Monday, January 31, 2011

January 2011 Book Review

I didn't read much this month. I honestly think I might have burned myself out a little after last year so I was on cruise control this month as far as reading went. My goal to only read new-to-me books has stayed in tact so that's good. Something I am less proud of is the fact that I only read vampire romance novels this month but you know what? They don't take a lot of brain power and I didn't have a lot of brain power to spare. So there you have it. Here's what I read and what I thought about it:

Lover Revealed- J.R. Ward- Another Black Dagger book. I told you all I was going to read this year were vampire romance novels. No, I’m not. Probably not. I’ll read the rest of the series eventually but for now I think I want to read something different. The start of this novel was all right. There are some storylines she puts in to foster future novels, I’m guessing, but I kind of have figured it out already. I’m taking my complete apathy toward this book as a sign that I need to switch genres.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Long Road Home- Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty- Season Eight, Volume One. All right, so this is kind of a switch of genres, isn't it? And all right, maybe it is kind of a vampire romance but it's waaay different. And awesome.

Lover Unbound- J.R. Ward- Don’t judge. I don’t seem to have it in me to read anything remotely strenuous. This apparently just leaves me vampire bodice rippers.

Lover Enshrined- J.R. Ward- Yeah, this is kind of embarrassing. I promise to read something more substantial some time next month. want to know something that’s bugged me about these books? Well, two somethings? First of all, these guys are vampire warrior types but they some times sound like valley girls or something. They’re all ‘I’m so not doing that” and are way more fashion obsessed than I think they should be. The second thing is for beings who have their own goddess and own religion, they say “God” and “Jesus Christ” a lot. I just don’t think they should. They’re not Christians. Well, the one vampire who was raised a catholic human is kind of a christian, I guess. I don't mind it when he does but it bugs me when the rest of them do it. They’re vampires who worship the Scribe Virgin or whoever but not God. I don’t know…it just always seems false to me when it comes up in dialogue. But what the hell, right? At least these vampires don’t sparkle.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


You'll have to come closer because I don't want to say what I'm about to say very loudly. See, some things have worked themselves out or are in the process of doing so and I'm afraid if I get too overtly excited over these developments that the Fates will take notice and come and step once again on my neck until I have been put back down in my rightful place.

An experience, you'll understand, that I would like to avoid.

First of all, my head is starting to feel better. The aching has lessened to the point where I actually made it through an entire day without wanting to (a) cut the damn thing off or (b) swallow an entire bottle of ibuprofen (cap and all). In fact, I haven't had a single pill today. Good for me, right? Someone told me the super headache is just a precursor to a super flu that's been going around. My initial response was "great...something to look forward to" but I'm hoping that it just might pass me by. This coming week is not a good week for me to be sick. The week after would be much more convenient. Just something for the Fates to keep in mind.

Second of all, the Gatoroid (the Gator Girl has been rechristened the 'Gatoroid' in honor of the new SyFy channel's Saturday night move 'Mega Python Versus Gatoroid' staring pop idols Debbie Gibson and Tiffany) and I kicked some serious Simon Says ass during our obedience class today. We won not one but two rounds of Simon Says (out of two rounds played). We take obedience class Simon Says very seriously and, as a result, we are an unstoppable team. Unless Teri and Ori are present. Then we usually tie. Or just lose outright. They too are an unstoppable Simon Says team.

Third of all, Vader seems to maybe- just maybe- be regaining some appetite. In addition to the cat treats (for weeks now, cat treats are all she will eat), she will now eat dry cat food. If you're hand feeding her. She won't eat it from a dish but she'll take it from your hand. Not the most convenient thing ever, sure, but since the cat is nothing but skin and bones, I'll take it. Even if it means getting up earlier in order to work in her private feeding session. Joe maintains he will not do this but I caught him at it this afternoon.

And finally, I think I may have made some progress in my WIP. I think I may have figured out what the hell to do with that one character and the four scenes that I have been taking out and putting back in only to take out to put back in. The character is staying in as are three of his four scenes. Plus, he gets one new scene (he's very happy about this). Writing again feels so damn good. I don't want to say that I've completely conquered the writer's block problem but I think the trebuchet has made some serious damage.

So much good...kind of makes me wonder when and how it'll all go wrong.

I know, I know. Not the attitude I should take (and yet...).

So remember...mum's the word. Bonus points to whomever can name the origin of that phrase.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rant, Part Two

My dearest darling,

What part of me coming off a night of two hours sleep and going into Day Three of the headache from hell battle royale (not to mention blaming Snooki for all that's wrong with the world) made you think that it would be a good time to have an in-depth conversation with me about refinancing our mortgage? Though, to be fair, there probably isn't a really great time to have that conversation with me but really? You went with this morning? Bold choice, my friend, bold choice.


The title should say it all. I am in a ranting sort of mood. This means I'm going to be overly sarcastic (even for me) and mean and I'll probably swear and show very little in the way of reason or common sense (although I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would like to testify that I never show very much in the way of reason or common sense). But it's a rant and that's what rants are for.

Consider yourselves warned.

First of all, it's four in the bloody morning and I am wide freaking awake. I am not sleeping. I'm never sleeping. I honestly can't seem to sleep anymore unless I take a nice swig of Nyquil about an hour before I want to go to bed. I didn't take any tonight (last night?) because of the Massive Fucking Headache. No, instead, at the suggestion of my nurse friend, I took four Ibuprofen and sequestered myself in a dark room. A dark room that turned out to be full of sleeping, snoring and farting mammals. None of which was myself. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep only to be woken up shortly thereafter by a very restless Big.

Big, as a general rule, is not restless unless he is trapped in a car with the Gator Girl. So for him to be pacing and whining and trying desperately to get my attention at TWO IN THE MORNING, is a definite sign that he needs to go O-U-T, post haste. So, being the good dog mom I am, I got out of bed (and you know when I move the Gator Girl moves) and stumbled around in the dark as I searched for clothes. It's Big's bad luck that he's having this problem at the end of January when I decidedly cannot go outside in my tee shirt and boxer shorts. It was also Joe's bad luck as he had to listen to the increasingly desperate whining from Big, the increasingly frantic Oh-my-God-what-am-I-missing pacing from the Gator Girl as well as me swearing as I first stubbed my toe on the nightstand (stupid frakking nightstand...who the hell thought it was a good idea to put it next to the damn bed?) and then again when I was consequently swarmed by dogs trying to come to my rescue.

But I managed to find my clothes and extract Big, and only Big, from the bedroom so we could repeat the performance downstairs in the foyer while I looked for a coat and shoes and the Fat Cat meowed incessantly.

Big and I made it outside just in time which is a good thing because there's nothing like cleaning shit soup out of your carpet.

My kingdom for a fenced in yard. Seriously, I think if Joe was the parent responsible for the taking out of the animals (and don't get me wrong, he does it from time to time but the vast majority of the bathroom breaks are handled by me), we would've had a fenced in yard seven years ago.

But whatever. We got back to the bedroom and made more noise as the Gator Girl rushed to greet us and I tripped over dogs on my way back to the bed. I'm pretty sure we annoyed the hell out of Joe. This, in turn, annoyed the hell out of me.

Oh, I'm sorry if Big and his exploding ass were inconveniencing you because me and my super fun migraine were having the time of our life!

I told you, it's a rant.

Want to know something else pissing me off? That stupid ass show Jersey Shore. That piece of crap show has been on the air longer than Firefly. Are you kidding me? This is the kind of world in which we live? Not to mention the fact that I'm beating out my brains trying to break into an industry that just gave frakking Snooki a frakking book deal. You have got to kidding me. That girl couldn't identify a complete sentence if her life depended upon it. My only exposure to this show has been via Joel McHale on The Soup and it horrifies me. How can people who get shitfaced and piss behind bars because they're too drunk and stupid to maneuver their way to the toilet be so much further ahead in life than I am?

This must be what going insane feels like.

Anyway, I seem to be all ranted out now. My stupid frakking migraine is even affecting my ability to rant properly. Whatever. I think I'll take my super fun migraine and go watch the Australian Open. On mute.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Headaches and Horoscopes

My head still hurts. I can't shake this damn headache. It's making me rather cranky. It's not quite at migraine status yet but I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up there shortly because this thing sucks and nothing seems to be making a dent in it.

Also making me cranky is my work schedule for next week. Yesterday (or whenever I last blogged), I said The Store's inventory is coming. Well, the date's been announced. It's to be held this coming Thursday, as in a week from today. This means that my hours have exploded. An expected development, sure, but still, it makes me cranky to know I'll be spending the next week counting socks and key chains and tee shirts (oh GOD the tee shirts...there are so many of them) and flip flops because, yes, the company sent us flip flops.

Nothing says January/February in the Mount Washington Valley like a nice selection of flip flops. They're your perfect all weather footwear, after all.

So, in other news, the Conway Daily Sun's horoscopes are continuing their alarming trend of deadly accuracy. Here's what was in the paper a couple of days ago:

You are not overly results driven, though in regard to a certain goal, your patience is running thin. You enjoy the journey, but you still really want to get to the destination.

Hells yeah, I do. Even if I lately received some compelling evidence as to how much I shouldn't want to do that. It came in the form of a blog written by freelance writer, Chuck Wendig, called "No, Seriously, I'm Not Fucking Around, You Really Don't Want To Be A Writer". I highly recommend this article. It made me laugh so hard, I cried. Then I cried because what he says is so damn true. You want to know what it's like to be an aspiring writer? Read this.

Life would be so much easier if my big ambition was to be the bestest lunch lady that ever was. Want a scoop of instant mashed potatoes with that, kid? Great.

Anyway, here's what my horoscope is today:

You have a terrific amount of drive, and what matters is how you channel it. Keep it simple. If you can stay focused on one task for a few hours, you'll make a significant difference.

So I'm guessing spending this time divided between Twitter (yes, I joined Twitter. I'm using the handle AuthorMJFifield if you'd like to follow me. Sometimes I actually do tweet or whatever it's called), Facebook and this blog probably isn't helping me out any, huh?

Back to it...

Big Hurt and Work

My German Shepherd is kind of a jerk.

Of course, if you ask my mother (and you should), she'll tell you how Big can do no wrong. And most of the time, I agree with that statement. Big is an uncommonly good German Shepherd. As long as you don't count whole ass biting period he went through a couple of summers back (dog asses, not people.) that is.

But every now and then, he's kind of a jerk.

Yesterday morning was one of those times.

We were up early because I had one of my rare shifts at The Store. There's not a lot going on the Valley this time of year and as we're getting closer to Inventory, the shipments slow down so there's even less need for me on the schedule (not that I mind this at all). But I was on the schedule yesterday and so we were up early. When I took Big out, he spotted something at the end of our driveway. What he spotted, I have no idea as there WASN'T ANYTHING THERE, but something caught Big's eye and he decided he had to chase the nothing away.

The results were rather disastrous. As I've said before, Big is not so named because we're trying to be funny or clever. No, Big is so named because he's frakking huge. He's a 130 pound dog who has a good twenty pounds on me and so when he gets the jump on me (which does NOT happen all that often), bad things can happen and since I didn't expect him to freak out about the nothing at the end of the driveway, he got the jump on me.

I went up in the air and down the ground, smashing into the ice underneath the snow. Then came the dragging as Big dragged me down the driveway in his quest to chase away the nothing. It took me a little while to get him stopped but I managed it. Then came the moment where Big realized just how much trouble he was in.

Growing up, we had a German Shepherd named Sheba and every now and then, Sheba would take an unsanctioned walk about the neighborhood. My mother would stand on our front steps and call for the dog who would then come back to the house, crashing through the woods as she tried to take a roundabout way back to the house in order to make it look as though she'd just been hanging out unseen in the backyard the entire time. So she'd come bounding around the side of the house, a spring in her step and joy in her eyes. That is until she saw that my mother had not bought the here the whole time ruse. Then she starting to slink, head down, toward my mother. Lower and lower Sheba got to the ground until she was quite literally crawling.

Big didn't crawl, he can't manage it with his back problems, but if he could have, he would have. He's always been very sensitive and knows when he's in trouble. He made his way back to the house, head hung low. I limped. My head was pounding, my back was out again, my ankle was throbbing, my wrist was throbbing- hell, my entire right side was throbbing.

I thought about calling out of work but didn't because I knew my stockroom compatriot, Ruthie, had called out the day before because it was so cold her brakes were frozen (true story). So I strapped on a couple of ace bandages, changed into clothes that weren't soaked from a roll in the snow and dragged my bruised ass to work where was I promptly greeted with "I'm going to need you to stay late today, okay?"

You betcha.

Here's the highlight of my work day:

Me: (answering phone) Thank you for calling The Store. How may I help you?
Caller: Did I call The Store?
Me: No, that's just how I like to answer my home phone.
Caller: Really?
Me: No.

I made it through my shift, extra hours and all, and made it home just in time to crash on the couch with a couple of ice packs, a heating pad for my back and a bottle of Advil. I hate being a thirty something with a bad back. It hurts less now, everything does. Well, everything except for my head. That's still being stubborn.

The good news is that my German Shepard's freak out did give me a great gift today: a perfect excuse to sit on the couch watching television. Hoping things will get back to normal in the morning.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Top Tunes #1-10

I was going to post this list earlier this morning but as it was (and still is) 27 BELOW zero outside, I had a little trouble convincing myself to get out of bed. But here I am, beneath layers and layers of clothing and blankets (you'd think it was 27 below inside the house too) ready to reveal to the world my (current) top ten songs of all time. And I am really looking forward to reading others' lists, even though I know I'll spend a lot of time saying, "Damn! Why didn't I think of that one!"

Anyway, without any further delay, here is for your viewing pleasure, my top ten:

10. Rolling In On A Burning Tire by The Dead Weather. I am totally head over heels in love with this band and this song is what hooked me. It's just frakking awesome from start to finish. I love the line "Rolling in on a burning tire/ you're going to set my house on fire/ just to show me/ you were there" Damn right.

9. Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones or The Sundays or Charlotte Martin. It's the song I adore really. I don't particularly care who's singing it. I think I am partial to the Sundays' version because that was the song to which Buffy and Angel danced at her senior prom. Yes, I am a geek and proud of it.

8. I Know by Trespassers William- This is also a Buffy the Vampire Slayer song. It shows up in the season six episode Gone and plays in the background of the end just so damn quietly you almost don't even know it's there. But it caught my attention so I tracked it down. It introduced me to a fantastic group who creates gorgeous songs. This is a Cate and James song.

7. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler (or the Glee kids). This is my karaoke song of choice.

6. My Eyes from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog- I really do love each and every second of any Joss Whedon musical and was sorely tempted to have a top ten comprised completely of songs from Joss Whedon musicals but I refrained and selected just this one. Seriously, if you haven't experienced Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, you don't know what you're missing.

5. Breathe No More by Evanescence- A piano and Amy Lee's voice. "I've been looking in the mirror for so long/ that I've come to believe my soul's on the other side/ All the little pieces falling, shatter/ shards of me too sharp to put back together." This song is at the top of my writing playlist.

4. Maybe This Time from the Broadway musical Cabaret. There are a lot of versions of this song out there but the one that caught my attention was performed by Kristen Chenoweth and Lea Michele on Glee. And is now probably the closest thing I have to a theme song.

3. Everybody's Gonna Be Happy by The Kinks. This is generally the last song I listen to before I head into work. It helps put me in a good mood...or at least a better mood. "Everybody's gonna be happy/ which means you and me, my love" Sounds good to me.

2. Bodily by Ani DiFranco. This song is found on her 2004 album Educated Guess. It's a Cate and James song (I know most of you don't know what that means but maybe some day you will). It's a gorgeous song. It's a beyond gorgeous song with such powerful lyrics. I really want to put the entire song in here right now but I'll refrain. Here's a piece: "You broke me bodily/ the heart ain't the half of it/ and I'll never learn to laugh at it/ in my good natured way." You can't beat Ani and her guitar.

1. Heavy In Your Arms by Florence + The Machine- This song comes off the Twilight Eclipse soundtrack. In the movie, it plays over the end credits, which is a waste for this song because it is so frakking awesome that it's my #1 song in LIFE and I can't imagine anything ever usurping it. "I was a heavy heart to carry/ My beloved was weighed down/ my arms around his neck/ my fingers laced a crown/ I was a heavy heart to carry/ my feet dragged across the ground/ as he took me to the river/ and slowly let me drown" Yeah, I like heavy emotional type songs that pack a punch. This song has it all, soaring music, powerful lyrics, insane imagery...I LOVE THIS SONG. Check out these lyrics: "This will be my last confession/ I love you never felt like any blessing/ Whispering like it's a secret/ only to condemn the one who hears it/ with a heavy heart" LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT. I'm posting this video's not the full song but it's most of it and it'll give you a good idea what it's about. I hope you enjoy:

Well, there you have it. My top tunes. So a big THANKS to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting this Blogfest... Be sure to tune in tomorrow when I reveal my top ten list of Songs I Can't Believe I Forgot...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Top Tunes #11-20

Are you ready for another ten tunes? Because I am...

20. My Skin by Natalie Merchant. Found on her 2006 album Ophelia, this song is so damn beautiful and lovely both musically and lyrically. Perfectly fits with my Effigy heroine which, yeah, is a big reason why this song's on this list.

19. If I Had $1,000,000 by the Barenaked Ladies- From their album Gordon, this song is just a lot of fun and I love to sing it, both in the shower and out. I really like how in a lot of their live performances of this song, they customize parts of it for whatever city in which they're performing.

18. Into Dust by Mazzy Star- I first heard this song in the background of the House season three episode "One Day, One Room" and liked it enough to track it down. It's from my acoustic folk music phase. It's just absolutely beautiful. It's also on my writing playlists though not attached to any specific story. Yet.

17. Grey Street by the Dave Matthews Band from the 2002 album Busted Stuff. The music in the song is quite awesome but it's the lyrics that caught my attention. "There's an emptiness inside her/ and she'll do anything to full it in/ and though it's red blood bleeding from her now/ it feels like cold blue ice in her heart./ She feels like kicking out all the windows/ and setting fire to this life." This, for those few of you in the know, is a Cate song.

16. Chop and Change by the Black Keys- This song is found on the Twilight Eclipse movie soundtrack. I've not been a fan of the books or the movies (not that that's stop me from reading and watching them all) but the soundtracks I have really enjoyed. This song is a new addition to the list but it's ushering in my new music phase of my life: the moody blues. "She had no luck, but ain't it strange?/ The girl knew how to chop and change"'s just damn cool.

15. Come Together by the Beatles. I also enjoyed Crystal Bowersox's rendition of the song last year on American Idol. My high school phys ed teacher made us jog around the gym at the start of every class and while we ran, we listened to the Beatles. On vinyl even (not that that'll date me at all...). Good to know I got something out of high school phys ed.

14. Waiting For The Bus by the Violent Femmes- My senior year of high school, we had a German exchange student who listened to the Violent Femmes and got me to listening to them too. This song, if you don't know it, is just funny. Not haha funny exactly but just funny. Joe groans and rolls his eyes every time it shows up on the iPod.

13. Anna Begins by the Counting Crows. This song can be found on the 1993 album August and Everything After. Bought this album because the boy I was dating at the time loved this album. I'm not sorry I did because I pretty much listened to it nonstop my first two years of college (sorry, dormmates), even after the boyfriend and I were no longer together. This is my favorite off that album. Pretty music, pretty lyrics.

12. Better Man by Pearl Jam off their 1994 album Vitalogy. I remember when this album was released. It was a Big. Deal. And honestly, I wasn't much of a Pearl Jam fan and I couldn't tell you a single other title off this album but for whatever reason, this song stuck with me.

11. On My Own from the Broadway musical Les Misérables. It doesn't matter who's singing it (although I am partial to my own rendition), I just sincerely love this song. It's always been one of my secret (well, not so secret anymore) ambitions to sing this song on a stage in front of people. That's right...I said in front of people.

Well, that does it for today but be sure to tune in tomorrow when I reveal the long agonized over list of my (current) top ten songs of all time...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top Tunes #21-30

So a while back I signed up to be a part of a blogfest, hosted by author Alex J. Cavanaugh where all participants will, on Monday the 24th, blog about their top ten favorite songs of all time. We'll list the song, the band and why we love it. I signed up because I do really love to make list of the things I love. Weird, I know, but some people juggle geese (Name That Reference!).

Anyway, it's a good thing I've had a while to consider this because I had a very hard time narrowing this list down to just ten titles. I started by just listing songs I loved. I had about fifty titles that popped into mind. Fifty, of course, is far too many. So I looked at my iPod and looked to see how many times I had skipped some of these songs I supposedly loved. That helped narrow down the list some but still not enough. Then I took other factors into consideration, for example, how many times have I sung a particular title in the shower? Could I recite a song's lyrics off the top of my head? Would I be laughed at if I put a certain song on my list? All I didn't really think about that last one...much anyway.

It was fun to make this list. I have to amend the title of the list to say that these are my current favorite songs of all time because if I had been asked to make such a list back in the eighth grade, it would've been entirely composed of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson and yes, Tiffany. As it stands now, none of those four ladies made the top ten. Sorry, Tiffany. As life changes so does my taste in music. Right now I gravitate toward songs with powerful lyrics that make me feel something, reflect my writing and, sometimes, just make me laugh.

But, as you may have gathered from the title of the blog, I couldn't really narrow it down any less than thirty. But as Monday is to be devoted to the top ten, I have decided to use the days leading up to Monday to showcase the other songs that I just didn't want to leave out. And yes, if I hadn't been lying comatose on my couch on Friday, this countdown probably would've started then with an additional ten songs (I'll blog about those on Tuesday, maybe). So here they are, #21-30 of my (current) favorite songs of all time.

30. Sweet Child O' Mine by Guns N' Roses- That's right. I'm a proud 80's child. And this list will show it.

29. Tales of Brave Ulysses by Cream- What can I say? This song is just frakking awesome.

28. True Colors by Cyndi Lauper- At least she made the top thirty, right? A beautiful song with a beautiful message. Sappy, maybe, but I don't care.

27. Keeper of My Heart by the Indigo Girls- Simple instrumentation, powerful lyrics. It's one of those songs whose lyrics make me think of my writing. Only some of you will know what this means, but this song is a Cate and James song.

26. The Ghost of You by My Chemical Romance- I don't even remember how I got into listening to this group but I'm glad I did because on their album Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge I found this song. A wonderful blend of lyrics and music that has been long on my writing playlists.

25. Walk Like An Egyptian by the Bangles- I have listened to this song many, many times. Perhaps too many times. Funny story about it, back in high school, during an algebra class where I was filling out my SAT forms and selecting the three schools to which I wanted my (soon to be less than stellar) scores sent, I pondered having the scores sent to the American University of Egypt or in Egypt or something like that. Point was, I was going to send my scores to Egypt. My PIC, Michelle, said "Can you speak Egyptian?" as though that would be the only thing keeping me from going to school in Egypt. I very coolly answered, "No, but I can walk like one." My SAT scores probably would've been better served had I actually used those algebra classes to learn how to solve for X instead. Live and learn, kids. Live and learn.

24. Running Up That Hill by Placebo- I think a number of bands or artists have covered this song but I am only familiar with the Placebo version. I first heard it on an episode of Bones (Judas on a Pole, season two). It's been on my writing playlist ever since.

23. Out of the Deep- from the John Rutter Requiem- I'm not an overly religious person (or even a mildly religious person or anything close to resembling a religious person) but I love this entire composition. I first sang this song (along with the rest of the Requiem) with my high school choir back in the mid 90's and I've continued to sing it ever since. It's a gorgeous piece of choral work with an equally gorgeous cello solo. I do love cello. I highly recommend the entire Requiem to anyone. I don't think you'd be disappointed.

22. Dancing Queen by ABBA- Much to my co-workers' delight, I'm sure, I break into some truly terrible dancing every time this song puts in an appearance on my iPod. I love this song so much, I've referenced it in at least two of my WIPs.

21. Vampire Heart by Tom McRae- Thanks to Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, I discovered this phenomenal singer/songwriter. They featured the song You Only Disappear, which is lovely, but Vampire Heart is what makes the list. The lyrics are so dammed beautiful (I'll likely be writing that phrase a lot the next few days). I especially love this line "If it don't end in bloodshed, dear/ it's probably not love". It perfectly reflects one of the love stories in my WIP.

So that's how it starts but how will it end? Be sure to tune in tomorrow when I reveal songs 11-20 on the Great Music Countdown of 2011...

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Today's horoscope:

You've got a creative project brewing and this takes precedence over things like cooking and housework. Pizza is nutritious, too, and dirt can wait until tomorrow to be swept out the front door.

This is what I've been saying for, like, years now. And if it's in the paper, it must be true, right?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Million Dollar Drop

So my day of laziness and procrastination didn't go quite as planned yesterday. I spent a lot of it shoveling out parts of the driveway. We (meaning me and the dogs) were out there so long that Big just sat in the driveway (the part I hadn't shoveled), looking at me in that completely miserable way that only German Shepherds can manage. When I tried to put him in the house, he decided he didn't want to go in if we all weren't going in so he spent some more time looking all forlorn.

After shoveling, I spent part of the day writing. Well, writing one sentence. Well, part of one sentence. I think between it and the song Down In A Hole by Alice in Chains, I might be able to solve the problem I've been having lately with that one particular character. That is my quest for today.

When I wasn't shoveling or cleaning up cat vomit (poor Vader seems to no longer retain the ability to keep much in her stomach (I hate to say this, I really hate to say this, but it's not looking promising for Vader.)), I was cleaning up the bathroom trash Fat Cat had knocked over (it's her new super fun past time. I hate it.) and digging Fat Cat out from the kitchen cupboards where she decided to take refuge in the furthest corners (and I have some really deep cupboards) probably just because she knew how damn annoyed it would make me.

But things settled down around 8pm and then by 9, all the animals were pretty much comatose (Vader quite literally) and so Joe and I ended up watching "Million Dollar Drop" with host Kevin Pollack (really, dude? You're that desperate?).

We hadn't intended to watch it and wouldn't have watched it this time either but there wasn't anything else on. So we watched.

Have you seen this show? I am going to write about it now and I'm probably not going to be kind. In fact I know I'm not going to be kind because the level of idiocy displayed was beyond horrifying. I could end up insulting a lot of people so please, consider yourselves warned.

The first couple was a military family. David and David's wife. I don't remember her name but I'm going to call her Annoying because that's what she was. I do remember that Annoying has two kids because she said she had kids at every given opportunity. She also mentioned that her husband was in the service at every opportunity. In case the uniform and and introduction of him as a whatever he is in the military (I honestly don't remember) hadn't quite gotten the point across. And really, seriously, David, thank you for your service. I feel like you should get a medal staying with Annoying all these years. I felt like I should get a medal for putting up with her for the ten minutes she was actually on the show. It felt like she was trying to get the audience to really, really like her. As though the audience could just give her the $1,000,000 for being such a wholesome truly patriotic American family.

Their first question involved the musical scale (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do). They show you the answers first, did you know? I looked at the four choices and was able to guess the question. I wonder if they'd give me bonus money for that. But I'm betting Joe and I would not be selected as contestants on their game show. We'd have to go on Jeopardy! instead. David and Annoying got it right. But just barely. And Annoying, whom you had thought couldn't possibly get any more annoying, did just that.

Their second question involved coins. The question was "whose face is on the dime?" and the answers were John F. Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Annoying then launched into this seemingly never ending soliloquy about how she knew without a doubt that it was John F. Kennedy because Abraham Lincoln didn't have a coin and Thomas Jefferson was on the penny and who the hell was FDR? She knew these things for a fact because she was sweeping up after her daughter Little Annoying (I'm just guessing) had been playing with her piggy bank.

Here are my questions for Annoying:

1. Have you ever seen American money?

2. Does Little Annoying actually have any coins in that piggy bank?

Voice of Reason David then jumped in and said that John F. Kennedy was on the fifty cent piece and Abraham Lincoln was on the penny. He knew this for sure. So then they bickered for a while but eventually came to the conclusion that Thomas Jefferson was on the dime. They put all $1,000,000 on Thomas Jefferson. Meanwhile, Joe and I were having a conniption fit and I was screaming "how stupid are you!"

Turns out, very stupid. They went home with nothing.

The second couple was Lana and Clark. Actually, that's not true but I felt like making a Superman reference so that's what I'm going to call them. Lana and Clark fared much better than David and Annoying (of course, it would have been hard not to) and were far less annoying (although Lana was a little intense and shrill at some points). They did so well that Joe and I actually got to hear all seven questions (we were very curious how hard the questions would get). There were two questions to which we had to debate the answers (obviously the last two). Joe and I would've gone home with a lot more money than Lana and Clark.

Lana and Clark, by the way, went home with $300,000 which was the show's biggest payday yet. Good for them.

Their first question involved cocktails and determining which drink contained orange juice: Long Island Iced Tea (which my sister in law can tell you does NOT contain orange juice), Bloody Mary, Tequila Sunrise or Cosmopolitan. It was during this question that we had the revelation that tomato juice is not the same as orange juice. Good job, kids.

Next they spent a lot of time debating which of the following wasn't a marshmallow in Lucky Charms: heart, clover, horseshoe or rabbit's foot. It was another one of those times when I knew the question just based on the answers. I then recited the Lucky Charms commercial. Clark whined a bit about never having Lucky Charms as a kid. I didn't have Lucky Charms either, Clark, and I still got the right answer. Of course, that's brain space I could have used for algebra but whatever... Clark decided that the eating of a rabbit's foot would be too traumatic for kids so they eventually got the right answer and we moved on...

To a question about what isn't on a Big Mac. As soon as I saw the three possible answers: tomato, pickle slices and lettuce, I sadly started to sing the Big Mac song from years ago. You know the one where they list everything that's ON a Big Mac? Then they posted the question.

I would be so well prepared for this show. Too bad they would never put me on it. Mostly because I would be mean and sarcastic about everything.

After the Big Mac question, they were given the categories "Geography" and "Board Games" to chose from. They went with Geography which I thought was a rather bold choice. The question asked how many states touch the Pacific Ocean and Clark, in an impressive display of smarts, rattled off the correct number (5).

I think at this point, they had $500,000 and two question left and picked the YouTube category. The question was which of the following was the first to hit 1 billion views: Rihanna, Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga. I didn't know the answer to this one. I said I guessed Lady Gaga. Joe said he was going to pick Justin Bieber. I was honestly surprised to learn that Joe knew who Justin Bieber was. I'm betting he doesn't really know and went with Bieber because Lana was convinced he was the right answer. But Clark thought it was Lady Gaga and so they split their money between the two of them, Lady Gaga getting a slight edge because they had one extra bundle. Lady Gaga ended up being correct and I very politely gloated about my victory.

Then came the final question: who receives more speeding tickets? Men or Women? Joe and I debated this one a little. Our first impulse was "men" but then we thought that might be a trick so maybe we should go with women. Lana and Clark were having a similar, if less coherent, discussion. They ultimately reached the same conclusion and I would like to also offer them some bonus points for their correct usage of the word "machismo" (I'm also guessing that much of America had to then google 'machismo'). The answer was men (who, Kevin Pollack tells us, also receive more tickets for reckless driving and seat belt violations) and Lana and Clark went home with $300,000.

Then the show was over and Joe and I had a good time imagining Ken Jennings on Million Dollar Drop.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Procrastination Station

I'm not sure what it is today. Maybe it's the snow (10 inches in today's forecast) or maybe I'm still bumming from the Pats' loss last Sunday (well hell, I know I'm still bumming from that), but I'm just not feeling like doing anything that doesn't involve lying on my couch with the remote in my hand. I'm a little surprised I'm actually writing this. Here's where my head's at:

Hope you're experiencing a much more productive day...

Monday, January 17, 2011

So, What Exactly Are You Trying To Say?

The following are a few of the many quite pointed horoscopes I've received recently via the Conway Daily Sun. I feel like they're trying to tell me something...but I'm just not quite sure what.

The 30th president of the United States was your sign mate and he said, "Nothing is more common than an unsuccessful man with talent...Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."-- Calvin Coolidge

When you pour your creative energy into a project, you are infusing it with magic strength. Your attention has real power. This is as good a time as any to start believing in your own talent.

You are too close to your own abilities to see how magnificent they are. What you consider crude and unskilled may be a masterpiece in someone else's eyes.

Some goals just can't be accomplished in a year or even in five years. But don't give up before you get to the goal. If you believe in it, it will happen. It's your belief that makes it so.

Boy, if only these horoscopes could be clearer...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Well, That Sucked.

Sports and Award Shows

Oh boy. The Pats are scheduled to take on the New York Jets in roughly two hours and I already need a paper bag in which to breathe. I am in need of a distraction. Thus the blog. It's going to be a hodgepodge blog which shall touch upon a number of topics, whatever pops into my head as I watch the Chicago Bears take on the Seattle Seahawks.

I don't have any vested interests in this game, as far as who comes out on top, just like I didn't really have any real interest in who won yesterday's games. Well, I did hope the Pittsburgh Steelers would lose because I don't like the Steelers very much but I have to admit they played one hell of a second half. The Green Bay Packers played one hell of a game, from start to finish. Good for them. I did find myself wishing that Joe and I had actually gotten around to buying that new television for our bedroom so I could watch the second half of that game from my bed instead of on a couch crowded by dogs.

Letting them on the couch seemed like such a fun idea at the time. But don't tell Joe I said that.

Have you seen this video? It's a middle school football game somewhere in America (I have no idea where). I think this is a brilliant play and I honestly don't know why more pro teams haven't given it a shot. Check it out:

In other football related news, The Store's holiday party is coming up next Sunday. How is this football related you might ask? Well, I'll tell you.. I was originally told the party was this Sunday (you know, as in today) so I told management that I would be unable to attend because I would be out of town. It seemed more polite to just outright lie than to say something like, "I'd rather tangle with a pack of wild, hungry jackals than attend this gathering." But management being management pulled a switcharoo and decided to have the party on January 23rd instead. When I went to work this week, the Store Manager asked me if I was going to go. And while I decided to not go with the jackal excuse, I did have a pretty good one.

"No," I said. "The AFC championship is being played that day and there's no power in the 'verse that'll pull me away from my television."

Then she said the words that got me thisclose to quitting my job.

"Even if the Pats aren't in it?" she asked.

After I finished scraping my brains off the ceiling, I said, "Why would you say something like that? What is wrong with you? What, are you like a Jets fan or something?"

"No, I'm just saying-"

"No. No saying. There will be no saying of any kind," I said. "And if the Pats, somehow, aren't in the AFC championship game on the 23rd, you're still not going to want me at that party."

"Even with a week to get over it?"

"I'm sorry, but have we met?" I asked. "I'm still not over that whole 2007 Superbowl experience."

And besides, I just really don't want to go. It's not just me. There's a large number of the staff who doesn't want to go. Unfortunately, they don't have my ability to be an insensitive jerk so they just nod and tell management they'll be there. Then they complain to me about it. And no matter how many times I tell them that management can't make them go and can't penalize them for not going, they still feel trapped.

But not me.

So, anyway, after the football games wrap up tonight, the Golden Globes are on. I like to watch the Golden Globes. The winners have all been drinking and that generally makes for fun speeches. I'm not sure who the nominees are but I have been working through my list of potential Oscar nominees (thank goodness Heather's working part time at the movie theater. That means I get in to see free movies!!). I'd like to see Haliee Stienfeld from True Grit receive an award but she didn't receive a nomination. Talk about an oversight. So I think I'd like to see Christian Bale and Melissa Leo win for their roles in The Fighter.

I don't know if you've seen this movie. It's a boxing drama starring the above two as well as Amy Adams and Marky Mark (Poor Mark Wahlberg. No matter how many serious movies he does, he'll always be Marky Mark to me.). It's really quite fantastic and I was blown away by Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. They inhabited these characters and were just so damn real that you forget that Christian Bale is actually Christian Bale. Same with Melissa Leo. Un. Real. If you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it.

I don't think I have any opinions on the television side of the Golden Globes. Well, that's not true. I do. I don't think Piper Perabo has any business being nominated for best actress for her role in USA's Cover Affairs. That show is ridiculous and I can't believe there wasn't some actress out there somewhere in TV land more deserving of that nomination.

I hope Chris Colfer wins for his role on Glee because I think he's done fantastic work. I also like Scott Caan and he is the only reason why I watch Hawaii 5-0 (well, Alex O'Laughlin's abs aren't bad either) but I'll be disappointed if Chris doesn't win.

I love Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) and the entire cast of Modern Family. But I think 30 Rock is also quite wonderful. Hugh Laurie always gives a great speech when he wins but I'd love to see Michael C. Hall win for Dexter. I don't know if you watch this show but it's out of this world. The premise, in case you're unfamiliar with it, is that Dexter is a blood spatter analysis for the police. In his spare time, he's a serial killer. Sure, he has a code and only kills bad people like other less socially conscious serial killers or child molesters and the like, but the fact remains that he's a serial killer. And you spend each and every episode rooting for this guy and hoping beyond hope that he won't get caught. Crazy awesome. My (sort of) mother-in-law has just started watching this show and she loves it.'s now coming up on 3pm, EST. I wonder what else I can blog about...

Just kidding. I'm going to stop here. I'm going to take the dogs outside to run in our newly fallen snow (it looks like Professor Terrible's PPP is definitely on the fritz. Last night we were supposed to get a dusting and ended up with three inches. Oops.) so they'll be nice and tired and asleep during the Big Game.

LET'S GO PATRIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Nobody's Perfect

I watched part of a movie today, Appaloosa, released in 2008 and based on the 2005 novel by Robert B. Parker. It’s the story of the Old West, about a couple of guns-for-hire, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch and how they come to the town of Appaloosa to help the townsfolk deal with the town bully Randall Bragg. Bragg is played by Jeremy Irons. I have to mention this because I love Jeremy Irons but I did not love him in this role. Though, when my novels are inevitably made into a major blockbusting motion pictures, I want him to play my bad guy, Omur. Maybe he and Tim Curry (because I also adore Tim Curry) can share or something. Or, even better, I’ll write a new character, Omur’s brother, who shows up on the scene with a big chip on his shoulder because Omur was always evil’s favorite or something. It’ll be fantastic!

Anyway, I digress.

So Virgil is set up in the beginning to be this bigger than life character, quick on the draw (literally and figuratively) and so freaking cool and calm about everything that he’s this man of which one should be in awe. He’s supposed to be like Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia or some other literary hero who is supposed to be above reproach, seemingly perfect in every way. But here’s the thing: Virgil Cole isn’t that guy.

He screws up. He makes mistakes. He’s a flawed hero. And I love him for it.

I spent a lot of the movie (and the book when I read that) wanting to slap Virgil in the face because he was, at times, being a big idiot. But people are like that sometimes. People are like that a lot of the time which is why I really prefer the flawed hero.

Flawed heroes are interesting. Flawed heroes are real.

This is why, and I’ve said this a lot, I adored what J.K. Rowling did in the Harry Potter series. She took the character, Albus Dumbledore, and made him fallible. There’s a scene at the end of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Harry and Dumbledore are talking- well, Dumbledore’s talking, Harry’s mostly breaking things in Dumbledore’s office- and Dumbledore says (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I screwed up.”

It’s perfect. It’s fantastic. She could’ve easily made him into this untouchable paradigm of perfection but by making his halo slightly tarnished, she made him into something so much more. Instead of being some guy you just want to kick in the balls because he is just this walking, talking reminder of your own inadequacies, he’s a guy with whom you can sympathize.

That’s why I like to write flawed characters. I write characters who sometimes do stupid things because that’s what they think is the right thing to do at that time. Then afterward, they might be called out for their stupidity, or have to face the consequences of their stupidity, but isn’t that what happens to all of us?

Another reason why I’ve been pondering the whole flawed character thing is that I received some feedback on my book from my brand new fan, E (that makes like four whole fans now…woo hoo!). Well, I’m hoping she stays a fan. I have to say that because she’s about half way through Effigy and told me how much she’s enjoying it but (and again, I’m paraphrasing) she’s irritated with my male lead (Dana) for being a jerk. I responded with, “yeah, he does that” because there are parts where Dana is a big jerk but I was left thinking, “Well, if she think he’s being a jerk now, then she really won’t be happy with him by the end” as my male lead’s judgment goes from bad to worse (thus the whole hoping she’s still a fan by the end of the book thing).

It’s like what Virgil says to Everett, “Feelings get you killed.”

They, at the very least, make you stupid.

Or, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer once said, “Love makes you do the wacky.”

And how.

It’s not the first time someone’s commented on the stupidity of my characters (Hmmm…when I write it like that, it really doesn’t sound good, does it?). Someone else targeted James, one of the secondary male leads. I like James. He’s moody and sarcastic, marriage phobic (Holy crap…he’s the male version of me!) and in over his head. He gets recruited into this rebellion, dragged into it really more out of a sense of obligation to his buddy, Dana, than anything else. And because Effigy is a swords and sorcery novel, there are battles and because James is a twenty year old farmer whose battle experience to this point has been limited to the occasional bar fight, there’s a learning curve. He makes some questionable choices in his first battle which led to the question (paraphrased, mais oui?) “Wasn’t x,y and z a stupid thing to do?”

Sure, there were smarter choices available to my characters (the heroines, by the way, have their share of stupid moments. I don’t discriminate…I’m an equal opportunity flaw giver). There are generally smarter choices available. Think about any of the Bond villians. Goldfinger would’ve been a much different movie had our title villain just put a bullet through a captured Bond’s head instead of tying our favorite British secret agent to a table with a slow moving phallic laser heading right for his crotch and then leaving him (alone) with the classic parting line “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.” The whole bullet to the brain thing would’ve been much smarter and a hell of a lot more effective but what has become a top grossing film franchise would’ve been over pretty damn quick.

The point is, just because it wasn’t the smartest thing to do, it doesn’t mean that’s not what they did. I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone who isn’t me. When I was writing James’s battle scene, I saw very clearly what he did and wrote it that way. Maybe something else would’ve been smarter, but that’s not what he did. Simple as that.

This mindset has been carried over to Effigy's sequel, Second Nature. Dana (the character whose scenes have been on and off the cutting room floor for the last week or so) is on a walkabout of sorts. He's miserable, he's wretched and he's forsaken everything. James is now the primary lead and finds himself struggling to fulfill the leadership role that's been untimely vacated by Dana. He's still moody, he's still sarcastic but now he's scared to death that he's going to make the wrong decision (Gee, I wonder where that last part came from...) and bring everything to ruin.

They're not two men who are making perfect decisions. They're just trying to keep their heads above water and it means they're just going to do some stupid shit along the way. And I like them all the more for it.

Anyway, that’s the idea. We all have our “It seemed like a good idea at the time” moments and characters (at least the very best ones) are no exception. They are, after all, human. I hear to err is human, to forgive divine. Plus, the more they screw up, the better their road to redemption will be and those, I find, always make for one hell of a story.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Round And Round

Eight days ago, I made the radical decision to cut four entire chapters from my WIP, Second Nature. Three days after that, I made the decision to put one back in. Three days after that, I decided to put them all back in, just rewritten with more show and less tell.

That was Monday. I have since spent the remainder of my writing time this week attempting to do just that and- well, failing.

Which brings us to today. Where I have decided to once again cut them out.

I really wish I could make up my mind on this subject. I'm sure the character to whom these scenes belong wishes I could make up my mind on this subject as well. He's probably quite tired of showing up and jumping through hoops only to be shunted aside. Over and over and over again. Well, I'd just like to assure him that I'm not having any better of a time.

But it's his fault, really. I mean, if he had only just behaved himself in Effigy, I wouldn't be having this problem now. I'd be sitting somewhere enjoying tea and crumpets (well, probably not because I'm not exactly a fan of either of those) instead of sitting at my desk surrounded by draft upon draft of the same four chapters, trying to hammer out the one or whatever Frankenstein's Monster type concoction of the four needs to be in the damn book.

I keep wanting to move on and work on something else while my brain puzzles over this dilemma somewhere in the background but I'm just not having any luck with that. I have it in my head that if I could only just work this one problem out, figure out what to do with this one character arc in this one part of the novel, that the whole rest of the thing will just explode into page upon page of wonderful prose. It'll be the last roadblock standing in the way of me and the conclusion of- well, of this section.

But still, that would be something.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Schmoe Versus The Snow

It's snowing today in the Mount Washington Valley.

Normally this wouldn't be anything to blog about because what else does it do in the Mount Washington Valley in the dead of winter, right? But this isn't a normal year. This is, I believe, only the third time we've had measurable snow in the valley since November. That's right...until today, it snowed more in freakin' October than in January.

This anomaly has made for a very happy Joe this winter. After our fight over the heat ends, he starts grouching about the snow and doesn't stop until May when, generally it is no longer snowing but the insult he feels whenever Mother Nature does dump on us is still fresh.

A few years back, we had the snowiest winter on record here in the Valley. There was so much snow, it was all one could see when looking out our sliding glass doors. We actually had to use our snowshoes to get around the yard and carve steps into the snowbanks lining our driveway in order to get into the yard so the dogs could go to the bathroom. That was the winter we spent a good amount of time on the roof shoveling it off. That was also the winter Joe's car was trapped in the garage (a very poorly designed nonfunctional structure) because the plow guy, in a complete act of idiocy he has never duplicated, dumped a bunch of snow in front of it. Snow that then froze solid and took us a couple of months to wear down low enough to get the car back out of the garage.

Thanks, plow guy.

Right now, I am watching my plow guy try and dislodge his truck from what was once my retaining wall. I'd like to say I'm surprised by this but I'm not. He seems to drive into it at least once every season. I'm not sure why he thinks it won't be there year after year but it does always seem to catch him off guard. But, with luck, this will be the last winter we have that issue. I am, of course, referring to the Garage Project of myth and legend. The one what will turn our bizarre oddly designed one car garage into a shiny, new, useful two car garage. The one talked about in reverent, hushed tones. The one we've intended to do for ten freaking years now and yet, never actually get done.

But anyway. That's a different blog post. This one is about Schmoe and the snow. Or lack thereof.

This year Joe's been so pleased with the lack of weather that we've all been convinced that he has actually developed the powers to control the weather.

(Sorry, everyone south of here. I'm almost positive he doesn't actually have these powers.)

We call them the "Precipitation Prevention Powers" or PPP for short (and also because saying 'PPP' makes us giggle like we are seven). Joe even nicknamed himself (although he will flatly deny this if asked) "Professor Terrible" (you know, instead of Dr. Horrible). I will say, however, that his evil laugh could definitely use some work.

As could his PPP. I mean, come on...have you seen the snow today?

And on that note...I'm going outside to shovel. Again.

Everyone be safe today!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Building Blocks

The other day, I purchased for myself a small bookcase. Truth be told, it's really more of a closet organizer than anything else, like stackable milk crates, but it was the right size for the space I had available in my office so I took it home to try it out.

It spent a couple of days sitting against the wall in the foyer because that's pretty much what happens with everything I bring into the house, especially those things which require the reading of directions and the use of tools in order to assemble. Except for a brief stint in college when I worked as a stagehand, tools and me are un-mixy things (bonus points for anyone who can NAME THAT REFERENCE!) so I generally turn to my trusty significant other to build me something out of nothing.

But today was different. Don't know why, really, but it was. So when I got back from my errand run (by the way, no one in the damn Mount Washington Valley had any bathtub markers in stock. As a result, I am planning to order some from Amazon very soon.) this afternoon, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Here's how it went:

2:30pm: I drag the box into the living room.

2:4opm: I get the box open and dump the contents out on the rug. Two long pieces, four short pieces and a bag of hardware. In between the two long pieces is a piece of cardboard. I give it to the Gator Girl.

2:41pm: I squint at the instructions. Somewhere in here, I am sure there will be English.

2:43pm: Ah ha! English!

2:45pm: I will need a #2 phillips head screwdriver and a hammer for this project. I manage to find the screwdriver all right but can't seem to locate the hammer. I know we have one. Joe actually gave me a hammer (and a tool box in which to put it) for Christmas one year because I said I didn't have one.

3:00pm: I am forced to call Joe to ask him where the hammer is. This leads to the following conversation:

Me: Hey, do you know where the hammer is? I've checked the tool boxes and I can't seem to find it.
Him: Why do you want to know where the hammer is?
Me: I need to hammer something.
Him: What?
Me: Well, I'm not sure exactly but I'm guessing nails of some sort.
Him: What are you doing?
Me: Looking for the hammer.
Him: No, I mean, what could you possibly be doing that would require a hammer?
Me: I'm putting together my bookcase.
Him: You're putting together your bookcase?
Me: Gotta go before I think of something else I could do with the hammer once I've found it.

3:10pm: I find the hammer. So there.

3:11pm: I squint further at the instructions.

3:12pm: I start putting this damn thing together. Insert tab A into slot B.

3:15pm: Oh shit. I put that shelf on backwards. But of course I did.

3:18pm: I get the shelf unattached again so I can reattach it correctly.

3:25pm: Who needs book shelves? What's wrong with giant unorganized piles of paperbacks?

3:30pm: I finally get the basic structure of the bookcase put together. The instructions then tell me to put the back on. I look around. There is no back. I check the box. There is no back. I look at the instructions again and realize what the cardboard piece is. Good thing I gave it to the Gator Girl. Fortunately, Fat Cat has kept the Gator Girl rather busy this afternoon so the damage to the cardboard backing is minimal. Once it's up against the wall and covered by books and duct tape, you'll never know there's anything wrong with it.

3:33pm: Hammer time! You can't touch this!

3:40pm: I may have put the cardboard backing in the wrong place when I started nailing it down. Oh well. No turning back now.

3:45pm: I attempt to stand it up. It works!! Next I attempt to put the adjustable shelves in. This is less successful.

3:53pm: I am forced to get a little rough with the shelves. They're probably not adjustable any more.

So the important thing is, I have a new bookcase and the best thing is that it has not yet fallen apart. That's five whole hours that something I put together has stayed together.

Which is more than I can say for my WIP. Remember last week when I said I cut four chapters out? Well, by the end of the week, I had replaced it with one chapter. Then I decided that one sucked too so I took it out as well. Now I'm back to thinking I want the four chapters I started out with, only better written. The first drafts were too much tell and not enough show so I'm planning to take another crack at them. I'm whittling away at the first of these new chapters, one sentence at a time. Just like building blocks (see what I did there? Clever, huh?). I just hope I have enough Legos to build myself a masterpiece. Or, at the very least, something that doesn't completely suck.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Plumbing Problems

I seem to have some sort of problem with my bathroom sink. I took a couple of pictures and I'm going to post them here, hoping that maybe someone out there in the blogosphere might have some plumbing expertise and can help me identify the problem.

Picture A:

And Picture B:

Looks like I might need a bigger sink...what do you think?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

You Might Be A Writer If...

I read this article by Lisa Shearin in the latest edition of The Writer magazine. She calls this a homage to Jeff Foxworthy's classic comedy routine "You might be a redneck if..." and I had a lot of "Holy Frak! That is so me!" moments so I thought I should share it with all of you. I am not reprinting her entire article, just the funny, funny highlights. (Her words are the italicized numbered lines.) Not all of these apply to me but enough of them do that I think I just might be a writer. How about you?

1. You keep a pen and pad of paper next to your bed- and the stove, and the couch, and the dining room table, and the toilet and the...

Yes. I do this. I have pens and pads of paper everywhere and I am fiercely protective of each and every one. Just ask the girls at work. They know better than to use any of my writing pens for anything as mundane as a replenishment list. They've all heard the "this is my special writing pen and you just used it to make a list of missing tee shirt sizes? Why do you hate me?" rant. Hard to imagine why they hate me.

2. You have a favorite punctuation mark.

Mine's the ellipsis...

3. You've been known to argue with someone on the usage difference between en and em dashes. I haven't done that. But I have been raging a war on the improper use of the apostrophe for quite some time now. Again, ask my co-workers. I'm sure they find my tutelage to be informative and constructive and not at all annoying or patronizing.

4. You're completely and utterly addicted to fountain pens. You have more bottles and colors of ink that you have pens, and use this as an excuse to buy more pens.

Wait...I'm supposed to have an excuse to buy more pens? But yeah, I am a little bit addicted to fountain pens. Especially the purple ones.

5. You get caught up in plotting your next scene and put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the pantry.

Guilty as charged. I have also come home from the grocery store without having made a single purchase but in possession of an exciting new idea.

6. The salespeople at the local Staples know you.

Yes. They know me as the strangely obsessive pen hoarder.

7. While in Staples, you should never be left unchaperoned in the briefcase aisle. (One briefcase is never enough.)

Well, no. My problem is the pen and notebook aisle. They're so convenient placed, being right next to each other the way they are.

8. The stacks of your old manuscripts and rejection letters officially constitute a fire hazard.

So that's why the fire department keeps stopping by.

9. You desperately want Crayola bathtub markers, so you can write down the great dialogue that comes to you in the shower.

Do those exist? Because, yeah, I want some. I think Joe would like me to have some of those too, just so I'll stop yelling at him to get in the bathroom and take down dictation while I condition my hair.

10. All you want for your birthday are more fountain pens and journals.

That's true. Every year when I turn 25 (which is every year), those are the best gifts ever.

11. You don't take medication to quiet the voices in your head, but you get paid to write down what the voices say.

Also true. Well, except for that whole getting paid part.

12. If you didn't have book contract, you'd be writing anyway.

I refer you to #11.

13. You just know you're on an FBI list of people to watch because of the books you've ordered: books on poisons, how to dispose of a body, government conspiracies, secret societies, planning the perfect crime, espionage secrets...

I guess it's better than being on an FBI watchlist for other reasons, right?

14. Your surgeon orders your glasses taken away before you've finished memorizing the operating room for a scene in your next book.

Well, I never have had an operation but if I did, this would totally be true.

15. When you're not writing, you get this persistent twitch in your left eyelid.

Yeah. That and a serious bout of bitchiness.

16. You proofread your tweets and text messages before sending.

Not only is this true but those closest to me know to proof any texts they send to me because otherwise, I tend not to respond.

17. You take more writing paraphernalia on vacation than you do clothes- and don't mind if it rains.

Yeah. I do that.

18. You're taking to a real, living, breathing person and suddenly stop because one of your characters interrupted you.

That happened to me today in the Gator Girl's obedience class, actually. I know it probably comes off as rude but I love it when that happens.

19. You think sleep is way overrated. Who needs more than three hours, anyway?

Oh. My. God. It's like she's in my brain.

20. Your novels are backed up on your laptop, your netbook, your husband's computer, two thumb drives- and you're seriously toying with the idea of getting a safe-deposit box.

True. Except I don't have a netbook or, technically anyway, a husband. I also have backups at my brother's house and in my locker at work.

21. You don't mind extra-long waits at the doctor's office, because it gives you more time to write.

Yes, I probably am one of the few who is actually disappointed when my name gets called.

22. And, finally, you know you're a writer if you look at yourself and see a writer. Everyone else looks at you and sees an obsessive-compulsive, anal-retentive insomniac with a pen fetish.

Really? Is that how y'all see me? Ah, well, it's certainly true enough with, God knows, more than enough corroborating evidence. Most of which was provided by myself.

Thanks, Lisa Shearin for writing such an entertaining and TRUE article!!

Friday, January 7, 2011


Today is my sister's birthday. She's in denial of having another birthday and has decided to be perpetually 29 years of age. This works for me because that would make me perpetually 25 years old. It's a little weird because our father has been perpetually 24 years old for quite some time now. I can only assume that time travel was somehow involved.

Wendy and I have had many great adventures together over the years, most notably our two trips to Russia (documented here in the May 2010 archives). We also share a special love of Montréal, more specifically the Indigo book store on rue Sainte-Catherine. That reminds me...where are we going to go back? I still need to get my copy of Harry Potter et les reliques de la mort. Which also reminds me...have you seen that book's cover? Awesome.

Oh right. This blog isn't about my book obsession. This is about my sister, Wendy. Because today is her birthday.

Wendy, by the way, also has a book obsession. I don't think it's quite as bad as mine is (no one's is) but she's an avid reader and thanks to her, I've read everything Robert B. Parker and Janet Evanovich has ever written. We both have an obsession healthy fascination for Ellen Emerson White and her literary creation Meg Powers. Wendy also lent me those Jodi Picoult books which I have since read and enjoyed and I swear I'll get those back to you shortly. Some day.

We love Les Misérables and, in the past, have spent our entire drive to Montréal singing every note of the musical. And then starting over and doing it again. When we took our trip to New York City to see the musical on Broadway before it closed, we did not do this but only because we were on a bus and then a train and that probably would have annoyed a lot of other people. Instead we left that to the woman sitting behind us who was having a very loud cell phone conversation with someone. I don't really remember anymore what the conversation was about but I remember the two of us being in hysterics over it.

Of course, it never seems to take much to get us to the point of hysterics. Julie Andrews in The Princess Diaries (shlub, shlub, shlub) for instance. Anyone care of a verse of the Barn Song? How funny do you think the Canadian Customs officers think we are when we tell them we're only planning on leaving money in their fair country? Or how about that time we were sitting in some office somewhere in Russia waiting for some paperwork and I kept accidentally hitting the light switch with my shoulder, plunging the entire office into darkness. Do you think Katya was as amused with us as we were with ourselves? Is anyone ever?

Hmmm...better not answer that.

And thanks to you, Wendy, I survived my high school French classes. I was the one student Monsieur Hevey didn't mock mercilessly and I was the only one who knew the answers to the worksheet we had to fill out while watching that movie about the Nazis stealing paintings from the Louvre. Or not stealing paintings from the Louvre because, as the movie taught us (or would have had I been watching it), the Nazis didn't have any paintings to steal. See, if it hadn't been for you, I would have had to watch that movie.

So happy birthday. Thank you for making me twenty five forever. And before I go, here's one last thing for you:

La femme qui sait deux langues vaut deux hommes.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chop And Change

At some point last year, I talked about a couple of my secondary characters in my WIP Second Nature and what pains in my ass they were being because I just couldn't figure out where their particular story lines were supposed to go. I knew where I wanted them to go but just couldn't seem to get them there. It inspired me to contemplate writing a big battle scene in which those characters would die a horrible, painful death just so I could be rid of them.

Unfortunately for this brilliant, if rash, plan, these two characters, while secondary, do have some importance to the novel and the rest of the series of which Second Nature is a part. So no big battle scene. This worked out because I had no idea how to get the pair of them onto the same battlefield. It's just not in the cards.

Instead I decided to try another approach. I'm having a 'let's throw everything against the wall and see what sticks' period in my life where writing is concerned and if there's something- a certain character, let's say for argument's sake- whose scenes just aren't working, even after months of me beating my brains out over them, it's time to cut them loose.

Sayonara, adios, adieu, good night and good luck because you're outta here.

And just like that, four chapters are gone. Poof.

All right, so they're not gone gone. There are back ups. Of course there are back ups and paper copies filed away with all the other deleted scenes. What do you think I am? Insane? Wait...don't answer that.

But wherever else they may dwell, they no longer exist in this current draft. This makes me nervous but I really believe it was the right decision. Those chapters weren't needed, at least not at this point, and if I wasn't such an anxiety ridden freak about these things, I'd probably notice the weight that's been lifted from my shoulders. I'd probably also remember the two pages of notes I just had to write down in the wee hours of the night because maybe, just maybe, removing those pages was just the battering ram I needed to break down the wall that is writer's block.

Too soon to tell, maybe, but I am encouraged. And that? That is a nice change.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Movies, Television and Vader. Oh My.

There is so much ground I want to cover today. I woke up feeling energized- well, all right, not energized. I stayed up late last night and got up early this morning so I am most definitely not energized but I am feeling strangely optimistic so we're going to ride this thing out and see where it takes us.

And right now it's taking us to the two movies I saw recently. They're both Oscar contenders. This is the time of year when I traditionally try to see as many such films as possible because I love the Academy awards. A stupid thing to love, I know, but there it is. I used to be really good at picking the winners too. I haven't really done that for a couple of years now but maybe I'll start up again this year. I'm sure you can hardly wait.

Anyway, the first movie I watched was The Kids Are All Right starring Anette Benning and Julianne Moore as a lesbian couple whose children seek out their sperm doner father played by Mark Ruffalo. I hate spoilers so I'm not going to go more into the story than that. The critics loved this movie. Everyone loved this movie. Me...not so much. I mean, it was fine, I guess. There were parts that made me laugh and parts that made me really feel for the characters but I wasn't satisfied with the resolution or, you know, the lack thereof. I felt like it needed another act tacked on at the end to resolve some of the questions that popped up during the actual last act. I'm all for stories that leave things hanging, don't get me wrong, but I felt like this movie left too much hanging.

The second movie is True Grit starring Jeff Bridges (amazing) and Matt Damon (surprising and wonderful) and introduces Hailee Steinfeld as fourteen year old Mattie Ross. It's a fantastic Coen Brothers movie and I really enjoyed it so much. It was funny and tense and so well acted and directed. Loved it. And it also happens to be educational. While reading the credits (a habit I know annoys the people who go to the movies with me), Heather and I discovered that Matt Damon had an abs double on this film.

This raised a couple of questions. First of all: Matt Damon needed an abs double? Second of all: His abs (or whoever's abs were- we didn't catch the name and the projectionist wouldn't rewind the film for me) were in the movie? I have a real thing for a well developed six pack and I would have noticed a half naked Matt Damon. This means I'm going to have to watch the movie a second time (not that that'll be a chore or anything) to solve this mystery.

But the most important question is this (and comes in two parts): where do I get my own abs double and is any of the cast of Dancing With The Stars available (those women have some seriously awesome abs)? Forget this whole working out thing. I'm getting me an abs double.


When I arrived home from the movies last night, I settled in to watch some television. There was a new episode of How I Met Your Mother on last night and I had recorded it because of the movie. It was called "Bad News" and this next blurb will contain spoilers so if you're a fan (and if you're not, you really should be) but haven't yet watched this episode, you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs. Go ahead...I'll let you know when it's safe again.

The episode started with a countdown. It was very subtle, just the number 50 sitting on a doctor's desk as Lily and Marshall talk about their inability to conceive. By the time I saw the 48 in the third scene, I knew something was up. Joe, who had watched the episode live and was now watching it for the second time with me, was surprised because he hadn't noticed it. So we spent the rest of this completely hysterical episode looking for the numbers as we counted down to something as yet unknown. And then, right at the end, this legendary sitcom once again managed to pull out the rug from under our feet. I don't know what news I'd been expecting, especially the hilarity that had come before it, but the news we got was from a tearful Lily telling Marshall that his father had a heart attack and passed away. Color me shocked and surprised. Damn, I love this show. Really well done. Plus, Alexis Denisnoff (Wesley from BtVS and Angel) returned as Sandy Rivers. And again I have to say: Legendary.


The other television related subject I wanted to bring up is that tonight on the SyFy channel, they are airing the final five episodes of the brilliant yet low rated Battlestar Galactica spin off, Caprica. It starts at 6pm and goes to 11pm. I'm really looking forward to it because I've been one of the (apparent) few who have really enjoyed this show (gee, I wonder how many more times I can use the word 'really'). I will be sad that it'll actually be over. I hear tale that there will be another BSG spin off coming out some time this year called Blood and Chrome and chronicles young William Adama in the first cylon wars. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi fan, not really, but my sister-in-law's father recommended BSG to me (the reboot, not the original) and I fell in love with it. So yeah, I'm going to watch its spin offs. Please get Blood and Chrome out soon, SyFy. Psych and Burn Notice are both on hiatus after all...


Last but not least, the continuing tale of my chlamydia ridden feline. Poor kitten.

When we last looked in on Vader, she was on some sort of quest to drown herself in her water dish and take the rest of us down with her. Today, she's living in the half bath off the kitchen wishing she actually had Darth Vader's power to use the force to choke us all without laying a paw on us.

Our vet said when we started the first round of antibiotics that she would most likely relapse and that, when this happened, we should once again break out the eye ointment he prescribed to knock the infection back. The problem was the eye ointment caused an allergic reaction that made everything worse and caused Vader's face to swell up like a balloon. So Sunday morning when I noticed that Vader had indeed started to backslide into a relapse (more gunk coming out of her eyes...hip, hip hurray!), I was forced to call the vet again (seriously, this man is going to stop taking my calls) to what what we should do.

The answer was more antibiotics. Vader who, by the way, has just started to regain her appetite (we'll take care of that!) is thrilled beyond belief.

Well, that about does it for me today. I am in the midst of slicing and dicing my WIP. Next up? Julienne fries!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

Someone somewhere in the blogosphere is getting bloggers everywhere to post pictures of things that inspire them or make them smile or something. I've seen both floating around out there and since I am the very definition of a follower, I am going to play along.

I decided to post pictures that have inspired me, writing wise. The first is taken from the BBC's production of Robin Hood. It reminds me a lot of the two male leads in my novel, Effigy and its sequel Second Nature. There's just something about it that reaches out and grabs me, something that gives off an emotion that I hope I'm capturing in writing. I don't even know if it speaks only to me (wouldn't be the first time) or if other people can see it too. Anyway, here it is:

The second picture comes from painter Frederick William Burton (1816-1900) and is called The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. People who know me well will likely associate it with the love story in Effigy. It's not a perfect fit but I still love it.

And finally, I am going to post two pictures that make me think of Second Nature's main character, Cate. The first comes from the 2004 movie King Arthur. Not a great movie, by any means, but it did have some good action and presented audiences with a Guinevere who could kick ass and take names. She was played by Kiera Knightley and this particular shot speaks volumes to me:

The very last picture I am going to post here I don't know a lot about. I found it doing a Google image search and then today, while trying to find it again so that I could offer you more information about its origin, I couldn't seem to track it down. But I really, really love it. Some of you might recognize it from Facebook or Blogger because it's been in both places. Because, once again, I really, really love it.

All right, I lied. I have decided I wanted to post one more picture. This is also one about which I know very little. It was also a lucky Google image search. Beautiful and moving and everything I want my work to be:

Okay, I'm finished. I swear. If anyone knows anything about those last two pictures and feels like telling me, please do!