Tuesday, May 31, 2011

close your eyes, clear your heart, cut the cord

Today was lovely - I didn't write a damn thing, but I accomplished enough in other areas of my life to end the day feeling satisfied. I got up in time to have bacon and oatmeal for breakfast before going into the gym and training with Alyssa. Since I had trained with her yesterday, today's session was primarily focused on stretching and cardio to make sure that my body doesn't spontaneously self-destruct. In today's little bit of good news, my heart rate is recovering (slowing down) much faster during the rest periods between cardio routines than it did when I first started, which is kind of cool to see. I have tomorrow off from the gym, but if I focus on cleaning out my garage, it won't really feel like I'm being sedentary - which I suppose is a good thing.

After I showered, I sat in my car and had a twenty-minute conversation with the owners of the condo that Terry and I are attempting to rent. They previously lived in the unit and vacated it only because they had a child and wanted to give him more outdoor space to play in, and since they love it and put a lot of work into it, they're understandably paranoid about prospective renters. Luckily, Terry and I are probably two of the most exacting people you will ever meet when it comes to paying bills on time and generally being on top of things like leases, and we're also both good at talking to people and putting them at ease. They'd talked to Terry just before they talked to me, and even though I'm a writer with no income, they still decided to give it to us. At least it was clear that I have a reasonably pragmatic plan (at least as pragmatic as it's possible to be when one leaves a great job to write romance novels), so they didn't seem to have any qualms about that. It probably helps that I live in one of the only areas in the country where it's not only accepted to be 'funemployed', but is almost a badge of honor - I have a feeling that renting a place with no discernable income would be a bit more difficult in other cities.

Anyway, after I got off the phone with them (and they were lovely, btw), I went to Joanie's to grab lunch. My original plan was to go up to the city early and have lunch at Samovar, my favorite place ever, but none of their items fit with my new protein regime, so I had a Cobb salad at Joanie's instead. Then, I took care of a few tings via the free wireless at Starbucks before driving up to the evil city for a facial. The facial was so awesome that I once again failed to cancel my spa membership - I swear I will one of these days.

Post-facial, I showered to get all the massage lotion out of my hair, then blowdried it, made myself up, and browsed in the mall for an hour. Then, I walked down the block to Amber India (the only Indian restaurant I've ever been to that actually felt chic and posh), where I met up with my long-lost friend Lauren (aka Subz). Lauren finished business school last month and is back in San Francisco permanently, which is awesome news for me (and for her too, I presume). Her boyfriend Nathan (with whom I shared a v. memorable trip to Berlin and Amsterdam oh so many years ago) recently bought a house near the Presidio, which is not so far from the apartment Terry and I are likely moving into, and so I'm looking forward to hanging out with them much more in the coming months.

It was fantastic to see Lauren; I hadn't seen her in over a year, and yet it felt like we hadn't missed a week. Granted, it probably helps that she's read my blog occasionally during that time - it never ceases to amuse me how my long-lost friends seem to know what I've been up to even when I haven't spoken to them in months. But anyway, it's always a wonderful feeling to pick back up right where you left off, and that definitely happened tonight. We caught up over a long dinner at Amber, and Nathan showed up at the end of it to say hi. He hadn't eaten yet, so we adjourned across the alley to Press Club, which is a fancy basement bar. They make it feel members only by taking your credit card at the top and giving you a 'press pass', which the waiter charges your orders to. I didn't have a drink, since I was preparing for the drive home, but the winelist looked good and Nathan's snacky snacks also appeared to be delicious.

We wrapped up there around nine p.m., and then I drove back down to the glorious south bay and caught up on romance email and other tasks for the past couple of hours. And now, I should probably go to bed; if I'm moving in a couple of weeks, I need to start weeding through stuff and making sure I maximize my trash/recycling pickups so that I don't have too much stuff to dispose of in other ways at the end of it. I suppose I could do my tried-and-true tactic from moves I made in the south bay in the past, which is take stuff to Stanford campus and dump it in the FloMo dumpster, but I'd rather be an adult. Or not. Either way, I have a lot to do tomorrow, so goodnight!

Monday, May 30, 2011

it's supernatural, extraterrestrial

Today was lovely - gym, friends, and errands apparently add up to perfection. I woke up sometime around nine and still managed to be almost late to my 11:30am training session with Alyssa, since my aversion to mornings is astonishing. But, at least I got some stuff done this morning before going in, and I also made myself some oatmeal and bacon beforehand, which fueled me through her tortures. Luckily, I'm not nearly as sore as I was when I came back from my roadtrip two weeks ago, and the differences between when I started with here and now are marked (even if I am still awkward at some of the more ridiculous exercises she has me do - at least today didn't involve the exercise where I manage to hit myself in the face with a 6-pound ball more times than I care to admit).

After she and I finished, I showered and dolled myself up, then went to downtown Palo Alto to a) buy a pie and b) pick up Adit (some people call him the cat) from the train that carried him down from the evil city. Adit strolled up to Whole Foods at the same time that I did, and we bought a marionberry pie (special for all the crack cocaine, and +5 points if you get the political reference). Then, we went to Menlo Park for a barbecue hosted by Chris (aka Boyd) and Connie. I hadn't seen either of them in months, even though I live ten minutes from them; since Chris is in finance and Connie is doing a medical residency, I'm guessing they probably haven't seen each other much either. Adit and I were the first ones there, and spent a v. chill 45mins or so chatting with Chris and Connie on their patio while snacking and waiting for the other guests to arrive. Eventually, as people started rolling in, Chris started grilling, and he made some awesome hamburgers w/onions and jalapenos to go with Connie's caesar salad, potato salad, and other treats.

So, I got to see some of my earliest, oldest college friends; Oniel (aka Fauxneil) and his girlfriend Katie (aka Kathryn) showed up, and it's clear that I haven't seen them in awhile since I didn't know that she was seven months pregnant - shocker. John and Jess also came, as did some other people I usually only see at Chris's (such as Bob and Felicia, who's pregnant, and Scott and Catherine, who's also pregnant). Adit had to go back to the evil city to do some work, so I took him back to the train station around 4:30, then returned to the barbecue and chilled until after six. Then, Oniel and Katie followed me to my place so that she could see the famed log cabin that Oniel had told her about, and my usual generally high level of cleanliness paid off since I wasn't embarrassed to have them show up with no warning. Then they left, and I took care of a whole bunch of stuff - talking to my dad, filling out the application for the place in the city, going to Kinko's to scan it (more trouble than you would think), and running to Target and Whole Foods to stock up on stuff.

And now, I'm off to bed; I want to write at least a little bit in the morning before I train with Alyssa, so we'll see how that plan pans out. Then, after Alyssa, I have to go up to the evil city for a facial (my life is hard) and some dinner plans. Goodnight!

this means no fear, cavalier, renegade and steering clear

I had more plans today than I ever do on a Sunday, and I somehow survived them all - yay for being able to emerge from my hermitage and return to it unscathed. When I awoke, I was in Heather and Salim's guest room (which was a good thing; since I fell asleep there, I would have been horrified to wake up elsewhere). Their guest room is lovely, and I slept wonderfully as a result - so wonderfully that I didn't particularly want to get out of bed. But, I managed to drag myself into the shower and then into some clothes so that I could go up to the evil city and leave them to get on with their day.

But before I left, Salim made an incredible breakfast - his chocolate chip pancakes (while not Alyssa-approved) were the best pancakes I've ever had. I don't even like pancakes, and I could have happily gorged myself to death on these. He also made me eggs to increase my protein intake to balance out the pancakes (impossible, but nice attempt), and bacon as well, and Heather brewed some looseleaf black tea just how I like it. They're basically the best hosts ever, since all we did was talk about books, watch bad movies, and eat. Yay.

After I left them, I drove up to the evil city and looked at an apartment with Terry. In a rather abrupt 180 from my previous plans, I agreed to consider moving in with her when she moves to the city; she's almost done with business school and is starting a job in July, and she's been hinting for months about getting me to move to the city. I was rather opposed initially, mostly because I love my log cabin, but all love is temporal and fleeting, right? Or, at least, the old urge to pick up and move has been clawing at me with increasing severity over the past couple of months, and moving back to San Francisco seems more prudent than giving in to the competing urge to put everything in storage and run away to Thailand. So Terry got through my defenses at just the right time, and I agreed to look at the apartment that she'd already seen on Friday. She was putting her application in with or without a roommate, but I couldn't make a decision without seeing the place, and the agent was holding another open house today.

The place was lovely; it has two master bedroom/bath suites, a rooftop deck, private laundry, a nice-sized kitchen and living room, and two parking spaces in the garage. And the lighting was really great, which is important to me since I spend more time inside than anyone other than a vampire should. So, we'll see; if we're able to get the place, I'm going to do it, but if we don't get it, we'll see whether another apartment is able to overcome my love for the cabin.

After Terry and I parted ways, I went to Chandlord's, and she and I went downtown and had mimosas (and a diet coke for me) at a cafe/bar with a rooftop garden. Planning for our Germany trip continues apace, although we really only discussed that for ten minutes, and spent the rest of the time discussing the ridiculousness of life and friendship. Then, I abandoned her, came home (while talking to my mom on the phone - hands-free, of course), went to the gym like a good little client in an effort to redeem my pancake lapse, and then came home and took a nap. I spent the rest of the evening writing in my journal, taking care of some romance email stuff, and finishing a book that I started earlier in the week. And now, I need to sleep; I'm training with Alyssa tomorrow and have a barbecue to attend in the afternoon, so my life as a social butterfly continues. Goodnight!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

we're an american band

I'm not in my own house - I'm indulging in a sleepover at Heather and Salim's house. Today was quite lovely and friend-filled; I woke up and hung out with Terry, then spent some quality time with my laptop while she went to the gym. After she got back, we went to Sprout, where we continued to catch up over some delicious salads. Then, we went back to my place, where she worked on school stuff and I packed/read until it was time for her to go out for dinner with her parents and me to go down to San Jose to Heather and Salim's.

When I got here, Heather and I promptly discussed books for quite some time. I brought over a whole ton of books to loan to her, so we talked about them and a variety of other tings while Salim made dinner. He started us with a sweet potato bisque, and then he made stuffed pork chops with some roasted potatoes and apples. It was all utterly delicious, particularly since I didn't have to cook any of it. While we ate, we watched "Anchorman" on tv, and then I conned them into watching "Sahara". I couldn't believe that they actually fell for it, but they did, and Salim and I watched the entire thing. Heather went to bed at some point, although I'm pretty sure that she just went upstairs to read one of the books I gave her rather than continuing to watch "Sahara".

And now, Salim and I are watching some '80s teen vampire movie, but I'm pretty sure I need to go to bed and not get sucked into anything else. Goodnight!

Friday, May 27, 2011

while i'm wide awake she's no trouble sleeping

Today was better than yesterday, just as I'm sure that tomorrow will be better than today, if only in terms of how I've processed and moved on from rejection. In some ways, while this rejection felt worse (I love love love this book), it was easier to bounce back from because I'm accustomed to it, as sad as that sounds. So, I woke up with a reasonably light heart and went to the gym, where Alyssa tortured me for an hour. Then, I showered and sat around reading a Romance Writers Report (the official magazine of Romance Writers of America) that had been sitting in my gym bag for a couple of months. At noon, I had a stretching session scheduled with Brian, who has replaced Art (the guy who examined me like my body was a used car) because Art is now charging more and Alyssa recommended I try Brian instead. As it turns out, Brian was better than Art (probably because he's going to massage therapy school on the side), but after an hour of having him dig into my calves with his elbows, I feel both loose and bruised at the same time.

After surviving his mauling, I came home, changed into public appropriate clothing, and went to Joanie's Cafe for a late lunch. I continued brainstorming how I feel about my writing and what I want to accomplish with my life, and made some decent progress, but we'll see where I end up. Then, I came home with the intention of reading, but instead I cleaned and tidied and swiffered the place like a good little housekeeper. And then, around six-ish, Terry showed up; she's in town for the weekend, and is currently sleeping on my couch.

She and I went to Palo Alto Sol for Mexican food and margaritas (v. non-Alyssa-approved), where we caught up on all sorts of things and she started her campaign to get me to move to the city with her. If I wasn't living in the most awesome log cabin in the world, I would be moving to the city in a heartbeat, so the part of me that enjoyed my time in the city is torn. Anyway, we continued our conversation at my place, and later went out for ice cream at Cold Stone (also, surprisingly, not Alyssa-approved). And now, she's sleeping and I'm going to be as soon as I wrap up this blog post. I don't know what the plan is for tomorrow daytime, but tomorrow night I'm going to go to Heather and Salim's for dinner and likely spend the night, so if my blog post is short and typed from my phone tomorrow night, that's why. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

eye of the tiger

Waking up to the perpetual silence of my phone is rough, but waking up to two rejection emails is worse.

And that pretty much sums up my day. I'm going to try to avoid chronicling the pain here, not because I'm worried about boring you (if you're still here after seven years, you've tacitly accepted my idiosyncrasies), but because it's generally not a good idea to blog publicly about such things. And, I'm not sure that blogging about it would be particularly helpful anyway. So, I'll try to stop complaining about the phone not ringing, and may not share future rejections until we have a definitive answer on whether we've sold or come to the end of the road. Sorry, kids.

After getting the emails from my agent (including her attempt to cheer me up with continued optimism for our prospects), I promptly told Alyssa that I wasn't coming in to the gym, pulled the covers over my head, and went back to bed. It was the only thing I could think to do, but I eventually rallied, got up, and made myself some breakfast. Eating bacon certainly improved my mood, if only briefly, and so I took care of some stuff that I needed to get done. Sometime around two p.m., I ventured into downtown Palo Alto and had a late lunch, then took Alyssa's advice and hiked the Dish. Being outside certainly helped to clear my head a little bit, as did the nap that I took when I got back to my house. Then I showered, made a peanut butter sandwich for dinner, and read half of a book on my kindle. And now, I need to go to bed -- I'm training with Alyssa tomorrow, and I don't intend to skip this one.

The last thing I will say, though, is that the only positive outcome that I felt in the minutes after those rejections was the clarity that I'm willing to sacrifice anything to be a writer. Maybe that's not a positive; some of my lunch friends yesterday already said that the movie "Black Swan" reminded them of me (I haven't seen it, but I'm assuming that's not a compliment). But my first instinct wasn't to stop writing -- it was to identify what I have to change/allow/give up in order to make this dream happen. It's still too early and I'm still too raw to think in terms of battle plans, but that day will come. And that kernel of clarity will have to be the basis of all the tough decisions I have to make down the road.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

this is not the end, this is not the beginning

I had a lovely day, and mostly managed to keep myself from obsessing over whether my book is going to sell. Okay, that second part isn't entirely true. But, I at least didn't let the obsessing keep me from getting stuff done, which is the main thing, right?

I did lay around in bed longer than I should have, but it really didn't matter; I still got up in time to eat breakfast, catch up on publishing news, shower, and make it to my old place of employment for lunch with Chandlord, John, Jess and Katrina. We had a lovely hour of discussing a variety of ridiculous tings, including magic shows, rock concerts, and "final" unions that I thought implied grisly ritualized murder/suicide but that Jess meant as marriage. My abiding fear of commitment clearly took me down the wrong road on that one. Anyway, after lunch, I left campus, came home, made some tea, and then went to Stanford library, where I worked on zee romance novel for a couple of hours. It's still slow going, but I wrote 1300 words (about five pages), so I'll take it.

I had to leave the library, though, so that I could make it back to the general vicinity of campus in time for a 5:30pm dinner with the Heathers at Fiesta del Mar. Due to some scheduling mishaps, it turned into a 6:15pm dinner with the Heathers and their boys (dear respected madam + Salim, and the other Heather + her fiance Eric). Luckily, Heather S. (the non-dear-respected-madam one) showed up just after I did, so she and I caught up over way too many chips while waiting for everyone else. The five of us ended up staying there until 8:30pm, which is perhaps a bit excessive, but it was super entertaining (even if my tendency to get myself into the weirdest situations ever was addressed, with details, in ways that Eric perhaps wasn't ready for, since this was only the second time I've hung out with him).

And now, I should probably go to sleep; Alyssa moved me to nine a.m. tomorrow instead of my usual ten a.m. slot (that bitch), so I have to get up a whole hour earlier. My life is so rough. Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

she'll bring out the best and the worst you can be

I got quite a bit done today - no writing, alas, but enough other stuff to feel productive. I dragged myself out of bed and over to the gym, where Alyssa attempted to destroy me. Luckily, I've recovered from last week's attempted murder, and I don't think I'll be as sore tomorrow as I was last Wednesday, so that's a good thing. After I escaped our hour together, happy to be alive, I took a shower, changed into a shirt I'd pulled from the back of my closet, and went to Joanie's Cafe for lunch. I surprised the waiter by asking to see a menu; I always order the Mexican scramble, which is clearly what he expected me to do, but instead I ended up getting a Cobb salad. I'm trying out this eating regimen that Alyssa's fellow trainer recommended (see last night's post if you didn't read it), and it feels quite odd and vaguely illicit -- for starters, bacon is encouraged, not forbidden, which is pretty freaking awesome. So, a salad with chicken, boiled egg, bacon, bleu cheese, avocado and dressing was perfectly fine, rather than a disaster in a bowl. And, it was really yummy, so lunch was definitely a +1 for this new regime.

After lunch, I came home, did two loads of laundry (so that I no longer have to wear things from the back of my closet with jeans that I'm pretty sure are dirty), sorted out my desk, and planned my meals for the next few days. Then, I went to Whole Foods and stocked up on steak, bacon, cheese, butter -- basically, all the things that haven't been in my fridge in awhile. For supper, I steamed an artichoke (delish -- why do I never do this?) and cooked a steak, and ate while reading two stories for the writing group that met tonight.

The writing group was really fun; five of us showed up, and we spent a couple of hours discussing writing in general and the stories that a couple of people shared. Oddly, one of the women who shared a story didn't show up tonight, so we discussed it without her. Unfortunately, since we had more questions than answers about what was going on in the story, her absence didn't really help. But, the woman who hosted had written a great couple of chapters for the book she's writing about colonial India, so that was fun.

As usual, I left the group totally inspired to write, so I'm going to prioritize writing tomorrow afternoon. I was distracted enough today that I didn't obsess too much about the book thing, and I'm going to try to maintain that distracted stance tomorrow, but hopefully I'll be able to focus on Ellie and Nick's story for a few hours. And now, I think I shall go to bed so that I can get up and fry myself some bacon in the morning. Goodnight!

Monday, May 23, 2011

i cry tear drops over the massive attack

I don't quite know what to say about today, so perhaps I shall keep this brief. I woke up stressing about the book, agonizing over the silence of my phone, and so didn't get anything done until around lunchtime (when all I had to eat were scrambled eggs; I need to go grocery shopping). But, I finally dragged myself to the gym and purged my thoughts on the elliptical. Then, I met with a trainer who is not Alyssa -- Alyssa recommended that I do this test that facilitates and meet with him to discuss the right nutritional approach for my body. It was all quite interesting; according to the test (which was a v. comprehensive quiz I took online last week), my metabolic makeup means that I should be eating a lot of protein, more fat, and less carbs. Of that protein, it should be mostly red meat. All of this is exactly the opposite of what I've been eating (or trying to eat, when I'm following Alyssa's instructions and not eating whatever I want, like I did tonight), since I've been living off of chicken breast and cheerios.

I'm going to give it a try for the next month, although the idea of getting up and eating meat for breakfast doesn't sound all that appealing right now. But I do notice that I tend to get hungry faster if I've eaten mostly carbs during the previous meal, and carbs are certainly my downfall when I go out. And if I'm allowed to eat all the liver I want, I'm pretty much guaranteed to lose weight, since I don't want to let any liver cross my lips. So, we shall see; if nothing else, you can look forward to being amused at my attempts to figure out where to get elk and wild game if I get sick of eating steak.

After the gym, I went to Starbucks and spent an hour writing a guest blog post for the romance blog that I'm part of. Then, I met up with Jenni for dinner at Bodeguita del Medio. It was the first time I'd seen her since I went over to her parents' house when I heard that her fiance died last month, and it was really good to see her. We ended up lingering for two and a half hours, discussing life and catching up on everything that's happened since the last time I saw her. I won't dwell on that here, but I was happy to see that she seems to be holding up about as well as anyone in her position could be expected to.

Since we shared appetizer plates and dessert (empanadas, shrimp/corn fritters, cheese cubes, and then some awesome caramelized bananas with ice cream), and since I had two drinks, it's little wonder that I came home with no desire to do any more work. I made sure that the post I wrote went live appropriately, and then I spent the rest of the evening reading one of my favorite books (SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley). I practically know some scenes by heart, but sometimes I want the comfort of reading something I know rather than learning something new. And now, I should really go to sleep so that I can get up and eat something appropriately protein-y before training with Alyssa. Goodnight!

baby you're a firework

I had a lovely day, made more lovely by friends and less lovely by my lack of productivity. I managed to drag myself out of bed, into the shower, and up to the evil city before noon, which is an indication of how eager I was to see Chandlord. And when I arrived, I received an even more rare and lovely treat -- in the form of Adit (some people call him the cat), who has been staying with Chandlord for an unclear amount of time, and accompanied us to brunch. As is usual with the three of us, choosing a place was a mild disaster, but as we didn't end up drunk and vomiting outside of an Olive Garden, I'll consider today a victory.

Adit suggested that we go over to Ocean Beach and have brunch at someplace called Outer Lands. Chandlord and I ratified this plan, and we got into Katrina's car (which Adit has stolen) and drove to the west side of the city. The length of the drive reminded me why I never went to Ocean Beach when I was living in the evil city -- but apparently other people go there, since when we showed up at Outer Lands, we discovered that the wait for a table was an hour and forty-five minutes. Calling bullshit on that, we got back in the car, circled around the area, then went to the Inner Richmond and took our chances on a restaurant found via Yelp on our smartphones -- Clement Street Bar and Grill. It was unlike just about any other restaurant I've been to in San Francisco in terms of decor, which I can't quite explain -- sort of like a Buca di Beppo, with high booths and some kitschy decorations, but clearly not a chain. And, there were tablecloths. And, the brunch entrees all included champagne, or a mimosa, or orange juice, with a breadbasket split amongst the table. And, rather than little packets of jam, there was a big bowl of half-eaten jam chilling (or rather, room temperaturing) on the table when we sat down.

But, the food was awesome. I had crab cake benedict, which was outstanding, and Adit and Chandlord both seemed to think that their wild mushroom omelettes were fluffy and delicious. The champagne was v. generously poured, and I was able to get a diet coke on the side to feed my addiction. And, I got to catch up with two of my favorite people (or at least two of my favorite Indians, Ritu Rani notwithstanding) over a leisurely brunch, so I was quite satisfied.

After brunch, Adit had to work, so Chandlord and I ventured out again into the evil city and had coffee. Then, I drove home, driven out of the city at a rather rushed pace when Adit reminded me that there was a baseball game (SF Giants vs. Oakland As, which means double the local traffic) currently at the top of the eighth, which meant I needed to escape the city immediately or be trapped there forever. Once I got home, I talked to my parents, procrastinated a bit, ate some supper, and decided to read a book. I got halfway through a historical (which is totally ridiculous -- an English governess is kidnapped by the bastard son of a viscount who just happens to be the secret heir to a Basque-like kingdom and is leading a rebellion to claim his throne), and while I enjoyed the ridiculousness, I managed to put it down so that I can go to bed. I have a busyish (for me) day tomorrow, since I need to go to the gym, I have a meeting with someone at the gym who was recommended by Alyssa to discuss nutrition (more tomorrow, but all signs point toward him recommending that I eat basically the exact opposite of what I've been eating recently, and by that I mean the exact opposite of chicken and salad, not the exact opposite of the McDonald's meals I was eating on the road), and I have dinner plans. Somewhere in there, I need to write -- Ellie and Nick aren't writing themselves, lazy bastards that they are. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

what am i gonna do when the best part of me was always you

I've only been out of bed for twelve hours, but it's rapidly nearing the time when I should crawl back into it. I woke up sometime after ten a.m., but spent the next hour and a half lying in bed with my laptop, catching up on the online world. Finally, I decided I should do something a bit more productive, and so I showered, put in a minimal amount of attention to my appearance, and drove to Palo Alto for a late lunch at Sprout. I enjoyed my salad at a slow pace while writing some ideas in my brainstorming journal -- and then was v. pleasantly interrupted by Sophie and Joanna, two girls from my former place of employment, who happened to stroll in for lunch. I ended up joining them at a bigger table and spent a delightful forty-five minutes or so catching up on work and life, which was a nice interlude in my regularly-scheduled hermitville.

After parting ways with them, I grabbed some tea at Starbucks, then snuck it into the Stanford library, where I spent several hours working on zee romance novel. Actually, I alternated between working and checking twitter, with a break to get a latte from the Coupa Cafe kiosk outside the library, but I still managed to be productive -- I wrote exactly 2000 words, which was my goal, and equates to about nine pages. The scene I was initially working on totally sucked and made me despair of ever being a real novelist, but when I wrote some vague handwavy 'finish this scene later' lines and moved on to the next one, I got excited again. I'll just have to ignore the first two chapters and move forward, or else I'll get trapped in an endless rewrite loop, which won't do me any good. I actually had a brief conversation on twitter with several other writers, in which we discovered that we are all Virgos and that we all have extremely tragic relationships with the beginnings of our novels -- one of them also scrapped the first half of her last manuscript like I did (although I have the dubious distinction of scrapping it twice). So at least I'm not alone, even though I hope I never do that again.

Finally, I left the library around 7:30, picked up some food at Chipotle (I need to go grocery shopping), came home, ate, and proceeded to do some housecleaning. I cleaned the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom, unpacked from my trip, and opened my lingering mail; all that's left on the must-do list is laundry, swiffering, and dusting (particularly of my desk, so that I can work at it comfortably; the dust can continue to accumulate elsewhere). And now, feeling quite smug with all my accomplishments, I think I'll go to bed (and perhaps take a book with me); I need to get up slightly earlier tomorrow if I have any hope of making it to the gym before getting on with my day. Goodnight!

Friday, May 20, 2011

keep on dancing til the world ends

I really have nothing to report today - now that I'm back from my trip, my life has resumed its regularly-scheduled blandness. I made it into the gym in time to train with Alyssa, who took me back to a routine heavy on squats and lunges, so we'll see whether I can walk tomorrow. Then, I showered and went over to my former place of employment (third time this week, for those of you who are counting) for lunch with Regina. Regina was an expat with me in India oh so many years ago, and I hadn't seen her in months - our paths don't often cross, since she doesn't work on the same side of campus as most of my friends (and she has a husband, who was in India with us, and a two-year-old daughter, which constrains her social life). But, I'm so glad that we got to catch up; we lingered over lunch, discussing all sorts of topics related to work and life before I finally left. And even if we hadn't had anything to talk about, lunch still would have been worth it; the cafe that we went to was serving burrata, which is a fresh mozzarella stuffed with mozzarella and cream, and it was possibly the best thing I've eaten in weeks.

So after lunch, I came home and got sucked into procrastinating on the laptop for a couple of hours. In an effort to drag myself out of it, I went to Cafe Borrone (again), where I managed to eke out three pages of the new romance novel. It was really slow going, since I'm still figuring out the voice, tone and emotion for the hero in the first few chapters, but at least I made some progress. I went to Stanford library afterward to try to make more progress, but I got sucked into a wikipedia wormhole and didn't write another word.

Tomorrow promises to produce another boring blog post, so feel free not to stop by; my biggest ambitions for this weekend are to dust, swiffer, do laundry, and write ten to twenty pages of zee romance novel, so we'll see how I do. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the dreams in which i'm dying are the best i've ever had

First and foremost, happy birthday to Uncle Mark! I suppose it's no longer his birthday in Iowa, but I still have an hour and a half to say it in California, and I'm considering that good.

As for the rest of the day, I have nothing to report. I'll still keep going with this drivel, but you've been warned. I woke up and dragged myself to the gym, where Alyssa laughed at my pain -- but she did switch my workouts so that I did more cardio and stretching today, saving squats and lunges for tomorrow. I'm still walking rather ridiculously, so I don't think tomorrow will go well, but at least I survived today's workout. After the workout, I showered, came home, ate a leisurely lunch, messed around the house, and then went back to the gym to get a massage (my life is so hard). The massage was great, but it barely scratched the surface of all the tension that built up over my three-week roadtrip, and I'm basically sore all over, which made productivity over the course of the rest of the day quite challenging.

But, I did make a valiant effort; after the massage, I came home, grabbed my notebook, and went to Cafe Borrone, where I wrote for a couple of hours while eating my favorite sandwich and enjoying the people-watching afforded by the ridiculous suburban parents who frequent the establishment. I think I'm getting closer to understanding Nick's character, which is what's currently blocking me, so hopefully I can start writing scenes this weekend.

I eventually threw in the towel and came home, sent an email to someone that involved a lot of looking up of facts and figures on some of the writers I follow on facebook and twitter, and decided to watch some television. I picked the season finale of "NCIS: Los Angeles", which I tivo'd earlier in the week and hadn't watched -- and omg, it was amazing. I'm definitely hooked on this show, and now I need to go back and watch all the episodes I've missed (basically, any episode not shown during my forays in Iowa and my parents' CBS-only household). It was a great break from my writing, although now my mind is spinning with the desire to write thrillers (which, sadly, I don't think my authorial voice is cut out for).

And now, even though it's only 10:30, I'm going to go to bed -- I may not fall asleep immediately, but my back is too sore to slouch on the couch any longer. Yes, poor me. Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

once i set the mood right imma make it sound like

Words cannot quite express how sore I am today; I was right that Alyssa was trying to kill me yesterday, and I have to get up and let her try again tomorrow. I suppose it's all worth it, but when my legs nearly gave out from under me every time I tried to climb any step/slight incline or sit down/stand up, it was hard to remember the long-term goal in the face of the short-term incapacitation.

However, other than that, today was mostly lovely. I didn't go to the gym this morning, but I did mess around on the internet and take care of some stuff while lazing about in bed. Then, I dolled myself up and went to my old place of employment, where I had lunch with Meital. She's Alan's admin, and while she started being his admin after I stopped reporting to him directly, I still got to know her quite well. It was wonderful to catch up; Alan's out of town this week, as is the big boss, and so she had time to linger over lunch and coffee while we discussed all sorts of topics related to work and life. Finally, I escaped, stopped at Starbucks for some tea, came home, took care of a couple more online errands, and called my parents to replace the call that they missed out on while I was driving back from Vegas on Sunday.

After I got off the phone with my parents, I procrastinated for a little bit, then decided I had to stop. I'm in a complete tailspin from the stress over whether my book will sell or not, which is a) not good for my attempts to eat healthy, since I gave in to my pasta craving tonight, and b) more importantly, is blocking progress on my next book. So rather than taking tonight off as I said I would, I went to Stanford, sat in one of my favorite study rooms (the Bender Room, on the top floor of the Bing Wing, which was filled with evening light and not filled with very many people), and tried a meditation exercise before writing. And, much to my surprise, it worked. It came from a guest post that I facilitated last week on the group romance blog I'm part of, and at the time I'd dismissed it as kind of silly. But, after fifteen or twenty minutes of sitting in silence and envisioning walking down a series of steps to my ideal writing place, my mind had stopped frantically obsessing over my sales potential, and I was able to write 5+ pages of character development stuff related to my hero's childhood and personality.

Through that exercise, I discovered that my ideal writing place has a minibar, but I won't dwell too much on the implications of that; if it makes you feel better, a fancy tea machine and an abundance of Diet Coke and ice featured more prominently than top-shelf liquor. But, I'm glad I was able to write, if only for a little while. I came home, still quite peaceful, to make sure that the post I'm facilitating for tomorrow's romance group blog went live at the right time, and then did some desultory answering of email.

And now, I'm going to go to bed, and when I wake up tomorrow morning and start obsessing over whether my phone will ring, I will hopefully hit myself in the head and try to go to my quiet place. Goodnight!

britannia, rule the waves

I went back to the gym today, for the first time in three weeks, and I have a feeling that I will feel like dying tomorrow morning. It was good to see Alyssa, though, even if she did attempt to kill me. All of my muscles were so tight from 4500 miles of driving that at the start of the third set of squats and lunges, I suddenly felt like I was eighty years old and on the verge of death. I lived to die another day, though, and it was surprisingly good to go back to the gym -- I never thought that I would be someone who looked forward to such torture, but I'm ready to get back into some form of routine.

After Alyssa and I parted ways and I stumbled through showering, clothing myself, and drying my hair, I drove to my former place of work, where I had an extended lunch with Alaska Matt. It was long overdue and we had much to catch up on, which we did over the first baked potato Tuesday that I've had in months. His lovely wife Kia (technically Alaska Kia, I suppose, but as she's the only Kia I know, the differentiator isn't really necessary) is actually in Alaska right now, but hopefully when she gets back we'll do something outside of work (possibly in the evil city, gasp). After we finished lunch, Alaska Matt transferred custody of me to Heather (aka dear respected madam), since I can no longer roam freely in the buildings that used to be my home, and she and I caught up for an hour or so. Then, she escorted me out of the building, and I came home with the intention of writing...

...and I didn't write a damn word. I did make some chai with the intention of writing, but I failed. Finally, upon writing in my journal and doing some soul-searching, I decided to let go, read a book tonight, and possibly take the rest of the week off. I can't afford to take much longer before I really start Ellie and Nick's book, but while my three-week roadtrip was fun, it wasn't really relaxing, and since I'd been working nonstop before I left, maybe I need to take a break and read some of the hundreds of books on my to-be-read list and stop thinking about whether Madeleine and Ferguson will sell. Sounds like a plan, right?

But I stayed up way too long reading, and now I need to go to bed. I'm not training with Alyssa tomorrow, but I intend to drag myself into the gym if I can still walk. I'm also going back to my former place of employment tomorrow for lunch with someone else, so I'll have to drag myself out of bed for that even if my muscles don't want to let me go. Goodnight!

Monday, May 16, 2011

writing your own headlines, ignoring your own deadlines

First and foremost, happy birthday to my brother, [censored]! Hopefully he had a lovely day in Stillwater. I can almost guarantee that it was warmer there than it was in Palo Alto; after the searing heat of the desert southwest, I'm freezing my ass off in my house, even with the heat turned up to seventy. It was quite gloomy all day, then began to rain in the evening, which was somehow a fitting way to mark my return to California life.

I slept more fitfully than I thought I would last night, including an hour-long online perusing session at three a.m., and so I didn't crawl out of bed until almost ten. I finally got around to showering, then went to Joanie's Cafe for lunch because I was utterly out of groceries and had no milk for the tea that would have revived me. So, I had eggs and coffee there, then went to Whole Foods and stocked up on appropriate foods for the week ahead. Alyssa (whom I see tomorrow for the first time in three weeks - I'm going to die) sent over some meal plans, and I plotted out every menu for the week in an effort to avoid buying too much food and then tossing it. With my groceries lined up, I came home, cleaned out my fridge, messed around online all afternoon, talked to [censored], and then decided to get a salad from Sprout as an easy ramp into the draconian diet Alyssa is encouraging. It ended up being an even easier ramp than I anticipated, since the Sprout people left out both the bacon and the pico de gallo from my Southwestern salad, which is pretty much the whole reason to get the Southwestern salad. Sadly, I didn't discover this until I was already home, and I didn't want to pack the salad back up, drive back downtown, and fight for parking in the rain over some bacon I probably shouldn't have eaten anyway. Still, it made me a sad panda, but I suppose I shall recover.

I was going to write tonight, but I decided to read a book instead, and so I started a book that I bought while visiting Katie in Denver. It's about fallen angels, and surprisingly was reviewed by the NYTimes, which I should have realized meant that it was much closer to the literary end of the spectrum than what I really wanted to read tonight. It's sort of reminding me of Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" in terms of taking a favorite subgenre (fallen angels in this case; Dracula's in "The Historian") and making it more literary. We'll see how far I get, but it's going to need to pick up a bit more if I'm going to finish it.

And now, I shall go to bed; I have to be at the gym at ten, and as Alyssa wants me to start eating eggs and oatmeal, etc., before coming in rather than just quickly inhaling a bowl of Cheerios, I should get up earlier than I usually do. Goodnight!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

and i'm crazy but i get the job done

I'm lying on my couch in Palo Alto, which is absolutely thrilling. I made it back from Vegas in ten hours, which was pretty good considering that traffic came to a standstill for almost an hour in the miles leading up to the agriculture inspection stop outside of Barstow. However, because I didn't start driving until 11:30am, this means that I got home at 9:30pm, which was later than I had hoped. Still, I'm glad to be back, and I'm glad that my odyssey of driving is over. I just put all the destinations that I went to into Google maps, and it appears that I drove 4500 miles in my loop around the Great American West, not counting any little extra bits of driving around towns and such while touring the various places on the list. While I'm not qualified to be a trucker just yet, I've done more solo driving (3000 miles of that trip was on my own) than I'd like to do for awhile.

Still, the trip was good, and I'm glad I did it. I got up around eight a.m. today with the intention of getting out of Vegas as quickly as possible, but I changed my mind and decided to have a leisurely breakfast after showering and drying my hair. On the way back up to my room, I learned from my fellow elevator guests that there was some sort of disaster in the hotel the previous night, for which they were trying to get a voucher or a comped room -- a transformer exploded, and there was a fire, and the power went out to the entire CityCenter area. Since I was asleep before midnight, I didn't notice any of this, and they didn't evacuate the hotel, so I wasn't inconvenienced at all. But apparently the people who weren't in the hotel (which would be many of them, since most people don't go to Vegas to go to bed before midnight) couldn't get into their rooms until four a.m. or something -- I'm guessing that without power, the elevators and key cards didn't work, which would make for a bad night. So, I stood in the insanely long checkout line rather than checking out on my tv so that I could take advantage of their misfortune, and the hotel comped the meal that I charged to my room last night (too bad I didn't eat someplace even fancier!) and is sending me a voucher for my next stay. Yay.

And then, after standing in the equally long line to get my car back from the valet, I drove back to California, and there is absolutely nothing of interest to report in terms of the drive. I think I shall go to bed now -- I need to start writing Ellie and Nick's story tomorrow, just as soon as I go out and get some milk (for tea) and groceries (so I don't starve). Goodnight!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

lonely and dreaming of the west coast

Okay, so I'm not actually lonely; I'm alone for the first time in weeks, which in many ways is a balm to my increasingly hermity soul. But I am ready to go home, if only so that I can sink into hermitville and knock out a rough draft of my next romance novel before I leave for New York in a few weeks. Luckily, tonight is the last night of my trip -- I shall leave Vegas as soon as I can wake up and get out the door tomorrow morning, and I should be in Palo Alto by nightfall (or at least before midnight).

Today felt like the actual end of the trip, though; I dropped my brother off at the airport for his flight back to Oklahoma, thus concluding our tour of the desert southwest. We saw a bit more of Vegas today before he had to go. I let him sleep in (which allowed me to use my laptop, thus killing two birds with one stone), and then we took a taxi to the Wynn so that we could see some other hotels on the strip. We were going to eat there, but the line for the buffet was way too long and we couldn't find anything else that appealed to us. So, we walked down the strip and ended up at the Venetian, where we ate at a Wolfgang Puck establishment in the Venetian's version of the real Venice's St. Mark's Square. The Venetian version has several Italian-type restaurants scattered in a very large square with 'outdoor seating' -- but it's actually all inside, and the 'sky' is a domed ceiling painted to look like a lovely sky with wisps of clouds floating across it. So, that was kind of entertaining, and we got there just in time to watch some sort of Carnevale-themed show happening in the middle of the square while we waited for our food. I had some gnocchi with a bolognese sauce that I thought was sensational, and a diet coke to repair the ravages of last night's mojito consumption, and all was right with the world.

After eating, we wandered back toward our hotel, stopping in at Treasure Island and the Mirage on the way. When we got here, I took a nap while my brother finished packing, and then I dropped him off at the airport so that he could make it through security and still have time to grab snacks and things before his flight. Then, I came back to the hotel, changed, wandered over to Aria, played some slots, ate some dinner (a BLT -- Alyssa awaits on Tuesday, but bacon ruled today), had a couple of mojitos, and then came back to my room and alternated between playing on the internet and writing in my journal. And now, I should really sleep. Tomorrow's drive is only 500-some miles, which is practically an easy day, but I don't want to risk falling asleep on the vast wastes of I-5. Goodnight!

Friday, May 13, 2011

you're just dead people that didn't die yet

I'm in Vegas, baby! [censored] and I were out of the hotel in the Grand Canyon before 8:30am, which is practically unheard of for my typical travel desires. I had set my alarm for 4:30 with the intention of getting up and watching the sunrise, but that intention died a silent death when the alarm went off and I reset it for seven. So, we got ready, repacked, and checked out so that we could start the drive to Las Vegas.

The drive was actually quite lovely; there's something really strange and amazing about the scrub-filled desert and the rocky, surreal landscape. Some aspects reminded me of the Deccan Plateau in India -- when a bunch of us expats went to Hampi (the Hampi Dance is your chance to do the Hamp), we saw all sorts of boulders strewn about like they'd been tossed there by giants back before all the giants were killed by a meteor (I was totally an A student when it comes to prehistory). And that kind of rock collector's dream was in evidence all throughout western Arizona -- like the rocks didn't form in a nice, sedate layering system but were dropped from the sky, shattered, and then rounded up into mounds. Pretty cool stuff, and it's no wonder that I keep thinking about writing postapocalyptics.

Luckily, I came up with an idea for a Regency series while I was driving, which I need to write down before I forget. And then, my brother and I got to Boulder City, Nevada, where we had lunch at Boulder Dam Brewing Company. We didn't have beer because we're losers, but my burger with pepperjack cheese and spicy sauce was pretty delicious. Then, we backtracked to Hoover Dam and went through the visitor center/observation deck. Hoover Dam is definitely a marvel of modern engineering and human ingenuity. Regardless of what you think of creating entire cities and farmland empires out of a desert by damming up a river and hoping for the best, Hoover Dam is an amazing accomplishment. They used enough concrete in it to pave a 16' highway all the way from Seattle to Miami, and completed the project two years ahead of schedule. Looking at it from the observation deck, it was almost impossible to comprehend how such a thing could have come into existence, particularly 80 years ago -- back when all those companies had to coordinate via letter, telegram and primitive telephone rather than email and video conferencing, and when people got paid 60 cents an hour to hang five hundred feet over a cliff stuffing dynamite into holes. If you're in the Vegas area, I highly recommend seeing it.

So after Hoover Dam, we came to Vegas, stopping at a Walmart (which, as usual, included the dregs of humanity + a kid whom I'm pretty sure was selling drugs in the parking lot) to grab a couple of things before checking into the hotel. I'm so in love with this place -- I've never been to Vegas before, but the hotel I chose seems to be a winner. It's called Vdara, which makes no sense, but it's connected to the Bellagio via a skywalk and is also next to the Aria, so the location is awesome. And, the hotel feels more intimate and posh than it would if there were a smoke-filled casino in the lobby, so I'm pretty happy. [censored] and I took showers and got ready for the evening, and then had dinner at the buffet at the Aria. The food was mostly good, and the desserts were amazing -- and I had two glasses of wine, which made me realize how much I've missed having that sweet nectar cross my lips. Then, we walked outside and and back up the strip towards the Bellagio, stopping to play some slots along the way.

The interior of the Bellagio was even more incredible than Aria, with huge masses of live flowers everywhere. At that point, I'd lost my budgeted gambling amount on slots (likely because the first slot machine I played was Lord of the Rings themed, and you know they program those to just take money from nerds), and I decided to spend my money on alcohol instead. The bartender ID'd me (and was either fishing for a bigger tip or was genuinely surprised that I'm almost thirty), then made me a mojito with a light dusting of powdered sugar on the mint leaf and enough alcohol to make up for my losses. So I drank the mojito, [censored] played some more slots, and we came back to Vdara, where we've been watching Comedy Central ever since.

And now, I should sleep; we're going to explore Vegas some more tomorrow before [censored] boards a [censored] in the late afternoon. Then, I'll have a few hours tomorrow night to do some people watching (or writing) before driving back to Palo Alto bright and early on Sunday morning. Goodnight!

substitute a story of your own making for this blog post

I am at the Grand Canyon without intern access, and I do not care to type a full post on my phone. Therefore, you should tell yourself a story using these key components from my experience today:

- coffee alone with a stranger
- road construction
- strident GPS lady
- overflowing gas pump
- the Grand Canyon
- Darwin Awards
- steak
- cinderblock construction
- mule deer

Get on it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

all this pain gets me high

The good thing about driving a lot in a single day is that you get places way faster. The bad thing is that you're then too tired to do much in the places where you arrive. Today was a medium-long day -- we left the hotel in Santa Fe at 8:30am MDT and arrived at the hotel in Sedona at 5pm PDT, which is shorter than my epic solo drives across Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska, but still longer than anyone should spend in a car.

Still, we saw some pretty cool stuff. On the way out of Santa Fe, we drove through downtown and went to the Loretto Chapel. It's home to the 'miraculous staircase', which was built by a mysterious carpenter in the 1870s after the nuns prayed for a solution to the fact that there were no stairs to access to choir loft in their church and no room to build stairs (according to the recording in the chapel, choir lofts were built without stairs because most choirs at the time were male -- but while men could use ladders, that wasn't particularly dignified for the nuns). The carpenter built a spiral staircase with no center support beam and two 360' turns (and no banister, which would have been frightening; the nuns hired someone else to put one in later), which was quite lovely whether it was a miracle or not.

After Santa Fe, we hightailed it west, barely stopping as we crossed New Mexico and entered Arizona. We took a detour that made our drive an hour longer, but it was worth it -- we drove through Petrified Forest National Park, which was totally lovely in a v. desolate kind of way. But, we weren't prepared for how absolutely gorgeous Sedona (and the descent from Flagstaff to Sedona) is. I had forced my brother to drive for forty-five minutes before we reached Flagstaff, since I was having trouble staying awake, but I'm glad that we switched in Flagstaff (and that I was awake to see everything) -- the giant ponderosa pine trees and towering red rocks are one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The descent was treacherous, and my GPS clearly got confused by the constant switchbacks (since we were often directly above another portion of the highway on which we would later be going the opposite direction, so it kept wanting us to make u-turns), but it was all v. lovely.

Needless to say, Sedona has utterly replaced Santa Fe in my fickle affections, and I'm going to have to come back here posthaste. It would be an awesome place to do a writer's retreat. As it is, we don't really have time to explore; it was a little too late to start hiking or anything tonight, and our priority tomorrow is to get to the Grand Canyon and walk around there. But, we did have some great Mexican food -- in our quest to see the regional variations of Mexican cuisine, we had it again tonight (which may be overkill). I had a totally fantastic chile relleno (actually, I had two, but I could only finish one -- if I feel like having a cold chile relleno for breakfast, it's sitting in the fridge), and my brother's fajitas were apparently good too. And then we came back to the hotel, I took care of some romance blogging stuff, we both made use of the free and ample wireless connection, and watched some Conan.

And now, although it's only ten p.m. in the Pacific timezone, I'm going to go to bed; the drive tomorrow should only be a couple of hours, but I want to be awake enough to enjoy the Grand Canyon. Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

new mexican

I really like Santa Fe - I'm going to have to come back here sometime. There wasn't time to see everything that there is to see around here, and this seems like a place where I could spend more than a few days. But, we're leaving tomorrow bright and early for Sedona, so further explorations will have to wait.

We didn't get out of the hotel particularly early, but we did make it up to Los Alamos in time for lunch. We ate at some sort of mexicatessen, where I had chilaquiles - a delicious version of v. saucy nachos, which were tasty but not really that good for me. Then, we went to the Bradbury Science Museum, which is all about the research done at Los Alamos National Laboratory. They played a movie about how Los Alamos got started during the Manhattan Project in World War II - there was nothing there but a boys' ranch before Oppenheimer and co. showed up. Unfortunately, my brother and I agreed that we both knew too much about the nuclear program to really get much out of the museum, since nothing there was particularly surprising or insightful. But still, the museum was quite nice (and free), so it was worth a stop.

After Los Alamos, we drove over to Valles Caldera, where a volcano exploded many tens of thousands of years ago and created a flat plain in a basin surrounded by hills. It was quite lovely in a desolate sort of way, and it made me eager to start writing some postapocalyptic thrillers. Then, we went to Bandelier National Monument and did a hike around some Indian ruins, including a pueblo and some caves dug into the cliffs. It was a nice day for a hike, and then we came back and took naps before going to dinner.

I looked up restaurants on Yelp and found a place that looked v. promising - 4.5 stars and 50+ reviews, and only a couple of miles from the hotel. I wanted to try New Mexico's version of Mexican food, and this looked like it fit the bill. When we got there, though, cop cars were all over the place. We debated whether to go in or not, but the restaurant appeared to be open and the cop cars were all moving away from the entrance, so we went in. The greeter said that some sort of car chase had ended in their parking lot - bad for business, but it meant that we got a table easily (when we left, the line was out the door). As it turns out, I liked what I had, but my brother didn't seem to be a fan of New Mexican, likely because it was quite spicy. We had some queso, which was like a hotter, more gourmet version of Tostitos salsa con queso, and then I had a chile relleno and some pork dish while he had a burrito. My chile relleno was awesome and way too filling; had I had a margarita too, it might have been a perfect meal. But, with cops chilling outside, I didn't think a margarita was a good idea, and the older I get, the worse I sleep if I've let any drop of alcohol cross my lips. After dinner, we came back to the hotel and watched some fine CBS programming (the end of NCIS, NCIS:LA, and The Good Wife) - which means I could have had the same evening in Iowa, but since these were all an episode away from the season finale, I suppose seeing them was a good thing.

And now, I need to go to bed - we're getting up early to go to Sedona, with a stop along the way at the Petrified Forest. Goodnight!

Monday, May 09, 2011

moving eight miles a minute for months at a time

I am thrilled to announce that I am no longer in Stillwater! Sadly, though, that's the only item of interest to share tonight. We didn't leave Stillwater until almost one p.m., and so I spent the morning packing, washing my car, grabbing some snacks and ice for the road, etc. And now, 10.5 hours later, my brother and I are holed up in a motel room in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I am delighted at the prospect of sleeping in a bed instead of on the thirty-year-old couch in my brother's living room.

Really, we made quite good time. Stillwater to Santa Fe was a little over six hundred miles, and we stopped five times: in Oklahoma City to drop off his car at the airport; somewhere outside Oklahoma City to grab a snack; in Shamrock, Texas to get gas at a disgusting little gas station where they had a cooler devoted to Franzia wine in a box, my brother spotted two different dudes wearing spurs, and a woman who may have been a truck stop prostitute was cleaning herself up in the bathroom sink; in Amarillo, Texas to get some caffeine at Starbucks; and in Tucumcari, New Mexico to get gas and a late supper. Tucumcari's claim to fame in my world is that it's one of the lesser-known destinations in Rail Baron, which can be a bitch to get to during the end-game if you don't have a good rail network established in the west. And now that I've proven my dorkiness for the thirteen millionth time, I shall move on.

Driving across northern Texas was about as dull and miserable as I expected it to be, but I'm rather enjoying New Mexico so far. The change in scenery was abrupt and pronounced just a bit before the Texas/New Mexico border; it suddenly went from miles and miles of flat, dry, irrigated farmland to rolling scrub with pronounced mesas and strange gullies. The sun was setting in a strange, surreal haze, and the oddly murky light made everything feel slightly apocalyptic. It probably didn't help that I'd been driving for about seven hours at that point -- I drove the entire way, since six hundred miles is oddly par for the course for me these days and my brother had only slept a couple of hours last night as he tried to wrap things up in an attempt to prevent me from leaving without him. But I'm eager to see what the scenery looks like tomorrow morning, in the bright light of day and after eight or nine hours of sleep.

But now, I should probably go to bed; it's only eleven p.m. mountain time, but that's midnight in the central time, and I'm quite tired. Luckily, the hotel I found in Santa Fe appears to be a winner despite being the least expensive one that we're staying in this entire trip -- it's only $55/night, but there's a fridge, microwave, two stove burners, dishes, silverware, etc. I'm waiting for some hideous catch, such as the possibility that the Santa Fe railroad runs twenty feet behind the hotel, but it's too dark to see what the surroundings are and nothing untoward has happened so far. So, we shall see what we shall see -- in the meantime, goodnight!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

if we ever get out of here

Today was somewhat a repeat of yesterday, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I took my time getting up and getting ready, but I finally went to Panera for lunch, leaving my brother behind because he doesn't like Panera and is trying to pack, etc. While at Panera, I wrote out a page or two of notes on a new series that I'm brainstorming; I'm several books away from being able to start it, since I want to write Ellie's book, rewrite Amelia's book, and possibly write Prudence's book if my agent can sell it, but I had the idea for an unrelated Georgian-era series (so, set 20-30 years before the Regency period, when things were even more lavish and decadent and scandalous) while I was driving through Kansas, and I wanted to capture my thoughts before I forgot about it. Amusingly, I had the idea after reading one of those ubiquitous billboards saying that we're all damned except for the members of whatever church put up the billboard -- I have a feeling that they didn't intend for their marketing to spark an idea for a series of racy historical romances. Ha.

After Panera, I went back to the cafe where I spent most of yesterday, and I wrote a couple of pages of Nick and Ellie's story. It's slow going, mostly because I haven't written since I left on this trip, and it always takes a few days to really get back into the story. But, at least I made some progress, and I have some stuff to ponder as I drive across the desert southwest this week. Then, I talked to my mother while sitting in a Starbucks parking lot, and then I came back to my brother's apartment. We had earlier agreed to order pizza rather than going out, so he ordered the food and I went back out into the wilds of Stillwater to pick it up. This is the second time in two weeks that I've had Pizza Hut, and Alyssa will be v. disappointed -- but it tastes so good, and I fully intend to have the leftovers packed away in the cooler for tomorrow's adventure. I spent the rest of the evening booking hotels in Sedona and Las Vegas, planning some things we might see along the way, creating an itinerary to share with our parents, printing off maps, attempting to write another page or two of zee romance novel, and generally wrapping things up.

And so, barring complete disaster, we're leaving tomorrow morning en route to Santa Fe. Thank goodness; while Stillwater is actually a pretty nice town, and while I didn't totally mind have some time to do some writing and editing, etc., I'm eager to sleep somewhere other than the couch that my brother inherited from our grandparents (which is almost as old as I am, and not long enough for me, which is a sign that it's quite small). So, if I am still in Stillwater tomorrow night, check my pupils for killing rage and hide the knives. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

roadblock

I am still in Stillwater, Oklahoma. You, like me, are probably wondering why. Sadly, my brother must wrap some stuff up, and so rather than leaving today like we were supposed to, it appears that we're leaving Monday. It will all work out just fine; he's now flying out of Las Vegas on Saturday to return to Oklahoma, rather than going all the way to San Francisco with me, which means we'll still see the stuff in Arizona and New Mexico without sacrificing it all just to get back to San Francisco in time for his flight there. But still, even though Stillwater is a lovely town, with friendly people and some decent places to eat (more on that in a moment), I would prefer to leave it as soon as I possibly can.

But, today wasn't a complete wash. After I got up, we rebooked my brother's ticket and the rooms that I'd already booked, and then I showered and made a minimal attempt at making myself look presentable before we went out in search of lunch. My brother took me to a cafe (in separate cars), where we had lunch (the first non-fried thing I've had in awhile) before he left to work on his stuff and I stayed to work on mine. Rather than writing, I spent about six hours today proofreading someone's manuscript as part of my ongoing effort to assess the market and figure out what I would need to charge to have a viable income stream. So, I did that at the cafe for four hours while getting jazzed on caffeine, then came back to my brother's place to pick him up for supper.

We ended up going to Red Lobster, which he loves (and which I can't remember ever having gone to before). I had crab legs, which were quite good, and shrimp alfredo pasta, which was good but too much, and a baked potato, which was a ridiculous side to a pasta dish. I mean, the food was all tasty, but I was feeling somewhat guilty because Alyssa emailed me today to see how I was doing on my roadtrip. Sigh. Then, we came back here, my brother went to bed, and I stayed up until now doing my editing. I feel so virtuous.

Tomorrow, though, appears to be shaping up to be a repeat of today, so I think I'll find a cafe and do some writing. And then, I'm leaving Monday morning for Santa Fe whether my brother is ready or not. Goodnight!

[editor's note: please consider this whole post censored, as I am too tired to do it]

Friday, May 06, 2011

raccoon hat

We had a lovely day in Stillwater, even though I awoke sometime around six a.m. and discovered that my brother had instinctively locked his bedroom door, which meant that I couldn't access the bathroom without waking him up. So, I dosed fitfully until his alarm went off; he had a final to take this morning, and I didn't want to wake him up early. But, after he left for the final, I slept for a bit longer, then got up, got ready, did a load of laundry, and repacked for the roadtrip ahead of us. He came back around 10:30 and our parents weren't too far behind -- they spent the night at a hotel, but they showed up in time to have lunch.

We drove around Stillwater for a bit, and settled on Braum's, which is a creamery that also serves burgers and fries. In this respect, it was both twice as good and half as costly as the Palo Alto Creamery, although they served their food on paper wrappers rather than on plates. Then, my brother showed us around campus a bit; my parents had seen it when they moved him down here last fall, but I got to see his office, the buildings that he frequented, the alumni center, etc. Oil money has bought some lovely buildings down here (the alumni center is named for Conoco-Phillips), and also seems to buy any possible attempt to keep the grass green and the flowers blooming in the arid plains.

After campus, we came back to my brother's apartment and watched some "Stargate" (weird, I know). I took a bit of a nap, but woke up in time to watch some more "Stargate" and some "Scrubs" before getting ready for graduation. The ceremony was for masters' students and doctoral candidates and was held in the OSU basketball arena, which was very modern (albeit filled with too much orange for my taste). My parents and I scored decent seats, although somehow where we sat and where my brother ended up sitting ended up being in the exact wrong line of vision, since the loudspeakers blocked us from seeing him. I realized sometime after sitting down that I'd forgotten my phone, and I had all the mad twitching of an addict when I broke out into a cold sweat upon envisioning several hours without it. Had I known it was in my car, I would have gone back for it, but I thought it was in my brother's apartment, so I made do without. Luckily, I'd brought my Arizona/New Mexico guidebook with me, so after my brother's name was announced and he walked across the stage, I read half the guidebook as the ceremony continued for another hour.

But, things got spiced up near the end; apparently, Garth Brooks did the online MBA through Oklahoma State, and he actually walked in the graduation tonight like any other masters' student. My brother had texted my dad's phone earlier in the evening saying that he had stood just a foot away from Garth Brooks while the graduates were gathering before the ceremony, but I didn't realize that Mr. Brooks was actually graduating. They announced his name and he walked across the stage to huge applause; he's an OSU undergrad alum as well and a source of much Oklahoma pride. And, he's apparently quite sincerely humble; my brother got a picture with him backstage, and when the ceremony was over, he chatted with everyone who stopped to say hi to him rather than making a run for the exit like he easily could have. So, that was cool to see. And, we're all v. proud of my brother, of course :)

After the ceremony, we escaped campus and had a late dinner at my brother's favorite Mexican place in town, which was definitely not Alyssa-approved. He ordered the queso appetizer, which was a big bowl of melted cheese that somehow seemed different than any other melted-cheese dish I've ever had. Then, we came back to his place, my parents gathered the items they'd brought over here from the hotel, and they took off; we decided against breakfast tomorrow morning since it's quite out of the way for them to come back here or for us to go to them before they leave for Iowa, so this was the end (until I go back to Iowa later this summer, of course). And now, I should really go to bed -- we may or may not leave tomorrow (likely not), but I really do want to write. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

now i'm ready for the rodeo

[editor's note: my brother doesn't like it when I blog about him, so this blog post is censored]

I got up earlier than ever in my entire life (or at least the past six months) this morning -- 6:15am is like 4:15am in California. I managed to get dressed, pack up, load my car, eat some pizza, make some tea, and get on the road by 7:45; perhaps that's not much of an accomplishment, since I was supposed to leave at seven, but as it turns out, I was right on schedule. I left about twenty minutes before my parents did and stayed twenty minutes ahead of them the whole way, only stopping for coffee in Cameron, Missouri, gas and McDonald's in Emporia, Kansas, and a bathroom break and a Mountain Dew (I am truly back in the midwest) just across the Oklahoma border. Compared to the driving I did last week, this was a cakewalk. It only took 7.5 hours to get to Stillwater, which is about four hours less than I spent in my car every day on my way from California to Iowa.

Once I got to Stillwater, my [censored] met me at his [censored], where we [censored]. I also did my makeup and straightened my hair, somehow turning myself from the slightly-deranged looking roadtrip girl into something slightly more presentable for my [censored]'s grad school awards dinner. I must have succeeded in making myself look refreshed and youthful, since someone there asked if I was older or younger than [censored], and I got carded attempting to buy wine. Ha. My parents showed up an hour later, since they stopped at their hotel to change, and we all went to the grad school awards dinner.

Sadly, we were ten minutes earlier than the originally stated start time, and it ended up starting about an hour late. Happily, this rudeness and lack of punctuality didn't give my mother a stroke, and it did give me a chance to catch up on Twitter. I also got to meet some of [censored]'s friends from his program, who were all quite lovely. And, [censored] got inducted into [censored] in recognition of his academic achievements, which was nice to see. They also served a pretty awesome slab of beef with barbecue sauce and some mashed potatoes and gravy, and my wine was v. generous. This made me sleepy on the drive back to [censored], but I've stayed up watching some "Family Guy" with [censored] until now.

And now, I should probably go to bed; graduation is tomorrow night, and I may try to do some writing tomorrow if I can get my act together. Or, more likely, I will sit around and [censored]. Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

falling to pieces

I need to go to bed immediately; it's only a bit after eleven, but I need to be up, showered, and out the door around seven a.m. so that I can drive to Oklahoma for my brother's graduation. My life is so glamorous. Today was a decent, albeit slightly depressing, final day in Iowa. I was rolled out of bed around eleven to have lunch with my parents in Millerton, which is a little town north of us. The clientele had an average age of around 70 and a profusion of trucker caps and plaid shirts, but the food was really good, and it was nice to spend a bit of quality time with my parents before I leave. My father's been quite busy with work this week, so I haven't seen much of him while I've been home, and it was good to go out for lunch.

After lunch, though, we parted ways again. I went into town to wash my car, and promptly got it dusty again by driving on gravel. Then, I went to see my grandmother, which was the slightly depressing part of the afternoon. After doing my duty, I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon/evening taking care of various tings that I needed to do, eating supper with my parents, and watching a bit of "Criminal Minds".

And now, I suppose I should go to bed. I'm getting a little antsy because Ellie and Nick are sitting in complete limbo and I haven't written a word in two weeks; but, I expected this hiatus, so I'm not panicking. I will just need to buckle down when I get back to California - if you're one of my California friends, don't be surprised if I go into hermit mode when I get back. Goodnight!

forget about the pricetag

I actually made it out of bed sometime before eleven, which is the equivalent of sometime before nine on the west coast - I am such a productive member of society. The only reason I got out of bed then was to have lunch with my mother. We drove to a town north of ours and ate at a little cafe called Grassroots; it's really lovely in a totally different way from all other restaurants in these parts. For one, they serve quiche (which I didn't have this time). For another, they serve hot tea (which I also didn't have). And, their chicken salad was made with mayonnaise and cranberries, not with Miracle Whip. Don't get me wrong, I love deep fried cheese balls and deep fried breaded mushrooms and chicken strips and cheeseburgers and all the other things I usually eat when we go out around here, but I'm glad to have some variety. I'm also glad to see that they seem to be doing well, since the place was crowded when we showed up - a good sign, given the economy, fuel prices, etc.

So my mother and I each had a chicken salad sandwich, and she had cheesy potato soup while I had the tomato bisque. My soup was good, but between that, the croissant, and the mayonnaise, I was eating so many non-Alyssa-approved things that my stomach rebelled and I only ate a third of my soup. This caused a lot of consternation for the owner and the waiter, both of whom offered to bring me a different side dish and kept asking me if the soup was okay. Isn't that nice? After lunch, we went across the street and looked around the general store, then came home so that I could take a nap.

I spent the rest of the day and night alternating between taking care of things on my to-do list, catching up on a thousand or so messages in my romance writing accounts that I've basically ignored over the last two weeks, and watching some fine CBS programming. My father had been in Des Moines all day, but he was home in time for supper (ham, baked beans, and sweet potatoes), and so we spent a bit of time hanging out before he fell asleep in his chair and my mom and I watched "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Good Wife". I came downstairs while Letterman was on, and now I'm trying to wrap this up so I can go to bed. I have a lot of things on my list to take care of tomorrow, and I need to go to bed tomorrow night so that I can get up early and leave for Oklahoma (bleh). Goodnight!

Monday, May 02, 2011

there will be no dawn for men

Last night, I intended to be a good girl, go to bed, and catch up on my sleep before embarking on the next phase of my trip in a few days. However, I inadvertently stayed up until five a.m. reading a lot of unnecessary information about the royal wedding and keeping up on developments with the bin Laden story (a strange mix, obviously). So, although I slept until after noon, I only got seven hours of sleep, and my apparent late awakening was actually not such a feat. I woke up starving, so went upstairs promptly and had a bologna sandwich (which I doubt Alyssa would approve of, if she even knows what bologna is -- she certainly doesn't approve of Miracle Whip, which she had never heard of but suspected of being a processed food). And, I spent some quality time repacking my car; I needed to bring in clothes to wear here and make sure that the clothes that I don't want to get smoky (mostly my dry-clean only sweaters and tings that I wanted for Denver and Stillwater) stayed in the car. So, I repacked my suitcases in the driveway, with a crisp, lovely spring breeze blowing through my hair and not a single raccoon or coyote or mountain lion in sight.

After my chores were done, I spent a couple of hours talking to my mom. I eventually came downstairs and dressed for dinner -- not in the Regency sense of changing into formal evening wear, but in my usual sense of making sure that I wear something other than pajamas for at least an hour or two every day. My mother made an awesome (and again, not Alyssa-approved) supper of tenderloins and potato salad, and it was nice to spend time with my parents before they both fell asleep while watching "Hawaii 5-O". Then, I came downstairs, did some procrastinating, took care of a couple of things, but generally avoiding doing much of anything.

That should change tomorrow, though; I need to catch up on romance email and take care of some stuff related to the online groups I'm part of. But for now, I really, truly am going to bed -- goodnight!

born in the usa

I'm too exhausted to blog effectively, but I'll give it the old college try. I left Denver around 9:15am MDT, after a quick shower and a lovely breakfast of oatmeal and a latte served up by Katie and James. I was sad to leave them to their own devices, but I had to drive approximately 720 miles today, and so I needed to get out of there. The drive was completely and utterly uneventful, as is to be expected when driving across the vast wastes of Nebraska. I was only in serious 'drowsiness is red alert' mode once, and a Starbucks appeared as if by a miracle just off the interstate, so I spent twenty minutes in one of their even-comfier-than-usual chairs catching up on the online world and waking myself up again. After that, I was basically okay, and I made it home at 9:45pm CDT - 11.5hrs is a pretty good time for 720mi, particularly considering my Starbucks hiatus.

I walked in the door just as the news interrupted my parents' viewing of "CSI: Miami" to say that Obama was calling a press conference. So, I sat around with them, eating a loose meat sandwich and waiting for the speech to start. As it turns out, I found out everything I needed to know about bin Laden's death from Twitter well before the speech actually happened, but I thought the speech itself was a good one. Then, I sat around some more, came downstairs, finished some romance-related tasks, did some digging on wikipedia and other news outlets, and am now calling it a night.

But in closing, I will just say that for one thing, it's quite amusing to me that 9/11 happened on my birthday and that bin Laden's death happened on John's birthday (happy birthday, John!). And for another thing, it's quite interesting to me to see such a public display of partying and rejoicing over some dude's death. Don't get me wrong - I'm pretty bloodthirsty and support it all the way, particularly remembering 9/11, etc. And, I hope that the country comes together like it did in those moments after 9/11, although I suspect the parties will have already found ways to attack each other over this by this time tomorrow. But still, for a country that values due process and the rule of law, it's fascinating that we're so jubilant over what's essentially a black ops assassination carried out on foreign soil. We certainly live in interesting times.

But interesting times call for sleep, so it's time for bed!