Photo Friday: Best of 2004

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

This week's Photo Friday challenge is "Best of 2004." The challenge is to choose the one photo that you are most proud of from your 2004 archives.

And it did prove to be a challenge.

Looking back through the year's photographs, there are quite a few that I like, but there wasn't one that I'm absolutely in love with. I think I've made some progress in my photography this year. But I still have a lot to learn.

Anyway, I narrowed it down to three that I liked--two landscapes and one still life. Coincidentally, they were three that I hadn't posted here before. I've been taking a lot of landscapes this year, mostly because I'm living in a new landscape myself. But I've always liked still lifes best. So the photograph above is the one I've chosen as my Photo Friday Best of 2004 submission.

The two landscapes below are a bonus.

The first is from a series of photographs I shot on one miraculous day when the sun set yellow over the beach near my house. I happened by at just the right time and shot until my battery went dead. I posted another one of these pictures here, but after looking at the series with a fresh eye, I think I like this one better:

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

I don't have Photoshop, by the way--only a very rudimentary photo software program that basically helps me get the pictures out of my camera and into my computer. I can boost the saturation a bit and make the picture a little lighter or a little darker, but that's about it. The pictures I post here are basically unretouched. This photo could probably use a little touch-up. I'd lighten up the surf line a little bit for starters.

The last picture I chose as runner up for my best of 2004 is one that I like, but which probably won't ring any bells with other people. That happens a lot with me and my photographs: The ones I like most get the least reaction from others. What I like about this picture is the graphic and unexpected nature of the ice machine, the quality of the light, and the pretty decent depth-of-field:

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

There are already almost 200 photos posted on Photo Friday for this challenge. Many of them are simply gorgeous and absolutely worth the time it takes to click through them. Enjoy!

This is NOT a New Year's Resolution

I was re-reading yesterday's post and it struck me that the ending is kind of lame. Maybe I got bored with the subject of me toward the end and just decided to tack on a little meaningless sentiment, meant mainly to reassure myself that everything is fine: I'm happy, really. I can't think of anything I'd want to change! Everything is just perfect! Well, of course that's just not true. I am happy, yes. But I'm not perfect. And neither is my life. The truth is I have a long list of undone things on my "To Do" list. I could stand to lose five (ten) pounds. And my social life--well, let's just say there's definitely a resolution or two lurking in that area.

But there is one topic I'd like to focus on, and that's the writing. The thing about the writing is that no matter how long you've been doing it, no matter how good you are at it, you can always get better. That's one of the things I find exciting about it. Then again, it's one of the frustrating things, too. It's like a never-ending "To Do" list.

But just because something is daunting doesn't mean you shouldn't tackle it, right? So I've decided to spend some time thinking about my writing life and career. Where I am and where I want to be. And how exactly I plan to get there. I have a kind of vague and broad idea that I would like to get to a point in my writing career where I only have to write what I want to write and still be able to live comfortably. But I'm not totally sure how to go about doing that. As always, the question is where to begin.

And then yesterday I was going through the job search sites -- there are five of them listed in the sidebar to the right under the heading SITES -- and I found an article posted on the freelance writers page at It's called "Write Your Own Reality," and it lists 14 questions to help you formulate goals, dreams, and resolutions about your writing. I'm going to work through the list today, but I thought I would post it this morning in case anyone else found it worth tackling as well.

The list, by the way, is not perfect. I find questions 6 and 9 to be a little vague. And I plan to skip question 7 (already do) and question 8 (boring). And I think it's OK to go off on a tangent, if one of the questions leads you in an interesting direction. If you want to share some or all of your answers via the "comments" section, that would be great. Or, if you post them on your own blog, leave a link so I can check it out, OK?

Anyway, here are the questions:
  1. Where do you want to be with your writing in the long-term?
  2. Where are you with your writing now?
  3. What project did you leave unfinished last year that you need to finish for your own peace of mind?
  4. What creative goals do you want to achieve over the next year?
  5. What financial goals do you want to achieve over the next year? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? (Note: Feel free to keep this number private, but you should set one).
  6. What steps do you see necessary in your life to achieve these goals? Each month, pick one step and work on it.
  7. What will make you refer to yourself, first and foremost, as “writer”?
  8. What steps do you need to take on the technical front to achieve your goals (such as improving spelling, grammar, and a general widening of skills)?
  9. What steps do you need to take on the creative front to achieve your goals?
  10. What changes do you need to make in your daily life (interaction with friends, family, job) to make this work?
  11. What marketing steps do you need to achieve your goals?
  12. How much time each day do you vow to devote to your writing?
  13. With what new type of writing will you experiment in the coming year?
  14. What new non-writing interest do you wish to add to your life this year?

[From Write Your Own Reality by Anne Wayman.]*

* Hmmm. I was just looking at this article again, and although Anne Wayman's name is at the top of the page, it does say that the article is a guest column. And the information at the bottom is for Devon Ellington. So I have to guess that she wrote the article. Ellington's blog on the writing life is Ink in My Coffee. Sorry for the confusion.

2004: My Year in Review

This past year was a big one for me. It’s kind of amazing to think of all the things that happened in 12 short months. I adopted the dog. I started this blog. I spent my first full year in my own home. My divorce became final and I went back to my maiden name. I reconnected with an old friend. I did a lot of writing, including 45,000 words in November. I took a lot of photographs, read a lot of books, and went for a lot of walks on the beach. There were hardships and struggle, yes. But there were also victories and a couple of life-changing events.

This was a year of some financial difficulties. It started with a 2003 tax bill that was much bigger than expected. I had to borrow quite a bit of money from my folks to pay it. And then I lost a well-paying and steady freelance gig. It was a company I really liked working for, too.

In the summer of 2004 my first book was published. I had been working on it (and talking about it) since 2001. I can’t tell you how many times over the years people asked me how it was going, if it was finished, or when it would be published. Now they all ask me what I’m going to do next. Good question. Let me get back to you on that one.

By the end of the summer, I still hadn’t found a regular job to replace the one I lost and things were getting tight. I was making money from other sources, enough to pay the bills and the mortgage, but not much else. My savings account was depleted, I hadn’t paid my folks back any of the money they loaned me, and I started using my credit card for everyday expenses like groceries and gas.

In the fall, I set a deadline for myself. If I didn’t get another freelance writing job by the end of September, I would get a job in a bookstore with all the other struggling writers. In the eleventh hour, I landed a job with an educational publishing company. I still owe my folks a lot of money, my credit card is completely maxed out, and I’m living paycheck to paycheck. But I’m making my pathetic living as a writer, dammit.

In December, I signed a copy of my book for someone. As I was doing it, I realized with a little rush that it was the first time I’d ever done that.

Despite the financial difficulties, I’d say that 2004 was a good year for me. It was certainly eventful. And although I’m hoping that 2005 is a little less dramatic and a little more prosperous, the fact is that I’m really happy with the way things are right now—personally and professionally.

I don't think I can ask for much more than that.

Holiday Leftovers

I have a bunch of random holiday stories (and a couple of links) that I haven't posted yet. And since we're heading toward the New Year at an alarming rate, I thought I would round them all up into one post.

It's Not a Party Without a Parade
This is my second Christmas in my new place and, like last year, I threw a little Christmas Eve party. The real draw isn't the food or the drinks, although those are nice. The real draw is the Christmas parade, which goes by the end of my block around 7 p.m. And we're not talking about a nice little New England hometown affair. No, this parade is big and raucous and a little crazy. Some of the "floats" are just pickup trucks strung with Christmas lights. Others are more elaborate, with decorations so bright they kind of hurt your eyes. We saw Spongebob and Elmo and lots of other characters--some of whom were not dressed in costumes, if you know what I mean. People wave and throw candy and the police, ambulance and fire engines go by with their sirens wailing. Santa and Mrs. Claus come by at the end with the full complement of plastic reindeer, Rudolph included. Here's a shot of the gang watching the festivities:

And here comes Santa Claus on (what else?) the John's Oil truck:

Christmas Eve-l Knievel
Following tradition, I celebrated Christmas Eve with a death-defying stunt. I didn't think I could top last Thanksgiving's great fall (my right hand still hurts, by the way). I was wrong. This time I tripped over the dog, twisted an ankle, landed hard on my right knee, pulled the dishrack and a utility cart down on top of me, and burst into tears. But that's not even the best part. The best part is that I was carrying a handful of knives.

A Dog's Life
The dog got a lot of good presents this year. Cute toys, lots of bones, and yummy treats. It was her first Christmas with me. I'm pretty sure she spent last Christmas in the animal shelter. When I first got her, she was so shy and easily frightened. She would cry if I left her alone for a second. Now she's spoiled rotten and as friendly and happy and as bold as can be. Here she is opening her Christmas morning present from me:

It Just Wasn't His Year
On the other hand, my poor dad got the shaft this year. My mom even took a picture of his pitiful "pile" of gifts. We did say we were going to take it easy this year. But we probably could have done better than a pair of socks, a shirt, and a DVD. Even his stocking sucked. He got dental floss, for crying out loud. Better than a lump of coal, I guess. But still pretty sad.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
We didn't have a white Christmas this year. But boy, did Mother Nature make up for that on Sunday. I'd guess we got at least a foot of snow on the North Shore. KK and I took a photo field trip on Monday. Now that's the way to take pictures. She drove around while I shot out the window from the warmth and relative safety of her Subaru. Here are some of my favorites:

Leftover Links
I meant to post a link to Buddy the Wonder Dog's 12 Days of Christmas, but never got around to it. He's still cute, though. Reminds me of my dog a bit. Maybe they could be boyfriend and girlfriend. I've been meaning to post a link to the Collaborative Advent Calendar, which features 24 different illustrations by some very talented artists. A little late on that one, too. You should also check out Penelope Illustration. I love her work and read her blog regularly. Finally, if you like illustration art, you will love Illustration Friday, another cool idea from Penelope.

The Power of Blog
I wrote a couple of gift-guide blog entries, mostly because I've always wanted to write one of those "ten best" columns for a magazine. Ten Best Gifts Under $50," for example. Or "Ten Best Beauty Treatments for $10 or Less." You know? So to practice I wrote an entry called Gifts for Writers and Other Wordies and also an entry on the best books on writing. I swear I wasn't dropping hints. But that's the power of the blog. My dad got me a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss, which I mentioned in the book entry, and my cousin F got me two of those beautiful alphabet mugs mentioned in the wordies entry. They're even prettier in real life.

I think next year I'll write about sports cars.

Feeling Like a Loser

OK, I'll admit it: I'm not very good at Trivial Pursuit. Never have been. Probably never will be, either, unless they come out with a special Gienna edition with questions that are all about me. I can usually answer other people's questions just fine. But when it's my turn my mind just goes blank. It doesn't help when people are sighing and tsking and saying, "Oh, this is so easy!"

Another thing about me is that I'm not very competitive. I like to play games, and I don't mind doing well or even winning once and a while, but I'm just not all cut-throat about it. I go in thinking it's going to be a friendly game and I go out with my feelings hurt. I swear, it happens every time.

Last night I played the 90s edition of Trivial Pursuit with two of the most competitive people I know. There was a lot of tsking and sighing. A lot of screaming WRONG and shrieking with laughter when I would answer, for example, Bill Crosby. When what I meant, obviously, was Bill Cosby.

Then there was the shouting out of clues if I took even half a second too long to answer. "C'mon--she was really ugly and she owned a lot of big hotels!" Do you see what is happening, there? It makes the answer so obvious that you have to say Leona Helmsly whether or not that's what you would have come up with on your own. But you don't get credit for getting it right, because you were given such an obvious clue. Never mind that you didn't ask for the clue.

It's a way of letting you win while making you feel like a total loser.

Maybe I'm being too sensitive. People have been telling me I'm too sensitive my entire life (which, by the way, hurts my feelings, too). But, still. There must be a way to play a board game without making the loser feel like a loser.


Good Dog

Yesterday was the dog's longest visit at my parents' house yet. She was a good girl. Well, aside from eating the cat poop. And peeing on the rug. Other than that, though, she was good. Really.

Lots of snow in our area today, so some of us--including me--decided not to go to New Hampshire after all. KK called me a wimp and a party pooper. I say I'm just sane. The dog would have liked going though: there are woods and four other dogs to play with.

Candid Pictures

My Christmas pictures didn't come out too great. But then, they never really do, do they? There's actually a ban on Christmas morning pictures at our house. For obvious reasons:

That's me in my cracker hat.
But hope springs eternal. This is the second Christmas I've had my digital camera, but the first that I've really known what I was doing with it. So I thought, What would be the harm in snapping off a few shots? With the digital camera, you can see how the picture comes out right away and delete it if it's really bad. Like this:

That's J in her cracker hat.

Anyway, it's not just the Christmas pictures that have been coming out bad. All of the candid indoor shots I've been taking have been lacking something. Those taken with a flash look particularly bad:

The Aunties.

One obvious solution is to use natural light, although that's in short supply in New England in the winter. Sometimes a picture shot without the flash looks kind of cool:

The Birthday boy.

Then again, it doesn't always work:

Reading In the Night Kitchen.

Which means you have to turn up the lights if you want to get a halfway decent shot. The color is better, but it's not exactly candid any more:

Time for bed.

Also it's kind of a mood-wrecker, turning up the lights like that. So, anyway, I guess I have need to practice my indoor candids. I'll have another opportunity to do so today. Nothing like Christmas on a Saturday to make the holiday a three day extravaganza.

Merry Woofmas

Merry Christmas From the Dog.

What a Bunch of Babies ...

Scared of Santa Photo Gallery. Worth at least looking at the first ten photographs ... I don't know about all 45. You're responsible for your own wasted time, people.

[via Judgment Call]

Photo Friday: Tacky

Gienna Writes Home

My entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge. The theme is "tacky." Some people took very nice pictures of tacks and one person took a really creepy picture of some kind of gooey substance. But around these parts, "tacky" can only mean one thing. And it's not a very nice thing at that.

The people around here decorate with abandon for Christmas. This house is actually understated in comparison to some of the others. I've been meaning to get over to Saugus--you wouldn't believe it. There's this neighborhood, which we used to refer to by a very tacky name, that goes totally mental with the holiday decorating. I bet those houses can be seen from space.

The truth is, though, I don't really think that decorating your house with lights for Christmas is tacky. Well, those giant inflatable things are a little tacky. And ringing the satellite dish with lights ... yeah, that's tacky. And, to my mind, having Santa stand in a crèche is tacky, too. But you know what? People do it because it makes them happy and because it makes other people happy.

And it's kind of tacky to make fun of them for it.

(There's no Photo Friday challenge next week. )

Working Jerks

I think things are going to be quiet through Christmas and possibly even through the end of the year and I'm looking forward to having some time off. More than that: I deserve some time off, dammit. I've been going pretty much non-stop for about three weeks, weekends included.

Part of the reason I've been so busy is that I made a mistake and underbid on a job. The company gave me the assignments I bid on plus about 30 more at the same price. That should have been a clue, right? But it's a fairly new client and I didn't dare tell them no. So I accepted the extra work. That's when I realized it was going to take me waaaay longer to do it than I expected. I spent two weeks doing research-based writing at minimum wage for a Fortune 500 company. And with no benefits, either. And don't get me started about self-employment taxes.

Luckily, I spent the third week working for a good employer. Someone who pays me a fair rate without being all squirrelly about it. Who puts my checks in on time and doesn't wait to approve my work the day after the close of the current billing cycle. (One time is a coincidence. Every time is a conspiracy, people.) This job isn't always easy and it doesn’t come with vacation time, health insurance, or even a Christmas bonus, but it includes the major fringe benefit of an editor who sends me occasional emails praising my work and thanking me for my professionalism. Who makes me feel like a valued member of the team.

As opposed to treating me like a supplier whose pricing mistake is an opportunity for profit.

Looking for freelance clients is kind of like dating. Everybody says there's plenty of fish in the sea but the truth is it's hard to meet someone. You want a nice guy--you really do want a nice guy--but somehow you end up with the jerk every time. And the funny thing is, the signs that he was a jerk were there from the start, had you only paid attention.

What I really need is to find more employers who are nice. And to learn how to recognize the jerks a little earlier in the process. I'm not saying I won't continue to work for jerks.

But from now on I'm charging them extra.

One More Thing ...

I probably shouldn't even think this, let alone say it, let alone write it down in a place where the jinx gods could read it, but I think that maybe I am finally all caught up with my work. Except that I just know as soon as I hit "publish" I'm going to get an email from an editor saying "Just one more thing ... "

Moving Views

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

This view of Boston, taken from the beach near my house, is different every day. The color of the light, the character of the clouds, and the mood of the sky are constantly changing. The tides devour the beach and spit it out and the winds change the water's texture and the light changes its color so that some days it is gray and choppy and some days it is impossibly smooth and brightest blue.

But the skyline is the thing that really gets me. That causes me, at times, to nearly swerve off the road as I'm driving by. Sometimes the city is big and bold. Sometimes it is smaller and further away. It's like the moon--you know how sometimes it is as big as a pie and hangs low in the sky and sometimes it is a high and distant speck? We all know how the moon moves. When we were little we sat, sleepy, in the back seat, watching it follow us home.

But cities don't move. Except when they do. Is it a trick of the light? An illusion caused by tides? Something to do with air pollution? Never mind, I don't want to know. On this day the city was big and bold and yellow.

That's enough for me.

Red Socks


Photo Friday: Abandoned

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer, image.)

This is my entry for this week's Photo Friday challenge. The theme was abandoned.

Took this picture in Marblehead at a small public boat launch. The docks have been pulled out of the water for the winter and there's all sorts of strange-looking stuff stored there. It's been abandoned for the season, anyway. It was another one of those days where the light is so beautiful that it makes everything it touches look beautiful, too.

And yeah, I know I posted this a day early. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow. And I spent waaaay too much time today trying to get this photograph posted. It's a long story, not worth repeating here.

Writing I Couldn't Live Without

Today's the last day to get free shipping on Amazon and have your package arrive by Christmas Eve. I have a feeling that Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss is going to be a big seller this holiday. And that’s great. But if you’re buying for a writer, you might want to dig a little deeper than that. Because writers already know that commas and apostrophes are woefully misused. Trust me.

Buying books on writing for writers can be intimidating. Won’t they be insulted? Well, if you buy a For Dummies book, they might be. But a classic book on writing is a sure thing. It doesn’t even matter if they already have it. Every writer I know has at least two copies of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. An extra copy just means you have one for sharing.

And what if you choose the wrong book? Well, in my opinion, there’s no such thing as a bad book on writing. You can get something out of nearly everything. But there are some books on writing that just stand miles apart from the others. They are the books on writing that you turn to again and again for information and inspiration.

Here is my list of books on writing that inform and inspire, that stand up to multiple readings, that are welcomed to my bookshelves by the bushel, the books on writing that, in fact, I simply couldn't live without:

On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Every writer should have a copy or two of this book.

Writing For Story by Jon Franklin. The best damn book on narrative nonfiction. Period.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. My all-time favorite book on creative writing. Makes me want to grab my notebook and a pen and head for a café to write my heart out every time I read it.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Not so much a technical guide as a spiritual one, but one that you'll want to read over and over again. The writing is beautiful.

And, to round out the list, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Destined to be a classic. On my to-read-again list.

So I showed you mine. I'd love to see yours. Just click on that comments link at the bottom of the post and tell me which books on writing make your can't-live-without-it list. While I wait, I'll be praying that I didn't make any punctuation mistakes in this post. Is it just me, or does it seem like there are a million apostrophes in this one?

A Chicken in Every Pottery Class

Chickens are the new suburban pet, according to this article in today's Boston Globe. As usual, Daphne and Bobby are way ahead of the trend ...

Where the Hell is Kyrgyzstan?

[Via StuckHereWithNoTV]

I don't usually do these quiz things, because the results don't usually make sense to me. But this time, for some reason, it pegged me. I totally am Kyrgyzstan:

You scored as Kyrgyzstan. No one knows who you are or where you come from. There’s a very real possibility you might be a communist, although it might also just be that you’re misunderstood. Congratulations, you win the wo\man of mystery prize.

What country are you?

The Race From Freeport

You know what's great when you have an obsessive personality? FedEx shipment tracking.

I ordered some things from L.L. Bean that are coming in two different shipments and I've been watching them race down the coast to my house from Freeport, Maine. I love that you can track the exact minute they complete each step in the process. Surprisingly, the single item that I ordered yesterday is in the lead over the two items I ordered the day before.

Update: I just hit "refresh" and found out that the package with the single item is on the truck and out for delivery. You know, for those of you who are keeping track. Or placing bets.

Or really, really bored.

Someone's Been Googling Me

Hey! Did you just Google me?

I can tell, you know. When you Google me, that is. About a month ago, I signed up for site statistics from Sitemeter. It tells me how long someone visits, for example, and how many pages they click on, and the referring URL (what page they came from). If you want to see who visits this site, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on that odd little multi-colored square.

I can't tell who you are or anything. Just what you (and by you I mean you, but only in an anonymous kind of way) do just before and during your visit to the site. And, it just so happens, that if the referring URL is a search engine, I can see the search words you used to find me. Today two people searched for "Gienna" and ended up at my site. Actually, one person searched for "Gienna." Someone else, oddly enough, searched for "giEnnA."

I get the most visits from people wanting to know "What is wrong with the misfit girl doll?" And now I kind of feel bad, because in that post I was flip about the girl doll's problem. I said she was depressed. I should have said that her problems are psychological. Mental illness is not a joke, people.

The second most popular search is for various members of the Fox 25 News team. And I even got one search for "Colin Farrell's package." It's not even like package is the standard term, you know?

People are such a fucking mySterY.

My Christmas Tree (Detail)

Photo Friday: Reflections

Gienna Writes Home

I like the way this picture came out, but I'd like to try again when there's a full moon. The problem is that there are so many variables. The moon for one. But there also has to be a high tide at the right time of night. It can't be too windy, otherwise the water is too rough to show the relection of the lights. And it has to be partly cloudy. If there are too many clouds you don't get that pretty Maxwell Parish blue sky.

I'll keep checking the phases of the moon, the tide charts, and the weather forcast. Meanwhile, this will have to do as my Photo Friday submission for this past week's challenge, which was "reflections."

This week's challenge is "abandoned."

Gifts for Writers and Other Wordies

I'm a little behind on my Christmas shopping. I have a couple things for my mom, one thing for my favorite baby, and that's about it. It seems like this is the year for online shopping. But even that takes a little planning ahead.

One site I'm definitely going to shop: The Reader's Catalog. It's got great gifts for anyone who loves words. Among my favorites: the alphabet mug; the alphabet tie; and journals in different sizes and colors.

I also like the 2005 Granta diary, but it is less expensive at Amazon. Amazon's description is inaccurate, though -- the diary actually features 52 different book jacket designs from the past 100 years, including first edition covers of The Hobbit, Casino Royale, Trainspotting, On the Road, and The Old Man and the Sea.


The Mood Swing Shift

If anyone out there is thinking about becoming a freelance writer (Work in your pajamas! Take Oprah breaks! Sleep late! And take naps!), there is something you should know.

It is a totally crazy way to make a living.

For days on end there's no paying work to do. So you rearrange the furniture, balance your checkbook to the penny, read books and day dream. You muse about how wonderful your life is, and remember the days when the alarm clock woke you (or didn't) at 5:30 a.m. You sip your coffee while watching the neighbors scrape ice off their cars. Brrr. Put on a nice, warm, sweater and update your blog and work on that short story you've been neglecting. And then you start to get bored. Just a little at first. But then that feeling that you're forgetting something important starts to grow. There's only so many errands you can do, after all. There's only so much cleaning. You can only check your email a few hundred times a day before you start to consider reading the spam.

And then, suddenly, there is not one project due but three. And they're all due on the same day. And then suddenly that day is tomorrow. And how exactly did that happen? And, by the way, the dentist appointment you made six months ago? Without fail it falls in the middle of the madness. So you write from sunup to sundown (well, you write from sunup to sundown in the winter, anyway, when the days are shorter). Sometimes you take a quick break for supper and then go back online to do some research. Some days you kind of foget to eat. On bad days you forget to shower.

It feels good to be working again, of course. And you can't complain that you're finally earning some money, either. But, bottom line, it's the occupational equivalent of manic depression. High highs, low lows and nothing in between.

So if you're the kind of person who likes a nice, orderly, 9 to 5, structured, predictable, non-crazy, scheduled life (and, by the way, I'm not) do not under any circumstances become a freelance writer.

That's my career advice/public service announcement for today. Now I either have to get back to work, get something to eat, or take a shower.

No Tea For You!

KK has been itching to go to the Wenham Tea House for a while, now, and on Sunday she finally convinced me to go with her. I agreed to go despite the fact that it seemed like an extremely girly thing to do because she told me that yes, she was sure that they also served coffee. I drew the line, however, at visiting the Wenham Museum's world famous doll collection.

The circa 1910 building, in lovely Wenham Village, houses the tea room as well as the shops, which include a small bookstore, a gift shop, and an antiques consignment section in the attic. It is all owned and operated by the Wenham Village Improvement Society, a philanthropic organization formed in 1893.

Apparently, some of the original members are still running the place.

Sadly, the tea room is closed on Sundays. Well, when we asked, it was closed. You see, KK and I made the stunning mistake of wearing jeans. We had on nice tops, cute shoes, our hair was neatly brushed and our fingernails were clean. But the dungarees were a big mistake.

The little old ladies of the Wenham Tea House acted as if we were members of a girl gang. They struggled not to make eye contact while also watching to make sure we didn't steal anything, set fire to the place, or try to kidnap any small children.

I bought something for my cousin's son, who will be turning two soon, partly because it was so cute and because I love him madly, but also just to prove to the tea house ladies that I wasn't indigent.

As we left the building, a gaggle of ladies--none of whom were wearing anything even remotely resembling casualwear--pushed us off the walkway and headed inside for tea and a fashion show. The girl gang was not invited. We went back to my Neon, with the wet nose prints on its windows, and tried to exit the parking lot without hitting any Jaguars.

And we almost succeeded, too.

Photo Friday: Prosperity

Today is Friday. I didn't submit a photo for last Friday's Photo Friday challenge. (I always want to write it Foto Friday, even though I know that would be very, very wrong.)

Last week's assignment was "prosperity." It was a toughie. I went out to Marblehead neck to take some pictures of mansions and sailboats. But while I got some nice pictures, none really said "prosperity," you know? Because prosperity, to me, means growth. It has some movement to it, some energy. The houses on Marblehead Neck are too staid and solid and motionless. Too old money.

I think a better tack would have been to go to a mall on the day after Thanksgiving, get a shot of someone in nice shoes carrying lots of shopping bags. Or the mad rush of people going into the stores. But that's never been my thing. I don't like people. Well, at least not crowds of them. One-on-one they're usually OK. Sort of.

Today's challenge is "reflections." Much better. I have a bunch of ideas already. And, thankfully, none of them involves people.

Daily Candy

OK, I'll admit it. I have a thing for handbags. But, you know, I wouldn't exactly call it a problem. Because I could quit any time I wanted to. I swear I could.

Daily Candy launched its Boston edition yesterday. Today's installment features some really cute Boston-grown bags from Tart Industries. All you men out there with fun, funky girlfriends who are looking for Christmas presents: you could not go wrong with any of these. And no, you can not buy them at WalMart. Sorry.

Oh, but I digress. Daily Candy is a hip site focusing on style, arts and culture, dining, travel and gadgets and ... well ... stuff. Fun stuff. There are five daily editions, delivered through e-mail: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Boston, plus everywhere. A Kids edition (for "busy and hip parents") is published once a week.

The site also features really excellent illustrations by Sujean Rim and an interesting and engaging writing style. See how I managed to tie shopping and writing together there? Aren't I clever? Doesn't it make you want to buy me something?

No? Well just wait 'till I start regaling you with gift ideas for writers.

Golden Sunshine, Part 2

Here are two more pictures from Tuesday's photo field trip. They almost look like paintings, don't they?

(Click on either picture for a larger, clearer image.)

Golden Sunshine Fills Your Eyes

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image)

The girls and I took a photo field trip yesterday. We went to the beach during that magic hour when the sun is low and casts a golden light on everything. I got some really nice shots. I'll post some this week. See, this is just one of the things I'd like to have time to do in addition to writing.

Lessons Learned in November

November is over, and so is National Novel Writing Month. I finished my novel, but fell short of the 50,000 word count, ending up somewhere in the mid 40’s. I’m still kind of processing the whole experience. But I do know a few things. First, I feel good about what I accomplished, even if I didn’t “win” by writing 50,000 words. And second, I couldn’t have written one more word of the story if you had paid me a million bucks.

It was pretty awful.

Don’t get me wrong. I did a lot of writing and some of it was good. I ended up with a story that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. But, for me, this month-long writing exercise wasn’t really about the story. It was more about doing something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, something I have been putting off year after year after year. It was more about facing my fear of failure. Or of success. Or maybe it was just about overcoming laziness and a tendency to procrastinate.

Here’s one thing I learned for sure. There are a lot of poor excuses for not writing. Doing the dishes. Watching crappy television. Browsing the Internet. Sleeping late. Just goofing off. There are things I am willing to give up for writing. And, it turns out, you can get a shitload of writing done if you put your mind to it.

On the other hand, there are plenty of valid reasons not to write. Taking long walks on the beach and hikes in the woods. Reading. Spending time with people you like. Watching good television. Taking naps. Going on photo field trips. All things I enjoy. Things I had to give up or cut back on in November in order to write all those words. And I don’t actually want to live my life like that. Not to the extreme, anyway, and not year-round. One month out of the year? Maybe. I’m pretty sure that I will take another stab at crossing the NaNoWriMo finish line next November.

This November, I tried to write 2,000 words a day. Some days I wrote less, some days I wrote more. Some days the writing was a joy. Some days it felt like a chore. I think the key is to make time in your life for writing. But not so much time that you start to hate the writing. I figure that I could easily write 1,000 words a day and have plenty of time left over for the other things I enjoy. And even if that’s not 50,000 words a month, it is a whole lot of personal essays, short stories, poems, and pages of a longer work, such as a novel or a memoir or a screenplay. Not to mention blog entries.

So that’s what I’m taking away from my November noveling experience. There’s a deeper lesson in there somewhere about facing your fear of failure and failing anyway and finding out that that’s OK. I should probably be writing about that. And I should probably write about some of the technical lessons I learned about plot construction and character development before I forget them. And I will. Later.

Right now I’m going to take the dog for a nice, long walk.


Hey, guess where I'm going? To pick up my CAMERA! Yay!

Oh, Go Put on Some Pants, Will Ya?

Just a quickie, 'cause I'm supposed to be writing. But K and I went to see Alexander this weekend and I have a few things to say.

1. Oliver Stone is crazy.

2. I had no idea Alexander the Great had such a boring life.

3. Colin Farrell would have been better suited to play the lesser-known Alexander the Willowy.

4. A quick peek at Colin Farrell's package does not make up for the distracting combination of blonde hair and jet black eyebrows.

5. OK, we get the Oedipus thing. Do everybody's eyes have to be poked out?

6. Were we supposed to be laughing during the battle scenes and the teary deathbed goodbyes?

7. That eagle was totally fake looking. But the elephants did look real.

8. Not one person coming out of the theater looked happy. Confused, yes. Sleepy, sure. But not happy.

9. K says the critics aren't doing their jobs. If they were, we would not have gone to see that movie. She doesn't understand why they don't just say "Do not go to see this movie."

10. Do not go to see this movie.

I'm Really Looking Forward to December

The end of November, and thus the end of National Novel Writing Month, is fast approaching. I'm playing through the pain of my sprained right hand, doing the hunt and peck method when it really starts to hurt. But I'm in the 40,000+ word range and for the first time since I undertook this crazy adventure, I actually think I'm going to make it. For an updated word count, check my NaNoWriMo profile. It's pretty cool to watch that blue bar creep toward the 50,000 mark. Well, it is for me, anyway. There are already more than 50 pages of winners. I'll be back when I'm on the list.

Feeling Arts and Crafty?

During a recent visit to the museum shop at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston I fell in love with a handmade wool purse, covered with little balls of felted wool in soft, subtle shades of blue and green and mustardy yellow (Gulden's mustard, not French's). But it was $65. I mean, yikes. It sorta looked like this only bigger and not so bright and the stap was different:

Anyway, I would make one myself except I would have no earthly idea how to do it. I'm not Martha Stewart. I'm not even Not Martha. But all you Marthas out there should feel free to make one for me, OK? Just let me know when it's ready and I'll send you my mailing address.

Have a Nice Trip, See You Next Fall

You know, it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving, or any other holiday, or actually just any day at all, without the Big Fall. Yesterday's performance was a real thing of beauty. Running start. Into the wet sand. Face first. Crushing my right hand and bending my fingers into a very unnatural position beneath my Amazonian body so that today they are all swollen and sore.

Well, at least I'm not a right-handed writer.

Oh, wait ...

A Completely Normal Thanksgiving

I went to Shaw's yesterday to get my turkey. I decided to go with the fresh Butterball. Fresh to avoid the nightmare that is defrosting a frozen turkey (not having to deal with a sink full of ice-cold turkey water is totally worth another 50 cents a pound) and Butterball to avoid the huge disappointment that was the free-range, all natural turkey a few years back.

"Is she cooking a normal turkey this year?" my dad wants to know.

Unfortunately, when I got to Shaw's, all that was left were either huge 25-plus-pound turkeys or tiny, 11-pound turkeys. All the ladies were complaining bitterly about it. Meanwhile, I snuck off and found a guy in a suit who was standing around looking dumb and convinced him to go out back and find me a nice 15-pound turkey.

I was furtively wheeling my lovely mid-sized turkey toward the checkout lanes when the guy from the meat department came up to my cart with a kind of quizzical, nervous look on his face.

In return, I gave him a look that said, You know, I really am sorry if I got a turkey that you were saving for someone else. I really am. But if you think I'm giving it back, there is going to be a serious problem. My dad wants a normal turkey this year. And by God he's going to get it.

"Find everything you wanted?" he asked.


"OK, then," he said, as he stole another glance at my 15-pound turkey. "Happy Thanksgiving."

"Oh, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too."

Don't worry, dad. This year the turkey is going to be completely normal.

Day 23; Hitting the 35,000 Word Mark

Well, I was going to try to continue with yesterday's theme, but all the writers whose NaNoWriMo-related sites I bookmarked earlier in the month seem to have given up on their novels. Plus, one person's user profile kept causing Internet Explorer to crash, so I'm not going to send you there.

So I guess I'll just have to talk about me.

I hit the 35,000 word mark on my own novel last night and it was great. I'm right where I wanted to be despite some minor setbacks and despite taking a day off here and there. Now as long as I write about 2,000 words a day for the rest of the month, I should hit the 50,000 word mark right on schedule.

When I finish this book I'm going to have to dedicate it to chocolate and coffee. It just wouldn't have been possible without them.

Other People's Blogs: Christop

"Then Why Aren't I Flat Anymore?"

Earlier this month I wrote that I was going to post some links to other writers who are participating in National Novel Writing Month and either posting their novels or writing about the process online.

Well, the month is almost over, so we better get started, eh?

First stop is to check out Christop. I found his site by browsing Blogger profiles that list their occupation as the arts. He's at the bottom of the first page, there, see? And he's kind of odd. So I like him immediately. He's blogging his novel at Operation Embryo. The writing is fun and the dialogue is fabulous.

Here's a recent bit I really enjoyed:

'If you're my husband,' she said, 'how come you look younger? And how come you don't look like you've been rolled over by a hill?'

'Rolled over by a hill?' said Tederick. 'But I thought that must've been just a dream!'

Tears welled up in Lois' eyes. 'It wasn't,' she said. 'It really happened.'

'Then why aren't I flat anymore?'

Unfortunately, I think Christop has suffered a bit of a setback. He says he isn't going to be able to finish by the end of the month. Too bad. I hope he keeps writing anyway.

Speaking of writing, there will be more fun "writing NOMO People" tomorrow. Maybe. I mean, there will be more of other people's blogs tomorrow unless something else happens to distract me. And I'm easily distracted, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing my second blog entry of the day. Actually it's the third, counting the one I lost.

I've passed 30,000 words on my own novel and hope to get to 35,000 today. And in order to do that I have to stop writing this and start writing THAT.


Fuck me. I had a whole post written, links and all, and just as I was about to write the headline and hit "publish," I somehow arrived at a screen that said I had been logged out of blogger, or my session expired, or some shit like that and the fucking post disappeared into the ether. This isn't the first time it has happened, either. I usually save a copy of the post before I hit publish, just in case. But this time I hadn't even hit the publish button--I'm not even sure how it happened, it happened so fast. Someone ought to do something about that. You know?

A Trip to the Museum

Yesterday was my birthday. In the morning I went to the Museum of Fine Arts with my mom to see the Art Deco exhibit. We had lunch in the cafe and, of course, poked around the museum shop afterwards. Later, I had dinner with my folks: chicken fingers from Kelly's, an entire large bottle of wine, and a huge slab of chocolate cake.

The MFA exhibit was really cool. I like to see photographs and paintings, and there are some great ones, including a couple of nice photographs by Man Ray and Edward Steichen, two of my favorites. And there were a couple of paintings by Tamara De Lempicka. I didn't know her name before yesterday, but I recognized her work, including this painting, which was in the exhibit. Anyway, as much as I love paintings and photographs, there's something particularly energizing about an exhibit that also includes the objects of an era, from furniture to textiles to jewelry to ceramics and glassware, as this one does.

The amazing thing is that so many of the objects, created almost 100 years ago, still look modern today. In particular I coveted some of the lights and the clocks and the posters and oh, the silver. Gorgeous. It made me want to start collecting Deco. Or at least buy out the museum store displays.

One thing I liked about the exhibit was the way it was grouped into regions, so you could see what was going on in design at this time (1910-1939) all around the world. Art Deco in Asia was a lot different than moderne in Scandanivia, which was different again from streamlined in Britain or Jazz Age in America.

I also liked the way the exhibit showed what influenced some of the classic Art Deco design elements. The displays included ancient Greek, Native American, and even Mayan artifacts next to the more modern items they inspired.

Anyway, all-in-all a nice birthday. And, as an added extra bonus, the night before I hit the 25,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo novel. That's the halfway mark, for those of you who are keeping track.

Now I just have to do it again.

Photo Friday: Patterns

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image).

Day 18; Let's Not Jinx It

I'm not going to tell you what my word count is. But I'm thinking of a number in the 20s.

Photo Friday: Family

(Click the photo for a larger, clearer image.)

I found a new site to obsess about: Photo Friday. Well, it's new to me, anyway. The basic idea is that there's a weekly theme or assignment, you post the picture to your blog, and submit a link to the photo Friday website. Then everyone can check out each other's photographs. What a great idea, right?

It's killing me that my digital camera is still out for repairs. But last Friday's theme was "family" and I thought of this picture. It's one of my favorites.

I still can't figure out why some of the pictures I post look so crappy online, though.* This picture looks great in my photo program, so I know it's not my monitor. And the funny thing is some pictures come out looking fine and others look all wobbly, like this one. Maybe it has something to do with the sizing? If anyone knows, drop me a comment, will ya?

* UPDATE: OK, I think I have figured out how to make the photographs look clearer on Blogger. The thing is if you are going to post a photograph at 400 pixels, then it looks a lot better if you resize it to 400 pixels before you send it. So I swapped out the photograph that was originally in this post with one that I had resized to 400 before sending, and there is a big improvement in the image quality. Yay.

Here's the thing, though. I set the blogger image settings so that the main page picture is 400 pixels and the archive picture (the image you see when you click on the main page picture) is at 640 pixels. But for some reason when I send a picture that is resized to 400, the archive image stays at 400, too. Hmm.

In order to get the main page image at 400 and the archive image at 640, I posted the photograph twice, in the two different sizes (400 and 640) to my secret test blog (you could also post them to your main blog and then save the entries as a draft). Then I went into the HTML of my secret test blog posts and cut and pasted the HTML for the 400 photo into the edit post field of this blog and -- this is the key -- linked it to the URL for the archived 640 photo. So when you click on the 400 pixel photo above, you are actually going to the 640 pixel archive for an image posted elsewhere.

Maybe there's an easier way to do this. But I've been trying to figure out how to post clearer pictures now for about a month and so I'm pleased with myself for coming up with a solution, no matter how inelegant it may be. So there.

Time for a Haircut

This is not good. Not good at all.

It's one thing to have the same hairstyle as a celebrity. It's quite another to have the same hairstyle as a celebrity whose picture is on a site dedicated to making fun of celebrities. And quite another thing all together when the celebrity is a dude.

There is one big difference between my hair and Anthony Kiedis' hair, however. His is shinier than mine.

Day 16; Past the Halfway Mark

And way behind on the word count

So, you may or may not have noticed that I have been studiously avoiding all mention of my National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) novel ever since I hit the wall on day 11. That's mostly because I hate to whine, and all I wanna do is whine about NaNoWriMo right now. My mom sent me an email yesterday and referred to "writing NOMO people." That sounds just about right, as in: I don't know if I can keep up this crazy writing NO MO, people.

My friend RCAS left a very good pep talk on that November 11 post. I've read it a few times and there are some good suggestions there. I had already been doing #4, writing scenes out of order. The nice thing about that is when you go back to do the harder scenes, you come through on the other side facing a completed section that you can jump right over. It's kinda like time travel.

Anyway, I was having so much trouble breaking through the week two wall that I decided to combine item #4 with item #2, which is grab a writing session "wherever you can fit it in." And so I've been writing little vignettes or even just setting descriptions in mini-sessions here and there throughout the day. And RCAS is right. A few hundred words here and there do add up. And they certainly add up to a lot more than nothing.

And then--finally--just as I was falling asleep last night, an idea came to me that would open up the whole middle of the story. It will be easy to write and will add a good chunk to the word count. I've yet to get on a roll, but when I do, I'm going to obey item #1 and keep writing through it. Eventually, I hope, I'll get my wind back and write myself out of the serious word-count hole that I'm in.

My Cat Really Does Hate You

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

I have some very, very serious posts about the very, very serious writing planned for this week. This isn't one of them.

You may have noticed that I don't blog about my cat, Daisy, very often. Do you know why? Because My Cat Hates You. Seriously. She really does hate you.

You know who would love the kitty cats on My Cat Hates You dot com? The Hulk. In fact, he would love any kitty cat, even an incredibly mean one. HE WILL CLEAN OUT THE POOP BOX AND WALK IT AND EVERYTHING. It won't be like the Pony! Or Rick Jones! HULK PROMISES.

Nobody Likes a Skinny Santa

Of course, Santa comes around by the end of the movie. Maybe he was cranky because he wasn't getting enough carbs.

It's snowing here, by the way. North of Boston we have a good two to three inches on the ground. I'm sorry, but is it December and nobody told me?

"You'll Wear This and You'll Like It"

I had a date with my best guy today. He's a little short for me and quite a bit younger than me, but he has a great sense of humor and he loves dogs and kitty cats. And I really didn't mind the emergency run back to his mommy's house to get both Big Baby and Little Baby, although normally that kind of thing would sound some alarms, you know?

After my guy's nap, we watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There's some serious mean-ness going on in that movie--and it goes beyond not letting poor Rodolph play in any reindeer games. I didn't remember how grouchy Santa was, for example. It's not just that he didn't like Rudolph's nose. He was even critical of the elves' singing. Poor Mrs. Santa.

I do, however, remember what a crappy father Donner was. That whole scene where he gives Rudolph the fake black nose that makes him sound like he has a cold? Brutal. Really puts you in that old holiday mood and makes you want to spend more time with your family, huh?

By the way, do you know what's wrong with the misfit girl doll? She's depressed. You can read about that and other fun behind-the-scenes facts here.

Hitting the Wall

Day 11; 14,500 Words

I'm closing in on 15,000 words, which is good. But my original goal was to have 22,000 words by now. That's seeming a little beyond my reach at this point. The word count chart in Chris Baty's book, No Plot? No Problem! says I should be at 18,300 words by now. And that's if I don't take a single day off. But I seem to be topping out at about 2,000 words a day. I'm just not sure what else I can do to break through that wall.

Squirrels in Viking Caps

I've been reading Chris Baty's book, No Plot? No Problem! Baty is the creative/evil genious behind National Novel Writing Month. He's a great writer and he's really funny and from what I can tell by the picture on the back cover of his book he's kind of cute. I have no idea what's going on in his NaNoWriMo profile picture, though.

Yesterday I noticed that the little NaNoWriMo squirrel in the illustration above was wearing a Viking cap (click the picture to see a clearer image on the NaNoWriMo donation page). In Chapter three, Baty writes about "writing totems," something to put you in the creative mode, to signal to yourself and others that you are working. Baty's totem is a plastic Viking helmet.

If you want to know more about Baty, here's a Q & A interview with him by Tim Ljunggrenat at WordSmitten and an interview by Elizabeth Bartlett at Absolute Write.

Day 10; 12,608 Words

I've posted another excerpt of my novel-in-progress here. I've revised and expanded the first part, which I posted previously, and there's some new stuff partway down, after the three asterisks.

And don't forget the STANDARD DISCLAIMER, which goes something like this: "I don't know why I'm posting this. It's not very good. It's not really done. I didn't even edit it. It's just a rough draft. Everyone else's writing is so good. Mine is utter crap. There's a huge mistake right in the middle of it. And one whole paragraph that's really repetitive and stupid. But I'm going to fix it. Because I don't know if I said this already, but this is just a rough draft."

In other words, don't tell me my island can't have a marsh.

Shit. I just noticed the squirrel is wearing a little Viking cap. I know why, too. But that's a post for a different day.

Other People's Blogs

I have never written as much as I have in the past 8 days. I passed the 10,000 word mark on my NaNoWriMo novel yesterday, plus I've been more or less keeping to my goal of posting to this blog six days a week. In addition to writing for myself (and the 20 people who visit Gienna Writes every day, which includes my mom) I've also been writing for other people. People who pay me. People who pay me money. And, call me crazy, but that has to come first.

Today I had a really full schedule and I've only managed to write a couple of paragraphs on the novel. Still, I feel bad when I don't post and that distracts me from writing. So what I thought I would do is post some links to other people who are participating in National Novel Writing Month to distract you all from my distraction.

First off I have to introduce you to Graham Waldon. In addition to being a cutie-patootie (he's the one with the pink bow) who likes Celtic Music and The Princess Bride, he started Na-No-Blog-Mo, which currently has 973 posts (973!), each one linking to a person who is blogging their novel this month. I visit every once and a while and scroll through the list to see if there are any ideas I can steal. In addition to blogging about bloggers who are blogging their novel, Graham is also blogging his own novel. And he's blogging about the process on what I think is his main blog, Graham's Page of Stuph. He has, like, a million blogs.

So every once and a while over the course of November, I'll post links to NaNoWriMo blogs I've noticed, either from browsing Na-No-Blog-Mo or checking out the blogger profiles that mention NaNoWriMo or from the NaNoWriMo profile pages. But you should start with Graham, especially since I'm pretty much stealing his idea. That should keep you busy while I work on the book.

Day 8; Back From Outer Space

8,843 words and climbing

On November 4th my laptop crashed and I lost my National Novel Writing Month file, which was up to about 8,000 words. I've been writing like crazy to catch up. Today I passed 8,000 words. Yay!

At first I was still a little bummed out, because I thought that I would have been up to 16,000 words by now if I hadn't lost the 8,000. Maybe. Maybe not. Rewriting what I'd already written was a lot easier than coming up with new plot developments. I already knew what was going to happen, so it was just a matter of getting it all down (and backing it up one million times).

And I did manage to advance the story, partly because I decided not to rewrite a whole chapter in which, I realized, absolutely nothing interesting happened. So while I didn't get much further in my word count, I did get further into the story. Plus, the second draft is better than the first.

Going forward, I'm going to have to be disciplined if I want to hit that 50,000 word mark. There are 22 days left in November. And I have 41,157 words left to go. That means 1,870 words a day, assuming there's not a single day I can't write or just don't feel like writing.

Still, I feel like I'm finally swimming with the tide again instead of struggling against it.


The Look of Love

(Click on the picture for a larger, clearer image.)

OK, I've been writing furiously, trying to make up for all the words I lost when my laptop died, but I was feeling guilty for not updating the blog, plus I think it looks pretty crappy without pictures, so I decided to post a cute picture of the dog. Because who doesn't like a cute picture of a dog?

Night 4; Drunk and in Charge of Technology

Well, the laptop has been scrubbed clean and the sucky Windows XP has been reinstalled (I'm a 98 SE girl, at heart, but I don't feel like re-installing again tonight, thank you very much). You know, that whole "restore and reinstall" label on the CD? It's a complete misnomer. There's nothing restorative about it.

So have I learned my lesson? If history is any indication, probably not. Can I just tell you how many times this happened to me in college, with a paper due the next day? Can I just tell you how many long, thoughtful missives I carefully composed to one client or another only to have them get sucked into cyberspace? Can I just tell you ... Ah, forget it. You don't care and neither do I.

You know what? I'm GLAD the whole thing is gone. I'm GLAD my laptop is a shiny clean slate. The whole thing sucked anyway. Dream Come True. What kind of a crappy name is that for a novel? It sounds like a Harlequin Romance. And I had this whole chapter about a character who lives out of a tent for the summer. How is she supposed to get clean? Bathe in the ocean? OFF THE COAST OF MAINE? It makes no sense. And this other dude. He's a fucking newspaperman at a small-town newspaper on an East Coast island. Hello? Steal much from E. Annie Proulx? (Holy shit, I spelled her name right without even looking it up.) It's been done, and it was called The Shipping News. Which, by the way, is a MUCH better title than fucking Dream Come True.

So I'm back to zero. Good. Bring it on. I'm like the Red Sox, down 3 and 0 against pure evil. I'm like Kerry, down 100,000 votes and refusing to concede to pure idiocy. I'm like ... I'm like ... I'm like some other underdog who refuses to give up in the face of adversity.

And it's not just the wine talking, I swear.

I am Gloria Gaynor. And I will survive, people. I will survive.

Day 4; A Minor Setback

So, you know the piece of crap excerpt of my novel that I posted this morning? It's a good thing I posted it, because it's all I have left. I'm reformatting the hard drive of my laptop as we speak. And drinking wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Well, at least it happened at 8,000 words and not at 40,000 words. My advice to you? Stop reading this right now and go back up your files. I am so fucking serious.


OK, I'm going to post an excerpt of the novel I've been writing for NaNoWriMo. (I'm up to about 8,000 words as of this morning.) I posted it on my author profile page, too. But before you read it, there's something very important that I have to say.

It's utter crap.

I did a weekend writing retreat once, where we wrote and shared our work in small groups and then at the end of the weekend, everyone came together (about 40 people) and each person read a short excerpt of something they'd written over the past two days. But because the retreat was only a weekend long, and because we needed to keep things moving, the organizers and participants developed what we called THE STANDARD DISCLAIMER. It goes something like this:

"I don't know why I'm reading this. It's not very good. It's not really done. I didn't even edit it. It's just a rough draft. Everyone else's writing was so good. Mine is utter crap. But I'm going to fix it. Because I don't know if I said this already, but this is just a rough draft."

You can see how if 40 people said something along those lines before reading (and they would have, because it was just a weekend, and the idea was to WRITE, not to edit) we would have spent ages on apologies and disclaimers. Instead, before reading, each person would stand up and say "The standard disclaimer," and everyone would chuckle and the reading would commence. And most of the time the writing was fine and sometimes it was kind of crappy. But you could always see the potential. And who can criticize that?

So anyway, this is a long way of saying that the excerpt I'm about to post is a rough draft. I can see all sorts of things wrong with it and I will fix them, eventually. But not this month. This month is about writing, writing, writing. Next month I'll edit. Promise.

Meanwhile, here's the excerpt. Insert the standard disclaimer here.

Working Title: DREAM COME TRUE

Susan was walking along the beach with her dog, Daisy, when she saw the snake. It was dark and thin and it was curled into a perfect figure eight. From the side, it looked like infinity. Susan frowned. She wasn't afraid of snakes, but there was something odd about this one. For one thing, she'd never seen a snake at the beach before. And she'd been walking this beach ever since she could walk, some 38 years now. Among the dune grasses? Possibly. In the scrubby brush surrounding the marshes, certainly. And she’d come across snakes dozens of times in the woods at the center of the island. She knew that a few of them lived in the stone wall behind her house, the house her grandfather built, the house she would always think of as her grandmother's house, even though Susan owned it and lived there now. But right out here on the sand, just a few feet away from the incoming tide? And another thing—the snake was laying so still. Perhaps it was dead. Or sick.

Even though she wasn't afraid of snakes, Susan didn’t know if she wanted to rescue one. She vaguely remembered something about snake skin being contaminated with salmonella. Or was that frogs? Regardless, she had no place to put the snake, no way to carry it. She was wearing jeans, a little on the tight side since she'd gained another five pounds, and a bulky cardigan sweater without pockets. No jacket—it was unusually mild for a late October day in Maine. And she carried no bag, no backpack. She supposed she could carry the snake in her hands, back down the beach, up the path through the dunes, and down the dirt road to her house. But then what? She knew nothing about snakes. What if it bit her?

Susan had rescued birds before. Stray cats. Baby rabbits. She rescued Daisy, a black lab, who had been left behind by a vacationing family. Susan had found her two years ago, at the end of the summer season, huddled beneath one of the cottages along the beach. She had tracked down the owners and placed a long-distance phone call to let them know she had the dog and that she was all right, but they said retrieving her wasn’t worth the expense and effort. It had taken pretty much every ounce of control Susan could muster not to tell them just exactly what she thought of that.

Susan glanced over at Daisy, who was eating a piece of seaweed and showing no interest in the dead or dying snake laying in the sand at Susan’s feet. The fact that Daisy had never shown a lack of interest in anything that might be edible, be it animal, vegetable, or mineral, gently nudged Susan awake. She bent down and poked the snake with a finger. Rubber. The snake wasn't real.

It wasn't until later that she remembered her dream.

Day Two; 5,620 Words

I'm a little ahead of my goal of 2,000 words a day for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to those in the know) and I'm really enjoying the writing. I've been getting up at about 6 a.m. and writing for an hour while I drink my coffee, then feeding the animals and taking the dog for a walk and coming back to write for another hour or so. Nice thing about Daylight Savings Time--my body thinks I'm getting up at 7 a.m. I've also been doing a little bit in the afternoon, although I'm definitely at my best in the morning.

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter

5,620 / 50,000
(11.0%) *
It is very freeing to write and not really care (for the moment, anyway) whether it's too soon for two characters to meet up (hey, they bumped into each other at the bakery--I had no more idea than they did that it was going to happen) or whether the timeline makes sense or what I should name my town or whether a small island off the coast of Maine would have its own school system or how many square miles it should be. If I didn't have that goal of 50,000 words to focus on, I'd be online looking up municipal web sites to see how many selectmen they have and when they hold Town Meeting. In other words, NOT WRITING. I'm not checking baby name books to find the perfect name for characters. I'm calling one Susan. Boring, right? I know. Maybe I'll change it, maybe I won't. I'm calling another one TEB, short for The Evil Bastard. When I think of a name, I'll just do a search and replace.

By the way, does anyone have any suggestions for a good name for an evil bastard? Let me know by clicking on that "comments" link.

* Well, obviously I'm having trouble with the graphic. I've tried several times to fix it. But I can't futz with it anymore, all right? This is supposed to be a month without futzing. So whatever. Just pretend it looks right, OK? Thanks.