December 31, 2011

Taft 2012!!!!!

My reading list for 2011 was sadly short. I've learned I cannot read fiction while writing - it's too hard to keep my own zombie world straight from someone else's fictional world.  So I read bits of non-fiction here, pieces of magazine articles there, all in a nightly effort to purge the zombies from my head to get a restful night's sleep.

It's only been in the latter part of the year that I've read any fiction at all, and much of that's been in the guise of market research. World War Z, Feed...zombie books that made my head spin, sometimes, and certainly didn't help with my sleep issues.

But then...

But then.

Taft 2012: A Novel
By Jason Heller
Quirk Books Paperback Original
Publication Date: January 17, 2012
Pages: 256
I follow Quirk Publishers on Facebook and Twitter because I love them. They published Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, a book which made me laugh so hard one night in bed that I woke up (and pissed off) the deep-sleeping Charles. (There's a scene in which Charlotte is eating leaves and it KILLS me, every time I think about it...)  When they ran a short contest to give away copies of their upcoming Taft 2012, the debut novel of Jason Heller, I retweeted like a good little follower...and I won!  I had no idea what the novel was about, but win it I did, and when I received it in the mail on a Wednesday I picked it up, dug in, and didn't put it down until I finished that Saturday.

Yep.  Three days. Not even.  And when you consider my day-to-day duties as mother and wife and dog-owner and writer...I don't get a lot of time to read.  This wasn't reading to go to sleep; this was consciously ignoring my normal duties in order to read.

So. Suffice to say, I liked it.

Loved it, even.  In fact, I'd say it's my favorite read of 2011, even though it's not officially released until January 17 of this year.  I even enjoyed it more than the great Jeffrey Euginedes's gorgeous novel, The Marriage Plot.  

I'm not surprised I loved it.  I enjoy satire and I'm a political junkie, so Heller's combination of social and political satire engaged me on many levels.  He took an absurd idea (President William Howard Taft disappeared on the day his successor, Woodrow Wilson, took the oath of office.  Almost a century later, in 2011, he reappears on the White House lawn and resumes his political career, becoming a candidate for the 2012 election.) and turned it into something cool, something fun to read, something humorous and entertaining and something unfailingly smart.

Heller is clearly a man who's up on the times. His chapter on Taft's foray into (a bastardized version of) molecular gastronomy had me laughing out loud again (this time Charles was, luckily, still awake).  He attacks the corruption of the modern food production industry.  His pages of tweets and transcripts of political shows tap into the zeitgeist with which we live. I'm sure it's no accident the Taft Party sounds so much like the Tea Party, a party which possibly started with the right ideas, but with deep foundation of corruption.

But there's something more here.  By describing the imagined inner workings of the brain of the only man who ever served this country as President and Chief Justice,  Heller created a character readers will want to get behind.  He created an ideal political candidate, with heart, courage, and, amazingly, brains enough to acclimate to the 21st Century after a hundred years of unexplained slumber.

Hell, I'd even vote for Heller's Taft!  And he was a Republican! (Well, not over our current President...I like him.  But over any and all of the current Republicans? Hell, yes, I'd choose Taft!!)

It's a funny comment on our times, that people are looking to the past to find...um...sane choices for political races today.  But no matter how you plan to vote, Taft 2012 is a great book.  

Trust me. Read it. You'll thank me.

December 25, 2011

A Christmas Eve Odyssey

Santa got Zoe a big-girl bike this year. The delivery of said bike was tricky - it was supposed to be delivered on a Friday, so I made sure to be home all day, but it never came.  So then I had to work from home the following Tuesday so they could try again.  

It came in a box, not assembled. I hustled it over to our neighbor's garage, where it was to sit until Christmas Eve, when Charles would put it together after Zoe went to bed.

"Are you sure you don't want to go put it together at Monica and Justin's ahead of time," I asked one night, trying to be practical. We were hosting a gathering of family and neighbors Christmas Eve, and I had a feeling things could get a little hectic.

"Nah," said Charles.  "I'll put it together Christmas Eve. It's tradition."

More famous last words have never been said.

Charles, Zoe and I spent Christmas Eve day prepping for the party. Cleaning, cooking, cleaning some more.  My hands were chapped and chafed before noon.

The party started around five, and pretty soon we had a full house. We ate, drank and were merry with the best of them. Three children (ages 3 to 18 months) ran circles from my kitchen to my living room and back (too bad I don't have a bigger house so the route could have been longer). They exchanged gifts, after which the adults tried on the superhero masks and played with Zoe's new light saber. We set out reindeer food on our front lawns.

Finally, it was time for the children to be in bed. Santa was coming, you know...

Neighbors and families said goodnight, and I ushered an exhausted Zoe upstairs, where she was asleep within seconds, despite the overwhelming, ohmigos-mommy-santa's-coming-and-i'm-still-awake feeling that was bubbling up in her speech.  I headed downstairs where I was thrilled to find Charles had already cleaned up all evidence of the party.

Phew, I thought. I can set out the gifts, we can build the bike and then go to bed ourselves.

I did say we up there. I really did think we were going to build the bike.

Then Charles smiled. His eyes were...glassy. His drink was...full.  

Oh no.

My husband is incredibly responsible. He almost never drinks to drunkeness. He always gets the job done.

But something about those glassy eyes...I started to wonder. But...no.  No big deal, just some glassy eyes.

Then he told me...the dads had a plan. Charles was going to help Jamie unload his son's Powerwheels, then go to Justin's to help him build his daughter's slide. After that, he was going to bring the bike home and get it built.

It was 8:30. Not too late. I figured that was a good plan.

So off he went, to help the other dads.

Once I was sure Zoe was sound asleep, I pulled out her presents and re-organized under the tree to make it look impressive. Santa hadn't brought her much - the bike was the big gift, and it would look pretty standing next to our tree.  I just wanted to be sure everything was perfect.

8:45 came and went. Then 9:00. I started to get a little concerned.

I walked across the street to pick up Zoe's bike myself. I carried the box home, and then texted Monica, at whose house Charles was building the slide. 

"I stole the bike," I said.  

"I'll be right over," she responded.

Uh oh, I thought again. Her text meant the slide was taking a long time to be built. It meant I'd be putting the bike together myself maybe.   It was getting nearer to 10.

She showed up a minute later and let me know...Charles and Justin were working on the slide still.  Charles...was a little silly. He'd maybe had a drink too many. So we set about unpacking the bike. It wasn't in too many pieces - just the handlebars, seat, front wheel and the main bike frame. And, of course, the flower-shaped pedals, which were Monica's favorite part. We unwrapped each piece, congratulating ourselves on how well we were doing.  We could do this.

Still no Charles.

Suddenly the front door opened. Our other neighbors stood there, baby monitor in hand, coming in for the long haul. Jamie looked at me and smiled.  "You girls gonna put that bike together?" he said.

We nodded, still confident.

"With what tools?" he asked.

We'd only just gotten to the "tools needed" part of the manual. So I said, "Well, I already have a screwdriver out." (I did! Flathead AND Phillips!)

He laughed.  "I'll go get my tools. Your husband...he doesn't need to be building a bike tonight."

And thus I learned exactly how silly Charles had gotten. These things happen...we've all been there...but Zoe's bike...needed to be built.

And thus I learned exactly how key it is to have awesome neighbors. While Charles and Justin finished building a slide (Charles, I'm still dubious about exactly how much you "helped"), Jamie sat down and put together Zoe's bike. When the brakes fought him, we provided moral support (Monica finding and reading key paragraphs of the manual; me handing him tools; Jennifer squeezing the brake handles that were sort of...in a place where I shouldn't reach them.  Monica and I screwed in the pedals.).  

At some point, Charles and Justin came over to see what was going on at our place. My husband (responsible, wonderful, loving Charles) was quite tipsy. I think it was that one last drink he'd taken over to Monica and Justin's an hour before. I think that put him over the edge. But at least he was home, and he was helping Jamie.

When it was time to fill the tires with air, I went to the garage to get the pump. As soon as I came in, Charles...went to the garage to get the pump. We all knew what he was doing. I could have gone to get him, but it was sort of more fun to let him look for a while.

I'm mean sometimes, what can I say?

It was almost 11 when the bike was done and everyone filtered back home again. I went out to the garage again and attacked the box with a box-cutter, slicing and dicing until I could hide the evidence behind our recycle bins. It was cathartic, cutting it up with a vengeance.

The next morning, Zoe was thrilled to walk down the stairs and find her bike. All the neighbors were outside pretty early in the morning, so everyone who participated in the bike-building-event got to see Zoe go for her first ride. It worked out...better than I could have imagined. Until those pedals? That Monica and I screwed in so diligently? Yeah, they fell off, and Charles screwed them back in and tightened them with a wrench. He was quite proud.

So...the moral of this story is...build stuff BEFORE the Christmas Eve party, but if you don't, you better have as awesome neighbors as I do. Because you just never know what a night's going to bring.

December 22, 2011

Let the holidays continue with my thankful post

I don't think I officially wrote a Thanksgiving, "I am thankful for" post, and in retrospect, I really should have!

I've had "heavy boots" for the past few days (thanks, Jonathan Safran Foer for that oddly descriptive term!), which just means I've been feeling pretty down. Pretty low. Which isn't the best way to feel during Hanukkah and Christmas.

But tonight, after a slightly crazy Hanukkah party at my parents' house, I'm feeling better. I'm feeling...good. And so it's time to tell you all the things for which I am truly thankful, this holiday season.  I can't believe it's taken me so long to do this.

  • I'm thankful for my family. First and foremost and always, my family.  My husband Charles. My daughter Zoe. They are wacky and zany and sometimes I don't know how my house will contain their shared energy, but they keep me SO aware of life at all times.  My parents, my brothers. I couldn't have ever asked for a more wonderful group of people to raise me. My in-laws, on both sides; I've found acceptance with a wider group of people I ever imagined possible.  I am truly blessed, and I don't use that term lightly. Ever.
  • I'm thankful that in my 30s (and oh dear Lord, I'm in my 30s) I've found the ability to mostly be myself. I dress how I like (boots! I love boots!); I wear my hair how I like (even on crazy days like today when it's curly and wild and I can't contain it); I do the things I like and I read and write the things I like. When I look back at teenage- or twenties-me, I never even knew that was possible. I spent so much time trying to be what I thought other people wanted to be; now, mostly, I'm just me. And I sort of, mostly really like me.
  • I'm thankful for my friends, old and new, young and old. I'm thankful for the fact that if I were to post on Facebook or Twitter today that I needed a couch on which to crash anywhere in the tri-state area,  I'd have volunteers. And couches. And even beds. I have friends I've known since I was two; I have friends that are new this year. It's amazing, how a circle of a person's life continues to grow throughout the years. I hope it never shrinks.
  • I'm thankful for chocolate. For red wine. For coffee. These are my vices, and I support their sweet, loving, cozy effect on my life. I accept that I love them, and they love me.
  • And oh dear God I'm thankful for running and yoga and my punching bag, without which my love of my vices would have me weighing close to a thousand pounds. I'm thankful my foot stopped hurting, because not being able to run sucked. My punching bag is maybe the coolest thing I own.  And I have muscles that hurt today that I didn't even know I had, and I love that.
  • I'm thankful for employers who understand that, no matter what, Zoe is my priority. If she's sick, I can be with her, and not everyone can say that.
  • I'm thankful that I found writing.  Nothing quite fulfills me like throwing a thousand or two words on my computer screen, re-reading them, and finding that I've created something that's entirely my own. Not many other things can do that for me.
  • Along that line, I'm thankful that Charles considers it a fact that my book will sell. It's not an if, in his mind; it's a when.  And that's pretty cool. Whether or not it actually happens, he believes it will.
  • Finally, I'm actually thankful for the Internets, without which I'd not be in touch with at least half of my friends. Without which I'd know next to NOTHING about the publishing industry into which I am so anxious to hurl myself without a safety net (my new-found knowledge IS my safety net).  Without which I wouldn't even know what a query letter is, let alone that the idea of self-publication even exists. 

Hot damn. It's been a good freaking year. Even with my occasionally heavy boots, I have so much to be thankful for.

I hope you can say the same.

December 20, 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

I'm not going to lie - Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays. I love the candles, love the silly little gifts, love it all.

Here are some snippets from our first night - tell me about yours!
  • I'm a little tired. I still haven't been sleeping much. I worked from home today (and yes, I actually worked!), ran on my lunch break, and did little things once I was done working. Dinner felt...daunting. So I begged Charles to take us out, even though we normally do the first night of Hanukkah in.  The best part of dinner? On the drive home, my non-Jewish husband spent the whole ride attempting to teach Zoe the first Hanukkah prayer. Here's sort of how it went:
    • Charles: Baruck
    • Zoe: Baruck
    • Charles: Obama!
    • Me: NO!
    • Zoe: Obama!
    • Charles: Ok, Baruck Ata.
    • Zoe: Baruck Ata...
    • And so on and so forth...they did really well, and she was able to recite most of it with us.
  • We came home and lit the candles. True to what you're supposed to do with your lit menorah, Charles put in in our (back, but who's counting) window.  However, the blinds weren't up quite high enough, and minutes later I was sniffing.  "Hmm...burned plastic..."  The blinds are now in the trash.  
  • Zoe got a Hanukkah bear from Charles's mother, which she promptly named something like "Rorshaw."  Then, in her bath, she decided that clearly Rorshaw, a boy, needed to marry her favorite bear "Kesy" (pronounced Keshy...she chose the spelling and pronunciation.), also a boy.  They have now been sung to, forced to hug, and danced with, all before bedtime. I think at one point she was marrying BOTH of the bears.  On some levels, I'm very proud...on others, completely baffled.  Mostly on the names though.  What the heck is a Rorshaw?

So yep, that's Hanukkah in our house...at least the first night.  At latest count, we have one sinus infection (me), one incredibly runny nose (Zoe) and three tired people  Tonight's Hanukkah gifts have all been tucked away under the Christmas tree, ready for another day.

Really, I have no complaints. My cup runneth over.

December 19, 2011

Home(sick?) for the holidays

A middle-of-the-night blog post, you request? Well sure, why not? Seeing as how Zoe just woke us up, and I'm still jacked-up on steroids thanks to a sinus-infection-triggered-asthma-thing, and am wired and wide awake, and have a fully-formed post floating in my head.

Sure, why not.

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Please let the record show this post in no way indicates any dissatisfaction with my current life/situation, but is only a collection of holiday memories that each leave me a little sad, longing for home and a childhood that, up on reflection, was pretty damn lovely.

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But yeah.  We all know I'm a Yankee girl who's made my adult home in the South, in my adopted (and well-loved) city of Charleston.  I am at peace with that decision in so many ways.

But sometimes, around the holidays especially, I get to remembering winters up there, back in Jersey, and I miss things that I know, even if I did live there still, would be long gone anyway.  Here are a few:

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It's a running joke in my family that I memorize movie quotes and, in particular, songs to the many, many musicals that were a running theme in my childhood. I often use this skill to drive those I love mad, and I love that I see Zoe developing a similar one (right now, she probably has 15 Christmas carols memorized, and she's only three!).  But sometimes it backfires, because sometimes a song can set me back in time so realistically, it's hard to come back to my current life without at least a bit of a sigh.

Anything from Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas has this effect on me, but most particularly the song "Ain't No Hole in the Washtub." I only have to hear the first line ("Head full of good thoughts, belly full of grub, money in your pocket when there ain't no hole in the washtub..."), and suddenly there I am, in my childhood living room, the taste of (oddly) popcorn balls in my mouth. I can picture the couch (orange-y plaid pattern for a long time, then a series of other fabrics, including one with...pheasants? Quails? Some random game birds.), and the cave-like feel of our basement-cum-apartment, and I can see the Christmas tree lights with our flashing star up on top of the tree.  We always had a real tree, for as long as I can remember, and the smell of pine takes me there as well.  I remember hauling the tree down the stairs, or at least following my parents as they did it, then sweeping up the needles from the trail they left in the kitchen.

I love those memories. I was so young. I remember fervently believing in Santa Claus and the Hanukkah Fairy (my mom's invention, to keep Hanukkah as exciting as Christmas in our mixed household), who'd hide our presents in the storage room/pantry that had lots of nooks and crannies and monsters and ghouls, at least in my mind.  I remember waiting up with my brother Daniel for as long as possible on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of a reindeer hoof outside our ground-level window in our chimney-free house.  I remember sneaking out of our bedroom in the middle of the night to see if Santa had come, and he always had, no matter what. The bottom of our tree would be crammed with presents of all shapes and sizes, and our stockings (still my favorite part of Christmas) would be full-to-bursting, set just out of reach of our dog, Brittney, who liked to chew things even into her old age.

It was so magical, you know?

Now-a-days, Charles and I try to re-create that magic for Zoe.  My Nana made us kids special Christmas stockings when she was alive, and since she wasn't alive when Zoe was born, I spent a couple months creating a similar one for her, so she has a sparkly, felt Christmas stocking that I probably love more than she does.  Because it makes me think of Nana.   We hide presents and blame the Hanukkah Fairy on each night of Hanukkah.  We light the candles and say the prayers, and we set out cookies for Santa Claus.

It's not magical for us, I don't think. We're too old, too jaded.  But I hope to impart some of the magic to Zoe.

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I also spend a lot of time around the holidays thinking of New York City, to which we'd travel by train at least once per holiday season, every year.  Mom and Daniel's birthdays are right after Christmas, too, so we'd always, always get there to celebrate.  We've done the Fifth Avenue Christmas Windows.  I've ice skated in Rockefeller Center.  The huge tree there? Yep, I've seen it. Love it.

We tramped all over mid-town and the Upper West Side when I was a kid, in all kinds of weather just like we were mailmen or something. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor hail seemed to be our motto, and just ask me sometime about me, a rainstorm, the subway system and C.H.U.D.  It's a good story.

I'm dying to show Zoe the city during the holidays, but I get it...she's still a bit young. Maybe when she's five or six, she and I will start taking an annual trip there, so those sites can be as special to her as they are to me.  And in the meantime, I guess I can cue up Miracle on 34th Street yet again.

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And finally, what would the holidays be to me if I didn't remember my years working at Il Forno bakery in Montclair, New Jersey.  I worked there through my later college years, and it was home to a few of us girls who loved it (and, sometimes, hated it, in our own stubborn ways).

The holidays at the bakery were chaotic. Thanksgiving morning and Christmas Eve morning always found all the local (or in my case, semi-local, since I'd usually be with my parents, 45 minutes away, but I'd have to make the drive anyway) employees wandering through the doors by 6 a.m. to start filling bread orders for dozens of customers.  The smell of yeast; of coffee; of olive oil and tomato sauce and rosemary. They all take me there.

We'd whine, being up so early on holidays, but we'd have so much fun. I remember laughing a lot, particularly with my friends Rhea and Christina, and Rossella, our boss and work-mom, who we all adored. It was always a loud, boisterous time, and when the last customer would leave, we'd sort of collapse in the back, then set about the task of sweeping, mopping, and washing the thousands of dishes that accumulated through the morning.

I've not yet found bread that even approaches the quality of Il Forno's, and if anyone can give me the recipe for the pignoli nut cookie crescents, well, I'll be in your debt, big-time.  And I certainly don't miss those crazy-early hours.

But the food? The friends? The holiday dinners for which Rossella cooked the most AMAZING Italian food I've ever eaten?

Yeah, I'd love to re-visit that. Just for a day or two.

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I guess when you get down to it, I'm really lucky. My memories are lovely, and I'm glad to have them. I only get a little sad, a little nostalgic, for the past, and while I know you sometimes can't go home...well, it's nice to have triggers that at least help you remember, right?

So...here's one of mine. Enjoy.


December 16, 2011

I'm DONE

I just looked at my site and realized I hadn't posted since December 4th!  For someone who tries to post twice a week, going 12 days without posting is sort of strange.

But...I've been very "eye on the prize" for these last two weeks, focused on editing my book to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. 

And I succeeded! I wanted to finish this draft and send it to readers before the holidays. (My friend Jen gave me the goal of by Festivus, on the 23rd, so I've had that in my head.)  I finished inputting my last edits on Wednesday night, and yesterday hit Send on the email to readers with my draft attached (I had to check 97 times to make sure the pdf file was ACTUALLY attached).  

So now! I get to focus on the holidays, probably to the exclusion of everything else!  Fun, right?  Christmas! Hanukkah! Good times!

Of course...then, after hanging out with my parents for dinner at their place on Sunday, my dad came down with a stomach bug. He was sick all day Monday. Yuck.

And if you know me well, you know NOTHING freaks me out quite like the threat of a stomach bug! They are the WORST, in my opinion.  So this week, amid editing, I've been downing Vitamin C like someone's paying me to do it. I've been feeding Zoe oranges and lemonade like they're going out of style.  Charles has been watching...amused.  

I thought we were safe. I thought we'd made it through.

But then yesterday, while sitting at work, WHAM!  I got smacked in the face with an amazing round of nausea.  If I were a Puker (In my mind, there are two kinds of people in this world: Pukers and Non-Pukers. I am a Non-Puker.), I'd have been a goner.  But it was weird...my stomach didn't hurt, nothing else was wrong...I just felt like I was car-sick, even though I was sitting in a stationary chair at my desk.

So...I did what any other logical person would do...I took Dramamine! And it helped! I got through the day! And last night, since I was DONE with my latest draft, I was able to be a miserable lump on the couch without feeling guilty. 

It was beautiful...and also quite miserable.  And today I'm not nauseous, but I AM coughing, so I think I never had a stomach bug at all...just preliminary symptoms of bronchitis.  Sweet! 

Once again, since I am DONE with my draft, I can be a lump today. Zoe's at school.  Charles is at work. I plan to sit here on my couch...maybe wrap presents...maybe go ship gifts to Oklahoma and New Jersey...maybe buy Charles the latest Vanity Fair (RIP Christopher Hitchens...you were a cad, but you were a cad who was a brilliant writer and a Really Smart Guy). 

And I get to do it all guilt free...because my latest draft is DONE.

Phew. I'm glad I finished. 

December 4, 2011

Market Research: The Results Show

I finished the latest draft of my novel on November 3rd.  Following the advice of all writers I know/follow/read, I printed it out and (accidentally) gave it to my husband (I left it on the stairs, and he grabbed it before I knew what happened).  He put it way for me (translate: hid) and agreed to give it back on December 7th.

I decided to use the time for what I called "market research," although I know my use of the term and its actual definition are probably rather divergent. But who cares, right? I immersed myself in reading and took a step back from writing (although I did give in to the urge to create about halfway through, and started Book 2).  I didn't get quite as much read as I initially planned, but now I have some items of (my own, personal) interest to report.

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My first stop on the market research train was with Max Brooks's World War Z.  Confession: before I picked up that book, I'd never read a single zombie-genre novel (I don't count Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It may be zombies, but it's also hard-core satire.).  So, I was curious to see how what I wrote compared to one of the best-selling zombie books of the past few years.

It...took me a while to get into it.  I wasn't a huge fan of the numerous narrators and lack of a standard story arc, at least not at first. It felt disjointed.  

But then I started to take it at face value, and read each chapter as its own short story, and I finally started to get it.  Then I found a lot of fun tidbits to put in my files.


  • For one, I squealed when I read about an aluminum baseball bat collapsing when used as a weapon, and congratulated myself on picking the stronger, sturdier, wooden Louisville Slugger as the weapon of choice for my main protagonist.
  • I found that a lot of what I thought I made up (thick, black blood from zombies, as an example) is standard-issue zombie lore.  There's a pretty set zombie-vocabulary these days: moaning, lurching, infection, all words commonly used.
  • And by the end, I found myself learning from the multiple narrators.  Brooks can write in different voices rather fluidly, and I can take away a lot from that.
So...all-in-all, while not my favorite book ever, it was a totally worthwhile market research read.

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Next, I moved onto Stephen King's On Writing, about which I've already talked on this blog.  But still, I can talk more.  Because it was so full, so rich with advice and encouragement, it practically oozed awesomeness.  

I love Stephen King.  Always have, always will. I am dying to get a copy of his latest, 11/23/63, that is not a fancy special-edition, signed by the master himself, that Charles somehow purchased through a miracle...because, you can't read a fancy special edition, signed by the master himself.  And I want to read it.

That said, hearing him say that things I am doing are also things that work for him was like...magic.  Ok, if HE does it, and I do it, maybe I'm doing something right!  So, for now I will continue to:

  • Keep to a schedule as best as I can (child drama permitting).  This means I shoot for at least 1000 words a day, to be written after the beast has gone to sleep.  I will do this whenever working on a first draft of a story/novel.
  • Keep writing with a certain person in mind, wondering what he will think of particular scenes, how he will react, if he will laugh or be scared or (God forbid) be bored.  (Charles, be honored.  You're my Ideal Reader.)
  • Cut, cut, cut.  I will not be an adder-to-er. I will be a cutter-from-er.  If it kills me. I will not be precious about my writing.

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I am currently reading (and hope to finish before the 7th) Feed by Mira Grant.  This is straight-up zombie-lit, sci-fi apocalypse stuff, as told from the perspective of a (ahem) blogger.  So...lots to learn here, too.

  • I love that Grant created a whole new mythology for herself. In her world, a human-made virus has infected the ENTIRE PLANET, so that anyone who dies will arise as a zombie, regardless of their bite-receiving status.  A bite from a zombie will only hurry things along.  She's created a world of paranoia, of blood tests and extremism and viral-terrorist attacks that's pretty out there and interesting.
  • That lets me know that even though I'm writing in this genre, I can bend it as much as I want.  Which is freeing, to say the least.
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Finally, a comment by an agent I follow about the rash of tiresome writers blogging about...writing...has made me start to rethink my blog format.  I think I need to be doing something *other* than just this...airing my dirty laundry for the world to read.  So I plan to start reaching out to other writers, seeing what they have to say, and also posting more about...zombies! Hooray!

So this could be fun.  I need a title, too... I'm currently thinking of calling this nameless site "The Zombieist Perspective." Let me know if you hate it. 

So that's my 5 weeks in review.  I have a few days in which to finish Feed,  and I think I can do it. And I cannot WAIT until I get my book back. Time to dive back into the shallow end...hopefully I won't break my neck!

December 2, 2011

World AIDS Day, one day late

My special occasion posts are always a day late. It takes me a day to process, I think, and decide if/how I want to commemorate.  I apologize for my chronic lateness.

*************

I don't really remember a world without AIDS, although it didn't become widely publicized until the mid-late 80s, when I was already alive and quite aware of the world.  I remember hearing about it a little back then, some super-scary illness that was killing lots of people.  But those dying were always presented as some *other* from me...drug users, mostly. I have no memories of hearing about a "gay cancer," nor would I have understood what that meant if I had.  At least, not at the time.

In short, although I was vaguely aware of the chaotic world which sparked a man named Jonathan Larson to create the musical Rent, I was very, very far removed from it.

But still. At some point in high school, my friend Cheryl and I discovered the music from Rent, which was just beginning its award-winning run on Broadway at the time.

We...fell in love with it.  The music. The characters. The story.  That was it, we were hooked.  It was really my first view into the world of HIV/AIDS in the United States.

Later, I'd read Angels in America (Parts 1 and 2) in school.  I'd watch the news. I'd learn about HIV/AIDS epidemics around the world.  I'd become invested in a fight to stop this disease from spreading, from hurting the ones I loved (because by then, let's face it, I had friends of all races, sexual preferences, and drug-using-statuses).

Now, someone I know and love very much is HIV positive.  Yet, somehow, he's maybe the healthiest person I know. Never sick, always busy, always positive in SO many ways other than HIV.

It's not a death sentence anymore, which is amazing.  Bono wrote a piece in the NY Times yesterday to show some of the progress that's been made within the past decade, and it was eye-opening.  Exciting.  Invigorating.  Maybe someday soon we CAN stop this disease.

But until it's gone from the world, you can be sure people will still die.  And...it will break the heart of anyone who is touched by a person with HIV/AIDS.  Watch this clip from the movie version of Rent.  It's the song following the death of Angel, my favorite character, a drag queen with AIDS. She's beloved.

Just watch it.  I dare you not to cry.  We can still work harder to end this.  We can still fight HIV/AIDS.


November 30, 2011

Oh, Twitterverse, how you baffle me...

I joined Twitter ages ago, right after it started, probably in order to look at something posted either by Charles or my brother, Daniel. They're cutting edge, you see.

In first year or so, I posted maybe five tweets about what I ate for breakfast and the other banalities of life.  I followed.....Charles and Daniel.  The only people who followed me were porn stars. (I know because I accidentally clicked a link for one while at work and it was NSFW!!!!!) (Also, I have no idea why a porn star  would ever follow me. I am the lamest, non-porn-ish person in the history of the world!!)

So then I wrote a book, and decided to try to get it published. I started developing a web presence. I subscribed to agents' blogs.  I commented on their posts. I switched from mom-blogging to (mostly) writerly-blogging.

But I still shied away from Twitter. I still didn't quite get it. 

But I needed to, I got that. I read blog posts about agents finding new clients via Tweets.  I saw that most agents I followed on the blogosphere also were heavy Twitter users.

So...I dusted off my Twitter account, added my standard profile pic, and got to Tweeting.

I started following those same agents, and was amazed to learn if I responded to something they Tweeted, every so often they'd Tweet back!  OMG they TWEETED TO ME!!!

Clearly we were friends, right? Clearly, I was on my way to landing an agent.

But then those same agents posted about the irritation of having writers query them via the Twitters, asking them for critiques via the Twitters, and I realized.  Yeah, we're not friends yet.

Luckily I had not yet committed one of those cardinal sins, so I'm still in good standing with most people I follow.  But still...sometimes...OMG they TWEETED TO ME happens again, and I want to think, "Oh, see? We're REALLY friends now.  I can make my move."

I don't...but I see how easy it could be to make that mistake. Because online? In the Twitterverse? They all seem so friendly and accessible.  In fact, it's going to require some self control to NOT Tweet this very post to several of those agents who I really want to be my friends. To just say, "Hey, I wrote this.  See how cool and savvy I am? Not like those [turns up nose] other writers!"

Honestly, it's not that I'm desperate.  I'm not even ready to query yet.  But I, and so many other writers...we're proud of what we've accomplished, right? When you finish something book-length, it's hard not to stand on the rooftops to sound your mighty Yawp to let the world know you're done.

But still. I have to show restraint. Discretion.  Otherwise I'll seem desperate, and who the hell wants to work with Desperate Girl No. 354392744632?

Ugh.  Even I don't want to work with her.

So I'll contain my excitement, which threatens to bubble over every other day, for at least a little while longer, and I'll play by the rules, even though Twitter makes the rules feel...different.  Because, if I can talk to you, if I can engage you in conversation, why can't I ask you to read my stuff?

(Answer: Because they all have jobs to do, and rules are there for a reason, and it would be insanely annoying to be bothered via Twitter every day by a zillion hopeful authors.)

Anyway, while I'm already complaining about the confusion of making friends on Twitter, I have one other non-related Twitter question.  Can someone explain to me...If I want to re-Tweet a link, but want to add my own little commentary, how do I do that? Because when I click Retweet, it just does it...doesn't allow me to edit.  What am I doing wrong??

Anyway, that's my *other* confusion of the week...because I'm tired of talking about three-year-olds and monsters. 

November 27, 2011

When life hands you lemons...

...sometimes it is damn hard to make lemonade. Don't you think?

So I finished my draft of Book 1 three weeks ago (ish) now, and immediately decided to take a few days off. Go on break, more or less.  Focus on reading instead of writing, doing my "market research" on contemporary (translate: selling) zombie lit.  

Yeah. 

So then, a day or two later Zoe had an ear infection.  Then came the horrific reaction to FluMist and several trips to the doctor and many nights of very little sleep due to her coughing and my own worry. 

We finally made it past that phase, only to find ourselves in the midst of another one: Zoe...has stopped...sleeping...and for all that is good and holy in this world...to me, sleep is up there on the list.  And I'm not getting much these days.

When Zoe was a newborn, Charles and I were as prepared for the sleepless nights as anyone could be.  We slept in shifts, one of us on the couch while Zoe slept in her swing, the other trying to catch more restful, quiet sleep upstairs.  We hit survival mode and just...got through it.  Gracefully on his part, less than that on mine.

But now. Now.  Now Zoe is three and we have been sleeping so well for so long! I got used to my 6 or 7 or even 8 hour nights.  It was beautiful. Wonderful.  I was productive, dammit! 

And now.  Now she's having nightmares or is being stubborn about not wanting to be in her bed...we're really not sure yet.  We've been off for Thanksgiving, but we go back to work tomorrow.  If she's up again tonight (the last two nights have found her wide awake between 3:30 and 5 a.m.), tomorrow is going to be a disaster.

I've been anxious. Stressed.  Exhausted and endlessly grouchy and snappish.  All my least favorite things to be.  

I feel bad for her, really, but I'm also just...so...tired! *Whine!*

(Charles is still being damn-near saint-like through all this...no idea how he does it.)

Anyway, today I was whining as usual about being soooo sleepy, and feeling like I am getting nothing done. But then I realized...


  • In the past three weeks I've read two books, a new record for me in my post-baby world.  So that's helpful, especially since one of the books was On Writing by Stephen King, and it gave me tips, tricks, and, best of all, validation on some of the writing processes I've already worked out for myself.  Which was...amazing.  Why yes, Steve, I do happen to write with one person in mind, wondering if he'd like a certain scene or if he'd be bored or entertained.  Thanks for telling me you do that, too.
  • In the past five days, I've started Book 2!!  And I'm LOVING it so far!  I wrote something that I think is better than ANYTHING I've ever written, and I love the plotlines I plan to follow. So now I have two chapters written, plenty of ideas with which to move forward, and really...I've been busy. 


So really, maybe it's not so bad.  We'll get through this phase of early-childhood-development, and I can continue to get shit done while we do it. 

Mmmmmm....lemonade.

November 23, 2011

Getting it RIGHT

I'm pretty laid back about my writing. I know it's not perfect, never will be perfect. I am not perfect, never will be perfect.

So why should my writing be?

Then...I started reading On Writing by Stephen King.

"Write with intention," he says (among many, many other things).

You may remember...I started my first book with absolutely no intention. It was a whim, a lark. It only grew into something as time passed.

Not so with Book 2, which I started in a vague sort of way last week.  I know my plot. I know how I want my characters to grow and change, and what I want them to do. I don't necessarily know how they'll do it all, but I have an outline in my head.  A very loose, amorphous outline, but an outline nonetheless, which is something I absolutely didn't have for the first go-round.

So...what has this lead to? This writing with intention and an outline?

I've had a scene floating around in my head for a week .  It involves a church, an organ, and an eventual zombie attack.  Two characters who've lost so much.  Music. Stained glass.  (Lots of spiritual stuff for this Jewish girl...)

Last night I started working on it, and for the first time, I cared about every word.  Every syllable.  The juxtapositioning of a song with chaos.  I wrote, I deleted, I wrote and deleted.  

In frustration, I emailed my friend Jen.  "I loooooove it," I said.  "But it's so haaaaard."

Because...I can bang out 2000 words in an hour if I'm not paying attention.  But when I care? When I write with intention?  Two hours of work yielded only 811 words.

This writing with intention stuff? It's hard!  But I think it's ok that it's hard. I think I'll end up with an even better finished product.  Because I'm going to get it RIGHT!

**************

Let the record show I would not have read On Writing without the urging of my husband.  Let the record show...he was right. It's a really great book for a writer like me.

**************

Let the record also show that this blog post was made possible by a tent.  Zoe and I have been doing our Thanksgiving baking, listening to Christmas music, and she has now retired to her play tent with all of her action figures. I think this will keep her occupied for at least an hour!! 

November 20, 2011

Sunday night soup

I looked at a calendar a little while ago and realized it had been days and DAYS since I posted anything here, so I thought, well, might as well, right?

It's Sunday night so I have football on.  My Giants are playing one of their two archnemesis-s-sssss, the Eagles, and both teams are playing terribly.  Interceptions all around. Ugh. But the Giants did just sack Michael Vick, so I admit...I celebrated a little. I'm sorry, I can't help it. I still haven't forgiven Vick for running a dog fight ring, and I probably never will.  So there's that.

****************

Zoe's still not sleeping well, which means Charles and I also aren't sleeping well.  My foot's still hurting (full disclosure: it was better, but then I ran two miles this morning, and now it's....not better.), so I was still missing my typical energy outlet for any frustration and aggression.

I guess Charles got sick of hearing me tell him I needed to punch something (no, I never actually did), so he bought me a big, heavy punching bag!!  We hung it today and I beat the crap out of it for probably fifteen minutes, after which I was sweaty, gasping for air, and I'd broken blood vessels on both hands. Whoops.  But I feel tremendously better after having that outlet.

I love endorphins.

That said, I am guessing tomorrow's going to be a painful day. 

****************

I've written several hundred words of Book 2, and might go work on it some more after I finish this post.  I don't feel a major pull to rush it, though, as I know I'm still in my market research phase of Book 1.  I've made tremendous progress on my "pitch" for agent submissions, so I haven't been entirely idle.

Other projects have included: 

I finished World War Z.  I'm still...not sure if I liked it.  But...I never did put it down.  I didn't connect to any of the characters, because there were so few character recurrences, but still. I never did put it down. So that says something.

Today I started On Writing by Stephen King.  A memoir about craft from one of the greatest horror writers ever? Ok, I'm sold...at least after having Charles nudge me 973 times. 

I've also started reading some chapters from one of my classmates, which is fun because I'm getting to edit/offer suggestions on work that is NOT my own. 

All told, I'm keeping busy.

******************

Non-sequitor:  I hate reading or hearing about the new college football sexual abuse witch hunt going on.  I feel like America needs a reminder: Innocent  until proven guilty.  It's almost like sex abuse scandals have become all the rage at the big colleges! 

Even sunny Charleston has its own scandal now, with accusations flying at a camp coordinator at The Citadel.

I wonder how much of the charges are true, in any of the cases. 

If they are, those bastards deserve everything they get.

But still...innocent until proven guilty. The whole thing makes me sick.

********************

And so I'll leave with a cheery thought.  Zoe and I? We're on vacation this week!  Poor Charles has to work Monday through Wednesday, but my girl and I have a nice long break.  We're going to do some projects, visit some parks, bake some pies, get ready for Thanksgiving.

Ah, Thanksgiving.  All the food and family of Christmas or Hanukkah, none of the stress about presents.

It's my favorite.


November 16, 2011

In the middle of the night...


This post has been brought to you by River of Dreams, one of my least favorite Billy Joel songs, but the one which is currently stuck in my head because it starts with, "In the middle of the night..." And...it's the middle of the night. Do you see the connection?

It's also been brought to you by the child Zoe, who has in her little body the power to make or break a night for the entire household. Tonight, she broke it when she suddenly refused to go to bed, and had an Exorcist-style meltdown that left Charles and me reeling. And even though she finally fell asleep around 8:30, she then woke up at midnight and started in with the "Mommy, I want you"s.  

And if there's any phrase that's over-used in this house, it's "Mommy, I want you."

You know, I get it. The whole time she was sick last week, I was giving her Benadryl at night.  Several doctors have told me through the years that is the best nighttime cough suppressant for little ones who are too young for...well...codeine.  And I get that tonight was her first night without it, so she is lacking in that warm, fuzzy, sleepy feeling Benadryl supplies.  She's coming down off her little addiction.

But still.  I finally caught up on sleep over the past couple nights. If I go back in that hole, I'm not going to be happy. 

So there's that.

**************

But I digress. 

The main point of this post isn't to whine about how it's 1 a.m. and I'm wide awake.  Really, I want to talk about the great big task of Starting Book Two.

I've always known there was at least a Book 2 to my little zombie novel. The vast majority of the overarching story line is there, and I like how it's going to progress. 

However, it's only been in the last couple of days that I've had full, detailed scenes pop into my head, and then refuse to leave.  Scenes I already love, and am excited to write.

And then tonight, I realized. Even though I'm on my break from Book One, I'm not writing those scenes that float deliciously around in my head.  I'm leaving them there to fester, even though tonight in particular it would have been a GREAT outlet for my stress-i-ness (since Charles hasn't yet bought me that punching bag I keep requesting, and yoga only goes so far towards tension release).  Instead, tonight, I caught up on The Walking Dead (which is finally moving along this season), and the rest of the Internets. I poked around on a list-serve for pitch critiques.  I emailed a few people. You know, in general, I procrastinated.

It finally hit me WHY I can't write those scenes. 

Because...dun dun dun...it's a big committment to actually sit down and Start Book Two. Huge, in fact.  When I started novel-ing last year, I had NO IDEA how big of a task it truly was to write a whole book, so starting was easy.  I wasn't ever going to actually FINISH, right? 

Now I know how long it will take, I know that I'll finish, and it's making the whole "stare at a blank document" thing THAT much harder.

Because I know! I know what I'm getting myself into, and it's intimidating.

I guess I have to process THAT information for the next day or so, or else convince myself...one scene? Not so much a committment.  Maybe when I get to three or four, that's the time to worry.  

So maybe I just have to start.

YIKES!

*****************

In other news, after almost a year and a half of going without, we have purchased a new dishwasher for my house! It should be delivered/installed before Thanksgiving, which is lucky because, well, we're hosting!  Hooray!

November 12, 2011

Veterans

I should have posted this yesterday, but I still had my head in sick-land.  I didn't think to write it until I was drifting off to sleep last night, images of the UNC/Michigan State Carrier Classic basketball game on board the aircraft carrier USS Cole Vinson dancing around in my head.  Active servicemen and women, veterans, the president, all present to watch a college ball game.  It was pretty amazing.

So I thought about some of the veterans I've known and loved (and in some circumstances, not known), and I thought I should post a few words about them.

**************************

My grandfather, Sydney, was in the Army during WWII.  His unit served first in North Africa and then in Italy. 

One of the last times I saw him alive was when I surprised him on his 80th birthday by traveling from New Jersey to Boca Raton, Florida, where he lived all my life.  I remember sitting at my aunt's dining room table alone with both my grandparents (they'd been married over five decades by then) while my grandfather told me a story.  I can still hear him talking in his thick Jersey accent, in which "girls" are pronounced "goils."

He stayed in Italy for a long time, having contracted a bad case of pneumonia (I questioned that later in life, when I read about outbreaks of slightly less-savory diseases during the war, but who cares, right?).  By the time he came back to the states, he was fluent in Italian, a fact which he kept secret for a long time.  

One day he walked down an Italian street carrying two gallon jugs of olive oil, liquid gold in those days of having no fat with which to cook your food.  He carried one jug in each hand, and as he walked, civilian women lined the streets, trying to trade for the oil.  Food, treats...themselves...nothing was off the table as they bargained.  

I can't say for sure, but I don't think both gallons of requisitioned olive oil bad it back to Grandpa's base.

*****************

My husband's grandfather was one of six brothers who served simultaneously in various branches of the military during WWII.  Can you imagine being their parents? All six boys overseas?

There were stories written about their family in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina at the time.  Their mother was honored.

Charles's aunt has binders full of the letters exchanged between father, mother and sons during that time.  I can't even comprehend the love passed around the world in those years.

And would you believe? All six came home.  Charles's Poppa among them.  

******************

Charles's father served in Vietnam, flying rescue helicopters during the Tet Offensive.   

I never got to meet him, so I don't know many stories, but I know it was tricky, dangerous territory, and I know he saved lives.  

One of his friends' choppers crashed, and the man had to be put back together, piece by piece, but he survived.  When I met the friend, Mr. R, he hugged me and said, "I know you never got to meet Chuck, but I knew him well, and he would have loved you."  

Those words meant more to me than I can say.  

And strangely enough, my own uncle worked for the military during Vietnam, creating the exact same helicopter armor that helped protect my father-in-law and his friends.

********************

I once spent a year living near an Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi.  I knew tons of soldiers then, but three in particular stand out.

Webster, Stockton and Bierbach.  All three MPs, all three great friends.  They treated me like their sister, kept in touch with me for a long time even after I moved away.  Bierbach and I used to joke that we were the same person, separated only by birth and gender.  He and I drove to New Orleans on Mardi Gras that year, speeding down the highway in his Corvette (which he let me drive!).

All three have served multiple times overseas, and while I've lost touch with them by now, I am forever grateful for their friendship in what was a tumultuous year. 

*******************

I have friends with spouses in the military; friends who are veterans; friends who have served this country loyally.  

I'm not typically one for major displays of patriotism, but yesterday, when the National Anthem began before the basketball game, Zoe stood up and, with her hand over her heart, began singing along.  Charles and I joined in, saluting our country and our veterans. 

It was a happy, proud moment.

November 10, 2011

In which...I am angry...

I am angry.

There, I said it. I am absolutely, violently, irritatingly, frustratingly, punch-someone-in-the-face angry.

Because it's hard to be a parent. It's hard to make the right decisions, all the time.  It's hard to know who to trust when, what advice to take, how to best care for your kid.

I'm mostly whining tonight because a week ago, when I had Zoe at her pediatrician's office for a standard ear infection, I said to her doctor, "Oh, and I want to get her the flu shot."

Flu shot.  Shot.  That's what I said.  

I'm not a huge fan of flu shots, overall.  The only time I ever got one, I got the flu about a month later, because that was the year they vaccinated against the absolute wrong strains of flu.  

Since I never had the flu before or since (at least not since I was ten), I haven't gotten another.

But then...I didn't get Zoe one last year, and I didn't like the livin' on the edge feel of last winter.  Flu did come to her school, and it did make it to her class, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. So we just had to wait it out, see if she caught it, and even though she luckily didn't, I felt less willing to take the chance again this winter. 

So I asked for the shot.  The shot.

And her pediatrician, who has known her since she was born, has seen her through countless bouts of terrible coughs and even one bout of pneumonia, said, "Oh, why not get the mist? That way she doesn't need a shot."

And I didn't even ask. I just said, upon hearing his advice, "Great idea, let's do it."

My mistake.  You hear me? Totally my mistake.  Had I done even an ounce of research on Flu Mist, I'd have seen two items, and I'd never have let it near her nose.

1. It is a live-virus; and
2. One reported side effect in children is a bad cough.

Bad cough? Yeah, that's putting it lightly.  

A week later, my child has been through two days of fever and the worst cough she's ever had - it's even worse than when she had pneumonia.  She sounds like she's been smoking for 50 years.  She sounds like my Nana did when she reached the advanced stages of emphysema. 

Yeah. It's that bad.  None of us have had a good night's sleep in a week.  We've been through one round of STEROIDS, which are extreme measures for a kid.  She's sitting next to me, at 11:00 at night, having her fourth breathing treatment of the day. This cough has shown no signs of giving up its grip on her little lungs.

So tomorrow, we'll take her back to the same pediatrician we saw last week.  She needs to be seen again, and I want him to see what his one thoughtless piece of advice caused.  Because my child is miserable, and when she's miserable, so am I.  And I want him to fix this.

**********************

But you know what can't be easily fixed? 

The lives of victims of child abuse, especially abuse like that alleged in the case of Jerry Sandusky.  Those kids that he allegedly abused? Yeah, they will never be the same. 

And that is shameful.  There were people who could have stopped him, allegedly.  And they didn't, allegedly.

(I say allegedly very pointedly because this IS America, after all, where you ARE innocent until proven guilty.  And I just want us all to remember that...because this case? It's the stuff of a bad Lifetime movie.  The allegations are bad enough that they made Charles turn off the news tonight.  It can't all be true....or can it?)

Anyway, the parents of those boys? They made a choice, and they trusted someone to care for their boys, to lead them, to teach them.

There was no obvious reason for them not to make that choice.  And now their boys have been irreparably damaged by an alleged monster. 

It's hard to be a parent.  I don't envy those parents their guilt, and my heart is breaking for all of them.  And their sons.    

November 8, 2011

Market (and self) research

Last week I celebrated the anniversary of my first day of novel-ing.  I was SO close to finishing the draft on which I was working, it was hard to take any time to celebrate. 

I stopped almost all other tasks to focus on the draft.  Over the course of a month I took three separate stories and merged them into one (I hope) coherent story, and came up with a total 100,431 words.  Whew.  

I finished Saturday night, staying up until close to midnight to make the final edits on the final chapters, then Sunday had my whole novel printed out at my local FedEx Office.  It's currently...tucked somewhere, I'm actually not sure where. The last time I saw it, it was still in its envelope, sitting on the stairs, but I think Charles has since hidden it from me.

Regardless, in my Grand Plan of Finishing my Novel, I plan to set it aside completely until December 7.  It's a little over a month-long break, and ending my break on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day seems appropriate for a history-girl like me.  Hopefully after the break, I'll be able to read it with some distance and be able to tell, finally, if my overall concept works.

And until then? I'm doing Massive Market Research! Fun!

I've started reading Max Brooks's World War Z, and to be honest, after the first 50 or so pages I almost put it down.  It was a bunch of thinly-veiled social commentary, skewering almost all the governments of the world on a sharp but unoriginal stick.  That makes sense...it was published in 2006 and was therefore probably written in 2004, when we as a country still reeled from 9/11 (we're still reeling, no?), and while I am no fan of George W and the damage caused by his administration, I'm sort of tired of thinking about all the terrible mistakes he made. 

But then, luckily, Brooks took his story away from government officials lamenting the inadequacies of the response to the growing zombie threat, and he focused instead on the personal stories of escape and retribution. And now I'm enjoying it.  I prefer personal to semi-anarchist stories.

I've also been trying to keep up with Season Two of The Walking Dead series on AMC.  I started watching Season One last year about a month after I started writing my book, and it served as validation for the ideas I'd already written.  Yes, zombie blood is black and viscous.  Yes, a baseball bat is a good weapon.  Yes, I was onto something with my focus on the survivor stories.   So that was pretty great.

This season is a little slower, a little less action-packed.  It's focusing a lot more on stories around children - a little girl is lost, alone, in the woods, while a little boy has been shot in the chest and may or may not survive.  His parents debate the value of helping him survive to live in constant danger while two other people risk their own lives to find equipment to save the boy.  

It's intense; it's frequently upsetting; I'm not sure if I'll last the whole season. But I'm going to try, because every so often I get a peek at an idea I wish I'd originated (a person who hung himself after being infected by a zombie-bite, only to re-animate, stuck in the tree by his own noose).  And I'm going to ignore the fact that it makes me cry every damn week.

Which brings me to my final piece of research this week.  My own life.

Ok, no, I haven't met any zombies yet, nor do I hope to. But this week has taken a turn for the frustrating, and it's left me with one realization - I am in NO SHAPE to survive a zombie world.

Here's why.

Zoe got her flu vaccination Friday.  She's reacted...badly to it.  Fever, terrible cough, trouble breathing.  And....we've gotten very little sleep for  the past couple nights.  And...I don't deal well with a sick kid.  I panic, I worry, I am barely holding it together.  And that's for two night's worth of coughing and fever.  

How the hell would I survive if I was protecting her from zombies? Or aliens? Or vampires? I can barely make it through a stupid vaccine reaction!

So clearly, I am not set to inhabit my own fictional world.  So I need to spend some time thinking about people like me, and how they would realistically respond to the zombie plague.

Food for thought....and for edits...but not until after December 7.

November 1, 2011

The Anniversary of the Epic Tweet that Changed Things

One year.  It's been one year.

One year ago today, I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2010.  I'd never before considered writing a novel. I was an essayist.  A blogger. I was going to become the Next Great Mom Blogger, or something like that. Making my fans laugh when they read about the antics of my child and husband. Making them cry when appropriate.  Fulfilling lives with my super-awesome advice.  Supporting myself and my family through ad sales and book deals and all that whatnot.

Yeah, so the book? It wasn't supposed to happen.  But NaNoWriMo sounded fun, and I was in need of some discipline, so having a goal of 1500 words per day sounded like a good idea.  And, I figured, why the hell not?  As long as it didn't interfere with all my Other Big Plans.

One year.  It's been one year.

And...the mom blogger thing didn't work out. It turns out I have no clue how to market or advertise, and I probably would have given terrible advice anyway.


But what did happen?

Well, first I tried to decide what to write about. Write what you know was the advice floating in my head in the first day or two. So what did I know about? I knew about being a teenage girl xx years ago. I knew about having a baby. I knew about computer software.  None of that sounded too appealing.


And then Charles, my husband, tweeted the two magic words of the Epic Tweet that Changed Things.  Zombie Cows.

Note my husband's picture - isn't he cute?
They made me laugh, the zombie cows that appeared in my head when I read that tweet.  They made me remember how much I love to be scared. They made me think, Ok, I don't have to take myself quite so seriously, do I?

And so I started to write. And write. And write and write and write.

Now, it's been a year.  I've got a whole book written, and I'm wrapping up my latest round of edits this week (I hope).  I've written about a really powerful girl, and two not-so-powerful characters who I struggle to like.  And I've written some bad guys who kind of scare me. Seriously, they show up in my nightmares.

So...did the Epic Tweet that Changed Things...change things? 

I mean, I still have my day job, and I'm not leaving it anytime soon.  I am still a mom, still a wife, still a daughter and a sister and a friend. 

But still. Things have changed. There's always something to do, something to write or edit or consider.  Charles is sort of, secretly impressed (I think).  I own a Louisville Slugger of my very own! And I have a book of my own that I wrote!  Yikes!

So, I hope you forgive me if I'm in a bit of a celebratory mood.  Maybe outwardly nothing has changed, but in my mind? Totally different.  I'm happier. I have goals. I have a plan.

I'm a writer.  

Hear me...write?  Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap......

October 29, 2011

Just for fun: The Flaming Lips!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The first time I ever remember listening to The Flaming Lips, and knowing who they were, was about seven years ago. I was at work and I was feeling really down about something or other.  Charles and I hadn't been dating long, and he could see how sad I was, so he sent me a link to a song. 

It was "Do You Realize" by The Flaming Lips, and when I heard the first line (Do you realize...that you have...the most...beautiful face...) I burst into tears.  And by the end of the song, I felt better.

Thus began a love affair with one of the freakiest, quirkiest, funniest bands I know.  Charles and I have watched documentaries about them, listened to our favorite album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (no, I'm not making that up...), and enjoyed them for years.

So when we heard they were coming here? To Charleston? Yeah, we got tickets.

The show was last night, four days before Halloween, and all of Charleston's freakiest showed up in costume (I lamented the fact that I'd forgotten my tutu many times...but that may have been the wine talking....Charles and I tailgated with our standard wine, cheese, beer and brownies.).  The were plenty of scantily clad women, men in drag, and even a really good rendition of Hunter S. Thompson.  People watching was spectacular.

And then came...the show itself.  Which was really more spectacle than rock-n-roll show, although there was plenty of good music too. 

The Flaming Lips love beautiful women. Let that be understood from the get-go.  As soon as Wayne Coyne, the band's lead man, was done warming up the crowd, the screen at the back of the stage started flashing with a 60's-tinted, psychedelic video of a naked woman dancing. Ok, I thought. So THIS is how it's gonna be, huh?   Then she lay down, spread her legs, and the band's grand entry onto the stage was literally through her...yeah...I'm blushing...it was through her vagina, ok??  Like she was giving birth to the band.

Wayne Coyne then did a bit of crowd surfing in a bubble.  So THAT happened, too.  It was surreal.

And then the music started.  And there was confetti.  And there were balloons.  And girls dancing on stage in skimpy outfits. 

I made it my goal to finally get to participate in the balloon-batting. I was surrounded by taller men, so they kept getting to the balloons first.  They'd sail close, closer, and I'd think, OK, it's my turn now!  But then...one of the tall guys would hit it first. And I'd be left disappointed, my hands hanging in the air, abandoned.  

Then it happened. A red balloon flew overhead, unnoticed by the boys. It flew closer, I jumped up, hands outstretched...and punched it way high into the air!! Hooray!  


And the band played on.  Women danced on stage.  Wayne Coyne cursed at the crowd in a loving, caressing way.  We screamed and danced and sang.  

Then came the laser light show.


And finally, when I was danced out and exhausted and my head was spinning from the amount of smoke around me (smoke machines and weed were everywhere!)....they played it.  They played my song.  

Here's a video of the opening to "Do You Realize."  I could only record the beginning, because, well, then I had to go dance my face off.  It was beautiful.  I loved it.

I loved the whole motherfucking thing.