Skating without a net

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.

Book View Café Announces Winner in Steampunk Photo Contest

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:


Man, that's annoying

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.


Still ready to party

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. 

Back from the dead

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.

review: AN OFF YEAR, by Claire Zulkey

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.


Hurts so good

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.


It's fun again!

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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Awesome derby practice!

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.

the deep stuff

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.