Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Books, Aught-Nine

I'm pretty sure this is the first (and last!) time I've gotten to use the antiquated word "aught" to name the years this decade, and I can't believe I let that slip. It just has such a delightful, old-man-from-Nantucket quality it. So here's to your inner elderly Yank: Hooray for Aught-Nine!

2009 turned out to be the year of reading really dark books. All the way back in October 2008, I picked up an anthology of horror stories, and it launched back to my roots. Yes, I was a nine-year-old Goth. ANYWAY, long story short, I read rafts of horror after that point and even the non-terror literature I picked up seemed to be saturated with darkness and woe. It was a really great year of reading. :)

So here are the top books I read this year:

Best NONFiction:
This is a toss-up between Portait of a Killer, by Patricia Cornwell, a remarkable examination of the Jack the Ripper case and Rats, by Robert Sullivan, a natural history of New York City's rat population. Both amazing, both delivering remarkable information with captivating style. Read them both!

Best Anthology:
Poe's Children, edited by Peter Straub. Some of the best short fiction I've ever read, and all of it work within the dark arts. Proof positive that horror doesn't have to be a gross-out fest.

Best Spec fiction:
Another toss-up. This time we've got giants slugging it out for the top placement. Duma Key, by Stephen King, is a remarkable adventure into the world of aging, loss and creativity. It is probably my favorite book by King so far--and that's saying something. The world it creates is remarkable. But Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro created a rock-n-roll rollercoaster in their new collaboration The Strain, which hybridizes epidemiology and vamprism in the most fun book I've touched in years. Characters, however, are pretty much cardboard cut-outs.

Best Children's Book:
The Miraculous Adventures of Edward Tulane, by Kate DeCamillo. If you haven't read this wonderful story of a vain china rabbit forced to wander until he finds the true meaning of love, then run out and do so. Better yet, listen to it as an audiobook--we listened to this book 3 times in the car, and each time, it only got better. Any other year, this book would have taken top honors.

And now for ...

Wendy's Favorite Book of the Year!!!
This is a pretty important prize, and there's no surprise that it goes to Solar Storms, by Linda Hogan. The heart-breaking, magical story of a teenaged Native American girl, raised in foster care, who goes on a journey with her grandmother, great-grandmother & great-great-grandmother. The women all seek something: an answer to the ecological devestation of 1970's Northern Minnesota; love; a place to die; and the mother who tortured and abandoned her child. One of the best books I have ever written.

So run out to your nearest library and start reading! And share some of your favorite books. Lord knows my reading list isn't nearly long enough!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The library is a veritable smorgasbord

Thank goodness tomorrow is library day. My stack of library books has dwindled to a couple of books about the dulcimer and a vegan cookbook. And I have a confession to make. I can't cope with the world without a library book to read.

Note that all important qualifying adjective: I didn't say I can't cope with the world without a book to read. I said I can't cope without a library book. There's something about the due date that just lights a fire under me.

It's not to say that I don't love books that I am given or that I buy. I read them, too, and I'm excited to read them. But when I get fresh new books from the library, I feel free and wild and luxurious. I like to flip through the first few pages of each book in my new stack, gulping down mouthfuls of words and gorging myself. The books I own I ration out parsimoniously, one measly chapter at a time.

You know, it's a little like that first hour after I get home from a trip to New Seasons (Portland's home-grown Whole Foods) and I want to try a little taste of each delicious item. I just want to see what that chunk of brie tastes like. I just want to know if those strawberries are as juicy as they look.

That's how it is with books, too. At the library, I blithely snatch up tomes for their gorgeous covers, grab slim volumes based solely on the author's name, or scoop up stacks of librarians' recommendations. There are no consequences for picking a book that looks better than it tastes, so I can succumb to tempation and take them all.

A trip to the bookstore, however, is different. My money is on the line. I research by awards and recommendations and I seriously ponder each variable. Will this book be worth my investment? Will it add something to my writerly toolbox? When I get it home, I set to work on it with perfect seriousness--just how I approach the ingredients my husband brings home when I send him out with the shopping list. The list is culled from the week's menu. There is no room for play in all that planning.

So I'm glad tomorrow is library day. I'm hungry for something fun to read.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slice o'life!

Sometimes I dream of being a hit blogger--you know, a funny mom blogger like Dooce or a super-star food blogger like Susan of the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen, or an awesome writing blogger like Elizabeth Spann Craig at Mystery Writing is Murder. But honestly, I just don't have that kind of sense of humor, that much interest in food or that good of advice. I'm just another semi-employed mom trying to learn how to write spec fiction.

That doesn't mean I feel like I have to stop blogging. Blogs are fun. And honestly, the blogs I read on a regular basis (I have 40+ feeds I subscribe to for the fun of keeping tabs--and that doesn't count Martha's) aren't all about "valuable information." I know that's what the experts say drives readership, but I guess I'm not that kind of a reader. I want to read a blog that gives me an insight into the life of the person writing it.

I love Alexandra Sokoloff's blog. She talks seriously about writing and movies, but she shares fun and salacious details about her life, as well. I like Pyr Books' blog, which frequently includes funny moments from editor Lou Anders' real life. And best of all, I love reading all my friends, even the ones I only know from the Internet (that's you, Miriam, Christie & Helen!).

So I keep posting recipes and talking about my kid and babbling about what I write. And you know, that's enough for me, even if I only have ten or so readers. I know they're good ones! ;)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Brussels Sprouts on the Darkest Day of the Year

Today is Solstice. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, that makes it the day with the most darkness of all the year. The fact that today our Congress finalized $632 billion toward an unnecessary war in Afghanistan, signed a health care bill that only benefits the insurance companies (and will only hurt the working poor), and that throughout the world, dozens of activists were arrested in the wake of the pathetic Copenhagen conference, it is a symbolically dark day. A very dark day.

Luckily, I have plenty of distractions from the unpleasantness of my nation's politics. I have a wonderful family and lots of work on my plate. And tonight, I had lots of brussels sprouts on my plate--which was a delicious distraction. Here is a recipe for the Braised Brussels Sprouts we enjoyed tonight. Salty, nutty, caramelly, tasty: they will put a smile on your face, no matter how you feel about Washington DC. And the good news is, sprouts are in season here in Oregon, so at least the veggies are doing their bit to reduce our carbon footprint.

BRAISED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
20-25 brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
1 tb butter, unsalted (could veganize with Earth Balance!)
1/2 c hot water
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tb brown sugar
fresh ground pepper to taste
Over medium heat, melt butter in a 2-quart saucepan. While it is melting, combine sugar and salt in a large bowl; add hot water and stir until dissolved. Toss brussels sprout halves in liquid. When butter begins to bubble and smell fragrant, add the brussels sprouts and liquid. Cover immediately. Cook until brussels sprouts are a vibrant green, about 4-5 minutes. Remove cover and bring heat up to medium high, stirring occasionally. Cook until liquids have evaporated and sprouts are a golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). Add pepper, serve immediately.
We had these with roasted potatoes from my dad (purples and reds!) and some terrific tofu--but I can't imagine a meal that couldn't make space for a pile of these tasty little cabbage-cousins.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fa la la la la

It's coming. Christmas. You might not celebrate it, but you know it's out there, spreading its wings of sugary goodies and brightly printed wrapping paper. Its scent is in the air, the powerful aroma of Scotch tape and egg nog. God, that smells good.

I love Christmas. It doesn't make much sense--after all, I'm a pretty serious atheist and fairly opposed to crass consumerism--but nothing can keep the joy of the season out of my old, craggy heart. I love Christmas trees. I love Christmas carols. I love, love, love Santa! And it seems like the last few years, each Christmas had just gotten better.

I blame my sweetie-pie for this. Our first Christmas together was magical. We sat side-by-side a few days before the big holiday, hand-sewing our Christmas stockings (boy are we glad we have a sewing machine now!). We made a Lego wreath for the tree--a tradition we've maintained, even if the tree has shrunk to a tiny potted Norfolk fir. He is a man good at creating moments of peace and magic. He has a natural instinct for holidays.

Me? I don't have any instincts for the holidays. My family celebrated every special day the same way: with food, food and more food. The more important the holiday, the more desserts, right?

Given my troubles with food, especially sweets, that's created a lot of holiday-related stress that poor Sweetie-Pie has had to work through. But I know we're getting someplace these days. We celebrated Thanksgiving with instant mashed potatoes and a pumpkin-butterscotch-pudding dessert. For a girl who once routinely baked a feast and ate three pies plus a cranberry pudding every year, this was a big step away from food obsession and toward the real spirit of holiday: togetherness, love, and joy.

Let's just hope our decision to celebrate Christmas with a White Trash Dinner doesn't derail all of our progress. The nostalgic flavor of (vegan!) marshmallow-capped sweet potatoes might send me into a memory-induced feeding frenzy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Explosion of Merriment!

Today marks the beginning of Extreme Fun Weekend, Holiday Edition. It started with a simple request for lunch today. Then I scheduled a breakfast with a friend for Monday. Then a friend decided to come stay the weekend on her way to her family's home in Colordao. Then my brother decided to come down. There's SO MUCH fun in my future! I'm not sure I can take it.

Forunately, I already got a chunk of work out of the way. I critiqued a piece for the very talented Christie Yant, wrote an article on spec for the Association of Children's Museums journal, wrote a review (SKIN MEDICINE, from my pals at Severed Press) and wrote a profile on the extremely cool Edward Morris. You can read the profile on HorrorWeb if you'd like to see my brilliance in action.

Needless to say, given all that work, I'm kind of ready for a break. And in fact, here's Erin now! Burgerville, here we come.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Moving right along

Okay, I had my birthday. I met my goal of sending my first book out the door on my big day. And now, I'm taking a deep in-breath to settle into the next project. Part of that in-breath is a couple of days reading like crazy! I figure after completing my big goal, I ought to reward myself.

So, off I go. I've got some pretty great books to read, and I'm going to enjoy every of them!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Another cup o' joe, please!

I keep telling myself I am going to reduce my coffee consumption after X goal date. It was Thanksgiving--after all, I would be finished with the last draft of my book and I could slow down for a polishing pass. Then it was "after Orycon." Now it's become "after I recover from Orycon," and after that, lord knows when it will be!

The problem is, there's just so much I want to get done every day. I was managing things pretty well, but somehow I've fallen way, way behind on everything. November and its pandemics really wrecked my work schedule. I only wrote about half what I'd hoped to get done (I really wanted to start the first draft of my new project), and I've hardly read any of the books I've planned to review. If only I didn't have trivial stuff like a day job and housework and a family to get in my way!

Althoough I have a feeling that even when I no longer have a day job and the kid is off in college, I will still probably have way more that I want to do than I have time to do it. Recently I found myself daydreaming about editing anthologies ...

So, any heroes of time management out there with good advice?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ORYCON! ORYCON!

Well, it finally happened: I made it to my first con. Orycon was great. There were so many cool panels and so many awesome people. I can't say enough about the presentations I saw by Lou Anders, Ken Scholes, Patricia Briggs and Mary Robinette Kowal. They were all very professional people with a passion for the literary arts, and listening them really inspired me. There's a new fire beneath my butt, and they lit it.

Hey, no fart jokes from the peanut gallery.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I don't always know everything, after all!

Well, I wrote the last line of the big revision project! Still have a bit of polishing up to do, but pleased to get that baby finally, finally wrapped up. I've been working on this book since Fiona was 6 months old! Most of the time, I figured I would never do anything with the story and it would linger on, ghostly and ghastly, in a bottom drawer for the rest of my life. Which just goes to show that I actually don't know everything after all!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fingers aching and blissfully blistered!

Fi finished her Nanowrimo project this morning! It weighs in at 3500 words and she dictated the whole thing to me. I'm so proud of my baby girl. She didn't give up; she didn't get writer's block; she just kept trucking. She is my new writing hero.

I tell you guys, sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am: I got the best kid. She's so darn cool I sometimes don't know what to do with her, and fully expect to spend her teen years reeling in awe at all the fun, crazy stuff she decides to get into.

Yep, this year I'll be thankful for my amazing midget, who not only doesn't mind that she has a crazy mother, but actually joins in on the insanity. Way to go, Fi!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is it Wednesday yet?

Conferences, 9000 words, paying the bills, the desperate need to go bra shopping--yeah, there's plenty on my mind. But Turkey Day is COMING!!!!

Who's making what this week?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My heart hurts

My sister, the one who hates horror movies but absorbs news stories of human atrocity with ease, told me the story of Shaniya Davis, the 5-year-old North Carolina girl sold last week by her own mother, to be used as a sex object and murdered. It's the kind of story that seeps under my skin and even after a six hours of warm, loving family joy, emerges in the dark and keeps me aching.

Who could do that to their little girl? Who could look at a child--any child, let alone your own flesh--and wish torture and pain upon them? And what kind of man would take delight in it?

I try to think benevolent thoughts and turn no hatred onto anyone, try to remind myself that the people who torture are in themselves tortured and as such not rational or even entirely human. I try.

But the larger part of me just wants to crush them under foot like a cluster of cockroaches.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When style & substance divorce and have a custody battle

One of the greatest things about being a reviewer is that I have a reason to dig beneath the surface of a book and weigh each little detail's merits. What's good about a book? What's bad about a book? Why do things work? Why do they fall apart? I answer these questions, and bingo, I've got a review on my hands. Some people think that when you're reviewing horror fiction, these questions don't matter. They think that there's no place for craft in the realm of R. L. Stine & Stephen King. Those people need to be punched in the nose. I take my work seriously.

Lately, there's been some turmoil in my happy little world of horror reviewing. In the last several pieces I've slogged through, the ever-uneasy relationship between substance and style has been rearing its head and making my job a lot harder. How do I rate an anthology packed with unique, breath-takingly exciting ideas--and plenty of awkward delivery? How do I assign a number of stars for a book told with wonderful vocabulary, telling details, evocative description--and a totally Scooby-Doo plot-reveal that manages to be both unbelievable and boring? It's darn tricky to rate a piece on the best of conditions, but when the quality of the piece's style and the quality of its substance differ, it's incredibly difficult.

But let me clarify my conundrum. When I say substance, I mean the basic underpinnings of the story--the plotting and story arc, the relationships and development of the characters, the pacing and fundamental ideas. The structure. If you sat down with a book and made a comprehensive outline of what happened, when it happened, and who did it, that would be the story's substance.

The style of a piece is the expression of that structure. It can impact the substance in many important ways. Not only does the style of a piece include the piece's vocabulary and rhythm, but it also includes handling of theme, syntax, perspective, and pacing (see the trickiness? Pacing is both a matter of structure--that what-happens-when stuff--but also the way that information is doled out. And so is perspective!). Style is the zip that makes sentences tasty and passages memorable. It can't work on its own though; no wordsmith has the power to make a terrible idea sound like brilliance.

Substance and style are inseparable. But there are definitely moments when a reader can say: "this idea does not live up to the technique displayed by this writer." Or when a reviewer can say: "this idea is great, but the dialogue is unbelievable, the sentences are choppy and the description relies too heavily on passive voice." These are moments when the style and substance of a piece no longer get along. Their relationship breaks down, and their beautiful child--story--is left in the cold, like a child whose parents are so busy arguing they don't remember who was supposed to pick the little guy up after school.

What do you guys think? Anybody reading anything that has problems like this?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Autumn Magic Muffins


Ahhh. Autumn. As soon as the leaves begin to change, I grow hungry for anything spiced with cinnamon and ginger, enriched with pumpkin, and laced with brown sugar. Many of the foods I love this time of year are not necessarily the healthiest choices. Fatty, sugary, white flour-y: everything my intestines hate. So that leaves a girl baking her own treats.

Today I made Autumn Magic Muffins. They're packed with autumn flavors like tangy cranberries, molasses and warm spices. Not too sweet and not too rich, they're perfect with a cup of coffee for a mid-afternoon break.

Now, most of the time when I make a muffin, I err on the side of health, mixing up super-low-fat, low-sugar, high-fiber treats. Okay. Make that hockey pucks. But today's muffin creation turned out nicely. It's a little fattier than I prefer, but the combination of corn oil and fruit purees created a tenderness that was much appreciated. You could jazz up these babies with some walnuts or raisins, and if you're really feeling crazy, substitute egg nog for the soy milk. Jinkies!

They are good with or without a smear of butter (or in this case, Earth Balance).

Autumn Magic Muffins
Makes 16 muffins.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare standard-sized muffin tin with liners, or grease and flour.

Combine in saucepan:
8 oz fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
1 golden delicious apple, cored and diced
1 Tb water
2 tsp sugar (the berries will be tart--you can add another tsp of sugar if you want)

Simmer until berries pop and the chunks of apple are very smushy--you're aiming for the consistency of applesauce. Remove from heat. Stir in:
1/2 C corn oil
1 Tb molasses
2 Tb brown sugar
1/2 C pumpkin puree

Allow apple-cranberry sauce mixture to cool to room temperature.

While the apple-cranberry sauce cools, whisk together in a large bowl:
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C sugar
1 Tb baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg)

When apple-cranberry mixture is cool, stir in:
1/2 C soy milk or soy nog (you can use moo milk/nog if you prefer dairy)

Then add liquid ingredients to the dry, folding carefully until dry ingredients are absorbed. Be gentle! Muffins made without eggs can get leathery if over-mixed.

Fill cups of muffin pan about 2/3rd full. Bake 12-16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Via entering the bloodstream

Almost had a nervous breakdown today, but Sweetie-pie came through with a Lego project for the kid. I tell you, it is almost impossible to balance this mad writing rush with life right now. I didn't realize how much I depend on Sweetie-Pie until he spent half the week in bed with the flu.

Thank you to the support teams of the world. It's hard to believe that behind every single book on every single bookcase in the world, there's a group of people kindly holding up the author. If they're like Sweetie-Pie, they don't even complain about it! (Not so the kid ... grumble, grumble ... anybody need a 6-year-old for a couple of weeks?)

The caffeine is kicking it. Time to kick up the Death Cab and fire up the neurons. Only about another 15,000 words to go.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Help the students of Marysville Elementary!

When Marysville School burnt on Tuesday, the kids and teachers made it out okay--but their stuff didn't. These kids are now facing a school year with no lunch boxes, no school supplies, and for some, no coats. Check out the donation lists below and see if you can help.

And don't forget--the entire school library is gone. Book lovers, dig deep!


In response to the fire at Marysville School , Oregon PTA and Portland Council PTA are sponsoring a donation drop-off at Marshall High School. Portland Council PTA operates a Clothing Center on the Marshall Campus for all PPS students. Please bring donations for Marysville students to the Marshall Campus between 8:00am -4:00 pm Monday through Friday.Marshall High School is located at 3905 SE 91st Ave., Portland OR.
Donations Requested (*New or Like New*)
Coats
Jackets
Sweaters
Backpacks
Lunch Bags/Boxes
Art Supplies (paints, markers, paper etc)
Library Books
Boxes of Tissues
Construction Paper
Photocopy Paper

Checks for financial donations to cover additional needs can be made to Portland Council PTA with Marysville Donation in the memo and mailed to:Portland Council PTA2246 SE 90th Ave.Portland, OR 97216

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thomas Hood approved

Thomas Hood was English, but in his heart he was an Oregonian. His famous poem "November" bears re-reading two or three times a year. If you don't know it, here it is:

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease.
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!

Of course, if he was still alive today, he would probably get sucked into Nanowrimo, and he probably would have needed a few more lines. I suggest:
no movies - no board games -
no friends, no family, no social life in any form
no food or housekeeping that meets the social norm.

But that's just me. I did just put back a slice of pumpkin pie, a square of dark chocolate and a cup of coffee after spending a day hearing my child complain about how filthy our house is. (Note to DHS: I did run the dishwasher and wash both shower curtains today, so I no longer feel our home is a health hazard.)

After two days trapped in the house with a sick kid, I could easily run on for another page of digressions. I have cabin fever and I'm starved for grown-up interaction. Normally I'd just hang out with my handsome sweetie-pie, but he's hard at work, too. The basement is full of primed canvases awaiting his paint brush. So it sounds like I'd better just bite the bullet and get back to work. My imaginary pals and their adventures are almost the perfect substitute for a life!

Now if only I was writing about good weather ...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

New China, new world

Yesterday we made a trip to Portland Art Museum to check out the new "China Design Now" exhibit. It was ... strange. There were things that were exciting and fun, the kinds of t-shirt and zine covers you see in Juxtapoz magazine. We saw some very fresh and cool products, demonstrating influences of Japan-cool and skateboard culture, the same stuff that's cool here in the US. And there were fine examples of couture and architecture, very hip, very modern, very groovy. Just when I started getting the warm fuzzies for China (the "hey, it's not so bad there, let's go visit!" feelings) we passed a display of projections of different living spaces, with typed quotes from the people who lived there. And I have to say it: China sucks. There were photos of nice homes with plenty of space and tasteful things, but there were also incredibly cramped spaces with a veneer of cheapness that made the Dollar Tree look haute couture. The people who lived in these spaces spoke of long hours and a desperate dream of a better life for their children.

It nudged me into a depressing line of thought. The pundits tell us to look to China as the future of the world. It is a microcosm of the world's problems, compounded in one politically contorted nation. On top of environmental degradation, water shortages, geopoltical struggles and a massive socioeconomic restructuring, the nation faces serious overpopulation. There isn't enough of anything to really go around, and that is true of the planet as a whole.

While my family today enjoys a comfortable lifestyle with an assortment of appealing things, I can't count on that for my grandchildren. Look at the quality of produced goods today, and compare them to your grandparents' antiques. Things are shabbier now. When my daughter has children, those young people will grow up in a world stretched even thinner than today. Once we used wood in buildings. Now we used plywood. Tomorrow, particle board will be the new norm.

It is good to do more with less. But it is sad to think that is all we offer our next generations. We are using everything up so quickly and leaving behind only the dregs. I wonder how long it will be before Portland looks like Beijing.

Friday, November 06, 2009

SOWISA!!!

Whew! The first week of Nanowrimo is drawing to a close, I'm on my weekend, and it's time to SOWISA, baby, SOWISA. Not a fan of King? I'll translate. In his book Lisey's Story, Stephen King coins one of the best acronyms of all time: SOWISA. Strap On Whenever It Seems Appropriate. It means to take charge. To gird your learns and jump into the fray. To get your guns on and be ready to shoot whatever moves.

That's what I'm doing today. Some surprise company changed the gears of the week, and some surprise exhaustion doubly shifted them. I was a little panicked this morning. My writing goals this month are big! My biggest ever! And all week I've been burning energy fretting about them, getting stuff done but also running terrified. This morning though, I took a hot bath and set my mind on a new course. I re-examined my schedule and made a new plan to maximize my writing time. It felt good.

Right now, I feel like I'm in charge of this crazy situation. I am choosing to set my goals high and I am choosing my methods of achieving them. I'm strapped on! But now I want to know: how do you take charge of tough situations? If you're doing Nanowrimo, do you feel like you're in charge of your project, your approach to creativity, or are you running wild on too much caffeine, like I was earlier this week?

Also updated winniewoohoo with another Nanowrimo tip. This one has saved my buns over the last couple of years!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Smug as a bug!

I just want to say that I brainstormed some new exciting scenes for Nanowrimo and created 1600+ new words on the Work In Progress. Also, my bathroom is awesomely clean (thanks to the kid for her assistance!).

Despite morning misgivings, this was an awesome day and I feel great about it!

I also learned that when you buy the bottomless cup of coffee at the Artemis Cafe, you run the risk of drinking way, way too much of their delicious house java. I actually drank enough coffee that every hair on my body stood on end. That might be a little too much, even for me.

November 2nd!

I am trying to stir up my spirits and get busy. It's not easy. Instead of one gloriously insane month of writing--Nanowrimo--I'm setting myself for 5 months of balls-out-lead burning (okay, I don't actually use a pencil these days, but keyboard burning doesn't have the same resonance) to wrap up one book and solidly draft another. I was super-thrilled about this, but whether it's the after-effect of the flu or the contemplation of November's nightmarish schedule (do kids even GO to school in November anymore? And how can one month have so many social activities?), I have the blahs. The don't-wannas. The "I cleaned the bathroom so I didn't have to work"s.

Me? Mop my bathroom floor? That's pretty crazy. Although it's actually linked to the social-events thing. There comes a point in time when you just can't subject guests to your bathroom any longer, and our bathroom was beyond that point.

All right. There's only one thing to do. And that's drink so much caffeine I transform into a Writing She-Hulk. Raaaawrr!!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kreativ Blogger award!

Wow! On Saturday Miriam over at Dancing With Dragons Is Hard On Your Shoes won a Kreativ Blogger award AND SHE PASSED IT ON TO ME! That's right! My blog! Won an award! And as you can tell, I'm really excited about it. (giggles, blushes)

I would have done something about it on Saturday except that I have been stricken by some sort of respiratory crap--no, not the Heiney Flu (get it? h1n1=hini=heiney? which is funny?), because I'm pretty sure I've had it, and because I don't have a fever, just exhaustion and lots of snot.

Wow. I think I need to lay off the cold meds. Anyway, without further ado, the Kreative Blogger award:

The directions to this award are as follows...Recipients-You are charged with completing certain guidelines once receiving this award.

  1. Copy the pretty picture and post it on your blog.
  2. Thank the person that gave it to you and link to their blog. (Thank you Miriam!!!)
  3. Write 7 things about yourself we don't know.
  4. Choose 7 other bloggers you would like to pass the award to.
  5. Link to those 7 other bloggers.
  6. Notify your 7 bloggers.
So here are 7 things you don't know about me: I have never learned to drive; I earned a blue belt in karate when I was 12; I once corrected my high school history teacher in class (hey, I read a lot of historical romance novels. Of course I knew Geoffrey was John and Richard's *illegitimate* brother!); I cried at the end of "Revenge of the Sith"; I was once a legal secretary; I can throw pizza dough (because I once worked as a pizza cook); I had my first gray hair at age 12 (I don't think it was linked to the blue belt).

Here the other meritorious bloggers! Now, because I'm sick, I'm giving myself a little lee-way. While I do read quite a few blogs, many have already won this award. Errgggh. So I'm going to pare down the list a bit. Hey, I'm sick!
1. Erin over at Snarke. She's the lady who introduced me to blogging, and she is awesomely funny.
2. Kristina at the Ten Minute Missive. She's a mama blogger, and she's my sister. She got all the funny genes, too.
3. Jacki at JackiKane's Blog. The lady who reinvented what it meant to be funny in Portland.
4. Elspeth at It's A Mystery. She always spins my mind in new, thoughtful directions.
5. Heather at Writings Of Randomness. She's new to blogging and could use some encouragement--plus, she's another zombie fan.
6. Lance, over at The Adventures of Writing Dad. He's a dad! He's a horror writer! He's funny!

Get out there and read some blogs, gang!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Murder By the Book

If you've never been to Murder by the Book, a mystery-focused bookstore at 3210 SE Hawthorne Blvd, here in Portland, you are missing out. It's not large, but the space is cozily (and cunningly) divided into themed nooks devoted to different categories of books. Like classic police investigations? They've got a nook for it. High-tech forensics and medical science? Yep. Fantasy or paranormal specialists? Sure thing. There's even a kids' section for your little Encyclopedia Brown. They also have a small section of horror/thriller and even foreign language mysteries. Wow!

I went to Murder by the Book today because one of my favorite Twitter/blogging buddies, LJ Sellers, was visiting to promote her latest book. I haven't read LJ's novels yet (although I've had her first book on hold at the library for about 4 weeks ... somebody PLEASE return that book!), but I picked them both up for some light reading. I also got a new anthology about zombie animals to review, and one of Cleo Coyle's Coffeehouse Mysteries. I almost never buy books, so I'm feeling euphoric from the shopping rush.

Now that I know I can get books in my own genres (fantasy, horror), I expect I will be stopping by Murder By The Book a lot more frequently. It's close to my house and the people who work there are incredibly nice. I can't recommend it enough!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nanowrimo Prep!

Just a quick pre-Nanowrimo tip: once you get started writing in November, all those beautiful threads and ideas are going to knot up into a jumbly mess. It's fun and dandy during the caffeine-crazed 30 days of November, but come December, it looks a little overwhelming. My last two Nanos are still lurking in a drawer, suffering from too much confusion.

This year is going to be different. This year, darn it, I'm starting with a structure.

I've never really been an outliner, but this year I'm following a design program espoused by screenwriters; I read a lot of sceenwriting books this summer and decided the structuring tools they discussed might serve me well. And then one of my favorite bloggers (and another awesome horror author!), Alexandra Sokoloff, decided to run a month-long blog workshop on building story structure. Hooray! Needless to say, I've been directing every writer-type I know to her blog, The Dark Salon.

Anyway, I'm off to do some editing and create some index cards. And maybe some housecleaning, since my adorable baby (you know, 22-year-old) brother is coming to visit today!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Halloween Rant!

People who "don't celebrate Halloween" freak me out. In my universe, that's like saying "I don't celebrate Friday," or "I don't believe in gravity." Halloween happens, man. You don't get to choose whether or not there is a Halloween. The sky becomes dark. Crows grow their winter feathers, fresh and black, a color beyond the limits of our visual experience. Cold seeps into our bones. You don't have to dress up or carve a pumpkin--all of that dark, cold stuff is going to happen to you whether you like it or not. That dark, cold stuff is what Halloween is.

To deny Halloween is like denying winter and death and darkness. You can deny it as much as you like, but you will still be cold, winter will still kill your garden, the sun will set and you will die. Nothing can change that.

You don't have to party on Halloween, although it is a basic human instinct to make merry in the face of hardship, and to reject that instinct is often indicative of a sprained sense of fun. Many people keep the season in a somber, respectful tone. I suppose that's not truly celebrating Halloween. But it is honoring the day. It is surviving it. It is reflecting on the meaning of the moment.

Halloween is a time to look into the darkness of the world around us and take its measure. It is a time to think about fear, to embrace it, to make a joke of it. Halloween is a time to reach out to death and walk in its footsteps. To do these things enrichens our human perspective; doing them validates our choices that bring good into the world and strengthen our appreciation of the bright and the beautiful. We are lucky our culture has created a special day just for those activities. We are lucky that all around us, our fellow Americans are partaking in them, turning their gaze into the dim night and facing it readily.

On Halloween, the shapes in the darkness are just children with an appetite for sweets. Some of the costumes are scary. Some are cute. But if you don't look, you'll miss out on the good ones.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thoughts from a reformed procrastinator

So far the week has been awesomely productive. I've gotten all caught up with the Horror-Web work I meant to do last Friday. I sent a story out on a submission. I worked on the museum's Halloween e-card. Yeah, actually ... looking pretty good. I just need to pull ahead on the edit a little more and start next week's article about the Paris catacombs. Wow. I'm planning ahead!

It's hard to believe that I have become the kind of person who gets work done in advance. It wasn't that long ago that I was a world-class procrastinator. I was such a procrastinator that the night before my senior thesis was due, I not only hadn't finished, but I wasn't even half-way through. And then I went and saw the midnight opening of The Phantom Menace before getting down to work.

It helps that nowadays, I choose my work. Those articles, short stories and novels aren't assigned by some dictatorial professor--I decided to do them. If I don't do them, it's not something nebulous like a grade on the line, either. It's my professional and friendly relationship with my editor on the line when I don't come through with those book reviews. It's my whole future career if I never finish this book.

Of course, it also helps that I am a grown-up. I'm a parent. If there's something you learn as a working mother, it's how to multi-task and prioritize. It's pretty easy to organize the fun stuff, like writing, after taking care of the cumbersome duties of clean tights and enough snacks to make it through school and dance class.

Oh! And Headshot Heather: I'm so glad you like the t-shirt. It is on Cafe Press for the consumption of the masses. Shop it up, baby!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Friday already?




Friday is usually my big day to catch up on writing and my internet work, but today didn't go as planned. I spent *3* hours trying to get to my sister's house (who lives about 12 miles from my own home). I spent 2 hours updating my webpage to include the new t-shirt design ... not to mention the untold amount of time actually getting the shirt set up. I don't even want to go into the details of how a basic business card order can turn into designing t-shirts. Suffice to say that when it comes to procrastination, no task is too large or too ridiculous to keep me from putting off editing my novel!


That's right, I did not get a word edited since Monday. I actually feel like a giant loser. But now I'm a loser who can wear her own self-designed t-shirt to Orycon!




Sunday, October 04, 2009

Blog recommendation

On top of being a writing, zombie-hating (loving? It's a complicated relationship!) nerd, I am also a total animal geek. Today I was introduced to a touching blog called Your Black Cat. The page is devoted to black cats--who happen to be the least-adopted pet in US animal shelters. If it wasn't for my darn landlord, I'd rush out and adopt 2 or 3! I love anything with hard-luck story.

Also, the writer of Your Black Cat is going to have a story published in the same upcoming "2012 AD" anthology as me! Now I can't wait for December to read hers.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bwah-hah-ha, writer's block!!

The last week was not a very productive one at Chez Winnie. I had the gloomies and a cold, and every time I sat down at the computer I stared at my WIP and just pushed the keys dejectedly. Then I would go downstairs and whimper to Sweetie-Pie: "I can't do anything. I'm just too stupid to write." Then I would blubber a little.

Well, this week could not continue in such a vein, so I decided to take an advanced psychologically sneaktastic trick to get me started again. (It's the kind of thing you come up with when you parent a 6-year-old. You get good at psychological warfare.) I told myself Monday night that I could only write for 15 minutes. Not that I only had to write for 15 minutes. That I was only allowed to write that long. And then I made myself stop. I did it again the next day, too, even though by that time my brain was roiling with great ideas and I was very ready to plunge into the editing work. Then last night I allowed myself free reign. I slashed, and revised, and worked up a new scene. I felt like a champ. As if I was sneaking cookies from the cookie jar without my mama noticing.

Tonight I've got a long list of projects to catch up on. And I'm hopped up on caffeine and raring to go. Now that I'm allowed to write, I'm going to enjoy every second of it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall-icious!

Sweetie-Pie had the day off, so we drove out to Oregon City to hit up a farm out there. The plan was apples, but pears were the bargain of the day, so we bought a big box. I foresee pear sauce or pear butter in my future. Maybe even ginger-pear pie! Now that's the flavor of fall.

There are people out there who deride Oregon City as a crappy Portland suburb, but I love it out there. The town itself is crammed with history, and the river is big and green. All around the edges of the city, there are little farms to explore and neat parks. Also, there's the Municipal Elevator. If you haven't been, make sure you take a ride soon--it's a wonder of 50's design and one of two city elevators in the world. So cool.

We'll be going back to Oregon City soon. I've promised myself we'll take a ghost tour this month to experience the paranormal side of Oregon's history.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Brain ... dead

First the cold, now the sinus infection ... will I ever be able string words together in a sensible way?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The wizardry of words

Being sick, I haven't made it into the library, which has reduced me to exploring (gasp!) my own bookshelves. This is something that rarely happens. Most of my books are mangled college literature texts I might revisit in another two decades--if the entire Multnomah County Library system burns down and Powells has become a private book club. Fortunately, this spring I used some of my tax refund to add a few volumes to my collection. The pain of nothing-to-read-for-the-morning-commute was thus reduced. I simply picked up the 20th-anniversary edition of So You Want To Be A Wizard, by Diane Duane, and dug in.

I think I found this book when I was seven or eight, pretty early in my book-reading career. I've probably read it ten times. Or more. It's so good that there I was, thirty years old, reading this kids' book on the bus, grinning my face off. Wow.

Revisiting books like this--books I've read many times, at critical points in my life--is always amazing to me. I can see things in the characters that shaped me. I can see themes about living that today I try to pass on to my daughter.

Being a writer is an amazing thing. The really good ones create words that go on to create people. Those writers are the wizards of the real world.

So, yes. I want to be a wizard.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sore throat

Revision Marathon interrupted by some kind of cold. Took a nap, ate some delicious pot pie, and watched We Are Wizards. It made me a little teary. Now I want to do a lot of reading, get people into reading, support international literacy campaigns, fight the man and learn a bunch of songs on my dulcimer.

But for now, a hot bath and early bedtime.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Editing Marathon, Day 3

20+ good pages, plus a revisit on the "punching" scene that gave me a panic attack yesterday. Also, I have forbidden myself to read any more of John Truby's Anatomy of a Story, which was making me feel like an idiot.

Tomorrow, I might not get much work done. I'm facing a big dilemma: Pirate Festival or the Scappoose Sauerkraut Festival? Wow, how do I choose?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Revision Marathon: Day 2

Welcome to the Great Sept-October Revision Marathon! The goal is to revise/rewrite novel #1, which is in its 3rd edit, and to complete this task before Nanowrimo begins.

This promises to be difficult.

For me, revisiting previous work has so far been more like an exercise in masochism than a positive, progressive experience. Book 2's 3rd Draft might have killed it. Book 3 is dead (although it did inspire a wonderful--and sold!--short story). Sometimes I think I should forget this book and just write Book #4, a book grounded in experience and knowledge, a book whose revision process would not only be less like peeling the scab from a half-healed wound, but positively enjoyable.

Hey, it could happen. I know I've learned a lot about writing since I sat down at the computer and picked out my first (complete) book. But I feel like I have to give this project my best shot. I can't keep setting aside pieces and never finishing them. I'm beginning to lose faith in myself. If I don't see this project through to a point where I can finally send it out--and I don't care if it finds acceptance, I just want to get it out the door in a proud and professional manner--then I might break the part of me that wills words into being.

I can not do that.

So if you've got any support or advice, now is the time for it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ecosystems in my home

Don't get too freaked out about this, folks, but last winter a slug moved into our house. We knew it was there because every morning we would find trails of scribble all over the plants and the rugs, but we could never find the darn thing, until one magical day (months later), I found it sliming up a branch of the Mexican cinnamon bush and chucked it outside.

Well, today I found out where it had been living. You see, I'm not a very good housekeeper, but I am a plant freak, which has created a terrifying condition in the corner of our living room: jungle-itis. We have packed about ten plants and one terarrium into the little sunshine nook and with all the beautiful greenery, certain household tasks get a bit neglected. Like sweeping and vacuuming and dusting. I mean, it always looks nice over there, so why fuss about the details?

Erm. Yeah. Back to the slug. Anway, the place looked lived-in. So today, I finally pulled out all the plants to give them a little extra attention. Everything was encrusted in dead plant-y bits, sprinkled in potting soil and dabbled with dead bugs--everything that wasn't swaddled in cobwebs. It was pretty gross. Not as gross as moving the bookshelf/plant stand and looking at the floor beneath it, however. At first I thought Fiona'd spilled a bottle of glitter. Then I realized that an inch of spider webs gummed with slug scribble creates a remarkable shimmering fabric (nice if you didn't think about it, or notice the bug corpses). Even worse was that even after I swept and vacuumed, the floor was still slug-sticky.

Eww, eww and double-eww.

But all's well that ends well. Not only is the corner spic-n-span, I've convinced Sweetie-Pie to add a base to the bottom of the plant-stand. Not only will there be no more slug hidey-home, but now the second shelf will receive sunlight. Bye, bye books, hellooooo more plants!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Colds

You know you've got a cold when the sun is pounding on the windows and you're sitting around in long johns and a sweater. Jeez. In fact, I should probably stop messing around with blog updates and go take a nice hot bath.

What do you think of the new look, though? The little rock art monster on the header is from a photograph taken at Horse Thief Lake State Park. I think he's pretty cute!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Domestic mama

Jinkies. I can't believe I lived through yesterday: 7 hours of back-to-school/ready-for-E's-wedding shopping. John didn't have any pants with an opaque behind, or shirts with elbows. Fi didn't have any shoes, and had outgrown everything covering her below-the-belt area. I learned there would be tuxes at the wedding, and the MOH can hardly be seen in a cotton dress wearing Birkenstocks when the Best Man is wearing a tux. It was a shopping emergency!

Fortunately, we fueled up with a big Burgerville breakfast (if you don't have BV where you live, you are welcome to stay a few days in my basement so you can aquaint yourself with their magnificent offerings)--Green Chile & Cheddar Egg Sandwiches, hashbrowns and coffee. It is still a blast to put all the wrappings and leftovers in the compost bin, no matter how many times I go. Too bad our subsequent visits to S-bux and a pizza parlor weren't quite so eco-friendly.

But at any rate, pants and a dress shirt were found. Fiona picked out some dress shoes. I found some sexy strappy wedges and a red dress (polyester, so obviously much more formal). I even bought a big package of pens. How can I edit when there's only one blue pen in the house, and the kid's got it under her bed?

Not that I got any editing done last night. Nope, I spent the evening hunched over the sewing machine. I am halfway done with the Flower-Girl dress, and it looks adorable! Now, as long as I don't sew the skirt on upside down, I might manage to get it done before the wedding. =)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Fantastic tofu & spinach!

I have no idea what to call this recipe, but I do know that it was a big hit at the dinner table tonight. You can cut back the salt by using real veggie broth and salt to taste, but when you're lazy ...

Fantastic Tofu & Spinach!
1 package (14 oz) extra-firm tofu
1 tsp vegetable bouillon (I used Better than Bouillon brand)
1 1/c C hot water
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 oz (ish) brandy
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch spinach, cleaned and de-stemmed
1/4 C packed basil, in chiffonade
fresh-ground pepper, to taste
1 tb crumbled feta OR if vegan, juice of 1/4 of a lemon

Drain tofu and press under a weight, 10-20 minutes. Prepare marinade: dissolve bouillon in hot water. Stir in 2 cloves crushed garlic and brandy. Dice tofu and immerse in marinade, allowing to soak about 30 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a skillet, adding 1 clove minced garlic. Remove tofu from marinade, reserving the liquid. Add tofu to garlic in hot skillet. Stir until browned. Add spinach and reserved marinade, cooking on low heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed by tofu. Stir in basil. Add pepper and feta (or lemon juice) and serve warm. Serves 2 hungry parents and one hungry kid.

This recipe has the squishy, sexy spinach richness of creamed spinach without the fatty kapowy. The feta adds a tangy piquancy that I enjoyed, but I will probably prepare it vegan-style in the future (feta is kind of pricey, and I really want to cut out the dairy before winter).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Whispers of the Columbia

We made two stops along the Columbia yesterday. One was at Avery Park, a tiny spot about ten miles north of Goldendale. Avery Park is open to the public year-round--except when the fish are running, when it becomes a private Native American fishing ground. It's quiet there. The wind riffles the surface of the river and the birds speak constantly, an exchange of secrets encouraged by the hidden nature of the place. You can not see the little cove from SR 14.

It was strange standing beside the US Army Corps of Engineers Survey marker, just a slender orange post with a white label. Unpreposing. But words "Witness Marker" stirred my imagination. Here a treaty was made. Here a people all but exterminated won back a toe-hold of their world. For how many years did they come down beside the river to take the shining silver fish, the world-makers, the people-savers, the salmon? There was a strange sensation to the air in this park--the feeling of expectancy like an indrawn breath before speech.

What was it ready to tell me? I didn't find out. A man with a jet-ski drove down and got his car stuck on the boat ramp, and we had to give him a jump to get him out of the river. And then we were off, quickly stopping at Horse Thief Lake State Park to see the petroglyphs.

How small they were! How surprisingly tiny! They were like the works of Frida Kahlo, human-sized works with all the presence of a room-sized mural. Removed from the ancient canyons, these sacred carvings cried out in loneliness for their lost brethren, swallowed up by the dammed river.

The last of the glyphs, the biggest, and the one I was most eager to see in person, turns her back to the rock fragments in their careful display. She looks out to the river, just as she always has. I was hoping to see her face, but horribly enough, her trail is closed now, due to vandalism. Who could deface the resting place of She-Who-Watches?

Who could jet-ski in a place sacred to the spirits of the salmon?

Who could damn a river and drown the cathedral of a people?

How I wish I could have heard what the river was going to say!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blog before I go

Well, the plants are mulched and watered (that was a workout, believe me), most of the bags are packed and the garbage is emptied. Yep, we're ready for vacation. I'm pleased and only a touch nervous. Pleased to get underway and to see my mom, and nervous about keeping two kids occupied on a 7-hour car trip. And keeping my dad from driving me insane during our 3-day visit.

And nervous that my teenage niece will actually water my babies. I mean, the pumpkin is starting to turn orange! The melons are getting bigger! The tomatoes are the size of my fist and showing sunset colors around the stems! Can my lovebugs survive without me?

Whew. Enough drama. I'm going to gather up my dulcimer strings and prepare for my father's irritation with my lack of practice.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Prisoner of Parenting

I know that I lead a good and wonderful life. I am happy that I am a mother. I love my child and the fullness she brings to my life. But honestly? Sometimes I can't believe the psychological damage a child can inflict! In fact, being a parent and being a Prisoner of War share some remarkable similarities.

Think about it. In war, humiliation is a tactic to demoralize a POW. They're given no privacy for bathing and elimination. In a truly horrific facility, they might be targeted with urine or feces. Man, that sounds like infancy and toddlerhood! There were weeks when every day I got peed on. And if you think I can use the restroom in peace today, my six-year-old will gladly set you straight.

Another psychological demoralizer: good-guy/bad-guy tactics. My daughter's picked up on this one. When she gets in trouble or if I do something she doesn't like (today? I sent the neighbor kids home so we could prepare for a trip to the library), she first complains about how everyone is mean to her and how no one loves her, and just when I've about reached the point where I'm about to deliver my dad's famous "If you want something to cry about, I'll give you something to cry about" line, she switches gears. It's time for the "I'm so terrible! I can't do anything right! I'm the worst daughter in the world!" pitch. It crushes my spirit into the dirt.

Inconsistency. Gotta keep those prisoners on their toes. The minute we left the house, the kid was holding my hand and telling me a story. No tears. A big grin on her face. All trauma forgotten, at least for the next few hours.

But I didn't use the bathroom while we out. No sir. I'm too smart for that. Those public bathroom stalls leave plenty of room for the little monster to crawl into my stall and talk about my "marshmallow tummy." You haven't lived until an entire public restroom's worth of women know your kid thinks you're chubby.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Domesticity break

1st draft of dress: check. Homemade focaccia: check. Freshly baked zucchini bread: check. Top of stove uncovered: check, check & check. That should be enough domesticity to last me a couple of days!

Gearing up for a trip to the folks's house. Got a few deadlines to beat, so I plan to knock out some stuff tonight, but right now, feeling the blogging urge.

I just read a note from a friend who successfully completed her super-in-depth book outline. I've never been much of an outliner, but I like her idea. She calls it the Craptastic Speed Copy, and it's sort of an outline-1st draft hybrid that pushed her out of that beautiful-writing mindset and into "this is actually what is going to happen in my darn story." Her (epic--this thing is going to be multi-voluminous) project ran her 60,000 words.

I might try the Craptastic Speed Copy for Nanowrimo this year. Or not ... this is going to be my first horror Nano, so creating mood is going to be my biggest challenge. The first year I did Nano, I worked through a convoluted story spanning about 30 years--I could have really used the CSC method! Last year I had a solid idea for the story, but the project was pretty much crap (although it inspired one great short story). This year, though. I have high hopes for this year. Anybody else out there have their projects lined up for Nanowrimo? Anybody even doing Nanowrimo?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Flowergirl dress

Whew! The sample edition of the flowergirl dress is complete. It was a little big in the waist for Fiona's preference, so that means I can make the whole thing pattern size 7 and it should be fine. It turned out really cute, too!

I am still terrified to work with all those fancy fabrics, though.

Okay, off to make zucchini bread. All this domestic goddess stuff is wearing me out, but there's just so much to get done before we leave for Mom & Dad's house that I just have to hustle my bustle.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I AM Winnie Woo-hoo

My dad pretty much refuses to use people's real names if they're related to him. (Hmmn, looks like I inherited more than brown hair from the guy...) He calls my mom "Frau;" he calls my brother "Fritz;" he calls my nephew "Eli;" he calls my sister "Monkey." He always calls me "Winnie," and when I was a little girl, he loved to call me "Winnie Woo-hoo."

Now, I didn't mind Winnie Woo-hoo until we moved to the town of Bonanza, where my sister attended high school with a boy whose last name was Wu. Then my whole family decided to tease me about marrying this guy so my name really would be Winnie Wu. I freaked out. (Nothing like being 5 to make you grossed out by the very suggestion of matrimony.) And after that, I refused to be called Winnie Woo-hoo, going so far as to give one snarky 9-year-old a bloody nose in retaliation.

But my dad's nicknames have a strange kind of rightness about them. For example, unbeknownst to my family, my sister was born in the year of the Monkey, and I was born in the year of the Horse (which whinny, in case you didn't know). That seemed striking enough, but recently my reading took me into the realm of Chinese names, where I learned that the surname "Wu" comes from a Chinese word for witch. And the woman's name "Hu" means tiger. As someone with a lifelong interest in the occult and supernatural, it seems like a remarkable coincidence.

And so I wonder if somehow my father's name for me steered me toward my path in life. It definitely contributed to my dream of being a bad ass (still unfulfilled, but a dream, nonetheless). And it gave me a secet identity, one that only my family knew, which I think is no slight contributing factor in my interest in character and identity. Important interests for a writer!

On the other hand, I hope there's nothing deeper to these silly nicknames. After all, what on earth could a handle like "Fritz" have done to my brother?

Monday, August 17, 2009

I like the drug

It's appropriate that Socrates called writing a pharmakon--a drug. (His reasons, by the way, are complex and interesting... run out and read Plato's Phaedo for the lowdown.) That's how I treat it, like a drug, both addictive and curative. When I'm not writing, I despair. When I am writing, I'm on top of the world. I don't know if writing pushes aside unhappiness or if not writing creates it.

There are plenty of other writers who talk about the link between not writing and depression. Ramsey Campbell (personal hero) said it particularly well. I can't remember the name of the story and I'm going to butcher the quote, but he said something like "Writing is what I do so as not to face the depression of not writing." And that's it, exactly. I write so I don't have to live with the downer of not doing it.

Does that make me an addict? Yep. Should I seek a 12-step support group? Hmmmn. I think I'll just join the HWA.

But one other thing about this pharmakon called writing: much like marijuana, it's a gateway drug. It opens the doors to multiple substance abuses. Some people take it too far (Stephen King himself turned to cocaine once, and Hemingway was a notorious alcoholic), but most of us keep a handle on the addictive substances, limiting ourselves to the trifecta of caffeine, fat and sugar. Me? I'm nursing a cup of tea as I type, and there's a cup of cocoa waiting for me right after I tuck the kid into bed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A scary day at the kiddie mus

So my kiddo keeps asking me for a baby sister, and I keep trying to explain to her that she's it. The one and only. She is going to be an only child, for many, many reasons.

Maybe the biggest reason of all comes from watching kids hurt themselves in the museum. Here's a place designed for maximum safety, a place that has its own safety committe, a place that studies literature on the subject of keeping kids safe ... and we get 2 or 3 kids a week trying to kill themselves. Running into walls. Pulling shelves over on themselves. Falling off anything they can possibly fall off.

I couldn't survive another kid. Just watching children play makes my blood pressure rise. The fact that there are 9 billion people on this planet seems impossible to me after watching the antics of these death-embracing little tykes.

Now, Fi was good. She was very concerned with her own safety and to this very day, usually refrains from an activity until she's certain it's safe. So you know what that would mean? If we had another kid, it would be a regular daredevil.

I saw all this now, but in ten years (fingers firmly crossed that in 10 years I will not be working at Chimu) when Fi's studying for her SATs and I've forgotten the trauma of toddler head injuries, watch me. I'll be wishing we had a second little monster to shower with love. That's when we get a pet.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Soul mates

Once or twice while reading, I have stumbled across a voice that reaches out to me with a soul-seizing grip. A voice that immediately resonates deeply across the psyche, and upon further exploration of that speaker's works becomes profoundly nourishing. In a roundabout way, I guess I'm saying that there are writers whose words speak to the soul and feed it.

For me, there are two of these writers. One is a man I consider my spiritual big brother: Neil Gaiman. When I read The Wolves in the Walls, I knew I had found someone who spoke my language, and when I read Coraline, I knew I'd found a hero. I felt as if he had gone into the same realm that I inhabited and come back with a bit of a map. Not a complete map in any way, but certainly a fragment of one of the mysterious land's shores.

The other man is the father of my Writing Self, Stephen King. Now, I loved Stephen King as a young reader, but I didn't realize that he would be my spiritual guide until I read On Writing, a book that just about made me cry with joy. It gave my inner writer CPR after I'd nearly drowned it in angst and literary fiction. You see, I'll never be a writer of literary fiction, but On Writing made me proud that I heard the call of spec fiction. And yes, it made me proud to be me.

Tonight, I'm raising my glass to Stephen King. He saved me. He inspired me, and every time I just about give up on my latest project, I pull out some of his wisdom and feel a whole lot better. Thanks, Steve!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

I am a big, big sinner

Forgive me, for I have sinned. Now, I'm not talking about those trifles--fornicating, having babies out of wedlock, telling lies, neglecting my plants, or coveting my neighbor's anything. I'm talking about the big one. The worst sin of all.

I bought premade pie crust.

Please don't tell my mom.

Okay, you can laugh. Laugh as much as you like. But some kids grow up going to church and learning about Jesus or Mohammed or at least picking up a stray Hebrew phrase. My house, we ate pie. We take it pretty damn seriously. As we have no other idol or saint who speaks to us, the worship of pie is not undertaken lightly; I am pretty sure my mother has pledged her soul to the creation of perfect crust and magical fillings. For that, she is a high priestess of her art.

I would make my own piecrust, except I'm too lazy to clear space on the counter, and because making pie crust makes me break out in a nervous sweat. It is the anxiety of a worshipper who kows she might fail her god.

Today I not only failed my idol (and Mom), but when I attempted to cap my pot pie (at least we're talking pot pie, which is not the holiest of holies), the purchased crust ripped and crumbled and looked awful. I nearly cried. Not only do I quail in the face of creating my own crust, I can't even treat the store-bought stuff with proper respect!

There's only one fit punishment for this kind of failure. I'll have to eat a slice of the Safeway brand lemon meringue pie in the fridge. It's a long way from Marie Callendar's, and my mom would probably throw it away.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Rough draft--done

Whew. Finished the very first draft of a dark crime story set in Portland, circa 1890. It was inspired by this story, from Slabtown Chronicle, a blog I find fascinating. It is all about crime in Portland. 98% of the time, it's just depressing. 2% of the time, it's incredibly inspiring. Obviously, this is one of those inspiring entries.

Now I will let the story sit on the back burner for about a week while I get a package ready for the Orycon Writers Workshop. I'd like to send the first 7500 words of the first novel I wrote, which is currently in its 3rd or 4th revision (okay, this time it's really a giant major rewrite!), but then I also have to include a synopsis, which means I need to undestand all those major changes I'm planning to make. Yikes! Sounds like some serious work.

Well, time to relax a little and hope Sweetie-pie took me seriously when I told him he had to bring home pie tonight.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Whahhhhh!

That's how I feel about writing this whole summer. I don't think I'm the kind of writer who does well with changes in my routine, so needless to say, I can't wait for September. I will have to physically restrain myself from kissing Fiona's 1st grade teacher on the mouth when I meet the woman. She's the one who will take my child away from me! Hooray!

On the nice side of things, we had no neighbors last night, so John and I snuck into the back yard with blankets, beer and snacks and watched the stars. Or at least the stars in each other's eyes. It's mind-boggling that Funyuns can be so romantic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

American Gods

Summer has not been good for reading. With my transit time eaten up entertaining a midget (at least the latest kid book, Ballet Shoes, has been a good one), I just haven't been able to get in as much reading as I'd really like. But now I've picked up American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, and am finding it fairly absorbing. Maybe I'll read a bunch right now!

Also, I would like to point out that I am sitting in my basement right now, because the upstairs is hot enough to melt cheese. No, I am not exaggerating. I left a bag of shredded cheese on the counter for 25 minutes and came back to make a snack to find it melted into greasy lumps. And while I have to admit that one small sick part of me has been sort of enjoying the heat, I was a little grossed out by this.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Run and catch up!

Last week's adventures in a wrap: kid breaks arm; apartment next door needs viewing and applicants (and that's my job); Harry Potter 6 until 1 am (talking afterward til 2); picnic in park with Lunch Bunch; Maelstrom the Zombie Opera followed by flaming deep-fried Snickers; art adventures at the Portland Art Museum.

Whew.

This is just a pause to catch my breath before taking a trip to the coast! I can't wait to taste a Sugar Shack Bakery donut for the first time in 2 years.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

22 & 1/4 pounds of blueberries!

That's how many blueberries we picked yesterday at Morningshade Farms! Oh, it was lovely. I am not sure how many blueberries I ate yesterday, but I know I consumed more than 1 pint on my own. That's not counting the blueberries in our delicious blueberry cobbler for dessert.

You know, I've never had enough blueberries before. They're always so expensive at the grocery store. I've never been able to just gorge on them, eat to the very brink of a blueberry overload, and then dip down into the depths of cooked blueberry deliciousness. Wow. And now, not only have I eaten massive quantities of raw blues, I've loaded up the freezer, baked a dessert, and I'm bracing myself for a canning session tonight.

Oh! And I even made a blueberry juice cocktail last night. Now that's a day of blueberry madness!

Friday, July 10, 2009

"That's Why We Don't Eat Animals"

I would say that 80% of the time, I feel pretty mainstream about being a vegetarian, but some times are harder than others. Poor Fiona. She was the only vegetarian in her kindergarten, and now she's the only vegetarian in camp. They had broccoli and chicken strips for a snack the other day and it just about broke her heart.

Not that it's always easy for me, either. For example, a few weeks ago the Zombie Squad forum got sidetracked talking about meat. It was a thread about scheduling a meeting, and I kept checking it, excited, and then getting another rave about Kobe beef burgers or fois gras sandwiches or shit like that. And after a while, I just blew up. I was like "this thread isn't for food, it's for scheduling meetings, and plus, I'm a vegetarian, and this is bothering me." So then somebody (okay, he is the slightly crazy old guy, but still) posts:
So lets set this straight;It's summer time; I lived through 7 months of winter; It was 36 degrees last night but if I mention BBQ I'm a Hater? Or is she just a VICTIM?Since the area I live in is surrounded by appox 3000 head of beef cattle, whom after eating grass nourished by sun and soil, are DOOMED to die by being slaughtered and consumed by omnivores offends thee Winnie3K, I only have one suggestion. Stay Away!
This from a guy who was always pretty friendly. Now, a foe.
Needless to say, I was pretty happy to find the very cute kids book That's Why We Don't Eat Animals at the library. It has charming pictures and discusses clearly (and a little depressingly) what life is like for animals who live on factory farms. It's the kind of thing that makes you feel pretty damn good about being a vegetarian, which you need sometimes--especially after the twentieth time you've heard some along the lines of "I'll stop eating X when they stop tasting so good."
Yeah, the worst thing about being a vegetarian? Being tormented by something the vast majority of people think of only as a matter of taste. To me, a restaurant menu reads like a horror novel. A disagreement over BBQ styles is like a news report from the subSahara--fucking depressing with overtones of the macabre. And the "normal" people around me just shake their heads and wonder how I can live without the flavor.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cuteness!

The northern flicker came back to the feeder this morning. I can't even believe how cute those guys are. This bird feeder thing is the best thing EVER.

In semi-related notes, I just want to point out that gardening is an emotional roller coaster. One second you're like: Yee-haw! The first tomato of the season! And then you're like: NOOOO!! Powder mildew on the strawberry plants! You don't know whether to rend your clothes or dance.

In the world of writing, another rejection. Coupled with this week's general exhaustion and no work since Monday, I am not feeling very groovy about work. In fact, I feel destined to spend the rest of my days at the museum, bitter and grouchy. Sigh. Maybe tonight's moviefest -- CHINATOWN! -- will cheer me up.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Me posty!

Whoah! How have I gone so long without posting? I haven't shared the heartbreak of Fiona's last week of school (who knew a kid could cry so much about finishing kindergarten?); the humor of Skinny Bitch, the most refreshing diet/vegetarianism book I've ever read; or the madcap adventure of a Father's Day celebrated in Sandy (no, Joe's Donuts is not the best donuts in Oregon, but the Goodwill in Gresham is a treat).

Good times.

This is short because I've got some editing to do. I didn't make my usual list because I didn't do any reading today, and the most notable thing I ingested was actually a delicious coffee cocktail my sister whipped up while I was hanging out at her house. Yumm. Boooooooze.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tuckered

Reading: Lost Boy Lost Girl by Peter Straub
Coffee: Enough to give me both a headache and a stomach ache.
Notable nibbles: Tasty sandwich.
Writing: Back to the Linnea grindstone.

It's amazing how an hour and a half of revision can leave a girl so worn out! It's intense, wearing work. Every word weighs on you. Every character looks suspicious, like a potential trouble-maker that must be watched over, kept in line.

But I get the night off to play games with my sweetie pie and some ZS pals, so it's a good reward!

Ohhh ... and I've set aside the 2008 Nanowrimo in favor of the 2007. Why? Because I'm a dork. That's why. I just can't commit to anything. I have the hope that I will get out of this revision panic and be able to finish something. I don't know if it will pan out, but that's the dream!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A fog of writing panic

Reading: Yoga Journal
Writing: revision for "One Lost Soul"
Coffee units: 3?
Notable nibbles: Sunny Blueberry Muffins (recipe from Vegan with A Vengeance)

Got about 900 new words put into "One Lost Soul." I am more than a little worried that the original draft will be unusable. The more I read, the worse it gets. I just hope I can write enough to get it done before November! I can't believe how quickly Nanowrimo is coming up.

Had a friend over for brunch this morning. She is a fellow veg-head and very into animal rights. It always recharges my vegetarian convictions to hang out with her!

I originally planned to have a super-muffin feast for our brunch, but the first batch of muffins (corn & chile) turned out horrible, with this nasty metallic aftertaste that made me want to scrape my tongue off. The awesome thing is that I put one out by the bird feeder and some plucky fellow made off with it! I now plan to save the bad muffins in the freezer and put slices of them out in the suet feeder when it gets low. The crows and jays go crazy on the suet, and that stuff gets kind of spendy!

Monday, June 08, 2009

One slow train

Reading: The Bitter Taste of Time, by Bea Gonzalez
Writing: revision for "One Lost Soul"
Coffee units: 2.5
Notable nibbles: orange-carrot-banana juice

I'm feeling much more confident about this revision that previous attempts in the revising world. I've got my notebook and I'm USING it, which is a pretty good trick. It's so easy to become absorbed the details, ever so many of them, that the goals of the project get swallowed up in them. I have to keep going back to the book and pinning myself down. What am I doing? What is supposed to be happening? Who the heck are these people?

Not that this is going to be easy. The project is getting a major make-over. I wanted the piece to have an ominous tone and feature some scary supernatural activity, but in my Nanowrimo haze, the scenes I produced are much more chirpy fantasy than supernatural. The bad guys got over-explained and under-experienced and I was very disappointed when I got done.

Despite all that disappointment, when I picked up the manuscript last month, I was impressed with some of the stuff I had written. There's a lot of great stuff in this project, and I am hoping to dig it out and shore it up.

Of course, I'm working slowly. I am still tired after last week's adventures in food poisoning. Hopefuly this little train will kick it up a notch and really get this project done quickly!

Also, after almost a month, the animals have finally found our bird feeders! So far we have only gotten sparrows, crows, jays and a squirrel, but they are all so cute I don't even care. Virtual pets! Hooray! And I owe it all to the suet feeder. That thing is popular; it's like critter crack. In fact, I hope we don't go broke keeping it full!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I, Anonymous

Here's the comment someone left about the last post:
"Too bad you spent your time in the wrong places. Spend time where the real locals do in Bend, and you might enjoy it. Try not to be so closed minded."

What could that last little dig be about? I understand the first couple of lines--hey! You missed out on a bunch of great stuff!--but the last line? I don't get it. And whoever wrote it left it anonymously, you just have to imagine they put it in to be pissy.

Suggestions or a nice travel guide (with a map, and maybe some directions) could have made this a wonderful comment. Could have given me the tools to become a real Bend lover. But an anonymous pissy comment? LAME.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Goody's redeems the city of Bend

Reading: Floating Dragon, Peter Straub
Writing: submitted a story to an e-zine; tons of editing (2 projects) ahead
Coffee units: 4
Notable nibbles: salad made with my own veg.

Bend sucks. Sisters makes it look pretty good by comparison, though.

Central Oregon is one of the most beautiful and interesting places on the planet. The scars of tremendous volcanic activity, little scathed by the brutal forces of water, reveal themselves at every turn. There are beautiful caves and mountains. There are fantastic rapids and waterfalls in those places water has eked out for itself. And then there are the high desert forests, smelling sweetly of pitch, vanilla and orange rind.

Too bad people live there.

I realized, returning to the pseudo-town of Sunriver after exploring downtown Bend, that Central Oregon is the place where the middle class goes to party and white trash goes to live. Then we drove through Tumalo and Sisters, where cookie cutter mansions, bloated faux-log monstrosities that repeat themselves across an irrigated landscape--and I realized that Central Oregon is where the rich keep their second homes. I thought I might puke. Then I realized I was just suffering from a sugar-induced coma, inflicted by the sweetness of the faux-Western fronts of the buildings in Sisters.

I felt bitter as we drove over the McKenzie Pass (missing out on the Dee Wright Observatory due to a road closure, perhaps fire-related). Fortunately, we had to stop in Detroit to pee and buy ice cream. There is a tiny shop called KC's there. It's in a small pink house. The ladies who own it are normal middle-aged ladies, and the ice cream is delicious, the coffee is acceptable, and the bathroom is adorable, in the way a bathroom becomes when decorated by two quirky ladies with a lot of burlap coffee sacks on their hands.

So despite the cute ground squirrels, the amazing birds and butterflies, the wonderful High Desert Museum, and the cheap rental with a hot tub, I doubt we'll be headed back to Sunriver anytime too soon. But of course, we will go back. I still want to see Big Obsidian, and even if Bend is an armpit, it's still an armpit with an old fashioned soda fountain. God damn, that chocolate coke with cream was good!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Slack-a-lackin

Reading: just finished Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett
Writing: procrastinating!
Coffee units: 4
Notable nibbles: well, John prepared the frozen broccoli. That's pretty awesome.

Okay, I'm supposed to be producing words about now. And I will, I'm sure. It's just hard to focus when it's practically vacation time!

Yesterday we enjoyed some impromptu vacation, since John had the day off. We just decided to go visit Mt. Saint Helens. Hooray! We hiked around outside of the Johnston Ridge Observatory, where there is a decidedly wonderful hiking trail amongst the baby alder trees. It was beautiful, sunny and cool, and the icy breeze coming off the peak made the lack of shade enjoyable. (Yesterday, anyway. Today my scalp is letting me know that no shade does not make skin happy.) We even saw ground squirrels and horned larks, two very adorable creatures.

After our hike, we stopped for pizza (Papa Pete's Pizza in Castle Rock) and coffee (C&L Burgers, Ice Cream and Espresso). They were out of regular coffee, so we had Americanos to which the girl kindly added a liberal dose of half-and-half. I am ashamed to say that after 15+ years of mocking Americanos, I found this to be one of the most delicious coffee beverages of my life. I just might become a convert!

And let me add that I drank that Americano without sugar. I've spent my whole life loving sweet coffee, and now I'm going over to the dark side. Who knew it could happen? I just know that I can't wait to be on the open road on Thursday morning, a strong cup of black coffee in one hand and an Acme donut in the other!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Chocolate chickpea cake part deux

I want to be clear on something here. I am not an exceptionally good or nice person. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have morals and I try to be decent, but I am more lazy than I am good. So it's not very often when I get to shine up my halo, and it's all because of that chocolate chickpea cake.

While the cake didn't turn out as luxuriously truffle-ish as the last time I made it (okay, I should have listened to Fiona when she was like "Take the cake out of the oven, Mom. NOW."), it was still acceptable, if a titch dry in the corners. With enough strawberries and whipped cream, dry can be managed. Everyone who tried the cake seemed to like it, and our gluten-free ZS member took seconds. Hooray! I didn't even know if the guy liked cake, or chocolate, but since this is one of the few cakes I really like, I felt like I needed to bring it out for him.

But the good part happened just a few minutes ago. I remembered that my neighbor was just recently diagnosed with gluten intolerance, and that she and her family were struggling with it. And lightning struck! I had a lot of cake left (that's what happens when the family 5 you're planning to fete at a baby shower misses the event), and I knew I would probably gobble it all up if I kept it around. So I took half of it to the neighbor's house!

Her husband answered the door and called her over with a "Honey! Gluten-free cake!" And I swear I have never seen a hand move so fast or eyes shine so brightly. Her kids had come home from something that night eating cookies and she was really suffering. That cake saved the day.

I went home happy, my dusty halo gleaming over my head.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chocolate chickpea cake and romaine salad

Reading: the Willamette Week drink guide
Writing: hopefully, yes
Coffee units: 1. God, that needs to change!
Notable nibbles: apple slice with cinnamon

I just want to point out that those questions are much harder at 10 in the morning. Normally I wouldn't be blogging until at least 7 pm, but today, I had a thought on my trip home from the grocery store.

Tomorrow we're going to a potluck, and I planned to bring healthier choices--one of my friends just had a heart attack, and I don't want to tempt him with anything too decadent. (As if I could tempt this guy--I just learned he used to chef for a 4-star restaurant. Not that I'm worried or anything.) So I picked up some salad ingredients and stuff for that amazing chocolate chickpea cake that rocked our world last month, and somehow or other, walking along in the sunshine, I started imagining just how my world premier appearance on Oprah would proceed.

OPRAH: Here's Wendy Wagner, writer, mom and all-around amazingly cute woman. Wendy, I understand that you successfully lost 60 pounds a few years ago and have kept it off. What's your secret?

ME: I think first you have to recognize that you have to love yourself, and you can't be too hard on yourself. (Patting fat rolls) I'm still no super-model, Oprah! (laughter) But I think the first rule of success is simple.

OPRAH: Please, share it with our studio audience and folks at home.

ME: You just have to say, "No! You can NOT have that cookie!" No matter what. It doesn't matter if you walked 5 miles or haven't eaten anything all day. Cookies are evil.

OPRAH: Ohhh, that's deep. Don't you agree, folks? (crowd cheers) Do you have any other advice, Wendy?

ME: Well, if you really want the pounds to come off, you can step things up with rule #2: "If that has cheese on it, it's not going in my mouth." Yeah, that'll do it every time. Cheese makes cookies look like innocent girl scouts. It's pure fat.

(crowd cheers louder; Oprah wipes a tear from her cheek. I smile and wave--)

Anyway, before I could step into Oprah's arms for a soul-to-soul hug, I nearly got hit by a minivan and I stopped daydreaming. But I guess that's how I lost 60 pounds in a year and kept it off. I could stand to lose another twenty, but there's no way in the world I'm cutting out pie.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jen rocks!

Reading: Richard Matheson: The Collected Stories, vol 1
Writing: finished 1st draft of Mayan apocalype story; began revision of another
Coffee units: 3.5
Notable nibbles: strawberry-spinach salad

I just returned from a very enjoyable reading by the very amusing Jen Lancaster. I was accompanied by the incomparable E, who is the one who introduced me to blogging and books born from blogs.

Sometimes you just have to go do something like a girl.

This weekend turned out nutty, of course. The balance between Zombie Squad and family didn't work out quite as well as I would have liked, and I missed the main event, which was apparently crappy for the ZS crew. I feel like an asshole--you know, like that person I've been trying to put behind me, who always flaked out at the last minute because she got overwhelmed and freaked out. (Hey, I can still feel guilty as hell even I wasn't doing any actual flaking. I'd like to point some fingers at the US Navy. But I'd still feel like a jerk.)

I probably wouldn't feel so guilty if I hadn't had such a good time being with the kid. You know, I am really going to miss my brother! Thank goodness it's just 4 months.

Okay, I've got some writing to do. I think. This Lohra revision is seriously kicking my ass. It just isn't as fun to knuckle down and clean up the disaster of this book as it is to write stories. But if I want to have a book to sell, I better get off my ass!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OMG!

Reading: just finished The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Totally enjoyable!
Writing: started new story while drinking coffee at the Artemis
Coffee units: 4. But who's counting?
Notable nibbles: Shaker lemon pie (at the Artemis Cafe, of course)

So much going on I have decompress before I get down to work. I'm not even sure if I can manage complete sentences right now, because I'm just too full of emotion to think properly. So I'll list, even if that's incredibly lame.

1. My adorable baby brother leaves for the Persian Gulf next weekend.
2. My adorable baby brother arrives at my house Friday night for one last hootenanny.
3. Saturday is Zombie Prom, the most exciting day of May!
4. Saturday my family is celebrating my adorable baby brother.
5. My best friend in the world is GOING WEDDING DRESS SHOPPING! Tomorrow!
6. Might do something too nutty and exciting to blog about today.

Whew. I'm breathing out the strung-out energy and breathing in peace. Whew. Okay. Yeah, maybe I won't get much sleep this weekend, but it'll be okay.

Oh, and number 6? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, May 11, 2009

It's page 80, folks

Reading: Children of Poe, edited by Peter Straub
Writing: none, duh--that's why I'm blogging
Coffee units: 3
Noteworthy nibbles: veggie wraps with edamame and yogurt cheese.

So at some point in time, I kind of promised myself I would save Lohra and her friends. Her book is horribly damaged--absolute first-time-novelling crap--but I love Lohra and Tris and their entire posse of whacky guys. Imagining them dying an ignomious death at the bottom of my junk drawer just seems ... wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. I *have* to rewrite it.

But of course, I've hit page 80 and now I am panicking. Page 80 in this version? It's 197 in the original. That's 110 pages on the cutting room floor! Where am I going to get 90,000 words to put in this story? I'll be lucky to clear 50K! Oh my god, I think I might be hyperventilating.

Okay, relax, Wendy. You can do this. With an intervention from some gods and Starbucks, this book will happen. And it will be done. DONE.

Man, I just don't know if there's enough coffee in the world to succeed at this task!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sunshine!!!

Reading: Children of Poe, anthology
Writing/editing: still high from finishing a great story the night before last
Coffee units: 1, but more SOON
Noteworthy nibbles: smoothie!

I already feel productive this morning, since I hot-footed it down to the food co-op to pick up some donation items for our ZS raffle. It is so much fun to shop when you're not spending your own money! I almost blew all our dough on Sigg water bottles and vegan condoms, but I paced myself, and we have a few more dollars for the future.

I've got plenty of stuff left on my to-do list, but the sun is so cheery and it's warm and the birds are chirping and I'm distracted. There is nothing like Oregon spring to distract me from anthing I ought to be doing. Rewriting a novel? Loading the dishwasher? Catching up on a week of laundry? I have to admit, puttering in the garden or going for a walk sounds waaaay more exciting.

Also, I have to admit that after 30 Day of Night last night, I'm just pleased to live in a place that even has sunshine. I've never wanted to live in Barrow, Alaska, but that film certainly makes it look awful!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Day of the half-alive brain-dead

  • Reading: The Northwest Nature Guide, by James Luther Davis
  • Writing/editing: nada, but maybe a little Lohra action in a minute
  • Coffee units: 2
  • Noteworthy nibbles: orange creamsicle, hopefully to be followed soon by a strawberry popsicle.

Okay, so an orange creamsicle isn't exactly the healthy follow-up to lunch that I ought to be enjoying, but my throat is sore and I have no voice, so I'm indulging in all the cold slurpables I want. Take that, winter flu! (Still assuming this is the winter flu and not H1N1 or, in my personal opinion, The-Virus-of-Endless-Exhaustion.) Yeah, this flu business isn't helping my healthy eating or working out goals for the month. I spent 2 hours napping this morning.

That kind of lifestyle also doesn't help my writing output at all. It also doesn't help that post-kiddo-bedtime, my usual writing time, is the time when I sit here, drooling, half-asleep, barely able to type the words "the cat sat on the mat." The only thing I've successfully completed are Facebook quizzes. I am apparently Anne Shirley, the queen of the zombie killers, and I'll probably find out what element I am before the day is through.

Uggh.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Uggh.

Home sick. But I'm placing much faith on the curative power of The Princess Diaries. How did Julie Andrews become so wonderful?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hell fires

Reading: Hell House, by Richard Matheson
Writing/editing: nada
Coffee units: 3
Noteworthy nibbles: asparagus and goat cheese risotto

While I'd like to work through some editing and sketch out some ideas for a new story, the slight fever I'm running reccomends an early bedtime. I'm just waiting for the kiddo to fall asleep, and then it's time to snooze!

Needless to say, since I'm slacking, I felt perfectly justified finishing Hell House. What an awesome book! Truly scary and truly inspirational. I am hoping to create a few haunted stories now!

I just hope I don't get as sick as John's been. Poor guy! He's barely eaten anything in two days, and last night he slept in the basement to stay close to the bathroom. I really missed him. Pink Poodle is a pretty cuddly stuffed animal, but not even close to a sweetpea.