Friday, December 31, 2010

come back baby, rock and roll never forgets

Happy New Year! Midnight was approximately eight minutes ago in Iowa, and I celebrated it in my usual Iowa fashion -- alone, in my pajamas, while my parents slept soundly in the living room. I believe that my brother is also asleep, since his closest friends weren't around this weekend either; if he's not asleep, he's certainly maintaining a deathly silence to keep me from knocking on his door.

It's certainly a fitting whimper-y end to 2010; for all that I had some v. memorable high points and a generally happy past few months, the year had an undercurrent of anxiety and defeat that I am more than ready to put behind me. That's perhaps putting it on too strong, since I'm thrilled that I quit my job, genuinely happy with the state of my relationships, and overall feeling healthier and more balanced than I have in ages. But, without a job to bitch about, my book is hanging over me more than usual, and my writing certainly didn't progress in 2010 as I would have liked. So I'm looking forward to 2011, and to all the projects I intend to work on, and even to turning thirty and acknowledging that life is moving too fast for me to keep wasting time.

But enough about that. Today was our old country feast, which ended up being about as much work as one might expect of something related to the old country -- it certainly would have been a hell of a lot easier to just order pizza and call it a night, but the deliciousness of what we produced made up for it. I got up around noon and messed around until 2:30, but then cooked straight from 2:30 to 7ish. My mother made a chocolate meringue pie (my favorite) which we didn't even eat tonight because we were so full from the old country food. I made syrniki, which are these awesome, sweet, fried 'pancakes' made of cottage cheese with raisins, egg, and a bit of flour -- you really can't beat fried, sweet cheesy goodness. It's more of a breakfast food, but I had wanted to recreate them ever since we had them in Ukraine, and I finally found a recipe that seemed worth trying. I also made 125 pelmini, with meat leftover to make that many again tomorrow -- pelmini are essentially little dumplings filled with pork, beef and onion, boiled and then tossed in butter, and these were absolutely to die for (even if rolling out the dough and filling/shaping that many dumplings is not a quick task). Then, with my mother's help grating the potatoes/carrots/onion, I made deruni, which are fried potato cakes that are perfect with sour cream on top.

So needless to say, we had a lot to eat tonight, although the house didn't smell quite as Ukrainian as it might have because I assiduously avoided any dishes containing boiled cabbage (which means that it wasn't really so authentic after all). However, it was also rather exhausting, and so we didn't end up playing games tonight as planned -- luckily, if I hold my Lincoln vs. Stalin party, everything that I would make could be made in advance (although I'll have to decide whether I really want to fry stuff during a party -- or whether I should, given that mixing copious vodka consumption with hot oil sounds like a dangerous proposition). So instead, we watched tv, everyone fell asleep, and I even briefly dozed off before deciding to come downstairs and go to bed.

And that, my friends, is the end of 2010. I'm going to sign off and write in my journal a bit before going to bed. I hope that you all have lovely celebrations and a wonderful new year!

johnny's in the basement mixing up the medicine

I think I'm finally ready to fall asleep; after sleeping for approximately five hours in the truck on the way to/from Columbia, I didn't exactly feel like going to bed early tonight. We all managed to drag ourselves out of bed and out the door by 7:30 this morning, and my wakefulness was hammered into me, rather than gently coaxed, by almost immediately running out of hot water in the shower -- cold showers are much colder when the temperature of the water coming into your faucet from the pipes in the frozen ground is approximately 34 degrees. But, I somehow survived despite liking to pretend that this was a dramatic moment, and then alternated between watching the scenery and sleeping all the way into the heart of Missouri.

We met up with Aunt Dee and her three kids (Moriah, Eli, and Jordan) at Cracker Barrel -- I've never been to Cracker Barrel before, even though it sounds like a ubiquitous midwestern restaurant. I did decided to go for broke and order the chicken fried steak with gravy and biscuits and a sweet tea; Alyssa will not be pleased with me, but how could I possibly order a salad at Cracker Barrel? Besides, I saw the salads, and they were covered in cheese, meat, dressing, etc. -- hardly healthy anyway, right?

It was good to see them all, albeit bittersweet; observant readers may recall that Aunt Dee's husband, Uncle Scott, passed away unexpectedly while my father and I were in Singapore in April, and so we missed the funeral because we couldn't get back in time. I hadn't seen Aunt Dee or the kids after that, since I didn't come home much this year, and so it's good that we got together. We could only spend a couple of hours with them, since Moriah had to be back in St. Louis by 4pm for work, but it was good nonetheless.

Then we turned around and drove home, allowing me to nap again, although I did wake up long enough to run into a Super Walmart in northern Missouri to get a drink (and the location/clientele prompted my brother to mutter "I hope you have hobo stab insurance" as we walked through the parking lot). When we got home, I procrastinated until suppertime, procrastinated some more, talked to my mother about the prospects of the Iowa State men's basketball program this year (verdict: they're doing surprisingly well, despite having only nine eligible players, and our old star player Fred Hoiberg has returned to coach and appears to be seeing results alreadY). Then, my mother just happened to check the score of the Stanford/UConn women's basketball game and told me that Stanford was up, so I caught the last four or five minutes on ESPN streaming -- it was really cool to watch history being made, and it made me want to get tickets to a game so that I can see the "new" Maples Pavilion, since I haven't been to a game since before the renovation.

I should sleep now, though; we may or may not be making a traditional old country feast of delicious Ukrainian delicacies tomorrow, and if we are, I will need all my strength to peel and grate potatoes, strain cheese, roll out dough, and do any of the other myriad tasks required to put on a Ukrainian event (although I will not be standing in line tomorrow for a loaf of bread, for sure). [editor's note: I just fell asleep in a v. contorted position in my papasan with my laptop still balanced on my legs, so I may wake up tomorrow with bruises -- sleep is even more imperative, so goodnight!]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

tell the devil i said hey when you get back to where you're from

Tomorrow is going to be a disaster because I didn't go to bed two hours ago as planned; instead, I sat around and did some financial planning with an eye toward the new year (said financial planning becoming more important to actually follow given that I no longer have an income, since apparently dreams do not equal paychecks -- who knew?). But since I'm currently constitutionally incapable of going to bed at 10:30, perhaps that's not a surprise. However, I have to get up at 6:30 so that we can be out the door by 7:30 to meet up with my mom's sister and her kids deep in the heart of Missouri. Since we're going to Missouri, I could probably get away with wearing sweats, but since the only sweats I have here say either Stanford or Google on them, they wouldn't exactly blend in.

Today was great, though -- I am thrilled to say that finally, after many years of struggle, I won a game of Rail Baron today. It was a v. close, dramatic finish, but I did it, and lo, a great burden of past failure was lifted from my shoulders. The fact that we were playing a six-person game completely changed matters, since gameplay is vastly different with that many people -- Uncle Mark, Aunt Kathy, and Drewbaby came down for the day specifically to play Rail Baron, which was duly accomplished in six or seven hours. They brought chili for lunch and sandwich meat for supper, and an excellent time was had by all. It was Drew's first introduction to Rail Baron, and he did quite well; the Wampler force runs deep within him, even if he's trying to escape it by becoming a star athlete rather than a history dork or political aficionado or any other type of borderline-obsessive hobbyist. It was good to see them in a more laid-back situation than the time we spent celebrating Christmas + Gram's birthday, and I'm glad they came down -- Drewbaby's my only cousin on that side of the family, and I consider it a minor miracle that my brother, Drew and I get along, even if our relationship is primarily fueled by insulting our elders.

After they left, I watched some fine CBS programming with my mother -- a heartbreaking episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, a par for the course creepy episode of Criminal Minds, and an episode of The Defenders (which I'm v. happy to have discovered on this trip -- I'll have to tivo it when I get home). And now, I really must go to bed -- time and Missouri wait for no man. Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

no one understands what major tom sees

I was hopeful that naming my fears last night would enable me to overcome them this morning, but I still didn't write much today. I certainly didn't actively waste as much time today as I did yesterday; I did sleep in, but after that, I didn't spend all that much time on the internet. Instead, I hung out upstairs, made some tuna salad (with miracle whip and homemade sweet pickles like a good midwesterner - sorry if you find that disgusting) for lunch, and then was forced to shower and doll myself up for an unexpected visit from some of my mother's cousins. The cousins were Nancy (whom Katie would remember, as she occasionally subbed at our school way back in the day), Donna (a prof at ISU), Nancy's son Jason (who teaches at a college near Boston), Jason's wife Emily, and Aunt Leila (who has gotten the last laugh in her longstanding pseudo-feud with my grandmother by outliving her - congrats Aunt Leila!). As I said, this was quite unexpected, since they called earlier in the afternoon and said they were coming over, but it was nice to see them (and it gave me a built-in excuse for why I didn't have time to write today).

After they left, I read through my mother's Russian cookbook (of which I have a copy in California), since we're going to do a 'feast of the old country' while I'm home. The old country actually has nothing to do with our ancestry, but since a) we lived in Ukraine and b) all the immigrants in my family came over so many centuries ago that we haven't preserved any old country traditions, it's always fun to do some Ukrainian feasting once in awhile. We'll make the usual pelminis (pork-filled dumplings) and deruni (potato pancakes), but I was ecstatic to find a recipe for something that sounds like the delicious cheesy pancakes filled with raisins (or mushrooms) and covered in sour cream that we had for breakfast every when we visited in 2007. So, I'm going to have to try my hand at them while I'm home.

Which brings me to the exciting news that I'm going to throw a "Lincoln vs. Stalin" party at some point in the nearish future -- maybe a May Day party? There were plenty of Civil War battles to commemorate in April/May, including the first shots at Fort Sumter on April 12 (which overlaps nicely with the Soviet holiday of "Cosmonautics Day" to honor Yuri Gagarin) and Lincoln's assassination on April 14. Also, Stalin died in March, so an March/April party could be fitting.

The main point, though, is that while the idea of a Lincoln vs. Stalin party is patently absurd (and I'm pretty sure that Stalin would crush Lincoln, sad as it makes me to admit that), it enables a perfect marriage between my lovely log cabin, a bunch of Russian food, and copious supplies of ice-cold vodka and champagne. And who wouldn't want to celebrate that?

Anyway, after supper (roast beef and mashed potatoes), I watched the Kennedy Center Honors with my parents, which I quite enjoyed. At some point, I also wrote a character profile for another secondary character (Madeleine's aunt), which I realized was critical because her actions in this book have to make sense with her personality in the first book I wrote, or else there is no reason why Amelia would end up in an arranged marriage. So the day wasn't a total loss, although I'm not making the progress I would like.

But now, I should sleep; we've got more family stuff tomorrow, and our trip to Missouri is apparently happening on Thursday, so I need to get some stuff done tomorrow morning before the madness begins anew. Goodnight!

Monday, December 27, 2010

i apologize even though i know it's lies

I have a couple of apologies to post tonight. First up is to the entire Wampler family for claiming that our beloved five-cup salad contains apricots. The truth, my friends, is that it contains canned mandarin oranges. I knew this, but apparently completely blanked on the name of the fruit, and so apologies are in order.

Second, I have to apologize to Madeleine and Ferguson (and the handful of people who have read the first half of the book) for leaving them in limbo. I didn't accomplish much today, even though I had the whole day at my disposal; while I did come up with a good alternative for an early scene that has been giving me problems, and I also wrote a couple of character profiles for some secondary characters so that I understand their motivations in the endgame, I didn't do any 'real' writing. Self-diagnosing, I think that my pernicious writer's block boils down to a v. thorny knot of separate but related problems: 1) fear of failing to produce something up to my own impossible standards; 2) fear of going through the same awful set of rejections as I did with the first book; and 3) paradoxically, fear of success and how success might change what/how I write by adding deadlines/promotion/publicity responsibilities. And if the success is big enough eventually, it could theoretically change my whole life, and while I'd like to believe that I'm grounded enough that it wouldn't particularly matter, there's no guarantee that the change would be a net positive.

Stupid, stupid. The first two issues are a matter of overcoming my perfectionist/rejection-avoiding tendencies, which I can eventually do (I finished one book, after all, and on more lucid days I feel good about this one). Unfortunately, the last issue is proving harder to talk myself out of (or at least around), since I paradoxically want to be a megastar author like Nora Roberts or JK Rowling and also want to keep my comfortable middle class life without jeopardizing any relationships with my family, friends, hometown, etc., etc. Granted, the more immediate issue is that I will starve to death (or, more likely, have to go back to corporate America) if I don't sell some books, but I'm a dreamer, and my dreams about the future could turn into nightmares.

But, they will certainly turn into nightmares if I don't finish this damn book and write the other five or ten ideas that are piling up in my brain waiting for me to start something new, and then write the dozens of ideas that will inevitably show up after them. At the end of my life, if I haven't written books and connected with people via my writing, I will feel that I have failed -- it's the single thing that I want the most, even if my writer's block doesn't make it look like that. Still, that desire is at the crux of my present inner conflict -- just saying that it's the single thing that I want the most clearly ignores other things that I want, like family, friends, health, whatever. The tug between my inner writing life and my need to have a satisfying outer life is not something I've learned to manage at all, and I'm going to have to learn it if I'm to succeed in the ways that I want to.

Anyway, this is getting way too heavy for a blog that usually only offers you a recap of who I've seen and what I've eaten every day. For that record, I only saw my parents and brother, and I had a prime rib sandwich for lunch (yum) and a tenderloin with fried mashed potato patties (double yum) for supper. I also watched some fine CBS programming with my mother, and we both agreed on the fact that Alex O'Loughlin from "Hawaii Five-O" (formerly of "Three Rivers" and "Moonlight") is v. hot -- I'm glad CBS keeps casting him in shows, and I hope this one works out for him. And now, I should probably go to bed; we may or may not be going into the heart of Missouri tomorrow, and if so, I need sleep (and maybe a tetanus shot). Goodnight!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

until you came along, now there's one less thing wrong

I have nothing of interest to report -- I rolled out of bed around eleven a.m., and by 12:30 p.m., the family was settled in for a game of Rail Baron that lasted until seven. I should have read my horoscope earlier today, as it said it all:

"Feelings of jealousy or envy can fuel an emotionally exhausting melodrama that has you playing a leading role. You are clear about what you want now and have a sensible plan to get it. But love doesn't always play by the rules, so parts of your well-constructed strategy might not work as well as you expect. Don't push to get something for nothing. Paradoxically, living in the present moment only works if you can also keep an eye toward the future."

I do play a leading role in Rail Baron, as I am always the banker, which ensures that I'm pretty much stuck paying attention to everything rather than wandering about the kitchen like the rest of the family. And while I did have a strategy, and acted more Carnegie-like than I usually do, I'm quite annoyed that my brother won again. I ended up without a rail presence in the northeast, which for reasons that I won't explain to you is typically a game killer, and so I limped around without ever being seriously in contention. Boo.

But, at least supper was good; my dad has a deli-style meat slicer, and so sliced up the leftover prime rib from last night for sandwiches. Needless to say, they were awesome, and I enjoyed eating a variety of leftover casseroles and some five-cup salad (a v. midwestern concoction of canned apricots, canned pineapple, coconut flakes, marshmallows, and sour cream that is way way tastier than it sounds). After Rail Baron reached its unsatisfying conclusion, we watched an episode of a multi-episode public television documentary series about a woman who has watched the lives of several wild horses out in Montana, which was quite amusing; then, we switched back to CBS, and I watched an even-more-ridiculous-than-usual episode of "CSI: Miami" (with a particularly good intro in which Horatio said, "It's a wrap" right before the opening squeal) and a good episode of "The Mentalist."

After all that television, I spent some quality time getting reacquainted with my novel, as the characters are calling to me in increasingly desperate tones in the hopes of getting some resolution. So rather than staying up until three a.m., I swear that I'm going to bed as soon as I end this -- hopefully I'll get some writing done tomorrow before doing whatever fun things we choose to do. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

you were standing on another track like a real aristocrat

Merry Christmas, friends and stalkers! I hope that y'all had as lovely a day as I did -- this was truly one of the more lovely, relaxing Christmases that I've had in recent memory (since at least last year, anyway). I did manage to drag myself out of bed at 7:40am so that we could open packages at an ungodly hour, and we ended up sitting around and opening packages until nine. It's not that we had hundreds to open; rather, we had to start by filling each other's stockings (since we each buy two things for everyone else's stockings) and getting situated with beverages, snacks, and trash bags to collect the paper as it came off the packages (my house is usually quite tidy, but I live in a pig sty compared to my mother's rules of housekeeping). And, we always open the packages one at a time so that everyone can see what everyone got and ooh and aah (or laugh and make derisive comments, since we're all interested in v. different things).

But, even though our interests are quite diverse, I think everyone was pleased. My poor father got the most boring stuff (clothing, Eric Clapton and Willie Nelson CDs, a couple of grill racks/implements, and bags for the vacuum sealer my sister gave him yesterday) since he rarely gives us any ideas, although I would not have been interested in my brother's gifts either (which included something called a 'hammerdrill', a book on welding, speakers, and some country music CDs). My mother got a bunch of gardening stuff, including a pair of kneepads for kneeling in the garden that elicited the usual nausea-inducing wisecracks from my father. And I got some super cute Asian-inspired bowls, a matching soy sauce pitcher, chopsticks, a gorgeous red platter, a coffee grinder, a loaf pan, and champagne flutes (my parents know me so well) from Crate and Barrel, five or six books (including Mark Twain's autobiography, which is way longer than I realized), and a set of my all-time favorite felt-tip pens that deeply upset my brother because it violated all his principles to spend $14 on a set of markers, but he did it anyway because he loves me.

After the giving and receiving of gifts, we took our time with the rest of the morning, eventually having brunch at noon. Gram came over for brunch, and we ate a delicious breakfast casserole, ambrosia, muffins, bacon, juice, etc. off the fancy dishes that mostly only get used around Christmas. Then, most of us took naps off and on all afternoon, eventually waking up for dinner (prime rib, yum). And then I spent the rest of the evening talking to my mother and continuing to read a book on writing that my brother gave me.

But now, after my annual mercenary post about what I got and what I gave, I should probably get some (more) sleep. There is talk of another game of Rail Baron tomorrow, and I must steel my heart against any possible compassion toward my fellow players and buy up railroads with the ruthlessness of a Rockefeller or Carnegie. Goodnight!

Friday, December 24, 2010

should have known you was trouble from the first kiss

Merry Christmas Eve! We continued our Christmas celebrations today with my sister's family, and the party will culminate tomorrow morning at some ungodly hour -- it's the one day of the year when I have to feign enthusiasm for getting up early, since we do Christmas morning as though Santa delivered presents overnight and we have to get up like little kids who can't sleep from excitement. Then again, I do tend to get excited when I wake up, even though the excitement takes several minutes to work through my surliness over being awake; clearly I still haven't grown up.

I inadvertently slept until noon today, then got up and showered, addressed some Christmas cards (I'm approximately halfway there, and clearly none of them will reach their destinations before Christmas), and walked them out to the mailbox in a perfectly idyllic scene of lightly falling snow. We got two or three inches today, which was enough to spruce everything up without causing chaos, and so the usually bleak countryside is now a winter wonderland. My sister showed up around three p.m., and once we were all settled, we opened presents. I got what looks to be an awesome cookbook (healthy cooking for 1-2 people -- once you get over the inherently depressing thought of cooking healthy food alone, it's great), and it has a higher percentage of recipes that I actually want to try than just about any other cookbook I've ever gotten. Granted, I won't be doing much cooking here, but once I get back to California, I see a lot of new recipes in my future.

After opening gifts, we had Christmas Eve dinner -- turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls, green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberry sauce, etc. My nieces and nephew (Sammi, Zane, and Allie) seemed to be in good spirits, and Sammi's daughter Jaicee is about the cutest thing I have ever seen (and remarkably well-behaved and happy), so it was fun to see them. After they left, I helped my mother do the dishes, watched some fine CBS programming ("Blue Bloods", starring a less-sexy-than-he-was-in-the-80s Tom Selleck), did some last-minute wrapping for my father, and then messed around on the internet for too long.

And now, I should really go to bed; I predict that my brother will wake me up in less than six hours so that our parents can hear the pitter-patter of our less-than-little feet (well, my feet are still little, but you know what I mean) coming up the stairs for Christmas morning. Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

but darling, i'd still catch a grenade for ya

Today was actually truly action-packed, and not just the 'action-packed' that I claim in Iowa when I have more than ninety minutes of things to do in a day. I ended up staying up until after three a.m. last night, and so dragging myself out of bed at 9:30 a.m. was v. v. challenging. Still, I managed -- my mother and I had plans to have lunch together, and she wanted to get there early to avoid the crowds. So, I somehow managed to shower, doll myself up, and get ready to leave by eleven so that we could drive to Humeston (about twenty miles away) for lunch.

As it turns out, lunch was fab; my mother had been there several times, including with fellow garden club members and for her secret society's Christmas party, and she thought I would like it. She thought right; the cafe is v. different from the usual offerings of burgers, chicken strips, and steaks at all the other restaurants in our county. I had a bacon and artichoke quiche with french onion soup, and my mom had a ham/broccoli/sundried tomato quiche with a 'tuscan potato' soup that included some spicy sausage. Needless to say, quiche is not particularly common here, but they serve a couple of different quiches every day, in addition to sandwiches, desserts, bona fide loose leaf tea, etc. It's also decorated quaintly, helped along by the fact that they're in a century-old brick building and have knocked off the plaster to expose the brick walls beneath the pressed tin ceiling. And the owner came over to chat with us and was quite friendly, so hopefully I'll go back there next time I'm at home.

After lunch, we walked across the street to Humeston's general store, which truly sells everything except groceries -- you can get clothes, stationery, all sorts of gifts, hardware supplies, medical accessories, etc., etc. We didn't get anything (although I almost bought some miniature 1oz pitchers to do shots out of at the next Lincoln Log Cabin party, but I decided that might be excessive), but it was fun to browse. We then went to the town where my high school was to go to the bank and another store, and then I dropped my mom off at home before going back into town to buy stamps. Then, I came home, wrapped the last of my presents, and infected the entire house with glitter because some of the Christmas cards I'm using are truly glittertastic.

But, rather than having supper and a quiet evening with some fine CBS programming, we decided to play Rail Baron on a whim. My brother won (damn his eyes) in around 5.5 hours, which was quite a fast victory; I was doing v. well, but made a critical error and didn't buy the last railroad even though I had the means because I thought it would drive at least one of the others out of business, and then Michael bought it instead and won while my cash levels stayed flat the rest of the game. Bleh.

Anyway, I should probably go to sleep; provided that the snow doesn't accumulate too much tonight (or, as some around here would say, 'God willing and the creeks don't rise'), my sister's family is coming over for Christmas Eve supper, so I should get some sleep tonight in preparation. Goodnight!

'cause baby you're a firework

I should have gone to bed ages ago; I didn't sleep particularly well last night, which is either a) a sign that I've finally overcome my longstanding sleep deficit and may start needing less than nine hours of sleep a night, or b) the result of having too much caffeine before bedtime and an eastern-facing bedroom window that bathes my bed in too much light. Either way, I went to bed at three and dragged myself out of bed around 10:15 so that I could make a lightning-fast trip to Des Moines to wrap up my Christmas shopping.

On the whole, I was v. successful -- I'm done shopping, and I even found Christmas cards that pleased me to a reasonable degree. But, I didn't get a chance to sit at Borders and write; my father suggested that I would likely want to make it home before dark, and since I had five deer cross my path in broad daylight on my way up to Des Moines, I thought perhaps his suggestion was a wise one. Since Des Moines (and particularly West Des Moines) is over an hour and a half away, that only left me a couple of hours in Des Moines itself before I had to head home.

But, when I got here, my mother had supper cooking (ham and bean soup with cornbread muffins -- v. midwestern), and so the four of us enjoyed a lovely meal. Then, my brother and I, in a display of both early action and relative cooperation that is nearly unheralded, wrapped all the presents that we had stockpiled. This is likely the earliest that I've ever wrapped the bulk of my presents, and the most equitable distribution of wrapping duties that I've seen in quite some time. We wrapped around sixteen packages and are almost done; I'm waiting for a couple more things to come in the mail tomorrow or Friday, and I need to wrap the stuff I got for Michael, but we're basically done -- yay. And to continue the festive holiday cheer, I wrote a bunch of Christmas cards tonight, even though no one will get them until after the actual holiday -- hopefully they will forgive me.

I suppose I should go to bed, though; I've got a lot to do tomorrow, and I need to squeeze in some writing time. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

do you know where cleopatra is?

My brain is buzzing with all sorts of small-town stories -- if I wanted to write books based on small-town life, there is enough material for a lifetime in these parts (although I might risk getting shot, as an alarming number of stories involve death, near-death, and occasional vigilante justice (although, to be fair, most of that was decades ago and some of it may have been exaggerated)). The day started off mostly quietly; I slept in because I managed to write four pages after blogging last night, and then had some lunch, took a shower, helped my mother with ingredients for the soup she was making, and drove into town so that my brother could check the tires on my mom's car.

But the culmination of the day was supper with Ross and Lorena, who are technically our neighbors (as they have ground adjacent to ours) but who actually live in town. I've mentioned them before, I think; he's the Presbyterian minister in town, she taught me and my brother in our Talented and Gifted program in junior high/high school, and they were in an early wave of the Peace Corps in Nigeria back in the '60s. We had a laidback, casual, utterly delicious supper of vegetable/beef soup, a relish tray (similar to what other regions call crudité), jello salad, and leftover cake from my gram's birthday party.

It was all v. nice and relaxing, and we ended up telling many, many stories. Somehow, it all started with my dad asking them if they knew where Cleopatra, Missouri, used to be (and, btw, Cleopatra is pronounced klee-oh-PAY-trah). He described it in relation to other locations around our county and the county in Missouri that borders us, including the farms of people long dead and houses that no longer exist. This included some man named Crazy Legs Maclain, as well as a variety of other characters, and as the stories progressed, it became more and more clear (as it always does) that, as insane as my county is, northern Missouri is ten times worse.

I say that mostly in jest, though, although all the small towns around here look down on each other with a passion that would be utterly incomprehensible to anyone driving through and seeing a seemingly identical series of dilapidated town squares and collapsing main streets. My father's stories should be recorded and stored in some sort of museum (Museum of American History? American Folk Museum?), and they make me laugh, but they also make me sad. Towns like Cleopatra aren't just dead -- they truly no longer exist, and a Google map of where the town used to be just shows a hog farm (part of a bunch of huge industrial hog farming operations spread across that county).

There are all sorts of ghost towns around here that no longer exist except in stories, their buildings plowed under, and even some of their cemeteries have been stripped of their stones and reclaimed for farmland. Within half a mile of this house, I can think of at least three dirt roads that are quickly reverting to wilderness; one that we used to take occasionally to the town where my school was is now completely overgrown and impassable (with a dangerous, possibly washed out bridge to boot), and one that we took regularly into the nearest town is so rutted and poorly kept that it, too, will likely fall back into a vegetative state in the next decade.

So it's quite strange to me that, in the space of 150 years, people (and yes, I callously mean Europeans; there were Native Americans all over around here, and you can find the occasional arrowhead to prove it, but the only Native American I know of around here was adopted by a white family) moved here, hacked towns out of the prairie, built railroads and a grid of roads delineating every square mile, put up schools and churches, and created vibrant communities...only to see everything slowly crumble back into the dirt. Our county's population peaked in 1900 and has been in decline ever since. And the decline is speeding up -- the tipping point was reached twenty (or more) years ago, and the wilderness is too close to taking over to allow for much hope that anyone will pull these towns back from the brink.

Anyway, I think that's enough memories and melancholy for one night; after getting lost in the rabbit hole of Wikipedia, it's now three a.m., and since I need to do all sorts of stuff tomorrow, I should really go to sleep. Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

obscured as it was by great clouds

While the vast wastes of rural Iowa would normally be ideal (albeit chilly) for witnessing a lunar eclipse on a winter solstice, it's unfortunately completely obscured by heavy cloud cover. I may be vaguely happy about this, since it obviates the need for me to go out in subfreezing temperatures to watch everything get darker and then lighter -- but then again, as someone who is about to embark on writing a young adult gargoyle romance set in the present day with a distinct medieval flavor, seeing an eclipse on a solstice would have been a good bit of 'research'.

Alas, it's not meant to be. I didn't go to Des Moines today either; instead, I slept late (albeit not any later than usual), went upstairs and hung out with the fam while having an odd, grazing lunch of Cheerios, leftover birthday cake, and popcorn, and then came downstairs with the intention of taking a shower. I never did take a shower, though; instead, I read romance blogs for awhile, went back upstairs when my grandmother showed up, procrastinated some more, and then ate supper (maid-rites aka loose meat sandwiches, french fries, baked beans, and creamed peas).

After supper, I intended to do some writing, and I set myself up with all my notebooks and my laptop on the island in the kitchen. And I did accomplish some amount of reimmersion into my book -- I haven't written anything in a week, and so I'm finding it hard to get started again. But, I got distracted with the desire to figure out my Christmas cards, and I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing possibilities (and nearly buying) before deciding that I'll take my chances on finding something I like in Des Moines so that I don't have to pay for express shipping, and if I don't find it, then the Christmas cards aren't going out this year. I still have hope, though, even if the art of sending Christmas cards has been replaced with the art of sending a mass text message (which I can't do or receive from Iowa anyway).

So I'm going to sign off, write for just a little bit in my notebook to try to warm up my stiff writing muscles, and then go to bed with the intention of hitting it harder tomorrow. Goodnight!

Monday, December 20, 2010

forces of evil in a bozo nightmare

I planned to go to Des Moines tomorrow to stock up on Alyssa-approved snack foods (like brown rice cakes, greek yogurt, and other 'tasty' foods that have never before been seen in my county) and finish my Christmas shopping -- but unfortunately, it looks like there's a chance of sleet/snow in Des Moines tomorrow, and so my trip is currently on hold. I suppose I will just have to try to find something in southern Iowa that contains lean protein, high fiber, and low fat/carbs -- this is akin to going snipe hunting, but I shall persevere.

Today was lovely and not quite as much work as I expected -- my grandmother's eightieth birthday party went off without a hitch. We (sans Michael) all went up to the civic center to decorate around ten a.m., and despite needing to haul cakes, punch ingredients, coffee/coffee makers, mints, forks/spoons/plates/napkins, ten cloth tablecloths, pictures, flowers, etc., etc. and then setting all of that up (including eight tables and at least eighty chairs), we were still done by 11-ish. So, we repaired to my parents' house, where we all had leftover ham sandwiches before heading back to town around 1:30pm (note: for those of you who were curious, I chose to wear my grey/cream skirt with the gigantic ring -- my brother does hate it, but I got some compliments, so he can suck it).

I think my grandmother had a great time, which was the only reason to do it, so I'm glad that she seemed to get a chance to talk to people and enjoy being the center of attention. I mostly hung out in the back and helped with the punch and coffee, although I did see some people I wanted to see (including my old friend Hannah from high school, whom I shall hopefully get together with while I"m home). And the guests were v. well-behaved -- many showed up right when the party started at two p.m., and they had promptly cleared out within fifteen minutes of the party's official four p.m. end time, which meant we were able to clean up and get out of there by a little after five p.m.

But now, I should really go to sleep; even though I'm likely not going to Des Moines, it would be good to get some writing done, and so sleep should be useful. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

it came upon the midnight clear

While the calendar said December 18 (which is the auspicious date upon which both my mother and Vidius Chandicus were brought into this world, albeit in different years), today also held the honor of being Wampler Family Christmas (tm). We're celebrating a week early because a) this is the year when my dad's siblings are here for Thanksgiving (which I missed) and at other peoples' houses for Christmas, and b) we're throwing an 80th birthday party for my grandmother tomorrow (even though her actual birthday was this past Monday). So, while I inadvertently turned off my alarm and slept until noon, and then took my v. sweet time getting ready, I spent most of the afternoon working on a board of photos with Aunt Kathy while my mother washed dishes and cooked, Aunt Becky created the floral centerpieces, my cousin Drewbaby (star athlete) hovered about and ate approximately two dozen sugar cookies, and my father, Uncle Mark, and the newly-acquired, no-longer-scandalous Uncle Brian stayed out of the way.

Sadly, Michael left Oklahoma later than intended, hit many patches of ice on the way home, and so didn't get here until 9:45pm. As a result, he got out of working on the photo board (lucky bastard), but also missed supper (a v. traditional Midwestern supper of ham, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, homemade rolls, and jello salad). We all sat around and generally antagonized each other until he got home, at which point we rehashed many of the jhokes that had already been told. Gram and Uncle Mark/Aunt Kathy/Drewbaby left around 10:30, and Aunt Becky/Uncle Brian retired to the couches in our downstairs living room shortly thereafter. And after a bit more bonding between my parents, brother and me (which involved many off-color jokes, as well as an insult in which my brother told me all about some dude who went to three different doctors, convinced that he could feel something crawling around inside the back of his head, before the third doctor realized that the man actually had flies *inside* his scalp -- and that Michael felt that even the story of the dude with the flies in his head wasn't as gross as the ring I was wearing. He is so charming.), we all went our separate ways.

And now, I suppose I should go to bed; I certainly can't sleep until noon tomorrow, since we're going up to the civic center building to decorate at ten a.m. so that we can come home and grab a sandwich before going back to kick off the party. I need to decide what to wear, and I can't decide what will offend my brother's sensibilities more: my brown/aqua/coral striped skirt with brown leggings and camel colored Uggs, my grey skirt with cream lace trim accessorized by the gigantic ring that he hates, or the fuzzy grey sweater/dress over a coral cashmere turtleneck (which he called 'hobbit western gear' last year), but I'll have to maximize my wardrobe to offend him as much as possible since I see him so rarely. And with that lofty goal in mind, it's time for bed!

p.s. Happy birthday Mom!!! And happy birthday Chandlord (may you have a thousand sons)!!!

just to break my own fall

Today was more action-packed than usual, in the sedate sort of way that 'action' manifests itself when I am at home. I managed to drag myself out of bed in time to go to my mother's Garden Club meeting, where, despite my best attempts with eyeliner and mascara, I was promptly told that I still look exactly as I did when I was six years old. Sadly, they are right; I can either take it as a compliment (in which case my expensive eye cream is working), or I can be annoyed that I still don't look like an adult (in which case tossing the eye cream and doing meth for a month or two should give me some wrinkles in no time). If those are my choices, I think I'll stick with looking six years old for as long as possible. Yay.

Anyway, Garden Club was entertaining; it was their holiday party, so we had lunch at a woman named Virginia's house (she's quite sweet -- she's in the same secret society as my mom and me too, which is unrelated to Garden Club but shares several members). The request for the holiday party was to bring a salad, and so everyone brought something while Virginia made a stuffed pork loin entree. The salads ended up being three different kinds of jello salad (including a cranberry salad, a red jello (strawberry?) one topped w/marshmallows, and an orange salad topped with cool whip and cheese), a corn casserole, a baked bread/pineapple/sugar thing, candied apples, and my mom's spinach salad (frozen chopped spinach, mayonnaise, hard boiled egg, cheese, onion, etc.). Needless to say, their definition of salad and Alyssa's definition of salad are two v. different things. But, they were all tasty, and I left with a complete sugar high (like a good six year old).

After Garden Club, my mom and I drove up to the next town north of us (twenty miles) to pick up mints for my grandma's birthday party on Sunday. Then, we came home and (again like a good six year old) I took a nap. I woke up just in time for supper, which my father brought back from a pizza place in the next 'major' town east of us (thirty miles) -- yum.

Long-time readers will be shocked to hear that we did NOT watch CBS the entire evening -- we boycotted the "Frosty the Snowman" cartoons on CBS and switched to a documentary about Paris from 1900-1930 on public television instead (only after my father, after seeing a bit of the new cartoon remake of "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus", said that "Yes, Virginia" was too boring and that "Virginia Gets Vagazzled" would be much more entertaining -- I must say that I'm a little horrified that he knows what that is). When the documentary was over, though, we switched back to CBS, watching the Tom Selleck vehicle "Blue Bloods", the 10pm news, an incredibly awkward and long interview of Robert DeNiro and Dustin Hoffman by David Letterman, and a great episode of Craig.

But now, I really should sleep; a horde of relatives descends tomorrow, including my brother and my dad's siblings, so that we can celebrate Christmas tomorrow night before having Gram's birthday party on Sunday. And then, I really must finish (start) my Christmas shopping, so I should probably think about that tomorrow as well. Goodnight!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

use your credit wisely, it is your own free will

Luckily, that Katy Perry song is temporarily out of my head. Unluckily, I have a commercial stuck in my head -- in particular, the song from a decade-old commercial for a debt counseling company, which is sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells." I don't mind most of their other commercials (particularly one in which the company owner tells a kid that if he has too many lollipops his teeth will rot out, just like overusing credit cards -- the kid is cute, making up for the fact that he's probably twenty by now since the commercial is ancient), but I've been seeing this Christmas commercial forever and know the song by heart. Ugh.

Nothing else happened today; it was a lazy first day in the heartland, and the fact that it's currently ten degrees might hint at why I wouldn't want to go outside. I woke up around noon, had some frosted flakes (breakfast of champions), took a brief nap, showered, and unpacked, since I hate the sight of overflowing suitcases marring the coziness of my room. By that time, it was five p.m., and so I had a snack, hung out upstairs with my parents, and eventually ate a delicious dinner (thin-sliced fried porkchops, mac and cheese, and fruit cocktail - v. midwestern and extremely tasty). I then spent the evening watching some fine CBS programming with my parents, including an episode of "CSI" in which Justin Bieber guest starred (ridiculous).

Sadly, I should go to bed -- I didn't actually go to bed when I claimed I was going to last night, as I lost myself in a long Wikipedia odyssey reading about the Knights Templar. I'm still contemplating ideas for my young adult romance, and while I'm not going to rip off the Knights Templar a la 'The Da Vinci Code', I do need to get a good feel for the politics and problems of the time period in which they existed, since that has a bearing on what will happen to the heroine in the present day. I'm not complaining, since there's nothing that I love more than staring at Wikipedia for hours. But I must get up earlier tomorrow since I'm having lunch with my mother's garden club, and so I can't laze about all day like I did today. So, I'm signing off now -- goodnight!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

you think i'm funny when i tell the punchline wrong

I've had Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" stuck in my head for well over a week. I posted that dilemma on Facebook several days ago, and it sounds like Tammy is suffering from the same malady -- but she's also hooked on the Glee version, which I didn't even know existed, and a "death metal" version that may or may not be similar to the dance remix that I heard at the gym (which is what kicked off my addiction in the first place). I'm hoping that someday it will go away -- I tried to listen to other stuff on the plane, including "Rio" by Duran Duran, but to no avail.

However, given the number of screaming children I was subjected to today, perhaps it makes sense that my traumatized brain took refuge in the familiar vocals of Katy Perry rather than fully comprehending the horror around me. There was screaming, even louder screaming, the mother behind me who decided to play a DVD out loud for her children (one of whom was kicking my seat), and some general panicky wails, etc., etc. on both my SFO->Denver and my Denver->Des Moines flights. It was awful. While my biological clock may be ticking, today was enough to hit snooze on it for at least six months, right?

But, I made it to Iowa safe and sound, despite getting some v. fitful sleep between midnight and four a.m. and having a surprisingly disgusting lunch at what is normally my go-to Mexican restaurant in the Denver airport. I spent the flights alternating between napping and brainstorming possible topics for the romance blog; as I've said, you're stuck with my muddy, cottonmouth-filled stream of consciousness here, but I have to actually give a damn about my audience on zee romance blog, and so I'm trying to plan out what my angle and voice are so that I can attract a readership (rather than gathering more people who implicitly expect freebies of my books like most of y'all). I came up with about eighty post ideas, which would get me halfway through the year if I post three times a week, and likely further since some of the ideas are either multi-post series or standing blog items that I can refresh weekly or monthly.

But enough about that. My parents picked me up on time, and I bundled up in my down-filled bomber jacket against the 23-degree external temperature. We came home, I futzed around with my luggage, we ate supper (steak and baked potato, natch) while watching "Survivor", and then I continued the trend of watching some fine CBS programming by catching "Criminal Minds" (excellent show, albeit sometimes creeptastic) and "The Defenders" (surprisingly not that bad). But even though it's only 11:30 in Iowa, and therefore 9:30 in California, and therefore many, many hours before my usual bedtime, I need to sleep -- there's a lot to do the next few days to finish (er, start) my Christmas shopping, finalize stuff for my grandmother's 80th birthday party (which I've had very little hand in), etc., and I also want to write steadily while I'm at home, so we shall see. Goodnight!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

don't be a baby, remember what you told me

I really should not be surprised that I'm still up, as a) it's only 10:45, which is earlier than I go to bed these days and b) I always leave packing until the last minute -- but since I am getting picked up at 4:50am to go to the airport, I should really go to sleep. Luckily, I am completely packed at this point, other than my hair dryer and my glasses/contacts, so tomorrow morning will just necessitate a quick shower before leaving. However, I basically packed twice, since my first bag was over the fifty pound limit, and so I redistributed between the large duffel I was using and the smaller carry-on sized duffel that I'm going to check as well (a luxury that I can afford because I have sufficient status on United to check two bags free, a remnant from my corporate jetsetting ways). Of course, once I redistributed and added more stuff since I now had more space, I got close to the limit again, and had to redistribute one last time -- but now I should be good to go.

So between packing, doing all the little things like cleaning out my fridge and taking care of my mail, and forcing myself to go to the gym, I was v. busy until almost five p.m. Then, I dashed over to campus and had an early dinner at the CoHo (which was not v. good), where I did my assignment for the blogging class. I had to review one of my classmates' blogs and write up a 5-8 minute presentation on what I thought worked and what didn't work so well, and I got it done just in time to make it to class.

Tonight, I also got the pleasure of having my romance blog reviewed by my classmates. The two women who reviewed it were interested in history, which helped, even if they didn't have a background in romance; one of the two had so much knowledge that she felt that referencing "Anne of Green Gables" as one of my inspirations was not only too far removed from the Regency time period, but since Anne's background and community is heavily Presbyterian and the Regency is mostly influenced by Anglican teachings, there isn't really a relation between the two. She's absolutely right, even though I think that people can be influenced by a broad variety of topics outside their specific genre, but it was really entertaining to me to get that level of feedback.

Overall, though, the feedback was quite good and v. useful; while the class has gotten bogged down in technical details to some extent, the class on the whole is filled with smart people who have some good ideas about design and how things are presented. There was talk at the end of the class of keeping the group going to discuss blogging in the future, and we'll see how that goes -- I really enjoyed meeting some of the people in the class, including the two women who reviewed my blog and a third woman who actually uses Alyssa as her personal trainer just like I do, so hopefully some of us will stay in touch.

But now, I really must go to bed; my flight to Iowa awaits. Goodnight!

Monday, December 13, 2010

the wamp stuff

I really shouldn't be this tired, since I technically got up at ten a.m.; but, I slept really poorly last night, no doubt dreaming about the end of the world (actually, I seem to sleep quite well when dreaming about the end of the world - it's when I dream about real life, like the possibility of having to go back to work, that my dreams feel like nightmares). So, while I should probably pack or do any number of other things on my to-do list, I'm going to go to bed after this instead.

When I did wake up, I took care of a few tings around the house before going to the gym for my last training session with Alyssa before I go home for the holidays. We measured everything to compare it to the baseline we took when I started with her -- and considering that I've only been at this for about five and a half weeks (which includes Thanksgiving), my progress has been pretty good even if only me and my pants can tell the difference right now. The goal is to maintain my losses despite the temptations of Iowan cuisine over the next three weeks, and then hit it brutally hard when I get back in January. After measuring, we worked out for the rest of the hour, hugged it out at the end despite the fact that I do not like being touched when I am sweating, and then I showered and had my usual delicious salad in their cafe before running a few errands.

When I got home, I called my grandmother to wish her a happy eightieth birthday, took care of some more logistics -- arranging a ride to the airport on Wednesday, putting a hold on my mail, etc. Chandlord came over around 6:15pm, and we hung out for a bit until it was time for the most ill-conceived adventure we've had since the "Singalong Sound of Music" -- rather than going to Chaat Paradise tonight, we met up with John and Jess at the Olive Garden.

We certainly didn't drink as much as the time that Chandlord, Adit, Timmy and I went to the Olive Garden (although that's not a surprise, since that night was a drunken disaster of epic proportions) -- in fact, the only alcohol we had was the free sample the waiter offered us before we ordered. But apparently just the fumes of an ounce of moscato was enough to send Jess into what seemed to be alcohol-induced hilarity, and so dinner proceeded to be a ridiculous time. We enjoyed our unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, John ordered the Tour of Italy, and we were generally the most raucous people in what is really an extremely large Olive Garden. It's not a trip that I intend to repeat regularly, mostly because my body cannot handle that much fun, but it was certainly a fun and memorable way to bid farewell to that group (which is now going to be tagged "blood of lincoln" in the relevant post tags, for reasons that really don't matter and don't make sense).

After we all parted ways, I came home, wrote a post on zee romance blog, and now need to go to bed. Tomorrow is the day when I will do all of the million things I intended to do before leaving to go back to ye olde Iowa, culminating in my last blogging class tomorrow night, and then a ride to the airport at around five a.m. on Wednesday (ugh). Goodnight!

don't ever look back

It's funny how I can only spend a maximum of three or four hours a day writing fiction, and yet I can spend approximately twelve hours working on zee romance blog without taking much of a break. In fact, my only breaks today from when I woke up (around eleven) until now were to do laundry, talk to my parents, eat an enchilada, and eat some macaroni. I needed to wrap things up so that it could be reviewed by some of my blog classmates, and I wanted to get the design finalized and write several posts using the new categories I intend to blog under so that the class could see a representative sample of what I intend to do for content. My mother expressed a strong preference for the original design of the blog (a lovely purple scheme) over the lighter, more standard scheme I had been testing last week, so I went back to it this morning. I think I'm going to have to switch webhosts because GoDaddy is so achingly slow during the day that I am probably losing what little traffic I might be acquiring, but that's a task for after the class is over and I have more time to mess around with hosting changes.

So check out the romance blog if you feel like procrastinating - I'm going to start blogging about Regency/historical fashions, lifestyles, and fun facts, in addition to what I'm reading and general updates about my writing life. You can see all the latest posts here: http://www.sararamsey.com/wordpress/latest-posts/

And that, friends, is all I did today. Never fear that I will close down this blog; there may be days when this has to get shorter because I spent too much time on the other blog, but I doubt they will happen very often. But now, I really really should go to bed. I have a training session with Alyssa tomorrow, I desperately need to write, I should probably start packing and doing all the little things that I need to do before going home, and I have tentative plans to have dinner or a movie with Chandlord, John and Jess tomorrow (although John and Jess are apparently sick, and I'm v. selfishly hoping they didn't give it to me since I just saw them last night and need to be healthy enough to get on a plane in two days). Hopefully you all had lovely weekend -- or, if you didn't, that you have decent weeks to make up for it. Goodnight!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

wamp wamp, what it do, what it do

You would never guess that I'm a hermit at heart given the kind of day I had -- and so I must go to bed almost immediately to recover all the social energy I burned on today's festivities. I rolled out of bed around eight, dolled myself up, and drove to Berkeley for the December meeting/holiday party of the San Francisco area romance writers group. The meeting was pretty fun, and the program involved hearing from five or six different members about how they stay inspired while writing. I like to hear about other writers' processes, so that was interesting to me even if it wasn't so immediately useful. I also sat with Grace and Tina, the two women with whom I spent a lot of time in Orlando, and it was good to see them -- Tina's definitely going to next year's conference in NYC and Grace is on the fence, so hopefully I can convince Grace to go.

After the meeting ended and we ate lunch, I drove across the evil Bay Bridge to the even more evil city of sin, where I hung out at Samovar for a couple of hours. I was too full from brunch to have my usual quiche/salad/fruit/scone combo (a fact that was remarked upon by two different wait staff -- clearly I go there too much if they remember what I order), but I did have a pot of white tea, a masala chai, and a scone. I also plotted the next few scenes of Madeleine and Ferguson's book for a couple of hours; the scene I was looking forward to the most (sex at a masquerade ball, ooh la la) may not actually be necessary or useful, so I'm faced with the hard problem of cutting an idea that I love so that I'm more likely to get published. Sigh.

The whole reason I was in the city was to get my bangs trimmed before going home on Wednesday, and Susie did a nice job with them. I then progressed back to my car, paid the parking fee -- and mistakenly answered a phone call from Chandlord, who wanted to hang out. Unfortunately, it took nearly twenty minutes to get out of the garage and around a couple of blocks to pick her up, and after we hung out it took over twenty-five minutes to get onto the freeway. I'm not sure that 40 minutes of hanging out with her was worth 45 minutes of driving, but you take what you can get. She did take me to a cool antique store I'd never been to before, so that was nice. Then, I scurried home, hurriedly changed, and went to the other side of Stanford campus for Chris's birthday party / Chris/Connie's holiday party.

Suffice it to say that I had a truly excellent time; in addition to Chris and Connie, John and Jess, Oniel and Kathryn, Javier, Scott and his girlfriend, and Connie's friend Beth all showed up. I cannot recount it all as I'm falling asleep over my keyboard, but it was lovely and nostalgic and entertaining all at once. So now I'm going to go bed, in hopes of getting up at a reasonable hour tomorrow and chipping away at the massive to-do list I need to complete before going back to Iowa. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

it's the risk that i'm taking, i ain't never gonna shut you out

After signing off zee internet last night, I wrote two pages of what may turn into the prologue for the project that I've codenamed my 'gargoyle young adult romance novel', even though it has evolved well beyond gargoyles. I have a ton of work and research and brainstorming and plotting to do before I can really begin writing it, but the first two pages were fun. It's also quite interesting and wonderful to write something that immediately has its own unique, distinctive voice -- it's utterly different from my Regency romance voice, although I'm going to have to read some more young adult books to see how much snarkiness is allowed or whether the heroines have to be dramatically earnest in their struggles.

I can't let myself get too distracted by it, though, since I still have Madeleine and Ferguson's story to finish -- and I must finish it now, if only because the people who have read the first half may kill me if I don't produce a polished version of the second half. So the gargoyles, and the heroine who awakens them (currently code-named Holly, although that, like absolutely everything else, may change) are going to have to chillax just a bit longer until this book is finished.

However, I didn't write today; instead, I mostly played. I got a massage first thing in the morning (which for me is ten a.m.) in San Jose, which was somewhat lackluster; I had to do it to use up a credit before it expired, but I chose the massage poorly and ended up with some weird version where the masseuse sprinkled Chinese herbs on my back, covered me with heated buckwheat-filled blankets that made my hotblooded self overheat, and generally wasn't nearly as good as the massage I had on Wednesday. After that, I proceeded immediately to my old office, where I had an extended lunch with Gyre -- he was in good form, and I'm glad I got to see him before the holidays. Then, I went to the gym, persevered despite my desire to rebel against the tyranny of the elliptical, and then came home and relaxed for an hour.

I then met up with Joann and Jane around five p.m. for a delicious early dinner at a 'healthy' Korean bibimbap place near my old office. Healthy shouldn't really be in quotes, since it was actually quite healthy (which may explain why my stomach is growling, although I guess that could also be because dinner was seven hours ago). It was quite lovely to see them; this was a rescheduled version of our every-six-weeks friendship renewal dinner, although Tolu couldn't make it. Joann has one of the best blogs (well, only blogs) among my friends, since she blogs about her eating adventures, and so she took photos of our food for a post she may or may not ever write -- hopefully she gets back into blogging, since I miss the blogging she did while living in Singapore.

Sadly, dinner had to come to an end eventually, and I then made a v. quick trip to Target to pick up wrapping paper and a couple of other items before coming home and procrastinating/working on zee romance blog until now. And now, I should go to bed; I have a packed day tomorrow, including a holiday party with the San Francisco romance writers in Berkeley, a bang trim in the evil city, and a birthday party for Chris Boyd. And it's only nine months until I'm thirty -- which means that this Christmas will mark the thirtieth anniversary of my conception. I will ignore the inevitable 'ew' that comes of contemplating my parents conceiving me on Christmas and merely recognize that my youth is fading. And on that cheerful note, goodnight!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

let's run away and don't ever look back

I'm going to take the unusual tactic of blogging an hour or two before actually going to bed -- so my parents will have to live with the uncertainty of whether I lived to see my pillow until tomorrow night's blog. My attempt to go to bed early last night didn't work particularly well, probably because I got up at ten and took an hourlong nap at five, but it may not have been helped by my excessive pre-bedtime laptop usage either. Not that excessive pre-bedtime laptop usage is uncommon, since it's the last thing I do before going to bed and has been every night for the past seven years, but it's probably not a healthy habit to have. So I'm going to blog, and then sign off and write in a notebook for awhile until it's time for bed. Yay.

Today was productive until about three p.m., when it all went sideways. I got up at 7:30 and did a bit of work on a freelance project until my training session with Alyssa at nine. Then I came home, procrastinated a bit, grabbed my laptop, and went to Cafe Borrone, where I did a couple of hours of freelance work while eating a leisurely lunch. I wrapped up what it was possible to do for them, so at least that's done. But, I failed to write my own stuff; instead, I came home, procrastinated, took a break from procrastination to watch last night's "Top Chef: All Stars" while eating some delicious Amy's enchiladas, and then procrastinated some more. Wikipedia is evil, is all I'm gonna say.

So yeah, that's all I've got. Apologies for being boring, but you get what you pay for. Tomorrow's another earlyish morning, but as I have to get up so that I can go to Santana Row for a massage, you shouldn't pity me. My massages should probably have died along with my last steady paycheck, but I'm locked into the membership for another few months, and I can't say I'm sad to have an excuse to continue. Then, I must write before having dinner with some friends, and I need to squeeze a trip to the gym in there somewhere too -- life is so rough. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

you make me feel like i'm living a teenage dream

Ugh. I wasted too much time today; staying up until three a.m. is not a good idea if I have any hope of getting stuff done the next day, and I need to learn that lesson and actually apply it someday. I did crawl out of bed by ten so that I could have breakfast and take care of some stuff before training with Alyssa at noon; she was good, as usual, and I'm going to squeeze in two more sessions with her before I go home and promptly forget all attempts at healthy living. I took a quick shower and then took advantage of the complimentary 25-minute massage that was included when I signed up with the gym. Alyssa had recommend a specific massage therapist, and it turns out that great people recommend other great people, as usual -- the massage was one of the best I've had, and 25 minutes was not nearly enough.

By the time I grabbed lunch and ate, it was three p.m. before I got home. I intended to do some work, but instead I did a combination of browsing and napping until 5:15, when I needed to get ready to go out for dinner. I met up with Arod at Nola's at 6pm -- v. longtime readers may remember that I was friends with Arod in India, but she went to business school on the east coast a couple of years ago and we lost touch with each other. It was great to see her; she's living in Fremont with her family while she looks for jobs, so it's good to have her back in the area. We reminisced and caught up for a couple of hours over drinks and v. spicy Cajun pasta, and hopefully I'll see her sometime after the holidays rather than waiting another two years to pick things up again.

I got home a little before nine, and continued to procrastinate -- and now, I'm going to force myself to go to bed rather than trying to work, since I have a feeling I would just continue to procrastinate, and it would be better to try to sleep early and get up early rather than prolonging this stupid cycle. I have to be at the gym at nine anyway, so sleeping early is a good thing. Goodnight!

i'm not just one of your many toys

Apparently it's two a.m. - who knew? I didn't do a single bit of writing today, but I was quite busy despite that. I spent the morning taking care of various paperwork/administrative tasks, and then I met up for lunch with a girl from the writing class I took last year. We're roughly the same age and coincidentally both wrote stories related to Eleanor of Aquitaine for the class we took, and since she works just down the street from my house, it was convenient to get together and talk about writing. I got a tour of the Palo Alto Weekly offices before we had lunch, since she's an editor there -- sadly, there are no printing presses these days, but the building is surprisingly lovely given the overall moribund state of the news industry. And lunch was fun; she's wrapping up her first book, so we discussed submitting manuscripts, how we write, etc. While I'm quite glad that most of my friends aren't writers, it's nice to talk to other writers occasionally, so hopefully I'll see her again after the holidays.

We parted ways around two, and I went promptly to the gym, where I followed Alyssa's recommendations for treadmill and elliptical rather than doing my own lacksadaisical program, and therefore wanted to die. Then I came home, grabbed my laptop, went to campus, grabbed an early dinner, and started rebuilding zee romance blog before class tonight.

And, I must confess, I continued rebuilding it during class -- it's too bad that the class is really frustratingly far beneath my technical skills, because while I'm by no means a tech whiz, I didn't really pick up anything useful tonight. But, if nothing else, the class has been good for getting me to think about my blog again, and the five hours I spent working on the template on campus plus the four hours I spent after getting home is getting me to a better place. If you have any thoughts on the site (linked above), let me know; the old template was flashier, but this one may be more readable, and it has the added advantage of loading in a couple of seconds rather than the 8-12 seconds that the old template was yielding.

Sadly, I must go to bed immediately so that I can get some stuff done tomorrow morning before another action-packed day. Goodnight!

Monday, December 06, 2010

in the time of chimpanzees i was a monkey

Today felt v. busy, even though it wasn't that bad -- it's just getting to the point where I feel like I'm busy if I have to leave the house more than once a day, and today was one of those days. I went over to the gym "early" (eleven a.m.) today to get my eyebrows waxed at the small spa attached to the gym, and then I did some work on my laptop until it was time for my training session with Alyssa. She was excellent, as per usual, but while I can apparently do squats until the cows come home (including these squats that I believe are actually called goblet squats, but I hear goblin squats every time she says it, so I'm sticking with that as it's much more entertaining), anytime I try to do lunges I end up messing up my right thigh. It's bizarre and frustrating, but hopefully with continued practice I will realign my muscles so that they don't freak out (although I hold out absolutely no hope of being a prima ballerina someday).

After showering and taking my sweet time with my hair and makeup, I had a salad at the gym cafe. The salad was enormous because the staff likes me because I'm friendly and not irrational, so I seem to be getting the reward of extra-large servings in my salads. Then, I eventually made my way home and knocked out a few pages of zee romance novel, took a nap, and got ready to go out of the house for the second time today (shocking!).

Tonight was the semi-regular meeting of the paradise supper club, even though I am the only person who calls it that. Chandlord canceled on us (that bitch), but John, Jess and I had a delightful Indian feast at Chaat Paradise. The pani puri was good, as usual; the mutter paneer was also tasty; the stuffed paratha was delish; but the sag paneer (spinach with cheese) was really extremely salty. Also, I blurted out that it tasted like an Indian man (not that I have tasted a lot of Indian men; I meant that it tasted like some of the more odiferous men in India smelled), which horrified my dining companions and turned me off from eating any more of it. As a result, while a fun time was had by all, we may actually go to Olive Garden for our last dinner before the holidays -- I'm looking forward to another fantastic Tuscan voyage!

I don't know how I manage to attract odd strangers; I stopped in at Safeway on the way home from dinner and found two of them in less than five minutes. The first was a girl in the baking aisle who was staring at me while I picked out nonstick cooking spray, and when I asked her if I was in her way, she said, "oh, no, I just never realized how many different kinds of cooking spray there are." That's all well and normal, but then she sort of just kept staring, and then says she likes the grilling spray, and often uses the olive oil spray, and likes the way that the baking/flour spray smells -- which means she's well aware that there is more than one spray, and is also just odd since she didn't seem to be buying any of them for herself.

I skedaddled from the aisle as soon as I could, since she was starting to creep me out (she was a pale ginger girl and I began to think of wraiths and ghosts, etc.), and went straight to the nearest checkout. In the time that it took to ring up two cans of cooking spray, the dude behind the register called me sweetie, somehow brought up that he was from the south Pacific, and then said my hands were very pale and that I looked like Snow White. With all the strangeness I encounter in daily life, it's no wonder I don't leave the house.

sssanyway, when I got home I didn't get anything accomplished, and so I'm going to go to bed now and try to get up in time to do stuff before my day begins. I've got another action-packed one, including lunch with a girl from the writing class I took last year, some time at the gym, and class tomorrow night -- so getting something done in the morning is imperative. Goodnight!

raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens

I had a lovely, absolutely ridiculous day, even though I failed to get up early as intended. Instead, I rolled out of bed around ten, made some oatmeal, wrote for about an hour (three pages - not fantastic, but respectable), showered (at home, for the first time in a week, since I didn't go to the gym today), and then went to Whole Foods to get some groceries for the week ahead. On the way home, I talked to my sister about Christmas, and then after I got home I had my usual Sunday call with my parents. I suppose I should start making my wishlist and doing my shopping for others, but it really hasn't sunk in that Christmas is less than three weeks away -- but it will sink in rather badly if I don't get any presents for my family, so I should get on it.

The only activity of interest to all y'all today, though, was that I actually went to the "Sound of Music" singalong in the evil city tonight. Knowing my tendency to bail on things that happen in the city, I took precautionary measures, asking Chandlord to buy my ticket in advance and coordinating with John/Jess to carpool with them. Even with those external pressures, I was v. v. close to bailing -- it was raining, the city is far away, the timing meant that dinner was impossible, and I wasn't sure I could handle so much awesomeness.

However, I went, and I survived (barely). We made it up to the city around 5:30pm, and we congregated at Kathy's house with the fifteen other people who were going, where Kathy's fiance made us mulled wine and we snacked on hummus (part of what I had gone to Whole Foods for), cheese, etc. before walking over to the Castro Theatre. We got there early enough to get seats for all of us in the same general vicinity, although we later discovered that we had chosen poorly (more on that in a moment). Then we settled in for the show -- and quite some show it was. The Castro Theatre is a gorgeous oldschool theatre, with an organ and everything, and the organist played some "Sound of Music" tunes before the show started. We were given instructions to boo at the Nazis, hiss at the Baroness, awww at Gretl, etc., and there were subtitles on all songs so that it was even easier to sing along.

And the singing was quite fun -- and I had forgotten what a complete hottie Captain Von Trapp is, despite his not-so-hot name. Chandlord was in fine form, as I expected. The only fly in the ointment were the really awful, obnoxious, annoying, terrible girls sitting behind us, who made me alternate between homicidal and suicidal urges throughout the movie. I actually suggested to Chandlord that we try a "Murder on the Orient Express" plot and each take turns stabbing them a single time so that all of us were guilty and therefore might be able to convince the authorities that none of us were guilty, but I forgot to bring my shank, so we weren't able to pull it off.

Unfortunately, I can't possibly capture just how awful they were, and I'm trying to block the memories, so you'll just have to believe me. Other than that, I had a great time, even if I didn't make it home until almost 11:30. Luckily, I don't have to go to work tomorrow, unlike most of the other poor schumcks I was with -- but I do need to get up so that I can write before going to the gym, so I should probably get some sleep. Goodnight!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

the sound of settling

So I made it to the gym by nine a.m., trained with Alyssa, came home, did laundry...and promptly let the rest of the day slip away from me. The only thing of interest was that I ran into my neighbor who lives in the studio above the garage and we showed each other our places; she's managed to fit a baby grand piano in there, in addition to a ton of other stuff, which is quite remarkable. But then, I messed around on the internet, took a nap, messed around some more, made dinner (pasta with some arrabiata jarred sauce made by Mario Batali, to which I added a bunch of chicken), and ate dinner while watching Craig Ferguson. He had Salman Rushdie on, who was quite entertaining, and who also manages to write critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels despite an addiction to iphone games.

Bottom line, I should have just watched a movie or read a book, but I stayed on my computer while telling myself that I would start writing in ten minutes, and the hours just slipped away. I must find a better system than this asap. So in an effort to kickstart that better system, I'm going to bed now (eleven p.m. - shocking!) so that I can get up early tomorrow and write/go to the gym before I hit the afternoon doldrums. Goodnight!

my faith in love is like blood, i'd spill it freely for some

I can't quite get this post started tonight; most of my posts follow the same general format (I had an x kind of day; these are all the boring things I did; here is a random observation that may turn into longer brooding passages if I'm in a local minima; and now I need to sleep, so goodnight!). In fact, perhaps you should just post that sentence on your bulletin board or make a note of it and stop checking the blog, because if you're here for variety, you ain't getting it. But sometimes my general lack of substance and structure bores even myself, and tonight is one of those nights.

Still, I have a handful of readers who will shriek if I don't post (as proved by the eight hours when my blog was hijacked last month), so I will persevere for them like the professional writer that I now am.

I. I had an x kind of day

I had a good day, really -- not as productive as I would have liked, but since I hold myself to impossible standards, no days are as productive as I would have liked. Since I went to the gym, wrote six pages, had lunch and saw a movie with a friend, and read a book, that's probably good enough.

II. These are all the boring things I did

I managed to make it into the gym by nine a.m. for a training session with Alyssa; the very act of getting up that early was more torturous than any of the many evil paces she put me through. After showering, I discovered that I had forgotten to pack leggings, so I had to come back home to finish dressing, and I got lured into talking to my mother for awhile. You and I both know that this is strange and unusual, since I only talk to my parents on Sundays, but as the Christmas season is upon us, more coordination is required than usual. Then, I returned to my original script and went to Starbucks, where I wrote for an hour before meeting up with my friend Joy.

We had lunch at my old place of work, and then we caught an afternoon showing of "Tangled", which is the new Disney animated movie based on Rapunzel. It was in 3D, which I thought was quite unnecessary, and I think that 3D is for the most part complete overkill and never going to replace regular movies. Granted, this is probably the same naivete/ignorance that people in days of yore, when confronted with an autocar that was extremely loud and prone to breakdowns, displayed when thinking that the car would never replace the horse -- as the technology gets better, everything will be in 3D, to the point that it feels like you're actually in the movie. But for now, I spit on 3D and wish that I would have seen it in 2D like a good God-fearing moviegoer should.

Rant aside, I liked the movie; it didn't have the alternate storyline that appeals to adults like some of the other animated movies (such as "Shrek") have used to gain the widest possible audiences, but it's gorgeously drawn and the love story is nice. It's not going to displace "Beauty and the Beast" or "The Little Mermaid" as my all-time favorite Disney movies, but it's definitely something I would recommend and be willing to see again. It was particularly interesting that neither of the two main animal companions (a horse and a chameleon) spoke, which is quite a departure from the speaking animals in other animated films -- but the animation was so great that the characters were able to be quite expressive and engaging without voices.

So I left the movie feeling quite good about storytelling, and I came home to bang out the rest of the words that I wanted to finish today. I didn't get as far as I would have liked, but my battery started dying, and rather than relocate to the couch or the desk, I decided to throw in the towel. With fairy tales still shimmering through my brain, I picked up my old, worn copy of Robin McKinley's BEAUTY and reread it cover to cover; she's written better things since then, but this is one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings.

III. here is a random observation that may turn into longer brooding passages if I'm in a local minima

Around midnight, Adit called me. He had texted me a bit earlier, with a text that just said "heh"; I replied "tee hee hee", which was apparently an invitation to call. He was trying to nuke a frozen pizza, since none of the grocery stores in Boston have our beloved Amy's enchiladas (or enchiladas of any kind, apparently -- such barbarism in a major city surprises me), and apparently he was feeling chatty, which was a nice way of having family time over the phone -- as usual, he insulted me, I humored him, and we got along swimmingly.

Also as usual, he asked how the book was going, and when I said that I entered the contest, he said, "Look, let me tell you something -- no one cares unless you win." And when I later said that I had been reading a book when he called, he told me that that wasn't writing, and then walked me through how reading was in fact directly the opposite of my stated life goal, and therefore a waste of time. It's funny how he can be three thousand miles away and still somehow strike at the center of my most recent broodings; maybe he reads the blog for ammunition before he calls, but I prefer to think that he is the idiot savant of insults.

However, all of this truly amused me, rather than upsetting me, but I felt that it qualified as a random observation that could turn into brooding. I wish that kid would move back, but I'll somehow have to find ways to undermine myself without him. Moving on...

IV. and now I need to sleep, so goodnight!

I've got another training session tomorrow morning, and then I intend to write and do some work for that freelance project that I was working on a few weeks ago. I also need to revamp my romance blog this weekend for that class I'm taking, so I'm going to be a busy camper. And now I need to sleep, so goodnight!

Friday, December 03, 2010

i want to be your hero of love

As it turns out, the man named Duke who showed up to fix my thermostat this morning (at ten a.m., requiring me to get up around 8:30 so that I could straighten up, dust, swiffer, etc.) looked more like Santa Claus than any duke of my dreams. How rude! But, I must say that he was efficient; fifteen minutes later, I had a new digital thermostat that keeps the temperature within one degree of the set temp, rather than the 5-10 degree oscillations the previous thermostat was giving me. So, I'm quite happy about that -- and now, hopefully, it will warm up outside and I won't need the heat now that it works (although I'm guessing that's not going to happen anytime soon).

After Duke left and I took care of a few tings online, I went to the gym, where I did some treadmill while reading my latest copy of "Romantic Times" (a monthly magazine that reviews nearly all of the romances coming out that month). I felt just slightly ridiculous reading it at the gym, but it's important to keep up on the industry, so I'm glad I read it even if I looked seriously strange to anyone glancing over my shoulder. After cleaning up, I had a salad at the gym's cafe, came home, did some laundry, and read part of a book called THE WAR OF ART. I came across it because it was the assigned reading for a class that I thought about taking and ended up not doing (the one on setting good habits). It's essentially trying to convince you to stop procrastinating and write the damn book -- a noble goal, and one which I aspire to, but clearly reading a book about procrastination is just a meta form of procrastination and something that I should be ashamed of.

Nevertheless, I read some of it, then met up with Heather (aka dear respected madam) for pedicures and dinner. She suggested getting pedicures at this place on California Ave. that I hadn't been to before, which was totally fine by me since it meant that I could continue my trend of never venturing more than five miles from my house (the farthest I've gone since getting back from LA is Cafe Borrone, which is four miles away). The pedicure place ended up being really great, so I'm glad to know there's a good one in my general vicinity, even if I need fewer pedicures now that I'm mostly wearing house slippers inside and Uggs outside. Amusingly enough, I ran into Connie there as well; she had gotten out of work at the hospital early today and was trying the place for the first time, just like I was. I've barely seen her and Chris since they moved back, mostly because Chris works all the time and I'm a hermit, so hopefully I'll see them again sometime soon.

Heather and I adjourned from the spa and walked down the street to Bodeguita del Medio, a Cuban restaurant that I hadn't been to in years, and now I'm kicking myself for not going more often. Granted, walking there in flipflops to protect the pedicures at all costs, despite the fifty degree weather, was a little chilly, but the restaurant more than made up for it. We split a shrimp appetizer, and then she had a really awesome pulled steak dish with great black bean soup and delicious fried plantains. My meal was perhaps the teensiest bit less successful (my salmon wasn't nearly as good as her steak), but mine came with mashed potatoes and this sauteed zucchini that I could have eaten a whole plate of, so it still felt like a win. It was good to see dear respected madam before the holiday rush kicks in, particularly since I'm going home for three weeks and she's going back to Indiana for two.

It was also nice to get out of the house and see a bona fide friend, although I hadn't realized that I hadn't seen anyone in a week -- I really could be a hermit if I put my mind to it. Between going to the gym and going to class, I've left the house for extended periods of time every day since getting back from LA, but tonight was the first time in a week that I'd socialized with anyone I actually know. I'm socializing tomorrow too, though -- I've got a training session with Alyssa, and then I'm having a late lunch/movie combo with my friend Joy, so getting out of the house will happen again.

Unfortunately I didn't write today; I did vividly imagine (we will call it "plot" for the sake of pretending that it's art) the upcoming sexytime scene with Madeleine and Ferguson, which possibly doesn't count as work and probably is more detail than you would appreciate. So I have some notes for that, and I should write it tomorrow even if it kind of skeeves me out to think of people I know reading it in the future. And then, it's the weekend, with hopefully more writing in store. I know I've made the right choice to focus on writing for awhile if only because a) I look forward to writing on weekends and b) when Heather asked me if I miss work, I said that I don't at all. It's really true, which has kind of surprised me since I gave so much of myself to the company over the past seven years -- but I haven't had a single moment of loss/regret/nostalgia. So now it's just a matter of making it as a writer so that I don't have to go back, right? And to do that, I should sleep so that I can write tomorrow -- goodnight!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

i want to take shelter from the poison rain

Today was just the right amount of busy after yesterday's mad rush to get my contest entry out the door; luckily, the rush was successful, since both FedEx and the contest administrators confirmed that it was delivered today (a whole day early, because I am turning over a new leaf). I didn't get up until ten, and then I putzed around the house until it was time to meet Alyssa for a training session. It's kind of cool that I can feel myself getting looser/more aligned in only a few weeks, even if the results aren't really obvious yet (mostly due to a combination of Thanksgiving and some mild-to-moderate stress snacking while writing). We're going to train five or six more times before I go home for the holidays, where I will promptly forget all about newfangled things like gyms and all-natural organic unprocessed foods and nut butters (which is a name for the various organic butters made out of peanuts, almonds, etc. that makes the eight year old inside me giggle).

After training, showering, eating a huge salad, and bundling up against the frigid Palo Alto weather (it continues to be cold -- I could actually see my breath last night and tonight, which is v. unusual), I trundled off to Cafe Borrone, where I spent the afternoon writing. I thought I would want a break after the Golden Heart slog, but luckily this was not the case, so I banged out my requisite 2000 words (ending just before another hot scene between Madeleine and Ferguson, which I chose to postpone so that I wouldn't be blushing in the corner of my favorite cafe). Then, I went to my last magazine class, where we talked v. briefly about class-related topics and spent the rest of the evening enjoying a variety of treats and beverages that the class brought in. I had a good conversation with several women who are trying to pursue writing more seriously and are considering/are applying to MFA programs, and once again was nearly seduced by the idea of writing a book about the romance community (which could be a hilarious way to destroy my romance career).

So even though I didn't think that I was going to take a class next quarter, I ended up coming home and signing up for a fiction class on point of view. These classes are fun, and while taking two in a quarter proved to be too much, they've both been useful for thinking about writing in different ways. The point of view class will get me back into fiction (and hopefully writing stuff that I could use for a portfolio if I decide to apply for an MFA myself in order to string out the number of years I can go without being gainfully employed, and then get some sort of academic job instead of crawling back to the corporate world) -- and I think it will be quite useful as I start to think about my gargoyle series.

I've been assuming that I would write the gargoyle books in first person, and I sort of have the heroine's voice in my head already (hint: longterm readers of this blog may find the voice strangely familiar), but I really haven't bothered to study POV because the POV choices in romance are very clear. The trend now is to do close-third-person, mostly in the heroine's head with some scenes in the hero's head. What this means is that in each scene, you only see/know what the heroine (or hero, if it's a hero-POV scene) sees/knows -- and it's close enough that you're in her head and essentially overhearing how she thinks/processes, rather than just observing the outside world. Since that's the only viable option for historical romance, I haven't paid attention to the other forms (limited third, omniscient third, first, second -- which is very rare, although AND THEN WE CAME TO THE END is written in second-person plural and is quite good). The syllabus seems a bit intense and I think I'm going to have to put a lot more work into it if I want to get anything out of it -- but as I will hopefully be wrapping up edits on Madeleine/Ferguson's story and starting to research both Ellie/Nick and the gargoyle books, I should have time. And this gives me free access to Stanford's libraries for the quarter, so the research can progress in earnest.

But now, after once again staying up later than intended, I should go to sleep. Duke is coming tomorrow to check out my thermostat situation -- and his name really does seem to be Duke, which fascinates me. I have a feeling he is not the duke that I have been dreaming about, but if he does sweep me off my feet, you will be the first to know. So, I need to get to sleep so that I can get up early enough to tidy up and move the TWILIGHT books that are prominently shelved directly below the thermostat, since I don't want to live up to any stereotypes about single women living alone. Goodnight!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

i'm gonna rock you like a baby while the cities fall

So I was successful in finishing my Golden Heart Entry in time to send it this afternoon; I still sent it overnight even though I could have sent it second-day air, mostly because I'm paranoid and could send another copy tomorrow if today's copy somehow gets lost between here and Houston. I'm glad that it's over, even though I wrote the cheesiest epilogue in the history of romance novels (except for the great '80s novels where the heroine was seventeen and married the guy who kidnapped/raped her at the beginning of the book -- ah, the memories). I didn't feel as elated as I thought I would, though, since the last half is more like a an alpha version than a beta version, and I've got a lot of work to do to turn it into something that can see the light of day.

That's all in the (near) future, though; after mailing my entry, I went to Stanford, had some dinner (at 4pm, not because I'm old, but because I had rice cakes for lunch because I didn't want to take a break), and then went to my blogging class. I'm going to spend the next week doing a thorough revamp of zee romance blog, which is much needed even though I've been putting it off. Then, I came home, watched a great episode of Craig (which included Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson telling how he bought a car from a crackhead when he was fifteen, and Paula Deen cooking up an amazing Thanksgiving feast while Craig made dirty innuendoes), and started getting organized for all the stuff I want to do before I go home in two weeks.

I was going to treat you to one of those long, rambling posts full of bittersweet mumblings and self-absorbed realizations (I know, your fave!), but I'm out of words and I need to get some sleep before starting the word games afresh tomorrow. So you escape this time, my friends -- use your reprieve well. Goodnight!