Poem: Little Moon, Little Sun

Short fingers crafted
of my light, mysterious
generation of cells.

Winking present like fireflies
rising from the ground,
the trees, in cool summer’s night.

Her lengthening body sings
daffodil’s virile bounce
out of winter.

Absorbing light, shines
through her,    back
to me.          echo words

I say to her, “Okay?”
after every instruction then
becomes her toddler mantra.

We are reflection,
luminescence,
mirrors, yet vessels;

She understands her hands
drawing with a goldenrod
crayon like a seed focuses

sprouting from its husk.
Generating her own light.

Baking cookies in December

After November’s word madness, I decided to take a month off of writing. I slipped here and there, but for the most part I didn’t push myself. Baking took over my free time in December. At first I just wanted to try out some recipes I saw in Real Simple Magazine (didn’t work out because of #1 and another was a cut-out) and then some LUPEC members brought up  a cookie exchange (I baked maroons and gave them chocolate bottoms, nom-nom-nom). In my quest to find a fun yummy recipe I found many! I thought: hey, why not make cookies for some people I exchange presents with? So I asked my parents and a couple friends what their favorite cookies are. I’ve not baked many cookies in my life, so this was a bit of an adventure.

10 things I learned on my novice baking adventure:

1.  Do not use wax paper for a cookie sheet liner. It smokes and I wasn’t sure which side was which. Oops!

2.  Parchment Paper is one of the MVP’s for baking cookies. A liner that I reused a couple times and kept my cookie sheets clean. The cookies just slide right off.

3.  Freezing the dough before you bake for at least an hour aids in a plump soft cookie.

4.  Baking right after you mix the dough will yield a crisp flat cookie.

5.  If it is brown on the edges with a little color on top, take it out! It will finish cooking on the cooling rack. (believe me)

5. Do not try to whisk egg whites by hand to stiff white peaks unless you have the stamina and endurance to whisk forever! Use a hand mixer.

6. When in doubt drizzle or dip in chocolate. Always a win o/

7.  A three-tiered cooling rack is a must have.

8.  There is a three ingredient Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe: 1 cup peanut butter, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar. Dense and crisp.

9. Need all light-colored cookie sheets or all dark cookie sheets (decrease oven temperature). Don’t mix light and dark. Cool sheets in-between baking, too.

10.  I’m good at drop cookies. Cut-out cookies are my bane! I probably just need a better rolling pin…and practice…lol

There is still baking to do but essentially I’m done for the season. It felt like a good thing to do for the holiday season. I like cooking and baking. And I appreciate my friends that do it too. Especially, Jeanie, she is quite experienced with baking. She even sells her awesome cheesecakes! That’s how good her baking is.

Ta-ta for now.

The word count journey of November

I didn’t make my count of 50,ooo words. 36,714 was my end number.

Two major things this month I didn’t prepare for were Lily’s birthday and Thanksgiving weekend.

We painted Lily’s dresser with magnetic and chalkboard paint which took us about a week to finish (actually I still have some doors to finish, eep). I don’t know what I was thinking. Shoulda planned it out more. Painting, waiting for it to dry, another coat, wait, another coat, wait for four hours to 24 hrs, sand, paint with chalkboard paint (a pretty “bonbon” pink from hudsonpaint.com), wait three hours, coat, wait, coat, wait… I love the color (pic later). It was done in time for Lily’s birthday and slumber party (yes I really was exhausted after that, lol). Even though she has vandalized it since a little, chalking on it of course is allowed but there are scraps here and there. Better than what the dresser looked like before. I believe in letting a kid have one piece of furniture they can make their own but she made it so supremely ugly! Gross. So I figured I’d give her creativity a narrower channel : )

Thanksgiving weekend was very busy. I work retail so it was mighty exhausting. Customers were buying this year. Last year not so much.

So two weekends that were shot for writing. Maybe I should make this commitment to a word count in a non-busy month for me like January or February next time, huh? Eh I’ll probably always have something going on so it doesn’t matter which month, lol. Focus and discipline: must cultivate more. I think I did well overall. I doubt I’ve written 36K in a month ever (unless it was for academic purposes). I’ve stopped writing that particular story. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about it until I started to write it. It was quite a learning experience writing that many words about one story even if I did resort to ranting about the story within the story, writing sex scenes, and the most horrid dialogue known to the writing-kind. But I just kept in mind this was about the word count and yet I just was increasingly disliking the story period, lol. Oh, well, there are tons of other stories and characters who want me to write them so poo-poo on that story that doesn’t want me to write it!

On writing 50,000 words

I’m writing 50,000 words in a month. One story, one manuscript. The other day my undisciplined child side screamed, “I hate this novel!” while my adult goal-striving and reaching side exclaimed, “I’m proud that I’ve reached this far!” I really have never written this much on one single subject before without outside material (i.e. research paper, etc.). I had a vague outline in my head but really it can only take me so far. I wrote so much crap yesterday that it gave me a headache. Or should I say that perfectionist/critic inside me gave me the headache and maybe I needed some caffeine (damn you, caffeine!). I feel that if I don’t write something that has some kind of substance whether it is a joyride or enlightening then I am wasting my time. But then I have to remind myself that this is about my goal: 50,000 words in 30 days. Making sure that it has substance can wait for the rewrite, right? *sigh*

*maniacal laugh* Or I will print it out and ceremoniously burn it bit by bit. I read in “On Becoming a Novelist” by John Gardner that your first novel is often the sacrifice for all the other novels because it was a learning experience. It may be that white whale you fish off the shelf and rewrite again because you just can’t give up on it but really it is just the one that got away from you. Of course, when something from a book sticks in my mind there is always a purpose for it. When I read this, I decided I would pick which idea would die. Alas, that is the hard bit. Do I let my story about the power of belief in  the everyday as well as the fantastical settings be ground up by my strategy? Or this one or that one? Ugh, when an idea is born between you and your muse sometimes it is a challenge letting go. Truly I have heard this from more than one creative person.

It’s funny writing a lot about one single story makes me want to write more about other things. I’m resisting this urge because I think it is my way of trying to sabotage the path to my goal this month. So I write it down in my (now) overflowing notebook and move on with my current goal! Because I know what’s going to happen. If I write something else (not including this blog) then my mind will start to wonder if it counts or if my time is better spent writing other things, etc. etc. fill-in-the-blank-excuse-not-to-get-to-the-finish-line-of-50,000-words.

Last week was really hard. I had another goal already in mind for Lily’s birthday before I decided on doing this word count. We painted her dresser with magnetic paint and chalkboard paint. Cut to the chase, it took more time and energy than we expected but it got done and it is really cool! But it was a little bit of a distraction. Don assisting with it, even though we had our disagreements and loud grumbling, got it done in a timely manner (thank you, my love). Then the bright idea of a slumber party with her two other girlfriends. It was an absolute blast and absolutely exhausting and guess who did not get any writing done! It was worth it though. Lily doesn’t have any girls to play with in our neighborhood or it could be their parents just don’t let them out because of the rambunctious boys outside. Caught Lily fighting with a boy not long ago and had to explain to her that the boys may fight but she will not; she will come home if that’s all they are doing. So, it was very important to me to fulfill her need for girl time with her friends, who are Washington Local, on her birthday. Must make more time for girls!

Well, somewhere in there my car died, as well. It’s hard to just be done with that sort of thing but I’m getting by. A mechanic recently said over the phone that the engine is worn out (over 181,000 miles, maybe it is) but Don won’t have that. We’ll see. I really love my silver compact…sad panda.

*breathe in, breathe out* But my goal is in sight regardless!!! I’m getting it done. And then I’m going to take a month off from writing such an exorbitant amount of words. Oh, yeah, using exorbitant made me think of my favorite thing someone has said when I told them my goal: (my boss said this, lol) “Why would someone do that to themselves!?” That was a reaction I would expect if she saw someone with a septum piercing, rofl.

50,000 Words; Here I Go!

This year I registered for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which goes from November first to November thirtieth. Thirty days to reach the goal of writing fifty-thousand words. About 1667/day or 11669/week with a couple days to breathe. Believe or not I found out about it through Facebook. Not from someone or an ad or anything like from the Flair application, haha, of all places! I am currently up to 7100 words. I was doing pretty good. Reached my goal of 2500 words per day for two days but I was all alone, no distractions. My thinking was that if I wrote 2500 words per day, Monday through Friday I could have my weekends free.

Come Wednesday, work in the morning so I have to find time to write in the afternoon or evening. Pick up Lily…I think she can smell when I am trying to concentrate. It is as if sugar is seeping out of my pores evaporating into the air and she can’t stay away from or stop talking to me. This sounds horrible, I know. I’m her mother I should want to talk with her and spend time with her but, hey, I’ve got needs! I helped her with her homework, snack then “honey, please go play in your room.” Argh! That was not reverse psychology, kiddo! I’ve just decided, of course, that the best time to write is obviously when she is not around (i.e. school or bedtime or those precious moments when grandpa comes to take her away for a time).

*sigh* So limit learned. It is also a little difficult to write and access my subconscious/inspiration when my husband is around. I think it is my feeling of love and obligation to connect. Proof of this was when I was at Starbucks the other day and music was playing, customers talking, bell on door ringing, expresso machine whooshing and frothing. All this noise and I happily was writing non-stop in my notebook. Craziness! So, yeah that’s when I realized I love my family too much and should not care about connecting with them…just kidding….if I want to write when they are around. Eh, I’ll get over it. My hubbie reminded me that is how it is. If you wanna work at home you have  to manage everything from the physical, emotional, psychological, etc. to be successful.

I read that sudden fatigue is a sign that you are resisting changing habit and for me right now that is writing a certain amount of words per day. The other day I was writing got about halfway to my goal for the day and then I’m falling asleep in my seat. I take two hour nap but at least I went back to writing after that. It is a lot easier for me to put the tunnel glasses on when I’m alone and focus on writing. Well, life isn’t like that now is it? Besides I’m too much of a people person to be a hermit for more than a few days at a time anyway. I would get depressed. (I’ve been there)

I’m trying to keep my inner critic in check until it is rewrite time. There is a good time for your critic and a bad time. When you are trying for the first time to get your first draft of your first novel manuscript is one those times you must keep it at bay. It may stop me in my tracks. So I keep telling it that it will have it’s say all in good time right now I just have to get it out of my head.

It is a fantasy novel and though I had an idea at the beginning, I didn’t realize how many rules I had not already known! As I write they just roll out of me as if they had always been there–like duh! And then the villain is someone I didn’t expect either and I hope that my rewrite will keep it kind of a mystery as well. I’m finding the writing process of this adventure very fascinating.

Rambling

I’m still new to this. I was put through the ringer at college and told to write everyday, yada-yada. I suppose I was about as regular as anyone else who worked and had at least one kid but now I’m working on discipline. Right now I’m working on my process. I’m filling up a notebook with rough drafts, outlines, ideas, etc. And then the plan is to write out the first drafts of those while filling another notebook with more. Then it’s revision and then to my editors with it. My friends that are willing to read it, that is. Hubby is quite the grammar freak. I got lucky there ; )

Lily starts kindergarten soon and then I’ll have time to myself until my resumes and interview make an impact on an employer and I start a full time job.

Recently I wrote an outline for a youth story, inspired by a friend’s young boy. It’s amazing where one can get inspiration from. I had this silly and snobby idea  when I was a teenager that true inspiration came from somewhere that was not outside yourself. But in truth inspiration comes from anywhere. It can come from listening to the morning talk show on the radio, watching your child play pretend, a turn of phrase or Freudian slip, from your past experiences, your spiritual experiences. Anywhere.

For me it travels inside and hangs out with the rest of the stew until it draws significant elements to itself to become something new. That is creativity: the act of making something new and maybe improved out of elements and parts sometimes unlikely to have mingled together before. A transcendence of the ordinary, of boundaries and other restrictions to come to something new. Confluence is another word that I like. It stumbles around in your mouth. It is a word to describe the convergence of rivers or streams. Stumbling and water do not really go together but sometimes that’s the way it feels when you begin again without the push of teachers and a goal of graduation. There are a lot of English/Creative Writing graduates who move to some other Masters Program that has little to do with creative writing in it’s entirety (creative problem-solving is sought after in most professions). But since my family decided to wait until Lily is in kindergarten to have me a full time job, I’ve been exercising my imagination, process and discipline. I think I’ve been doing okay on all fronts now that I’ve accepted all that inspiration has to offer.

When I graduated I had certain ideas about what I was going to do; I was determined to do things a certain way. It caused a blockage that I railed against for a while. A wise friend of mine said, “Don’t push the river.” Who knows, maybe I was damming up other rivers trying to focus on one. Rivers of spirituality, past experience, current events, parenthood. You know all those hats and parts of myself that I should live in harmony and balance with. *sigh* A whole new level of accepting myself and my writing. I read in a writing book once that writers have an alter ego that writes. It’s a tougher, more versatile and resilient part of yourself that is willing to rip your stuff up rather than babying it. Face it, most of us are sensitive and/or possessive about our creative work and the thought of it not being ours anymore by going out into the world and being criticized by anyone makes us cringe and hold it to our hearts where it will never see the light of another person’s eyes.

I’m still coming to terms with the fact I have to let my writing go. Even though, long ago in high school I realized there was a difference between creating for the masses as a job and creating for yourself as an outlet, a hobby. And I’ve lived with it in my head and heart for many years now I still think there are parts of me that are not behind it. Kinda like telling your companion it’s time to leave and they agree in speech but still sits on the couch chilling out watching the television while you’re headed to the door. This is where the alter ego comes in and kicks everyone out so that it can work without distraction. I’ve been this person and my hubby and daughter don’t really like her sometimes because she is so focused. I become consumed by what I am doing. Actually, now that I write this it is very much like the me that presides over a ritual. Ha, that’s great! Expect I can be a real bitch…

Toughening up can take some time. I remember my first rejection letter. The editor’s response was “it’s pretty but it’s not what we are looking for” or something like that. Saying my poetry is pretty is like a slap in my face. I was still in college when that happened and I told my professor about it. He just gave me a knowing grin. He knew exactly how it felt, I’m sure. A writer is warned that they will receive many many more rejections than acceptance letters but still “pretty”! Cut to the quick. I’ve dealt with it. Maybe she didn’t understand the poems to say anything constructive. Oh my, read me rant, lol.

Now friends don’t be afraid to tell me my poetry is pretty, pish, my husband says that too. He actually has a penchant for rhyme and meter which I don’t pay attention to. Poor man! I like the way words roll but I’m not going to restrict myself to a structure lest I feel like it. The other day I was rhyming in my head and it sounded like a housewife’s rap or something, haha.

Here is what I have:

Don’t be hatin’
on my bakin’.
Promise I’m waitin’
for the timer.
Readin’ Game Informer
on the counter.

I know it is totally silly, that’s what I was going for. I need to laugh more at myself.

Lately, I’ve been filling my notebook with short stories. I was pushing for a novel before and realized maybe that was too big a step for myself so I’m working on a collection of stories. Their more science fiction and fantasy than anything else. I just prefer some weirdness with my fiction. Of course, some of the stuff I write about I think is possible. Yes, I’m an X-Phile and I’m a big Fringe fan.

Well, this was nice visit hope we do again sometime. Love and Blessings, Ren

Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

     An English translation of an international bestseller, I give The Elegance of the Hedgehog  a nine. Clever and tragic, and real this book is written from the point of view of a concierge or superintendent of a posh hotel. In Europe where posh flats are kept in the family she, Renee Michel, puts up a front of ridiculous idiocy for over fifteen years to keep the tenants unawares of her high intelligence and indulgences in Art, culture and philosophy. Renee grew up as a dirt poor peasant and has been lucky enough to marry then widowed; left to be the concierge. She spends her time hiding what she is and being  as anonymous as possible around her residents when really she is a woman who thrives on culture, philosophy and art.

    Interspersed throughout the novel are journal entries of a suicidal eleven-year-old girl named Palona Josse, who lives in the hotel with her insufferable rich family. Polano isn’t your regular wallowing-in-her-own-pathetic-existence suicidal girl; she’s smart and is trying to figure out what there is in the world that is worth living for. She believes that grown-ups live in a metaphorical fish bowl and each person’s life is determinate. Her journey through the book is realizing that people can change, therefore, there is hope.

     The underlying theme in this book are the disparities between class, hierarchy or castes in society. The thing I like best about this story is that there is no sensationalism; all the emotional moments are earned. The language is a bit on the higher end with big words and name dropping of famous painters and philosophers but the writing is excellent with great texture. The narrators contemplations are thought-provoking. One of my favorites is when Palona is watching football (or soccer if your American) with her father. She observes a specific player moving by his own will rather than by the wills of other players surrounding him. He owns his existence, his body, his skills and he performs at the top of his ability for this reason. It’s hard to explain but Muriel Barbery does an elegant job.

      Highly recommended.

Book Review: Sandman Slim

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey is a fast-moving, attitude-filled roller-coaster! There are no chapters just some breaks here and there keeping you propelled forward. The character James Stark is a hitman come back from Hell. Doing magic ended him up there but not the way some of you might think. His buddies swapped him for power. One in particular is trying to rule the world. James escapes from hell when he finds out his girl is murdered. Out for vengeance he finds there is more to the story. An anti-hero, he’s out for himself and his own it’s just that good deeds seem to keep getting in his way.

I give this book a 9 out of 10 rating. I did not want to put it down. There being little to no breaks helped with that but the narrative was fun and amusing so I didn’t notice for a long time. The only thing that felt awkward was when the name “Sandman Slim” was introduced. I understood why the author waited to introduce the nickname. A nickname is always better introduced when it’s shown earned by actions and attitude. Especially when it was given and spread by demons. A nickname that strikes fear into the heartless pit of demons would be cliche if it was thrown around carelessly. I also didn’t know how to feel about Stark’s non-chalant “vampires are real, too” comment to the reader. I loved the book so much at that point, I was afraid vampires (being a very popular subject to write about) would ruin the kick-ass story. I like vampires, it just…eh…their everywhere and sparkly? I hope that Kadrey holds off on vampires for a while– like as a last resort. The next installment is called “Kill the Dead” so we’ll just have to see.

Also I recommend his site: www.richardkadrey.com He has tons of content. Short stories, bio, and photography (much for adults only).

Car troubles

Money and cars are some of those things I can get very anxious about. I have a Honda Civic and it turns out I should not have had the guys at the Discount Lube “service my transmission”, though they suggested it. Afterward my car decelerated even though I was pressing on the gas making the RPMs rev up on the E-way. It was very disconcerting. A nice trucker came by and let me use his cell phone to call my friends. Then an officer came by to make sure we were okay. Very nice guy. He had me call the lube place and they sent someone out to look at it. Seriously hoping it was as simple as a cap not screwed on or something…but no…turns out to be something else. (???) The cop left when Tony showed up (awesome friend; stayed with Lily and I the whole time). The lube guy had me start it up and it moved but then it stopped, ack, disappointing. Charlie, from the Discount Lube, who is very nice and honest, tells me they should have never changed my trans fluid because my car had the fluid so long that it grew to like it. Turns out to be a bad idea to flush something old, to put something new in because that “something old” is probably holding things together and once it was removed….well, hell; how was I supposed to know. Me–always learning new things and a facepalm for not calling one of my guys to ask if it was an okay thing to get my transmission serviced. Cars just befuddle me sometimes. Like computers I learn by necessity.

It was towed by AAA (thanks to Tony)  to a mechanic that the Lube place manager knows.  At least I have a paper trail with witnesses. The last one of our cars was towed by a company that stole it or they said someone stole it out of their yard from Cleveland. And this, after two weeks of me calling them asking where the car was because I haven’t seen it since it broke down. Yeah, I have reason to be anxious. Advice: have your car towed by a company that is recommended by an insurance company or AAA. That is if you don’t have emergency roadside or AAA. Moments like these make it seem worth spending an extra bit on insurance or whatever, don’t it?

Now, I’m waiting for a call from the mechanic letting me know if the new (non-refundable) solenoid thingy-ma-jigy that the Discount Lube place is paying for will make my car go. I really hope it does. I missed my silver compact beauty and I really don’t want to be mean/assertive about getting a larger bill paid by the place that stopped it from going in the first place. Sweet trany don’t go out on me yet.

Big thanks to Tony for staying with us,  to Dottie for loaning him out for like four hours and the AAA tow they gave up for me, sending much love.

**Update: Unfortunately my transmission is shot. I’ve done my own searching to check out prices and other info. I found out that my 2001 Honda Civic LX is the worst year for transmission failure. Regardless of this my car did work just fine before I went to get an oil change and the transmission serviced. The manager at the lube place offered to pay for half and we are making our half happen. We figure we should be satisfied with this because the cost and time it would take to go through a lawyer wouldn’t be worth it. I am generally not a vindictive or petty person or someone that is stubborn and stands on principle until everyone around me is broken down from the emotional stress. I just want my car back so I can get a nice job when Lily goes to kindergarten.

Poem: Making Butter

Making Butter

Words flow slow
trickle or fast
whole milkfall
into awaiting bucket.

Pasteurized
thoughts
stir into a semblance.

Write it.
Cap it,
Then shake.
Time makes it
frothy,
coagulates.

Skim milk
strained
into memory jug
for cooking.

Roll against the cream
in the bowl.
Experience washes
over it again and again.

Do not overwork
or it will become waxy
without voice.
Do not underwork
or it will be diluted.

Inspired by actually making butter with heavy cream in a jar. Thanks Patricia.