Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tom and Carol

Yes, this is the same Tom from the scene at the restaurant. So far I'm just getting little snippets.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

This morning

I didn't get out of bed as early as I'd planned today, but I still got the trash cans to the curb before the garbage truck got here, so I consider that a win. I've been doing laundry, catching up on cleaning up the kitchen, made breakfast, and played around on Facebook a bit. Once the laundry has produced a clean set of work clothes, I need to run to the salon and do payroll, and get started on the paperwork for the end of the quarter. This afternoon, I go in to the store and work until close, and I do have paperwork to catch up on there, as well, in addition to needing to do a little re-write on the schedule that's coming up in a couple of weeks, as I forgot about our promotion changing over.

And after my long, ranty post yesterday, life goes on. I've been letting speed bumps slow me down too much lately, and it's time to pick up the pace again, because we all know that the world waits for no one. The more time we spend standing around worrying about everything that must be done, the more things pile up, and the harder it is to wade through the mess. It's all about effective time management, which has always been my problem. I've never been great about work before play, and once again I am looking in the mirror and saying that has to change. I know it will stick eventually, but sometimes I just forget entirely. Every few months it becomes necessary for me to re-commit to the challenge.

So that said, I need to get moving so that I can still accomplish all of my to-do's for the day. Hell, if I play my cards right, I may even make it to the gym this afternoon!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A rough few days

This last week has been exceedingly frustrating. While I have still striven to stick to a philosophy of speed bumps and not roadblocks, occasionally, when you hit enough speed bumps, followed by a big nasty pothole, it's hard not to want to throw your hands in the air and run off as fast as your feet can carry you.

"Laws of Illusion" by Sarah McLachlan

Being a complete Sarah fanatic for a number of years, I was highly disappointed in myself when I logged into my MySpace page at the end of May and realized:
  1. Sarah McLachlan was releasing a new album and I was completely unaware.
  2. I had failed to "Like" her on Facebook, in which case #1 would never have happened.
  3. I still hate MySpace. Why do I still even have a MySpace profile??
In any event, once I got my hands on the album, I had to (as usual) trap hubby in the car with me to enforce listening. For the first time in our almost-seven-years together, however, the most shocking thing occurred. My husband, while listening to a Sarah McLachlan album for the first time, actually uttered the words, "this is really good." Typically, I play something ad nauseum, and he finally begins to like it, because it's that or complete insanity. Don't worry, he has to do the same with me on a fair amount of his music, too. (It took a week before I could actually handle The Addams Family: The Musical in its entirety.)

But enough about that. Let's talk about the album, shall we?

Sarah has had a rough few years, and it comes through clearly in the album. Many of the songs give a glimpse of her emotional state and she is unapologetic and unabashed about the honesty in this album. "Loving You is Easy" is one of the few happy songs on the album, which is fine by me, as my love of Sarah McLachlan's music has never been based on her more cheerful tunes (though "Loving" is catchy, and one that I catch myself singing a great deal).

Stylistically, the entire album sounds much more upbeat than any of her previous work, despite the bittersweet lyrics. The music feels more elaborate, and on "Awakenings," the opening track, there's a heavy dose of electronic. For some artists, adding so much background can result in a loss of vocal quality, but this album has been very well constructed to avoid that effect. Interestingly, the one thing "missing" from Laws of Illusion is her very characteristic style of flipping her voice from low notes to high (my husband refers to it as "yodeling" but this gives me visions of lederhosen, so I'll stick with "flipping"). While it's there in some of the songs, in most, she has opted for a much smoother vocal style.

My only complaint? The saw, heard throughout "Last Dance" on Surfacing, makes a repeat appearance in the song "Changes" and it seriously bugs me. I've never liked the saw as a musical instrument, and while I (clearly) worship the ground Ms. McLachlan sings over, I just can't make an exception.

$12.99 for the Deluxe Version on iTunes, $19.99 at Borders, and at this writing $12.37 at Borders.com. Go on, you know you want it...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An amusing short

In one of the workshops, Lynn asked us to write the introduction to two stories. One had to be a modern/real-world story, the other a fantasy. My gorgeous and hilarious husband had reached his writing saturation point. The words would no longer come, so instead he drew these:

What the?!? A real-world kitten and a fantasy kitten, of course...

I got stuck on the fantasy prompt, which I never expected would happen in a million years, but for once, I didn't have any scenes jumping to mind. The modern prompt, however, presented itself to me at once, and the result is here:
---

I am bored, in the worst way. “And what,” you may ask, “is the worst way, Tom?” My answer would be first date gone horribly wrong bored. Don’t get me wrong, Dustin brought me to the nicest restaurant in town, and drove over an hour to get here, but that’s where the high point ends.

It’s one of those places where the tablecloths are white and they have actual candles in the centerpiece. The furniture all looks like it was hand-made in Italy and flown over, and the menu prices don’t dispute that theory. Not the sort of place I frequent on my best day, and this isn’t my best day. We’re at a four-sided table, and Dustin insisted on sitting to my right, instead of across from me.

“…and that’s how I got Rush Chair. Crazy, yeah?” It takes a moment to break my reverie and murmur my agreement. I’m sure the story was positively wacky, but I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Dustin’s profile said he was 25, but I’m fairly certain his finger slipped off the 3 key. Either way, Rush Chair was clearly some time ago. Not that age bothers me. I’m a hell of a lot older than I look, to tell the truth. It’s the discrepancy that has me concerned, and behind my dreary boredom, a sense of unease is starting to slink in.

“So, what do you do again?” I ask, trying to seem interested. The dining room is full of clattering plates and talkative people, and I have to repeat the question because I’ve spoken too quietly. Cars roll by on Marion Avenue, and I’m trying to listen to Dustin rather than watch them through the windows dominating the east wall of the room. He says something about an insurance company and I murmur how fascinating it is.

That feeling of unease grips the pit of my stomach, tightens, drops. Something is wrong, and it’s not Dustin’s typing skills.

“We should get down,” I interject into an ongoing description of daily paperwork. My tone is too calm, really.

“I’m sorry?” He is confused, and rightly so.

“I said we should probably get down.”

“Meaning?” His tone drips with the sense of a hundred meanings that never occurred to me, and never will. The feeling takes over my whole body, like the adrenaline rush that happens when you almost fall down a flight of stairs, and catch yourself just in time. I roll my eyes, grab him by the tie and pull him, forcefully, under the table a moment before the windows explode. There is shouting, and a gunshot, followed by the sound of running.

“What the fuck was that? Tom?” I realize I’m still holding onto Dustin’s tie, and I let it go. Checking to make sure my badge is in place, I grab my gun out of its holster.

“Sorry, but I’m afraid I can’t discuss police business with anyone outside the department. If you’ll excuse me?” I get up and start running, heading for the windows. Whatever just happened, they can’t have gotten far.

“Can I call you?” he shouts after me.

“No,” I reply, not looking back. Boredom eliminated.
---
I wonder if I can do anything more with this... That would be awesome. We shall see.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Writing on the Waves - 2010 Edition

I'd like you to imagine that you've been given the opportunity to leave the country for a week and stay at a fabulous resort. For a flat fee, you'll stay in a nice (if a little small) hotel room, have food available around-the-clock, dinner at a five-star restaurant every night, see stage shows at a theatre, dance at a nightclub, skate at the ice rink, swim in the pool, or even sit in the library for some quiet time. Now, while you're singing at karaoke, this entire resort is on the move, taking you to places where you can swim in the ocean, snorkel with sea turtles and tropical fish, and wander around the remains of an old French fort.

Oh, I forgot to mention, your resort looks like this:
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Freedom of the Seas. It, along with its sister ships the Independence of the Seas and the Liberty of the Seas, forms the second-largest class of cruise ship in the world. Did you catch the part where I said there's an ice rink?

So, this pretty much sounds like a dream vacation, right? Wait, there's more. Suppose that one of your favorite authors is offering, during the three days the ship is at sea, traveling between ports of call, to share advice about writing, their own experiences, and critique your work. We have just moved from dream vacation into, "am I dreaming?"


Nope. That would be myself and my husband standing with Lynn Flewelling after one of the formal dinners. You may recall a few months ago when I wrote about her Tamír Triad, and I still need to talk about her Nightrunner Series, book 5 of which was just released a week ago. Words cannot describe how I feel about this.

Wait, one can.

SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

So here's a little recap of what happened each day:

Day 1 - Book Release Party!
While the book didn't officially release in the States until Tuesday the 25th, Royal Caribbean got some of the planning mixed up, and set up our champagne release party for Sunday the 23rd, the day we got on the ship. We met Lynn when we boarded, to get information about the where and when of the workshops, and then took a little time to learn where our room was located, and get a feel for the layout of the ship. Huge. Rather than go on in excessive detail, I'll send you here: Freedom of the Seas
That afternoon, we met in one of the upper lounges of the ship to drink champagne, play Apples to Apples, and hear Lynn read from the book. (She read at least part of Chapter 15, in case you're wondering...) We each got copies, which we later had her sign during the workshops.
After the party, we went on to dinner in the formal dining room, where the group was split between three tables. We were seated with Gia and Keenan, from Chicago, Kim from Omaha, and Thea and her mother Karyn from a town near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Lynn dropped by the table after dinner to chat with us a bit.
I'd also like to point out that I successfully restrained myself from running at her, screaming and waving my arms like a maniac. The combination of Dramamine, Claritin, and Mucinex I was on probably didn't hurt...

Day 2 - Coco Cay, Bahamas
Coco Cay is a small island owned by the cruise line, and basically functions as a giant beach and water park. Being as I'm not a beach sort of boy, we really didn't do much here, other than swim for a bit, and struggle with the sunscreen melting into my eyes. Since I don't have anything else to show from this trip, here are some seagulls. :-)



Awesomely, the first formal night was scheduled for this night. Sunburned people in tuxedos and full-length gowns are an amusing sight.

Day 3 - Workshop
I won't go into a lot of detail about any of the workshops. The information is copyrighted by Lynn, and I'm not going to step on her toes there. The short version is that there were several different classes, each surrounding a separate topic like Character Development, Plot, World-Building, and Editing & Publishing. For more information, check out her website.

Day 4 - St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
I didn't ice skate, as me + ice skates + moving boat = stooopid idea, but hubby and I did go snorkeling with Lynn, her husband Doug, and our new friends Gia and Keenan who were also at the workshop. There were some turtles, along with other tropical fish and coral at Turtle Cove, just off St. Thomas. No underwater camera = no underwater photos, sadly. Barring that, here's us on the boat...

In order: Keenan, Gia, myself, Michael, Lynn, and That Bald Guy We Didn't Know...
Post-snorkeling we were pretty wiped out, but the party wasn't over yet. Captain Joe and his crew started handing out punch made of a liberal amount of rum and a dash of pineapple juice. And free refills. Lots of refills. We were feeling pretty good by the time we got back to the boat, but thankfully had enough time to sober up before dinner. :-)

Day 5 - Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, Netherlands Antilles / Marigot, Saint Martin (French Side)
Philipsburg is not terribly exciting. The main industry is tourism, and a lot of it is jewelry and liquor stores. Not really our cup of tea either way. We did, however, get the chance to see more of the island as we signed up for a bus tour that included a talk of the history of St. Maarten/Martin, and took us to Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island. Sadly, it was a French holiday, so most things were closed, but we got to eat a tasty lunch at Le Oizeau Rare, and check out the remains of Fort St. Louis, which were beautiful and featured an excellent view of the island. See below...








Day 6 - Workshops
The second day of workshops took up a significant portion of the day today, covering Plot and World-Building. I got a lot of great info about how to space out your plot to keep it moving, which I will be putting to use in the very near future.
This was also the second formal night, so we got a lot of pictures of all of us in our pretty clothes. Here are the three tables:




Day 7 - Workshops, Long Goodbyes
The final workshop was today, focusing on editing, how to get published, and a few personal stories from Lynn about getting Luck in the Shadows purchased by a publisher. The afternoon was a long critique session, and I, personally, got a lot of great feedback from Lynn and the other writers in the group. Again, a lot of great info that I'll be putting to use, and am already including in my ongoing project.
The evening came to a really tough end. After seven days with really awesome new people, we all stood on the deck, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, the moon shining through the clouds, reflecting on the waves. It took until about 1:30 in the morning before we all gave up and went to our staterooms. As Lynn put it in an email later, "I came to meet students and came away with friends."

An absolutely unforgettable trip. Many thanks to Lynn, Doug, Gia, Keenan, Thea, Karyn, Kim, Nico, Sharon, Betty, Stephanie, Joanna, Carter, Amy, Rowan, Leslie, Janel, Laura, and Justine for making this such a memorable and amazing trip. We'll see you all around the waves again, I hope!



A towel bat. Our favorite of the towel animals we received...