Tuesday, August 31, 2010

who rides the wrecking ball into our guitars?

I need to go to bed immediately; I have to be at work at 8am tomorrow for the second day of the big boss's three-day staff offsite, and since the big boss's boss (who is, therefore, an exponentially bigger boss) is attending for an hour, I need to go to the trouble of drying my hair and dressing properly so that I don't call undue, unwelcome attention to myself. Today was the first day of the offsite, and it was generally good. We did this all-day training on leadership that said that one of our main objectives is to 'stay alive', which I actually didn't take too fondly to since I'm a big fan of dramatic gestures that risk ending in martyrdom. Obviously there are other objectives too, but I struggled with that particular one. But, despite the occasional annoying moments, I enjoyed watching some of my fellow participants get riled up, and I had a nice lunch with Alan (my former boss) and two of the guys from the Europe organization.

After work, I swung by Anthropologie to see if I could find something that would go with those ridiculous 5" heels that I bought in LA. I don't know if I succeeded -- I'll have to try the whole outfit on to determine my success level -- but it's clear that my taste is on a drastic, precipitous decline into extreme eccentricity. I bought one skirt that is relatively normal (grey wool with a lovely cream lace trim on the bottom) -- but the other skirt that I bought may be an abomination. Specifically, it's wool, but it is entirely comprised of brown, aqua, and orange stripes. I thought that the bangs would be the last stop on the train to weirdoville, but clearly they have just encouraged me to venture even farther down that path. And, my friends, I must say that I love it. I may not be able to go home for Christmas without digging some of the less eccentric items out of the back of my closet, since my brother called my style "hobbit Western" last Christmas, and I shudder to think what he would call this, but I'm super psyched for the fashion disaster that my autumn is shaping up to be.

Once I had done my damage at Anthropologie, I came home, ate supper, and consciously decided to not even make an attempt at writing. I had a very bizarre, almost scary dream as I was waking up this morning, which involved an airplane crash, an alliance with some sort of magical family (one of whom seemed to be my fiance), and an attempt to escape to a boat at the end of a dock lined with evil, ice-cold witches who all seemed to be wearing stripes. One of the witches bit off my fingers, which is approximately when my alarm went off -- but in the interest of relaxing and not stressing myself out to the point that I lose more appendages in my sleep, I decided to read a book tonight instead. The book in question was Gail Carriger's BLAMELESS, which I've been waiting for with wild anticipation since reading CHANGELESS in London in May and experiencing one of the most awful cliffhanger endings in recent memory. This one thankfully did not end of a cliffhanger (yes, I read it all), but it was quite good and has me eager for the next book (HEARTLESS) coming out next year.

And now, I should sleep -- the big boss and her even bigger boss await. It's going to be a long day tomorrow, since I have the offsite from 8-6, a going-away party for a couple of directors from 6-7:30, and then dinner and bocce with the offsite attendees until 10pm. Ugh. I mean, yay. Whatever. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Monday, August 30, 2010

i will love you with all the madness in my soul

I spent a lot of time thinking about Ferguson today; thinking unfortunately doesn't get the pages written, and it also may be just a little bit weird that I've gotten to the point where I now actually talk out loud to myself in the car (which I *never* thought I would do -- clearly the next step is to get a cat). But, I feel like I must work out what his motivation is before I write any more scenes. Right now, his whole motivation is just that he's a hot mess, which, while entertaining, is not a motivation. Don't get me wrong -- I love hot messes, and he may be the best, baddest hot mess of them all. But there has to be a *reason* why he goes to the theatre and discovers Madeleine, a reason that forces them together long enough for him to fall in love with her (at which point winning her becomes enough of a motivation to sustain the rest of the book).

So how does a hot mess who just inherited a dukedom end up in a shady theatre in Seven Dials? If he doesn't want the dukedom, why not just go back to Scotland and let some indifferent administrators handle the funds? Perhaps the twins will miraculously resurrect themselves from the summary death sentence I gave them last night, since he may be sticking around London out of some vague sense of duty to the family he abandoned ten years earlier to escape his awful father. And speaking of the duke -- not only is he dead, but I may have resurrected one of Ferguson's older brothers (Henry or Richard) long enough to off the duke in a tragic murder/suicide, which would explain how Ferguson could inherit so suddenly and unexpectedly, and would also add to his sense of guilt that he had abandoned his siblings to survive their father on their own. That last gem came out of a conversation with Terry earlier today -- it may be too dramatic, but we'll see.

Needless to say, I'm just dithering at this point, and it's not helping anything. I need a break from thinking about them, but I also desperately want to finish by October, and it's becoming clear that I'm unlikely to meet that deadline. But as much as I'm complaining about Ferguson right now, it's quite entertaining to play around with different ideas for him -- and unbelievably satisfying when one of them finally clicks.

Anyway, work was fine today; I successfully blow-dried my hair to the point of perfect straightness, so I felt quite put-together despite the fact that my entire desk is still in boxes and I don't yet have a working phone in my new building. I spent the day slogging on a variety of tings to get ready for the three-day offsite I have starting tomorrow, and I had to stay late to film the big boss for something (and by 'late' I mean I was in the office until 6:45, which wasn't bad, particularly when my favorite Finance guy brought me a donut from Krispy Kreme). Even though the video was less than two minutes and the only reason I had to 'film' it was because the big boss doesn't have a Mac and so couldn't use the format that the requestor had wanted, she said she didn't know what she would do without my 'production assistant' skills, since I successfully propped the laptop just right to give the webcam the most flattering angle possible. So, I'm glad to see that my obsession with camera angles has been put to good use, even if setting up a webcam is hardly an artistic endeavor.

Now, I suppose I should go to bed if I'm going to get enough sleep and still be on time to this offsite tomorrow -- bleh. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -0.42 (global average: 0.87)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

the dream is collapsing

Poor, poor Ferguson. I just killed his brother (Edward, I hardly knew ye). At least in this case, unlike his father, Edward's "death" is just a deletion; the character has gone back to the void from whence he came, and Ferguson is once again going it alone, with only Ellie and Aunt Sophronia (who is on a stay of execution while I figure out whether to keep her) as his remaining family.

So I didn't write today, but I think that some quality time spent typing out what's wrong is helping me to figure out how to move forward. The problem with Edward was that I made him up as an easy way for Ferguson to discover Madeleine, since his father was no longer alive to provide the necessary intro. But, I had no idea what to do with Edward beyond that, other than to give him an opium addiction (who doesn't love a good opium addiction?) -- and while that might have been fun to write, and given way to all sorts of wrenching moralisms on drug use, it was just getting too complicated. And I think that's why I've been stuck the last few days -- there were so many threads, some half-started, others cut but not yet fully removed, that I couldn't figure out the way forward and what scenes to put next because I needed to advance more plot threads than I actually had room for.

So, Edward is dead (and the twin sisters, tentatively named Maria and Catherine, are likely dead as well, since they haven't come up yet, although I may change my mind if I need Ferguson to have another reason to behave a bit more respectably). I'm feeling good about killing him off and ready to move forward -- but since I have to go to work tomorrow, I'm not going to stay up writing tonight.

I spent most of the day in the city of sin; I had an appointment for a massage and a facial, but I went up a bit early to return some shoes to Nordstrom and redeem the card for free mascara that they sent to me earlier in the week. The massage and facial were very good, although now my neck is really sore -- I can't tell whether it's from the massage, from playing on my laptop while sitting with bad posture on the couch, or from ten minutes of holding my head at an unnatural angle while trying to see the attempt I was making to dig a splinter out of my foot. I was unsuccessful in my home surgery, but the implements (a safety pin, tweezers, a lighter, rubbing alcohol, and cotton balls) are still sitting out and ready to use if I decide to return to the operating theatre tomorrow. I talked to my parents on the way home, and they seem to be in good spirits -- having an empty nest again is encouraging them to make ribald jokes that would make a weaker-stomached person vomit, but I persevered. Then, I had supper, watched this week's episode of "Project Runway" (verdict: I've never seen Tim Gunn smack down a contestant like he did this week, and it was awesome!), and brainstormed on zee romance novel.

Sadly, I have to go to work tomorrow, and I am extremely unenthused about that fact -- and even more unenthused about the three-day offsite I have to attend, which is going to wreak havoc with my personal life. So, I'm off to bed -- goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

i'm just looking for clues at the scene of the crime

So today was definitely a rather hermit-y kind of day. I can feel fall approaching; there are yellow leaves all over my sidewalk, and the air had a bit of a bite to it that was rather welcome after the heat of earlier in the week. Maybe I'm subconsciously hoping for fall because I want to wear all my favorite fall outfits (and my fabulous new magenta uggs that I'm sure Tammy would *adore*) -- but I don't think so. More likely, I'm a little sad that summer is coming to a close, because I don't really feel like I had a summer. With this year's relatively cool weather, and the fact that I traveled so much and never really settled down, and the related issue of not spending my usual week or two in Iowa, it's no wonder that I feel a little cheated.

But, I didn't seize the day and go to the beach (although I briefly considered it). Instead, I wrote, and when the writing failed, I cleaned. I started off by attempting to write at Philz, but my coffee was inexplicably slightly cold, the place was packed, and I got grossed out by a five year old (who was old enough to know better) standing on a chair hovering over the counter while picking her nose, so I came home. And once I got home, I wrote a scene completely out of order that will happen somewhere near the end of the book. It was powerful, and haunting, and I have no idea where it will go -- but it also helped me to open my eyes to the fact that I'm struggling with the middle of the book because it doesn't have enough of that kind of scene. I'm not pushing my characters hard enough, and I'm not getting the maximum emotional impact from what I'm writing -- which is why I keep sidestepping around the transitions between scenes, or dithering over a decision and not writing for several days in a row.

So I considered this issue while cleaning my living room. It's almost fully in order now -- there are a couple last things that I need to sort or put away, but I finally got out my favorite mementos and decorated. And, I hung up the corkboards that go over my desk, so I'm ready to put up all the pictures and quotes and other memorabilia that I like to stare at while I write. Now, while there is still a bit of clutter in the living room and kitchen, my bedroom is the only room that still remains a complete disaster, and I don't think it's going to get fixed anytime soon.

When I was done with the living room, I ordered a pizza, picked it up, ate a couple of slices, procrastinated, and then spent some quality time writing down Madeleine and Ferguson's worst psychological traumas so that I can sadistically torment them and force them to resolve those issues during the book. I think I made some good progress, but tomorrow's writing will tell.

I should probably go to bed if I'm going to write tomorrow; I have a massage/facial appointment in the evil city at 1pm, so it's either write here before I go, or take my laptop and write there before/after the appointment. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 1110 (55.5% of goal)
Productive time: 2hr
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.02 (global average: 0.17)

Friday, August 27, 2010

i want to kiss you on the mouth and tell you i'm your biggest fan

I had a lovely day, which started with more time spent on my hair than I usually spend all week (perhaps all month). I don't really need a flatiron, although I did run it over the top layer just to see what it would do -- but it was v. helpful for my bangs, so I think it's going to prove to be an excellent purchase. It can also be used as a curling iron, and since the last curling iron I bought cost approximately $5 in college and always left kinks where it clamped onto the hair, perhaps this will encourage me to play with curlier styles.

But for today, I went perfectly straight. I wasn't quite convinced that I had made the right decision to go for bangs -- and when it comes to the amount of work that I'm going to put into my hair, not to mention the fact that they're going to grow into my eyes in about four days, I'm still not sure. However, if my fragile little narcissistic female heart needed any convincing, I got a lot of encouragement/gushing over it at work, which definitely helped. The only person who didn't seem to like it was the big boss, although she claimed that I had just taken her by surprise and that she doesn't like change. But considering that some dude whom I barely know and thought might hate me was unnecessarily effusive/complimentary about the bangs, I must have done something right (or else he really does hate me, and he was so over-the-top in his compliments to hide the fact that he was secretly cackling inside over how I butchered my hair).

Anyway, I didn't have time for fun in the morning; I worked pretty steadily until around 2:30, pulling together some email stuff for the big boss and starting to pack up my office. As I believe I mentioned, I'm switching buildings over the weekend, and while there are movers to haul all my stuff over there, I still had to box up the many and varied decorative tings that I've acquired over the past seven years. I took a break around 2:30 to have tea with Heather (aka dear respected madam) and Natasha, and then finished packing around 5:15. I went to Cafe Borrone with the intention of writing, but just as I finished my sandwich, I got an email of something that I needed to do urgently for the day job, so I had to abandon the writing. The day job thing only took ten minutes, but since I had to do it from my car (where my work laptop was), I decided to come home.

And once home, my good intentions fled and I read all of MOCKINGJAY, the last book in that series that I've read over the past couple of weeks. I intended to read it sometime this weekend anyway, and better tonight than tomorrow, I suppose. It was really good -- my reaction is still mixed because I'm still processing, but that woman can write regardless of wat you might think of the plot. So with dreams of that world (which is not a particularly pleasant world, I must say) swirling in my head, I'm going to bed. I think I'll go to Stanford Library tomorrow and force myself to write most of the day -- wish me luck!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

rare midday post - my new hair

By popular demand (and by that I mean two people expressed mild curiosity) -- pictures of my new haircut are below. I actually blow-dried my hair and used the flat iron and used product, which is very unlike me -- but the results are good, so we'll see if I can keep it up.

I like the sunglasses look better and now want to wear my sunglasses ALL THE TIME, but I suppose I should take them off at work.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

i can't tell you what it really is, i can only tell you what it feels like

I'm finally done with the presentation that I thought was going to be the death of me; I still have some wrap-up to do tomorrow to get it + supplementary material sent out to the management team, but it's finally over, and the big boss is not asking for any more revisions. Yay. It went really well; we had a technical disaster at the beginning that I won't go into because it's boring, but after we recovered from that, it was quite good. So, that made me happy -- and I was even happier because I got like nine hours of sleep last night, which I desperately needed even though I didn't sleep that well. I'm going to try to get nine again tonight so that I can go into the weekend with a clear head, ready to write (and hopefully do some more unpacking).

After the presentation was over, I didn't do much the rest of the day; I took a call from an executive coach, then went to main campus to get my allergy shots. John's starting at my company in a week and a half, but he was in the mood for free lunch (who isn't?), so we went to one of the cafes near main campus, where I had a strange mix of sushi, pizza, and chicken while we caught up. It was gorgeously sunny (of course -- it's not the rainy season) and a perfect temperature (about fifteen degrees cooler than yesterday), so we took our time with lunch, then ate dessert (fruit and yogurt) in an even brighter patch of sun. It was quite nice to take a break from work, from powerpoint, and from my building, although since I'm switching buildings tomorrow for the first time in three years, perhaps it's too bad I ran away from my office on my second-to-last day in it.

John and I eventually parted company, and I went back to my side of campus for a meeting. Then, two of my coworkers and I sneaked over to the new building to check it out -- how they're going to get it ready for Monday morning, I don't know, but I'm sure they will, if only because the big boss's boss (who is an extremely big boss -- he reports to the CEO) is moving in as well, and he seems like he would cut someone if the building isn't done. But, what is done is very nice, and there are advantages to sharing a building with the big big boss (namely, better quality lounge furniture), even if his presence + the fact that I'm going to be sitting in a cube instead of my own office will likely change my internet habits slightly.

At the end of the day, I skipped out and went to Palo Alto to get my first haircut in about ten months. And, I'm pleased/nervous to report that I have bangs again for the first time since I grew out my awful childhood bangs during high school. They're substantially more stylish than my early bangs, though, long enough that they are already grazing my eyes. Luckily, my stylist does free bang trims between cuts, although I'm guessing I'll have to get a cut more than once every ten months if I want to avail myself of that service, but she told me that I could come in next week when they're lying flatter and get them trimmed, since she left them long while they settle down). I have a feeling I'll want to blowdry my hair more often to keep the bangs from looking too ridiculous, but I'm also lucky that my hair air dries pretty well without looking awful, so hopefully I won't have to change my morning routine (which involves scrambling around like a madwoman and being five minutes late) too much.

After impetuously chopping the front of my hair off (but keeping most of the rest of it -- I didn't change the length too substantially, but the bangs are probably going to last a few months or a year before I graduate to a shorter style), I went to Coupa Cafe, where I had half a sandwich and two chais while working on Madeleine and Ferguson's story. I made progress -- not as much as I would have liked, but enough to be satisfied. Then, I ran to the mall to exchange a pair of sunglasses that I had bought in Orlando (they were polarized, which I'd been wanting for awhile, but they rubbed the backs of my ears strangely, so I swapped them for something else). I also bought a flat iron at Sephora; I haven't ever used a flat iron, and I haven't used a curling iron in years, but I have a feeling that a flat iron will come in quite handily if I ever need to tame the bangs. After the mall, I came home, watched last night's episode of "Top Chef", and now am going to go to bed.

Apologies for discussing beauty stuff ad nauseum; there are a lot of things I'm not vain about, but I'm almost embarrassingly in love with my hair, and I'm trying to take full advantage of it before it turns pure white like my grandmother's. So, deal with it. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 1348 (67.4% of goal)
Productive time: 1.75hr
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.89 (global average: 0.34)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

they stand up in the palace like it's the last of the great pioneer town bars

I am simply not meant to only get six hours of sleep a night. I don't understand the people who can routinely get five or six hours and still function -- Adit is one of those people, and it was always bizarre to me how he could be up and ready to go before me when he had come home long after me. Perhaps he feeds off of other peoples' energy like some sort of social vampire, recharging himself through socializing while I would rather just go to bed. Tonight is definitely one of those 'must go to bed immediately' nights; even though MOCKINGJAY arrived at my office today, I left it there because I knew that if I brought it home, I would open it, and if I opened it, I wouldn't put it down until I was done. Instead, I'm going to sleep tonight, and read it tomorrow to celebrate being done with the presentation that has been killing me this week.

I sustained another fatal dose of powerpoint today; the big boss met with me at 11:30 and reconceptualized several of the slides that we showed last night, which meant that I had to work some powerpoint "magic" all afternoon to get them done in time for tomorrow morning's presentation. I could quite happily never use powerpoint again, but there are probably still some slides in my future. However, the deck is pretty close to done (just waiting on a final round of edits from the big boss) -- but I'm going to go to bed shortly, and do them in the morning.

So work was fairly uneventful, consistently mostly of powerpoint and a restless search for new and varied means of caffeination to keep myself awake. I had lunch with the Heathers, which was a nice interlude, and then I spent the rest of the afternoon in my office, listening to music and being glad that at least I was in an airconditioned environment for my powerpoint hell, since it was over 90 degrees here yesterday and today. On the way home, I grabbed some sushi, then came back and read (not MOCKINGJAY) for a bit.

And now I'm going to read a bit more to put my brain to sleep -- but I'll read something I've already read before, so that I don't get swept away by my curiosity, and I will set an alarm so that I don't keep reading forever. Clearly I did no writing today, but once this presentation is done, I should be able to devote the weekend to Madeleine and Ferguson. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

motivation, such an aggravation

I have such a headache that I can't possibly come up with a simile to match how I described the headache that I had last night, so you can pack your bags and come back tomorrow if you don't want to wade through the rest of this hoping that it gets better.

I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the office this morning; my first stop was for allergy shots, which always make me surly, since I basically have to hold still while my body is injected with three different serums that it does not like and is not eager to build a tolerance to. Then, I slogged, with a break to have lunch with Heather (aka dear respected madam), whom I hadn't seen in a couple of weeks. It was baked potato Tuesday, and I hadn't seen Heather in a couple of weeks, so even though I should have been slogging, I took a break and caught up. Then, I slogged relentlessly for another couple of hours, met up with the big boss to do what was supposedly the final runthrough of the slides -- and of course had to spend the next five hours frantically changing stuff before the meeting that they were presented in. I did have some moments of levity with Alan (my former big boss from when I went on sabbatical, but my current big boss is bigger) and Joy (why do girls named Joy often not seem so joyful?), but I didn't have dinner, and so I made do with some string cheese and a Coke Zero (they were even out of Diet Coke, the horror) at the start of the meeting.

It went well, although as soon as the slides were presented I noticed typos that I had never seen before, so I made notes of the various things to fix. I had also made a perfectly hideous slide involving an aerial view of a soccer field with some clipart of two princesses in ballgowns chasing down a soccer ball, but the big boss seemed to like that one best of all (which may be why we get along so well). And then, at 8:30pm, the meeting was over, I promptly came home...

...and read DEMON FROM THE DARK straight through until now. It's the latest by Kresley Cole, who writes my favorite vampire/werewolf/demon/Valkyrie/etc books, and it released today. It for some reason got here before MOCKINGJAY, which is the other book I'm relentlessly excited for, and so I read it all tonight. I should get MOCKINGJAY tomorrow, but I'm going to try to have a bit of restraint and self-control -- I desperately need to write tomorrow night, and I'm also going to desperately need to sleep if I'm going to recover from three nights of six hours each so that I can make it through my early meetings on Thursday.

So now, having warned you in advance that this was going to be boring, I can go to bed with a clear conscience despite having written a totally useless post. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: --
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.19)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

make it work

I have oh-so-briefly fallen back into my old wicked ways -- I was at the office by 8:00, stayed until six, grabbed a sandwich on the way home, and then proceeded to work for the last seven hours (well, with a one hour break at 11pm to let my laptop recharge while I watched the fourth episode in a row of "Project Runway", thus getting caught up on the new season, even though I'm so far disappointed that none of the designers seem to rival Emilio or Seth Aaron from last season). I'm in my own private powerpoint hell, iterating through what is currently a 42-slide deck (ignoring the 60 or 70 slides that will be in the appendix that I have to have done by Thursday) with the big boss, and we have to be done by Tuesday night at 7:30pm, when she has to present it via conference call to the Asia teams. Then, I'm sure she'll want changes before presenting it again to the Europe and Americas teams on Thursday morning, so I don't expect the next couple of days to be any better.

What would make my life better is if people could make their own damn powerpoint -- that 42 slide deck only has 8 or 10 slides that I should have been responsible for, but I got some of the ugliest damn slides you've ever seen from people who were responsible for other bits of it, and since I was the one the big boss gave all the feedback to, it took quite some time to get that feedback back to the responsible parties, and in many cases was easier to just do it myself. I know, that's a bad collaborator, but frankly I don't care (as evidenced by the fact that my chat status at work currently says "i would be totally willing right now to pick up powerpoint, walk for a few months, and attempt to cast it into the fires of mount doom").

But, luckily this too shall pass, and then I should have a powerpoint lull for awhile, unless I get roped into doing the deck for the big boss's trip European sales conference at the beginning of October. It's just too bad that this is all happening this week, given the insane number of books that are releasing like RIGHT NOW that I want to read all at once, and given the insane number of words I want to write for my own book to get myself on track. Suffice it to say that I didn't write today; I debated writing during that hour while my work laptop was charging, but since my brain already feels like there are thirty-three Chilean miners trapped inside it, defecating all over everything while trying to chisel their way out, I don't think that writing would have improved the situation much.

On that incredibly disgusting mental image, I'm off to bed -- and I smartly rescheduled my 8:30am meeting tomorrow so that I could get an extra half hour of sleep. I was running so late this morning that I didn't even bother with makeup (I put it on in the bathroom at work after my first meeting). And while I was in that first meeting (thankfully over videoconference so that I could zoom out and they weren't frightened by my hideous un-made-up visage), I vaguely noticed that my arm was wet...and then realized that my hair was still so wet that it was actually dripping on the table. That is one advantage of working for the big boss -- I may sometimes look completely ridiculous, but most people are so scared of talking to someone five levels above them that very few people would have the courage to go up to her and rat me out, so the fact that I consistently show up in the mornings looking like a tired teenager has never come up between us. Yay. And now, goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: -
RescueTime productivity rating: - (global average: 0.34)

Monday, August 23, 2010

the second hand unwinds

It's too bad I didn't start being productive about three hours earlier in the day so that I could have gone to bed before one a.m. -- particularly since I have to make it to the office in time for an eight a.m. meeting tomorrow. I set my alarm for 8:30am and everything, but I was having strange dreams (that I now only vaguely remember as pertaining to my wedding, but it was sort of a horror/freakshow wedding at the same time, and I vividly remember trying to line my lips as though they were my eyelids, which was a bit scary) and ended up hitting snooze until almost ten a.m. I ate some Frosted Flakes (breakfast of champions), took a shower, reread a bit of CATCHING FIRE (which I am utterly besotted with -- I can't put into words how in despair I am about the fact that I will never write like this woman, since I'm much too wordy to get so much action into so few words like she does), and then decided to get out of the house to write. I had my bag packed and on my shoulder, and was reaching for my keys...

...when I was distracted by the books above my keys, and picked one up, and ended up reading for a couple of hours. For the first fifteen minutes or so I read with my bag still on my shoulder, but I eventually gave up on that, and kept reading despite myself. The book was THE CONQUEROR by Georgette Heyer; it's one of her handful of historical novels dealing with real people, in this case William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, King of England, etc., etc. I didn't read all of it, and have still never read it all the way through -- unlike her romances, it's kind of hard to get into because she stays relatively true to the history and some of it gets a bit dry (she's so good at history and recreating battle scenes that her depiction of Waterloo from AN INFAMOUS ARMY has been used by the UK's officer training program at Sandhurst), but William the Conqueror is a v. interesting dude (I'm sure he'd appreciate that description), and his accomplishments are legendary.

After that, I was feeling distinctly unlegendary, particularly since I had lazed the day away. So, I called my parents for our ritual Sunday call, and still managed to talk to them for 90 minutes despite talking to them twice this week already (shocker). Then, I finally (!) got out of the house around seven, grabbed a burrito (mistake - my stomach has hurt for the past five hours), and then went to Starbucks to write. I succeeded in writing a little over 1000 words -- not the most ever, but certainly a respectable endeavor. Then, I came home and spent three hours judging the romance contest that I needed to judge, and I just wrapped that up a few minutes ago.

So now, I'm off to bed, and I'm hoping that I can get myself back into the swing of things with my writing this week -- although with a lot of stuff going on at the day job, and the release of multiple books that I've been waiting for for weeks/months is just going to make things worse. MOCKINGJAY, the sequel to those books I read over the last two weeks, comes out on Tuesday, and I'm going to want to read it before I hit the inevitable spoilers on Twitter, since the real world has likely never heard of it, but the romance world is foaming at the mouth waiting for the trilogy to end. Kresley Cole's DEMON FROM THE DARK comes out tomorrow or Tuesday -- and yes, you can mock me for loving a serious of books with titles like that. Finally, Gail Carriger's BLAMELESS comes out on the 26th; it's Victorian 'steampunk' (which I won't even get into explaining right now, since I'm too tired and you don't care) with vampires and werewolves, and when I read the last book in the series while coughing up my lungs in London a few months ago, I was devastated when it ended on the worst cliffhanger ever. So, I'll try to keep myself honest and write every day -- but I am admitting in advance that I may have a relapse. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 1096 (54.8% of goal)
Productive time: 4hrs (includes reading entries to judge)
RescueTime productivity rating: 1.11 (global average: 0.18)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

you'd still enjoy it with your foot on masada

I'm not quite sure what's wrong with me; I woke up at 6am and threw up (which made me infinitely happy that I had cleaned my bathroom yesterday), and I've felt vaguely nauseated all day. I'm not running a fever (if anything, the two times I took my temperature today, I was half a degree below normal), and while I did have a lot of fresh vegetables this week (including spinach and tomatoes) and some hard-boiled eggs, this isn't the violent illness one might expect from salmonella. So, I'm not sure what's up with that, but it made me feel rather malaise-y, and so I didn't write as much as I intended.

However, I did drag myself out of the house eventually and went to Cafe Borrone (where I only ate half my sandwich, which should be an indication that something is wrong). Then I came home, cleaned my kitchen, and tried to write some more, but eventually I gave up. So, I caught up on "Top Chef" while researching possible new names for my characters, since I'm going to change some of them -- the titles of my main male characters are too similar (Rothwell and Rossendale), and I also need to name a couple of new characters and rename a couple of other minor ones. Rothwell is Ferguson's technical title (he's William Ferguson Avenel, duke of Rothwell). This means that, the day he inherits, everyone in the world starts calling him Rothwell. And that fact means that Madeleine (the heroine) would know him as Rothwell before being introduced to him, and it would be rather improper of her to call him by his childhood nickname. So, I have a major decision to make: I like having him refer to himself as Ferguson (and get Madeleine to call him that) because he still hasn't come to terms with inheriting his father's title, but I'm worried that readers will be confused when he's sometimes called Ferguson and sometimes called Rothwell. Also, as much as I love Ferguson, Rothwell just has more of the classic bad boy ring to it. So, I am v. conflicted -- if any readers of this blog have an opinion, please do share it.

After catching up on "Top Chef," I spent way too much time in the bowels of Wikipedia, reading up on all sorts of useless but fascinating historical material; did you know that Charlemagne didn't let his daughters marry because he didn't want to create any more legitimate branches of his family line to compete w/the lines of his sons? But, he let them become mistresses and welcomed their illegitimate children with open arms. His son didn't seem to see things the same way, however, and banished his sisters to convents after he inherited. That's your fun fact of the day -- you can thank me for it later.

Finally, I remembered that I needed to judge some entries for a writing contest sponsored by the San Francisco romance chapter, and so I read all six of them (15 pages each) tonight. I need to score them tomorrow, but I'm glad that I read them and gave them a chance to sit in my mind; there were a couple that were great, a couple that had intriguing ideas but flawed style/grammar (which I need to be careful about grading, since I apparently care more about that than some people -- but seriously, if you're going to be a novelist, you should know the difference between "it's" and "its"), and a couple that were somewhat blah. It was another reminder of how hard it is to write a good opening scene that pulls in the reader, and I know I'm going to struggle with that on every book I write.

And now, I'm going to go to bed and hope the nausea resolves itself. Just in case it doesn't, I canceled my massage/facial in SF tomorrow (since getting a massage while trying not to throw up sounds distinctly unappealing) -- so I'm going to spend the day forcing myself to write whether my damned elusive muse decides to show up or not. I'm starting to fall behind on my October 1 goal, so I need to get cracking. Goodnight!


Daily word count: 375 (18.75% of goal - also did some editing and brainstorming of next scenes)
Productive time: 4.75hrs (includes reading entries to judge)
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.62 (global average: 0.19)

will you bite the hand that feeds you

So much for being productive tonight. I actually did a pretty good job at first; after work (which I left early to avoid concert traffic), I went to Target, where I bought a whole bunch of chemicals. When I first moved into my place, I made an attempt to go green by buying environmentally friendly cleaning products. As it turns out, they are 'environmentally friendly' and 'products', but they really don't clean anything. So, I got some Lysol and some Scrubbing Bubbles and some other products, and scrubbed my bathroom from floor to ceiling. I even knocked down the cobwebs from the ceiling, which was quite the feat. And, I finally got around to buying a shower curtain -- I've had the clear liner all along, but I got a white waffleweave curtain from Target to cover it. So now, my bathroom is no longer embarrassing, which means that I can turn my attention to the other rooms in the house.

And, I intended to do that tonight, or perhaps work on the book, but my brother called and we ended up talking for almost an hour. After that, I was in no mood to do anything strenuous, so I finished cleaning the bathroom, and then read CATCHING FIRE (the sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES, which I was raving about last week). The final book in the trilogy comes out on Tuesday, so I knew that I would give in to temptation and read this book before then, and I was right. That just means that I'm going to have to get up tomorrow and write all day -- cleaning the rest of the apartment is going to have to wait. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: -
RescueTime productivity rating: - (global average: 0.34)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

close your eyes, clear your heart, cut the cord

I had a fairly boring slog at work today; I didn't particularly want to do any of the tasks on my to-do list, which probably didn't help. But, I had a nice break in the form of lunch with Gyre --even more shocking than the fact that we had lunch (which shouldn't be shocking at all, since we've had a standing every-three-weeks lunch since 2007, and before that shared offices and cubes several times) was the fact that I ate a gigantic salad for lunch. I've been craving salad, which must be an indication that I'm malnourished, since I love many things, but salad is usually not one of them. It was nice to catch up with him, since we've missed some recent lunches due to our respective vacation schedules -- and my productivity was certainly helped, not harmed, by stepping away from my desk.

I then slogged the rest of the afternoon, with a break to talk to my friend Natasha. When I was done, I called my parents and ended up talking for an hour and a half -- nice, but probably not good for getting any writing done. By the time I got home, it was almost eight, and by the time I ate supper, checked my email, etc., I frittered away my productive time. Rather than forcing myself to write now, I'm going to go to bed immediately and try to write before work tomorrow instead (ha). Either way, I will write this weekend and try to make up for some lost momentum over the last week, even if it kills me. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: .5hr
RescueTime productivity rating: -0.68 (global average: 0.34)

choking on your alibis

Uh, yeah. I left the office with every intention in the world of writing -- but by the time I got coffee at Philz, all my good intentions somehow eroded. I didn't even drink most of the coffee; instead, I came home, ate dinner, took a nap, and messed around on my laptop (which resulted in an abysmal -0.41 productivity rating for the night).

So, Madeleine and Ferguson will have to wait until tomorrow. But, I'm starting to clear out some of the cobwebs in my mind; I spend some quality time tonight with a spreadsheet, outlining some of the pros and cons of the decisions currently on my plate, and I think I'm getting enough perspective and clarity to make some commitments in the near future. Since I absolutely hate commitments of all kinds, that should be interesting, but it's gotta happen if I'm going to set boundaries, control my time, and reach the next level with my writing.

Speaking of reaching the next level with my writing, I signed up for another Stanford class for fall quarter. This one is on freelancing for magazines, taught by someone who got an MFA at Columbia, teaches writing at Stanford Business School, and writes features for a variety of major magazines. Since the blogging class that I signed up for is short, these two classes only overlap for four weeks, and they're on different nights (but oddly enough, in the same room, so I'm going to get very familiar with that room over the course of the next quarter). Two classes may be a bit too intense, but there was no harm in adding it; since I'd already paid the quarterly registration fee on the first classes I registered for, there was no fee to register for this one, and so no fee for dropping either. I also get a discount as a Stanford Alumni Association member, which saved me ~$75. And, ultimately, I see blogging and freelancing as possible opportunities to supplement my writing income if I become a full-time novelist someday, so I'm hoping to get some value out of them.

Now, I suppose I should go to bed, dream of Madeleine and Ferguson, and wake up tomorrow eager to get them on their way. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 1.25hr (all email, spreadsheets, etc.)
RescueTime productivity rating: -0.41 (global average: 0.34)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

'cause today? that was yesterday, yesterday is over, it's a different day

I finally did some writing today (YAY), escaping from the office a little before six p.m. and going to Cafe Borrone to write over a sandwich, a glass of wine, and a latte. The cashier was clearly new, since she carded me for my wine -- and then she asked me if that was 'for here', which kind of startled me, since that implied that maybe I was considering taking the sauvignon blanc in a plastic cup with a straw for the drive home. Anyway, I was really pleased with my progress tonight; I finished editing Sequence Two, and got through half of the first scene of Sequence Three before throwing in the towel. I need to make an immediate decision about who finds out about Madeleine's acting when before I finish the scene that I'm working on, but I decided to sleep on it before wading into the fray. I also had one of those lightning moments of inspiration that makes the whole brutal process worthwhile -- I realized how the character who randomly showed up last week (Ferguson's old mistress, Caro) plays into the whole story and why she showed up when she did. So, that was v. exciting. I also saw Raymond (Sri's old roommate) and one of his friends; Raymond asked me about the progress with the werewhales, which is admittedly slow (partially because it's a ridiculous idea, but mostly because I'm too busy with the writing I'm already doing).

I'm going to be quite busy this fall; I am still trying to finish this book before October 1 (and I *think* I can, if I keep up the pace and don't take five days off like I did this weekend), and I signed up for the young adult novel class and the blogging class at Stanford. Yes, I'm taking a blogging class. You are in for a disappointment if you think it will make this blog any more interesting, but I'm hoping to use the class as a forcing mechanism to improve and start posting regularly on zee romance blog. Luckily, the blogging class is only half the quarter, so it doesn't start until the end of October, which is when I should be taking a break and plotting Ellie and Folkestone's story. So, it should all be manageable if I stay on track. And then there's the issue of my day job, but I will leave that for another day (or never).

Now, I should go to bed; I'm debating wearing my ridiculous shoes tomorrow, but we'll see how I feel when I get up. It's the big boss's staff meeting at 8am, which I'm always late to anyway, and hobbling in on five-inch heels may be a bit much (or exactly right). And if I slog appropriately, I can get out by 5pm and write tomorrow night -- so my subconscious needs to work out the next couple of scenes while I sleep so that I don't waste any precious writing time. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 193 (9.65% of goal - due to editing existing, not writing new)
Productive time: 2.5hr
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.73 (global average: 0.34)

here comes a feeling you thought you'd forgotten

I don't know what is with me, but I am on an absolute binge of reading. I shouldn't have read tonight; I have three more books coming from Amazon tomorrow, including the sequel to THE HUNGER GAMES that I loved so much last week. But, while I had by no means a bad day at work, it was still a Monday after a v. fun weekend, and so I came home in a fairly foul mood. Rather than inflict that foul mood on my poor characters (and perhaps make it worse for myself if the writing wasn't flowing tonight), I wrote in my journal for a bit, and then reread bits of one of my favorite books: SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley. It's one of my go-to favorite comfort reads -- yes, it involves vampires, but it's also a unique and beautiful story written by an author who knocks the wind out of me with the power of her writing. And, the heroine is thrust into some situations well beyond her control or skill-level, feeling like she has to choose between two very different lives for herself, and one of the key messages is "you don't have to choose." And that message is a very good thing for me to remember too, as much as I like to play the all-or-nothing game with my life.

I had a startling realization tonight that all of the romance heroines I've conceived so far are playing some kind of act when they meet their hero. Madeleine is actually an actress, but hiding it from her society life; Amelia pretends to be a shrew to drive her husband away; and Ellie has feigned the life of a v. merry widow for the past decade while her true love wandered around the Orient trying (and failing) to forget her. I'm not quite sure what it is that draws me to heroines who are pretending to be one thing when they're really something else entirely. It kind of reminds me of the visceral reaction I had to the ridiculous shoes that I bought this weekend (which, btw, have 5" heels -- I measured when I got home) -- I wanted to be the woman who could wear those shoes without a second thought. That's probably the connection between me and Madeleine, even though we're quite different in other ways; she knows that her life would have been much more interesting and intriguing if she had debuted in the court at Versailles instead of spending her childhood as the orphaned ward of her English aunt.

Anyway, enough of that -- I'm falling asleep on my laptop, and I had intended to get up and write before work so that I could read with a clear conscience afterward, but maybe now I'm going to have to go to work and leave early to accomplish both writing and reading. Either way, I have to get back into the writing groove again tomorrow, whether the groove wants me or night -- five nights of unproductive behavior is about 3.5 nights too many. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 0hr
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Monday, August 16, 2010

with an iron-clad fist, i wake up and french kiss the morning

I need to go to bed *immediately*; I'm taking the unusual step of meeting Chandlord for breakfast tomorrow morning before work, which is insane and unheard of, so I need to get some sleep. But, I made the mistake of picking up a book when I walked in the door (Meg Cabot's INSATIABLE), and you can guess where that led...

However, despite falling into a book and emerging from it five hours later, I had a lovely day. As I mentioned yesterday, Terry was kind enough to take me to brunch at the Ivy, which I read about all the time in Dlisted. It's a totally ridiculous place, so I of course loved it. And, I saw the back of someone who Terry thought was Kevin Smith, which I will count as my Hollywood celebrity sighting. After brunch, we drove around for a bit more before Terry sent me on my way back to Northern California. The drive was completely uneventful, and took slightly less then six hours (with three stops - one at the Starbucks drivethru at the base of the Grapevine, one at Kettleman City to get gas and a snack, and one at Casa de Fruta to use the bathroom). And then, as I said, I started reading a book as soon as I got home, which means that I will likely dream of vampires tonight and have no idea where anything is tomorrow morning because I haven't unpacked.

But, c'est la vie. It was lovely to see Terry, and I'm so glad that I spent the weekend with her. Now, it's time to get back to real life, which means I'm going to have to hit the writing hard tomorrow and for every day in the foreseeable future. That requires a clear head, which requires sleep, so goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 0hr
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

maybe that's what happens when a tornado meets a volcano

I should really go to sleep; I have to drive back to the Bay Area tomorrow afternoon, and I want to be well-rested for the long, annoying stretches of I-5. Terry and I had a fabulous day in Los Angeles, though, so even though it was twelve hours of driving for 42 hours of hanging out, it was definitely worth it. We sat around and did nothing for a couple of hours this morning, and then we met up with Allie for brunch in Santa Monica. Longtime readers/fellow Loro '02-'03 residents will remember Allie as me and Walter's co-RA; new readers probably have no idea what the first half of this sentence means. Either way, it was great to see her -- she seemed to be in fine form, and we had fun catching up and reminiscing.

After we parted ways, Terry and I drove down Rodeo Drive, went to a Nordstrom Rack (with no success), checked out the Farmers' Market (where she had a smoothie and I had a coke float), and then wandered around the mall by the market. I tried to convince her to buy this absolutely awesome jacket at Anthropologie and failed -- but I succeeded in enabling her to buy some wonderfully hot thigh-high boots at Nordstrom. Of course, my powers of persuasion ended up poisoning myself too, and you would not believe the shoes I bought -- 4.5" purple suede bootie/sandals with some absolutely wonderful/terrifying embellishment. I can't even describe them properly, so I will have to post pics when I get a chance to wear them (and now I'm hoping for autumn to hurry up and arrive). I'm clearly sliding down a steep hill toward my inevitable extreme eccentricity -- I suppose it's been nice to be normal, but I'm going to let a bit more of my inner ridiculousness come out, so be forewarned.

We came home and changed, and then we went over to Malibu to have mai tais and fish on the deck at Duke's, overlooking the ocean as the sun went down. It was absolutely incredible; when we first got there, I thought I was going to freeze to death despite my jeans, sneakers, and two (admittedly lightweight) sweaters because the wind was biting and the temperatures were not the stereotypical SoCal perfection. But, we relocated to a table under a heatlamp, and then the wind died, which made it wonderful. We had mai tais and crab wontons (which were a v. far cry from the "crab" rangoon one might get at Panda Express, not that I would ever consider eating at a mall food court chain, of course), and then Terry had sea bass with herb and parmesan sauce over rice, and I had ono "roasted firecracker" style, which involved a great sweet/hot chilli sauce over mashed potatoes and a salsa/relish of black beans and avocado.

Both our dishes were perfect, and I celebrated that fact by having another mai tai. After we had thoroughly caught up at the restaurant and enjoyed ourselves to the fullest, we came back, and in a moment of mildly-sauced weakness, I agreed to watch three episodes of "Bones". And yes, it is good, and I am v. disgruntled to admit it. Damn Terry.

However, Terry is a v. nice person -- she has made a reservation for us to have brunch at the Ivy tomorrow, which is the prime hotspot for D-list celebrities to see and be seen (per my favorite gossip site in the world), so I'm quite looking forward to that. And then, I need to drive back to Palo Alto, where my real life awaits.

You should have guessed by now that I didn't write today, but for completeness, stats are below. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 0hr
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

pincher crabs that pinch at your sandals

I am in Los Angeles! I made it into work this morning and slogged for a few hours, and then escaped around 2:30pm to drive to LA. I stopped twice (once in Casa de Fruta, which is totally absurd, and once in Kettleman City, which is the halfway point between SF and LA and so was utterly packed at 6pm), and made it in a grand total of approximately six hours. Luckily, I didn't hit any serious traffic in LA, and only had delays around San Jose and during some stretches of I-5.

When I got here, Terry greeted me, showed me around her place (which is awesome), and then let me change out of my scrubby driving clothes and into a dress before taking me out into the wilds of Brentwood/Santa Monica. We had a late dinner at what Terry called the area equivalent of Cafe Borrone -- it did have the same combo of indoor and outdoor seating, a European-feeling vibe and menu, and similar pricing, so I was a happy camper. Because it's unusually chilly in LA, they had the heat lamps out on the patio, which I enjoyed tremendously. So, we caught up over "Cafe Borrone", then took a drive around the beach/pier before meeting some of her business school friends for drinks.

The business school kids were at the bar at the W Hotel, which looked quite swanky, but was v. empty, and so the hosts and hostesses were quite desperately polite to us when they probably would have ignored us on a busier night. Terry had a French martini (whatever that is - clearly I need to go to business school), and I had a mojito, and we spent some time chatting with her friends. But, the mojito was putting me to sleep, so we made our exit, came back to Terry's apartment around 11:30, and watched an episode of "Bones" while she dried the sheets that I'm sleeping on tonight. As usual, "Bones" is yet another example of a pop culture/entertainment item that Terry has tried to introduce me to, and as usual I have completely ignored her suggestions -- but this episode was pretty good. Of course, I'll never ever admit that to her (but unfortunately she reads this blog, so I'm screwed).

And now, I should go to sleep; we're meeting up with Allie tomorrow morning for brunch, and then spending the afternoon and evening wandering around LA. You have probably already guessed, but I didn't do any writing today; I'm posting my stats to keep myself honest, but I'm not beating myself up over my lack of writing either. I did some great brainstorming in the car about my young adult gargoyle romance novel, so at least there's that. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 0hr
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

the restless heart, the promised land

I shall not discuss work today; instead I shall tell you what my horoscope was, and tell you that it was accurate: "You might have a hard time today because you cannot clearly state what you want. Part of the problem is that by the time you do speak up, your feelings have already shifted. Unfortunately, you can be so exacting that you set an unrealistic goal. Keep in mind that you won't need to lower your standards to allow others additional flexibility in how they respond to you."

Because I was prepping all day for a meeting that went completely sideways when I got into it, I didn't get anything else done -- and rather than try to salvage the remaining couple of hours, I bolted. Don't worry, nothing bad happened, and I'm not trying to be dramatic; I'm just fighting my natural tendency to be as honest as possible here with the pragmatic caution of not sharing anything substantive about my day job. The reality is that *nothing* happened because when I went to say what I was about to say in that meeting, I froze and couldn't do it. Luckily, I will have an entire drive to LA tomorrow afternoon to ponder what my inexplicable silence might mean.

So I went to Starbucks and thought about writing, but was too shellshocked by how my tongue had betrayed me to get anything done. Instead, I went to downtown Mountain View, bought a couple of books (I was in the mood for a real, paper book, rather than my Kindle), picked up some takeout sushi, came home, and read all night. The book I read was THE HUNGER GAMES, which turned out to be utterly fantastic; it's a dystopic young adult thriller/romance involving a RUNNING MAN/BATTLE ROYALE-ish fight to the death amongst 24 teenagers, but the writing is gorgeous and the story is haunting. I finished it without taking a single break -- I'm going to have to go back and read it again sometime to analyze the plotting and pacing, but it was really enjoyable. I immediately ordered book two (will arrive Tuesday), and the final book in the trilogy is coming out in ten days, so this is good timing.

And now, I suppose I should go to bed; reading was great, and it was nice to take a break from the writing for a night, but I haven't packed for LA yet, and so I need to pack before work tomorrow. Luckily I don't have to worry about weight restrictions or liquid packing issues (and also, I'm going to be there all of forty-eight hours), so packing shouldn't be too difficult. I should still get some sleep, though -- goodnight!

Daily word count: 0 (0% of goal)
Productive time: 3hr (counting reading THE HUNGER GAMES as research for my eventual foray into writing young adult romances)
RescueTime productivity rating: -- (global average: 0.34)

i know she said it's alright, but you can make it up next time

My mind is blown.

There's really no use in describing most of my day; it was just a bunch of work, which I showed up five minutes late to with dripping wet hair. I did have a v. overdue lunch with Sarah and Joann at In-n-Out, since Sarah is in town from Japan for the week, but the rest of it was a boring slog. Then, I left at five and rewrote two scenes (yay me) before meeting up for dinner and a movie with John and Jess.

We had dinner in Sunnyvale at a v. good Mexican restaurant, and I got to see their new place (which is quite lovely). Then, we hightailed it to the theatre, and got there just in time to see "Inception", which I have wanted to see for several weeks and finally had the excuse to check out. And, as a result, my mind is blown.

I won't give any spoilers here, since I'm sure some of you haven't seen it -- but it was one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. It was so good, in fact, that it forced me to stop analyzing it somewhere around the midpoint. One of the perils of my insane focus on storytelling is that it's hard for me to *enjoy* stories purely; I tend to either consciously or unconsciously pay too much attention to the way things are structured, how characters are developed, what types of scenes are included, how the vision is laid out, etc. And at first, I was ticking off the types of scenes I was seeing -- laying out the 'normal world', the invitation to the special world, locating a mentor, assembling the team, training sequences, point of no return, etc. And now, even though I can retroactively identify the points where the characters kicked into obsessive drive, or experienced dark nights of the soul, or whatever, I had stopped thinking in analytical terms long before I got to those points.

Somewhere around the point where they got on the plane, I stopped caring about the mechanics of the story and just *felt* it. And the actors were good enough to really sell it to me. If I could get a fraction of the emotion and perilous stakes of the climax into my own work, I would be a v. happy camper.

I may have to go back again and watch it with a notebook in hand -- but for tonight, I just want to dream about it again. I came home and immediately got a smashingly violent headache, though, so we'll see whether my dreams are vibrant or bleak. But now, I must sleep; I must finish editing sequence two tomorrow before packing for LA, so I need to get a lot done. Goodnight!

Daily word count: -411 (-20.55% of goal - the price of editing is that I cut stuff)
Productive time: 1hr
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.25 (global average: 0.34)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

goodbye rosie, the queen of corona

I should really go to bed; I've eased back into the working world by getting into the office after nine a.m. both yesterday and today, but I have the usual Wednesday 8am meeting tomorrow, so I need to pull myself together. I will do my best to go in and not be totally surly, although at 8am, I am almost always surly.

The day job was fine; nothing too exciting, but nothing too exhausting either. I had an excellent lunch (conversation-wise, not necessarily food-wise, although since it was Baked Potato Tuesday, it was pretty good) with Dontae, who used to report to me before we both abandoned ship and went to other teams. Then, I slogged until around six p.m., when I adjourned to Philz Coffee to get some writing done. Between my time there and at home, I netted -61 words -- but since I almost completely rewrote a scene that ended up being 2662 words, I'll count that as a spiritual victory even if it doesn't look good on paper. I'm still hoping to get through the sequence two edits before the weekend, although it's going to be a stretch; I'm seeing "Inception" tomorrow night with John and Jess, and then I have to pack on Thursday so that I can drive to LA on Friday. At least by getting in early tomorrow I can leave early and hopefully write before the movie; we shall see.

And now, I shall go to bed. Please wish Katie a happy birthday! I called her this afternoon while I was still at work; when she asked why I was calling her so early, I said it was because I assumed she would be having birthday sex (while listening to the song 'Birthday Sex') later, which seemed to mildly horrify her. However, I'm guessing that if her damned cat was screaming all night the way he was while we were on the phone, it was probably a mood killer. Goodnight!

Daily word count: -61 (-3.05% of goal)
Productive time: 2.75hrs
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.44 (global average: 0.34)

Monday, August 09, 2010

lips and teeth to ask how my day went

I pride myself for having a way with words, but there are no words to express the utterly dismal feelings I had when returning to work today after two weeks off. I should have come back relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready for new challenges ahead; instead, I came back surly and dissatisfied, with absolutely no desire to vanquish the beasts lurking in my inbox. I did manage to get through my inbox and take care of some other tasks, but it wasn't my most productive day ever. Of course, it was good to have free food again, and I said hi to a couple of people I hadn't seen since before I left, but other than that, it was a rather lackluster day.

When I left work, traffic was backed up because of a Rush concert at Shoreline, which meant that it took me ten minutes to get out of the parking lot (the perils of sharing a single access road with one of the area's major amphitheatres). I swear that I could smell marijuana from the parking lot, which was a good half-mile away from the amphitheatre itself. But, I finally escaped, and made my way to Starbucks, where I wrote for a bit. Between that writing session and the writing I just did, I wrote ~800 words tonight, revising and mostly rewriting a scene in the second sequence of my book. I'm pretty happy with it, although we'll see if I feel the same way tomorrow when I tackle the scene that comes after it.

I spent some quality time this evening procrastinating on Twitter and Wikipedia; I should have read a book, but I wasn't in the mood to think about what I wanted to read next. And now, I should go to sleep; I need to be a bit more productive at work tomorrow so that I can get out early and write before having dinner with a friend. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 811 (40.55% of goal)
Productive time: 2.5hrs
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.51 (global average: 0.34)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

i'd look psychotic in a balaclava

I am utterly, definitively unenthused about going back to work tomorrow. Taking two weeks off was wonderful, but it may have been completely detrimental to my desire to return to the corporate world. My thoughts are all swirling around Madeleine and Ferguson, and Ellie and her hero after that (particularly since I had the blindingly awesome realization that Ellie's story is a twist on Penelope from "The Odyssey" - and while Ellie is a nickname for Elinor, it could have been a nickname for Penelope all along).

So anyway, I spent the day taking care of a variety of tings that needed to get done, such as two loads of laundry and the chopping and freezing of a lot of vegetables that I bought earlier in the week and didn't eat. I also talked to my parents, who had just gotten back from helping my brother to move stuff down to his new apartment in Oklahoma (he's going to OSU for grad school this fall!). Then, I spent some quality time with my manuscript; according to Scrivener (which counts actual words added/deleted), I lost 1000 words, but since I added a couple of scenes back in, I'm actually up a couple of thousand words. Either way, I'm basically done with the first sequence edits, and have a clear plan of attack for the second sequence, which I should be able to finish tomorrow -- at which point, I will be 25% of the way through the book, and easily able to edit the third and fourth sequences this week. If I can make it to the midpoint of the book, where I have to start writing entirely new material, by next week, I'll be v. happy.

Now, though, I suppose I should go to bed so that I can go to work tomorrow with some semblance of a smile (preferably one that doesn't look like a grimace) on my face. Goodnight!

Daily word count: -914 (-45.7% of goal)
Productive time: 3.75hrs
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.49 (global average: 0.16)

when i win your heart, i'm gonna paint it cherry red

Today was one of those days where every word felt like a struggle and I just did not want to keep going -- but I managed to get almost all the way to 2000 words, which I'll take. I spent the morning avoiding my laptop; I lazed about in bed until almost ten, and then I finally unpacked from the conference and put everything (mostly) away. I'm getting tired of living in an unfinished space, and so I'm going to have to sacrifice some writing time in the near future to finish unpacking and do some decorating (and put the bed together that I got two months ago, which is still sitting in boxes strategically leaned up against walls throughout the house).

But, I managed to pull myself together and get out of the house, which helped the writing. Between a stint at Starbucks on Stanford Ave (which I *adore* now, with its new layout and furniture) and another forced march on my couch, I wrote 1954 words. They aren't pretty words, and I'm going to have to rewrite some of them, but at least they exist. Ferguson also strangely and unexpectedly got both a former mistress (who will demonstrate that he wasn't a true rake) and an elderly aunt named Sophronia (who will potentially serve as his marriage-minded conscience). I can't explain how odd it is for characters to show up and then sometimes feel like they could be more than just a walk-on part -- but it happens, and now I just need to make sure they really fit in with the rest of the book.

I finally threw in the towel just short of the goal so that I could retinsel my hair in honor of Oniel's birthday. I went with blue, and got it done in record time; now we'll see how many strands of tinsel fall out while I'm sleeping. Then, in a show of supreme affection, I actually drove to the east bay to celebrate Oniel's birthday -- he and his girlfriend Katie had a Jamaicaan themed dinner, which included this incredible food called a "patty" that was more like the best empanada you've had in your entire life. John and Jess were there, as were Folkman and Kristen, and Chris showed up a bit later (sans Connie), so it was great to catch up with all of them. Now that I'm back in the area for awhile (well, except for the trip to LA I'm taking next weekend), I need to start hanging out with all these people again. First plan: with John and Jess's encouragement, I'm going to try to restart watching movies with a whole slew of people. I used to go to the movies all the time, but after the disaster that was "King Arthur", people don't see movies with me anymore :( But since more people have moved to the south bay, perhaps I'll be able to bring the tradition back.

I'm falling asleep over the keyboard, so it's time for bed. I want to write tomorrow, do some laundry, and generally prepare to go back to work (boo), and so I need to go to bed so that I can wake up at a reasonable hour. Goodnight!


Daily word count: 1954 (97.7% of goal)
Productive time: 3hrs 15mins
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.4 (global average: 0.17)

Saturday, August 07, 2010

run run run away, it's your heart that you'll betray

I have to go to bed RIGHT NOW. My plans to be productive failed today; instead, I went up to the evil city to "work" with Vidya, which turned into like eight hours of not working. We started at Coffee Bar, where the coffee is fantastic and the scene/seating is terrible. Then, we went to Starbucks across the street, where the coffee is mediocre, but where the seating is lovely because they've recently remodeled. Unfortunately, just as I was finally starting to write, the fire alarm went off, so we had to vacate.

We ended up going to Hidden Vine to drink wine, which pretty much ended any writing I might have done today. After Hidden Vine, we went to Hotel Biron (another wine bar, this one in Hayes Valley), where we had more wine. Then, we went to some Mexican restaurant in the Mission to meet the other Vidya, as well as the other Vidya's friend Nishu). I feel slightly tricked, since it turned out to be a *vegan* Mexican restaurant -- since my favorite items involve both sour cream and shredded cheese, and vegans don't even use milk or eggs, I was not holding my breath. As it turned out, the food wasn't bad, but I got way more full than I expected, and now I have a stomachache (possibly from the "cheese" made out of cashews). So, I think it's time for bed; tomorrow I have to get back on the writing horse. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 135 (6.795% of goal)
Productive time: 15mins
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.16 (global average: 0.34)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

leave tonight or live and die this way

I've realized and am slowly coming to accept that I'm not really a 'balance' kind of person. All the advice out there is that you should strive for balance, maintaining a good relationship between work and personal life, making sure you have enough time to relax so that you can focus when you're working, etc.

But, I don't know if that's actually true for me. Looking back over the past few years, I was probably most miserable when I wasn't pushing hard enough in a direction that I wanted to go. It's probably not healthy, and it's probably not good for my relationships, but I'm just kind of an all-or-nothing kind of person. So it's little wonder that I've been having trouble 'balancing' my day job and my writing, since I feel like I should be throwing everything into either one or the other.

This week it's all writing all the time, which is going surprisingly well, even if I am getting nine hours of sleep a night. Today, I rolled out the door by eleven and went to Green Library, where I spent the afternoon alternating between the Bender Room (one of my favorite rooms in the world -- it's perfect even when there's someone snoring on one of the couches) and the Lane Reading Room. I took a break to have a sandwich at the new Coupa Cafe outside the library, and when I finally wrapped up for the day, I grabbed one of their tiger spice chais to nurse on the way home.

I took a bit of a break when I got home, interrupted by someone knocking on my door. It turned out to be a somewhat sketchy looking dude carrying two coolers and looking for my neighbor (since the division between our properties is quite confusing) -- and it says a lot that I was more nervous about someone seeing the messy state of my house than I was about possibly ending up as a cautionary tale. Then, I snuck into my office after hours to drop off my drycleaning and pick up a couple of packages, and adjourned to Starbucks to write for another hour or two. They've remodeled the Starbucks at the corner of Stanford Ave., for the first time in the ten years that I've been going there, and it looks fabulous -- and it was hopping at nine p.m. even though school isn't really in session right now. I finally stopped at a point where I was still excited so that it will be easy to jump in tomorrow, and came home to watch last night's episode of "Top Chef".

So the verdict on my writing today: Scrivener says I wrote 4799 words, which is utterly awesome (close to 20 pages). Unfortunately, I also cut a whole bunch of scenes that no longer work because the duke is dead (long live the duke) -- and so while I wrote 4799 words, I also lost almost 20,000. Damn. But, I feel like I have a decent plan of scenes to add/change/remove/rethink to make these changes work, and I'm excited to execute them. So, I need to keep cracking and see how much I can get done in the next three days before I have to go back to the day job. Sigh.

Okay, it's time for bed -- Madeleine and Ferguson await!

Daily word count: 4799 (239.95% of goal)
Productive time: 4.5hrs
RescueTime productivity rating: 1.18 (global average: 0.34)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

i like it rough

It's really ridiculous how close I am to Stanford -- I took a walk this morning when I wasn't ready to settle down to my laptop, and it only took me ~15mins to get to Green Library. That's close enough that I could easily work there during the day if I had a library pass (which I can get whenever I'm taking a writing class at Stanford -- or I could purchase access, which I intend to do when I start researching my gargoyle young adult romance novel series). And, in a move that probably happened ages ago but that I just discovered, they've replaced Moonbeans (the little cafe in the trailer between Green and Meyer Library) with a branch of Coupa Cafe from downtown Palo Alto. If they have Coupa's delicious tiger spice chai, this is going to be v. dangerous for me.

Anyway, I did manage to settle down eventually, and I was quite productive -- I wrote ten pages today, which is pretty good considering that my tracking software says I only actively wrote for two hours and twenty minutes. I sat in front of it for much longer than that, since the tracking software only catches active typing/cursor movement, but still, I'm pretty pleased. I took a break around four p.m. to drive over to the Starbucks near my day job, where I wrote for another hour while waiting for Heather (aka dear respected madam) to call me. We had made plans to have dinner tonight, but since Salim got a job in Redwood City and they currently only have one car, she needed a ride to wherever we were eating.

Amusingly, when I asked where she wanted to go, she suggested either Indian or the Olive Garden. So, we ended up going to the Olive Garden in a completely real and non-ironic way. I had chicken parmagiana, she had broccoli con pollo sans pollo (she likes the broccoli/sauce/pasta part of the dish, but not the chicken, so she asked them to hold the chicken). We ended up hanging out and catching up for a couple of hours, which was wonderful -- I hadn't seen anyone I knew since I left the conference on Sunday, so it was good to catch up.

After I dropped her off, I came home, talked to Terry, and watched an episode of "Covert Affairs". And now, I think I shall go to bed; I desperately want to keep up the productivity tomorrow and see if I can get it even higher, so it's time to get some sleep. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 2501 (125.05% of goal)
Productive time: 3hrs
RescueTime productivity rating: 0.9 (global average: 0.34)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

moving at the speed of light into eternity

All in all I was pretty productive today; that doesn't mean that I was 100% optimally productive, but given that I was rewriting the first chapter, that's perhaps to be expected. For starters, I hate first chapters, and even though I had a pretty good start, it had to be completely changed to reflect the changes that I'm making to Ferguson's character. Since the duke is now dead and Ferguson has inherited (congrats, Fergie!), the old duke obviously couldn't be part of Madeleine and Ferguson's first meeting, and he also couldn't send Ferguson to the playhouse to discover Madeleine, which meant that he had to have a new reason to go to the theatre. So now, Ferguson has not only inherited, but he now suddenly has more siblings, including a younger brother who is mysteriously setting out to ruin himself -- and it's in search of him that Ferguson ends up at the theatre.

Working out all the plot threads in my head to make sure they work and don't overcomplicate things is fun, though -- despite all my avarice and my desire to be a major bestseller with enough money to employ the eight or ten friends who all want me to support them someday (Hi Chandlord!), the core of my desire to be a writer is my fascination with telling stories. This was all reinforced by this test that I took last night (which I would have told you about last night, had I not been falling asleep). It's called StrengthsFinder 2.0, and it's something that a lot of people at work have taken in various trainings. I haven't had a chance to take it at work, so I finally broke down and ordered the book, which gave me an access code to take the diagnostic test online.

The premise is that too many people focus on improving their weaknesses, when they should be playing to their strengths. So, the system attempts to determine your top five strengths so that you can then focus on growing them and making them even better. Based on my answers, my five strengths are:

Ideation: fascinated by ideas and able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena
Strategic: create alternative ways to proceed; faced with any given scenario, can quickly spot relative patterns and issues
Context: enjoy thinking about the past; understand the present by researching its history
Learner: great desire to learn and continuously improve; the process of learning, rather than the outcome, is what excites them
Input: craving to know more; they like to collect and archive all kinds of information

Is it just me, or are many of these kind of the same? Even after getting past my pet peeve that the various types are not the same kind of word ('Context' does not describe a person, unlike 'Learner'), I was struck and almost disappointed by how interrelated my strengths were. Theoretically this is a good thing, because if I built upon a very strong foundation of learning a lot of stuff and seeking the patterns, I could be really great at...something.

But what is that something? History professor seems perfect, but for the fact that it takes ten years of studying and I'm too old to put myself through that for the dubious rewards at the end of it. I think I would probably also be a pretty good consultant -- able to research, grasp connections, and propose creative solutions to problems. These skills also seem well-suited to being a novelist, particularly a historical novelist -- there is a lot of ideation and problem-solving going on with each scene and arc, and I love the research that goes into historical works.

Unfortunately, it would have been nice if I had any strengths around discipline, reliability, etc. -- those are things I force myself to do, not things that I'm naturally inclined towards. So I'm just going to have to get better at discipline, even if I hate it. I downloaded some software that I know some other writers use (RescueTime), which tells me how much time I spend on productive (Scrivener/writing, Excel, Word, etc.) vs neutral (email) vs unproductive (twitter, news sites, shopping) tasks every day. And in the interest of accountability, I'm going to start posting my totals here every day, even when they're unflattering -- if I'm going to finish my book by October, I have to be ruthless about getting shit done.

And now I'm going to go to bed so that I can get up tomorrow and be ruthless. Goodnight!

Daily word count: 2136 (106.8% of goal)
Productive time: -- (not tracking the whole day)
RescueTime productivity rating: 1.1 (global average: 0.32)

imagine all the boys and the girls

This may not even be a four-minute post, given that I fell asleep on the couch and woke up with my laptop still on my lap (which, while embarrassing, was better than waking up with it on the floor). I was pretty productive today, although not optimally so, since I woke up with no food or milk in the house, which meant that I couldn't stay in and write because I would be underfed and undercaffeinated. But, I went to Cafe Borrone to resolve my lunch situation, went to Safeway to resolve my broader food situation, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening contemplating my book. I didn't write, but I spent a lot of time dreaming about where my story will go from here -- I had some fantastic ideas and started plotting out scenes, but the real writing will start tomorrow.

And, in the seemingly neverending saga with Comcast, I got a letter today saying that they're about to shut me off for nonpayment even though I set up autopay six weeks ago and my account says I'm on autopay; and, they're charging me $20/mo for HBO that was supposed to be free for the first three months of my package; and, they're still charging me for the DVR that they sent out a serviceman to take while he installed the cablecard for my Tivo. So, I will have to chat with them tomorrow, but I was so annoyed when I read the letter and then logged in to check my bill (which I don't receive in the mail anymore because I'm "on" autopay, even if it isn't working), that I decided to leave it until tomorrow.

And so, I'm going to go to bed so that I can make the writing happen in the morning before dealing with Comcast later. Goodnight!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

only get closer to the point where i can take no more

It feels like it took forever to get home -- perhaps because, door to door from my hotel to my house, took twelve hours. The Orlando airport is a nightmare of screaming kids, tired parents, and congested security lines; I sacrificed a few dollar bills to check my luggage at curbside rather than stand in the 45 minute line for the regular check-in, but I still had to stand in line for over half an hour to go through security. I got to the airport about three hours before my departure time, but after all that madness, I really only had time to grab a coffee, eat some pizza, and buy a sandwich and other sundries for the flight before it was time to board.

My day started off perfectly. I had brunch with Grace and Tina at Kouzzina (the same Cat Cora restaurant I had dinner at earlier in the week), where I had some delicious poached eggs with artichoke spread and sweet potato hash; Grace and Tina are both great, and I'm hoping to work with them on my writing in the future. Then, I packed like the devil (if the devil ever packs for his travels; I assume he either doesn't need to pack anything, or has a demon valet to do it for him). Luckily, I checked my flight status before I left for the airport and discovered that my flight to Phoenix was delayed, which meant I was going to miss my connection to SF. So, I called Southwest before I left the hotel and got them to rebook me via Denver. While this meant that I ended up in the last group to board the flight out of Orlando, and so got stuck with a dreaded middle seat between a heavyset guy and a woman with a two year old (although the two year old was sweet and spent most of the flight with his dad across the aisle), at least I made it home tonight. As it turns out, I was lucky to make it out of Orlando when I did, since they had to halt ground operations for awhile shortly after we took off.

The landing in Denver was really rough and a little sickmaking -- we tried to land once and abandoned the attempt, and then circled several times. It was storming off and on there, which didn't make things easy, but we eventually landed, and I got on my SF flight without any incidents. And then I got to San Francisco, picked up my car, drove home, and am ready to crash.

I'm taking this week off to write, so I don't have to go into the office tomorrow -- but I do have to get up to write if I'm going to be at all successful with finishing this book. So, goodnight!