“When anybody asks, 'What are you writing about now?' if I try to reply, the book-in-the-works sounds so idiotic to me that I think, 'Why am I trying to write that puerile junk?' So now I give up; if I could talk about it, I wouldn't have to write it."
- Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet


On Winter

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm so over it.
It's February, which is pretty much the Coldest Month of the Year here in the frigid upper midwest. February and January duke it out every year for that title, but February pretty much always takes home the trophy in the end.

This is also about the time every year when I start to wonder if the world will ever be warm again. I know, I know. It's February. It's supposed to be cold. My brain knows that, but my poor, cold little heart is afraid.

I'm afraid that I will never again feel the warmth of the sun on my skin, that one of these days I'll wake up to find that it's the middle of June and it's still ten degrees below zero and there's still snow on the ground and I still have to give my Jeep ten minutes to warm up before I drive it and I still can't wear short sleeves and ... and ... and ...

Winter is cruel. I know there are places in this world where winter is a respite from the cruelty of summer, but where I live winter is the cruel one. Summer can be a big meanie, but winter ... It's like the biggest schoolyard bully ever. It's the bully that bullies the bullies. It steals your lunch money (hello heating bill), slaps you across the face when you step outside, hits you so hard it takes your breath away and when you complain it just laughs and does it some more. Winter makes you want to never leave the house, ever again.

Winter. I'm so over it.



NaNoWriMo Day 1

Friday, November 01, 2013

It's NaNoWriMo day 1, and I have no idea what I'm going to write. Up until yesterday I was still editing a different book which I have now set aside for a month. At the end of that month I'll take one last look at it and then, with my teeth clenched and my heart pounding, pass it on to beta readers.

I won't be doing much writing today for two reasons: the Geek is leaving for China tomorrow so we're spending today together, and Ender's Game is out today. But with the Geek being in China, the coming week will be a very quiet one.

Tomorrow I will spend the day planning my story – that is, once I decide what that story will be – and the rest of the week will be mostly free to write to my heart's content. Maybe I'll even post a little about that process here.

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The War of the Raspberries

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Today I fought an epic battle. You might think that to call it epic would imply there were many soldiers on either side, but that was not the case today. Like Aragorn fighting the Uruk-hai to let Frodo escape across the river, I stood alone against many foes.

To carry the metaphor further, my Uruk-hai were wild raspberry bushes and my Frodo was our big yellow Chevy truck. And ... that's pretty much where the metaphor ends. The truck is incapacitated by a dead battery, so unlike Frodo she wasn't going anywhere. In fact, she was so tangled up in those raspberry bushes that I don't know if she could have escaped even if she was able to run.

It was a risky operation, freeing her from their clutches. I had to fight with precision and without fear, armed only with a faulty weed whacker, a pruner that sticks, and a dull lopper. For a while I thought I might emerge unscathed, but then the raspberries started tossing bits of themselves back at me. They seemed to figure out that my arms and face were unarmed, and began attacking those areas with a vengeance.

Even my special nitrile coated gloves of +2 armor against thorns failed me. I had to use my handy giant pliers to extract a thorn from my finger and the glove. Another time, I thought I had defeated a foe and was tossing away its body, when it thrust out a thorn and caught my arm like a fish hook.

That felt great.

But in the end I emerged victorious, though the raspberry bushes gave it everything they had, even enlisting their friends the biting flies to join in their fight against me. All that is left to show for the battle are bits and pieces of raspberry corpses littering the area around the truck. I'm not going to lie; it's not a pretty sight.

Now, I sit here with my Coke Vanilla Zero poured over too much ice and a bowl of egg salad which I am eating with a spoon because I'm too tired to cut bread for a sandwich and goldangit I just fought off an angry horde of wild raspberry bushes and I'll eat whatever the heck I want thank you very much.

I sure hope the truck appreciates it.


Celebrating 20 Years With My Geek!

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Geek and I celebrated our 20th anniversary (20 years.  Crazy!) in December by going on a Southern Caribbean Cruise.  It was warm, sunny, and the water was an impossible shade of greenish blue.  Yum.

While we were gone we missed a snowstorm that dumped 12+ inches of snow at our house.  My in-laws, who were stopping by to take care of our cats, had to shovel/snowblow our really long driveway and front walk.  I do feel a little bad about that – and very appreciative – but it's hard to regret having been soaking in the sunny skies and tropical breezes of the Caribbean instead of huddling inside during a blizzard.

We started out in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We flew in the night before the ship departed, and when we woke up in the morning and looked out our hotel room window, we saw this:
Apparently they're not illegal there.

We had a good part of the day free to do some sight-seeing before boarding the ship, so we spent some time wandering the streets of Old San Juan.
SO many pigeons.  There were hundreds of them in this little park.

What a colorful city!

Along the way we encountered an old fort they call El Morro.  Outside the fort was a beautiful green park.
The day was perfect for kite flying or just lying in the grass.
Beautiful shore line.

Our first stop on the cruise was the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We went on an excursion on a boat called the "Jolly Mon" that took us cruising around the island.  We saw flying fish (much smaller than I imagined them) and a sea turtle, swam in the clear blue water along a white sand beach, and soaked up the sun.

The "Jolly Mon" crew served us rum punch, and rum and Coke – very strong rum and Coke.  When someone asked about that, they told us that rum is cheaper than Coke there, so they tend to go heavier on the rum.
My Geek looking all cute and stuff, enjoying the sun, the breeze, and a little Coke with a lot of rum.

Our next stop was St. Kitt's.  We hit the island to do some souvenir shopping.
The Geek at St. Kitt's.

In Dominica we went on a hike through the rainforest, which is a forest where it rains, like, all the time.  Imagine that.
Heading into the rainforest.

It was wet and muddy, and I didn't mind one bit.  (Okay, I might have minded just a little when we were boarding the ship again at the end of the day and I was walking around in muddy, dirty clothes.  Just a little.)  It was warm, and the forest was beautiful and tropical.  What's not to like?
So very green.

At the end of our hike we came to a waterfall that emptied into the "Emerald Pool".  It was very cold, very rocky, and very clear.  We sat in it for a bit before moving on.
Waterfall into the Emerald Pool.  But wait, look up ...

 ... and there's the rest of the waterfall.

See that rope leading up that impossibly steep hill?  It led to another waterfall on the other side.  My Geek and a few other people took a quick trip to see it.  I would love to say I did too, but instead I chickened out and waited for them, along with most of the group.
Crazy, horrifying rope of death!
Our tour guide called this a buttercup.  Very pretty, but certainly not what we call buttercups around here.

Other than that, we lounged around the ship or on beaches and islands, reading books, eating way too much food, drinking – um, more than usual – and just generally relaxing.
Looking across the pool deck on the ship to St. Kitt's on the other side.

I thought I might do a "view from my beach chair" series, but these two are all I got.  Left: reading on the deck of the ship.  Right: relaxing under a palm umbrella on a black sand beach in Dominica. 

This storm passed by while we watched from the ship.

Islands, islands, and more beautiful islands.

 I've decided that cruises are pretty much the best vacation there is.  You don't have to make your bed, or do laundry, or drive anywhere, or plan anything.  It's all done for you.  The extent of the choices you have to make are what to order off that night's menu (and there's no worrying about price because no matter what you choose, from the chicken to the steak to the lobster, it's all included in the price of your cruise), whether you want to go to the big show in the theater that night, what shore excursions you might want to go on, and whether or not to make another run to the buffet.

Oh, and you get to dress up all fancy a couple of nights, which, of course, is so much fun – even if you do forget that one of the dresses you planned to wear might be a few sizes too big and hang on you like a gunny sack, so you have to wear the same dress for both fancy dress nights.  At least it was a new dress – and new shoes.  SO much fun.

Yup.  I love cruises.

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Workout Vocalizations

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Geek has been working out in the mornings.  He's doing Tae Bo.  A classic.  I actually bought the DVD for myself several years ago.  I did it a few times – maybe ever so slightly more than a few – but never enough to get really good at it.  And by that I mean, I never once made it through the entire workout without collapsing on the couch like a big sweaty puddle of half-set jello.

But the Geek does.  He makes it through.  He's quite the trooper.  And by that I mean that I admire him for it because I don't even try doing Tae Bo anymore.  The extent of my workouts these days is taking the dog for a walk through the snow.  And then on the icy driveway where I fear for my life – okay, maybe just my tailbone's life – as she drags me behind her.

But back to the Geek and his valiant feats of Tae Bo.

I noticed one morning that he was talking while he worked out.  At first I thought he was talking to me, but when I turned around he was focused on the TV and his workout.  He seemed to be mumbling stuff about the particular move he was doing.  Every now and then I'll walk through the room and hear him talking to himself, correcting his own form or something.

At first I thought it was kind of silly.  Not "Ha ha!  You talk to yourself.  You're such a dork," kind of silly.  I'm not quite that mean.  More like "Isn't he cute," kind of silly. 

But then I remembered back in the day when I used to use that Tae Bo DVD.  And I remembered that I used to talk while I worked out too.  And I remembered just how silly I must have sounded.  And in this case by silly I mean totally-whacked-out-crazy-ridiculous.  As I recall, the things I said were rather less sensible than telling myself to get that leg a little higher or go left instead of right.

No.  I said things like, "Shut up, you stupid man.  My leg IS up.  Yes, actually it is because that is as far as it goes so just SHUT UP and leave me alone!  I HATE you, Billy Blanks!  I really HATE you and would you PLEASE TELL THAT OBNOXIOUS CHICK IN THE FRONT ROW TO STOP SCREAMING!!!!"

Maybe it's a good thing I don't do Tae Bo anymore.  On my current "workouts" I never yell at the instructor.  There isn't one.  The only one with me is the dog and I never tell her I hate her or to shut up.  Nope.  I just scream incoherently in terror while I slide across the ice, hanging on for dear life to the end of her leash.

That does count as a workout.  Doesn't it?

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Christmas at Grandma's House

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve was always the big day in my family.  Sure the big Christmas dinner was served on Christmas Day, but that seemed like nothing compared to the excitment of Christmas Eve.

On this day we would travel to Grandma's house.  My aunts and uncles and cousins would all be there, filling Grandma's little house to nearly bursting.  There was laughing and talking and occasionally – as is inevitable with so many children in the house – a bit of whining or crying.

There were plates and plates loaded with our favorite things: frosted and decorated cookies shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Clauses, snowmen, candy canes, and stars; cathedral cookies with colorful marshmallows that looked like stained glass windows; spritz cookies of various shapes in pink, green and white and topped with sugar and gumdrops; pfeffernusse (German for pepper nuts), little round crunchy cookies that tasted like cloves and molasses.  With all those sugary treats within reach, the energy level among the cousins could reach nearly frenzied levels, which was about the time that our mothers started slapping our greedy little hands and telling us that we'd had enough.

When the sun began to set, my cousins and I would be drawn to Grandma's beautiful tree, covered in ornaments.  The ones proudly displayed in front had been made for her by our own chubby little hands.  But, of course, what was attracting us to that tree was not the ornaments; it was the pile of gifts wrapped up in red and green that spilled out onto the living room carpet from under the boughs of that tree.

"Can we open presents now?"  "Is it time yet?"

But it wasn't time yet.  Before gift opening came the Christmas program.  Grandma would sit at her piano in the adjacent room and play Christmas carols while we sang along, some of us gathered around her at the piano and others nearby in the living room.  The house was so small we were close to each other no matter which room we were in.  We'd sung the songs so many times we knew all the words – or at least we thought we knew them.  (I was nearly a teenager before I found out that the words in Away in a Manger were "till morning is nigh", not "till morning is night".

Then those of us who were currently taking music lessons, whether by or against our will, would take a turn displaying our talents, playing a carol or two on the piano, or violin, or whatever the instrument du jour.

Then came the reading of the Christmas story from the book of Luke, always from Grandma's bible that was so big most of us had to use both hands and forearms to carry it.

And Grandma sat in her rocking chair with the red cushions and colorful afghan, her eyes closed, listening, soaking it all in.

Finally, after what seemed like weeks and weeks of waiting, one of the parents would say, "Well, I suppose it's time to ..."  But they never needed to finish that sentence.  We knew exactly what was coming next.  Someone – an adult, or later on one of us who had been deemed old enough to handle the responsibility – would be designated the gift-doler-outer, and the gifts would be passed out.

Tensions levels rose exponentially as each gift was placed next to its recipient, but we weren't allowed to open them until each and every gift had found its place.  And when they had ... the tension burst and the paper flew.  One of the mothers would run to find a bag or box in which to contain the scraps of paper and ribbon, but Grandma's living room inevitably became one big flurry of red and green paper bits.  And it didn't end until the very last gift was opened, the very last "thank you" said (often at the urging of our mothers) and the very last hug given (also at the mothers' urging).

Those of us who could tear ourselves away from our gifts would then retire to the kitchen where somehow Grandma and the moms had gotten dinner ready in the midst of all the confusion.  Oyster stew was the traditional dinner, but only the adults partook and I suspect most of them only choked it down because it was tradition.  Salmon stew was the alternative for those of us who couldn't handle the oyster version.  But mostly, those of us in the younger generation filled whatever corners of our belly that weren't already filled with cookies and sweets, with oyster crackers and Grandma's lefse.

Ah, lefse.  That potatoey, buttery, thin, chewy, crispy, soft, tasty lefse.  I could never get enough – and forty years later I still can't get enough.  What ever would I do if I had not been raised in a Norwegian family?  I'm sure that even if I'd never heard of lefse, some part of me would know that there was some potato-based vacancy in my culinary life.

After that, we went to church where we would hold little white candles in little paper disks and sing the old Christmas carols by their light.  I was always amazed by how much light those little candles could generate.  And when we blew them out and our tired feet stumbled out to the car, we could barely make it home, into our jammies, and into our beds before we fell asleep.

Christmas Day was like a bonus day when we opened whatever small gifts our parents could fit into a stocking and ate a big ham or turkey dinner ... with more lefse, of course.  But Christmas Eve, that was the important day, the day I (and probably my cousins, who are now scattered all over the country) remember when I think of childhood Christmases at Grandma's house.


It's True What They Say About Texas

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Geek and I recently spent a few days visiting friends in Texas – the first time I'd ever been there.  We found out that the old saying is true: everything really is bigger in Texas.  We went grocery shopping one day and the shopping carts came almost to my shoulders.  I tried to buy a small box of cereal since we were only there a few days, but there was nothing smaller than what we here in the north call "family size".  So I bought a gigantour box and hoped that our hosts liked Cheerios.

We visited the Renaissance Festival (supposed to be the biggest one in the country) twice, spent way too much money, and had a ton of fun.

Yes, we have Renaissance costumes.  Remember, we're geeks and proud of it.

We also visited the Johnson Space Center.  Something really cool happened there, but it's a story for another time.  Seriously, cool story.  Hold me to it.

My point is that we went to Texas and that's about the most southern place in the US I've ever been.  I was born in the Midwest, raised in the Midwest, live in the Midwest, and will probably remain in the Midwest until the day I die.  I like it here, mostly.  I like the change of seasons (except when the temps hit negative numbers), I like that our bugs are not the size of salad plates, and I like that we only have to mow our lawns about five months out of the year.

But there are some things about the south that I'm a little jealous of.  Here's an itemized list, 'cause I'm like that.

1) Y'all –  I can't say y'all and get away with it.  I'd sound like a big old goofball if I tried.  But we northerners have no good second person plural pronoun.  We have you, and you.  So when we say "I really like you," no one knows if we're talking about one person or the entire room.  Y'all solves that.  I wish I could say y'all. (sigh)

2) Southern food – There is really no such thing as northern food.  Sure we have things like Swedish meatballs, lefse, and lutefisk, but they're really Swedish and Norwegian, not northern.  In the south though, you have cornbread, grits, pecan pie, and so much more.  Yeah, we can make them here too, but it's not the same.  It's not "ours", if you know what I mean.

3) Authentic Mexican food – We went to a Mexican restaurant in Texas.  I'm not sure if it was really authentic or not, but oh-my-gosh-YUM!  We have a favorite Mexican restaurant here that I thought was pretty darn good food, but it will never compare to what I had down there.

4) Warm weather – What can I say?  Not having to spend 3 months of the year donning 5 layers of clothes on every surface of your body before stepping out the door to let the dog out would be a pleasant change.

5) Southerners can say what they think and still sound nice – A friend of mine who moved to Tennessee several years ago has adopted the phrase "Bless your heart".  My understanding of this phrase is that it can be used in a variety of ways but a lot of the time it's used when someone does something very, very silly.  e.g. Someone walks face-first into a glass door and you say to them, "Bless your heart."  You're sort of making fun of them, but not really, and you still sound sweet.  We have nothing like that.  Anything we say to someone who walks face-first into a glass door is going to sound snarky.

6)  In Texas specifically – No income tax.  And that's all I have to say about that.

All in all we had a fantastic time.  I can see why those of you who live in Texas love your state so much.  It's a lovely place and I'm glad I finally got a chance to see it.




Thursday, October 25, 2012

Once again, it's about that time.  NaNoWriMo is starting in 6 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes, and 15 seconds.  Give or take a few seconds.

Anyway, I won't be doing NaNoWriMo this year – not officially anyway.  That is to say, I'm not starting a new writing project on November 1st.  What I will be doing is a sort of modified-to-fit-my-situation WriMo.

I've been working off and on for the past year on revising the novel I wrote for last year's NaNoWriMo.  It's been a serious challenge.  Last year I chose to wing it with no plan for my novel when I started on November 1st.  The result was 50,000 words of crap – but crap with potential.

At the end of November I had every problem in the book to deal with: poorly developed characters, a weak plot, plot holes galore, you name it.  Every time I sat down to write I would attempt to tackle one of these problems.  But there were some problems I just could not seem to work out. 

Then one day a couple months ago I was on my way home from a store about 45 minutes away from my house.  I was thinking about how I was going to fix some of these problems when one simple idea occurred to me which, if applied, would fix many of the problems I had been running up against while fundamentally changing the very nature of my main character and thus her relationships with most if not all of the other characters. 

It was perfect.  A revelation.  And it was going to require a buttload of work to make these changes.

So I went home and wrote out a synopsis using my basic plot from what I wrote last year while making additions and changes as necessary to accommodate my new plan for my character.  Now I'm going scene by scene through the story and truly re-writing it – not quite from scratch, but close to it.  Which leads me to my plan for this year.

My novel is broken down into scenes, rather than chapters.  I've found it's easier for me to work this way.  I can go back later and combine scenes into chapters, but for now I don't want to be bogged down by thinking about how many words are going into any given chapter.  So, I'm taking the number of scenes in my story (which I'm getting by taking the number of scenes in my current draft and adding the number I think I'll need to fill in the story completely) and dividing that number by 30 (days) thus giving me the number of scenes I need to write/rewrite each day.

At the end of November I will still have some work to do, but I will have a complete re-written draft of my novel ready to be revised.  This will be the furthest I've ever gotten on a novel.  In the past I've never finished a second draft.  Gotta say, I'm pretty excited about that.

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The Geek Is In His House And All Is Right With The World

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Geek is home again after another business trip – 3 weeks in China and Singapore this time – and all is right with my little world.  The Traveling Geek Phenomenon did not really come into effect this time – thank goodness.  About the worst that happened was that the mechanism that opens and closes one of my Jeep windows broke, which amounted to a slightly wet back seat (only slightly since it just drizzled a little) and an unexpectedly big bill to fix it. 

There was a good side to this though.  I got to spend two mornings at the local diner for breakfast with my laptop while I waited for the Jeep to be fixed.  Relaxing, tasty, and I got more writing done in two days than I had in the last several months.

So I'm soaking up some good Geek time while I have him here.  I'm even going with him to the office today just so I can spend a couple hours with him in the car.  I guess I'm a bit addicted to him and three weeks of withdrawal has left me kind of desperate and clingy.

In two weeks he'll be leaving and I'll be Geekless again for a while.  Hopefully the Phenomenon will remain inert.  In the meantime I'm going to enjoy some Geeky goodness while I can.


Cloud Pictures

Thursday, August 09, 2012

So, I just finished writing a comment on Holy Mama's blog post about her dog, when I looked out my front window and there was the cutest giant puppy in the clouds. 

I thought maybe I'd take a picture because he was really that cute, but by the time I thought that far and was about to get up to get my iPhone, he had turned into a pig.  Not nearly as cute. 

Then by the time I came here to post about it, he had turned into a hippo.  Even less cute. 

I think I'd better stop looking out my window because the way this cloud is going, pretty soon it's going to turn into a demon or a sith or something and I really don't want to add nightmares to the list of things keeping me awake at night.

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