Sunday, April 10, 2011

May the Beats Be Ever in Your Favor

Jennifer Lawrence will play Katniss Everdeen in the upcoming film

Okay.
A little embarrassed by my fangirl squeeing over Hunger Games last weekend.

But...

Yes...

I read the whole damn series again this week.

In my defense, this time I was reading it with a critical eye, looking for technical elements -- how she set up the plot, her sentence structure, et cetera. I'm still amazed at how well she does grabbing the reader and never letting go, not for an instant. There is always a sense of peril. Safe times are only found in retrospect, in that, "Okay, I guess it really was okay after all," kind of way. But you don't believe it at the time because everything and everyone is suspect. Blake Snyder talks about how a character's goals and stakes must be primal at their root -- love, survival, protection, sex... It doesn't get much more primal than this!

It took me until the second book to realize the story was written in present tense. Unbelievable. That's usually something I notice in the first paragraph and have to grit my teeth to get past.  She executed it perfectly, I think, and it could not have suited the anxious, fast-paced immediacy of the story better.

On second reading, I was equally engrossed. Only in the third book did I start skimming. Exposition galore. Necessary, though, I suppose. We're in a new place with new rules.

I do wish the last bits of the series were a little more fleshed out instead of summarized, but I guess it couldn't go on forever.

M. Howalt -- you asked in the comments last week what made the series compelling. My friend Samantha wrote an excellent post on the series here. Check it out. I agree with everything she says (and am clearly still fangirling because I got happy chills reading the title of her article, heh).

***

In my personal realm, I remain a foggy-headed, migraine-laden hermit. Gotta snap out of that somehow, someday.

But, hey, it hasn't been a total waste. Besides falling in love with a series (which is such a great feeling), I also managed this:



























My novel! All in one place! All the pieces! (Although some are vague [solves problem] or drawn in broad strokes.) Redoing  the major beats on red cards was a treat. I'm an office supply junkie and a visually-oriented person. The red cards make it feel concrete and prove to me that it's not all an amorphous smear of a cloud. It has the bones! Look! Right there! ;)

Look at Act One -- so many cards. Look at the second half of Act Two, so few cards. Not that big a deal, I think. The second half of Act Two is where I've drawn in broad strokes, labeling major elements. I think I pretty much  wrote the entire first act on the cards up there! Lots of details that don't need to be there. I'm still figuring all of this out, though.

The pirate ship was already there, an unintentional metaphor for how my sons like to shoot cannons of distraction at me at all hours of the day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I. Am. Freaking. Out.

How twelve am I?

I began shaking and crying just a few pages into the third volume of The Hunger Games, and now I'm seventy pages from the end, still shaking and haunted, and I can't get back to reading for a few hours. I'm heartbroken. And if they don't fix what I want fixed very soon (and don't even hint, if you know), I am going to be a wreck.

For me? The hype? Merited!

What a  story.

ETA: Whew. All better now.  Started Saturday afternoon with book one; finished entire trilogy by Monday night. Shall I loop back and start again? ;)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Got Me

Dammit, Hunger Games.

I resented you, resisted you, got sick of the hype.

Then I opened you this afternoon and read  you in one sitting. Om-nom-nom-nom!

It's two a.m.

And I'm fighting the urge to download the next volume right now.

(Samantha, I partially blame you for weakening my nonsensical resistance! Heh.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Scream or Die!

In my blog skulking of late, I've found a lot of discussion regarding bizarre audience behavior on television. I don't know if I ever believed it was natural or spontaneous, but I can tell you now for sure that it is not. It may be based in sincerity -- I definitely spend a few hours in bliss, attending So You Think You Can Dance tapings -- but they take that sincerity and crank it up to eleven (it's one louder). Don't even think about not enthusing.

Anyhow, in support of my claims, I thought I'd repost a piece I wrote a few years back describing my adventures in Hollywood one bizarre day. Enjoy.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

“Look. The Hollywood sign.”

I tried to take a picture for my sister, who we’d roped into watching our boys all day, but my phone's camera sucks. The sign looked like a dark blur. Just as well. My sister lived in that area for years doing movie makeup. It was more about geographical tracking than bragging about being somewhere she wasn’t.

The day was gray. The bus was dim, cold, full of groggy people. Quiet but for the drone of the motor and the hiss of the air vents.

I was wondering when someone would finally stand and say something to our group – forty of my husband’s coworkers and/or guests. Something like hello. Or welcome. Or Drew Carey has the flu today, so everyone giggling over the t-shirts they made to wear later on The Price Is Right is going to be sorely disappointed. Or anything.

I thought maybe they’d do it when we made it through traffic and got to our first stop, The Dr. Phil Show at Paramount Studios.

Wrong.

We pulled up in front of the building covered by a Wyland whale mural, and before the bus’s brakes were set, a blue-blazered audience coordinator was leaping up the stairs.

“Okay!” He was jarringly chipper for the early hour, his loudness a harsh contrast to the muffled sound before. “The show is starting! We have to get you all out of here and into the studio ASAP! No cell phones or cameras! Leave them on the bus!" Waving his hands, "Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!”

Suddenly, we were all on our feet, flinging electronic devices onto the bus seats as though they were about to detonate and running like mad through a roped-off line area and through security.

“Go, go, go!” They kept rushing us. “Dr. Phil is about to go onstage!”

Thirty seconds before, we’d been half asleep. Now we were racing into a studio full of screaming, clapping people. Music blared, the bass line shaking the floor. Lights flashed.

A toweringly tall Blue Blazer urged us toward seats in the front row of the back section. Other audience coordinators were waving their arms around, demanding that we scream, clap, act like Elvis was re-entering the building. Cameras were everywhere. People were going nuts!

Then this big mafioso type came swaggering out on the stage, waving blue Dr. Phil mugs. With a meaningful leer, he pumped one mug-filled fist toward a section of the crowd, and they went nuts. [Enter Man with Mugs, said the screenplay in my head. "Clap or the mugs get it!"] He did this a few times, urging bigger applause with a tight smile that also promised broken knees to those who didn’t comply.

Then another Blue Blazer was directly in my face. As the announcer’s voice thundered that the moment we’d all been waiting for was here, the man himself, blah, blah, blah, the Blue Blazer furiously scanned the crowd and then locked eyes with me.

With an imperious finger, he said, “You! With me!”

I was on the run again, across the center aisle and down a perpendicular set of stairs straight toward the stage. A shorter Blue Blazer directed me like a taxiing airplane toward an empty seat in the center of the second row. I didn’t have time to remove the “Reserved - Guest” card from my seat. I flung my purse down and obeyed the fleeing Blazer’s final orders to throw my hands in the air and scream like I’d won the lottery (mimed, of course – couldn’t hear words at this point to save my life).

And then he was there. Not Elvis, alas (or perhaps fortunately at this late date), but Dr. Phil. Maybe three feet away from me on the stage. So strange!

I stood among a gaggle of what looked like teenage girls from the corner of my eyes and pretended that my life’s dream had just been fulfilled, wondering what on earth prompted the Blazer to choose me to come on down. I wished it was American Idol or something where it would be fun to be down front. I had an unusual moment of self-esteem where I wondered if I looked cute that day or something. (Ha!) I wondered if it was because my shirt was purple, like two of the ladies in my row. Then, more like my usual morbid brain, I suffered a moment of paranoia that this was some bizarre form of intervention set up by my friends and family. Any minute now, Dr. Phil would look down and tell me to come on up. Then I’d be picked apart on national television and never show my face again. Luckily, this was not the case.

At last, it was time to sit, hands stinging from forcible clapping, and I suffered the pangs of self-consciousness, wondering how to sit and resist the urge to rearrange myself. Remember, not five minutes before I’d been half asleep on a gray, drab, silent bus. There had been no time for primping. Imagine someone coming into your room at dawn, shouting you out of bed, racing you downstairs and telling you to jump, scream, clap, make it convincing, and then have cameras aimed in your general direction that the entire world could watch you on ad infinitum.

So what was our show? A follow-up with a family of fourteen children who’d been abused by their cult-leader father. I hadn’t seen the original show – sorry, I don’t watch it – but the giant video screens filled us in. Cheerful.

Things calmed for a minute or two after that. He decided to redo the intro with a warning for parents to make their children leave the room before the episode began. He made a few different versions. I started to relax, nothing being asked of me for a minute. The girls next to me jingled and rattled as they adjusted their clothes, their bracelets, figured out how to fold their hands in their laps. Some older women behind me murmured to each other about how sad this one was, remember when they saw that show, etc.

After a minute, stage hands brought in a tan leather couch, an end table, and a matching chair for Dr. Phil, positioning them on tape markers. A glass of water was placed with touching reverence on a very specific spot upon the table. The audience, well dressed and hushed but for scattered rustling and coughs, made me think of being a little girl in church. All that was missing was soft organ music and beams of sunlight from the stained glass windows, sparkling with microscopic holy dust. But we had stage hands as altar boys, and the cameras substituted nicely for the eye of God. Or maybe Santa Claus. Catching your every naughty and nice moment. I tried to sit still. Wondered what they were piping in with the air in this place.

Show time again. Dr. Phil came back. More footage was shown of the struggles of the grown children of this family, and then three of the sisters came out. They were very near, since I was in the second row.

I listened and thought the craziest things. I obviously wasn’t genuinely in the moment. I was worried about how to hold my face. How to seem engaged enough to be worthy of my seat in the mosh pit without reacting to their story in an offensive way since they were looking right at me half of the time, it seemed.

I found out why it seemed like they were looking at me a minute or two into the show.

Someone on stage made a comment and the man directly in front of me said, “Amen."

Another comment onstage, and he said it louder, "Amen!"

A moment later, it happened again -- louder and more emphatically, "A-MEN!"

My jangly-rattly friends and I stared. Had he felt the church vibe, too? Decide to take a step further?

I had just enough time to wonder if maybe the audience got rowdy at this show, when Dr. Phil turned toward Mr. Amen and said something about how it seemed their brother had something to say.

Then I knew.

I was sitting with the family.

Lord. Hopefully not surrounded. I imagined trying to get a job someday and someone saying, “But aren’t you part of that cult? I saw you on television!” I hadn’t thought about the blue laminated “Reserved – Guest” card before that. I was so out of it. So not a morning person and so jarred out of reality.

Now I didn’t just worry about my face during the possible random audience shots. Now I had to watch my hands. Glancing at the monitor, I seemed to be in the shot when they would talk to those right in front of me – not only the brother but two sisters and their therapist. My hands were right at the level of the brother’s face, just to the side.

I am neurotically self-conscious in day-to-day life. Now I was inwardly freaking about what respectfully folded hands would look like versus the frightened clutching hands of someone under an interrogator’s lamp. I worried that they could see my stomach and strove to pull it in tighter. I could see from my peripheral vision that my hair was a mess and longed to push it behind my shoulder, but I didn’t dare move. I never saw my face on the monitor, just the zone between my neck and chest, but I’ll see when the show comes out just how terrible I looked. It’s all about me, right?

The show went on. The siblings bickered. He said, she said, you’re lying, no you are, etc. I could hardly concentrate. It was just that surreal to me. And I must be a closet narcissist because I kept having thoughts that any minute now, these people might stand up, explain they were all actors, and the show was really all about me after all. Man do I need coffee to be a person in the morning, and I had none yesterday.

Despite all my paranoia, I was having a good time. I swear. It was very interesting.

I thought the commercials were odd. In the mid-nineties, I went to a taping of Bob Barker's The Price Is Right. They did the show in real time, and Bob would talk to the audience during commercial breaks. On The Dr. Phil Show, he’d say they were going to take a break, a Blue Blazer would clap threateningly in the wings, and we’d all join in. There would be about ten to fifteen seconds of silence, and then we’d all be urged to clap again by the extra loud hands of that same Blazer. Just enough time to wiggle in your seat for a second and glance up at the infinite lights and cameras.

As we entered maybe the fifth or sixth commercial break, a Blazer was abruptly at the end of our aisle, glaring at us. The two girls to my right and I had just been adjusting our shirts, rearranging our hands, wiggling in our seats, and I thought maybe we were in trouble, were being switched for more obedient audience members. He did, in fact, bark, “You three! With me!” Out we went, and he took us back up to where I’d started – first row of the back section. I waved to my husband. They ran out with more chairs for us, and we sat, confused.

I think what happened is they needed our seats for the family members on stage. They came out into the audience for the last shot. Because that was pretty much it. I didn’t even hear what they said or did. It was too quick. And then Dr. Phil left the stage, we all went “nuts," and then the Blue Blazers were barking at us to leave in sections.

And now I remembered that no one had ever talked to our group that morning. We didn’t have badges, didn’t know each other, had no instructions, and we were being released into a very crowded alley of sorts with more Blue Blazers on patrol, peering at people, calling out things I couldn’t understand. All I knew was there was no Price Is Right on the itinerary anymore, as was the original plan, because I’d done my Googling the night before.

At long last, I thought that one of the guys in the crowd might be with us. I asked him, and, yes, he was. We were pushed aside by some speeding Blue Blazers. The crowd pressed in on us, deafening as they shouted over the din of the HVAC ducts overhead. He didn’t know what we were going to do, but he pointed out the woman who was supposedly our leader.

I worked my way over to her, and she didn’t know the plan. They were calling around to see what to do. She didn’t say anything about TPIR, and I didn’t ask. So more milling ensued, trying not to lose sight of her in the sea of humanity.

Remember: Our phones were on the bus. We were hours from home. If we got stranded, we would be in some trouble.

Coffee arrived, and we joined the throng. I took just one sip, however, before remembering the activities that follow coffee drinking. Mournfully, I watched as my warm, heavy cup fell with a thud into a nearby trash bin. Didn’t need to worry about bathrooms in that chaos.

More roar of the crowd. More roar of the HVAC and other assorted machinery.

And now the Blue Blazers were shouting at us again in the language of Peanuts adults. Out of the wah-wah-wah-wah, I gleaned that the second taping was seating. The anonymous crowd began flowing toward the studio door. My husband said he saw some people from our group in the line. We saw no signs of Fearless Leader. Should we go? We decided yes and allowed the tide to wash us back into the studio.

In we went, and this time a smiling Blue Blazer took us directly to the front row – but all the way to the far left, so not prominent.

This time, we got to hear more from Man with Mugs. This time he was Man with CD Collection -- bribes/rewards for a few extroverted audience members. He was the crowd warmer. He warned us of the things I’d figured out on my own before – don’t you dare fidget, pick, adjust, etc. ("Remember, you're not watching television. You're making television!")

After he gave away his prizes, doing the old, “Hi, how are ya, where ya from?” routine, the music and lights went up, and, for some reason, a video of Cher appeared on all the screens. Her music blared, and they set about riling us all up into a screaming mob again. The madness began anew.

This time, the show was about men who needed to re-examine their dreams of a career in music versus taking care of their families. A little more humorous than the last show but still sad at points. David Foster advised them on their prospects – but just from a taped video on the big screens. Actually in the studio was Kimberly Caldwell from American Idol. She was the final guest, advising these guys on how to balance their dreams with their responsibilities.

I was much more relaxed for this show, knowing what to expect, being in a really close but less prominent seat, being allowed to sit with my husband. It was fun.

At the end, Kimberly Caldwell came out and sat about eight seats away from me in our (curved) row. It was so strange. I remember watching season two of American Idol during Hollywood week and the whole "story" they created, vilifying her versus Julia DeMato. I grew to like her as the season progressed, and I’ve seen her host shows and do red carpet stuff, get asked out by David Cook on live TV. I was more excited to see her than Dr. Phil. Nothing against him. I just never watch his show, but I’m a fan of American Idol.

The second taping ended, and we were shooshed into a different chaotic, industrial alley/holding pen. After a long minute or two, we saw our fearless leader handing out phones from a box – I guess a few people didn’t want to leave theirs on the bus. But no one said anything to anyone else. What the heck came next? We didn’t know. It was hard to find a place to stand without getting knocked around or glared at by Blue Blazers.

At long last, a Blue Blazer shouted that our group’s bus was that-a-way, so, obediently, we boarded. Gratefully scooped up our phones. Other people followed. The woman in charge took a halfhearted head count, and then we droned off again into the brown scrub and smog where, within moments, everything we'd experienced turned into a hectic fever dream, impossible, leaving us with a two-hour ride back to a reality far less technicolor than that offered up on reality talk shows.

And, so ends our field trip. Now we have to tape Dr. Phil every day until our shows air. They “couldn’t” (or wouldn’t) tell us when they would air. I can’t wait to see what the shows look like finished. And I hope that if I made it into any of the final shots, I look less like an idiot than I felt.

[caption id="attachment_1186" align="aligncenter" width="490" caption="That's me on the upper left in the gray/purple"][/caption]

Bogus

Spring pollen has entered my brain. It's swirling in there, leaving me blank, scattered, and sleeeeepy. Hypnotic, that stuff. All I've had energy for lately is slow-poke reading on my Nook (Kerouac's On the Road, at the moment) and hamster-like refreshing of American Idol blogs. More! More gossip and grousing, please! Why do I care? I shouldn't. I don't. But I do. When I'm this tired, it takes big manipulative shiny things to keep my attention. Plus, I just love that stupid show.


Last night, I dreamed about James Durbin. (No, not like that.) He was still in high school, and I was this Rufus-like character (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure) who had to make sure he stayed on track to become an AI contestant in the future. Somehow, this involved helping him and his friends set off the school sprinkler system.

I'd say I need to turn off the television, but that's my one and only TV vice, so I don't want to. I'll just say it's because of my son's asperger's diagnosis and my hope to support him in his dreams. Okay? Okay. Good. 'Nuff said.

On the writing front, I realized that if I ended my early chapters on a cliffhanger note, it gave me more momentum in starting the next chapters and kept each from having a happy ending (which is kind of a no-no).

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Oh No U Don't



Confession:

Every time I call a business that uses voice recognition to navigate menus, I just know they're secretly listening, smothering laughter, and whispering, "She sounds so stupid!" Shouting and over-enunciating are not famous for making one feel dignified.

My desk is covered with rumpled bits of paper bearing what I hope to be genius, the missing Lego pieces in this hamfisted sculpture of a novel. It's been a good week for that -- little bits of inspiration hitting me from all sides, sending me scurrying for napkins, old receipts, crayons, what have you. It's lovely, and my desk is a satisfying mess.

So I'll be diving into that for a bit.

In the meanwhile, enjoy this random bit of 1980s Sesame Street fun (featuring Smokey Robinson) that I discovered today while reading reviews of last night's Motown-themed American Idol. (Go James Durbin!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eenie Meenie

It's battle of the blog (providers) over here.

I've been on wordpress.com, but I'm getting irritated that I can't use scripts, have followers/friends, et cetera.

I thought I'd try Blogger, since so many of you are "over there," but it took ages to get my wordpress export file to convert and import to Blogger. I wasn't even that interested anymore by the time it succeeded; it just became a grudge match. Now it works, though. I've got it looking a lot like this site. However...??? Is that what I really want?

Now I'm looking at a wordpress.org account (self-hosted).  Ah the confusion.

I'll be sure to post over here, should there be a definitive change.

Always remember the alternate URL http://www.untitlement.com -- that should take you to whichever option I choose. Ultimately. This is all going to take some time.

Let me know your recommendations. Are you pro/con Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org, or Blogger? Anything else I should consider?

I'd love input.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Suns & Moons

I woke this morning to the sound of dragon's fire. Darth Vader breathing slowly. After flailing weakly, trying to make it shut up, I realized. This is not normal. This sounds like that time...*

Up I stood. I peered through the blinds to the south. No.

Disappointed, I pried open a few blades of my eastern window blinds. YES! Hot air balloon.

A single spire of St. Basil's Cathedral floated just outside my bedroom -- well, just over the rear neighbors' roofs. It floated in yellow-red-blue glory no more than ten feet above the houses, occasionally pulled upward a few feet by a blast of flame. Howdy tourists! A new reason to keep the blinds drawn when sprawled out in bed. Who knew? Such is life on the outer periphery of semi-desert wine country. The same thing that makes life in these exurbs difficult without a car makes for the occasional picturesque awakening.

I watched bunnies frolic in the mown grass yards of the sole row of houses between us and rural scrub as the Russian spire became the world's largest bouncy house in the fields beyond. When it gave up with one last floppy swoon, I gave up going back to bed and got online.

Tonight, the moon will be closer to Earth than it's been since 1983. (Supermoon -- sounds like it's going to don a cape and save the world from evil.) This morning, a pseudo-sun came closer to my house than ever before. Let's hope these are good omens and will bring me some writing energy in addition to interesting views out my back windows.

Wishing you all a super Supermoon day!

*At some point in the 1990s, a hot air balloon skimmed close to the roof of my parents' house, and we all ran out onto their deck to watch its passage.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest

I'm a little late on this (a lot late for my international friends), but, in the spirit of camraderie, I thought I'd put something up. It's a first draft of a deleted scene, and an old one, at that, but it's all I have in the way of a drunk scene at this point. It probably makes no sense.

Learn more about the fest on the Where Sky Meets Ground blog @ The 2nd Annual Drunk at First Sight Fest.

_____________________

Elizabeth: naive college freshman in Berkeley, 1969.

Marisa: Elizabeth's best friend and landlady, also known as The Red Queen, hostess of weekly anachronistic parties to promote her dance studio

David: Elizabeth's ex

Jim: Elizabeth's secret love and self-appointed protector

Paul: Marisa's henpecked, nerdy cousin



This is the confusion before the storm. Bad things are just around the bend...

_____________________

As David's façade of civility began its crumble, he'd developed a cute little trick. Creeping to the television, he'd press himself against it, one eye turned her way, growing happier and happier as Elizabeth went insane. To achieve this, he need do only one thing -- flip the dial back and forth, back and forth, back and forth until her brain was full and she was screaming. Fragments, flashes, from hiss to canned laughter, static to song. Always with the sound turned up full blast, of course.

When she thought back on Marisa's St. Patrick's Day party, it was a lot like that torture by television -- not so much for the maddening element but because of its fragmentation. She remembered it only in flashes.

Flash one: She's in the kitchen, her default party spot. Stephanie's threatening to kiss her if she doesn't join the mob in the basement.

Flash two: The basement. Marisa's sangria. Yum.

Flash three: Who drank all her stinking sangria? Dammit, Paul, get some more.

Flash four: The music isn't loud enough. Someone -- maybe Elizabeth -- has organized a guerilla trip through the tangle of crowd to the stereo to do something about it. A jumbled memory of walking bent forward, one arm out, ready to snowplow anyone who got in the way. A staggering mob hanging on behind like a zombie conga line.

Flash five: Laughing and laughing and laughing with Marisa until their stomachs hurt and -- whoa -- who turned down the lights?

Flash six: Marisa is scolding her, brushing her hair roughly and tying it back in a ponytail. This will come in handy later when...

Flash seven: Elizabeth wipes her mouth and rises from the strip of marigolds outside Marisa's back door, thanking the lecherous Steve for his rare act of chivalry -- holding her hair while she gets sick.

Flash eight: Another Dixie cup of happiness in hand, she's kicking said chivalrous friend to make him stop groping her.

Flash nine: A chorus line! The entire dance class is shrieking something approximating "Orpheus in the Underworld" and kicking their feet, arms around each other's waists like the Rockettes. Jim! Jim! You have to join us! Have to! The blurry recollection of Jim recoiling slowly and cautiously, as though from a band of wild dogs.

Flash ten: Arguing. Did Jim try to talk her into leaving? She had the vague memory of calling him a poop, of feeling her attraction to him like a literal magnet and tumbling into his gravitational pull. The compelling yet all too short flash of his bicep beneath her hand and Susan's giggle in her ear.

Flash eleven: Why is there no more Jim? Why? Why is Marisa's shoulder so stinking wet? Oh, a handkerchief. Oh no. Oh no. Where's that flowerbed again?

Flash twelve: Handkerchiefs are no match for sangria.

And now.

Not a flash. A flash would be merciful in its brevity.

No.

This? This was more of a swirl. An undulating, insinuating wave. A ride on the end of a cat's tail. A whirlpool, Elizabeth alone and still in its center.

She forced her mouth to move. "Make it stop."

"Huhhhhhhn?" A familiar girl's voice.

Elizabeth said, "You're moving my house. Stop."

The feet in front of her face jerked, bumping her nose and releasing an explosion of comic book sparks and exclamation points. From the opposite end of the bed came the voice again. "Merde! I'd give my left tit for a shot of whiskey."

"Steph?"

"Yeah, 'sme."

Elizabeth struggled onto her elbows. Her joints felt congested, whatever that meant. They were in Marisa's guest bed, heads at opposite ends.

"Why here?"

Steph flailed a hand and rolled to drop her torso off the bed, re-emerging with a cigarette and lighter.

"Damn amateurs." Steph spoke with a clenched jaw as she inhaled. Groaning and expelling a long plume of smoke, she rolled onto her back, eyes closed.

"Ama-whos?"

"Can't take the high octane. C'mon. Show you."

Elizabeth rose, feeling each step in her head instead of her feet. She was a ragdoll made of sandbags -- sandbags full of broken glass and rotten eggs. "Holy flippin' gravy."

Steph shook her head. "Closer, but no cigar. We'll get you cussing properly one of these days." She pulled Elizabeth from the room at a shuffle.

On Elizabeth's closed door, they found a makeshift sign. In thick, wobbly, red magic marker, but obviously Marisa's writing, they read, "BASTARDS -- don't let them out." Underneath this puzzling message were a tiny heart and a lopsided happy face.

Elizabeth swayed, narrowing her eyes to try to focus and read more sense into the thing. It hurt her brain. Steph smirked and inclined her head toward the knob with a raised brow. For some reason, this scared Elizabeth. Who were The Bastards? Why were they in her room? What if they got out?

Steph lowered her cigarette and wheezed with laughter at Elizabeth's expression. Smoke came out her nose. "Elle, you are my love. Look."

Cracking the door, she waved Elizabeth forward. All she saw was a foot clad in a white sweat sock ringed with blue stripes. It rested on her pillow, bedspread pulled primly to the calf as though it were some new form of sleeping giraffe. Steph opened the door wider, revealing half a dozen unconscious men.

Elizabeth gaped. "Why?"

"Drunk and disorderly." Steph shrugged, taking a deep drag and exhaling it with sharp contempt into the room. "Even when she's drunk, Marisa's still the sheriff." She pointed to two boys, leaning against each other, drooling and snoring. "Those two tried to feel you up."

"What? When?"

Steph just rolled her eyes. "And that one?" A chubby blond upperclassman with a crew cut. "He tried to fight Jim when he didn't like the way you were dancing."

"I danced with Jim?" Her head swam.

"No, with Colonel Lardass!"

"Oh." She looked around. "Are they all mine?"

"No. Only those three. The others just got on Marisa's nerves. There were more, but some must have escaped down the balcony the way Mare hoped. Even scrawny little Paul was here for a while, remember?" She smirked at Elizabeth. "No, you don't, do you?"

"Why Paul?"

"Don't know. Just because. He's fun that way." She closed the door. "I just know he was out in time to sweet talk the cops."

Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and groaned. "Cops? I don't remember any of it."

Steph squeezed Elizabeth. "Good for you, then. You've got the drinking part down. I'm proud."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Raptor

A notable dearth of pigeons in the neighborhood today. The hawks are eyeing the crows...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Life in the Bermuda Triangle

What do you get when you combine the following?
  • strep throat
  • lingering influenza
  • migraines
  • an emergency root canal, extraction, crown, and fillings for one's kindergartner
  • a husband working long painful hours
  • a broken axle followed by a complete engine fail on one of your two (aging) cars (leaving you stranded since said husband has the other car with him at work day and night)
  • ongoing deposits of mutilated rabbit parts in your side yard from some unknown predator*
  • etc.

My month! Woohoo!

It's all made extra special by the fact that we owe $$$ in taxes this year, and that we have a bad, bad, bad case of The Economy, doing things previously unknown outside of games like Monopoly or Life. So, yeah, this one-car situation? It's gonna last.

Yummy.

Nevertheless, things go on. I haven't had a single speck of inspiration for blogging, and I've been kind of caving it from the outside world (working on a long hermit beard), but I've been reading like crazy, and, better, I'm writing. Nothing special. Nothing good. Nothing important. And that makes it all the better. I just sit down, dim-minded, and I go, just see what happens. I've written 22k words over the past two weeks. I'm grateful. It's made a big difference.

I also have the distraction of American Idol -- hours of frothy television I'm actually happy to watch this year. Let us never speak of last year again. (And, if anyone cares, I'm rooting for James Durbin and Casey Abrams.)

So, relevancy shall return, but, for now, I leave you with a few funnies. First, a short from Britanick Comedy. Second, an ad that makes me happy -- cats with thumbs!

*[ETA: The predator revealed itself today -- a redtail hawk who ate two pigeons in our yard to entertain my children.]



Friday, February 18, 2011

Breaking up Is Hard to Do / You Are What You Eat

What do novels do to you? I'd love to know how other people feel after turning that last page.

I've been trying to figure out why I am so wrecked after I finish reading a novel. It's worse than The Day after Christmas Blues -- far more distracting, disorienting.

One obvious answer is that a novel is a heck of a lotta information for your brain to process: tens of thousands of words, meanings layered on meanings, emotions, scenery, and a side of curly fries to boot.

It's more than that, though.

Books grab you, drag you into a new world.

Novels are convoluted high-speed rollercoasters that, instead of returning you to a sparkling popcorn-scented amusement park, deposit you directly into your drab office cubicle in the middle of a work day, leaving you as blinking, disoriented, and exhausted as a bodysnatcher or medium who just finished convening with the dead. And the phone is ringing, and your boss is coming down the corridor, and you still have cotton candy on your fingertips, and you have to pee. Or maybe not that last part. But sometimes you do feel a little sick.

The transition can be as happy and gentle as a mother lowering a baby to its crib.

It can be as dismaying as seeing your entire family and everything you own receding into the distance on a departing train as you chase it through an empty station.

Sometimes, it's just a rough kick on the seat of your pants and the sound of a slamming door.

For me, it's never a clean break.

Books possess me, weave barbed vines into my psyche, use my emotions as marionettes, and shape the way I view the world and express myself, sometimes indelibly.

Maybe that's why people don't just set aside books they hate. They hurl those suckers across the room. The wrath isn't about time forever wasted; it's about exorcism. That book was trying to slide its nasty, slimy vines into your brain, use you like a puppet. So invasive, so unwanted. You can't just turn your back. You have to smite! Destroy! (Lest it creep from beneath your bed at night to grab you by the ankles and mark you for life.)

When the cable channel Sprout premiered (2001-ish?), they played episodes of Sesame Street from the early 1970s that hadn't seen the light of day in decades. My friend was visiting that weekend, and we -- both children of the seventies -- sat transfixed for hours, looking at each other, first with discomfort, then fearful delight, then gleeful laughter, as our mouths moved on their own, reciting old rhymes, singing old songs -- things we didn't know we knew. We heard jokes and silly inflections that existed in those episodes and those episodes alone. They were elements so ingrained in our minds as Something Funny that we each thought we'd invented them or that they were a native part of our personas.

It was wonderfully disturbing fun, and when the marathon ended, I went about feeling haunted and melancholy. A small window had opened on my formative years and then closed again in a whoosh of dust. I was left not just missing the experience but wondering how much of me was me and how much came from snippets of Sesame Street with a sprinkle of Stephen King on top for added sparkle.

This is fiction for me. Each book leaves its own tattoo. Afterward, there's a healing process. I often skim the entire novel a second time, if I liked it, and sometimes a third. If it's going to be a part of me, I need to know what it all meant. You are what you eat, as they say.

So, how about you? Can you just close a book and move on without a second glance? Am I overly impressionable?

* The latest book to possess me is Donna Tartt's Secret History. More than 500 pages of lovely, if disturbing rollercoaster that's left an aftertaste of scotch and cigarettes and India ink, as well as a fascination with how she got me to love these often-horrible characters, seducing me along with the protagonist. I thank my husband for introducing it to me.