Thursday, December 25, 2008

Episode 24 - Happy Holidays, You Perverts

It's 12:30AM, Christmas day. I've been up since 5AM, and refused to go to sleep until this sucker was finished and posted. That's how much I love all of you. Really!

Aside from the web comic and the book I'm currently editing (Future Perfect, due out in February 2009 from Logical Lust Publications), I decided to take it easy this week. My parents are here, along with my sister. I had one day where I buried myself in editing, and I missed out on making the gingerbread house, so that was the end of my daytime work hours. Since then, I've played Twister, made fudge with the kids, gone book shopping (our extended family overwhelmed the cafe in Barnes & Nobles!), wrapped presents, gone to church (yes, my family dragged the only Buddhist they know to church, and I had to stand through the whole mass, it was so dang crowded), and tossed naughty story ideas back and forth with my good friend Kathleen Bradean. We want to write something super-naughty, kind of like that cartoon up there.

Anyway, I need to hit the hay, because I know the kids are going to yank me out of bed at any minute, screaming, "Santa came! Santa came! And he left presents!" Here's hoping Santa hits your house too and leaves you something fun.

Merry Christmas and happy Boddhi Day ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homemade Holidays

I've had a lousy week do to work issues, and I'm so fed up and frustrated that I can't seem to stop snapping at my kids. I hate being the Grinch, so I decided to take a little time off from my obsessing about stuff that I can do absolutely nothing to fix and spend an evening just enjoying my girls instead. Cassie needed to make a Christmas ornament for her bus driver and Sam was in a pissy mood because Cass has all the good play jewelry and she wanted something new. So I broke out all my old beading stuff and this is what we made.

Cassie's holiday ornament. She did most of this herself. I helped by bending the wires after she beaded them and then finishing things off by making the final loop for the hook. Otherwise, everything else is all her work.

Sam's new necklace. I used memory wire, which holds its shape forever. That way I didn't have to add a clasp to the ends or tie anything off. She can just slip it around her neck, but it still has an opening so the necklace will come off if it gets caught on anything. Sam picked out the beads and handed them to me. I did the stringing and finished off the ends with some needlenose pliers.

There was a lot of fussing and fighting over beads and who got Mommy's help when, but all of that taught me a very important lesson. Doing any sort of craft thing with kids can be frustrating and stressful, but not nearly as frustrating and stressful as what some adults (who should know better) do to others. I'll take my girls over most adults any day of the week.

Funny How Things Change

Before I had kids, I used to go to the bookstore all the time. Seriously, I lived there. I even dreamed that I owned a house that was a bookstore, complete with a fancy cafe and all the cappuccino I could drink.

After having my first child, I quit going to bookstores for a while. It was just too hard. I couldn't browse for books while handling a screaming baby. It got a little easier as Cassie got older and developed an interest in books, but even then I frequently found myself trapped in the kids' section of the store, watching my daughter tear around the place and wishing I could somehow magically transport myself to the magazines, science fiction, mystery, non-fiction... Any part of the store that didn't involve Disney Princess books and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Now that Cassie is in kindergarten and Sam is almost ready for preschool, I'd begun to look forward to the day when I'd be able to hit the bookstore alone. I could browse for hours without listening to someone whine "I'm boooooored!" I could order a piece of cheesecake at the cafe and not worry about someone dropping it on the floor before I could get a bite. I could have coffee and not have to argue with a small tot over why they can't have another sip of my delicious and highly caffeinated beverage. Then came today.

I needed to get some gift cards for Cassie's teachers. The bookstore seemed like the best bet for a teacher gift. I grabbed my wallet, coat and keys and turned to Sam.

"Okay, let's go to the bookstore!"

"No! I don wanna go bookstore! I stay home with Dada!"

"Huh? Uh... I'm going to the bookstore, sweetie. You know, books? Thomas the Tank Engine? Disney Princess stories? Cookies and brownies and treats? Let's get your coat on, okay?"


I looked at my husband. He looked back at me and shrugged. "Go ahead. She can stay here with me."

So I went. And I hated it. I didn't have anyone to sit with me at the cafe. I didn't have anyone to chat with as I browsed for books. I didn't have anyone to ask if we could please buy a princess book. I was so damned lonely I almost cried.

Next time I go to the bookstore, Sam doesn't get a choice. That little fart is going with me. It's just no fun on my own anymore.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Husband, My Hero

My in-laws have a series of plaques hanging in their dining room. Each plaque is painted with a cartoon of family member done up as a saint. There's Saint Jerry, patron saint of husbands and protector of wives and children; Saint Carmen, patron saint of housekeeping and child-rearing; and then there's one for each of the five boys in the family.

My husband, the oldest son, has a plaque that says "Saint Michael, the Magnificent." Sometimes, I find this epiteph absolutely hysterical. Like whenever I have to get up in the middle of the night and I trip over the shoes he's left in a huge pile all over the bedroom floor. And why am I getting up in the middle of the night? Because one of the kids is screaming for us, but Saint Michael the Magnificent suffers tragically from nocturnal deafness, meaning he doesn't hear a damn thing once his head hits the pillow. He also suffers from "I'll-get-to-it-itus," a debilitating disease which causes him to forget to do things like clear the kitchen table or vacuum the floor or get the kids to pick up after themselves. These are all chores I normally do, but on nights when I take karate class, he's supposed to do them. Yet I always come home to find toys strewn everywhere, dirty dishes still on the table, and our youngest daughter's dinner scattered all over the dining room carpet. When I ask Saint Michael the Magnificent when he plans to get to these things, he always answers, "I'll get to it," which in our house translates as "I'm going to forget all about these chores and leave them until **you** do them dear, because my giant brain is just so busy with other things!"

And speaking of giant brains, Michael does have one of the biggest. That man has not one but two degrees in aerospace engineering. He makes his living programming flight simulators for commercial aircraft. He's fluent in C++, Fortran, Java and fifty other computer languages I know nothing about. He reads physics books... for fun. He can explain at length the difference is between gravity and gravitation, and has done so many times at the dinner table but my brain is a little too small to handle that conversation. His hobbies include building computers and fixing bug-riddled software, and he has become so intimate with our computers that I sometimes think I ought to sew a few microprocessors into my lingerie so I can get his attention. He is, in short, a geek god.

This is not a bad thing though. In fact, yesterday it turned out to be a very good thing. One of our neighbors passed away unexpectedly this week. I stopped by to visit his wife and see how she was doing. Her family showed up right away to help with the funeral arrangements and make sure she was taken care of, but there was one problem no one could figure out -- how to get into the husband's computer to pay the bills. The widow had never been involved in handling the household finances. She only knew that her husband had everything set up on the computer and she didn't know the password to get to the info she needed. She was looking at paying someone $85 an hour to hack into the system. I told her to wait; I was pretty certain I knew someone trustworthy who could do the job for free. I called Michael immediately.

"I need you to be a hero for someone," I said.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Mr. Smith died, and Mrs. Smith can't get into his computer to pay the bills. Can you help?"

After a moment of silence, he said, "Maybe. It depends on a few things."

"Can I tell Mrs. Smith when you're coming over?"

"Yeah, about five thirty. I need to research a few things first."

Michael came home around five, went up to his computer and started printing some documents and burning DVDs. "I want to go over there with a full tool set and all the latest info," he explained. He left the house shortly after that, papers and DVDs tucked under his arms. I sat down with the kids and prepared to wait. Some computer problems could take hours to fix, I knew.

Michael was home ten minutes later. "Problem solved," he said. "The operating system had a backdoor. Mrs. Smith can get to all the files now. I told her if she needs anything else, just give a call."

Michael went off to karate class an hour later. Mrs. Smith called while he was out. "I just wanted to tell you, that was the nicest thing anyone has done for me all week. Tell your husband I am so grateful!"

Her thanks made me want to cry. Not because of what Michael did for Mrs. Smith. A lot of others would have been just as willing to help out in the same situation, and a lot of people in our neighborhood probably will help Mrs. Smith over the course of the next few weeks. It's just that kind of neighborhood. But it made me realize that I will never ever find myself in the situation Mrs. Smith found herself in this week. My geek god husband, he of the gigantic brain, the man who suffers from "I'll-get-to-it-itus" has already made plans for when he dies. He's not planning on dying anytime soon, mind you. But he knows accidents can happen, the unexpected can occur any day, and he's got a wife and two kids to take care of, whether he's around or not.

The man who cannot remember to clear the dirty dishes off the dining room table is the same man who made certain we both have powers-of-attorney and trusts written up. The man who leaves his shoes all over the bedroom for me to trip over is also the man who created a password reset disk for me and stored it in a safe so it's there if I ever need to get into his computer to pay the bills, I can, and there will be enough money in the accounts to handle the bills for at least a couple months. The man who cannot hear his five-year-old daughter howling for a glass of water in the middle of the night has made damn certain that neither his kids or his wife is ever going to want for anything should the worst happen and he not be there to take care of them himself.

I could go on and on about the things Michael has done to take care of this family -- the weekends he stayed home and taken care of the kids without complaint so that I could run off to the library and work; the 3AM computer glitches he crawled out of bed to fix so that I could write that oh-so-important story or record that really important podcast; the poopy diapers he changed; the late nights he spent rocking a colicky baby; etc., etc. He has always come through when I need him, and he always will. So what if he can't pick up his socks and put them in the hamper, and he rattles on endlessly about the finer points of physics to a woman who's biggest mental challenge is how to get her two-year-old to poop in the potty? He takes care of the important things. He takes care of his family. He helps his neighbors and friends when they need it.

He is, in short, Saint Michael the Magnificent. He's my hero, and I'm damned glad he's my husband.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas Recipe - Mom's Russian Tea Mix

I'm having a crap-tastic day so far. Stayed up waaaaay to late to finish a story that didn't quite work like it should have. Then I tried to sleep late this morning only to have my oldest invade the bed, demanding I get her going for church. I am not religious. The closest I come is Zen Buddhism, which I practiced regularly for three years. But there's no longer a zendo in my area, so I feel no need to get out of bed to prep my daughter for church while her Catholic father snoozes away. That doesn't stop her from trying to get me to do it however.

Anyway, after everyone who was going to church headed out the door, I went to make myself some coffee, only to drop the coffee pot and watch it shatter into a million-billion little pieces. So no coffee this morning. To salvage the day from this tragedy, I have turned to one of my other favorite drinks, and to make it a good, positive thing, I am sharing that drink with you. Here it is, Mom's Russian Tea:

19oz container of Tang or orange drink mix

19oz container of lemonade mix

1 cup ice tea mix, unsweetened (with or without lemon, up to you)

1 tbsp cinnamon

1tbsp ground cloves

Put all the ingredients together in a Tupperware container and make sure the lid is sealed VERY tight. Then start shaking it to mix everything up. If the lid isn't tight, you will have a drink mix disaster of epic proportions. Once you have everything good and mixed up, put 3-4 teaspoons of the mix into 1 cup of hot water and enjoy. Trust me, this will taste like Christmas.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Deep Fried - A Holiday Self-Portrait


Yep, this is me. All frazzled and fried, just in time for the holidays.  And from what I hear, I ain’t the only one feeling like this.

It’s December 5th, and I have managed to buy a grand total of one, yes one, Christmas present.  That’s it!  Even though I put a little reminder in my calendar to start shopping waaaay back in October.  See, that’s how organized I am!

So the plan now is to drug— er, occupy the Pixie with some TV and then spend the morning knocking out a few blog posts.  After that, I’ll hit the online shops and do the Santa Mommy thing.  The Cynical Woman cartoon gets the rest of the day.  Tomorrow and Sunday are dedicated to my erotica podcast — I’ve got a story to finish for next month, plus recording to do for the next week’s episode.  Oh, and I did I mention I’ve invited the Princess’ little playmates over for an evening of pizza and mini-chick flicks?

No wonder I look like this!

Test post with picture


Test Post

Nothing major.  Blogjet is giving me fits, so I’m trying to see if I can make it behave and post like a good boy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Redecorating = Love and a New Toilet

The Feng Shui in our home is off.  Or maybe it’s the Wang Chung.  I dunno, I always get those two confused.  Anyway, everything is all higgledy-piggledy in la casa de Madden to the point that I don’t know what goes where or what happens in each room.  And why is that, you may ask?  Because…

We are redecorating.  Nothing major, just a fresh coat of paint on the downstairs walls.  And new paint on all the trim.  And the doors.  And then Michael’s tearing up the floor in the foyer and the downstairs bath so he can put in new tile.  And then maybe when all that’s done, he’ll finally put the toilet back in downstairs.  You know, the one he took out two years ago?  Right after our darling pixie Sam was born?

Yeah, that one.  So it’s not a BIG job because we’re not replacing furniture, but maybe it’s a big job because Michael’s doing all this painting and ripping up the floors and tiling and re-toileting stuff.  Oh, what am **I** doing?  The most important job of all – keeping the kids out of his hair.  And out of the fresh paint.

I love my husband, and he loves me.  And I will be so grateful when we get that downstairs toilet re-installed that I think I will take that man to bed…

And let him sleep for a week.  ‘Cause he’s gonna need it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Episode 22 - Yoga!


Allow me to introduce my good friend Patricia (also known as ‘Other Patty’)!  She puts up with an awful lot from me.  Of course, so do Mary and Patty…

The four of us form a gang we call “The Screeching Harpies.”  Remember, this is a posse, NOT a mommy’s group.  Yeah, we get the kids together to play, but our real purpose for meeting up is to plan the next Apocalypse.  So if you see a gang of forty-somethings (we’re not quite that old but we’re getting there), sitting in your local sushi restaurant, cackling evilly as they devour platter after platter of sushi, you know who you’re dealing with.

This week’s strip got done a little quicker than last week’s, thanks to the fact that I now know what to expect from Manga Studio Debut 4.  Since I bitched so much about the program last week, let me say something nice this week.  The program’s got some new nifty features, especially in the drawing tools.  The pen tool can now adjust its line width according to how close you’re zoomed into the picture (that’s a big help, believe me!), and I can save customized settings for the tools I use most often, which also helps a lot.  The pencil tool stinks – it draws a line so faint I can’t see it on screen – but that’s okay because I can set up a customized marker tool instead for roughing out the artwork.  And the text tool and word balloons are pretty nifty, so long as I save **every couple of seconds**.  Otherwise, working with text will crash the program so bad I have to restart my computer to get it to work again.

But that’s about it!  Over all, we’re doing good this week.  Now go practice some yoga.  Seriously. 

The Adventures of Cynical Woman, Episode 22 - Yoga!


Allow me to introduce my good friend Patricia!  She puts up with an awful lot from me.  Of course, so do Mary and Patty…

The four of us form a gang we call “The Screeching Harpies.”  Remember, this is a posse, NOT a mommy’s group.  Yeah, we get the kids together to play, but our real purpose for meeting up is to plan the next Apocalypse.  So if you see a gang of forty-somethings (we’re not quite that old but we’re getting there), sitting in your local sushi restaurant, cackling evilly as they devour platter after platter of sushi, you know who you’re dealing with.

This week’s strip got done a little quicker than last week’s, thanks to the fact that I now know what to expect from Manga Studio Debut 4.  Since I bitched so much about the program last week, let me say something nice this week.  The program’s got some new nifty features, especially in the drawing tools.  The pen tool can now adjust its line width according to how close you’re zoomed into the picture (that’s a big help, believe me!), and I can save customized settings for the tools I use most often, which also helps a lot.  The pencil tool stinks – it draws a line so faint I can’t see it on screen – but that’s okay because I can set up a customized marker tool instead for roughing out the artwork.  And the text tool and word balloons are pretty nifty, so long as I save **every couple of seconds**.  Otherwise, working with text will crash the program so bad I have to restart my computer to get it to work again.

But that’s about it!  Over all, we’re doing good this week.  Now go practice some yoga.  Seriously. 

Friday, November 21, 2008

Episode 21 - With Friends Like These...


…who needs enemas? But seriously, this one is for Sam and Terri Pray of Under The Moon press.  They were recently screwed out of buying a house because the local community voted to ‘not harbor producers of gay porn.’  Under The Moon produced one anthology of gay erotic romance, which automatically brands them as undesirable elements according to this particular pristine community, but hey, the hetero erotic romances were apparently okay.  It was just that one book of gay smut…

Anyway, this is the first cartoon produced with the brand spanking new Manga Studio Debut 4.0!  I was so excited when I got the notice earlier this week that the upgraded software was out, I went right ahead and bought it.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  Among the new features listed on Smith-Micro’s website were an improved text tool and WORD BALLOONS!  That’s right kiddies, for just $20 I could upgrade to a product that was going to solve the biggest problem I’d been having with producing the cartoons – getting the words onto the panels.

Except that it wasn’t exactly that easy.

First off, I bought the download version (with a back-up disk on its way to me).  When I installed and started up the program, it asked me to install the materials for MS Debut 4.  Materials are those nifty gray scale images that I use for backgrounds and fills.  I knew I had the materials – I’d seen them when I checked out the program folder after installation.  Problem was, I couldn’t figure out exactly which folder to point the materials installer to.  I tried the folder marked ‘Materials’ but that didn’t work because that would be too easy, apparently.  After an hour of trying to figure out how to get the materials and tones installed, I finally sent an e-mail to tech support.  To their credit, tech support answered within a couple of hours.  In the meantime, I searched around the Smith-Micro websites (there are two of them, and it took me a while to figure out which one had a FAQ on it for technical questions) and the Manga Studio website to get some answers.  What I discovered is that the good folks at Smith-Micro wrote up perfectly nice installation instructions… if you were installing from a disk.  But they left out a few details if you were installing from a downloaded version of the program.

Once I finally heard back from tech support, I was able to get the materials installed and I went straight to work.  The pen tool has some nifty new updates that make it ever better for inking cartoons, which is a huge plus.  However, the text tool crashed the program repeatedly, which led to yet another e-mail to tech support who replied that they couldn’t replicate my problem so obviously the fault was with my computer and not their program and I would have to un-install and re-install the program to fix things.  Joy.  That only took another hour or two of work time to accomplish.  And even after that, the text tool still kept crashing the program unless I saved after every use of said tool.  It’s annoying, and it bugs me because if I add more than two text objects to a page, that program is gonna go down like Moses in the fifth, and the only way to get it to come back up and cooperate is to shut down and restart the computer.

However, I can get the text tool to work, and once I figured out where Manga Studio kept the word balloons hidden (the user’s manual says they’re in the materials window – they’re not!!  They’re in the Beginner’s Assistant window), I was able to add my dialogue to my cartoon and finally output the finished work.

So this week’s image was all done in Manga Studio Debut 4, which is really how I prefer to do it, and it was done in the space of a single day (would have happened even quicker if not for technical difficulties…).  Drawing by hand is fine, but I really do prefer doing the whole thing digitally, and in just the one program.  The quality of the inking, the ease of adding tones, the supposed ease of adding text… If it weren’t for the fact that the text tool is buggy as hell and the fact that the user’s manual is unfortunately obscure on certain important aspects of the program (like installation and where to find those bloody word balloons!), I’d give Manga Studio Debut 4 a perfect 10.  As it is, the best I can rate them is a 6.5.  The program has great potential, but it’s also got some serious flaws.  Let’s hope Smith-Micro figures this out and does something to address the problem.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You Know...

You know that only a child could get away with running around the house wearing nothing but a cape, a mask and a pair of mismatched high heels, shouting “I’m Batman!”

When my youngest daughter does it, it’s so dang cute.  But if I did that, I’d be locked away for good.  Why do kids always get to have all the fun?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Episode 20 - Sudden Death


Oh my god, I think I just gave birth to twins.  Twin strips that is.

Please notice that while this week’s strip is THREE WEEKS LATE, it is also TWICE AS BIG.  And I got railroaded by a butt-load of work and the Princess’ kindergarten stuff.  For details on all of that, see my other blog here.

But at last this episode is done, and I can honestly say I still haven’t figured out how I want to draw this.  Manga Studio or Adobe Photoshop?  By hand or on the laptop?  All options have their advantages and disadvantages, and I’m seriously wishing that Smith-Micro would hurry it’s ass up and put out Manga Studio 4 so I could test it and see if the new version solves my current problems. But noooooooo! That would be asking a bit much I suppose. I’m only a heavy consumer of computer graphics programs after all.

So about the cartoon itself. This is something that has happened all too frequently to me.  I get a great idea while I’m out with the kids but when I finally make it home, ‘I got nothing,’ as Orziel would say.  I have learned to keep a notebook with me as often as possible, and I even have a handy little folding keyboard for my PDA, but none of those really gives me the freedom to write the moment the inspiration strikes.  Because I’ve always got to keep an eye on the kiddes, see? I look away for a few seconds and the next thing I know they’re tattooing someone else’s darling child with purple and green Sharpie markers.

But the writing does eventually get done and the inspiration is never completely gone.  It just goes into hiding.

The bastard.

To learn more about Orziel and his lovely boy-toy Jarresh, visit Mojocastle Press at and BUY A COPY OF MY BOOK, DAMMIT!

Going to bed now…

October nearly killed me...

And November doesn’t look much better.

I got trampled by kindergarten and doctor’s appointments and Michael’s business trips last month, which is why I wasn’t around much.  For some reason, the simple world of kindergarten exploded with homework and class projects at the beginning of October.  It started with the Letter Notebook, which requires Cassie to practice writing the Letter of the Week and then finding pictures that start with the Letter of the Week, which she has to cut out, paste and label in the Letter Notebook.  It’s been taking us half an hour a night to do this project – one night for practicing the letter, one night for finding and cutting pictures, and one night for the pasting and labeling.  This is ON TOP OF any other homework that walks through the door, like more practice writing on worksheets and books that she’s supposed to read for her Reading Log, plus art projects and Things She Must Bring In For Class (like an empty water bottle, a white adult t-shirt, an egg carton, etc.).  It’s been killing me to keep up with all of this.  And the ON TOP OF all this, I volunteered to chaperone field trips and co-host a class party.  Lots of work, I gotta tell ya.

But Cassie loves that I’m active in her class activities, so it’s not a bad thing.  But then I had a bunch of medical appointments ON TOP OF that.  Two of these appointments were for me – my annual pelvic exam and my annual mammogram.  These are the kinds of appointments I prefer to go to sans children, meaning I needed a sitter for Sam those mornings.  Michael was supposed to stay home those mornings so I could get to my appointments, but then he had one business trip after another and I had to keep rescheduling my pelvic exam until I finally threw a screaming fit and he told me when he was going to be home.  And then the doctor’s office called me to cancel THAT appointment because the doc had to go out of town.

I eventually did get my mammogram and my pelvic exam done, and I even got a flu shot to boot (my gynecologist gave it to me, a nice little bonus to go with the speculum up my… well, you know).  Then I had to get flu shots for the kids and guess what?  The pediatrician was booked solid on flu shots.  She does them on specific days and you HAVE to have an appointment.  I finally ended up calling in to have Cassie looked at for something else, a rash on her face, and the receptionist asked if I wanted to get flu shots for both kids then, since we’d all be there.

“Was this all I needed to do to get a flu shot for my kids, have one of them come up with some weird skin ailment so I could make an appointment to bring them in?”

“Yes,” the receptionist replied.  “They’re going to be here anyway, so…”

So next fall, I’m going to scribble all over Cassie’s face with a green marker to give her another ‘rash’ and get our flu shots again that way.

Beyond that, I’ve been overloaded with work.  You can read about that at my work blog –  I’m working to cut back in preparation for the holidays.  Don’t quite know how I’ll do that yet, but I will.

Meanwhile, it’s story time now with Sam.  I’ll blog some more later, I promise.

Unless November eats me alive as well.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Writing and Self-Indulgence

I apologize for cross posting this to here and to my writing blog, but I’ve been slammed for time, and I need to get a blog post up here anyway I can. 

I’m feeling horrifically self-indulgent today, or rather I feel horrific because I was self-indulgent today.  The local schools were closed today for the election, so I didn’t have to worry about getting to the bus stop by 3:15 to pick up my oldest daughter.  She stayed home with me and her little sister, who had a temperature of 102 degrees.  The youngest acted fine most of the day, but because of the fever she actually took an afternoon nap for the first time in almost six months.  A very loooooooong nap.

With the youngest sound asleep and the oldest happily drawing and playing in her room all afternoon, I was actually able to enjoy my old work schedule of three uninterrupted hours of work today.  I handled a few e-mails, battled it out with a horror story that refused to settle on a plot line, and wrote over one thousand words in that time.  I didn’t focus on the story that was on my to-do list for today – I was too obsessed with fixing and then writing the horror story.  But I definitely got something accomplished.

And I feel horrible about it.

Should I have knocked off at 3PM like I usually do on school days and spent more time with my eldest daughter?  I know she was perfectly happy in her room, working on an art project for her kindergarten class (an art project that is due on Thursday and was going to require a lot her time to complete anyway, I might add).  I just can’t believe I had so much time today to write!  I haven’t had such a luxury in ages, three uninterrupted hours.  At best, I manage to get an hour in the afternoon to write most days because one child comes home from school at 3 and the other refuses to go down for a nap anymore.  I need this kind of time to write, and my taking it and using it didn’t hurt anybody, so why do I feel so crappy about having spent the whole afternoon doing what I love?

Maybe I ate too much chocolate today.  Damn Halloween candy…

But seriously, I need to do something about my work schedule, about my daily schedule.  I need to find a way to get back those three hours of writing time, yet still tend to the needs of my kids.  It simply kills me that I can’t do this anymore.

Anybody else feel horribly guilty when they get time like this to work?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Adventures of Cynical Woman: Episode 19 - Napkins


I swear, I thought I’d never get this one done.

In an effort to find a more effecient way to do these cartoons, I tried doing the pencilling and inking the old fashioned way, on actual paper.  Both stages went very quickly, and I was extremely happy with the results.

Until I scanned in the inked cartoon, that is.  It did not look good when I went to clean it up.  Manga Studio gives me a very nice, crisp pressure-sensative line.  My pens do to, but they also bleed a bit on the paper, and that showed up very quickly on the scan.  So it took me a while to fix that little problem.

Then there was the matter of adding the screen tones to the cartoon.  You know, those little shades of grey I color with?  Yeah, those were a bitch.  I had to make them all by hand in Photoshop, and then the pasting in took lots more time than I would have prefered.  I did learn a few things in the process, which was nice because I’m still feeling my way around Photoshop, but man I was not satisfied with those tones.  Manga Studio has some very nice tones, and they look great when I paste them in.  My handmade ones do not measure up, I’m afraid.

The lettering and adding of word balloons did go much quicker than it would have in Manga Studio, and that has led me to the following conclusion.  For the next episode, I plan to do the pencils on actual paper, scan them in, import the scan into Manga Studio, and then ink them there.  Then the cartoon gets exported out to Adobe Photoshop for lettering and word balloons, because that’s one area where Manga Studio really falls short.  At least Debut does.  Not so sure about EX.  I’ll have to see.

And about what’s going on in the toon itself?  Those screaming kids in panel one are all part of my “mom posse” playdate group.  Patty and Mary of course are there with them, and yes, I have wandered off to capture story ideas on whatever paperlike surface I can find.  Writing on cheap fast food restaurant napkins sucks, by the by.  I know.  I’ve done it.

See you in a week, hopefully!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Some Mornings

Some mornings, I get up waaaaaaaaaaay to early to do stuff. Like today, to work on the podcast. My knees are killing me and I'm dead tired. Do I go back to bed, or do I tough it out?

Like that's a hard decision.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

NWS Test post for audio embedding

Erotica story in mp3 format.  Not work safe.  Trying to see if Blog Jet will make using a blogger blog feasible for a podcast by embedding audio.

File Attachment: heat_flash_ep01_20071005.mp3 (1436 KB)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Episode 18

Episode 18

At long last, episode 18 is here! This week you get to meet Patty, another one of the moms in my posse (I don’t do MOMMIES GROUPS!).  Patty is pretty practical and has a solution for everything.  While she never said this line to me (actual credit goes to Alessia Brio, I think), this is something she would have said.  Her solutions are great, it’s just me and my freak life that makes them impossible to use.

This week, I handled the pencils the old-fashioned way – with an actual pencil and paper!  I found a drawing pad that was 24” by 8”, which equals a long, skinny sheet of paper perfect for sketching out four panel comics.  I’m still experimenting with the inking.  Will it be quicker to ink in Manga Studio or to do it by hand as well and then import everything into Photoshop or Illustrator for lettering and word balloons?  I’d stick with Manga Studio because it’s so much easier to handle toning and the pen tool gives such a nice dark line, but honestly, Manga Studio Debut sucks at handling text.

Manga Studio 4.0 comes out sometime soon, so I’ll check that out and make a decision then.  But I think I’ll stick with actual paper and pencil for the initial sketching.  That happened much quicker.  I’ve already got next week’s strip pencilled and ready to scan.

Enjoy the cartoon!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Randomness - Pass It On!

Okay, can anybody tell me exactly what the hell a meme is?

Sparx over at Notes From Inside My Head is doing one and by virtue of reading it I have apparently become infected with it.  Willingly though, because I could just pretend I didn’t read her meme and thereby not have to pass it on to you.

Okay, so Sparx’s meme (meme… me-me… meeee-meeee… what kind of weird ass word is that anyway?) is to write 6 totally random things about yourself, or myself, although if you read this, you have to do it to now because I said so and we all know who’s in charge around here, don’t we?  That’s right, the kids.

1. Seriously, I don’t know what a meme is beyond some form of internet cooties, and I have no idea why people on Twitter keep writing “I can haz…” What is that?  Bad grammar disease?

2. I love soft boiled eggs. I just finished eating a soft boiled egg on toast for breakfast. It was gooey and yummy!

3. I also love coffee, but I think the General Foods International stuff is just as good (if not better, at times) as the real thing.  That’s because I’m lazy and if I’m tired or I don’t feel like it, making real coffee is a pain.

4. Speaking of coffee, when I was at Camp All American in Fort Bragg, my junior year of college, all the female cadets would get sooooo tired that we would open up the packets of instant coffee crystals and tuck the coffee inside our lower lips.  It tasted nasty and we got in trouble for it because our TAC sergeant thought we had all started doing snuff and you know snuff is only for boys, but that raw coffee sure did help us stay awake.

5. By authority of me, there is no number five today.

6. Sometimes I miss being single. It was waaaaaaay easier for me to take care of my tiny one-bedroom apartment and my three cats than it is for me to take care of this big ol’ house with husband and two kids.  But I didn’t think so at the time. I thought cleaning the apartment and feeding the cats was a heck of a lot of work.

And there you have it. Six — no wait, five (because I have decreed 5 illegal today… but wait, if I decree five illegal how can I have only five random facts… Oh hell…) – six random facts about me today.  And now six of you who are reading this have the internet cooties known as ‘meme’ and must pass it along or your dog will go bald and you will grow a third arm.

Which, if you have kids and a house covered in dog fur, might not be so bad.  I mean, a third arm to help out and no more dog fur.  Not a bad deal, right?

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Official Blow Off Day Theme Song!

I cannot tell you how many nights I’ve lain awake pondering a question of the utmost importance and greatest magnitude.  And that question is…

If Blow Off Day had a theme song, what would that song be?

Well, today, after pulling an all-nighter to finish off the 1–year anniversary episode of the Heat Flash erotica podcast, it finally came to me.  Yes, I was lying there in bed, drooling just oh-so-slightly as my youngest kicked and screamed for Dora the Explorer… no wait, she wanted Wiggles instead… nope, no she wants Charlie and Lola… whatever.  Anyway, as I lay there contemplating the bleak aspect of having to spend all day dealing with a cranky, snot-filled toddler after less than three hours of sleep, the lyrics for the Official Blow Off Day theme song popped right into my head!  It was amazing, really.  I mean, one minute all I hear is kicking and screaming for Dora/Wiggles/Charlie and Lola/Scoobie Doo, and the next I’m humming happily along to this perfectly bouncy little song.  And I knew right away I just had to share it with everyone.  So without further ado, the Cynical Woman blog proudly presents the Official Blow Off Day Theme Song!

(Sung to the tune of ‘Camptown Races’ (better known as the Foghorn Leghorn song))

The house is dirty, I don’t care!
Do-dah, do-dah!
Gonna lie around in my underwear,
Oh-de-do-dah day!
I cleaned the house last night
And the kids destroyed it today
But it’s Blow Off Day and I don’t care
Oh-de-do-dah daaaaaaaay!

And there you go, the Official Blow Off Day Theme Song.  Feel free to share this little ditty or to make up your own verses and hum them mindlessly throughout the day.

Now I’m going to lie down on the couch in my undies.  See ya.

Friday, September 26, 2008


I hereby officially declare today to be Blow Off Day in the Madden household.

Why is it Blow Off Day, you ask?  Well, let’s see…

Michael and I woke up at 7:57 AM this morning.  Cassie's bus arrives at the bus stop down the street at 8:08 AM.  In eleven minutes, I managed to:

  • Get myself up and dressed

  • Get Cassie up and dressed

  • Get Cassie’s teeth brushed

  • Get a waffle, banana and 2 juice boxes into her backpack for an impromptu “walking” breakfast (and yes, the waffle was cooked, not frozen, thanks to Michael)

  • Get Cassie’s hair brushed

  • Get Cassie’s “Show-and-Share” items into her backpack (without crushing the breakfast already in there)

  • Get Cassie out the door and to the bus stop with 2 minutes to spare

I did it.  I got her on the bus, dressed, with her glasses and her backpack and both shoes on the correct feet, all in under 10 minutes.  And personally, I think that’s enough exercise/stress/pulling of miracles out of my ass for one day.

Hence, it is Blow Off Day.

And if I had any doubts that it was Blow Off Day – and I did, I was contemplating in the tub after the rush to the bus stop that maybe, just maybe I could pull off a normal day after all – my darling husband cemented firmly in my mind that Blow Off Day was not an option, it was a fact.  You see, he locked himself out of the house in the process of heading out to work, and I had to get out of the tub, run downstairs wearing a towel and a face full of super-special cleanser that’s supposed to take 10 whole years off my looks but today may at best only cancel out the 10 years I added this morning, and open the door for him so he could come back inside, get his keys, and avoid kissing me because he did not want super special cleanser on his face.

It is soooooooo Blow Off Day.

Blow Off Day has a long and illustrious history.  It first began five years ago, when Cassie was just an infant.  Back in those days, she had colic, which meant she screamed for five hours straight every evening.  The rest of the day she just wailed and beat me with her tiny fists.  After many valiant attempts to be Super-Mom (you know, the woman who’s dressed in designer jogging suits, pushing a baby stroller around the block, and said stroller contains a sleeping, happy baby dressed in clean frilly outfits that aren’t covered in spit up and the mom isn’t covered in breast milk and even more spit up and my god she even brushed her hair and her teeth!), I realized that I needed a break, so I spent a day sitting on the couch doing nothing but nurse my baby and watch Dirty Harry movies (because it was either Dirty Harry or Days of Our Lives and I hate soap operas but I really could have killed something that day so I lived vicariously through Clint Eastwood for few hours and that helped a little).  And that was all I did.  Didn’t do the laundry, didn’t go out for a stroll, didn’t make lunch (I had a bowl of cereal with chocolate milk in it, if I recall correctly).  I didn’t do jack but what I had to do, which included nurse the baby, go to the bathroom, and change diapers.  And if I could have figured out how to get someone else to do all three of those things for me that day, I would have done it gladly.

Blow Off Day means I only do what I want or what I absolutely have to do.  I have to take care of Sam. I have to eat.  I have to use the toilet and breath.  Beyond that, I don’t have to do squat.  So the laundry can go screw itself.  House cleaning can take a flying leap.  Dinner tonight is pizza and I’ll be damned if I’m getting off the couch to bake the frozen thing Michael bought.  Papa John’s delivers!

I plan to spend the day watching Dora the Explorer with Sam and doing some artwork I’ve been itching to do.  Alessia Brio has invited me to submit some stuff for an upcoming illustrated volume of Coming Together, and I think I’m in the mood today to draw something really, really naughty.  And that’s pretty much all I’m in the mood to do today.

Except maybe use the toilet.  But that’s only because I can’t get anyone else to do it for me.  Otherwise, I am not getting off the couch.

Have a happy Blow Off Day, everybody.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

From my sketchebook - Sirena


From one of the sketchbooks I carry around with me.  This was drawn with a mechanical pencil then inked with the Faber Castel manga pen set I bought recently.  I love working in shades of grey, especially with pen and ink.  I’m going to have to stock up on those pens since I think I may use them up pretty quickly.

I actually started drawing this one over a year ago, but then set that sketch book aside for a while and didn’t come back to it until recently.  I think the original inspiration may have come from “Bizenghast” but I don’t really recall now.  I just know I like drawing weird, creepy, flowing things, and I think this one certainly qualifies.  My five-year-old likes this one a lot.


Cassie went on a field trip to an apple orchard earlier this week and came back with one small red and green apple.

“Mama! Let’s make pie!”

How do you explain to a five-year-old that one small apple will not make a whole pie?  You don’t.  You figure out how to make pie instead.

We have a couple of kids’ cook books at home, so we dug through them until I found a recipe for jam tarts.  We used the basic recipe for the crust and rolled and cut out two crusts about 6 inches across.  These went into two of the cups of an extra large muffin tin I have.

“Mama, that’s not a pie plate!”

“No, it’s a mini-pie plate.  If we had more apples, we’d make more crusts and fill up the other four cups.  But we have one apple so we’re only making two mini-pies.”

I crossed my fingers and watched the cogs turn in her brain as she mulled that over.

“Okay.  I like mini-pies!”

Then we chopped up the one small apple and added it to a mix of brown sugar, butter, dried cranberries and walnuts.  I figured if we used plenty of dried cranberries and walnuts, we could get away with just one apple.

“Mama, how come we’re adding so much stuff to the apple?”

“It’ll add extra flavor and make the pie taste more yummy.”

“Okay. I like yummy pies!”

Once we had the pies filled, we still had some leftover scraps of pastry so I pulled out some cookie cutters and we made decorative tops for the pies.  This went over very well, especially since we have fairy, star, dragonfly and bumble bee cookie cutters.

“Yeah!  We made fairy pies!”

“Yes we did, sweetie.”

The pies went into the over for about 25 minutes and came out looking scrumptious.  I let Cassie pull out some livid pink decorator icing and we added that to the pie crusts.  Then Sam woke up from her nap and Michael came and we all headed out to the elementary school for open house.  All evening, Cassie talked about how much she wanted pie.

“Well, sweetie, when we get home, we’ll all have some pie.  You and Sam can share one pie and Daddy and I will share the other.”

Only that wasn’t what happened.  Cassie decided she had to have a pie all to herself, and then Sam decided she had to have a pie all to herself and that just left this one teeny-tiny jam tart I had made with the final leftover scraps of pastry and some orang marmalade.  The jam tart was good, but the smell of those pies was just killing me.  I had to wait until after both girls ate the tops of the pies and then abandoned them before I could steal a bite.

So that’s how you make two pies and one teeny-tiny jam tart from one apple and you better make sure you make that little jam tart because if you have two little girls, there’s no way in hell you will get a slice of pie.

Here’s some pictures of the pies:

Mini-pies before decoration

The mini-pies before decoration.

Mini-pies after decoration

The mini-pies after decoration.

Jam tart

The world’s smallest jam tart (shown larger than actual size).

Chef Cassie

Chef Cassie prepares to decorate the pies.

Sam offers her opinion

Sam offers her opinion (“Okay, I’ll eat it. No Mama, you can’t have any!”).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miss Unpopularity 1987

If there was an Olympic event for making mountains out of mole hills, I think I would have won a gold medal this week.  Or maybe not.  Maybe my intuition about certain recent events is right on target.  It’s hard to say because I’m rather biased about this particular topic.  And that topic is…

Popularity.  As in, who’s cool in school and who gets treated like crap.  You’d think that at the age of 39 I’d have gotten past all that by now.  Well, think again.  Ever since Cassie started kindergarten a few weeks ago, this particular issue has hit me like a ton of bricks.

Let me explain.  Twice last week, Cass came home from school in a very unhappy state.  The first time, she came off the bus sobbing because, as she put it, “So-and-so was mean to me!”  The second time, she waited until we were at home before disintegrating into tears.  When I finally got her calmed down enough to ask what was wrong, I got the same answer as before.  Some kids at school were mean to her.

What does that mean, the kids are being mean to her?  In the course of the past week it has meant: other kids pulling and hitting on Cassie’s backpack while she’s standing in line; one child scratching Cassie’s hand while trying to get her to turn around and sit forward on the bus (was it horseplay? accidental? deliberate?); name calling; being played with and then abruptly ignored; and other minor events.

I know enough about kids at this point to know that I’m not getting the entire story from Cass.  I’ve e-mailed her teacher and talked with her to confirm that Cassie has not become the class pariah.  The backpack incident was horseplay and Cassie wasn’t the only target that afternoon.  I’ve also talked with the mother of the child who scratched Cassie’s hand, to try and ascertain what happened that day.  We’re both chalking it up to personality differences and a misunderstanding at this point.

So there may or may not be a problem.  At the school open house tonight, Cassie seemed to have a lot of fun playing with a few of her classmates (I gave my number to the moms in question in hopes of setting up play dates). And Cassie’s teacher says Cass has a great time in school.  But then I keep thinking about the two days Cass came home crying last week, followed by mornings where she did not want to go the the bus stop and see the girl who scratched her, and I can’t help but worry.  You see, I was one of the most unpopular kids in my school.  It started in first grade and it only got worse as I grew up.  Name calling, snubbing, a little outright hazing and plenty of rumor mongering.  At age seven the popular girls liked to pretend I didn’t exist even though we sat at the same table and were assigned to work on projects together. By fourth grade, one little twit started a rumor that I was stuffing my bra even though I didn’t own a fucking bra yet.  In seventh grade, at my first dance, one of the most popular girls in school threw a soda in my face just because I showed up and it pissed her off.  Mary remembers that night.  She grabbed my right arm to keep me from punching that girl’s lights out.  So I hit the bitch with a left hook instead. 

Speaking of Mary, my best friend and partner in crime, she and I became the school lesbians after we decided to go to ring dance together because we couldn’t get dates.  (Recall back in those days that being a lesbian was a hanging offense… like it isn’t anymore, right?).  Anyway, Mary was just as popular as I was all through school, but by that point, the name calling didn’t really phaze either of us anymore so we hammed it up for all we were worth and to this day people ask if we’ve eloped to California yet.  Hey, they’d understand us there.

By 1987, my senior year in high school, I had quite the reputation.  I was gay, a witch (because I did a research paper on the Salem witch trials), and a socio-path who enjoyed dissecting cats (that last was actually true, but the cat was dead when I got it).  When the time came to vote for senior superlatives, I got ‘most artistic’ and ‘worst dressed.’  The same snarky little bitch that had accused me of stuffing my bra in the fourth grade nominated me for the later title.  Mary was voted ‘most anti-social.’  Today she’s a nurse who gives people colonoscopies if they aren’t nice to her.

So I went through all that shit and survived, and when I left college (yes, I had problems with the popular crowd even in college, thanks to my fellow fuck-head ROTC cadets) I thought I had finally escaped it all.  I went out into the world and became recognized as someone who was smart, competent, hard working, decisive, aggressive, and more than a little scary/crazy and not to be fucked with (and all these terms come from various job reviews and military evaluation reports I have received over the years).  I was in charge wherever I went, I had my friends who had stood by me all through school, I was away from the assholes who tried to make my life miserable, and on the rare occasion when I did run into said assholes, I just pulled out that scary/crazy confident aspect of me and they backed right the fuck off.

I grew up, and I grew out of the popularity contest.

And then I had a child who started kindergarten this fall and I am right back in the middle of that shit.

Is it really a problem yet?  Has my girl entered the popularity contest and been found wanting?  Or am I just too fucking paranoid thanks to my own bad experiences?  I so do not want to see Cassie go through what I did, and no, don’t even suggest that if I came through it a better person so will she.  I’ve only highlighted a little of the endless sadism I had to endure.  My kid does not need to face that to become a better, stronger person.  No one does.  So it raises my hackles when she comes home crying, sobbing, about how the kids at school are treating her.  I fear I see the hints of what is to come.  Cassie is me all over in many way, the younger me who didn’t have the razor sharp tongue and the scary-as-shit take-no-prisoners attitude.  She’s a smart, sweet, goofy kid who’s just entered a world where smart, sweet, goofy kids get turned into shark bait.

What to do, what to do?  I’m trying to get her out to see her friends more — her real friends like Mary’s son and the little girl down the street who’s allergic to everything under the sun and thus will probably never go to a regular school.  And I’m trying to help her find new friends by reaching out to the moms of the classmates she does seem to get along with.  But that one little girl, the same one who goes to Cassie’s bus stop, is in Cassie’s class, that same kid who scratched my baby and made her cry… I got a bad feeling about her.  I’ve got this sense that she’s one of the sharks, and somehow, some way, I have got to prevent her from eating Cassie alive.

I was Miss Unpopularity 1987, voted ‘Worst Dressed,’ ‘Least Liked,’ and ‘Most Likely to be Spit Upon’ by my fellow classmates.  That is not a title my daughter should have to inherit.

Episode 16

Episode 16

This has happened to me far too often.  There’s nothing so frustrating as having the whole story in your head and not being able to capture it.  That’s my best friend Mary on the bench with me, by the way.  She knows about all my writing woes, and yet she still puts up with me.

It looks like I’m going to be home all day today with a sick Pixie, so maybe I’ll get started on the next cartoon today so I can have it done by next Saturday.  Meeting a deadline… wouldn’t that be nice!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why I Love Sunday Mornings

I’m a Zen Buddhist, a very slacker Zen Buddhist, so I don’t head off to church on Sunday mornings.  I let my husband do that, and he takes the Princess with him.  Pixie stays home with me and plays quietly while I putter around.  So far this morning I have…

Recorded and done some production work on the next episode of the Heat Flash podcast.

Gone back to bed.

Had breakfast with the kids while Michael showered.

Read the Sunday funnies while I took a bath.  My local newspaper finally pulled it’s journalistic head out of its ass and began running “Opus” again starting this week.  However, one folded page of comics is still far too few.

Got dressed.

Made coffee.

Started reading blog feeds.  I’m reeeeeeeally behind on that.

So it’s just a quiet Sunday morning.  I’ve got my cup of joe, my laptop and the Pixie.  When Michael and the Princess get home, I think I’ll make a soft boiled egg and toast and then get ready to head to the library for the afternoon.  It finally feels like autumn around here and I can’t wait to get to the sanctuary of the library to do some work.

I’m loving Sunday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Ideal Day

0500 – wake up, go downstairs, start the laundry, feed the cat, make a cup of coffee.

0520 – sit down at the computer and work on my podcast, undisturbed.

0645 – finish up work, head upstairs and wake up the rest of the family.

0715 – have everyone dressed and seated at the dining room table for breakfast.

0745 – get the kids upstairs to brush teeth, hit the potty, and get ready to leave the house.

0800 – at the bus stop.

0810 – Cassie gets on the bus.

0815 – Sam and I head out to exercise, either a walk and karate practice or swimming at the Y.

1000 – finished with exercise, showered and dressed.  Heading outside to play for an hour.

1100 – back inside the house to make lunch.

1130 – lunch.  Sam actually eats what I serve her (this is my ideal day, remember).

1230 – sit down with Sam for story time.

1300 – put Sam down for a nap.  She falls asleep the moment her head hits the pillow (again, this is my ideal day).

1305 – 20 minutes of yoga practice and physical therapy for my knees.

1325 – make another cup of coffee.

1330 – sit down at the desk to answer e-mail, handle finances, etc.

1400 – enough with the busy work, time to write for three hours!

1700 – go back in time and take Sam to pick up Cassie from the bus stop at 1530.  In alternate time line, make snacks, discuss day at school, help Cassie with her homework, and the go outside and play for an hour.

1700 again – after re-synching alternate time line with actual time line, head to the kitchen to start dinner.

1730 – husband comes home and kisses me lovingly, nay even lustfully!  Giddy with thoughts of romance, I serve the perfect meal to a couple of happy children who never fight over a red bean bag chair that just so happens to look exactly like the other red bean bag chair that Grandmama bought to keep said two happy children from fighting over the first red bean bag chair.

1830 – dinner is finished.  Husband volunteers to clear the table, do the dishes, vacuum the downstairs and give me a French manicure while I relax on the couch.

1900 – magically transport myself to the dojo where I enjoy a refreshing hour of karate class.  Somehow my aging knees miraculously make no weird crunching noises whatsoever, and I can jump six feet straight up into the air and do a double back-flip for good measure.

2000 – magically transport myself back home (because I would really like to not have to burn gas to get around).  The children are already in bed asleep and husband is waiting in the bed room holding a bowl of Godiva double chocolate ice cream and wearing nothing but a smile.

2400 – after a few hours of quality time with my darling husband, I am refreshed and relaxed and ready to go back to work.  I head up to the office to blog, answer e-mail, and most importantly, cartoon!

3100 – seven fruitful hours later, I have completed my masterpiece.  I post it to the web and await the admiration of my dedicated and enthusiastic fans.

3200 – after three quick encore cartoons for the fans, I retire for the evening.  A luxurious bath, a glass of wine, more chocolate ice cream (which magically has no calories), and I am set for the night.  I may or may not read for a few hours before nodding off.  I expect to get a good twelve solid, uninterrupted hours of sleep so I can wake up refreshed the next morning at 0500 and start the whole routine all over again.

And yeah, that’s my ideal day, which is why it never happens. 



Saturday, September 13, 2008

Episode 15

Episode 15

This is the real reason why we need four hands and two sets of eyes.  Multi-tasking is very important to us writer-moms.

By the way, this one took forever to draw – four characters plus all those seat.  Ugh!  It was worth it though.  That hottie in the passenger’s seat? That’s Orziel, the main character from my e-book, Demon By Day.

(Insert shameless pimping here!)  Demon By Day is available from Mojocastle Press.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cynical Woman Cartoons Have Their Own Home!

After the irritation with Picassa last week, I finally broke down and set up a blog just for the Cynical Woman cartoons.  You can find them here:

This blog is just for the cartoons, nothing else, so if anybody wants to go through and look at them without having to wade through all the other blog posts, they can do that with no problem. 

I’ve also set up a Widgetbox Widget so if anybody wants to show the cartoons on their web page, you can do that now with no problem.  You can get the widgets here:

The slim sidebar version:

The wide version (wider for her pleasure…):

If you log into Widgetbox, you can customize these a bit, in case you want a different color.  So enjoy the cartoons and spread the word!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cartoon up! The Adventures of Cynical Woman

Well, Picassa has effectively killed my incentive to use it any more for posting any further artwork there, including the cartoons I've been doing. Sometime in the past week, they changed how they handle links to web albums, so that I can't simply e-mail the link from my computer, but have to do it from the Picassa website instead, meaning I have to have addresses set up there, probably need a Gmail account (which I don't have and don't plan to get at this time), etc. And it looks like if folks want to see the cartoon, they now have to log into Google as well, which don't work if folks don't have a Google account. Basically, Google took what used to be a simple, handy operation for me and made it useless in their attempts to pimp themselves.

Fortunately, I think I have found a way around that.

I'm testing out Zoundry's Raven this week, to see how it works for posting blog entries and images. What I like best is that I can upload images from my computer to a designated place on MY webhost, as opposed to some third party service like the aforementioned (and now useless) Picassa. So let's see how this works shall we? I'll upload my cartoon with the click of a button and...

Presto baby! Now if you click on the thumbnail below, you get the cartoon but not the Picassa album. Looks like this will work just fine for now. Still need to get a regular web comic site set up though. I'm working on it...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Test post using Zoundry Raven

Last week, someone on the Marketing For Romance Writers Yahoo group asked if there was an efficient way to post the same post to multiple blogs. I've been wondering that myself, since I have three blogs and am considering starting up a fourth. I did some digging around in the Blogger help section and came across a list of third party utilities that offered such services. I decided to give Zoundry's Raven a try. This is the first test post to see if it does what I need it to do.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cartoon for 31 August 2008

My youngest has been on an inquisitive/destructive streak lately. She gets into my purse, Michael's briefcase, her sister's dresser, everything. She's just got to have what everyone else has, although she doesn't always understand what she's got. She even gets into my laptop. I caught her rearranging my e-mail earlier this week. She's a hazzard! But I love her.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Husband Dilemma

On the one hand, Michael did take the kids for most of yesterday so I could sneak off to the library for work.

But on the other hand, the house was destroyed when I got home.

But on the one hand, I did get some much needed work done, and he had the kids for four hours while I was gone and another three after I got back.

But on the other hand, it's really, really hard to get ground in Play-doh out of the carpet.

But on the one hand, he also fixed dinner.

But on the other hand, he destroyed my kitchen in the process.

But on the one hand, it only took twenty minutes to clean up.

But on the other hand, I had already cleaned it twice yesterday, both times thanks to him and the kids.

But on the one hand, he made this really delicious Puerto Rican dish that I loved but can't pronounce.

But on the other hand, he deep fried that dish... in a shallow pan. No matter how much I mop the kitchen, it still looks like the Exxon Valdez ran aground on our linoleum.

But on the one hand, he didn't even complain that I came down to dinner an hour late.

But on the other hand, that dish was so deep fried I think I may drop dead of a heart attack at any moment. Does he want to kill me?!

But on the one hand, he did set up my BowFlex in the garage, so I can work out and be healthy.

But on the other hand, maybe he's trying to tell me I'm fat and flabby...

But on the one hand, he did buy the first season of Heroes on DVD so we could watch it together.

But on the other hand, he KNOWS I need to get up at 5:30 AM, so why did he buy something that was so damned addicting to watch and yet can't be viewed while the kiddies are up? I'm dragging today!

I dunno. Should I kill him, or jump his bones for joy? Both maybe? But in what order?

Husbands... Feh!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cartoon - Who Wants To Be A Super Hero? ME!

Today's cartoon is about podcaster and writer extraordinaire, Mur Lafferty. Mur has a novel coming out about super heroes and it's really cool! It's called Playing for Keeps. Be sure to buy a copy from on Monday, August 28th!

And no, I did not forget last week's cartoon. It's here:

Sorry it was late. All I can say was, I got eaten alive by REAL LIFE! Enjoy the cartoons!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Non-fan's Review of a Bruce Springsteen Concert

I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert last night at the Richmond Coliseum in Virginia. Let me state up front that I am not a raging Bruce Springsteen fan. That would be my darling husband, he who bought the tickets and still has the t-shirt he got from a Bruce Springsteen concert TWENTY YEARS AGO. Oy. Anyway, here are my reviews of 'the Boss' in concert.

First, the short review:


Now the long review:

Okay, so we had just gotten back from a trip to Pennsylvania to see my cousin's daughter get married. Honestly, I need to get up there more often, and it's a shame I don't because my aunt Adele is like the sweetest person in the world and she always has something ready for folks to eat whenever they come over, although we stayed in a hotel, not at her house, so we didn't get to gnosh like we would have had we actually been the--

What? Oh right, the concert. So anyway, we got back from Pennsylvania the night before, and that was a nine-hour drive with two screaming kids in the back seat, and both Michael and I were sick with some sort of weird flu bug (yes, I know, you want to hear about the concert. Hold your horses, I'm telling a story here!) that had us hacking up our lungs like a couple of old geezers, and we didn't get home until after 10 PM. So we were not in the best shape the next morning when we got up, and we just draaaaaaaaagged through the day until the babysitter showed up and it was time for us to leave. Now, the Richmond Coliseum is about an hour away from where we live, so that meant another road trip (joy) after the one we'd done the day before. Fortunately, we had a babysitter for the evening, which meant NO SCREAMING KIDS in the back seat. Even more fortunately, this was only an hour drive, which was good because Michael wanted to play Bruce Springsteen all the way to the concert and I did not because hey, weren't we going to be hearing this guy in a few hours anyway? But Michael insisted so I pulled out my iPod and listened to Phil Rossi's "Notes from the Vault" which is an awesome collection of horror stories and quite frankly Phil Rossi could read a grocery list and I'd get goose bumps. Seriously!

So where was I? Oh yeah, the Bruce Springsteen concert. Anyway, we got to Richmond and found a place to park that didn't cost us an arm and a leg and yet still looked like we would find our car with all four wheels still attached when the concert was over. We parked and walked over the Richmond Coliseum and saw lots of people with wrist bands on milling around the place. The wrist bands apparently meant you had bought a seat on the floor. Only there were no seats on the floor. I know this for a hard cold fact, because that's what Michael bought us -- two not-seats on the floor, for the bargain price of $99 a ticket, not including those ridiculous fees that darling hubby got charged for the **convenience** of buying our tickets online. The **convenience** of buying online? What kind of assbackward idea is that? Of course it's more convenient to buy online! Who the hell would want to stand inline for hours on end to buy a ticket from some snot-nosed rude little punk at the cashier's window when they could simply buy the damn thing online? And yet, because we're smart enough to buy online, we're going to be charged **extra**? Have these people not heard of Amazon or iTunes or the rest of the frikkin' digital age? Sheesh!

So anyway, if you had a grey armband, you paid for the privilege of standing for three hours on a hard cement floor while listening to 'the Boss' and his band play. And if you had a pink armband, that meant you were dumb enough to show up five or six hours earlier to stand in line so you could stand for another three hours even closer to 'the Boss' on the same hard cement floor. Thank god the babysitter couldn't show up until 4PM at our place, 'cause if Michael had insisted on showing up that early to get a pink band, you'd be reading his obituary instead of this really cool review.

Which has not even gotten to the actual concert yet. I know. But I want you to fully understand what I went through last night, and if I had to suffer through all that crap, so do you. Okay, where were we?

Oh yeah, the concert. So anyway, even though we had floor non-seats, we had apparently arrived too late to get our grey wristbands, so we just sashayed over to the nearest door that did not have a line a mile long in front of it and there we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And then a couple of people who were definitely not anybody important showed up and pushed their way to the front of the line that had formed behind us and tapped on the door and some jack-ass inside let them in, and man, you could feel the air conditioning coming out of that place, but WE who were also not important but apparently didn't know the secret knock on the door, could not get in so we just had to stand outside and make faces at the jerks who got in ahead of us and stood there ignoring us while they enjoyed the AC.

And then one of those jerks, a woman, came in and out a few times to smoke a cigarette right in front of us and oh that was precious. Look, a bottled blonde who's so addicted to nicotine she has to come outside every fifteen minutes to blow smoke in our faces. Or up our asses. Or whichever direction the wind blew.

And this went on for half an hour until some of the event staff came out and everybody cheered. Only the event staff didn't come out to let us in. No, they came out to hand out grey wristbands to those poor fools who had paid $99 for a non-seat on the floor. Oh wait, that was us. Yea, I got a wristband. It was grey. How lovely. And then the event staff went back inside and locked the doors again, except to keep letting out that stupid bottled blonde who just had to have another half a cigarette every five minutes. Geez! Not even a whole cigarette, just half a cigarette and she left the rest of it smeared on the pavement!

After another half hour of waiting, just about the time when the mob behind us started getting really ugly and talking about things like breaking down the doors and crushing everybody in front of them (like me and Michael), the event staff opened up the doors and let everybody come screaming in. Michael and I hurried inside and found our way to the non-seats on the floor and discovered that we would be spending the rest of the evening lined up behind enough people to fill a small country in Eastern Europe. And all these people were taller than us. And that meant we couldn't even see the frikkin' stage. So it was a good thing that there were these HUMONGOUS TV screens overhead, because otherwise we would never have seen the concert.

And Michael paid $99 a person for those tickets.


So anyway. We found an unoccupied spot on the floor and Michael claimed it and I went back out to find a potty (and yes, I call it a **potty** -- I have two kids five and under and we're still dealing with potty training so that's what we call it, now go soak your head) and something to eat because we left for the concert at 4 PMish and it was now going on 7 PM and I was hungry. And while getting into the potty was no big deal -- the Richmond Coliseum actually has enough stalls to deal with a mob of women all doing the potty dance -- finding food was not so easy. Everything offered for consumption had a huge line going out the doors, except for...

Pretzels and Dippin' Dots. And since I cannot eat Dippin' Dots for religious reasons (and no, I will not explain that because if I did, we'd never get around to talking about the actual concert) I bought two pretzels and two bottles of water. The price was actually half-way decent, but for some odd reason (religious perhaps) the cashier would not let me have the tops to the water bottles. So I had to veeeeeery carefully pick my way back down to our spot on the floor without spilling two open bottles of water, which made me realize that it was not for religious reasons that they had kept the bottle tops; it was a marketing plan. Because if I dropped my water bottles, I had to go back and buy new ones. Very sneaky.

Anyway, I got back to our spot and Michael took off for the potty (yeah, he calls it a potty too), and then he came back and we ate our pretzels and drank our water and we...


And waited.

And waited some more.

Apparently the concert was supposed to start at 7:30 PM. Not. 7:30 came and went and there was no sign of life on the stage, or at least I think there wasn't any, because you know we couldn't actually see the stage from our non-seats. So we kept waiting and the floor kept filling up and slooooooooowly the actual seats started to fill up. Then around 8PM I heard a guitar riff and a wild roar went up from the audience and I jumped up and down with everybody else struggling to see the stage and guess what?

I saw a roadie tuning a guitar.

And this happened about eight or nine million times. Some guy would come out, fiddle with one of the guitars, the crowd would go into a feeding frenzy, and then the guy would leave the stage.

After about two million years of waiting, I decided to make another break for the potty. I got in and out in under five minutes, which made me think that if I could move that quickly, why couldn't Bruce? But just as I was thinking that, guess what happened?

Yep. Another roadie tuned a guitar.

Eventually, the crowd got so big I could pick up both my feet and not fall down. We were wedged that tight. And wouldn't you know it, some jackass still found a way to shove himself through the crowd to stand right in front of us. Not "right at the very front of the part of the pit where if you only got a grey wristband but not a special pink one that was as close as you were allowed to get to Bruce," but right there in front of us. He was big, and he was religious, and he kept making jokes about "wouldn't it be great if he held up a sign about some weird Bible verse," and wouldn't you know it he brought his PARENTS with him and so he shoved around some more until he made enough room for them to stand in front of us too! Wasn't that special. Oh, but what really made it all special was that he ended up standing right next to me and that was when I discovered that I had a new, least favorite smell and it was...

Big guy who shoves people around and smells like rotting baloney.

Oh. My. God. The odor was just strong enough that if I turned my head in this guy's direction, I could catch a nasty whiff, but not strong enough to make me vomit on the spot which actually would have been good because maybe then this jackass would have moved someplace else! But no, the best I could do was turn my head away and ask Michael (who has NO sense of smell) to switch places with me So I turned my head turned away from him, only just as I was about to do that someone cut the lights, and I thought, "Oh my god!! We're all gonna die, packed like rats in this place!"

And yep, there was a bit of crowd surge as finally, FINALLY, the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, FINALLY showed up on stage.

And I would love to describe what the music was like at this point, but after the first opening chord, I was stone deaf and bleeding from both ears.

My GOD it was loud. Bruce came in and he hit hard. I mean, that music just felt like a fist to the face, and it drove me right back into Rotting Baloney Guy. Eeeeeew. And this went on for about 20 minutes straight. I can't decide if it was just one really long song or a bunch of songs run together. The Boss just kept hammering at that guitar, and then Clarence Clemmens (or was it Clarence Thomas? I always get those two confused) kept screeching on his saxophone and some chick with big blonde hair kept shaking her maracas like there was no tomorrow, and Bruce had not one but TWO skinny bald guys on either end of the stage playing piano and keyboard, and those guys sort of reminded me of George Hrab, who is an excellent musician and songwriter and has never made my ears bleed, and you know what? I'd pay $99 for a seat, or maybe even for a non-seat, to see George Hrab (and Phil Rossi too for that matter) because I know I'd enjoy that show. But then just as I was thinking about how awesome a combined George Hrab/Phil Rossi concert would be, Bruce started doing high kicks!

Oh my god, no Bruce, don't do it! Don't kick! It was terrible! It was like watching my dad trying to stomp on a possum that got into his barn and ate all the horse feed. It was like watching George Bush trying to be funny! It was painful, it was agony, he'll never make it into the Rockettes so my god why does he keep kicking, and oh my lord did the Rotting Baloney Guy just FART?! Oh! It's disgusting, my eyes! My nose! My ears!! Why is Bruce Springsteen trying to beat the audience to death with his music?! Oh the humanity...

But. BUT! After the first twenty minutes of all of this torture, Mr. Springsteen actually did something that I thought was rather cool.

He stopped.

And took requests.

Yep. He waded into the audience (well not actually into them, more like above them on a catwalk, and I don't blame him because quite frankly I think those people would have eaten him alive) and picked signs from people, and each sign had a request for a song on it, usually accompanied either by the reason why that person wanted to hear that song or some weird freaky decoration to get the Boss-man's attention. And after picking up a bunch of signs and chatting with the audience (and he really was kind of funny when he was chatting, I have to admit), he picked the first song from the pile of signs he collected, set it up in front of his mic stand, and he and his band played that song.

And it was the first song I heard that night that I actually liked, and I will probably go out and buy it if my Springsteen-obsessed husband doesn't already own it. It was called Stand On It, and it was a really good rock-a-billy song that I could have danced to if I had had room to dance. As it was, I was still squashed up against Rotting Baloney Guy and I didn't even have room to breath.

And so the concert went. It was a lively show, and I heard some stuff I liked and the Boss did give a very enthusiastic performance (but my god, those flat-footed high kicks! **shudder**) and the crowd absolutely loved him, and I did manage to save some of my hearing by pressing my left ear against Michael's shoulder. I would have taken turns with my ears, putting the left one down for a song and then the right one, but anytime I put the right one down on Michael's shoulder, I caught another whiff of Rotting Baloney Guy and that sort of killed that idea so now you know why I'm completely deaf in my right ear.

Oh, and Rotting Baloney Guy farted at least six times during the concert and I think it's a wonder that you aren't all reading about how everyone who attended the Bruce Springsteen concert in Richmond last night died from asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning or something. Really, something crawled up inside this guy's ass and died. But not before making a nest under his armpits, which I saw every time he raised his arms as he sang along with Bruce. Ugh.

The show lasted three hours, and by the time it was over, including the encore which was a really rollicking version of "Twist and Shout", it was closing in on midnight. We got out of the coliseum pretty quickly, found our car with all four tires still attached, and headed home. Miracle of miracles, we did not spend hours in traffic waiting to get onto the interstate. Someone was smart enough to bring out the traffic cops to direct the exodus and so we managed to make it home by 1:30AM to wake up the babysitter and send her home.

So, in conclusion, I spent a lot of time on my feet in overpriced non-seats standing next to a guy who smelled like rotting baloney and farted a lot. And if you see me yelling at my kids this week, it's because I AM STILL DEAF from the horrendously loud but otherwise enjoyable music. It was a good show, even for a non-fan in a non-seat, and I would do it again but only if my husband pays for real seats and I have ear plugs and nose plugs for the concert.

The End.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fried But Not Tasty

I'm going on five nights of insomnia now, and it's just about killing me. And I caught the creeping crud from Sam! How does that kid manage to get sick in the summer?!

I'm trying to function normally during the day, but it's damn hard. In addition to taking care of the kids and the house, I'm trying like crazy to get some promotional work done. It's not been easy. The 50th episode of my podcast, Heat Flash, goes up on Friday, and I have yet to toot my horn about that. Will start on that tomorrow, which is the last chance I have before I leave for a wedding in Pennsylvania. Very inconvenient time for someone to get married, right before my big podcasting milestone (grumble, bitch, moan).

Anyway, just letting folks know I'm not dead, just dead tired.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cartoon for 8 August 2008!

I'm sorry this was late. It was actually done on Friday, but everything went all screwy that day and I never got around to posting the cartoon here. Many other places, yes, but not here or on my erotica blog. Michael has been out of town most of the last two weeks. Sam was sick all last week, and I didn't feel so hot myself. In fact, I just dragged last week. Now I'm suffering from insomnia and Twitter addiction. I am so screwed up. But you don't care about that, do you? You just want your damned cartoon. Well fine. Here it is!

And you have no idea how true this one really is...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

It's That Time Of The Month!

For those of you who have never experienced the joys of having a menstrual cycle (and you know who you are GUYS!), allow me to describe what it's like.

Imagine your uterus has decided to claw it's way out of your body, through your cervix, down your vagina and between your legs, turning you inside out in the process so it can drag your sorry butt down 75 miles of baaaaaaaad highway as it goes for a long, messy stroll.

No, wait. I forget. Those of you who have never experienced the joys of a menstrual cycle (MEN!) don't understand terms like 'uterus' or 'cervix' or 'vagina.' So let me rephrase that in terminology that you will understand...

Imagine that your testicles have decided to crawl up into your body and claw their way out through your urethra and out the tip of your penis, turning your sorry carcass inside out in the process and dragging you behind it down 75 miles of baaaaaaaad highway while your wife nags at you for forgetting to put out the garbage before you went out on this little stroll. That's kind of what it's like. Only it's actually worse. Much, much worse.

God I feel lousy.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Cartoon for 2 August 2008

I actually feel like the goddess of Hell fire today. The kids and I spent all day yesterday at a beach in Kitty Hawk, NC. We went with my best friend Mary and her family. We brought sunblock and I swear we used it, yet somehow the only one of us that didn't end up looking like a crispy critter was Sam. The blonde pixie is as brown as a little nut, but Cassie and I are toasty red. Mary's stepson has it worse though. Poor kid is Irish - red hair, fair skin, freckles. Only now he's got red hair, red skin, and you can't tell his freckles from his sunburn. I swear, before yesterday, that boy would have glowed in the dark he was so white. Nice kid though. I was hunting for seashells all day to take home to photograph. Would have photographed them on the beach but Sam + Ocean = Imminent Disaster, so I couldn't really juggle the camera and watch the kid. I could hunt for shells though, especially with everyone else in the group helping out. Mary's stepson dove under the waves a lot and kept brining up these incredible shells. And before I left, I scooped up a bucket of sand from beneath the water. The plan is to take a glass backing dish, lay a layer of sand in the bottom, put the shells on top of that, and then add water. Then I can photograph the shells the way they'd look best - in their not-quite-natural habitat. If only I can figure out how to get the lighting just right, so that it looks like sunlight streaming through the water over the shells. You know those wriggly lines of light that play on the sand beneath the waves? That's what I want.

That and a vat of aloe vera gel. Ouch.