Tuesday, January 10, 2012


At least for me. And because tweeting obsessively about my to-do list helps me achieve my to-do list, I'm going to pretend this is tweeter instead.  Here are my not particularly pithy afternoon thoughts:

I have reached the point where I'm just moving things on my to-do list from "start" to "now waiting on response".

Also when I look at my to-do list I'd kind of rather run screaming into another room.

I want more tea, but I think I may have drunk too much. My body feels all sloshy. If I drink more, will I become a tea-mermaid?

keep refreshing our careers page in the hopes there's a job posting, twitter in the hopes it works and my to-do list, in the hopes it goes away.

I am going through my to-do list for anything that only involves "emailing someone". This means that I'm going to end up with all the bigger things left at the end. Urk.

Going to the Doctor tomorrow, hopefully for to receive adderall. Perhaps then I can manage the larger things on my to-do list without wanting to cry.

Also I painted my nails red this weekend and now typing is really distracting.

Miriam and I are coming up with nerd-identifyer subdivision charm bracelets. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What fandom can bring

What do people do when you're not watching? Do they exist? Does it matter? Are they these creepy dead things that only come to life when you're playing with them? (Dolls might be the word I'm looking for.)

I have friends who tell me that they worry that people are dead, when they are not interacting with them. I have friends who assume that all the fun things happen when they're not around. I personally tend to assume everyone is in something of a state of suspended animation, with occasional worry that they're actually dead, or suspicion that they're having more fun without me.

This is a heady philosophical question, but I'd like to apply it instead to stories. When we write, there are a few tendencies that can pop out. One is to blindly tell a story and make everything fit into it, regardless of characters', well, characters. Sometimes it doesn't make sense that a person like that character would do that thing, though it helps the plot. Sometimes I get the feeling that the character has in fact been in suspended animation in between needing her to be on the page. Sometimes I suspect that were I to ask the character what he did over the weekend, all I'd get is a blank stare.

Other times, the tendency is to overdescribe all the occurrences. It's like what would happen if purple prose answered all questions with where and when, as well as how and pretty. Do you ever have those moments where you look back over a scene you just wrote and think "erm, did I need to write everything that happened to her that day? Because um, it turns out, nothing happened. But she drank some tea! And read the newspaper. In which there were articles that I described faithfully. Then she went to the loo! Then, then, then." Forgetting how to fade to black and jump timelines would be sad in real life, but is tragic indeed in writing. What do you mean you don't have those abilities in real life? What do you mean those abilities are only brought about by excessive drinking?

One of the things that fandom taught me was to think about the in-between spaces in a story. It taught me wonderfully how to develop a character in the tiniest ways - precisely because fandom would then take those tiny signals and enlarge them hugely - and what can be left unspoken. It made me think about the character's  introspection and deepest murkiest (or chirpy) thoughts that I as an author need to know about, lo tho they may never achieve the page. It's ok, anxious author! The fanficcers will spell it out for you! I promise.

So it simultaneously made me learn how to flesh out a character, and how to do it in subtle ways and not actually put it all on paper. Sometimes it's enough to know it all in your head as you're writing; it'll shine through as the characters feel more alive and realistic.

And when all else fails, the fanficcers will make all of your characters have all that sex you haven't been letting them have.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On improving myself

Sometimes I go through periods where I just can't read. I mean, not that I become incapable thereof, because I would have to go blind first. And that would be really sad. I suppose I sufficiently bad head injury might accomplish it? But I don't really want that either, if I have a choice.

So perhaps it is more apt to say that I go through periods where I have a hard time wanting to read. I still read the newspapers, blogs on my googlereader, my friends' blogs, random words on the internet and sometimes even (gasp) fanfiction, quite happily, but the concept of a book just seems too overwhelming to contemplate. I will stare at my creaking, groaning, shelves in disgust and think NONE OF THESE ARE RIGHT.

This is particularly of note because normally I go through about a book a day.

So the past few weeks have been like that for me. I read a couple books on the airplane to and from Michigan for thanksgiving, but otherwise have been reading the newspaper or playing phone games on the subway and generally boycotting the entire idea of books. I even went to the gym and tried to read while ellipticalling but realised that would only work with my tablet, not with the tiny phone I had on me (and it's still hard, because I bounce up and down a lot).

Finally, yesterday, I swung by a friend's office to grab a cable and she offered me books (we all work in publishing. It's like offering someone tea or something - only polite) and as I looked panicked and overwhelmed at the concept of READING A WHOLE BOOK she treated me a little like a scared kitten. She spoke soothingly, quietly, and presented me with no obligations as she dangled treats in front of my eyes. Perhaps this book from a friend and author whose debut I've been eagerly awaiting? No pressure! Or perhaps this third book in a silly series about Jane Austen being a vampire? No pressure! How about a regency romance with practically no sex? No pressure!

...And somehow I have three books in my bag all of a sudden. And then last night, while tipsily coming home on the subway I tentatively started reading one, completely ignoring the book that's been faithfully travelling around in my bag with me for weeks until I was ready to read it again.

Sometimes throwing off the shackles of obligation - even if it's entirely self-imposed - makes all the difference to one's enjoyment and desire to do a thing.

And now I am reading a book about Jane Austen being a vampire. Fortunately I am also reading a friend's second novel - at the gym mostly, now I've figured out the tablet situation - so my brain is slowly creaking back into editorial and critical thinking as well.

And then, for my birthday, my grandmother - at my request - bought me a subscription to the New York Review of Books. I'd been thinking, in the past year, that the quality of their writing, reportage and political acumen was almost unbeatable these days, so I'm really happy to be a) supporting them and b) getting their writings in my mail box once a month. Petpet. So this morning I read interesting things on the subway! I eschewed the newspaper - mostly on the grounds that I've already read all the news they print either on twitter or new blogs the night before - and read reviews of interesting sounding books. And there are already three I want to read and one I want to give as a gift to two people.

Oh creaky little brain, you are being to emerge from your cocoon again, aren't you? You were just a little overwhelmed there for a bit. Maybe you'll even want to start writing a little bit again every day?

Which brings me to the final way I am endeavouring to spend this winter improving myself. I am trying to do a little, tiny, bit of exercise every day. I am trying to make my body strong to withstand the ravages of cold and also oncoming time, and the amount I feel better when I do is really quite startling. Healthier habits all round are really improving the quality of my life.

And it's nice to remember that, even on mornings where it's cold and rainy out and nothing seems like it's going right. Gym, interesting things to read, maybe a little writing - and work. Plus I made a new friend last night!

Also I wrote about 14k in November. I will be a good girl and do some this month too, hopefully. Somewhere in between carolling and holiday parties and ice skating and walking down Fifth Avenue to see the windows and the lights and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

Oh goodness, I'm from one of those turn of the century novels. And I love it.

Monday, August 29, 2011


So I thought hard about coming home and writing after my eureka moment. But then I was tired and cranky and this incredible guitar player on the subway was playing Hard Day's Night, so I came home and we played Beatles Rock Band instead. We are dorks. Very happy dorks.

After I kicked ass on She's Leaving Home and then didn't suck too hard on a bunch of other songs, I settled down to write.

838 new words. And a whole nother conversation is about to happen before the conversation that was giving me so many problems.

Now I have to go to sleep, but I feel jazzed and ready to keep writing. If only I could put this feeling on hold until tomorrow evening. Or writing group on Thursday.

When the going gets tough

The tough go shopping.

Or something.

Generally, things that are easy for me to write include: dialogue, description, one-liners, adorable children and descriptions of people talking to adorable children, wittily, about tea.

And redundancy.

Things that are hard for me to write include: plot, strong emotions, and flaws.

I am getting much better at flawing people, by the way. But it's sometimes hard to resist my urge to think that my characters must be PERFECT and BRILLIANT, because obviously, I would like to present that way to the world, myself, if I had a choice.

But I've had a general rule that if I find myself butting up against something and saying "but I dun waaaaanna", it's a pretty fair assumption that it's an important thing to work on.

So I've been butting up against what happens next in my book for weeks now. It's boring, I don't want to write it, it involves a lot of research, the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure I want so much of the focus to be on that aspect of the plot, etc.. And I know that most of those things are excuses for this thing that, for some reason, I just really don't want to write. So I assumed that it had to be Important To Work On, both for my development as a writer, and for the plot.

Turns out I woke up this morning with the realisation that the reason I hadn't been wanting to write it is that it just doesn't work. It does detract from the story. It is kind of pointless, there are BETTER ways around it which build up characters that are otherwise 2-dimensional! I can make it much more realistic. AND I don't have to betray a character's beliefs to get him into a situation he would never chose to go into.

Sometimes, I guess, when you can't make yourself write something? It's because you shouldn't be writing it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things and stuff, but no string

I got a smartphone! I feel like I'm joining the 21st century. Also like my nose is going to end up stuck to it.

I moved. Did I mention that already? One day I will unpack all the boxes.

Started trying to tackle this book again. 9,000 words and a better sense of the plot. I need to draw a diagram. Sadly I don't draw very well.

I want to make a list of thrift stores I love, because people keep asking me about them, so I figured I'd put it here for ease of finding and also general knowledge.

For ultimate cheapness: Thrift by the Pound Goodwill in Astoria.
Next in cheapness, but a little better quality (and in Manhattan): Salval on 4th and 12th. 1/2 off Wednesdays
Decent quality, medium expense: Goodwill on 25th and 6th, 23rd and 3rd or 79th and Broadway
Great quality, slightly more expense: Goodwill on 8th and 6th. Sample sale stuff here a lot.
Slightly more vintage, more expensive: Housing Works, wherever they may be, Vintage Thrift on 3rd at 23rd, The Cure Diabetes thrift at 12th and 4th.
And then there's: Monk Thrift Shop on Macdougal just below 8th. It's in it's own, weird little class because it's mostly on the "good vintage but quite expensive" range, but sometimes has really nice things for like $5-15. And then it has a dollar rack. I love that dollar rack. So it's a mixed bag here, but if you're planning on hitting up the Goodwill on 8th anyway, it's right around the corner and open pretty late.

I think the ones I visit the most are the SalVal on 12th and 4th (but only on Wednesdays) and the Goodwill on 8th, swinging by the Monk dollar rack. Were Thrift by the Pound not in Astoria I'd be there every day. But it's something of an adventure. Like, bring water and powerbars, comfortable shoes, wear a bathing suit and you'll still leave with glazed eyes. Plus there's the mad episode I witnessed, not unlike the running of the bulls, when they bring out the new bins.

So, if you're looking for comfy and sturdy and cheap, hit up Thrift by the pound, Salval or the Goodwills in the 20s. If you're looking for huge discount but more expensive (in the $30s often) designer clothes and the ability to look like you're wearing next season's clothes, the Goodwill on 8th and if you want gorgeous, vintage, try the others.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Small potatoes!

Last weekend my global cooking club (so named because we do different cuisines, not because we are farflung, normally) did Cajun in Madison Square Park and here was my contribution:

Cajun Spiced Roasted Potatoes in two steps:

Step one, make the spice mix in a mortar and pestle, so it should be quite fine:
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Of note here, I took out the ground red pepper and replaced it with equal amounts of tabasco. This actually makes it marginally (really small amounts) less spicy, but adds more flavour, according to a Cajun I once knew, because Tabasco has things in it. Alternatively you can keep the red pepper and add in a little vinegar. Also the wetness helps a bit with sticking it to the potatoes.

Step two: Potatoes and garlic

Chops lots of potatoes quite small
Chop some garlic quite small
Put some tin foil in a baking pan or on a cookie sheet
Roll the potatoes and garlic in the spice mix.
Put on the pan/sheet.

(Note: Most recipes say to peel. I actually prefer unpeeled; much more flavour, crispier and tasty. YMMV)

Preheat to about 450. Cook until brown and crispy. (30-40 minutes, but check after as little as twenty.)

I halved the amount of spice mix for what I made and it was fine - and still had extra. Just make sure each potato piece gets a little reddish/brownish looking, rather than using all of it. Obviously can add more spice mix when cooked if it's not sufficiently spicy for your taste, but be careful because this is a slow burn rather than an upfront one.