Monday, September 26, 2011

I've Been Liebstered!

Today, the Liebster.


Thank you, Marlene Dotterer!

The Liebster Award is given to blogs with less than 200 followers and helps to foster connections among bloggers. The requirements are to link back to the person who gave you the award (I’ve done that – see above), then nominate five other bloggers for the award. I then post a comment on each blog and let them know they’ve been nominated. All they have to do to accept the award is copy the award image, link back to me, and nominate five others!

I humbly nominate the following five blogs for a Liebster Award:

1. NicBlog. Nic is a dear friend of many years, and a fellow Brooklyn mom. She runs her own graphic design business called NicEvents, and this is the blog to go along with it. How good is she? She did all the paper for my own brother's wedding. Check her out - her talent will blow you away.

2. Jodi's Personal Blog. Jodi is another dear friend of mine and lives in Italy, where she translates for a living and raises a family with love, humor, and pasta. 

3. Smith Stories. Follow the adventures of Dana and her too-adorable-for-words family. Bonus: she has tons of good ideas for making family life a little easier! (Like her Menu Planning Mondays feature.)

4. Still Thinking... This is the blog of one of my critique partners, Joy. Not only is she a kick-ass urban fantasy writer, but she's one of the toughest gals I've ever met. She welds, she races motorcycles, she hunts, she lives on a farm...far cry from my city slicker life! 

5. The Fence. OK, funny story. Kami and I both write for Moms Who Need Wine. Turns out we went to the same junior high, had mutual friends, AND her husband used to work with a mom friend of mine here in Park Slope. Small world, eh?


Friday, September 23, 2011

Photos and Apologies

I know that saying, "I've been so crazy busy!" is like the grown-up version of "The dog ate my homework!" excuses, but...I've been crazy busy. With the Princeling on his new preschool schedule, and doctor's appointments, and our trip to northern Virginia last weekend, and a nap strike, things just kind of spiraled. I'm sorry I took it out on you, beloved Grey Skies readers. 

To make it up to you, here are not one, not two, but THREE Juban Princeling photos from our trip! We took Amtrak down from NYC to Alexandria and spent a lovely weekend with my cousin Rudy and his family The Rudys. Here you go. Next week back to normal, I promise.

Watching America go by

On the little train at Burke Lake Park (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Rudy)

On our way home, watching Baltimore outside the window

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Roommates Who Pee On Your Stuff

As most of you know, Grey Skies has a massive - MASSIVE! - teen following. I'd even say it's cult-like. Grey Skies is to the 14-19 set like Justin Bieber, the Jonas Brothers, and Twilight all rolled into one, but with fewer lesbian haircuts, chastity rings and sparkly anti-choice vampires and more underage drinking and stealing parents' credit cards.

So, for all you kids out there getting ready to think about college, or going off to college, or applying to college, or have heard of college, here are some words of wisdom from my brother, Mr. Funny, on how to get along with your roommate. Let him gently guide you through those first few weeks when you are no doubt scared and hopeful, nervous and excited, stoned and drunk. Because remember, college is all about fun and making new friends and exploring new and exciting ways to get drunk and shag strangers at parties.

Take it away, Mr. Funny!


The prospect of going to college with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) was unsettling to say the least. I wanted to try to be “normal” and get the full college experience with a same-room roommate. That’s how it is in college, yes? Besides, what other options did I have as a freshman? When I got to the University of Central Florida, I predicted it would be the cool experience I never had as a socially inept nerd in a Miami public high school of 4,000 people.

When I first got in contact with my roommate over the summer, Josh seemed, well, cool. He was was into classic rock and we were on the same page about dividing up what we’d bring. I’d provide the computer and TV and he’d bring the phone (we didn’t all have cell phones back then), ‘fridge, and stereo.

He got there a couple of days later than I did and had not arrived with the ‘fridge. He brought an old phone with the numbers barely attached and a stereo. My parents did that parental thing where they took us all out to dinner to get to know him, and he and my father bonded over weed, the cost, and the various qualities you could get in South Florida. While my father and Josh became two peas in a pod, I felt I had less and less in common with him. But, I was there to be social. 

That night, my father bought his new BFF and I some booze and a ‘fridge. [Editor's note: Didn't he also buy Josh a "water-based tobacco pipe" at the local head shop?]

Then, one morning I woke up, eyes still shut, mind still half asleep to what sounded like water dripping form an leaky air conditioner. Starting to realize there was no boxed a/c unit in our centrally air conditioned dorm suite I opened my eyes to find Josh, eyes closed in front of the foot of my bed urinating both on the floor and on the box of stuff I’d yet to unpack. My fears of sharing a room with someone included him leaving dirty clothes and opened containers of food and drinks around. My reality was a roommate who, seemingly unconsciously, pissed on my stuff. Things were ruined! I mean, sure, my facial hair had still not caught up with my age, but I hoped one day to be able to use the electric razor I moved up with that was now soaked in piss.

Shaking and holding back vomit I yelled for him to wake up, and finally tried to steer him toward his bed while getting piss on as few things as possible. He did not wake up. I used his bath towel and wiped up. Not wanting to go back to sleep and wake up thinking this was a dream I immediately emailed my mom, sister, and best friend about what happened. [Editor's note: That's the kind of email all big sisters enjoy waking up to.] Later on when he woke up I asked if he remembered what happened. He didn’t. I explained and he was apologetic but in a way like one would be if you accidentally ate your roommate's apple or something. While I’m sure he didn’t realize I was so damaged by OCD, that shouldn't be an issue after you urinate on someone’s property. Dogs mark their territory. Some primal instinct in me also felt I had been intruded upon. I was filled with rage, disgust, and an ape-like desire to fling my poo at him! 

But, I didn’t want to touch my poo.

Strike one!

Not soon after, when we returned from Labor Day weekend visits to our home towns he brought back a plethora of drugs he decided to sell to random people in our room. I, having just been in a head-on collision on my drive back was not in the mood to deal with the prospect of getting arrested with this guy.

Strike two!

There would be no "strike three." [Editor's note: So my brother moved out and had other gruesome, but not nearly as horrific, roommates. Including my future husband and the father of my children!]

OCD didn’t go away, and, in fact, some crazy stuff happened because of it during my college experience, but at least I was away from Josh. I saw him about a year later, sitting on the grass outside the Fine Arts building staring out into nothing. I didn’t say “hi.” I just left him to whatever it was he thought he was doing.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Juban Princeling Photo of the Week: 9/12/11

Today is the Princeling's first day of school! I think he's excited...

We got there a little early and he was so psyched to go to school that he CRIED when they wouldn't let him in yet. As soon as they opened the door he ran off like a shot and didn't look back, even when his father and I called after him, "Good-bye! See you later!" 

I guess that's good? Better than separation anxiety? Yes?

For those curious - and who isn't? - he is attending a Spanish-immersion Montessori style school in Sunset Park. Time to ratchet up the "Cuban" part of this Jubanito!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Welcome, Marlene Dotterer!

I've got a special treat for you all on Grey Skies this week, because that's how I roll: an interview with author Marlene Dotterer! She writes super fun time travel books, but this isn't your average going-back-in-time book. Of course it's not. Do you think I would subject you people to something "average?" In Marlene's book, "Shipbuilder," our intrepid time travelers go back to the Titanic - not as passengers with Jack and Rose, but to the building of the Titanic.

Don't even pretend like I didn't just blow your mind. Here's the blurb to whet your appetite:

Imagine being there before the Titanic set sail.

Now imagine being there before she’s even built.

Sam Altair is a physicist living in Belfast, Ireland. He has spent his career researching time travel and now, in early 2006, he’s finally reached the point where he can send objects backwards through time. The only problem is, he doesn’t know where the objects go. They don’t show up in the past, and no one notices any changes to the present. Are they creating alternate time lines?

To collect more data, Sam tries a clandestine experiment in a public park, late at night. But the experiment goes horribly wrong when Casey Wilson, a student at the university, stumbles into his isolation field. Sam tries to rescue her, but instead, he and Casey are transported back to the year 1906. Stuck in the past, cut off from everyone and everything they know, Sam and Casey work together to help each other survive. Then Casey meets Thomas Andrews, the man who will shortly begin to build the most famous ship since Noah’s Ark. Should they warn him, changing the past and creating unknown consequences for the future?

Or should they let him die?

Marlene was nice enough to stop by on her blog tour to talk about "Shipbuilder," being a lady in the sci-fi genre, and the writing process.

Meredith Lopez:
The subject of time travel is so vast. How did you choose the building of The Titanic as the setting for your first book?

Marlene Dotterer:
Thanks for having me here, Meredith. I’m always happy to talk about my book!

I didn’t really choose Titanic, actually. It was Thomas Andrews who caught my imagination. The truth is, I never planned to write a book. At least, not beyond the “I’d like to write a book someday” thinking we all have. But one day in 2007, I was watching James Cameron’s movie while I exercised. And I started wondering, who was Thomas Andrews? What kind of man builds ships for a living?

So I got on the computer and did a search on him. Wow. Lots of information, all of it talking about what a great man he was, and how kind and generous he was, and how everyone loved him...

And for some reason, every word I read squeezed my heart dry at the loss of this man. I was devastated. That’s a strange thing to feel for someone who’s been dead for a hundred years, but there’s no other word for it. I was as heartbroken as if he’d been a dearly loved relative and I just found out about his death.

I started writing the book. I wanted to give him a second chance at life. That’s crazy, of course, and I know I can’t actually do that. But within the pages of my book, he gets to try again, this time knowing what he faces.

ML: How do you deal with the issue of paradox inherent in the issue of time travel?

MD: My own understanding of time travel is pitiful. I can only go on what feels right to me, instinctually. To me, if we can go back in time, I see no way to not affect things. We’re taking up space, we’re interacting with people... something will be different. But how can the future be different if we already lived through it? Has it happened yet? If it didn’t happen, I as the time traveler, wouldn’t be alive to travel through time.

Oy, it’s enough to make you drink.

So I go with the parallel universe idea. I explain this in some detail on my website on the Journal Entries page, here and here. But I promise, no illustrations in this post! Essentially, when my time travelers go back to 1906, they create a new universe that splits off from the original one. In that new universe, everything is the same as in ours, up until that point. In general, the same things will happen in the new universe that happened in ours, unless the time travelers do something to cause a change. San Francisco has an earthquake, for example. They couldn’t stop an earthquake. But maybe they can keep a ship from sinking.

ML: What research did you do for your book, both the scientific angle and the historical angle?

MD: The scientific research was fun. I’ve always loved science, and in fact, I have a degree in geology. So this was just like being in school. I read up on the current thoughts on time travel, and tried to make sure my story fits with what we knew in 2006. Also, Albert Einstein has a minor, off-screen role in my book, so I read a couple of books about him.

Historical research covered everything from the life of Thomas Andrews and the building of the Titanic, to life in Edwardian Ireland, and the place of women in that society. Also, any story taking place in Ireland runs up against the political and religious issues. There was so much scope to this story, I had a hard time keeping the word count down!

ML: I love that your character doesn't just say, "I'm going to save the Titanic!" and then runs off in time to do that: he copes with the issue of whether or not to do it, and if so, how. Will this be a continuing theme in future "Time Travel Journals" books?

MD: Sam Altair, my fictional physicist, struggles with the question of his responsibility to other people. He didn’t mean to create a new universe, but now that it’s done, he decides to do everything he can to make it a better one.

The next book comes at it from a different angle, but the question of interference is still there. As well as the larger question of “do we have the right to create new universes in the first place?”

ML: As a woman writing sci-fi, or historical fiction with a sci-fi element, do you think you are able to bring a unique perspective to the genre?

MD: Oh, this is a funny one. Not silly funny... disturbing funny. That’s because I wonder how much I, as the author, should project my own interests and concerns into the story. For instance, I can’t imagine being forced to live in the early 20th century as a woman, and not having the right to vote. To be considered either an evil temptress or a weak idiot who must be protected. Restrictions on so many things: clothing, jobs, chaperones. Women were not even allowed into pubs - I’m sorry, but don’t come between me and my pub!

It was necessary to refrain from much of this, or the book would have been a rambling, epic monster. But I do include a few scenes relating to something that’s a huge interest of mine: childbirth.

You’re probably thinking, “OMG, yes. Those poor women had to have their babies at home, and so many of them died, and how awful it all was.” But that’s really more of an urban myth, and I left the subject in the book to deal with that.

ML: How do you find the time to write?

MD: It’s more like how do I find an excuse NOT to write? When I started Shipbuilder in 2007, I was working full-time, running my own business as a personal chef. I wrote in the evenings and on weekends, but I have to say, this book basically wrote itself. The words just poured out of me. I’ve certainly learned it’s not always like that!

Now... I’m almost afraid to admit that I’m semi-retired. I teach childbirth classes one or two evenings a week, but basically, I have lots of time to write. And I get far less written now, than I did while writing Shipbuilder. Go figure.

ML: Are you a planner, or do you just dive in to your stories? What's your pre-writing process like?

MD: Oh, I dive. I have an idea of some kind, day-dream about it for a while, then start writing the scenes I have. There’s no particular order - sometimes I have the ending, or the middle, or the beginning. Mostly I think I have the middle and as I write, I have to figure out how I got to the middle, then figure out how to get to the end.

Usually about halfway through, I step back and make a plan. I love timelines - they really help me put it together.

ML: What can you tell me about "Bridgebuilder," the upcoming sequel to "Shipbuilder?"

MD: It’s completely different from Shipbuilder - it takes place in the future, with space stations, rebel fighters, subversive organizations... all kinds of things!

The premise is that we have two universes: our original universe that we live in, and the second universe created when Sam and Casey went back to 1906. People from the second universe have figured how to get back to the first one, by building a “bridge” between them.

But when they cross over, they are in our world in the year 2080. The planet is suffering the effects of global warming, wars, and famines, and most of the countries have succumbed to restrictive theocracies. The story centers around a brilliant sixteen-year old girl named Moira, and her teacher, Andy, who is trying to help her escape from an abusive, government-protected enclave. In the process, they meet up with the time travelers, and the four of them join forces to defeat all the various bad guys.

ML: Thank you so much for stopping by Grey Skies to chat!

MD: Thank you! I really enjoyed it!

About the author:

Marlene Dotterer grew up as a desert rat in Tucson, Arizona. In 1990, she loaded her five children into the family station wagon, and drove north-west to the foggy San Francisco Bay Area. To stay warm, she tackled many enterprises, earning a degree in geology, working for a national laboratory, and running her own business as a personal chef. She’s a frustrated gardener, loves to cook, and teaches natural childbirth classes. She says she writes, “to silence the voices,” obsessed with the possibilities of other worlds and other times.

She is married to The Best Husband in the World, and lives in Pleasant Hill, California.

Her website is

And while you're over at her website...

Must Have Give-Aways!

Ships are launched with a bottle of champagne. My book is about a ship, so...

Actually, perhaps it’s best if I don’t try to mail anyone a bottle of champagne. But how about a free book?

Throughout the blog tour, I’ll keep track of everyone who leaves a comment on any of the blogs and enter them into a drawing. At the end of the tour, I’ll pick three winners, each to receive an autographed copy of The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder.

So, read on! Comment!