Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The worst way to bring home a Christmas tree

So, my husband isn't too big into celebrating holidays. He doesn't care for fireworks, has no interest in a parade and absolutely, positively hates Christmas trees. Last year, our Christmas tree was a little blue tinsel tabletop deal. I was ok with it, because we were going visit my family for the actual holiday. However, this year, we're unable to make the trip up, so I got to thinking that it would be nice to have a Christmas tree.

Smiley's take: A Christmas tree is one of the stupidest ideas ever. It's like two drunks were outside, being drunk and one of them goes 'dude. Let's take a tree from outside and put it INSIDE.' And then the other guy says 'yeah. And then let's put candles on them. It'll be awesome! An open flame on a slowly drying out tree? What could go wrong?'

Me: Whew. That was exhausting to listen to. Also I've never heard of a modern string of lights burning down a house.

After some back and forth, he finally agreed that I could get a tree this morning while I was at work. I was so excited and I literally spent my breaks and my lunch hour researching the trees avaliable in our town, the decorations and so on and so forth. I made a few spreadsheets.

By the time I on my way home from work, I was so pumped. I called my husband as I drove, asking him if he'd mind driving the truck and bringing me to the hardware store so I could buy a tree. He begrudgingly said ok.

As we were getting ready to leave, our roommate, his sister, came home and I invited her to come with. We all smushed into our small truck and left the house. I was picturing a magical tree hunting trip during which time my husband would have a small bit of fun and perhaps come away from the experience hating Christmas trees a little less.

Boy, was I wrong.

About halfway to the store, the alternator in the truck seemed to give up and the battery died as we were turning a corner. As the truck slowly sputtered to a stop, the three of us sat in silence for a full minute.

"Great," said Smiley. "Just what I want. To be stuck on the side of the road on my way to getting a stupid Christmas tree. Typical."

"I didn't make the truck die," I pointed out. "In fact, given the track record of the truck not dying and also bringing us from point a to point b reliably ever since you redid the clutch and other bits, I didn't expect it one bit."

"And you invited our roommate to come with us and now she's sitting her with us instead of us being able to call her."

"Yes, that's unfortunate," I agreed.

Luckily, our roommate was able to call her friend to come give us a jump. She and Smiley pushed the truck back into a parking lot while I steered and promptly hit the curb. (It was not my intention to hit the curb).

It was getting late, and Smiley had to go to his Dresden Files RP game soon, so we decided not to chance it by going to the store and back. He drove the truck home. I sat, deflated, in the passenger seat. I had wanted so badly for the trip to the store to be uneventful and therefore not give my husband any validation to his hatred of the trees.

I can see now that this is not how it is meant to be.

My lovely sister in law then accompanied me as we took the Sebring to the store and picked out a tree. Smiley, if you're reading this, we only had to look at two trees before we made our choice! As I type, the tree is set up in our living room so that the branches can spread out some before I decorate. I am still pretty excited, but with a certain amount of trepidation. If our truck is willing to stop just to put up a roadblock to a happy Christmas, what will be next?

I'd better not think about that! I'm going decorate my tree. Whee!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Year Two of NaNoWriMo winning!

"Oh, what's that?" you ask? That's just me showing off my official proof of NaNoWriMo victory. If you still don't believe me, I think this link will work: My Novel Stats. We'll see.

I wasn't expecting to finish today; in fact if you look down, you'll see me fretting about just being halfway done about ten days ago. I'll admit that a huge part of my motivation to finish came from trying to beat one of my friends over the finish line. This morning we wrote a total of 18,000 words. She won first.

So now what?

Well, the other day I was reading an article on and came across the following NaNo-related story. Somewhere in the thread of comments, some people were complaining that there is no point to NaNo. The basic argument goes something along the lines of  a) "What's the point of writing 50,000 words of probable crap?" and b) "There are enough bad novels in the world!"

Luckily for you, I have some answers to those questions.

The first is - what's the point? There are quite a few points, so I'm going to stick to what works for me:

1). I love being creative and writing, so doing NaNo is akin to any other sort of hobby or project that I could do instead.
2). It's inspiring to see the rudimentary full first draft of a novel with a start and finish, even if there is some murder in the middle. Even if my goal isn't to be published, I have accomplished something; this goes back to reason one.
3). To paraphrase the NaNo site: Sometimes it is just better to get down an idea, even if some of it sucks. Or maybe a lot of it.

The second one is a lot easier to answer. Just because someone writes crap during November doesn't mean it will be published. This month allows thousands of new and veteran writers to practice writing. Isn't there some sort of saying about monkeys, time and typewriters that ends with the full works of Shakespeare? What I'm getting at is, maybe a good novel or two will come out of this. (Not that I'm calling NaNo participants monkeys. Nor insinuating that they can only use typewriters).

So sure, like anything in life (I'll just throw out pictionary as an example here), NaNo is not for everyone.

Life After NaNo

Well, November isn't over yet, so if you're still writing, go write. Come back and read this when you're done!

Personally, the first thing I did after finishing writing was vacuum and then give the puppies their baths and half haircuts. (Sherlock will only sit down for one half of a haircut at a time). Then I did something scary and sent my mom a copy of my very, very rough draft of a vampire novel.

Even knowing that, as my mom, she's contractually obligated to say at least vaguely nice things about it, I'm still nervous. But I'm also excited, because she'll be the first person to really look it over with fresh eyes and confirm to me if the plot holes I noticed are the same ones she notices. Or if the boring character I created maybe has some redeeming qualities.

Or it will be so bad that she'll burn it secretly and tell me later that she's "so proud of me for doing what I love!"

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

While some have already been up for hours today, shopping the sales and door-busters of Black Friday, I have been sleeping and then photoshopping pictures of my dogs to put in this post. Well, you can guess which activities I think are more fun!

I wanted to take a moment to touch on everything I was thankful for and then realized that this post would take me into the New Years if I did that. There are just so many things to be thankful about. Sure, life isn't perfect, but I suspect that the downs help to make the ups so much better. And no, I'm not condoning drug use. These are natural highs, baby!

On my Google + page (Yes, you should use Google +; it's pretty awesome), I spoke about those who work on Thanksgiving, and really it can be extended to any holiday. While many people get to take time off and relax, there are those who cannot do that and who make our lives better because of that. I mentioned doctors and nurses, because illness does not have a holiday schedule (and honestly, rarely uses its day off). I make a caveat for the 4th of July and any holiday whereby they see an increase in people doing stupid stuff with fireworks.

Likewise, there are those in our military, whether here in America or overseas, who cannot just take the day off and go be with their family. I don't want to get political about it; I'll just say I don't always agree with the wars that the government has declared - but I'll always support the men and women of the troops. It is because of their sacrifices that we can continue to celebrate our freedom.

Finally, from my own time working in a grocery store, there are the people who have to work on Thanksgiving to ensure a happy Thanksgiving for everyone else. I cannot count how many rolls I would bake in the day before and day of Thanksgiving, or how many pumpkin pies would be packaged. There are those who are in shows, or who work at movie theatres or restaurants. I'm not saying to feel guilty if you forgot the rolls or don't want to cook (although, come on - even if you're the worst cook ever, won't true family just laugh it off when your oven explodes with turkey?); I'm just saying be thankful that you have these opportunities.

Personally, now I'm off to go buy deeply discounted Thanksgiving decorations that I can use next year. If I remember where I store them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Look, I'm going to tell you how not to spin your semi-legal business

Do I really need the legal disclaimer here? I am not a lawyer, folks, and if you try to use my advice as legal advice, I'll be flattered but will not be held accountable for it. OK? We all good?

In Florida, we have mutant internet cafes. I don't know how else to say this. You know how there are these places were you go and pay for internet time and then drink Bawls and play WoW? Yeah, that's exactly what these places are not. Florida has mutated internet cafes into barely legal gambling establishments. How do they defend what they are doing?

The owners say that they are "simply" providing a sweepstakes in addition to the internet time that they sell.

Ok, stop right there. Whenever you say something is "simply" doing anything, it just reeks of semi-legal crap. Why can't you just say you provide sweepstakes? It's still an outright lie, but at least you're taking charge instead of hiding behind adverbs.

Likewise, I recently read an article about what I guess is a problem in New York where people go to a tobacco shop and buy loose tobacco and then use the provided cigarette rolling machines to get around paying the taxes on a box of cigarettes.

When explaining their business to the newspaper, the owners stated that they are "simply" providing a place for consumers to roll their own cigarettes with the loose tobacco they purchased.


Am I the only person annoyed by this use of the word "simply?" It's simply infuriating.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My vampire novel is currently at 26,000ish words

This means, ladies and gentlemen, that I am just over halfway done for the month. Which terrifies me, because that means that I have to do what I just did all over again to win. Still, it's not impossible, so I'll keep going. A few things are jumping up as roadblocks this year that I didn't have last year. One of the most significant, and surprising to me is that my plot won't sustain my novel. (Although I do feel a little bit now for authors who I suspect ran into the same problem and then just went ahead and added 20,000 words worth of sex scenes).

Last year, I did a fantasy based novel that, at 55,000 words, still hadn't gotten much past the second or third day of events that I had planned for it. It was like my characters were just doing their thing and I was doing my best to record the events as fast as I could. This year is very similar, except my characters are threatening to stop doing their thing a good 20,000 words sooner than I had hoped. I've heard advice that when you run out of things to write about, you should toss a sex scene into the story, but I don't think that will cover the gap I'm looking at here.

Part of this roadblock comes from the fact that the event I want to be the climax of the story is just coming up so much quicker than I thought it would. I have ideas for what happens after it, but honestly, I wanted to do those ideas in a second novel rather than tacked on to the first. So I either need to find the parts of my current story that are too short and expand or swallow my plans and write beyond the current climax I have planned. And that just doesn't sit well with me, because I feel that it will take away from the story.

So I think my current plan is to just keep writing until the novel literally ends (aka, I get to the final scene, which I'm currently working towards) at where I want it to and look through it and see if I can add anything.

To others working through the same problem, I do recommend a walk. Going outside with my puppies for a bit helped clear my mind from the worry of "oh no I'm going to finish what I want to write way too soon" and brought me back to "let's just get it on paper and see where it goes from there."

I also recommend changing the music up every now and again. That's why I love my current Pandora channel, which goes from Evanescence to Breaking Benjamin to random piano pieces and occasionally Michael Buble (or however you spell his name).

So, happy writing all and hopefully in a few days I'll have a better update regarding my NaNo Novel 2011.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ack! November 15th!

We're halfway through November and that means I should be halfway through my novel. Sadly, I have only written about ~20,000 words which is a full 5k less than I should be at today. It's totally cool though because I'll just write like a crazy person on Saturday. Or maybe Sunday. Ooo and of course there is the extended weekend next week for Thanksgiving. So I'm not worried yet. But if you're writing and need more time to write, let me offer some suggestions:

Write during your lunch break! I often forget to eat lunch when I do this so it's a bit of a toss up because then when I get home I have to make toast right away or I'd starve and then I'm not writing after work. But who's to say I would have written then anyway?

Write down one sentence an hour. Later, string them together and add more sentences to make it somewhat coherent. I can't promise results but I can promise word count from that!

Later I plan on writing totally helpful editing tips for when the month is over and your word-spew is over. I can do that because I studied English in college. At least I think that is how it works.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Puppy beds

My love for animals is pretty much ingrained in me from every genetic path. On my mom's grandma's side, my great-grandmother was a Snow White type in the sense that all animals loved her. I'm talking her going outside on her farm and the birds landing on her shoulders, the deer coming out from the woods to say hi and even a skunk showing off her little skunk babies, which I guess are called kits.

My grandpa on my mom's side also loved animals which was evident in the dogs that he kept as pets while my mom was growing up; those ones I didn't meet, of course. However, his final dog, Goldie, was a testament to his happiness with a dog. My grandpa would walk Goldie every day, taking him down to the post office in the morning when he got the mail and walking him down the quiet streets in the afternoon. When Grandpa moved into the old folks home in his final years, we would bring by our dogs for him to visit with which would always raise his spirits and bring a smile to his face.

On my dad's side, my grandma and great aunt, (they are sisters), both have had and kept many pets, various stray cats and adorable dogs. This has also come through my aunt who kept ferrets and a hedgehog when I was growing up. My own parents have had dogs, birds, fish, and hamsters.

But, back to my grandma and great aunt for a moment. They are wonderfully sweet to my own puppies and have, since we got Sophie and Sherlock, given us many generous gifts to our little pups, including three doggie beds. (Ok, I confess, two of them are TECHNICALLY cat beds, but being that our dogs weigh less than most cats, I don't see a problem!) And while, when we set up the beds in the backseat of our car for travel, the dogs will happily sleep in them, they will never use them when we are at home and they have any other option.

For example, rather than sleep in his dog bed, Sherlock chose to curl up on my turned off heating pad. Rather than turn around in her dog bed, Sophie jumped onto the couch and wobbled back and forth on top of a pillow trying to nest in it. Weird.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where have I been?

I have been in a car for over 1,800 miles over these past few days. It's been crazy. Sadly, my grandpa passed away and so Smiley and I started our journey on Saturday, driving 1000 miles from our house to my parents and then added an addition 400 on Sunday to get to Michigan. And then 400 more miles back to my parents today. And in another day, 1000 more miles. I am so thankful that our car gets good gas mileage and that Smiley will drive the majority of those miles.

So now I'm behind on my NaNo novel like crazy and really dispirited because the day that my mom called me in the afternoon at work to tell me my grandpa had died, I had been writing during lunch for my novel. In my novel, the main character's mom called her at work to tell her that her aunt had died. So I'm really not excited to write about the funeral scene I had planned and that's throwing off the rest of the plot.

Of course, out of the gloom there are always good points. First, I got to see my family and a lot of my extended family. It's not great that I saw them because of a funeral but still.

Second, I got to see my brother who I haven't managed to see since Christmas.

Third, I got to have a breakfast pasty from Roy's bakery. As was the case with my novel funeral scene, I had actually just been extolling the glory that is the UP pasty. So yeah, I had a pasty. I also had a taco pizza from the Ambassador restaurant and one of their signature drinks. And maybe in a year from now, I'll be up there to do the same. Just hopefully, it will be because I planned a nice vacation there and not a funeral. I would prefer for no more funerals for a bit.

Friday, November 4, 2011

This will mean nothing to so many people...

... but my guild downed Ragnaros 10-man last night and I am so psyched. We spent a lot of our time working on the fight and it finally paid off as everything came together. I thought we'd get stuck up at the meteor phase but not even that could keep us down.

I've been in a few different guilds during my time in WoW and one thing they've always had in common is that they've imploded while I was there. Things just sputtered out, raid attempts went from scheduled to spotty and then large chunks of people left, spitting out macro'd 'goodbye' rants before the all important /gquit.

My experience with guilds hadn't always been that way. Growing up, my parents ran a successful raiding guild in Everquest for many years, making friends that lasted beyond the guild. I remember they even had guild meet ups when the Everquest convention was held in Chicago. To me, that was how guilds could and should be.

WoW was a lot different.

Anyhow, I've been raiding with the same guild since February now and while there have been many frustrating nights, we friggen downed Ragnaros 10 man yesterday and that was kind of one of those moments that remind me why it's worth it to play this game.

To the people for whom this post was just a bunch of nonsense words, I'm sorry. (And quite honestly impressed that you're still reading). I thought about explaining everything in more general terms, but it didn't read right. And it would be a bit like convincing someone who doesn't like dogs that dogs are great; no matter how I phrase it, it'll be boring.

Anyhow, so that's that. Go us. Also, did I mention we're recruiting? We're looking for healers and a tank and will certainly consider competent DPS. Our website is And our unofficial motto is "A real raiding schedule for people with real lives." Or something like that.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is it just me? Redux.

You might remember a month or two ago, when I complained about short bathroom stalls. Let's revisit the bathroom, shall we?

That's right. Foam soap makes everything better.