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.

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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.