Happiness Meme: Day 2

Happiness is pets.

I’ve always been a pet person. Growing up, I had Cats, dogs, fish, hamsters, and lizards — whatever I could talk my parents into. As an adult, the only time I haven’t had a pet was when I first moved out on my own. Today, we have three dogs and four cats.

I can’t imagine not having a pet of some kind, although I think three dogs is our limit (until we move to a farm).

Pictures below the fold.

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Oh Canada

I was born, grew up and lived my entire life in northern Illinois. While I’ve traveled far (Canada, New Zealand and Ireland internationally; coast to coast domestically) I’ve never stayed anywhere but the midwest for more than two weeks at a time. Most of my family, though, has moved away.

Andrea and I have talked about moving to Canada for a while. Andrea is Canadian. Most of her family lives in southwest Ontario, not far from Windsor and Detroit. Most of my meatspace friends live in the Detroit area, less than an hour drive from where we would go. Cost of living is ultimately lower than where we are now.

We looked at houses online and found a couple houses in the area we wanted to move to. On our last trip to Ontario we walked through the houses. They were both nice but one really appealed to us. An older house — a split level ranch with three bedrooms, 1 bath, a fully finished basement, attached garage and a large fenced-in yard for the dogs to play in. We put in an offer the next day. After several days of back and forth negotiation, we got the word yesterday that the seller has accepted our offer. We have our first house together.

The house in Illinois is wonderful, but it’s too large for two people. My mom lives across town but she’s a free spirit. I don’t expect her to stay in the area much longer. We have little other family or close friends here. Aside from the people from my writers group, who I’ll miss dearly, and my cousin Annie, everyone else I know has drifted away.

Before I go further, let me directly address the person who reads my blog so they can feed information back to my ex. Grow up. You are not helping anyone. I have nothing to hide. I’m not “skipping the country” to avoid the terms of the divorce agreement. I still work for a US company and she’s still getting her precious money with no interruptions, so mind your own business.

There’s a lot of paper shuffling and work to be done while we wait for financing on the new house to be approved. I still have to take my ex-wife’s name off the house in Illinois. The one mortgage company I had been working with has gone MIA — the agent refusing to return calls or emails. I will be filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau and leaving negative reviews of them, but that doesn’t help with what I have to do. I spoke to multiple banks last week about assumptions and refinancing. They all report sixty days to completion due to the number of people refinancing for lower rates right now. I’m also putting in a call to a real estate agent I know to see what other options there are. Ideally I would sell this place but I’d have to price it under market value to have a hope of selling it quickly.

No one wants to juggle two mortgages, especially in today’s economy, but we’ll manage. The new house costs less than half of the current one. Refinancing my truck cut my payment in half and with the lower costs of living we should be able to manage for as long as it takes to sell. Andrea will also be able to legally work.

Once we’re settled in I can apply for permanent residence in Canada. After three years, I can become a dual citizen. While we’re there, Andrea can apply in the US and also get her dual citizenship. We figure we’ll stay in the new house for at least 5 years. After that, we may move somewhere neither of us has ever lived (if we have kids, we’ll probably stay in Canada, though).

We’re walking a path. We don’t know where it’ll lead us but that’s part of the adventure.

Happiness Meme: Day 1

Having been tagged by the charming grayrose, I have no choice but to participate in the eight day happiness meme. For eight days (probably not consecutive but I’ll try) I have to post something that makes me happy.

The thing that makes me happy today is: friends and family.

No matter what shit you’re going through, they are always there for you. They don’t care what you look like, how much money you have, or that you’ll ignore them completely when Battlestar Galactica is on.

They like you for you and you can be yourself around them. There’s not much better than that.

Link Salad for January 8th, 2009

Cory Doctorow: Writing in the Age of Distraction. This couldn’t be a more timely column for me. I feel like I’m in a constant battle against distraction. What works for Cory might not work for everyone but the advice and reasoning is damn solid.

Health Insurance is a bitch. Short version: man with COPD needs a double lung transplant to live but he can’t get on the waiting list until he has $500,000 to $1,000,000 in cash or insurance benefits. Please spread the word or donate, if you’re so able.

Today is day 13 of 14 for Apex Book’s sales drive. I just ordered every back issue of the magazine they had in stock. It’s one of my hands-down favorite zines to read.

Via Jetse de Vries, space is louder than we expected. Cosmic radio background is six times louder than expected.

Jay lake ponders cultural authority and presumed expertise. I’m following the discussion with vested interest. I have and will continue to write characters that are non-white, non-middle class. Having an awareness of what you’re doing — and of readers default expectations — are critical.

You stay classy, McDonalds

We just finished watching the first episode of the new season of The Biggest Loser. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of the people who watch the show have some weight to lose — some more than others. Most of the commercials reflected that. Healthy choices, healthy eating, that sort of thing. One advertiser, however, stood out. McDonalds.

McDonalds had the class to run a commercial during The Biggest Loser. Now, they could have played to the demographic and advertise their salads or their Fruit n’ Yogurt Parfait, but no. That would make too much sense. Instead, some brainiac decided it would not only be the wise thing to do, but the right thing, to advertise a two for $4.00 Big Mac special. During a show highlighting the obesity epidemic in America.

You stay classy, McDonalds. I expect I’ll see many more commercials from you during The Biggest Loser and other such weight loss shows. Us fatties are your bread and butter and you can’t risk us falling off the buffet train.

Good Health

Some of you who’ve known me for a while know that I’ve had a struggle with my weight. I peaked at 350 somewhere around 2000 and had pre-diabetes. I got serious about being healthy in 2006 and lost 100 pounds, 10+ inches around my waist and generally felt really good. My blood sugar levels were normal and I had lots of energy. I maintained my weight for a while but I fell off the wagon in late 2007 as life as I knew it was falling apart. 2008 was a good year for many reasons but once again I slipped into old habits and gained back half of my previous loss.

Andrea and I are making a conscious effort to get back into shape. Gone are eating out, late night trips for fast food and the general unawareness of what we’re eating. Tonight, we cleared out all of the high sugar, high fat, low nutrition foods in the house; dumped the perpetual bowl of candy and chocolate into the trash. We stocked up on lots of components vs. prepared foods. From now forward, we’re going to be aware of what and how much we eat.

I’ve been down this road before. It’s time to stop resting and get walking. Eating healthy is only part of the solution. Eating smart – smaller meals spread throughout the day to increase metabolism, getting regular exercise and portion control are keys. It’s time to shed the weight gained and learn how to live a healthy lifestyle.

I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being winded after carrying groceries into the house. I remember the feeling of satisfaction when I moved down a notch on my belt (instead of the guilt having to move up a notch). I remember being able to get on the elliptical machine and go for an hour rather than throwing in the towel after ten minutes. I remember clothes in my closet fitting. Memory isn’t enough. It’s time to get healthy.

I want to do things that I simply can’t now. I want to learn how to rock climb. I’d like to learn a martial art. I want to look in the mirror again and see a healthy me. Life is about choice and I choose a healthy one.

Markets & Anthology ruminations

Writing is fluid but deadlines are not. Looking ahead six months or so, there are several upcoming anthologies and contests that I have my eye on. Previously, when there’s a hard deadline involved I’ve ended up submitting at the last possible minute (literally). This year I want to plan ahead and submit early. It’s less stressful and will, hopefully, produce better quality work.

Anthologies/Contests

Space Cops – I have a story perfect for the theme. Deadline is January 30th, 2009.

Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest – Also co-sponsored by the National Space Society, who co-sponsored the Return to Luna contest last year. Near-future manned space exploration. Deadline is April 1st, 2009.

PARSEC SF/F Short Story Contest – This year’s theme is “Dark Glass”. I just missed the cut last year. Hopefully this year will be better, but my money is on Andrea. She’s got a great story ready for it. Deadline is April 15th, 2009.

SHINE Anthology – Optimistic, near-future SF. Lots of ideas for this one. Submissions accepted May and June 2009.

Anything by Hadley Rille Books, because I love everything they do.

These are the ones that have caught my interest. You can find more anthologies on Duotrope, Ralan’s. or the list I maintain on Absolute Write.

Markets

People say that short fiction is dying, but I disagree. It’s transforming. Magazines are making the transition from print to electronic and vice versa. I have yet to see my ideal zine business model implemented but I think we’re getting closer.

There are quite a few great markets both large and small to submit to. Some people start with the best paying and work there way down while others submit to the smaller, non-paying markets because the odds of acceptance appear to be higher. There are a few markets I’d like to get into as a badge of honor. The rest are markets that I’ve read and enjoyed. Ultimately, it boils down to who I think is the best fit regardless of rate.

Apex Magazine – One of the few magazines that I’ve read cover to cover (before they went online) that I thoroughly loved.

Abyss & Apex – Another great market that publishers great works.

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) – The first electronic market I ever submitted to. I sent them a Feghoot, before I knew what it was and why they should be kept locked in a trunk.

Byzarium – I love their flash fiction contests.

Clarkesworld – I used to be afraid of these guys (Nick Mamatas can be intimidating, but a) he’s moved on and b) anyone who publicly talks about wrestling is alright in my book). They only publish two fiction pieces a month, but they’re good pieces.

Strange Horizons – What can I say? SH is awesome.

Electric Velocipede – My current favorite market. The first issue I read was #14 and I read it cover to cover. I can’t wait to sit down and read the #15/16 double issue, which also has a story by Michelle Muenzler.

Fantasy Magazine – Another wonderful market I hope to crack one day.

Futurismic – Near-future science fiction and fact. Read it for the news, stay for the stories.

Lone Star Stories – Good stories and the fastest response time on the market.

The Big Three – Asimov’s, Analog, and Fantasy & Science Fiction (F&SF). All very prestigious markets. I haven’t read much of Analog in recent years, but I just let my subscription to Asimov and F&SF lapse. I’ve found that I only enjoy one or two stories per issue. I will probably re-subscribe after the move, though.

Markets I need to get copies of

Andrea and I scour every bookstore we pass for SF/F magazines. We’ve managed to pick up some rarities, such as Space and Time and Weird Tales. It’s a constant hunt for a new small press SF/F magazine we haven’t seen or read yet and I’m open to suggestions for what I should be reading.

I really, really want to pick up a copy of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet (LCRW) and while linking this discovered they have a map of bookstores that carry them on their website. There are three in the Chicagoland area that may have them in stock. I think a road trip is in order very soon.

Link Salad for 2 January 2009

Discover Magazine’s top 100 stories of 2008

Slush Lessons from Apex, who is also re-open to submissions. They’ve also announced a new anthology, open for submissions on March 1st, 2009: The Blackness Within.

Reminders: Viable Paradise, Clarion, Clarion West, and the CSSF Short Fiction workshop are now open to applications. Good luck!

Diamonds link comet to extinction of dozens of mammal species.

2009 née 2008

2008 is past, replaced by a new year and new hopes.

It was a rocky year, filled with good and bad. Divorce, and marriage, deaths on Andrea’s side of the family. Kittens and a new puppy. A historic election and rocky economic times. We’re still in for a bumpy financial ride but everything else is looking like its trending upward.

I did alright on my goals from 2008. Not bad, but the best I could manage under the circumstances:

Personal:

  • Finalize the divorce
  • Get out of debt
  • Be happy

Writing:

  • Write 12 new short stories (finished #13 on New Years Eve)
  • Revise and polish 12 stories
  • Submit 12 stories for publication (sent out 21 submissions, 2 accepted (1 electronic, 1 print), 1 pending, 1 anthology in hand)
  • Submit a story to the Writers of the Future contest quarterly

Work:

  • Finish migrating out of my hands-on role to more of a managerial one
  • Successfully manage and complete all planned projects
  • Come up with brilliant new projects for people to work on
  • Grow the company

For 2009, I want to continue the good trends I’ve already set. It’s going to be another busy year but I’m more prepared to tackle it. My goals for 2009:

Personal

  • Be a better husband (because there’s always room for improvement)
  • Build a better budget and get out of debt
  • Apply for Permanent Resident & move to Canada
  • Lose the weight I gained in 2008

Work

  • Less micromanaging, more delegating
  • Hire, hire, hire.

Writing

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas

End of year business, refinancing, the holidays and one last writing deadline is making life extremely busy. I probably won’t have much free time until January, but I wanted to share a little news.

Last week, Andrea and I flew to California. I had a few business meetings to attend, all of which went well. We enjoyed the moderate weather and a late night walk at the beach at the Montage in Laguna Beach. Saturday morning, we flew to Las Vegas and stayed over the night.

We stayed the night at the Bellagio. We enjoyed the buffet and the view of the fountain from the 28th floor. We played some slots, and I even played some poker. Above all else, we did what we went there to do. Around 7:45PM PST on the 13th of December 2008, we were married in a simple ceremony.

Our plans going forward are fairly simple. Right now we’re wrapping up a refinance of the house and car but very soon we will begin the process of moving to Canada. Over the winter, we’ll be cleaning out the house and packing up our belongings (mostly books). Much paperwork to be filed and lots of research to be done (since I’ll still be working for a US company but living in Canada, taxes will be more involved, I imagine). I’ll discuss the process in more detail as we go, because it’s interesting.