Celia's mom and Lady Marmalade

This is a 5-6 minute read, but is my favorite music story so far for my NaNoWriMo novel, so I wanted to share it. Rough draft, of course.


Celia walked in, saw Violet and Jack together on the couch, and said, “Well, it is about time.”

Then she went on, “You know what I've been wondering about?” She took off her jacket and sat down next to Violet. “You guys remember those educational workbooks with puzzles and games in them, but they were like lessons to teach you phonics and so forth?”

Violet nodded, and Jack said, “I really liked those, for some reason. They were more interesting than the school ones.”

“I thought so, too, Jack. And I was driving over here thinking about how Aunt Aleda and Uncle Earl brought me one once, the summer I turned eight. It was about science! I’d never seen a science one before, and I loved it. It taught me about weather, and planets, and a few other things, commonplace now, but back then, I thought I was learning about magic. And it felt as though maybe Aunt Aleda and Uncle Earl thought something special about me, or really thought about what I might like.” Celia leaned back and looked at Violet.

Violet said, “They sound really special, Celia. Are you going to tell them you remembered this?”

“Actually, Violet, they’ve both passed, so I won’t be doing that. However. Then I had another thought, which is this. What if they gave me that book only because they’d bought it for their son Mark and he didn’t want it? And that bothered me all the way over here.”

“They were my dad’s aunt and uncle, by the way, but their kids were the same age as me and Jeff. I don’t know, I do need to move past this.”

Jack said, “Up until today this was a really nice memory you had. How about you just go back to remembering it how it was, instead of suddenly worrying about what it might have been for?”

Celia answered, “Of course you’re right. What’s really bothering me is the twins. With me and their dad as role models, how are they going to grow up and be physicists?”

“They’re…six now? Right?” Violet was a little afraid to ask.

Sighing, Celia said, “Yes, and they want to wear eyeliner like Daddy, and also dress up and sing on stage instead of learning about how magnets work and what rocks are made of.”

Jack and Violet were now staring at Police Detective Celia Henry as though she’d grown horns.

“I really liked science, you guys.”

“And Craig thinks I’m worried for nothing, but did you know he wanted to name them Mary Ann and Ginger when they were born? Now he says he was just going through his ironic phase, but I don’t know about that. Maybe the names Tracey and Tianna are too girly, though. What do you think of Dr. Tianna Henry?”

Violet squeezed Celia’s shoulder. “It sounds great. What also sounds great is for you to relax and stop worrying about this. Your little girls are fun and loving and creative, and they have parents who love them and spend time with them. They are going to turn out fine, but you, it sounds to me like you need a spa day, or maybe a whole spa weekend.”

Celia nodded. “That’s the truth.” She stretched her feet out in front of her. “I’m not out on the street as much these days, but the job does take its toll.”

Jack was over at the computer now, starting a new file for Celia’s story, and said, not helpfully, “Anyway, Tracey used to be a male name. It’s one of those ones that got switched over the years.”

Violet and Celia looked at each other. Celia shook her head and said, “I’m glad you two finally got together, Violet, but you sure have your hands full.”

Jack gave her the microphone and signaled for her to begin.

“My dad was a pilot for a delivery service when I was a little girl, and Mama stayed home with me and Jeff, which wasn’t too common in her set. But she kept busy with all kinds of church projects. She was always taking old people to the doctor, setting up fundraisers, getting involved in all the doings, and I think some of it was because she felt guilty that she didn’t have to go to work. And she would clean, boy, how she would clean. I mean, furiously. You had to get out of her way or you might find yourself lemon wax polished along with the furniture.

“Now, a lot of times, she would sing while she cleaned, old gospel songs, mainly, which she tried to teach us to sing with her, and some old 50s music she’d grown up with. But other times she’d turn on the radio and sing along with it, and one of her particular favorites was “Lady Marmalade.” We didn’t know what that song was about back then, so Mama made up a story about a stewardess who helped lost travelers find their hotel. And we believed her.”

Violet put her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

“Well, we were little kids, and we knew Mama would never tell a lie to us. Sometimes I would play stewardess while Jeffrey pretended to fly a plane, and we would help the passengers figure out where they needed to go. These were stuffed bears and rag dolls and so forth.”

Violet was shaking now. Celia glared at her, but it did no good.

“Time passed, of course, and when I took the French course in high school, all the kids said they knew how to say something in French because of that song, and I said I did, too, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” which I said meant “Do you have a bed here for me?”

Jack held his hand up and paused the recording. “Violet, you have to get hold of yourself.” But they could both see he was also trying not to laugh.

Violet beckoned Celia over to the bar, and handed her a glass of water. “I’m so sorry, Celia. But this is the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages.”

“Well, Violet, I have to inform you that it will probably seem even funnier to you IF you let me finish telling it.” Celia put on her law enforcement face, and then grinned. “I do understand.”

She went back to the other side of the room, picked up the mike, and said, “Let us proceed.”

“That was a little embarrassing, but it made enough sense that nobody bothered me too much about it, and after that, I put it out of my mind. I did well at French, but then I did better at Spanish in college, which has been sometimes helpful in my career.

“So then I became a police officer. When you are first starting out, you spend a lot of time out on the streets, driving around looking for trouble, learning about the people in the community and also gaining experience. On one of my first nights out, we drove up Route 35 to where the gentlemen’s clubs are, and busted some ladies who were plying their trade outside in one of the parking lots. And that’s when it hit me.”

Violet grabbed a blanket lying on the couch next to her and bit into it.

Celia laughed. “When I saw Mama at breakfast the next morning, I had words with her about this situation. She said she never did lie to us about anything else but just could not admit to us that she was singing a song about a hooker. I told her I believed her, but I’ve wondered about it ever since then.

“I guess you can laugh all you want to now, Violet. That’s the whole story.”

Violet looked at Celia with tears in her eyes, and they laughed together for several minutes.


Then I just shouldn't have named him Jack, is the thing.

I never meant for my ongoing story character Jack D’Abruzzo to become my Lord Peter. I inserted deliberate flaws from the beginning, eight or nine years ago. He never used his broadcast degree; he lives with his mother and owns a donut shop. He’s previously always dated women who are way too young for him. He started out goofy and kind of manic. But I let him be the theatre director and then I let him buy the building, and then I let him grow interested in Violet, who is not that much like me, but is something like I’d probably be if I never had children.

But now he’s stuck in my head all the time, and since I made him up, well, that’s super awkward. I thought he could be handsome like Russ Columbo, but I didn’t want him compared to an idiot, plus, he wouldn’t be because no one knows who that is and I probably already use too many arcane references. Maybe like Jerry Vale, but with less face in his face. But more like one of those guys who is just perfectly pleasant and ordinary-looking until he hits the late 30s and suddenly has a strength to his face that nobody saw coming except maybe his mother, because she married the guy he resembles an awful lot. Maybe kind of like Perry Como only four inches taller, because I really don’t feel like overthinking this.

Although, I have to wonder at myself for thinking only of singers. His mother’s maiden name was Cassotto, so I guess it turns out like if Alan Alda and Bobby Darin had a baby, and that doesn’t really bear consideration, does it? It doesn’t matter. I describe him only as over 45, about 5’ 10”, black hair with threads of silver, and reasonably fit. That’s good enough, enough.

Anyway. I’ve resisted just handing him over to Violet, but it isn’t quite reasonable that all these characters in their late 40s all stay single. They can’t just up and get married, though. His mother still needs him, but there’s no way she could live in Violet’s old Victorian mansion. And why would I make Violet leave that place? I would not do that to her.

Maybe my personal ideal is that sort of relationship. They’re firmly together, but drift in and out of each other’s houses as they like. If I had my own house all those years, I might resent someone else taking up permanent space in it. And that house has been in her family since it was built in the 1860s, so it has to be lived in. If you don’t live in a house, Nature tries to claim it for its own. So I think Violet can have Jack in her own way and Jack can have Violet in what I have masterfully deemed pretty much the same way, and bits of me will find rest in that, for now.  

Well, I guess I’ve worked a couple things out so that I can carry on. But I want the computer to just shut right down if I start having him quote Wilde for his own.

Okay, Jack can look like Matteo Garrone, only I’ve let him keep his hairline for now. He's pointlessly vain about it. 

Frustrating myself

Here's a short thing I wrote three and a half years ago. I liked it the way it was, though it is far from perfect, and so I never edited it. What it is is perfectly me. This is my voice.

But—NaNoWriMo. You know, I don't rush it. I don't spew garbage for a word count. I don't over think it, either. I decide what to write. I look up details I might need, and I go for it. The next morning I reread it superficially, adding a word here or there to clarify syntax, and then I move on, knowing it can be repaired, beautified, or built upon later.

Yet the story turns banal beneath my fingertips, and other than when I'm writing dialogue, I lose my voice. So this year's effort is nearly all dialogue or speech, because I can't bring myself to dull my inner vision by typing it out.

The clouds have lifted and the energizing sun is filtering in through my window. Maybe that will help. Because I need to use my voice to write about something other than my self.

This is completely about my self, from April, 2011. 0411

Another memory for NaNoWriMo

I took a true story of my own, moved it forward 12 years, gave it to a hard case called Teresa. Obviously, as usual, very rough; some of it's pretty much just placeholders, because I'm feeling descriptively lazy and can fill it in later.  About 825 words.

“Oh!” Teresa said. “I know just the kind of thing you mean. Would you like to hear my story?”

“Sure,” said everyone.

“Well, when I was 12, my grandma was dying of kidney disease.”

“Aww,” went the general chorus.

“Yes, it was hard to deal with, but that was 25 years ago. My mom and aunts took turns spending evenings with her in the hospital, because she’d gotten bed sores from a lack of care.”

More shocked murmurings.

“It’s hard to believe, in this day and age, but it happened. So they each stayed, actually around the clock, but my mom was there in the evening, because it was the best time for me, and her. And sometimes she’d leave me some dinner, or instructions for how to make myself something. I did know how to cook pretty well, because I’d learned in Girl Scouts. We had to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner to earn our badges.

“But that year was actually when I started learning in earnest, and maybe it was because of this spring, in 1989, when Grandma was sick. In the evening sometimes it was just me and the dog, and it felt a little spooky, so I’d always turn on the TV to watch old movies. I wasn’t really into all the regular shows, because as you will no doubt recall, most of them were pretty stupid.”

Jessie said, “I liked The Cosby Show!” There was agreement about that, and a couple of the others named shows they liked.

Teresa said, “Yes, okay, it wasn’t all terrible. But I was really into the old stuff just then. We didn’t even have cable yet. Oh, shut up. We didn’t have very much money, you know. Don’t be rude. But we had this crazy TV channel that showed old TV shows and movies.”

Jack said, “I remember that, and I remember it before anyone had cable, too. They had theme weeks, with a certain actor or topic, for the evening movie.”

“Yes, exactly, you old man.” Teresa grinned. “I don’t remember what the theme was that week, but somehow, I remember it was a Thursday? And they were showing a movie set in Italy, so I decided to have spaghetti.”

A chorus of “Awww,” from the crowd again. Teresa rolled her eyes. “I was twelve, you guys.”

“So, Mom didn’t go in for Ragu, but it wasn’t really like she just cooked from scratch all the time, either. She had these little packets of something called ‘spaghetti sauce mix,’ and I found one, along with the spaghetti, and followed the directions. You had to add the powder to a can of tomato paste and water and a little oil, and stir and heat it. And it was very hard to figure out how much spaghetti to make, so I did this thing, where you hold it in your hand and sort of estimate the diameter…

“And I was worried about getting it done exactly at the same time, and also in time for the movie. But I did, plus, I had canned peaches.” Teresa stopped and smiled, remembering.

She looked over at Jack before continuing. “The movie was called ‘Houseboat’ and it starred Cary Grant and Sophia Loren.

“Yes, you big dummy, I knew you’d like that. And so I ate my spaghetti and watched that movie, and there’s this scene…”

She could see Jack inhale and hold his breath, smiling widely at the same time, but went on. “There’s this romantic scene where Sophia Loren and Cary Grant are dancing together, and the song that is playing says ‘You’re here, the moment’s near, you’re almost in my arms.’ It seemed insanely romantic to me, sitting in the dark eating my peaches, which I’d saved for last because they were sweet and that meant dessert, and it was the kind of thing where you hold your breath waiting, hoping something doesn’t spoil it. And then something did spoil it, but of course it all worked out in the end.”

She could feel everyone at the table exhale at the same time, and felt a little nervous about continuing.

“So now and then, I’m either eating spaghetti and thinking of that song, or the movie is on TV, and I think about Grandma, who took me to the city to buy me fancy jeans, and taught me how to do Fill-It-Ins in the puzzle books, and made me potatoes and eggs. And it’s dark suddenly, and I’m on our old loveseat watching TV with the dog, waiting for news.

“So is that the kind of story you mean, Jack?”

Jack tilted his head and looked at Teresa, reflecting. No one ever sees this side of her, and he can tell it’s hard for her to reveal. “Yes, Teresa, that’s just what I mean.”

“Well, good. But don’t include me in it, okay?”



NaNoWriMo: today it's personal

Every year during NaNoWriMo I do a few of the same things. There's always an Italian restaurant scene. Always some people sitting around drinking expensive whiskey and reminiscing. And always one day when I just write some memory from my past. That's what this is. I hope you know I'm not offering it as a great piece of writing. I just wanted to share. It's about 2000 words, which is about four minutes for the average reader.


Mary came into the studio half covered in paint. Violet was there that afternoon, and she made cocoa for herself and Mary. They sat and talked awhile, as Jack was downstairs in the theatre, consulting with someone about lights.

Mary said, “I sometimes forget to change my clothes before I paint. At home, I just take off most of them, and paint in my underwear, but obviously I can’t do that at the shop. She grinned. “So at first I worried people would think I just never clean myself up, and then I decided they could see it as decoration, instead.”

Violet said, “That seems really satisfying to me. And if you’re wearing a blue top, but have a bit of emerald between your fingers or something, you’re actually pretty well coordinated.”

Mary said, “Exactly.” And they both smiled in contentment.

“Although,” Violet went on, “I expect there are people who do not actually cover themselves with the paint they are brushing onto a canvas…”

“Ah, but that’s just the thing,” Mary answered. “Most of the time, I don’t actually use brushes!”

She and Violet laughed again as Jack came in, and Mary said, “Yes, we were talking about you, in case you were wondering.” Then she whispered in a loud dramatic tone to Violet, “DON’T WORRY, I’LL NEVER TELL HIM YOU SAID THAT.”

Mary rarely shows a serious side to anyone but Kathy, her boss, and one or two close friends, and her children. Some people think she’s being serious at times when she’s having a laugh, which confuses her, but she’s mostly reconciled herself to it. She operates best under the banner of “quietly eccentric.”

Jack rolled his eyes. He asked Mary to sit on the stool he now had set up with a full microphone stand, and cautioned Violet to be silent. “None of your fussing around. Come over here and sit down, as a matter of fact.”

Violet obeyed with a smile, taking a seat on the luxurious Danish leather couch opposite the recording equipment.

Mary asked, “How many Danes were killed to upholster that couch?”

Jack answered, “Eleven, I believe.”

She grinned and said, “Okay, I’m ready when you are.”

“I heard this song the other day, which I had not heard in just years and years, and it’s been rolling through my head ever since. But my memories of it have come back slowly, like a stage at a time. I expect there’s more still, that I’ve forgotten and that might never come back.

“I tried so hard to be an ordinary kid. The fact is, I really was, but somehow never felt like other people saw me as one. I listened to the radio stations, wore the clothes, bought the teen fan magazines, went to the skating rink on Friday nights, and made sure Mom got the trendy snacks for my lunchbox at school. I collected Lip Smackers, gauze blouses, pukka shell necklaces, and toe socks. I watched the right TV shows. I don’t know, though, mostly I was alone. There weren’t a lot of other kids nearby, and maybe that made the difference. Maybe if I knew them at home, they’d have known me at school.

“It seemed to me that practically every kid in my class could have been a star athlete. They were all shiny and glossy and could run fast in their expensive tennis shoes. I felt dull and flat and slow by comparison. And I was really, really skinny. Strangely, this led people to believe that I, too, had athletic ability, but that was laughable. Every year we had a series of fitness tests we had to perform, and the only one I was really good at was sit-ups. For some reason, I could do an astounding number of sit-ups in a minute. But I was a slow runner, and could never climb the rope, and when I threw a softball to measure how far it would go, my gym teacher said “You throw like a fat girl, what’s wrong with you?”

Violet gasped. Jack stopped the recording. Mary nodded. “He was special, Mr. Repp was. I remember this very nice and talented girl in my class named Michelle. She was one of those girls who seemed perfect, but was also so kind and polite, you could never be jealous of her, just sort of happy that she was herself. And I remember that more than once, he picked her up and carried her around the gymnasium on his shoulders when we were in 4th grade. I have always wondered what she thought about that. He called her ‘Tiger,’ too.”

Violet said, “That sounds repulsive!”

Jack said, “Maybe he was actually her uncle, or something.”

Mary and Violet just stared at him. Violet said, “I have occasionally wondered how he ended up. Maybe he was just super clueless, like, to give him the benefit of the doubt, you know?”

Violet said, “Yes, but the fat girl thing. You can’t have been the only girl he insulted, besides which, just, ugh, I don’t know.”

“There was a fat girl in our class. Not like it is now, with so many people struggling. We all knew someone who was just built large, or who fought their weight, but it wasn’t common. Which probably made it extra hard. Shawna was in our class, and I wondered if she heard him and how she felt. It angered me so much. But I just couldn’t throw a ball very far. I could roll one! I was often kickball pitcher for both recess teams, because I was lousy, otherwise, and other kids wanted to kick and run the bases, anyway.”

Jack said, “Hey, you must have always been a good bowler!”

Mary answered, “Actually, I was awful. I was just awful at everything until I was about 19, and then I bloomed or whatever they always said I’d do.” She smiled happily.

Jack started recording again.

“So then I went to junior high, and we had a girl’s gym class, and I was terrible at all the sports, and the girls were shocked that I didn’t have a bra yet, so my aunt gave me one my cousin had outgrown, because she and my mom were utterly clueless about these things somehow, and it had red piping on it, so then they made fun of that. And all the girls got leather clogs with wooden heels, but when I went to get mine, they didn’t have the right size. Instead, I picked out a pair of stack-heeled loafers which were actually very sharp, but they weren’t clogs, you know, so they were wrong.” Mary sighed, but rolled her eyes with a smile.

“At that point, I started to figure a few things out. I took charge of my style, and also my fitness. I had a frustrating year barely passing all the gym tests, and so the next year, I started jogging with my dog, figuring I could get stronger that way. I wore what I liked, worked on being a little bit avant garde, and ignored the girls who seemed to need to judge me for that.” Mary looked over at Violet, who grinned and nodded. She knew that same experience very well, though in her case, it stemmed from very different reasons.

“In eighth grade, we had to take this fitness test in the fall and again in the spring. I didn’t do so well in the fall, taking over two and a half minutes to run a quarter mile, but I ran around with my dog all winter, and rode my bike everywhere, and then when it was much warmer out, I put on jogging shorts and took off up an old road past our elementary school, sometimes running three or four miles at a time, at what was a pretty serious pace for me. I had read in a magazine about how important it was to keep a good rhythm while you run, so I used to play songs in my head like a radio. The song “You” by Rita Coolidge had come out, and it might have sounded sad at the time, but for me, that song was about my dog, whose name was Monty Python. We’d gotten him two years earlier, thinking he’d be a good companion for my older brother, but he bonded with me, and stuck by my side for five years, until he was killed in an accident. At age two, he could have kept up with me, though, for as far as I could run.

“And so I’d run, to that disco beat or to another, doing intervals, though I didn’t know that’s what they were. Every time that song played when I wasn’t running, I’d see Monty and I, breezing along in the sunshine together. When I heard it the other day, I remembered that, all in a flash.” She stopped and closed her eyes just then. Violet and Jack watched her, as she shook her head and began again.

“When the spring fitness tests came, I was so excited. I just knew I’d do better, and I told my teacher, Mrs. Bryan, about how hard I’d been working at it. She told me she expected good things from me. Well, what do you know, I was running next to the girl from elementary school, Michelle, who was very fast. She ran that quarter mile in about a minute and a half, or a little less, and set a record. But I ran it in under two minutes! I’d shaved an entire minute off my fall performance. I was giddy with success. Mrs. Bryan said that if I’d worked as hard as I said I did, I should have done better. She was just like that, I guess, and I tried not to let her make me feel bad. And I did receive a good grade for my effort.”

Mary saw the looks on Violet and Jack’s faces, and said, “You guys, this is a happy story! It was a victory, and I owed it to my dog, for whom the song ‘You’ could have been written.”

She went on, “But here’s an epilogue for you. My senior year in high school I was at a different school, and we had to run a mile to pass our one mandatory year of gym. I’d chosen a fitness class, too, because it taught us how to work on a weight machine, and aerobic exercise, and lots of other things, without ever having to be on a team. I wore fun Flashdance- and Fame-style clothes, and was one of the best in the class, blazing through sit-ups, and running the mile in about eight minutes, which is not even a little bit fast, but pretty good alongside all these girls who were lazy and walked half of it, barely finishing in the maximum fifteen.

“Plus! This is why I paint. I was also always surrounded by all these people with loads of artistic talent, and I couldn’t even paint an owl on a rock for Mother’s Day in Girl Scouts. But it turns out, all the messes I made as a child, cutting and gluing and painting things that didn’t look like they were meant to really brought me a lot of joy. So I determined that when I grew up, I’d do something to help people enjoy whatever they love without judgment or grades, or competition. I teach people to bowl and to paint, and to grow tomatoes and peppers, and you do not have to be great at any of these things in order to take real pleasure from them. Maybe I’d have never known that if I hadn’t been so frustrated by how others perceived my efforts when I was a kid.”


NaNoWriMo writing space and a short prologue

    Aaron stood at the edge of the water, his back to the emerging morning sun, and stared across the dark cold surface just beginning to reflect daylight. He liked to imagine if he squinted just a certain way, he could see Chicago on the other side. It was at least sixty miles across the water, but knowing the city so well, his mind's eye could fill in the space beyond the murky horizon, with buildings, bustling crowds, early traffic, and the scents of food carts as miniature kitchens were fired up in anticipation of mid-morning customers.
    He shuddered and pulled the flaps of his winter cap down more firmly over his ears, rubbing his hands together to warm them, keep them from stiffening up. Twenty-odd years ago, when Aaron migrated to the city from his rural family home, he'd believed it held the key to answers he desperately needed. He'd learned a great deal about himself and the world at-large during his half dozen years there, one of the most important being that he was a simple small town man at heart, no matter how little he fit into the world in which he was raised.
    Lake Michigan in mid-Autumn is best seen with a painter's eye. To most people, it merely looks cold, gray, barely moving, and is prettiest in the afternoon as the sun sets over the western horizon, sending sharp yellow rays across the surface. But Aaron could see, in the barely perceptible daylight, all the possibility gray actually holds. It's never really just some value of black mixed with some value of white, not even in the middle of the night. There's always blue, green, pink, gold, red, depending on the time of day and the clarity of the sky overhead. Just before dawn, the water was an inky purple, slowly, lazily waking to a new day. And all at once, at an almost immeasurably small moment, it began to soften into a hazy violet, shimmering as the sun caught its attention. Thus, Aaron and the great inland sea greeted the day together, and he walked back toward town to open the pie shop, in the world he now considered home.

Time travel, characters, NaNoWriMo, and the ways I love men

In the past two days, I've seen two references to Johnny Carson at Google+. I'm taking that as a sort of serendipitous force leading me to consider a topic some like to call "fuck, marry, or kill." Or those actions in another order, but I like this one, as it takes a logical progression.

For the next couple of weeks I'll try to write 1500-2000 words here every day as a sort of warm-up to NaNoWriMo. But I'm not breaking any new ground. I'll write about what I enjoy thinking about; self-indulgent blather, mostly. You know I love story. I love characters. I read biographies but not much other non-fiction, because stories of lives are what interest me most. For a person who spends very little time with other adults, this might seem odd. But it's so.

And I do love men. Rarely have I been entrancingly intellectually attracted to a man I didn't also want to know intimately, but it does happen from time to time, and that's cool by me. Occasionally, as well, I'm wildly physically attracted to a man with whom I would not find intellectual common ground, or else I know he's some kind of sleazy bastard, but some fairly dynamic area of my brain really doesn't care. Especially since it's all largely theoretical. It's story, you know. I can't live it, but I can read it or imagine it in my head or try to tell it.

So I guess I have two "types," or thought I did all along, but lately I've confronted the honest fact that I have a third. Let's let Johnny Carson represent that category, for now. First, though, James Garner. James Garner, that is, when he was roughly the age I am now, or a few years younger. Tall, black hair, direct, uncompromising, charming. I idolized him when I was a child. He was my cowboy detective super hero who also looked good in formal wear. I mean, I knew even then to separate the actor from his roles, but I never could with him, and I'll confess it; I still can't. He's kind of my hero. In the girly sense of things, at least.

The second type is currently represented by Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock on the TV show Elementary. He's the new Dr. House, only really really fit. Miller's Sherlock is dryly funny, enigmatic, well-meaning but often seems rude to other people, detached, but enthusiastic about his pursuits. Out here in the real world, he's the one I'm usually drawn to, something of a mirror to myself, only with a maleness to his guts that I admire. And of course, he's not much in the way of relationship material, is he? But then neither, perhaps, am I. I like a quirky misfit not because I am a quirky misfit, but because I'm content with myself this way.

Right now, if you know me, you're wondering where Bill Holden fits into this picture. Well, you know he represents a time period, largely, but he's also a lot more like Sherlock than he might charmingly appear. Kind of moody, but self-aware. Someone you keep yearning for even though you know he's no good to wake up next to every day, because he has problems. We all have problems, but his are the kind you aren't allowed to touch. He wants to let you in, but he doesn't really want you to find out how vulnerable he is.

Let's change the game name to bed, wed, or dead, because there are only going to be so many times I can type "fuck" without starting to feel silly. Or something. The second group is the kind you'd I'd go to bed with. The first group, maybe that's the guy you'd marry, if he'd have you, because he's the kind of rich ideal that you behave awkwardly around and it confuses him. That makes the third group the dead group, but maybe you I don't want them to actually die.

Johnny Carson is a good example of this. He was a hilarious and seemingly gregarious person who was actually quite a brooder, emotionally detached, impulsive, and selfish. Maybe that guy isn't even good in bed but you still want to find out. Why? I don't know. Plenty of women did, though. He was like someone else I know, who heavily dated only after getting married. The first or second wife wouldn't know this about him, but the third one had to. Being someone's second wife is understandable, I think. Being the third starts to look a little silly. My dad married three more women within about a 15-year span after my mother died. He and Mom were already divorced, but he didn't start his wife train until she was gone. What possessed these women to keep making it legal with him? He didn't even have any money.

I have to theorize that my dad was either, in fact, some kind of Great Lover, or really good at pretending his emotional and intellectual sensitivity made him someone worth trying to keep around. Me, I'd probably just want to kill him.

That's speaking of my Dad, though, and this isn't Shakespeare.

It's some kind of cliché that women are drawn only to this "bad boy" type. I'm drawn to no one who thinks of himself as a "boy," but that's for another topic. However, clichés develop from reality, of course. So what makes us physically drawn to a sleazy bastard we know our hearts should avoid? Biology says we see one kind of man as a good babymaker and another kind as a good protector/provider (shhh, that's another topic, as well,) and of course, the golden ticket would allow us to have the man who is both. Also, supposedly, we are drawn to different types of men at different points in our cycles. I think that's neat, except that in reality we don't get to take advantage of it…

When I was a girl, I loved the TV show Barney Miller. I thought Barney was fairly awesome, but can you guess which character I had a crush on? It was Dietrich. I thought someday I'd probably marry a man pretty much like that, only able to see myself in my mate at that point. Dietrich had a similar personality to my own, though I wouldn't have known it at the time. And I did end up married to someone who is kind of a mirror image of myself in certain ways, only as it turns out, he is better suited to someone who is a lot different instead. I've been thinking about that lately, and it led to this bloated examination of whether I truly have a "type" beyond some physical and superficial characteristics. That keeps leading me back to Johnny Carson, and in a certain way, my dad.

My dad wasn't so bad, as dads go, and I didn't grow up seeking one in a mate. At the same time, he wasn't so great as a family man, either, and I never thought of him as a role model for a husband and father. I'm more like him than I am like my mother, whom I also loved dearly, but I don't know that a male counterpart of her would suit me all that well, either. What makes any of us think we're great marriage material? I would have no real idea of that, even after all this time.

You only truly want to kill the ones you loved and poured yourself into, after all, once you learn that the "forever" vessel has a leak in it. Yet some people seem to want to keep trying at that, like Carson and my dad. I've had my fill, personally.

I don't like even thinking about that. I like thinking about conversation and sex, and sometimes romance, instead. It's good, you know, getting past the age and vulnerable stage of needing a suitable mate for raising a family, and living in a world in which we have the freedom to explore what else we might like in a relationship or in a series of them.

So in a perfect world, I'd time-travel, and have what I liked for as long as I liked, then move on to the next adventure. I had a brief exchange with a man yesterday who said we should time-travel back to the days when Johnny Carson went nuts for an hour or so because his wife was supposedly sleeping with Frank Gifford. He'd take Gifford and I'd have Carson. But only for like a weekend, because I think we'd have to make a murder pact beyond that point, since they'd both end up being extremely annoying. And I doubt Johnny'd really be that good in bed; his problems were the kind that get in the way. No, in the real perfect world, intellect and sensuality would fuse like magic or physics, and the yearning that comes from intensely driven conversation would be equally or even more fulfilling in physical union. Scientists say that phase of a relationship usually lasts for only seven months or so. A couple of seasons. Apparently, though, people are lousy at parting as friends when it's all over. I'd still want to be friends.

In another perfect world, though, we were never really friends at all, just a stellar collision, drawn together by unstoppable gravity, and we create gold when we collide, then each take our share when we part.

I'm going to let my NaNoWriMo book character create some gold this season.


NaNoWriMo actual serious thoughts

Three people have led me, this week, to the realization that I must start taking my writing more seriously. That is not to say I intend to take myself anymore seriously, because people who do that are dreadfully boring. But I know I write well, and I want to write well for others; giving them something to enjoy and maybe even cherish. 

I do not mean to say I am talented in the literary sense. I don't know if I can be, but that is mostly for others to judge. I write like I sing, though with more technical skill. I do not have a beautiful or powerful voice, but people enjoy the way I put over a song, and find my singing pleasant. 

So, the three people. One of them did some research and found that I could have a similar lovely typing experience that I enjoy on the family iMac if I invested in a new Chromebook. You see, my evening typing is confined to an old Dell laptop. This might sound luxurious, daytime machine and nighttime machine, but the nighttime machine makes me weep with mourning for my old terrible Powerbook. I like an Apple keyboard, and I like Apple software. 

But the new Samsung keyboard will have a similar feel, and I won't have to tear my hair out wending my way through the ugliness of Windows software and clunkiness of the Dell keyboard.

He said, "An artist needs proper tools." I like that. We use what we have, to create beauty. But when we can invest in better brushes and canvasses, it is wise to do so.

The second person said, "Write a children's story.  Children see magic in the world and create meaning from it. And everyone likes a good children's story." 

That's true. Everything a child sees is bigger and more magical and wonderful because they see it with newer eyes and a more roomy heart. I'm not sure I could write a good children's story, at least, of any significant length, but I will be keeping this in mind as I write the story I am organizing for November.

The third person is my seventh grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Juanita Grayum. The first two conversations brought her to mind, and I am so glad they did. If Google has things right for me, she is still alive and living in Arkansas, at the age of 92. Mrs. Grayum taught me to avoid helper verbs, and she also taught me a few things about dignity, drinking lots of good water, the importance of breakfast, about strong narration, and about seeing more literature in life than is written in the Great Books. I've never forgotten her or our conversations after class.

Informally, at least, I am dedicating this effort to her. She did a lot with her life, and I aim to do much more with mine, starting right now. 

12 - 1 (2)

All the things, part one

(I'm gonna post way too much tonight and maybe even tomorrow night as well.)

I'm just so unreasonably happy to have the iMac sitting on my desk in my private studio for the weekend, with its swift solid keyboard keys, no-fuss mouse, and all the sense-making that goes along with it. 

I do not give a single [redacted] if anyone has a problem with that. Joy! Balloons of Happiness! 

I miss my Powerbook. Working on NaNoWriMo without it last year was difficult. At the end of the year I was given a Dell laptop; sorta given, it's this whole thing, and oh my gosh do I hate writing on it. Or doing anything except looking at, really. So in case anyone reading this has been wondering why I've disappeared from Tumblr and a few other things, that's largely why. Most of the rest is Google Plus, but that's for another discussion. 

I never have conflict in my stories and that's what I'm thinking about right now. I have people do silly arguing, or wonder about how something will go, but nothing really goes wrong. And I just don't groove that way. So I'm thinking about other ways to create tension in a story, although I prefer just writing slice-of-life situations and conversations. 

I thought Jack and Charlie could meet up and go on a road trip. Charlie is sort of maybe a little obviously gay, so would Jack feel conflicted at the idea people would sometimes assume they're "together?" That could be something, and of course they'd have a lot of fun. I know I-70 west to Denver, and a few other roads pretty well. 

But just thinking about conflict makes me a little tired. I am often bored by it; I don't know why everyone else thinks it's so [redacted] necessary.

Okay, the reason I use [redacted] is so you can use the vulgarism of your choice. You might choose goddamned, fucking, bloody, or some combination thereof. As you like.

liliales birthday countdown: 2005

This one is a bit of a cheat. I'm not sharing a blog link from this year only, because they were transferred here with a whole month on each page. You could go find them if you were compelled to. The picture links are broken, though. 

In 2005 our world changed a lot. It was awesome, then it was awful, then there was some awesomeness in the midst of the awfulness. Which was awful. Oh, and I turned 40. 

Here's me shoveling snow in early 2005: 


And here's all the poetry I got written that year, but also it was the first year I tried NaNoWriMo, so that was a neat thing. 

Sipping Gotham

New York Harbor
slice of lime

I walk differently on New York streets,
everything hums erotic vibrations 
through the soles of my feet. 

Carnival of Words

Looking at you in a funhouse mirror
It's shatter-proof, smear-proof
distorted nevertheless

On a carousel spinning,
Artificial breeze soothes
Ride over too soon.

Ferris Wheel stops at the top,
car rocks and I sway, 
unsteady and unnerved til you point out the view
It's wide and breath-taking
and I never want to come back down. 


Slave to your will, or mine?
I can lean back and close my eyes,
or grip your shoulders and draw a sharp path
straight through your pupils.

The shouts are all shut up in my head
and I do not force them out by throat and tongue,
rather with fingernails, teeth, taunting pressure
holding, locking you into position;

It's always at least a draw 
where the spoils are shared, exchanged,
given in love and taken by need—
like rain, or shelter from cold.

This is from the prologue of my first NaNoWriMo attempt. I say attempt because I can write 50k words in a month, but never seem to write a complete story...

I couldn't help myself. As she headed for the newsstand, I scribbled on the back of a receipt I found in my purse and then got up, walked past him quickly, dropping the receipt at his feet, and kept on going out of the park. My heart was racing, but I didn't look back.

The note said, "Meet me in front of Trump Tower in an hour." And he did.

He just walked right up to me and spoke, "She's visiting an old school friend, and we're getting back together for dinner at 7."

I said nothing, just pointed toward Central Park, smiled, and took off across the street, as he followed behind, jogging a little to keep up.

I had never before spoken to him in person, and just didn't know how to begin. It seemed so important to get the words exactly right, even if they were meaningless. So I remained silent until that began to feel absurd. We had a few hours, this one day out of forever, not to be wasted away on shyness.

"An eternity in one long breath. That's how the days seem right now. Like we're all exhaling, and when our lungs finally empty, and it's time for drawing in again, well."

I stopped, realizing I must sound a little crazy, speaking the truth hardly anyone dared voice aloud these days. That's me, from shy to overly vocal in one careless move.



We Gonna Do This Thing: Writing Sanctuary & the Malaise

Today is 20k word day at NaNoWriMo. This morning, my word count stands at 9k. I got bored with it, decided to give myself little creative tasks to do until I was ready to write again. So here I am, having brought the iMac to my little office/study/studio/library (tell me, what would you call it?) and having the weekend before me. Deskchair

It isn't as though I ever have anything else to do, anyway. Well, there is a NaNoWriMo regional dinner tonight, but I changed my r in the RSVP because...

I also have the Malaise. This is an illness I contract about twice each cold weather season, and it's hard to explain. It's not quite a cold, not quite a flu; worse some seasons than others. Last year I first got it in late November and it turned into an extended bout with bronchitis. Probably mild pneumonia, but, like childbirth, the details are lost now. 

It starts with a headache, and some throat drainage. Then a slightly drippy or stuffy nose, heaviness, fatigue. But then it never turns fully into a cold. It rarely produces much of a fever. Yet I spend several days feeling fluish, bedridden part or most of the time, depending. The icky junk stays in my throat, sometimes wanders down to my chest, and eventually wanders off.

I think this'll be a mild one if I'm careful. So in a way it's a boon. I made sure the boys could feed themselves all weekend if I can't do it, though I'll try. I had one of them bring the iMac up here (now sharing it with only one of them, and he was warned he'd have low access this month,) along with clear juice, water, coffee, pain reliever. Beverages
My iPod, Newyorkwall
my new scarf, Bluescarf
a new outlook, Windowcorner
and I'm all set to go.

Except I feel sort of shaky and quivery and stuff, so I don't know. I mean, I gotta do this thing.

It matters to me. Just gotta put my head down sometimes. 

And there's a William Holden movie on in a couple hours. I've set it to record, but you know, if I need a break, that'll be a good one to have...I mean, it's mostly about jets, but they're really cool, and the scenery is cool, and he is very, very pretty. I picked a negative review on purpose, but it's actually an okay movie. Jim Garner has 2 or 3 minutes of pretty face time, in his first movie role.

Not to continually digress or anything.


On listening while not writing...

Here's what I've written tonight:

Chapter Five 

Jack walked into his house that afternoon to hear strains of "Blue Rondo A La Turk" coming from the den. He knew what that meant; his mom was in a reminiscent mood, missing his dad. Jack's dad was a huge Dave Brubeck fan, and whenever Ann got to feeling sentimental, maybe a little sorry for herself, she pulled out his old records. When she was in a more cheerful mood, she played Herb Alpert. 

While listening to this music. 

There's a Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder  Bobby Darin 
Why Was I Born? Frank Sinatra 
Sleepy Time Gal Dean Martin 
So What's New Herb Alpert 
I've Got You Under My Skin Frank Sinatra 
Mighty Lak' A Rose (78 rpm) Frank Sinatra
Blue Rondo A La Turk Dave Brubeck
I Didn't Know What Time It Was Bobby Darin
In a Sentimental Mood Count Basie
Bewitched Frank Sinatra Nothing But The Best
Arrivaderci Roma Gordon Jenkins & His Chorus 
I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart Count Basie 
Try A Little Tenderness Frank Sinatra
Gopher Mambo Yma Sumac 
Love Me Frank Sinatra
For Every Man There's A Woman Frank Sinatra
Azure-Te (Paris Blues) Frank Sinatra
I See Your Face Before Me Tony Bennett
Guys And Dolls Bobby Darin
The Best Is Yet To Come Frank Sinatra

I had iTunes on shuffle. I don't keep much of my music on the computer, and didn't have the iPod plugged in, so it was choosing from a list of 1223 songs. And yeah, about a quarter of that is Frank Sinatra.

But, an hour and nine minutes. 76 words. I'm in the wrong sort of mood, and there's too much going on around me, and I got to "The Best is Yet To Come," and oh, man, listening to that through the headphones, the edges of his voice, I mean, you know? I shouldn't even be here right now. I should be out somewhere, living or something, instead of trying to write about it. 

Okay, shuffle has done a bounce and is now playing "Mr. Blue Sky" by ELO. Maybe it's trying to tell me something, but I doubt it. 

Look, I really love my old blog posts, and I know no one wants to go back and read those on anyone's blog unless they're hilarious, and I'm not hilarious. I am dryly funny or not funny. But do you want to hear "The Best is Yet to Come" and be in that certain mood as well? Go here. About halfway down. Put on headphones; you hear the edges best that way. 

I dunno. Maybe I do this thing tomorrow. Too stuck inside myself right now. 


In some of the corners of my mind these days

You can pretty much judge how depressed I am by how often I update this blog, because I can tweet or reblog at Tumblr no matter how things are going, but here, I want to have interesting stories to tell or thoughts to relate and I cannot do that when I'm feeling low. I also listen to less music, but you wouldn't be able to judge that. Take my word for it. It's unbalanced. And despite my abiding 4+ year love for Twitter and Tumblr, this is the place that's really all mine. 

So in the meantime, here's some vaguely personal stuff with details, but not really details. You know. I'm personal in only the most shallow ways possible.

I want to do NaNoWriMo this year but don't have my own computer. Partly that's okay; only one boy and I are sharing the iMac just now, as the other two were sent cheesy but useful PCs by K12. The thing is, all three of them sit on the dining room table and no matter how I adjust this chair, I end up with pain in my neck and sometimes nausea after sitting here for awhile. 2011-10-05 12.30.57
So that's not super inspiring. I'm so used to a laptop, mostly all I've used for, well, quite a few years. 

The problem is that I need the chair all the way up in order to face the tall screen correctly. But when I do that, I am typing several inches below where that would be correct. So when I do NaNo, I suppose I'll set the keyboard on something to elevate it, but it needs to not slide around…

None of that has anything to do with feeling low. I just do. Too much is not at peace, though our house here is a pleasant sanctuary in most ways. 

I miss my desk upstairs. I created a cozy little studio for writing, painting, and listening to music. But the desk is empty. 2011-10-05 13.04.05
It wants a new Macbook Pro, of course. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I stare at a canvas, listen to a little Frank Sinatra, then wander away to some other part of the house.

I need more poetry, classical music, and cushy furniture in my life. That wouldn't solve any problems, but it would be good. Of course, I can solve the first two needs easily, if I just think to. But the days are just packed, and so is my head. Novel reading has been my meditation lately.

Good things are that I live on the edge of two library systems; Cincinnati and Clermont County. There's a Cincinnati branch 3 miles west of here, and a Clermont branch 2 miles east. All media not at my fingertips is a short drive away, and completely free. 

And we found a great deal that allows us to bowl on Sunday mornings, and we found some parks; none you can get to by walking, as that doesn't seem to be a great priority in this area of the, er, area, but still fairly nearby. Just as in New Jersey, we live moments from a pike (historically; there aren't tolls these days,) which is a good path from way over there to way over there, but this one has almost no sidewalk, no shoulder, and has hills as well as curves, so we cannot use it for walking or cycling.

You see how flat and dull all this blather is? I'm not at peace, because others are not at peace, and I cannot make things better for them. Platitudes are useless. As well, little niggling "red tape" issues still invade my days. I'm no good at them, and they won't ever leave me alone. Avoiding them makes it all worse, of course.

Another good thing is that for the first time in I don't even ever, I have all the clothes I need, *and* I like them all. I've never been the sort of person who wants a huge wardrobe, and I don't much like winter clothing, so I tend not to prioritize that. But I now have two thin cardigans, two longer sweaters, several new tops, three pairs of jeans, two pairs of dress-up slacks, a half-dozen dresses, two jackets and a coat, and new underwear and bras. I even bought socks. I no longer have leather boots, which would be a welcome finishing touch, but I can manage without, if necessary. People do. And I still have good gloves and lots of scarves. I cannot abide bulky clothing, but layering can and will be done when it is too cold to pretend otherwise. 

So this is something moving to Ohio from New Jersey did for me. But we still have very many other needs here to be met. I'm out of focus there, but working on it. 

What I'd like to also do for myself is buy a Kindle Fire and let that be my go-between until I can somehow raise money for a new laptop. I had planned on a Tab or iPad, but they cost three times as much, and I can do with my phone any tablet function I wouldn't have with the new Kindle. It's a pretty great phone, though the next model along is what dreams are really made of, I guess.

Living in Ohio, I have found some people who are like those I met at the Jersey shore. I mean, of course, the real New Jersey shore. Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 10.54.07 AM
People who live closer to nature, who still touch what they make, and who take in nature with the breath they can spare. But they seem to don't live on my street! 2011-10-05 13.45.41
I wish they did. Because otherwise, it is very artificial here, and there's something I'm having trouble grabbing hold of. I can't go back to the sea, to the people who communed with it. Lake Michigan is 300 miles away; it was like that there, too. Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 10.48.42 AM
The seashore, even an inland seashore, breeds the spirit to which I most relate these days. And there's no sea here. Screen shot 2011-10-05 at 10.57.09 AM

There is a bit of color, though. So that's a very nice thing on a sunny warm day in October. Why ask for more? 2011-10-05 13.48.12

Why start/finish NaNoWriMo? (wherein I copy and paste...

...because why on earth would it be healthy for me to waste word count explaining it? I have 1300 words to write tonight!)

This guy does a good job of it, instead. If you're doing NaNoWriMo, you received this in an email. Anyone else? Read up, it's worth it. 

Dear NaNoWriMo Author,

Way down deep in the dark archives of my hard drive, I have a folder called Follies, which contains an impressive collection of abandoned stories: There's the zombie apocalypse novel about corn genetics, the sequel, the one about the Kuwaiti American bowling prodigy, the desert island novel, and many more. These stories have only one thing in common: They're all about 25,000 words.

Why do I quit halfway in? I get tired. It's not fun anymore. The story kind of sucks, and it's hard to sit down every day and spend several hours eating from a giant bowl of suck. And most of all, like the kid who spends hours preparing plastic armies for war, I enjoy setting things up more than I enjoy the battle itself. To finish something is to be disappointed. By definition, abandoned novels are more promising than completed ones.

You have likely reached the moment in this insane endeavor when you need a rock-solid answer to the question of why, precisely, you are trying to write a novel in a month. You have likely realized that your novel is not very good, at least not yet, and that finishing it will be a hell of a lot less fun than starting it was.

So quit. Quit now, or if you're among the many of us who've already quit, stay quit. Look, we are all going to die. The whole species will cease to exist at some point, and there will be no one left to remember that any of us ever did anything: Our creations, all of them, will crumble, and the entire experiment of human consciousness will be filed away, unread, in the Follies folder of the great interstellar hard drive. So why write another word?

Sorry. I reached the halfway point of this pep talk and tumbled, as one does, into inconsolable despair.

Here's my answer to the very real existential crisis that grips me midway through everything I've ever tried to do: I think stories help us fight the nihilistic urges that constantly threaten to consume us.

At this point, you've probably realized that it's nearly impossible to write a good book in a month. I've been at this a while and have yet to write a book in less than three years. All of us harbor secret hopes that a magnificent novel will tumble out of the sky and appear on our screens, but almost universally, writing is hard, slow, and totally unglamorous. So why finish what you've started? Because in two weeks, when you are done, you will be grateful for the experience. Also, you will have learned a lot about writing and humanness and the inestimable value of tilting at windmills.

Something else about my Follies folder: It contains the final drafts of my novels Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns. They are follies, too—finished ones. Whether you're reading or writing, there is nothing magical about how you get from the middle of a book to the end of one. As Robert Frost put it, “The only way out is through.”

So here's the pep part of my pep talk: Go spit in the face of our inevitable obsolescence and finish your @#$&ng novel.

Best wishes,
John Green

John Green is the New York Times bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns.




Ten days to NaNoWriMo, getting the workspace right, oh, mememe

Stuff goes wrong every year, but this may be the year it all falls together well.  

I have: 

  • new software that actually works okay with my old Powerbook, because it's designed to!
  • A new actual Apple power cord that works well
  • A pdf of the book I'm parodying so I can use the structure of it for an outline and character sketches, and it can't be physically lost
  • and Thanksgiving is a little early this year, so no last minute post-holiday rush

But I do also have a problem with my space bar that is driving me bonkers, and means I'm constantly self-correcting as I type. And, of course, my system can't handle too much internet at once these days; it's been rendered arcane. 

NaNoWriMo has become a sort of annual ritual for many people. Here's where the ritual takes place for me. 


Items of note include the Hendrick's Gin bottle caddy, which I use for scissors, pens, brushes, etc., my green and silver Swingline stapler, Greer flask, New Kirk and Old Spock BK toys, the Mach 5, the iPod, of course, 1964 issues of REDBOOK, and a mug that says PERFECT COFFEE, but which contains Stash Licorice Spice tea. It's good for my cold weather throat and asthma. It has no actual tea in it, so no caffeine. I can only handle a little caffeine ever; more than one cup of something makes me feel ill. Just as with alcohol, I'm physically unable to be immoderate.

I might open the deck of cards if things seem to be going well. Solitaire is one of my favorite cold weather activities. In cold weather, I am a hermit. Part of this is because there's little to do in winter where I live. And part of it is because I'm generally sort of ill in cold weather, with a touch of asthma and a touch of arthritis. 

But, just as with every other hibernation season, I intend to make this the best ever! 


part two: a life shot in black and white

I'm so far behind on NaNoWriMo, for exactly 4 reasons, I don't know if I can succeed this year. They aren't quite good enough reasons not to, is the thing. And so, today, I will push harder than before. If I feel I've made real progress by the end of the day, I will continue toward the win. If I don't, I will continue to write without winning. But that will be difficult.

What it will actually be is sad. 

I'm not naturally a fiction writer. I'm naturally a fiction reader. And as a good writer, I know that there is a huge difference between the two things. But I still need this challenge each year, and I know that each year there is growth, even if it is not growth in my ability to make up and tell a convincing story. 

This week I discovered a great blog written by someone who jabs her pain onto the screen with words that seem sharp-edged at first, but actually have all the corners rounded, like the people who walk barefoot on jagged glass. They trick their audience by making it appear all the broken glass is sharp, but actually the glass in the middle has been smoothed over.  

In her case, the trick is not in order to cheat her readers. She is just both jagged and worn down. 

Then I revisited a couple of my favorite ephemera blogs to bathe myself in the wonders of vintage advertising. It's all so appalling and so beautiful, each in turn, sometimes occupying the same space. 
And I started thinking, and writing a little, about how I got to this strange point in my life at which there seems to be nothing but chaos in reasoning, chaos in emotion, chaos even in the way my precious books are organized on my shelves. Nothing fits right, everything feels stagnant, and yet not all the leaves have even fallen from the trees yet, so I can't blame it on the usual hibernation blues. It's sort of as though all my life has been one long February, and I can see March on the next page, but never quite get to turn to it. I don't want turn to it, anyway, knowing it's just actually going to be February all over again. I would like to skip ahead to May, but am not allowed. 
So, making up stories about a milkman who steals cats and a town founder who created an entire community from his secret harem seems a little, well, inadequate as escapism. 

I have written 50,000 words already this month. But not nearly enough of them were for that book effort, and while you might say it's good I was able to express so much, the fact is that it's very easy for me to blather on and on about myself or nothing, yet what I want to do is tell a story about something, something entirely else, just for a little while, before it's time to make another attempt at reorganizing too many books in too small a space. 

(That last bit was both literal and a metaphor, in case you were not sure.)

I decided to take a lot of photos in black and white this week. I guess it would make sense to do color ones on Thanksgiving. Otherwise, this week, perhaps this whole season, will be a life shot in black and white. 

A NaNoWriMo Day's Worth of Words (about nothing)

1707 words. Unedited, of course. 


I write more than 1,667 words a day nearly every day, no question. Yet when it comes to making things up entirely out of my head for NaNoWriMo, I find it a challenge. I can chat or talk jibberish for hours, especially with someone equally capable of it. But a story, that I make up? That has to be "invented," and I find that when I pressure myself to do so, I draw blanks. 


If I tell one of my kids to write a story, I can provide an example, made up on the spot, on just about any subject I've heard of. Extemporaneously, I am often awesome. So what's the deal here, where I struggle all month-long to put together a story? It is a struggle, but it's fun, so I don't worry about it too much. I make a list of topics to cover, and go for it. I do find, though, that as much as I counsel others against it, I tend to think of my words as precious jewels dripping from my fingers, and expect them all to be worthy of hangers-on. That's just silly, and it locks up your brain instead of opening it. 


I paint pictures on canvas and with poetry, in careful measured phrasing, embracing informal balance and coaxing it into being. Telling a story gets to be something else entirely, if I can just let go and let it happen. 


Today my youngest son is under the weather a bit. He's napping over there on the couch, and I was sitting next to him for a long time, then realized he needed to stretch out more, so I've moved to my little green "easy chair," in front of the cold, cold bow window. Physical memory is very strong for me, and as I plugged in the computer, I was taken back to the Saturday two or three weeks ago when I sat in this chair for nearly the entire day, watching Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on YouTube. I could feel the air as my son brought in my plants since that was the weekend we were told frost was coming. I remembered some of the exchanges I had with a couple of Twitter friends. All this may seem ordinary, and it is, except for me it is also sensory. I felt the memory, rather than just recalled it. It was fantastic, that day, on this day, a few minutes ago.


This is a handy trait, by the way, when driving to a location I have been to only once before, or a long time before. I just feel my way there even if I don't remember the names of the streets or whatever. Mostly, though, it just means I'm slightly out-of-focus when it comes to reckoning the passage of time. I live partially in a state of kairos, if you know anything about that. 


Some NaNoWriMo participants like to talk about how many words they can write in an hour, and do go on to produce "novels" of paramount length by the end of the month. They put signatures at the bottom of their forum posts which detail each year's bountiful effort, like thus:


2005: Big Deal About Dragons - 34k words, :-(

2006: Something Else Indeed (About Dragons) - 57k words SCORE!!!!

2007: And Then Dragons, As It Were: 119k words =)

2008: A Long Thing About Futuristic Dragons: 270k whoo!!!

2009: Beyond Here Be More About Dragons: ????


And I'm exhausted just looking at it. Plus? Whatever. You are no longer on the same page as the rest of us. Move along, then. 


I just wrote 600 words. 


About nothing. 


Would you like to know about my actual 2009 NaNoWriMo effort? First you should know that I know I'll get to 50k, though probably just barely as usual. This year, though, I will not count it a complete success unless it is something that can be regarded as having a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Sure, it'll still be nearly entirely character-driven. No one will die in it, no gigantic crisis will occur; that's not how I roll, baby. But some things will happen, and, like, go from one point to this other point. At least, that is the idea. 


I'm either using Steve from my half-book about the twins, Violet and Lily Palm, or someone a lot like him with some of Jack from last year added to the mix. He's fairly new to Sea View, my town, and is trying to learn about the residents for an anthropology project. He attends one of the mayor's weekly meetings at the donut shop and learns they're raising money for a statue of the town founder, Andrew Dexter. Not everyone thinks well of Dexter, and everyone in town has a story about him, so Steve sets out to learn the truth about him, learns some funny secrets along the way, and ends up falling in love with the town. 


I love my town called Sea View. It's a conglomeration of the New Jersey shore towns of Rumson, Sea Bright, Long Branch, Fair Haven, and Red Bank. Plus a silly twist thrown in. It's most like Fair Haven, but with liberal Red Bank people, rich Rumson estates, Long Branch hipsters and food, and the Sea Bright (and Rumson) location. Here's the general area: East of 35. I loved it there and would go back. But if I ever get to move to somewhere that feels just right for me, I'll need to have mild, Santa Barbara, California type of weather. 


In my town and in my stories there are always a couple of old men who sit around and be funny, a couple of gay people; usually one who has loved or is/has been loved by a non-gay person, at least one dog, argumentative artists, a little drinking, a lot of reminiscing, and someone who is into some form of "alternative spirituality." Oh, and donuts and music and some bad weather. This is New Jersey; those are basic elements. And Sea View is so real to me, I get a little disappointed it's not quite actually over there, just some bits of it spread around that small area. 


I think it's probably also heavily influenced by the locations I read about while going through this mad "cozy mystery" phase over the past couple of years with authors such as M.C. Beaton, Nancy Atherton, and Joan Hess. But as much as I love reading mysteries, I'm not very keen on trying to write one. What I most like about those stories is the people and the settings. The plots are secondary, though they are often very interesting or clever. If I ever write a book that is worthy of publication consideration, plot will definitely be my weak point. But I'm working on it a little, this go-round. 


I'd like less plot in my own life, actually. There's been quite enough by now, I think, and the rest of it should just be baked goods, gardening, and conversation. Don't you agree? 


What should the next 500 words be about?


I like living in New Jersey, though as I said, I prefer the other side of the state. These people and their attitudes are informed by both Revolutionary history and 20th century immigration patterns, by wet weather, the sea, New York, Philadelphia, and the bigness of a tiny state no one understands unless they've spent real time here, and not just on the Turnpike or at a beach during the summer season. It's beautiful and wild, natural and artificial, like most other U.S. states I've visited. But it's all mushed up together in a teeny space; mountains, beaches, marshes and forests, overcrowded cities, wealthy suburbs, and farm country, no space between any of it. And every region is different, but you can get good pizza in all of them. Real pizza, not the kind you usually eat wherever you live that's not here!


I've lived in three other states and they all have attributes to recommend them, but I felt I belonged here the first time I saw the sea. Now I believe I just belong at the sea, but I'm closer than I ever was before the age of 35, so that's something, at least. Only you wouldn't think an hour is so far away? It really is, somehow. I hardly ever see it anymore, and I feel like it's a necessary and missing component to my life. It was always missing before, all those 35 years, but it hurts more now after getting to embrace it close to me for awhile. 


In previous years I always set out to share my NaNo words with friends, but realized that I'd start writing for them, which is not a good thing to do, and then it was harder to share, concerned about receiving judgment and even worse, suggestions. I haven't decided whether to share it this year or not, but if I do, I'll go no-holds barred, and share every word, not just choice segments. The Full Monty. I still won't want judgment or suggestions, though, after all, it's a "30 day novel." First of all, of course it's going to be kind of awful, and second, if you want to judge, you can just go write one yourself and judge that! No, really, how about it? Just click on my icon up there to get started. It's a hoot. 


Do people say "hoot" where you're from? Probably not. 


It's time to start something for dinner. I have a sick kid, a kind-of sick kid, another out for the evening with his dad, and two picky teen girls who think they have paying jobs and so why should they help with the dishes? If it hadn't been sick kid's dish day, I'd mind going into the kitchen less. But I have to be the substitute, since almost-sick kid would be the usual one. And then decide what sort of food is worth the bother for the circumstance. Even though I had a bourbon drink last night, I might have a martini. Some nights it's nice to do that, and might perk up my mood for the task, make me feel all sprightly and Modern Kitchenish instead of sort of chilly and drudgy. 

You should write a book

Here are some excerpts from the FAQ at NaNoWriMo.

Why 50,000 words? Isn't that more of a novella?

Our experiences over the past seven years show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel. We don't use the word "novella" because it doesn't seem to impress people the way "novel" does.

How do you define "novel?" Does fan fiction count? What if I want to write interconnected short stories rather than a novel? What if my story is largely autobiographical, or is based on a real person? Can I still write it in November?

We define a novel as "a lengthy work of fiction." Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you're writing falls under the heading of "novel." In short: If you believe you're writing a novel, we believe you're writing a novel too.

Why are you doing this? What do you get out of it?

NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.

Part of the reason we organize NaNoWriMo is just to get a book written. We love the fringe benefits accrued to novelists. For one month out of the year, we can stew and storm, and make a huge mess of our apartments and drink lots of coffee at odd hours. And we can do all of these things loudly, in front of people. As satisfying as it is to reach deep within yourself and pull out an unexpectedly passable work of art, it is equally (if not more) satisfying to be able to dramatize the process at social gatherings.

But that artsy drama window is woefully short. The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self. We like that.

Is it true there's an official guidebook to NaNoWriMo?

There is! Director Chris Baty compiled all of his tips, tricks, and caffeine-intake strategies in a book called No Plot? No Problem! Along with Chris' long-winded ramblings, the book also contains eloquent, sage, and hilarious tips from NaNoWriMo veterans, who should probably know better by now.

Do I have to start my novel from scratch on November 1?


This sounds like a dumb, arbitrary rule, we know. But bringing a half-finished manuscript into NaNoWriMo all but guarantees a miserable month. You'll simply care about the characters and story too much to write with the gleeful, anything-goes approach that makes NaNoWriMo such a creative rush. Give yourself the gift of a clean slate, and you'll tap into realms of imagination and intuition that are out-of-reach when working on pre-existing manuscripts.

Does that mean I can't use an outline or notes?

Outlines and plot notes are very much encouraged, and can be started months ahead of the actual novel-writing adventure. Previously written prose, though, is punishable by death.

Can anyone participate in NaNoWriMo?

No. People who take their writing (and themselves) very seriously should probably go elsewhere. Everyone else, though, is warmly welcomed.

If I'm just writing 50,000 words of crap, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?

There are three reasons.

1) If you don't do it now, you probably never will. Novel writing is mostly a "one day" event. As in "One day, I'd like to write a novel." Here's the truth: 99% of us, if left to our own devices, would never make the time to write a novel. It's just so far outside our normal lives that it constantly slips down to the bottom of our to-do lists. The structure of NaNoWriMo forces you to put away all those self-defeating worries and START. Once you have the first five chapters under your belt, the rest will come easily. Or painfully. But it will come. And you'll have friends to help you see it through to 50k.

2) Aiming low is the best way to succeed. With entry-level novel writing, shooting for the moon is the surest way to get nowhere. With high expectations, everything you write will sound cheesy and awkward. Once you start evaluating your story in terms of word count, you take that pressure off yourself. And you'll start surprising yourself with a great bit of dialogue here and a ingenious plot twist there. Characters will start doing things you never expected, taking the story places you'd never imagined. There will be much execrable prose, yes. But amidst the crap, there will be beauty. A lot of it.

3) Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.

November 2005

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Well, here it is.

Official NaNoWriMo 2005 Winner

Hi, Kivrillian. Soon I'm going to do real blogging again, now that the albatross has been lifted from my neck. I'm going to, again, discuss an interesting point you brought up in your recent comment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I thought it bore repeating

Here is a link to a History Channel page on the origins of Christmas. I posted it last year, and want to share it again with anyone who's discovered where I keep my brain over the past 12 months.

History of Christmas<

From Gannett News Service

At first I was incredulous that this was something so unobvious a book had to be written explaining it. But then I realized why that's so. Extroverts, apparently, are like Sneetches arguing over who has "stars upon thars, " and ignoring the fact that some of the others are cowering in the corner, nearly in tears, not over the fact that they may or may not have a star-belly, but that the others just won't shut up for awhile and leave them alone.

Here's an entire article for you to read. And remember. And heed carefully. It came from USAToday. com.

"The attitude that there's something wrong with introverted people is widely shared in society, where fast talk and snap decisions are often valued over listening, deliberation and careful planning. Extroverts seem to rule the world or, at least, the USA, which hasn't elected an introverted president for three decades, since Jimmy Carter.

"The signals we get from the world agree that extroversion is valued," says Sanford Cohn, an associate professor in curriculum and instruction at Arizona State University. "A lot of the messages we get from society have to do with being social, and in order to be social you have to behave a certain way."

But that is impossible for introverted kids. Raising them isn't easy, particularly if parents, family members, teachers, coaches and other adults don't allow them to be who they are.

Introverted children enjoy the internal world of thoughts, feelings and fantasies, and there's a physiological reason for this. Researchers using brain scans have found introverts have more brain activity in general, and specifically in the frontal lobes. When these areas are activated, introverts are energized by retrieving long-term memories, problem solving, introspection, complex thinking and planning.

Extroverts enjoy the external world of things, people and activities. They have more activity in brain areas involved in processing the sensory information we're bombarded with daily. Because extroverts have less internally generated brain activity, they search for more external stimuli to energize them.

"It's the different pathways that are turned on that activate the behaviors and abilities we see in introverts and extroverts," says Marti Olsen Laney, a neuroscience researcher and author in Portland, Ore., who is credited with connecting introversion with its underlying biology. "It impacts all areas of their lives: how they process information, how they restore their energy, what they enjoy and how they communicate."

Introverted children need time alone more than do extroverted children, says Laney, whose book, The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child, is due in January. "Extroverts gain energy by being out and about," but "being with people takes energy from introverts, and they need to get away to restore that energy."

Laney says introverted kids also behave differently.

They're not slow, inattentive or shy. Shyness is behavior that may diminish as children grow; introversion is a character trait that lasts."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Did I ever post this before?

If I did, I apologize, sort of. I found it in a notebook just now, and I want to look at it onscreen and see what I think about it. I remember what had me writing it, back in the summer, and now the trick is to see if it can sort of transcend that particular moment and just be something interesting or thoughtful.

Carnival of Words

Looking at you in a Funhouse mirror,
it's shatter-proof, smear-proof,
distorted, just the same.

On a carousel, spinning
Artificial breeze soothes,
ride over too soon.

Ferris wheel stops at the top,
car rocks and I sway,
unsteady and unnerved
Til you point out the view...
It's wide and breath-taking
And I never want to come back down.

Zany stuff

Well, not really, I've just run out of steam with the title thing.

I woke up from one of those dreams that seems to go on forever where a million things happen and when I attempt to trace a thread back to where it all began, it bears absolutely no resemblance to where it ended up before being cut off prematurely. I say prematurely, but clearly this was something that had no proper end, and would have just continued changing into something else over and over again, ad infinitum.

I only vaguely remember most of it, but one image is sort of seared into my consciousness to a tangible degree, and I wish I could capture it externally and paint it or sculpt it into being somehow. These things cannot be recreated with mere words, though I almost desperately wish they were. Like a photograph that captures a still image without scent or sound or movement, words are more frustrating than soothing when you can't use them to make something manifest. And still I make the attempt.

That's what poetry is for, of course, and I was realizing a couple of days ago that I need to write some. This 30 day book attempt is bad timing. For me, it would have worked better in a month like March or April. But I'm forging on until the last, just to have completed the attempt.

Then I need to set aside the big project stuff for a little while and work on some poetry. It's with poetic language that I get closest to making reality out of something that doesn't quite exist on a concrete level. This is a philosophical issue, of course; if something exists, it exists, no matter how you measure it or whether you can touch it with your fingers. So I guess what I really mean is how to take hold, maybe just of a little corner, of something that seems always outside of my grasp. I'll never get close enough to embrace it fully, but I'll always keep trying to create the sensation of what that might be like.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Part two of the thing below this one

This place is too fricking distracting. But I am a mean, mean person, apparently, and also antisocial. This is because I sort of freak out at how more and more people wander in here, rearranging all the tables and easy chairs, stringing their electrical cords all over so that sometimes people actually have to navigate around them in order to get through the place. I find that so tasteless. It's like each of these people is the sun around whom all this revolves. Meanwhile, I thought it was a place of business that does me the kindness of allowing me to talk online while I have my coffee and roll, in order to oh my god. The new plugged in dude in from of me is wearing zip-up ankle boots. With a heel.

Okay, anyway, it's harder to write here than it used to be. It's like a weird gang of rebels with PCs, bad hair, badder shoes, and an utter disregard for the privacy of public space. Stop that, I know you know what I mean. It's so not cool.

So for today, now, I will just write for the pleasure of seeing my words spread across the page in living form, appreciative of the fact that I look totally hot in my brown V-neck stretch t-shirt and new jeans, with my cute little reading glasses perched on my not so cute and little but interesting nose, and really make a better attempt to ignore the havoc being wrought all around me.

Wonders never cease

I'm at Border's, a couple of chairs away from the man who lives here. He's hanging out with a chick today, sort of. He's just lowered the blinds, blithely assuming that we'd all benefit from his notion of correct Border's Cafe ambience. Dude just seriously creeps me out. I can't explain it. He's over there in the corner with his easy chair and table and whole electronic set-up, and it annoys. It would help if he was cute, but, not so much really. I mean, in the general universal scheme of things, he's not repulsive or anything. But really gives off waves of, oh, Ensign Wesley Crusher after having failed Starfleet Academy and after his stint with the Traveler didn't work out. Not to be really geeky or anything. And he looks exactly like this one Disney cartoon character whose name I just can't place my finger on at the moment.

Ew. Have you ever thought about what an awful expression that is? "place my finger on." I seriously do not want to do that. I'm uncomfortable sharing oxygen with many people, never mind touching them.

Anyway, that's not what I'm here to talk about. I've not been around the blog much recently, and have a few things to comment on.

First, in one sense I'll be able to finish the NaNo thing, in that I will be able to have written and submitted 50k words. But on the other hand, the book is nowhere near finished, and I've decided I'd really like to take some time to explore it, because there are parts of it that could really do well in a long story.

I'm learning some things about how I feel about being a writer in the midst of the writing process. I can't be one of those people who just "outputs" the same word count every day, for one thing. It's too dry, and the "spewing forth yields best material" school gets a failing grade from me. I can spew all day long, sure, but it's not the best stuff. The best stuff comes when I've done some living in my day, then settle in to draw pictures of it in words on the screen. And it's best when I take moments to look at it with head cocked and chin in hand, deciding this phrase needs to go here, and that sentence is bloated and self-involved. In other words, I write better when I write like who I am: a person who naturally edits as she goes along. To eliminate that from the process is to take away some of the most enjoyable parts of it, to me. Others are free to feel differently about the matter.

So if I do NaNoWriMo next year, I will make sure that I do not have an overarching plot to stick to, in order to have the time and freedom to obey my own process. I will do what I originally intended for this year; just construct a setting and have characters wander in and out of it, each with their own little story to tell, not needing them to connect together in any big or formal fashion.

On a more shallow note, let me pause to say that this is my 11,987,623rd listen of The Sweetest Drop by Peter Murphy. And I am not yet remotely weary of it.

Well, anyway, time to get back to the Thing. It's been swell. Let's do this again sometime, shall we? I look forward to it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

New playlist

This month's Top 20:

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I've missed the ol' Seabreeze, but life's been a little twisty lately. Here's the general bibliosylph Thanksgiving lineup, which is altered just a little each year for a bit of zip. This year it's the rolls. To my two vegetarian friends, well, frankly, I'm not a big turkey fan myself, but the others would miss it, plus, I make awesome gravy. I do buy some variation of a happy frolicking non-drugged before death variety, though.

Roast turkey, infused with sherry-butter and glazed with orange sauce
Cranberry sauce, seasoned with cloves, cardamom, and a dash of orange
Cornbread dressing, with apples, onion and sage
Mashed sweet potatoes topped with a bit of butter and maple syrup
Green beans sauteed with olive oil and garlic
Sour cream rolls
Pumpkin pie
Blueberry pie

LP chose a 2001 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Médoc for the repast, which, (though it's too new according to the people who know such things,) I'm interested in trying, and we'll finish out the evening with a bit of amaretto.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Feel free to make your own copies

You can even keep my name on it, or add your own; just fix the email address before printing. If you change it, though, take my name off of it.

To Whom It May Concern, and with apologies to the Salvation Army:

There are now people with money buckets waiting for me at every door in front of every place I go. All year long, every week, sometimes every single day, I am asked for charity. I have a large family, and have sometimes wished for charity for myself. But mostly, I'm just tired of being solicited every time I leave the house. It's too much, and I'm beginning to resent all charitable enterprise.

On top of all the charities come the Boy Scouts with their 20 dollar mini popcorn tins. Then the Girl Scouts with their boxes of 12 cookies. Then the school kids in spring and summer with their car washes. And the fire fighters holding out helmets at stop lights. It Never Ends.

I don't care if yours is the best, most wonderful and charitable charity in all the county. You got here after my last charitable nerve frayed away. And you'd better believe I'm not the only one who feels this way.

From now on, I will continue to make personal or online donations to the same organizations I've always supported. But everyone who stands at a doorway with their hand out gets this note put in it.


greer garson

merbelle at comcast net.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Headache-induced mania. Or something.

This morning, hubby and I were at Panera Bread, and we each got a house latte and a pastry. The pastries are not heated, but the cashier showed him where there is a microwave oven on a shelf below the self-serve coffee. It's probably there for people who like their coffee to be hotter. So he put the tray in while I set our cups on a table. These two women who came in before us with their leggings and oversized 5k run t-shirts and soy lattes were talking very heavily in his direction and actually pointing, at least psychically, and literally shaking their heads. I could hear a little of what they were saying, even though they were a few tables away. I was appalled. I'm never going to be used to the bad behavior of the people here; I come from a much friendlier and more polite world. When they saw I was watching them, their expressions soured further, so I waved "hi" vigorously. That's my substitution for telling people what I actually think of their behavior. Because that would be rude.

Yo, shiny black legging/giant white t-shirted chicks who got too much sun on your faces last decade so that you now look older than me even though you're probably not? Grow up, and put some real clothes on while you're at it.

Yeah, I'm cranky. Whatever.

Beautiful day

I woke up today remembering that last night was upsetting, and determined to create the most perfect day possible. I nearly succeeded.

I made a warm drink, poked around at internet news for a short time, and got out my knitting. We had a fire going in the family room, so I brought a book down with my drink, but discovered the kitchen was not in very fine shape for baking bread. So I pushed the little people into taking care of their part, and then I swept, cleaned counters, did dishes, and I was trying to vacuum, but the thing was giving me fits. And I couldn't get it taken apart somehow, til I got LP's help. I think we both enjoyed getting the thing cleaned out and ready for use. Then he went on a bike ride, because it was just beautiful out. I wandered out to the garden and couldn't believe that it looked greener and more alive than it did for most of the summer, which was too hot and too dry.

After that, I carefully measured out bread ingredients. I felt so good in this slow, methodical mood, and I knew the bread would come out perfectly, because I found an actual 1/4 teaspoon measure in my drawer.

I washed the slipcover on one of the couches while the bread rose, organized my laundry, washed all the towels, read through a magazine from cover to cover, that someone had brought in, apparently discarded by the person who bought it. I don't usually read magazines, but enjoyed learning all about the celebrities and their families. It was sort of odd, but somehow entertaining. The writers made it sound like we'd really be happy for whatever these people were up to.

While the bread baked, I cooked cranberries, and ground some cardamom and cloves to flavor them. Then I decided to make some salad dressing. I used 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, and about 2/3 cup of olive oil, some asiago cheese, oregano, thyme, black pepper, garlic, and a smidge of sugar.

The dog got out during my "reading time;" been trying to get through Service With a Smile by PG Wodehouse for a couple of days, but he was found quickly. Each time I settled into reading, something would come up, yet it didn't really bother me. I did have to leave the room when LP and the big boy decided to play Medal of Honor, but that's just because it's really hard to concentrate on Lord Ickenham while a battle is raging in the background. I was happy we were all here and everyone felt really together.

At dinner it all went wrong. Some things were discussed that took me by surprise, and I truly do not handle surprises well. I was still dealing with the fact that all this had already been brought up before without my knowledge or consent, and then there we were having it brought up again. It ended quite badly, because I felt like a dam broke inside me at that point. I've been trying to deal with something for quite awhile, adjustments in my life that I want to accept and feel good about, but I'm just not there yet. I don't like feeling that my emotions are never allowed to spill out or over, when I've been trying so hard to not have them. Usually, when I'm emotional, I feel a bit like I'm letting people down, just by having them. I don't think they're wrong to have, but always dangerous to share.

I'm still just going to adapt and not only accept the things in my life that I would not choose, because acceptance is really not the challenge. I'm open, I'm accepting, whatever. Adapting to the point where I can appreciate them is the hard part. And I hate having things just thrust upon me, and being told if I don't immediately adapt, I'm immature or unstable. Plenty of people would say I have the right to feel rebellious about that, and to go ahead and wish things were different, or to try to force them to be different. But that's fairly irrelevant and useless, from where I stand. Wisdom to know the difference. I am all alone in this, and so it is wisdom for which I must look.

I should be working on the book right now. I made lots of progress last night, and really went through this whole day geared toward this very hour, when I would begin the process all over again. I have to drown myself in the shower instead. It's this thing I do, when I can't contain all the feelings that want to spill out. And maybe I'll just finish that book I was reading, and then start over again tomorrow. We get many, many chances to make perfect days. It's good to come close. I felt close to my family today because of my effort, and that was the best part of all.

Anyway, the day's not over yet. I intend to find space between the moments, to set things right.

Friday, November 11, 2005

From Pat's mouth to God's ear

valeriel gets the credit for putting it this way: Who let Grandpa out of the house?

Dover, PA elects Satan to School Board.

Let me do my own call to someone else's altar for a second. If you feel compelled to call yourself a Christian, and yet are horrified by the rantings of people like Pat Robertson, try this on for size. Don't let 'em steal Jesus, and don't be scared off by the labels. From past experience, I'd say that labelling is one of the biggest problems in the Christian spiritual arena. You may fret that this guy does not see Jesus quite the way you do, but it's clear to me that he got the message more than those who shout down God's wrath on anyone they disagree with.

And here is one more link, as an addendum to my latest rant on this subject, written a few days ago. I'm always telling people that if you want to learn something historical or scientific, often the best sources of clear, unbiased information, are those written either for children, or at least with them in mind. This is a fairly complete and nicely unbiased explanation of Intelligent Design theory, its background, proponents, and how mainstream scientists view it as an issue.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Me on the train yesterday

If I had it to do over again

I would in a heartbeat.

I was in New York yesterday afternoon. Took the train in to meet the ol' LP after one of his interviews. I went straight downstairs in Penn Station, and took the C and L trains to Union Square, so I could take some pictures of the area I'm talking about in my book. Just as I got started, he called to say his second meeting was way up in, what I thought was, an area we had no business being in. But what do I know? I took the L train back across to where he was, and found him on the other side of the gate in the subway station, where he was on the phone determining he only had to go to 54th street. This is important because I was planning to hang around in the Village, fairly close to where I'd begun, but this place was a little north of Times Square, where all the famous designer boutiques are. I wanted to just meet him after he was finished, but he wanted me to be nearby, for companionship and so forth, so I wandered a little, found a sandwich shop, and then wandered a little more, until I was standing on the corner of 56th and 5th Avenue, eating my sandwich. I noticed a man inside the store there was looking at me oddly, and realized I was in front of the famous Harry Winston jewelry store. Well, so what, mister? I looked across the street, though, and there was Tiffany's, right next to Trump Tower.

A moment of clarification. I find jewelry collections immensely boring. And I was literally surrounded by them on all sides. Van Cleef and Arpel, and all the others, were right there in my view. Whatever. But naturally, I went across the street and finished my sandwich while looking at the bizarre jewel-encrusted gold bracelets in the window displays of Tiffany's.

There was just nothing interesting to do or see. It made me a little sad. Dior, Chanel, Halston, plus the ones like JillSanders, etc., on and so forth. Stark displays, bored salespeople clad in black from head to toe, and in some of them, there was a desk where, I swear it, people would check in before getting to shop. I don't like to shop enough to want to sign up to do it. Honestly.

Wandering east, I found a really swell Border's on Park Avenue. I headed straight for the cafe, so I could find someone online to relieve me of a bit of this stress. However, that was not to be. Because of some deranged wifi setup LP encountered at the Newark airport a couple days ago, the login kept failing. I put my head on the counter and just sighed for awhile. There were no dumpling shops or boutiques with antique scarves and hats or anything remotely interesting in the area. It was all so sterile and dull.

So I went back out and wandered over to the meeting place again, only now it was raining, and I had no hat, so that was, well, not bad, because I don't really mind getting wet. I should get a hat, though. I find umbrellas to be gigantic liabilities, but a hat does the trick fine. I did pass MOMA; the Museum of Modern Art. It looked really wonderful, and I hope to go in it sometime. I walked back and forth in front of the windows a few times before continuing on, and saw a couple of paintings I've often admired online.

LP said we had a diner budget for supper, so I went for the most completely opposite experience to what I just had, and silly or not, it was the best part of the day. Ellen's Stardust Diner is a great place for families visiting New York. It's on Broadway at 51st, and is filled with early TV memorabilia, and kitsch from the 40s and 50s. And on top of that, the waiters and waitresses take turns singing and sometimes dancing. It's kind of hilarious. But some of them are pretty good, hoping to get the big break in a show, you know.

Then we went home, because he had a heavy load with his portfolio, and was tired. Only we got on the train earlier than I'd anticipated and had to pay an extra fee for travelling in peak hours. The train wasn't at all crowded, though, so it was a peaceful ride.

I'm hoping to return soon on a nicer day to get some more pictures of my book scenes, but it's always good to get out for awhile, so I guess I'm glad I went. I don't know if he really felt he had a fruitful day, just that it was something he needed to do.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We are not in Kansas today

Kansas voted again to add intelligent design to their science curriculum standards. You may think I've sounded mean about that. Here's why:

1. Evolution science does not preclude the idea of a creator having set it all in motion. (the reason creationists disagree is because of the biblical reference of god creating man and setting him up as having dominion over the plants and animals, which are implied as having started out the way we see them now.)

2. Intelligent design is a hypothesis, not a theory. A theory is a "best" scenario as to how a particular hypothesis is answered. Creationists interchange the word hypothesis and theory, when they are not at all the same thing. For example, because of evidence and technology produced over the past 15-20 years, nearly 100% of the world's scientists now believe in some form of the Big Bang Theory. But to a creationist, it can't be proved, and is therefore, "just" a theory, by which they actually mean "an interesting idea." As Einstein said, not much can really be proved, only disproved. Collected evidence will point to one particular pattern, and everything seen from that point forth may fit into the pattern, but only until something comes along to disrupt it, which can't be predicted. But that's just good science. Intelligent design could be seen exactly the same way, except there is really no actual science to it that can't also be explained by evolution.

3. Intelligent design supporters view the evolution theory as having large holes in it. Those holes were filled in a long time ago, but also have little to nothing to do with the beginning of the world, anyway. When I teach my kids, I tell them that some people do not believe in the Tree of Life, and we've actually discussed the difference between various Creation stories. But to the kids, even though the stories sound a little crazy, they aren't actually much related to what they're learning about biodiversity, anyway.

On intelligent design
Kansas standards
Darwin exhibit

Stuff you never even realized we needed

Meat-flavored pretzels Yes, I get that it's the sauce for the meat that we're supposed to taste. But still. It's funnier my way.

Wood and glass cleaner Sure, it's convenient, and how weirdly cool to do the wood and glass coffee table with one spray? But the woman in the commercial was so cranky, saying, "Look, I lead a busy life, I don't have time to mess with more than one type of cleaner." Honestly. That's what she said.

TV wherever I go. Oh, okay, it's fun and futuristic like those TV watches. But what is the point, exactly?

File under "creepy."

And finally, something really cool. Imagine if you could read about technology on the internet, in 1985?

Seasons' change

Yesterday I made cranberry-banana bread, and pumpkin-blueberry muffins. The recipes are in the Hizzy blog, if you're interested. I want to make lots of yeast bread again, too. I miss doing that. I got out of the habit because of the wretched kitchen I had previously to this one, then there was construction, and then last year--I don't know, was I not feeling well or something? Whatever. The point is, I bought some packages of yeast yesterday, and I have fresh flour, so I went to which was printed on the back of the packages, and found lots of neat recipes that I'm going to try. I want to do the sour cream muffins, and the oatmeal bread.

There are very good and complete instructions for someone who isn't accustomed to making bread, too, though I guess lots of people have a bread machine and don't need to know all of it. ::sigh:: I like kneading and watching it rise, personally. But I guess if I was gone all day every day, a machine would be super neato.

I'm quite behind on the book, still, but have now figured out how to manage blocks of writing time so I get more done. I have only about half the words you're "supposed" to have after 7 days, but last night I experimented and found that I get the most done when I type straight through for 30 minutes, then take a 30 minute break. If I do that 3 or 4 times each day, I'm good. The book isn't, but maybe I'll get it done a couple days ahead of time, and then have the pleasure of saying I wrote something that was even somewhat edited in only 30 days.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yeah, I know.

It's been hard, to write. At all.

I've updated the phonepix blog.

My wrist hurts a whole lot.

The weather has been real pretty.

Recently, my friend Britomart was ill. And she took a lot of Nyquil. While taking Nyquil, she discovered a hidden muse; her inner artist, if you will.

Here is her portrait of me, as I am viewed with the rock star name, Aurora Stilton.

And here is her self-portrait. Back up to her name to see a few more pieces of "art."

Last night we went to Sawa, where I had some really good spicy seafood soup, and a neat entree called Tuna Fantastic: "[raw] Tuna-covered Crabmeat, Avocado & Tomatoes with Cilantro-Olive Oil Sauce." It was very cool because it looked like an internal organ sitting in a very pretty infectious liquid, yet was quite delicious.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Been awhile since I've

done a song of the day. This one just hit me in the shower.

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick, and think of you
Caught up in circles, confusion is nothing new
Flashback--warm nights--almost left behind
Suitcase of memories, time after

Sometimes you picture me, I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me, I can't hear what you've said
Then you say--go slow--I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

if you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
if you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has turned to gray
Watching through windows, you're wondering if I'm OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time

if you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
if you fall I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time

Another hour and it will be time to start on today's novel writing session. Absolutely no distractions, which, of course, means it will be very difficult to concentrate. C'est la vie, il est ma vie, ceci est comment il est....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Launching NaNo

And so it begins.

I woke up pysched, arranged my day, desktop and browser tabs, figured out some chapter titles, wrote 300 words for a prologue,

and suddenly I'm terrified.

The link to the right will now take you to a profile page, and at the bottom of it you'll find an occasionally-updated excerpt of the story.

Those of you on the seabreeze list will begin to see regular updates to that source.