Sunday, September 30, 2012

I keep forgetting I'm influential about amnesia.

I'm sure you've all heard of Klout, even if you haven't bothered to check out your own "score." If you haven't, then google it. I'll wait right here...

Ok, then. We all know what I'm talking about now. But can anyone explain what the point is? I get access to "perks" once in a while, but most of them aren't worth my time. I'm not big on giving free ad space in my social media to companies just to get a free product. I have to really like a thing to talk about it. Which is the most puzzling aspect of Klout, in my mind.

They track topics, you are "influential" about through your social media interactions. I can understand that. If you talk about something a lot, people might come to see you as a source of reliable information on that topic. What I'm most interested in today is how the hell Klout decides which topics a person is influential about. Get ready for the surreality, because here's my list:

  • Jeans
  • Chocolate
  • Sushi
  • Pork
  • Cookies
  • Horror
  • Pudding
  • Bacon
  • Yogurt
  • Books
  • Writing
  • Amnesia
  • Shoes
  • Conferences
  • Justin Bieber
  • Video
  • Tumblr
  • Cats

Quite a list, right? I mean, Bacon AND Pork? Wow. And what's up with Justin Bieber? Maybe it's the amnesia talking, but I don't ever remember saying anything (other than possibly a joke somewhere or other) about the Biebs.

Some of these I get. Like chocolate. And shoes. I like those things. But then why am I not influential about coffee, too? I mean, I write about coffee all the time! And sure, I post some things about my cat, so I get that, to an extent. But Conferences? Really? Is this because I tweeted something to Backspace a few times? I have no clue.

Do you have an equally bizarre and unsettling list of things that Klout has assigned to you? Post them below so we can all have a puzzled laugh about it.

In the mean time, enjoy this delicious pudding.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Banner Day

Yes, so much has happened today, I feel I must recount the fabulosity.

First of all, I finally got a car wash. It only took two months after I was named "Dirtiest Car in the Lot" at a baseball game and won free car wash coupons. Little Red is all shiny and pretty again. The guys with the soap mops were impressed with the amount of dirt that could accumulate on a well-loved pick-up truck. I almost didn't recognize it now that it's clean. Good thing it's overcast today, because I would have needed sunglasses to look at it otherwise.

Just before the soap-mop guys started laughing at the quantity of dirt on my truck.

Second of all, Lulu went to a Girl Scout program about money management. My proudest moment was when she already knew how to balance a check book, and could explain how credit cards work. She won prizes for her superior financial knowledge. Huzzah!

So while she was learning about the importance of saving and budgeting, I was over at Office Depot doing the opposite. I finally replaced my wonky computer mouse. I feel like I've taken a technological leap backwards, because I've had cordless mice for eons, but I didn't want to pay $20 more for the identical mouse without a cord. So now I'm tethered again. We'll see if it would have been worth the extra money after I knock this one to the floor a few times and trip over the cord, potentially breaking my neck. Or possibly the laptop. Maybe I didn't think this through...

Finally, we made it to Starbucks at Lulu's request. The only kind of coffee she likes is the pumpkin spice latte, or as she now calls it, Ermehgerd, Permpkern Sperce Lerte! For the first time, I tried the salted caramel. I have heard people raving about salted caramel for months now, but I've been hesitant to try it. Now all I have to ask is, WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME? Salted caramel is officially my new favorite thing.

While we enjoyed our beverages, we perused all the pretty new cell phones. Our contract is up soon, and Lulu and I are already debating what kind we should get. Helper Monkey will use whatever phone we get him, so he leaves it up to us to make the decision. At least we have a few months to hash out our philosophical technological differences before we have to commit.

Also, still making progress on the revision/rewrite/WIP. Friday Night Write Club has helped this week. If you're on the tweeties, follow @FriNightWrites and the hash tag #WriteClub for support, encouragement, and camaraderie. Go on, I'll wait while you click over and follow them.

Without further ado, here's the Progress-o-Meter:

Words: 55,503
Pages: 173
Edit Page: 128 (Chapter 11!!!)

And now, I'm debating watching Iron Man 2 or going back to work. Ah, heck, it's Saturday. I'm going to have some fun. Work it is! :D

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Voodoo as a Legitimate Response to Querying

I haven't written here in a while. At least it feels that way. I've been sucked under by my glamorous whirlwind of a life. At least I've been making time for writing.

So today I spent the morning helping the Girl Scouts unload and deliver a mega-crapton of  mums and pansies. When you're the lady who owns a monster truck, you get picked to help out with delivery-ish things.

A small portion (very small) of the mega-crapton of flowers.
At least all the flowers made me feel all autumny. I love this time of year. In fact, the only thing Lulu wants to do this weekend is go out for a pumpkin spice latte. I can't argue with that.

On the way home from flower duty, I saw something odd in the road. It was a black rat snake sunning itself on the pavement, coiled up and taking bites at cars as they carefully drove around it. I slammed on my brakes, parked, and fetched a stick out of the roadside ditch. I went over, Steve Irwin style, and moved the little (hah, like 6' long) snakey from the road. A lady pulled up behind me and put her hazard lights on, blocking the road so I wouldn't get squished by speeding rednecks. Hopefully the snake had the common sense to stay out of traffic. I'm now all nervous about driving that way again and seeing him smeared all over the street.

For those who don't know, I live in a rural area. Most of the roads are narrow country lanes between fields dotted with cows and corn, soybeans and goats. My entire neighborhood is one lane roads on steep hills and sharp curves. This still doesn't stop some people from driving forty miles an hour, or a lot faster out on the wide and spacious country lanes where I found snakey.

Anyway, I've also been battling technology for the last few days. I've dropped my phone twice today, once the second I got out of bed, and again at the post office. I've suffered two power outages that lasted just long enough to reset everything in the house and reboot my computer. Let this stand as your BACK UP YOUR WRITING reminder for the day.

And finally, the reason I was at the post office. After a conversation with my CP, the fabulous @FeakySnucker, I decided I needed to make an Agent Love Voodoo Doll.  I mailed the prototype to her. The idea is that when you're waiting for a response on a full manuscript submission, you pin the novel's title to the doll in a heart, causing the agent in question to fall deeply in love with it and take you on as a client. The logic might be shaky, but it's based on centuries of Voodoo tradition. And if you're rejected, you can just stick pins through the doll's naughty bits. If I actually gave the doll any naughty bits.

Keep in mind that this is a rudimentary prototype. Next time I make one, I promise to use pins, and draw a better pattern. This one took all of five minutes to make, which is why his arms and legs are so wonky:

Mutant Agent Love Voodoo Doll

Have y'all ever resorted to anything this drastic? Would anyone else be interested in an Agent Love Voodoo Doll? Would it help if I swore to make sure its head turned out round instead of pointy? Do you think I need to spend less time on social media dreaming up this sort of lunacy?

Oh, and the Progress-o-Meter

Words: 55,373
Edit Page: 98

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Truly Sad Panda

Here in the DC suburbs, news of a panda birth at the National Zoo has been everywhere for the last week. We've all been on the edge of our seats for a month as Panda Watch 2012 played out. When a baby was born last Sunday, it was thrilling. This morning, the eagerly anticipated little panda died. It just breaks my heart.

Mei Xiang, the panda mom, must be heartbroken. That's what alerted zookeepers that there was something wrong, they heard Mei's alarmed cries. She's such a good mom, and after watching her care for the baby all week, it tears me up that she's lost her cub.

I'm sorry to share all this sadness with y'all, but it's put the emergency brakes on my writing. I absolutely can't write the novel I'm working on right now. I need something to cheer myself up. I will gratefully accept links to good news today. Happy things. If you have such things, please share.

I do have a Progress-O-Meter update, since it's been a few days since I wrote one up. Don't be too judgy at my slow progress. I took a break yesterday to read The Enchantress, which has been sitting unread on my desk for months. I supposed that qualifies as good news. I loved the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

So that's it. I'm trying to snap myself out of the sad panda induced doldrums. I think I'm going to resort to ice cream. Hopefully that will help.


Words: 55,007
Pages: 171
Edit Page: 61

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

For Ever, Love Frankie

Hey guys and dolls, how's it going? 

Don't look so startled - I don't bite. 

My name's Frankie. And I'm just a regular guy. 
Well, except for the whole ghost thing, I guess. 

You’re probably wondering what I'm doing here. Well,
it’s pretty simple actually. Something is coming for my best friend Ever - something
I alone cannot protect her from. Regardless of how much I love her how hard I try. 

So I have to spread the word.

And I need your help to do it.

I've been a bystander for far too long, trapped in
this ghostly shell for the past two years. I've decided it’s time to make myself known and set
some things into motion. See, I've hijacked Amazon, Curiosity Quills Press, and blogs all over the internet to make my move. 

You're probably wondering why, right? 

Well allow me to be a bit more specific. Something isn't just coming for Ever; her actual soul is in danger. So I've decided to stay silent no longer. Word needs to spread. People need to know. 

Evil lurks in the shadows.  

To give Ever more time to figure things out and try to protect herself from the trouble that awaits her, I'm upping the publication date of our story. 

 I'm sure you can understand. I mean, souls are on the line here. 

So, with that said, EVER IS NOW AVAILABLE. Yes, you read that right. NOW. I couldn't wait any longer, so I did what I had to do to protect that stubborn girl I love my best friend, Ever. 

I had to do it. Some things are too important to wait for, and Ever is one of those things for me.

Now as you’re spreading the word about this new development,
take heed this one warning:

Evil lurks in the shadows. And not just any evil. 

It’s disguised as that slick talking, good-looking bastard, Toby James ... the new kid next door. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ahoy! Tis my anniversARRy today!

Yes. I got married on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This was unintentional. I swear.

No, our wedding wasn't pirate themed. We got married in 1997, and September 19 wasn't declared International Talk Like a Pirate Day until 2002. So. No pirate-themed wedding. But wouldn't that have been completely AWESOME?!

As it is, I am deliriously happy to have been married to the wonderful Helper Monkey for the last fifteen years. Without even realizing it, I honor September 19th all over my left hand. See?

Yes, that is Captain Jack Sparrow next to my wedding rings.
I've got pirates and my wedding all over the place. I never take those rings off (unless I'm making meatballs, or scrubbing toilets, or, you know, stuff like that. You know how hard it is to pick cookie dough out of Captain Jack's beard? Eww).

In preparation for this evening's festivities, Helper Monkey and I went out to run a few errands. We tried to get the truck washed, but the car wash place was closed. So we went on up to the grocery store for junk food instead. Now we have a celebratory pecan pie for dessert tonight, so that was definitely worth the drive.

We also went to the liquor store for something special to drink. While there, I saw some strange things. This included:

Donut and buttered popcorn flavored vodka. This strikes me as jarringly wrong. There were other alcoholic atrocities going on at the store, but this was the most...disturbing. I mean, donut sounds pretty good, but buttered popcorn? To drink? Ugh. What the hell do you mix it with?

So we got some normal Sam Adams Octoberfest beer. No weirdo dessert vodka for us.

One other strange tidbit before I sign off. I've had some suncatchers up on my front porch glass door since we moved here, about 6 1/2 years ago. Lulu made them when she was like 5 or something. For the last week or so, there's been one crazy hummingbird that comes and checks out the flower-shaped one nearly every day. I have seen him multiple times bumping his little beak up against the window, as if the flower were real and full of yummy nectar. Poor little guy. He's too quick to get a picture of, but I'll keep trying.

And no Progress-O-Meter for the last few days, because I've been wrapped up in CP heaven, reading the final draft of a brilliant R&R. Tomorrow it's back to work for me! In the mean time, hoist yer grog before I make ye walk the plank, ya scurvy cur! :D

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gratuitous Fun from the Maryland Renaissance Festival

We had a blast today in 1514. We saw Macbeth performed in 19 minutes (with an under 20 minute guarantee), hysterical performers dueling with swords, and an elephant! I never did get that glass of mead, but they make it at the winery near my house, so it's not like I'm never going to get any ever again. They had every type of food you can imagine served on a stick. Except soup, but that was served in an edible bowl made from bread. Cheesecake on a stick! Omnomnomnom!

So here's a little peek at our day. Enjoy!

Henry the VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Lovely.

I covet this hat. This is Helper Monkey's arms. He was a very helpful monkey today.

See, this hat is perfect for me.

This is a t-shirt that I was going to buy for Helper Monkey. He must have this. I was out of cash by that point, and I wasn't about to wait in a 50-person-deep line to use the ATM. If anyone knows where I can buy this shirt, I will love you forever. Thank you!

Lulu perusing the selection of Dragon Snot. Seriously, that's what the sign says. Note her fez, because fezzes are cool.

Speaking of cool, I wore my TARDIS t-shirt, and had about a thousand compliments. I've never gotten more than one or two remarks in a day on it anywhere else. This proves once and for all that I am truly a geek, and at home amongst the nerdiest people. I'm pleased. We're a nice bunch, if a little odd.

The main event is the jousting. For those who didn't know, jousting is Maryland's official state sport. Weird, huh.

The main culinary event. Best. Food. Ever. So not kidding.

So there you have it, the highlights of our day. :) Hope y'all had a nice weekend, too!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Puff Piece for Entertainment Purposes

Subtitled: Two essays because Twitter just won't suffice sometimes. Read one, read both, just enjoy a peek into my sophisticated and glamour-filled life.

Essay 1: Squirrel Wars

I was lucky enough to step outside in time to watch two squirrels dueling it out over a hollow spot in our half-dead oak tree. I couldn't tell there were two squirrels at first, since they were both trying to cram themselves into a little nook. I watched them duke it out for like ten minutes.

They periodically stopped bickering in order to give me the Squirrel Stare of Doom. I captured a few choice shots.

That lady's staring at us.
She's still there. I gotta plan.
We'll fight over the equally tiny, nearly identical nook ten feet higher up the tree!
 They were still at it when I just checked on them. Squirrels. Highly entertaining.

Essay 2: My Adventures With Hair Dye.

Every once in a while, I get the bright idea to completely change my hair color. Sometimes it goes white, sometimes pink, purple, red, blue, etc. Lately, it's been black/blue. This requires a lot of maintenance on my strawberry blonde-ish hair. Today was maintenance day.

It all started out innocently enough. I remembered to take off my t-shirt so I wouldn't have to pull it over a head covered with hair dye when it was time to rinse it out. I also remembered to get my black robe, which shrugs off black hair dye for obvious reasons. Everything was set and ready to go.

It was all going so well, and then the squirty bottle decided to rebel. Next thing I knew, everything within ten feet of me was spattered with black/blue dye, including parts of myself that I didn't want to be bluish-black. Like my entire right ear. And my shoulder, right arm, parts of my back, half my face, the sink, the wastebasket, the toilet seat, and the floor. My white shower curtain was miraculously spared, but everything else is disasterized.

I scrubbed most of the dye off my ear, face, shoulder, arm, and back, but everything else is speckled blue/gray. This made me grumpy. I finished with the dye, cleaned up, and huffed off to the living room to wait. That's where the real trouble began.

I got caught up playing a game with Lulu, and didn't realize how quickly time was passing. Next thing I knew, more than double the length of time I was supposed to wait before rinsing had passed. I feel like a ding-dong, but I don't think I did any permanent harm. It just worries me when the packaging has warnings to the effect that sealing the mixed dye in the container could cause it to explode. I kept waiting for my hair to explode while I ran to the bathroom to rinse.

Everything turned out for the best. Other than the fact that I am now convinced it is impossible to take a remotely decent picture of myself. Please, don't be frightened. I don't bite.

Trust me, this is the least frightening photo of the lot. I am apparently quite distressing to gaze upon.

Progress-O-Meter update: It's been a hectic couple of days. Between the pitch madness #PitMad on Thursday, and all the GUTGAA craziness yesterday, as well as girl scout meetings and errands last night, I've been a little distracted. Not to mention the fact that I was awakened by a mild earthquake at ten to six this morning. It's been slow going in the editing department. Tomorrow will not improve. I'm going to the Maryland Renaissance Festival, so I'll be gone most of the day. I'll tweet anything interesting while we're there. It's my only chance to watch our official state sport: Jousting. I kid you not.

Words: 54,829
Pages: 171
Edit Page: 26

Okay, everyone. I want your best anecdotes today. I need some cheering up after the week we've had. What's the most entertaining thing that's happened to you today?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crazy is ABSOLUTELY NOT as Crazy Does

I am stunned and appalled about the attack on literary agent Pam van Hylckama yesterday by someone the police believe is an author who queried her and was rejected. If you are in any way involved in the writing and publishing community and miraculously have not heard about this, you can read about the incident here and here.

I have seen an online outpouring of good wishes for Pam and her family, and for her little dog who bit the attacker and scared him off. That is a GOOD DOG! Sorry. The dog part of the story makes me go all verklempt.

I've seen some great responses online, including the suggestion that a database be created that shames authors into not sending hate mail to agents and editors who don't want to represent them. It is a business decision whether an agent wants to take you on as a client or not. It is not a personal attack on you. It does not require a response of any kind, especially a hate-filled one. End of story.

I think a database like that might be useful. Harry Connolly summed up the idea pretty well on his blog here. It's a sad world we live in when agents (and anyone else, for that matter) are used to getting threatening or hateful mail. When a real live red-alert-level threat comes through, it's not a warning sign that law enforcement should get involved immediately. If authors knew that their response to any rejection might be publicly posted, they might think twice before firing off an angry, heat-of-the-moment retort. That way, any harassment that did come through could be considered a real and actionable threat.

My thinking is also this: before an agent responded with a polite rejection letter, they could google up the author's name on the database, and find out if they are the type to respond poorly to rejection. Your name is on the list? Maybe as a repeat offender? Then no response at all for you. Life is too short to deal with that kind of crazy.

Speaking of crazy, that's been one part in all of this that really gets to me. That word has been bandied about a lot over the last 24 hours. The perpetrator was described as "crazy." I frequently hear jokes about how all authors are a little crazy. I even participate in them. But I feel a little entitled to make crazy jokes. You see, I, myself, am crazy. I got a doctor's note and everything.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1997. Through a lot of hard work, I live a relatively normal life. Writing is the main thing that keeps me stable, hence the title of my blog here. I write the bad stuff out of my head and on to the page. I have a feeling a LOT of writers out there are doing something similar.

I sometimes make light of my condition, because I've found that some people find it upsetting. When they see I'm not suicidal, and that I don't look or act like a crazed monster, it makes it easier to talk about. I want people to be open-minded when it comes to mental illness. I never want anyone to avoid seeking treatment because they are frightened or ashamed. Humor helps.


Absolutely, what this person did was crazy, illogical, and idiotic. It was not in any way a normal response to rejection. 99.9999999% of people who query agents would never dream of hunting a rejecting agent down and attempting to hurt them physically. We all get it. We understand the way publishing works. We are NOT deluded into thinking that a rejection of our manuscript is a personal rejection of all that we are and all that we ever hope to be.

To be perfectly honest, I don't mind rejections. If an agent doesn't love my writing, why would I want them to represent me at all? I mean, really. LOGIC, PEOPLE!

Finally, I've been thinking a lot about my online presence. If you follow me on Twitter, or read some of my blog entries, you can probably make an educated guess as to the general area where I live. You could find my phone number with a small effort. My "author" email address is posted on my blog, for crying out loud. I'm not hard to track down. This scares me now.

When I started this blog (and even longer ago started a blog over on LiveJournal), I had no reason to hide my identity. Y'all know my real name. It's in my twitter name. No, you wit, not MittensMorgul. But for the first time ever, I've seriously wished I'd made up a different name to write under. Not to mention the fact that there are a bunch of other people named Laura Hughes running around in the world. It's not exactly an exotic name. I just don't think it's possible to change it now. I mean, the Internet remembers everything. It's out there now, and it's going to stay there whether I try to change it or not.

With all that in mind, I would like to inform the world that I am a brown belt in kung fu. I own swords, and I know how to use them. I carry a quarterstaff around in my car. I wield a mean purple pocketknife. My elbows are certified as weapons. And I know six ways to kill a man with my bare hands (that sentence is a lie, but the rest is 100% truth). I did used to work for an orthopedic surgeon who pointed out all the nerve bundles and joint spaces to hit if I were ever attacked by a madman on the streets. It might not kill you, but you'll likely wish you were dead.

Hopefully I will never need to back up the previous paragraph. Hopefully the world will be a nice place from now on. Hopefully it will be just as nice as I remember it being until yesterday afternoon, a world where writers and agents respect and learn from one another, and where the cost of running a practical business isn't the acceptance of threats as "business as usual." Us kung fu practitioners will be watching you, so freaking behave, already!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(Insert Hysterical Yet Thoughtful Title Here)

Don't you hate it when you think up the absolute perfect premise for a blog post, you laugh, you think of a way to tie it in to something relevant to your own life at that moment, you laugh again because it is STILL funny after ten minutes, and then you fall asleep? Yeah, me too.

I used to keep a notepad by my bed so I could write things like that down. I moved it, uh, somewhere. Don't remember where. I probably took it to the office to transcribe past notes, and then never returned it. It doesn't really do me a lot of good if it's not there to make notes in. Once again, my brain failed me.

I was just too lazy and tired to get up and find writing materials to make a quick note of the fantastic blog post idea. I wouldn't forget something that funny, would I? Of course not!

Unfortunately, all I remember of the Perfect Blog Entry idea is that it once existed. Every detail has been permanently wiped from my brain. Unless someone out there knows hypnosis, which I would be open to trying. Ugh.

So there you have it. The Perfect Blog Post that should have lived in this space has been replaced by a Writerly Warning. Here goes:

When you think of something great, for glob's sake, WRITE IT DOWN IMMEDIATELY! You will suffer brain failure eventually. You may point to me as the example.

Oh, dear, look at that poor woman over there, suffering from Writerly Brain Failure.
It's not polite to point, dear.
I know, but...she's suffering. Isn't there something we can do for her?
It's her own fault. Should have written it down.

So there you have it.

Giant Brain Eraser wants to eat your good ideas
In better news today, I got a lot of editing/writing done last night. I say Editing SLASH Writing because brain failure struck again. I had to put down the WIP several months ago to work on revising two other books, which turned out to be cannibalistic. They ate their little book-mate right out of my brain! I had to go back to the beginning and rewrite some things that had to change because of changes made to the first two books, and also to remember the details I'd already written. Without further ado, it's time for the triumphant return of the:

PROGRESS-O-METER for BLACK SHEEP! *confetti cannon* *flailyhands* (I really need to make a widget for this)

Words: 54,970
Pages: 171
Edit Page: 19

Explanation for those new to this concept: Words is the total word count, Pages is the total page count, and Edit Page is the page I'm up to in a revision. As you can see, I have a LOOOONG way to go. Progress-O-Meter tracking keeps me honest and shames me into actually working. I expect shaming when you don't get regular updates! Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting back on the horse after tumbling off and rolling around on the ground for a few months...

So, I've been a little ranty-pants for the last few days. I hope y'all can forgive me. I was under the weather with the blergs, but I feel a lot better now. My posts from now on will hopefully reflect the improvement!

On the up side, I have had a lot of time to read. When you can't do anything other than lie there like a lump, reading is an excellent option, at least until you fall asleep on the book and drool on the pages...

But I've largely caught up on my beta-reading duties. I've also been FINALLY reading The Enchantress by Michael Scott. I'd already read the rest of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, and since this is the final installment, I can't believe I've been sitting on it since it was released in May. That is just how busy I've been. Then again, it got buried on my coffee table for a month or so, and I completely forgot it was there. When I found it again a few days ago, I was THRILLED! HEY! NEW BOOK!!! *_*

And now, while I wait for my CP's to finish writing their current wip's, or to finish their revisions, I shall return to the writing trenches.

It's George! Hows about we go for a ride?

It has been so long since I worked on book three in the series I'm querying right now that I have absolutely no recollection of the details I've written so far. I remember the basic story up to the point where I left off, but revising two of my own books, plus doing critiques and beta reads on several others, not to mention all the summer vacation business, I'm afraid I drove all the plot details right out of my little pea-brain.

I know the worst thing you can do is go back and edit before the first draft is complete. I'm trying to promise myself to leave all the words alone, but I must go back and reread from the beginning. I don't remember some of the minor characters' names (folks who are necessary to the plot, but with very little time on the page so far), all the little twisty-turns I've written, and exactly that the timeline looks like. I MUST go back and read it from the beginning. I hope I don't fall into the trap of revising the first draft in progress. Then again, I revised books 1 and 2 so much in the last few months, some revision will probably be necessary. Required, even. Otherwise, what I've already written won't make sense with the other revisions... Sigh.

So there it is. The main reason I've been procrastinating on getting back to writing. Editorial Paralysis.

I'm looking to George for support. Come on, George!

I will repost the Progress-O-Meter as soon as I make some...

Has summer derailed your writing plans? Or have you ever walked away from a half-written manuscript, only to return several months later? How did you get back into it?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What I remember

Eleven years ago today, It was my husband's day off work. We were hosting an exchange student from Sweden (Hi, Peter!), and he'd been at our house less than two weeks. He left that morning for school, and Tim and I sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the paper. Lulu was only about a year and a half old, and she was toddling around and playing with her toys.

I overheard a neighbor talking on the phone with someone when I went out to get the paper that morning, and she sounded upset. I couldn't hear her exact words, but I made a mental note to check in with her later to make sure everything was alright. I didn't want to interrupt her phone call.

And then we got our own phone call. We had no idea what was going on until Peter's family called from Sweden to make sure he was safe. They knew we lived near Washington, DC, so we had to reassure them that everything was fine. Shortly after that, the school dismissed, and Peter walked in. I turned the TV on just in time to watch the first tower fall.

The whole time, Lulu was running around just like she would on any other day. She didn't understand what was going on. And I'm grateful for that. We needed that distraction.

Three days later, my mom and I were scheduled to meet at my grandmother's house in Boston. They reopened the airports, and my mom flew. I drove, which is what I had planned on from the start. I used to drive the route a dozen times a year or so, but this drive was different.

Fire trucks were parked on highway overpasses, and firemen waved flags and hands at passersby. People were decorating bridges and buildings with messages of togetherness and hope. And then I crossed the Hudson. I slowed down on the bridge, just like everyone else on the road did, and watched the dust and smoke cloud that had replaced the Twin Towers.

I don't remember how long it took for the sense of togetherness and unity to fade, but it wasn't very long. I only wish we could all remember that day; not for the horrible tragedy, but for how we all came together and supported one another in the aftermath. Maybe we shouldn't need a world-altering tragedy to bring people together as human beings. Maybe just being human together should be enough.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I have to say on the subject of Creepers

Okay, folks. I finished a major revision last night, which means my brain is taking a day of rest. This day of rest is being enforced by a case of the blergs I brought home from camp. I plan to spend the day reading and sipping tea (and probably napping and sneezing and eating cough drops by the pound), but there's been something swirling around the internet for a while now that's really bothering me. Namely, creepers.

***WARNING: TRIGGER ALERT! Please don't read on if any of these subjects is a trigger for you: Creepers, rape culture, pervasive sexual harassment, etc.  /WARNING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!***

**SECOND WARNING: This is a long post. I also wanted a little buffer space between the trigger warning and the beginning of the trigger-inducing words below. Sorry to make the post even longer, but those are two very good reasons for a few extra sentences. /WARNING.YOU HAVE BEEN DOUBLY WARNED**

I know, you're thinking, "Not another one of those posts!" But I gotta say something, so here it is.

I started hearing about this upsetting behavior when the Readercon Creeper Incident came to light and every blogger in the known universe put forth their two cents. (By the way, that link takes you to a comprehensive listing of posts about the Creeper.) The ugliness continued with disgusting comments on some of these blogs that only perpetuated or excused Creeper behavior.

I started seeing more posts about Creepers at other conventions, as well as in ordinary life. This post by John Scalzi sums up the creepy phenomenon pretty well. This VERY LONG post by Captain Awkward goes one step further, and outs a broad spectrum of the kinds of problems creepers cause for people, and introduced me to the concept of rape culture. This post is very hard to read, but I encourage people to do so, including the comments. Even Wikipedia has an entry for rape culture. Jezebel has an entire section devoted to it. The fact that all of these entries need to exist at all proves there is something very wrong with our society.

So now that you know the backstory (sorry for the info-dump, by the way), here's my thoughts on the whole matter.

I consider myself to be a friendly person. I'll happily say hi to strangers who smile and greet me politely. I never thought much about the intentions of the people who comment on my appearance, for a very good reason. Frequently when I go out, I dress like Evil Mary Poppins. I expect to get some offbeat comments from random strangers. If I didn't like the attention to a certain degree, I'd buy "normal" clothes. This is not to excuse creepy behavior toward me because of the way I choose to present myself in public. There is still an appropriate way to ask about my outfit, or to compliment my unusual sense of style without being creepy. Some people understand this boundary just fine, and I'm happy to engage in a brief conversation with them, as long as it's polite.

Me and Lulu. Evil Mary Poppins at Disney World.

When I know I don't have time for the commentary and conversations -- if I need to get errands done in a hurry, for example, or if I'm going out to enjoy time with my friends and not spend the day chatting with every random stranger that feels entitled to comment because I stand out -- I dress down. Dressing down involves casual clothes (jeans, t-shirts, ponytail, no makeup, etc.). This strategy only backfires when people who know me for my odd clothes recognize me in my incognito getup and wonder why I'm not in my finery.

Reading all the posts mentioned above got me to thinking, though. I usually don't take abuse from people. I'm not exactly shy, and if you rub me the wrong way, I will let you know it. The problem is, creepers are gonna creep. Because I try to be nice to people who ostensibly noticed the effort I made to look nice in a stand-out kind of way, I sometimes let things go too far before I realize the commenter's intentions are less pure than is comfortable.


I like talking to people I meet. I genuinely enjoy it. But it can go too far very quickly if I'm not careful to stop it. I should not have to worry about this sort of thing, but I do. Dressing nicely, wearing unusual clothes, carrying a parasol, applying makeup in a tasteful fashion, or even responding to your inquiries with a smile and polite "thank you" IS NOT AN INVITATION TO CREEP. Sorry for the additional yelling. This is upsetting... *deep breaths, count to ten*

I thought back over my life and remembered these incidents that still make me cringe:

I briefly ran cross-country and track in high school. We had running practice down Main Highway in Coconut Grove. I remember being whistled at and having highly inappropriate things yelled at us from passing motorists. I was 15 years old, you skeevy middle-aged creeps. I can't say EWWWW loud enough. Not to mention, when a truck full of creepy guys paces you as you run, it doesn't make you feel good. It makes you feel fear. It was the main reason I quit running. So thanks, creepers. That was special.

Years later, I was at the grocery store with my young daughter. She was about four years old at the time, and sat in the shopping cart while I did the shopping. This was back in the days when I was too busy raising a small child to worry about dressing up to go out of the house, and I think I wore something super-sexy like a pair of long pants, a t-shirt, and flip-flops. While perusing the produce, I noticed a strange man with an empty shopping cart zipping through the store. He seemed to be in a hurry, and raced up and down the aisles without putting anything in the cart. By the time I was half way through the store, he'd passed by me several times. The third or fourth time he zoomed past, he stopped and said something to me. I don't even remember what the initial few comments were, or his "reason" for stopping to talk, because the rest of the conversation was so creepy that I blotted out any "normal" chatter that came out of his mouth.

He asked me if I was married, and I told him yes. He asked how long I'd been married, and I told him my seventh anniversary was in a few weeks. This is where the conversation derailed completely. With no one else in earshot, other than my daughter, he raised the bar to new heights on creeping. The next question out of his mouth froze me completely. To this day, I wish I'd had a better comeback ready. I just couldn't believe that ANYONE would say something like this FOR ANY REASON.

He asked if I was having a "seven year itch." O_O

I think I stared open-mouthed, or something equally intelligent. I wish to glob I'd said something like, "OMFG, YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT, YOU DISGUSTING CREEP. GO DIE IN A FIRE!" I was paralyzed by the jerk's audacity. That's the only explanation I have for my failure to defend myself.

While I gaped like a fish, and my daughter sat there staring at this strange man, and looking to me for clues about what the hell was going on, he kept talking. He went on about how his twenty-first anniversary was coming up, and he was "looking for his third seven year itch." He asked if I was interested. This is where I began hallucinating the WHOOP WHOOP siren noise you hear when the starship Enterprise is under attack.

I said something forceful and pointed, to the effect of, "Um, No. That's sick." I stared at him until he went away. I also reported him to the store manager. She said there was nothing she could do about it. They couldn't ban a man from the grocery store, let alone call the cops, if he didn't commit a crime. Being creepy isn't a crime.

Well, it should be.

This guy was clearly on a mission. He was trolling a grocery store with the sole intention of finding a woman who would agree to sleep with him because he needed to cheat on his wife for the THIRD TIME. Oh, lordy. In what universe is any of this acceptable behavior? Shouldn't people at least get tickets for acting this crassly? It was demeaning and insulting. Nothing about his approach, his behavior, or his words was flattering. If I hadn't been proficient at kung fu, I would have been scared to walk out to the parking lot alone. The manager did offer to have a male employee walk me to my car, but that would be admitting this guy got to me. He got to me, all right. I had a feeling if he'd approached me in the parking lot, the poor employee would have had to step in to protect the creeper from my Fists of Death, or my Kneecaps of Castration. (Sorry, getting a little ragey there. I hate that he was able to ruin a perfectly pleasant day and make me all ragey.)

You might think, "Hey, be glad he found you attractive! You have a kid, and still manage to keep yourself nice enough looking to get a little attention from men!"

Uh, no.

This was not flattering. It did not make me feel pretty. You know what gets this level of attention from members of the opposite sex? Dogs in heat. This guy just did the human version of humping my leg in public. How is anyone okay with this? And he did it in front of my CHILD.

I propose women (and sane, normal men) everywhere begin handing out tickets for this sort of behavior. It doesn't have to be a real paper ticket, but we have to start standing up and shaming these people when they act this far out of line.

You can't tell me this guy was unaware that his behavior was inappropriate. I don't care how socially awkward you might be. Propositioning a woman in the grocery store is never okay. Nor is angrily demanding a response to your hoots and howls while we walk or run down the street. I am not here for your entertainment, even when I'm dressed like Evil Mary Poppins. I do that for my own entertainment. If you derive pleasure from it, how about keeping it to yourself. If you must say something, a polite, "You look lovely. I admire your sense of style," should be sufficient. I don't want to hear about every time you ever donned fancy dress in your lifetime. Nor do I want to tell you my life story, and all the reasons I like to dress that way. I wish that people who see me walk away smiling because they saw something they don't typically see. I wish that they might have a more pleasant day for it. I don't owe you anything else. Hell, stranger, I don't even owe you THAT.

To end this post on a note that doesn't turn my stomach, I have a pleasant experience to relate. The day that picture was taken, we walked through Tomorrowland and a pleasant young gentleman approached our family. He was dressed in Steampunk finery -- a brown pinstripe tailcoat and a matching bowler. He came over to us, complimented me on my fashion bravery, and wished us a good day. We saw him several more times over the next few days, and each time we exchanged a smile, a wave, and a howdedoo. Nothing creepy at all, and everyone went away feeling happier for the exchanges. So, Steampunk guy from Orlando, it was a pleasure to meet you. Why can't more people get it like that? See how easy it is to NOT be a creeper?

I'm a little nervous about opening this post for comments. I've seen how some people who posted on this topic have been abused by negative, spiteful, or downright threatening comments. I will be watching closely. If you are demeaning, I will delete your comment. If you are offensive, I will delete your comment. If it gets ugly, I will turn moderation on, but I hate to limit the flow of ideas. I would rather keep an open forum if at all possible. So be like Steampunk Guy. Just be polite, speak civilly, and then move on.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food, Kitchens, and Cooking

Okay, I understand that I talk about food all too often. I can't help it. Helper Monkey works at a grocery store, and we talk about groceries at least three times a day. I assume most people do. For some reason, today was particularly food-centric for me. Here I attempt to rehash the most relevant moments of foodiness from today.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday I worked baseball games, and the guilt of not being home for dinner three nights in a row was starting to get to me. My poor family had to get by on pizza, breakfast-for-dinner, and the like. Last night I cooked. It was nice for me, too. I'd been living on french fries and chicken fingers at the park.

Today Helper Monkey and I watched Hell's Kitchen, thus starting the food fuss. It all went downhill from there.

Before dinner, I exchanged an increasingly dyspeptic series of emails with Fabulous Crit Partner, Feaky Snucker, about disgusting foods. This chat centered around beets, in particular, and why we both think they are The Devil's Food. Now that I'm settled in with a therapeutic bowl of ice cream, I can discuss beets without feeling the need to hurl. It was not the best topic for pre-meal conversation, though.

Also, while making dinner, and yet again being blinded by steam fogging up my glasses, I wondered if there were any professional chefs who wear glasses. I wonder how they manage. I mean, I really only cook one meal a day, and it drives me bonkers to be periodically blinded while handling boiling hot things. It leads to a fair degree of physical injury.

While I cooked, we discussed the fact that one of the chefs on Hell's Kitchen professed a dislike of cilantro. Helper Monkey hates the stuff. I tried to convince him that it had a respectable place in cooking. Let's just say the conversation devolved comically to the point where Lulu chimed in that we were acting in a fashion unbecoming parents. I think it was my "OH NO YOU DIDN'T" comment that pushed her over the edge.

I asked the Monkey what Pad Thai (a dish he loves) would be without a little cilantro. He answered, "Better." "OH NO YOU DIDN'T!", to which he replied, "UH UH GIRLFRIEND!" etc. etc.

The conversation went downhill from there, to the point we were quoting Geoff Peterson and doing the Secretariat dance. Lulu observed like we were an exhibit at the zoo. She's our own personal Jane Goodall. Someday I'm sure we'll be the subject of an academic paper. Or therapy.

Luckily, I can go back to editing now. I think part of my problem is lack of sleep. I was up until 1:30 last night revising, and then up at 6 am today. Food (and caffeine) is about the only thing keeping me from slipping into a coma right now. And on that happy note, back to editing.

This little snippet of my fascinating life has been brought to you by the versatile herb, cilantro. Suck it up, Helper Monkey!