Archive for February, 2011

The En

February 24, 2011

I am truly awful at finishing. It’s not that my stories get lost and wander out of control, with no idea of how to bring them home. Except for one sad attempt at a mystery that turned into a ghost story and wandered off into the heavens, I can generally see the end, and the path is clear to get there.

In fact, I tend to race towards the end a bit too fast. I have to slow myself down, and take time to smell the paper roses. I sprint, writing my heart out, all the way up until the point where it really looks like I’m going to finish.

And then? Without the glorious motivation that comes once a year with NaNoWriMo? Then I pause. First I tell myself that I’ve earned it. I’m almost there, what does it matter if I watch a quick TV show? Then I remember this other story that I’ve been dying to tell. I’ll come back to the other one, I swear, but an artist has to follow her muse, right?

I was beginning to fear that it was fear itself holding me back. Once a story is finished, that’s when the scary things start. First there’s the editing, which always causes some heart palpitations. What if I can’t make it as perfect as it is in my mind? Worse than that is what follows: The submitting. Rejection is flat-out terrifying, and anyone who says otherwise is masochistic or lying.

It’s not just writing, though. I can see this unfinishing habit all throughout the rest of my life.

Cleaning. I will scour the bathroom, and get distracted from the rest of the house by re-organizing my lip glosses. Then I’ll remember that website I saw that taught you how to make your own glittery lip gloss. I’ll power up my computer and get distracted by my iTunes library on the way, and by this point cleaning is ten steps behind me.

Cooking. Last week I discovered an awesome recipe for chicken with parmesan, kale, green beans, and mushrooms. I did a big shopping trip, and set everything up. Then I ate raw green beans and put everything else back in the fridge. Maybe I’d cook the mushrooms the next day. I know big meals with many ingredients are good things, intellectually, but I can’t seem to get past the planning stage and the tasty individual ingredients.

Reading. I have seven books next to my bed with bookmarks in them. My GoodReads bookshelf is starting to get overloaded. No further comment needed.

cabled hat in ocean colorsKnitting. I’m pretty sure I don’t have a fear of rejection that revolves around the cute little cotton tank top I started back in 2004, or the blanket from 2007, or the sea cable hat from ’08. My warmies love me no matter what. I finally decided to institute a rule: Before I can start a new project, I have to Finish two old ones. Even if Finishing means tearing it to pieces, burning the bits, and burying the ashes out behind the old garden shed.

Last night, it finally hit me. Why not apply that same rule to my writing? And when I say Finishing, I mean edited and submitted. To that end, I reorganized my files, shifting everything into Finished, Unfinished, On Submission, and Published folders. Now before I start anything new, I have to move at least two things out the door, whether they’re short stories or epic novels.

Seriously, this is good. I wasn’t doing all that just to avoid finishing that story about hobo fairies. I swear.

Turning my friends into ghosts

February 19, 2011

Birthdays don’t do much for me. It seems a bit silly to celebrate something I didn’t really have much of a hand in, except for showing up. More than that, I hate the pressure to have a good time. People seem truly disappointed if I don’t jump up and down with joy when they wish me a Happy one. I’ll have a happy day if I FEEL like it, thankyouverymuch. If, however, a biblical flood turns my commute into 3 hours of backed-up sewers, I’ll thank you to leave me to my misery.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a sister bearing vodka and episodes of Supernatural. Then you’re off the hook.

Today was not my birthday, and I had a very Happy day. As a kind of in-lieu-of celebration that turned into a real celebration, I invited a few folks over to my new place in San Francisco. This place:

old, crumbling columbarium niche

This one's not actually mine. I just liked the little hole in it. Ominous.

I am the proud new owner of a 2 foot square piece of prime real estate. And for some absurd reason, I decided that my birthday was the perfect time to acquaint my friends and family with this unique, lovely spot.

reflection of rachael in the glass over an urn

A reflection of Rachael and a stained glass window

I’ve already gone on and on about the Columbarium in SF, so I won’t say much here. I’ll just say how wonderful it was to share it with friends, most of whom thought I was certifiably crazy for wanting to spend my birthday in a House of the Dead. Then they walked in, and they got it. There were gasps. And giggles. And cupcakes, dim sum, and champagne.

mia on the second floor of the SF columbarium

Mia perusing the history of the place.

For a House of the Dead, this spot is ridiculously full of life. We were the only ones there for a good portion of our visit, but even when we ran into other visitors, they didn’t mind our laughter. This is a place full of memories, good and bad.

blurry girl in front of niches

Okay, and maybe a few ghosts.

Right now, my niche is an empty little thing with a reserved sign on it. The ostensible reason for the visit was to put a little something in there; no one leaves their apartment empty for long. I’d been having trouble coming up with the right mix of loved items and metaphors, so I’m a little relieved that I couldn’t get in without an appointment. I’ll have to go back again, darn it.

In the meantime, I left a toothbrush propped in the flower holder outside. Laying claim, before I’m really ready to move in.

rachel in the doorway

Emmett the caretaker says his apartment's right by the exit, so he can take off anytime.

Sitting around in anticipa…

February 17, 2011

My List of 32 Things

I really like lists. At the same time, I’ve never been able to get into the “bucket” list; it kinda creeps me out. Besides, if you have an indeterminate time period in which to complete a list, it takes the pressure off.

So when I saw the idea bopping around the internets (sorry, too many places to remember where I saw it first) of a list for all the things I want to do before my next birthday, I thought that sounded nifty. I actually started it at the end of 2010, and I’ve accomplished a few items on it already. I’m still going birthday to birthday, mind you, just to cheat and give myself a couple extra months. So there.

1. Listen in on a seisiun in a Dublin pub. (update: Airline tickets purchased for next month! WOot!)

2. Find a literacy or women’s advocacy non-profit that I would be pleased to fundraise for.

3. Use my motorcycle license.

4. Drive to the end of the road in Alaska. Could possibly be combined with goal #3.

5. Finish uploading my 500+ CDs & 100+ vinyl to my computer. Finished! Only 6 months after I got my first iPod!

6. Take enough quality photographs to fill the Groupon portfolio book I ordered. I think I’m there! Luckily, I don’t need a slew. Just enough.

7. Create something at Albany Bulb.

8. Climb a 5.10c.

9. Actually sustain a (small) savings account, and start (small) on a House Down Payment fund.

10. Go horseback riding on the beach.

11. Take a self-defense class.

12. Finish a sweater for myself.

13. Run a MobMov guerilla drive-in.

14. Read “Infinite Jest.”

15. Submit 10 short stories to fiction magazines/anthologies OR get 1 accepted. Either will make me happy.

16. Finish editing and submit a novel to between 1 and 30 agents.

17. Trespass somewhere awesome and take pictures.

18. Place in the top 10 in a BANG (Bay Area Night Game).

19. Act on stage in some community production.

20. Work on my hospice volunteer commitment.

21. Swim in a mountain lake.

22. Sleep on a beach.

23. Start attending that amazing Greek Orthodox church I remember from college.

24. Watch the Leonids from the hood of my car out where the skies are clear.

25. Have dinner somewhere that it could be said I was “dining.” Like the French Laundry.

26. Find a natural hotspring.

27. Buy a stranger a drink.

28. Find at least 3 reasons to wear my Dark Garden corset.

29. Finish the 100 pushups challenge. (I should really swap this one with #28, if I want to do it right.)

30. Finally hold that Tom Waits party we’ve been talking about forever.

31. Bike that really big hill right by my work in all one go. Hell, yeah. I DOMINATED that hill.

32. Make or buy a Murphy bed that will work for my bizarre space. This may actually be the most challenging item on the list, but I’m… well, if not completely assured of success, at least determined to give it the old college try. See, I don’t think I can buy one; I’ll never find one that will fit my teeny, awkwardly shaped room that also fits into my budget. So DIY it shall be. Shudder. I never did get in the measure twice, cut once lesson. But my garden gate is still standing and swinging, so here’s to wishing.

Here’s to wishing! And to birthdays. And to goals.

Hearts and kisses in a brewery

February 12, 2011

I love that my Romance Writers’ Chapter does business out of an Ale House.

Writers are more commonly associated with coffee shops, or maybe chi-chi wine bars (although those are usually people talking about being writers, and are not necessarily writers that write). Brew pubs, with foamy lagers and crisp chips, do not scream Writers Convention! to me.

During NaNoWriMo (did I mention we had Chris Baty as a speaker today? Yay!), I do a large amount of my writing out of bars. Mostly because that’s where I can get my friends motivated to meet me for a writing date. They bring their cute little artistic moleskin journals, and I shamelessly plop my ancient mac on the sticky table and light up my corner of the place.

I was surprised to find that bars make the best places to write. The right bars, anyway; I’m not recommending you run down to a FiDi bar during happy hour and ask for an outlet. But a quiet, dark dive, with wacky characters around you and a dry cocktail in front of you…. The words fly out.

The novel that I’m revising (really, that’s what I’m doing right now. Stop looking at me. I can’t work while you’re looking at me) was finished in a bar. And now, I’m circling back. Today’s program on revisions, held in an upstairs room of a nice East Bay Brewery, was pretty ridiculously awesome (and the fact that one of the presenters shared my last name and the other was Chris Freakin’ Baty does not color my opinion at all).

I’m off to fine-tune my synopsis and scribble on post-its. I’ll be back at last call.


Oops. It’s Saturday. Bar-writing is better saved for quiet weekdays, unless you’re actually eager to get rum in your keyboard. I’m just going to pour myself some bubbly water and write on my couch while my dog snores and rabbit-kicks my thigh. Which pretty much negates all of my earlier party-hearty, write-in-bars airs. Oh well. The truth will always come out.

Making friends

February 8, 2011

I recently had the good luck to be invited to a party hosted by a fabulous member of the Pens Fatales, a formal Casino night in celebration of Tet.

May I just say… Wow. I’ve already sent my deepest appreciations her way, so I won’t call her out online, but that lady knows how to throw a party! Tasty snacks, great drinks, a big beautiful craps table, and friendly sharp-dressed folks.

On our way, stopping to pose under a sign I've always loved.

I’m not much of a party-goer, especially when it’s a spot where I won’t know many people. I have my comfortable friends, and their comfortable evenings, and our comfortable talks. Still, I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone now and then, and I knew that the house would be full of awesome people. This lady gathers awesome around her like moths to a flame.

I was still nervous. I’ve definitely got a bit of the social outcast in me, and I’m never sure which of my personality traits are going to show up to a party. My friend K and I are still planning our Tom Waits Evening, the one where everyone brings their own flask, mutters to themselves in a corner most of the night, and leaves alone. Sounds like my kind of party.

Best thing for social awkwardness? Add in a craps table, and get the dice rolling. SO fun. The clapping, and laughing, and shouts of “C’mon, roller, time for a six!” made it nearly impossible to avoid a good time.

I was able to chat and giggle with the people on either side of me as we stared at the flying dice. There were no awkward pauses, no twisting of the wine glass while trying to make polite conversation. Only raucous shouting and cheering, combined with extravagant betting. Or extravagant-feeling, anyway. I finished the night by throwing a $500 chip onto eight the hard way; a rookie move that I would never dare in a real casino, but one that felt fabulous and carefree that night.

It confirmed what I’ve always suspected. Shared vices make for fast friends and easy conversation. I’m clumsy and bored at polite mixers, but give me an underground flash-mob cockfight and I’ll show you one smooth, confident lady.

Stuck in Wisconsin

February 1, 2011

I’ve been having fun with photos.

Yes, most of the snapshots I took on my 2004 trip were pretty lousy. But I have a copy of photoshop now. So now I have a bunch of pretty obviously altered photos. It’s kinda fun. This:
me in front of the forevertronturned into this:

And this:
a north dakota lake with dead trees sticking outturned into this:
a lake in north dakota with dead trees sticking out

It’s crazy fun, turning my pictures into what I thought I saw. I’m starting to get over that guilty feeling and the voice yelling, “Cheater!” Whatevs. I’m happier with my vacation snapshots, so it works for me.

Plus, I get to practice technique!

speeding train

fake speed blur

fake miniature train

fake miniature tilt-shift

But it is a slippery slope, isn’t it? First I was all like, “no photoshop, never, I’m an ar-teest.” Then I was like, “well okay, just to crop my digital photos.” Then I was like, “digital photography and photoshop were made to go together. I’ll just keep my film photos pure and unedited.” Now I’m like, “just my digital, and my pics from the point-and-shoot film camera. I’ll keep my SLRs pure.” How far from that is it to “Whatever. If it stinks, I’m playing with it.”
Guess I’ll leap that moral gap when I come to it.

montana road