Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Look for me at Wiscon!

I'm actually light on paneling for this convention, so you could just find me at the Broad Universe table just outside the Dealer's Room.  Look for our Space Quilt sign!

Besides sitting at the table and attending panels, here's where I'll be:

Friday, 4PM, Conference 2
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Members of Broad Universe, an international organization dedicated to promoting and celebrating women in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and everything in between, will present snippets of available and on-going work. Expect the touching and irreverent, humorous and frightening, action-packed and emotional, poems and prose, and at least a few surprises!

Sunday, 10AM, Room 634
It's a Broad Universe
Broad Universe is an organization dedicated to promoting, honoring, and celebrating women who write science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Come meet some members of Broad Universe and learn what tools and resources the non-profit organization offers to women writers from beginners to established levels.

Sunday, 1PM, Conference 4
Your Fandom is Ok!
It's important to remember that just because you don't like a particular fandom, you don't have the right to put down those who do. (We're looking at you, Twilight haters!) Everyone's fandom is OK! In this panel, we'll discuss why this is true, and what we can do to encourage better understanding among all members of fandom.

Sunday, 8:30PM, Room 629
Come and party with fabulous Broads and amazing military fiction writers as we celebrate how kick-a$$ awesome women writers are!  There will be readings and lots of fun.  Beer, wine, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate will be available for beverages, along with tea sandwiches, cookies, chocolate, and CAKE!

Woooooooo Wiscon!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Too busy to write today

Feel free to make your own captions... I'm exhausted!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Flying and Foodie Friday: Myrtle Beach Red Eye Special

A thick fog consumed Worcester Airport, leading to a series of misadventures that dropped the Wooldridge Clan in Myrtle Beach at 2AM and without access to their rental car…

… Our first southern meal was at 11AM today, after finally obtaining said rental car, at a Waffle House.

Any further blogging on the subject is irrelevant.

Coffee, waffles, coffee, and (unpictured) "scattered" hash browns with "all the works."

Fun to blow out your entire caloric count in one meal, huh?  Good thing I'm doing a lot of walking while I'm down here!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Beautician and the Writer

A haircut and pedicure can be intellectually stimulating.

Geek girl, fabulous hair!
Because of finances, my last trip to my usual salon was around Thanksgiving, and before that… well, the Thanksgiving before that.  (2010 was a crappy finances year.)  On top of that, the last trip to the salon had my usual beautician, Edna, on maternity leave.

It was good to see her today.  She's, and most of who she works with, are really amazing people - particularly when it comes to social interaction. As an example, it had been over a year and a half since I last saw Edna.  Yet, despite that lapse of time, she still remembered to ask about my pets, my family, my brother.  Now, she sees hundreds, if not more, people regularly.  But she remembered me!

It was by sheer luck my niece had recently reminded me she saw Edna and knew she had been out on maternity leave that I remembered to ask how her new baby was.

Then again, once we got talking, I remembered to ask about her puppy, her family in Colombia, and her husband.

Again, a lapse of over a year and a half… with someone I'd seen maybe every 3-5 months for maybe 2 years before.

As a writer, I find human interaction fascinating.  People who work in service have a special set of characteristics that make them good at what they do.  Remembering conversational details, being able to compliment at just the right time, and finding the balance of a personalized business relationship come easily - or they work hard to make it seem so. 

Another part of the job is making people feel good about themselves.  Now, it sounds almost manipulative to say it like that - but people who do well in these jobs do have that caring personality.  My mom, as an Avon lady, kept notes for herself when her customers were going through rough times - or really good times - so that she remembered to follow up and see how they were doing.  I'm pretty sure Edna doesn't keep a notebook - if she does, I didn't see it, but she kept straight in her head enough information on me where we could continue our personal relationship.  It made me feel better as her client, and it benefits her because I request her over and over, and I do my best to tip properly.

Being aware of this kind of relationship helps a writer on two levels.  In the craft, it's a great study of dialogue and professional relationship.  There's only so much time during a salon visit or an Avon call, how do you communicate these tiny, personalized details so that you can establish a relationship so quickly?  This is important for introducing readers to our characters and giving our characters good dialogue.

On the business end, paying attention to this kind of concentrated and powerful communication helps us with our queries and pitches - make someone fall in love with your book in 2-3 sentences.  Also, this is a great networking technique.  If follow an agent's blog and can remember that s/he just made a sale, open a conversation by congratulating that sale.  It's a small detail, but it's personal and it makes the person feel good about themselves.  If an agent is sharing information on their blog, it's an ongoing conversation and you're welcome to kindly continue it.  The key is "kindly."  Human beings want to feel good about themselves, so making someone feel good about it - and really meaning it - opens up more chances for a positive conversation or interaction. 

Some networking groups I've been to suggest writing a memorable hint on the back of someone's business card.  That's all fine and well, but you really don't want to be fumbling for someone's business card during a conversation.  Make a point to remember something positive about that person you're speaking with that you might be able to mention in future conversations.

Returning to your story, what are the most important points in your main character's life during your story?  You should be able to have just one or two things that stand out, and those ought to be a major part of your plot.  (If you have more than one or two things that are UTTERLY IMPORTANT, you may need to go back to your craft.  Check out the Storyfix blog for great advice on that.)  If you were meeting your main character in person, what would you bring up in a conversation?  Use these things in your pitch or query - just as if you were introducing a close friend to a new acquaintance that you hope might be a positive connection for your friend.

I can haz cute feetsies?
Thanks to Edna, not only do I have fabulous hair on my head, lack of hair where I want a lack of hair, and adorable beach feet (take a look - this doesn't happen often!), I have some new ideas on how to crafty my query for Kelpie. 

I totally needed this spa day!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 2011 Celebrating Motherhood

May_Full_episode_final_mp3.mp3 Listen on Posterous
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Welcome to the 2011 May episode of the Broad Pod!  Trisha Wooldridge from A Novel Friend Writing and Editing hosts this month's collection of short readings celebrating mothers from women writing across the realm of speculative fiction.


The Broad Pod is sponsored by Broad Universe, an international, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, honoring, and celebrating women writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Find out more about our organization, including new fiction released by women, more podcasts, and information about writing and publishing for women, visit our website at


May is for mothers, and our podcast today celebrates all kinds of motherhood.  Vonnie Winslow Crist shares surprising and magical consequences when a young woman mothers a baby bird back to health; Ann Wilkes' military science fiction has strange visitors chatting with a mother in her home; Roberta Gregory's people are celebrating the mother goddess; a young wizard has to rescue his mother from a terrible date in Katherine Mankiller's tale; and Suzanne Reynolds Alpert introduces us to the 16-year-old embodiment of the mother goddess Quan Yin.


Mothers are special beings, so sit back and listen to these great Broad snippets of how many ways someone can be a mother.

Posted via email from The Broad Pod posterous

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Horses for Fantasy Writers II: Oh, the Pain!

A few episodes back in the HBO version of A Game of Thrones, there was a brief scene of Daenerys getting off her first long ride on a horse.  Her three servants had to help her down and all but carry her to her tent.  Scott turned to me and smirked.  "You know that feeling, huh?"

Oooooh yes!

Strangely enough, not many new writers do.

The truth: Riding a horse is hard work!

I ride 1-2 times a week and I've worked my stamina up to a little over an hour in the saddle.  Still, if I'm doing a lot of trotting or climbing hills, I'm reaching for ibuprofen the next day.  And, usually, I'm wobbly for a good 10-15 minutes after dismounting.

Because, you don't just sit on a horse.  If you did that, you'd fall off.  Or hurt yourself, or hurt your horse… which brings us back to you eventually leaving your saddle unintentionally.

With a saddle

Your feet go in the stirrups with the ball of your foot on the stirrup, but your heels actually hold your weight and balance.  That means your calves are getting a good stretch.  You stabilize yourself with your knees, especially if you're leaning forward while going up a hill or holding yourself up for a trot.  Every muscle around your thigh should also be helping you keep your balance.  Your glutes and abs adjust to maintain your center of balance. If you've got a particularly spirited or stubborn horse, your arms and wrists are getting one helluva workout while steering and turning.  If you're stressed, your neck and shoulders are going to tense and ache.  (While that's not good riding, it's a common occurrence.)  Now, if you're female and not wearing proper support… which, per most fantasy cover art seems to be pretty common, your whole chest is just burning in pain, and that affects your pecs, shoulders, neck, and back.  If you're a male and you're not sitting properly, using your thigh muscles and glutes to protect your manhood, well, you're in a whole lot of other hurt.

Anyone learning to ride should expect a lot of pain in the legs and abs from working them.  Also, anyone learning to ride ought to expect a lot of pain from strains and poor posture (that we hope, eventually, gets fixed.)

A saddle better distributes weight through the lower body and, if well made, helps ease muscle strain.  It can also offer a certain amount of psychological support since new riders are often scared to actually grip a horse's mane no matter how many times they're told it doesn't hurt the horse.

Saddles also offer some extra potential injuries.  If you get thrown or fall and can't get your foot out of the stirrup, you get dragged and/or kicked.  Saddles can slide - forwards, backwards, and side to side.  This will scare a horse and totally mess with your own balance.  Imagine your horse breaking into a canter and - oops! - you didn't tighten your girth enough (another newbie mistake) and the saddle, with you in it, floops right to your poor horses belly!

Without a Saddle

So, your character hops on a horse without a saddle.  He or she better have especially strong thighs or it's take-off and hard landing time.  All the grip has to be in the thighs and core muscles to stay on, even at a walk.  You feel every move of the horse, every turn, and there's nothing for you to brace against, like stirrups, when the horse changes gears - either faster or slower.  Balance is key. 

On top of that, it can be more painful for the horse because there's nothing distributing the character's weight over a larger area.  The pressure is right on the spine, so it's more work for the horse to keep her balance and move.  A horse laden with armor and a heavy saddle can be better balanced with a heavy rider than a somewhat heavy rider - especially a newbie who may not have his or her balance, so is bouncing on the spine - going bareback.

The Inevitable Stomp and Fall

Starting on the ground:  It is an Indisputable Truth that if you spend copious amounts of time around horses, you WILL get stepped on.  On purpose, accidentally… but likely both.

I've lost count of times I've been stepped on.  In those times, I can honestly say the best foot protection is modern hiking boots with a reinforced - but NOT metal - toe.  Or, of course, proper riding boots with reinforced toes. 

A note on that metal bit… if you've got a knight in full mail with metal boots of some sort… a stomp on that metal will actually do more damage.  Why?  The metal will dent, if not bend or split, to the hoof, and it can cut off circulation to the toes.  Unless someone actually cuts away that metal bit very quickly, your character is in deep manure.  I've heard of many horror stories of steel-toe boots leading to lost toes or substantial foot and nerve injuries.

Well-made leather boots are your character's best safety measure on the stomping, but it will happen, and your character will likely limp for a few hours if it was an accident, a day or so if it was on purpose.

The second Indisputable Truth about horses is that you WILL fall off.  Master horsemen and horsewomen fall off.  In fact, they've lost track of when they lost count of how many falls they've taken.

A fall off a horse is close to the equivalent of a low-to-mid-speed car accident.  Actually being thrown from a royally pissed off horse can be as much damage as a car accident at 50-70 miles per hour.

And if you're writing high fantasy, unless you're in armor of some sort, remove all those fun safety measures that cars have.

Assume there is a certain degree of whiplash and at least a bruised rib or two, if not a cracked rib or two.  If your character's not wearing a helmet, there's potential for a concussion - or at least a good hard goose-egg and some dizzy vision.  There's a high possibility of bruised hip-bones, sprained or strained ankles and/or wrists.  We're not even getting into broken bones, or worse, broken backs/necks or immediate death from head injuries

The funny thing about most horse fall injuries, though?  Unless they are serious, you don't feel the pain of them right away.  That's why most people can get right back on a horse after a fall… you miss the part where they can hardly get out of bed the very next day.  As soon as the body realizes it's falling or is getting thrown, adrenaline rushes in and masks the pain.  Also, once you realize you can stand and aren't actually dead or have a major broken bone (if you're lucky), there's also a huge feeling of relief and euphoria - I just survived that!

When you're planning to have characters ride horses, be prepared for the pain if you want to be realistic.  While a fall or an injury - or even general wear and tear - might be a bit inconvenient to your Save-the-World plot, it makes for good character development and can be used as a good plot device when you need a character to be a bit weaker.

Happy Riding & Writing!

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Little Escape from Mania

Well, at least when I go to the barn.

People have been asking me for more pictures of Calico.  Truth is, we're actually doing more stuff now, so I never think of taking pictures or asking Amanda to take pictures. 

It's like handing me the camera at a convention.  I'm having too much fun to stop and take a photo.

Callie seems to be having fun, too.  She really likes exploring outside and is responding well to new stuff we're learning together.  As always, she's also very protective.  I'm learning the "half seat," which is basically leaning over and not sitting in the saddle.  First few times she felt me move out of the saddle, she stopped and looked back to make sure I was ok.  When we got down that we could do this at a walk, we moved to a trot.  If we started the trot when I was half seat, she was good, but if I decided to take a half seat while trotting, she had to stop and make sure I was ok.  Last lesson ended on the good note of us trotting a full lap around the ring - and over the Poles of Doom - with me in the half seat.  Yay!

The Poles of Doom are these small birch logs that we use to count steps and make the horses learn to extend and stretch their legs more - or, at least be more aware of where their hooves are falling - while we move.  Calico would prefer not to think of exactly where her feet are falling, so she doesn't like them.  However, it's good for both of our movement and balance, so we work on them a little each lesson.  If I'm not paying full attention, though, she'll cut around them.

It's really hard to pay attention while learning to keep your own balance in stirrups at a trot when you probably can still count on both hands how many times the pair of you have trotted together.

Our last visit didn't have any riding, though.  In hindsight, I probably could have still done some bending and flexibility work with her, but I'm not feeling 100% yet, and she really, really, really wanted to go back out to pasture to hang out with her girls. 

Did you know that horses, like cats, dogs, and rabbits, can master the "I'm so cute you want to make me happy, don't you?" look?  Horses - Calico's not the first horse who's done this to me - will even lay their forehead on your shoulder and sigh deeply to make their point.

I can be a real sucker for the Cuteness Factor sometimes.

So, last Friday she just got a spa treatment with a new bug guard stuff, plus Skin-So-Soft and her new fly mask, before I released her back with Babe and Sesame.  Oh the drama!  She's not the bottom of the totem pole in this herd!  She whinnies the second I let her off the lead rope, throws her head and tail to the wind and gallops - yes, gallops! - over to her girls, who fall into place alongside her and start sniffing her up and down and grooming.  Once everyone is satisfied with everyone's general well-being, they clump together and move from hay pile to grass mound.  That I took pictures of!

The other horse with the fly mask is Babe, and Sesame is the bay with a few white marks.  By now, you should be able to pick out Calico.  She's pretty hard to miss!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unexpected Reading Suggestion

Anyone writing science fiction or fantasy ought to have a subscription to Backpacker magazine.

What do current outdoors tips have to do with what's usually in a fictional far past or far future, you ask?  Well, strangely, a whole lot.

For you High Fantasy Writers

Ok, it also goes for you contemporary fantasy writers, too… but that should be an easy match.  Now, you folks who are penning a quest of  3-7 heroes camping and traveling to save the world from Evil Antagonist of Doom, know that you won't have Gore-tex ® and LED flashlights.  However, the many benefits of wool clothes or socks would still be related.  You  also ought to know how and when to make tourniquets, treat hypothermia, whether or not you can really suck venom out of a snake bite, proper rope tying techniques, and a safe guess of how long each character can safely hike carrying the proper equipment. (We're not getting into horses; that's another post.)

All of that info was just in this past month's magazine.  It was really cool!

For you Urban Fantasy Writers or Steampunk Writers

If you've got characters surviving on gritty, grimy streets - whether they are now or some version of Victoriana, they still have to survive.  Knowing how to tie knots and scale vertical surfaces comes in handy.  So does basic first aid, scavenging food, and, if you're of the ilk where werewolves roam the streets, surviving a wild animal attack.  Means to avoid hypothermia are also important, as are dealing with dehydration, cleaning water supplies, and how many things you can use a knife for might also come in handy in street smarts.

Steampunk writers might also pick a Wild West setting, which would definitely require outdoor survival skills.  And those explorers - wherever they are bound in their airships - ought to know how to properly pack their bags so they don't throw their backs out and can maximize their limited space.

For you Apocalyptic or Post-Apocalyptic Writers

Life as we know has been destroyed, and your characters have to survive in harsh climates.  Do I really need to elaborate?  Yes, I've seen tips in Backpacker about dealing with heavy metal contamination and even possible radiation. 

For you Space Opera or Space Cowboy Writers

Like any of the other spec-fic genres I've mentioned: first aid, survival in alien/harsh terrain, proper packing and loading, use of knives (primitive or laser knives), possible animal attacks are all potentially important.  On top of that, take a look at some of the current gear we have!  From Arctic sleeping bags that can fit in a pocket to footwear designed to support and protect feet without giving up benefit of toes, there's some pretty nifty stuff out there now - just extrapolate the coolness for the future.

Besides all that, just flipping through the pages and reading others' stories on camping adventures, or kick-ass jobs (this past issue), or hunting for the first time gives me a lot of new ideas for wonderful ordeals to put my characters through!  (Let me tell you how they cringe at headlines starting with "Survive" and ending with an exclamation point.)

Now, I'm not affiliated with the magazine in any way, and it's Scott's subscription.  My actual hiking happens maybe 3 times a year, max.  I'm just suggesting this bit of research and reading as a fellow writer.  Go have an adventure!  (At least on paper… I don't want to hear how YOU had to get rescued in a few issues!)

* Photo by Scott Wooldridge: Compass at Wachusett Mountain.

Monday, May 2, 2011

On Turning 33…

The majority of my birthday was spent between a writing conference and bed, sleeping - or trying to.

You see, I was up early (for me) at around 6:30-7:00 AM. to go to the Women's Words conference at WPI on Saturday.  I managed, while at the conference, to not entirely appear plagued, fall into coughing fits, and even not cough over any of the other poor human beings in my vicinity.  In fact, I even managed to not exceed my tissue quota.

My presentation was at the end, and I still managed to be coherent, if not mostly well-spoken!

Once I made it back home, my body said, "That's it.  You had your conference!  I'm throwing in the towel."

And did it.

I spent the next three or four hours between fits of coughing, chills and sleep.  Around 8 or 9 PM I dragged my sorry butt out of bed because I was hungry.  I hopped online, utterly confused as to why I had well over 200 new messages.

Oh - it was still my birthday.

There's nothing like a couple hundred well wishers to scare away germs!  Most were Facebook wall posts, some were personal emails, some were on other social networking thingies that I use.  I pulled myself together to enjoy the delicious dinner Scott cooked and catch up on the rest of the week's television - including the latest Doctor Who.  Score for positive thoughts!

Of course, most people posted earlier, so I'm crediting my good show at the writer's conference to all those wonderful friends and colleagues of mine who sent me well wishes.  The Universe concentrated them into the time I needed them most.

It was an excellent conference.  All of the presenters were great, and I was very happy to moderate the last panel on getting published, where we tried, in the small space of 90 minutes, to give everyone a 101 Intro course on the business of publishing: differences, some pros and cons for indie publishing vs. small press publishing vs. "traditional" publishing; professional groups (Yay Broad Universe - here, take a pamphlet!); query letters and nonfiction proposals; copyright fears - justified and not-so-much (No you cannot copyright ideas; no, a publishing house isn't going to hand your idea to another writer; yes, when you publish on your blog it's publishing and someone can just steal it); and way more than I can possibly remember right now.  Afterword, I chatted the pros and cons of fan fic with some sisterly geeks.  And during lunch, children's author April Jones Prince and I sat with some college students and discussed more genre stuff as well as informal publishing stories.  I am truly glad I managed to stave off illness for this conference, and I truly hope my constant hand-cleaning prevented me from afflicting any of the wonderful folks with the current plague.

For pretty much all my life, I've been sick on my birthday.  I think I've managed a few years where I've managed to only be afflicted by controlled allergies… and spring sickness has come back with a vengeance.  Regardless, it was a good birthday overall - because I say so and I feel so. 

Thank you everyone for all the happy energy!  I'm plowing forward and feeling better today than I did on Sunday… which, for the sake of happiness, we won't discuss.  I had a happy birthday!

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