Monday, June 28, 2010

Do I even exist? Dealing with Web Withdrawals

After a week with a pretty limited online presence, I feel weird. I haven't connected to most of my online friends. I haven't posted on my blog. And nobody's retweeted me in a good eight days! I feel almost invisible.

I'm pretty sure that sensation is a good sign that taking a break is the right thing to do. When you get to the point when your virtual validation is more important than your real-life experiences, you have a problem.

Of course, my problem is that I'm an aspiring writer with a day-job in a different field. At this stage in my life, it's significantly easier to connect with people in my industry online than it is in person. But then again, there are always exceptions!

The highlight of last week was a great Tweet-up with Blake Charlton. Blake is a Renaissance figure in spec fic these days, spending the summer promoting his first book, Spellwright, while on sabbatical from his work as a Stanford medical student. Wow. Let me tell you, a beer and reading with that guy makes you feel like smarts are rubbing off on you! Anyway, I'm very glad I had a chance to meet Blake and hope to see him again soon. Maybe when his second book comes out!

Monday, June 21, 2010

1st hummingbird of the season!

After the mysteriously gorgeous winter, I shouldn't be so irate at spring weather that's brought hail to my doorstep in the middle of June. But I can't help it. Last week, it was so gloomy and miserable that it took an otherwise mediocre week and flushed it down the toilet.

But this week, there's hope.

There's a glimmer of sunshine between the clouds, and I actually saw a hummingbird drinking from a brilliantly pink flower today. We have hummingbirds year-round here, since they can get by eating bugs, but it doesn't feel spring-ish until I see them slurping up nectar from a real flower. So it's coming! Spring is near!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coping with sensitivities

Call me a sensitive person.

It's okay. I have finally reached a point in my life where that word doesn't bother me--because I am. Sensitive. I have a remarkable sense of smell (which sharpened during pregnancy to a point where I could identify individual customers at work when they walked through the front door, a floor below my desk). I have perceptive taste buds that can taste the gag-inducing flavor of dish detergent on my hashbrowns no matter how well I rinsed the baking sheet after scrubbing it. I have good senses and love giving them new wonders to enjoy.

I must also have a weak filtering system so information from these great senses goes straight to my brain. Lots of noise drives me crazy. Ladies with perfume give me headaches and make it hard for me to concentrate. Too much color makes me agitated and stressed. There's no tuning it out. It's all or nothing, and sometimes it's exhausting.

I also got hit with all the other kinds of "sensitive," the kinds that nobody wants: a sensitive tummy, easily irritated by stress and booze and the kinds of foods it decides it doesn't like this week. A sensitive disposition, easily startled or made to cry. Sensitive skin that breaks out in hives when exposed to the kinds of chemicals it doesn't like. A sensitive immune system that is easily launched into hyper-mode when exposed to molds & dusts. And even, lamely enough, a sensitive respiratory attack that launches into coughing and wheezing fits at the least drop of mucous.

Those are the kinds of "sensitive" that gives the word a bad name.

There was a time in my life when I would have given anything to have thicker skin, especially in college, when my coping skills were at an all-time low. But now, 80% of the time, I love being sensitive. It's like having super-powers that help me better understand people and more fully enjoy the world in which I live. Yes, there's a disadvantage to being so moved by good writing that I sobbed my way through John Joseph Adams' The Living Dead anthology. But you better believe it helps me create better stories. And I love that.

Sometimes the real world irritates the hell out of me. As I've gotten older, I've gotten more skilled at controlling my environment and finding approaches that allow me to minimize negative or overwhelming stimuli. But it's impossible to get rid of it all. Bad days do happen when noise and upset and dark emotions swamp me like storm waves overpowering a little fishing boat (hey, where's the small craft advisory when I need one?!?). Even good stimuli can be too much for me, sending me into a full crash.

A complete crash is bad. It's a pure black depression, exhaustion, despair, emptiness. It's like a sensory deprivation tank built out of unhappiness. I wouldn't want to stay there long, and luckily, my system has developed an auto-eject function: inner misery will often switch over to a cold! In fact, right now, after an exhausting week, I can feel blackness dissipating with every sneeze.

It's a weird relationship, body and mind, senses and soul. Everybody has their own troubles balancing them, and everybody has to find their own solutions. But I think you can't go wrong with a hot bath and the love of a few good friends. They've gotten me this far!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sometimes, you deserve a treat!

I don't know about you guys, but I'm pretty sure that all work and no play doesn't really suit me. And as loyal blog readers, I don't think you should suffer through another post about my culinary endeavors or another tedious discussion of how far behind I am editing this book. That would be mean. You guys deserve better than that.

In fact, I think you've earned:

Meet the sloths from Amphibian Avenger on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


So this morning I grab a toothbrush, paste it up and jam it in my mouth, only to look down at the toothbrush mug and realize I'm using Sweetie-Pie's toothbrush. You have never seen a toothbrush move so quickly--flying through the air in a beautiful arc of foam and spray, landing with a splatter in the sink. Uggh! The ultimate taboo! Using another person's toothbrush!

But isn't this ridiculous? I've lived with Sweetie-Pie for more than four years now. We share coffee cups. Share socks. Heck, in a pinch, I've even borrowed his underwear! (Boxer briefs, by the way, can be pretty dang comfy.) I certainly kiss the poor man. So why is it okay to put his tongue in my mouth, but not his toothbrush?

It's a stumper.

PS: Sorry for the TMI, guys. Hope no one was too scarred. :)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Weekend Update

I've just been loving all the talk about Gaga (which overflowed onto Twitter for a little extra fun). Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

The last few weeks have had me taking a noveling break and working on short stories. I've written three in the last two and half weeks. One has already been subbed. One is almost ready to go out the door. And one is in limbo. It's the kind of story that has taken quite a bit of fiddling and might never go anywhere, but is teaching me a lot.

Hopefully in the next couple of days, I will get back into revision land and begin whipping this book back into shape. But I'll keep ya posted!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Gaga for my lady!

Come on. I want to know: what do you think about Lady Gaga?

Are you a fan? Do you think she's brilliant? Is she avant-garde or just another pop sensation?

I guess I want to know because, for me, Lady G represents a lot of things I like about pop culture in 2010. She blends high-brow and low-brow, smart & sleazy in one catchy package. She makes me think. She makes me want to stick my head out of my turtle shell and reconnect with the world. And I can't say that about a lot of public figures.

Plus, she's an advocate for all those people who felt freakish when they were high school and college kids. I felt that way! Who didn't? I really like that in her weird, scantily clad way, she is trying to reach out to the wacky, geeky kid in all of us.

Plus, she's incredibly cute!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Digging into the bull

The reason editing is so damn hard is that nobody can teach you the most critical part of the process: knowing yourself well enough to catch where you're digging into the bullshit. That's why you can't edit yourself very well when you first start out in this writing business. You've got to write quite a few clunkers--a whole mound of shit--before you can become thoroughly attuned to the deeply personal stench of your own crap.

Everybody has their own crap-symptoms. For me, series of 3-sentence paragraphs are a good sign that I am writing around myself, or writing on auto-pilot. The use of the double-dashes is an instant flag, as well. There are other, stinkier things that crop up, too, like mellifluous passages that go nowhere or secretly dump info while looking beautiful. Those are just the obvious signs.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can catch my B.S. and whisk it away without breaking a sweat. I'm getting better and better about it, but I still have blisters from my pitchfork. :)