Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Way Way Back

I don't typically write movie reviews, but this was so charming and so under the radar I thought I'd spread it around a bit. The Way Way Back is about a young, awkward teen finding his place in the world, dealing with his parent's divorce and his mother's dick boyfriend.

Steve Carell walks a very fine line between "dick" and "misunderstood," but in the end we were all able to agree that he was just a dick. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks. Sam Rockwell was hilarious and awesome and it's impressive that he could be so funny and have not a single trace of dickishness in him. Liam James was a fantastic awkward kid and it's great to see him moving on to bigger things after being the young Shawn Spencer from Psych.

You'll like this if you liked Perks of Being a Wallflower and Safety Not Guaranteed (IMDB also recommended The Silver Linings Playbook, and I have to agree.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Write like a motherfucker.

I've never read this article by Cheryl Strayed before, though it's from 2010 and seems to be well known. It was well worth the read, and something I should be taking to heart.

Link.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Language of Flowers

It always comes as a pleasant surprise when a book I think is going to be stuffy and literary is actually full of bleeding, breathing characters that rip my heart out. I mean, no offense to literary authors, analyzing heady works and learning big, obfuscated words in English and Pre-Law classes is worthwhile (and sometimes fun), but I've paid my dues. I read because I want my emotions pulled in a hundred directions and I want to read about sacrifice and love and bravery. I want to cry because the words cut me to the core and I want to laugh because people are silly and idiotic sometimes when they are supposed to be serious and I want books that reflect that.

How I Write Interview
RH website for the book
VD's Twitter

Anyway, enter The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It's about an orphan girl aging out of the system and finding her own way. It's also about forgiving herself and others. It's also about letting love in.

It's also about flowers, and how loving something (reading, cooking, dancing, etc) can keep you going.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. ( BN | GR )

Around 8:15 one night last week, I decided I was done writing for the night and really wanted something good to read. Nothing in my stack of library books already taken out appealed to me, so I drove (floored it) to the library to find something before it closed for the night. I'm really glad they had this book, because at that moment in time it was first on my TBR list and I don't think I would have been able to relax for the rest of the night if I'd have had to settle for another book.

I stayed up until one in the morning reading the first two parts. It made me cry. It made me burn. And it was wonderful and sweet and I was angry at Victoria for being so fucking dumb and hurting the people who love her but I couldn't stop reading because I couldn't help but like her anyway and I had to know what happened in the past and I had to know what happened to her in the present. I couldn't have asked for something better to read that night, it was wonderful and made me warm and fuzzy inside.

And if you really hate spoilers stop reading now because I am going to spoil the middle third of the book seriously stop reading it's going to be the very next sentence.

Alright. (Ok so it wasn't the next sentence, but I did that so there aren't any incriminating words at the top line of the paragraph.) The middle of the book left me anxiety-ridden, horrified, and sympathetically nauseous. Victoria gets pregnant, proceeds to disappear off the face of the earth and leave every bit of her support system behind, and we get a very detailed look at pregnancy and birth and BLEH. I have so not developed the maternal gene yet because just the thought of being pregnant leaves me horrified. Seriously if you want to give me a panic attack send a bunch of pregnant women to surround me. (This is really terrible considering I work across the street from CHOP and there are pregnant women everywhere.) (Sidenote: it's not that I don't want to have kids someday (because I do) I just haven't figured out how to reconcile this whole alien-life-form-inside-my-womb thing, or alternatively grow this alien dna baby thing outside of the confines of my own body. Why can't men grow babies in their balls? Evolution should really get on that. I'd feel much better about the whole process.)

Soooo that section of the book was hell for me. But I kept reading, mainly because of the loyalty it earned in the beginning of the book. And I am glad I kept going. But I should warn you, things get much, much worse for Victoria before they ever start to get better.

All in all, I would definitely recommend it. It was an interesting situation where I loved the main character but she hated me back. She always made all the wrong decisions!

And one of the coolest parts of the book: there is an appendix with the meanings of all the flowers! Very cool if you want to start leaving heavily veiled hate messages (or love... but that's BORING).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Above all else, be passionate.

Really beautiful and inspiring words from editor Robin Desser, upon receiving the Maxwell E. Perkins prize.

This has not been getting anywhere NEAR the amount of attention it deserves: Go to vogue.co.uk and type (on your arrow keys) up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A and watch what happens when you keep pressing A. I don't think this will work on a mobile device without proper flash software.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Find your people

I went to this Thai restaurant with my editor, and she told me that I didn't have to write books that everybody likes, that I shouldn't even worry about that. She said that having a writing career is about finding "your people," the people who specifically appreciate you. She said, "Your people are out there. You just have to hang in there while we find them."

- Rainbow Rowell

Read the whole interview.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

MOVE FORWARD

I had a very interesting moment today.

I was reading Taryn Albrights's blog, an interview with Realm Lovejoy. I was really struck by this question, and RL's answer to it:
What is your writing process? Fast/slow drafting? A specific time of day? Planning/pantsing?

I am fast with first drafts but take numerous revision cycles to get the story just right. When I am first drafting, I can write anytime of the day, but with revising, morning and day time works best so that I can really focus. I plan as much as possible inside my notebook. Often times, I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. For the first draft, it's mostly exploring, so it's a balance of planning and allowing discoveries to happen naturally.
Typical interview question, right? But I couldn't get this paragraph out of my head. I kept coming back to it, and I must have read it thirty times throughout the day.

I am constantly struggling with how shitty my first drafts are. It's ridiculous, and debilitating, and embarrassing. I know they aren't nearly as bad as I think they are, and yet that means nothing. On every single page of my notebook, I have shouty messages scrawled at the top to get myself out of my own head and to focus on the story.

MOVE FORWARD.

IT WON'T BE EASIER TOMORROW.

THE ONLY WAY OUT IS THROUGH.

SIT YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITE 500 WORDS.

The language gets much more colorful, and usually angrier the longer I have been sitting. People in cafes must think I'm insane.

And yet, here is permission to do what I am so afraid of doing: I plan the most during the second and third draft to really solidify the story. I don't need to know what's going to happen from the beginning. It can grow, and slowly shape itself, until I have a complete story. Once I have a Point A and a Point B, I can change the arc, play with things, make it WORK.

It doesn't need to work at the very beginning. It doesn't need to tie together. How often has my initial outline stayed consistent during the first draft? Never. So why do I expect the initial draft to be perfect?

I don't know. A holdover from college, where all my papers were one and done? I need to stop thinking this way. All my college papers sucked.

(Wrong. I wrote a persuasive essay on why Pluto should stay a planet. It fucking rocked. It wasn't based on scientific fact, I'm pretty sure I got the ninja turtles involved, and I wrote it from 2am-7am the morning it was due because I fell asleep and it was probably the most relaxing, wonderful time to write anything. I was so proud of that paper. And then my professor never returned it because we were freshman and he had More Important Things to grade, so he just gave everyone in the class an A.)

(And then a year after graduating, we ran into him in a dive bar in Chinatown of Washington, D. C., playing pool. It was so weird. But that's another story.)

(But seriously, all my other papers sucked.)

Maybe that's why fiction is so hard to write. Because unlike my college assignments (I'm sorry to say), I actually really care about this. I'm invested in these characters because they are mine, and they are worth something. But I need the words on the page to reflect that. I know how the characters make each other burn inside, but it's so difficult to put it into words.

Well, it doesn't have to burn from the beginning, either. Have some faith, Gina. Keep writing. Then keep rewriting. Change things until you know what you need and can say it coherently.

Until then, finish.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I knew I was going to forget something

I also wanted to tell you about *this* wonderful thing that has been floating around Tumblr. It looks like the original quote is from ifallelseperished, and Ink-Splotch added the text below. And thanks to Seanan McGuire for sharing, which is where I originally saw it. I want to repost it here because it was so wonderful and I don't have a Tumblr and have no wish to create one. I hope I'm not spreading bad Internet JuJuBees by reposting instead re-tumblering or whatever it's called.

There comes a point where Susan, who was the older girl, is lost to Narnia because 
she becomes interested in lipstick. She’s become irreligious basically because she found sex. 
I have a big problem with that. 
- J. K. Rowling
 
ink-splotch:
Can we talk about Susan’s fabulous adventures after Narnia? The ones where she wears nylons and elegant blouses when she wants to, and short skirts and bright lipstick when she wants to, and hiking boots and tough jeans and big men’s plaid shirts when she feels like backpacking out into the mountains and remembering what it was to be lost in a world full of terrific beauty— I know her siblings say she stops talking about it, that Susan walks away from the memories of Narnia, but I don’t think she ever really forgot.

I want to read about Susan finishing out boarding school as a grown queen reigning from a teenaged girl’s body. School bullies and peer pressure from children and teachers who treat you like you’re less than sentient wouldn’t have the same impact. C’mon, Susan of the Horn, Susan who bested the DLF at archery, and rode a lion, and won wars, sitting in a school uniform with her eyebrows rising higher and higher as some old goon at the front of the room slams his fist on the lectern.

Susan living through WW2, huddling with her siblings, a young adult (again), a fighting queen and champion marksman kept from the action, until she finally storms out against screaming parents’ wishes and volunteers as a nurse on the front. She keeps a knife or two hidden under her clothes because when it comes down to it, they called her Gentle, but sometimes loving means fighting for what you care for.

She’ll apply to a women’s college on the East Coast, because she fell in love with America when her parents took her there before the war. She goes in majoring in Literature (her ability to decipher High Diction in historical texts is uncanny), but checks out every book she can on history, philosophy, political science. She sneaks into the boys’ school across town and borrows their books too. She was once responsible for a kingdom, roads and taxes and widows and crops and war. She grew from child to woman with that mantle of duty wrapped around her shoulders. Now, tossed here on this mundane land, forever forbidden from her true kingdom, Susan finds that she can give up Narnia but she cannot give up that responsibility. She looks around and thinks I could do this better.

I want Susan sneaking out to drink at pubs with the girls, her friends giggling at the boys checking them out from across the way, until Susan walks over (with her nylons, with her lipstick, with her sovereignty written out in whatever language she damn well pleases) and beats them all at pool. Susan studying for tests and bemoaning Aristotle and trading a boy with freckles all over his nose shooting lessons so that he will teach her calculus. Susan kissing boys and writing home to Lucy and kissing girls and helping smuggle birth control to the ladies in her dorm because Susan Pevensie is a queen and she understands the right of a woman to rule over her own body.

Susan losing them all to a train crash, Edmund and Peter and Lucy, Jill and Eustace, and Lucy and Lucy and Lucy, who Susan’s always felt the most responsible for. Because this is a girl who breathes responsibility, the little mother to her three siblings until a wardrobe whisked them away and she became High Queen to a whole land, ruled it for more than a decade, then came back centuries later as a legend. What it must do to you, to be a legend in the body of a young girl, to have that weight on your shoulders and have a lion tell you that you have to let it go. What is must do to you, to be left alone to decide whether to bury your family in separate ceremonies, or all at once, the same way they died, all at once and without you. What it must do to you, to stand there in black, with your nylons, and your lipstick, and feel responsible for these people who you will never be able to explain yourself to and who you can never save.

Maybe she dreams sometimes they made it back to Narnia after all. Peter is a king again. Lucy walks with Aslan and all the dryads dance. Maybe Susan dreams that she went with them— the train jerks, a bright light, a roar calling you home.

Maybe she doesn’t.

Susan grows older and grows up. Sometimes she hears Lucy’s horrified voice in her head, “Nylons? Lipstick, Susan? Who wants to grow up?” and Susan thinks, “Well you never did, Luce.” Susan finishes her degree, stays in America (England looks too much like Narnia, too much like her siblings, and too little, all at once). She starts writing for the local paper under the pseudonym Frank Tumnus, because she wants to write about politics and social policy and be listened to, because the name would have made Edmund laugh.

She writes as Susan Pevensie, too, about nylons and lipstick, how to give a winning smiles and throw parties, because she knows there is a kind of power there and she respects it. She won wars with war sometimes, in Narnia, but sometimes she stopped them before they began.

Peter had always looked disapprovingly on the care with which Susan applied her makeup back home in England, called it vanity. And even then, Susan would smile at him, say “I use what weapons I have at hand,” and not explain any more than that. The boy ruled at her side for more than a decade. He should know better.

Vain is not the proper word. This is about power. But maybe Peter wouldn’t have liked the word “ambition” any more than “vanity.”

Susan is a young woman in the 50s and 60s. Frank Tumnus has quite the following now. He’s written a few books, controversial, incendiary. Susan gets wrapped up in the civil rights movement, because of course she would. It’s not her first war. All the same, she almost misses the White Witch. Greed is a cleaner villain than senseless hate. She gets on the Freedom Rider bus, mails Mr. Tumnus articles back home whenever there’s a chance, those rare occasions they’re not locked up or immediately threatened. She is older now than she ever was in Narnia. Susan dreams about Telemarines killing fauns.

Time rolls on. Maybe she falls in love with a young activist or an old cynic. Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe Frank Tumnus, controversial in the moment, brilliant in retrospect, gets offered an honorary title from a prestigious university. She declines and publishes an editorial revealing her identity. Her paper fires her. Three others mail her job offers.

When Vietnam rolls around, she protests in the streets. Susan understands the costs of war. She has lived through not just the brutal wars of one life, but two.

Maybe she has children now. Maybe she tells them stories about a magical place and a magical lion, the stories Lucy and Edmund brought home about how if you sail long enough you reach the place where the seas fall off the edge of the world. But maybe she tells them about Cinderella instead, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, except Rapunzel cuts off her own hair and uses it to climb down the tower and escape. The damsel uses what tools she has at hand.

A lion told her to walk away, and she did. He forbade her magic, he forbade her her own kingdom, so she made her own.

Susan Pevensie did not lose faith. She found it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

So many things to tell you about

Firstly, I want to tell you about a few things around the webs. Like this post by Patrick Rothfuss: For the Love of Books. In addition to the amazing work he does with his Worldbuilders charity, this year he is also raising money for First Book, a charity that gives books to kids who need them. Seriously now, if you are reading this blog I'm pretty sure you have grown up loving books. Grown up always having books. Grown up with books as your closest friends because sometimes people just don't cut it. Can you imagine not having that? Not having that phenomenal, vital escape we all take for granted? I bought the Fantasy Authors calendar. It's $20. That money goes to Worldbuilders. Then PR is donating five dollars of his own money to First Book. Then, Random House Children's Books is tripling that donation to First Book. Click the links. Give some books. Give some goats. This is really an amazing thing PR is doing.

If you hang out here at all you know I love cooking, and I've been increasingly swept into vegan recipes. I don't plan to go fully vegan anytime soon, mainly because I am way to lazy to put that much effort into anything everyday. (I can't get myself to do anything everyday. Including things that are required for polite society. Like... shower. Yeah. Sometimes, I'd just rather rearrange my bookshelves, ya know?) But meat is just... blah these days. And I have various vegan/vegetarian blogs infecting my brain these days with nefarious recipes. Anyway, I've found two great cookbooks at my local library (love. it.): one I am definitely buying, and the other will probably follow quickly.


Vegan Eats World is the one I really love. I have a weakness for international recipes. I love trying things that have different flavors, and hey, I've been eating "American" food my entire life. I want to try new things! It's a really gorgeous book, and there is a recipe on every page I want to try. (Com'on, it has an entire chapter for dumplings!) I've always wanted to work my way through an entire cookbook, a la Julie and Julia, and I could see that happening with this book. Happy Herbivore is also a great book, and it does have recipes for a few things that aren't in VEW, but it's not quite what I'm looking for. (HH is also low-fat, which seems to take a lot of the tasty out of cooking. It's a lot more RAW. Literally.) I want to check out the regular HH cookbook to see if it's more what I want.

I went to the library looking for The Secret History, and when they didn't have it went a little hog-wild making up for it. I came home with The Chaos of Stars, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Bellman & Black, and Bleeding Edge. I've been reading all of them, spending a few chapters with one before moving onto another.

It's always so hard to write on days off! I wish that weren't the case. I am finishing yet another mini-vacation, and while most of this one was devoted to finishing the breakfast nook in time for the new fridge, I really didn't get much writing done. I write best when a day follows my routine, even if that routine makes me dead tired. I only have so much time after work so it's easier to devote it to writing and not worry about getting anything else done. My days off have been filled with laundry, dishes, house stuff, etc. And I write best at night, when my subconscious knows it's too late to start another project. Only then is my mind quiet enough to focus on the story.


This writing month started halfway through NaNo, and I decided to keep my goal at 30 days. It's almost done, and I'm nowhere near my 30k goal. (And even further from the 50k NaNo goal.) But I've written 16k so far, and that is still good! I have this anxious compulsion to keep writing moremoremore, so I'm telling myself that 16k is still worth some celebrating. (P keeps telling me to stop treating it like a job, because then it won't be fun anymore. I keep telling him "but I want to treat it like a job!!!" usually in a high-pitched whiny voice.)

And now, the breakfast nook!!!

We ripped down the walls and hung new sheetrock. This is after spackling and sanding, which is one of the worst jobs known to man, you get so dirty and get all kinds of shit up your nose, and then after you do it once you have to do it all over again! In the picture below I'd already started priming. (I also had a bit of an accident with the primer.... it involved puddles... let's just say I'm really happy I was so neurotic about covering the new floor.)


The new floor and paint! I love the color. It's this really light sandy tan color. We have so many dark rooms in our house, it's nice to have something light. Look how pretty the floor is! And it's continuous from the dining room through the kitchen and into the nook, which means we can have Pledge parties and get a running start from the living room and sock-slide for a full 20 feet!!! The iron is on the windowsill because I'm pulling up old laminate (gross and annoying) so I can give the bay window a new coat of paint.


And the star.... the new fridge! So many shelves! And food in the safe zone! It's revolutionary. It's not going to stay in this spot, it'll be covering that window to the right, but it's the only way to get it to fit properly. We still need to run the new wire and the piping for the water thingamajig. It's so beautiful! It also talks to you. When the machines take over, this fridge is going to be leading the charge, I'm sure. (And if you think it's cheesy to be excited for a new fridge, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. I never thought Home Depot could be so much fun until I had my own place.) The Steampunk Kitchen grows!



Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Busy Bee

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Mine was nice, but also stressful. And as wonderful as it is to have off work, taking that time around a vacation is counter-productive to say the least. I didn't write much. I didn't clean much. And I didn't watch ANY West Wing... Instead I spent the vacation hanging with friends home from college/careers, and ate a lot of Taco Bell and pie and drank a lot of beer. I'm happy to have my routine back (even though opposite shifts still suck, as usual).

All I want to do is hole in and drink tea and do all the writing I didn't get to do last week. Except, we're getting a new fridge on Saturday (fucking awesome) so we decided to demo the breakfast nook to hang new insulation and sheetrock, paint, replace outlets and light switches, lay the new flooring, etc (decidedly less awesome). In ONE WEEK we need to be completely finished! O_o

I am not ready to rip anything apart again, even if it is a tiny room. We finished the living room at the end of 2012 (dude we whipped that room into shape so fast (but I guess you have to live somewhere, and we LIVED in that room until April—we are seriously good at sleeping two people on a couch)), but we didn't finish the bedrooms until August. I mean, the front room is still serving as an extended closet, tools and crafty shit and childhood memorabilia in one big mountain of STUFF.

Don't let my complaining make you think I don't like the house. Because the house is fucking awesome. Having a place of your own is fucking awesome. Being able to host a one-person cooking party at midnight on a Tuesday is fucking awesome.

There's all kinds of awesome to go around.

I finished one book recently:

How I Live Now - Meg Rosoff ( GR | BN )
I read this interview with the author, and I haven't heard anything about this movie at all, but I am totally excited for it! Watch the trailer here. None of the theaters around me are showing it, I may have to wait until it's out on DVD.

The book is short, less than 200 pages, and written stream-of-consciousness, without even quotation marks. I like books like this, with a very distinct voice (like Blood Red Road by Moira Young). But this was just so short. I wanted more. The story was so compelling, so powerful, it was sad to leave the characters so quickly. But I think if it was written traditionally, in a 300+ page book, it would have been too rough to get through. So maybe it's a good thing that it was short. It reminded me of Letters from Rifka, a book I loved as a kid. You have to read this. It's heartwarming and lovely.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A little bit of everything

NaNo update: I started over. For a completely lame reason, too. I just couldn't sort through the issues in my plot and still make the wordcount. I was floundering. It was painful. And I see no reason to type nonsense just to make the wordcount (as I'm actually trying to make this a learning experience) so I started working on the book I've been brainstorming for the past couple of months. It has a MUCH simpler plot, but on the other hand it is MUCH more emotional. So, easier and harder at the same time. I am a bit under my goal at the moment, but I'm still trucking. Since I don't actually care about hitting the 50k within the deadline, I am going to December 14. And I have all next week off from work (omg YAY) so I plan to be hitting the coffeeshops and all that good stuff to bang out some more words. I've never done this before: a whole week off work. I'm excited! The house is going to be SO CLEAN. Or, I am going to watch a ton of West Wing. And, you know, write.

I'd really like to see the video attached to this article (which was removed for copyright reasons) so if anyone can find it in a more legal venue I would be much obliged! But read the article. I like nice people. (And on that note, have some ninja onions.)

Harry Potter is our generation's Woodstock. This... this is just so true. I was right there, growing up with Harry. It occupies such a large portion of my childhood I don't even know how to explain to people who don't get it. I also loved this article by the same writer about why Neville rocks. Because seriously, Neville rocks. And I'd never made that connection before, between the two generations. Very astute.

I think it may be time to reread Harry Potter. I know I've been saying that for a while, but damn. I don't have the headspace with all this writing to be inhaling new stuff. (And trust me, that kills.) So many great things have caught my eye, and yet I find myself reaching for Among Others, Fire (third time this year!), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Ready Player One. All books firmly rooted on my favorites shelf.

A response to the latest YA-bashing article that's been floating around. Seriously, I don't understand people. Also, you should be following Foz Meadow's blog, because she is über smart. Nay, brilliant.

Also: Girls kick ass! Pro choice! Pro birth control! Support gay marriage! Support Obamacare! Yeah, I'm one of those people. Feel free to cower. It seemed like an appropriate time to reiterate that.

I am extremely excited for my week off next week. I want to tackle the mountains of stuff in the front room that has been slowly growing for the past few months. And also write. And oh! I'm seeing the Nutcracker Wednesday night! That is going to be sweeeeet. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, which is obviously the best holiday of the year. Try not to kill your families!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Numbers and Sentiment

I have been taking my writing semi-seriously since March 15, 2011. Yes, I remember the date. I also remember this date: April 12, 2012. That was when I began handwriting everything. But 2012 was a rough, tumultuous, insane year, and contained much more journaling and working-through-things than it did writing.

I have a new date to remember now. November 10, 2013. That's when I finally made the decision to ditch the notebooks and start working on a laptop again. I drove out to Pittsburgh with my dad for a funeral. I had a lot of thinking time to weigh the good versus the bad.

Everything boils down to this: Do I want to piss around and write fluffy things for fun? Or do I actually want to start making real progress? The truth is, I am much faster at typing than I am at writing. A night slaving over the notebook, hunched over and uncomfortable, may yield 800 words. I used my laptop on Saturday because my back was sore and I wanted to lay back in the recliner, and I hit 800 words in an hour. And I was so much more comfortable in that hour... seriously, SO much comfier.

Comfort isn't the only reason. In the notebook, I was constantly making notes in the margins, until no free space remained, because there was no way to fit it in between the paragraphs I had already wrote. I wrote, and then that was it. I couldn't expand, I couldn't describe, I couldn't rework anything until it made just enough sense to keep going. But now, I can mouse up and write in between paragraphs and write stream of consciousness just to get everything out and then it's a simple matter to clean up and make it readable. WHY IS THIS SO FREAKING REVOLUTIONARY?

It isn't revolutionary. I am a child of the technological age, and yet I insisted on keeping around these archaic notebooks. Looking back, it was solely because I was in love with the romance of it all. Penning my story, covering the pages, etc, etc. At this very moment I'm all TO HELL WITH YOU NOW! This is the age of antibiotics and streaming entertainment! Magical hoodoo computers in our pockets! Cameras that double as a communications device! What is this PAPER!? Remove this mummy-dung from my sight!

So. I'm done with the paper. I am sad, and I will likely want to go back to my wonderful notebooks, but I am not going to let myself. I am going to treat this like a professional, like the grown-up I'm pretending to be, like I have respect for this, more than just something I dabble in. I formatted my laptop to have a fresh start. (After backing everything up, of course. I'm not insane.) The journal, the calendar, the brainstorming, the drafts: they'll all live in the land of 1s and 0s now. I suddenly have this magical capability of backing up my work... if the house burns down or floods, it's possible I won't lose years of work.

But now for the horrendously overwhelming task of deciphering my handwriting and transcribing it into the typed document... *cries*

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Early NaNo update and some cool stuff

I was originally planning to post my progress on Fridays (and I still will) but after starting on a Friday and then having yesterday off (I got to play full time writer! Hint: I was really bad at it. But the house is clean.) it seemed appropriate to post it before the rest of the work week.

This is the nifty chart I made, since I'm having a hard time getting the word count function to work on the NaNo site (is this working for everyone else?). Plus, I have my own goals, I'm not strictly following the 1667 per day.

My Goals:
1. Sit down and write something every freaking day.
2. Minimum word count goal: Write 1 page (1k words) per day.
3. Stretch word count goal: Write 2 pages (2k words) per day.

I already didn't write on Saturday, but I'm not beating myself up about it. I'm easy on myself on the weekends. I'm excited to buckle down and see how much I get during the week! And I'm off work again tomorrow, which will help. (I have so many vacation days to use by the end of the year, I have a lot of random days off... great news for NaNo!)

Sidenote: if anyone would like a copy of the spreadsheet, I'm happy to send it to you. Leave a comment or better, DM me on Twitter.

Geocaching: A gigantic treasure hunt! Use a GPS to find really obscurely hidden logs, sign your name, and find the next one! Two of my coworkers are into this, and it sounds really awesome.

Strayboots: Another scavenger hunt-esque site. This one uses a smartphone to take you around landmarks of different cities, and asks trivia questions. They cost some money, but they're low enough that it would be worth it if your already tromping around a city.

Zen Pencils comic from start to finish: A really cool guide to how Gav creates his comics, complete with lots of pictures. And if you aren't already reading Zen Pencils, you should be.

Friday, November 1, 2013

NaNoWriMo 2013 BEGINS!!!!

I wasn't signed up for NaNo until yesterday afternoon, when my coworker and I realized we were both being stupid and really needed to sign up. Am I ready? No. Is she ready? Also no. Which makes NaNo perfect for us.

It's not about worrying, it's not about making flowing sentences, it's about sitting our asses down and getting our ideas onto the page. That book I've been avoiding for two weeks? (And only half-heartedly been working on for the two months prior to that?) I don't have an excuse anymore. I have to work on it. I have to figure something out, even if that something is the wrong place to go, the wrong thing to do. After I've written that wrong something, maybe then I'll have room to write the right something.

A first draft is all you need. Then, LATER, it can be made better. It won't suck forever.

Lately, I've been letting myself get overwhelmed. I'm past the easy part, the introduction, where the world is new and the characters are new and anything I write is viable. Now things have to start building on each other, fitting together, the characters need to start growing and changing, and oh yeah, eventually I need to start working on the plot.

I don't really know who my characters are yet. And you know what the worst part of that is? I probably won't know until I've finished the first draft. That is SO FRUSTRATING. I know who I want them to be, I am still excited to tell the story, but everything feels flat. Well, that's being a writer. At first my main character worked in her parent's inn and longed to see the bigger world. Now, my character avoids working in her parent's inn, because she would rather be collecting plants for the apothecary, whose owners are teaching her about the bigger world and making her want to see it. It's just a slight difference in her characterization, but it's better, and it's enough to make everything I've written feel like shit and leave me with no springboard to move forward.

Which is why NaNo works. It forces me to ignore the fact that I don't have a polished, ready-to-publish set of beginning chapters. I am jumping from a plane without a parachute. I am in the ocean without a raft. Being a writer is like making a living by catching smoke in your hands. Freaking impossible unless you have an iron will and a skewed sense of fun.

Ok, enough with the metaphors. It sucks and we're all crazy and the only reason we do this is because we NEED to tell the stories taking over our heads.

Write to keep the crazy at bay.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Books these days, with their sex and rock music...

I haven't been reading or writing very much the past few weeks. It's a strange mixture of working on the house and enjoying the house (read: not working on it). There are still staples on the edge of the stairs from the carpet we removed months ago. The front room has been emptied of stuff and then promptly filled again. We have a bunch of shows right now (Elementary, Korra, Masters of Sex, Homeland, Walking Dead, Amazing Race, plus I'm marathoning West Wing and it is SO GOOD), so Sundays are filled with watching TV. I bolted a shelf to the wall at chest height in the bedroom to be a makeshift standing desk, because sitting all day at work makes me completely opposed to sitting more while I write.

I really do love it.

I've read a few books in the past few months, and it's only fair that I tell you about them. Of course, I'm way late to the game on two of the three of them, but better late than never, I suppose.

 Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I loved this book SO SO MUCH. It made my heart squeeze and I forced myself to make it last a whole week because it made me so happy to be reading it. I nabbed it as soon as it came out back in September. The romance, the writing, the fanfiction, the college setting... there is just so much to love. This one sits on my all-time favorites shelf. I don't have much to say about it other than if you have a heart at all you have to freaking read it!





The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough

The US edition of this has been out for nearly a year, but I finally got around to it in early October. It's noir and a murder mystery and weird creepy gods and just wonderful. I felt like I was settling in for an old favorite as I read this one (even though I hadn't yet) because the setting and the characters were so real, which is a little creepy because this is definitely not a lighthearted book. It's CSI crossed with X-Files crossed with Game of Thrones, and I do not say that lightly. This is not a world I would want to inhabit. I do, however, want Cass Jones to be on my side. This one didn't have much of an ending, it flowed right into book 3, so of course I have to hunt that one down now. Definitely start with the first book, A Matter of Blood.


Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

As soon as I finished Fangirl I put this one on hold, and it's taken this long for it to get to me. A month and a half of anxiously waiting, and then I read the whole thing in a day. I never do that. It pulled me in so many directions that by the end of it I was an emotional wreck. I don't even know what I looked like to Phil when he got home, as he walked through the door exactly as I was closing the book. I am now in love with Rainbow Rowell, and will be hunting down everything she writes.
Attachments is next. This is the type of book that makes me so frigging happy just for the fact that I am reading wonderful words, and yet so depressed because how on earth could I ever top that? Not even top it, but compare? UGH SO WONDERFUL AND DEPRESSING.



What am I reading now?

Vicious by V. E. Schwab


I am reading this slowly, chapter by chapter. Thinking about it. Writing my reactions. Analyzing why Schwab did what she did. Why? Because I want to break down and discuss a book. I want to figure out what works and what doesn't, and I don't have an English class or reading group to do it with. Plus, I want to do it with an emphasis on the writing. I've tried to do this with books I've already read, but I always lose interest because I know what's going to happen. It's a really great story so far. I definitely recommend it.




Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer

This book is so cool! It's more of an art project, really. Fantastic illustrations, essays from famous writers, and a nuts-and-bolts guide to writing creative fiction. This is not something you read through. This is something you spend a year on, absorbing everything, marking it up with pencil, sticking post-it notes all over the edges. This is a crash course on writing that's full of all kinds of cool shit. If I was a writing professor, I would make every one of my students buy this book. Seriously, go to the bookstore and flip through these gorgeous pages, and I dare you not to buy it.


 Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

This book has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. Leckie takes all the gender/cultural/SF stereotypes and flips them on their heads. Read this post by Kameron Hurley, she said it much better than I did. She also convinced me to pick it up. It's a bit over my head at times, because it's been a long while since I read hard-core Sci Fi. But more books like this need to exist, the kind that make you think about how you live your life. I want books with characters other than straight/white/male. The world is bigger than that. In this same vein, I am really excited for Ascension, out in early December.




What are some other books I'm dying to read, you ask? Far too many to fit in the day.



The Lives of Tao - Wesley Chu ( GR | BN )
Miserere - Theresa Frohock ( GR | BN )
Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson ( GR | BN )
Renaissance - Oliver Bowden ( GR | BN )
Pantomime - Laura Lam ( GR | BN )
John Dies at the End - David Wong ( GR | BN )
The Secret History - Donna Tartt ( GR | BN )
Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl ( GR | BN )

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My life is complete.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny AMA

Update: Also this. Ajax Penumbra 1969 

Update the second: It's probably really terrible that I keep updating the same post throughout the day with more links, because I'm sure people miss all the updates and that's kind of the point of sharing them in the first place. In any case, Cookie and Kate is a really wonderful vegetarian/sometimes vegan/sometimes gluten free blog that has food I actually WANT to eat. (Just FYI, I'm not "officially" a vegetarian but I'm always looking for ways to eliminate the meat. Also gluten, because if you ever hang around my blog you'll know that SOME PEOPLE are in denial about their gluten allergy. *cough* << (It isn't me.))

Monday, October 14, 2013

I love food

It looks like Pinterest has made a really snazzy update to their program where it shoots a reminder at you when you try to pin something more than once. Which is really fantastic, because who wants to look at a board with the same picture over and over (more bang for your buck, people), except now I am actually forced to keep scrolling through my board until I find the freaking pin, and sometimes they are really hard to find.

But I've realized something about myself. I can't find things very well when they are on my left side. Which is funny, because my left eye has better eyesight than my right (thanks to a fantastically epic soccer injury in fifth grade that involved a ball connecting with my face).

Eventually, I found what I was looking for. Pinto beans with peaches and bacon. I made them last night, and holy hell are they delicious. Like, seriously delicious. And for those of you thinking OMG BEANS EWW VOMIT, just shillax. Don't compare them to the canned stuff that is mushier than applesauce and saltier than condensed soup. Using dried beans makes a huge difference, and ever since I started using them, I am in love. I don't really know why I was so afraid of soaking beans. I mean, seriously, all you do is stick them in a big bowl with water overnight. But they stay firmer as you cook, and they don't have gobs and gobs of salt.

Go over and check out her recipe. She's a great blogger, too. But I will tell you what changes I made.

I added a teaspoon of crushed red pepper. Because there is nothing that cannot be improved by making it spicy. Actually, you know how there are those trends of "omg you're addicted to sugar" or "omg you're addicted to dairy!" (Which I'm sure are backed by very good reasons not to eat sugar or dairy or whatever the ban-of-the-day is, but barring a sudden new allergy, we already have enough allergies to contend with without removing more delicious things from our diet. That being said, I am trying to eat less meat, but I'm not completely removing it from my diet (yet).) Anyway, I'm totally addicted to spicy food. And now Phil is, as well. So much so that we forget when we eat with friends that not everyone is insane and wants the lining dissolved from their mouth. And we go out of our way to get things like Trinidad Scorpion Chilies (that smell like dog farts) and no chili or stew or curry is complete without a healthy pile of dried ghost chilies.

And now you're thinking, "Just a teaspoon, ay?" Well. I should also note that after cooking the beans for the required hour and a half, I uncovered them and simmered the pot for another 2+ hours, to thicken it up and let the beans soften just a little bit more. A wonderful thing happens to red pepper when it is simmered. It dissolves. The capsaicin permeates everything and MULTIPLIES, and what you thought was just a measly teaspoon of red pepper (psh) gives you a very healthy burn that is comforting for us spice-aholics and unpleasant for the uninitiated. (And now, try a curry with two tablespoons of ghost chili flakes. THAT, my friends, is an adventure.)

Really, all I wanted to do here was tell you about some beans. But you are now getting so much more. (Maybe I should make an effort to blog more regularly...) I could also be procrastinating, as I originally planned to write during my lunch break. (The WIP, not the blog. But alas, distraction.)

A few things about beans. Dried beans, soaked well, do not give you gas the way canned or quick-soaked beans do. I heard that soaking them with fresh ginger helps remove more of the gases, and I happened to have some ginger that was too dried out to cook with, so I sliced it all up and added it to the bowl. I really don't know if it made a difference, but I love ginger and it made me feel scientific and smart, so I did it. And any lingering ginger taste will really only make this dish better. (Make sure you pull out the pieces before you cook, though.)

You also shouldn't add the salt until after everything is done cooking, because makes the beans tough and it takes much longer for them to cook. But honestly, I totally forgot to add any salt (a recurring problem lately), and I think it's fine. The barbeque sauce was plenty enough salty, and the spiciness makes up for any lack of salt.

What else have I been making? Well, carmelitas, and these apple cheddar scones, for starters. The carmelitas were to die for, especially when they were fresh and still hot and a bit gooey. Phil wasn't a fan of the scones ("Get this cheese out of my scone!") but I thought they were delicious. Go make those, too.

Happy eating!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lucky 300

This is my 300th post! So to celebrate, I present you with this, dear reader: Post the 300th!

I saw this great article about OCD because someone wonderful retweeted it on twitter. (It was @seananmcguire.) The whole "replaying horrible nightmares in your head" thing is pretty much it, 100%. But I just call myself a writer, and then it's research!

And because I was already on cracked.com wasting time learning vital information, I am passing these on to you for survival this Halloween.
5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen
7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly)

Monday, September 30, 2013

Cure for the "I Don't Wannas"

I remind myself that the only way to alleviate this feeling is progress: the only way out of this feeling is through. If I don't sit down and push myself to make real progress today, I will feel exactly this bad when I sit down again tomorrow, and in fact, I will probably feel worse, because of the time I wasted yesterday. This is merely how beginning feels. I need to work while I feel it, or else I'll never get past the beginning and I'll never stop feeling it. 

- Kristin Cashore

Friday, September 20, 2013

Highs and Lows and Writing and UGH, WRITING

My pretties, I've been WRITING.

My lov'lies, I've been NOT WRITING.

Really, I've realised something about how I write. I get bored easily. SO EASILY. I imagine it's the same tendency I get with everything, hence the bazillions of half-finished projects around my house: quilts, knitting, BOOKS—omg the books I've started and not finished!—TV shows on Netflix I've only half-marathoned (though possibly for the better), and then there was that short stretch of time when I thought I'd teach myself how to embroider (very short), and thankfully my urge to learn guitar didn't last long enough for me to actually spend money (that I don't have) on a guitar...


You get the point.

When I write, I have one scene in my mind. It's vivid. It's a movie. I have to dig out my phone while I'm driving to dictate a conversation before it's lost to the oblivion. I have 30 draft emails in my email account with scattered notes and ideas I had in those few moments I didn't have my notebook handy. And my notebook... the poor thing. Every top margin is filled with teeny writing, which then flows into the margins, which then flows into the skipped lines between entries.

I write the scene.

It's glorious.

I sit down every day, I earn my sticker,1 I keep writing during my lunch breaks and I can't wait to get home and continue writing. I think about it all the time. I actually have to stop myself, pace myself, so I don't get burned out. Because I do that easily, too. I write page after page, maybe taking a day off in the middle, until I have my scene.

You have to understand, I have a long workday (as I'm sure many people do). A two hour writing session means I have spinach for dinner. Forget laundry, dishes, showering. Pfft. I wrote today. I win at life.

I stare at the pages in their beautiful blue ink-scribbled glory.

And then I don't know what to write next. So I skip a day. Then two. Then three. I'm eating better, and the laundry gets done, and all the dishes, but then two weeks have gone by, and my calendar is very lacking in the cheery sea animal sticker department.

Sad Gina.

So I start writing something else, because other stories have been fighting for the spotlight for those two weeks, but I've been pushing them away because I already have a project! This thing over here, that I've been avoiding! But my willpower, it is weak. I give in. I start writing another story.

It's first person. It's contemporary. Ish. There's science, and no dragons (yet), so I guess that makes it contemporary. It's so gloriously different from my other project that I can sit down and write and make my word count and everyone is happy.

Except for the first project. It's sitting in the earlier pages of my notebook, crying and wondering what it's done to me to make me abandon it so. I actually think of the pages forming a pair of eyes and eyebrows, just enough to scrunch up and cry and make me feel like a terrible person for abandoning my baby over here.

To which I say, "Don't worry, little story. I still love you." I give it a consoling pat on the head, then turn my back on it to keep writing the Other Story.

I finish the scene. I am proud of myself. I admire all the stickers I've earned.

And then I don't know where to go next. I don't write for a day, then two, then three.

But I've been thinking about my first story now. Getting excited about it again. I know where it needs to go next, I can feel my character's pain, I can hear their arguing and their nightmares and their pillow talk. This is good, this is what I needed. A little bit of vacation to get excited about it again!

So I sit down, and start working on the first story. And earn my stickers.

I think this is okay, though. This is how I work. A very long, spaced out cycle. I'm working to compress it. I don't want to go so many days between scenes, without writing anything. Because then the words and stories inside me build up until I can't think straight. But working on a different project helps. It clears the gunk out of my engine, stretches different muscles, allows me to keep moving on something. And hey, at some point I do have to do the dishes.





1 I've actually been doing something like this, drawing a star in my calendar, for a while now. But after seeing this post, I went out and bought stickers! Sea animal stickers, to be specific. And it is SO MUCH BETTER. Now, I not only berate myself for not getting any writing done, I have adorable sharks and turtles to berate me too! All in all, everyone is happy. Except when I don't write, then NO ONE is happy. Especially the starfish, who frequently lose an arm when I don't make my writing goal but still showed up and BICHOK'd the shit out of my night and wrote something and I want SOME KIND OF CREDIT, DAMMIT, GIVE ME YOUR ARM.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Muse concert!

I went to see a Muse concert last night. It was amazing.

This is where we were sitting before everything started:


Cage the Elephant opened. I was excited to see them because I like their music, but unfortunately they kind of sucked. The lead singer was definitely on something, and he was running a bopping around so much, a guy was following him around constantly untangling the mic wire. The bass player (maybe the guitar player, I don't know we were far away) stepped out of his way and tripped over an amp, and played a song on his ass. The vary last song, the singer jumped on the same bass/guitar players back, they both topple over, the bass/guitar player pulls his strap off and just leaves the guitar on the floor, and walks off the stage looking pissed.

Crappy picture of Cage the Elephant.
Then, someone working at the venue came up to our section (number 205A) with a huge stack of tickets and asked everyone if we wanted to move up for Muse. Ummmm... YES.

So we moved up to section 124. Which is right next to the stage. For FREE.


The lights went out and everyone started screaming. It was fantastic.


We were THIS CLOSE. Did I mention how fantastic it was? Matt Bellamy is like a tiny adorable tidal wave. Amazing guitar player, and he has a fantastic voice. All that high pitched stuff Muse does? It's all him. The Bass player sings too, but the lower stuff. (Once or twice he did some high stuff though.) They played for an hour and forty five minutes straight. That's a lot of high pitched singing. I lost my voice singing along, but I may have been a bit exuberant.

And don't let me short-shrift the bass player, drummer, and keyboard/backgroud guitarist. They were all amazing. The bass player played a song on harmonica that was banging, and then threw it into the audience. They also threw guitar picks and drum sticks into the audience. (It would have been so cool to get a guitar pick. The drum sticks seem a little dangerous.)



There was this cool triangle-dome thing that went up and down during the show and showed cool videos, close-ups of the band, and crazy designs.




It was so awesome.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Books, Bellamy, and Bêtes

I have a last-minute chance to see a Muse concert! Monday night. And I am so snagging it. I've only been to a few concerts in my life, but it's something I always wanted to do more of. They can just get so expensive, so I always dragged my feet about buying tickets, even for shows I wanted to see. (We have a great radio station that tells you about all the shows coming to the area, so I hear about them a lot.) But this time a friend twisted my arm to go because her brother bailed and she had an extra ticket. (It didn't take much twisting.) We'll be geeking out about Doctor Who and All Things Nerd the whole time, I'm sure. And Cage the Elephant is opening, which is doubly awesome.

If you live in the Philadelphia/Tri-State Area, you'll be able to see a rocket launching tonight! It leaves Wallops Island, VA at 11:27 pm. Check it out! There should be clear skies. Click here for more details and a map of the viewing area. I got to see a shuttle launch on a vacation in Florida once, and it was the highlight of the whole trip. If you ever get the chance to see a shuttle launch, TAKE IT. Even if you have to drive four hours to get there. You won't regret it. Did you know that after a shuttle launches, the disturbance in the upper atmosphere creates a certain kind of cloud that only occurs after a launch? We got to see those too.

Have your nightmares been losing fuel lately? Well, I'm here to solve your problem. Presenting Reverse Speech, sent to me by a coworker who evidently gets more than enough sleep. They take recordings and play them backwards, and it's crazy how clearly words come out that are clear as day and saying exactly the opposite. I'm not really into occult type stuff, so I tend to take things like this with a grain of salt, but this totally creeps me out. Check out the reversals from the Jon Benet Ramsay case.

And duuuude, the books coming out this month! I WANT THEM ALL.


The Incrementalists - Steven Brust and Skylar White - out 9/24

Review from Little Red Reviewer

The Incrementalists—a secret society of two hundred people with an unbroken lineage reaching back forty thousand years. They cheat death, share lives and memories, and communicate with one another across nations, races, and time. They have an epic history, an almost magical memory, and a very modest mission: to make the world better, just a little bit at a time. Their ongoing argument about how to do this is older than most of their individual memories. 

Phil, whose personality has stayed stable through more incarnations than anyone else’s, has loved Celeste—and argued with her—for most of the last four hundred years. But now Celeste, recently dead, embittered, and very unstable, has changed the rules—not incrementally, and not for the better. Now the heart of the group must gather in Las Vegas to save the Incrementalists, and maybe the world. (Synopsis from BN)


Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell - out 9/10

In Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan, but for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. 

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. 

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. 

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? (Synopsis from BN)


Vicious - V. E. Schwab - out 9/24

A masterful tale of ambition, jealousy, desire, and superpowers. 

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. 

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? 

In Vicious, V. E. Schwab brings to life a gritty comic-book-style world in vivid prose: a world where gaining superpowers doesn’t automatically lead to heroism, and a time when allegiances are called into question.(Synopsis from BN)


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What exactly are we upset about? On Miley, Robin, and dancing.

For those of you who haven't seen it, there was a performance on the VMAs last night. Some may deem it racy. Some may deem it sexy. Some may deem it stupid that there were giant teddy bears on the stage in the first place. Some may think that it was two people singing two good songs that happen to deal with sex. It involved some junk touching some other junk. *OMG EWWWWW* Because, you know, people never do that. There is no actual touching involved at any time of life, and all newborn children are a result of immaculate conception. Because people NEVER decide to have consensual sex out of wedlock, OH THE HORROR.

Seriously now, what's the big deal? Miley Cyrus sang a song about doing whatever you want just for the sake of doing it, and her performance emulated that. (And one can argue that a performance should emulate the song. I guess it doesn't have to. But in this case, it did.) I say, good for her. Miley, thank you for being awesome and shoving the foots of all the naysayers into their own asses. Thank you for doing whatever you want just for the sake of doing it. Because Robin Thicke can have a video full of naked women, but Miley Cyrus can't stick out her tongue and dick around with a foam finger? (Pun intended.)

Might I remind you, no one was actually naked. There was no sacrifice to Cthulu. And as Seanan McGuire pointed out, MTV approved this. They did not cut away to the background dancers. They did not zoom in on Robin Thicke singing. And let's not forget that Robin Thicke was a part of this too. He didn't have to stand behind her. He could have stood anywhere. Miley would have just been twerking her little booty to the audience, like she already had several times so far.

When I was in high school, there was a church nearby that hosted weekly dances for kids to have somewhere safe and alcohol free to go every Friday night. It was a great idea. Except the place was rife with drugs, kids arrived already drunk, and there was so much grinding on the dance floor they probably should have been handing out condoms. My point is, nothing kids see in that performance is going to be surprising. They are already having sex. They are allowed to have sex. Their psyches are not poisoned. Get over it. Stop slut shaming. It's a good song, she's a good dancer, and she's laid back enough to be goofy. If you really hate the dancing, at least enjoy the fact that two good singers collaborated a performance between two good songs.

Update: Have since listened to the lyrics, and am realizing that Blurred Lines is actually an awful song all wrapped up in a catchy tune. Which is unfortunate. But this still has no bearing on Miley dancing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Things to love

So yes, I am in a disgustingly good mood this morning. It is much appreciated after the past few days. The weather is sunny and beautiful and currently 67 degrees, which is just enough to make my knees weak and my eyes teary... because I promise you I actually am that emotional when it comes to my beloved fall weather. I had a dark chocolate brownie for breakfast. I had a very pleasant phone call with one of our authors who is a sweetheart and made me feel very smart and useful and I am currently basking in job love. It is also Wednesday, which means a new Write Space and a new How I Write. I also found this fantastic booklist from Flavorwire, which is basically as good as porn. (It's a bit heavy on the classics for me, as is expected, but I added quite a few things to my TBR list.) Have you all seen this fantastic post on TerribleMinds the other day? (And the follow-up post on editing that appeared yesterday.) I have never read Proust, but this made me smile.

And now, two recipes that I've been really enjoying lately. Neither are gluten free (they are too delicious for us to care), but both are easily adaptable with gluten-replacements.


Spicy Thai Noodles
Modified from here.

1 box spaghetti
3/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup-plus sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1/4 cup-plus honey
1/4 cup-plus soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 small bag matchstick carrots

1. Cook pasta.
2. Make cleanup easy, and use only a spoon and the 1/4 cup measuring cup for everything. In a small saucepan, add olive oil, sesame oil, and red pepper. When I say "1/4 cup-plus," fill the measuring cup to the top, then add some extra so that it flows over the top. Heat on medium-high heat, and flick some water droplets from the cooking pasta into the pot. When the water starts to sizzle (after 2 minutes or so), turn the heat off, but leave on burner.
3. Quickly add honey, soy sauce, and peanut butter, whisk to combine. (If you don't add quickly, the pepper may burn.) Once the peanut butter is melted, transfer to a cool burner until the noodles finish.
4. Drain and transfer noodles to large bowl. Pour sauce over noodles, turn to combine. Let cool on counter, turning occasionally to let noodles soak all the sauce up.
5. Stick in fridge to cool completely and eat cold. (Or hot, whichever. We usually eat them cold.) Top with cilantro and carrots.

This is an easy dinner and super delicious and addicting! We've made it so many times, and I'm craving them all the times in between.


Honeybun Cake
Taken from here. I changed nothing from this glorious recipe.

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup olive oil
1 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. You need three big-ish bowls.
       a. In the first, whisk the brown sugar and cinnamon.
       b. In the second, whisk the cake mix, eggs, sour cream, and olive oil until just combined.
       c. In the third, whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. (It's best to do this right before taking the cake out of the oven.)
2. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Layer 1/2 of cake batter, 1/2 of streusel mix, remaining half of batter, and remaining half of streusel, spreading each layer out evenly. Swirl with a butter knife.
3. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Immediately after removing from oven, pour glaze on top of cake and tilt back and forth to cover evenly. Cool cake, but not all the way because eating it warm is a mouth-gasm. Eat and die happy.

This cake is becoming a rainy-day tradition. It's super rich and you won't believe how delicious for being so super easy.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Stand there shocked, watch the desolation

I've been listening to these two songs over and over again lately. They are just so evocative of the scene they are portraying. Neither are happy songs, but they both resonate in a way that grips my ribs and has nothing to do with the volume of the music. It's like a movie's turned on inside my head.




Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A story for a Tuesday

My current read has been the backlist of Kristin Cashore's blog. Her articles on writing are brilliant, eloquent, and simple. But what got me really hooked (as if I wasn't already from reading her wonderful books Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue) was seeing her photos of Martha's Vineyard, of the very beach where I sat and sunbathed and read amongst friends. But I also love her simple politics (read: stop hating people) and it's really refreshing to see a kind space in the internet. Because I get tired of people hating on the haters. Not because I don't agree, but because it's just more anger and I'm sick of reading about it.

In any case, I came across this short story she linked to on her blog. Drag Queen Astronaut by Sandra McDonald. She challenged readers to read the first two paragraphs of the story and see if they could keep themselves from reading the rest of it. I extend that dare to you.

And let's all stop hating people, yes?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome to my brain

Do you know what I think about when I see cows? I wonder how their skins can hold all of their stomachs and the rest of their guts inside them. I worry that as I look at them, their stomachs are going to rip and everything is going to pour out of them, intestines in a long rope and organs like disgusting, warm water balloons. I don't want to go near a cow. I don't want any of their guts to get on me when they spontaneously explode. I have no idea when or how this happened, because I didn't feel this way as a kid. It only happened recently, possibly during one of the many long trips to college through acres of farmland. Or possibly slowly, through all of the trips.

So yeah, that first episode of Under the Dome pretty much made me want to die.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Uncomfortable

Writing is going to create a lot of uncomfortable feelings for you. In my experience, one of the most uncomfortable feelings is "I can't figure out how to fix this." I think one of the reasons that's so uncomfortable is that it's only the tiniest step away from "I'll never figure out how to fix this." But you will. If you keep facing it, then getting distance, then facing it, then getting distance, then facing it again, you'll figure it out. This unsettled feeling will not last forever, I promise.
- Kristin Cashore

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wonderful Things

Wonderful things make me happy.

All the sheetrock is out of the living room. We had the new carpet for about a week and a half before piling the mountain on top of it (and this was back in April), so it was really wonderful revealing it again. We may have sprawled out on it in our sheetrock- and spackle-dust covered glory. And then we may have fallen asleep for several hours, only to wake up cold in the middle of the night with all the lights still on. The goal for tonight is to just sand, sand, sand, and spackle for as long as I can stay awake.

A coworker told me about this interview with Neil Gaiman in Philadelphia Weekly, but I wasn't able to find a copy. I finally read it here. Neil Gaiman is just an all-around awesome person who says smart things. I'm still waiting for my turn with his new book from the library. In the meantime I'm reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore (again), Lexicon by Max Barry, and Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh. All are very good.

Love Interruption - Jack White. Who is the accompanying singer??? She is amazing. And listen to the clarinets in the backround! *so much love*

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trying very hard not to freak out

A few years ago, when I was working on the Merfolk story, I allowed myself 30k to dally around in the setting and the characters and figure out what an underwater city would really be like. It consisted of a market that went up the face of a sea cliff, with stalls tucked into the nooks and crannies and caves; a castle made of coral; and kingdoms delineated by razorweed and schools of fish, and a giant squid that swam around being awesome, but hadn't found its purpose yet. Actually, it was all pretty cool, though terribly difficult. (Like playing the underwater levels in video games. NO ONE likes the underwater levels. It's hard enough to worry about up, down, left, and right without also thinking about forwards and backwards and upside-down and rightways-left.) But when I hit 30k I made myself stop and really try to figure out the political conflict. I had something vague, and it built up until I had a detailed conspiracy that just didn't fit together completely yet. Like a puzzle, I had this red section put together, and all this green over here put together, but the important parts wouldn't fit yet. Then, I had this flash of OMG THIS GUY IS A TRAITOR AND HE DID THIS AND THIS AND THIS AND SO AND SO FINDS OUT AND ZOMFG I AM A GENIUS!!! So I sat down to write everything out so I wouldn't forget it, and *poof* it was gone. GONE. It was worse than trying to remember a dream. I tried to get it back for a couple of weeks, then put it aside, disheartened, meaning to get back to it. I still haven't. Maybe someday, because that flash of brilliance was like a freaking drug and I want to find it again. (And yes, I realize that maybe my flash of brilliance wasn't as flashy or as brilliant as I think it was, and it was just an in-the-moment brain-high. I don't care. I remember it as awesome, and that makes it so.)

So where am I in my current story? That place with lots of pieces and lots of space in between them. I know point B, but point A keeps changing. Sometimes I feel like I'm thinking through vanilla pudding and sometimes I feel like a puppy chasing a biscuit that's dangling from a stick tied to my collar. I am slowly unearthing more about my characters, but each bit leads to five other bits I need to figure out. But I really really want to find that awesome thing that makes everything fit together. I'm sure it won't be that easy. In the meantime, I'm trying to keep everything straight in my head enough to keep writing. It's working somewhat. Too much time is devoted to the house. Granted, the house really needs to get done. But spending three hours a night going over the same areas over and over again with the freaking spackle knives, and then with the sanding block getting shit in your eyes and your nose because dust is everywhere and it's not nearly as fun as Dust it's just scratchy and dry... it makes you punchy really quick. Especially when I'm not giving myself time for the fun things, like writing or keeping up with tv shows or just taking a deep breath and enjoying the fact that I'm living in my own space.

I really want to write. Phil really wants to play Borderlands. It makes for two rankled people and slow-going with the spackle. We wanted to be finished by Monday, but not sure if that is still going to happen. I don't want to say we can't do it, because then I'll just give it up for a bad job and nothing will get done before then and now. So. MONDAY. FUCK YOU MORE THAN NORMAL.