Monday, April 30, 2007

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I was driving The Awesome Co-Worker crazy. Or at least that's what I knew she was thinking, but didn't say. She didn't say it, because The Awesome Co-Worker happens to be super nice as well as being awesome.

All last week I vacillated between buying a camera and not buying a camera. On Thursday evening, I finally gave in and went shopping. Down to B&H I went, wallet in hand, debit card swiping. (So much for paying double on that one bill.) I've been happy as a clam ever since.

Here's a sample of what I've been up to. This one's probably my favorite. Which one's yours?


This one was particularly beautiful! All frothy white and goodness.


These cascading blossoms were breathtaking. I have another photo I'll post later in the week showing the drape of branches.


So whadayuthink? Was it money well spent? Scratch that. (The frugal ones in my family will say no.) Which one did you love?


Friday, April 27, 2007

Cherry Blossom Festival, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Just a short post tonight, I'm going to head off to bed early. What's that you say? It's already 10:00pm? Oh. I guess that means I'm going to head off to bed semi-early tonight.

I have been burning the candle at both ends all week long, and would love to sleep in tomorrow, but the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is calling. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival is this weekend and I'm going. (Before you rant that I spelled BBG, it really is Botanic, I checked twice.)

Although this will be my first time attending here in NYC, I've been to a Cherry Blossom Festival before. When I lived in Washington DC, I went twice. Loved it with a capital L.

So I did a little shopping yesterday...I won't tell you what I bought yet. I'm going to save it for a surprise on Monday, but I'll give you a hint. I've been salivating over one recently, and it starts with a C and ends with an N.


The Day I Stopped a Gang War, no, they didn't have knives...or guns

Yesterday afternoon when I went outside to make a quick personal phone call, I got to stop a gang war.

Well, not really, but I had you going for a second there didn't I? *insert chuckle*

Well I did stop something. It wasn’t a gang war per se, but it was about to become a nasty fight (there were about thirty or so young men egging each other on). This is how it happened.

Yesterday afternoon I stepped out of the office to call my Brother-in-Law Nick because my blog was experiencing glitches from the work I'd done the night before. He fixed the problem, (brilliant computer geek that he is) so now in order to get to my blog, you can type into your browser and it will bring you right here. Snazzy huh!

So here I am, minding my own business, walking away from the doors and building construction heading toward the spot where I wanted to make my call when I saw them. About thirty young men, ages twelve to sixteen, milling around the sidewalk. I didn't think much of it, so I whipped out my phone and looked for a place to stand.

I scanned the group wondering if they'd be too loud for me to hear my Brother-in-Law Nick, when I realized that all might not be well on that particular smog choked, overcast, construction dust laden bit of NYC sidewalk. The groups weren't milling, but circling. Then I became aware that there were two protagonists with groups forming around each one. Heckling came from both sides, egging each other on. Oh dear.

All I could only think two things. The first, this isn't happening, they aren't really going to fight. And second, as the only adult standing around, (I work near the park, and had used a side entrance to the building) I couldn't let it happen. Besides can you imagine the headlines? Young boys fight, end up in hospital as "Fill in the Blank" Employee stands idly by, watching, or turns her back, or something...I don't know but it would have been bad I'm sure.

So here I am wading into the fray as soon as the preliminary shoves are over, trying to shout over the din and calm the testosterone induced adrenaline surges. All I could think to yell was "Do I need to call the "Company" Security Guards? Over and over again. One of the would-be fighters glanced down at the Company ID badge I held in my hand and backed off immediately, the intense desire in him to beat the crap out of the other kid dampened. Some small corner of my brain recognized this, so I swung it with vigor at the rest, card in one hand (you know, to look official) and cell phone in the other.

The crowd started to break up, but it took a little while to calm down the other half of the crowd. I vaguely remember gently rubbing the arm of one young man and saying "Settle down, settle down." He was trying to incite the crowd to riot again.

I don't know what I was thinking to have waded into the middle of that crowd, must have been the "I can't let this happen" part of me. In the end it all worked out, the crowd dispersed. Half of it went one way, the other headed off in the opposite direction. Disaster averted.

But there was a moment there when I was in the middle, with my back to the half of the gang I had mostly calmed down when I thought. "Um, this probably isn't a good idea. What If I get jumped from behind?" I suppose it would have been okay eventually....The building has security cameras, they'd eventually see me getting beat up...and later after I'd calmed the boys down, two guys I know from IT walked by. I'm sure they would've played Good Samaritan and scraped me off the pavement.

Just after the IT guys passed by, I finally called my Brother-in-Law Nick. Unfortunately, he had to listen to gibberish for about 15 seconds since my ability to form coherent sentences had fled, by then, the shakes had set in.

So there you have it. The story of how I stopped a gang war. Well it was a large group of boys, and they were about to fight. If that isn't a gang war I don't know what is, I swear it was just like West Side Story. Except there wasn't any singing and dancing, and it was definitely a lot scarier.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bon Voyage WIP, aka Freedom!

I mailed my manuscript off to The Professor and The Mother of Boys today. It felt good to hand it over to the US Mail system.

I’m looking forward to my time away from the story. In about a month or so, I’ll be able to look at it with fresh eyes. Plus, it’ll give me the chance to catch up on some reading, and work on some photos that I’ve been itching to retouch. I’ve also thought about starting another book, this one outside of the adventure and genre that I’ve been working on since October. I’ll keep you posted.

The weather is supposed to be nice this weekend. I think I’ll spend some time in the park. Talked myself out of buying the Canon Rebel X camera again tonight. I Really, Really want it. As I am currently camera-less, keep me in mind if you have an old one you want to send my way. Or if you work for Canon or Nikon, send one to me, I’ll write up a great review. Well, ‘great,’ meaning that it’ll be well written. Can’t say if it’ll be positive, but I have high hopes.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Don’t Query Before You’re Finished!

“Yes, I know okay. It’s just a big Crap-o-meter--albeit a nicer one--, I’ll be fine.” That’s what I thought ten days ago when I prepared to submit the hook to my fantasy novel to Fangs, Fur, and Fey. It was just a laid back, help people with their hooks, type of thing.

Being a newbie to the business, I looked forward to submitting hook on Friday the 13th no less. I’d read a little bit of Evil Editor, and submitted a 99 word blurb about Dan Lazar and a helicopter to Miss Snark, had just finished many revisions of draft one of the current WIP when I saw the FFF contest and I thought, “Perfect.”

I followed Miss Snark’s XYZ guide to writing a hook, and concisely crafted the main points with excitement, then off it went. I felt a slight pleasure at having gotten it done and looked forward with eagerness to read the judge’s comments.

That was before I started reading the comments. Now I’m an anxious mess waiting on tenterhooks on the off chance that my hook is selected to move to the next round. A few days have passed since they started posting the results, and out of 250 hooks, 44 remain. Need I say that mine hasn’t been critiqued yet?

Now you might say, “Why Bitter, I thought you were just submitting for comments to improve your hook.”

Then I would answer, “Yes, yes I did.” However, that’s all changed. As the days have progressed since I submitted my hook, I’ve become aware that many of the other writers have used this contest as a way to get their work in front of an extremely fabulous and savvy literary agent and rightfully so. (The agent will critique the winner’s first three chapters.)

And that’s how the word of many bloggers have come to haunt me. “Don’t query before you’re finished.” I admit, I did think of making the final cut, but I thought great, no obligations, an insiders thoughts on my work. Not, what if she asks for more pages? I was looking forward to letting my story rest for at least a month before digging back into it for the second round.

So alas, here I wait, anxious for my comments but worried about the consequences. Like plopping a kielbasa sausage hot off the grill into your mouth. It tastes oh so good, but you might get burned. Here’s hoping I don’t get burned.


Update: My hook (#120) finally got posted this morning. Here’s the link if you’re interested in reading the comments they gave me. I’m off the hot-seat for now, in a couple of months when the second draft and polish are done, I’ll start anew. Hopefully I’ll find the right home for my work. A public thanks to FFF for hosting the contest and the generous judges who critiqued the hooks and juggled the logistical nightmare.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Technopeasants Unite! aka Not at Home

In honor of International Pixel-Spattered Technopeasant Day, I present a short story by The Professor who so graciously accepted the invitation to contribute.

Feel free to share (non-commercially) The Professor's story with family and friends, although if you decide write about it, please link back to this entry rather than host it on your personal site (so that I can track how many people read it).

As John Scalzi said so well, "This novel fragment is yours free to read; you don't need to pay me a damn thing for it. However, if you find yourself enjoying it so much that you feel the need to show your appreciation in the form of cash, allow me to suggest that rather than sending the cash to me, you instead send it to Reading is Fundamental, which is an organization that supports literacy in children and adults..."

A couple good links to find more Technopeasant stories.

John Scalzi's The Durant Chronicles
The International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Blog
And the woman who helped make it official, Jo Walton. This takes you to a list of stories that were posted in honor of the day.

Happy Reading!

M. Bitter


Hey Bitter,

As promised:

Not at Home

When I was too young to know what a calendar was, or that holidays were predetermined and fixed in their periodicity, or even that days followed each other in an orderly, fixed sequence, I knew the Fourth of July. When I was little, the Fourth of July was fireworks.

Every time we’d go to Grandma’s (unless there was snow on the ground), I’d sneak a look in the closet in Grandma’s breezeway. I knew that sometimes there would be boxes and boxes of wreaths and flowers, which meant that we’d spend the day driving. I knew that there’d often be nothing out of the ordinary—coats and mysterious garment bags hanging out of my reach, assorted bottles of water and taped-up cardboard boxes on the floor. But sometimes, there would be a gigantic box, open on one broad side, full of fireworks. And when there was, it was the Fourth of July.

To me, the Fourth of July meant the ‘rockets’ red glare’ over the street in front of Grandma’s house. It meant lighting snakes with Uncle Clark, my dad’s only brother, sparklers at dusk, and watching as Uncle Clark and Aunt Erna took turns lighting off fountains and firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and sundry other explosives and missiles while Grandma instructed and ordered and Mom and Dad probably worried. We’d spend what felt like hours watching things blow up, and search out ‘duds’ the next morning.

It was Grandma that decided when I was old enough to light fireworks myself, my small punk-holding hand guided by her own or an aunt’s. I lit little whirling things, simple bottle rockets or Saturn missiles. And I loved every minute.

A few years ago, I took my oldest son, Evan, then four years old, to buy fireworks down in Ohio, where the variety (if not the abundance) reminds me of the South Dakota of my childhood Independence Days. I look at the hundred-dollar boxes of assorted fireworks like the ones Grandma always had for the Fourth, and my fingers itched. I reined myself in, sticking to sparklers and ground-bloom flowers and a couple of spectacular Roman candles. But every Fourth, I bring my boys out, way past their bedtime, to watch as the neighbors and I light our fireworks. And every time I do, I think of Grandma, and magical childhood nights under an exploding sky.

Fireworks weren’t Grandma’s only magic. I remember visiting Grandma once when I was maybe nine or ten years old. We’d driven all day in a rattling old Plymouth Duster to arrive at Grandma’s after dark. It must have been late in the fall, because although I don’t remember snow, even though it was already dark it wasn’t so late that we were sent immediately to bed. Instead, as Grandma talked to the folks, she got out cookies and poured milk into mugs, and called my brothers and sister and me to sit around the table.

Cookies and milk at bedtime. I was more than a little in awe. This was something that people did on television, not in real life. This was a tradition from a fabled, alternative reality, some sort of domestic ideal—and yet, there they were. Cookies and milk, and Grandma gently prodding us to sit up to the table and indulge.

Few prods were required. My 10-year-old disbelief wasn’t going to slow down my 10-year-old fondness for all things sugary, and I dove in, as did my brothers. And that’s where the next twist occurred—Grandma hadn’t told us how many cookies we could have. It began to dawn on me that she wasn’t going to—I could eat as many cookies as I wanted. This was something akin to finding religion or falling in love in its novelty. I remember looking surreptitiously at my parents, waiting for someone to stop me, but they didn’t (though Mom may have given me a look or two).

Many milk-and-cookie evenings followed. To me, they epitomize Grandma’s generosity of spirit and her connection to traditions of hospitality that may be fading from America. To me, those cookies, whether they were Grandma’s version of Aunt Enzie’s peanut cookies or a big bag of Oreo double-stuffs, were abundance, warmth, acceptance, and understanding. I’m 33 years old now, and live half a country away from Grandma. We get to visit only rarely. And I have to admit that, when we do, a little piece of me still hopes that we’ll get there a little late, and that Grandma will insist we have milk and cookies before bed.

L. D. Taylor

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Current WIP

Did I mention that I’ll be taking weekends off? No? Consider yourself warned, you won't hear from me before Monday (unless my apartment burns down). And while I’m in announcement mode, within the next few days I’ll be migrating my blog to my own address,, so if you come to read or say hi and can’t make it through, don’t worry I’ll be back (as soon as all the DNS Servers around the world update).

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

I was going to go out and buy a new camera tonight, but then reality kicked in and I realized I can’t afford one. I would really like a nice Digital SLR Nikon camera, or one of the Cannon Rebel Series, but alas, I need to pay the rent. Maybe in a year or two. . .

Since I spent the day contemplating my financial woes, I decided that tonight, I need a pick-me-up. ’Land Thai Kitchen’, here I come! They make the best food. Tonight I’m going to get ‘Root Vegetable Spring Rolls’ which are delicious, and the ‘Wok Basil with Beef,’ mild of course. Yummy, yummy! I can’t wait.

If you ever come to NYC, make sure to visit Land on the Upper West Side, or their new location on the Upper East Side.

This weekend is dedicated to finishing the first draft of the current work in progress. I’m on my fourth revision, and as soon as I have all my edits in, I’ll be printing it out and shipping it off to The Professor and his wife for proofing.

They’ll both be excellent first readers, one of The Professor’s degrees is English, they’ve both taught English, and will give great feedback. Besides, I'd rather hear that I’ve got broccoli stuck in my teeth (holes in my plot) or other more disturbing things from someone close, than hearing it from a potential agent. Sometimes you’re just too close to judge your own work, and even though I think my story’s great and lined with gold, I worry that it really might be crap.

So wish me luck. If all goes well, by Monday I’ll emerge from my darkened apartment into the light of day, ready to work my 9-5 with finished first draft in hand.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sad Tale of a Paper-Pusher

So. Today I had planned to blog about the things that I plan to blog about at my blog.

But then the copier jammed. Again. And here I am writing about my day job.

Suffice it to say, that I plan to show you the things I like, the thoughts that pass through my mind (Some linger, some fly right through making a whistling sound. Does that imply something?), or the situations in life that happen to make me want to repeatedly bang my head against the wall. (Like today.) This blog will focus mostly on the current loves of my life. Writing, Food, and Photos. And since I live in NYC, my posts will be highly flavored with stuff from the 212, more commonly referred to as The City. (According to the natives, there really aren't any other cities outside of the 5 boroughs, just small towns and villages. I, of course, know better, or do I? . . .)

And now on to better things.

There are few things in the life of a paper pusher that will make the pitter patter of our hearts race faster and bring smiles of glee to our faces. Among them are nice neat stacks of files or paper, new office supplies or office supply shopping; a new box of nice pens. But above them all, shining in magnificent glory, is a new photo copier.

*Cue shining light from above, and singing*

When we replaced our OLD copier (which worked just fine), with a new one (yea! new tech toys) I was happy. Yes, the old one worked, but it wasn’t new and shiny. The new one came with all sorts of neat cool features. PDF's, rapid copying, network printing. It didn’t harass you to select a paper size when copying just one check, and oh the staple feature! Among the myriads of ways this machine can staple is my favorite, straight up and down, top left corner. I was sold, hook, line, and sinker.

The staple feature falls directly into the obsessive compulsive corner of my heart. All those pages (up to 45) stapled and stacked so tidily, pages even, staples in the exact same place, neatly folded. And that’s where my problems began.

To make an otherwise very long story short, the new copier jams. It jams when you make lots of copies, or when you make just a couple. Lots of pages, just a few? It doesn't matter. There's no rhyme or reason to it. The copier began sporadically jamming and has progressively gotten worse. Always in the same place, pages bunching up on top of each other -like playing sardines- while waiting to be bound. The copier man comes almost daily now, I think pretty soon they’ll just wheel it out and send it on its way to The Great Recycling Center in the Sky.

But oh how I hope. Each time I need to peddle a little more paper, I stand anxiously nearby, waiting. Listening for that tell-tale whir of components and gears, the shuffle of papers compacting upon each other, the screech of mechanical parts refusing to move. The resultant sinking heart as I clear out the jam. Again.

Today the Ricoh - Aficio MP7500 cried out this message after jamming twice in a row:

“Functional problem detected.
Press [Restart] after the current process.
Repeat settings after the machine has restarted.”

I say it's dying. Calling out with its last breath, wanting to be heard. “Save me! I'm dying. Help!” It says. But alas, all that the repairman can do is shake a screwdriver at it, tightening here, loosening there, as the rest of us stand by the wayside wringing our hands, thinking of pretty staples, orderly stacks of paper, and what might have been.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day - coming soon to a web page near you

So . . . how does one start one of these things anyway?

Ready. Set. Go! *insert long silence here*


Maybe . . . Go, go gadg-

What? That won't work either?


I guess I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a little while, and about a week ago when I read John Scalzi’s reply to Dr. Hendrix’s webscabs rant about publishing professional quality work for free online, I thought, ‘What the heck.’ I might as well create my blog in time to post something.

It's official, as proclaimed by Jo Walton the first International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day is on April 23, 2007.

So here it goes. Blog Started.

If all goes well, by the 23rd I’ll have talked my brother-in-law, The Professor, into contributing. I would post something myself, but at the moment I’ve written nothing that would qualify as 'professional quality work'. And no, the 1st Draft of my 96,000 word fantasy novel doesn’t count. (Thanks for asking anyway.)

M. Bitter