Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dr. Crusher

What an odd name to give to a character. Beverly Crusher. Dr. Crusher. I wonder what on earth lies behind that name? Bet there's a story in there.

I have to go see Dr. Crusher or maybe Dr. Squeezer on Friday. Or more like Dr. Tortilla Press. I've been making lots of corn tortillas lately so I feel like in some sense I've brought this on myself. (Not actually true. But I do see the parallels.)

At any moment I'm going to have to leap to my feet and run outside to grab the laundry and bring it in due to imminent rain. Maybe it won't, though. Maybe it will!

The black flies are so bad that it's torture to go for walks with the dog, so he's not getting walks unless we go to parks or places like that. My niece's school, one day when we picked her up, for example. But our usual walks down the road are horrible, even when I'm drenched in bug spray, so nope. Even going out in the yard is not much fun with the bugs.

The grass is super tall everywhere except the front flat part which is reasonably easy to mow with the motorless mower. But today I got the trailer onto the car and the mower onto the trailer, so I'll take it in tomorrow and get it fixed all up. Soon, I hope. I mean presumably the rush is over, right? I did my best and took it all apart and cleaned it and replaced bits but that thing is beyond me. Off to mower camp!

I have to go to writer camp and the boys have to go to dog and cat camp soon. DON'T WANNA. Though I am hatching a plot to drive down to Crater Lake, somewhere I've always wanted to go. It's only 4.5 hours away but you can't take dogs, so I never managed it, because: always dogs. It was too far to go and leave him home, and I couldn't take him, which means I didn't go. Same with previous dog, obviously.

I've got this shirt on today that is just completely enormous. I have no idea why I've never worn it before. There are a couple this sort of color but one is smallish, so I think I conflated them. I wouldn't wear a smallish shirt so I skipped this one too, I guess? Anyway it's delightfully vast in the acreage and I'm pleased.

It's worrying me how I'm going to dress for the hideous heat out among people at writer camp. I hate that part. I have a fantasy of sewing lovely soft knit camisoles by hand. I mean, it's not a far-fetched fantasy--it's perfectly possible--except that I have no energy or motivation at all lately, so I haven't taken the slightest steps to make it happen. Yawn!

I did buy twelve more boxes of tea out at Marden's in my old town yesterday, though. Cool! There's another year of tea in the bag! They had it for half price so I'm thrilled. I'd have preferred to get all of them and just back the car up and shovel them in, but for some reason I felt a little constrained after twelve. Like twelve is okay but twenty-four would be weird? Or forty-eight? That's only four years' worth of tea, you guys.

I would love to have the shelf of this closet all totally stacked up with boxes of tea. How great would that be? Of all the things anyone could hoard, tea is the most reasonable. She said, realizing that saying that makes her sound completely daft. But listen! It keeps perfectly well, it's light, it's non-perishable, and it's the thing I would miss the most if civilization fell apart, after my various meds. Possibly more than my various meds.

Boy, I really need to wash this window that I really needed to wash a year ago. It hasn't gotten any cleaner. How weird.

I hope the TSA doesn't mind that I'm bringing an inflatable bed and a pump in my suitcase. Not in my carry-on, so they shouldn't care. Also a box of tea (ha) and an electric kettle and sheets and a mattress pad and who even knows what else. I can't imagine anyone would care, but then again, they probably do care. Then again I just read that some vast percentage of actual illegal items that should be screened out get missed, like 95%, so maybe my camping equipment is okay.

I've been chopping away at the forest of weeds that is my book all day long, making excellent progress, but it has come to my attention again that this B story needs to be developed because without it the whole thing falls apart. So I'm working on that. Villains! Creeps! Jerks! But they feel so aggrieved and unfairly done by. Nothing makes people less sympathetic in my mind than that when it's not true. Good times.

Since I was out in my old haunts, I went back to that TJ Maxx and got more delicious smelling liquid soap and shower gel etc. for baths. Which is why I reek like a rose today in case you're wondering. Which you're not. This time I used what I learned from last year's collection. No citrus, no rosemary, no basil, no coconut. Go for flowers, anything sea breeze flavored, lavender, bergamot even though technically that's citrus, ginger, roses, spice. The Crabtree and Evelyn sweet almond kind is just the most delicious smell ever. Mmmmm. I also found incredible bottles this time, the prettiest things you ever saw. And some came in blue glass bottles that will be keepers for sure.

That is my bath bubble acquisition adventure for the year. Pretty thrilled! It took ten minutes. Read, sniff, into the basket.

Later this week I get to go pick up my printed and bound thesis and see whether Gaiman's law holds true. Supposedly the first time you open up a printed work, you see a typo or other mistake. I hope not! Maybe it doesn't count if you only printed and bound two copies.

Here's hoping that Dr. Crusher doesn't find anything amiss and life can go on as planned without major upsets. We do not want that! My friend far away is also going through exactly the same thing, only different, so we're lab rat buddies. It sucks! But hopefully it'll all be okay.

Character traits to write into these villainous types because these are things I dislike the most: greed, malice, jealousy, callousness to the sufferings of others, clannishness, cruelty. That should be plenty to go on with.

I realized my book is short on EVENTS. And when there aren't any EVENTS happening, nothing is really happening, which is weird and strange and why? So I'm working hard on EVENTS. People doing stuff! And then because of that, they have to make choices and decisions!

Personally I prefer when nothing happens ever, but I'm discovering that's not ideal for fiction. NO DUH.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Do everything all at once ah!

Isn't it odd? I feel like I get nothing done and I move around in slow motion and everything is excruciating all the time. Also every little thing feels monumentally huge and insurmountable and impossible to accomplish. And so doing things is unnecessarily fraught with difficulty and drama.

Today I did some things, though. I mowed a bunch of the grass. I can't really estimate how much of it because it's all in different sections, plus some are insanely hard due to slope, but not large. Anyway. Some. The part in front of the house. That felt most important to get done.

I hoed part of the garden so I can plant my potatoes. It's so odd, the ones grown from eyes have turned into awesome whole plants, while the ones grown from whole little potatoes are much slower to come along. I have a big plate in the sun in the kitchen with a paper towel on it and water on that. There are some onion bottoms turning into new onions also. And some carrot tops that I stuck on there because they were growing a whole little forest of frilly leaves anyway, so why not?

I have to write this presentation, so I keep going over it in my head, except it's not very happy material and it kind of gets me down thinking about it. Obviously that's something I need to fix also! Because making it a giant downer will not get my audience thrilled about life. Well, I do have a terrific way to go through to the end, don't worry.

The whole thing is called This Way to the Egress because one thing I figured out with this spring's writing was that in the worst times, even as a very little kid, I always managed to find a way to tell a story that made things better. I think that's awesome. I never realized I did that until I had to write out all these things.

I also never realized that I only use the simple past and not more complex forms. That's really just part of my dialect somehow. Obviously I read the more complex forms all the time, but I don't use them in speech, and neither do my brother and sister. It's very odd.

I brought cookies. I have brought cookies. I had brought cookies. I would have brought cookies. Maybe that last one, in the form of "woulda brought," but otherwise, only the first one. It's so odd to discover this absolutely unconscious speech habit at this late date.

In other words, we don't come from educated, articulate people, and all the education in the world can't erase those roots from our speech.
 
I'm a happy articulate speaker, though, so I expect the presentation will go fine, if I can stop being hyperaware of this particular tic. I love an audience, especially a bunch of writers. It's odd because I will have to talk about how I can't really deal with people, but people in an audience are at a nice safe distance, plus I'm in charge, so that's fine.

I don't even know where these talks are, because I never went to any in the previous two summers. (I have not ever gone to any? I feel like an alien.) It would help if I could picture the space. I suspect it's going to be in this giant echoey awful linoleum and folding chairs room.

It'll be fine. I once had to defend a paper to the entire Princeton history department while they were in hostile blood in the water mode, so I'll manage. I still think of something one guy said, though. He questioned my use of the word "stylized." What exactly do you mean by "stylized?" I still think that was an idiotic question, since I was using that word in the dictionary definition and there isn't really a lot of wiggle room there. Did he not understand the word? (Answer: he was Princeton faculty. He understood the damn word.) Was he just being a dick? (Answer: he was just being a dick.)

Also, that is an insanely difficult concept to articulate on the fly. I should have asked him to define it.

"Depict or treat in a mannered and nonrealistic style." Yes! Thank you, the internet. Guess what, there really isn't any other way to use that word, so shut up, Princeton professor guy in like 1999.

That experience was a little bit like I imagine the Salem witch trials must have been. For the witch.

So anyway, a nice fluffy presentation about this spring should be cake, except that the material is so fraught. I imagine the committee defense thing should be all right too, unless anyone decides to be a Princeton style dick, in which case I will use my laser eyes to incinerate them right then and there.

My biggest concern is making sure my potatoes will be watered while I'm away.

I did so much today that I'm sitting in my comfy chair going ow every time I move, or even when I don't move. I made roasted veg, cleaned out the fridge, washed all the dishes, worked on the gas mower, failed to make that sucker work, did the aforementioned mowing and hoeing, took the compost out, took the cat litter out, put away two baskets of laundry, folded up and put away all the sweaters, changed the sheets on my bed and the guest (cat) bed, folded up all the blankets, made every conceivable phone call, wrote for hours and hours (though not fiction), moved a bunch of books upstairs, AND SO ON. Like after I had a bath to soak out the ouches I went on and made a huge batch of refried black beans, and then washed all of those dishes, too. And cleaned up the kitchen utterly. I ran around putting things away a lot, too, and assembled a bunch of stuff to take to writer camp, like sheets and inflatable bed and inflater and mug and lanyard.

It really does sound like camp when I list those things.

I guess it could be fun? I have major social anxiety dread about the whole thing right now, from the plane to being there to graduation and friends coming to saying goodbye to everyone.

Also I have a powerful conviction that a dreaded event will happen exactly during my presentation, but we shall see. Hopefully not. I'll turn off my phone in any case, so I won't know until after.

What am I gonna do tomorrow?

I started reading Strange the Dreamer but it made me miss Karou something fierce. Like the writing is awesome and all, but where is my friend? Where is she? Though I am a big fan of Laszlo and looking forward to seeing how his story plays out. I'm on the fence about the blue people, though you'd think I'd be all on board, but where I am so far, they seem like lazy whiners, so we'll see.

Tomorrow I expect I will have to loll about going "oof" and "ow" because of overdoing it today. I will write books! That is a sitting still activity. I have to warn you, though. I'm also probably going to plant some potatoes, which means both digging and raking, so. We'll see.



Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Balmy

It's all balmy out! For Maine levels of balmy. That means it's like 72 and not actively trying to drown us. Hurray!

I have to get the dang mower fixed. It's possible I broke it by strapping it down on the trailer across a delicate spring, which I couldn't see because the whole thing was covered by a tarp. Anyway all the gas falls out through the air filter when I start it up. And then it stops. Something is amiss!

I won't be able to get it fixed until the end of the month-ish which means I've been mowing with the old-fashioned push mower, the kind with no engine. It works, more or less. I mean the lawn is walkable again, but sort of patchy. That thing requires shorter grass to work optimally. When the grass is too long it just pushes it over.

We'll fix it. But it's going to take some time.

Today I was puzzling and puzzling over the green stripe on the dog's paw until I remembered that we were over at my brother's on Sunday and my nephew was simultaneously playing with markers and melting down. So I have my suspicions about what may have happened there. He probably used erasable marker thinking it would wipe off. Dogs are not erasable, though!

My brother denies the possibility but the circumstantial evidence is very strong. I do own markers, but haven't had them out in years. Except the odd Sharpie to label a fez or whatnot. But those don't sit around with their lids off and if they had, they'd be well dried out by now. Anyway. GUILTY! Nephew is GUILTY! Of a totally minor and harmless thing, of course.

Today I found out I didn't get the job from last week's interview. It was sort of a long shot. It's okay. I had qualms, but just because it was going to start part time and ramp up to full time by December. What happens between now and then, see?

My other job, New Online Job, is still in the unpaid training stages, but OH OH OH, I love this place. It's better in every way than elsewhere. Philosophy, training, everything. I'm such a fan. I hope it starts up fast and becomes super awesome and turns into a lifelong partnership and adventure.

Meanwhile, I'm under orders (mine) to write more short stories and rewrite/finish book(s). Today short stories started bubbling up in my head again, which is very nice because there was no real bubbling for a while there. But I turned in my thesis yesterday (yaaaaayyyyy!!!) and so I am feeling giddy with possibilities.

And much less giddy in general. Did I mention giving up ibuprofen? Did I spell it right? Well, holy wow, I'm totally off it and feeling better than I did when I was on it, in terms of pain and general wellness and stuff. And my eyes have returned to normal. I can't even tell you what a relief that is. For one thing, I can read. For another thing, I'm not terrified that I'm going blind or something.

Don't take NSAIDs as a regular thing, even if your doctor prescribes them, like mine did! Of course this doctor (not a doctor) was an idiot. I'm not even kidding. She's very very bad at her job.

The first thing that happened is that all the extra drug-induced fluid in my body jumped ship. That was an interesting night with very little sleep. The second thing was that everything hurt like hell. The third thing was that I had to push through and exercise (mowing the grass with the analog mower) anyway. And the fourth thing was that I had less pain after all that than I did before all that and my eyes came back. Madness! Except I knew this, intellectually--pain meds are only useful in the short term. But sometimes we can be dense, eh?

Yum, stroopwafels. Stroopwafels in the breadbox! I had totally forgotten about them and then yesterday remembered out of nowhere. I wish I could have been recording that moment on video.

Oh! And I cut bangs again. Because my hair looked terrible without them. It's growing in gray around the edges up top but the gray is also sort of curly. When it was pulled back, gray was all you saw. And it just was not flattering one bit. So I watched videos and learned about how professionals cut bangs, because I'm me and I never do anything without preparation, and then I think Saturday I did the deed. And I look so much better!!! I even took selfies that came out awesome. Woohoo!

Experiment over, thank goodness. I hated looking in the mirror and trying to take a selfie for work purposes was a nightmare because they all suuuuuuucked. Now I look like myself again. There I am!

I guess it's been kind of a dramatic week, huh?

This morning on the radio the BBC announcer said, "And now more on American President [you know who,]" except when you say "more on" it sounds like, um, "moron," which made me laugh out loud in the car.

Then I went to the book sale at the library in the next town and got all these great books. 501 German Verbs! 501 Spanish Verbs! 501 French Verbs! Teach Yourself Chinese! A bunch of Bloom County books I didn't have! And various other things. Good stuff!

There was a funny moment because there was a book from one of the authors in my MFA program there, so I got all excited, and then remembered: oh yeah, I had two, so I donated that one to the book sale. Not actually even a coincidence!

This is the nicest library in the whole world, honestly. It's a private mansion someone donated to the town, on a lot of wooded land, up on a cliff over the river. I should ask them if it's okay to walk the dog around there on the paths on the property. There are benches and all, so people are okay, but you never know about dogs.

Especially the kind with one green stripe down one back paw.

I made coffee for my meeting this morning as kind of a high-octane option, but forgot that the coffee is decaf, whoops! Why don't I label these things? Sleepy. Also I was up late finishing Mockingjay. That book is a mess. It has no storyline. It's a jumbled series of events, loosely connected. The structure clearly comes from the previous books, as it's the same, but that structure doesn't work with the story of this book.

Also I know I've said this before, but the way the author chokes in the clinch of the second and third books really bothers me. Write yourself into a corner, good, yes, but then find a way out, a way in which the heroine has agency, without knocking your heroine unconscious and having her removed elsewhere to be cared for by a team of professionals.

And don't even get me started on the epilogue.

Overall Mockingjay is exceedingly disappointing just as a coherent novel. I guess it's probably good if you're just desperate for more of those characters. The choose a boy thing got old super fast for me, though. It made sense in the first two books but felt shallow and fake in the third. And nobody else had any depth either. Yes, a problematic book all kinds of ways. Needed another round with the editor and some more rewriting to determine the actual throughline.

Easy for me to say, haha. But I've been rewriting a lot lately and it's how I see everything. You know what is tightly written? Community. At least most episodes. There are a few that sort of come loose and unravel a bit, but mostly they're super tight.

By which I mean: all the pieces have to belong where they are. All the pieces have to be necessary for the story. Nothing extra to mislead or distract. The beginning leads logically and inevitably to the end based on the overarching premise.

I just got more ideas for how to fix Book so I have to go do that right now.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Maps!

I finally unfurled a roll of giant nautical charts that Penn State was giving/throwing away back in like 1996. Oh boy! I think I might have had some of them hung up ages ago, but not for a really long time, if ever.

If you can't remember whether or when you might have hung up your maps, then maybe you never hung up your maps.

They are AWESOME charts. Oh boy! I vaguely remember picking them out by coastline. As in, the deep parts of the water are white, and the land is white, but the shallow parts by the coastline are blue. Coastlines are lovely and crinkly and full of edges. And so now I have charts of the coastlines of Sudan, Korea, and many other wonderful places. Ah!

Also Mt. Desert Island! Oh boy!

I have a whole blue box of maps and sewing patterns, but where is it? I think maybe in the closet of the sewing room, but who knows? Anyway once I find that, I'll put up a lot more maps. More maps!

I will not put sewing patterns up on the walls with thumbtacks, though. Why does that seem so Silence of the Lambs?

Boy howdy...I'm a little addled by stress these days. I just got SO CONFUSED about why my weekly pill box had the days backwards. Like Sunday was on the right! And then Monday came before that! Yes. It has a row of AM and a row of PM days written opposite each other, as in, upside down to each other. Everyone already knows that I had it with the PM side facing me. Boy was that confusing, though.

Why so stressed? Halfway through a massive online training thing! It's awesome. Waiting for a big deadline thing to come up Friday. Another big important thing Friday. Monday I go get the pillage refillage. And Monday I turn in all of the last and final assignments for my MFA. Wooooooooo!!! From now until Monday I'm going to keep on revising and reworking and la la la! Make it good! Make it the best it can be!

No pressure or anything but I have to get it printed up and BOUND into HARDCOVER and all that. Dude! Actually I have to hustle on that.

And I have to buy a plane ticket for Oregon, except I'm waiting on this money to come in and I don't know if it'll be here before my rent is due, so I don't want to spend the money on the plane ticket just in case, see. So I'm on tenterhooks and the upshot will probably be that it will arrive in time anyway and I will have to pay way too much for a plane ticket I could have bought for much less.

Ooh, I'm also toying with the idea (terrible idea) of driving out instead of flying. See, it's a terrible idea. I told you it was terrible. But also awesome, because: road trip! Mattress in the back! Snuggle with the dog! Board the dog out there! But that is exceedingly unlikely to the point where there's no real reason to think about it except it's fun and I love a road trip.

 Also toying with flying out of Portland or Boston. But as I wrangle the math, it's not sensible. It doesn't save any money. It costs more by the time I get down there and pay for parking. Here my brother fetches my car so I don't pay for parking for all that time.

Anyway that's what's happening around here.

I'm having a TERRIBLE time with my eyes, and to a lesser extent my sense of balance and my legs. I haven't quite fallen yet but there were many close calls last week with a little stepstool. I have no idea which way is up. Most of the time that's okay because I'm sitting at my computer, doing my online training thing.

But oh, my eyes are killing me. I haven't been able to read for a week, which is torture. You know I usually read a book every day. I just have to buckle under and download some audiobooks from the library or something.

I'm not doing anything different, obviously. I went from working on my laptop all day to working on my laptop all day. Hello. It's just that usual neurological firestorm I get a couple of times a year. It'll pass. Meanwhile I'll use handrails and walk carefully and generally be a careful person. Audiobooks! Yes. And I have a cane in case I need it. I've used it plenty in the past.

Stress can set that off, I know. Last week was about the most stressful time in forever, it's true. This week I've kind of just settled into it and decided that I'm going to make things okay no matter what, which is a useful skill to acquire belatedly. But last week was my birthday, and I had literally six dollars in the bank, and all these huge bills coming up with no way to pay them, and this and that and the other thing, plus starting that new training and another whole thing and blah blah blah. It was a rough week! And then my body quit working, which made it even more stressful in a lot of ways.

My eyes are by far the worst of it, though. I should go get an eye exam, huh? I will do that as soon as I can.

Once I get the MFA work done, I suspect my stress levels will plummet exceedingly. Oh BOY do I want that to be good. Then I can worry about the talk I have to give, which, no big deal, really, and the books I'm writing. Books are good! I like books. I like having binders with full drafts in them so I can grapple with the manuscripts pen in hand.

This is always the story of my life. Things get hectic and stressful and insanely difficult, and I'm all baffled by why I'm so stressed out. Oh, you left one job and started two new jobs in one week when you were broke and couldn't afford to pay any of the bills, in the thesis-writing portion of the last two weeks of a two year long degree program? Why should that be stressful? Sheesh. I also chipped a tooth. Wonderful! It's one of my front teeth.

So I'm being very kind and gentle with myself and making myself meatballs and palak paneer and reminding myself to drink lots of water, because when I get stressed out I totally forget. And now I'm going to go get in the bath and maybe read some middle grade books or something because they have nice big print. No, wait, I will not be able to read. I can't see long enough. Like I could maybe read for five minutes before my eyes quit. I'll probably put Leverage on the iPad and listen to that instead. I'm super cold right now so a hot bath sounds wonderful!

Wait, let's look into the library's audiobooks right now! It's a good plan. I adore audiobooks. They make me very patient, I do not know how.

Oh! I just read that taking lots of ibuprofin every single day (three times a day in fact) hugely increases risk of heart attack. So I skipped one dose. We'll see how well that goes. I'm not sure what will happen to my busted up hands and knees if I quit entirely. It's for osteoarthritis. We shall see!

The funny thing is: what's easiest to do is write. I don't have to see to write! I could write with my eyes closed, gosh. The only issue would be if I had to edit or rewrite or otherwise have to see what's on the screen. I've been managing so far with the training but hoo boy am I not in great shape with this, you guys!

Anyway I should know a lot more this Friday about what's going on and when and all that kind of thing. We shall see! It will all be all right. Yes, it will. And I will write many awesome books and stories! And it will be awesome.