Is one an athlete if one does pushups, planks, situps, leglifts, and strength training every day, plus swim every day?  Ride horses twice a week and do roller derby twice a week / skate outdoors once or twice a week?  Or is that just the average American's BTU output?

Maybe I've fallen into a threshing machine and a changeling took my place and I didn't notice.

I actually enjoy the pushups.  This is proof I'm a changeling.

It's kind of cool to wake up and feel stiff, as if I were wearing very tight spandex body armor over my upper arms and shoulders and back.

I do a fair amount of stretches every day before the morning's exercises.  Thank goodness for Pominatrix and Queen B and Poppy Z Frite teaching us stretches and The Derby Asana.  The quads pish and moan at first, but then they  thank me.

Also, from a single aqua-cize class I took at the Y early this summer, I learned this thing called "wringing out the washrag" where you stretch the arms out like an airplane, then twist the left hand up, the right hand down, looking right.  Then look left.  Then twist the hands in the opposite directions.  This "wrings" the muscles all along the arms and upper back.  Delicious!

Oo, I just did it again, to test-drive my instructions above.  Mmmm!

If you have a favorite stretch, I'd love to hear about it.  Between skating and horse riding, I'm stiff from here to there.

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Date: 2008-07-25 18:33
Subject: A fresh pleasure! A fresh pleasure!
Security: Public
 Books I'm slobbering over this week:

Wolf Tales VI, from Kate Douglas, the woman who brings you so many, many hot guy-wolf-on-guy-wolf scenes
Sorcery and the Single Girl, by Mindy Klasky, the continuing story of Jane Madison, a librarian who has serious fun
Innocence Unveiled, the newest medieval by Blythe Gifford, her historically realistic medievals are three-hanky jobs
The Last Vampire, Patricia Rosemoor, with some genuinely new and weird ideas about vampires (the bad kind)

More to come.  I'm too busy reading to post right now.
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Date: 2008-07-16 07:49
Subject: resale heaven
Security: Public
Ever since I lost all that weight, I've become this total resale junkie.  The reasoning goes, I can't afford to buy a new wardrobe, lose another twenty pounds or five inches, and then have to get rid of all the new stuff.  Resale gives me a shot at clothes in a much higher label- and price-bracket than I could ordinarily afford, allows me to try out new styles for wash- and live-ability, and relieves me of guilt if the garment doesn't work out. 

The north side of Chicago is loaded with great resale, as is tne north shore suburban scene.  Monday I was out in Crystal Lake and hit two I hadn't seen.  I'm sorry to say I don't remember the name of the first one.  It was an indie, too, and its name was something simple like THRIFT.  On Northwest Highway, waaaaay out there, in a strip mall.  They had a t-shirt that goes well with my schmantzy new black & rhinestone harlquin glasses, and (finally found!) a belt with buckle bling ditto.  They were kind enough to send me over to On Angels Wings, which is I think in the neighborhood of 31 on Northwest Highway.  

On Angels Wings benefits domestic animals in trouble in some way that I'm afraid I spaced, due to drooling over the stuff.  Bought a pair of nice shoes for a dollar.   Saw a leather jacket for forty that  matched my new glasses--probably won't commit that sin.  However, I do not yet have a leather jacket.  I'm just sayin'.

I believe it's Ellen Kushner who says that Your Leather Jacket Will Find You.  Maybe it has and I've walked away.  Wouldn't that be tragic?

While I'm bragging on the area resale shops, let me plug Unique Thrift, which has locations all over Chicago.  They're very clean and cheap, their stuff is always in good condition, they rack all clothes by garment type and color, and they have bitchin' sales.  Many's the time I've gone in there with twenty bucks in my kick and gone nuts, calculating my spending to the penny...only to find that it's half-price day on the green tags, or whatever, and I walk out with money in my pocket.
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Date: 2008-07-12 23:42
Subject: Windy City All Stars vs. Tucson Saddle Tramps
Security: Public
Tags:roller derby

Well, that was a two-peat.  Windy City whupped Tucson 138 to 14.  Once again the visitors were no match for Chicago's highly-coordinated defense and speedjamming.  I had expected a more even contest, as this team whupped Madison about as badly as Chicago did, and Tucson has been rated #6 to Chicago's #7.   Didn't happen.

The Tucson skaters didn't seem to be as, well, as fit as Chicago's.  Just not as trained-up, buff, what-have-you.  One factor that a Derby Liter suggested might play into the mix is that the Cicero Stadium floor is "sticky," i.e. a poured rubber or composite floor that feels literally a little tacky to one's skates.  The Saddle Tramps, if they have been accustomed to skating on a wood floor, would have found ours to be a nasty surprise.  This would account for them skating slowly and seeming to be winded very early in the bout.  They have my sympathy; Derby Lite's new autumn space has a sticky poured rubber floor, and we have all experienced next-level distress trying to skate up to our usual speed on it.

I've got a picture of the victory lap in  my phone.  Which is downstairs.  Not goin' down there for it now.

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