Monday, January 31, 2011

Viva! Happy! Fun!

Not an elaborate blog post today.

Really it's just a Las Vegas recap. For those following along, you know David and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary last Thursday.

I'd always kind of thought we'd have a big party for our 20th, but it just wasn't in the cards. Because David has gone back to school for his Doctor of Oriental Medicine, our funding isn't what it used to be. So instead of hosting a beach-party celebration of some sort, we just scooted to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Yes, we had a lovely time.

We've discovered over the years that we're happier if we stay at a new place, instead of recapitulating something we enjoyed before. We never seem to like it as much the second time. This time we stayed at the Paris resort and casino. We didn't get the priciest room, but had a decent view and a nice spot at the end of a tower.

The highlight was our anniversary dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.

We had a late dinner, after the Criss Angel/Cirque du Soleil show Believe. Sadly, we did not believe. The show was criminally disappointing. Alas.

But this seafood bonanza for two was beyond words.

Followed by the best chocolate souffle I've ever had in my life.

Everything about the Eiffel Tower Restaurant was perfect and lovely. They treated us like royalty.

Which was most welcome, because lunch at Mon Ami Gabi earlier that day was quite the fiasco. For a hotel where every single person smiled, said hello, and welcomed us from housekeeping to the pool attendant, the hostess for outside seating at Mon Ami stood out for her everlasting bitchiness. She screwed with us, made wait over an hour while she seated people who arrived later than we. Perhaps we were supposed to tip her to seat us at an outside table. After an hour and ten minutes, when she tried to seat us inside - at a table we could have had with our reservation when we arrived - I pitched a fit and the manager got involved. Amusingly, as we stood in the dining room next to the inside table I didn't want, Carrot Top, walked by, twice. It was kind of a surreal moment. And yes, he looks exactly the same in person, with the same boyish grin. At any rate, the manager made it good and we finally got to sit outside and recapitulate the meal we had on our 15th Anniversary.

Hard won romance, there.

We did a lot of walking around and looking at stuff. David commented how amazing it is that the money in Las Vegas allows for such spectacular experimental architecture and frivolous art. Best, it's accessible to anyone who cares to walk around and see. This wall of fountains (above) at Aria is a must-see. They pulse the water at various speeds and volumes, then it falls over a textured wall, creating gorgeous patterns. The resort is beautiful beyond belief. If we can afford it, I'd love to stay there next time.

I loved these heat lamps that look like table lamps. If you all feel like chipping in to get me a present, I want one for my patio, okay?

A big change in Las Vegas in the last few years is all the outside seating available now. Lots of places had decks and patios, with very fun heat lamps making it possible for year-round use. We also ate lunch at Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo Cantina and Tequila bar. Great deck, fab music and really wonderful staff, too. The margaritas were excellent, too.

We saw Blue Man Group and they were as amazing and inventive as I'd heard. Well worth the ticket price.

All in all, it was a terrific celebration and a very fun time together.

Tomorrow I'll tell you all about the Guy in the Pink Suit and what I learned about rejection from him.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Grave on the Right

Tis the season for debuts.

I'd like to introduce you to another young lady new on the scene.

Next Tuesday, February 1, marks the release day for First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones. I know you're wondering how a glamorous young novel gets ready to hit the scene. I'll give you a little peek.

This gal is acutely conscious of her figure. A good work out starts the day off right.

A healthy (and slimming) breakfast.

A bit of beauty rest for our gal.

Then it's time for a trip to the salon! A facial is just what a girl needs.

A new hairstyle, to wow the paparazzi.

Dress rehearsal! Trying out her new spot at the book store.

I think she looks amazing, don't you?

Thank you to Kimberly Hull and Larry Redlin at Skinplicity, the most exclusive spa in Santa Fe, for donating their services. (And yes, I totally told them I'd say that, since they indulged me in my picture-taking.)

As a special bonus, I will give my ARC away to the first commenter who can identify five ways that my ARC cover is different than the final cover (top photo). There are audio book excerpts included!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Platinum (!) Anniversary

Apparently it used to be the anniversary for gifts of China, but that's passé. We're platinum now, baby! Ironic that silver and gold come later, but you can hit platinum at 20 years.

There's a moral in that somewhere.

At any rate: today is our 20th Anniversary!

(cue screaming crowds)

In honor of this special milestone, I thought I'd share the title essay with you from my book, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. It's about our first date, the one that took place 20 years ago today.

I wrote this some time ago and a lot has changed since then. Still, it's a fun read.

Wyoming Trucks, True Love, and the Weather Channel

David warned me about the truck when he called for our first date. “I’ll have to pick you up in the race-beast, you know,” and he hesitated. I wondered what response he expected from me as I sifted through his deep, slow telephone voice for clues. Unaccustomed to being phoned up and asked to the movies in the first place, I felt on very uncertain ground reassuring him that the (“race-beast” did he say?) would be fine. The implication seemed clear that I knew about his car well enough to make an informed decision about riding in it and that any refined female might have reservations on the subject. The previous summer David had played on our co-ed softball team, “The Science Nerds,” and so I supposed that I had seen him come and go on wheels, but I hadn’t tucked away the sort of mental image he seemed to expect. I did suspect him of womanizing ways, a new divorcĂ© out preying on tender young grad students, and so in my mind the race-beast took the shape of a sleek and sexy sports car, screaming seduction in every line and curve. Well, he had warned me and I would be ready.

Maybe not entirely ready for a brown ‘79 Ford pickup. Opening the front door to David, freshly shaven and handsome in his button-fly Levi’s and leather bomber jacket, I smiled, said hello and craned to look over his shoulder for the sports car I was to be wooed in. In the chill post-Super-Bowl party evening, the truck idled with the quiet and grace of an irritated water buffalo--ah, now I understood the “beast” part. David must have seen me eyeing the putative racing vehicle as he escorted me out to my sporadically choking and roaring chariot. Or he anticipated my reaction. “I did warn you,” he grinned down at me.

That grin proved to be my eventual undoing. My friends refer to David as “that man with the intense blue eyes and gorgeous smile.” Behind my back, I believe they discuss him as the reason I’ve never left Wyoming. He’s certainly the reason I now find myself occasionally navigating the race-beast around town.

In my early days in Wyoming, someone told me that there are more trucks registered in Wyoming than there are people living here. Taking into account that dozens of people around don’t own pickups, this implies that some people own dozens of trucks. Granted we do have the smallest population in the Union — as of the 1990 census we beat even Alaska — so we’re not talking millions of trucks. You do have to factor in the ranch concept — lots of ranches with many trucks. But it’s still an awful lot of trucks. When I called the Albany County Library to check this out, the reference librarian gently suggested that my pet statistic might be a popular myth. And she is correct. There were only 175,000 trucks registered as of July 1, 1996, which leaves 300,000 of us truckless.

* * *

“I would never move to Wyoming!” my college roommate yelled out her proclamation as she sat on the ratty couch in our St. Louis apartment, watching a tourism commercial for the state.
“And why would that be, Rachel?” I called back from my desk. I knew she had no personal experience farther west of the Mississippi than the city outskirts and she knew that I was considering graduate work in Wyoming. More than considering — I had pretty much decided upon it.

“Because once you move to Wyoming, you’re stuck. You never get out.” After ten years and a Master’s Degree, I have yet to escape.

* * *

David is not a cowboy, as many of my East Coast friends refer to him; actually he’s a fish pathologist. But his truck means as much to him as any trusty steed. The first vehicle he bought himself, the only real material good he salvaged from his divorce (except his traps and his stereo), this eyesore remains a source of pride and affection. He claims the annual elk hunt would be impossible without it — although he now uses my ‘82 Honda, Flash, to scout through the Snowies, as it consumes much less gas. Certain the truck becomes indispensable when the winter blizzards snow us in sufficiently David always happily turns the hubs in for four-wheel drive and barrels through the drifted streets, cackling manfully. He enjoys acting the part of the macho womanizer ever since I foolishly confessed my first-date thoughts. No one would guess the man fills his spare time reading Taoist philosophy and physics texts when he hollers out, “This shur is a fahn truck, w-man!”

Without the truck, our border collie, Cayenne, wouldn’t have her primary obsession. Riding in the pickup supersedes all other temptations for her, even food. She waits, almost patiently, by the front door, carefully not looking at the truck, unable to stand the anticipation. When the “OK” command releases her, she barrels at top speed, a black and white weasel shape burning through the two cottonwoods, arcing to the right (I won’t let David park the truck directly in front of the house we share) and flying in a single leap over the side, ready for the slower humans necessary to make it go. A dog in a truck — sometimes a gun too, but always bullets or empty shells rolling around — links a man to his heritage. It’s what his dad had up in Cody. Oh, and your girlfriend riding in the middle, so you can pat her on the thigh as you shift gears. That part is kind of nice.

* * *

For the true Wyomingite trucks (and other lesser autos) are an extension of the individual. David can recognize anybody by their vehicle. “Joe’s down at the Ranger again,” he’ll inform me. When I ask how he knows, he looks at me funny and replies, “Well, I saw his truck.” And woe to me if I happen to drive past the Red Buttes Environmental Station without noting who’s working. After all, it’s only a quarter-mile from the highway, and you can see the small dirt parking lot plain as day. As we drive down the street, David waves to passing cars. “Who was that?” I ask, spending more time looking back than forward. He always knows.

I think that I must not look at cars and trucks the way David does. I grew up in Denver, a place Wyoming people dread to motor through, and I know city traffic. In fact, I pride myself on being an excellent driver. My mother taught me, and she’s an excellent driver, too. We like to drive fast, decisively and efficiently. I have contempt for the hesitant motorist and no patience with the oblivious. Instead of looking at cars, I see spaces. Opportunities. I watch the gaps open and close, widen and lengthen. The people in the objects around me become less relevant than their speed and vector. I think this ability to focus is part of what makes me alert and confident behind the wheel. And it’s important to me to feel that way. At least, up until recently.

* * *

There’s an old saying that in our strengths lay the seeds of our downfall. Always reliable and with a spotless motor vehicles record, in high school I worked for a law firm as a runner. Zipping around the city in my little ‘76 hatchback — Folly, the Accord that preceded Flash — I could go to any address in the metropolitan area, usually by the fastest route. When I drove from college in St. Louis to New York for a wedding, my friend said not to worry about the city traffic because I would fit right in. This may not have been a compliment. I have navigated Chicago, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Boston. Black ice for 50 miles through northern Colorado couldn’t keep me back; and I’ve driven over Vail and Rabbit Ears Passes through blinding snowstorms. But I can’t drive that damned truck.

Occasionally I have no choice. Between us, we have three vehicles. But Flash’s battery died of neglect last winter and I put off buying another, afraid that a more severe problem would emerge. And the new Accord, Allan, that David and I bought together from the Allens who could no longer afford him, has to take David down to Greeley for class on Mondays. His truck guzzles too much for distances, and doesn’t handle all those curves fast enough through icy Telephone Canyon.

So one stormy evening last March, I had to drive the monster. Even though it was brutally cold out, I would have walked to workshop and wouldn’t have minded walking back through the snow at 10 pm. One of the things I like best about my town is that I can walk anywhere, even by myself, and at night, too. But I had errands to run; I grabbed the rented videos, my notebooks and critiqued stories, shouldered my purse and strode purposefully out to the beast.

* * *

A certain amount of bravado seems to help. Like a horse, this sort of truck senses fear. Carefully inserting the worn key in the eye-level door lock, I slowly turned it against the cold metal. David has warned me that the slightly twisted key could break off in the lock, especially in the -20 weather. Closing my eyes, I sent a brief supplication to the truck spirits, who I knew were awaiting the smallest error. It worked; the key emerged with only slight protest. After wrenching the door ajar, I tried to keep it propped open with my shoulder while levering my things up, pushing them as far as my arms could reach, to clear enough space to climb in. Usually the door closes over me, hopefully not too hard, and holds me up against the frame as I scrabble about. Fortunately I was wearing my black wool slacks, so I didn’t have to hike my skirts up to my crotch to make that first big step up. But as I stretched my right foot up to hip height, grabbing the steering wheel like the monkey bars at my grade school, I could feel the seam split down the back of my pants. Fine. My leather duster is long, I would just wear it for the next three hours.

If I sit on the very edge of the seat and stretch my left leg fully, I can just get the clutch down far enough to shift. The seat, of course, doesn’t come forward. No worries about seat-belts; they don’t work either. I gently revved the engine, tenderly attending to its every snort and growl. Apparently I tend to “wrap it up” too much, and so I have to work to balance letting the idle die or bringing the drive shaft through the floor. David assured me that this is not only possible, but very likely if I don’t lose my attachment to driving a working machine like it was a Honda. Perching forward, my chin practically on the steering wheel, I realized I looked like a little old lady. “There goes Ma Kettle, out for her Sunday drive,” my mother would exclaim impatiently as she passed the Impala hovering in the left lane. She never liked driving to my grandmother’s retirement community, because the traffic would slow so measurably as we approached, with “Little grey heads everywhere!” I felt for those little heads now, as I slowed for the stop sign half a block ahead because the brakes are so soft.

Shall I reveal the further banal details? How the gutter below the video return box sloped with ice, so I could maneuver my peevish tank only within two feet — too far to reach through the window, too close to open the door fully enough to get out. How the engine died as I crossed Third Street, forcing oncoming cars to wait as I nursed the brute back to life. That truck brought me to tears as I wobbled and hesitated down the icy street, and for the first time in my life I felt like a fragile female.
I broke my nails to the quick scratching a mugger in St. Louis and never thought to be afraid. I’ve traveled alone through a blizzard in eastern Colorado when they closed the interstate around us, stopping only to help a gal who had pulled over, too afraid to continue. I followed her into Limon and got us both hotel rooms. I am strong, capable and confident, but that unnameable truck brought me to my knees.

* * *

On my knees, the perspective is different. The small defeats in life take on greater proportions. Little choices, brief moments reverberate with endless sound and color. Feeling helpless and defeated, especially in, let’s face it, an exceedingly ridiculous situation, can be very useful to the efficiently arrogant. I find it interesting that it’s not necessarily the challenges we choose that teach the lasting lessons.

Living in Wyoming was never my intent. As a “greenie” — a local term for Coloradans with their green license plates — I had never given the state a specific thought. In fact, it seems that very few people give Wyoming a specific thought. I amuse and irritate myself now and then by watching the weather channel to see if the forecasters ever say the word “Wyoming.” I don’t have abundant free time for this dubious activity, but I have never once heard it. They say Great Plains, the Rockies, Denver, the Northern Plains. I’m sure I’ve heard the Dakotas discussed, Montana mentioned in passing and always ski reports in Colorado. I have heard Jackson Hole bandied about and sometimes Big Piney or Pinedale wins the national overnight cold spot award; but I remain unconvinced that anyone knows those places are in Wyoming.

It’s odd, and sometimes difficult, to live in a place that does not appear on the cultural map. Our department head once called Chicago to reserve Cubbies tickets for his upcoming visit. When giving his mailing address, the operator asked, “Now, Wyoming — Is that in the United States?” He replied that the sale to Canada had not yet been finalized.

We love to tell each other these stories. We share a mixture of delight at remaining undiscovered and righteous anger at the negligence of our countrymen. I have come to think a lot like a Wyomingite. I relish the difficulties of living here; I savor the beauty that strikes my heart and weakens my legs. I don’t like Senator Al Simpson, but I take a perverse pride in his obdurate methods. I work with people like him. If nothing else, they seem more alive, more rooted in the earth and daily living somehow, than the folk of other places. Some of us fight for the wilderness, some for improving our woeful economy through the energy industry, but to live here is to develop a deep love for the sere land and the challenges it poses, even when the challenges take the form of intractable trucks.

David became the immediate reason for me to stay and it seemed like a small choice at the time. A matter of a few months and a fling. But I’ve come to know this man as I’ve come to know Wyoming over a decade of my life. Yes, and the truck, too. And now I find that I like who I am here. A place that has brought me to my knees in both despair and wonder must have something to teach me. I am profoundly happy here. Growing, too.

I don’t drive the truck unless I have to. But I can do it. Mostly I enjoy insulting it whenever possible, while David sings its praises. When I argue that it is not a “woman-getting machine,” as he fondly calls it, David smiles equably and murmurs, “It got you, didn’t it?”

Uncool Beans

I thought my neighbor's tree looked really neat in this light, with the storm advancing behind it.

I'd like to offer a shout-out this morning to Abby Mumford, who is a sometime commenter and frequent pimper of this blog. She passed along the Stylish Blogger Award. It's a lovely thing, to have someone recommend your work to others. I don't much like to play the blog badge game, because it reminds me uncomfortably of chain letters. And I'm old enough to remember when chain letters actually came in the mail. Which arrived on exhausted ponies. In ten-foot deep snow.

At any rate, I won't post you a list of my secrets, because I pretty much spill everything here anyway. But thank you, Abby - I greatly appreciate the nod!

Last night David commented that the waitress in the movie we watched didn't look old enough to serve drinks, and that it was the second time we'd seen that in a movie lately. I said, either that, or we're just getting old enough that they look really young to us now. It's an interesting thing about age-perspective. The people around your own age look "right" and everyone else is lumped into older or younger.

The other day I saw conversation between two twenty-something agents on Twitter. A lot of publishing professionals - especially the ones really using social media - are twenty-somethings. They're fresh out of college, interning and starting at the bottom level. They make terrific agents because they don't have extensive client lists yet and they're full of energy and enthusiasm. Both of these gals rep Young Adult books, so their own perspective is arguably much closer to that of the readers than an older person's would be.

One said that she feels awkward correcting outdated slang in manuscripts.

The other said, Oh, I know, right? I just took out "cool beans" from a manuscript.

And all I heard was Mom! You're embarrassing me!

Okay, sure - we all retain an unnatural attachment to the slang of our youth. It dates us, as surely as mentions of paper chain-mail letters and stories where the girl actually had to stay at home when she waited for a phone call from a boy. The words and phrases that make us superbad as teens render us hopelessly square twenty years later.

(I'd like to insert here, however, that "cool beans" was never a serious slang term. Hint: if the Urban Dictionary's main citation for a term is Cheech & Chong, it was never more than tongue in cheek. We didn't really smoke Labrador, either. Erm, most of us, anyway. The fact that it was picked up and used as a running joke in Full House, well, I can't help that.)

These gals are doing their jobs, updating the language for today's savvy youth. However, it's worth keeping in mind that what's hip today is lining bird cages tomorrow.

(How many old slang terms can I trot out in one post? This is more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!)

It's kind of like fashion: beware the fads. Go for the classics. That black jersey knit skirt can last decades with proper care and always looks in style. Those black rubber Madonna-wannabe bracelets? The hot pink half-shirt that says RELAX in neon green? Not so much.

I suspect the answer is to avoid slang as much as possible. I don't write YA, so I don't labor with trying to sound nifty keen to the youth of today. The classic curse words though? They've been around, doing their dirty work for centuries now. Serious staying power there.

Besides, you don't want to embarrass your agent.

Chain letters? Weren't those invented with email?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Back in October, I took you through a day in the life of a brand new novel, featuring my friend Allison's ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) of A Brush of Darkness.

Today is her debut.

There she is, gliding down the grand staircase in a white gown, blushing with youth and hopefulness. Who will be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to take her arm and lead her into the world?

Actually, knowing Brush of Darkness, she's more likely to hike up her skirts, climb on a bar stool and order a double.

Regardless, the party starts today at Bitten by Books, where you can win an enchanted iPod, just like Abby's - only without the seven-year contract to a fairy princess who may or may not be draining your life energy.

So, help a girl out - stop by Bitten by Books to wish her a happy birthday. She's here, dressed up either as a mass-market paperback or in a slinky electronic Kindle outfit, on Amazon (or likely in your local bookstore).

Give her a whirl, buy her a drink. Take her home and have your way with her.

I promise she'll put out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

First Time's a Charm

When I was in school, lo these many moons ago, the common wisdom was to save time at the end of the exam to review your answers.

I don't know if that's still the advice these days. But it never worked for me. I found that, if I went back and changed my initial answer, I nearly always changed it wrong. Seriously - the questions I'd miss on the test would be the ones I changed upon review.

I don't know what this says about me, but I've noticed it in other areas of my life, too. The first time I try a recipe, it comes out perfectly. After that, not so much. When I try to photograph something, inevitably my first shot is the best. This generally works out fine for me. I prefer to be decisive - make a decision, commit to a course of action and have done - so my experience that my first attempt is usually the best reinforces that preference.

The downside of this is, I really don't like revising.

In fact, I've become superstitious enough over the years about "changing my first answer," that I fret that revising makes my story worse.

I know, I know. You hear that noise, like marbles clattering around in a jar of olive oil? That's my critique partners rolling their eyes at me.

Revising is necessary. I understand that, here in my head. It's my heart that gets all nervous about it.

I once had a John Irving quote that I cut out of a magazine somewhere, that I recall as being "I have learned to have no fear of revising." I'm almost certain he said it about Cider House Rules. However, the closest I can come online is this one:

No, this isn't religion, there's no fear in changing the text.
Superstition and religion. Do I detect a recurring theme?

At any rate, I've nearly completed the revision of Act I of The Body Gift. I'm tossed between the exhilaration of seeing how much better the story flows now and genuine terror that I've ruined it forever.

(Yes, I know I can change it back - this isn't rational.)

But, when they're not rolling their eyes at me, my CPs are reading it and pronouncing it much better.

I don't know if I get an "A" on it, yet, but at least I haven't changed it wrong.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Savage Sensuous Surrender

I'm at Word-Whores today, talking about reading my first romance novel - and keeping it hidden.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Extended Architects

This is the sunset from the same night as the Wolf Moon rising photos. Really good show that night. The cast hit every note perfectly.

One of my writing friends and fellow Word-Whore, Laura Bickle, attended a panel last night. She was invited to a university, along with a "literary" writer and an art-gallery owner, to discuss Making Money from Art. Laura was described in the publicity materials as a pulp-fiction writer.

Been a while since you heard that term, too?

She says she didn't mind, but the term is really a slam. It derives from the days when certain, more disposable stories, were printed on cheap, pulp paper. Not like the good stuff you'd want to put in a library. If you've ever been to a discussion like this in an academic setting, then you'll know how the conversation went. The literary writer had one book to his name, but he'd clung to his Vision. Laura has published four urban fantasy books with Penguin in the last nine months, in two different series.

The art-gallery owner was gracious to her and even suggested a collaborative with a fantasy art show and Laura's books. Of course, a woman like that knows something about selling art, or she wouldn't be in business.

At any rate, afterwards, Laura and I discussed Vision. She said she'd learned something, a glimpse in the mirror we both shared. As writers, we sometimes let our Vision get in the way of delivering what the reader wants.

I ended up dragging out my new extended architect analogy.

I know: you can't wait.

Things Writers Can Learn from Architects

1) An architect can have a Vision, but people have to be able to use the building. Don't let your writer's Vision be more important than engaging the reader. Without people to occupy it, a building has no purpose.

2) An architect can design anything they like, but they are bound by the laws of physics. There must be a foundation and bearing walls. They can't just throw in a window in any old spot. Stories have traditional structures for a reason - kind of the physics of the imagination.

3) Originality is great, but if an architect puts the master bedroom next to the front entrance, no one will want the house. People expect certain things in a home, based on how people like to live. They also expect certain things from a story. You can have lovely twists and surprises, but don't turn it so upside-down that they're miserable being there.

4) Architects start with a dream and turn it into a solid reality. So do writers. Our readers occupy our realities. Make those worlds places they want to be.

5) Architects make a living from their work. This means putting as much fervor and art into designing a warehouse as a skyscraper. Not all jobs are big jobs. If you want to make a living at it, get good at designing warehouses, too. No newbie architect gets handed a skyscraper right off the bat. Don't disdain the warehouse jobs.

6) Now, if an architect doesn't care about making a living - say, if she works as a lawyer for her day job and designs buildings two hours before work every morning - then she can design all the skyscrapers she pleases, however she wishes. Whether someone invests in building them is another thing altogether.

7) If an architect sets out to design a house, they don't add on skyscraper and warehouse elements. Writers should know what they want their story to be. It doesn't have to be everything.

Seeing as how this is my new favorite analogy, I could go on forever. I'm also guilty of all these sins. But it helps me to think of how architects work. Yes, all houses are essentially the same. They all have the same elements, the same general lay-out, but within that pattern is an infinite array of ways that houses have unique, gracious and vibrant charm.

Sure, I fantasize about building a landmark skyscraper, one that defines the skyline of a city. Nothing wrong with a little beach cottage though. Simple. Straightforward.

So, what did I miss - any other architect analogies you all would like to add?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wolf Moon

I'd like to take you all on a little Santa Fe vacation today. Come sit on my porch. It's a bit chilly, but we have a heater. Here, you can sit next to it.

Sit with me and watch the full Wolf Moon rise.

I made sure to check the time and paid attention to where the moon rose the night before. Still, at first I wondered if I had it right. Then the sky began to lighten with that silver blue light that can be only moon.

Finally a sliver of moon peeked above the hillside.

This part seems to happen so much more quickly. Even though I know in my head that we are turning faster than it's moving, it still seems like the moon hurries.

Full of light, it brightens the hills.

And the clouds above.

Nearly free of the hills.

And here is where I didn't do so well. Hopefully you're not feeling moonrisus interruptus. See how the focus is already blurring? The moon was so very bright, it took over the lens. All subsequent photographs look like a big white circle in a field of black.

Too bad, because my eyes could see so much more - the subtle shadows of the face of the moon.

I'll get better at this, I swear.

Why I like writing? If, in the morning, the ending looks unfocused - I can always fix it.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jumping Up and Down

I've never been all that good at parties.

Oh, I sometimes have fun. And I like them, I really do. Love to host them.Hand me a glass of wine or champagne and a few snacks and I'm a happy kitty cat.

But I don't do well with competing conversations. Part of it's because I'm a Western girl. The pauses in East Coast conversations go by so fleetingly that, by the time, I've heard the opening, someone else has taken the reins and run with the topic. By the time I get a chance, the moment is gone and my comment no longer relevant. It's like I'm forever running behind the big kids, jumping up and down, shouting wait for me!

It's a funny thing, because I'm generally an assertive person. I think it's more that I don't like competition. I don't like struggling for the conversational ball. If someone talks over me, I'll back off rather than fight for it. I easily fall into my preferred writerly habit of listening and putting together the stories behind the people.

It only occurred to me the other day that I have a lifelong pattern of avoiding competition. David and I were talking about our childhoods and how we were both kind of sensitive kids who were shocked to hit the bigger world of school, where people yelled at each other and did mean things. We grew tougher hides over time, but I realized that my dislike of sports (please don't yell at me because I ducked instead of catching the ball) all the way up to my avoiding the rest of the Pre-Med crowd in college (no, I really don't want to tell you my grade on that exam) reflect that I don't like competing.

I'm sure many would say this is a fear of failure.

But it feels more like I just don't like being in the mosh pit.

I'll hand you the conversational ball before I elbow you in the eye-socket to keep it.

Sometimes the social media world feels like this to me. It's a great big cocktail party and I love the people I've met and the friends I've made. The support network is a fundamental part of my life. But sometimes the party gets really loud. Some people are trying to stand in the middle of the room and talk over everyone else. Others are gathering people around them, relentlessly counting how many there are, yanking them back when they try to wander off. Some spend the whole time trying to get people to go off to their private blog-party room. Have you been there yet? Lots of people like it. Go there and see!

I find myself standing on the edges of the room, retreating to the comfort of listening. My mother taught me how to make social conversation by asking people about themselves, but then I sometimes get trapped near the potted plant with the guy who wants to tell me how much money he's made self-publishing.

I think the trick - as with all parties - is to mingle freely and find the people you want to talk to. I find myself avoiding the loud talkers, the big groups, the ones running around, flailing their hands in the air yelling Look at Me! Look at Meeee!!!! I want people to read my books because they enjoy them, not because I talked them into it. I don't want my writing to be about competition, any more than I want the rest of my life to be about it.

Yeah, I know this means that the bigger boys, who throw the ball hard and sneer at my timidity will rule the game. This is why the James Frey's of the world not only get away with their shit, they profit from it. Nice guys might not finish last, but they don't necessarily finish first either.

Still, what it comes down to me is not that I have a fear of failure, but that I don't think winning is all it's cracked up to be. It certainly isn't worth sacrificing happiness or what I believe to be a generous and loving way to treat other people.

If you want to find me, I'll be over on the sofa in the corner, sipping my wine.

Iggly Wigglies

My mind is blurry today. Sometimes I think the mucus from a cold gets in between the neural spaces and inhibits transmission. Yeah - I paid more attention in Neurophys than that. Still, that's how it feels.

I'm trying to embrace the mistiness of it. I do believe the teaching that conscious thought is only the tip of the iceberg of our thinking processes. I like to have precise, clear thoughts, but I'm letting go of the idea that it's so very important.

Still - mist is, by nature, a nebulous thing.

I love the look and feel of it, but when I try to capture it, it never seems quite right. Like the fog rolling off the Jimez mountains in the pic above. So spectacular in reality. Kind of meh in this photo.

I notice when my mind is less focused, that I tend to substitute words in odd ways. Usually it's a sound-based substitution. For example, I once typed "actually" instead of "accidentally." This is clearly not a spelling error or me not knowing the difference between the words. Somehow the cadence of the words are matched in my brain. My right brain, with all her lovely impulsive mistiness grabbed for a close-enough word and it took a moment for the left-brain monitor to catch up and correct the error. I did catch it, before I finished the sentence, but the bizarre substitution amused me. Sometimes I even type "know" instead of "no," which is just more work to make the mistake.

One of my writer friends does this, especially when she's struggling with a migraine. She wrote a blog post that mentioned "an arbiter of things to come." I gently suggested she meant "harbinger." She was chagrined, but I could see it's exactly the same kind of substitution I make - based on sound and cadence. She knows the meaning of both words perfectly well, but they're twinsies enough to switch with each other.

In my family, we call this an Iggly Wiggly. This is taken from the internally famous incident when my grandmother told me she'd been to the movies. I asked what she'd seen and she said "Iggly Wigglies." Without a pause, I asked how she liked Legal Eagles. (For the record, she thought it was silly, which is probably a fair assessment.) Some of this is knowing my grandmother. A large chunk, though, is affinity for words and language sounds. I understood perfectly well what my grandmother meant, what my blogging friend meant, even what I meant.

It reminds me of that game where they take the vowels out of all the words in a sentence, to see if you can still understand it. Which we all can. As much as we cling to precision in writing, with proper spelling and punctuation, the actual communication usually makes its way through.

Or the accidental communication. I forget which.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Writer's Life

This weekend wasn't about writing, so neither is today's blog.

I'm still tagging it as writer's life, because this is life, too. When we returned from our whirlwind party weekend last night, I caught up on blog reading. I noticed several people bemoaning that they weren't recovering from the holidays fast enough. Here we are, ove two weeks into 2011 and they haven't ramped up like they thought they would. People have flus and colds. It's dark and cold. Day jobs have no trouble ramping up.

It's easy to think that only actual typing away is writing. Of course, the big trap for writers is only talking and thinking about writing and not doing it. We've all encountered people who say they always thought they'd like to write a book. Many of them never will.

We know that. We used to be those people. Until we finally got our acts together and starting WRITING instead of talking about it.

So the fear eternally chases us, that we'll revert. That we'll lose the oomph to stick it out in the chair.

But there's also life.

We celebrated belated Christmas in Denver on Friday night, with our 2 1/2 year old grandson, Tobiah (that's powdered sugar from Donettes on his mouth), and our new 2 1/2 month old granddaughter, Aerro.

She looks like an Anne Geddes baby. Alas that I am no Anne Geddes.

Saturday was my colleague Val's wedding. Our widely scattered work team flew in from New Hampshire, Florida and Nebraska, to stay at my mom's house in Denver. We went out for brunch on Saturday morning (there, Laurie, it's documented!) and met up with another colleague who lives in Castle Rock. With six of us, brunch took a long time. We had a few hours to kill and they wanted to see some sights.

So we tooled around my old neighborhood. I showed them my favorite art and architecture around the Denver Tech Center, like Harlequin Plaza, where I'd hang with my very first love. Places even David had never seen, because we never seem to have time to burn when we're visiting. We drove around Cherry Creek State Park and over the top of the reservoir, to prove to them there really is a big lake there. I told them how, when I was a kid, the only road across was that little two-lane along the top of the dam. My mom used to hate driving it, with so much traffic on such a narrow road. Now six to eight lanes of I-225 bustle below.

No one else was on the reservoir road.

We hung by the fire a bit, then piled into the car to head to Loveland for Val's wedding. There was a baby, there, too.

We stayed up late, drank a lot of wine and laughed until our sides were splitting.

Sunday morning we bustled everyone out for pick-ups and airport appointments.

David and I drove back to Santa Fe and I reflected on how fun it was to have a weekend party with my friends in my mom's house. Those who've followed this blog for a while know that my mom has been prepping the house to sell it, after nearly 40 years. Our last couple of visits have been melancholy, full of sorting through things and memories. Lots of letting go.

So there's a synchronicity to how this happened. I revisited some places I wouldn't have thought to. I have memories full of joy, babies and friends.

The writer's life doesn't get better than this.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Believe You Me

I'm off this weekend to attend a wedding and have a bit of belated Christmas with my stepdaughter, son-in-law and grandbabies. So this is a post with a bit of fun. Something to lift the end of this sad week.

I haven't mentioned, because everywhere you look there's something about it, but the shooting in Tucson was just a few blocks from my mom's house. A florist in that Safeway shopping center is where I bought her wedding flowers. My mom and stepdad voted for Gabby Giffords. My stepsister worked on her campaign. My mom first heard the news of the shooting because my older nephew called her in tears. My younger nephew will turn 9 in a few months - the same age as Christina Greene.

So close to home. And yet, as President Obama pointed out, this was close to home for all of us.

I hung onto this email my mom sent me back in November because I thought it would be interesting to share here. The first in this collection of old advertisements is great just for the stomach-turning sexism. Let me show you a workout with that feather-duster, buddy.

I remember seeing this series of Camel ads.

But then, you already knew how old I am.

What was great about this campaign was all the rationalizing about how Camels were the healthiest cigarette. This is like saying crack cocaine is less addictive than heroine.

Um, okay.

Actually, the yeast in beer is supposed to be good for milk production. But look how far the mindset on drinking during pregnancy has migrated.

Okay, you all know about the tapeworms in the diet pills, right? Tapeworms, an intestinal parasite that is still the scourge of many 3rd World countries, were distributed as diet pills. Little tapeworms eggs you could swallow so they'd take root in your digestive system and absorb all the nutrients while you waste away.

Note that these were Sanitized, however.

Makes all the difference.

This one has got to be my favorite. I just love how this growing teen needs SUGAR for energy.

Sugar swings!

Sugar's got what it takes.

Serve some.

Serve it now.

And they say things don't change.

What strikes me about all this most, however, is that all this made perfect sense at the time. Yes, it was a Mad Men kind of world, but people believed this stuff, argued for it, defended it.

They weren't stupid. There was evidence for all of it. Strong beliefs that made it all seem true.

Just seems to me like this should be a reminder that everything we know to be so true right now? In fifty years, it might look seriously ridiculous.

Always keep in mind what they're selling.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Home Is Where the Office Is

In comments the other day, Kelly Breakey asked me for tips on working from home.

Okay, this is something I know about.

I've been working from home for seven or eight years now. I know it's the Dream for many people, but at the time I really didn't want it. I worked in a two-person office. We were the Wyoming branch of a Boston environmental consulting firm. My "commute" was about ten blocks. I always liked the discipline of getting up and going to work, particularly since it was so low stress. People who worked for small consulting businesses in the building provided opportunities to chat.

The guy who'd hired me though, became increasingly obsolete after 9/11. He did a lot of consulting on environmental issues for private industry and that almost completely dried up after the terrorist attacks. Make of that what you will. One day I got a call that they were letting him go, closing the office and I could continue to work from home.

At that time I had become involved in very different work and everyone else on my team already worked from home, scattered across the country. So they gave me advice on the transition.

The company pays for my internet, phone and office supplies. They don't kick in for utilities, but I get to deduct for a home office, so that makes it up. (The rule is that if your company in some way requires you to work from home, you can deduct.) The corollary to this is: have a dedicated office area. Not your bed, not a corner of the couch. Make yourself a desk, even if you can't have a whole room.

My boss, who lives in New Hampshire, told me the best piece of advice she ever received, from another home-worker is never to wear elastic waistbands.

Grazing is a major issue at first.

On the one hand, you're not exposed to the relentless onslaught of office treats. But you have to keep yourself out of the kitchen. It's very easy to wander off on "breaks" and get a little something something out of the pantry.

I don't have a rigid schedule. Some home-workers have to be at their desks during the same hours as another office. For my work, what's most important is I get it done on time and do a good job, so I can set that up pretty much how I like. I've discovered, though, that when you work from home, people tend to assume you're screwing around. To counter this, I make sure I'm available all the time. I answer my office phone at six in the morning because I know someone from the east coast is calling. I respond to emails on my Blackberry if I've turned off my work computer.

For myself, I delineate the work time. I take a shower, put on work-type clothes and sit at my desk. People talk about wanting to work in their pajamas, but it's demoralizing after a while. Save the PJs for down time.

Resist the urge to do household chores during work hours. People working in offices don't break what they're doing to load the dishwasher or change over the laundry. During work hours, the job is what deserves your attention.

Also, people will tend to assume that, because you're home, you're available. Tell them no, you're done working at six or whenever. I use Instant Messenger to communicate with colleagues - signing in and out of that helps define my work day.

I think all of this applies to any kind of work from home - including writing. I've never been privileged to be a full-time writer, but I'd try to run it the same way. I think I'd try to follow a schedule of writing for a couple of hours, then checking email, etc. There's lots of business to take care of with writing, too, so that needs time. Drafting time might be separated from editing time.

The point, though, is to dedicate time appropriately. It can be a slippery bugger and lends itself to frittering.

So, now I'll throw this open - any other advice on working from home?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Private Rejections

Why are winter sunsets so much more dramatic? Must have to do with layers of air and lots of moisture.

The fabulous and funny Tawna Fenske has a post up today about stretching her, um, horizons by reading Petals and Thorns. I'm so pleased she enjoyed the story. Quite a few people now have read Petals and Thorns as their first real foray into erotica. I feel like the wild friend who convinces everyone to do tequila shots and enter the wet t-shirt contest.

I can live with that.

Yesterday another writing friend told me that, when her first book was published, her own mother gave it three stars on Amazon. That's three out of five, for those not glued to Amazon stats. My friend said her mother had wanted to be a writer when she was younger, but gave up. She suspected jealousy was at work and she's likely right.

Still, it gives lie to the idea that we can run around shouting that our mother loved the book so it must be a best-seller.

Rejection is part of a writer's life as much as sitting down and assembling words. It's the nature of the business, from newbie to best-seller. Joyce Carol Oates even mentioned this in her incredibly moving essay Personal History, published in the December 13 issue of the New Yorker. (Here's the link to the online edition, but you have to subscribe or purchase the issue to read it, which is well-worth it, I think.) The essay describes her husband's death after nearly 46 years of marriage. This bit was an aside, just a descriptor of their relationship, but it struck me:

In our marriage, it was our practice not to share anything that was upsetting, demoralizing, or tedious, unless it was unavoidable. Because so much in a writer's life can be distressing - negative reviews; rejections; difficulties with editors, publishers, book designers; disappointment with one's own work, on a daily or hourly basis - it seemed to me a good idea to shield Ray from this side of my life as much as I could. For what is the purpose of sharing your misery with another person, except to make that person miserable, too?
She goes on to explore the ways she needed him as a wife, not as a writer. I remembered this when my friend told me about her mother giving her three stars. The people in our lives don't always understand the pain of rejection - even the moderate pain of a meh review from someone who should be blindly enthusiastic.

I've stopped talking about my rejections and set-backs with anyone but my close writing friends. To them, I can say "100 pages!" or "full request!" and they know my excitement. I can tell them I got a pass and they ask if it was a good one, a bad one or stock. They know how to console me and kick me to keep going.

People not involved in this arcane world, much as they might sympathize, can't really get into how it all works. And I've come to think they shouldn't have to. They come back to us with suggestions like maybe we should write another book or, hey! self-publish. They reassure us that getting published is really hard and maybe not for us. One friend's husband suggested that she should add in more about what people are wearing and make it sexy.

We know they mean well. We do. We love them for it even as we're choking back the explanations about the many ramifications of self-publishing or which genres discuss fashion and which don't.

It's just better not to go there in the first place because the thing that is fundamentally difficult to explain is that rejection is part of our Opportunity Cost.

You didn't know I knew fancy economics terms, did you?

Okay, it's a fake-out. This the only one I know, besides supply & demand, and I just learned it yesterday. A writer was talking about how she was multi-published and didn't want to brag, but had received very few rejections. A glance at her pub list shows her work is with e-presses, and not the top tier. I'm not saying they're not selective. All reputable e-presses have a selection process. I'm saying they're not as selective as the Big Six. They're not a selective as 99% of the agents out there. When you're going for bigger stakes, the opportunity cost is higher. That means you get more than a few rejections.

It might mean you get a trainload of rejections.

That's the part I find hard to explain. I have a healthy helping of ego and I want the brass ring. I'm willing to keep tossing my work into the ring with NYC's hungriest lions, even if it means watching them slice it into shivering bits. I'm willing to pay that price.

The people who love me can't stand to watch the show. I don't blame them a bit.

And that's okay. I can keep the misery to myself. It'll make sharing the triumphs even better.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Murky Is as Murky Does

A while back, I took a class in play-directing.

Okay, this was almost twenty years ago. So a titch more than a while.

At any rate, I had several reasons for doing it. I was in grad school getting a PhD in neurophysiology and all the science was making me feel like a left-brain cripple. Some of my best times in college had been running with the theater crowd. I took enough acting classes and performed in enough shows that I could have added a theater minor to my biology major, had it occurred to me. In grad school, I found myself lonely among the science-heads. I auditioned for a play, but I'm really not a very good actress. Where they didn't know me, they didn't even toss me the bit parts I'd had before.

(Yeah - the role I played in Equus? I totally got it because the director called me when the actress he'd cast was so offended at the role's minor nature. Ask Jeffe - she'll do it! It was fun, too.)

So, I thought I could break into the scene and make some little friends in the bargain, by taking a class. Finally, I was noodling about creative writing and I recalled how the Assistant Director of Equus had been an MFA student in playwriting and his adviser suggested he learn how to direct, to better understand how a script comes alive on stage.

(He also might have been a handsome blond from New Orleans with whom I had a little love affair, but that's beside the point.)

It didn't work out so well. I remained an outsider in the theater clique. Plus, because I was an outsider, I had a great deal of trouble casting my scenes - all the best people got snapped up by their friends.

However, I did learn something very interesting that serves me still today.

Though I seem to need to relearn the lesson, over and over.

The course culminated in two nights of One-Act Plays open to the public. Five of us put together about half an hour long plays. Mine was this creepy one (I forget the name) about a cold marriage where the wife kills the husband's cat - either deliberately or through negligence. The husband then channels the cat (either becomes the cat or just flips out), stalks and attacks the wife.

It was a cool play.

And people liked it. They really liked it! (That's me channeling Sally Fields.) I loved people telling me how they enjoyed it, with their faces lit up. You don't get that in science. Then they'd say, "except I didn't get if she killed the cat on purpose or not." Or they'd say "I didn't really understand if he was crazy or if it was the cat's spirit." This wasn't in a contemplative, I'll have to mull over the implications way. They were genuinely confused.

I realized that, in every spot of this little 30 to 45 minutes, where I hadn't been crystal clear on what was going on, the audience hadn't known either.

I thought I could leave some bits murky, but I lost them in every place I did.

Yeah, you know where this is going. I've completed the storyboard for The Body Gift. You can see it in all its Post-It glory above. I'm eliminating an entire POV, because its murky and I have a choice of de-murking (yes, that's a word) or nuking it. I'm not sure I can de-murk, so off it goes.

The pink and dark blue notes? Those are places where I'm not crystal clear on why the characters are doing and saying what they do and say. See, my particular curse as a writer is I follow the characters and write the story as it happens to them. This means that I have to find out things about their world that they don't tell me straight out. It doesn't feel to me like I get to make it up.

The writers who plot out ahead of time call us Pantsers, because they see us as flying by the seat of our pants. I prefer the term Mister. That's how it feels to me - like I sink into the mist and things come to me out of it.

It's just not always easy to get the exact right thing to come out when I want it.

But, it's clear I have to. Where I was murky on this story, the readers were confused.

Lesson learned.

And remind me next time.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Smiles and Staycations

David mentioned last week that I've been smiling more lately.

This is one of those things people say to you that can be more worrisome than happy-making. At least, it is for me. If I were more Zen, I could likely embrace the current smiling trend and be pleased about it.

Instead I started thinking about why I hadn't been smiling as much before.

Last week, if I didn't mention, I was on vacation. The way our company works, our contracts all end on December 31, if not sooner. They can't go past December 31. Instead, a new contract must be created. Even though we start reminding our clients in October and November to get the new paperwork in, a lot of them wait until January to do it. After all, nobody really does any work after Thanksgiving, right? Then, even when the paper work is submitted, it can take weeks to wend its way through the approval process.

The upshot is, we ending up working pretty hard and frantic to get everything required delivered with a 12/31 date and then we have nothing, or barely anything, for sometimes several weeks. This is one of the feast and famine cycles of consulting. Also, because we work on client billing, like lawyers, if there's no client to bill to, there's no working.

So, I've gotten in the habit of saving vacation and holiday for early January. Last week I took totally off. David was off school still, so we both hung out at home all week. We slept in until 7 or 7:30 every morning and went for a leisurely work-out. I wrote and worked on two different books all week. We went out to lunch, did some shopping, read a lot.

It was really my perfect calendar.

If I could work my life to follow that schedule all the time, I think I'd be very pleased.

Thus the smiling more.

What I think gets me about that is, I think I'm pretty happy with my life as is. I'm privileged to work from home, with generous pay and benefits, for a company I like with terrific colleagues. The job is flexible enough to allow me time to write. I have possibly the best boss in the world.

It should be enough for me.

I suppose that's the nature of wanting something in particular, following a dream, chasing an ideal. You're never quite satisfied with less than that. If you were, you'd stop trying. Dissatisfaction is the spur that drives us on, that goads us to want more than what we have.

And smiling when we have it? That tells us we're going the right direction.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All in Good Time

I'm over at the Word Whores today, talking about keeping and losing time!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Piecing It Together

I used to sew a lot. My grandmother was a great seamstress, so I suppose I come by it naturally. In my twenties, I really got into quilting. Some of them turned out pretty fabulous, too, including a King-Size Wedding-Ring quilt I made for a college roomie.

Eventually I had to quit. I quilted more than I wrote, so I finally gave it up. Following a dream requires sacrifices and that was one of mine.

When we moved, I even gave away my sewing machine, along with bags and boxes and piles of fabric. It really kind of broke my heart to see it go. But it was one of those table sewing machines and I absolutely knew there would be no place for it in the new house. Plus I wasn't sewing. I let it go with a pang, and a promise that if I did want to start sewing again, I'd get a snazzy portable machine.

I really hadn't given sewing much thought lately, largely because my attention has been on novel-writing, as it should be. But I used the old family Christmas-tree skirt this year, the one my mom forced me to take when we cleaned out her house. That's the skirt in the top picture. It used to be a white felt skirt, that my mom had everyone in the family sign. Then she embroidered the names in red yarn. We did that when I was about six or seven. Over the years, the white got dingy and stained from various pets and accidents. My mom asked me to cut it up, saving the embroidered names and make a new skirt that matched her living room. Which was *not* red and white.

So I pieced a skirt of mauve silk and burgundy velvet and appliqued the names with a bit of lace edging. I totally don't remember doing this, just that I did. So this Christmas I used it, as I hadn't thought I would. It took a bit of cleaning up and so I noticed what a good job I did on it. The seams are strong. It lays nicely, holding up well these twenty years later. I used beads from one of my grandmother's necklaces as buttons, with satin loops to hook them. Most of the people who signed it are dead now, so I'm glad we saved it.

It's funny to me to think that I probably could not do as good of a job on it today.

But I'm taking this class, with Alexandra Sokoloff, in an effort to learn her screenwriting tricks to better structure my novel. I needed to make a storyboard and, rather than run to the office supply store, I pulled out my grandmother's cutting and measuring board.

It's one of the few pieces of sewing equipment I kept, not only for sentiment, but because it's a really useful tool that is nearly impossible to find these days.
And now I'm laying out The Body Gift events on it. I've only just completed Act I and already I see things I couldn't before. Blue is the heroine's POV (point of view, for the uninitiated) and yellow is the hero's.

Yeah - I'm thinking I'm going to lose his POV altogether. A shocking move that may be exactly what the book needs. Then I'll applique and embroider in what's missing.

My grandmother loved to read, too.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


No, this really isn't about George Michael's Freedom 90 anthem. That's just the earworm that springs to mind when I think about Freedom.

That and "the Iraqi people don't love freedom," but that one irritates me.

I started using a program this week called Freedom. You can get it for Windows or Macs for $10. Basically it shuts down your internet access for as long as you designate - from 30 minutes to 8 hours. If you *have* to get to the internet, you can reboot.

I thought, oh, I don't need this.

I read my emails, do my blog post, send the notice out on the social media waters, then shut everything down to write. That works.

Pretty much.

Until I pause to think. I get these impulses, not unlike the emotional eating ones I've talked about with fasting, where I think, oh, I'll just see if anyone commented on my blog.

Or replied to my tweets.

Or sent me an email.

Or commented on my Facebook status.

Before I know it, I've lost 15 minutes.

Turns out, I really did need this.

Freedom gives me a level of relief. Maybe it's like a heroine addict taking methadone, but whatever it takes to break the habit. Now I think, oh, I should check the weather forecast, but I can't, so I keep writing. Or I think, I should Google that, but I can't, so I keep writing.

I've even extended the time now, which is funny to me. The window pops up saying I've completed my session and do I want to quit or extend. Twice I've extended. As soon as I quit, the email icon pops up and I can't not look. I extend and it's like keeping the door shut.

It's true: I'm weak and pitiful.

I'm Jeffe and I'm a webaholic.

Thank goodness I was granted the wisdom to get Freedom. Offline I go!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


This is me, making La Peche Chocolate Velvet for Christmas. I rarely do much exotic baking anymore, so it was fun for me to indulge in that kind of creativity.

Yesterday I finished my revise and resubmit on Sapphire. I'm pretty pleased with the result - now it's just cross my fingers time. I did a final spell check before I sent it off. I'm lucky enough to be a pretty good speller, so spell check mainly catches my odd words. Amusingly, Word doesn't recognize a number of words I use. Among them:

Tsk, tsked and tsking

The winner, however, is:

Rebuttoning, which Word suggested should be "rebut toning."

Try using that in a sentence. "I would like to rebut toning arguments, but I know I need to work out more." Erm.

And really, "skeezy" isn't a word? (Incidentally, Blogger agrees it's not.)

I like words. Always have. When I was in 7th grade, I started a list of good words. I had stuff on there like exquisite, writhe and oscillate. Words are my medium and I figure I get to work my medium as I see fit. Which means I might make up words now and again.

To me, this is very much like messing around with a recipe while cooking. When you first start baking, or even the first time you make a recipe, it's best to stick very close to instructions. You have to learn the basics of how a dish comes together. It's part chemistry, part biology, part magic. But, after you have that stuff down, then you can mess with it. I often reduce sugar and salt. But then, I kind of know how much sugar I really need to make the crystalline structure work correctly, or to feed the yeast. Salt creates a crucial balance to the sweet and brings forth other flavors, but it doesn't take much.

A good cook also knows how to substitute ingredients. Not that a writer runs out of words like I might run out of, oh, almond extract. (All the grocery stores in Tucson sold out of almond extract - what was up with that??) But, after you've used the word "touch" 72 times, you start looking to replace some of those with alternatives. You get creative with it.

Sure, sometimes the substitute doesn't work. The bread doesn't rise, the souffle falls flat. Sometimes it's brilliant.

The best part about writing is, until it hits the press, you can always tweak it.
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