Saturday, November 30, 2013

November Questions and Comments

November has been an absolutely crazy month for me.  I have been away traveling more days than I have spent at home.  My writing this month has consisted of this daily blog, my nano novel, and the class to help me revise my previous novel, all at the same time.  The injuries from my stairway fall continue to plague me, although I am told the faces that I make while groaning are very entertaining.  I'm not sure I have juggled all my November responsibilities well.  But no matter all that, it's time for me to respond to your responses!  So here goes . . .

Thank you Alias, for recommending that I accelerate my rejection rate. That comment made me laugh, even though I plan on trying to do that in the coming months.

MA Reynolds had a useful trick for writing premise statements.  I'll have to try that, especially since the advice comes from a published author.

My 2013 nano playlist has grown by leaps and bounds since I asked for your musical advice.  It now consists of five hours of 78 songs.  I'll be sad to see it go.

Amy Frederick wanted to know who that marvelous fan behind the sign was.

That's my sister!

Congratulations to Kristi and Caitlin who successfully identified the song behind my post on old friends.  I make no apologies to the few who were annoyed with me for giving them that particular earworm.

Thanks again to all of you who respond to my blog in any way, either verbally, through email, or by making comments.  Committing to do this every day has been difficult, but also very worthwhile.  My small band of loyal readers are a big part of why I continue to write.

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is trapped in North Carolina by a rainstorm.  Plans to have him magically transported across the United States by tomorrow is in the works.
Word Count?  47,491 (one day left, aah!)

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Night of Writing Dangerously

Last Sunday night I participated in a combination write-in, fundraising event and all-around celebration for National Novel Writing Month.  They call it the Night of Writing Dangerously.  The party happens at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in downtown San Francisco.  People come from near and far to attend.

The theme is always noir and many people dress up in costumes to add an extra element to the fun.  As always, the people was what made the entire occasion special. Everyone at my table was fantastic, from the three high school students to the somewhat older college professor and all of us in between.  We had a great time writing, laughing, and eating from the extensive candy bar. One of the writers at our table finished 50,000 words at the party, which meant she got to ring a bell, have everyone clap for her, tweet her name, and wear a crown the rest of the night.

The nano staff and volunteers went out of their way to make the evening memorable. There were prizes for the top fundraisers and a raffle for the rest of us. An open bar and a professional photographer to take author photos for our book jackets.  Individual writing sprints and table word wars with ceremonial hats for the winners.  There were motivational speeches and lots of social networking going on.  Milk and cookies were served at 10pm.  An attendee who is a published author wrote about her experience of the evening.

For me what made the whole elegant affair over the top was the setting. The Julia Morgan Ballroom is located in the Merchants Exchange Building, a historic building over 100 years old. Everything about it from the elevators and the bank on the ground floor to the view from the ballroom windows was spectacular!  I have included some of my favorite photos of that night for your viewing pleasure.  Full disclosure:  I did not take the photo at the top of the blog.  Apparently, I was too busy looking at the architecture, writing, and laughing with my tablemates to take good photos of the ballroom.

Nano Update:  
Plot?  MC is camping in North Carolina.  Somehow I have to get him across the country in the next two days!
Word Count?  45,523 (still a little behind)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks some more!

I was tired last night, so I forgot lots of things I am thankful for:  nano, snow, studded bike tires, bike helmets, skateboards, chocolate, electric knives, glasses, seasickness medication and so much more!

However, the main lapse of gratitude in my last post was this:

I am extremely grateful for all my friends.  You have helped me create an amazing community far from my family.  We laugh, think, cry, listen, talk and eat together.  Thank you for just being you.  I love you all much!

Happy Thanksgiving!

On this very American holiday we traditionally overeat, watch football and at some point, think about what we are thankful for.  I plan on doing all of those, but I wanted express my gratitude for so much in my life, from the simple to the complicated.  As it's my first year, I'm staying mostly serious.  Here's my list:

I am thankful for . . .

 . . . my honey, who still makes my heart leap after more than twenty years.

. . . my family, a crazy bunch who for all our differences manage to stick               together.

. . . the fact that my butt is finally healing after my bouncing stairway                     adventure.

. . . food and shelter and clothes sufficient for our needs.

. . . heat and electricity and running water.

. . . living in a place that is not experiencing war or a natural disaster.

. . . beaches, mountains, lakes, and other natural wonders of the world.

I hope there are many things in your life that you are thankful for.  Have a great day off!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Amtrak Coast Starlight

A week and a half ago I wrote about a writing adventure I had on the Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles to Oakland.  I posted many photos of the trip but I still haven't filled you in on the train ride itself.

The train ride started in Union Station, in downtown Los Angeles, a jewel since 1939. There are old, comfy chairs in the waiting room and the information booth is a wonder in wood.  It's a remarkably historic spot and it feels like you're in a movie.  Of course, this being LA, they were actually filming something outside.

The first part of the train ride is through the San Fernando Valley with interesting views out the windows.  The scenery is city after city after city with the Verdugo Mountains in the background.  Then the train goes through a pass between these really cool rocky hills to somehow get from the valley on its way to the coast.  There's even an old-fashioned train station in the middle of nowhere that we sped by.

And suddenly we were in Oxnard, then Ventura, and Santa Barbara.  The train followed the coast most of the time.  Our seats?  They were very comfortable and there was tons of leg room.  The chairs had a foot rest and a tray table.  The aisles were wide, although the train was fairly bumpy. There was a snack bar on the observation car.  At some point between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, three of my fellow writers and I went for lunch in the dining car.  The food was pretty good and we continued to enjoy the sights we saw.

One of the most unique areas that the Coast Starlight goes through is Vandenberg Air Force Base.  Most of the base is undeveloped, although the buildings that you do see are the color of camouflage.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take any photos, so the base will remain unseen.  Shortly thereafter, the sun set, so the rest of the train ride was in the dark.  We arrived at Jack London Square in Oakland a half hour late, so the trip took almost twelve hours, many more than the drive would have taken.  On the other hand, we didn't have to drive.  We could sit in our chairs, drink wine and eat, write our stories, and stretch our legs whenever we wanted.

I would definitely take this train route again, but I would go in the summer, when it would be light until late, and I wouldn't miss anything outside my train window.

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is about to day hike the beginning of the Appalachian Trail
Word Count?  41, 708

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Ramp

Yet another rave restaurant review from my travels last week in the Bay Area . . .

My friend and I went to The Ramp, an old style San Francisco restaurant south of the new ballpark, on the waterfront.  The restaurant has been around since the 1950s, but it is being encroached upon by new developments all around.

The food was good, a breakfast burrito and a scramble with vegetables that we shared.  The day was cold but clear and the sun warmed us whenever it wasn't behind a cloud.  And the setting was simply marvelous.  Our table looked out onto the bay and there were sailboats and freighters all around.

If I lived anywhere close, it would be one of my go-to spots, but since I make my home far away from any ocean, I send out my good wishes for this wonderful hangout.  If you're ever in the neighborhood, stop by and enjoy!

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is still visiting his sister
Word Count? 39,497

Monday, November 25, 2013


One of the major ways that the writers who participate in Nanowrimo meet and support each other is at write-ins.  A write-in can be active and social, or very quiet and focussed completely on writing.  Yesterday my niece and I went to a write-in that had both of those aspects.

The setting was beautiful, a library at an institute of higher learning.  About 50 people were there trying to write enough words to catch up, stay even or get ahead of the daily nano average.  (If you are on track, you should be have already written 40,000 words).

Yesterday's write-in had periods of quiet writing competitions called word wars.  At this particular write-in, there were four word wars, each lasting thirty minutes.  Each "war" had prizes for the most words written, least words written and at the end of the write-in a final prize for consistency in word count over the four word wars.

As I am behind in my word count (and so is my niece), we welcomed the chance to spend some time concentrating on our writing.  Although we arrived late, my niece had the distinction of winning all three of the word wars she participated in and gaining the nickname 'scary'.  Both of us wrote lots of words, talked with other nanoers and generally had a good time.

Thanks to the organizers and other participants for an awesome write-in!

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is visiting his sister where she goes to college
Word Count?  38679

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I give up

It's late at night and I want to go to bed.  I have just spent the last forty five minutes struggling to write a post that I wasn't even that happy about, but it was something!

Then two seconds ago, when I was trying to finish it up, it disappeared.  I think that I might know what I did to make it disappear, but I'm not positive.  I do not have the energy or the inclination to write it again, at least not at this moment.

So I'm going to bed, and tomorrow when I wake up, I'll start over and hope that I write something brilliant, amazing, and best yet that doesn't disappear.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Keep the Old

Last weekend in the Bay Area, I had the good fortune to hang out with some friends from long ago.  And last night, here at home, I had dinner with other good friends that I used to work with.  Although in both instances, there had been long gaps since we had last seen each other, our conversations were immediately comfortable.

There's something special about friends that have known you for a long time. I'm not sure I can put it into words.  (Although isn't that supposed to be my job here?)  Old friends, no, let's call them vintage friends, are familiar with who you used to be, at once a past you and the future self that you projected back then.  They know a more complete you.

In any case, we caught up on each other's lives, laughed about all the absurdities of life, and commiserated about our losses.  Spending more hours together solidified relationships that won't go away, no matter how much we neglect them.  Luckily, we can pick them up again when we have the chance and start again to weave the tight web of friendship.  Thank you friends, for letting me back into your lives so easily.  I promise to do the same for you.

Bonus points to anyone who can name the Girl Scout song where I got the title of this post.

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is finally on his road trip, camping on the beach in Northern Florida.
Word Count? 35,089 (still clawing my way back up)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Alice at the White House

Several people have told me that they very much enjoyed hearing stories about my mother-in-law, Alice.  (They've told me this by email or in person. Not everyone wants to comment on a blog, and of those that do, some are having trouble making it work.)

In any case here is another Alice story, told by my brother-in-law at the memorial.

Alice in 1968
My father-in-law was for some time in his career, general counsel to the Department of Commerce under JFK and LBJ, or as I liked to say, he was some high-up muckety-muck in Washington D.C.  I was always very impressed that I knew someone that had been investigated by the FBI and approved by Congress.

Alice was, of course, less impressed.  Perhaps because Robert was to her, a husband and father to her children.  In any case, as an adult, my brother-in-law was curious about these years and asked them about visits to the White House.  They admitted to having been at the White House on at least one occasion and my father-in-law talked about the people that had been there, and some of the topics discussed.

When my brother-in-law turned to Alice, his mother, and asked what she recalled about the night, she replied, "What I remember is that Robert had two servings of dessert!"

That was Alice to a T, her memories not of powerful people or the important setting, but of her family and sweets!

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC is shopping for supplies for his road trip (leave already!)
Word Count?  32,998 (getting back on track)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My first storyboard

One of the assignments from my online class was to try to complete a storyboard for the novel we are working on.  It was an assignment from Week Four, and the class is now on Week Nine.  Procrastinate much?

Yes, because of my traveling, lack of space, lack of posterboard, and excellent dawdling skills, I was unable to try the exercise.  Until yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon, I bought a posterboard from Target.  Who knew they were only 34 cents apiece?  I brought it home and set up a card table in a back room, one of the only clear spaces in my messy house.  I got out the my stickie notes and I got to work.  I tried one version of the storyboard, but it seemed like there was too much action in the beginning.  So I organized it another way, and now there is too much action in the final part of the story.

Then we had our Wednesday evening live chat, which convinced me I need to do a third version of the storyboard today.  One easy fix is to use smaller stickies, they take up less room.  And my story is a complicated one, so I need more colors.  One for each viewpoint in the present and one for each viewpoint in the past.

I'm proud of myself.  I attempted a difficult task and learned something, and now I'll pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again. . .

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC and Dad are poring over maps. . . why doesn't he go on his road trip already?
Word Count?  30821 (falling further behind!)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

La Note

I don't think I have written a restaurant review yet on this blog, but there's always a first time.  On my recent trip to the Bay Area, I went out to eat with a friend.  We went to a sweet storefront in downtown Berkeley housing La Note, a restaurant proven├žal.  My friend always knows the best places to eat, so it was no shock that the food was very good.  What was a surprise was the gorgeous little patio in the back.

We were there for lunch on a warm sunny day, and the outside patio was like a quiet oasis with excellent food.  Our waitress was very sweet and cute, with a thick French accent. She took good care of us.  We had a salad and an omelette with a half a toasted baguette.  Mmm, it was good.

If you live anywhere near Berkeley, check it out!  We need to encourage all small funky eating establishments with excellent cooking and delightful ambiance.

Nano Update?  None, I took the day off yesterday. . .

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bike Path to Nowhere

The new Bay Bridge has a bike path next to it.  Unfortunately, it doesn't go anywhere.  Well, that's not quite true.  It goes partway out into the bay, it just doesn't arrive anywhere.  Not yet anyway.  It stops 2.2 miles short of Yerba Buena Island, an island in the middle of the new (and old) Bay Bridge.

Why?  Because they have to remove the old bridge before they can finish building the bike path next to the new bridge.  Sadly, this won't happen until sometime in 2015 according to the signs.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ride out on the bike path on my recent trip to the Bay Area.  A friend had an extra bike and off we set to ride as far as we could go.  Unfortunately, we started late and we didn't even make it to the end of the trail.  Two police officers on bikes turned us around because the trail closes at dusk.  Still, the evening sky in the east was gorgeous.

I'm not sure what's on Yerba Buena Island, but I look forward to making the bike ride out there in a couple of years.

Nano Update:
Plot?  Main character and his Dad are discussing his upcoming road trip
Word Count?  30,527

Monday, November 18, 2013

Drinking up Memories

Cities are growing organisms.  The stores, restaurants, and even people in any city appear, sometimes get bigger, sometimes shrink and can also disappear.  It makes no sense for a visitor who has been a long time gone to wander the streets trying to see only what you used to know.

Yet it seems to be second nature to look for what you remember.  And so it was that I found myself at an old favorite coffee shop.  It has it all, really. Location:  across the street from the UC Berkeley campus and a block from where I used to live.  Patio:  lots of seating outside, both in the shade and in the sun.  Plus good cocoa, tasty pastries and fast service.

I guess seeking out the familiar can be nostalgic and delicious at the same time.

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC stops at a state forest on the way home to parents
Word Count?  28,810 (still ahead)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's the People!

Words, lots of words, more than 5000 words, in fact.  That's how many words I wrote yesterday on the amazing write-in that was the Great Train Escape from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.

But many of the eleven hours were spent getting to know the other crazy nanowrimo novelists.  And once again, it was the people that made the experience.  They were smart, funny, motivated writers who enjoyed getting out of their solitary head space and talking with other writers.

There were writers of young adult fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, historical fiction, romance, and I can't remember what else.  And what was more exciting, we had an author whose book is set to be launched in March with Scholastic!

We drank 6 bottles of wine, ate almost an entire package of Oreos and connected in meaningful ways.

We even had a fan waving to the train as we passed:

All in all, a great day!

Nano Update:
Plot?  MC goes to visit his parents
Word Count? 27,625

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Great Train Escape

The Great Train Escape in photos. . . words tomorrow.

NANO UPDATE:  I forgot this last night I was so tired, but here it is now!
Plot?  Main Character (MC) has quit his job and is going to visit his parents for a SHORT time
Word Count?  26,340 (Woo-hoo!  Back on track!  Thank you 11 hour train ride!)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Open Letter to the TSA

The recent killing of a TSA agent was a horrendous act.  Violence is never a solution, and I send out my condolences to Gerardo Hernandez' family. Neither he nor any other TSA agent deserves any harm for any reason.

However, I think that the policies of the TSA do no favors for their agents. Sensible thinking people can become perplexed by what they see happening at airports.  Normally patient passengers can rain down anger and frustration on TSA agents for situations that are not the agents' faults.

Yesterday morning I was at the airport and there were long lines.  Noticing the long lines, someone at the TSA decided to open up another line to try to get people through security.  Great decision!  Unfortunately, they decided to open up an expedited line for new passengers just arriving at the airport.  In the new line, there were two TSA agents checking IDs and boarding passes and two baggage x-ray machines in service.  Meanwhile, the old line with about 200 people in it, lost a TSA agent checking passes and IDs, then one of the x-ray machines stopped scanning due to lack of personnel.  These actions gave the "old line" half the agents and four to five times the passengers as the "new line".

This might not have been a problem, except that the two lines were next to each other.  Many travelers in my line (the old, slow one) who had already been waiting 20-30 minutes watched those next to them zoom through security.  People started to get upset and tried to figure out what was going on.

The TSA agent who was asked "Is that a special program?  How could we get in that line?" in a polite tone, replied "You'll have to ask the manager for its official name."  Then she promptly disappeared.  Perhaps she had heard the resentment behind the courteous question.

One TSA agent even said to another one, "I thought this was supposed to make it go faster."  Then he added, "Can't we send some of them down there?"  Sensible.  I never heard the answer, but needless to say no one from our line was sent down to the zooming line.  In fact, our line seemed to have come to a complete stop.

Kudos to the TSA agent who attempted to explain the logic behind the two very different lines, saying that the other line was a Pre-Check line, randomly assigning passengers to a faster line (the new line) and a slower line (my line).  He earnestly added that the other line was only faster because they had more agents conducting the security checks.  Thankfully, before open revolt occurred, a second TSA agent began checking ids and someone came to man the x-ray machine and the "old line" started moving faster, and we all became patient peaceful passengers again.

Final note:  I know that all employees deserve and need breaks. Nevertheless, TSA agents might want to take their breaks behind the scenes instead of standing with two co-workers also on break, watching a line full of passengers slowly boil over.

Nano Update:
Plot?  Main character is on a shift at the coffee shop
Word Count?  21,007
(I'll work on catching up on my eleven hour train ride with no wi-fi!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Road Trip Music

For the past three Novembers, I have created unique playlists on iTunes to listen to while I am furiously writing my nano novel.  The 2011 playlist consisted of a few of my favorite love songs, as I was writing a semi-serious take on the cliches of romance novels.  There were only 11 songs and it ran a total of 42 minutes.  I listened to those songs a lot.

Last year I was writing an update of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, with two main characters falling in love while arguing.  So I put together a pretty good playlist of conversation songs, duets, any songs I could find with two people talking to one another.  There were 58 songs, with a respectable length of 3 hours and 29 minutes.

A big chunk of this year's novel will consist of a road trip across the United States (if the main character ever gets off his heinie).  Therefore, I am searching for driving songs.  So far I have 45 songs, for a running time of 2 hours and 3 minutes.  The songs range from Woody Guthrie's Riding in my Car all the way to Cars by Gary Numan.  But the song that makes me laugh the most every time it comes up on the playlist is this one:

Bonus Points if you know what song they are spoofing!

I'd like to have more songs in this year's playlist than last year's, so I'm still looking.  What are your favorite songs about cars, driving and road trips?

Nano Update?
Exactly the same as yesterday as I have been super busy getting ready to fly to LA to take a train to SF. Good thing I'll have eleven (11!) hours on the train to catch up. . .

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sitcom Room Roundup

I recently realized that I haven't yet written a review about my sitcom room experience.  So here it is:

Two weeks later and I'm still thinking:  What a blast!  I learned a lot about comedy, sitcoms, and what too many Red Vines feel like in your stomach. But what really made the whole weekend a superior adventure was the people.

Ken and Dan, who ran the sitcom workshop were really nice guys and they helped us get as close to a real sitcom writing experience without smuggling us into an actual writing room.  Bad Chinese food, a very late night, and plenty of laughs.

The actors managed to bring our words to life whether the jokes got laughs or bombed.  They got scripts with little lead time and were able to successfully portray four different scenes. The panelists told wonderful stories while answering our questions.

But the best element of the entire weekend was the other participants.  They were fantastic!  Honestly, I don't have enough superlatives to describe the people I met.  Smart, charming, flexible, funny, open, engaging.  I want to use up all the exclamation points I've been saving in a futile attempt to communicate their awesomeness.

They were from all over the country and the world, some professional writers and some not.  But we were all there because we were interested in writing, being funny, and learning how to work collectively to do both those things.

I can't wait to see what the amazing individuals in Sitcom Room #7 achieve in the creative world.  I am suddenly interested in German sitcoms, Norwegian soap operas, and a yet to be produced horror film.  And those are just the projects I've heard about.  I'm sure there are many more I don't know about yet.

I know that my writing will be funnier because I was there.

All in all, a great way to spend 48 hours.

Nano Update:
Plot?  Main character is at work contemplating what to do with his life
Word Count?  20,211

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Falling Down the Stairs

This morning I was all ready to do some errands, then go in to work to put in a good six hours on my writing.  Parking is free on Veteran's Day, so I could even drive.

However, my klutziness (toes broken by non-moving furniture, anyone?) had a different idea.  Somehow I slipped on our carpeted stairs, hitting five or six steps, and dropping everything in my hands before coming to a stop.  Initial soreness included my tailbone area, my right shoulder and elbow, my left heel, elbow and hand.

After a number of hours the pain has resolved itself to extreme pain in the tailbone whenever I move, some sort of groin pull and soreness in the middle of my back on the left side.  Plus my right shoulder is starting to ache again.

Usually I fall up the stairs with a small stumble.  Falling down the stairs is a different story.  And not the story I was planning on writing today!

Nano Update, Day 12:
Plot?  Main character is still hanging at his co-worker's place
Word Count?  18,514

Monday, November 11, 2013

Double Water Polo Whammy

Yesterday I went to two different water polo practices.  In the morning from 10 to 12, I worked out with the local master's team.  We scrimmaged for over an hour, and by the end of it I was quite tired.

I came home, puttered around, wrote my nano minimum, ate an amazing salmon dinner prepared by my honey and then at 7:15 I went to the club team practice at a nearby university.  I only lasted an hour before I had to abandon the practice to come home, exhausted.

There was no energy left to write my blog and it was all water polo's fault. But I thought you all might like to see an amazing foot to hand to goal shot from the last Olympics.  So here it is.  Enjoy!

Nano Update, Day 10:
Plot?  Main character's coworker offers him a couch to crash on
Word Count? 17,900

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Premise statement

This week's assignment in my online writing class is to write a premise statement.  As I understand it, a premise statement is a description of your book in twenty words or less.

I would love to have a classy premise statement.  That would mean a good answer for the question I get most often, i.e., "What's your book about?"

But I am struggling mightily with this assignment.  Part of it is wordsmithing. How exactly do I describe the trapped life my heroine is living?  Horrific? Bad?  Or is the word trapped descriptive enough?

Another part of my difficulty is how to keep the sentence shorter than twenty words.  Up until now, my premise was very short:

A gangster love story set in Prohibition LA.

But those eight words don't give you any notion of main character, secondary characters, plot, inner journey, etc.  So I need more, yet less than everything I might throw in.

Apparently writing a premise statement can help you come up with a title for your book, too.  Which, would be great, because right now it's going by the placeholder title of Great American Novel, Take Two.  Not a sexy title and the cover of the book does not yet scream "Buy me!"

Ironically enough, I have easily written a premise statement for my 2013 nano novel:

First fired, then dumped, a young man takes a road trip across the United States and finds out what's important in life.  (OK, it's more than twenty words, but not much more!)

Nano Update, Day 9:
Plot?  Main character has just been dumped by his girlfriend
Word Count? 16,056

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Driving through Korea

For the last forty years, every time I find myself near the Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California, my brain subconsciously thinks, "Huh, those mountains remind me of Korea."

It takes between three and five seconds for me to realize the ridiculousness behind my thought.  Because I have absolutely no idea what the mountains in Korea look like.  Are there even mountains in Korea?  I don't know.

I do know, however, what the hills outside of the fictional M*A*S*H 4077th looked like.  And surprise, surprise, the exteriors for that television show supposedly taking place in Korea were filmed in these same Santa Monica Mountains.

Sometimes, when the sky is very blue and the clouds are puffy and just so, I start to hear the theme song for the Simpsons playing in my mind.

The repetition of images can have powerful effects on our minds.  But how absurd that when we see the real, we are reminded of the fake.

Nano Update, Day 8:
Plot?  Main character is hung over after night at the bar
Word Count? 14,369

Friday, November 8, 2013


The Minnesota Book Awards rejected my application to be a judge.  They were polite about it, saying I was a "qualified applicant . . . [they] were unable to place in a judge position."  They hope that I will consider applying to become a judge next year, and they dangled the possibility that they might be in touch if "an assigned judge is unable to fulfill his/her assignment".  Nice, but I won't be holding my breath.

When I told my honey, I called it "my first official literary rejection."  Always precise, he reminded me that it was actually my second literary rejection. Thanks, dear.  I needed that reminder.

I had successfully repressed the memory of my actual first official literary rejection.

It must have been the fall of 2008.  A local writing center was offering a class for writers wanting to learn how to revise their novel.  A writing sample was required to be admitted.  I chose to submit the first pages of my very first novel written the previous November.

Being a procrastinator, I did no revision on the writing sample, I just turned it in on the last day and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately, I was not admitted to the class.

But I ignored that rejection and kept on writing.  Now here we are in 2013 and I am enrolled in a seemingly similar class from the very same writing center. No writing sample necessary.  I am enjoying the class very much, learning an incredible amount about myself, my novel and writing in general.

So maybe the best did happen way back in 2008.  I've grown more confident, written a lot more novels, and am happy taking on the new challenge.

I know as a writer I need to be good at accepting rejection.  So, thank you, Minnesota Book Awards, for helping me practice this important skill.

Nano Update, Day 7:
Plot?  Main character and girlfriend are going out dancing
Word Count? 12678

Thursday, November 7, 2013

First Snow

In fewer than two days I went from sunny Southern California weather to the first snow of winter.  The cold white stuff didn't even stay as long as a day except for really shady corners.  But it looked beautiful while it lasted.

Even though it's gone now, it's the sign of things to come.  I can pack away all my shorts and get out all my sweaters.  Growing up in Los Angeles, I never understood having a summer or winter wardrobe.  Now I get it.  Out come the smartwool socks and away go my short white athletic socks.

It's a good thing I love winter, 'cause it's coming and there's nothing I can do about it.

Nano Update, Day 6:
Plot?  Main character's girlfriend nagging him about lack of "real" job
Word Count? 10414 (back on track, plus more!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ranked Voting

Today was Election Day in my neck of the woods.  And for the first time ever, we used ranked voting in the mayoral and city council races.  Ranked voting is also known as instant runoff voting.

Around here, the city council election is the current hot ballot.  There are seven candidates and voters can rank their top six.  It's made for an interesting election season.  There's been very little negative campaigning, and even if you have a yard sign for one candidate, you'll still get visits from the other people running, as they want to be your second or third choice or maybe even your sixth choice.

The counting of the ballots might be interesting.  If one candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, it'll be easy.  They win.  However, it could get complicated with up to three or four rounds of vote reallocation.  The city has given themselves up to two weeks to work it all out.

I'm hoping that they'll spell it all out for us, with "circles and arrows and a paragraph" for each round, explaining it all in detail for the voters.

And if the experiment works and the positive quality of the campaigns sticks around, I'd like to see ranked voting expand to the state and national races. Wouldn't that be nice?

Nano Update, Day 5:
Plot?  Main character finishing off his first day of work. . . must have been a long day!
Word Count? 7843

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I got home from my amazing LA trip last night.  And today I'm recovering.  I should be unpacking, doing my laundry, paying some bills, generally cleaning up the house and getting back to a normal schedule.

However, what I will actually be doing is sleeping late, reading, writing, watching television, and accomplishing none of the above tasks.  I don't know why, but my first day home is always pretty useless for getting anything important done.

I might have gotten some of my laziness out of my system last night.  I caught up on a few tv shows I missed, worked on my nano novel, ate leftover Halloween candy, and mostly sat on the very comfy couch.  Par for the course.

I don't know.  We'll see what happens.  Certainly I have a long to-do list. Maybe a miracle will happen and I will wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

But probably not.

Nano Update, Day 4:
Plot?  Main character is at his first day of work at the coffee shop
Word Count? 5852

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dads Taping

As a final ending to our sitcom room experience, one of my team decided it would be interesting and fun to attend a sitcom taping.  We went to see Dads, chosen because tickets for it were still available the day before the show.  That's a bad sign.  Another bad sign?  Dads had bad reviews and ratings.  On a positive note, Dads had just been picked up for its back nine, meaning they had been given the green light to finish out their first season.

According to Ken Levine, guru of the sitcom room experience, Fox ordered more shows despite the ratings and reviews because they wanted to have a toehold in the multi-camera world.  Multi-camera shows are the ones taped in front of a live studio audience, with real people laughing.  (Although my Mom says it still sounds fake.)

Interesting? Yes.  Fun?  Well, it was interesting.

First off, you're supposed to get to the parking garage near the studio at least an hour and a half before the show starts taping.  You hand in your ticket, get a different ticket and are bussed over to the actual studio.  You are not allowed to take cameras, phones, or any other electronics in with you.  Then the security guards wand you and search any bags.  After that they walk you through various sound stage areas until you get to a spot where they make you wait in line for 20-30 minutes.

Finally, you get to go into the studio.  You are advised to go to the bathroom on your way in, because you are told you will not get a chance to go again for a long time.  (Earlier, someone had mentioned that taping can last until 9ish, so that's a good four hours with no bathroom break.)  Luckily, that is not totally true, it's just that everyone needs to be escorted to the bathroom so we don't wander onto the stage, so I think they discourage bathroom breaks as a general policy.

The studio is where you meet the warm-up comedian, whose job it is to keep the audience happy and laughing.  It seems like a very difficult job.  Alan, our comedian, was working hard.  For the Europeans I was with, his trying to get us to yell and scream and wave our hands for his prizes, seemed very "American".  I still haven't worked out whether I should be insulted by that or not.

Then they show you a previous episode to let you know what the show is about (because with those ratings, it's pretty clear none of us have seen it). It wasn't the pilot, though, which presumably would have explained the premise better than a later episode.  They may not have shown the pilot because it got really bad reviews for being racist and sexist.  On the other hand, maybe this later episode was funnier than the pilot.

At long last, the cast is introduced!  And it's a good cast.  Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Riegert and Martin Mull.  In the past all of these actors have proved how funny they can be.  And they work hard to make the audience laugh.  There are some funny lines and Martin Mull has a great one about the guest star.  The warm-up comedian is trying his best and the people in front of me laugh at every take, very genuinely.

But it was a long night and the only food offered is a brownie and water, and it was hard to laugh the third time you heard something that was only half funny to begin with.  And the episode resolved itself with a fart joke.  Funny, yes, clever, no.  Ken Levine would say that much of the humor was not based in reality.  Who doesn't fart in front of their husband for fourteen years of marriage?  Not anybody I know.

And that's the play-by-play of my first sitcom taping.

Nano Update, Day 3:
Plot?  Main character is remembering when he first got together with his girlfriend
Word Count? 3778

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Missing my honey

I don't usually write about any trips I take until I am home, as I don't want the bad guys to know that my dust bunny collection is alone and unprotected. But for this trip to LA, I left my honey at home to keep everything safe.  We will be apart for thirteen days.  I know I wrote somewhere that our previous record time apart was eleven days.  (So, if you do the math, this trip is two days longer than that one!)

Before I left, I told him that I would miss him a lot.  He replied, "Yeah, you'll be so busy, you'll barely have time to miss me."

We were both right.  I miss him terribly and wish he were here on this awesome vacation I'm having.  On the other hand, I have been incredibly busy here, and the days are flying by.  I can't quite believe that I will be back home in less than 48 hours.

Just some of the things that I have been doing that have kept my head spinning: swimming, going out to eat (dinner four times, breakfast twice), riding my borrowed bike, seeing friends, cooking salads, standing in a very slow line at the post office, walking and/or jogging every morning, going to a weekend writing seminar, watching a sitcom get taped, putting down new paper in some old kitchen drawers, hiking, getting a little lost while hiking, taking a car to get it washed, driving up the coast an hour and a half, handing out candy to Halloween munchkins. . .

You can see why my honey thought I would be too busy to miss him.  Nevertheless, I am going to be really happy to get a big hug tomorrow night!

Nano Update, Day 2:
Plot?  The main character had a surreal interview at a coffee shop.  Best question:  "What's your take on flavored shots?  For or against?"
Word Count? 3540

Saturday, November 2, 2013


Yesterday I had the wonderful experience of wandering around a tide pool at low tide.  I haven't done that in ages and it reminded me how much I miss the ocean.  Normally on my trips to LA I take walks along the shore with my feet in the water and I take a swim if the water is warm enough.  But this was different.  I was further north along the coast, where the shore is narrow and rocky.

This time I got to see starfish, sea anemones, a hermit crab, various birds, and what was probably a sea lion (it was too far away to see whether it had external ears or not).  If you look closely at the photo above, the orange starfish is eating a mussel very slowly.

We were a bit mean and bothered this sea anemone enough to make it close up to protect itself.

I love the shell camouflage!

We wandered around the pools, trying hard not to step on any living thing, and after we had our fill, we swam in the ocean.  It was cold, but we had a good time, catching a few waves while we adjusted to the water temperature. Probably the last swim of the season, but very fun!

Changing the subject, throughout the month of November, I will be ending my blog posts with two tidbits of information from my new novel.  I'll give you all a plot point and the previous day's word count.  Although I need to write at least 1667 words per day on average in order to "win" nano, I am aiming for 3,000 words per day so that I finish with a 90,000 word novel, more a normal length.  There are many days that I won't make it.

Nano Update, Day 1:
Plot?  The main character has just lost his job.
Word Count? 1697

Friday, November 1, 2013


Warning:  I'm very excited, so this post is going to require many exclamation points!  It's the first day of November and that means the beginning of nanowrimo!  Today and every day for the month of November I will be trying to write at least 1667 words of my new novel.  Wow!

Although I started writing as an adult in 2003, it wasn't until 2007 that I participated in the craziness that is nanowrimo.  (That was my last year-long leave, for those of you keeping track.)  My novel that year wasn't that great, but the fact that I completed a 50,000 word novel made me feel like I really was a writer.

I have participated every year since 2007 and have only failed to finish once. (Mysteries are hard to write!)  The novel I am trying to revise for rejection is the novel I wrote in 2008 and the only attempt that I have let anyone read.

There is a large community out there for nanowrimo, creating a ton of support and encouragement for all us wannabe writers.  For me, it is wonderful!

However, in the spirit of being fair, there are those that are not fans.  In this post, the author feels that the world doesn't need any more bad novels. Apparently, editors and agents are already regretting the onslaught of bad writing they will have to wade through.  The author thinks that we should focus on reading rather than the selfish act of writing.  While I agree we should all read more, I must respectfully disagree with her idea that nanowrimo is not a good thing.

My novel this year is unique in that I don't really have a plot, but I do have a title!  I've never had a title before I even started writing!  And because I have the time this year, I am taking the opportunity to attend the Night of Writing Dangerously, a nano fundraising event in San Francisco.  

In order to attend the fundraising event, I had to set up a fundraising page.  I set it up like Kickstarter, so people can influence my 2013 novel depending on how much they donate.  I'll be sending out the link to my family and friends, but if you have any interest in seeing it, click here.

If you do go to the page, there may be a large box imploring me to upload videos or photos.  Please ignore it.  At the moment I'm not sure how to make the page look exactly like I want it to, but I'm working on it!  Of course, fixing the page will have to get in line behind the task of actually writing the novel.

Wish me luck!