I'm speaking of it in the past tense, but I'm actually waiting for it to happen.
How can a nominally self-employed, gig-hungry critter like myself spend so much time sitting at her computer and so little of it actually accomplishing anything?
Today I'm having a fun adventure called "Fighting with the Content Management System." I'm a writer, dammit, not a CMSer... and my creaky old HTML skills are showing their age & infirmity.
In happier news, I got an $800 check from CK Media this week. Yay! Three and three-quarters* more of those and we will be GOL.DEN.
And in other happy news, Jim and I have a "date" this evening; we're going to a creative professionals networking event downtown. Free hors d'oeuvres and cheap wine for all, huzzah! I was really hoping to have some sort of functional web site URL and/or business card-like substance to pass out at this meeting, but no such luck. I have frittered away far too much of my time and it's just not happening.
Also: BrickFest was awesome. Hundreds of adult Lego fans get together for a weekend, build build build, then open up the Convention Center to display their creations to an adoring public. We liked. (All photos by James Newman.)
Look, it's Lego Portland!
Back up and take a look to figure out this mosaic...
A street scene
These modernist apartment buildings were like the coolest Lego constructions ever...
...except for maybe this suspension bridge (complete with river & boats underneath)...
In honor of Halloween and the nightmares (mostly election-related) that have been haunting me of late... here are the ghost stories (both "ghost" and "stories" should probably be in separate sets of quotes) I wrote when Suzy and I went to the IPRC Write-Off the other night.
Here's how it worked:
Each participant was asked to write down two genres on slips of paper. Apparently "genre" could be extended to cover both subject matter (fantasy, SF, romance) or form (two-character play, villanelle). My choices were "limerick" and "footnote." I was really really hoping that "footnote" would be chosen, but alas, it wasn't.
All suggested genres were cast into a hat; then, with much ceremony and darkening of lights, one was drawn forth and announced.
All participants wrote furiously for 15 minutes, making a more or less serious attempt to stick to the given genre. (This was when I wished dearly that I had brought a laptop, rather than the Miquelrius 4 notebook and black roller-ball pen that are my ordinary away-from-home writing companions.)
We took turns reading our creative outputs. Two judges scored us on a rubric with 10 points possible in each of 3 categories: Originality, Style (I think that's what it was... anyway, writerliness...) and Spookiness.
Steps 2-4 were repeated with a second genre.
Each person was given a final score: the higher of his or her total scores.
And so, without further ado, my humble attempts at fastly and deftly writing two spine-chilling snippets, untranslated and unimproved (though they grievously needed it) from the original chickenscratch:
Genre: Personal Ad Missed Connection Powell's last Saturday, in the Purple Room just before closing. You: long black hair, long black veil, pale & trembling. Me: brown hair, brown eyes, normally eloquent musician tongue-tied at your beauty. You dropped your copy of Joseph Campbell and I made a quip about the Hero's Journey as I crossed the aisle to return it. We talked about Classical history. I offered you a ride home and you were glad to accept. But when I turned to check that you were behind me on the Orange Room stairs, you had disappeared. I'm dying to see you again--a cup of tea this time? Would love to give you back your veil.*
Genre: Confessional** [untitled] The door creaked; the curtain flapped. Hector looked up, annoyed, from polishing the bar; the wind must have blown the door open again. He'd meant to replace the lock but had let it slip his mind again.
A man stood in the shadows just inside the entry. Rain dripped from his long coat's hem; his hat's wide brim hid his face.
"We're closed, buddy," Hector said. "Didn't you see the sign?"
"I beg pardon." The voice was like a snake's skin dragging over cold ground. "I did not mean to intrude. But I am stranded here in the village, waiting for a ride--may I stay and warm myself a minute?"
Hector shrugged. "Suit yourself. I'll be cleaning up a while."
The man seated himself at the bar. His boots creaked; his fingers twined & knotted as he drew out cigarettes and a match.
"Here." Hector slid him an ashtray.
The match scritched; the man inhaled deeply. He was smoking some god-awful foreign thing, smelled like vanilla asphalt.
"It was on just such a night as this..." the man murmured.
His gaze met Hector's. His eyes were deep-set, dark and strange.
"On such a night..." he breathed, leaning over the bar's gleaming copper surface, and Hector found himself drawn closer, stepping near as if in a trance.
"What happened?" Hector heard his own voice, hollow, far away.
"She had to die." The man's eyes were distant yellow fires sunk in depthless pits. "She had to die--God forgive me!--but their touch was upon her, and she could not live." He stood suddenly and rocked back on his heels. "And though I were damned a thousand times for it, I could not have let her live." He began to pace, the foul-smelling smoke belching from his lips in acrid puffs.
"She begged me to do it, at the last--as I stood above her in the circle, knife in hand. For a moment the madness left her, and she ceased to struggle at the ropes. 'Kill me,' she said. 'If you ever loved me. Kill me now.' And she raised her throat to me, and I--God! God!" He broke into gulping sobs.
"Do you need me to call someone?" Hector's hand hovered over the telephone.
"Call the police, the madhouse, whoever. It makes no difference. I waited too long to strike, and now--"
The door creaked; the curtain flapped. A white shadow passed by.
"She is here!" he cried. "She is here for me!"
* this was supposed to be a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but I really don't think anyone got it. Well, maybe Suzy. I need to stop assuming people are going to pick up my obscure mythology-geek references.
Anyhoo, go read Suzy's stories, or exhort her to post them if she hasn't gotten around to doing it yet. And if you're a writer, or fancy yourself one, or would like to be one when you grow up, or are just bored and need something to do, I highly recommend getting together a bunch of friends and/or fellow writers and having a Write-Off of your own. Don't forget the prizes! (Mine was a gift certificate for an IPRC workshop. I am going to learn to screenprint without having to pay for it, yay hooray!)
Off to the dentist at 9:40 tomorrow morning. Which is, generally speaking, waaay too freakin early to be up and about doing anything. I hope I can get an appointment to get things actually fixed in the next week or so. At this point I'm taking 3x the recommended amount of ibuprofen and I'm sure that can't be good for my liver or my kidneys or my corpus callosum or something.
Suzy and I had a lovely evening tonight at the Independent Publishing Resource Center ghost story write-off. Tomorrow, we're both going to post our stories (which were award winners! hooray for us!). So get ready to draw the curtains, throw on some spooky music ("Everyday is Halloween," perhaps?) and read some, er, not exactly bone-chilling ghost-related written-in-15-minutes literature.
The boys just left, roughly 6 minutes ago, for a Campfire gathering in the wilds of Camp Namanu this weekend.
It's drizzly, but not cold, so I expect they'll have a fine time. Mud is less than daunting to a determined child.
So maybe I'll tackle some actual writing on The New Story. So far I have 3 densely written pages of notes, including a beginning, a middle and an end. Huh...
Also: iTunes Genius is genius. How awesome is it to be able to select a song and have iTunes give you an automatically generated playlist of coordinating songs? Some, of course, are better than others... but the one it obligingly spat out for Radiohead's "True Love Waits" runs the gamut from Animal Collective's "Fireworks" to Smashing Pumpkins' "In the Arms of Sleep" with a welcome detour into M. Ward's hauntingly sad version of "Let's Dance." A swell feature for those times, increasingly frequent and close together, that I have neither the time nor the energy to fine-tune my musical accompaniment for whatever mood has struck. Maybe now I'll spend less time playlisting the perfect playlist and more, y'know, writing or something. Heh.
BTW, neither The Book (the one that's been kicking around forever) nor The New Story (the one for which I wrote a whole 'nother page of notes today) has any made-up words at this point. I can't even make up character names, really... the only named character in The New Story so far is called "Fitch." Some freakin' fantasy writer I am, eh?
It is ordinarily among the tidiest parts of the house, since I find it psychically crippling to try to work in disorder. But I was working like a crazy lady to get out ATCs for Mimi's swap (which I thought, erroneously, was due last week... 'twas in fact due the week before. Oops.) And this particular artistic endeavor involved getting out four pans of chalk, two boxes of mica pigments, a crap-ton of rubber stamps, a rainbow's worth of watercolor crayons, a Sharpie, a box of inkjet transparencies, about thirty-eleven stamp pads... yeah, well, you get the picture.
And guess where all of the art supplies that I pulled out are now? If you guessed "still all over the counter," then WOW! You are right!
And guess where all of the stuff (inbox, file box, etc.) that is usually on the counter had to go--and languishes still--in order to make room for art supplies? If you guessed "on the floor," then WOW! You are right!
Then I got a super-wonderful package of beautiful artistic goodies (including a truly amazing chipboard book) from Stephanie. And now those things are sitting next to my computer, inspiring me relentlessly but also taking up room where things like my mouse and stapler should really ought to be.
So anyway. I had decided to take an hour or so today and restore Order to my work environment.
But last night, during dinner, I suddenly felt a familiar but all-too-rare whisper in my ear.
It was The Muse.
Damn her. I don't know where she's been, and I don't know why she chose last night of all times to start speaking. And... get this... she was speaking about a DIFFERENT FREAKING STORY. Not the one I've been intermittently playing with for the last four-five-seven-whatever years. Not any of the three others hanging about in varying degrees of un-writtenness. No. This was a whole new, or almost whole new, story. And it kerflumped out of my head like a particularly graceless Athena toppling out of Zeus' beleaguered cranium.
So guess what I spent two hours doing last night and am far too anxious to get back to doing today? If you guessed "writing down the damn story before it goes foof and can't be recalled," then WOW! You are right!
If, however, you guessed "responsibly restoring Order to the work environment," then BUZZ! You are wrong!
No more temps in the 80s. Not much more in the way of temps in the 70s. This makes me happy.
It also makes me hungry for soup, which is what we had for lunch today:
Red Pepper Soup
3 red bell peppers, seeded & chopped 1 large-ish carrot, scraped & chopped 1 medium onion, chopped 1 small celery rib, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 Tbsp olive oil 4 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth 1/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice 1 Tbsp minced fresh (or 1 tsp dried) thyme 3/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper A couple pinches of cayenne pepper A couple pinches of red pepper flakes
In a soup-making vessel, saute vegetables in oil until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, rice and all seasonings except red pepper flakes. Heat to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, 20-25 minutes until rice is done and vegetables are tender.
Let cool for about 15 minutes (or a little less, if you have an immersion blender). Puree in batches with a regular blender, or puree in situ with an immersion blender. Return to pot; add red pepper flakes; heat through gently.
We didn't have this with it, but I think a little swirl of crème fraîche on the top would have been just lovely. Even without this lily-gilding, however, the soup was delicious enough that the boys polished theirs off straightaway and Jim and I went back for generous seconds.
I've always liked spring and fall better than either summer or winter--they're seasons of moderation, pleasant times, not too hot or too cold. But since my limited Portland experience seems to indicate that we have crap springs here in the great Northwest (rain, rain, rain, rain and more rain), I guess I'll have to content myself with fall alone. (At least the summers aren't so hot that they can't be enjoyed.)
But weather aside, there's something about fall that seems to invite both introspection and a sort of coziness the other seasons lack. The crisp mornings invite you to snuggle a little longer in bed; the sun warms up the afternoons just enough to beckon you outside for some leaf-raking or maybe some last-chance tomato harvesting. The evenings fairly cry out for my favorite kinds of dinners: hearty stews, roasted vegetables, good rib-sticking meals that leave you feeling pleasantly warm & drowsy after eating them. And once fall shows up and starts sniffing around, Thanksgiving's not far behind... my favorite holiday of all, I think. (Who can argue with a day devoted to cooking and eating in the company of family?)
Then there's the creative impulse that seems to blossom in fall--maybe creativity is a member of the winter squash family, or perhaps some sort of a cruciferous vegetable? After weeks (er, months) of neglecting The Book, I feel new ideas and details and bits & pieces of narrative structure finally opening up in my mind, sending tendrils of excitement down long-dormant neural pathways. Who knows? Maybe this year I'll not only sign up for National Novel Writing Month, but actually accomplish something during it.
So even though there's always something a little melancholy about fall, and I know winter with its long stretches of dreary grey blahs won't be far away now, I'm always excited for the first days of digging through dresser drawers for sweaters, the first sight of a turning leaf.
I need to make sure we get a few more hikes in before the rains come and the trails get too sodden to walk.
When you press "go," the site provides you with a single word. You have sixty seconds to write about that word.
Wanna play? Wanna share? If you post your actual text here, it will spoil the word-of-the-day for everyone else... so just LMK if you played and I'll go read your stuff in the comments. Ch-check it out.
Not a thousand, but better than zero.
(That's words written today on The Book, in case you were wondering.)
And I also discovered that there is no magic in this world--none that really works, anyway--and that my main character is not, in fact, an orphan. She might as well be, though. Her mother is fairly useless.
Also: more saints. This is a very saint-heavy religion, and I discovered late this afternoon that everyone in this world picks a "heart-saint" at some point: a saint to whom you feel a special connection and to whom you offer special personal devotion.
Tomorrow: more writing, or maybe I'll abandon all my valuable principles and spend the day reading in bed instead. (There should be a National Reading in Bed day, and it should be an official holiday on which everything, up to and including airports, is closed.)
1. Get my feature outlined today and written by the end of the day on Thursday. 2. Get my photo column outlined today and written by the end of the day tomorrow. 3. Go through submissions for my techniques column by the end of the day Monday. Collaborate with April on submissions, get them finalized by the end of the day Wednesday and get the copy written by the end of the day Friday. 4. Get 1000 words written on The Book every day between now and July 16. 5. Have the Best Anniversary Ever on Tuesday. Jim says he's already planned an evening full of stimulating surprises and exciting allsortsathings. Including dinner at a place he will not yet name, but which I'm kinda hoping might be Clarklewis. Or Park Kitchen. Or, y'know, whatever. 6. Have a thoroughly amazing, guilt-free, 100% metal time at the Mastodon show Thursday night. (Oh yes. I am going to see Mastodon. The awesomeness is palpable, even if I am going all by myself.)
Here's their video for "Blood and Thunder" for you to enjoy...
And here's a compilation of Gooooooooals. (Sorry about the Linkin Park.)