Friday, January 30, 2009

the public don't dwell on my transmission 'cause it wasn't televised

Today was a relatively decent day at work. Because I thought that I was going to take today off, I had kept it blocked off until a few days ago -- resulting in only 1.5 hours of meetings. Miracle! Unfortunately, I left the second meeting thoroughly annoyed, but I followed it up with a therapeutic lunch with two of my team leads (Pete and Lisa), so I felt better and was able to get some stuff done this afternoon before taking off so that I could write the story for tomorrow's creative writing class. And I'm going to take next Friday off instead -- I worked today because I wanted to see a presentation that Pete had to give in the meeting that later annoyed me, but I could use a three-day weekend to write.

I just wrote, edited, typed, re-edited, and printed my short story assignment over the past four hours (in addition to doing a load of laundry, eating some frozen enchiladas, and drinking a whole pot of Russian Caravan tea). I'm fairly happy with the result -- I would never write this kind of story or use that kind of style, but it was an interesting exercise. And I successfully wrote a story that has little to do with me (my worldview, perhaps, but definitely none of my personal experiences) and is not based off of anyone I know personally. So, that was great. It's a bit nervewracking to think of reading a couple of pages of it to the class tomorrow -- I would much rather blog the story and send them the link -- but that's because everyone in the class (with the exception of one of my former coworkers) is a complete stranger and I have a chip on my shoulder about being a romance novelist rather than a 'serious' author. I shall report back on how it goes, of course, and will likely post the story on zee romance blog tomorrow.

So the story is done, and while I still have the smashing headache I had yesterday, it hasn't progressed into a full-blown illness yet. I expect that to happen tomorrow. But I have grand plans to write another eighth of my novel this week, and if I'm going to make that happen in addition to doing another assignment for my short story class and prepping for and delivering thirteen reviews at work, I need to get cracking tomorrow. I also want to waste some time by shopping for some new pants -- almost all of my old pants and skirts no longer fit (in a good way), so I need some new bottoms to tide me over as I continue to make progress toward my goals. I guess it's good for me that I'm going to have to buy clothes during a recession, since everything is always on sale, but I would much rather not be in a recession so that I would have a better chance of selling my book. C'est la vie, I suppose. Goodnight!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

i hear the good girls die

Tonight I went to a lecture at Stanford entitled "Death and the Maiden: From Chaucer to Pearl Jam." It was hosted by the Medieval Studies department, featuring a top professor in the field visiting from USC, and the audience was mostly comprised of Chaucer's contemporaries. That's a bit of an exaggeration; there were a few graduate students in medieval studies there, as well as some more middle-aged professors from various departments and a smattering of what appeared to be interested non-academics. But, the elderly population was out in force; to my left was an old man with an elaborately carved walking stick replete with a serpent-head grip, and to my right was a woman who kept falling asleep and waking herself up with the force of her own half-snores. And my favorite quote came from a woman in front of me who, before the lecture, turned to her friend, pointed to the program, and asked "What is a pearl jam?"

Anyway, I'm glad that I went. The lecture topic was fascinating; the lecturer has been researching the interplay between depictions of virgins as holy and inviolate and the (sometimes simultaneous) depictions of virgins as objects of lust at the moment of death. While women in romance novels typically aren't virgins by the end (at least not in the ones I read, ha), there is a somewhat parallel trend in historical romance regarding the woman's purity before her defining relationship with the hero. I may write medieval romances someday, since they've always entertained me, so I took about four pages of notes even if I may never be able to work in much detail about virginal female saints' martyrdoms, artwork showing maidens embraced by Death, etc.

After the lecture, I came home and edited some PowerPoint (trust me, not exactly what I wanted to do, particularly since I have to have a short story for Saturday and I haven't started writing it yet). And tomorrow could be dicey -- around 10am this morning, I suddenly felt that weird, just-slightly-off feeling in my head that usually proceeds some vile illness. I've had a splitting headache the rest of the day, so I'm hoping that I'm not finally succumbing to the plagues that have spread through the office.

The bright spot, though, was lunch with Adit, Katrina, and their friend (and Iowan) Govind, who also works at my place of employment. It took my mind off my headache (even if I blame Katrina for giving it to me, since she was sick when we went out for dinner last Saturday), and we had a generally ridiculous time. There may be port in my future this weekend -- in which case, I would be better off contracting pneumonia.

Okay, it's bedtime if I'm going to make it to work tomorrow -- goodnight!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

saw cinderella in a party dress -- she was looking for her nightgown

This is definitely a four-minute post. I want to stay up and keep writing, but I have an eight a.m. meeting that I can't be late for, so I should really go to bed. I didn't work on the romance novel tonight -- instead, I worked on a part of the assignment for my creative writing class. Before we can write our story, we're supposed to write an analysis of what we read, highlighting three components of the author's style. I wrote almost four pages, which may have been a bit of overkill, but I haven't done any sort of literary analysis in a long time and got a little carried away.

I had a flash of inspiration on the way to work today and think I know where the story is going to go, but I don't want to jinx it yet. If it turns out to be any good, I'll post it on the romance blog. But I'm v. relieved to have an idea, even if I haven't started it yet and it's due on Saturday. For once, my road rage and my commute did something good for me -- the flash of inspiration came when I saw someone with a UC Berkeley license plate holder, briefly considered side-swiping them (I would never do it, and perhaps that's too much of an insight into my dark core), and then realized that it was a possible kernel of an idea for a story regarding people's judgments of each other based on superficialities. The story will have nothing to do with driving, Berkeley, or anything else I saw on my commute -- but it was an interesting jumping-off point, and the brainstorming made my commute more pleasant.

Four minutes are up, it's bedtime!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

your kiss is on my list

This is a four-minute post. I was really not feeling the whole work thing, and so didn't get there early as I have for the past couple of months, and I left at 5:15 to have dinner with Terry. I was still productive while I was there, and I also answered some emails when I got home, but writing so much last night definitely made me want to sleep more to recover.

Dinner with Terry was good; we went to CPK in Palo Alto, which I love, and I ate an obscene amount of roasted garlic chicken pizza. We discussed Madeleine and Ferguson a bit, and when I got home, all I really wanted to do was keep writing -- but I need to do the assignment for my Stanford class. So, I got through the required reading for the assignment tonight, although I stayed up a bit longer than I intended to do so. This week's assignment is to read four short stories by Flannery O'Connor ("A Good Man is Hard to Find", "Good Country People", "Everything That Rises Must Converge", and "Revelation"), and then write a two-page story (either a complete short-short, or a fragment of a longer story) that is a creative response to O'Connor using at least three of the stylistic choices that O'Connor used in her work.

The interesting thing is that when I'm writing something patently unlike my real life (romance, for example), I have no trouble coming up with characters who have little in common with me and who do things that I would never dream of doing myself. But when I'm writing 'literary' fiction, I am still in amateur mode, basing my work heavily in personal experience. So my challenge to myself is to make this a story in the truest sense of the word, rather than semi-autobiographical. The challenge of responding to O'Connor's style while simultaneously coming up with characters and plot out of thin air is daunting, but I have tomorrow and Friday to accomplish it, so hopefully I'll be fine.

This is slightly more than four minutes, so it's officially time for bed!

Monday, January 26, 2009

close your eyes, clear your heart -- cut the cord

I went to work and successfully slogged all day, enlivened all too briefly with a bowl of the spiciest chicken tortilla soup that I have ever had the pleasure/misfortune of eating. My company is on an even bigger kick of environmental awareness than usual. A couple of weeks ago they had people standing at the tray return areas to teach us how to compost (which involves separating out foods from non-biodegradable products, and we have to do it correctly or else the company can't do composting anymore if our compost supplies are too contaminated). Then today I discovered that they have done away with to-go boxes (which were compostable anyway) and plastic to-go cups (also compostable, since they were made of some sort of corn product). This means two things: 1) it's much harder for me to get food to go from my favorite cafe in the building next door, and 2) I can't take a cup of Diet Coke with me when I leave at night unless I take a reusable glass and bring it back the next day. Some might argue that it also means 3) I'm spoiled, but I refuse to acknowledge that.

When I got home, I ate a pizza, procrastinated for a bit, made a pot of tea (Russian Caravan looseleaf from Peet's -- smoky and delicious) -- and then wrote for an hour and a half. I churned out 1800 words, which is about seven and a half pages, bringing my total for Ferguson and Madeleine's story up to 13,256 words, which is 62 page. At this rate, I could be 25% of the way through the book by the end of this weekend, provided that I don't get wrecked on port or sucked into watching the Super Bowl.

I really want to keep going, but I'm going to go to bed instead -- I have grand plans to get up early tomorrow and go to the gym, which is unlikely at best, but I should at least make it theoretically possible. I also may have to take a break from the book tomorrow to start the assignment for my Stanford class. It hurts to take time away from the book to write something else -- but I think the class will be really good for my romance novel writing even if it's meant for much more high-falutin' types of books. But before I can get back to writing, I have to slog for nine hours tomorrow, so I think it's time for bed!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

the songmaker says it ain't so bad...the dreammaker's gonna make you mad

I was insanely productive today. I went to the gym, washed my sheets and remade my bed, bought groceries, refilled some prescriptions, cleaned out my fridge, did some dishes, talked to my niece (happy birthday Sammi!), talked to my parents, paid my bills, put together two query/submission packets for a couple of agents, and wrote 3,089 words of Madeleine and Ferguson's story (the working title is AN INCONVENIENT TITLE -- which could actually work, since Ferguson doesn't want to be a duke, but currently is more of a pun on my first book's title + the fact that I don't have a title for this one). In fact, the only thing I didn't do on my to-do list was vacuum -- and considering that my to-do lists for most weekends are usually overflowing and mostly aspirational, that's pretty good.

I decided to query a couple more agents; of the four queries I sent out two weeks ago, two agents requested partials (which I sent back promptly), and two agents still haven't responded to the initial query letter. Since agents can take up to a few months to respond when they've requested additional material, I'm not holding my breath for a response from the first two. I also set an arbitrary personal goal to have four 'warm' queries out at any given time -- 'warm' in this sense means queries in which the agent hasn't exceeded their self-reported deadlines for responding to my material. Since both of the agents who haven't responded to my queries said that they usually respond to queries within two weeks, it's time to query two more agents to refill my queue. This time, the agents I'm querying require snail-mail queries -- so the wait to hear back will be longer, but hopefully the competition will be a bit less intense since many people seem to be moving to e-queries, and e-queries are so cheap to send that most authors seem to send out dozens at a time.

As for the writing, it was really flowing today. I averaged ~800 or 900 words per hour, so my 3000-word output happened over lunch and tea at Leland Tea Company (the neighborhood tea place that I love; the owner/head dude seems to be on happy pills, but that makes it entertaining, and the tea sandwiches and scones are great), and over another hour-long stint tonight. I have 53 pages or 11,500 words, which means I'm about an eighth of the way through the book. Given that I started it a week ago yesterday, that's awesome progress -- I think it took me two years to get this far with Amelia and Malcolm, and I ended up rewriting almost all of that. If I can keep up this pace (difficult but doable), I could have a complete first draft by the end of March. Then I could set it aside for a proper rest while I go on another binge of socializing, so that I could pick it up again around the beginning of May with fresh eyes and aim to complete the second and final drafts over the course of the summer. Doesn't that sound like fun?

I'm still caffeinated, thanks to the awesome teapot warmer that I got for Christmas from my parents -- it's a glass stand that you put a tealight candle in, which provides enough heat to keep your teapot warm so that you can savor hot tea over a couple of hours rather than hurriedly trying to drink it before it cools. So I drank four or five cups of Samovar's English Breakfast blend -- it has a slightly nutty flavor that you don't usually find in English Breakfast teas, but it's quite nice with milk and sugar. Even with the two small pots of tea I had at Leland Tea Company, I'm nowhere near as caffeinated as I was yesterday, so sleep should come easily. Tomorrow it's back to the mines, where I shall slog my way through endless meetings and try to avoid looking noticeably dreamy as I think about what Madeleine and Ferguson will do next. Goodnight!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

are we human? or are we dancer?

Today was truly excellent. My creative writing class started this morning, so I had to wake up at 6:30 so that I could make it down to Stanford in time. I think the class will be hard and a bit intimidating -- for example, we spent today writing two in-class exercises, which we then had to read out loud, and I don't like sharing rough drafts of anything. But the teacher is excellent, and I was pleased to see that none of my classmates seem to be men in midlife crises, nor will they attempt to write lists in excel and attempt to pass them off as stories -- instead, they all seem to be reasonably decent writers. So I'm glad I signed up -- but we'll see if I feel the same way when I have to do my assignment this week.

After class, I spent a few hours at Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park, getting jacked up on caffeine while working on my romance novel and later hanging out with Terry. I had my favorite gouda/turkey/caramelized onion sandwich on focaccia, as well as a glass of wine, a chai, a mocha, and an iced tea, which explains why I felt a bit ill and jumpy the rest of the day. But, I wrote >1000 words -- not great, considering how long I was there, but progress nonetheless. And, Terry came over for the last hour or so that I was there, so we got to catch up a bit before I drove back to the evil city.

I had dinner with Adit and Katrina tonight, and a truly winning time was had by all. We went to some Korean place in the Richmond district, where they serve boiling hot soup that you can crack a raw egg into -- which was a bit over-the-top considering that I also had a whole shrimp, complete with eyes, sitting in my soup and glaring at the egg. Mmm. It was quite yummy, but my caffeine overload had not quite subsided (and wasn't helped by the addition of a Diet Coke), so I wasn't particularly hungry.

But, as far as family time goes, it was quite successful. We had a series of rather ridiculous conversations, and almost decided to adjourn to Katrina's apartment to watch a movie and drink a bottle of port. But, port is not my friend (and in fact has been my companion at the brutal end of some of my worst drinking nights), and so while I'm committed to having port with them next weekend, it's probably a good thing that it didn't happen tonight. Katrina managed to drop me off at my apartment after dinner despite the tears in her eyes from laughing so hard from our shared hysteria, so hopefully she and Adit made it home!

I have big plans for tomorrow -- I want to write 5000 words (since that's 20 pages, it's a major stretch), and I have to run errands, vacuum, clean out my fridge, and call my parents. So I suppose it's time for bed. It's amazing that I can sleep at all, ever, given how caffeinated I usually am -- but I'm ready for sleepy time despite it all (keep in mind that I also had a travel mug of tea and a 20oz bottle of Cherry Coke Zero in class). So, goodnight!

But one more thing. If you like ridiculously awesome stuff, and aren't willing to watch terrible movies with me but can sit through four minutes of procrastination, check out the Killers' video for their latest single "Spaceman". It looks like several exotic birds exploded and then adhered to Brandon Flowers' back, forcing him to put on a red jumpsuit and hang out with some extravagantly-dressed crackheads. Awesome!

Friday, January 23, 2009

let my love open the door to your heart

This is a four-minute post. Two full-time jobs will be the death of me. I was at the office from 8:30 to 5:30, then went to a cafe in Mountain View and wrote for an hour and a half. I managed to plow through ~1000 words (equivalent to about four pages) before deciding that I should return to my apartment. Traffic was predictably bad since it was Friday, but it wasn't terrible, and I made it home before perishing from hunger. I wanted to keep writing when I got home, but decided that I was too tired, so warmed up some soup and played on the internet instead.

Even though it's 9:30pm and I feel extremely lame, I'm going to go to bed after this -- my Stanford writing class starts tomorrow morning at 9am, which means that I have to get up like Saturday's any other working day. Luckily, the class is only three hours, and while there will likely be some annoying people, they can't assign me action items, so it's a definite improvement over work. And, as an added bonus, I can do some of my favorite South Bay weekend things -- like spend the entire afternoon writing at Cafe Borrone. I would love to get a pedicure, but it's cold and rainy, which means my glorious feet would be wasted in boots and sneakers. Sigh.

Sorry this post is more disjointed than usual, but I'm wiped out! So I'm going to be lame and go to bed -- goodnight!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

still your mind and the universe surrenders

It's already bedtime, so I'll make this quick. My commute was enough to make me want to stab myself in the face -- it took an hour and forty minutes to get to work, which meant that instead of being twenty minutes early to my 9am meeting, I was twenty minutes late. It was certainly not an auspicious start to the day -- but given that I only had 3.5 scheduled hours of meetings, plus my allergy shots and some random one-off conversations, the day couldn't be totally terrible. I managed to plug away until 6:45pm and get through a ton of random action items, even though a major part of me wanted to sneak out at three p.m. and write instead. I might have done it if the weather was still as gorgeous as it was last weekend, but today's weather (rainy in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon) was just as conducive to sitting in my office as it was to sitting in a cafe.

But, I had shrimp ceviche for lunch, which was totally delicious. And, I had ample fountain Diet Cokes, which kept me happy for the slog. Best of all, I had dinner plans to look forward too -- Terry, Lauren (aka Subz), and I met up in Menlo Park and spent some quality time catching up on our holidays, our recent life developments, etc. Since we all started in roughly the same era and reached roughly the same levels of professional development in our roles, we have a lot in common (and therefore a lot of shared platforms for dissecting/bitching about what has changed and what has stayed the same). So, that was v. nice, and I enjoyed the afterglow on the v. speedy drive back to the city (which took less half as long as my morning commute).

Now I just have to make it through tomorrow (meetings straight from 9am to 4:30pm), and then it's the weekend! My Stanford class starts on Saturday, so I have a feeling this weekend will be all writing all the time...and I can't wait. Goodnight!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

i'm just turning away from where i should have because i am not anything

I have nothing of any real interest to report tonight. That's pretty typical, actually, so I don't know why I felt the need to comment upon it. I made it to the office in time for an 8:30am meeting, but today wasn't quite as bad as usual. I had two free hours at lunch, and ended up spending half an hour in an impromptu chat with Gyre and Lizzie (Lizzie left my company last year, but she works down the street and stopped by to bring Gyre some stuff). I also got fairly caught up on stuff and fully unpacked my desk. I love my new office -- I have a much bigger window, and I ended up fully busting out the swag I've accumulated over the past five years. With my Bon Jovi poster on the wall, my lava lamp lit up and my fiber optic bonsai tree twinkling merrily, and feather boas and starry tinsel and my glass orb-shaped luminary award strategically placed, my office is the perfect cross between a dorm room and a thrift store. Yay.

So I slogged away all day, then left around six to have dinner with my boss, who is in town from Ann Arbor for a couple of days. We had a good time, but I ate too much and it was hard to stay awake on the drive back to the evil city. But I can't express how much I'm looking forward to tomorrow -- I only have three and a half hours of meetings. This is such a shock that I don't quite know what to do with myself, and will just have to hope that I am productive with that time (particularly since Friday goes back to my regularly scheduled brutality). I'm going to go to bed now, though, so that I can get up in time to beat some of the worst of the traffic -- it will likely be raining tomorrow morning, and if there's anything worse than rush hour, it's rush hour in the rain. Goodnight!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

you watch the sky, it's a pale parade of passing clouds that cover the bed upon which we laid in the dark

Today was surprisingly good, considering that I had meetings basically straight from 7:30am to 5:30pm, followed immediately by our monthly margaritas and pie event (with a special guest appearance by our director) from 5:30 to 7:30pm. I skipped my allergy shots this morning because I wanted to get my desk set up from last week's move. As I said to Pete when he walked in for our 1:1, it looked like a dollar store had exploded all over my office. To fit in with our company's culture, it's imperative that you have as much random and useless decorative crap as possible -- and over the course of the past five years, I have accumulated a great collection of stupid stuff.

This came back to bite me -- at margaritas and pie, we were talking about movies, and I quite seriously agreed with our director that I'm not a huge fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. At that most inopportune moment, Pete called me out, mentioning that I have a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on my desk. Snap! He was right -- I found the stationery I bought for 27 rupees in India that featured a young Leo's face both faded into the whole sheet and captured in a smaller color photo in the lower right-hand corner, and I put the stationery up with some of the other cards and paper mementos. But I apparently turned four shades of red when Pete brought this up, contrary to my usual impossible-to-embarrass facade.

Now, though, I should really go to bed -- I have an 8:30am tomorrow and I'd like to get there a bit earlier than that to finish unpacking, and then I have meetings all day, followed by dinner with my boss tomorrow night. Bleh. Corporate whoredom is putting a cramp in my writing lifestyle, but it pays the bills. Goodnight!

Monday, January 19, 2009

'cause it's easy once you know how it's done

Today was lovely, and I enjoyed a bit of the weather in anticipation of the cold front expected later this week (and of course 'cold' means mid-fifties during the day -- I know this gets no sympathy from my relatives). I briefly contemplated the sobering fact that I'm turning into my mother as I thoroughly cleaned my kitchen after the devastations of last night's cooking; in times gone by, I would have left the mess for a couple of days (and I would have also slept until noon). Instead, I had everything spic and span by 9:30am. My mother later laughed at this, since she believes I'll never turn into her, given my strong urges to pick up and move to foreign countries on a whim...but time will tell.

Later, I met up with Oniel and his girlfriend for lunch. They took me to an east coast-style deli (which serves such delicacies as cold corned tongue), and it was quite good. The sandwiches were huge, and mine was covered in hot sauce, so I ended up bringing the other half home with me. I likely won't get a chance to finish it, since I have dinner plans every night this week and a fridge full of other leftovers, but I would happily try other sandwiches at that establishment in the future. We had a good time catching up, and I made Oniel jealous that he missed out on playing Worms (although Kathryn didn't seem to mind too much that she missed it), so hopefully I'll see them again sometime soon.

After parting ways with them, I was good and worked on my book. I went to a cafe, and later Tom met me there -- since he's also working on a book, we're good writing companions. I stayed there for 2.5 hours and wrote almost exactly 2000 words, which I felt pretty good about. So, book two is well under way -- I just have to keep it up in spite of my grueling work schedule and my typical procrastinatory urges.

I meant to keep writing tonight, but decided to read a book and do laundry instead. Unfortunately, when I went downstairs to get my laundry out of the dryer, I discovered that one of my loads wasn't dry -- and was in fact so wet that it seemed the dryer hadn't ever started. So now I have to wait until 10:45 to get my clothes out -- particularly unfortunate since I have to be in Mountain View for work in time for a 7:30am meeting :( The chances of writing tomorrow are bleak, but I'll have to pick up the pace later in the week. Now, though, I'm going to get ready for bed so that I can go to sleep as soon as I've picked up my laundry. Goodnight!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

i guess i stuck around so i could watch us fight for all the wrong reasons

Yes, I quoted Nickelback. Suck it!

Today was lovely, and comprised of a significant amount of family time. I woke up in time to buy some groceries, enjoy a leisurely cup of tea, take a shower, blowdry my hair, and talk to my parents before Adit showed up in the early afternoon. As mentioned, he invited himself, John, Jess, and Katrina over for dinner tonight, but he came over around 12:30 to work and watch football and work. So we hung out for a few hours before beginning to prepare our culinary contributions to tonight's "party".

It turned out to be the best party ever -- we ended up watching several episodes of "The O.C." and playing Worms, which was the key game of my freshman year of college. We also ate a lot of food -- Adit made two pizzas, I made potato and leek soup and this awesome caprese salad from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook that I got for Christmas, and Katrina brought strawberries that went perfectly with the brownies and ice cream I bought from Whole Foods. Also, we spent a lot of time trying to explain the Walter Talbott phenomenon to Katrina; I think we failed, but we discovered his website and John and Adit spent some time playing this computer game he wrote in which two players try to crash pinewood derby cars into each other.

So, the evening was pretty much perfect -- there was much laughter, much food, and we used an inexplicable number of dishes, considering that there were five of us and we went through every piece of silverware I own, as well as all sixteen bowls. The only thing that wasn't perfect about today was that I didn't work on the book -- but I did write a couple of posts for the sararamsey.blogspot.com blog, so I guess that counts.

Tomorrow is a free day for me, and I intend to spend it writing (with a break for lunch with Oniel and his girlfriend, who may have been scared off by tonight's solely vegetarian fare). Then it's back to work, bleh, but now is not the time to think about it. Instead, I'll go to sleep, with memories of tomatoes, mozzarella, and Worms' banana bombs dancing in my head. Goodnight!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

hold your breath and count to ten, start again, start again

Today was nearly perfect. I woke up, messed around the apartment, played with my eye makeup, and finally girded my loins (figuratively, as I don't know how to do it literally) for the walk through the Tenderloin down to Union Square and Yerba Buena Gardens. My first destination was Samovar, that tea place that I sometimes go to overlooking the gardens. I hadn't been there in several months, and they slightly changed the outside arrangement, decreasing the size of the patio and increasing the size of the tables. I sat outside, and it was absolutely gorgeous -- there were moments when I couldn't quite decide whether I would rather stare off into space, focus on my salmon quiche, or work on my brainstorm for Ferguson and Madeleine's story.

I spent an hour and a half there, enjoying some people watching (several of the groups on the patio were in town for some type of fancy food distributors' convention, so they were much pickier than I am) and drinking a pot of English breakfast tea followed by most of a mug of masala chai. I would have eventually finished the chai, even though the caffeine overload was starting to make me feel ill...but I got oddly booted by a Frenchman who came up to me and said that he and his friends would 'like very much to sit in the sun' and asked if I would mind sharing a corner of my [four-person] table with him and his other three friends. I said I would be done in five minutes and he just looked at me, then waved his friends over, and so I decided to leave. His friends looked a little bit appalled and the waitress looked very much appalled, but I was done anyway and preferred to have another reason to hate zee French.

After that, I wandered back in the general direction of Chinatown, stopping at my two favorite card shops on Grant before catching a bus back to my apartment. Before going home, I stopped at Staples to buy mailing labels and at the art supply store near my house to buy another notebook -- I need more paper like I need another shade of nail polish, but c'est la vie. Then I came home, vacuumed, procrastinated, and finally sat down to write.

I have officially broken ground on Madeleine and Ferguson's book. It was a little bit exciting to go through the process of setting the right margins and ensuring that Word stopped putting in 'smart quotes' and 'smart dashes' and all other 'smart' formatting things that could be bad for manuscript submission down the road. Then I typed the title (currently "Book 2 - Madeleine and Ferguson", although I expect to come up with something a bit snappier), and off I went. I ended up writing the whole first chapter, which was around 3000 words, in less than five hours. While I still have a lot of questions to answer and problems to resolve when it comes to the plot, I have a fairly decent feel for the characters since they were secondary characters in my first book, so I don't think I'll go through quite as much trial and error as I did with the last one. Or at least, I hope that's the case -- if I could write for two hours a day (recognizing that that's somewhat impossible but planning to make up for missed hours on the weekends), it would take me two months to get to the end of the first draft. That's much better than three years. So even if I fall off the wagon a little bit, I can't imagine this book will take as long as the last one.

So, it was a great day. Tomorrow I need to figure out what I'm feeding the friends who invited themselves over for dinner -- they're likely to get potato soup, but if I discover some culinary ambition in my dreams tonight, that may change. Now, though, it's time for bed, so that I can accomplish some stuff tomorrow before my guests show up. Goodnight!

Friday, January 16, 2009

i'm no superman

Today was an excellent day. I worked out of the San Francisco office; while I actually had to work all day because I had meetings basically straight from 9am to 3:30pm and lots of email to send and to-dos to do, working out of SF is so much easier for me. I woke up at 7:15, took a shower, actually blow-dried my hair, and still managed to get on a bus and into the office by 8:30. To make it to the Mountain View office by 8:30, I would have to leave my apartment around 7:15. And today was gorgeous -- while I spent most of it in a windowless interior conference room on a succession of videoconferences, I did manage to leave by 4:30.

Instead of fighting traffic home for an hour and a half, I took a stroll down the waterfront of the Embarcadero and stopped in at the Ferry Building. I walked past the restaurant where Irish Matt and I had a five-hour booze-filled "lunch" a couple of months ago, and just seeing it gave me a hangover. Then I went to Sur la Table and bought a v. small tea strainer that will finally fit into the teapots that my mother and Heather gave me, which is exciting. I topped it off with a scoop of gelato from Ciao Bella -- the flavor was masala chai chocolate, and the hint of spice in the chocolate was perfect. I ate it standing on the back patio watching the ferries come in and musing over how lovely the day was. Then I caught a bus home, where I relaxed, ate English muffin pizzas (one with feta and olives, one with mozzarella and so much fresh garlic that I'll likely reek for days), and ended up boycotting all work by watching two episodes of 'Scrubs' and four episodes of '30 Rock'. Brainstorming Ferguson and Madeleine's story starts in earnest tomorrow, but I needed a break tonight.

I don't have major plans for the weekend, but I'm v. excited that it's three days long. I guess I'm making dinner for some people on Sunday -- I woke up to a calendar invitation from Adit, inviting himself, John, Jess, and Katrina to my place for dinner on Sunday, and the description said 'wamper make us dinner'. The fact that he purposefully misspelled my name while inviting people over to my house was icing on the cake. But despite the weirdness of the event, it should be fun -- I just need to figure out what to make. Luckily my house is pretty much as clean as it gets, so I'll just have to buy some groceries and throw something together.

Even though it's still early and I'm wasting my youth, it's time for bed -- I need to start writing book #2, if only to take my mind off the agony of waiting for replies to my attempts to sell book #1, and I'm not going to get started as soon as I want if I spend tomorrow sitting around. Goodnight!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

i'll wait for you where saturday's a memory

The query letter revision must not have been a complete fluke -- I got another request for fifty pages this morning from one of the agents whom I queried on Tuesday! Now granted, some of it is likely timing, and some of it is likely that the agents I queried are more actively seeking clients (I read the blog of one of the agents who sent me a form rejection in December, and she said that she only took on two new clients all of last year!). But I'm glad to see that I can at least write a query letter.

Now I just have to hope that the book itself holds up. And really, this phase is scary; if I failed to ever get my book in front of someone, then I could blame my querying skills. But now, if no one takes it, the book itself is either boring, poorly written, or unmarketable. So I'm going to go down the path of assuming that someone will pick it up someday, rather than self-doubting -- there's plenty of time for me to be proven wrong, but as evidenced by the fact that I procrastinated for six weeks on rewriting my query letter when it turns out I had a good query letter within me, I can't let my fear get in the way of making progress towards my goal.

So that's the news on the book front. On the work front, today was a brutal slog (starting with an eight a.m. that I was a few minutes late for because of a five-car pileup on the freeway out of the city -- but I cleared the scene early enough that it didn't hold me back too much, and I got to see a car on fire, which was exciting), but I made it out by 5:30 and only did an hour of work when I got home. I also played some mafia today and kind of hope I die tonight, if only so that I can get some stuff done tomorrow, but we'll see what happens.

On the home front, I actually watched television tonight! After I was done working and had eaten the last remnants of my beef bourguignon (I froze the rest a couple of days ago), I realized that I didn't want to look at agent profiles, send query letters, read romance blogs, work on my research database, or keep brainstorming Madeleine and Ferguson's story. Instead, I watched two new episodes of "Scrubs" -- it moved to ABC from NBC to complete its last season, and the episodes that I watched tonight were great. One even made me cry with the (admittedly cheap and obvious) juxtaposition of a death scene with Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You Into the Dark". I haven't watched television (other than part of that Nostradamus thing on the History Channel last week) since I got back from Iowa, and it was a nice break. I need to either catch up on stuff or delete it, since my tivo is filling up -- but the book remains the priority.

I'm going to bed now. The knowledge that I can get up tomorrow and take the bus down to the bay tomorrow is incredibly nice. If the weather is still good, I'll likely try to leave a little early and walk around the Ferry Building or something else down there -- I'm looking forward to relaxing this weekend. And also, of course, working on the story for Book #2 -- I really want to start writing no later than the first week of February. Goodnight!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

on board i'm the captain, so climb aboard -- we'll search for tomorrow on every shore

My job is winning the current battle. This week is pretty much shot due to the two-day training that I finished this afternoon; I have tomorrow and Friday, but tomorrow is completely booked from 8am on, and Friday is mostly booked. But I'm working out of SF on Friday, so at least my commute won't be too bad. The weekend is a lovely three-day thanks to my company's observance of Martin Luther King Day, but that means that next week is a four-day week -- and short weeks are the death of me, because the missed meetings end up taking away the precious hours of work time on the other days.

Arrrrgh. I've been pretty out of it this week; it's been a struggle for me to stay engaged when I'm just eager to sell book #1 and write book #2. I ran through almost a full battery charge of my iphone in training today -- for one, I'm playing online mafia again, and I was addicted to seeing what happened (and posting under my binder, even though I'm sure the trainer caught on that I was playing with my phone most of the day), and for another, I checked my email every five minutes to see if I got another response from an agent. No luck, but no news is good news, I suppose.

But, the weather here is gorgeous; it was almost seventy degrees today, and I ate lunch outdoors with my fellow team managers (Lisa, Heather, and Pete were all in the same training with me, and all similarly distraught after two days locked in an airless conference room). So, there is that; as much as I may hate the commute, the sight of the bay under the morning sunshine for the brief part of the drive where 101 goes right by the bay warms my soul. Sadly I have to be at work at 8am tomorrow, so the sunlight won't be very strong when I drive by the bay -- but at least traffic will be better. I'm looking for the good things in life! But now, it's time to sleep -- hopefully tomorrow brings fewer headaches!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

come on all you dashing gentlemen of summer

Thanks v. much for all the congratulations, friends! Hopefully everything will pan out in the end, but despite the pitfalls between here and publication, getting my first positive response to a query letter was a v. exciting occurrence.

Since I'm currently buoyed by yesterday's request, I decided to press forward and send out three more queries tonight. While I would be thrilled to work with the agent who requested my material yesterday, it could take her weeks to review it, and I don't want to waste that time if she ultimately says no. So, I sent similar letters to three other agents at the top of my list. Figuring out what to send to whom is a bit maddening; all three wanted different things (one wanted 10pgs plus a synopsis, one wanted 5pgs, and the third wanted only the query letter itself). Because I'm both paranoid and detail-oriented (a dangerous combination), this meant I quadruple-checked everything before hitting the send button. But, they're finally out there in the ether -- and my goal is to have at least four queries out at any given time until I sign with an agent or exhaust all possible avenues.

It's hard to do this on top of a full-time job, though. I was only at the office for nine hours today, but it involved an all-day training, and for some reason sitting on a couch and listening to someone train me for eight hours (with a break for lunch) makes me more tired and stressed than running around to 8-16 meetings over the course of a day. Maybe I was stressed because I kept surreptitiously checking my iPhone and saw how much stuff was piling up. So I left work as soon as the training was over, went to downtown Mountain View to mail some stuff (including my application for Romance Writers of America's next level of membership -- which I'm now qualified for since I have proof of a completed manuscript and proof of submission to agents), and then sat in a cafe for an hour and caught up on email while waiting for traffic to die down. It's a little ridiculous that my commute is now my only break in the day, but c'est la vie. Until I find an agent, I've got to keep my eyes on the prize -- and I need to start writing the next book!

Okay, no more, it's bedtime. And we'll see how well I can keep my composure in tomorrow's all-day training as I secretly update my iPhone to watch the newest rejections roll in...

Monday, January 12, 2009

hope springs eternal

Apparently my new query letter is a winner -- when I woke up this morning, I had an email from the agent asking to see the first fifty pages of my manuscript and a two-page synopsis!!! This merits the rare three-exclamation-point celebration!!! It totally made my day. I'm trying to keep myself grounded and remember that having an agent ask for a partial is not the same thing as getting an offer of representation, or selling the book, or hitting the New York Times bestseller list, or turning into J.K. Rowling -- but it's at least a sign that I can write a query letter that might, on a good day, intrigue an agent enough that she wants to see more of my work.

In fact, had that not happened, today would have pretty much totally sucked. Or maybe today pretty much sucked because it happened -- all I wanted to do was sit at home and write my synopsis (since my book is well-polished, but the last synopsis I wrote was six pages, and cutting a 400-page manuscript down to two pages is not trivial). Instead, I had to sit in either boring or annoying meetings most of the day, and the breaks I had were not long enough to recenter me. But I survived, left at 6:15, and made it home in good time. I took half an hour to empty the dishwasher, change into sweats, and reheat some of that delicious beef bourguignon, which I enjoyed before sitting down to write the synopsis.

Now, three hours later, I've sent the synopsis and the first fifty pages to the agent, and it's time to cross my fingers. It could take her weeks to get back to me on the partial, though, so I'm not holding my breath; instead, I need to decide who to send queries to next. The funny thing is that I sent to her partially because she was the only agent at the top of my list that didn't want a synopsis with the query letter -- and now this has forced me to write one, so I can't procrastinate on the other three or four people in my top bucket. I should go to bed, though -- it's enough to celebrate this for a day before I start thinking about all the other steps in this interminable process. Goodnight!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

oooh, take another little piece of my heart now baby

I just sent out another query letter. That means that, instead of being 0 for 3, I'm now 0 for 3 with one pending! Upgrade!

I spent some quality time this afternoon revising my query letter again, and I think it's a lot tighter. I've cut the description of my book by about forty words and completely revised the spirit and intent of the first paragraph. So we'll see how it goes -- the agent I queried tonight was chosen specifically because she was the only agent in the top group on my list who wanted only a letter without a synopsis or additional pages. I wanted to get something out today to restart the querying process, but it's way too late for me to be thinking about synopses when I have to go to work tomorrow.

I had quite a full day, all told; I worked for work (bleh), worked on my query letter, and met up with Tom (aka Tom Foolery) to discuss our querying processes. He's written a book as well, and so we discussed what we've learned about agents, how we're querying, etc. We're going to try for a standing Sunday writing date, which should be nice; it's good to talk to someone else about the process, and having someone else in a similar situation helps to encourage accountability.

I couldn't hang out long because I had to come home to finish the preparations for Heather and Salim's postponed dinner. They got here at six, and we had a lovely time; my beef bourguignon was totally to die for, and there was a marked lull in conversation while we all savored the stew, accompanied by mashed potatoes (made with cream and half a stick of butter, so it's no wonder they were a hit). This recipe is a total winner; it's too bad it's so time intensive, or else I would make it all the time. It's also too bad that it's chock full of fat, of course, but once every six months hopefully won't kill me.

Heather and Salim were great; they're moving to Boston next week and I'm really sad that they're leaving. They're an example of 'summer friends' who became real friends -- living, working, eating, shopping, traveling, and doing everything else together for six months will either make you friends or enemies for life. In this case, they're great friends. We discussed a multitude of things, and while they laughed at the sheer number of books I have on English and Regency-period architecture and interior design, they actually spent a not-insignificant amount of time looking at my books. I was sad to see them go, so hopefully I'll get out to Boston to see them and my score of other east coast friends at some point in the near future.

It's tragic that I have to go back to work tomorrow, but unless I fall suddenly ill tonight, it can't be helped. Sleep well, friends!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

that is that and this is this -- you tell me what you want and i'll tell you what you get

I was supposed to have Heather and Salim over for dinner tonight, and I spent much of my time off and on throughout the day preparing for their arrival. I ran to Whole Foods to buy the meat and a couple of other items for my beef bourguignon, then stopped at BevMo to buy some brandy and a bottle of wine. I cleaned my bathroom, vacuumed my living space, took out the trash and the recycling, and generally tidied up.

Making the beef bourguignon reminded me how much I love to cook. The initial ingredients are simple: 2.5lbs beef (such as a chuck roast), 1/2lb bacon (because bacon belongs in everything), two yellow onions, a pound of carrots, a bit of garlic, some thyme, and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Step one is to brown the bacon and then the beef; step two is to cook the onions and carrots in the fat from the meat. Step three is my favorite, though -- you pour half a cup of brandy or cognac into the pan and set it on fire. I didn't come close to singeing my eyebrows, but the fire burned for a long time, to the point that I started to worry that it might damage the stove canopy. But that step adds just a hint of char to some of the vegetables, which contributes to the complexity of the dish. Then, you put the meat, thyme, and tomato paste into the pot, add a bottle of red wine and a couple of cups of beef broth, and put the whole thing in the oven until the meat is tender.

It was at the end of the first phase that I looked at my phone and realized that I'd missed a call from Heather several hours earlier. It turns out that Salim has food poisoning (the guy ate anything and everything across India, China, and a variety of insalubrious foreign dining establishments and never got sick, but he gets sick in America?!). Heather offered to come by herself, but instead I rescheduled for tomorrow night -- the beef bourguignon will actually be better after sitting overnight, and I hadn't cut up the salad veggies or made the mashed potatoes yet, so there was no harm done. Finishing the dish tomorrow will be easy -- you add a bit of butter and flour to thicken it, saute a pound of mushrooms to add to the dish, and add a pound of frozen whole onions that totally make the meal outstanding. Mmm.

So when I found out they weren't coming, I was at a bit of a loss for what to do next. I spent an hour on the phone with my parents, since dinner tomorrow will interfere with my regularly-scheduled Sunday afternoon phone-home time. Then, I spent three hours finally framing and hanging the nine 8"x10" photos that I had ordered in August or September. I bought the frames several months ago, and at the time I bought two different styles for variety. One style was straightforward and easy to use. The other style was designed by Satan himself and could be featured on Armageddon Week on the History Channel. I should have known better than to pick a frame with pending patent -- really, frames have been around for centuries, and the usual style seems to hold up pretty well. You know how most frames have little swiveling closure tabs on the cardboard backing that you can twist out from under the frame itself to lift up the cardboard and replace the photo? Well, this one had eight locking mechanisms that you had to pry up from out of some deep metal channels; when that was done, the eight spring-like pieces between the four metal sides and the cardboard/glass lost their tension and popped the whole frame apart. So then you're left with four separate metal sides, eight half-moon shaped springy steel components, and the challenge of trying to reengage the pressure system without breaking the glass front of the frame.

I succeeded eventually, but I broke a fingernail, bruised my thumb, and have tiny glass shards on my carpet from where the metal frame pieces chipped away at the glass edges. Then I hung the photos on the long wall by my bed. Hopefully there won't be a major earthquake while I'm living here; I'm suddenly having visions of the frames exploding and sending metal components all over my sleeping form.

I spent the rest of the night reading LIFE IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRY HOUSE. I ordered the book while I was home during my sabbatical but never read it; it turns out that it's one of the most engaging and informative books I've read in awhile. Then again, perhaps it's only engaging if you have a deep and profound interest in English culture, and particularly in domestic arts, architecture, and society. But I read the overall intro chapter and then the chapters on 1720-1770 and 1770-1830, flagging many things that I intend to go back and put into my database sometime soon. If I ever decide to write medievals or Victorians, I'll have to go back and read some more; the author chronicles developments in English country houses from the first medieval castles to the twentieth century estates in decline. There are also tons of illustrations, paintings, etc., which is a good complement to the other two or three books I have on historical English architecture and design.

Okay, clearly I'm a total dork since that's how I chose to spend my Saturday night, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I suppose I should go to bed, though; I've got stuff I want to accomplish tomorrow morning, and I'm meeting Tom for coffee at two before coming home to finish the beef bourguignon and make a salad and potatoes. Have a lovely Sunday!

Friday, January 09, 2009

you're the monkey i've got on my back that tells me to shine

Today I wore an outfit that, three weeks ago, seemed Christmasy, but today was complemented for its adherence to impending Valentine's Day fashion -- a red thermal shirt and a white skirt with diagonal stripes in a more muted red. It sounds all too much like a candy cane, but I don't care; I like wearing red when everyone else around me is wearing black. I complemented it by slathering on some lipstick (an upgrade from the Carmex that has served as my only lip adornment for much of the past couple of months) and leaving my hair down -- hair that was described as 'glamorous' by one of my coworkers, since the absurdly expensive haircut that I got in November is still paying out a decent return on the investment.

Why I felt the need to detail my sartorial choices today, I do not know, but hopefully it was a pleasant change from my eating and sleeping habits. My day was fairly uneventful; I made it to the office by nine a.m., had several meetings (none of which were particularly onerous, and in fact one -- with my friend Kerry, who was in Dublin when I was and now works on a team that I coordinate with -- was pure fun), and then left to pick up some necessities at Target. Afterward, I met Terry at Iberia; it's the tapas place that I went to last weekend, and it's conveniently located a block from her apartment. We had the fantastic deviled dates again, along with an assortment of other tapas, topped by a glass of wine for me and a glass of sangria for her. While we had just seen each other on Tuesday, there was much to recap; it's funny how neither of us think we have anything at all going on in our lives, and yet we can find new and varied topics even though we usually have dinner together once or twice a week.

I followed up the fun of dinner with the mild annoyance of shopping for groceries. I'm once again stocked up for the apocalypse -- or at least I could survive for a few days until martial law is imposed and I can attempt to make a safe and orderly escape to the Midwest. I should have started researching when i got home, but I'm too tired to continue thinking, so I suppose I should go to bed. Tomorrow will be busy enough -- I'm having Heather (aka dear respected madam) and Salim over for dinner tomorrow, which means I need to tidy up (shouldn't be too difficult given how much cleaning I did last week) and cook (will be fun but laborious -- I'm making boeuf bourguignon, which is like a beef stew only more expensive, since I need to take advantage of cooking opportunities when the guests aren't freaking vegetarians like most of my friends). Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

waiting for some beautiful boy to save you from your old ways

Today was pretty freaking brutal. My 7am meeting was supposed to last an hour, but someone in the meeting insisted that the goal that we were discussing, which would have been reasonable for a 1-2wk time period, needed to be accomplished within 24 hours. Since the meeting was with India, meeting again in that time period would have meant meeting at 7pm tonight -- and I flatly refused, claiming other plans, since I'm not willing to have meetings from 7am to 8pm with a one-hour commute on either side. So instead, we extended the morning meeting to 9am, which eliminated my only break in the day. Bleh. Then I had another 2.5 hours of fun with a completely unrelated group task, which will continue tomorrow. But, I did have a couple of good one-on-one meetings with people whom I adore, so I managed to make it to the end of the day.

I left the office at 5:30, got home by 6:30, ate dinner, and worked until a little after eight. Then, I started to read one of my new books on the French revolution -- THE FRENCH REVOLUTION: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION. And it is short, but quite well-written; in an hour, I made it through 60 of ~100 pages. It's a good orientation to the subject, and I've flagged copious quotes and facts that I intend to put into my research database at a later date. I'm looking forward to the other two books on the revolution -- but I suppose I should spend some time this weekend reworking my query letter and mailing some out. I've been avoiding it because I don't like the bitter taste of rejection, but if I never send out another query letter, my dream is effectively dead, and then there would be no point in researching the next book. So, query this weekend, then start researching/plotting/brainstorming/writing in the weeks to come!

Only one more work day, and the first week of 2009 will come to a close. If I want to sell my book in 2009, I only have fifty-one weeks left, so I better get on it. Goodnight!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

i know by now -- that's the way we do everything, everything

I need to go to bed asap, since I have a meeting at seven a.m. and the meeting is going to be so frustrating that I will likely want to stab myself in the face. So, I suppose I'll leave my Swiss army knife in the car tomorrow morning!

Today rates a fail on the work/life front -- although perhaps not, given that I didn't get to work until nine a.m., I took a ninety-minute lunch, and I left at 5:45. But, I worked from 7:30 until now, when all I really wanted to do was read one of the books that I got from Amazon regarding the French Revolution. The main character in my next romance novel was orphaned when her aristocratic parents perished in France, but she and her loyal nursemaid escaped to England. So, I need to know more about the revolution -- but my work duties beckoned instead. The beginning of the quarter means performance assessments, and since the bonuses of thirteen people rely on me getting my shit together, I suppose working tonight was a worthwhile endeavor.

But lunch was most excellent -- Alaska Matt was back from Japan, but if you want to meet up with him, you've already missed your opportunity, since he's on his way back tomorrow. We discussed a multitude of ridiculous things, including the idea of replacing all manager titles with aristocratic titles instead, and using duels and jousts instead of bloodless promotions in order to create career advancement. It's a good thing we're not in charge.

And then the highlight of my evening was that I carpooled home with Katrina, who decided to take me up on my offer of a ride home. We spent a lot of time discussing work, but we weren't actually working -- we were just discussing. So that was fun, and I followed it up by making some delicious English muffin pizzas (I kind of get into food ruts and eat the same things for days on end; the fact that I like to do that makes cooking for one a hell of a lot easier). Then, I worked until now -- and now, it's time for bed!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

baby you've got to be more demanding

This week is shaping up pretty well, despite its depressing start; I had more meetings today, but enough free time to get stuff done, and it looks like I have a couple of free hours every day this week. Granted, I had an eight a.m. meeting, and I also had to restart my allergy shots, but things could have been much worse.

In fact, there were several highlights. One was lunch with Gyre; we spent it in our usual combination of reminiscing about olden days and discussing the latest news and speculations. Another was a one-on-one with Alan, who was my manager before I went on leave last year. While I worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day for months on end and completely burned myself out in the process, I learned a lot from that experience, and it was good to catch up with him and get his perspective on what I should do with my life. I balanced it with dinner with Terry, who gave me a slightly different but no less valuable perspective -- nice of her to listen, since she has her own stresses, and it will be sad when she moves away next year :(

My struggle, as I've reiterated many times, is trying to decide between business and writing; while yesterday I was all about repudiating my corporate whoredom, I awoke this morning remembering how happy I am to have not just sunglasses, but the ability to heat my apartment, and heat is one of those 'essentials' that writers seem to do without in the name of their art. Ugh.

So the advice that I'm getting from sensible sources is that I should get an MBA. And in some respects I agree -- for example, it could help me to switch gears and move into publishing, if I want to stay in business but do something a bit more creative. The downside is that I don't want to be saddled with $100,000+ in debt and *then* become successful as a writer, since paying off student loans while living in a hovel with no heat seems beyond miserable. But the other downside is that I don't want to spend several years trying to make it as a writer, only to let the business ship pass me by.

I was going to do something stupid like wish away one of my talents, but that's silly -- talents are good to have, even if my particular set of talents is currently driving me crazy rather than making my life easier. I just wish the path would open up ahead of me -- but that's not going to happen. And tomorrow I'll go back to thinking about getting an MFA, and I'll likely oscillate between MBAs, MFAs, and writing full-time every day for the next few months at least. But regardless, if I'm applying to school, I want to do it in fall of 2009 for fall of 2010 -- Alan implied that I'm getting a bit long in the tooth for b-school (or, if I'm not long in the tooth yet, will be in a couple of years -- and the top schools don't look so fondly on people over thirty). If I go for the MFA instead, I want to get started on that transition as quickly as possible too. And in any event, I don't want to wake up on my thirtieth birthday in the same job and in the same unpublished state with my romance novels...something's gotta give.

But right now, sleep is the most important thing on my agenda. Goodnight!

Monday, January 05, 2009

i lost my heart, i buried it too deep under the iron sea

My morning started on an unusually high note at six a.m., since I got to hang out with Sri while getting ready and then dropping him off in Union Square for his conference before driving myself to work. And really, it was pretty much straight downhill from there. I only had ninety minutes of meetings today, which is something of a miracle, but an hour of that was my least favorite weekly meeting, and I'm now trying to decide if I can get off of that project or if I'm stuck with it indefinitely. The lack of meetings gave me plenty of time to get caught up on email, cross some important stuff off my to-do list, and generally set myself up for 'success' in the coming weeks.

However, that's dependent on what your definition of 'success' is -- and I'm beginning to doubt that my definition of 'success' includes corporate whoredom. It definitely used to (and on the days when I covet Versace sunglasses, perhaps it still does), but the appeal of raking in the benjamins by running projects and managing people is fading by the day. It didn't help that on the way home from work, I realized that this is my sixth new year with my current employer -- a fact that should make my good, loyal Midwestern heart happy, but instead just makes me feel like beating my head against a rock.

So perhaps it's a good thing that I usually have meetings all the time -- when I'm meeting with people, I generally like the people, even if I'm disenchanted with the rest of the scene. When I'm only interacting with the scene and not my favorite colleagues, I veer quickly into depressed, fuck-it-all mentality, which does not bode well for my ability to stay sane until my writing career takes off.

The cure for that unfortunately is not more cowbell; instead, the temporary cure is to try as much as possible to only work on projects that keep me engaged, and focus my outside-work life on getting published. That sounds as miserable and perhaps as counterproductive as the old 'cure' for syphilis (a mercury steam bath; supposedly inhaling the vapors cured the syphilis, but at what cost?), but it's the closest thing to a cure that I've got.

However, I did do a couple of great things tonight. One, I made English muffin pizza -- it turns out to be a brilliant idea, since I have various toppings already frozen and a couple of different cheeses in my fridge, so I had one half with mozzarella/peppers/onions, and another half with feta and kalamata olives. Mmm. Two, I bought a printer! I adore it -- it's an all-in-one printer/copier/scanner/fax, and I'm ridiculously thrilled with it. This means that I can research on the internet in earnest and print pages and pictures that interest me. I can also print drafts of chapters that are troubling me without having to pay the extortionate fees of the Kinko's downstairs. Best of all, I can start printing and sending out agent query letters -- every time I get a rejection back, I can just print the next one. Yay.

Clearly my mood today was pretty blah, so there's no more to be said about that. Hopefully tomorrow will be better -- since I have lunch scheduled with Gyre and dinner planned with Terry, it can't possibly get worse, even if I have an eight a.m. meeting and I need to restart my allergy shots. Welcome back to work, everyone, and try not to despair over what's become of your life :) Goodnight!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

it's armageddon week!

I'm currently watching 'Nostradamus: 2012' on the History Channel. This show is attempting to sync up Nostradamus's predictions with the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, which also syncs with the 'galactic alignment'. It's part of the History Channel's Armageddon Week, which is a totally awesome way to prepare -- it's only three more years until the end of time!!

I haven't watched television since I got back from Iowa, but Sri wanted to watch tv while eating some frozen enchiladas, and I picked this. Before Sri arrived around 8pm, I was v. productive today. I washed five loads of sheets, duvet covers, and winter jackets, and changed my entire bedding scheme. I vacuumed, swiffered, and dusted. I cleared off my desk and windexed the top -- I love my desk, but I may choose to go with something other than a glass top when I replace it someday. And I continued to work on my research database, which I'm quite excited about. I also talked to my parents and to Uncle Mark, so I feel connected with what is going on in my homeland (which is key, since I may have to flee there in 2012 as the seas rise and riots destroy the urbanized coasts).

Sri's staying with me tonight because he has to be at a conference in SF at eight a.m. tomorrow. Katrina wanted to come over to see him, but she should be glad that she decided against it -- we spent most of the evening working on our separate projects, although he does occasionally say 'Wamp' for the hell of it like most of my friends do. We have caught up a bit, though, and hopefully I'll see him again if I can make it to the east coast sometime in the near future.

I have to return to work tomorrow, which I'm thoroughly unenthused about -- but I suppose that means I should go to bed. Goodnight!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

when kindness falls like rain, it washes me away

You know, I might actually have the self-driven work ethic to make it through a humanities Ph.D. Unfortunately, I think I'm several years past the stage where I think that's a good idea, considering that I like to do crazy and expensive things like eat, wear newish clothes, and turn the heater on.

But fortunately, this adult-like work ethic is helping me make progress with zee romance career. I spent the day working on general Regency-era research; I have a bunch of notes in notebooks, in Microsoft OneNote, and tagged in a variety of books, but this system will not work if I intend to write multiple books over the course of a few decades. So, I downloaded a trial of Access and started playing around with creating a research database. I'm still not sure if this is quite the route that I want to go -- but with the database and with the neatly-organized paper files of the stuff that I picked up in Britain, I feel like I'm on the right track.

I basically worked from around 10am until 6pm, with a quick break to run down the street to Staples to pick up some more file folders (that was easy!). I also got a coffee at Peet's and was pleasantly surprised when the guy at the counter remembered my name, since yesterday was the only time I had been there before. The only other break was to make some mini pizzas using an English muffin for the crust -- delicious!

However, it was nowhere near as delicious as dinner. Claudia, John, Jess and I met for tapas in Menlo Park. We were supposed to go to Evvia in Palo Alto, but weren't able to get a table, and Claude and I suggested tapas instead. In general, I don't know that I'm actually a fan of tapas -- but these are quite possibly the best tapas ever, and the restaurant is lovely even if the service is slower than anywhere else. We of course had the to-die-for deviled dates, as well as the spinach and garbanzo beans, the chorizo and cheese toasts, the patatas bravas, and the little meatballs. We also got two new things -- anchovies (v. salty), and some scallops in squid ink (the squid ink was also salty, but I thought it was an interesting a delicious complement to the scallops). Mmmmm.

Beyond the food, the company was good too :) We spent some significant time catching up before progressing into some light reminiscing, which we commenced while having coffee and dessert across the train tracks at Cafe Borrone. If my normal cycle happens, tonight was v. close to the end of my social butterfly phase, and it's time for me to crash straight into hermit mode. But tonight was excellent, so if I am going to revert to my isolated, tortured-artist ways, I might as well go out on a high note, right?

I suppose I should go to bed; I want to keep slogging away with either the research, the query letters, or book #2 tomorrow, and I believe Sri might spend the night tomorrow as well, so I can't sleep in like I used to. Goodnight!

Friday, January 02, 2009

your words in my memory are like music to me

2009 is currently two-for-two in terms of lovely days. I messed around on the internet for a bit this morning before grabbing my journal and walking down the street to check out the new Peet's Coffee at the corner of Bush and Van Ness. It's about a million times cleaner than the Starbucks across the street -- but I'm guessing that the coffee chain that will lose the most is Tully's, which has a store a block up at Pine and Van Ness, and likely can't compete with both Starbucks and Peet's on the same block. I sat there for about an hour and came up with some goals for 2009 (I refuse to call them new year's resolutions because that increases the likelihood of failure). One is to cut down on my internet usage, which I am already failing at, but I will have to make it happen if I'm going to be able to write another romance novel while working full time.

When I got home, I washed a couple of loads of laundry while starting to sort through my research papers. I now have several piles of stuff on my floor, but I didn't get to the actual filing stage because I decided to finally categorize my receipts from my writing expenses over the course of the year. I need to talk to my tax person about deducting my writing expenses -- because I am seriously pursuing publication, I can deduct expenses, which includes my fabulous and expensive trip to England and Scotland last spring. Yay. But to do that, I need to have my receipts in order, so I spent the afternoon making a spreadsheet and itemizing things.

Luckily, things got way more fun than a day of accounting would indicate -- I drove down to Palo Alto to have dinner with Vidya (aka Chandlord) and Claudia (aka Santy Claude). It worked out quite well for me -- Claudia was nearly an hour late, but the wait for a table was 45 minutes, and so I got to spend some serious quality time with Chandlord at the bar while we waited. Then, we had a fantastic dinner with much catching-up, before losing Vidya to her supposed need to 'work'. Ugh. But then I got to spend an hour catching up with Claude over coffee, so it was nice that I got some one-on-one time with both of them.

I don't know if I'll see Chandlord again before she leaves, although I may be able to grab a drink with her tomorrow night. But, Claude and I are meeting up with John and Jess for dinner tomorrow, so the fun will continue. And then I only have one more day of freedom until I have to go back to work. Taking two and a half weeks off was quite nice, but it may have been a bad move in terms of keeping up my motivation, since now all I want to do is write, drink tea, see my friends, and sleep (not necessarily in that order, friends!)

If I'm going to make the most out of tomorrow, I should really go to bed. And so, goodnight. I'll leave you with this 'Christmas card' that Tammy sent me -- she thought it was an appropriate combination of my interests in Regency/Victorian costumes and Simon Baker, although it sadly isn't sold in stores:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

when optimism fails and my cooler head prevails, i will meet you at the point of diminishing returns

Happy new year, everyone!

I intended to write a post recapping 2008 and my feelings about it, but I'm too tired for such nonsense tonight. I'll likely blog tomorrow morning (at least on the romance blog -- I need to be building it up asap), but thought you might like to verify that I'm still alive given that I didn't blog last night.

My New Year's Eve was extremely low-key. I was way too tired to go out, since I woke up at the equivalent of 1:15am California time and only took two half-hour naps during the day. I wonder if my brother made it through his day -- he also got up when I did, although he went to bed three hours later than me, and then he had to fly to Nashville for a wedding rehearsal, dinner, and a New Year's Eve party for the wedding that he was in today. I, on the other hand, had an uneventful flight (during which I read THE BELL AT SEALEY HEAD - wonderful!), then did laundry, bought groceries, completely unpacked, and made potato and leek soup for supper. I wanted to go to bed at eight but thought that it was a bad idea; instead, I read VISCIOUS CIRCLE, which was another book that I got for Christmas. I haven't read two books in one day in quite awhile, but it was v. nice.

Today was quite excellent. I ate some leftover soup (with two strips of bacon -- if you eat pork on New Year's Day, you live 'high on the hog' the rest of the year), messed around on my computer, and then went over to the dirty east bay to visit John and Jessica in Berkeley. Their 2008 resolution was not to eat any chips, and they made it all the way through, so they celebrated today by making and eating a lot of nachos. I ended up staying for quite some time; at some point, after much relaxing conversation with the group of people who were hiding out from the Taboo players in the other room, the remaining people narrowed down to seven, and we played this board game called 'Manila.' I loved it -- it's essentially a probability/betting game, but with some interesting options and strategies. The best moment came when I placed my bet on the pirate ship (which is a long shot), and ended up raking in substantial winnings on a perfect roll of the dice. But then, as previously agreed, I had to drink some rum with a bit of fresh black pepper (don't ask -- if you're in the know, you can guess that John mixed it) because I had won a round as the pirate captain. So I ended up staying after the game to eat dinner with John and Jess, and brainstorm various ridiculous possibilities for future romance novels, before coming home around 10pm.

So it's been a lovely start to the new year. Hopefully 2009 will be excellent -- I'm hoping for a successful search for an agent, a second book, and an economic recovery that keeps my friends and family in business. But I guess if things get toooo bad, I can always move home and eat farm-fresh eggs. On that pleasant thought, it's time for bed!