Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Drive-By Thought Brought to You by Monday

I was walking down the street today carrying a cutting board (Don't ask.)*, and people were looking at me oddly. I would have understood if they'd appeared amused by my small, lime green accessory. But they didn't. In fact, a few people noticeably deviated course to avoid me. I looked a little tired, and my hair was a bit scruffy, and I was dressed all in black, but it was a Monday. That's par for the course.

And then it dawned on me. Carrying a cutting board probably conveys the same kind of threat as visibly carrying a knife, except it's worse. Carrying a knife says you think you might need to cut something (or, egads, someone). Carrying a cutting board says you're planning to do some cutting and you're going to be fastidious while you do it. And, as everybody know, fastidiousness is terrifying.**

So, learn from my mistake, unless you enjoy terrifying strangers (terrifying is a verb here). That is all.

* No, wait, do. I'd taken a loaf of Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread in to work and wanted to ensure there was an appropriate cutting surface. It was moderately well received (the bread, not the cutting board).

** X-Ref: Hannibal Lecter.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Announcement of Brief Respite

Alright, folks. Quick update. I probably won't be posting for week or so. I know, whatever will you do with yourselves? I'm about to dive into revisions again, and I'm trying to be serious about it. Which means I rise at dawn for a five-mile run through thigh-high snow, then eat unsalted porridge, then chop down trees, then do sit-ups in a barn...wait. That's the training regimen for Rocky IV.

I'm just going to hunker down in my tiny, FREEZING office where cold air inexplicably pours in from every corner, and revise and polish. I can't listen to music when I polish, because when I do, I end up with embarrassing typos, particularly related to pronouns, as in: "He bent her arm at an unnatural angle, gritting its teeth against the pain." What?

I will be available on Twitter, where you can catch updates on things like:
 -What kind of alcohol I want to drink 15 minutes into the day job. Answer: Just one beer - now who do we know that makes a 64 oz beer?
-And,  #todaystypo: "I acknowledge your clam" - meant to be "claim". Acknowledging another person's clam is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay personal.

Keep on keeping on,
Hillary

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Great SSSS of 2010

Just went on a spree...a submission spree. A short story submission spree, to be precise (and because I can now refer to this throughout the remainder of this post as The Great SSSS of 2010). Two short stories got a spit polish, pep talk and a little checkered kerchief filled with pemmican and cans of beans to tie to a stick and carry over their shoulder, before being rudely thrust back into the world. (FYI, if you google "hobo children" under images, you get some really weird pictures, including a movie poster for "Hobo with a Shotgun" and whatever this is.) They are, respectively, one-time and two-time rejects.

A third short is going out for the first time, all wide-eyed and nervous about its new outfit. It's an odd one, written to a high-context anthology prompt, and I had a big, red devil of a time writing it. It's set in the 1920s, and I wanted a contemporary sound in the prose, especially the dialog. I think I might have captured that. At least, it moves to a different rhythm in my head when I read it. I also wanted modern urban fantasy events portrayed with a noir fiction sensibility that didn't feel too dark. The anthology asked for "fun" stories, and while I consider dark noir fun, I don't think that's the universal consensus.

I think one of the reasons I love reading noir is that it's not intuitive to me. I don't have an innate talent for writing it well (I know, I know - we could say that I don't have an innate talent for writing anything well, but we won't, because that would be colossally rude.) which makes me appreciate it that much more.

So, off my three little pups go. I hoped I packed enough beans to get them through the journey.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Parent's Log, Star Date Oh-5-90

Starring:
Mother - Played by Me
Son - Age 2 - Played by some spastic alien-monkey hybrid masquerading as my offspring

The scene: Wednesday Night, Dinner Table

Son (speaking through small Frankenstein toy): Where's my mommy?

Me: You don't have a mommy. You were created in a lab by a mad scientist.
Internal Monologue: I then think better of this. Perhaps one shouldn't tell one's child, even through a toy, that he is the motherless son of a crazed genius. Perhaps that's what leads to kids sucking their thumbs until they are 24, or going up on to water towers with Kalishnikovs. Perhaps in this one moment, I have just destroyed his sense of security for the rest of his life.


Son: Oh, okay. (resumes eating enchilada)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's Get Physical! or The Sounds of a Dying Sparrow

In an attempt to combat the condition I have named "Writing Seems to be Making me Fat", tonight I stepped onto a treadmill. It was not a treadmill at a gym, since that would require me to find the time to drive back and forth to the gym and also, you know, not be home. Neither of those things seem plausible, though I optimistically maintain a gym membership in case one day my forty-hour a week job and the care and maintenance of my two year-old suddenly take less than eleven hours a day. I'm thinking it's unlikely, but I've always been known as a dream-stealer dreamer.

But back to the treadmill. This small, black "machine" showed up a few weeks ago, conveniently contrived to fold up when not in use so that it doesn't dominate our ridiculously small abode. And fold up it did, like a champ. What it failed to do was mill the tread. Oh, the motor came buzzing on, sounding very serious and like it was in one of those bizarre world's strongest man contests. And the lights came on, and the console beeped approvingly when I increased the speed. But it didn't move. The belt just sat there, reveling in the harsh, constant groan of the motor. It was a hand-me-down from my grandmother, who weighed about seventy-five pounds and never walked more than five minutes a day on it, so I'm pretty sure she didn't wear it out.

I sent it back home with my father, who was just as angry and perplexed as I was that it didn't work. He's something of a fitness maniac advocate, and has been as concerned as me with my WSMF condition. So he took the contraption out to the workspace of a friend, an engineer. And he and the engineer, and possibly a couple of diesel mechanics (judging by the giant, dusty footprints on the belt when it came back) took it apart, fiddled and swore, and finally fixed it.

So, after a few weeks of some kind of zombie flu, I finally had a little energy and a few minutes to myself and decided to jump on and feel the burn! Well, the motor is louder than before. As in, I had to close all the windows even though it was almost 80 degrees in the house, because people kept peering up at the house as though they expected it to take off before their very eyes. And the whole thing rattles and creaks like it's made of wood from some recently-recovered Spanish galleon, plus intermittent noises like I'm crushing small birds. Sparrows, maybe. The cats circled me the entire time I was running walking meandering, and then I was terrified that they would (ever so slowly) be sucked into the belt and I'd lose a hand trying to extricate them.

Anyway, I stopped after twenty minutes, mostly because of a terrible zombie coughing fit (I think a boot came out of my lungs), and because I was afraid I was suffering permanent hearing loss.

What's my point, you ask? I think I've made plenty of good ones. However, the main one is that I suggest that anyone who is going to make time for writing also make time for exercise. At least get up and stretch occasionally. You don't have to "invest" in broken-down pre-WWII exercise equipment, but your body will thank you if you work/stretch it out in between blogsurfing working on your story.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

PSA - Can You Spare an Hour?

We've had a terrible summer here in Anchorage. A couple of brilliant, unseasonably-warm days in May devolved into a record-breaking stretch of consecutive rainy days. *Unenthusiastic Woohoo*. It was not the kind of record you wanted to experience. It's beautiful again. A couple of days of blue sky, the sun's warmth tempered by that bite that tells you it won't last long. It's time to finish up your harvests, empty the outdoor pots of the stunted flowers and bring them inside, and pull out hats and gloves for the little ones.

It's also time to think about those who don't have homes to pull the pots into, and who don't have hats and gloves for the little ones. As you're cleaning out the closets of the items your kids have outgrown, don't throw them out. Take the extra hour to clean and bag them up and drop them somewhere where they can be used and will be appreciated. I
'm not good at rallying people to a cause, but in this case the cause is so good I hope I won't have to convince you, just remind you of good intentions you no doubt already have.

Following is a list of a few of the organizations around Anchorage that provide help to those in need. If you're not in Anchorage, a quick Internet search should yield a similar list. I'm partial to Clare House, which provides temporary and emergency shelter for women with children, and expectant mothers. I discovered it when I was pregnant, and couldn't imagine not having a warm, supportive house to come home to. 

If you have clothing and housewares donations, you can take them to the Catholic Social Services facility. The folks there are very friendly, and you can choose either to donate to a specific organization or have them distribute according to the programs with the greatest needs.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Baby It's Cold (AW Blog Chain)

Inspired by the intrepid Ralph Pines, administrated by the bold and blue (haired) Aheila, this month's AbsoluteWrite blog chain is dedicated to: Seasons. Methinks I must stay true to my climate.
- - - - - - -

“You can’t stay out there forever,” Boy Whatever said. “You’ll freeze to death.” Maura snuggled her neck further into her coat, pressed her fingers into the seams of her pockets, searching for warmth in the gaps. She got nothing. She was used to that. Chelsea, the black-haired girl who was always at the center when Maura got sent back, said that freezing to death didn’t hurt. She said it felt like going to sleep and just never waking back up. Chelsea’s mom died from carbon monoxide. Her dad from a knife. She knew about things like that.

Maura rubbed her knees together, and the bright blue denim of her jeans felt thick and stiff. Maybe because they were new. Maybe because they’d already frozen, gone to sleep on her legs.

“Maura!” Mrs. Whatever now calling for her. The moms usually tried to play good cop. “Why don’t you come inside? Dinner’s ready. You might like it.”

Maura twisted away, her tennis shoes shuffling snow into the hole she tried to hide when the social worker dropped her off. The snow wasn’t melting any more, just piling up like a soft, white hat on her big toe. She peeked around the side of the shed. Mrs. Whatever had her arms crossed and was peering around the yard, her big, bright house behind her. They had a tree up, a big sucker covered in gold bows and red and white ornaments. Maura turned away. She shivered. Her butt had been wet, but was now just numb. Her butt and her big toe, abandoning her.

The yard, covered in rolling waves of downy soft snow, ended in a patch of skeletal trees, the branches bowed down by – you guessed it – more snow. It wasn’t white, not away from the lights of the house. The silver moonlight painted it pale grey. Maura shivered again, and this time couldn’t stop. Her fingers ached. Her lips felt raw. She didn’t feel like she was just going to sleep. She felt like she was going to shake apart, one layer at a time. She'd never seen snow before, never been sent to a family that lived this far North.

“Maura?” Mrs. Whitacre said, so close she was probably just on the other side of the shed. “Why don’t you come inside?”

- - - - - - - CHECK OUT THE OTHER FANTASTIC PARTICIPANTS - - - - - - -

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Meet Me at Goodreads

Thanks to all of you who've noticed the new features on my blog. Or NOT, as the case may be.

Actually, the only new feature is the Goodreads link on the lower right. I had a really awesome post introducing it, but blogger just swallowed it and booted me out. So now I'm peeved and will be writing a slightly peevish post.

I recently joined Goodreads and have been adding books I've read and those I'm reading (there always seem to be three, no matter how quickly I finish them). This should appeal to the voyeuristic types amongst you, dear readers, since you'll be able to look at the scandalous nature of my choices. And some are scandalous, due mostly to my previously-secret addiction to romance novels. Thanks for keeping that under wraps, darling Kindle, but it's time they knew.

I'll be reviewing the truly spectacular ones as I discover/devour them, and those books that have most profoundly affected (or even effected!) me. That should help you in figuring out exactly how I turned out like this.

And, if you want to stop by at Goodreads and chat about books we've read or are reading in common, please do. Sadly, most of my friends are illiterate and too proud to buy audiobooks. Just kidding. Only about 20% are illiterate, but the others think it's cool to act that way. I really hate them sometimes.

I just finished Brent Weeks' The Way of Shadows, and wow did that one earn a review. My reviews generally don't contain spoilers, by the way, possibly because I'm not very good at writing reviews, so I try not to make them worse by actively spoiling the book. I working on that (getting better at reviews, not spoiling things).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The New Me

I'm not what you'd call a "nice person". I mean, I'm not a criminal or like Sid in Toy Story or anything, but I've been a crabby, judgmental introvert since I was young. I mean, real young. Family friends like to regale me with stories of how, as an infant, I used to glare at them from across the room. I don't remember it, but in my imagination, I'm sitting in a red, vinyl booth in dim lighting, petting a hairless cat and smoking a cigarette in a long, black lacquer holder. Which is totally effed up for a baby to be doing, but there you are.

So I'm a parent now and, while my child (he's two...he knows it) can be mean, he's usually pretty nice. When I pick him up from day care, he always has nice things to say to me, such as: "I like your buttons" or "I like your face". Just hearing those words make me smile. So I've decided to emulate him, but make it even more personal. Starting tomorrow I'm going to greet people, friends and strangers alike, with "Your buttons are appealing" and "Your face looks nice to me."

I really think people are going to like the new me.