Saturday, November 29, 2008

Almost Better

What day is it? I have a hard enough time keeping track as it is; throwing a long weekend in with a migraine (when time stands still) has really screwed me up. *checks calendar is corner of screen* Saturday. Got it.

It sounds like everyone had a fun Thanksgiving. I went to dinner with a friend, had spinach canneloni, and Ibis was able to join us for the last hour. Other than that, I've been laying down since Wednesday afternoon. These headaches tend to last about four days and since we've agreed it's Saturday, it's almost gone. I've already done a bit of cleaning this morning and since that only happesn when I'm feeling better, I know the end is near.

Another thing that hasn't happened since Wednesday? Writing. I squeaked out 200 words yesterday morning, then gave up and crashed on the couch. One of the American channels was having a Mel Gibson marathon and I caught Forever Young and Lethal Weapon 4. Add in a couple magazines and that's what I've been doing for the past couple days.

Last night Ibis and I talked to my mom and gramma via webcam (we use Skype) and my gramma was marveling over the technology. She does have email and she reads my blog (hi gramma!) but free online video conversations were a new one for her. She hadn't seen Ibis in over a year!

I plan to get more writing done today but I don't think I'm going to reach my 60k goal for November. I'm fine with that, especially since that wasn't going to be the end of the book anyway. Have a great rest of the weekend!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Migraine Day

I don't know how many people will be online today, but I hate to skip a day. My head has exploded again so I don't have much to share. My dinner last night was nice - if a little long - and I didn't get any writing done. I feel lazy since I wasn't as busy as I'm sure all of you were, but I was getting into the spirit of the holiday. ;) Hopefully I'll get to it today.

Happy Black Friday, lol.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you - my friends, family, and blogging buddies - for being in my life. You give me a reason to get up in the morning and do what I have to do, and it really means a lot to me. I've said many times how Ibis and I have struggled to make friends here so having you all in my life really does make a difference. Thank you.

I have many things to be thankful for - my health, my writing, my family - but there are plenty of things I'm hoping I can list next year. We should have a lot of answers in the next year and I'm hoping I'll have a much longer list in November '09.

I did manage to watch the Macy's parade this morning and I saw the JMU Marching Royal Dukes perform! Brought a year to my eye. :)

Ibis works until 8pm tonight but I am joining a friend for dinner this evening. Unless they serve turkey at the Italian restaurant, it will be a very untraditional Thanksgiving. ;)

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Price of Things

Fellow blogger and friend Janna asked me to do a post about the cost of things in Mexico. She said, "I'm curious, what with the economy issues here. And how do they convert to American dollars?"

I haven't done much research on this topic, but I can tell you what I know from living here. That's why you read my blog anyways, right? (Note: all of this is based on my observations.) In terms of the economy, while there are wealthy people, a larger percentage of people live in poverty. The difference is what that poverty means. In the US, if people don't make enough money, there are programs for food (food stamps), health care (medicade), education (public schools), etc. Here, poverty means no electricity or running water, and you're lucky to get milk or meat once a day.

The Mexican government does very little for it's people. There is no free school, and while it's not expensive, parents have to pay every month for their child's education. They also are required to buy uniforms.

I know people will argue with me about my statement about health care in the US, and I hear you, but here if you don't have money, you don't get help. Some things are cheaper - you can get many prescription medications for a lower price and my doctor's appointments have cost roughly the same as what I paid at home, but here I don't have insurance. So I'm actually paying less because there's no premium. The doctors also spend more time with you and take their time figuring out what's wrong. They don't rush you out, even if there are five people waiting outside.

In our town, tourism is a huge factor in people's lives. Fishing is the main industry, but after that it's foreigners spending their hard earned money. People clamor for the seasonal jobs at hotels and restaurants, hoping to make enough money to get them through the long, slow summer. Many, many people own their own businesses. I believe you don't need a permit to open one and if you have the space and the will, you can have your own shop. Vendors line the streets selling fruit, straw hats, model ships, you name it.

One thing I didn't mention is gas. Mexico has one gas company called PeMex. It's run by the state and is the only place to get fuel for your vehicle. Attendants pump your gas, and I only recently found out you should tip them because they make next to nothing. And here next to nothing means a couple dollars a day. I've had trouble figuring out the cost of gas because 1) it's in liters, and 2) it's in pesos. Our car has a 14 gallon tank and 200 pesos fills it halfway.

Right now the peso:dollar ratio is 13:1. I generally do an even 10% switch in my head, but for the past couple months the peso has been losing value (a sign of the economy, no doubt) so that math is a little off. But, if I were to follow the 10% rule, 200 pesos would equal $20US, which would mean it takes $40 to fill our tank. When I left the US in February '07 it was costing between $35 and $40 to fill the tank, so my guess is... we're about the same for gas, with Mexico possible being a little cheaper.

Now, food. Prices vary, but most things are cheaper, especially produce. But it all depends on where the food originated. Imported food is naturally more expensive, especially things that don't come from the US. Seafood and produce seem to be the cheapest items, but I'll do a basic rundown for you, based on our shopping this week. A quick refresher - one kilo equals 2.2 pounds.

At the Market

4 kilos oranges & 1 cantaloupe: 33 pesos
1/2 kilo of fresh shrimp: 50 pesos
3 sandwich buns: 6 pesos
3 gala apples & 2 pears: 33 pesos (those are always expensive)
3 pieces of marinated, flattened chicken: 20 pesos
1/2 kilo freshly ground coffee: 35 pesos
6 bananas: 7 pesos
1 papaya, 1 potato, 1 onion, 2 chiles, 2 avocados (also expensive): 30 pesos

The Grocery Store

1 liter skim milk: 12 pesos
drinkable yogurt: 4 pesos
1 liter cooking oil: 35 pesos
1 pkg US-brand granola: 33 pesos
loaf of American bread: 30 pesos
dozen eggs: 19 pesos
single can of soda: 5 pesos
jar of red pepper flakes: 16 pesos
4 heads of garlic: 7 pesos
large jar of mayo: 31 pesos
900ml container of sour cream: 16 pesos
fresh tortellini: 34 pesos
1 stick of butter: 8 pesos

I know this is kind of a random mix of things, but this should give you an idea of the price of things. One thing I didn't mention is electronics, which tend to be much more expensive than in the US. Household items (large and small) tend to be about the same, as do clothes. You find a lot more cheap clothes here, but I think that's just because of the economic reality of people living here. Larger metropolises have expensive stores, like anywhere else in the world.

Did I miss anything? Something else you'd like to know about? If you ever have a topic you'd like me to address, just let me know!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday Stuff and Things

I'm completely ripping off Janna's Tuesday post theme, but since she's on my mind, I figured it's ok. You see, yesterday Janna suggested a topic for my blog that I think is great, but it requires a little more research. That'll be tomorrow's post.

I only have one stuff/thing, but work with me here. Today I'd like to share the recipe for one of my all-time favorite snacks. Technically it's the type of thing you make for parties, especially small groups where you can all pack around the table. I should also point out that I can't have it here because we don't have an oven. Let me know if you decide to try this!

Baked Brie with Brown Sugar

What you need:
- a wheel of brie (whatever size you want)
- ample brown sugar (I don't know, I guess half a cup)
- crackers - I prefer plain (without seeds or flavors)

What you do:
- preheat oven to 400°
- cut top layer of rind off in one piece, roughly 1/2" thick or thinner
- press brown sugar onto cheese so fully covered, roughly 1/4" thick
- cover brown sugared cheese with rind that you cut off
- place into oven safe dish and bake for roughly 20 minutes

* keep an eye on it as the time is an estimate. When the cheese is soft & starting to bubble, it's done

Tricky part:
I've done this both with and without an oven safe dish. I have a dish that's the exact size of a small wheel, but for larger wheels you may have to improvise. I've used regular pans, but if you do this, you have to cook the cheese upside-down so you can flip it upright onto the serving plate. It's a little messier that way but still delicious.

Remove the top layer of rind and serve with crackers. I recommend having enough knives for everyone because your guests will devour it.


Monday, November 24, 2008

I Think This is What They Mean By "Feel the Burn"

As of 8am this morning, I'm 3287 words away from winning NaNo. *does a little dance* As most of you know, my goal is 60,000 words, so I'm actually 13,287 words away from winning. That works out to roughly 2000 per day for the rest of the month. That's been more or less what I've been doing, so it shouldn't be a problem. Except for one thing.

I am getting burned out.

I still like my story but I'm so sick of my story. I like my characters but I wish they would just get on with it. Yesterday I backtracked and wrote a chapter I'd accidentally skipped, so I feel like I'm moving backwards and my characters are regressing.

Regardless of my mixed feelings, I got up early this morning and wrote 600 words. I think this story will be longer than 60k, but I'd like to get as much done as I can by November 30th so I can tuck it away and work on the edits for The Other Side. I don't want to stop my current wip midway through, so the more I can get done now, the better.

On top of this, I've either been bitten by little bugs or I'm having an allergic reaction to something, because I am ITCHY! My left arm, my chest and my chin are driving me bonkers!

How's your writing coming along? Do you have any ailments you'd like to complain about?

ETA: I completely forgot to mention my lips have been swollen for a couple days and are also itchy. I'm trying to narrow down what foods I've eaten.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Five Things

Janna did this meme yesterday and I thought it was interesting and yet another way for you to get to know me. So without further adieu...

Five Things I Was Doing 5 Years Ago:
- working as a graphic designer at ad agency
- distancing myself from a group of friends that I decided were unhealthy for me
- salsa dancing
- living in a studio that I loved
- volunteering for annual fundraiser for a children's literacy program

Five Things on My To Do List:
(I've already done laundry, mopped & grocery shopped today - that was most of my list!)
- write
- work on my dad's website
- work out
- cook dinner
- finish laundry

Five Things I Like to Snack on:
- a wheel of brie baked with brown sugar
- pretzels dipped in ranch with hot sauce
- nutella, straight from the jar
- popcorn
- any type of chip as long as I can dip it in something (I don't actually eat this very often

Five Things I Would Do If I was a Millionaire:
- buy a house that's just big enough to live in until I'm old
- pay for my niece and nephews' college
- make sure my parents are taken care of
- allow Ibis' dad to retire
- buy lots and lots of books

Five Places I Have Lived:
- Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico
- Chicago, Illinois
- Grand Rapids, Michigan
- Vienna, Virginia
- Colora, Maryland

Five Jobs I Have Had:
- art director at an ad agency
- graphic designer at the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago
- designer/software trainer at computer company
- hostess & server at a steakhouse
- cashier/prep cook at cheesesteak restaurant

Five People I Am Tagging:
Anyone who would like to play along. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Race Day!

Zihua doesn't do the best job advertising some of its events, and most of the time we end up finding out about something two days after the fast. Well yesterday was an 8k race - Ibis found out a whopping four days ahead of time. He's a runner (he's run three marathons) but took a break at some point over the summer. About two weeks ago, he started running again in the mornings, and that's when he found out about this race.

The runners started near the entrance to Playa Larga, then ran along the main highway into town, ending at the downtown plaza. I went down to the plaza to wait for him, not really sure what to expect.

First, I couldn't find the finish line. I asked several shop keepers and a woman standing near a cooker full of water, and they all said the "meta" was the finish line. (Notice I finally got a picture of the police with their machine guns.)

I was confused. Do they climb the stairs after running 8k in 90+ degree weather? "It's very disorganized," another woman told me. I guess.

While we waited for the runners to appear, traffic continued passing on the street. I kept waiting for the police to come through and block it off, but they never did. A few people even stopped to look at the spectators, and a couple cab drivers asked me if I was waiting for a ride. *shakes head* Here's one of the first runners (he's wearing black & is between the two cabs):

Here's the stage. I assumed there would be a ceremony there afterwards, but they started taking it down after the first couple runners came through. By the time Ibis got there, the sign was gone and the runners just kind of stopped running in the middle of the crowd of people.

Ibis was around the 17th person to cross the finish line. They only wrote down the top three of each category so they couldn't tell him exactly. We figured out that number by counting sweaty competitors in the crowd. We also don't know his time because 1)they started late, and 2)I forgot to check my watch when he crossed. Here he is:

And once he got some water. Notice the police are dismantling the stage:

There were doctors on hand, and third person to finish needed medical attention (he was fine). Shortly after the race ended, an ambulance cruised by:

They gave away trophies to the winners and running outfits to the second and third place people. He says he probably won't do it again because it was so disorganized, and especially because they didn't block traffic while they were running on the main roads. Scary!

Finally, here's a picture I took while I was waiting for him:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Name That Object!

This is something I see on a daily basis, but it was the first time it looked so... cavernous. It struck me so much I showed it to Ibis, who said to take a picture. And now here we are.

Any guesses what it is? I may have already given it away just by saying that much, but we'll see. I also realize that once one person guesses, the fun might be over, but work with me here. :)

So whatcha think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Offical, I'm a Writer

Leave it to my mom to decide this for me.

My college is putting together an alumni directory and for some reason you can only verify your information via telephone. I received an email telling me this, and my parents (who are my stateside mailing address) received a similar letter. My mother offered to call for me since it's a big fat pain in the butt to call internationally. Not to mention expensive.

She emailed me Monday evening to tell me the different options for the directories. I can buy a deluxe edition, a soft-bound edition, or the cheap-o version that includes my class and the one on either side. Very fancy. She also said they'll be emailing me in case I'd like to add a story or photo (oh the pressure!).

And then there was this little gem at the end of her email:

"By the way, you are now a "writer" rather than in advertising..."

So it's official. Or at least it will be as of February 9th.

Now that I'm a writer, I have a question I've been meaning to ask. What's the standard length for a short story? I know they vary and I should check the publication for their requirements, but as a rule of thumb, what's the median word count?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Complete Detachment from Reality

I have several friends who are going on long vacations over the next couple weeks and it struck me as strange that so many people are vacationing at the same time. Then I realized, "Oh, it's almost Thanksgiving." You know, that holiday when people tend to, oh, I don't know, travel.

You see, it's still summer here. It's sunny every day, people run around in shorts and tank tops, and it's hot. Granted, it's a little cooler than it was three months ago, but it most definitely is not fall. And it most certainly is not approaching winter.

Now, I swear I'm not saying all this to make you jealous or brag or whatever. I'm not. If you look next to my picture there on the right it says I'm a Midwest girl. As in, i need four seasons like my dad needs a new big-boy toy every three months. I just DO.

So aside from it being almost Thanksgiving and I somehow didn't realize it, I've been bombarded with reminders that winter is upon us. I spend a lot of time on Facebook and people can write a little blurb - called their status - that says how they are at any given moment. Right now I have friends with the following:

xxx thinks it's a terrible shame it's not still snowing
xxx is feeling the chill in the air. Brrrr..
xxx is watching the snow fly.
xxx is going to rake leaves tonight! BRRR!!!!
xxxis wishing for snow!!!
xxx it is officailly winter, the snow plows are out.

I GET it! It's fall/almost winter. You have crisp air and swirling leaves and get to cuddle in cozy sweaters. Stop teasing me!

So now I have a favor to ask. Since I can't frolic in my own pile of leaves or stick out my tongue and catch snowflakes, will you share a story with me? I'd be most grateful. :)

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Wish They Had More Than Just Yellow

I had planned to use a picture as the base of today's post, but Ibis already left and took the camera. The rest of my morning has gone steadily downhill. Not bad, but it's almost 11am and I don't feel like I've accomplished anything.

There seems to be a lot of blog chatter lately about outlining vs not, and if you do outline, what form that takes. Some swear by sloppy notebooks while others write such extensive outlines they can cross-check every minor detail in their characters lives. I fall somewhere between the two.

I handwrote my first novel so my notes were also handwritten. I left a couple pages at the front blank so I could keep track of characters and other things like that, but soon my thoughts spilled to stickies and the little yellow papers were plastered all over my notebook. The important ones were stuck to my monitor - especially after I changed everyone's name and couldn't keep track of them anymore. I felt a little disorganized but it worked.

This time around I'm doing all my work on the computer, so my outline is also electronic. I'm using word and I've put the "heading" style to work, tagging all my characters and chapters so I can quickly jump to whichever I need. So far it's working, but I kind of miss my stickies. Nothing says "I'm hard at work" than notes strewn about. When my desk is too clean I feel like I'm not busy enough.

Now back to that picture. I do have two stickies on my desk and that's what I'd hoped to take a picture of. Each is a rough sketch of my two families' living rooms. One has a hallway along the stairs leading to the kitchen, while in the other you walk through the living room to get to the kitchen. A minor detail, but I can picture it much easier this way and I don't have them house-hopping. ;) Oh, and there's one on the top of my monitor that's a general writing note. It says:

He felt
He thought
He knew
He wondered
He watched

It's really helped me catch those moments when I try to take the easy way out.

What about you? Do you have stickies on your monitor? What do they say?


For those of you who enjoyed my cockroach story the other day, I thought I'd let you know I had an EXACT reenactment last night. I opened a cupboard for a snack and fifteen minutes later the contents were on the counter and I was spraying like there was no tomorrow. After a futile attempt at escape, the thing flung itself to the ground FROM THE CUPBOARD ABOVE MY HEAD. I let out a blood-curdling scream as it landed on it's back, legs flailing. And you know what happened next? I grabbed the broom and made him my neighbor's problem.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Halfway There

Today is November 15th, the middle of the month. By NaNo standards I should hit 25k today BUT, overachiever that I am, I hit 30k last night. Yay! I feel a little silly being excited when I have friends who are already finished, but this is a huge accomplishment for me.

This has also been a learning experience for me because it's the first story I've written that has interactions between parents and their children. Not being a parent myself, I can only hope that I'm expressing things in a truthful manner. I'm relying on how I've seen friends and family behave with their offspring, little things they say, small touches that show they love them. I don't spend much time around eight and ten-year olds, so pinpointing their mannerisms is also challenging, but I'm enjoying it.

I still need to pick a title. As of now I have ZERO ideas, but, honestly, I haven't really thought much about it. I'm sure it'll come to me, some turn of phrase that leaps off the page and screams,"This is it!"

I started reading Atonement by Ian McEwan and so far I'm loving it. I've been reading chapters during my writing breaks. I debated which to read because I didn't want my reading material to influence my writing, and this was definitely a good choice. McEwan's style is very different from my and has little danger of influencing me.

And that's about it. Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 14, 2008

This Happens About Ten Times a Day

The following is based on a true story. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

What Lurks Beneath

Terror grips me as I look around the kitchen. The counter is clean. The dishes are drying in the rack. The only thing out of place is the cooling pasta on the stove.

I step closer and peer into the pot, then let out a shaky breath. There's still enough left for another meal, a small lunch tomorrow or a snack after work.

I step away from the counter and drop my gaze to the cabinets near the floor. I don't want to do it. My heartbeat quickens as I glance at my husband in the living room. He's unaware of the danger lurking in front of me. To him, women's work is simple, a daily chore he doesn't need to bother with.

I look back at the cabinet and take a deep breath. I can't let the food go to waste.

I curl my fingers around the knob and pull. Ever so slowly I lower into a crouch until I can peer into the murky depths of the cabinet. Plastic bowls are stacked neatly on the shelf. They're what I came for, but I can't help myself. I look deeper.

A light scratching noise draws my attention to the lower shelf. Did I imagine it? Is something back there, or is my husband just heeding mother nature?

I lean back on my heels, unsure what to do next, when suddenly I see it. A dark body flashes through the gloom, its legs flying as it scurries to another hiding place.

I scream, then leap to my feet. I wrench open another cabinet, with only a slight pause as my fear is already aroused, and grab the orange can left at the edge of the shelf. I aim it at the villain, then with an evil laugh, I spray.

The creature leaps to my feet. It lands on its back, legs flailing, taunting my soft side with its misery. It wants me to let him go. We've done this charade before, and it knows I'll cave it I think it's suffering.

I hold the can closer and let loose another spray.

It writhes on the floor, spinning in circles, a desperate dance that will only lead to death.

Calmer now, I reach for the broom and with a viscous swipe, fling it onto the patio.

Suddenly, it's back on its feet. It runs in circles, panic driving it into the wall where it falls once more to its back.

I give it another push and it plunges off the balcony. I set down the broom and return to the kitchen. While I'm sliding the leftovers into the tupperware, my husband calls from the other room.

"Everything okay in there?"

I smile to myself. "Yes, dear." I've won, for now.


Is anyone else terrified every time they have to open the cupboard?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Well That's a Relief

(This is post #333! As three is my lucky number, I expect big things.)

Last night I finished Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, and while it wasn't the most fascinating writing book I've read, it had some valuable insights. Most importantly, to me, it confirmed that the structure I'm using for my current novel is valid.

I writing with multiple POV (point of view) - the father, the daughter, and the widow - plus I'm including occasional articles from the local paper to provide facts about the case. Well, Ms. Kress includes this very structure as one way to do multiple POV.

*wipes forehead* Phew!

A couple friends who are participating in NaNo have included excerpts from their current projects, and while I've been tempted to share, I haven't been able to figure out which passage is best. It probably would've been easier if I selected one scene each day, but now I have 88 pages to choose from.

Let's see... *peruses Word document*

Here's something I wrote yesterday. It's a little long, but I hope you enjoy it.


Music drifted through a door on the opposite wall. The lonesome notes wrapped around Becca's heart and squeezed. She wished more than anything that she could be out there, sitting next to Justin. Soon the music faded and Reverend Kelly's voice filtered into the room. His words were hard to understand, so Becca let the cadence carry her.

Janet reached for Becca's hand and laced her fingers through hers.

They sat in silence until the music began again.

"We should go," Janet whispered.

They crept out the door and checked to make sure no one was watching. People were still seated in the chapel, their backs to them. Becca spotted Justin's dark head in the front row, and assumed the other dark heads were his uncle and grandfather. There were only about thirty people, much fewer than she assumed would be there, and the heaviness in her chest returned.

Janet tugged her arm. "Let's go, Becca."

They tip-toed down the stairs and hurried through the wind to the car. The weather had turned in the past couple days and fallen leaves swirled on the sidewalk. Janet turned up the heat and they waited for the air to warm them.

"We can go ahead to the cemetery. When the hearse arrives, we can get close enough to watch from the car." Janet peered at Becca. "Do you want to get some hot chocolate on the way?"

Becca nodded. She didn't really want anything sweet, but something to occupy her hands would be good. She knew her mom was just trying to keep her busy, to keep her mind off the funeral and everything that went with it, and she appreciated the effort. She was still a little surprised her mom agreed to take her in the first place. "Thanks, Mom."

"It's no problem. That coffee shop just before the bridge isn't too far out of the way."

"No, I mean for this." Becca waved her hands at the church. "For bringing me, for coming with me. I know it's not easy for you either."

Janet's eyes softened and her lips trembled. "No, it's not easy." She studied Becca for a moment, then wiped at her eyes and put the car in gear. "Let's get going before the service ends."

Neither spoke as Janet drove the short blocks to the coffee shop. She pulled into the parking lot and parked near the front door. "I'll just run inside. Is hot chocolate okay?"

Becca nodded.

Janet returned a few minutes later, a paper cup in each hand. She set them on the roof to open the door, then handed them to Becca. "They've already got the Christmas flavors in there. Can you believe it? It's not even Halloween."

Becca mumured a non-answer then sipped her drink. It burned her tongue, scorched its way down her throat. She set it in the cupholder between their seats and stared out the window.

Janet turned onto the road and headed back the way they came.

They drove through town in silence. Becca stared at the familiar sights as if seeing them for the first time. When they passed the church, people were walking out the front doors and heading towards their cars. Becca scanned the faces for Justin but didn't see him. An involuntary shudder passed through her. She hadn't left the house since the attack and suddenly the town she'd known since she was a kid looked darker, more menacing. The store where she used to buy candy, the park where all the neighbor kids would play, all of it was changed. The violence she thought would never touch her had forced it's way into her life and now nothing seemed the same.

The cemetery gates were open and Janet turned the car onto the single lane road. Gravel crunched beneath the tires.

Becca rolled her window down a crack and breathed in the smell of freshly cut grass. The cool air chilled her nose but she left the window open. Nearby, someone was burning leaves, and the sharp pungent smoke mingled with the bits of nature fighting for life in the grips of fall. Soon the frost would come and everything would turn brown, but for now the cemetary still resembled a summer park.

"That tent is probably where they'll bury him." Janet pointed at a blue tent stretched above the earth along the southermost boundary. "Let's wait on the other end until they arrive." The car rolled along the path through gleaming headstones with recent dates, then passed those that had long been forgotten, the names barely legible through weeds and decay. "They'll assume we're here visiting a relative."

Becca stared at the tent in the review mirror. So strange that in one short week – less than a week, really – Justin's dad was dead and would soon be buried. If she focused on it just being his dad, she could almost pretend she'd had nothing to do with his death.

Janet turned off the car. "Let me know if you get cold."

Becca felt numb, but she knew that wasn't what her mother meant. "Mmm-hmm." She took a sip of her hot chocolate and tried to concentrate on its warmth, its sweetness. Despite all that had happened, there were still little things that were good, small sparks of happiness that wouldn't let her sink lower than she already was.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I's Tired

I knew going into this month that it would be a challenge to write 50,000 words. What I forgot is how mentally draining it is. I am wiped out.

I started working out more regularly at the beginning of the month because I figured my body would need the release. It's been going well, and I keep waiting for the burst of energy I normally get, but so far, nothing.

Yesterday I sat down and did more complete character sketches for my main people, including everything that will happen to them for the rest of the story. Then I typed them up and merged them into a more complete outline. The result: an outline that should help me breeze through the rest of the story.


Well maybe not breeze, but at least I shouldn't get hung up on plot points. I was hoping to hit 24K last night, but after three hours of outlining I didn't have much left in me. I still wrote the minimum (1700) and I'm 5500 words ahead of schedule.

How's it going for you? Anyone reading anything good right now?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Will I Learn My Lesson?

I try to keep a balance between posting about Mexico and posting about writing. With NaNo on the brain my posts have been heavy on the writing, so last night I was thinking I was due for another Mexico post. Problem is, nothing much has happened.

On Saturday, Ibis and I went to Ixtapa Island - a little island just offshore of Ixtapa, go figure - and had a lovely afternoon snorkeling (him), reading (me), and hitting the volleyball around (both). We even met an American man who works in the area, a man who we both said is the most normal ex-pat we've met. Yes, we got his number. ;)

That's all fine and dandy, but that doesn't make up an entire blog post. So last night I thought to myself, ah, something is bound to happen.

I really should know better than that.

While I was writing I smelled smoke, but didn't think much of it. People are always either cooking or burning things, and it usually goes away after ten minutes. But this persisted. I finally went to the window to see who's meal was out of control and saw smoke billowing from one of the homes below us. Thick, yellow smoke, with burning embers flying all over the place.

I had been so engrossed in my writing I didn't notice that the condo had filled with smoke, so I quickly turned to fans to point outside. Then I went back onto the deck to watch. It looked like they were burning something in their small courtyard, but one stiff wind and it would be out of control. Every now and then a flame would lick over the edge of the roof, taunting me. A nearby tree lost half its leaves and smoke covered the side of the hill.

I kept waiting for the fire department to arrive and put an end to their fun, but no such luck. Soon my freshly washed hair reeked of campfire and the house smelled like a bonfire, and after an hour the fire burned itself out.

From now on I'll stop myself before I wish for something to happen for the sake of my blog. ;)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Me As a Writer

I decided to do NaNo because, aside from wanting to write another novel and partake in the insanity, I wanted to learn a little more about myself as a writer. Until this month I haven't written with concrete deadlines, with someone to answer to if I don't meet my goals - at least not since college...

One of the things I told Ibis I hope to accomplish is see how much I can write in a given day, consistently. We've all had those times when the stars aligned and we knocked out an unbelievable word count, but could I do it every day? While writing The Other Side, a good day was 800 words. I occasionally broke 1000, but anything over 500 was acceptable. Now the minimum is 1667, but of course I can't settle for the minimum and have challenged myself to write 2000 per day. So far I've done pretty well and as of last night I was 5000 words ahead of schedule.

But can I keep it up? We're not quite to the halfway mark and since my goal is 60K, I'm one third of the way done. I think this story will actually be much longer, but for now I'll settle for the industry minimum.

Another thing I hoped to learn about myself is HOW I write best. Through trial and error over the past ten days, I've discovered I can write over 3000 words daily as long as I break up my writing sessions. I seem to be able to crank out 1000 words pretty easily, but then my attention wanes. The past few days, as soon as I catch myself drifting, I backup my work, step away from the computer and read a little. (Currently reading Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress - very good so far.) After a chapter or two, I go back to my wip and try for another 1000 words. These breaks are sometimes a little longer, but as long as I stay focused, it's been working.

In the past week I've also started doing a workout video that my friend brought last month, so that's been my second writing break. Nothing is better for me than to burn off steam and get my muscles energized. I can sit back down refreshed, as if I hadn't already written 2000 words earlier in the day.

So what I've learned is this: I can write much more than I thought, but I need to be realistic and do it in sessions. My outline has carried me through when I start to get stuck, so part of my writing time has been devoted to developing what comes next. Spending that extra half hour allows my creativity to flow unrestricted.

Ibis had Saturday off - his first day off in almost three weeks - so I didn't do any writing and we spent the afternoon at a small island near Ixtapa. That, too, helped rejuvenate my mind.

Thanks to everyone for your comments about your attachments to your characters. I'm thinking about making an iTunes soundtrack for my teenage lovebirds to keep me in the mood. ;)

Saturday, November 8, 2008


The internet died again yesterday. No warning, just like that. Last time this happened we wrote down the codes so we could fix it on our own, so I pulled out the TelMex folder and followed my instructions. Still nothing.

I called the company, who directed me to a different number, where an automated message said they were working on the problem. I called Ibis, who told me that the entire town was out. The entire town. Are we all hooked up to one line or something? I didn't realize an entire TOWN could lose their internet service.

Oh well, that started at noon yesterday. Ibis woke me up at 6am to tell me the internet was back - even though I was sleeping, I was really excited, trust me - and now here I am.

I'm sure you're all thinking, I hope you used the time to write, and yes dear readers, I did. I wrote my daily goal of 2000 words in those first couple hours without internet (WI), then after a movie break, wrote another 1300 words.

One thing I wanted to ask about - my story has three points of view: the father who protects his daughter, the daughter, and the wife of the attacker (aka the widow). The adult perspectives are pretty "normal" - I'm mostly dealing with grown up reactions to the events. But the teenager... she's really affected me. I've thrown a curveball and now she's dating the son of her attacker, but no one else knows it. So on top of her almost getting raped and her father killing the man, she's also dealing with strong feelings for her boyfriend.

When I say she's affecting me, I mean, I'm feeling that longing that only teenagers can feel. When you feel like the world is against you and you'll do anything to be with the person you love. I had to stop and watch a sappy movie guaranteed to make me cry (Romeo & Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio & Claire Danes - if you haven't seen it, make a point to). Even that didn't get it out of my system, but I did manage to move on to the next chapter.

Do your characters ever affect you that strongly? What do you do to keep going?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wearing Your Inspiration on Your Wrist

Yesterday I was feeling a bit blah. I managed to write but it took awhile to get myself back into the groove. I kept thinking that I needed something more tangible to keep me going. Something physical that I could see and touch. The online world is wonderful but there's something to be said for life in the real world. That's where I'm writing and THAT'S where I need to be motivated.

Then inspiration struck.

A shirt I'd been wearing had those annoying loops in the armpits that clothing companies insist on stitching into women's clothes, and I finally cut them out. Five years after purchasing it. I thought the color was pretty and tossed the ribbons on my desk in case I thought of something to do with them.

Then I tried to write. I pecked out a few words here and there, then hopped onto the NaNo forums looking for inspiration. That's when I noticed my pretty ribbons were the same blue as the NaNo site. Interesting... I looped one around my wrist and decided to tie a knot (not very easy with one hand, let me tell you).


Please allow me to introduce my latest creation, the NaNo bracelet:

Are you done laughing yet? No? I'll wait.

*taps fingers on desk*

Ok, stop it.

I didn't set out to make a bracelet for myself, but I've heard of people asking friends to wear a bracelet for a designated period of time as a reminder or whatever of an upcoming event (Jessica Alba gave her baby shower guests bracelets to wear until she gave birth), and thought, why not do that for myself? Wear the bracelet until I finish NaNo? If I get sick of looking at the thing, that's just more inspiration to hurry the heck up and get it done. Genius!

Survey says:

So what do you think?


I updated my blog roll on the right. I deleted a couple that haven't updated in months so if you used to be there and no longer see yourself, let me know when you post again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Feeling Meh, So Enjoy a Few Pictures of a Puppy

I think I'm in a post-election funk. The emotional high from Tuesday has sucked the energy right out of me and it's all I can do to get through my daily routine. I'm sure my writing has also added to the drop in adrenaline. The beginning pages of my story are emotionally trying and it's taken a lot out of me. I'm at 11,200 right now, but I only wrote 800 words yesterday, much lower than my 2000+ per day goal.

Anyway, I've promised myself I won't talk about NaNo too much so instead, I have pictures of a new puppy. My girlfriend (she of two Chihuahuas and two cats) bought ANOTHER Chihuahua Tuesday, so yesterday I went to her house to meet the little guy.

Here he is snoozing on her mom:

Now he's sleeping in my lap:

And to give perspective, here's my hand next to him:

He seems a little young to already be away from his mom, but they're giving him milk frequently and basically watching him sleep. No names yet, but Bo was a top pick when I left (because he's bow-legged).

Have a great day & happy writing!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did

Do you hear that? That's the collective exhale of millions of Americans. I know not everyone supported Obama, but as he said last night, that's ok, he's still going to support YOU.

I truly believe he will make a difference. Of course it won't happen overnight, but the fact that he won when no one thought he could (at least not this soon) shows what he can accomplish when he puts his mind to it. My friend Spy said it better than I can in her post Success, the President-Elect Obama Way. (Do you think spellchecks will update to include Obama now? Just a thought.)

Here in Zihua, the election made page 5:

Mexican media covered the election but was more focused on the death of Mexican Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino in a plane crash last night. He was among eight people who died when their plane crashed onto a street in a wealthy Mexico City neighborhood. At least 40 people on the ground were injured and several cars were engulfed in flames. Mourino was a close friend and adviser to President Calderon, as well a leader in the fight against the violence that has overtaken Mexico.

This morning in the market I asked my regular vendors if they heard we have a new president, and they had. That made me as happy as the election itself. Hopefully the world will once again view the United States as a great nation.

PS – My mom reports that the proposition passed!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Very Important Election

In 1975, the year I was born, Ottawa County, Michigan passed an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays. By the time my family moved there in 1980, the community had grown accustomed to the inconvenience. They stocked up Saturday night for their Sunday drinking needs, and if they forgot, they drove to the county line - just a few miles away in Fruitport - where such a law did not apply.

As a child, I didn't really understand why sometimes the grocery store had covers pulled over the liquor aisles. I just figured it was one more weird thing the grownups did. My first clue that our town was extra strange came one hot summer when my family and several others loaded into our boats to watch a fireworks display.

Spring Lake is both the name of my hometown and the name of the seven-mile lake I grew up on. (Our motto is Where Nature Smiles for Seven Miles.) At the very end - at the last little strip of shore - is Muskegon County. Perhaps by coincidence, this is also the site of the fireworks.

Back to that summer afternoon. One of the boats had an inflatable dingy and it was decided three men would row to shore to buy beer from the small liquor store (it had a dock for this very purpose). Off they went, shouting "stroke! stroke! stroke!" and spinning in circles. Eventually they made it and returned with cases of cheap beer. As a ten-year-old this was hilarious, but as I grew older, it became the norm.

Now, you may be thinking that you've heard of dry counties, so why is this so special. Because it's not dry. You can drink on Sundays, you just can't go to the store and purchase a fifth. The way I understand it is you can't buy beer or wine in a bar, but spirits are allowed. Or as we like to say, only the real drunks are allowed to drink on Sunday.

Strange as it is, this is life in Ottawa County. They are the last of Michigan's 83 counties that ban Sunday beer and wine sales.

Until now.

For the first time in thirty years, the local ballot includes a proposition asking for the end of the Sunday ban. But of course it's not that simple. The language on the ballot reads “Shall the sale of beer and wine on Sunday between the hours of 2 a.m. and 12 midnight prohibited?", so voters must choose NO in favor of the proposition. The site Say Yes to Sunday has more information, if you're so inclined. My mom tells me there's a big push to "To Approve Sunday Sales, Vote No", or something to that effect. There are already reports of people voting early, getting confused over the wording, and voting YES when they mean to vote NO.

Why is this such a big issue, besides the obvious hassle? Because Grand Haven (the larger town right next to Spring Lake) relies heavily on tourism. Sure, it's freezing six to eight months out of the year, but for four months, GH is a destination for people from all over the country. Some of that business heads south to Holland and South Haven because of the weird liquor law, taking their money with them. With the economy as tough as it is - especially in Michigan - they need all the revenue they can get.

I realize this message is falling on mostly deaf ears. Or if not deaf, ears belonging to people who can't do anything about this. The two people who read this blog and live in Ottawa County have already voted (hi mom and Gary!) so I don't need to convince them. I just thought I'd share what's big in my hometown this Tuesday.

Happy Voting! I'm so excited I could fall over. :)

(you did vote, right?)

Monday, November 3, 2008

So Far, So Good

I recently commented that I believe good and bad things find a way to balance out. If a lot of good comes my way, I can't help but peer nervously around the corner to see what doom is lurking. On the flip side, when a whole lot of bad happens, I get through by convincing myself that if I can be patient a little longer, I'll be rewarded with the ultimate good (story of my life lately).

Saturday was the first day of NaNoWriMo and like a lot of competitors, I flew out of the gates. I didn't plan to start writing until after Ibis left for work, but when I opened the document so it would be ready, the words were there, ready to be written. An hour later I had already reached my daily goal of 1667 words.

Knowing it was only 9:30am on the first day, I dared myself to keep writing. I left the document open (I did backup every hour or so) and added bits throughout the afternoon. Then around four or five I sat down and knocked out another 1000 words. By the end of the day I'd written 3658 words.

All good.

Do you know where this is going? Here, I'll make a list.

Saturday evening:

- I almost hit a dog, then five second later (not exaggerating) three children under the age of five darted into traffic RIGHT in front of me. It was dark and there were no street lights and needless to say I puttered the rest of the way.

- Three minutes later the car stalled while I was on a hill and I started rolling backwards. And this was on a very narrow road filled with cars and people.


- Did a new workout video, then tried to shave my legs. Didn't go so well. (Trying to balance on one quivering leg with a razor in hand is not smart.)

- Then I gouged my ankle with the jagged edge of a pumice stone, causing much blood and anguish.

– After work we went downtown to the plaza to check out the Day of the Dead festivities, but there were no displays. They did have dancers and singers but we ended up waiting for an HOUR for a fried quesadilla so only got to hear it.

All minor things, but I'm forgetting a few. Basically, all my energy/coordination/whatever has been diverted to my brain and the rest of my body is paying for it. Sunday I wrote another 2500 words - still over my daily goal - and while I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep up this pace, I do promise to try.

One funny thing. I've realized that I often forget to describe people and setting. I can picture it perfectly in my head, but for some reason it doesn't occur to me that maybe my readers want to know that part of the story as well. I started concentrating a bit more on including that and something amusing occurred to me:

- I've been envisioning one of my characters (a detective) as Barack Obama.

Current word count: 6145.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNo and the Election

Day One! Woo-hoo! Have you started writing yet? Can I use these words towards my daily count?

[ETA: I posted this on Nov 1st but wrote the draft yesterday. I don't know how to make the date reflect that. Hmm.]

[EATA: Thanks Janna!]

I stumbled across Paperback Writer yesterday and want to share this post. It's called "Twenty Bits of Advice from a Pro for the New NaNo'er" and has a lot of good suggestions.

Next, I seem to be wasting all my valuable outlining time to find things on the intrawebs, because I've also found these:

Yes We Carve - Pumpkins go political. The majority are pro-Obama but there are a couple with both candidates, and there's nothing negative.

I love this video, If You Become VP. It's the best "response" video I've seen, set to a tune that I like. There is a bit of swearing so check for little ears or grown-up bosses.

And their follow-up:

Good luck to all the writers and be sure to vote on Tuesday!