I have a confession

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I have a bit of an addiction, and my habit just got stoked last night.  I admit it.

I’m a Project Runway addict.

It’s been hard the past three or four seasons. Since the change from Bravo to Lifetime, along with a change in production company, the show has been way short on talented designers and way high on . . . well . . . maybe I’ll leave that particular noun to your imagination.

Anyway, last night the new season started up and it was Project Runway All Stars. They brought back about a dozen of the designers who didn’t win their seasons.  They changed the judges. They changed the mentor (Tim Gunn, I miss you!).

But they kept the cray-cray-cray contestants.

The thing about this group of designers is that they’re really talented, which, in my never-so-humble opinion, hasn’t been the case in the last several seasons.  These designers are terrific, at least mostly (with an appropriate set of cray-cray-cray left in, just to make it fun).

One of the discussions I’ve been having with a writing partner is the importance of understanding what contemporary style is all about, even when she personally has no interest in it. She writes smart, witty, wonderful characters who are (supposedly) rich and stylish and successful–and they dress like . . . well, again, I’ll let you come up with the description.  So I’ve been haranguing her more than a little the past few days, to the point where in any court of law it would probably labeled harassment.  I’ve even condemned her to (gasp!) watching a minimum of ten episodes of What Not to Wear on TLC, purchasing and studying one (only) copy of In Style magazine, and to regularly peruse my favorite snarky-gay-bloggers, Tom & Lorenzo at their website.

You’d have thought I’d condemned her to Death Row.

So anyway, that’s my personal addiction: Project Runway.  What about you? What’s your guilty secret?  Come on . . . ‘fess up. It’s just between us!

And if you want to see what it’s all about, try this snippet from PR below.

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Black Friday Thoughts

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It’s Black Friday…time to go out and spend all your money buying stuff to give to people so they can return them after the holidays.

So…do you go out and about on this day of frenzied, gotta-buy-it-now chaos?  Normally, I stay as far away from the stores as I can manage on this weekend, but this time, I was lured out by one of my favorite stores.  There’s a great wine shop in nearby Winston-Salem with a staff so terrific and so wonderful that I buy virtually all my wine there.  They have everything, from ordinary table wines to super-special top-of-the-line wines for $100+ dollars.

Anyway, they had what they called a “door-busting” Black Friday sale this morning, starting at 9 AM, with wine for as little as $0.99 a bottle!! Yes, that’s ninety-nine cents a bottle!

Okay, now we’re talking my budget!

Thus at 9 AM, a friend and I were surging through the doors to take advantage of those door-busting deals.  And you know what?  They really were door-busting deals.  Seriously.  Not only that, they had tasting stations set up so we could taste those wines…some 30 or so of both whites and reds.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t had a  lot of time for breakfast, scarfing down just a glass of milk and a protein bar.

Wine: A good substitute for breakfast

And that’s how come I was slightly sloshed at 10 AM this morning.  I mean, it was all in the name of science to determine which wines were worth investing in and which tasted  (to my palate) like something slightly nasty.

TRUE STORY:  I once went to a gigantic wine tasting of something like 200+ wines in a ballroom, and was encouraged by friends who are true wine aesthetes, to try this one red that was something like $50/bottle.  They were raving about how it had garnered something like 95 out of 100 points from Uber-Pretentious Winos Magazine.  So I tried it.  And it smelled…and tasted…exactly like it had been sloshed across a barn floor before being bottled.  Being a lady, I won’t describe it in detail, but it smelled foul, tasted worse, and yes, indeed, cost about $50/bottle.  Think of a horse taking a dump and you’ll just about have the “nose” and flavor pretty much dead on.  Just goes to show that price is not an indication of quality. At least in wine.

Anyway…my trip this morning was a huge success, and I brought home two mixed cases of various delicious wines.  I did not like or buy the $0.99 wine, but my average price/bottle was less than $3.75.  Like I said…that’s my kind of pricing…

Unfortunately, now that I’m writing for a living, I have to work the rest of today, even if it is the day after Thanksgiving. I’m feeling no pain from my adventures in Black Friday wine sales. Never fear, however. I can do anything. Including write the 50+ pages I have to get written today.  See?  Here I am hard at work…

So…what Black Friday indulgences have taken your fancy this year?  Any special deals?  C’mon, I won’t rat you out with whoever you bought that 99-cent special deal for…it’s just between us!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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This year I have bountiful blessings to treasure, listed in random order:

  • I get paid for what I love to do…writing
  • I have family and friends I adore
  • I have a boatload of stories to tell…fabulous
  • I have a Feline Manager who keeps me definitely on track doing my “minionly duty”
  • I have a new critique group of writers who are all really talented

I could go on and on, because these are the merest tips of the iceberg. For example, I haven’t mentioned that Scrivener is now on my PC and my Mac.

But…I think my most outrageous blessing is that the Muppets are finally coming back in style.  I long to be like Miss Piggy.  And to have the green-ness of Kermit, even if it’s not easy being green. And to have the cleverness of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew–and the persistence of his assistant Beaker. And to have the critical perceptiveness of Statler & Waldorf.  Not to mention the culinary artistry of the Swedish Chef.  And the sheer joie de vivre of Animal.  And the spaced-out weirdness of Gonzo…whatever he is.

So, just to avoid the usual Thanksgiving Day cliches, I’ll ask something different:

Which Muppet are you most grateful to see returning to our screens?

It’s TURKEY DAY! (Almost!)

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Tomorrow is the Big Day! I’ve got my pumpkin praline pie in the oven now.  I’ll start brining the turkey later tonight (I think).  And tomorrow morning will be an orgy of cooking.

So…in the meantime…I got an order request from a regular client for a paper that “had” to be done…TOMORROW.  Mid-afternoon.  THANKSGIVING DAY!

I’m sorry. I simply don’t believe that.

So, since I know this particular client lives in California and not Thailand (or Kazakhstan as other clients do!), I whimpered piteously.  Did he know it was THANKSGIVING?  Did he realize I had better things to do?  Like pig out on turkey and pumpkin pie?  And watch the final Harry Potter movie?

Turns out this particular client, a nurse, has to work on the holiday, and it simply never occurred to him he was asking for delivery on a holiday.  He graciously gave me until Sunday to complete it.

So I really have something important to be thankful for, huh?

In the meantime, I still have two different 18-page papers (one on emergency planning for the care of elderly in a natural disaster  and the other on the privatization of toll roads) that I have to finish tonight (between adding the praline on that pumpkin pie and making orange-cranberry relish).

And on Friday–after I hit my favorite wine store’s Black Friday sale at 9 AM, I have two papers on strategies to deal with ADHD in the classroom to do…another 18 pages.

On Saturday, my new critique groups meets in the morning (which means I have to find time to do my critiquing!), and in the evening I’m heading to a birthday party–for which I’m baking homemade cookies…yup…that would be cookie-baking on Saturday afternoon.

Then on Sunday, I have a client who needs a critique on the opening of her novel, doing a literary theme paper on the African cultural experience, and a study of a safety program of an oil company in Kazakhstan.  (No, I wasn’t kidding about that.)    Another, oh, 40 or 50 pages.

And on Monday, a major paper on the stress factors of flight attendants working for Kenya Airlines.  That’ll be at least 25 pages.

And then…I can crack open a bottle or four of the wine I’ll be buying on Friday because…if I make it to Monday night…I’ll have at last survived the holiday weekend.  I’ll have written an average of 25-30 pages every day, hosted a major turkey dinner, and attended to my critique group and a birthday party .  And that does NOT count writing a word on my own beloved work-in-progress.

You know…I can hardly wait until I can at last earn enough from my fiction that I can stop writing for a living and start…creating for a living!

In the meantime, I’m going to be grateful that I even have clients who allow me to earn a living doing such interesting tasks.  At least it’s not the same every day.

What is it that you’re grateful for with respect to your writing?  I’d love to hear!

 

 

Confusion reigns

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I’ve just realized I’ve gained a day. Or maybe lost one.

At my earning-a-living job, I have to be mindful of deadlines.  Stuff is due at a specific day, often at a specific time. It keeps me thoroughly tied to the clock and the calendar.

At least mostly.

I just realized that I stayed up until 5 AM working on an order that I thought I was running slightly late on . . . a midnight deadline and I didn’t submit it till 5 AM.

Except it’s not due till midnight tonight.

Ooo..kaaayyyy.

Instead of being 5 hours late, I was 19 hours early.  Yay. I’m a hero instead of a dunce.

DIY time machine used to recoup lost day.

You know how there’s that whole spring forward/fall back thing?  Do you think we fell back a day instead of an hour?  It sure feels like it to me.  I’m just saying…I was convinced that yesterday was the 21st.  I was convinced the day before was the 20th.  And so on, back at least a week.

A lot of it is that I’ve been so focused on preparing a fiction ms. to submit that I guess I just lost track of the small stuff.   However, not to worry. I made use of my DIY Time Machine Kit, pasted it together with a touch of kitty-spit and woven kitty-fur (both magical materials, you know), and . . . ta da!

I’m back in the present. I think.

But it got me thinking.  Most stories (at least popular fiction stories) are told in a ruthlessly chronological order.  There might be a brief flashback, and occasionally,  a really good writer tells the story out of sequence, but mostly we get stories from beginning to middle to end.  And off the top of my head, I can’t remember one where the main character did something as human as lose track of her days. Or dates (calendar variety, of course!).

What do you think?  Would that confuse you as a reader if the main character went around all day thinking it was the 21st instead of the 20th?  Would it just be a bothersome distraction and take you out of the story?  More importantly, under what circumstances would it add to the story?

Come on, folks, Inquiring Minds Want To KNOW!

The cold, cruel world…or not

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Have you ever had to send your beloved baby out into the cold, cruel world? That’s what it feels like when a writer has to actually (gasp!) submit her work to a publisher.  Will they love your baby?  Will they appreciate the baby’s sterling qualities?  Never mind that there’s an occasional spit-up or a random dirty diaper.  This is the most beautiful baby in the world because it’s your baby!  How could any other baby compare?

Here’s the problem with that.  All babies can’t be the most beautiful in the world.  (Except mine, of course!)  Which means that somewhere out there, there’s a baby better than yours.  (Probably mine, of course!)

Writers need to have a curious mixture of ego and humility.  The ego has to be strong enough to have the courage to cast your baby out into the cold cruel world, where people may stomp on it, spit on it, laugh at it…no, wait. I write comedy.  Laughing is good.

But we also have to have enough humility to know that our babies aren’t necessarily perfect in anyone’s eyes but our own.  And when flaws get pointed out…guess what?  They have to be fixed!

For example, I’ve just submitted a book near and dear to my heart.  I’m hoping it is appreciated enough that someone out there will love it enough to want to publish it.  But after my 453rd pass through the book looking for flaws, it took a best friend/awesome critique partner to point out a couple things so glaringly obvious that it was slap-me-upside-the-head time!  How could I not have spotted those things earlier???  Am I blind?

So I had to make a 454th pass through the ms., fixing all those things that my friend found, and only now am ready to send it out into that cold, cruel world. Where, no doubt, if a friendly editor decides to publish it, she’ll find more flaws that need to be fixed.

Babies aren’t perfect, no matter how much we wish they were.  But they have charm and smiles and are just cuddly enough to make us love them anyway.

So, you go, baby, go!  Go charm an editor and make her love you as I do!

Brilliant blogs beginning

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What kind of writer am I?

Persistent?

Puzzled?

Peculiar?

Kind of all of those.  I’ve realized over the past several years that now that I have to produce pages to get paid for my earning-a-living job, getting a check in response to putting words on a page is a serious motivator.  To keep body and soul together, I write academic papers for Those Who Shall Remain Nameless.  What kind of academic papers, you ask?  Ahem…here are a few topics I’ve written papers about (long and short, from 1-page commentaries to 80-page dissertations):

  • Safety programs in oil companies in Kazakhstan
  • Psychological studies proposals
  • Community corrections programs
  • Reproductive health
  • Business plans in the Maldives
  • The aftermath of the Cold War in Europe
  • Developing high-technology incubators in Northern Europe

Did I know anything about those topics before writing about them?  Nope…that’s the beauty of Internet search.  For someone like me, who is compulsively curious, this is a way cool job.

For one thing, my friends are amazed and astounded at the amount of sheer trivia I can come up with on just about any topic out there.  And I never know what piece of arcane detail will be useful in the next book.  Will it be the knowledge of branding policies for breweries in Thailand?  Or (my favorite) the procedures for doing a testicular exam?

I mean seriously.  Who can resist a topic like that?

So do you have a topic you want to research (nominally academic-type topic, of course!)?  Or if you’re a writer, which of the above topics tweaks your curiosity and might fit into your current story?

But…I’ve got dibs on the testicular exam!