Enough with the Kitsch


I get kitschy. Really. I do. But doesn’t this take the idea of kitschy a bit too far? Of course it doesn’t help that I really don’t like Chihuahuas. Or Dachsunds. I’ve only met mean ones. I’ve been bitten by more little rat dogs than I have by German Shepherds.

Granted, I was tempted to buy it. It’s so kitschy that it appeals to my sense of irony. It’d be like having a cow salt and pepper shaker holder. (But, really, who needs a salt and pepper shaker holder? Don’t they stand on their own? Just saying.)

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Mean People Suck


I’ve had my fill of mean people. Really.

Honestly, if you have nothing constructive to say, and you’re saying… stuff… just to be mean, then keep it to yourself. Didn’t your mother ever tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it”?  It doesn’t necessarily demonstrate good breeding just because you follow this one simple rule; rather, not following this rule does indicate a lack of it.

I’ll cut people slack if I know they’re having a bad day/life. I’ll cut people slack if I know them and they say whatever they have to say to my face. Shoot, even if it’s someone I don’t know, and he says it to my face, I’m not happy about it, but I can understand it. I’m less inclined to be forgiving if, say, the words are spoken behind my back or done anonymously on-line. That’s just smacks of cowardice.

So shut up.

Chewey and the Thwarted Rescue


How Chewey views himself

Today I let Chewey play swordplay on the Wii.

I know, you could call it lazy parenting. But really, the kid got exercise, which even I admit is sorely lacking in his life (he has lots of unstructured play outside, but I wouldn’t necessarily call that exercise). I mean, the kid lays down at Disneyland.

So, he swung the remote like a crazy man, and huffed and puffed and sweat until his face turned the color of a ripe tomato. In between, he’s looking at me and saying, “It’s okay, Mommy. Believe in me. Have faith. I will rescue you.”

Good lines, kid. After all, he’s four.

And then he says to me, “I have my mighty sword. Just one more time, Mommy. I will rescue you this time from the bad guys. Because that’s what good guys do. Just believe in me, Mommy.”

Goddamn, I love this kid.

Of course, after the fifth or sixth time he said those same words, “Believe in me, Mommy,” I started to wonder: Does he think that I don’t?

So I cheered him on. And when he got upset because he lost (again), he’d turn to me forlornly and say, “Mommy. I failed. I didn’t rescue you.”

And I’d say, “Don’t worry, buddy. You always have another chance.”

And he’d try again. He tried for about forty minutes, until sweat dripped into his eyes and, as he put it, his “brain was sweating.” The only thing that holds his attention for that long is a movie at the theater, complete with popcorn and water. (The kid is destined to be the next Leonard Maltin, I think. He LOVES movies. Most kids lose interest, want to talk to one another or play with toys. Chewey pays attention, laughs at all the appropriate times, and will recite his favorite lines for days [weeks, months]. He has recently begun asking questions about plot and character motivation. It sounds like I’m making this up. I’m not.)

I’d cheer for the little dude. Tell him when he’d improved over the time before, even if he’d still lost. And while he might have been upset he lost, it wasn’t until he decided he was rescuing me from the bad guys that he got legitimately upset. Because he’d failed me.

I talked him through it. Told him it was a game, but that I appreciated the rescue. That the next time would be better, but it only mattered if he tried his best and had fun doing it.

I feel bad he got so upset, but I’m also strangely happy the boy loves me enough to want to rescue me from bad guys. He has a sweet heart, even if there are still those occasions where I half expect his head to rotate 180 degrees while spewing pea green vomit everywhere.

But the kid loves his family–his dad, his sister, and me. And I think, in his head, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. His sister can make friends with a tree–everyone is her friend until proven otherwise. Chewey seems to wonder why he should bother. He has his people, and he’s content with that.

I love this boy.


Thoroughly Modern. For the Middle Ages


Right now, I’m totally obsessed with the idea of making mead. (Could also be that I’m just wanting to celebrate the non-Rapture that occurred. Oh wait, I wasn’t expecting it to)

A friend of mine has a “honey supplier,” and I’ve been dreaming of all the things I could do with a batch of honey.

Poached pears in Sauvignon blanc. Drizzled with a bit of honey over a dollop of marscapone cheese. Grilled peaches drizzled with honey. Even pork chops, with a honey-balsamic glaze and spiced with rosemary.

Mead.

I’m all over the food porn today, I guess.

The idea of making honey wine intrigues me. I’ve had mead before, and it can be lovely. It can also be cloyingly sweet. I imagine the mead that I would make would be effervescent (the mead we’ve made before–the one time we tried–did have  bubbles, even if it tasted like cough syrup). Light and bubbly, a little sweet. It would be delightful to poach those pears in it.

This is how I imagine it, anyway.

I don’t know if this makes me a foodie or if this makes me just one step closer to embracing my Ren Faire geek status. First, it’s brewing mead. Then, the next thing you know, I’m down at the Ren Faire in a corset four sizes too small and fishnets, pretending like my boobs aren’t trying to spill out the top of my outfit.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Ren Faire. I really do. The costumes, the pageantry, the goofy shows, the food. I admit I am geeky enough to be entranced by it. I enjoyed the men in leather armor (mmm, leather pants). But the women… Seriously, ladies, put some clothes on.  I’m pretty certain you’re not going to find your sugar daddy at the Ren Faire, so looking slutty won’t get you the attention you’re craving (unless you have Daddy issues–and don’t we all?–and then maybe it will).  See, honey, the man you’ll find at the Ren Faire will be a bloke who makes his own chain mail, lives in his mom’s basement and will argue the finer points of the Gunpowder Plot with you. Seriously.

Not that those guys aren’t fun. In a contest of geek versus cool guy, I’d take the geek any day of the week. They can at least (usually) string a sentence together.

Here’s my second point about the clothing at the Ren Faire: If you are a size 24 and ask, “Can you see my nipples?” really, for the love of all you consider holy, don’t wear it. And stop lying about your size. We all know you’re not a size 6. Shhh, honey, it’s okay. Neither am I. Just put the corset down and put on a shirt. They had those during the Renaissance, too.

So this is my fear for myself… my slow, gradual slide into uber-geekdom. Today, I’m all about brewing my own mead. Tomorrow, I’m making chain mail.

Oy.

Music


I was raised in a relatively music-free household.

My earliest (and only) memories of music are of my mother listening to an eight track of Neil Diamond in the car. We never listened to it in the house. Not that I can recall, anyway.

Oh, and my own pathetic attempts on the violin, but that’s a story for another day.

Maybe that’s why my tastes in music are a little… schizophrenic.

I first became aware of music in the late 80s, so of course, 80s music is one of my favorites. I’m still a sucker for a synthesizer and a drum set. I still like the 80s big hair bands, because I’m secretly an 80s big hair rocker slut (though without the big hair, and with the long-term marriage, mom jeans and the small SUV, perfect for carting kids to soccer practice).

But, like I said, my tastes run the gamut. My children are being raised listening to everything from Flogging Molly and Mumford & Sons to Lady Antebellum and Johnny Cash to Nine Inch Nails and Eminem. Just the other day, Chewey was singing “Girls” by the Beastie Boys while we drove to school, and just tonight, Sea Monkey was singing “When the Man Comes Around” and then “Elevation” by U2.

Chewey likes banjos (oh, so my boy). He tends to fall asleep to the Wailing Jennys and Alison Krauss. He also likes heavy metal, like his dad. Anything with heavy drums and a loud guitar. Sea Monkey likes anything you can dance to (though, being fair, she can dance to anything) and country. Both of them request that I change the song if I’m listening to melancholy New Age-y stuff. Or instrumentals.

I’ll listen to all of it. Depends on the mood I’m in, I guess. But it seems that music is in the background of my entire life. I listen to it while I’m cooking, while I’m writing, while I’m cleaning (if I’m cleaning). I haven’t got any rhythm, can’t dance, and I can’t play an instrument to save my life, but I love music.

So… What’s your favorite?

Sleepwalking Giants


We’re sleepwalkers.

I’ve known that I talk in my sleep since sixth grade, when a friend said that I had a complete conversation about ninjas who eat lasagna in the middle of the night. The walking came later. When it was at its worst, I once woke up on the sidewalk in front of my house in my pajamas, after having a dream that I was being chased by ninja-terrorist-assassins (Dude, just try to convince me ninjas aren’t scary).

Because of course ninja-terrorist-assassins would pursue a sixteen year old kid with no discernible skills in anything but making an ass of herself.

Did I mention I lived on one of the busiest streets of my hometown?

At least I was wearing pajamas that night. Though that was the night I decided I must always wear shorts or pants to bed. Just. In. Case.

We get this from my father, whom I’ve caught on more than one occasion eating mayonnaise right out of the jar, completely asleep. It was a bit disconcerting the first time I was sneaking in after a slightly longer night than I’d anticipated and found my father eating mayonnaise, his face lit only by the glow of the refrigerator.

I totally thought I was busted.

Instead, as I walked past him, I said, “Hey Dad.”

He didn’t look up, just shoved another mouthful of mayonnaise (gag, barf) into his mouth. Offering me the jar, he said, “Want some? It’s marshmallows.”

“It’s mayonnaise, and that’s gross.”

He ate another bite, put the mayo back in the fridge (though I understood for the first time how we went through so much mayo when no one but my mother ate it). Shambled off to his bed, and I could hear him snoring before I even had the chance to go downstairs. This was not the only time I caught him doing this, so I know it’s not a fluke. But it was ALWAYS mayonnaise, and only mayonnaise. Though he did occasionally put his hearing aid in the microwave when he was asleep. And the freezer.

I’ve found it both places.

I don’t think I’ve walked in my sleep for years. Here’s hoping the girl child grows out of it. I’m really tired of finding her trying to pee in the sink.

All because she can’t find the toilet that’s right next to it.


Don’t You Judge Me!


So, today I was reading the blogs, and I realized something, which is probably readily apparent to everyone else, but just dawned on me: we’re so freaking judgmental of one another.

It comes out in our critiques. It comes out in reviews of books. It comes out in the comments in reviews of books. Now, this isn’t a new phenomenon. I think we’ve always judged one another. Whether it’s to build ourselves up because we feel like we’re lacking or to condemn a behavior we, as a society, deem unacceptable (female sexuality, anyone?), we’ve always been judgmental.

What has changed? Oh, that we’re so willing to share it with one another. We hide behind keyboards and vilify one another from the comfort of our couches.

It annoys me. (That’s me being judgmental)

In any case, what I came across today was a critique of a work of literary fiction. Now, I don’t read this particular author, but I thought the critique was harsh. Because it wasn’t a critique about style or plot, or general story-telling ability. It was a critique about this author’s very American-ness. About how, because this author is so very American, and so willing to both embrace and deride Americanism in its grandiose gaucheness (is that even a word?), people in other countries can embrace it as a masterwork.

And then came the comparison to genre fiction, in which genre fiction was found lacking.

It smacks of the superiority I found in another blog, where the author denigrated those who graduated from “mediocre state college.” Hmm.

I resemble that remark.

I write genre fiction. In fact, I write in the genre most derided by… well, everyone (including my mother).

I write romance.

It’s not because I’m stupid, or I like porn. It’s not because I can’t speak in complete sentences.

I write it because I like it. Because my dirty little secret is that I’ve been a closet fan of the romance novel since I was sixteen years old and picked up my first historical.

I was an English major in college, all angsty and tortured. I’ve read everything from Jane Austin to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Thoreau. I’ve read A.S. Byatt and Salman Rushdie and Walt Whitman. I’ve read Rick Bass and Mark Twain and Kafka and Gael Garcia Marquez, Pablo Naruda and Heine and Hesse and Rilke, Hemingway and George Eliot. When I once filled out a list of the 100 greatest works of all time (it was one of those silly quizzes that stated that most people had only read 7 of the books), I had read 84 of them.

I’ve read literary fiction. And I liked it… at the time (though I still loved my romance novels). Now, I don’t want that. I read genre fiction because I am looking for an escape from real life, and with a good romance novel, I can get a happy ending, too.

The reason why I don’t read literary fiction anymore? Oh, because real life sucks.

Real life is unpaid bills and cars with flat tires. Real life is sick kids with snotty noses and paperwork and a job that makes you so nuts your hair falls out.

Real life is a seven-year old girl you just can’t fix. Real life is knowing that child will die and you can’t do anything about it. It’s knowing that no matter how much you try, your effort will go nowhere. Real life is about crying in the principal’s office while you beg for a variance, because it’s the only thing you actually can do for this little one and her family.

Give me a happy ending any day, because some people just aren’t going to get one, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.

When one of my best friends was dying, I devoured romance novels. I think I was reading four of them a week (Johanna Lindsey was a favorite). I needed that happy ending because my friend wasn’t going to get one. I needed everything to work out so I could be the one friend who stayed with her until the end, the one who could look upon her face and not cry. I could be upbeat and perky, and still tell jokes while I watched Zorro the Gay Blade and she slept.

It’s one of the things I’m most proud of: I was the friend she needed, the one who never cried. And just because I never cried while she lived doesn’t mean I don’t miss her every day. It doesn’t mean she didn’t know that I would.

Romance novels and silly movies and  my M got me through that. My M was fabulous and wonderful, and when I wanted to bury my head in the sand, he told me jokes so I could go back to her house and sit with her and tell her jokes just to make her laugh. Hm. I should remember what he did the next time he’s being annoying and I want to strangle him.

In any case, I didn’t need tortured literary fiction then, and I still don’t. Real life sucks enough.

So, to all of you who look down on romance novels… Read one. The world is filled with enough tortured souls as it is. Don’t judge me because I read them. Don’t judge me because I write them.  And if you do judge me, well…

Keep your opinions to yourself.

My Day, 10 to 1


10. Number of times I wished for a bigger office (actually, this is probably a minimum number, but …) It’s a reformed storage closet, so it fits two kids and one adult comfortably. One kid in a wheelchair and one adult okay with some rearranging of furniture. Three kids and one adult and one wheelchair… Uh, not so much. Granted, I’ve worked at a card table outside the staff bathroom before, so it could be worse. Oh, and once I didn’t even have an office. I did therapy in the staff lounge, the library, and on the floor in the hallway. So hey, I’m grateful for my reformed closet.

9. Number of times I told one child to sit down in a single, twenty-minute session. It was a very, very long twenty minutes.

8. Number of times I got kicked out of the IEP program before figuring out that the stinking thing is down. Again. Because I’m smart.

7. Number of kids in my afternoon group (a delightful group. Darling)

6. Number of times Sea Monkey bocked at me when I asked her if she was chicken.

5. Number of things I bought at PetsMart (dog food x 2, cat food x2, cat litter)

4. Number of contact lenses I wear at once. No, I do not literally have four eyes. I may be funny lookin’, but I’m not that funny lookin’. Two in each eye. Because I’m THAT lucky.

3. The number of times my foot got run over by a mechanized wheelchair (hence some of the wishing for a bigger office)

2. Number of times Chewey asked for a boa constrictor. Also the number of times I rearranged the furniture in my office. And the number of reports I had to rewrite from my house at 6:30 this morning because the network crashed.

1. Number of rejections I got today (though, before you feel bad for me, it was very nice. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I haven’t gotten one I’d consider mean yet. I could be mad then. But this one? Really encouraging. For a rejection, that is)

Getting Back to It


I’ve spent the better part of the last month researching agents and editors, revising my previous manuscript, editing my query letter, and pondering whether or not to enter contests.

I’ve not done a whole lot of writing, and I feel out of practice. Rusty.

I have a goal set that I’d like to write a thousand usable words a day. I think at that rate, I can have a manuscript done in about four months. I think it’s totally workable. My first book (The Silver Cord, which admittedly needs to be rewritten) only took me four months to write. My second, The Queen Killer, took me about six months to complete, but I was writing two books at the same time, and the third, The Marker, I finished in January, after starting it in May. Though, I must admit, I spent most of October and November and part of December completely revising The Queen Killer, so really, it didn’t take me that long to finish, either. I had a couple of scenes that I just couldn’t get out, but once I took those scenes out and reworked them (either by shifting the POV or simply changing the scenario), they came together nicely, I think.

I started my current manuscript (tentatively called Attendant) in April, after I discovered (or decided) that the book I was working on was actually the last in the series. I love the hero in that story, but he works best being closer to the ending of the entire series. So I have the final book in the series nearly half way complete.

I’m only about a quarter of the way through my WIP.

I write a sentence. I erase it. I rewrite it. I add a word. I take out a word.

My rhythm is completely off.

When I wrote my first book, I didn’t worry about the blog. Or edits. Or really, much of anything but writing. When I sat at the computer, the words just fell off the ends of my fingers (yes, they were crappy words, but they were words. I can always work with what’s been written). Now, if I write 1000 words a day, I’m not only proud of myself, I’m freaking astonished.

It’s not that the words aren’t there. It’s that I’m feeling perpetually distracted by something. Blog. Querying. Kids. Work.

Life.

So I’m re-mapping out my entire second book. I tend to think of myself as something of a pantser–because that’s how I work in real life–but I think once I get the plot written down and the scenes mapped out, I’ll have a focus for my imagination, and the words will come back.

My rhythm will come back.

I know it will.

Unhappy Day Cards


This post is actually a joint effort between M and I… This is how we bond.

There’s a card for every occasion–happy cards, funny cards, sweet and sentimental cards. But what about those people who loathe certain holidays? What’s out there for them?

M and I have the solution. In honor of those who despise special occasions (and we know you exist), we have come up with several alternatives to the traditional Happy X Day cards. In the comments, leave your idea for what an Unhappy Day card should say. I’ll be picking the winners in a few days. (What do you win? Hell, I don’t know yet. A coffee card, perhaps?)

In honor of Mother’s Day:

To a hateful bitch who hates my wife and refuses to acknowledge my children’s birthdays. Rot in Hell.

OR:

To the bitter woman who gave me life. You did the best you could. Too bad your best really sucked.

For Valentine’s Day:

To the spiteful windbag who ruined my life. Sorry for the gonorrhea.

OR:

Any chance on the three way with your hot best friend? Because, wow, you’ve let yourself go.

For the anniversary:

I can’t afford to divorce you. I hope you die before me. 

OR:

It doesn’t matter what you put in the will. You’re just gonna get cremated and thrown in the trash. Love always, your wife.

OR:

Happy Anniversary. If not for internet porn, I would have killed myself years ago.

For Father’s Day:

Please put on some pants. Love, your daughter.

OR:

Because you never came to my recitals, I bought you this card with my lap dance earnings. 

OR, for scratch-n-sniff aficionados:

I bought you this card because it reminded me of my childhood. It smells like bourbon and vomit. 

For Graduation:

Wow, you actually made it through all twelve grades? Who knew you could repeat your senior year three times? Congratulations.

OR:

I didn’t realize you could count doing the football team as an extracurricular activity. Congratulations on your graduation. 

For Christmas:

Merry Christmas. Who gives a good goddamn what your kids are doing?

OR:

Merry Christmas. I thought this card was better than the turd I was planning on sending you.

For the 4th of July:

I’d rather explode in a heinous fireworks mishap than spend another miserable holiday with you.

For Thanksgiving:

Sorry I can’t make it this year, but your cooking makes me vomit. 

For the birthday:

Happy Birthday. I thought you were dead. You’re old. Really, really old.

OR:

You know how they say to live fast and die young? Yeah, you should have.

OR:

Happy Birthday. How’s your health? P.S. Am I still in the will?

For Bosses’ Day:

You’re an overrated windbag. We laugh at your jokes because you pay us. P.S. No one’s told you, but your fly is down. It’s been down since 2004.

For Administrative Professionals Day:

You’re fired.

Yes, yes, they’re mean. I know. I know.  I feel a little bit bad about it, but it’s not like these are directed at anyone I actually know. It’s funny.

So, let me know what unhappy day cards you’d come up with!