Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Right Idea

See these penguins? They're smarter than your average penguin...

Why stand out in the vast plains of Antarctica, when you can build your nest with your mate in nice, secluded coastal brush?

When I woke up today, it had snowed three inches or so and was mighty frigid. The cat wanted out, and when I opened the door, he was nearly blown over. (He changed his mind.) I think I'm more like the yellow-eyed penguins of the above pic--I'd much rather hole up somewhere comfy and wait it out.

And yet, I have no desire to dive into really really really cold water and swim about for dinner.

On a side note (ok, not really a side note but my trumpeting call) I think I finally figured out how my book will end. *sigh of relief* I was as clueless as anybody, and so I perused the How to Write books at Border's and saw, to my devilish delight, the Novelist's Boot Camp. It's written like your average Army manual--it even includes breaks for push ups--and shows you how to plan and execute your mission; which is, of course, your novel. Catchy book, no? Anywho, there was a chapter on "Have an Exit Strategy" and I thought I should take a peek. After that, I wrote up a short paragraph on what happens in the end after the series of events yet to be written, and voila! An Exit Strategy!

Ok, off to read a chapter in Click and then get some shut-eye. For at least an hour or two before the Queen wakes up.

Someone today told me I should dose her up with Benadryl at night to get her to sleep more. Although tempting, I'm just not sure of it. I don't think I'd like to be drugged up by people to remain unconscious longer... Would you? Of course, I'm saying this now after over a year of not sleeping enough. It seems that if I've waited this long, why bring out the WMD now?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On my way...

First, I want to say sorry to Karen for missing our meeting today. It was swept from my mind, and even now I'm not certain if we were going to meet or not, but I'm still sorry!

Second, I have to admit I didn't write at all yesterday. As I laid about the house, lethargic as a run-dead horse, I thought about my diet, my increase in milk demand (I'm making a bottle now to hopefully fill up the Queen's belly before bed), and the lack of sleep (she's practicing her Tea Time conversations at 3am) I've been getting lately. Inside my belly, an inkling arose. Ahah! I need vitamins! (Actually, I need to TAKE my vitamins rather than look at them in their pretty plastic bottle.) When mom came home and I passed off the babe so I could cook with two hands, she said I was probably anemic.

I've had two multivitamins since then, and I have to say, I do feel better.

Starbucks was crowded tonight, so I went to Border's. Alas, after the weekend, when we move to the Chesapeake Bay region, we won't have a bookstore with a cafe nearby.

I was sleepy and not in a mood to write, so I browsed the YA section, convinced a 13-year-old girl and her dad to buy The Book Thief on the spot, and picked up the Children's Book Market. I browsed the book (uh, really, flipped right to my favorite editor's imprint to make sure nothing had changed since the last time I looked at the exact same book) and read an article written by a woman who had won the critique award at a SCBWI conference. She only had 40 pages written at the time... and then finished it up in six weeks! It was motivating enough for me to put down the book and start typing, which I did for an hour and wrote 1600+ words. (Yes, I'm a word counter. It's how I stage my progress.) I turned off my Dana and then the store closed. Perfect timing.

Here's a link with an article that discusses a bit of what my book's about:

I'd be in bed reading Click, but I'm hopped up on caffeine. No, really, I'm just excited about sludging through my sleepy brain and getting the work done.

The story goes on...

How am I going to write the rest of the story in just...four days? Determination! (It's the only way I could finish a book, I think.)

Again, wish me luck.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Crunch Time

Wish me luck! I've given myself one more week to finish my first draft. That means I won't be dilly-dallying as much and will be on a one-track mind---Rohana. Well, that and playing with blocks and trains and stuffed cats on my "off" time.

Next Sunday, we'll leave for our three- or four-day drive to Maryland. Home Sweet Home. After we get settled and my writing room is nice and cozy, I'll finish up the second draft. (By the end of the year? I hope so!)

If I'm not around much between now and then, it's because I'm being dutiful and not letting myself get distracted by the internet. As I am now...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spin Diesel

Alright, alright, I'm going to tell you a tale for your own benefit, AT MY EXPENSE.

A long time ago, like, last night, I grabbed my dad's Jeep keys, my bag of writing material and my dana, and headed out the door. "Hey, fill up the car, ok? It's going to snow tonight, and it needs to be filled." I nodded, and made my escape whilst the One in Penguing Pajamas was looking the other way. I donned my ski-cap and rushed outside and into the Jeep. I wish these seats were heated, I thought.
At the light, I had to make my decision: fill up the car now, or after Starbucks? Dad had said something about having to go the opposite direction from Starbucks to the gas station, so I sat for a moment, and when the light changed, I turned left. I was, for once, going to do the "chore" before the fun. As I approach the gas station, I saw there were two--one was a Shell, and lit up nice and bright in the frigid air. That was the one we always seemed to go to. The other one was smaller and had a nice dinosaur on the sign, so I took a quick turn and pulled in there, thinking it'd be nice to give them some business. I swiped the credit card, unscrewed the cap, and noticed it was green. It said, "Diesel only." Ahah, I thought, I have to select the right button. There on the panel was a red, a green, and a black button. The green one! I pushed it, shoved the handle-thingy into the gas tube and squeezed. I pushed the little lever to keep it pressurized so I could go back into the car, where it was warmer, but instead I decided to jump up and down like all the other Denver-gas-fillers. As I did so, I glanced at the gas pump and read the green square. UNLEADED.
I jumped a bit higher, cursed at myself, and frantically pushed all sorts of buttons, trying to cancel the flow of fuel. Then I remembered all I had to do was unsqueeze the handle. When I got the fuel stopped, my stomach sank. 2.42 gallons of unleaded in a diesel car. What do I do now! I thought I was surely screwed.
So I did what I always do--I called my husband. He laughed, then said he had no idea how to fix it, but "don't turn on the engine!" I swallowed and felt like I was sixteen again. I called my dad.
"Um, what happens when someone puts gasoline in a diesel car?" He blew the roof, understandably. Within fifteen minutes, he was at the gas station, helping me move the car (Without turning it on!). "Why did you go to this gas station? We never go to this one! It doesn't even have diesel!"
He was mostly mad because it was freezing outside.
We tried siphoning the gas out, but the Jeep has an anti-siphon mechanism (isn't that helpful?). After shivering more than I wanted to bear, we left the Jeep there and went home.
I ate freezing humble pie, and did not write at all.

It snowed last night.

Dad called and said I was "incredibly lucky" because the Jeeps people said all we have to do is fill it up with diesel and flush out the gas. I didn't put enough in to cause any damage. Phew!

Now, if you ever happen to drive a diesel car or truck, go to the bright and shiny gas station and find the green pump with the GREEN HANDLE. And whatever you do, don't just go by color coding. READ THE SIGNS. ;-)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Ode to my writing friends

Oh, how I languish without thee, writing friends...

Truly, though, where would I be? Certainly not this far along in my novel.

I am in a good mood right now because I just finished writing 1500 words (not exactly in publishable form, mind you) while trying desperately NOT to eavesdrop on the people sitting and chatting around me in the coffee shop.

Next Saturday I'm joining back up as a contributing member to my critique circle--my best writing pals on the planet. I'm excited to be part of it again, and getting to read sneak peeks of their manuscripts-in-evolution. They're all so damn talented, too. It's humbling.

Just a note: Elizabeth loves the cat. And the dog crate.

Other good news: Jim found us a home in Maryland. It's a three-bedroom townhome with a fenced-in back yard and a playground across the street. I've already laid claim to that third bedroom. It's where I'll be working on my stories. :-) Also, Jim's boss said he didn't want me driving across the country alone with Elizabeth, so he told Jim to take time off, fly out here, and drive back with me. We're going through Columbia, Missouri (where I was born) and St. Louis (where I went to university). I want to show Jim around the campus a bit, and maybe meet my old Russian professors. (Hopefully, they won't ask me to speak Russian. I'm so rusty.) After that, it'll be a straight shot to Maryland and Home Sweet Home. For ten months, at any rate. Isn't it cute?

Other good news: Elizabeth is sleeping in her own bed now, and only waking up every three or four hours in a night. This is a drastic improvement. I didn't mind having her in bed with me before, except that it was a little uncomfortable. She also woke up every two or three hours. Now, as long as I don't fall asleep in HER bed, I get lots of room. And yet--I'm still tired with waking up twice in a night.

Tomorrow, I'm getting TWO writing breaks since mom and dad will be home. While they're out feeding the ducks, I'll be here, trying to ignore the siren call of internet.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Back in the Swing of Things

A cliche I love to say!

Here's where my mind goes to during every break I get in the day:
Isn't it beautiful?

Last night I finally got back on track and wrote a scene--and it's wasn't a re-write, it was an addition! I found a way to get myself moving forward. The problem was that I knew I had things I wanted to change in the first hundred pages, and I couldn't get myself to move much past that without going back and making the changes.... so I printed the first 110 pages off, went to Border's on Saturday night, and sat there for about two hours with a red pen. I marked out the changes I wanted to make and did a read-through all in one, and PRESTO! I can now move forward. I'll go back and actually DO the changes after the first draft is finished. It's simple, but it's like magic! (You have no idea, but trust me on this one.)

The piece I wrote last night entailed an attempt to run away from a chasing Maori man and a successful escape from a burning house by tearing through the thatched walls. Exciting! My parents were watching Elizabeth in the basement and watching something on SciFi (Atlantis something-or-other) and I could hear lots of screaming and village-plundering, which was perfect. I should have recorded it, because tonight's scene is when the really gory stuff begins. You know, the massacre and Eating of Man. How delicious! Roasted forearm, anyone?

Friday, November 9, 2007

New Zealand Pics

Here are just a few of the pictures we took while in New Zealand and on Chatham Island. Jim took the pics with him to Maryland, so I can only put on which ones he emails me... Hope you can see them clearly.

This is what Chatham Island looks like now...

And this is what it looked like before the introduction of livestock.

Jim and Elizabeth at the Basalt Columns on Chatham Island. This was the type of day the phrase "wind chill" was coined for.

Elizabeth on the infamous Long Jump Beach, in Southland, NZ.

Us at a waterfall in southern South Island, near where we saw the penguins (which we didn't take pictures of, sadly).

The Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island of NZ.

And Elizabeth's favorite part of New Zealand...the ducks! (Any bird, really.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

In Colorado

It has been nearly three months since I have been alone in a house while Elizabeth was napping. Meaning: it has been a very long time since I've had the time and means to blog!

Our trip to New Zealand was fantastic. (Pics to follow, when I get them off the camera.) We spent five days in the Chatham Islands and then about two weeks driving around New Zealand.

In New Zealand, we got to Christchurch, picked up our not-so-new campervan and promptly left the city for Mt. Cook. That first night, we pulled over and stayed at a picnic area, and then drove on to the mountain -- which was, of course, obscurbed by misty clouds. That night, it snowed, and when I went to shower in the bathroom, I was dismayed to see I had to stand bare-footed on a frigid concrete floor wide open to the elements (with a privacy door, though). The water was hot, so I stayed a very long time until I had the nerves to shut the water off and dry off in the frosty air. After I got back to the campervan and Jim went to shower, it snowed. Did I mention NZ was cold?

After the Southern Alps, we drove down to the southeastern part of the island and stayed in a campground for two days overlooking a wind-swept beach. It felt as if the world was lonely there, and our presence warmed it up a bit, so we all enjoyed it. The best part of the southland was seeing penguins in the wild. We went to Nugget Point and waited for the Yellow-Eyes Penguins, the most endagered and shy of all penguins, to return from fishing. Eventually, we did see two return to shore. One took half an hour of swimming up and down in the surf, keeping an eye out for predators (of which there was nil) before finally hopping UP A CLIFF to his nest in a bush. Not what I had imagined a penguin would be like --- it wasn't like Happy Feet at all. (But it was cool!)

All was going well until I stupidly thought I could warm myself up by jumping on the beach. I decided to show off for Elizabeth and do my first long jump in ten years, so of course I slipped on some rubbery seaweed and hurt my back. No problem, I thought, I'll be fine. And I was, until that night, when getting ready for bed I pulled something and couldn't move a muscle without spasms. In case you should ever need it, the NZ medical system is awesome--they have free insurance for travelers from out of the country. Can you beleive that? The Saturday morning doctors' visit (best ever, too) cost us $25. The meds were a bit more, but boy did they help. Thankfully, we were driving a campervan, so I could lie down in the back while Jim and Elizabeth took us across country. After a few days, I could walk again and went back to the front seats. (It was dreadfully boring lying in the back by myself, staring at puffy clouds.)

We drove up the West Coast, saw a glacier, and took the ferry to Wellington, where we stayed a few days to visit the museum and the University. (The museum is awesome, by the way.)

Then we drove to a national park loaded with active volcanoes. The biggest one had actually errupted only a week before, so I was excited. We also glimpsed the infamous Mt. Doom of LOTR fame (it looked a bit kinder in the white snow and without the special effects). After that, we drove to the Otorohanga Kiwi House so Elizabeth could see some birds (she's obessessed, I tell you!) and then up to Auckland. At that point, we were tired and ready to go home, but we had three days we went to an Underwater Aquarium to see penguins and fish, and then to the Auckland Zoo. Now, Elizabeth can point out sheep and say "pshee!"

We got back to San Diego on the 30th, took Elizabeth trick-or-treating on Halloween dressed as the last costume available at Target (an angel) and then had our household goods packed up on the 1st and moved away from San Diego on the 2nd. Quite tiring. We got to Denver on the 4th, and I finally have time to sit down, take a look at my novel, and get back to work. I've got to finish the first draft by the end of the month.

Cheers--and I promise, pics will appear soon!