Saturday, February 28, 2009

we're strange allies with warring hearts

For starters, happy birthday Claude!

Today was excellent, and while I still feel exhausted, it was exactly what I needed to detox from the work week. I made it down to Stanford in time for the last session of my class, and it was fantastic as usual. I was happier with my latest story in the light of day (rare, usually it's the opposite), and it got some good comments in the class discussion. Even though I'm glad the class is over because it's been difficult to balance it with my job and my romance novel, I think it's probably the single best thing that I've done for my writing, and so in that respect I'm sad that it's finished. The prof may try to continue the class in the fall, so we'll see what my schedule looks like then -- but when I got home today, I ordered her textbook on creative writing (she's written a textbook that's quickly becoming standard for college creative writing classes, which is another indication of how well she knows her stuff). So if nothing else, I can continue to play with craft and voice even without the class.

After class, I met Chris and Natasha for brunch (which is what I always call dim sum, even though we met at 12:45pm) at my favorite place in the world -- the Hong Kong Flower Lounge in downtown Millbrae. They had never been, and I was delighted to introduce them to the splendid wonders on the Cart of Happiness and point out the horrors on the Cart of Sadness. We ordered too much too quickly and so did not have room for my favorite thing (deep fried shrimp in bean curd) or egg custard deserts -- but we had bbq pork pastries, bbq pork buns, siu mai, har gar (aka shrimp families), a shrimp/scallop dumpling, shrimp noodle, shrimp/pork bean curd, and egg roll. Mmmmmm.

I had not been to the Hong Kong Flower Lounge in months -- possibly not since Tammy came to visit in August -- but as soon as I walked in it felt like home. Odd, I know, since the majority-Cantonese clientele surely had no inkling that I used to frequent the place as much as they do. But Tammy may be happy to know that the saddest, most depressed looking waiter (not the semi-impaired har gar kid, but the other depressed dude) got promoted to the Cart of Happiness; I know that it warmed my heart. I also had a lovely conversation with Chris and Natasha, getting all caught up on their recent trip to India and their current status, so hopefully we'll do this again in the future.

After that, I came home, did some light cleaning, played around on the Internet, took a nap, and then was told by Adit that I was having dinner with him, Katrina, Peder (aka Timmy), and Anthony (aka Anton). I complied, picking him and Anton up on the way to Old Jerusalem. It's a Mediterranean place in the Mission, small and cozy with fake wood paneling and huge murals that are apparently of old Jerusalem. I never ever think to go out for Mediterranean food of any kind, but this was truly winning. I had a chicken schwarma sandwich that was both delicious and huge, so I have half of it left over for tomorrow. It seems particularly fitting that I had to ask to take it home, since we spent part of the meal discussing me and Claudia's obsession with Marie Callendar's, which caters to 65+-year-old diners and likely sees a ton of requests for doggie bags, etc.

Anyway, dinner was lovely, and the family time was entertaining as usual. I parted ways from them because I am lame and don't have the stamina to go out, but I will likely meet up with Adit in a cafe tomorrow. This is a good thing; I may not be able to work on zee romance novel since I have a lot of work work to do, but I tend to be productive around him (counterintuitive, I know), so perhaps a few hours in a cafe with him could make a significant dent in my overflowing email inbox. Then it's back to the grind on Monday -- but a week from now, I'll be in Hawaii!

this feeling won't go

My thumb is twitching. This is a bad sign; my thumb hasn't twitched since I went on leave last year. It was a year ago right now that I was loading up my Rav4 for the drive across the Great American West, and I was just beginning to recover from the physical and emotional trauma of my job. At that point, both my thumb and my eye were twitching, so I'm still better off than I was then. But it's clear that my Hawaiian odyssey is coming none too soon, since I need to get a grip on my work/life balance before it gets any more of a grip on me.

Work was totally fine, but I didn't have much free time today and so am still v. behind. I left at four p.m. because I needed to write my short story; but as Terry can attest, since she saw me at 3:45, I had just burned out my last reserves and was practically incoherent, and I quickly realized that driving back to the city in that state would be a v. bad idea. So rather than continuing, I detoured to downtown Palo Alto and brainstormed my short story while injecting myself with vast quantities of caffeine.

I finally came up with an idea, and the excitement of brainstorming kept me wide awake on the rest of the drive home. But when I got here, I collapsed again, and ended up napping from 8pm to 10:30pm. I managed to rouse myself and write a two-page short story; I'm satisfied with it, although I think my last two pieces were better, but considering that it's one a.m. and I need to be on campus at Stanford in eight hours, I'm throwing in the towel.

The rest of the weekend should get better though. Class will be good, and then I'm using my one social excursion of the weekend on dim sum with Natasha and Chris (Chris was in India with me, I'm becoming better friends w/Natasha, and they recently got engaged!). After that, I intend to sleep some more and get caught up on work work so that next week isn't so brutal. Perhaps Sunday I'll work on the romance novel -- or perhaps I'll stare at the wall in an effort to get my thumb to stop twitching. Either way, I'm looking forward to it. Goodnight!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

the cops they'll steal your dreams and they'll kill your prayers

I'm in full corporate mode; I'm going to have to go hermit this weekend, since I need to go into full writer mode to compensate for my dangerous lapse back into workaholism. Today was the second day of our two-day offsite for my team's leadership group, and so I spent an absurd amount of time talking about the business. I had a moment of panic when I thought that I'd lost my favorite bracelet (a silver Celtic bangle that I bought on Iona when I went to Scotland last year) and ended up searching everywhere for it, but I was relieved to discover when I got home that I was just so tired and rushed this morning that I forgot to put it on for the first time in months. However, that reminds me of the entire trunkload of bangles that I have from India; maybe I'll have to start glittering it up in the coming days.

So work was fine, but I haven't answered emails in two days, I have meetings almost straight through tomorrow, and I have some major action items to cross off my list. Happily, I'm going to Hawaii in less than nine days! I can't wait -- dreams of sunshine keep me going when I'm sitting in my tenth meeting of the day.

After work, Heather (aka dear respected madam) rode back up to the city with me, and we had dinner at her favorite Thai place (Regent Thai, in the Mission). I'm so glad I got to spend some quality time with her over the past couple of days; she and Salim were in China when I came back from leave, and then they were back in the Bay Area for about a month (most of which I was home for the holidays) before moving to Boston. So, we caught up (i.e. gossiped) good and proper over the carpool and dinner, and it was all v. lovely. I'm totally excited to visit Boston next quarter, particularly since I have so many friends on both my work side and life side in that little corner of the Northeast.

Now, though, I'm going to try to go to sleep. I want to go in early tomorrow morning so that I can get shit done before my meetings -- I can't afford to stay late, since (as usual) I have to write a story for class sometime tomorrow night. Bleh.

But, as a final note, Sensitive Girl may be almost done crying. Last night, I sent follow-up emails to a couple of agents whom I'd queried six weeks ago, since both of their websites claimed a two-week turnaround time on queries. One responded this morning saying that she was currently reading queries that were sent in a couple of days before mine, so she should get to me soon, and that publishing has been crazy. The other hasn't responded yet. I took a look at my spreadsheet tonight and realized I'm down to seven pending (two have partial manuscripts, five haven't responded to the initial query yet), and so I'll probably send out a few more letters this weekend. I'm hoping that the agent who told me she's close to reading my query letter gets back to me, since she might be my top choice (she's based in SF, which would be nice), but I need to be querying more people if I'm going to get an agent this year. I shall think about that tomorrow, though; right now it's time for bed!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

he'll violate your geneva convention!

I adore Craig Ferguson. This, you know. However, the episode I'm watching (from last Friday) is a true winner. He went off on the Swiss and how they offer to just hold everyone's coats while they have wars, and then end up with all their money. Then he went off on zee Germans before doing one of his Sean Connery impersonations! J'adore!

Today was surprisingly good, despite the fact that it was insane. I made it to the office by seven, and did not get stabbed on the way there; in fact, I was able to get there during a break in the showers, so I didn't get wet. I worked straight until 5:30pm, in meetings all morning and then in a strategy session all afternoon, before going to dinner with five of the managers from my North America management team (including my boss and our director). It was all quite delightful, although now I'm completely stuffed. I should probably do some more work, but I think I'll go to bed instead; I have to be in Mountain View by 8am tomorrow, which is tragic.

Okay, you get no more content and will have to put up with this boring blog post. I shall try to return to my regularly-scheduled verbosity tomorrow. Goodnight!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

that was the turning point...that was one lonely night

Sensitive Girl didn't recover in time to restrain Ambition Girl today. While Sensitive Girl was still crying in the corner over being rejected by an agent, Ambition Girl whispered "Yes!" in my ear when I was offered a bright shiny new project at work today, and I grabbed it with both hands. Actually, I got two projects -- a behemoth that will take several months, culminating in a two-day event this summer, as well as a mini-project that will wrap up next week. Let's call the mini-project equivalent to the bright shininess of a pair of gaudy rhinestone earrings, while the other project is a gorgeous Swarovski crystal chandelier. The chandelier will no doubt fall and hit me on the head at some point, but I will die shiny, and that's all I've ever wanted.

So work was okay, but somewhat exhausting. I left later than I planned, and then met Terry for my favorite sandwich at Cafe Borrone. I wanted to write tonight, but my rhinestone-earring project demanded some action instead, and so I didn't get back to Madeleine and Ferguson. Terry was v. disappointed to learn that they have not yet had sex; if nothing else, I need to remind myself that the eternal happiness of two people relies on my ability to set boundaries at work. Or perhaps I shouldn't remind myself of that, since clearly I'm counting Madeleine and Ferguson as two real people, and completely ignoring the fact that perhaps I should look out for my own eternal happiness as well. Oh, well, if you've been reading my blog long enough, you know I'm certainly not normal, so you'll hopefully forgive me for getting so wrapped up in my own characters.

Even though it's not quite ten p.m., I need to go to sleep; I have to be at the SF office by 7am tomorrow morning, which means taking the bus in the dark, so hopefully I won't get stabbed. Goodnight!

Monday, February 23, 2009

caught between the devil and the deep blue sea

Today was not a good day. I woke up with a headache, which only got worse when I checked my email and found a rejection letter from an agent -- even worse, one of the agents who had the first fifty pages of my book. Then, it took almost an hour and a half to get to work, and none of my meetings were really meetings that I wanted to be in (none of them were bad, but they weren't exactly therapeutic for my smashing headache either). So, I left early, spent a bit of time with Terry at one of the main campus cafes, and then came home; at least I made it home before it rained, so I suppose one thing went well.

I'm trying v. hard to focus on the good things about the rejection letter (that I am "a good writer with a distinctive voice" and have a "nice way with characterization"). I'm trying v. hard not to take the bad things (that she found it "interesting but not compelling enough to go to bat for") too much to heart. I am also trying to remember that the road to publication is paved with many, many rejections -- but of course the girl within who wants to be not just published, but multi-published, showered in writing honors and accolades, and able to live off of her writing while pushing the envelope in multiple genres, secretly dreamed that she would get picked up by an agent with minimal trauma.

Sometimes I want to shoot that girl in the face. Ambition is one of those weird half-taboo subjects; if you don't have it, you're looked down upon, but if you have too much, the masses claw you back into place. And while there is really very little about myself that I would change at the current moment (a miracle in itself), there are times when I recognize that my life would be easier and I would probably be more satisfied if the ambitious side of me finally gave up and crawled back into the deepest cesspool of my soul.

However, that side shakes things like this off better than the sensitive side (Ambition Girl is already dreaming of revenge, while Sensitive Girl is still crying about not being "compelling enough"), and so I'm already thinking about my next move. The hours it took for Ambition Girl to bounce back, though, were admittedly a little rough. So perhaps my brother had some good luck today, given that mine was poor!

Anyway, I spent the evening doing the reading for my short story class (Denis Johnson's "Jesus' Son"). Oddly, a couple of the stories were set in Iowa, although it sounds like he was hanging with the methheads rather than the dorks. Again, I have no idea what I'm going to write -- but at least I have several days to consider it. Now, though, I'm going to bed, in hopes that a great night's sleep will cure my headache and get Sensitive Girl to rally enough to curb some of Ambition Girl's darker tendencies. Goodnight!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

jai ho

I have been horribly remiss in not seeing "Slumdog Millionaire," although I was pleased to see the song-n-dance numbers for it on the Academy Awards. I watched the entire ceremony; while I had intended to keep up my television boycott in an effort to get shit done, I ended up watching the Oscars instead. Since reading my favorite celebrity gossip blog (dlisted) is one of the few remaining pleasures I have allowed myself in my quest for ultimate productivity, it's little surprise that I have a secret addiction to ridiculous celebrities, and the Oscars are must-watch in that case.

Overall, I thought that this year's production was pretty good. I liked Hugh Jackman's opening number, particularly his little song and dance for "The Reader" (in which he admitted to not having seen "The Reader", and danced to some weird techno-y stuff with robot-like backup dancers, which is clearly unrelated to the subject of the movie). I also liked some of the montages of films that were not recognized but were actually popular and commercially viable -- clearly the Academy is recognizing that they're not making any friends by denying the top-grossing films. I liked how ridiculous Robert Pattinson (the dude from "Twilight") was, and how he couldn't seem to look at the camera to save his life. I liked the song-n-dance numbers. I loved Ben Stiller's riff on Joaquin Phoenix's disastrous David Letterman interview a couple of weeks ago. I loved how annoyed Jennifer Aniston looked, and how much it must have sucked for her to have to present two or three different awards while only fifteen feet away from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who were seated in the front row while she was relegated to the side of the second row. And I really really loved the acceptance speech by Heath Ledger's family, and how teary-eyed the crowd was.

The only thing I didn't like was the camera angles during the tribute to the academy members who died in 2008. The camera kept moving around and was often too far away from the main screen showing the dead individuals; if I had trouble reading names on my reasonably large tv, it must have been really hard on a smaller tv. It seems that tributes to the dead are not the time for trickery, so they should reconsider next year!

Anyway, I didn't do much else today; I ran a couple of errands, spent an hour and a half on the phone with my parents, and spent a couple of hours with Tom at a cafe, trying to work on zee romance novel. I only wrote 600 words -- less than three pages for the whole weekend is a steep decline from the 70 or so pages I produced last weekend. Boooo. Hopefully I'll get a chance to write tomorrow, since this book isn't going to write itself! But now I'm going to go to bed; work doesn't look too awful this week, although my boss is in town from Ann Arbor and so I have some events thrown into the week that I normally don't have to plan around. And of course, at some point I have to read the assigned reading for this week's class and write a short story; but Saturday will be the last class, and after that I can focus on the book in earnest. Goodnight!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

swallowed, sorrowed, i'm with everyone and yet not

Today was one of those days that, a couple of years ago, might have lured me into a darkness that could take me a week to recover from. While my insane schedule has its drawbacks, it does prevent me from *thinking* too much, except on my commute, and I find that I am more balanced as a result.

It was just a little harder today to maintain that balance. I went to class, and it was excellent as usual; I got back comments on the story I wrote two weeks ago and the prof thought it was very good. I also got some very nice comments in class about the story that I turned in today, and I'm looking forward to reading the assignment by next week (all about recovery from heroin addiction, yay).

But, as usual, I left feeling like I'm abusing my talents because I want to write blockbuster romances and epic young adult fiction, thereby failing to contribute to the august literary canon. It probably wasn't smart, in that mood, to go shopping, but I needed a bathing suit for my upcoming trip to Hawaii (yay again), so I went to Nordstrom. I ended up buying two, since I intend to do very little but lie on the beach -- but swimsuit shopping is, as far as I know, fairly loathsome for just about any girl in existence, and I happened to be in a dressing room next to some teenage chick for whom it was *not* loathsome; rather, her friends were all squealing about how great she looked, etc., and I indulged in a moment of hatred for my fellow man.

I ended up liking what I bought, and then dithered about where to eat lunch. I wanted to go to Cafe Borrone, but the Saturday afternoon crowd is unbearable, so I ended up having a burrito in Baja Fresh. Then I bought groceries, stopped at Office Depot for a few reams of paper, bought lightbulbs at Home Depot, and drove back to the evil city.

I should have written when I got home, but I wasn't in the mood. Instead, I read THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO, by Junot Diaz, which I received for Christmas and had not yet read. It was quite good, very different from what I usually read, and I was happy to see that despite the fact I took my last Spanish class ten years ago (depressing), I understood most of the Spanish phrases that he tossed rather liberally into the story. I read it straight through, only stopping to make a cup of tea; the burrito at 3pm was enough to tide me over for the rest of the day. I sometimes wonder if I miss out on part of the joy of reading by tending to read books straight through in one go, but I've never found a way to effectively break myself of this habit without just dropping the book altogether. Anyway, if you're looking for a great story set in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, rife with generational conflict, unrequited love, and references to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, you should check this out. It won the Pulitzer, so clearly someone other than me likes it quite a bit.

Now, though, I think I shall go to bed. I want to get copious quantities of sleep tonight so that I can make serious headway on the book tomorrow. Goodnight!

Friday, February 20, 2009

take a number where the blood just barely dried

I'm definitely ready for bed -- I had to use concealer under my eyes this morning because the dark shadows that I forgot that I am capable of have made a swift and unwanted return. I had been so good about getting eight or nine hours of sleep every night, but the last couple of weeks have been a failure on that front, and it's catching up to me.

I have class tomorrow morning, and today tried to plot against me -- I had meetings from 9am-1pm, then a nice break from 1pm-4pm in which I got a lot done, and then a meeting at 4pm that was supposed to only last half an hour and instead lasted ninety minutes. That meant that I didn't get out of the office until six p.m.; by the time I made it into my apartment at 7:15, I was sure that I would not be able to write anything at all. This was particularly true since I spent my whole commute playing around with an idea I have for an epic young adult series (yes, I want to be both Nora Roberts AND J.K. Rowling -- visions of sugarplums and multiple homes dance in my head). I wrote down my ideas as soon as I got home, and it was not exactly conducive to coming up with a "literary" endeavor for class.

But, I fortified myself with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, camped out on my loveseat with a notebook -- and was pleasantly surprised to have a story burst forth onto the page in less than an hour. It took another 45 minutes or so to edit it, type it, print it, and type out a half-assed analysis of the author's style, and then I was done. It helped that the author (Lydia Davis) is so experimental that many of her stories are two lines long; it really helped me to feel that I couldn't possibly mess it up. I'm pretty happy with what I did, since it has some extended metaphors that I think work quite well, but I can't post it here since it's a little too personal. Sorry, kids, but I've gotten burned by zee blogs before, and there's no need to post anything that might cause someone pain, right?

I'm going to go to bed right now (after I take out my contacts, wash my face, and brush my teeth, of course) -- class is at nine a.m. tomorrow, and then I have errands to run before getting down to business with Madeleine and Ferguson. That sounds dirtier than I mean it to, particularly since they aren't going to sleep together for another eighty pages or so. Tee hee hee. Goodnight!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

pepperoni and rocks for mama

I just watched a Craig interview that was so awesome that I had to watch it again. He interviewed David Boreanaz from "Bones", and it was one of the funniest interviews I've ever seen. You'll just have to trust me since I think I'm the only person I know who is obsessed with Craig -- at least it's more socially acceptable than being obsessed with Sean Connery, since Craig is not quite old enough to be my father, while the esteemed Sir Sean is old enough to be my grandfather.

Today was kind of blah. My meetings were fine, but they were basically straight from 9am to 6:30pm. Because I've been in straight meetings for days, I am v. v. far behind on emails, and so I worked from the time I got home until now. Luckily tomorrow is Friday -- but I haven't started the story for my class, so I'll have to write all of tomorrow evening, when what I really want to do is either watch tv or work on my book.

Also, I got a rejection letter from an agent today; not one of the agents who had a part of my manuscript, so this was just a form rejection, but it was still a little disheartening. But, I also got a belated valentine from my grandmother, so at least my mailbox wasn't completely depressing. I'm ready to hear back from everyone else, but I'm not holding my breath.

Luckily, I have dreams of Maui to tide me over, and so I'm going to go to bed so that I can slip into my anticipatory dreamland. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

burn out the day, burn out the night

This is a four-minute post. Today was lovely in the weather sense; it didn't really rain, which was lovely, and so I didn't have to take my umbrella with me when I went to the cafe next door to get a sandwich. I had a moment of concern when I watched four cafe staffers huddle around two wrapped sandwiches, argue vigorously, and then turn and hand me one of them; but, the sandwich I received had all the right ingredients and I haven't died yet, so apparently they resolved the issue correctly.

However, today was not lovely in the meeting sense; while I had a couple of hours free, I don't feel completely caught up from the long weekend. Jan -- I know you're waiting for a response from me and it's starred in my inbox; hopefully I'll get to it tomorrow!

When I got home tonight, I ate some delicious enchiladas and proceeded to work on some stuff until now. And, I successfully kept from bragging toooo much about my upcoming trip to Hawaii, although it was difficult to refrain from crowing about it given how excited I am. This post may be a bit more disjointed than usual since it's past my bedtime and I'm already anticipating all of the things I want to get done tomorrow -- tomorrow and Friday are key for accomplishing stuff, particularly since I need to write a short story for Saturday's class sometime in the next two days. Ah, well, I shall persevere -- and now you can get some of your regularly scheduled "catch up on Sara's absurdly long blog posts" time back, because my four minutes are up and it's time for bed!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

i hear in my mind all this music and it breaks my heart

Tonight was a red-letter night in terms of my mail -- while there were no letters from agents, I did get a v. sweet valentine from Ritu Rani, as well as my official RWA PRO pin (to designate that I'm actively seeking publication). Yay!

The rest of my day was okay too. It was a little difficult to get back into the swing of things after the three-day weekend, likely made worse because it rained off and on throughout the day. However, I persevered, and when all of my meetings were finally over, I left to make a truly, direly necessary run to Target. I somehow managed to run out of Tylenol, Claritin, body wash, deodorant, and face wash today, and I am on my last roll of toilet paper and my last box of kleenexes. The chances that I would run out of all of that stuff at the same time are so slim, but given the vital nature of all of those things, a trip to Target could no longer be postponed.

After Target, I met Terry at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto. She desperately wants me to finish Madeleine and Ferguson's story, so she meant to encourage me to write; instead, we talked for quite awhile, and then I wasn't really in the mood to write -- the next scene involves a confrontation between Ferguson and his father, and I'm dreading it just as much as Ferguson is. I also got another surprise call from Vidius Chandicus -- twice in two days is like a miracle!

The other exciting news of the day is that Katie, the queen of my heart, has agreed to accompany me on the first three days of my tropical vacation! This is totally perfect -- we will have Saturday night-Tuesday night to play in the sun and ogle the poolboys together, and then I will have Wednesday-Saturday to ogle the poolboys alone while writing my romance novel. I adore Katie and we never get to spend much time together now that we're no longer teenagers in Iowa brought together by a passion for Chuck Norris (Norris, ironically, is Katie's last name, or was before she traded it for a thoroughly unoriginal Smith). So, my eagerness for my vacation has increased tenfold.

On the heels of all of this general excellence, I just want to stay up late and write or watch Craig, but I shall be a good adult and go to bed instead. Goodnight!

Monday, February 16, 2009

i never loved nobody fully...always one foot on the ground

I wrote a ton today -- 5953 words. This brings my grand total for the three-day weekend to 15,786 words, which is approximately 70 pages. YAY. Of course, all I really want to do tomorrow is get up and do it again, when instead I have to go to work and slog through a bunch of meetings. That's too bad -- but it's good to know that I can make excellent progress on a book despite my day job, which bodes well for my ability to steadily produce books without needing to take leaves of absence to write them.

All of my output came in waves from ~10am to 7pm, with a variety of long breaks for a shower, lunch, a lovely phone call from Vidius Chandicus (aka the Chandlord), and a quick trip to the grocery store. I also stopped by Starbucks, with the intention of treating myself to a mocha (which I weaned myself off of in favor of lattes several months ago), but instead I decided to try their new chai tea lattes. My jury is still out; I think I'll try a different flavor next time before making up my mind about their deliciousness.

I was tempted to keep writing this evening, but I decided that it would be better for me to unwind a bit from this weekend's writing binge. I made myself some delicious veggie quesadillas, which were exactly what my tastebuds wanted after a weekend holed up in the apartment eating frozen entrees. Then, I spent some quality time on Travelocity, and ended up committing to Hawaii!! I'm going for a week in March; if I can write four hours a day, in addition to wandering around Maui and working on my tan, I should come very close to having a fully finished first draft of Madeleine and Ferguson's story no later than the end of March. If nothing else, I'm looking forward to the break -- it would be nice to have a week in the sun in which I only write, and don't have to think about all of the demands of my full-time job.

I ended the night by getting a head start on this week's writing assignment. We're reading Lydia Davis this week, whose writing is truly strange; the excerpts we were given were a mix of v. short short stories (some only two or three lines long), the beginning of a novel, and a couple of average-length short 'stories', one of which purported to be an analysis of a fourth-grade classroom's letters to a boy who was in the hospital. Again, I have no idea what I'm going to write in response -- but I do like totally ridiculous things, so I'm a little more confident this week that I can come up with something.

Okay, it's bedtime; I'm going to get up early tomorrow, go to work so that I can slog through all the email I didn't read this weekend, and then make it through the day so that I can keep my writing date with Terry tomorrow night. Goodnight!

fidelity video

So during my morning crawl through the variety of agent, publisher, and writer blogs I'm subscribed to on Google Reader, I came across this video, and it made me cry. The song is awesome (Regina Spektor's "Fidelity"), even if I usually don't like female singers (yes, I'm a misogynist).

Note: if you don't like the gays or gay marriage, don't watch it (although theoretically it's aimed at you).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

and all your weight, it falls on me, it brings me down

The endless rain outside definitely made it easier to stay holed up and productive today. While I did venture outside to meet Katrina at a cafe, I generally spent most of the day writing. However, I wasn't significantly more productive than I was yesterday -- I wrote 5529 words, which is about 1300 words more than yesterday, bringing me to a grand total of 32,511 words / 146 pages.

I was on a roll and should have kept going tonight, but I made the mistake of second-guessing whether I want Madeleine's dead French parents to be a comte/comtesse, a marquis/marquise, or a duc/duchesse. The first draft is currently full of notes to go back to research the actual facts later -- as I've mentioned before, if I start looking for answers to what types of gloves Madeleine would have worn in spring of 1812, or what the order of precedence would have been at the duke of Harwich's dining room table, I can waste all my writing time. But the question of Madeleine's title is really bothering me -- so far, I've had everyone call her "Miss Vaillant," and I like the idea that Ferguson is the only person outside her foster family who calls her Madeleine, but if she's the daughter of a French comte/marquis/duc, she would theoretically be called Lady Madeleine anyway. Except I can't find a damned website with French forms of address anywhere -- I'm working off the assumption that the English would have given her similar precedence as daughters of English earls/marquesses/dukes, but I can't be 100% sure. Damn.

So, I wasted an hour in search of that information, and failed yet again to find it. By the time I emerged on the other end of Wikipedia, dazed and surly, I decided that the moment for getting back into my book had passed -- I'll go to bed and pick it up again tomorrow.

But, Madeleine and Ferguson shared their first kiss today! In the story, they were in a cool, moonlit garden behind a London ballroom; in real life, I was at Leland Tea Company with Katrina, who read a line over my shoulder that mentioned moaning and expressed mild shock (ha). Katrina and I had a good time, although I ultimately had to abandon her so that I could do my ritual Sunday call with my parents. Ironically, I interrupted their enjoyment of the first episode of the new season of "The Amazing Race" to force them to talk about my various vacation options. As expected, my father was a bit more excited about this than my mother was, since he's been to many of the places I'm considering. Hawaii is winning right now, likely because it's rained here for two days and I'm in the mood for some sun and sand -- but we'll see if I can get the days off before I commit to anything.

Okay, no more blogging; after all, it's a bit ridiculous that I'm exhausted from writing and so turned around to write a ~500-page blog post about that fact. So, goodnight, and happy presidents' day!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

i left my heart in san francisco

I was very naughty this morning and skipped my writing class. While I am really enjoy the class, I didn't feel particularly engaged in this week's reading, and I also want to use the three-day weekend to accomplish as much as possible with my romance novel. Given that after my previous classes I've had no desire to write romance the rest of the day, I didn't want to waste today. And, in addition to all of those excuses, I was feeling lazy today, and decided to indulge because I've indulged my laziness so much less in the past few months than I used to.

I wasn't really that lazy; I still got up, showered, and was out the door by 9:30am. I walked down to Union Square during one of the breaks in today's rainy weather patterns with the intention of exchanging some jeans at the Gap (I accidentally bought a pair that was meant for girls who are 5'8", which I am clearly not), but I couldn't find the style that I wanted, so I guess I'll just get these shortened. Instead, I bought some new pajamas -- I haven't had any new pajamas in a couple of years, and these were on sale and super cute. Then, I went to Samovar in Yerba Buena Gardens, and had my favorite (salmon quiche, fruit, a scone, and English Breakfast tea) while brainstorming what I want to incorporate into Ferguson and Madeleine's story.

I wanted a masala chai, but I was getting antsy to write, so I walked back to Union Square, hopped on a bus, and came home (with a brief stop to buy fresh milk for the tea binging that I knew would have to fuel my writing). I spent some significant time this afternoon figuring out the timeline and continuity and birthdays of all the main characters in my books -- it's important to get all of the ages consistent now, because the same characters will show up in multiple books, and it wouldn't do at all to have one person age five years between books when another person only ages two. I also did a bit of ridiculousness and tried to match characters to zodiac signs -- for instance, I think that Amelia was a Taurus and Malcolm was a Scorpio, while Ferguson is an Aries and Madeleine is a Pisces. Not that any of these signs are particularly great together, but it was an interesting "thought exercise", as they say in the business world, to pair up fictional characters with traits that the different zodiac signs supposedly embody. And, giving them concrete birthdays helps with the continuity so that someone doesn't accidentally stay twenty-seven for sixteen months (although I personally wouldn't mind if that happened to me).

I also did some completely unnecessary procrastination in the form of trip planning. I do want to take a vacation, I don't want to spend a lot of money, and I want to go someplace where I can both relax and do a ton of writing. So I started looking around -- and weirdly, it seems like I can go anywhere I would want to go in practically the whole world for a week in March for ~$1500 for combined flight/hotel. I'm serious -- places as different as Paris, London, Hawaii, Tokyo, Prague, Buenos Aires, and even Cairns, Cape Town and Singapore, all for ~$1500. Not to say $1500 is nothing -- but that is *insanely* cheap for a flight to Australia + five or six nights in a hotel. Ditto for Tokyo, Cape Town, and Singapore, all of which are on the other side of the world. Hawaii is where I really want to go -- I would like to get some sun, work on my (totally nonexistent) tan, drink some fruity cocktails, and spend a week writing by the ocean. But Paris or London would be good for research, while Tokyo and Singapore would be both interesting and fun (since Alaska Matt is in Tokyo and Joann, Sarah, Jay, and others are in Singapore). And really, if all those other places are that cheap, it seems silly to spend the same amount to go someplace in the United States, even if that someplace is a tropical paradise thousands of miles away from here.

So we'll see -- I have to get permission to take the time off first. And yes, Vidya, I want to come to Boston -- but I'm saving that trip for next quarter, when my company will pay for me to go.

Anyway, after all that, I still managed to write 4295 words tonight, for a total of almost twenty pages. That puts me at 26,976 words so far, or about 30% of the way through the book. I would like to write another 10,000 words this weekend -- with Monday off, it's doable, although I don't exactly want to go back to work completely exhausted either. But I'm so lucky that I'm not seeing anyone, or else I would have wasted tonight with the whole dinner and romance thing -- instead of the dinner and romance thing I had, which was a peanut butter sandwich, a big glass of wine, and a few hours of making up a romance between two fictional characters. That's only sad if you let yourself think it's sad -- and I don't, because right now I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's bedtime -- happy Valentine's day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

so long to devotion

I totally failed on the short story front. I read the third short story that I was supposed to read for the class, had no idea what to write in response, and ended up falling asleep on my couch. So now it's midnight, and I decided that while I am going to go to class tomorrow because I get a lot out of the sessions, I'm just not going to do the assignment. I would rather continue to sleep tonight so that I can get other stuff done tomorrow, and the likelihood that I can come up with something good after midnight tonight, edit it, print it, and be able to stay awake on the drive back to the city after class tomorrow is pretty low. At least one person in every class so far has failed to produce anything, so at least I'm not alone even if I feel like a loser.

Oh well, the weekend awaits, and since I have Monday off as well, I'm prioritizing writing over all social activities with the intention of getting an epic amount of Ferguson and Madeleine's story on paper. Now, though, it's bedtime! And I'm still dreaming of Hawaii...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

it's good to see you now with someone else

This is hardly even a four-minute post -- I suddenly realized that I desperately need to go to bed. I slogged from 8am to 6:15pm, ran to Whole Foods to buy a cake (the Whole Foods in Mountain View is like a gigantic temple to organic excess), and then went to Terry's place for dinner. She hosted me and Lauren (aka Subz) -- tomorrow is Subz's last day with our (now formerly) mutual employer, which is v. sad for me but great for her. So the three of us caught up over dinner, and Terry and I preached the gospel to her in terms of the advent of new media and what online content and delivery is going to do to revolutionize every known creative space. Which reminds me -- I'm tempted to buy the new Kindle, but given how little I currently read since I'm focused on writing, it's probably not the best immediate investment.

So dinner was excellent and I'm really glad we all got together -- but when I got home, I messed around on the internet looking up tickets to Hawaii and Paris, since I'm daydreaming about getting away (bad bad sign), and now I'm not going to get enough sleep before I have to get up tomorrow morning and go into the office to repeat today's stream of meetings. Yay. But I may repeat today's epic victory in terms of sandwich selection -- while they technically messed up my sandwich by failing to run it through the oven and leaving off the bacon, I switched my usual sandwich up and got great results. I swapped out the usual turkey for some roasted chicken, and asked for honey mustard instead of dijon, and it was a completely different experience. So if nothing else, dreaming of that sandwich will get me into the office tomorrow where my willpower might not. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

sometimes i get nervous when i see an open door

This is a four-minute post. Work wasn't bad; I slogged from 8:30 until 6 before driving back to the evil city and sitting down to work on my book. However, I decided not to write tonight. Instead, I resubscribed to Publishers Marketplace (an industry site that offers tons of information about the deals agents are making, in addition to general news and gossip about the publishing world -- for the exorbitant price of $20/month, which is why I'm not subscribed all the time -- although now that I think of it, I pay for my Netflix subscription and barely watch movies anymore, so maybe I should cancel that and keep Publishers Marketplace instead?). I did some research, targeted some agents, and sent out four more queries tonight.

I have much less faith that any of these agents will be interested in my work -- the agents I targeted in this round are some of the top sellers in the romance genre, and so they're unlikely to be especially eager to take on an unpublished writer. However, I decided that I should at least try them. E-queries are free, except for the blood spilled from my fragile heart upon getting rejected, and if I succeed with one of them, they have the potential to have a bigger impact on my career than an agent who may not have quite so many killer instincts when it comes to selling my book.

So, we'll see what happens. But, I didn't intend to spend three full hours at this task, and now it's time for bed. I have an eight a.m. meeting tomorrow, blah, followed by a day of slogging, followed by dinner at Terry's place -- and in an uncharacteristic failing on my part, I volunteered to take dessert and then didn't have time to bake, so I'm going to have to procure some tasty treats tomorrow instead. I'll keep you posted on the agents -- but my four minutes are up, so it's bedtime!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

eye on the wheel, another on my heart -- i know this road, it goes back to the start

I'm deep into the danger zone. I was physically at the office today from 7:30am until a little after 7pm; my last meeting ended at 5:45 (fifteen minutes early, score), but I spent some time talking to Joy. Then I got waylaid by the head of the Boston office, and it was nice to catch up with him, although I also walked away with an action item. Then I drove home (fast!), ate some pizza, and watched an episode of Craig Ferguson while working until now. Craig was a little annoying -- Craig himself wasn't annoying at all, but there was some dude in the audience with a very noticeable laugh and it was all I could hear, which drove me crazy! Too bad, since I usually like having Craig on in the background when I'm slogging.

But someone needs to hit me over the head and remind me about balance. I think I'm doing pretty well balancing work and my book right now, if you think it's fine that I've completely sacrificed my social life. But there's a lot that I want to accomplish at work as well, and during weeks like these, when I see all sorts of opportunities and also am in a position to take them on, it's hard to smack my own hand with a ruler when I'm reaching out for something interesting.

Oh, well; true to form, my week will get less busy as it progresses, and I also have dinner plans with Terry and Lauren (aka Subz) on Thursday, which will be fun. Then I'll need to spend Friday night writing a short story for my class (bleh), and then focus on the book during the weekend. Maybe someday I'll get a vacation, but I doubt it. The only vacation I get these days is my bed -- and with the rain falling on the window over my bed tonight, it will be quite nice. Goodnight!

Monday, February 09, 2009

[pick your own song lyric tonight]

I spent today slogging, with a break from 8:30pm until now to read a couple of the short stories for this week's short story assignment. Again, I have no idea what to write; I've read two of the three stories (all by Alice Munro), and I have to say that I'm not particularly interested in either her style or her storylines. Maybe that's harsh -- but as bleak as THE ROAD was, I think that I was naturally more in tune with Cormac McCarthy's style than Alice Munro's. I could surprise myself, of course -- after I read THE ROAD last week, I thought I had no idea what I could possibly write in response, and then the next day the story came to me quite easily.

But the slogging before the story-reading was quite productive. I had meetings almost straight through today, and since I was out on Friday, I felt the need to catch up on emails. I made it through everything on my list, which was excellent, and hopefully I can stay caught up through the rest of the week so that I can write both my short story and some of my novel without going insane. The one fly in the proverbial ointment is tomorrow -- I have a 7:30am meeting, and then I have meetings almost straight until 6pm. The kicker is that the person who scheduled me for the 7:30am meeting is the same person who scheduled me for the 5-6pm meeting -- who deliberately books meetings to start and end 10.5 hours apart? Bleh.

This is totally boring, so it's probably fitting that I couldn't come up with a title. So, it's bedtime, and you can hope that tomorrow I'll be more interesting (but since I'll have been at work for almost eleven hours, don't hold your breath).

Sunday, February 08, 2009

when your chips are down, when your highs are low, joyride

Today was a nightmare if you think that Sundays are meant to be relaxing -- I did three loads of laundry, changed my sheets, vacuumed, and then wrote 5500 words (~22 pages) of Ferguson and Madeleine's story. I took a break to talk to my parents, but that was basically all I did. I persevered even though I wasn't particularly in the mood; my stomach hurt this afternoon, which resulted in me canceling on a writing date with Tom because I didn't want to drag myself out of my apartment into the wet San Francisco afternoon.

Really, all I wanted to do today was take a break. Adding a continuing studies class to my already packed weeks, regardless of how much I feel that I'm learning from it, is taking its toll on my ability to feel refreshed and rejuvenated merely by getting eight hours of sleep, or taking five minutes away from my stream of meetings to let my tea steep properly, or watching the occasional Craig Ferguson episode while answering some emails. Luckily the class is totally worth it, and it's already half over -- but the next three weeks could be a bit painful as a result.

Despite my desire for a break, I didn't really take one. I'm committed to getting through a first draft of Ferguson and Madeleine's story as quickly as possible, and that means I need to write whenever I have opportunity, and this weekend's opportunity was all consolidated into today. Overall, I think it went pretty well, even though I had to keep resisting the urge to go back and start rewriting the first section. Now that I have one hundred pages (100 pages in 3 weeks!), I have enough of an idea of how I want the beginning to go that there are things I would change about what I've already written. I just have to remember that I still have 300 pages to go, and given how frequently my ideas change during this early phase, there's a strong chance that something so drastic would change that I would have to rewrite the beginning again even if I went back and fixed it now.

So I'm going to keep slogging ahead. I would love to have a first draft by the end of March. That's super aggressive, though -- I need to average 9472 words a week, and so far I've averaged 7561. That means I could be finished by the end of April, though, and that's totally respectable. Finishing a first draft by the end of April would let me put it away for a few weeks, then pick it up again at the end of May and spend June and July turning it into a second draft worth of being shared with my beta readers.

Just thinking of all of that exhausts me, though, particularly since I have to a) stay employed so that I can eat, which means I need to do great things at my day job, b) stay in touch with my friends and family so that I don't turn into a crazy cat lady someday (I already own the right sweater -- I'm wearing it right now, it's an oversized grey thing that comes to my knees), and c) keep trying to sell AN INCONVENIENT MARRIAGE. Yay.

Sorry this blog post is not the post upbeat in the world, but luckily for you, it doesn't end in a depressing story about a suicidal anorexic. That's something we can all celebrate. Goodnight!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

do you think you're better off alone?

Today was fabulous. Class was once again absolutely excellent; under the influence of a bit of wine, I've decided to post my story at the end of this post, so read it before I overanalyze and change my mind!

After class, I was starving, and for some reason I thought of Fratelli Deli in Palo Alto. The place wasn't the best sandwich place in the world, and it was run by some people who looked like they had never even met anyone named Fratelli, but I liked it. Turns out that Fratelli Deli has been replaced by some upscale French-type sandwich place, continuing the trend of upscaling Palo Alto to the point that no one can actually live there. My sandwich (portobello mushroom, sundried tomatoes, and mozzarella on a baguette) was nice, but I've never had a sandwich served with cold green beans (which I ate) and beetroot slaw (which I avoided). It was good and all, but I kind of miss the griminess of the old world.

I proceeded to Borders, where I bought four books (THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy; LISEY'S STORY by Stephen King -- a hardcover marked down to $6.99, score; GLITTER BABY by Susan Elizabeth Phillips -- a rerelease of one of the early novels in her career; and THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE by Georgette Heyer -- one of the few Heyers I haven't read, and given the title's similarity to my own, I couldn't resist). Borders is clearly struggling. Even if you haven't read the dire predictions of their bankruptcy, the empty shelves speak volumes (ha).

When I got back to the city, I decided to walk down to Union Square. I picked up some "essentials" at Sephora (the mascara, lipstick, and dry shampoo were replacements, while the blush and eyeshadow were additions -- serendipitous additions given how pleased I was with the results of using them tonight). Then I bought two pairs of jeans at the Gap before walking back to my apartment and spending some quality time showering, playing with my makeup, and watching a couple of episodes of "Scrubs" before dinner.

Dinner was fabulous. Actually, I didn't like my food -- the lasagna that I ordered wasn't particularly good. In fact, nothing that I had tonight, other than the wine, was particularly good -- the vodka cranberry that I had at the bar while waiting for a table tasted way off, which is surprising since a vodka cranberry is supposed to consist of exactly two ingredients, and the lasagna was pretty meh. But the company totally made up for it. Adit, Priyanka, Katrina, and Katrina's roommate Patrick were all in attendance, and I believe that a lovely time was had by all. We discussed Katrina's dating shenanigans, Adit and Priyanka's outing to Angel Island, some Civil War reenactment stuff, the lone Asian kid in my high school, and Adit's idea for me to write "choose your own adventure" romance novels. Tonight was supposed to be the night that we got together for port, but since port parties are always epically bad for all involved, we keep putting it off. We're now recommitted for three weeks from now -- chances that one of us will back out are high, but I'm staying in until I hear otherwise. But it's a good thing that we didn't drink port, given that Adit felt like he had been roofied -- port was probably the last thing that any of us needed.

Okay, it's well past my bedtime. Tomorrow is the only day that I get to sleep in, but I don't want to sleep in too late because I want to write 5000 words of Madeleine and Ferguson's story, and that's not gonna happen if I'm asleep. Wish me luck!

But finally, today's short story is reproduced below for your reading pleasure (or displeasure -- the story's rather bleak, given that our assignment was a creative response to Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD -- I've only read the first 50 or 60 pages, although I bought the full book today, but it's possibly the bleakest thing I've read since, well, ever). And no, I don't have an eating disorder -- although I was totally *starving* after reading the story to the class, and stayed hungry the rest of they day. Weird.


"The Poisoned Apple"

When she woke in her bed in the middle of the night, she would place a hand on her abdomen and feel the familiar planes. Through the thin cotton of her gown she ran her fingers across her ribs, counting each in turn. Then back down to her stomach, where she splayed her hands across her shriveled, sunken belly button. Her stomach was quiet, the ominous quiet of a battlefield before dawn, of an executioner pulling on his mask and picking up his axe.

She lay there through the endless dark, closing her eyes only when the nurse came in to check her IV. The nurse hummed to herself as she swapped one bag for another. She curled her hands slowly into fists but stayed silent. Silence was safest. She had seen girls talk, seen them open their mouths to their shrinks. And then the shrinks responded, coaxing, commanding, their words like shovels forcing food down the girls' throats.

But she knew their tricks. She saw the results of their efforts walking the halls, the rank smell of meat on their breath assaulting her over the harsh chemical disinfectants and the pervasive odor of stale urine. Don't be fooled by their sweet smiles and their apple-green eyes. They will make you one of them, and your belly button will grow until it swallows you whole.

Her mother used to try their tricks on her. Used to beg her to eat some bread, or to drink a Coke, even as she nervously lit a cigarette with her own skinny fingers.

I swear I don't know what to do, her mother said.
There's no need to do anything. Just a few more weeks and I will reach my goal.
Is your goal to kill yourself? Because that's what you're doing.
You're just jealous because you never made it as far as I have.

Her mother slapped her. She embraced the fresh, sharp blossom of pain in her cheek. Her belly never hurt like that anymore. It had gone to wherever demons go when a strong and perfect will conquers them, leaving only a lingering void behind.

She turned on her side and watched the drip in the green glow of the machines. The poison flowed through the sterile plastic tubing, down the pole to the needle that a nurse had shoved into her arm and sealed over with gauze and tape. There was no getting away from the poison. She could pull it out, but they would come and hold her down and put it back. Force puddings and fruit juices on her and try to make her talk.

Her arm was white and the angry blue of the vein throbbed against the skin as the poison flowed in. It flooded her even as she struggled against the surge. Her heart pumped faster with her rage, sending glucose to every part of her body. She wasn't the fairest of them all, not even a little, with the pockets of fat still clinging to her thighs. But shrinks hate girls who try to attain perfection. They hated her even more because they couldn't break her will. So they drowned her in glucose, poisoning her in her bed and waiting for the demon to grow strong enough to eat her up.

She thought that if she had been Snow White, she would have seen through the wicked stepmother's tricks. She would have known that the apple was poison and thrown it far away into the woods. And then she would have married a real prince, not one who could only score with dead chicks, with stupid princesses whose stomachs were stronger than their wills.

Another drip. Another thread of poison working its way towards her heart. She traced her finger up the vein. I can cut out the poison. I don't need a prince to pull the apple from my throat.

She fumbled through the trash on the wheeled bedside tray and found a pointed nail file. It was a reward for gaining two pounds, said the shrink, her mouth glistening like a cherry and her apple-green eyes glittering with malice. She would draw the demon out, dig the poison from her veins. A drop of blood ran down her arm, but she needed more. She kept gouging. The trickle became a river of poison spilling out onto the sheets. The beeping started, but the sound faded as the tide picked her up, and she hoped that this time it would be enough to sweep her away.

Friday, February 06, 2009

give my regards to soul and romance, they always did the best they could

I suddenly have a smashingly violent headache. I brought it on myself -- I did way too much work today, and the only time I left the building was at nine a.m. to run to Whole Foods for some milk, cheese, and more frozen enchiladas. Some vacation, right?

But, I'm quite pleased with myself, despite my aching head. Other than a quick videoconference from ten to eleven, I didn't do anything for my day job. I made myself a ridiculous lunch -- a tuna melt doesn't sound ridiculous, but it was just Midwestern enough (with the Miracle Whip and the homemade sweet pickles that my mom sent back with me over Christmas) to be an abomination in this, one of the great food capitals of the world, and just California enough (with the white albacore tuna packed in water and the English muffin instead of white bread) to not look anything like the tuna sandwiches of my childhood. It was totally delicious, though.

Then I made myself a huge pot of tea, kept it warm on the teapot warmer my parents gave me for Christmas, and sat down to write the story for tomorrow's class. I'm pretty happy with it, but it was kind of draining to write -- I was going for bleak, even though I didn't want to copy the post-apocalyptic theme of THE ROAD verbatim, and I somehow came up with an unrepentant anorexic who attempts to kill herself at the end of the story. So, I succeeded on the bleakness, even if I didn't succeed in matching Cormac McCarthy's amazing artistry. Perhaps I'll post the story tomorrow after class, but for now I want to leave it alone.

So that took several hours. I took a break to eat some popcorn and read the latest issue of the ROMANCE WRITERS REPORT, which is the Romance Writers of America magazine that I get with membership. Then, I got back to business and wrote the second assignment for class, which is a brief literary analysis of McCarthy's style. I didn't spend a ton of time on it because I had bigger fish to fry and I'm taking the class for fun, but I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's discussion.

I spent the rest of the night putting together the submission packet to send back to the agent who requested more material yesterday. As I mentioned, she wanted the first three chapters, a synopsis, and a market analysis. I already had the chapters and the synopsis, so that was just a matter of printing the stuff. But while I have thought a lot about the market that my book touches and how I might market it, I've never written any of it down. So, I spent an hour or two writing that, stewed over my cover letter for a bit, and then burned an absurd amount of time printing envelopes, labels, etc. and making sure that everything was perfectly straight and clean.

But now that's done, and I can mail it tomorrow after class. And other than a couple of short, pressing things for my day job, and the three hours I have to spend in class tomorrow, I have the rest of the weekend three to play around with Ferguson and Madeleine and see where they take me next. Yay.

Now, though, I think I'm going to watch some television -- I need to unwind before I go to bed. My subconscious listened to me last night when I asked for nightmares to fuel my short story; while none of them (that I remember) were about eating disorders, I did wake up at three a.m. with the vivid memory of a dream in which one of my lungs had collapsed and I was gasping for air. Weird. Goodnight, friends!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

don't you know the kingdom's under siege

I just finished the reading for my creative writing class, and I have no idea what I'm going to write in response. This week's assignment was the first thirty pages of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD, which won the Pulitzer in 2006 and is currently being made into a movie starring Viggo Mortensen. Whenever it comes out, I'm seeing it even if I have to go by myself -- Viggo Mortensen in a post-apocalyptic world is like a nightmare-dream come true for me.

But really -- wow. I've never read anything by McCarthy (he also wrote NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which was one of the hits of last year's Oscar season), but now all I want to do is go out and buy THE ROAD and finish it. Instead, I'm going to have to somehow craft a creative response to this, when it's so far away from my writing style (and by 'away' I mean both 'apart from' and 'above' -- it's far more literary than romantic, but he is also just incredibly talented and I would kill to write like him). So hopefully I'll have some nightmares tonight that I can turn into a suitably dark, metaphor-laden story in time for Saturday's class.

However, ignoring the fact that I am screwed for class, I did have some exciting news -- I got another request from an agent to see the first segment of my book! This request came from one of the agents whom I queried via snail mail last week; I've checked my mail every day this week even though I usually let it pile up, and I was rewarded tonight with a letter in my SASE asking to see a synopsis and the first three chapters. She also wants to see a market analysis, which is a bit weird -- so I need to come up with something about the book's target audience, initial thoughts on marketing, etc. before I can send it back to her. I put it aside for tonight, though, since I knew I need to do the reading for my class, so I'll get back to it this weekend.

Other than that, I have nothing of real interest to report. I'm taking tomorrow off, which is fantastic, but I think I'm going to go to bed right now despite the fact that I technically don't have to wake up early tomorrow -- it will be better for me if I still get up early, drag myself out to a coffeeshop, and write my story assignment even if it kills me. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

my sign is vital, my hands are cold

I wrote several paragraphs about writing tonight, and suddenly realized that it all belonged on the Sara Ramsey blog. So check it out if you're curious -- it's all about historical research and the problem of differentiating between real history and the "history" that has built up over thousands of Regency romances, and whether to use the real history or stick with what readers now commonly acknowledge and expect to see.

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful. My commute was not pleasant, so I was ten minutes late to my first meeting, but since it was a redux of my least favorite meeting of the week anyway, I didn't mind so much. I was in a bit of a rebellious mood anyway today, which is why I wore pigtails to work for the first time in a v. long time. As one of my coworkers pointed out, there's absolutely no rhyme or reason to my dressing schemes: last Friday, which I had intended to take off and during which I had only one meeting, I wore a cute skirt and blowdried my hair, while today I had a meeting with a director whom I don't know well (the one I was ten minutes late for), several manager meetings, a 1:1 with my boss, and three performance reviews, and I wore jeans, silver sneakers, and pigtails. Go figure.

But work was good, and I left at 6:30 so that I could do some writing tonight. Instead, I wasted time and wrote less than 400 words. Tomorrow I won't be able to write -- I desperately need to read the stuff for Saturday's class so that I can write a short story for it on Friday. Bleh. I guess Ferguson and Madeleine will have to keep waiting to find their bliss, but I swear it will happen soon! But now it's time for bed -- since I'm taking Friday off, there's a lot I want to get through tomorrow so that I don't have to work this weekend. Goodnight!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

first, do no harm

I fell off the wagon straight into a pile of emails and eleven hours in the office today. I had an eight a.m. meeting and was basically in meetings until 4:30pm (with a long enough lunch break to run next door and get my favorite Tuesday special -- baked potato w/sour cream and bacon, mmm). Then, I stayed in the office until a little after seven putting together three performance reviews for tomorrow, getting through a *lot* of email, and writing my Q1 goals. Just ignore the fact that I'm already a month into Q1 so that my focus on goal-writing still sounds impressive.

But, I feel good about how much I got done, even if I didn't end up writing tonight. By the time I got home around 8:30pm, I was a bit too wiped out to write, although I did write a post for zee romance blog (and wrote a post that I saved as a draft and will post in a couple of days -- no need to use all my content tonight when I can spread it out). Tomorrow looks like meetings straight from 9am to 5:30pm, but because I did so much today, catching up should be easy and hopefully I'll be able to either write or work on my short story assignment like a good girl tomorrow night.

I shall leave you with this: Doug sent me an email last night saying, "Dude this book just screams Sara Wampler." He was referring to this: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. WTF?!?! I love me some Jane Austen, and I definitely love me some zombies, so the idea of taking PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and adding in a zombie epidemic is inspired. Yay!

Monday, February 02, 2009

high on a hill was a lonely goatherd

I saw the most amazing thing tonight. I watched an episode of Craig from last week, and he opened the show by doing a puppet performance of 'The Lonely Goatherd' from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. They performed the entire song, which was strange. Even stranger, the Julie Andrews part was voiced by a unicorn puppet, while the other voices were supplied by a frog, a shark, and a lion. The puppets were right in front of the camera, but they were clearly arm puppets (not marionettes). I can't explain why I thought this was so funny, but I watched it twice!

Today was a return to my old bad habits; I had an eight a.m. meeting (which I was really late for because I left late, traffic was bad, and I forgot that I needed to stop and get gas, and the first gas station was out), had meetings straight through until almost 5pm, and then I drove home, defrosted and ate some potato soup, and worked from 7pm until now. Granted, the worst of my old bad habits would keep me working for another couple of hours, but I draw the line now and demand eight hours of sleep unless there's a true emergency.

This is a good reminder, though -- I had intended to work on my book tonight and didn't because I had too much pressing work stuff. So perhaps I need to rein in my pressing desires to find something new/shiny/intriguing, since any attempt would necessitate doing more work, and I kind of like having a manageable workload. I think my antsiness can be traced directly back to the fact that I've been back at work and off of sabbatical for exactly six months today. Six months is the magic moment where I expect to switch things up, and with no switch in sight and no real desire to create one, my nomadic side is getting a little disheartened.

It's all good, though -- my team is awesome, and I just have to keep remembering to focus on the book (in the long run, even if I couldn't tonight). So now I'm going to go to bed -- I'll likely have to work some again tomorrow night, but I'm hopeful that I'll be able to write as well. Goodnight!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

now cinderella don't you go to sleep - it's such a bitter form of refuge

I wasn't nearly as productive today as I intended to be. I woke up late and wasted the time between nine a.m. and noon. Then I wrote for an hour and a half, took a bath, and decided to buy groceries. But when I got to Whole Foods, the lines were ridiculous, and the last thing I wanted to do was fight a bunch of yuppies so that I could buy milk and frozen enchiladas. So I came home and talked to my parents for an hour and a half, then walked over to Peet's to get some coffee.

When I got home, I intended to write -- but instead I watched the second half of the Super Bowl. Despite my relative lack of interest in football, I still got caught up in it -- largely because Kurt Warner is an Iowan, and I much preferred him and Larry Fitzgerald to the dude on the Steelers' side who got called for unnecessary roughness after throwing some pretty vicious punches. Also, Kurt Warner has a neck and Ben Roethlisberger doesn't (although I don't have anything against Roethlisberger in general). The game was much more exciting than many football games I have watched, and I got into it enough that I was disappointed when the Steelers pulled it out in the end. Ugh.

But, I managed to recover with some judicious watching of "Flight of the Conchords" videos on YouTube, and then wrote for another hour and a half. All told, I churned out 3537 words today -- bringing my total up to 16794 words, or 77 pages. Good, but not the 5000 words I had hoped to complete. Luckily, I'm taking Friday off -- so while I will need to spend some time this week working on reviews for work, as well as starting the assignment for my short story class, I expect to make some more progress this week.

Now, though, it's quite sadly bedtime. I'm not ready to go back to work tomorrow, but I have an eight a.m. meeting, so I should get some sleep in preparation for the return to the slogging. At least my job doesn't involve getting regularly tackled in a platonic way by large men -- but then again, given how often one of the announcers kept referring to all of the receivers' "big, strong hands," maybe things aren't as platonic as one would think. And I suppose if you're getting paid millions of dollars, getting knocked down repeatedly for a few hours every few days would be worth it. Instead, I'll have to pursue the American Dream through writing, where the knock-downs are to your psyche through repeated rejections, rather than to your body by a bunch of hulking linemen. Sigh.

i saw the devil wrapping up his hands...he's getting ready for the showdown

I had an excellent day, but I'm definitely ready for bed. It was the perfect mix of class, shopping, chores, reading, and family time -- the only thing that would have made it better was if the chores had been replaced by a couple of hours of writing, but I was pretty drained after my class and was in no mood to switch from talking about deep craft and mechanics issues to writing light-hearted frippery.

I'm really glad that I'm taking this class, despite the inconvenient hour and the amount of time that it takes to do the assignments. The teacher is *fantastic* -- it's clear that she has an actual passion for teaching creative writing, and is not just using teaching to finance her writing career. Class ended up going over by twenty minutes because we got into some very long-winded and detailed discussions about point of view, narrative vs. scene, the Catholic influence on Flannery O'Connor's work, etc., and then still had to read the first two pages of twenty people's stories (which took longer than it should have because apparently less than 25% of us read the instructions around using typed, double-spaced formatting with one-inch margins and a readable font size, so some people had two pages of single-spaced, 10-point font text with half-inch margins, ugh).

I felt like I learned a lot in just one class. I'm still vaguely happy with the story I wrote last night, but if I were to rewrite it, I would play around a lot more with point of view, so perhaps I'll see whether this week's assignment offers that opportunity. I left class feeling quite buoyant, decided to have lunch and work on my book at Cafe Borrone, and got there to discover a ridiculously-long line just to order, let alone to start scrambling for a table. So I walked across the street to Stacks, where the waiter flirted with me shamelessly, and even if he was almost forty (he looked younger, but made me guess his age and told me he puts avocado on his face every night), the female vanity that I usually keep under lock and key was still pleased when he asked whether I had been at the Creamery (his other job) recently, then dismissed it because he could 'never forget my eyes'. Ha. 25% tip for you, kind sir!

I wandered around Palo Alto for awhile, window-shopping in my favorite stationery stores, and finally buying a Cross ballpoint pen on clearance for 66% off -- completely unnecessary buy, except I love the pen and can use it forever. Then I came back to the city, cleaned my bathroom, took care of my mail, and did some other random things.

I made the mistake of finally opening the package I got last week -- Kresley Cole's latest book, which I will say without a trace of embarrassment is called "The Kiss of the Demon King". Yes, demons. Not evil demons, though -- just a hot, honorable demon king and an evil sorceress who isn't as evil as she seems. I read the previous five books in the series over leave, and was eagerly awaiting this one -- but knew that as soon as I got it out of the box, I would want to read it in one sitting.

So it was with extreme forbearance that I put it aside to meet up with Katrina, Adit, Katrina's roommate Patrick, Folkman, and three of their other friends for dinner. I did take the book with me, which was helpful as I stood waiting for the bus. This bus runs up Van Ness from Market, through the Tenderloin, toward the bay -- and attracts more than its fair share of crazies, which was entertaining. Dinner was quite fun; Katrina gave me a good update on what's going on with her situation, we had a good conversation about the Minotaur, and the phrase "bone time" was used far more than it should ever be used outside of a seventh-grade locker room.

But by the time Katrina decided to go home and the other people were headed off to a club, I decided to throw in the towel on socializing and come home, where I did end up finishing the book. Now I really, really must go to bed -- tomorrow is the only morning I can sleep in a bit, but I need to write a lot tomorrow, as well as do a bit of work for my day job, so it's time for sleep. Goodnight!