Masque of the Cucumber Death:
I gave myself a facial this afternoon, and Katherine kept wandering in and out, checking on what I was doing to my face. I think she had visions of me turning into the Grinch. Finally, in very worried tones, she informed me that I am the most beautiful woman in the world, even though I'm old, chubby, and have icky scars all over. I love this kid.
To Katherine, Mom is someone upon whom you can spill chocolate milk and smear with your sticky hands and bomb with water balloons from the balcony, not this stranger trying on new clothes and fiddling with all these mysterious multi-application compounds in the bathroom. Mom never spends more than five minutes in the bathroom unless she's locked in doing her eucalyptus therapy thing. Mom is about as feminine as a hockey stick. It's odd because unlike me, Katherine is very feminine -- she fusses with her hair now, has me paint her finger and toe nails, and loves perfume. She's very image-conscious, that is, when she's not digging up centipedes or punching out boy bullies on the playground.
I grew up in a very different household. At one point in my childhood, my mom was a certified cosmetician -- went to beauty school for it and everything, if I remember correctly. She could do things with pancake makeup and eye liner you would not believe. With my sensitive skin and eyes, most of the makeup (before Almay) was out for me, but my two sisters trowelled it on daily. Btw, big sister, I stole your eyelash curler as a hoist to raise and lower Barbie out of The Penthouse of Doom, just in case you were wondering where it went.
I do remember how to use this stuff, but I find the older I get, the less willing I am to hide behind makeup. So some basic foundation to cover up my melasma marks (irregular birthmark-type patches a woman gets on her face during pregnancy; mine stayed) and a little lipstick to start with, then we'll see. I cringe when I see a middle-aged woman with too much makeup on, so I don't see me developing a big fondness for the stuff now. The leftovers I can give to Kathy, who thinks Barbie needs a cucumber facial before she storms the Dollhouse of Disaster with G.I. Joe . . .
Now Wait a Minute:
I can't remember everything the girl told me, but I'm not a dummy, I can read labels. Problem is, they're scaring me. Like this little pack of bronze-colored makeup cream stuff that says: For Lips/Cheeks/Eyes. I don't get it -- makeup has gone multiple choice? Since when did those body parts become interchangeable?
You Know You Haven't Worked A Day Job in Awhile When...
You stand for twenty minutes in front of the cosmetic counter, completely dumbfounded, then bring a handful of creams, powders, and stick-shaped stuff to the clerk and ask her to tell you which color is supposed to be applied where, for how long, and how the heck do you get it off?
P.S., I am not wearing blue nail polish. Or green. Or black. I'm sorry, but I'll look at my hands and throw up. And what happened to good old red and pink?
Jessie sent me this news -- with two weeks to go before it's released, Eternity Row is shooting
up the sales ranks at B&N.com, coming in at 646 when I checked it. I never remember to check these sales things but I think that's pretty encouraging. Doubt it'll go much higher as it's SF, but I wouldn't mind hitting the Locus BSL one more time, make it an even five for five.
The problem with online bookseller sales ranks are, they're not a reliable source of info on how well a book does out in the real world. Shockball, which appeared to have sluggish online sales, was supposed to bomb because three Tolkien pb reprints that were released at the same time (or at least, this is what all the experienced people told me.) Instead of being knocked out of the running, it hit the BSL and had very brisk sales. So while the high ranking is nice, it doesn't tell me much except that the book is doing well with preorders.
I changed my hair color again -- officially, "crème brûlée" with subtle highlights, unofficially, light brown with lighter brown tones. My hairdresser did this, working off the theory that lighter makes one look younger. Right, just like a man parting his hair by the top of his right ear and sweeping it over hides the fact that he's balding. Ah well, the things we do to satisfy our middle-aged vanity.
I went from the hairdresser to the PT, where I picked up the new shock absorber/brace I need to wear around my knee and lower leg while I work. It has mysterious steel stabilizers, adjustable clampy things and controls for range of motion. The black neoprene and stainless fittings make me look faintly Borgish, but it's nice and comfortable, and no one will see it unless I hike up my trousers. Oddly, I dissected a brace like this one while writing Blade Dancer, so I could design a futuristic knee implant for the protagonist. Life imitates art.
The cats were acting weird last night, shadowing me from room to room, constantly meowing for attention. I didn't think it was the new hair. People say animals are dumb, but my boys always seem to sense when I need a different kind of support. After the TT they disdained their favorite sleeping spots and piled around me on the bed. My little bodyguards. I wish I could take them to work with me.
(rated R for language, you children should be sleeping) It appears the missing $159
million dollar comet-chasing, core-sampling robotic probe is now hurtling out into space in two nice big pieces,
according to the latest report from Reuters.
"I'll be real honest," mission director Robert Farquhar said from the Applied Physics lab at Johns Hopkins. "I'm not very optimistic."
Well, well. A NASA space program director being real honest.
Quick, somebody check Hell, see if it's frozen over.
It's not a big deal, though -- losing Contour is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions smashed all to hell on Mars, blown in the afterburn of the Shuttle program and flushing down the cooperative chemical toilet of the International Space Station, to cite the major budget-sucking black holes. If space exploration was comparable to say, corporate embezzlement . . .
(excuse me while I laugh hysterically for a moment.)
Ah, okay. Sorry. As I was saying, if space exploration was comparable to say, corporate embezzlement, NASA's comet probe botch-up would be along the lines of what one major investor lost when Enron collapsed (University of California's aggregate total loss, aka approximately $144.7 million.) You really don't want to add up all the money NASA has torched in just the last twenty years. Science, after all, must march on. Planets to photograph. Sophisticated equipment to trash. Millions to waste.
Just don't ask NASA to fly anything over the Indian Ocean for a few months, until they can figure out how they fucked up this
time, okay? Wouldn't want to jeopardize Congressional approval on next year's budget.
Be Vewy Vewy Quiet . . .
My daughter, hunting lizards.
NASA Loses Contact -- Nobody Move, You Might Step on It:
Reward posters may be going up around the globe, as NASA has once again lost
another spacecraft. The Contour, a comet-chasing robotic probe, is missing.
The bad news: This one is worth $158 million dollars. The good news: They didn't lose it over Mars, they lost it over Earth. At least, they're telling me that's the good news.
Contour is a result of NASA's "build them better, cheaper, and faster" program, a stunningly clever move by former Administrator Goldin to hang on to massive government funding and restore public confidence in NASA. Oh, yeah, now I got all kinds of faith in you boys. So what do we do now, besides kiss our $158 million goodbye? Let's see, it disappeared over the Indian Ocean -- um, James
, would you go out and have a look around the beach, see if bits of our spacecraft have washed up there?
Byes and Bitterness:
Lee, who is off to college for the fall, wrapped up his last day with me. I'm going to miss him terribly, he's been a wonderful assistant and a good friend during some pretty trying professional times. He's ready to start working on his first novel, though, and I get the first copy, so another author/pal to add to my collection someday.
E-mail has been on the heavy side, so Lee spent today clearing them out for me. Among the better chuckles were reports on the reviews written about Sun Valley, which has done extremely well with legitimate reviewers but has gotten severely sliced and diced by the online hatchet jobbers. Evidently the book has been compared to everything from Nora Robert's work to tampons. I'm flattered about the comparison to Ms. Roberts, but I doubt anyone will ever touch her. As for the tampon thing, Lee says it was a bitter rant from a pathetic person, which is becoming status quo. I wouldn't recommend using my books as a sanitary aid but whatever rings your chimes, babe.
Tomorrow is my last day to be a full time writer, and I plan to spend it working on a copy-edit and rearranging my routine to fit the new job. I'm looking forward to the new challenges, and happy to be leaving the nonsense behind. My hours are so flexible that I'll have three days off next week, so it's not going to be a huge change.
Delivery Girl and Delayed Reactions:
I got to play Santa today and had entirely too much fun delivering a huge secret collaborative gift box to a friend. Happiness is infectious, you know, so spread some around.
Pro reactions to my announcement about going back to work came in while I was out having a good time, most not so happy to hear it. I think maybe I've been coming across as if I'm ready to give up on writing or I've failed, which I won't and I haven't. My publisher has been unable to pay me for work that I've turned in for a variety of reasons, all to do with their shifts in management and scheduling. While I'm sympathetic, I also have children, and I must have a reliable income. I'm very practical: when I work, I expect to be paid. If I don't get paid, I go work for someone else. It's as simple as that, nothing personal.
To tell you the truth, I feel like this has taken a huge weight off my shoulders. Getting rid of the unstable financial situation and my dependence on people who aren't very reliable is enpowering. Being happy and busy has always made me a better mom and a more productive writer. Now the people involved in publishing my work can have their myriad crises whenever they like, and it doesn't have to affect me. That's not giving up or failing. That's freedom.
Finished first chapters on three new books, one SF, one mystery, and a horror. Finished the synopsis for the SF, but I want someone to look at the other two before I do more with them. They read well, but time committment now is at a premium. With all the idea gears spinning, I didn't feel like sleeping, so I drank more of Lily's weed tea and am waiting for the sopophoric? effects to kick in. Works great but the taste, yuck.
Also, read the latest Mary Balogh, "A Summer to Remember," which is wonderful. She's introduced a whole new cast of supporting characters that I can see developing into sequel protagonists. The hero and heroine in this novel were exceptionally well crafted and emotionally stunning at several points; I had to grab Kleenex twice. Mary always restores my faith in fiction.
Art Versus Plot: Rob
posted an interesting entry
today about plotting, which surprised me because I'm also a fan of Stephen King and yet I didn't know his views on plotting (note to self: get this On Writing book he wrote and catch up.) And I can see Rob's dilemma, because if Stephen King had suggested to me I was a dullard for plotting out my novels when I was in my formative stage, I'd probably still be second-guessing myself all over the place.
Thing is, as successful and prolific and gifted a writer as Stephen King is, he's making rules, and passing judgement on other writers. Everyone operates by their own rules, which is okay and can sometimes help others, but the judgement is not. You can't measure two writers with the same yardstick. You can't say your method is the only
way to tell stories.
I'm in awe of writers who can sit down and simply write without a plan or a plot. To me, that's like taking a road trip without checking your car or getting a map. Yet there are writers who do just that and produce stunning work. I've tried doing it myself with some limited success, but I was very uncomfortable with the process -- I kept trying to think
ahead so I'd know where the story was going. That may be thrilling for the intrepid souls out there, but it simply annoyed me. Also, just on a technical note, I noticed that when I wrote plot-blind, my rewrite time doubled, so it actually created more work in the end.
Every writer dreams of becoming a Stephen King, but in the final analysis each of us has to find our own way. I'm sure John Grisham -- who happens to love to plot, btw -- would agree with me.
What You Do Comes Back to You:
I buy books like other people buy groceries; if I don't get to the bookstore once a week I begin to starve. Mostly research, but also books for the kids and other people's kids. Gives me an excuse to look through all the cool stuff in the kid's section. Last Christmas I even enrolled both my kids in the Border's Explorer Program, which offers a discount for so many children's books purchased.
A few weeks ago I got a letter from a law firm, informing me that by using my Explorer Club card and my Visa to buy the kids' books, I had been automatically enter in a contest, and that I was a potential winner. I thought it was some kind of scam -- I never win anything -- but I showed the affidavit to an attorney friend and she said it looked pretty legit. I filled it out and sent it back.
Well, I really won. Today, the UPS guy delivered the what I think has to be the grand prize -- forty hardcover children's books (Scholastic's Dear America series) and a Borders gift card. I still didn't believe it until I took the card over to Borders to verify that yes, it really was authentic. Then the kids and I had to go shopping for more books, of course. Can never have too many books. We also plan to donate a portion of our prize to the kids' school library.
It's such a lovely surprise but I'm still reeling, a little. I've always believed the good you do comes back to you, but I've never had anything like this happen. See, the really eerie part of all this is, the entire prize package is equal in value almost to the penny to what I used to help a friend in need -- about a week before the contest affidavit arrived.
Spoke with my new romance editor today, who just started yesterday at Onyx and is still getting her bearings. It was a great conversation, I liked her right off the bat and we got a lot of business accomplished. Here's the kicker -- her name is Laura Anne, just like my SF editor. The odds of that happening are like, what? A million to one?
Eleven Year Old Slippers:
I always forget that I have Cinderella Syndrome -- very few shoes fit me -- so my wicked stepmother would be entirely justified making me sleep barefoot near the hearth. While CS is not a problem when you're a self-employed writer who works at home and only has to throw on sneakers or flip flops to get the mail or the groceries or the kids, it does tend to become an issue when you get a day job. I remembered this at 7:41 a.m. this morning and marched to the closet to unearth the Box of Retired Shoes.
Now, the last time I wore these shoes, I was a newlywed and mother of one, the President's Dad was President, Germany unified, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison, my brother disappeared for two years to fight the Gulf War, the San Francisco 49ers beat the Denver Broncos 55-10 in the SuperBowl, Michael Bolton sang, "How Am I Suppose to Live Without You" while Madonna came out with "Vogue," and the box office smashes were "Ghost," "Pretty Woman," and "Home Alone." Oh, and I went to see "The Hunt for Red October," fell in love with Alec Baldwin's eyes, and told my girlfriend that Tom Clancy was going to be a very, very wealthy man.
Yep. Been that long since I had a day job. And if you think it's silly that I save shoes from 1991, you should check out the box labelled 1978.
Most of my retired shoes were plain navy or black pumps, with stiletto heels that range from 2" to 4-1/2".  For a moment I fondly remembered those pre-knee-surgery days, when I actually worried about things like being so short and looking sexy. I also wore my hair down to my backside, slapped on makeup every day and drove a big badass Chevy Impala with a baseball bat under the front seat because I had to drive through many unsavory spots to get to work. Maybe it's the difference between being thirty and forty, but I found myself chuckling and shaking my head over the memories as I sorted through the box.
In the end, I decided none of the shoes would work with my post-knee-surgery knee, and packed them up again to donate to the Salvation Army. I figured I need three pair of business-type flats to start off, and put a note on the fridge to hit the ortho shoe store to see what they've got to offer. The shoe search was good in that it reminded me that my life seems to run in ten-year cycles, which means I should be stay single, employed and happy until 2011, about the time Katherine graduates from high school.
As of 2:30 pm today, I'm a bookseller. :)
Taking Back Control, Week One:
Three calls came in at 9 a.m., all great job offers from the interviews I gave last week, which almost makes up for the fact that it's Monday. Inspected wardrobe, as far as business clothes go I'm in excellent shape so no major shopping to do for the new job. No response from any of the New York connections I e-mailed at the same time but then, publishing operates at a crawl. I don't. Finished the synopsis for the new project, and will work on chapters today.
And, as I was typing this, the offer I wanted came in. If all goes well this afternoon, tomorrow I will be a bookseller. :)
Evan posted this on the Blogger main page, but since some folks who stop by here might otherwise miss it, here's a thing
that takes you off to visit a random Blogger weblog.
To Top Off the Week:
I'm perverse about awards, but writers are eccentric, and I'm allowed my little quirks, right? What's frustrating is being stuck on a ballot without even being notified. I'm now working toward yanking the book, but it doesn't look good. Since the rest of the nominees are heavy self-promoters and enter every contest under the sun, I'm pretty sure I don't have to worry about winning, but still. Just to see my name on it drives me nuts.
A worrisome news report
from the Sun-Sentinel today about Miami-Dade voters being asked to repeal an existing anti-discrimination law which protects gays and lesbians from being fired, evicted, or otherwise denied services because of their sexual orientation. It's like Anita Bryant and the seventies all over again, only this time it's coming from the conservative African-American religious front. While I respect the religious beliefs of these folks, this campaign endorses persecution of innocent people, and that's just plain wrong. We all live in glass houses; none of us should be packing stones.
This is an old joke that I heard when I was in the AF --
In the early 1800's, a farmer in the west decided it was time for him to get married, and sent back east for a mail order bride. Because the west was still largely unsettled and he didn't want to end up with someone useless, he asked for a strong, sensible woman who knew how to work hard, have plenty of kids, and handle trouble by herself. A woman wrote back and sounded so perfect that he sent for her immediately.
The farmer and his only hired hand drove twenty miles from his farm to the train station to meet his bride-to-be, who was lovely and strong yet very modest and quiet. The farmer fell in love with her instantly and married her in town that very same day. After the ceremony, the farmer packed up his new wife's trunks in the back of his wagon and started the long journey back to his farm.
The farmer's hired hand, which was at best a cranky and unreliable man, became jealous and after seven miles stopped the wagon in the middle of the plains and went to sit in the shade of a nearby tree. The farmer argued with his employee, and spent a frustrating fifteen minutes convincing the man to start driving the wagon again. Once they were underway again, the farmer apologized to his new wife for the wait.
His new wife looked at the hired hand and merely said, "That's one."
Five miles later, the wagon stopped again, and the hired hand jumped off to go rest in the shade. This time it took the farmer thirty minutes and the promise of a big raise to get the hired hand to start driving the wagon again. Quietly he apologized again to his new wife, making excuses for the man and promising her that he'd fire him as soon as possible.
His new wife looked at the hired hand again and said, "That's two."
About a mile from the farm, the wagon stopped a third time and the hired hand refused to go on, no matter what the farmer did or said. After an hour of useless cajoling, swearing, and arguing, the farmer went to his new wife and apologized to her for the delay.
His new wife looked at the hired hand and said, "That's three." She climbed down from the wagon and went over to where the hired hand was loitering in the shade of a tree. Without a word of warning she took out a small gun from her purse and shot the man between the eyes.
The farmer couldn't believe his wife had just killed a man in cold blood, and he jumped down from the wagon and began yelling at her. He shouted about how much trouble she was in, how he'd now have to hide the body, how hard it would be to replace the man, and how stupid and dangerous it was for a woman to use a gun. She remained silent and composed as he ranted and raved, until finally the farmer demanded, "Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"
His new wife put her gun back in her purse and then looked at the farmer. "That's one."