Saturday, December 31, 2005
The last honest-to-goodness New Year’s Resolution I made was this: I will never make another New Year’s Resolution.
It’s the only one I’ve ever stuck to.
That’s why I made it. I’d spent a number of years resolving to do things that, if I couldn’t do them throughout the year, I certainly wasn’t going to start on January 1st with any real determination. Resolving to lose weight, exercise more, save more money, be more organized – pfft. None of it ever worked. So I made my final resolution a few years ago and I’ve been quite happy ever since.
Now, instead of resolutions, I look at what I’ve accomplished in the previous year and think about what I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. It doesn’t mean I won’t make new goals as the year progresses and it’s a loose guideline. Nothing is carved in stone.
This year I was very fortunate to have finally gotten my writing career off the ground. It’s been a year of changes during which I did manage to become more organized, and made an effort to save more money. I wrote, I submitted, I became a professional author and I’m proud of that.
In 2006, my un-resolution, is to continue with the goal in mind of creating the career I’ve always wanted. In addition, I plan to continue my efforts to become more organized and to save more money and reduce that out-of-control feeling I often have when it comes to my financial status and the housework. I un-resolve to work steadily and not let my new open schedule become an excuse to goof off. I’d like to un-resolve to read more, but I doubt I’ll find the time, and I probably won’t develop any new hobbies either. I’ve got quite enough for now.
My best un-resolution is to take everything as it comes and go with the flow. The calmer I am, the better I deal with problems, so if I don’t set myself up to fail by making resolutions I can’t keep, the less likely I will be to feel stressed.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year and I hope that you stick to your resolutions or un-resolutions as the case may be and attain your goals for 2006.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I thought I’d lift my head from an editing frenzy and take a break to write about an interesting trend.
For Christmas my daughter received a Nintendo DS and the new game program called Nintendogs. This game allows you to ‘purchase’ a virtual puppy and train it, feed it, play with it, and pick up after it when it poops. My daughter chose a Golden Retriever and she’s been talking to it all day. The game allows a voice interface so you can call your puppy and give it voice commands.
It’s really cute. We’ve been oohing and aahing over the pudgy little ball of fur all day. What amazes me is not that this would be a major big deal for a kid, but that a child who owns a real dog would have so much fun playing with virtual pet.
This new game brought to mind the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, the inspiration for the movie, Blade Runner.
In Blade Runner/Androids as I recall [it’s been a while since I read it] there were very few live animals left on earth and people were given android pets such as dogs, cats, even insects, to care for in place of living animals. I wonder if someday we will find that our children will respond more to their electric pets than real ones. I wonder if children of the future will beg their parents for virtual puppies – or what the heck, maybe virtual ponies! instead of real ones since a virtual pet won’t wake you up in the middle of the night howling for company or standing on your spleen. You won’t have to stumble out into zero degree whether to walk your electronic puppy or fumble for the can opener at 5:00 am to appease a virtual cat. Pet allergies won’t be a problem and the landlord won’t need to be kept in the dark about the source of that strange meowing that goes on while you’re at work.
I’ll be interested to see where this trend leads. While I’m enjoying my daughter’s virtual puppy, I certainly hope that several decades from now I won’t be cooing to a virtual grandchild that she keeps in her pocket and plugs in at night to recharge.
Monday, December 26, 2005
I was editing chapter ten of my WIP this evening and came across this little gem:
“…they drew her in and destroyed the Zen clam she’d attempted to create…”
I meant Zen CALM, but my fingers apparently weren’t paying attention. Some typos are just plain embarrassing and others, you get a good laugh out of, assuming you catch them before you mail something off to an editor or an agent. This one, I think has a bit of potential.
Everyone should have a Zen Clam I think. Imagine a little seashell you could place on your desk that spends most of its time clamped tightly shut like Pandora’s Box. But when you open it, instead of a pearl, you find inside it that perfect balance, that ticket to the ‘ZONE’ that lets things just happen exactly the way they should happen with little conscious effort on your part. I could make millions marketing the Desk Top Zen Clam. I think I’ll get started right now.
Have you ever made a typo like that?
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Yesterday morning I had a minor meltdown while listening to the news. There’s a reason why I avoid televised newscasts and this is it.
Because I live in the NY-NJ Metropolitan area, the current Transit Workers Strike is big news. It doesn’t effect me personally, but a large portion of people living in Bergen County commute to NY and a strike makes their day just that much harder.
The meltdown was not caused by the strike itself, but by the inane necessity of newscasters to report unnecessary and uninteresting things just to fill up their allotted time on screen. I began to notice this tendency to report uselessness around the end of 1999 when Y2K had everyone running for the hills. The daily newspaper published a running list of things to do to prepare for the upcoming emergency when it was believed all computers would instantly stop working because they would not be able to understand that 00 came after 99 in a two-digit date field. The world as we knew it was about to end and we all needed to be prepared for a sudden trip back to the Stone Age. The media helped prepare us by giving us lists of things to do and to pack and to have on hand to help us survive the nightmare when our ATMs, our home PCs and even our cars ceased to function. I understood the necessity of warning people to have some cash on hand in case they could not get money out of their bank for a few days but the topper – the one that sent me over the edge - was the list that explained to people how to keep their food safe from bears.
I kid you not.
Bears. Because apparently, as soon as those computers shut off, all the wildlife was going to turn on us and come rampaging into town to pillage our dwindling supplies of beef jerky and bottled water.
Nothing has changed. During the terror alerts that have occurred every few months since 9/11, the media has reminded us all to have gas masks on hand, water proof matches and plenty of band-aids. I suppose they think it makes people feel safer, but I believe it just adds to the panic and reminds the public that the media thinks of us as total morons.
Case in point: this morning when a well-meaning newscaster began advising commuters on what to do should they find themselves having to walk to work in Manhattan. The first thing on his list was: Have a good breakfast.
That’s when I lost it. I mean, really. People in a major city have just been told their bus or train ride to work is nothing but a fantasy. What do they need to do now? How about telling them about alternative modes of transportation? How about giving them carpooling info, or traffic reports? No. The crack news team who put this report together felt that people needed to be reminded to eat before they left home for what could be a long, cold walk to the office.
GIVE ME A BREAK.
It still irks me just thinking about it. I suppose in that view point, the next thing on the reporter’s list should have been: “Be sure to brush your teeth and pack some extra dental floss in case you have sesame seeds on your cheeseburger bun at lunch. Assuming you make it to lunch since it’ll take you all morning just to get to work.” Maybe he should have advised people to pack a lunch, and a snack, and maybe a thermos of hot coffee, but not too hot, lest they burn themselves – and that would lead to a list of precautions to take before drinking hot liquids. I’m surprised he didn’t remind people to double knot their shoelaces to prevent trip and fall accidents.
The media has often been called Big Brother, but I think we should call it Mommy from now on. It certainly treats us all like we’re infants who cannot think for ourselves.
So on that note: Today’s public service announcement: Change your socks every day. It will make your feet feel better, especially if you have to walk to work.
Rant Mode: OFF
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
However, in the spirit of the holiday I thought I might take a moment to talk about a charity I think deserves a little more than a cursory glance.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital caught my attention not only because they are dedicated to helping children afflicted with life threatening and incurable illnesses, but because they don’t ask for payment above what’s covered by insurance and will treat patients without insurance regardless of their ability to pay.
In an era when greedy insurance companies and poorly run medical facilities are bleeding us dry and hardworking, tax paying Americans increasingly can’t afford health care, the prospect of having a child with a life threatening illness is more frightening than terrorism. [In fact, the insurance industry IS a form of terrorism, as far as I’m concerned, but I must remind myself this isn’t a political blog.] An organization that will provide exorbitantly expensive medical care and not have their eye on the bottom line profit, definitely deserves my support.
This isn’t a plea for donations. Like all charitable organizations, St. Jude’s does enough of that for themselves. This is merely a PSA to say if you’re looking for a place make a donation in the spirit of the holiday or any time of year, the philosophy of the Children’s Research Hospital, in my humble opinion, makes them a good place to start.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The ad had no explanation other than, IF YOU NEED HELP WITH YOUR HOLIDAY SHOPPING.
Of course we all thought the name alone was hilarious but I had to wonder why anyone would want ELF POOP as a gift. I can think of a few people I know who deserve some type of POOP for Christmas, but I don’t know if I’d actually have the constitution to order some-even for the naughtiest people on my list.
To make a long story short, a few days later, my husband broke down and dialed the number and we had the best laugh. It turns out 1-888-ELF-POOP [toll free, by the way so don’t get nervous] is an advertisement for Virgin Mobil Phones. They went all out with a complete telephone answering service and a website at http://www.chrismahanukwanzakah.com/ complete with some very funny songs and videos. We laughed ourselves sick over a few of these little ditties.
The reason I really like this ad isn’t because I’m a phone fan, or because I want to buy cell phones for everyone on my list this year, but because it’s so damn politically incorrect.
The Virgin Mobil people poke fun at everybody and manage to make customers curious about their products while [probably inadvertently] reminding us of two things: One, Chrismahanakwanzakah, or whatever holiday you celebrate, has become excessively commercial, but we all knew that. And two, that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.
Of course there are people who are offended by 1-888-ELF-POOP – because there’s always somebody who can’t take a joke. If you’re not easily offended, give ELF-POOP a call. It won’t help you with your holiday shopping, unless you really do want to buy cell phones for everyone on your shopping list, but it will lighten your load a bit.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
The slush pile is something you tackle when you’ve tackled everything else, or when you don’t feel like tackling anything else, when you get a break, or when you need a break or when the guilt of seeing something left undone for so long overwhelms you.
I realized as I contemplated a manuscript I wrote that surely resides in an editor’s slush pile waiting for the day when she has that spare minute to look it over, or that day when I drum up the courage to submit it elsewhere even though I haven’t had an official rejection on it yet, that everyone has a slush pile.
I have a literary slush pile of course – a collection of half finished manuscripts that for whatever reason ceased to ring my bell. I have a reading slush pile, the books in the shopping bags in the bottom of my closet that I will get to read only when there is nothing brand new and infinitely more interesting on the top of the pile.
I have a project slush pile too – those stacks of old photographs that would make fabulous scrapbook pages one day when I feel like sorting through colored paper and stickers and making something cute to put in an album. I have completed quilt tops that need hours of painstaking stitching to turn them into usable blankets or wall hangings. I have junk draws that need to be sorted and closets that need to be weeded. I also have the procrastination slush pile and this is the worst one – this is made up those things I should do, that really need to be done, but that I hate to do, or just find annoying and therefore will look for any excuse to put them off. There’s that visit to the dental hygienist, the call to the people who clean out the air ducts, the painting of the bathroom radiator cover, none of which are life or death, all of which are necessary in the long run, better off done than not done but ugh. . .I just don’t feel like doing them.
One of these days I will dedicate some time to tackling my slush pile, as any editor might do as well. Maybe I’ll get lucky, as an editor might, and uncover a gem, hit the lottery and discover a hidden a bestseller – maybe I’ll just discover whiter teeth, cleaner air conditioning and a better looking radiator cover.
One of these days, but today isn’t it.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
1. I talk to myself . . .a lot. That may be a function of being a writer, though I talk less to my characters than I do myself.
2. My favorite Christmas gift is a new nightshirt or pajamas. There’s something wonderful about going to sleep on Christmas night in a brand new pair of pajamas.
3. Although I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10, I also wanted to be a private investigator. I know the reality of the job is a lot less glamorous than it's portrayed on TV, but it still always attracted me.
4. I believe in reincarnation and I’m collecting information on my own past lives. So far I have a little bit of data on three.
5. I can’t resist chocolate desserts. If I’m eating out and something on the dessert menu that isn’t chocolate looks good to me, I’ll still cave and take the chocolate dessert. It’s an addiction.
6. I once ate chocolate cheese. And I liked it.
7. I hate getting to the movies late. I once made my date take me home because we didn’t make it to the movie theater before the movie started. [Previews don’t count.]
8. The worst smell in the world is the smell of burnt popcorn. It gives me a headache immediately.
9. My favorite color is purple. I always wanted a purple car [back when only pimps drove them.] Now that I could get a purple car, I don’t want one.
10. I wear contact lenses and I couldn’t live without them. If I had to go back to wearing glasses full time, I’d be utterly lost and very uncomfortable.
11. I don’t have pierced ears because I’m a big chicken. My husband has offered to buy me diamond earrings if I get my ears pierced and I turned him down.
12. I’m afraid of clowns. Not phobia-afraid, but I avoid them if at all possible.
13. I’m not afraid of snakes, but I am afraid of spiders.
14. If I could become any animal, I would be a bird because I’d love to be able to fly without fear of falling.
15. My dream vacation spot is a tropical island with miles of beaches to explore. [Preferably if I didn't have to fly to get there - or take a boat.]
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Problem: Before, I found all the clutter distracting. I’d stop writing and gaze at the piles of mess and think, Gee, I should do something about this. I should dust. I should sort papers, I should. . .
Now, I’m distracted by all the empty space. I find myself gazing at the dust free desk, the large empty space on the floor that used to be occupied by boxes of paper and stacks of books, and admiring how nice it all looks. There’s no dust on my lampshade [in lieu of a vacuum attachment, a lint brush works pretty well in dusting lampshades, btw]. There’s only one stack of “items in progress” on my desk. There’s nothing to trip over, except the dog’s bone, which I found buried behind a mountain of my stuff. The dog, btw, is not impressed. He never liked that bone much anyway.
I think the point is, no matter what I do, it’s easier to be distracted than to be focused. I did work on my WIP today, and I plan to work some more later, but I spent a lot more time looking at the little dish of stones I’m using as a place holder until I get my goldfish.
Maybe once I get used to all this clean I’ll be able to settle down and concentrate. Right now all I want to do is wallow in the dust-freeness of my office.
Friday, December 09, 2005
I’ve wanted to be a writer pretty much my whole life. I’ve written stories since I was ten years old and I have never once thought or said or assumed that it was a piece of cake. There are times when it’s not so hard to put words on paper, and times when it’s a lot like bleeding on cue, but it’s never a snap.
I complain because lately I’ve taken some flack by non-writers for not having produced a mountain of prose in the short time I’ve been only partially employed. I ‘quit’ my day job at the end of October [though I still go into the office once or twice a week]. I can’t complain about the arrangement though it’s not exactly what I had in mind when I decided to throw all caution to the wind and become a ‘full-time writer.’
I explained to my co-workers that I would be writing full-time now, pursuing my lifelong dream and, surprisingly, they accepted that plan enthusiastically. So of course after six weeks of showing my face in the office just once in a while, they’ve been asking me how it’s going. I told the truth. I’ve got nine chapters of my WIP completed.
“Nine chapters?! That’s all!?” Someone exclaimed.
I wanted to say, “How many chapters do you have done on YOUR fourth novel? Eh?” But I didn’t. I made some lame mumblings about that being actually pretty good and wandered off to the copy room to stew. Like it’s easy to write nine chapters of a novel. I can’t imagine the caterwauling I’d hear if I told them how long it takes me to write a five-page synopsis. They’d never understand. I’m a writer, after all. I ditched my ‘real’ job to stay home and tickle my computer keys all day – so why don’t I have a million words or more under my belt like J.K. Rawling? How hard could it be, right?
Right. I’m off to try something easier than writing – like transforming lead into gold or squeezing blood from a stone. See ya’ later.
Thursday, December 08, 2005
That’s how my muse works. I always recall the words of Yoda to Luke Skywalker in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ when the Jedi Master was admonishing Luke for always looking to something else and never having his mind on the task at hand. According to Yoda, that was why Luke failed, because he refused to concentrate on one thing, especially when that one thing seemed pointless to him, like levitating rocks or carrying Yoda around on his back all day.
I know my WIPs aren’t pointless [though there’s always that nagging fear at the back of my mind]. But nevertheless I seem to get a wealth of new ideas when I’m in the middle of something else. These ideas burn holes in my gray matter until I put them down on paper. Today 5000 words rolled out on the story idea that kept me awake. Hopefully that’s enough to keep the flames at bay until I have the time to devote to this new idea.
In the mean time, it’s back to carrying a Jedi Master through the swamp all day.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
I got my cover art for my upcoming Amber Quill story, Ken’Ja:
Check out Tige [like Tiger without the R]. Intense, isn’t he? I can’t wait for January. The Starlight Serenade anthology is going to have some great stories in it. I can’t wait to read them all!
For more info on Ken’ja check out my website page. Here’s a little secret I just discovered – there is no working link to this page on my home page! Yikes! I will correct that, but in the mean time, this is the only place you can get more info about Ken’ja!
In other news...
I found the missing cheese grater. The black hole deposited it back in the cabinet where it belonged, stuck beside the bottom drawer that slides out like a little shelf. It’s not like I didn’t look under there a dozen times. Okay, maybe half a dozen.
Saves me $5.99 to buy a new one.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
I thought about writing a lot. I thought about all the stories I’d like to be working on and none of the stories I AM working on. I made book marks, I made dinner, I made lunch, I made the bed. Other than that I made no headway in my chosen profession.
What’s my motto? Make progress every day? How about every other day?
A little while ago I climbed up the stairs from the basement where I’ve got a chair situated between two work tables so I have access to book marks and Christmas present wrapping at the same time, and I plunked down to check my e-mail and what did I find?
A wonderful note from a reader in who just finished one of my books and thoroughly enjoyed it. She liked it enough to sit right down and tell me about it.
Aside from the obvious ego boost, it’s stuff like this that smoothes over the rough days. Back when I was writing fan fiction I got e-mail from people who enjoyed my work and I loved that – but those stories were free. The people who read them had tons of material to choose from and the only limitation was the time it took to actually read everything they wanted to read. Now readers actually have to pay for my work…so the compliment is doubled. Here’s someone who plunked down money to get my story, and not only felt it was worth the time it took to read it, but that it was worth having to pay for it, and good enough to take the time to comment to me personally about it.
That makes all the head banging worthwhile. Too bad I can't get this feeling when it comes to food shopping and vacuuming the living room.
Friday, December 02, 2005
I didn’t take this one. It’s a sample picture from my PC, but I never knew I had it before I went looking for something to put up.
I love winter. I will deny that statement in a month or so after I’ve spent an hour digging my car out of the snow, but for now, on a blustery Friday with fluffy gray clouds threatening to dump winter all over the tri-state area, I can say with much certainty that I really do prefer winter to summer.
Part of the reason is, I like to hibernate. I like hanging out inside. That’s bad, I know. I have a huge back yard and each year I spend less time in it. I feel guilty about not liking to go outside as much as I used to and I still give my DH grief about his own preference for indoor activities as opposed to outdoor. Maybe it stems from the fact that the outdoors seem not to like me anymore.
I hate the heat. I burn easily. I can’t stand brilliant sunlight, [sensitive eyes], I have a brown thumb. My attempts at gardening turn out more like sadistic science experiments with plants. My war on weeds is somewhat of a joke and I despise bugs. As soon as spring begins each year, the battles start. Ants invade, mosquitoes bloom, weeds pop up in abundance where flowers were planted previously. This year I had to tear out several dead bushes from my front yard, the lack of rain killed the lawn, which has been replaced by weeds. [At least they’re green weeds.] None of the flowers I planted in flower pots grew at all, my attempt to patch up the grass in the side yard failed miserably. I battled biting flies and spiders on my patio and our pool developed a leak two days after we winterized it which defies comprehension, but that’s beside the point.
In the winter, I don’t have to worry about this stuff. I don’t have to rake leaves, I don’t have to pull weeds, spray for ants, dodge dive bombing mosquitoes or track down mysterious odors [the year of the dead ground hogs is a memory best left buried.] I may have to shovel snow, but I don’t have to worry that my lawn isn’t getting enough water, or too much water and everyone’s house looks the same – draped in a blanket of snow and decorated with real [not artificially lit] icicles. I don’t have to feel guilty about hanging out in the house, reading, writing or just relaxing. I don’t feel the need to start an exercise regime that includes brisk walks in the park, or long leisurely bike rides. The basement doesn’t flood.
I love winter. Check back with me in late February though, and I might be singing a different tune.