Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Episode 41 - Halloween!

Oy, I hurt. I had this brilliant idea that I could do the text for the cartoon in Adobe, which would look much better than my own hand lettering. But then I got the cartoon scanned in and I thought, "Hey, if I can do the lettering in Photoshop, why not do the screen tones too? I know I've got a tutorial on that somewhere!" Several hours later…

I'm kicking myself because I should have just done the lettering and let it go at that, but nooooooo! I had to do the screen tones. And then I made the mistake of resizing the image down and then I saved it over the larger version of the file!! That hurts because now if I ever want to edit this particular episode again, I'll have to start all over from the beginning, scanning in the line work and then adding the text and then adding the screen tones…


So anyway, I have a question. Right now, I'm resizing the cartoon to 1200×410 pixels. This is the size you see after you click on the thumbnail. I've got a giant flat screen monitor, so I have no idea really if this is too small or too large for anyone else viewing the cartoon. Let me know if you'd like to see the cartoon a little larger, or smaller, because the size I shrink things down to affects how the screen tones work (and yes, I'm just stupid enough to try that technique again, because in spite of the time I wasted this evening, I really like how this turned out).

Enjoy your Halloween!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Creative Endeavors

It's Sunday afternoon. I'm on the couch with a cup of joe and my netbook. I've got four kids screeching and howling like a pack of wild monkeys in my living room. Oy vey!

In spite of the noise and the squabbling, I'm having a good day. Here's my list of what gives me that warm fuzzy feeling at the moment. It's mostly a list of creative endeavors that have paid off recently.

New website - okay, so only the blog is up, and it's nowhere near it's final configuration, but still, it looks nice, and I think if I keep working on it, in another week or so I will have finally set myself up to have all my disparate blogs rolled into one. That will be quite an accomplishment.

Pumpkin carving - we went to a pumpkin party last night. In theory, the kids were supposed to help scrape out the pumpkin guts. You know that didn't happen. While the kids ran amok, a dozen adults got down on the kitchen floor (Oy, my knees!) and scraped out pumpkins. Then we consulted with the kids on what to carve on the pumpkins, and because no sane adult there was keen on handing anyone under the age of 30 a knife, we sent the kids away and carved the designs. I drew the designs on the girls' pumpkins free form, after looking at a couple of stencils, and I have to say they came out pretty good. They're sitting on the porch right now (and Princess' is currently infested with ants. Oy!).

Cooking - I'm going to indulge in some cooking today, making a pumpkin souffle. I only make souffle in October, after I'm done scraping pumpkin guts out. It's going to be a messy job, since I still haven't sorted and washed everything (I just sort of threw the bag of guts in the fridge when we got home last night). But the souffle will taste wonderful, and it will be well worth the effort.

T-shirts - Target had some cool Halloween t-shirts on sale this week, so I picked up a couple to add to my collection (yes, I collect t-shirts). Very spooky, retro themed graphics on bold colors. Very freaky-chic looking. My kinda clothing, you know? I love my t-shirts.

Ugh. The girls in the living room are all arguing, necessitating the need for me to get off the couch and referee. But that's okay. In fifteen minutes, they're all going to someone else's house, and I am content with that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Freaky Friday - Homemade Halloween!

Well, this is being posted late, but it can't be helped. I've been tinkering with the new blog over at www.cynicalwoman.com and hopefully this post makes it over there tonight. Also, I was a little busy this afternoon finishing up a special project, namely some homemade Halloween decorations. You see, it is my goal to have a Halloween display just as cool and impressive as the one my neighbors set up in their yard. In case you missed the previous Freaky Friday post, their Halloween decorations look like this...

And at night, it looks like this...

And like this...

And like this...

Not to be outdone, the girls and I sat down and worked up a few decorations of our own. They look like this...

And this...

Ummmmm... Okay, so maybe we have a few years to go before we catch up with the neighbors. But you have to admit, the mummy looks pretty neat! Anyway, I hope you have a Freaky Friday (what's left of it anyway)!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Episode 40 - Occupational Hazzards

Yes, this really is a problem around this household. Finding time for... well, let's just say finding time for what's important.

It's hard for me to find time alone with the Hubster. In addition to the kids, we both put in a lot of hours at work, and since I'm usually up two hours before Hubster is, I'm usually out cold two hours before he is. We really do have to schedule sex if it's going to happen. Oh, and buy a nice bottle of wine so I can relax, because between work and chasing after the kids, I'm wound tighter than a cuckoo clock by the end of the day.

Anyway, speaking of work, I have four new stories for sale with Logical Lust. These stories originally ran on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, they are scorching hot, and I think you will enjoy them. Check them out here!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! What Wii game should I get next?

Well, I've had a week with Wii Fit Plus, and I do enjoy it, but I have to admit to some disappointment. For starters, I was expecting to be able to access all the different exercises and games in the "Make My Own Routine" section. No such luck. For some reason, Wii Fit Plus only lets you build personal routines using the yoga and strength exercises it seems, in spite of the fact that the mini routines already built into the game include the original cardio games and the new Wii Fit Plus games. I was also hoping for more cardio activities in the new Wii Fit Plus, but there seems to be a real lack of those. The closest I've found to new cardio games is the bicycle game (which lets you race all over the island searching for flags to tag before racing to the finish line) and the rhythm kung fu, which really isn't all that cardio intensive. There is a variation on the running in the My Wii Fit games, which offers new routes to run and then quizzes you on what you saw while you were running. That's nice, but would it have killed Nintendo to include new boxing and step routines? Aside from the Island Lap in the run, the boxing is the most cardio intensive game they've got, and I do it so frequently I can pretty much do it with my eyes close now. And the step routines never, NEVER change. These two things both need a serious update.

Having said that, I'm thinking of picking up yet another Wii fitness related game, and I'm trying to decide which one to get. There are four I have my eye on, including:

ES Sports Active: More Workouts - True, the original game did kill my knees, but EASA definitely has more upper body strength building exercises in it, and I like the sports drills. It's a bit expensive ($36.99 on Amazon.com), but I hear the new version includes stretching exercises, which would be a serious bonus. The game is only available for pre-order right now. It comes out 17 November.

My Fitness Coach - I've seen this online before, and wondered about it. Apparently, if you've got a step, a balance ball, a heart rate monitor, and hand weights, you can get a real workout with this game. I have all these items, so this would seem like a good choice. The game doesn't make much use of the Wii balance board according to reviews I've read, and it's an awful lot like a gym workout, but those people who like it swear by it. It also includes stretching exercises, again something I would like to see show up in exercise programs. The cost on this one is much lower, $19.49 on Amazon.com.

Gold's Gym Cardio Workout - the companion game to My Fitness Coach. This one does use the balance board, and looks to have lots of boxing games in it, along with some other exercises. The emphasis does seem mainly on boxing, from the reviews I've read, but as I mentioned above, the boxing in Wii Fit is one of the most intense cardio workouts available in that game, and I get a decent workout from that, so I'm not adverse to trying more boxing games. This one also gets pretty high ratings, and the price is $19.49 on Amazon.com.

Yoga - a fitness game that looks to include as much game as fitness. From what I've read online, you can choose to play the game whereby you explore the yoga temple and unlock new yoga challenges as you seek to gain the level of yoga master. There are a variety of settings to work out in, and the game definitely uses the balance board to check your balance and steadiness in each pose. The pluses on this one? I like yoga. I think it's a great strength and stretching workout, and this game looks to offer many more poses than the ones that show up in Wii Fit. I really like the idea of having an exotic environment to explore as well as a game goal to achieve while I work out. The cons? I hate the look of the stick-thin supermodel who's the spokesperson for this game. Honestly, I'm a generous size 12. I work out and I eat healthy and I have been a size 12 since my early teens, and all I can think when I see a model that thin is, "Someone's been starving themselves!" Thus I despise having emaciated runway models tell me how to be fit and healthy. It smacks of hypocrisy to me. If she shows up a lot in the game, it's going to be a real turn-off to me. Like EASA More Workouts, this game isn't out until 17 November, and it's the same price($36.99 on Amazon.com).

After looking through all this, I think what I'll end up doing is order My Fitness Coach and Gold's Gym Cardio Workout at the beginning of next month. The fact that I can get both these games for only a few dollars more than one of the other two games, and the fact that My Fitness Coach and Gold's Gym Cardio are already available make them the obvious choice. I'll try them out, see if I get the kind of workout I want with this combo, and then reconsider how badly I might want the other two games.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Contentments - Chilly weather

The weather outside isn't quite frightful, yet, but man is there a nip in the air! I'm snuggled up on the couch in one of my favorite sweaters, contemplating throwing one of my mom's crocheted blankets over top of me for additional warmth. The tip of my nose is cold and my fingers are a little clumsy. Methinks it may be time to tell Hubster to turn up the heat. I wonder if he will interpret that message to mean, "Sit the kids down in front of a movie and carry me up to the bedroom, you steamy hunk of stud-love!" One can only hope. In the meantime, here's this Sunday's contentments:

Healthy children - Pixie came down with strep throat earlier this week, and boy was that ever fun. Not. Her temperature got as high as 104 degrees at one point, and she had more than a few crying jags and melt downs because she didn't feel good. She stayed home from preschool two days, spending her time in a bean bag chair in front of the TV. Both evenings, she crashed on the couch, a sure sign she didn't feel well. That kid doesn't nap for anything! But now she's up and running around, keeping pace with Princess, and in general driving me nuts.

"Mama! I'm sick!"

Mommy moments - one night, while Pixie was sick, I woke up at 3AM to hear her crying in her bed. I got up, took her temperature (this was when it hit 104), gave her a little Children's Motrin and brought her into bed with her father and I. She could never quite settle down, but didn't want to go back to her own bed. At one point, she turned to me in the dark and asked, "So how was your day, Mama?" "My day was just fine, sweet heart," I replied. "That's good," she said, and then she finally decided she wanted to sleep back in her own bed.

Reading to my kids - I found my copy of "Where the Wild Things Are" this week and read it to Princess. She was fascinated with the artwork, and had all sorts of questions about the monsters and Max., then wanted to know if she could write a book of her own. She's already written a couple of books, collections of drawings with some words scribbled in them. We staple them together, but I think the next time she does one, I'm going to scan it into the computer and make it a PDF to send out to family and friends. The Princess can claim she's "self-published!"

Speaking of being published... Yes, work accomplishments are qualify as contentments in my opinion, and I'm very contented to note that this week I had four stories published with Logical Lust. What makes this especially sweet is that these are some of my best work ever, but two of the stories were usually rejected by anthology editors because the tone of the stories is rather tragic. Apparently not many publishers like to take a chance on tragedy, even when it's well written. However, Logical Lust was more than happy to work with me, so these stories and two others (those two are comedies) are now available for sale. I hope they do well!

Local festivals - we missed the Greek Festival this weekend, due to the fact I wasn't feeling so well yesterday morning, but we did get out to the local Egyptian Fest. It was much smaller than the Greek Fest (which is huge), and we got there pretty late, but we managed to pick up some food to take home to eat. Actually, what we did was go through their cafe line and wipe the whole thing out! The food was good, and exactly what I needed that evening. We had a friend over, and spent the evening eating falafels and kashta and stuffed grape leaves while watching the Virginia Tech game (VT lost, but oh well). A wonderful evening, if I do say so myself.

There's lots of other things to be content about, like the art projects the kids and I have been working on, and the costumes we'll be sewing later this afternoon, but I think I'll stop here for today. I want to curl up with a hot cup of tea now and just enjoy a few moments of quiet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday Art - Summoned and Bound

There's something very naughty and very pretty over at my erotica blog today. It's a bit of artwork I did yesterday, a male nude. You can find it here. Enjoy!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Freaky Friday - I'm not the only freak in the neighborhood!

I love my neighbors. Love, love, love them. From the nice lady who lives across the street and gives my girls books and dolls to the couple next door who's kids have babysat for us since Princess was a tiny tot to the woman down the street who runs Pixie's preschool, I love them all. I live in a great neighborhood, and I'm very grateful for the good neighbors I have who never once complain about my freakish ways.

During the month of October, however, I am especially grateful for the family who lives next door to us, because they put up one killer Halloween display.

They start decorating their yard at the beginning of the month, but honestly, preparations start long before then. All through August and September, whenever I'd walk by their house and see the garage door open, I'd catch glimpses of stuff being built - tombstones, graveyard fences, an animatronic witch. My neighbors do buy some of their Halloween stuff, but a lot of it is home made, and the stuff they buy they tend to modify to make it even better.

All through October, their yard just gets creepier and creepier. Every afternoon when the girls get home from school, they ask if they can go next door and see the neighbors' yard (there is always something new). I've told my neighbors they need to sell tickets to people for tours of their display, and my girls would be first in line to get season passes. We really can't stay away from their yard!

They also decorate inside the house, which has given me a heart attack on more than one occasion. Every year, without fail, I look next door and see someone dark and disturbing lurking in their sunroom. I get all panicked, thinking either a burglar or a serial killer has broken into their house. Then just as I'm about to dial 911, I realize it's October and the strange man in the dark trench coat and black hat is just one of their animatronic figures they've put up inside the house.

The decorations in the yard are usually done to a certain point by the last week of Halloween. Then the day of Halloween, my neighbors pull out all the stops and set up all their animatronic, life-size figures in the driveway, or else they convert their garage into a haunted house that visitors can walk through. One year, they set up their entire house as a tourist attraction. It was nuts!

This year, my neighbors have outdone themselves. The graveyard in the front has a large "stone" entry way, decorated with skeleton bones and body parts, topped by a vulture. They've got an evil zombie scarecrow in one corner of the graveyard, and lots of new tombstones and skeletons and ghosts set up. I'm still waiting to see the animatronic witch. From what my neighbors tell me, she's going to be spectacular!

Here are a few pics of my neighbors' freaky yard ;)

You see how huge this is? I want a front yard just like this someday!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Latest releases - Mundania e-books are now on sale!

Last month, I podcasted four unusual stories for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. These were the Mundania stories, the only stories ever to appear on Heat Flash that were not science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Yes, I actually wrote four, count them, FOUR contemporary erotica stories, and they were just released for sale today in e-book format from Logical Lust Publications.

You can buy the stories here at Logical Lust, either individually for $1.99 or the entire set of four for $4.99. Not sure if you want to buy these lovely, lusty, scorching tales? Then listen to them here first on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast! The stories are:

A Man in a Kilt - Jimmy's a rough and tumble Scotsman who thinks he can handle any woman. Then he meets Nan, a friendly domme who teaches him otherwise... (Fem domme; BDSM)

Rapacious Mrs. Horner - Diane Horner is a forty-something divorcee with a serious addiction to gay porn and painful broken heart. When her son's best friend comes onto her, what will she turn him away or eat him alive? (F/m; older woman/younger man)

Diablo - Spoiled rich kid Randall wants one thing and one thing only - Pony Boy, the hired hand at Polk's Stables, down on his knees and ready to please. When Pony Boy refuses to be tamed, will Randall break him instead? (M/m; warning - scorching hot m/m erotica but also controversial)

A Room with a View - With the economy in the toilet, Darcy Daniels has lost her job, her car, her apartment, and now her pride as she's forced to move back in with her parents. Then she discovers her old bedroom window looks right into the window of the boy next door. Is he watching her at night? Is she going to watch him? And if their fathers hate each other, do they even have a chance at getting together? (Older woman/younger man; voyeurism; sex toys; even a touch of romance in this one!)

A note about these stories: if you're looking for humor, definitely check out A Man in a Kilt and A Room with a View. If you like your erotica edgy and dangers, then go for broke with Rapacious Mrs. Horner and Diablo. And remember, you can also get all four books together in one collection, and listen to them on the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast before you buy!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Pimping one's self

Over the summer, I spent some time trying to do a bit of promo for my work. If there's one area where I really fall down as a writer, it's promotion. Yeah, I blog and I twitter and I podcast and I do the web comic, but there are facets of promo that I don't do often enough, like participate in Yahoo groups or hold contests or send out for reviews.

So I've been thinking lately of ways I can improve my promotion plan. Yes, I have a plan, or rather, I should have a plan. I sort of have a plan, but I need to sit down and redo it and make it better - easier to execute, defined goals, etc. The problem is finding time to do all this planning of promotion and executing of promotion and still get my writing done. So I'm looking into simple tasks that I can do that won't tax my time or my brain. My initial ideas so far are...

Send out one of my books for review every Friday. I have a list of review websites, and if I just took 30 minutes each Friday, I could send these books out and maybe get a slew of reviews. It takes time to get a review done; most places take 8-12 weeks to get a review done. But if I start sending out now, I could have a ton of reviews coming my way in a couple months. That can't be bad.

Continue to blog. Right now, I'm doing at least 3 regular posts a week here and my weekly post on Oh Get A Grip. I'd like to add one more regular post to this, and then I think my blogging efforts would be complete. A good blog would (hopefully) keep people coming back for more, but a good blog has to be maintained with regular content. I want to be certain I provide that content.

Continue to cartoon. Since the start of school, I've set aside one day a week to work on the web comic, and so far I've been able to keep a regular schedule. Hopefully, with regular drawing, I'll get faster and better at producing the comic, so I won't have to spend an entire work day on it, but for now, I'm willing to spend a day to get this thing done!

Revamp the website. I've talked about this before, but now have finally started to take action on it. On Friday, I set in motion a transfer of all my domain names to GoDaddy.com, because I know GoDaddy plays nice with WordPress (it better play nice!), and because I can host multiple domain names on one hosting package. Once the domain name transfer is complete, the actual website revamp begins. I've got the domain name www.cynicalwoman.com, which I've used for years for a flash website I did way back when. I love the work I did on that, but updating a flash website is a bitch and a half for me, especially since I no longer understand the latest version of Action Script (a situation I'll need to correct very soon, it seems). I want an html website with a WordPress blog, and I want the website to combine most of my current websites - www.helenehmadden.com, www.cynicalwoman.blogspot.com, www.theadventuresofcynicalwoman.blogspot.com - into one place. I've pretty much stopped posting anything over at www.helenehmadden.com because it's too much effort to maintain a separate writing website from my personal blog. And besides, I've pretty much effectively branded myself as Cynical Woman, stay-at-home mom and erotica writer, so why not go with that?

Once the website revamp is done, I'll add to my list of promo goals. But for now, I think this is enough. Hopefully, I can get a working website up and running by Halloween. Let's see what I can do.

Now, I want all of YOU guys to tell me something. If you're a writer, what kind of promo do you do that works well for you? What promo have you done that turned out to be a huge waste of time? And readers, what kind of promo would you like to see me do? Give me some ideas of things you would enjoy, because one thing I don't want to do is annoy the crap out of readers with bad promo. (Please, please, please leave comments on this one, because I really do want to know!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Episode 39 - Who's Yo Mama?!

One day, this is going to happen to me. It just has to. In addition to reading my stories aloud to catch mistakes, I also record most of them for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast (which is a free weekly audio show I do that you can download to your MP3 player or listen to on your computer, and if you're not listening you should be!). Most days I only write or record when the kids are in school or in bed. When they're home and awake, I'm so busy taking care of them, I don't have time to do anything else. But mark my words, one of these days they're gonna walk in on me while I'm working...

You may have noticed that this cartoon is done "old style," which is to say I did it on the computer using Manga Studio 4. I still love MS4, and much prefer the way the cartoons look when I do them on the computer, but the fact is, it takes too long to do the cartoons this way. This particular cartoon was penciled back in April, and then inked yesterday morning. Had I done this by hand, it would have taken me an hour at most to do the inking and then the cartoon would be finished. In Manga Studio 4, the inking takes longer, plus there are extra steps I do to add the tones and text balloons, which is part of what makes the digital cartoons so pretty. What to do? Continue drawing by hand, but draw better! It'll come with practice. Meanwhile, I'll just use Manga Studio for other projects, since I'd really like to do some Manga style artwork, and this is the best program I've got for inking.

Anyway, here is this week's cartoon, and I hope you enjoyed it ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Move it Mama Monday! Wii Fit Plus

So I was sick two weeks, and not getting much moving around done, certainly not getting any serious exercise done. This is to be expected when one is sick. The general idea is to rest rather than run one's self into the ground. But resting for two weeks left me feeling like a big squishy slug. Not a feeling I enjoy.

Still, I couldn't seem to throw off the lethargy from being sick. Then Wii Fit Plus showed up in my mailbox, and suddenly I had the urge to get up and move.

I've been waiting for Wii Fit Plus ever since I found out about it earlier this summer. I pre-ordered my copy at the beginning of the month, eager to try it out, and then waited and waited and stayed in bed sick. I just happened to be in a slow recovery phase when the game arrived, so I decided to try just a few minutes, because you know I've been sick and I don't want to overdo it. 45 minutes later, I was sweating and woozy and addicted to Wii Fit Plus.

Obviously, I enjoy the new game. After having worked with the original Wii Fit since last February, I was getting bored, which is never good for a fitness routine. The preview shots and videos of Wii Fit Plus intrigued me and made me curious to see if Nintendo had done a massive overhaul of the game. There were certain deficiencies in Wii Fit that I desperately wanted to see corrected. Did Nintendo fix these things?

Eh, yes and no. The two biggest changes in Wii Fit Plus are the new Training Plus games and the My Wii Fit Plus category in the training options menu (that's the menu you go to after you select Training at the main calendar, you know, the one with the piggy bank waiting for you to choose what to work on that session). The Training Plus games are a combination of balance, coordination and brain games with a bit of aerobic workout thrown into some of them. These games are in a separate category from the original Balance games that came with the original Wii Fit (lest you worry, all the original games and exercises are still included in Wii Fit Plus). Among other things, the Training Plus games include Rhythm Kung Fu, juggling, the chicken flying game, a marching parade game, a bicycle game that allows you to determine where you go on the Wii Fit island (I like this one just for the fact that I can finally explore the island on my own!), a snow ball fight, and several others. A few of these games have caused me to sweat a bit, namely the Kung Fu and the bicycle game. Most test the brain, balance and coordination.

As for the yoga and strength categories, those are still the same but with 3 new exercises each. Personally, I would have rather seen at least 5 new exercises in each, but 3 isn't bad. Nothing has changed in the aerobics category that I can tell.

Then we come to the My Wii Fit Plus category. Selecting this option takes you to a "locker room" where you're given a variety of menu buttons to choose from, including Wii Fit Plus Routines, My Routines, and Favorites. The Wii Fit Plus Routines are preprogrammed routines that focus on particular areas for you to work on - balance, arms and shoulders, etc. You have to poke around a bit to see what each one really does, since some of the titles don't really tell you much (there's an over-indulgence routine that I discovered is supposed to focus on calorie burning, and a Shape routine that looks like it's supposed to focus on the waist line). None of these routines is more than three exercises/games long, and none lasts longer than 8 minutes. The advantage of these preprogrammed routines is that they do let you get through the exercises faster. Without the routines, you do spend a little extra time selecting individual exercises and going through menu options before actually getting to an exercise. With the routines, you zip from one exercise to the next. That's a bonus in my opinion because it means a 45 minute workout could actually only take 50 minutes to do as opposed to an hour (those of you who have used the original Wii Fit will know what I'm talking about). Also, the routines allow you to mix things up, going from yoga to games to aerobics and back without having to do a lot of switching around in the menu. Again, this speeds a workout along greatly!

One thing about these routines is that they all seem to select exercises or games at the beginner's level, as opposed to the advanced level. I haven't set up any of my own routines yet (something I'm going to try this week) to see if I have the option of using the advanced levels of things like the running, cardio boxing, etc. I'm hoping so.

Other things that have changed in the Wii Fit Plus. Wii Fit Plus now tells you how many calories you burn while working out. I have to admit, they show me burning far fewer calories than I would like. Also, Wii Fit Plus gives you the option of setting a calorie burning goal for each day. Unfortunately, any activities you do outside Wii Fit Plus aren't counted toward that calorie goal, although when you list them in the Fit Credits menu, they are tallied up there and added to whatever you've done in Wii Fit. But during the actual workout, they don't show up.

One more interesting option, you can now change players while working out. In the yoga, strength, cardio and balance games menus, at the very bottom right corner is an option to switch players. Doesn't look like you can do this in the My Wii Fit Plus, but if you want to work out with someone, you now have the option of switching back and forth on every exercise. I don't know yet if this means you can finally have another person's Mii race with you on the 2-person race. That would be nice, especially since my girls like to race me when I'm working out. But it does mean if I want to spend an evening doing a workout and the kids want to play along, I can let them (though that option has its own hazards).

The whole game has a slightly revamped look. The colors are bolder, the appearances of the personal trainers are a bit different, though both are still rather mannequin like. My biggest question is whether or not the Wii Fit Plus is still as snarky as the original Wii Fit. That's something I'm sure I won't find out for a few weeks. When I first started using the Wii Fit, I recall it being very supportive with all its little comments, but then one day when I suddenly put on a few pounds (it was water weight, can't do a damned thing about it at my age), Wii Fit got all persnickety and demanded I explain why I had suddenly turned into the Fat Lady at the circus. It did not help that the stupid thing didn't even give me the option of listing "water weight" or "hormones" as one of the reasons why I had packed on 4 lbs over night. I haven't used Wii Fit Plus long enough to see this come up yet, but if it does, I'm going to be sadly disappointed. No one, and I mean no one, likes to be sniped at for things they can't control. (BTW, I have noted the Wii Fit Plus does seem to feel the need to get a little snippy if you miss a day for your fit test. That bit of snark has apparently not changed a bit.)

Over all, I like it. I would have liked to have seen more exercises added in the yoga and strength section, especially exercises that targeted the upper body. I also would have liked to have seen new cardio activities added. But the routines are a great idea and I'm looking forward to setting up my own. And I have to admit it, I really like the new games. If I'm not feeling well, I can at least get up and do the games, and while they may not give me a heart pounding workout, they will at least get me moving and that goes a long way toward making me feel better when I've been sick a while.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Contentment - Halloween fun with my kids

I love the month of October. Being sick the two weeks, I haven't really been able to appreciate it as much as I would have liked, but then I realize I would rather have been ill in October when the weather is cool and pleasant and conducive to relaxing than be ill in July when the weather is so damn humid around here you can practically swim through air. The later would have made me really miserable.

But right now, I'm feeling better, maybe on the mend finally after battling a weird illness that has left me fatigued, nauseous. I'm sitting at the dining room table. Princess and Pixie are giggling over sandwiches and singing nonsense songs to each other. One song in particular sounds like a very warped version of Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like A Lady," and I can't stop chuckling as they howl that song at the top of their lungs. Obviously, I'm in the contentment zone, so let's get started with what's making me feel all warm and fuzzy this week.

Halloween decorations - my next-door neighbors are BIG into Halloween, to the point that they build this giant display every year. It's a mix of hand made and store bought items, sometimes the store bought stuff having been customized in my neighbor's workshop. Right now, they've got a huge graveyard in their front yard, complete with a fake stone entryway and wrought iron fence running around the entire thing. There's ghosts and skeletons galore inside this thing, and I know there's still more stuff in the garage waiting to be added. I plan to post pictures of what they've done on Friday as a Freaky Friday post.

Halloween decorations, part 2 - I found at Michael's for mummies made from plaster wrap and Styrofoam, so this afternoon the entire family is going to set up on the back deck and put together some mummies for our yard. Our decorations can in no way compete with the neighbors' but I don't care. They've had years to build their display, and we'll take years to build our own. Princess, who is obsessed with Egypt, is particularly looking forward to this afternoon.

Jogging - After my third knee injury, I never thought I'd jog again. It was just too painful. But Wii Fit included a jog-in-place activity that I could do, and somehow, I've eventually worked my way back to jogging around the neighborhood. I'm not very fast, and my endurance could use some building up, but I'm amazed that I can actually do this. October, with it's lovely crisp fall weather, is the perfect time for jogging too.

Princess and Pixie - there's nothing like listening to your kids laugh while they're goofing around. I'm constantly amazed at the things these two girls do. Last night, Pixie (who is three) lectured us on how Columbus discovered the West Indies, and then launched into a spiel about the solar system that had me in stitches. She looked so serious with her hands on her hips, going on and on about planets and suns and moons and Mother Earth. I have to remember to thank her pre-school teacher for that. Meanwhile, Princess has developed an interest in drawing anime style characters, although she doesn't realize they're anime yet. I've got plenty of how to draw books, including manga and anime, and will be cracking those open later this week to do some drawing with her. She's gotten pretty good!

Grilled cheese sandwiches - Hubster just handed me one fresh out of the pan. It's GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!

Fall clothing - I hate wearing shorts, and all summer long I pine for my jeans. While I love my t-shirts, I miss my long-sleeve tees. Today, I've got on a proper fall outfit and I love it.

Good books - I've read a couple of amazing books recently. I can't recall the authors off the top of my head, and I'm too lazy to look them up at the moment on Amazon, but I highly recommend the following titles - Soulless (by Gail Carriger, who's name I can actually remember), Of Bees and Mist, and Drood (a sort of fictionalized horror story about the last five years of Charles Dickens' life and how he came to write The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

And that's about it for this week. Have a nice day this Sunday, and enjoy your contentment.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Writing Wednesday - Where do you get your ideas from?

It's supposedly the question every author dreads - "Where do you get your ideas from?" And I suppose some authors dread it because it can be hard to explain the process behind brainstorming and writing and rewriting and so on. But guess what? It's not a question this writer dreads. In fact, I'd be more than happy to explain where my ideas come from.

Where do ideas come from? Everywhere and anywhere, obviously. I get my ideas from magazine articles, TV shows, other writer's books, day dreams, nightmares, and random words. I've got a million ideas flitting through my head at any given time. The problem for me is not where do the ideas come from, but how quickly can I catch them and pin them down? And then what amount of work will I have to do to bring an idea into fruition as a story.

I go through story ideas like nobody's business. At the start of each month, I have to come up with between 4-6 ideas for the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast, and I have to come up with them fast. I hate working in a void when I write, so each month I pick a theme for the upcoming month's stories. For October, I always go with some sort of horror theme, which means I just spent the entire month of September writing five horror stories, and each had to be different from the last. To make things easier, I refined my theme idea to "Lustcraft" and worked on homage stories based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I made a list of all the Lovecraft I enjoyed, and when a few Edgar Allen Poe story ideas snuck into the mix, I went ahead and included them too. It seemed fitting to me, since Poe was a source of inspiration for Lovecraft. Once I had a viable list of stories I could play with, I took the originals apart and had fun putting my own spin on everything from the Dunwich Horror to The Tell-Tale Heart.

But that was last month, and this is this month, which means I'm now working on November's stories. Since Thanksgiving falls within November, I decided to write about gatherings, because Thanksgiving is always when people come together (to eat turkey, if nothing else). Then I pulled out my handy-dandy notebook and came up with a list of all the kinds of gatherings I could think of - weddings, funerals, parties, spring break, migrations, spawning grounds, etc. No idea was too stupid, too vague or too boring to include. At some point, a couple of these ideas spawned more specific images, and I wrote notes about those. Over the course of the last few days, I've continued to make my list, play with ideas, and make notes until I've come up with a total of 5 story ideas for the month. Now, at this point, I'm ready to move deeper, spending a day developing each individual idea in my notebook and then when I have a slew of notes and lines of dialog and description, I'll move to the computer and start banging out a story.

I have a week, sometimes less, to write each story. I've found that if I do the prep work in my notebook, developing my idea and writing up all those notes, then when it comes time to sit down and actually write, the process is almost painless. I've managed to write entire stories in just an hour, if I do that prep work. If I don't, and the idea is still rather vague, then I may spend all week agonizing at the keyboard until I finally get the story fleshed out and onto the screen. The stories that I'm prepared to write are usually shorter and more concise, ideal for the podcast. The stories that aren't prepped tend to be longer and harder to write, though I've turned out some amazing pieces by starting with only the vaguest of ideas.

I admit, I am much better at coming up with ideas for stories than I am at coming up with ideas for art. I can write a story at the drop of a hat, but I've had a lot of times where I've sat down with my drawing pad and pencils, looked at that blank page and gone, "Duuuuuuh... what do I draw?" I've finally started keeping a little notebook to jot ideas in, using the same process I use for the podcast stories. I'll be interested in seeing how this works out over the next few months. Who knows, I may turn out more art!

If you're having trouble coming up with that initial idea, consider starting with something general first (like the monthly theme I use for Heat Flash), and then narrow it down from there. Don't reject ideas out of hand because they seem stupid or unworkable. Sometimes your brain will combine the stupid with the unworkable and come up with the masterpiece. And maybe get yourself a notebook you can scribble in, something that doesn't have to be pristine and hold only the best ideas, but can take every single crappy line your brain tosses out. All that crap is fertilizer for story ideas, and you never know what will grow out of it.

And that's where my ideas come from.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Move It Mama Monday! Still feeling ill

I don't know what I caught, but I've been out of it most of the past week. I managed to get to the pool on Monday and had a great swim, then I was flat on my back Tuesday and Wednesday. I did a light workout on Thursday and felt exhausted afterward, so that's been pretty much it for exercise since then. I've slept so late some mornings it isn't even funny, and I've been doing most of my work from bed. Every time I think I'm getting better, I end up feeling crummy again. So who knows. I'm going to continue to take it easy on the exercise front for a while.

In other news, I ordered the new Wii Fit Plus, which became available today. I'm looking forward to seeing what the new game is like, and will give a report here as soon as I've had a chance to hop on the balance board and play with it. Then I'm going to have to figure out how to work it into my regular workout schedule.

That's probably the big thing on my mind, fitness-wise, these days, aside from being sick. I've settled into a new work schedule since the kids started back to school, but I'm still figuring out the exercise schedule. I want to hit the pool at least twice a week, the dojo three times a week, and that leaves two days a week for Wii Fit or running. I'd throw in a few extra workouts, but I also need time to clean the house. Ugh. I despise house cleaning, but it's got to get done, so I'm trading the time I had hoped to set aside for fun little mini-workouts to do the cleaning instead. We'll see how that works. I figure if I do three house cleaning sessions a week, I might be able to steal back one morning for a Wii Fit mini-workout, but we'll have to see.

And that's all that's going on right now. Going to rest a bit more today, and see about doing a light workout tomorrow. Have fun!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Contentments - The Hubster

Once again, it's Sunday morning, but today I'm far afield, about one hour from home and enjoying a light repast at a Panera's. I'm on my own this morning. Hubster, good Catholic that he is, took the girls to church, and me, good Zen Buddhist that I am, said, "Good luck with that!"

I've not had the funnest of weeks this past week. Some sort of weird bug hit me, and I spent a lot of mornings in bed thinking maybe I was dying. No fever, congestion, or vomiting, but I was completely wiped out and had a headache that wouldn't quit. It's wasn't a really bad headache, just one persistent SOB that would not leave me alone. So I spend quite a lot of time in bed this week, while the Hubster picked up after my sorry ass. I have to say, I love that man of mine. So this morning's contentments are dedicated to him, the man who puts up with moi! And we're starting with...

Hubster's cooking - he made seared tuna steaks last night with Sechuan green beans. The girls both turned their noses up at it while I devoured everything on my plate and then some. The man can cook. In fact, up until the past couple of years, he did all the cooking as well as all the grocery shopping. What a guy!

Hubster's way with kids - I have to admit, I'm a nervous Nellie when it comes to letting the girls run amok in the neighborhood. I can just imagine all sorts of things going wrong. Hubster lets them venture farther afield than I do. They enjoy the freedom, they learn a little responsibility, and I learn not to be so much of a tight-ass when it comes to letting kids do what kids do. Yesterday, Princess happily spent the day outside on her own, riding up and down the street on her bike. Up until some snot-nose little boys decided to start picking on her, she was happy as a lark and doing pretty good on her bike. I'm going to have to let her and Pixie run loose more often (oh, and I explained to Princess that little boys are scum-eating, stinky, smelly, fetid, rotten, puss-drooling little creeps which made her laugh; welcome to the Battle of the Sexes, kiddo!).

Hubster's way with kids, part 2 - when Princess came home crying telling us one of the aforementioned little cretins threw rocks at her, I sent Hubster out to handle the situation, because I just knew I was gonna kill me some little boys. Cool, logical engineer guy that he is, he confronted the boy in question, and when he got a "he-said she-said" story, he let the little boy know that if he ever saw any rocks being thrown at anyone, he was going to handle it by talking to the parents of everyone involved. Me, I would have just rained down blood and hell fire and obliterated the entire neighborhood. But I'm hormonal and not feeling well this week, which is why I sent out the Hubster instead :)

Hubster's manly home improvement skills - the man is a genius in more ways than one. He pinches every penny until it screams, always getting more than his dollar's worth, and one of the ways he does this is by doing the home repairs himself. He researches every project and then confidently goes down to the hardware store, gets what he needs, and sets about fixing whatever needs fixing. I don't think I can recall a single home improvement project he's done that has not gone well. Some have gone on longer than expected, like the rennovation of our downstairs bathroom and the retiling of our kitchen floor, but that's only because the man works mad hours at his J-O-B.

Hubster's mad computer skillz - the man builds computers as a hobby. He builds really good computers, too. Occasionally, we have the odd error or the need to fix a problem caused by the operating system, but he understands computers inside and out. When he doesn't outright build a computer, he researches thoroughly before he buys. As the lucky recipient of his computer skills, I now own 3, count them, 3 computers, including the little netbook I'm using right now to blog. I'm a computer addict, and I could not survive without my genius husband.

Hubster's giant brain - did I mention he's incredibly, stupendously smart? Like he really is a rocket scientist smart? My dad always said it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor man. I told Dad it was better to fall in love with a smart man than a rich man, because the rich man might get stupid with his money, but the smart man never would. I have not yet been proven wrong on this.

Hubster's never-ending patience - the man very rarely blows up, and he's put up with a lot of shit from me over the last... good lord, has it been 19 years? (That would be 3 years of dating and engagement plus 16 years of marriage.) Why he's still around, I don't know, but he's been here through thick and thin, and has supported me in every half-assed endevour I've gotten involved in. A lesser man would have either killed me or himself long since, I'm telling you.

And I could go on and on. The fact is, you don't stay married to a man for 16 years if he's not special, and Hubster is. He's got the kids this morning, and has pretty much given me the entire week off to recuperate from my mysterious illness. He's making London broil tonight, and I'm pretty certain we'll be enjoying a quiet afternoon watching the game today, cuddled up on the sofa while the kids run amok around us. Is there anything more I could want? Seriously, I don't think so.

Have a good Sunday everyone, and I hope you enjoy the day with the ones you love.