Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Through the muck and the mire...

So first off, apologies for the down time between posts.  Between Christmas, work and the fact that I've had a terribly bad, weird face headache thing for the past several days that has had me all hopped up on meds and unable to sleep most nights, blogging has been one of the last things on my mind.  But it's almost New Years and then I mean to buckle back down on my somewhat neglected writing and get to work.

So "The Plan" has me finishing my editing of Runaway Train by the end of January but it is very difficult going right now.  I don't really know how to edit and it is much too short so I'm still trying to figure out what to add.  Some of it I have figured out but I'm fighting every step of the way not to get drawn into a shiny new project that would be much more fun than the muck and mire of editing this novel.

But on a slightly brighter note, I found a novel I want to adapt into a screenplay.  I've been hunting for sometime for a novel in the public domain that I could write a screenplay from, and I finally found it.  The book (*shakes a bit with fear at the thought that someone might steal her idea*) is "Rilla of Ingleside", the last of the Anne of Green Gables books.  It follows Rilla Blythe, Anne's youngest teenaged daughter, through life on the home front of World War I Canada.  It was always my favorite of the Anne books and I think it would make a fabulous movie.  I don't know where adapting that will fit into my writing schedule, but we'll see.

Well, I'm off to heat up some leftover green bean casserole for lunch, so fare you well.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Yes, I realize that it's not actually Christmas yet, but this will likely be my last blog entry until after Christmas, so I thought I'd wish you all a very merry Christmas.

This last week has been hectic but with one day to spare (Aaron and I are going down to visit my family tomorrow) my Christmas shopping is done, so I just have to finish wrapping everything today and make some Christmas cookies and then I'll be ready to go!!!!

So amid all of the crazy shopping and what not, I hope you all have time to sit down and spend some time enjoying the season with friends and family and remembering that it's not about the presents or what not, but about spending another year with your family and friends and relaxing.

And a very merry Christmas to you all!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Beginning the Editing Process

So first off, I apoligize for the delay in posting.  I have been quite busy lately with work and various Christmas activities.

I really began to get into the editing process for Runaway Train tonight.  I wanted to start last week but I didn't really know where to begin so I went to Barnes and Noble and flipped through a few books on editing to get a feel for what I needed to work on, and then kind of played around with a few different things to get a feel for what I liked.  One book said that writing initially is about the plot, about what is actually happening in the story, and editing is about the subtext, about bringing out the unspoken ideas that are the undercurrent of the novel.  So I've been delving into my character's motivations, what they really want and how what one of them wants, colides with what the other wants.  It's been a little bit difficult for me since it is a post-apocalyptic novel so for all practical purposes, there are only two characters and no real antagonist.  But I've come to realize that each of the characters is the antagonist for the other, since they both ultimatly want the same thing, but the way one of them gets there clashes with the way the other one does.

So after trying a few things to figure out where I need to add to my story, I finally wrote out a sort of outline for the subplot of my novel, which is a romance story, about the path that each character takes to figure out that he or she is in love.  In a nutshell, the female main character, Katy Jo, has to find herself before she can fall in love with Joshua, the male main character.  She has to find out what she wants in a man, and adjust her ideas of what a perfect man really is.  Joshua, on the other hand, knows he is in love with Katy Jo almost right off the bat but the more he tries to become the man she wants, the farther he gets from being himself.

So now that I've mapped out the subplot, I'm going to integrate that into my originally outline and figure out which main plot scenes can support subplot themes as well.  Once that is done, I'll go back through my novel and rewrite/add scenes as necessary to incorporate all of the different areas.  Hopefully that will all be done by the end of January although I'm starting to think that might have been a bit ambitious.  But we'll see.

Also, thank you all for reading my Christmas story.  The first few copies went out to my family today, so we'll see how they like it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas at the Holiday Inn

So I am going to preface this by saying that, although I have been writing my entire life, I have always had a somewhat irrational fear of sharing my writing with anyone.  To me, my stories just never seem complete.  They always seem like they could use one more read-through or one more editing session before I expose them to possibly judgemental eyes.  But as my goal is to be a published writer, I am trying to get over this for obvious reasons.  So rather nervously, here is my Christmas short story, "Christmas at the Holiday Inn."  I'd love to hear if you liked or disliked it and why.


My ancestors are made up of both Aztec warriors and Spanish conquistadors. They were fighters, never giving back what they did not have to. I was raised to be proud in my heritage, to hold my head high and never forget what it meant to be Mexican. Christmas for my family was about gathering with the community and eating enormous amounts of food. My mother would work for days in the kitchen making every dish imaginable. We would put up our nativity set every year and count the days until the baby Jesus would arrive on Christmas Day. But the celebrating did not stop there. The festivities continued until January 6 for La Dia de los Reyes when the kings would come and bring us gifts. We would put our shoes at the end of the bed and try to stay awake long enough to see the three kings come in and give us our presents. But we would always fall asleep and in the morning, there would be little gifts in our shoes.
I’m not going to brag here, but I was a very popular girl in my town, among the boys at least. But all my life, I only had eyes for one boy. His name was Juan Gonzalez and he was the son of my mother’s best friend. We had played together since we were babies and finally one day in high school, he asked me out. Now I have learned that in America, it is not the tradition for girls to marry when they graduate high school, but in my village that is what people did, so Juan and I were married the summer after graduation. We had our own little house next door to my parents and our Christmases were happy and filled with family. We had a daughter named Beatriz the year after we were married and she was the light of our life.
But things weren’t always easy for us. For many hundreds of years, the people of our village made our living by farming the hills and fields outside of town. As the town got bigger, and the economy plummeted, we had to farm more and more area. But then the government came and said that the forest that we were burning down to make room for our crops was the habitat for a bird that was endangered. They told us that we couldn’t cut it down anymore, that it was protected now. We tried to make do with what we had, but many people had to leave the town and go to other places. We loved Mexico and being Mexican was always our heritage but we began to dream of going to America where we had heard that there were jobs and places to live.
In the spring our son, Javier, was born, and soon after, we found out that my uncle, who had gone to America many years earlier, wanted us to come live with him. He was going to be able to sponsor us so that we could go to America and get a job. Juan and I had a very difficult decision to make. We wanted our children to have the opportunities that they could get in America, but that would mean leaving our culture and our family behind. The children were so small, and we were worried that they would forget how to speak Spanish and would never remember who they really were. We spent many nights trying to decide what to do, but finally we told my uncle we would come to America to live with him. We would have to teach our children about their real home in Mexico, and perhaps, someday, we could return.


My father was in banking and he did well in that, so my younger sister and I grew up with all the latest gadgets. Christmas was about keeping up with the Joneses. We would have the biggest Christmas tree on the block and the best Christmas lights and the best Christmas dinner. That was how my father wanted it, and my mother went along as best she could, being the model housewife. But I don’t think she was always very happy with this. She had come from a small town and Christmas for her was about helping out the less fortunate and being grateful for what you had. Every year she would help out at a soup kitchen around the holidays, handing out warm meals to people who had nowhere else to go. She never took us along with her, although I never really questioned why until recently. When I finally did ask her about it, she gave me some excuses about us being too small or it not being appropriate but they sounded more like things my father would have said, so I think he didn’t want us to go. He died of lung cancer last year, after years of smoking, and I think she wanted to respect his memory by not telling me why we never joined her. But knowing my dad, I suspect he didn’t think that it would look good to have his children at the soup kitchen. I have often thought that it was a very nice tradition on my mother’s part, but I have always been too busy around Christmas to make the time, which I regret when I think about it.
I admit I was somewhat of a spoiled brat as a child, especially around Christmas. For me it was all about bragging rights at school and what I was going to get that year. Even when I grew up, I didn’t see the holiday as much more, until I heard my children talking about it in the same way I had, and then I realized how ugly that sounded.
But perhaps I should tell you about myself. I am in banking now, just like my father. I met my husband at school when we were both seniors and now he is in upper management at a law firm. We live in New York City and have two children, Stephanie and Kayla, who are teenagers, as much as we wish they weren’t. Christmas at our house is, unfortunately, a chore for Ryan and I as we try to get the house decorated and cookies and gifts sent to all the right people amid the demands of a sixty-hour work week. For the kids it’s more about what they are going to get each year, and the long lists of requests to Santa that are posted on the refrigerator. My sister and her family live on the west coast and they haven’t done so well for themselves financially as we have. For a long time, I was proud that we had outdone them, but recently I have realized that they may well be richer than us in other ways. They have a very close family and they haven’t lost so much of that family atmosphere that we have. So this year, I told my husband that I thought we should go over there for a visit since we had finally gotten to the point in our careers that we could afford to take a vacation. I made up some excuse about not wanting to be in the snow for Christmas but really I was hoping that my sister’s family would rub off on ours.


My tour was due to be up in the middle of December so I could be home in plenty of time for Christmas. I put in to take two weeks of leave beginning immediately after I got home so I could meet my son for the first time and spend some time getting to know him. But due to military complications, they delayed my return at the last minute, something both I and my wife had come to expect after being a military couple for almost three years. Finally, on December 21, I packed up my things and got on a helicopter that would take me home. I knew that anything could happen, but I was optimistic that I would be able to make it home in time for Christmas. The helicopter took me to the airplane, which flew me to Germany and then I boarded a civilian flight to New York. I was scheduled to land in Seattle in the evening on December 23 where my wife would be waiting to pick me up and then we would head down to our house at Fort Lewis, about an hour south. But when I landed in New York early in the morning of the 23rd, with an eight-hour layover ahead of me, I turned on my phone and saw that I had a voicemail from Melanie. She asked that I call her, and I had been on the phone with her enough to know that she sounded upset. So even though it was the middle of the night in Washington, I dialed the number, hoping everything was all right.
“It’s snowing in Seattle,” she said, sounding worried.
“Don’t worry about it,” I reassured her, “It’ll be fine. The flight hasn’t been delayed yet, so if they are still landing then we’ll be good.”
“But there is already almost six inches of snow and they are saying that there is supposed to be a foot by this afternoon. You know how bad the tires on the car are, Eric. What if I can’t come get you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” I said again, “If it’s still snowy when I land, I’ll just catch a bus or a taxi or something down there. I don’t want you driving in the snow with the baby. So I’ll just plan on seeing you when i get down there.”
“I wanted to meet you at the airport. I’ve been so looking forward to it.”
“I know, baby. But this is for the best. It can’t be helped. You just work on getting the house ready for Christmas and I’ll be home to you both before you know it.” I could hear my son start crying in the background.
“Honey, Georgie is crying, I have to go. Be careful and call me when you land in Seattle, ok? And I’ll see you soon. I love you.”
“I love you too.” I was not worried about the snow. Seattle rarely got any snow, let alone enough to actually disrupt things.
I spent my layover napping in the terminal area, head propped up on my bag and hat pulled over my eyes. When I woke up, it was getting dark outside, and my flight was still an hour away. I got up and stretched and decided to find something to eat. I headed to a McDonalds, looking forward to enjoying some greasy, cheap American fast food. I ordered more food than I could probably have eaten in a week and sat down at a table. Just then I saw a middle-aged man and woman heading towards me, bags in tow. They looked like they had something to say. The man came up to me first and I saw tears in his eyes.
“Son, I just wanted to say thank you for your service. I know it can’t be easy to be away from your family any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. I know there is a lot of bad press about you guys; they only seem to notice when someone does something wrong, not all the good stuff you’re doing over there, but I want you to know that we all appreciate it very much.” He held his hand out and I shook it, thanking him, and the woman looked at me with such a look of appreciation that I was embarrassed, so I thanked them and they went on their way.
My flight came on time and I settled in for another evening of flying, anxious to get home to my family. As we approached Seattle, the pilot got on the intercom and announced that there was a lot of snow in Seattle and while the runways had been cleared for planes landing, most flights out of Seattle were being canceled. I heard a lot of groans around me as people realized they were going to be spending the night in Seattle instead of on a plane to somewhere else. But I still wasn’t worried. Surely there would be a bus or a train or a taxi that would be able to take me down to Fort Lewis.
But once we had landed, I collected my bag and then called Melanie.
“Honey, they’ve closed most of I-5,” was the first thing she said, and I knew that this wasn’t an ordinary snow storm. “I’ve been trying to get you a bus ticket or find a taxi that would go get you but I can’t.”
For the first time, I started to think that maybe I wouldn’t be able to be home by that night.
“Honey, I would love to see you,” she continued, “but I don’t think that it’s going to happen tonight. There is over a foot of snow outside. Tomorrow is supposed to be better, though, so maybe you should just get a hotel tonight and then come down tomorrow.”
I could hear tears in her voice and I could tell that it was breaking her heart to say it.
“There’s got to be someone that is going down there,” I choked, disappointment welling up in my throat.
“I don’t think so, baby. It’s only one more day. We’ve waited so long for this; we can wait one more day.”
But I wasn’t ready to give up yet. After I got off the phone with her, I got on the computer at the airport and looked for anything that could get me to Fort Lewis, or even to Tacoma. Nothing. Then I called every travel agency in the phone book and asked them for ideas. I even pulled my military-service-member-sympathy card, which I usually avoid using, AND the baby-I’ve-never-met sympathy card but nothing worked. Everyone was very sorry but there was nothing they could do. Finally I got a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie and wrote “Service member home on leave. Desperately trying to get to Tacoma. Can you give me a ride?” and stood in the terminal with sad puppy eyes. I had several people approach me and say that they were trying to get to Tacoma too but that they were going to have to stay the night in a hotel.
Finally, after hours of exhausted work, I sunk down in a seat at the terminal, defeated.


We kissed our family goodbye that morning and prayed to God that we would see them again someday. We were going on our Big Adventure to the States. We had two small suitcases and our visas. I was holding the baby, who I hoped would sleep on the plane, and Juan was carrying Beatriz, who was excited to go on the big airplane. We took deep breaths, looked at each other for support, knowing that our family and our Mexico would have to be with us wherever we were, and walked into the airport. The baby fell asleep just before boarding, and before we knew it, we were high in the sky. Beatriz spent the first part of the flight playing with the window shades, and I spent the next part of the flight trying to keep her from hitting all the buttons and apologizing to the stewardess every time she had to come over because Beatriz had called her. Finally the excitement wore off and she fell asleep on Juan’s lap. As we got close to Seattle, the captain said something over the loudspeaker in English which I didn’t really understand. I speak a little English, and Juan doesn’t speak any. When the stewardess walked by again, I asked her if she spoke Spanish and when she nodded, I asked her what the captain had said. She said that there was snow in Seattle, and if we were trying to go somewhere else, we might be stuck there for a couple of days. I was worried about this a little since we were supposed to get on a bus to Spokane, and we didn’t have much money to stay anywhere else or get a hotel room. I just hoped that the snow would not stop the buses from running.
When we landed, we checked with the people running the buses and they said that the bus might go to Spokane the next day but it wasn’t running that night like it was supposed to. We were going to have to spend at least one night in Seattle. We called my uncle to tell him that we weren’t going to be there in the morning and then counted out the money we had. Once we had bought all four of our bus tickets, we were only going to have enough for food and then a little left over for any emergencies. I called some hotels and with my broken English tried to ask how much their rooms were, but they were all much more than we could afford. We decided that we would have to sleep in the airport. I found some chairs that no one was using and took some blankets and sweatshirts from our luggage and made a little bed for Beatriz. Juan and I didn’t think we would get much sleep that night anyway, so we decided we could just take turns holding Javier. I was excited that we had made it to America, but I was also worried that we wouldn’t be able to get to Spokane. I got us some food and we all ate a little and then I had Beatriz lie down and try to get some sleep.


Of course, as luck would have it, we would leave snowy New York and land in Seattle to a foot of snow and more falling. Wasn’t rain supposed to be Seattle’s problem? I called my sister in Centralia and found out that there was no way she was going to be able to come pick us up; we were going to have to get a hotel. My girls were too busy texting on their phones and listening to their iPods to care, so I called up a Holiday Inn near the airport and told them I wanted to get a room. They responded by telling me they were all booked at that location, but their location near downtown Seattle had some rooms. I told them I would call them back if I couldn’t find another place nearer the airport, which I did as soon as I found out that all the places were full. They told me that they would send a shuttle which would be there in an hour and a half.
We went to Anthony’s restaurant and had a lovely dinner of seafood and then headed out to baggage claim to wait for our shuttle. While we were there, I noticed an airport security guard talking to a young Hispanic man and woman with two small children. He was trying to explain to them that they couldn’t sleep there, which was apparently what they were trying to do with blankets and sweatshirts spread out over their chairs. The woman clearly didn’t speak much English and everyone was getting frustrated. I speak a little Spanish so I thought maybe I could help out. I told Ryan I’d be right back and I headed over there.
“Excuse me,” I said to the security guard. “I couldn’t help overhearing what was going on here. I speak a little Spanish so maybe I could help you out.”
I turned to the woman and introduced myself in Spanish and told her that the security guard said she couldn’t sleep here with her family. They would have to go somewhere else. She told me that they were trying to get back to Spokane but that the buses weren’t running and that they didn’t have any money for a hotel room. She looked exhausted and I could see she had a little girl who also looked tired and a baby as well. I couldn’t imagine traveling with two young children and having to spend the night in an airport.
I told the security guard what she had said, and asked him if she could just stay one night. They weren’t in anyone’s way, and I told him that they didn’t have any money to get a hotel so he would just be putting them out on the street in the middle of a snow storm. He was sympathetic, but he shook his head and said that they couldn’t stay there, that the only place in the airport that they could stay in was near the terminals past security, but they didn’t have a ticket and couldn’t go over there. They would just have to find somewhere else to go. I couldn’t believe that they would really put this poor little homeless family out on the streets so I demanded to speak to his boss and then told the woman, who told me her name was Maria, that I was going to try to help her. She seemed grateful, although on the brink of tears.
When the security guard’s boss came, he told me the same thing, that they were sorry but they couldn’t stay. I did what my father would have done, and called him some names that probably should have gotten me thrown out of the airport myself, and then I did what my mother would have done, and told Maria that I was going to get a hotel room for her and her family. I said that we were just waiting for the shuttle and that they should come with us. Ryan looked surprised when I told him that we were going to help them out, but I told him it was Christmas and we had more than enough money to go around, so the least we could do was to help out someone less fortunate than us.


When I finally realized that there was no way I was going to get home that night, I decided to make the best of it, and called around to get a hotel room for the night. At least there I would be warm and could sleep in a real bed, which was half of what I had been looking forward to. Finally I was able to get a room at the Holiday Inn, although not the one by the airport, which was full, and they told me a shuttle was already on its way and would be outside in about ten minutes. I hurried down there and stood waiting with a couple of other families. I was worn out and praying that the snow would be gone by the next morning. As we all crammed into the shuttle, I couldn’t help but notice a little baby boy about the same age as my son. I asked his mother how old he was, and she told me he was nine months old. The same age as Georgie. I couldn’t believe that I had missed out on his first nine months of life, to have come this far but still not be able to make it home.
When I got to the hotel and got my room, I called Melanie right away. Georgie was being fussy and she was busy trying to calm him down. I wished more than anything that I could be there to help her out with the baby but the best I could do was to try to talk to my son over the phone. He wasn’t interested in that though, so Melanie told me she had to go and she would call me in the morning. We were both keeping our fingers crossed that the weather would cooperate for us. I went to bed early, glad to be a in a real bed, but wishing that my wife and child could be there with me.
But apparently the weather had other plans. In the morning I woke up at seven and looked out of my third-story window to see snow falling across the road outside under the streetlights. It looked like at least a few more inches had piled up overnight. I couldn’t believe it. The world was against me getting home for Christmas. Here it was, Christmas Eve, and I was a mere sixty or so miles away from the two people I loved most in the world, and I wasn’t going to make it. I was going to be spending Christmas at a hotel.
I flipped on the TV and called my wife. She said that she was going to try to drive up and get me. She assured me that she would be careful and that she would throw a couple of sleeping bags in the back of the car in case they got stuck. She was going to stop on the way to get chains for the car, and that they would be there as soon as they could. But I knew that our tires were bad, and on the news they were showing the dozens of car accidents. If I waited a couple more days, we could be together for many years to come, but if I was in too much of a hurry to wait, I could risk losing them both forever. I told her firmly that I didn’t want her to risk it, told her to think of the baby. Then she said she could just leave him with friends, but I told her that he deserved to have two parents. So she agreed not to come until the weather improved. I tried to sound happy and confident on the phone, knowing that if I sounded as upset as I felt, that she would try to come up anyway. But once I got off the phone, I lay down on the bed and tried not let the depression get to me.


Mrs. Martin had been very kind to us and had given us a hotel room and she even said that she would pay for another night too, so that we could stay as long as we needed. It was very kind of her and when we got out of the hotel van, Beatriz was very happy about the snow. She wanted to stay up and play in it, even though it was late, but we told her it would still be there in the morning. I had never seen snow either, so after Beatriz and Javier were in bed, I told Juan that I was going to go get some ice from this ice machine I had seen, but I hurried downstairs and went outside. It was falling out of the sky but it fell so slowly and it was crunchy underneath my shoes. I stomped around in in a little and let it fall on my tongue. I caught some snow in my hands and watched it melt but then I had to go back inside.
In the morning we woke up and there was even more snow than there had been the night before. We all put our coats on and went outside. There wasn’t much room to play on the sidewalk, but Beatriz loved it and she ran around throwing snow everywhere and laughing. I didn’t do much because I was holding Javier and I knew that it was slippery and I didn’t want to fall. But Beatriz and Juan were fun to watch.
When they finally got tired and we headed back inside, we saw Mrs. Martin, who was going out to get some food. She told us that she had already paid for us to have our room for another night since there was no way that the buses were going to be running. So we would have to stay over until Christmas. I thanked her a lot and told her that I needed to get some food for us too. She said that she would wait so we could go together. So I hurried upstairs and Juan and I carefully took out the money we had left and counted it out. We figured that if we only used ten dollars today, then we would have enough to buy something a little special tomorrow for Christmas. Maybe we could get a cake or something. So I took my ten dollars and kissed Juan and headed out with Mrs. Martin.
There was a grocery store about six blocks away and we headed towards it but when we got there, there was a sign on the door that said “Closed for Weather.” There was a gas station across the street from our hotel so we decided to try that, since we had seen a couple of people going in and out of it. It was open when we got there and after Mrs. Martin talked to the man at the counter, who I couldn’t really understand, she told me in Spanish that he lived above the store and that is why it was open. I got some cereal and milk for the kids and some sandwiches for us to have for dinner and Mrs. Martin got a whole bunch of snacks. She said that her kids didn’t like being stuck in the hotel and so she was hoping that she could keep them happy. I told her about Beatriz playing in the snow and we both laughed. She also bought a couple of movies and said that Beatriz was welcome to come over to their room and watch some movies if she wanted. Beatriz doesn’t speak any English, but I thought she might have fun playing with the big girls anyway, so I agreed.
We went back to the hotel and we ate. Then Beatriz went next door to play with Mrs. Martin’s girls and Juan and I sat looking out at the snow, wondering what we should do next.


I thought my girls had been annoying on the airplane, but stuck in the hotel with nothing to do, they were even worse. I picked up some movies at the 7/11 for them, hoping to keep them entertained, and I invited Beatriz Gonzalez, the daughter of the family we met at the airport, to come over and play. Maria brought her over about noon and she was adorable. She didn’t speak English and I had hoped that she would have fun with my girls, but they didn’t want to play with her. They were too busy with their Nintendo DS’s to even look up and I ended up spending the afternoon playing with her since I wanted to her to have fun. I put in a Christmas movie for the kids to watch, although Stephanie spent the whole movie texting, keeping the screen carefully turned away from me the whole time. While they were watching the movie I began to think about what we would do if the snow didn’t stop. It was still coming down outside and the weather report said it might be two or three days before it melted off. It was Christmas Eve, and I really wanted to do something for Christmas. Of course I had gifts for the kids but I didn’t want that to be the only thing that we had to do the next day. Slowly an idea began to form in my mind. There had to be some other people stuck at the hotel today besides the Gonzalez’s and us. Maybe we could put together a sort of Christmas celebration for them all. Once I got this idea in my head, it wouldn’t stop. I began to picture a huge table with several families all enjoying a big Christmas dinner and music and new friends. It was a great idea. All I had to do was to pull it off in the next twenty-four hours. I headed across the hall to talk to Maria.
In my broken Spanish I explained my idea to her and although she said she liked the idea, she seemed like she was holding something back. Suddenly I realized that she didn’t have any money to pay for anything and she felt bad asking me to pay. I wanted to be tactful so I told her that I didn’t mind buying the food if she would help me cook it and help me decorate and everything. Once she got into the idea, she got very excited too. I could tell that she had been wondering how she was going to make Christmas for her little family and that she was seeing all the fun we could have.
“Well,” I said, “if we are going to do this, then first we have to figure out how many people are going to come. I guess the only way to do that is just to start knocking on people’s doors.”
The hotel was pretty big so it took us a while. A lot of the rooms were empty but we finally got two families, six individuals and three couples to agree to come. At the last door that we came to, we knocked and a man in a military uniform opened the door. I remembered him from the shuttle ride from the airport.
“So a bunch of us are stuck here at the hotel for Christmas, so we’re putting on a sort of Christmas dinner for everyone. There’s no cost or anything, but we’re trying to get a head count to see who wants to come. We’d love it if you’d join us tomorrow.”
He looked at me sullenly and shook his head.
“No thanks. All I want is to spend Christmas with my family.”
“Well where are they?”
“They are at Fort Lewis and I haven’t seen them in a year and now I’m not going to be home in time to spend Christmas with them.”
I felt sad just looking at him. “Well, I’m sorry,” I said sincerely. “But if you change your mind and would like to come to our dinner, we’re just down the hall in 303. Just let me know.”
“Thanks,” he said, closing the door.
“Merry Christmas…” I said to the door.
“Is he not coming?” asked Maria.
“No. He wants to go see his family but he can’t,” I said sadly.
Now that we had a list of who was coming, we needed to find a space to have dinner in. I went downstairs and talked to the manager, who told me that he had a conference room available but that it was going to be an extra charge to use it. I told him that we were just putting it together for the people who were stuck in the hotel and asked if we couldn’t use it for free since no one else was going to be using it. He admitted that some of his staff were going to have to stay there for Christmas since they couldn’t get home and I agreed that the staff could come to the party too. So in the end, he said that we could use the conference room as long as we cleaned up after ourselves.
Then we just needed to get some food. We knew that the grocery store just up the street was closed, so I got online and found a grocery store a mile away and called to confirm that they were open. They were. Maria and I decided to take our girls with us so that they could get outside and burn off some energy, so we all bundled up and headed out into the still-falling snow.
On the mile walk to the store, I asked Maria questions about her family as best I could in Spanish and then translated her answers for Stephanie and Kayla. She told us that her uncle had bought a bookstore in Spokane and that he was going to hire them to work for him so that they could come to America. When we got to the grocery store, I told everyone that they could grab whatever they wanted to have with Christmas dinner and put it in the cart. Then we went up and down every isle, picking up both ham and turkey, plus stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls and tons of other things. My girls began to get excited about the shopping, remembering Christmas dinners we had had in the past, including the one where I burnt the ham and put too much salt in the rolls and we ended up ordering pizza and giving the pizza guy a huge tip for delivering on Christmas.
Maria shyly asked if we could get some candles since they always had candles in Mexico and I told her that we absolutely could. Just then little Beatriz spotted a piñata on the shelf above some of the dairy products. It was a Christmas tree and she squealed and pointed and tugged at her mom’s pants. I asked Maria if they had piñatas with Christmas in Mexico and she nodded but said that we didn’t have to do that. But I thought that my kids, as well as some of the other kids at the hotel, might think that was fun. I didn’t think my girls had ever done a piñata before so it would be a new thing for them to enjoy. While I flagged down a grocery store worker to have him take it down, I put Maria in charge of getting things to fill it, and she hurried off with Beatriz. While I waited, I looked at my girls, and noticed that, for once, they weren’t texting on their phones or playing with their DS’s. They both had smiles on their faces and were chatting about Christmas and about how much fun they were going to have. I have to say, it was a pretty heartwarming sight.
When we had finally gotten all the groceries, I suddenly realized that we were going to have to carry them all a mile back to the hotel and I was glad then that we had brought the kids to help us out. We loaded up bag after bag with everyone carrying as much as they could, and we slowly made our way back through the snow. When we got to the hotel, the manager, who had been so kind in letting us use the conference room earlier, saw us coming and rushed out to help. He told us that he had a kitchen in the back and that there was a large refrigerator and freezer so we put all our groceries back there. We would have to start cooking in the morning so that we could eat by afternoon but we could decorate with some of the stuff we had bought now.
The manager gave us permission to move the Christmas tree that was in the lobby into the conference room, and then I hung the Christmas lights and the streamers while Maria filled the piñata with all of the goodies we had collected. We put up a long table down the middle of the room and covered it with a red table cloth. Then we put up candles all down the middle of the table. We didn’t have any dishes so I went next door to the restaurant that was there. It wasn’t open but there was a Japanese couple inside who apparently owned the place. I knocked on the door until they opened it, and asked them if I could rent their dishes. They finally agreed as long as I came over to wash them all after dinner. I paid for them and took them back over next door.


After we went to the store and got a bunch of food, we came back and decorated the room that Mrs. Martin had gotten. The kids were really excited and I showed them all of the things that I had gotten for the piñata: little candies, nuts, a few small toys. Then I let them help me put them into the hole in the piñata and I showed them how we would hang it up and they would take turns being blindfolded and trying to hit it. The Martin girls giggled and said that they thought it would be hard, but I told them that it was one of the funnest parts of Christmas. After we got it all decorated, the room looked great. We decided not to let the kids see it until the next day, so it would be more fun for them.
Once the decorating was done, we decided to divide up the work of cooking all the food so that everything would go well the next day. We realized that we needed a few more people to help out since there was a lot of work to do. So we asked a few of the other people who were coming to dinner if they would come down early to help us out and some of them agreed. We were still a little shorthanded, but it would have to work.


When the lady from down the hall came to ask me if I wanted to come to dinner on Christmas, I was surprised, but I didn’t feel ready to spend Christmas with a lot of people I didn’t know when I couldn’t spend it with the people I did know. But after she left with a smile I thought that maybe I had been a little bit rude to her. I hadn’t meant it to be that way, just everything was not going the way I had hoped and it came out rather rude. Later that day I called my wife again and told her about the lady’s invitation. She told me that I should go, that it wouldn’t help me feel any better if I just sat moping around my room. She said it sounded like fun. She was right of course, so after I got off the phone, I went in search of the lady who I thought had said that her name was Alicia. When I found her, she was setting up in the conference room downstairs. They had a Christmas tree in there, and lights and things and it looked very nice. I apologized for being rude earlier, and explained that I was just depressed that I couldn’t see my family on Christmas. I told her that if there was still room for me, that I’d love to come to dinner and I asked if I could help out or anything. She was very kind and said that she totally understood and of course there was room and she said that they needed some more people to come in early and help cook in the morning. I told her that I wasn’t a very good cook but if someone would show me what to do, then I would gladly help. She said that would be great and I told her I would be in the kitchen at ten o’clock sharp.


Christmas Day dawned bright and clear. It was still too cold out for the snow to melt and the roads were as icy as ever, so no one was going anywhere. But the sun streaming down on the bright snow outside was beautiful and everyone in my family was excited to begin the day. At ten o’clock everyone met in the kitchen and we began divvying out the tasks. Even Eric, the soldier with the baby he hadn’t seen, came by to help out. As we cooked, we all chatted about our favorite Christmases and what we had been planning to do that day, had the snow not changed all of our plans. By two o’clock all the food was ready so we called everyone down and let them into the conference room. You should have heard the squeals of delight that came from the children and the ooohs and aahhhhs from everyone else. There were Christmas lights and streamers hung around the room and a huge Christmas tree and then, of course, the table was chock full of food on every side. Everyone took their seats and we dug in. When we were finally finished and everyone sat back from the table, no one could eat another bite. But the day had only just begun. The kids ran off to play games and the adults chatted and talked for another hour or so as we let the food digest. Everyone told stories about memorable Christmases they had had in the past. One of the families had their grandfather with them and he had been in the war in Korea and he told us stories of the Christmases there. Eric passed around pictures of his little baby and everyone exclaimed over him and said how cute he was.
I was in the middle of telling a story about a Christmas from my childhood, when suddenly I heard a tentative knock at the closed door of the conference room. I was sitting closest to the door so I went over to see who was there while everyone else began to talk about something else. When I opened the door there was a pretty young woman there with a baby in her arms all bundled up as though they had just come out of the snow. She looked behind me at the people in the room and said quietly,
“Excuse me, I’m looking for my husband? Eric Shute?”
Suddenly I realized who she was and I turned to the table. A couple people were looking up but Eric had his back to us and didn’t see her. I pointed to him silently and she walked towards him and said,
He turned around surprised and the look on his face when he saw her was all the Christmas present that I needed. He jumped out of his chair and ran to her as several of us had tears in our eyes. We tried to turn away and give them a private moment but it was impossible not to watch their joyful reunion. Eric held his son for the first time, kissed his head and then looked back and forth silently from mother to child as though he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Merry Christmas,” she finally choked out. “I couldn’t do it. I know you said not to come up in the snow, but I couldn’t be so close to spending Christmas with you and not do it. I just couldn’t.”
Eric tried to speak but he couldn’t and finally he turned around to us at the table with his baby in one arm and the other around his wife. We all looked away real quick so he wouldn’t think we had been watching, and then looked back as though we were noticing them there for the first time. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he said,
“Hey guys, this is my wife Melanie and my son George.”
We all clapped and cheered then and finally it felt like the day was complete. While Eric had still been missing his family so much, it hadn’t quite been a perfect Christmas. Now it was. We grabbed an extra chair for Melanie and dished her up a big plate of the leftover food. Then she told us how it had taken her almost six hours to drive the sixty miles from Fort Lewis, about all the times she had to stop and feed George along the way and the close encounters she had had with ice and other cars.
After she had eaten, someone pointed out the piano in the corner of the room and asked if anyone could play some Christmas songs. One woman could and we all gathered around the piano and sang. The kids had been off playing but when they heard the music they began to come back into the room and soon everyone was singing. Then Maria set up the piñata and the kids took turns trying to hit it while the adults laughed and looked on and finally the whole thing broke open and sent the children scrambling.
As it began to get late, everyone slowly said good night and Merry Christmas and headed back to their rooms. I had been intending to bring down the Christmas presents for my girls once everyone else had left, but when I saw how happy and content they were without any gifts, I decided to let it go. They would still get the presents at a later time but I didn’t want to spoil the wonderful day we had had.
When we had finally cleaned up everything and headed back to our room, my oldest, Stephanie, plopped down on the bed with a happy smile and said contentedly,
“That was the best Christmas ever.”
And I think everyone would have agreed with her.

The End

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finishing up one project, and starting on another

Well I finished my last read-through of "Christmas at the Holiday Inn" to find the last minute little mistakes this morning.  Then I went over to Kinkos and got it printed up and put it into covers for my family for Christmas.  I'll be posting it here probably on Wednesday.  I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, considering I had my first idea for it less than two weeks ago.

Now that that is finished, I start the somewhat daunting task of editing "Runaway Train."  The first problem is that the novel is only 40,000 words right now and I'd like it to end up at more like 60,000 words.  There's a lot I CAN add, but I'm interested in finding the best places to add some words.  I need to work on figuring out what the theme is and structure the book towards that end.  I know what the story is, but right now there are several underlying themes and I want to narrow that down to one main theme and work towards that with the book.  The start is a little slow so I want to fix that and get into the meat of the story right away.  Back story can be worked in later.  And of course there is spelling and grammar and punctuation to fix as well. 

I'm hoping to get it sent out to beta readers by the end of January so I've got my work cut out for me.  And, again, let me know if you'd like to be a beta reader for me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Planning out 2011

So being the planner that I am, I made out a plan today for how I'm going to do all of my writing projects in the New Year.  The plan goes as follows:

By December 15th: Finish editing and printing out "Christmas at the Holiday Inn" for my friends and family

By January 31st: Finish editing Runaway Train, find and submit it to beta readers

By February 28th: Receive Runaway Train back from beta readers, make final changes and begin submitting to agents.  Also, finish writing and editing the short story "The Banks of Belronan."

By March 31st: Finish outline/research for Script Frenzy screenplay and submit "The Banks of Belronan" to a short story contest.

By April 30th: SCRIPT FRENZY 2011!!! Write screenplay.

By May 31st:  Finish outline for sequel to Runaway Train, currently titled Hand-me-down Mercury.

By June 30th: Finish editing "Finding Innisburg" and submit to beta readers

By August 31st: Write Hand-me-down Mercury and finish editing and begin submitting "Finding Innisburg" to agents.

By September 30th:  Finish rewrites on screenplay and find and submit to beta readers

By October 31st: Finish outline for sequel to Hand-me-down Mercury.

By November 30: NaNoWriMo 2011!!!! Finish Hand-me-down sequel.

By December 31st: Finish last rewrites on screenplay and submit to agents and begin editing on Hand-me-down Mercury.

So that is the plan.  Yes, it is extremely ambitious and yes, probably out of my reach.  But on my 22nd birthday I gave myself three years to make it as a writer.  Three years to do what I really love with my life.  And  I don't want to get to my 25th birthday and feel like I didn't give it my best shot.  So I'm going all out.  If I can pull this year off like this, I will get to the end of 2011 with a total of two novels and a screenplay being submitted to agents and another two novels in various stages of editing.

Also, you'll notice that according to the plan, on two separate occasions, I will need beta readers for my novels.  I'm taking volunteers now if you'd like to help me prepare my novels for submission.  "Runaway Train" is a post-apocalyptic love story.  The theme is that even when everything changes in your life, sometimes, nothing really changes at all.  Right now, the main characters are in their early twenties but recently I've been contemplating the idea of possibly making it a young adult novel by putting the characters in their teens.  It might be an interesting change so I'm interested to see what people have to say about that.

"Finding Innisburg" is a mystery/thriller novel about a young man and his quest to find out why there is a classic American town in the middle of the Guatemalan jungle.  I'll be interested to know if it's gripping enough or if it rambles too much. 

If you would be interested in reading either of these and providing me with feedback regarding them, please shoot me an email at  Just let me know which one or both you are interested in and I'll be in touch. 

And of course, throughout 2011 I'll be updating you all on my progress as I try to make something of myself so STAY TUNED.

And now, for the second part of this increasingly long blog entry, there is a pineapple express going through Seattle right now and it is just DUMPING rain outside.  It's pretty remarkable.  (for those of you who don't know, a pineapple express is when warm, wet weather systems move up to the Pacific Northwest from Hawaii, bring lots and lots of rain and mild temperatures)  Also, I woke up this morning to find out that Santa had come during the night (a bit early, but I'm guessing he's trying to get a head start this year) and left two presents with my boyfriend's handwriting on the tags.  It was very cute and I'm excited to see what they are.  

Happy Holidays to you all, and good night!

Friday, December 10, 2010

15 Days until Christmas!

Just a quick update since I need to be heading off to bed.  First off, I'm sure you will all be happy to know that "Christmas at the Holiday Inn" is done being written.  It is just shy of 9,000 words which is a good short story length.  I'm planning to print it up at Kinkos and give copies to all of my extended family (grandparents etc.) for Christmas.  But don't worry, I'll still be posting it here, so once I've had a chance to edit it, look for it sometime around next weekend hopefully.

I also made a splendid batch of Christmas sugar cookies today, after 45 minutes of trooping around Seattle trying to find some cookie cutters.  You'd think they'd be easy to find but it took four stores before I found some.  But they turned out good and I'm going to make some more closer to Christmas to serve as gifts for our landlords, people at work etc.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


So first off, I'm a day late in saying this, but yesterday was December 7th.  Now for all you non-Americans and/or people who don't know your history, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and effectively began the US's direct involvement in World War II.  President at the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt said a very famous quote the day following in his speech to Congress while asking for a declaration of war:

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

On a lighter note, I think I finally figured out what I want to write my screenplay about.  Now, I'm not usually real paranoid about people stealing my ideas, just because for two people to write the same story, it would still be substantially different.  But this idea is a true story about a little known historical figure and I'm a little nervous putting the idea out there, in case someone else writes a screen play on this person, because it would probably be very similar to mine.  So I'm going to keep exactly who it is under wraps for now, but I'm pretty excited about it, and just working on finishing up "Christmas at the Holiday Inn," so I can work on that.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sore tongues and short stories

Well I don't have a whole lot to report on today but it is my day off so I thought I'd better give you all some sort of love today.

Yesterday I was at work and we got in these candies which look like popsicles but they are hard, sour candy on the outside, and soft taffy in the middle.  So I decided to try one out and I ate the whole thing.  Now the outside is rough from the sour stuff that they put on it, so it's like rubbing your tongue down sand paper, and you know how if you eat too much sour candy, the acid wears away at your tongue after a while.  So the combination of those two things meant that my tongue was just totally raw by the time I was done and extremely painful.  Aaron and I got Thai food last night from our favorite Thai restaurant on Capitol Hill, Jai Thai, and my dish had lime in it which was very good but the acid just killed my tongue and I finally had to stop less than halfway through my dinner and just eat the rice.  Even today my tongue is a bit sore, although better than it was.  But I learned my lesson.  No more sour popsicle candies for me! Although it was yummy, I have to say.  But not worth it.
As far as the short story, I'm having a really fun time writing it.  I love Christmas and I'm just making this story fun.  It doesn't have any super deep meaning and I'm not worried too much about tone or pacing or all of the stuff I'm usually concerned with in a longer piece.  I'm just plugging along at it, enjoying the atmosphere of snow and holidays and just having a lot of fun.  I started it yesterday after writing a rough outline the day before and I'm already at 4,784 words which isn't bad for two days of work.  I estimate it will be about ten thousand words by the time it's finished which puts me about halfway through.  We'll see how my estimate holds up at the end.  But I'm hoping that when I post it here for you to read, possibly as soon as next week, that you will all enjoy reading it as much as I am enjoying writing it.

Well, that's all from me.  Happy writing and happy holidays to you all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Christmas at the Holiday Inn" Preview

So for you, all my faithful readers, I have a Christmas present coming up.  I am writing a short story entitled "Christmas at the Holiday Inn" which I will be posting here closer to Christmas.  Hopefully it won't be too long to post on here, but if it is, I'll just find another way to put it online and then post a link. 

The basic premise for the story will be a number of people from all different parts of the country and world and different walks of life who all end up getting stuck at the Seattle airport in the snow on Christmas Eve.  They are put up at the Holiday Inn by the airline, and one family, deciding to teach their children about the true meaning of Christmas, decides to put together a whole Christmas celebration at the hotel.  Hilarity and warm feelings ensue.

So look for "Christmas at the Holiday Inn" in it's entirety closer to Christmas!

Happy Holidays to you all!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The End

Well, Finding Innisburg is finished.  All the loose ends are wrapped up, all the appropriate people have gone to jail and the two main characters are getting married.  I typed "The End" very happily about five minutes ago and now am feeling very accomplished.

Am I happy with it? Yes.  I think the story came together well considering I started at the beginning 31 days ago.  It didn't go exactly like my outline, but it works pretty good.  I probably won't read over it or try to edit it for at least a month to put some distance between me and it but I'm satisfied.  With some editing and padding it won't be half bad.  It ended up at 51,079 words which isn't as long as I had hoped but my stories usually gain some words in the editing process, so I'll probably be fine.

Whats up next?  Well, since I haven't been able to come up with a brilliant Christmas story idea, I think I'll write up a short story about a selkie who falls in love with a man.  We'll see how that turns out.  But for right now I'm going to go toast up an English muffin and pour myself a glass of celebratory milk. :P

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo Winner!!!

I did it! I pounded out three thousand words in the last hour and a half and finished up my 50,000 words.  Then I copy and pasted my novel into the word count validator and watched my blue word count bar turn a pretty purple!  As far as the story goes, I'm probably less than 5,000 words from the end, and everything is kind of coming together. 

So what is in the works for December?  Well, first off, actually finishing Finding Innisburg.  Then, I'd really like to write a Christmas story this holiday season but I'm not sure what that is going to be about yet.  So possibly writing that if I figure something out.  Otherwise I have a tragic selkie love story in the works for a short story so that will probably come next since I'm really excited about it.

But for now, I'm going to reward myself by watching last night's episode of House on Hulu since I had to work and missed it last night. 

And for any of you last minute writers, good luck pounding out your last few words! 50,000 is a beautiful place!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Down to the wire...

There are exactly 3 days and 2 hours left in NaNoWriMo, and my current word count is 43,625 which leaves me with 6,375 words left to write in that time.  Last time I did NaNo, in 2008, I hit 75,000 words and finished my story by the end of the month and this time I'm pushing the limit of just completeing it.  But last time I also didn't have a boyfriend and now I live with mine so that takes up some of my novel writing time.  But also I've just been lazy.  No real excuse.  But I'm planning to hit 46,000 by the end of the night tonight so then I'll just have that last four thousand to do over the next three days.  Shouldn't be too hard.  Then the hard part will be forcing myself to finish the story, since it won't be over by 50,000 words, especially since my main female character just went and got herself bit by a poisonous snake in the middle of the Mexican jungle.  Which was totally NOT scripted, I'd like to point out.  A bit of improv on her part.

Alright, I'm off to put some apple turnovers in the oven and then crank out another thousand or so words before they are done, hopefully!

Happy noveling!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Novel Update

So after writing that last entry, I decided to be brave and take a look at my stats on the NaNo website, which I knew wouldn't be good since I have pretty much ignored my novel for almost a week.  Fortunatly I found that I was only about two thousand words behind schedule so I set to work to catch up.  As it stands now, I've written a total of 38,769 words, 2428 from today which puts me barelly back on schedule.  So I'm going to try to break 40,000 words before Aaron gets home from work to put myself ahead again.  Then tomorrow I'm off too, so that will leave me lots of time to get close to wrapping this thing up!

Snow days!

So the snow yesterday just kept coming down all day and most of the night.  In the end, it iced over really bad over night and now the roads in Seattle are a slick mess of solid ice and snow.  Buses are literally sliding off the road all over the city and although it is a beautiful sunny morning out there today, the temperature stands at a frigid 22 degrees and it's not supposed to warm up at all.  So I called my work, which is most of the way across the city from where I live, and told them that I didn't think I could make it in.  Two years ago we had a bad snow and I worked a 12 to 6 shift at the Lower Queen Anne Blockbuster.  I was able to get to work ok, but then the buses stopped running and I was stranded and unable to get home.  The taxis wouldn't go out to Ballard where I was living either.  So this year I didn't want that to happen again, so the long and the short of it is, I have a SNOW DAY!!!! I feel like a school kid again, although I was home schooled but we did get snow days sometimes even so just to play in the snow and stuff.

But I promised myself when I woke up this morning that if it was a snow day, I would do some serious work on my poor, neglected novel.  So that is the plan for today.

Also, on a side note, Prince William and Kate Middleton announced that they will be married on April 29 at Westminster Abbey in London.  I wish I had the funds to make it to London for that wedding because it will probably be the biggest wedding of my lifetime, aside from my own, of course. ;-)

They mentioned on the news that brides all over England were worried that their chosen wedding days would fall on the same day so I do feel sorry for them since there will no doubt be a few.  Way to have your special day totally eclipsed, right?

Alright, off to work on my novel.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snow and more on Prince William

First off, it is snowing in Seattle.  Last winter we didn't get any snow at all so to finally have some of the white stuff on the ground is very exciting.  There is only about an inch on the ground but since the Seattle Metro Transit was slammed two years ago when they weren't prepared for the snow that we got then, they are taking every precaution this year so the buses are on reroute for the whole day.  Thankfully I'm off work but I am supposed to go in for a meeting at five, so I'm debating as to whether I can call out for the meeting since my buses are going to be behind and take a long time.  We'll see how the snow holds up by this afternoon.

Also, an interesting news story today.  Less than 48 hours after announcing his engagement, Prince William was scrambled on a rescue mission with the Royal Air Force.  The prince, known as Flight Lieutenant Wales in the RAF, was sent with a four man crew to rescue a man who had had a heart attack on a mountain in Wales.  After he was airlifted out in terrible stormy conditions by the prince, he credited the prince and his crew for having saved his life.  Can you imagine being rescued by the future king of England?

Friday, November 19, 2010


The title pretty much says it all.  I have been talking, reading and breathing nothing except writing for a while now, so I decided its time for something new.  Something informative.  Something useful.  So here goes my SURVIVAL KIT FOR STAYING UP ALL NIGHT (subtitled: Getting by on Little or No Sleep)

First off, I'd like to say that I am an expert in this field.  I am way over-qualified to write this. (By the way, never trust anyone who says that they are an expert at anything.  The real experts don't have to say it.  But I do.)


1. Toothbruth and toothpaste. I don't care where you are or what you are doing that is making you stay up so late, brush your teeth in the morning.  It will trick your brain into thinking that you are getting up, not staying up.  Besides, I've heard that this can also be good for your teeth.

2. Water.  Drink at least twice as much water as anything else.  This goes for the whole night.  If you drink two cups of coffee, drink four cups of water. Etc. It's also good for you, and being hydrated is important for making sure you feel the best that you can.

3. Breakfast. Eat it.  Food will make you feel better and give you more energy.

4. Speaking of energy: 5-Hour energy is amazing.  No sugar, very few calories and it tastes ok too.  It's better than sugar filled energy drinks.  You will thank me at noon.

5. Visine.  Or similar eye drops.  Its amazing how much better you feel when your eyes aren't blurry and they don't itch and they aren't red and puffy.  One drop of an eye drop in each eye will do wonders for you.

6. Tylonol.  Or pain killer of choice.  You don't have to take it, but keep it on hand in case you feel a headache coming on. 

Now of course nothing replaces real sleep, but with these six simple things, you can almost pretend like you did sleep.  They really work wonders if you go with all six of them.  I promise.

Some thoughts...

First off, an apology for the lack of creativity in the title. No excuse.

So the novel has been sitting on my hard drive for almost two days without any love from me, its beloved author.  Generally my only problem in writing comes from not knowing what to write next, but these days I know what to write, I know how to write it, I just don't want to.  Someone smack me upside the head, please.

As a slight excuse to the writing gods, I offer up the fact that I have worked 17 of the last 24 hours with three hours of sleep in there somewhere.  It's been pretty hectic.

On a different creative front, however, I have finished reading two books on screenwriting, and am slowly coming up with a plot to let me try my hand at screenwriting.  I think it will be a challenge for me in the sense that I write from a very emotional place, and screenwriting is a much more visual art form.  I am looking forward to how this new medium will challenge me and improve or change my novel-writing skills.  One of the books I have is entitled How Not to Write a Screenplay and the author points out some obvious mistakes that apparently novice screenwriters make.  Several of them are eye-opening to me regarding writing in general, particularly those dealing with overwriting and not leaving things to the readers imagination.  In a screenplay, obviously, this is derived from the fact that the director and actors will be interpreting the descriptions in their own way, but I think it has some correlations in standard prose writing as well.  It has been a fascinating and eye-opening journey through that book.

Often times I have wondered or pondered the difference between a thriller and a mystery.  Obviously some works fall distinctly on one side or the other of this line but often I've noticed some middle ground that seems a bit ambiguous.  The author of How Not to Write a Screenplay (forgive me, I'm too lazy right now to get up and grab the book to find out  his name) defines the difference as follows.  He says that in a thriller, the audience (or reader) knows what the hero or heroine is trying to find out.  Thus, they know who the bad guy is, where the bomb is, or who has the child before the protagonist finds out for him or herself.  In a mystery, the main character solves the problem or mystery before the reader does, and then reveals it to the reader or audience in some way.  I don't know how much this difference is accepted in literary circles, but it made a lot of sense to me and drew an interesting line between the way an audience or reader connects with the main character.  Given this definition, the audience would be protective or worried for the main character in a thriller, but in a mystery, they would identify with him or her more along the journey, and come out with more respect perhaps.  Just an interesting thought for me.

Other than that, I am discovering reading over this entry that I am highly contemplative on no sleep and too much caffeine.  And so, adieu. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Salacious Gossip!

So as much as I like to pretend that I'm way above such things, I am a sucker for celebrity gossip.  At my work, we carry US Weekly, Star, Life & Style and a couple other gossip magazines.  On my breaks I read them, which is great because I don't have to pay for them.  The last few months, the hype surrounding Prince William and his loooooong time girlfriend Kate Middleton has been growing higher and higher.  They have been dating forever and everyone has been speculating that an engagement is just around the corner.  I have been fascinated with them since the beginning, mostly because she is so pretty and elegant, and he is so handsome and he has been famous forever, but she is only famous because of him.  Since she is only a few years older than me, I always wonder what this must be like to be her, trying to make a relationship work with one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.

Well, the wait is over! Today they officially announced their engagement.  The wedding of the decade will take place next year and Kate Middleton will officially become Princess Catherine, and possibly, one day, queen of England.  So congratulations to them!

Excerpt from Finding Innisburg

So I'm going to do something I have never done before: share a portion of my writing before the entire story is complete.  The following except is the first couple of pages of Finding Innisburg, my NaNo novel this year.  I'm working on leading into my books with something exciting, so tell me if this gets you hooked for more, or if you are bored before you get halfway through.

                The first thought in my mind as I floated slowly to earth, was, “Why are there manicured lawns in the middle of the Guatemalan rain forest?”  The second, was “How on earth am I going to get back out?”   I looked up at the parachute above me, floating serenely on air and carrying me down to the ground.  As the patch of fenced land I had seen several times from the helicopter and then from the airplane that brought me here today approached, I saw that I was right about the manicured lawns.  It was not a government test site as some had suggested, and I was not being shot down.  I saw buildings below and soon I could make out cars on the street and what appeared to be a park.  If I had not known better, I would have thought that I was jumping into a classic American town.  I aimed my parachute for a large parking lot, and as the ground rapidly drew nearer, I suddenly realized that many people were standing around on the sidewalks, looking up.
                I barely had time to register that they were not dressed like indigenous Guatemalans before I had to pull my feet up and I scraped across the bumpy gravel in my jump suit before coming to a halt.  I stood up, looked around me like a spaceman on a distant planet, and began to unzip my flight suit to reveal my street clothes.  Just then I saw someone approaching cautiously from across the street.  He was probably in his 60’s wearing a thin tie and a sport coat.  Pinned on his jacket was a silver star and he was carrying a baton.  A couple of other men were behind him.
                “Estoy un amigo!” I called to him, although he didn’t look like he was a native Guatemalan.
                “Sir! Put your hands up and turn around,” he yelled to me, and I could hear fear in his voice. Surprised that he could speak English, I slowly stepped both feet out of the full body flight suit, leaving the empty shell on the ground.  Then I put my hands on my head and slowly turned around.  As I did so, I realized that I was in the parking lot of a drive up movie theater and the screen was now in front of me.  Posters announced the newest movies showing which were “From Here to Eternity” and “Shane.”  I had seen Shane once.  With my grandfather, when I was a kid. My grandfather loved old westerns.
                “Wow,” I thought, “This place must not be used much.”  Although the posters looked like they hadn’t been up very long.
                Just then I felt the cold weight of the handcuffs as they latched onto my wrists.  I didn’t resist, not knowing what these people were doing here or who they thought I was.  When I was turned around, I could see that the star pinned to the mans shirt was engraved, “Chief, Innisburg Municipal Police Force.” 
                “Who do you think you’re fooling, parachuting in like this?”  He sounded mad, and was clearly more confident now that I was in handcuffs, although his companions still hung back nervously. “Just because we’re a small town doesn’t mean were an easy target for you Communist invasion!”
                “Communist!?” I exclaimed, almost laughing to think what my dad would think of me being mistaken for a communist. “I’m not a Communist!  I’m just a photo journalist and I wanted to know what you guys were doing down here!”
                “A likely story,” huffed the chief in disbelief, “Come on, boys!” he called to the men behind him, “let’s get him down to the jail!”
                He grabbed the chain connecting my wrists and led me towards the street.  I twisted around, trying to get my bearings.
                “Hey, don’t try any fancy stuff,” he said, giving me a small tug. “I may be a small town chief but that just means I’ll have nothing better to do than to hunt you down should you try to skip town.”
                “You’re awfully touchy about this being a small town,” I said with a small grin.
                “Now don’t you be impudent with me, son,” he growled, shoving me roughly toward the sidewalk.  When we got there, there were three or four men, a couple of them carrying sticks or other crude clubs.  They nervously took in my leather jacket, jeans and Converse shoes. 
                “He doesn’t look like a Commie, Al,” said one of them, addressing the police chief.
                “Why else would he come falling out of the sky? He’s got a fancy looking camera and this weird communication device,” said Al, holding up my iPhone, which must have fallen out my pocket. 
                “No, look, that’s…” I began.
                “Shut it, boy,”  said, Al.  “Come on, let’s get him down to the jail and I’ll phone the authorities.  They’ll want to hear about this.”
                “Look, my name is Jonathan Carrington,” I said, not really wanting to spend the night in jail.  There were too many questions that I needed answers to about this place.
                “Yeah, sure it is,” said one of the men behind me, sarcastically.
                I said nothing.  I didn’t know why on earth they would assume I was Communist, but I decided to figure out a way to convince them otherwise before I said something that would get me into trouble.  Besides, there was too much about this town that was strange, and I wanted the chance to look around.  We headed down the sidewalk and turned at the next street.  The streets of the town were quiet but as we passed the park, a car turned the corner and drove slowly past us.  I immediately recognized it as a 1950 Pontiac Chieftain, a car I had often admired in classic car magazines but had never seen in real life.
                “Wow! Sweet ride!” I exclaimed in spite of myself.  One of the men behind me, who was a bit younger than the rest, said,
“Yeah Doug just got that last year.”  He seemed about to say more but his voice trailed off and there was an awkward silence.  Down the street I saw a couple of girls and as they approached, they quickly crossed the street at the sight of me being lead down the sidewalk with a posse of men surrounding me.  The girls were very cute but they looked like they were going to a costume party or something, with skirts that hung just below their knees and knitted button up sweaters on.  As they got closer I noticed that they both carried books under their arms and I figured that it must be fifties day at school or something.  They stared and gigged as they passed, and I threw a wink their direction, which only incited more laughs. 
                Within minutes we had arrived at our destination and the chief opened the door of the police station.  There was a desk with a few papers on it, but it was the phone that caught my attention.  It was tall and black with a separate piece hooked on the side for listening. 
                “What’s with all the antiques around here?” I asked, finally putting my finger on the strangeness that had surrounded me, “Did I go through a time warp and end up in Mayberry?”
                “Come on,” was all the chief said.  He pushed me towards the back where I could see two cells with one wall made of bars and a large door which he unlocked.  He unlocked my handcuffs and I rubbed my wrists.
                “Give me your backpack,” he said.
                “Oh come on,” I said, not wanting to give up the only possessions I had with me. “This is ridiculous.  My name is Jonathan Carrington and I’m from Arizona.  In the US,” I added after a pause, nearly forgetting that I was still in the jungles of Guatemala.”
                “Give me the backpack.  If you’re telling the truth, then you have nothing to fear,” he said, in a way that told me he was sure I was lying.
                I sighed, slipping out of the backpack.  I had not known what to expect when I jumped out of the airplane only a few short minutes earlier, but this was not it. The police chief closed the cell door behind me and walked back into the station, closing another door so I could no longer see or hear him.