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.