Friday, July 31, 2009

A Moment of Silence

We've all experienced loss. It affects everyone differently but no matter who you are, it has affected you. Depending on how devastating that loss is, you walk away from the experience a changed person, and it becomes a part of you.

You may learn to live with it, but you never forget.

In the comments of Wednesday's post, where I asked what you would like to know about me, JLC suggested I write a poem.

I'm out of practice, so bear with me.


The longing sneaks up on me.
An ache in the hollow of my chest
that cannot be filled.

Burning with regret,
Could I have done something different?

The pain is as fresh as the day it first arrived.
Anguish pricks at my senses
as the memories roll through my mind.

Wondering what went wrong
leads to endless games of what-if,
yet the outcome never changes.

So I push it to the corners of my memory,
and lock it tightly in its box,
only pulling it out on special occasions.

Still wishing it would have ended differently,
but accepting that the grief is all I have left.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Puppy Poll

I'm going with the easy question first. JLC asked if we have a name for our new puppy, and suggested that if we don't, I could ask all of you for ideas.

First some background.

My family got our first Miniature Schnauzer, Max (full name Maximillian Schnell), when I was seven, shortly after my parents' wedding (mom, correct me if that's wrong). He was all black, very smart, and a bit snippy at times. We gave him away (yes, it killed me) shortly before we moved to DC when I was fifteen.

My senior year of high school we brought home Miniature Schnauzer #2, Mac (Vincent MacGregor). Yes, we were very creative with names. :P Mac was salt & pepper, very sweet, and not so bright. But MAN he was lovable. He died just before Christmas '05 and is buried in my parents' backyard.

In two weeks Ibis and I will bring home Miniature Schnauzer #3. The puppies are mostly black and have some brown streaks, but I'm not sure if that will remain as they get older.

Here are the factors going into choosing a name:

1) We'd like a Spanish name but can't seem to settle on anything

2) I like old-school names for dogs

3) Ibis has a really bizarre sense of humor

With that in mind, here's what we're come up with so far:

1) Chulo (boy), Molé, Pato (duck -- there's an inside joke there), Mocha (except it's not brown)

2) Buster, Jack

3) Schneider, Ramses

So... any suggestions are more than welcome!

eta: I should mention that we're not certain if we're getting a girl or boy, but clearly I'm leaning towards the boy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Side Note

I wasn't completely honest yesterday when I said I can't think of anything to blog about. I have plenty of things on my mind, but most of them fall into the category of "things I don't discuss on my blog." Do you have those categories?

In an example of how the blog cosmos works, Amy at Suburban Kvetch posted yesterday about the issue of privacy for those who put their lives out there for everyone to see. This comment in particular struck me: "There are off-limits topics, I assume, for almost everyone, and if it’s not off-limits then maybe it’s just something they choose not to write about."

She also quote Metrodad, a well-known parent-blogger, who said "there’s one important aspect of my personality that rarely surfaces in my writing; I am a deeply private person."

I try to present myself in a way that people feel like they know the real me. I don't misrepresent myself (as people who know me in real life can attest to), but I also keep some things private. Sure, I discuss them with my close friends -- who doesn't? -- but there are limits to what I want to open up to the Blogosphere.

That said, I'm excited to answer your questions, and I'd love for more of you to leave a comment and let me know what's on your mind. There are some great suggestions already and I plan to hit them up when I'm drawing a blank. Or butting up against that locked door.

Finally, two points to Erica for figuring out the Friends reference yesterday!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I need your help.

I'm plugging along on After the Fall and I'm really happy with the edits so far (aside from the fact that it takes 2-3 hours to get through 5-6 pages). I'd like to increase my daily pages so I can hurry up and get to the part where I have to start the real writing again, but I don't want to rush what seems to be working.

I've also figured out the motivation question that was hanging over me.

At home, we're getting the condo ready for the puppy. Ibis built the crate yesterday and we've put screens to keep a teeny puppy from falling off the balcony or escaping out the gated front door. Other than that, not much has been going on.

And that's the problem.

I can't think of new blog topics! I have a blockage. I've been going out more, which usually gives me plenty of blog ideas, but unless you want to hear about the inappropriate clothing choices of the residents here, I got nothing. My writing seems to be moving along and, therefore, I have no questions or ponderings for you.

I did this last year so I figure it's time to open it up again.

What do you want to know about me?

I'll do my best to answer all your questions (at my discretion -- it is my blog after all) and if I've already covered a topic I may just supply links to past posts.

Bring 'em on!

* This is a Friends reference. Two-point to the first person who can tell me the specifics.

Monday, July 27, 2009


I started reading Anna Karenina after we returned from our trip to Mexico City at the beginning of the month, and I am down to the last hundred pages. There's over 800, so I feel like I'm finally in the home stretch. This is my second time attempting to read Tolstoy's book about Russian society and all the troubles and turmoils of their love lives and I'm beyond thrilled that I'm finally going to finish it.

If you read Saturday's post you saw I have four new books to read (in addition to six or seven still unread novels on the shelf) but I refuse to let myself so much as flip through them until I finish Anna. Moonrat recently read it, and she said that she felt the eighth and final book was unnecessary. Umm, great.

Doesn't matter though, I WILL finish it! At this point it's feeling a bit like homework, but I was the girl who always did my homework, so maybe that's what I need to get through it.

What about you -- are there any books that you've had to force yourself to finish, and why?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Also Paid the Phone Bill

Friday was a big day. Not only was I feeling better, but I found pickles!

(please spare me the pregnancy jokes -- I'm not)

This may seem a little ridiculous but I adore dill pickles and the only time I've had them since January 2007 is the dozen times I've ordered a cheeseburger from the Captain's Daughter. I wasn't completely certain they were dill until I got home and tried one (let's not get into why there's a pig on the label) and now that I know they are, I might go back and stock up.

As if that wasn't enough, around 5pm I received a cryptic (meaning, in Spanish) phone call from a woman looking for Ibis. I listened to her ramble, until I heard the word "caja" (box).

"Sí! Sí! Es por mi!" I exclaimed.

She was down the street but couldn't find our condos, so I got her pointed in the right direction (towards the transvestites) and ran downstairs to meet her. It was originally supposed to arrive on Tuesday, but this being Mexico and all... it didn't. 5pm on Friday still counts, right?


(I apologize if you don't care what's in my care package. I'm very excited.)

- The t-shirt is from the Champions League Final (fútbol) that coincided with my parents' trip to Rome in May.

- The NKOTB lunchbox is the surprise from Sara, along with the chocolate (that I'm hiding from Ibis -- he doesn't read this so he won't know) and Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper.

- Erica Orloff's Freudian Slip that I won several months ago has finally gotten here and I cannot WAIT to read it (my mother said I'll love it).

- Two more Evanovich books (thanks again Spy)

- You can never have too many magazines, but I do think it's ironic that the cover model for this month's Self magazine is none other than Ms. Jillian Michaels, the bane of my existence.

- Hair thingies. If I'm at home, I'm sitting in front of a fan and ever since I cut layers I've had wispies in my eyes. Hopefully these will remedy that. They do have these in Mexico, but only in flourescent colors and/or with sparkly things on them. No.

- AND my very first check for my writing, already framed courtesy of my parents. :)

Sadly, the cookies from Sara didn't make the cut. (Neither did the eyeshadow from my mom, but there wasn't even any evidence of that.)

Thanks Mom & Gary! Thanks Erica! And thank you Sara!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not Delirious, Just Determined

I wrote yesterday's blog post late Wednesday morning, and the day went downhill quickly after that. My body felt like someone had gone at me with a baseball bat, but it was the hot flashes and chills that convinced me to go back to bed.

Most writers (and all creative people for that matter) have a place where ideas come to them. Many claim the shower is their go-to place, while others take walks, talk with their loved ones, or play with their pets. Me? I lay face-down on my bed.

I didn't used to do that -- there were no beds at the ad agency -- but since living in our condo where the majority of our stuff is in the living room, hovering over my desk, I realized I needed to step away from the computer to let myself think. My bed is only six steps from my desk (I just checked) so it's not like I go very far, but the solitude and change of scenery helps me to focus.

The trouble with training myself to come up with brilliant ideas while lying in bed is, well, brilliant ideas come to me while I'm lying in bed. Whether I want them to or not. The short story I linked to last week popped into my head when I was almost asleep, and yesterday was no different.

I've been trying to come up with the "back cover copy" for After the Fall, a one or two paragraph blurb that quickly describes the premise for my book, and wouldn't you know it, the minute I got comfortable and convinced the aches to shut it, the blurb sprung into my head, fully formed. My notebook was already next to me (I'd scribbled a couple notes earlier and thought this might happen) but this time the problem was different:

I was lying on my left side, and I'm left-handed.

As I debated with myself about whether or not it was worth it to roll over and write down my thoughts (you know you're sick when rolling over takes planning) when a brilliant idea occurred to me:

I could write with my right hand!

It took a little longer, but I got the idea down. A short while later Ibis came in to check on me.

"Are you delirious?" he asked, pressing his hand to my forehead.

"No, why?"

He pointed up the notebook, still lying next to me.

Apparently my writing wasn't as clear as I thought and the poor guy thought I'd lost my mind!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old Habits Die Hard

I didn't feel well when I woke up yesterday. I won't get into specifics, but the thought that maybe I had a parasite did cross my mind (I later decided it's something more flu related). I didn't want to stay in bed, so I dragged our big comfy chair in front of the computer, aimed the fan at my head, and caught up on the internet.

At some point I got up to refill my water glass -- as I've done a million times before -- only instead of opening the fridge, I walked to the sink and turned on the tap. My glass was half full before I realized what I was doing. (I believe my exact words were, "What the hell am I doing?") I dumped out the water, got a clean glass, and filled it with the water from the pitcher in the fridge.

That got me thinking about my writing. Right now, the majority of my work on After the Fall is editing. The NaNoWriMo mantra to "let yourself write crap" has turned around and bitten me in the tookus. (Maybe that's why my stomach is upset.) Overall I think the story is good and I have that new-story glow, but I'm spending A LOT of time reworking phrases and shuffling things around. I've added about 200-300 words per chapter, yet it's taking me HOURS to get through 5 or 6 pages.

The beauty is, I'm catching all the writerly ticks that I didn't discover until the 4th draft of The Other Side. Repetition of sentence structure, overuse of crutch words, telling... This gives me hope that those habits might die after all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mexican Biker Gangs

Sunday night Ibis and I headed to the plaza to join the town in its weekly celebration of... well, I'm not really sure what exactly they celebrate, but there's food and entertainment and people of all ages. Good, wholesome, small-town fun.

They have tacos and tamales, ice cream and slushies (raspados), popcorn and fried plantains, and of course ears of corn served with cheese, cream and salsa. Yum. I've tried all of it, but these days I try to restrain myself and only have one or two items.

Lately I bypass all that and get a gelato from a nearby store, but that night I had a slushy (lime flavored with three different salsas). We sat on a low wall to listen to the singer -- dressed in a traditional Mexican costume -- performing in the center of the basketball court and watch the teenagers as they cruised the "strip." (I use that term loosely as the plaza is in the center of the pedestrian plaza.)

Anyway, on to the biker thing. If you've ever traveled to Mexico you may have noticed that a lot of people get around on mopeds. Only they don't call them mopeds -- instead they're motos -- and they don't follow US moped rules. While the police are cracking down on helmet usage, they don't seem to do anything about how many people are allowed to ride on one.

The most I've ever seen was a family of five. We lived with Ibis' family for our first couple months in Mexico, and one particular family drove by nearly every day. Dad, mom, daughter, son, and infant wedged against mom's breasts. For months I tried to get a picture, but since we kept the camera in our room, I was never fast enough.

Another amusing thing about the motos is most of them have stereos. That they play loudly. When it rains a small percentage of the year, I guess it makes sense to trick out your bike. And since a lot more people walk here than back home, you could even say they're even providing a service to the pedestrians.

But back to Sunday night. As Ibis and I wove through the cobblestone streets on the way to our car, we heard really loud noise on the street ahead. Just as we approached the corner we saw not one, not two, but THREE motos turning the corner, all blasting their music IN UNISON! (They were most likely playing the one radio station we have here, but STILL! In unison!)

Each moto was driven by a teenage boy, with another teenage boy chillin' on the back. (Please forgive my use of the word chillin', but they so were.) Traffic was barely moving so we had the pleasure of walking alongside them as they rolled their way down Avenida Nicholas Bravo, kickin' it Mexico style.

It could be dangerous asking this question, but what's the strangest thing you've seen in Mexico? Or if you've never been here, what's the strangest thing you've seen on vacation? Or heck, what's the strangest thing going on where you live?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best Laid Plans

It's been hot lately. Incredibly, ridiculously hot. The little thermometer above my computer has read 88 every afternoon, and I've had a hard time getting into the mindset to write. I like it to be a little dark and a little cool -- things that only happen first thing in the morning, before the sun rises.

Trouble is, that's also the best time to go to the gym. The gym has been winning, so I decided yesterday that I'm going to have to start getting up earlier. Maybe if I write for an hour beforehand, I'll still have a little left in me to work later in the day. I had the lofty goal of getting up at 5am, but figured I'd start easy and set my alarm for 6am (I normally get up around 7-7:30).

Well, I woke up at 5am. It was finally raining, the air was cool -- there was even a nice breeze flowing through the apartment. BUT... There's always a but.

We had no power.

This morning has been PERFECT for writing. It's almost 11:30 and the sun is still barely up, clouds are everywhere, it's raining off and on, AND -- the best part -- it's only 75 degrees! Granted the humidity is 88%, but I'll take it.

It was fairly dark inside until 9am, so Ibis and I spent the morning chatting over coffee (which he made by boiling water on the stove, then pouring through the coffee pot -- he's very resourceful). Our package is supposed to arrive today, so while he went to the gym, I curled up with Anna Karenina. I've got about 250 pages left and hope to finish it soon because my care package has TWO books that I'm dying to read.

The power came on about fifteen minutes ago and I leapt to the computer. I'm hoping I can stay away from the online junk until I work on my wip for at least an hour, so it may be awhile before I catch up on your blogs.

Have a great day!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rewrites, Part Two

Thank you to everyone who commented last week on my post about rewrites. While it was reassuring to discover that my method -- which, to me, seems rather piecemeal -- is similar to how a lot of you rewrite, I especially enjoyed hearing from those of you that have a method completely different from mine. I hope I can use that knowledge in the future.

I took yesterday off from writing (I submitted a short story instead) but I'm through the first three chapters and so far I'm liking it. I'd forgotten how intense this one starts out, and I'm making it deeper by adding a lot more introspection. Each chapter is only about five pages long, so really, I while it doesn't look like I've done much, it feels like it. This book will take more mental energy -- both beforehand (while getting "into" it) and while writing.

How do you get yourself mentally ready for pieces that are more difficult, mentally, to write? And if you don't write, how was your weekend?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I'm a Big Reader

My mom sent me a funny joke the other day, made even funnier by the fact that my mom RARELY forwards anything. She might pass on news of friends or families, but she doesn't have time to waste with silly emails.


Never Argue with a Woman

One morning, the husband returns the boat to their lakeside cottage after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap.

Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out.

She motors out a short distance, anchors, puts her feet up, and begins to read her book.

The peace and solitude are magnificent.

Along comes a Fish and Game Warden in his boat.

He pulls up alongside the woman and says, 'Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?'

'Reading a book,' she replies, (thinking, 'Isn't that obvious?')

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but I see you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman.

'But I haven't even touched you,' says the Game Warden.

'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.'

'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads.

It's likely she can also think.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Story and Puppies!

My blog friend Lurker Monkey is hosting a short story group and today is my turn. Mine is the fifth posted (there will be another on Monday) and you should read them all if you have the time. It's interesting to see how varied they are since they were all prompted from this:

I'm not sure what time he'll post the story, so I'll come back and include the actual link once it's up.

Go read!

*waits patiently*

So what did you think? I've never written that type of story before and I enjoyed stretching outside my comfort zone.

Now, on to the puppies! Ibis returned to the vet's office yesterday to let them know we definitely want one (not two) and took a few pictures.

We plan to crate-train the little guy (or girl) and I've already done a little research online for tips, etc, but I would really appreciate it if you could point me towards your favorite dog-training sites. I've already been to, but that's as far as my digging has gone.

As you know, books are hard to come by down here, so that's why I'm leaning towards websites. Thanks!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Question on Rewrites

I've officially gone back to my other wip.

[Note to self: start calling it by its name.]

Okay, from here on out, when I refer to my wip, I'm talking about After the Fall. Here's the ROUGH description:

A man dies during a home invasion/attempted rape in the first chapter, and the rest of the book follows his family and the family of the person he attacked. The families are very close and their friendship is tested as they try to come to terms with what he did and figure out what drove him to it.

I'm still working on the blurb, but that gives you an idea. It's very different from The Other Side, and I'm excited to work on something that takes place in Michigan because my dialect is the way they actually talk!

Now here's my question:

I hear a lot of writers talk about "doing a complete rewrite", and while I understand what that means, I'm curious about the actual process. Do you open a new document and start writing? Do you have the older file open (or printed & in front of you) and use it as a guide? Or do you write within the same document, and just cut, delete, and write as necessary?

I use the third approach while editing, but since I don't think I've ever done an honest-to-goodness "rewrite", I'm curious how others approach this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Overabundance of Goodness

The dream I talked about yesterday happened Monday morning, just before I woke up. Well, Monday got considerably better after that.

First, long-time readers know that we've wanted a dog for a very long time. We came close to buying one while we were still in Chicago, but held off since we knew a move was possible. Then last summer we were all set to buy a Chihuahua puppy, but decided that we really need to stick with a breed that doesn't affect my allergies.

I love Miniature Schnauzers -- my parents had two throughout my lifetime -- and Ibis actually likes them, too. No pressure from me, I swear! One of the neighbors whose yard we look into recently got a puppy, so the dog talk has increased in the past week. I made a deal with him that if we were still here on our anniversary (end of August) we could get one then, but then I changed that and said if he can find a Schnauzer we could get it right away.

I figured it would take him at least several days just to track one down, and that there could possibly be a road trip to a larger city in the near future. Mid-day Monday he headed downtown for the puppy search and returned half an hour later.

"I found two 20-day old puppies!"

He brought me to the vet's office where we held the teeny little puppies. We'd LOVE to have two, but realize it makes more sense (on many levels) to only get one. We can't bring it home for another 20 days, but we're already SO excited!

While he was off galavanting downtown, I was trying to come up with a title for my other wip. Since November 1st it's been called nanonovel08 -- very creative, no? I know a title isn't that important, but it was irritating me, especially since 2008 has been over for SEVEN MONTHS now. After hours of making lists and playing with a thesaurus (and visiting the PUPPIES) I found it:

After the Fall.

The story opens with a violent attack that leaves one man dead, and the remainder of the book follows two families as they come to terms with the events that lead to his death. Sort of a "fall from grace" type of thing, AND it takes place in the fall. Ingenious, I know. (yes, that's sarcasm.)

THEN, my mom emailed to tell me that a package from a friend arrived, so she will be sending us a care package that includes that package this week. Among the items are Erica Orloff's book Freudian Slip (which has traveled to two different states to get to me), Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper & a mystery gift from Sara, lots of goodies from my mom (including a tshirt for Ibis from the Champions League final that took place while they were vacationing in Rome). Plus some makeup and hair ties that I can't find here, and several magazines. Yes, I'm very excited.

As if all this wasn't exciting enough, around 6pm I received my first request for a partial! Squee! I've had five rejections so far with six "pending", so the fact that the request came from one of my top two agents really made my day.

To cap it all off, I scored 192 points on the word CRAZILY in Wordscraper on Facebook. :P

Don't you love days like that?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

No Analysis Necessary

A couple nights ago I had one of those dreams where I was working at my old job, but it wasn't the same office, and while some of my former coworkers were with me, there were also a couple people from other times in my life.

Note: I love that about dreams -- it's a chance to see everyone!

So, I was at work, presumably in Chicago, but it was known that I was still in Mexico. I was talking with a coworker when the phone rang. The receptionist announced over the intercom that "Mexico" was on the line for me.

Note: It should really be "the United States", but dream logic doesn't always make sense. And really, at the very least, it should be a department calling.

I snatched up the phone. "Yes? Yes?" Did they have an answer? Would we finally learn our fate?

A woman began speaking in English. "We've reviewed your file and have found that everything is in order..."

My heart leapt.

But she wasn't finished.

She proceeded to speak legalese for another five minutes: "...contrary to what the documents stated, we're unable to determine..." blah blah blah.

I started crying and finally interrupted her. "Please. Just tell me yes or no."

And then I woke up.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Writerly Meme

Janna and Natasha have both done this, and now it's my turn.

What was the last thing you wrote?
I'm working on a short story that's due at the end of the week. I'll post a link when it's up.

Was it any good?
It's different from other things I've written, but I'm starting to notice my "style".

Write poetry?
Haiku and limericks.

Angsty poetry?
Uhh, that would be a yes, but only in my teenage years.

Favorite genre of writing?
I have a really hard time labeling my writing. Is there a label lower than literary? Mainstream?

Most fun character you ever wrote?
The teenage-girl in my other wip.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
I'll say me (in my memoir).

Best plot you ever wrote?
My other wip -- trouble is I haven't quite figured out how all the pieces come together yet.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Can a twist happen in the first chapter? Again, in my other wip, the plot is much more complex than in The Other Side.

How often do you get writer’s block?
I wouldn't say I get blocked, I just start procrastinating. The hardest part for me is getting started, and that is rarely because I can't think of what to say.

How do you fix it?
Lately, I bargain with myself. When editing, if I edited one chapter then I could check my email. Three chapters and I could check the gossip sites. When actually writing, the bargaining falls at at 500 & 1000 word increments.

Write fan fiction?
No, I kind of get the appeal, and while I sometimes think of other story lines for characters I like, I don't write them down.

Do you type or write by hand?
I've done both. My ideas seem to flow more organically by hand and I enjoyed writing my first draft that way. I tend to edit too much when typing.

Do you save everything you write?
Pretty much.

Do you ever go back to an idea long after you abandoned it?
I haven't been writing long enough to say "long after I've abandoned it." I have a couple short story ideas that I might go back to, and I would like to revisit my memoir, but not yet.

What’s your favorite thing you have ever written?
I should say The Other Side, but I'm so tired of it that I can't see it very objectively right now. I like the short story that was published. :)

What’s everyone else’s favorite thing you’ve written?
I have no idea. Anyone like to tell me?

Do you show people your work?
Once it's almost complete. With The Other Side I had various beta readers along the way, but my short stories I like to save until they're finished.

Did you ever write a novel?

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
My current short story is sort of sci-fi light, and I attempted a horror short story based on the cockroaches in my kitchen cabinets. Nothing full-length and I don't have any plans to.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Teenage angsty romance drama. :P These days any romance that finds its way into my writing is more off-screen.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Technically just one. I'm going to start back with my other wip within the next week, once the short story is finished. I don't like working on more than one piece at a time -- same way I don't like to read more than one thing at a time.

Do you want to write for a living?
Sure, but realistically I know that may not happen.

Have you ever won an award for writing?
Is it bad that I can't remember this? I received a couple awards in high school and I'm sure there's a chance writing was involved with some of those, but as an adult, no.

Ever written something in script or play format?
I took a script-writing class in college, so yes. My favorite was an episode of Friends that my roommate and I wrote together.

What character you've written most resembles yourself?
I'd have to say the main character of my memoir, natch. Otherwise the teenager mentioned earlier.

Where do you get the ideas for your characters?
Nowhere in particular. Mostly from real life.

Do you ever write based on dreams?
No, but I should. I have a lot of really weird, vivid, detailed dreams. I thought about turning one particular nightmare I had last fall into a short horror story, but I'm afraid to write it.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings or cliff hangers?
Unless I have the sequel on my shelf, I don't like cliffhangers. I like endings, whether they're happy, sad, or up-in-the-air. For the most part I get annoyed with endings that are too undefined, so I think it's amusing that I've written The Other Side that way.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you’ve seen?
A couple flash fiction pieces have been based off photos, including my current one.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
(I'm stealing Janna's answer) Shoot, yes. Anal-retentive much?

Ever written anything entirely in chatspeak (How r u)?
HELL NO. I recently stopped worrying about capitalization while chatting, but that's as far as I go.

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
I have no idea. I think people who don't know me well might be, but those who know me know that I'm creative, so I can't imagine it being very surprising.

Quote something you’ve written. The first thing to pop in your mind.
"When they passed overhead I thought back to the stories of my childhood, of my mother's childhood, when a hovering aircraft didn't instill fear in the souls of those it patrolled. Pretending to feel a joy I suspected I might never feel again, I smiled and waved, showing my mark with one hand while the terror slid around my spine."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One of the Locals

As the dark clouds rolled in and the thunder echoed off the mountains, I scurried outside to bring in the clothes drying on the line. The approaching storms don't always make it over the mountains -- sometimes we get the visual and auditory show without the rain -- but I get ready just in case.

I'm sometimes amazed at how much I've adapted to this environment, despite my constant grumblings about how everyone treats me like an outsider. I still panic when I hear thunder and quickly save whatever I'm working on, but now I also revert to Susie Homemaker and prepare the house for a tropical rainstorm (very different from those in the Midwest).

While out on the patio, I looked down at my neighbors and saw three different women doing the same thing. I guess I'm one of the locals whether they like it or not.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beach Day

We had a very relaxing day at the beach yesterday. I met a woman who is both an avid reader AND is trying to get her doctoral dissertation published, so we had lots to talk about. Her husband likes the water as much as Ibis and they hung out most of the day beyond the waves. Oh! And I saw a little brown sting ray.

The first thing we noticed when we got there was that at least 20 yards of the beach was missing. Apparently, tropical storm Andrés that passed through here a couple weeks ago took most of the enramadas (open-air thatched-roof structures) as well as most of the beach.

There used to be seven or eight tables deep, and now there are only two. The waves revealed a slate/rock wall that must have been buried for years.

We just couldn't get over how different it looked. For one thing, we'd never noticed several palm trees that must have been in the center of the restaurant and are now almost at the water's edge. We sat at a table directly beneath them. I loved looking up and seeing all the green with the sky peeking from behind.

Shortly before we left, while I was talking with my new friend, our waiter pointed out a commotion at the far end of the beach. "La camioneta!" he exclaimed.

Indeed. I'm guessing they were trying to get the wave runner onto the bed of the truck and a big wave pulled it out. Whoops.

So how was your day?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sweating the Small Stuff

It's officially summer in Mexico. I've known this for a couple weeks, but it truly hit me yesterday when I was putting fresh sheets on the bed and sweat was running down the side of my face. It is cooler when it rains, but that doesn't happen everyday, and it feels like we're inside a sauna during those times in between.

I tend to get aggravated when I'm overheated (as Ibis will attest to) and things that normally wouldn't be a big deal suddenly become the reason that life as I know it will never be the same. A bit dramatic, I know.

As I mentioned last week, I've started querying, and I'm thinking that maybe I should have waited until next week -- at the very least -- to send those puppies out. Aside from the eternal wait for news on Ibis' immigration, next week I'm finding out about something else rather big that I'm not going to get into here. Add to that the recent news that a dear friend has a brain tumor, and my stress level is much higher than normal. When that happens my anxiety kicks in and suddenly I can't breath very well.

Which brings us back to the weather. I don't know how many of you have asthma, allergies, or other breathing issues, but when the humidity level is hovering around 80%, it's particularly tricky getting oxygen into spasming lungs.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can calm myself when everything is out of my control? And please don't say "buy this" or "hang out at a cute little coffee shop." I need options that don't cost money or require a metropolis.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Unanticipated Side Effect

Despite the woman at the Mexican Immigration office telling me that I could write on my application that I speak Spanish fluently, I'm not quite there. I understand a lot more than I speak, which means I can follow a conversation, I just can't always add my twenty cents. (If you know me, you know I don't stop at two cents.) I did pretty well during our week in DF and once they all figured out that I could answer them, I was one of the gang.

Then I came home and tried to write in English. Yeah, no.

I sometimes tease myself that I'm going dyslexic because my fingers get going too fast for their own good and the words come out a jumble, and that's without a Spanish mish-mash going on in my head. The day we got home it was as if I'd forgotten how to type. Even now I'm catching myself making mistakes that I know are a result of dual languages.

This was especially alarming since my main goal after our trip was the final pass-through of my wip. Woops. Don't get me wrong, I'm not making excuses -- I just never expected this side effect. I have noticed occasional slips in word order when I'm talking, but the writing thing is new for me.

Have you ever noticed something that effects the mechanics of how you write or type? Aside from a heavy night of drinking?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tias, Tacos, and Televisions

Unless a wave of inspiration knocks me over in the next twenty-four hours, this might have to be the last of the alliterated highlights from our trip to Mexico City. I already have a couple ideas for a writing-based post, but we'll see.

Tia means aunt, and not only did we get to visit with two of Ibis' aunts whom I adore, but I was referred to as Tia by several people who seem way too old to be calling me that. It's one thing when our four-year old nephew runs around saying "Tia, Tia, Tia" -- he only comes up to my hip. My "nieces and nephews" on this trip ranged from fourteen to twenty-seven! Fortunately the oldest just called me by my name.

Ibis's mother was the youngest of thirteen children so her siblings' children are somewhere between our age and that of our parents. It seems weird to be calling people I associate with my parents "cousins" and I found myself relating more to the younger generation. I guess that shows my immaturity, lol.

On the fourth day of our trip when the cousin we were staying with asked me my name for the hundredth time, it occurred to me that the youngins might have chosen to call me Tia because they couldn't pronounce my name. That I am used to here.

As you all know, I've been living in Mexico for well over two years, and in my time here I've had lots and lots (and lots) of traditional Mexican food. Molé, enchiladas, carne asada, tiritas, postres... you get the idea. Well for whatever reason, his family was under the impression that I've never eaten any of these things and they were all determined to introduce me to "traditional" Mexican cuisine.

The most common meal? Tacos.


Don't get me wrong. I love tacos. We eat them all the time. In fact, I was introduced to real tacos (meat, onion, cilantro -- nothing more) while still living in Chicago. I have nothing against tacos. But when we're in the capital of an entire country, surrounded by restaurants from all over the world -- most of which we don't have in Zihua -- I don't want tacos. At one point I even said to Ibis that is seemed like they were treating us like we were visiting from the US, not another part of Mexico. Oh well, I made pasta when we got home and the Thai will have to wait for another trip.

Finally, Televisions.

I think I've been surrounded by near-poverty for too long because I almost fell over every time we walked into another family member's home and were greeted by a 60+" flat screen tv. Often times there were three or four in each home. Wtf?

We have a nice flat screen in my parents' basement, waiting under a blanket for us to return. (Actually, I think my dad finally made good on his threat to hook it up, but it's still in the basement.) We've made do with our 13" television for so long that I had forgotten how lovely it is to sit on the couch and feel like you can reach out and touch the actors.

This may seem like a silly thing to point out, but I noticed it in each home, to the point that I started to wonder if they all went in and bought them in bulk or something. Can you do that with electronics?

In all seriousness, the best thing about this trip is I felt more like myself than I have in a very long time. No one stared at me, they just treated me like a normal person, even if I am lighter than everyone else and my eyes are blue. I didn't feel out of place and I truly enjoyed meeting my family. If I was disappointed about anything, it's that it took us two years to go visit.

The nephew that prompted this get-together is studying medicine in England and won't return to Mexico for another year and a half, so we're already talking about going back for that. He joked that we should all come to London in 2012 for the Olympics, so of course Ibis started inviting everyone to Chicago in 2016.

Only time will tell.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Skating, a Stuffed Sheep, and a Snake

Several strange things happened within our first twenty-four hours in Mexico City last week. First, ice skating.

If you're thinking that it never occurred to you that people ice skate in Mexico, you're not alone. While trying to decide what to do, the family was debating between a movie and patinaje. Since I didn't know what the heck that was, I voted for a movie UNTIL I discovered it was ice skating. I pretty much always take the active option if there is one and I haven't skated in years.

The two on either side of Ibis both play ice hockey and are very good skaters. The rest of us not so much, especially because there was a half inch of water on the ice surface and the skates hadn't been sharpened in quite some time. After skating we played air hockey for over an hour. Yay!

The following morning we went to a "traditional" Mexican restaurant for breakfast, complete with stuffed sheep in the median out front.

By stuffed, I mean formerly living and now taxidermied for the public's viewing pleasure. The restaurant served mostly meat, but as far as I know, it did not serve sheep. Unless I missed something.

After breakfast a large group of us went to a small historical town (I didn't catch the name) to tour the cathedral and convent. On the way across the plaza, we stopped to check out this ginormous snake. Don't they look excited?

There was a wedding going on in the cathedral so we saw the wedding party cruise by in a horse-drawn carriage. We spent about an hour touring the cathedral, during which time we lost two of the aunts for a short time, but we found them waiting on a bench near the entrance. Smart ladies.

Then I got lost with both of them when we went to find the bathroom (yes, I realize the bathrooms are becoming a theme).

Have you ever held a giant snake like this?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Since today happens to be a Saturday and some of the hotels shoot off fireworks on Saturdays, we might actually get a show tonight. We don't have any special plans and since I'm assuming most of the world will NOT be online, it'll be a quiet day for me.

I didn't get a chance to read Anna Karenina on the trip because the bus was a lot bouncier than I expected, but I've started it since we've returned. I can think of worse ways to spend the day than curling up with a HUGE book, especially now that the rainy season is here and we've actually had a few gray days. (I'm happy about the clouds.)

Have a great day!

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Pyramid, a Palace, and a Potty

Round one of the highlights of our trip to Mexico City. I think the title explains it fairly well. The first two are sights that thousands of people before me have already immortalized, but the last one is all mine.

First, the ruins at Teotihuacán. There are two main pyramids: Pirámide del Sol (Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Moon). Here we're on the latter:

An entire town surrounds the pyramids, and some of the paintings have been preserved quite well. There are brochures and guided tours that explain what each brick used to be and what the residents most likely used each area for, but we had more fun coming up with our own explanations. Besides, I've read enough history to have a basic idea. Playing fields? Check. One-room homes? Check. Sacrificial altars? Check.

The brochure says it's four kilometers from the parking lot to the Moon Pyramid, so we walked at least 8K, and that's not counting the hike skyward. Ibis and I are both in good shape, but the elevation in Mexico City is nearly a mile higher than here in Zihua and my lungs could feel it.

The following day we went on a tour of downtown Mexico City. Yes, that meant more walking, but fortunately the majority of the trip was on a double-decker tour bus, aka turibus.

This is the Mexican white house -- El Palacio Prediential -- where Felipe Calderón does his thing. There was a small barricade surrounding the building, but nothing compared to the security in Washington, DC. I didn't notice many guards there (besides in the doorways) but another building on the plaza had at least 30 armed guards all lined up along the pedestrian pathway. Maybe Felipe was getting lunch there?

Finally, one bizarre story for today. You can't really see it, but in the middle of the block there's a blue sign that says "WC" (water closet). Yes, this is the infamous bathroom.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, a couple days ago I mentioned in the comments that Ibis and I used a bathroom in the heart of the city and had an experience that ranks up there as one of the most bizarre of my life.

We paid our three pesos each (four for me because I wanted paper -- shocking, I know) and were directed down a narrow passageway. There was only one entrance but a woman waved us both through. We stepped hesitantly into another hallway and were plunged into darkness. Plunged. Buried under six feet of dirt plunged.

A single beam of light bounced it's way toward us and a woman mumbled at me to go into another room off the hallway. I guess this was the ladies room. She held up the flashlight so I could see the row of cloth-covered doors, then ran away, leaving me back in the darkness.

I should point out that before I split up from Ibis, there were several people wandering the first dark hallway, all seeming a bit lost and confused. Ibis was shuttled further down that hallway and I never saw him again until he emerged back outside (after me). I did, however, hear his voice from time to time, and that made it all a little less freaky, although I never did figure out what it was he kept saying.

Back to the stall -- I locked myself in and tried not to think about what might be going on in such a weird place. It was quite cramped so I looked over my shoulder to get a lay of the land. Nothing. I was sure there was a toilet but I sure as hell couldn't see it. I was wondering what to do (for you men who've never had to squat over a toilet when you can't see what you're doing, this was quite daunting) when I noticed a small flashlight balanced on the edge of the stall door. Score!

I grabbed the light and set about doing my business when a woman came running into the room and started yelling at me. There were a lot of voices echoing in there so I couldn't quite tell what she was saying, but I did hear "lampara" (flashlight). There didn't seem to be anyone else in that particular room, so I knew she was talking to me, and man was she was pissed! I shoved it at her under the stall door and she snatched it away, plunging me -- you guessed it -- back into darkness.

Now let's evaluate the situation for a moment. Squatting, darkness, nasty cranky woman, and an inability to see ANYTHING. Yeah, I didn't flush.

I burrowed my way towards the light, yelled to Ibis (who I assumed was still in there) that I'd wait for him outside, and promptly ran into a man trying to enter the bathroom. As we were trying to figure out how to get past each other, a little girl opened the stall door (from inside) that happened to be between us. I never expected to play mediator between a grown man and a little girl in a Mexican bathroom, but that's what I did.

I stumbled outside, blinded by the midday sun, and wondered if I should stop the unsuspecting people heading inside.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Crossing the Line

We arrived in Zihua at 8am Wednesday morning, despite our bus leaving Mexico City an hour late. This time we went via Acapulco so instead of twelve hours like on the way there, we made it in nine. And I managed to sleep most of the way.

I haven't yet gathered my thoughts to tell you about the trip because I spent most of Wednesday reading the 140+ blogs in my Google Reader account AND going over my very last edits for my wip. Today I plan to make those final changes, tweak my synopsis then -- *fingers crossed* -- send that puppy out.

Part of me can't believe I've finally arrived at this point, but the other part is quick to remind me that I'd initially set a goal of querying by the end of February. If I'm counting correctly, I'm a bit off that mark. Now, before you get all encouraging and tell me that it's better to wait and make sure you present the best work possible, I'd like to point out that that's exactly what I did. I've spent an extra five months adding, revising, rewriting, cutting, and pasting, then I threw in some Mexican seasonings and here we are.

What's been fun is there are several blog friends out there who are also at this juncture. It's exciting to follow along with their journey since I understand (finally) exactly what they're going through. That said (and I can't remember if I said it here before or not), I don't plan to give blow-by-blow details of my query process here on my blog. I'll certainly share good news, but I don't want this to become a pity party.

So, now that you know what I'm doing today, what did I miss while I was gone?