Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Vacation wrap

Back from vacation. Seattle & the mountains were wonderful. Breath of fresh air. Lots of rain. Gray clouds. More rain.

So now another hurricane may be heading for us. And I’m going to Haiti on Tuesday for the day job. I’m feeling a little slammed. Worried. Frances could hit north of us. Or hit us directly. No one knows for sure. At least I got my PC back. Uploaded all the programs and I’m nearly ready to go again. I might even be able to update web site soon.

Thought I’d do a “best of” summary of our vacation.

Best food: Hattie’s, a hometown restaurant in Castle Rock, WA. Population 250. All in town flock to Hattie’s. Wonderful mushroom and almond chicken, breakfast specials like their orange and almond French toast. Place is decorated with antique furniture and has antique hats hanging on the walls. Even has a little corner featuring patio chairs and a table with a beautiful garden mural. Waitress sent a customer out to buy milk for DH’s tea when they ran out. That kind of place.

Best clam chowder: The Loose Caboose in Long Beach, WA. Razor clams are the area’s specialty. This clam chowder is thick with huge chunks of potatoes and clams. Cute little dining stop in an old train caboose.

Oddest moment: Driving to Long Beach and passing a car where a woman drove holding a paper bag to the side of her head. It looked like she tried to shield herself from the sun. But there was no sun. Maybe she was a vampire. Go figure.

Most sobering moment: Atop Coldwater Ridge on Mt. St. Helens and seeing the ruins the volcano left behind. Corpses of blackened trees still lying on their sides. Colorful wildflowers sprouting next to the ghost forest.

List of things I’ve always wanted to do: Seeing Seattle from the Space Needle. Visiting the fish throwers at Pike’s Place Market. And seeing an actual Heisler engine run on the Mt. Rainer railroad in Elbe, WA. DH and I drooled over this engine. A real beauty.

Most “I told you so” moment: At our hotel outside Mt. Rainer. Room overlooked dark, deep forest. DH said there were critters back there. I said no. Next morning, woke up, pulled curtains and a deer was wandering outside our window. I gasped and donned clothing. Deer ran away. DH joked the deer was a peeping deer.

Most victorious moment: Climbing the Alta Vista summit on Mt. Rainer. I wheezed, but made it. Not bad for sea level living Florida chick who thinks high altitude is climbing a foot of stairs. Wrote with my Alpha Smart up there. Frozen fingers but still typed. A moment to remember.

Most “oops” moment: Driving the wrong way in Seattle. DH asks, “You think I can turn here?” I say, “Sure, why not?” He turns and there’s a bus heading for us. Screams, “THIS IS A ONE WAY STREET!” Backs up quicker than a NASCAR driver. Looks at me and demands, “Why did you tell me it was okay to turn?” I say, “Why did you listen to me?” We laugh. Other drivers must think, “Crazy Florida tourists.”

Friday, August 27, 2004

Vacation ending

Last day of vacation. Writing this from a computer in Seattle. Wiped out. Great vacation. I'll write details about the awesome visit to Mt. St. Helens, the famous fish throwers at Pike's Place Market, the rain rain rain and the wonderful Heisler locomotive we saw today. Checked email and saw the sad news that Cheryl Ann Porter died. Oh God. I hate cancer. It stinks. It stinks so much. She was a wonderful, funny, gentle human being and and a terrific author. So sad. So unfair. :-(

Monday, August 16, 2004

Computer died

My PC is dead. Gone. Kaput. I was powering up during a brief squall Friday and we got a power surge and zzzzttt. Don’t ask me what dormant brain cell thought, “Hey, it’s a squall from Charley, let’s go on the computer!” I hauled it to the repair shop and now they have to wipe out the entire hard drive and reinstall. EXCEPT I can’t find the recovery system CD.

Why was I not born as neat and organized as my dad? My dad could organize his underwear drawer (actually, he did). He was the king of organization. He was a brilliant design engineer and very methodical. His daughter? She can’t even organize her silverware drawer. Easiest thing in the world. Spoons in one slot, forks in another, etc. And what will you find if you open that drawer? Sure enough there will be one renegade fork hanging out with the spoons, smirking like a guy who “accidentally” wandered into the ladies room.

I spent my lunch hour tearing through the computer room, tossing aside old disks, papers, manuscripts, (hey was that an eight-track tape??), CD’s in a vain effort to search for the recovery disk while our male Shih Tzu is sitting on the bed watching. Tiger had that look in his Marty Feldman eyes. We call them Marty Feldman eyes because they’re huge and sometimes look like they’re focusing in opposite directions. The look in Tiger’s eyes said, “You know, this wouldn’t happen if you were organized.” I just told Tiger, “Hey, at least I BACKED UP MY FILES SO THERE! Phhhhffft.”

It’s so frustrating and yet I had a grim reminder of how trivial this problem is. I mean, I still have the laptop. And in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, I lost a computer. Big deal. In Punta Gorda, a few hours away, people lost their lives. Their homes. I saw news footage yesterday of an elderly woman sifting through her trailer, her life’s belongings scattered on the grass. She was crying. I wanted to cry along with her. That poor woman’s whole life… wrecked with the savage force of a hurricane.

So I’ll search for the recovery CD. Then I’ll organize. I’ll put all the computer CD’s into a nice box in a place where I can instantly find it. My underwear drawer. I think dad would be proud.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Flying Bovine Watch

Today’s forecast: Windy

We’re under a severe thunderstorm watch, a flood watch, a tropical storm watch and what I call the Flying Bovine Watch. This is a tornado watch, but I’ve called it the Flying Bovine Watch ever since seeing “Twister,” and that cool scene where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt see the airborne cow spinning about in the tornado. Not that we’d have actual Flying Bovines here. Maybe a Flying Squirrel Watch or even a Flying Tourist in Checked Pants Determined to Enjoy His Vacation Watch.

Feel like the walking (waking?) dead. Could not sleep. Squall hit about 2 a.m. and power went out. Went to kitchen to grab flashlight, dog follows me and sits expectantly at patio sliders. I look at her and say, “Huh? It’s gusting maybe 25-30 mph out there, the power is off and you have to go NOW??” Let her outside.

Comes back inside and the thunder starts just as I’m climbing back into bed. Suddenly Tia decides, “Oh dear. I’m very scared.” She jumps on the bed, climbs between us. Put her down, she crawls under the bed and starts licking the carpet. Lick, lick, lick. Don’t ask me why this makes her feel better. Finally just as DH and I are drifting off, power comes back on. So does everyone’s alarm systems in the neighborhood. I think we got two hours sleep last night. I need major zzz’s. I need to feel better. Maybe I’ll just lick the carpet.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Hurricane prepration 101

Bonnie and Charley are supposed to hit Florida, boom, boom, one after the other. Bonnie is heading for north Florida and Charley for the west coast. I think we’re in the clear, but it’s hard to predict with storms. I remember Irene in ’99. We were due to leave for our Colorado vacation and splat! Irene dumped several inches of rain on us. Major flooding. Rowboat city! No warnings, or watches. Duoh, says the powers that be. Where did THAT come from? Dh and I realized yes, indeedy, we are living in a flood zone.

I think we’ll get rain and some winds, but little else. Still, the mad chaos of We’re Going To Get Annihilated has permeated South Florida. The newscasters are squawking about preparations, showing footage of people purchasing plywood, water, canned food and other essentials. Why don’t they show people stocking on up the REAL essentials, like going to the liquor store?

Hurricanes turn people into amateur weather forecasters. Around the office, people are tossing around terms like “If it wobbles” and “central pressure” and “steering currents.” Me? I rely on more traditional means of forecasting weather. Like watching the palm tree outside my window to see if it’s windy out. I have this image of this old Grandpa kind of guy living in the swamp. He’s in overalls, smoking his pipe, shuffling outside his wood house built in 1920, staring at the sky. He hooks one thumb through a frayed belt loop, taps the pipe against the rotting wood porch. Grandpa wets a calloused thumb, holds it up to the wind. Then he slowly tucks the pipe back into his mouth and says, “Hurricane heading here. Yup, we’re f***ed.”

Our home preparations basically consist of a simple checklist, very methodical and thorough.

1) Turn on television to the Weather Channel to remind self Yes a Hurricane is coming

2) Bring in old, moldy lawn furniture and dump in sunroom patio

3) Go outside to watch neighbor mow grass at last minute so yard nice and clean in preparation for hurricane

4) Check insurance policy issued by Ye Old Insurance Company run out of someone’s basement in Arkansas because it was the only insurance we could get after Hurricane Andrew. Realize we’re underinsured

5) Get insane impulse to rush to Publix for canned goods that will sit in cabinet for three years. Snarl at senior citizen trying to grab last can of tuna.

6) Fill car with overpriced gas that will drop in price after hurricane ends

7) Realize we only have enough candles to burn down 50,000 acres. Rush out and buy more

8) Check liquor supply. Low on Myers for rum runners. Another store run.

9) Help DH put up flimsy hurricane shutters that will stop a gnat from slamming against the glass, but little else. Feel sense of false security. Make a rum runner to celebrate.

10) Think about taking smart aleck bird in from unprotected sunroom patio. Decide, “Nah.”

11) Friends call, ask help to put up shutters. Send Dh, settle back with second rum runner

12) Put back up copies of manuscripts in fireproof safe with other important documents such as bank checks from 1995 and grocery store coupons expired two years ago.

13) Friends living in Evacuation Zone ask to spend night. Invite over only if bring essential hurricane supplies such as stock of Oreos, chips and extra bottle of Myers.

14) Turn on Channel 7 to see reporters in yellow slickers standing knee deep in choppy surf for effect as someone off camera tosses palm branch by them in wind to make for Dramatic Camera Shot.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Erotica & Hurricane Charley

Enough already! Determined to yank myself out of this woe is me, self-pity depression over my writing. Hey, I’m a tropical storm. Full of wind. That’s me. Just a lot of hot air, lol.

Charley is out there, spinning around, expected to be a hurricane. Probably won’t hit us, but you never know. Think I’d better print out the vamp book tonight just in case the power goes out. DH was shaking his head this a.m. as he watched the latest updates. All the newscasters running around like chickens missing their heads to interview little old ladies buying canned tuna at Publix and people piling lumber into their SUV’s at Home Depot. Sometimes I think Home Depot has them on their payroll. Good exposure. You don’t know what will happen. You can get complacent. And then you remember Andrew.

Hurricane Andrew. Didn’t cause much damage for us, although my power was out for 3 days. But I went to south to help clean up. Nothing was recognizable. You couldn’t even get directions. No street signs. It was horrid. People’s homes smashed. Lives destroyed. I saw a metal washtub wrapped around a light pole. My friends and I were helping this lady sweep roof tiles out of her kitchen.. The guys went to the back yard to clean up and asked, “What do you want us to do with this satellite dish?” It was a huge dish, not the little ones you see now. The woman replied, “It’s not mine. It blew in from two blocks away.”

Hurricanes. Scary stuff.

Back to writing… I’m considering completing the erotica I had started for the fun of it. The Cinderella Rebellion. Different from anything I’ve written. Funny, very sexy. I blush as I write it. Sometimes I wonder what my mom would think of me writing an erotica. Would she roll over in her grave (urn?) She loved romance. And then I realize she’d listen to me pour my heart about how ambivalent I am about writing and say, “Write if it makes you happy.” That was my mom. And deep inside, I know she’s right. Because I love to write romance. It does give me joy. Forget getting published. Forget the stress of trying to get an agent, snag an editor’s attention. Just write. Be the Nike slogan. Just do it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Letting go

Done, done, done writing the vamp book! Yee haw! My elation has faded a little. Last night I was jubilant. Bouncing I read over the ending and went “Oh!” Got that fluttery feeling in my stomach I get when a book is “there.”

Today, reality hits. I really like this book, but… will anyone else? For now, all I can do is congratulate myself on working very hard and doing the very best job I could possibly do. The vamp book isn’t slapstick. It’s humorous and dark and hopefully, my characters have depth. I think I finally figured out my style of writing humor. If I don’t strain myself in trying to make the book a laugh a minute, I can do it. I weave humor in to offset the drama and dark moments.

And now that I’m done, I’m looking at my life. Sometimes God closes a door and you can’t pry it open, no matter how many crowbars you use. But He opens a window. The window may be difficult to find. But I know it’s there. Will I get the vamp book published? I don't know. Right now I have this book I created for an audience of one - me. It may end up in my Forever Drawer. My cemetery for Dead Manuscripts.

I’m like a songwriter creating a beautiful piece of music in an empty auditorium. The songwriter appreciates it, but the audience is missing. So the writer sits on stage, plays it for herself. She marvels at each note, strains to make it as perfect and pure as she can, and labors over the piece. And in the end, she’s satisfied and happy with her work, but it won’t serve any purpose other than for her to say, “I did it. I proved to myself I could do it.”

But the audience is off at a Rave concert or wildly cheering the sensational new hit singer who’s taking the world by storm. So she plays it one last time for herself, hearing each faultless note, each lovely melody. Then she sadly tucks the piece beneath the piano bench. She resigns herself to knowing it will grow yellowed with age, abandoned, and eventually, forgotten. And for a while, she sits on the piano bench, staring at the keys, lost in remembrance of that one perfect moment of joy when her music filled the silence in the empty room.

Friday, August 06, 2004

FART & God bless fans

Self doubts can kill a writer's confidence. Heck, they're worse than computer crashes.

If a computer crashes and a writer has confidence, s/he can still scribble on a napkin and create. But once those sneaky selfdoubts creep in...watch out. Hard drive crash in the brain. Fingers freeze on keyboard. The loop begins. Goes something like this:

ohgeezwhythehellamiwritingthissentencethissentence
suckswhywouldmyherosaythatitsstupidawful

See?

It's a syndrome I call Fear Anxiety Reflex Tangent. Or FART for short.

It's literally a brain fart. Because it's nothing but your inner doubts breaking wind. It's rude and obnoxious and stinks. Because it messes with your head. You start thinking everything you wrote is terrible. Awful. Your own mother wouldn't put it on her fridge door. The cat wouldn't even want it in her litterbox.

Every writer goes through it one time or another. (Secret: even if they don't admit it!)

This is when you must call in troops. The Fans. Or if you're unpublished, The Supporters. (Friends who believe in you and your gift. Trust me, it IS a gift)

I go through my fan mail and read each sentence carefully. And I tell my brain, which is stuck in FART mode, that hey, someone else thinks I'm good! Validation! Brain stutters a bit, protests like an old Ford trying to move forward. Sometimes I can write again. Sometimes I know it's time to stop for a while.

So God bless the fans. The readers who keep an author going when the self doubts kick in.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dunkin Donuts & soap scum battles

My morning workday routine is rather ordinary. Typically, it goes something like this:

2 a.m. DH rolls over and stops snoring after I jostle shoulder.

2:30 a.m. Fall asleep again. Dog wakes me up and whines to go outside. Bring dog outside, say “hello” to sleepy bird on patio, let dog in, go back to bed. Sleep.

5 a.m. DH gets up. Open one eye. Groan. Start to fall back asleep and realize haven’t backed up Word files in two months. Realize computer is starting to act cranky. Panic and flee to computer and proceed, half-asleep, to back up new Word docs.

5:20 a.m. Let dogs outside again while DH is showering. DH fed bird and left cage door open. Bird is atop cage, perched like vulture. Say “good morning” to bird 10 times. Bird stares. Shoo bird back in cage with broom, feed peanut in hopes of making friends. Bird takes peanut, mutters, “Good,” but sounds like “Hood.” Birdz in the hood? Bird finishes peanut, cover cage so he won’t wake me up shrieking at 6:15. Bird says very clearly as cloth drapes cage: “F*** you.” Sigh.

5:45 a.m. DH kisses me good-bye. Stumble back to bed.

6:15 a.m. Blissfully asleep again, wake up to dog snoring. Put her in other room, return to bed.

6:30 a.m. Can’t sleep. Think about getting up and housecleaning. Decide brain must be fuzzed from all the sinus medication and promptly fall asleep.

7:30 a.m. Wake up in panic because alarm didn’t go off. Jump into shower. Glare at stubborn soap film on shower doors and decide to wage war for the 1000th time. Scrub shower doors with soap scum remover. Shower, wash hair, scrub doors again.

7:50 a.m. Brush teeth, wash face, put in contact lenses. Notice soap scum has returned to now dry shower doors. Sigh. Blow dry hair. Realize hair is too long to blow dry in five minutes. Decide there is no Vogue photo shoot today, leave hair wet. Go to closet. Pick out nice white cotton shirt and black pants. Think about days when could fit into Ideal Weight Clothes. Sigh.

8 a.m. Let dogs outside again. Dogs run back inside, look at me expectantly. Cave in and give them ½ dog biscuit as reward for waking me up at ungodly hour. Take cover off bird cage and chirp “hello!” Bird glares.

8:05 a.m. Leave house in record time. Drive to Dunkin Donuts near home. Try to beat elderly retired couple who don’t have to be at work at 8:30 a.m. Fail. Get into DD. Inhale scent of caffeine and salivate like Pavlov’s dog. Realize antibiotics took this a.m. require food. Rack brain to think of moderate calorie food. Select one Apple N Spice donut with usual large coffee with cream and two equals.

8:15 a.m. Leave DD and start to drive out of parking lot. Realize cop is sitting in parking lot. Wait until drive out of his peripheral vision and whip on seat belt. Turn on radio station to select non-obnoxious station for drive to work. Settle on Techno music station with nice beat.

8:20 a.m. Arrive at work. Pull into Prime Parking Spot in back lot. Glance at sky and realize rain is inevitable and Prime Parking Spot will flood. Consider abandoning Prime Parking Spot but loathe to do so. Get out of car, balancing bag, DD Coffee, DD bag and umbrella. Avoid land mines left by ducks on sidewalk. Crazy man in white hat and long trenchcoat is not feeding ducks this morning.

8:25 a.m. Make it to front lobby. Eye Evil Hand Scanning Time Machine. Though I am salaried, everyone Must Scan Hand, says Human Resources. I do so while gleefully leaving all my germs on machine for rest of company to get sick.

8:30 a.m. Flip on lights in office. No one else in department is in yet. Cheerful, chipper office mate still on honeymoon. Relish quiet. Open DD coffee, take first sip. Feel human enough to turn on computer.

8:32 a.m. Pick up vacation slip and study it. Realize two weeks left until vacation and panic because vamp book not revised yet for agent. Realize happily that worked on vamp book last night and have only ½ left to revise. Stop sipping DD coffee for coughing fit. Cough up lung, resume sipping DD coffee.

8:33 a.m. Admire stylish, slender co-workers nifty beaded vest she found in closet. Glance down at white shirt and pants and then at donut and sigh. Realize I must eat donut (doctor’s orders) because antibiotics must be taken with food.

8:35 a.m.: Reluctantly take bite of Apple N Spice Donut. Realize horse pill antibiotics have given me Montezuma’s revenge and none of the calories matter anyway. Regret did not select two Boston crèmes.

9:05 a.m. Co-worker e-mails NY Times article about Haiti. Article talks about Haiti since Aristide’s departure five months ago. Armed gangs roaming areas about Cap Haitien, terrorizing populace, robbing buses and raping women. One man tells how gang boarded his bus, robbed passengers and raped two women. Police have no guns, UN peacekeeping forces are scattered throughout country. Still chaos, lawlessness and violence and poverty. Realize we are planning trip to Haiti probably in September. Think of despair, violence and hunger in this country and how things have not changed for better. Wonder if they ever will. Feel depressed and sip more DD coffee. Then think of vamp book and remember I started writing romance to give characters a happy ending. Fiction sometimes is much better than real life. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Writing interruptions, rude birds and scared dogs

No blogging or writing last night. Too sick with bad sinus infection. Day job boss actually sent me home. The MD gave me horse pills, medicated cough syrup and other pills. I’m more doped up than a 60’s rock star. I feel like my head’s stuffed with concrete. Does this make me a blockhead?

A bit anxious about revising this vamp book. Need to get it done and out to the agent before we leave on vacation. I tried working on it last night, but could barely keep my eyes open. As I was driving to work this morning, I thought about how difficult it is to snatch a whole block of writing time. Working full-time slashes into my writing time. When I do get a block of time, the interruptions happen. Like Sunday afternoon. It was thundering and raining like mad and I was sitting on the couch with the laptop. DH had left to prowl around the stores to give me time to write and I was alone with me and my vamps. Quality writing time. HA!

Thunderstorms. Tiger, our male Shih Tzu, is terrified of them. He’s trying to jump up on the end table, threatening to scatter the myriad of books, papers, table lamp, etc. Don’t ask me why the dog thinks jumping on TOP of the end table will save him from the KABOOM! Finally he settles for crawling in the space between the couch and the end table.

I start writing.

Tia, the female Shih Tzu, jumps up on my lap. I pushed her aside, let her stay by me. But no. That wasn’t good enough. She had to be ON my lap. Puts her paw on the keyboard. I had a very long sentence that looked like this, “Lucien wondered if he and Ashley would ever EJDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD”

Stuttering keyboard thanks to scared Shih Tzu.

So she’s lying there, looking up at me with those big brown puppy dog eyes as if to say, “Hello? It’s thundering out and I’m scared. Pay attention here. I don’t care about your book. I’m cute and loveable and it’s thundering out so stop that silly typing and pay attention to me.”

Then finally, she agrees to lie beside me instead of on top of the keyboard. Start writing again. Bird starts shrieking. And shrieking. Put down laptop, open patio door, tell bird in reasonable tone to stop it. Bird looks at me and grins. Honestly. Grins.

Shut patio door. Return to keyboard. Dog is in spot next to me. Other dog is hiding in space between couch and end table. I start to write. Bird starts shrieking again. I set down laptop, go out and open patio door. This time, I’m not fooling around. Throw cover on cage to shut up bird. Bird says very clearly from under cloth, “F*** you.”

This is his typical response to me. I honestly don’t know where he picked it up. I never told him that. Bird never says to me “Good morning” like he says to DH. Or even, “Hello.” Just a muttered, “F*** you.” Have I mentioned the bird and I don’t get along? Finally, return to typing and just as I’m getting into the story, DH comes home and wants to know what we’ll do about dinner. When I protest I’m in the middle of writing, he looks at me pointedly and says, “You’ve had all afternoon to write.”

Tempted to borrow bird’s vocabulary and mutter “F*** you” but think the better of it.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Neurotic Nazi author syndrome

Sick again. Coughing like a TB victim. My throat needs ice cream. DH heading to MD, please let him get antibiotics that cure it. I think he keeps infecting me. We share everything, even germs.

Discouraged on the vamp book. No particular reason. Just trying to do edits last night and I’m thinking, “This book sucks.” Really. No humor intended. The old neurosis surfacing. I can’t write, I’m no good, blah blah blah. Oh woe is me. I am doomed as a writer. Doomed, doomed, doomed!

Part of me wants to just chuck it all and stop writing romance. Part of me can’t stop writing. I love writing romance. But the pressure has been on since I got published. Getting published was a dream. Trying to KEEP getting published has turned into a nightmare.

Maybe I’ll just paint myself Day Glo orange and stand on the corner of 95 and Broward with a big sign, “Will write romance for food.” At least ice cream.

Problem is the humor. It’s getting in the way, like a pushy puppy edging its nose beneath my fingers on the keyboard. I want this to be a funny book, but sometimes it feels like the humor is forced. There’s irony in the book, which I adore, but I keep feeling it should have MORE humor. Then I wonder if I’m trying to force it, like forcing my characters to have sex when they’re not ready. But I know erotic books are hot and sell. If they don’t have sex until after page 200, oh dear! Then I get Neurotic Nazi Author Syndrome, performing sexual experiments on my characters to see what happens.

My imagination goes into this scene and I wonder if I’m losing it:

Yes, you vil have sex and you vil have it now because sexy books sell! says Nazi author snarling to characters.

No, they cry out. You haven’t thrashed out our internal conflict yet!

Yup. I’m losing it. Must be the alcohol in the cough meds. Note to self: Drink less Nyquil before blogging or attempting revisions.