30 November 2012

I’m sitting here in Starbucks, supposedly working, but there are a bunch of people in here who are far more interesting than anything I could cough up onto the virtual piece of paper. Aside from the one wall where every single space is taken up by someone with an Macbook laptop—all those little glowing apples in a row—I have people on either side of me engaged in conversation that keeps pulling me away from what I’m working on.

I can’t hear Max’s voice over them; if I can’t hear him dictating to me, I can’t write. That’s all right, though, because listening to other people engaging each other, that’s just as important to a writer as the words that eventually become a written story.

There you go, something to make you feel a little bit self conscious about what you’re discussing with your friends over coffee. That person sitting nearby with a laptop, typing away furiously? They’re probably listening to you, not necessarily because they’re nosey, but because the ebb and flow of your conversation, the cadences in which you speak, the words you use either by choice or habit, those are tools. They’re inviting. They’re an audible picture that sticks in that writer’s head, something he or she can call up later, when there’s a need to hear how other people speak…because people don’t really speak the way your brain often tells you they do.

You know all those funny FMLs and DYAC images? Read them out loud. You can usually tell the real ones from the fake, because they just don’t sound right. And a whole bunch of them…sooo fake.

In any case, I’m being distracted by a couple people next to me who are wearing uniforms from the pizza place across the street. I like that place, though it has nothing to do with anything, really. I noticed them when I came in, probably because I like their pizza and kind of wish I hadn’t had lunch before I left the house, because that would be a good excuse to wander across the street for a personal sized pizza.

Every weekday afternoon they have an all-you-can-eat buffet; it’s something like $6 person, and they put out some decent things, salad bar included. I think we’ve been there for the buffet once, maybe twice. They’ll even ask you when you’re paying if there’s a particular kind of pizza you’d like; if it’s not out there, they’ll make one.

Apparently it’s a very popular buffet…with one customer. He’s there almost every day, from the time the buffet opens until just before the last pizza is gone. He’s there for nearly three hours, eating slice after slice, consuming roughly two large pizzas by himself.

He is, by description, quite a large fellow, though neither of them described him with dismissiveness. It was said quite matter-of-factly; the dude is massively obese.

This is where I expected the sad jokes. “Yo, man, it’s all you can eat. Stop. Go home. This is all you can eat.”

There are no mean or snide remarks coming from them. They’re worried about him. They can’t refuse him service, but they’d like to, because he’s a very nice guy and they’re afraid he’s going to just…die.

I have a little insight into how a regular customer dying impacts people, even if it doesn’t happen right there. I was a semi-regular at the Barnes & Noble café when we lived in Ohio, and was there when news filtered in that one of the regulars—a beautiful young man in a wheelchair—had been hit by a minivan. Some woman chose the moment he was crossing the street—he had the light—to answer her cell phone. She ran the red and plowed right into him.

Everyone was devastated, especially the employees.

So yeah, I imagine their concern for this guy and the huge amounts he’s consuming worry them. They’re not grossed out, they’re not making fun of his size; they’re scared for him.

One day he might not show up, and they won’t think much of it, because not even the most regular of regulars shows up every day. But then one day will slide into two, then three, and they’ll begin to wonder. And when one week slides into two, someone makes an effort to find out, and when it’s bad news, they’ll begin to grieve.

But they can’t really do anything to save this guy from himself. He’s an adult; he makes his own choices. He undoubtedly knows what he’s doing to himself. He knows how it looks; he knows how he looks.

But I bet he has no idea that the people who take his money, who greet him with a smile, who clean up the table after he leaves, genuinely care about what happens to him.

You learn more by listening to the people around you than just the way they speak, the way words turn and tumble from their lips. You learn that most people are basically good, and in spite of the awfulness that the news suggests, on the whole future generations are going to be all right.

Then again, there’s the kids at another table, wondering out loud how funny it would be to put dye in the soap dispensers in the restroom…


28 November 2012

Dye your hair red, Murf said.

Go shopping wearing green, Murf said.

Be all Christmassy, Murf said.

So I dyed my hair red...though I'm told it has some major fuchsia overtones. Which I totally like, and it's red enough.

And I put on my green jeans, which have pockets so shallow I kinda freak out about losing my keys and wallet, and a green hoodie, AND a red t-shirt, because that was just festive. And then shopping we went.

I looked CHRISTMASSY, dammit.

The hot pink shoes, though? Maybe not my best choice,but since Murf's thing seems to be getting people to stare at me, they probably worked.

By Monday night, we had totally changed our plans. We went from planning on staying overnight in San Francisco and walking/shopping for two days, to not staying overnight and just walking/shopping on Tuesday in San Francisco, to not going into SF at all.

Because of a rumor about a protest involving nudists upset about the changes in SF's public nudity laws and the BART stations, we decided to shop elsewhere. It was just a rumor, but I heard it from two different sources, so I figured better safe than sorry...and as far as I can find out, the protest never happened, so we would have been fine going into the city, but... we didn't go.

And in hindsight, if the idea was to make people stare and try to not mockingly laugh at me, shopping elsewhere was probably the better idea. Dressed like that in SF? Not a big deal. I would have looked downright normal in SF.

In Sacramento? Yeah, I stood out a little bit.

Mission accomplished.

We shopped and walked for a long time, though I didn't have my pedometer so I'm not sure how far we actually went, and we only found a couple of small gifts. But that's all right, too, because if the weather predictions for next week are nice, we'll go into SF then and do some mega-shopping.

Maybe I'll find another Christmas Pimp hat.

I probably should have bought this.

And I probably should have paid closer attention to the display I was standing in front of when the Spouse Thingy took this picture.

I promise, it was not a sex shop.

Really. Swearsies.


26 November 2012

This week's plan to go to San Francisco, walk and shop and shop and walk, spend the night in a really nice hotel, and the walk and shop some more, has been trimmed down a bit.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to walk and shop friendly, but Wednesday looks like it will be horrible. High winds and heavy rain, which makes walking not so much fun, and sucks any joy out of shopping.

So we're going tomorrow to shop and walk a little, but the major miles I intended on racking up will have to wait. I still owe y'all some time pounding the pavement, but I'm delicate, ya know.

Instead, I'll make good on Murf's donation bait for the Boy's Polar Plunge.

$500 to dye my hair red and then go shopping dressed all Christmassy.

Well...the hair is red.

I have green jeans, a red t-shirt, and green hoodie.

So tomorrow we'll go to SF and shop, thereby honoring my end of the deal.

Get ready to cough up half a grand, Glowboy.

We'll check the weather for next week and see how well that'll work for getting some decent miles in. If it looks good, we'll reserve another room and shoot for that. But tomorrow, instead of concentrating on the miles, I'll be concentrating on how much I can spend.

Fun time, fun times ;)


25 November 2012

When I got up this morning, one of the first things I did was check the temperature outside, determined that by lunchtime it would be in the low 60s, and decided that when I ventured out today, it would be on the bike. I had one thing I needed to pick up at Walmart (bleach kit for my hair, since the one I bought the other day turned out to be missing things. Like, the bleach part) and then I wanted to go to Starbucks for a couple of hours to hog a table while I sipped at my Venti Black Icea Tea and worked on Max's book.

The best part of the day, I was sure, would be the short motorcycle ride.

But then I got online, and poked through parts of reddit, looking at pictures on the motorcycle subreddit. I like looking at other peoples' bikes and some of the short videos they post. I clicked on one link, not noticing that it was clearly marked NSFW; even if I had noted that, I probably would have clicked anyway, assuming that I'd be subject to a little flesh as someone rode their bike down the road.

It happens. I'm not easily offended.

Instead, what I watched was a short clip of footage from a security camera. It captured a rider on a 3 lane highway with a semi right behind him. As he started to move into the next lane, the semi clipped him, and he went down.

It wasn't until it looped through a second time that I realized that while the bike went one way, the rider went right under the truck's wheels.

Before I could click off, I watched that poor son of a bitch get pulled under two more times. He was ripped apart, and by the time the truck stopped, parts of his body were smeared behind the semi, while his arm jutted out from under one of the wheels.

That wasn't something I was prepared for.

I still can't get it out of my head.

And I couldn't force myself onto that bike today. I doubt I'll be able to tomorrow. I don't know when I'll be able to.

I've loved riding, but...damn.


23 November 2012


So...we're still going into SF next week to walk and walk and walk some more. But I won't be rocking the pink hair, after all.

No, I'll be rocking the red instead.

It's not that I no longer like the pink and have some deep seeded desire to go neon red, but Murf made an offer I choose to not refuse.

If I go red, then wander around in green clothes--all Christmassy--he'll donate $500 to the Boy's Special Olympic Polar Plunge.

Now, see, Murf thinks he's being funny. I think it's an easy $500 for the Special Olympics. I'm pretty sure that means I win.

Sooner or later he'll figure out the dyeing of my hair is costing him more money than he gets in returns of fun and embarrassment of Thumper. Meanwhile...Thumpa gets some cold hard cash for some decent causes.

On Sunday, the Boy is drawing the name of one of his donors to win a new Kindle Fire HD. Just $5 gets you a shot at it. And anything you donate is also tax deductible for 2012. Who would you rather give money to...Special Olympics, or Uncle Sam?

Tsk. Don't think about it! Think about that 6'2" bearded Princess Peach jumping into the cold, cold waters of the Bay!



18 November 2012

Ok, the cold seems to be easing up on me. I'm still coughing and annoying the carp out of Max with it, but I'm not sneezing nearly as much and I managed to stay (and feel) awake all day today.

Might as well stay someplace comfy...
So...a week from Tuesday we're heading into SF, where I will attempt to walk the miles from the Avon Walk that I was unable to in July. I do feel like I owe those miles to my donors, even though they were all very understanding about it, and I kinda feel like I owe a few miles to myself.

I think I'll miss the vibe that goes along with being among the masses walking for an event, but I'll have the advantage of walking my own route, and I'm probably going to avoid the major hills.

G'head, call me a wuss. I admit it.

Tuesday night we're staying at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel at Union Square, because...well, why not? That was the host hotel for the Avon Walk, and I was kinda looking forward to staying in it, so stay in it we shall. I kind of hope we have a room that faces Union Square for the view, but even if we don't, I get the impression it's still a decent hotel. It should make the Harrah's we stayed at in Vegas look pretty scummy.

Yes, I believe I will still be rocking the pink hair. I might as well keep it for this. And I kinda like it. Actually, I kinda like it a lot, so in the future it probably isn't the best thing to dangle in front of me for fundraising.

But still...on the 27th and 28th, your donations will be honored with as many of the Avon Miles as possible. You guys rock. So I shall deliver. And shop. I did mention I might shop on my breaks, right...?


16 November 2012

Should have expected it, but I didn't...the post-travel head cold. I might feel physically wrecked on the first leg of a trip, but it seems like I always get sick once I'm home. Which, if you think about it, it better than getting sick while I'm gone... and it's just a cold, so it's not too horrible. Still...all I want to do is sleep, and I'm not getting any work done.

Better to get the winter cold out of the way now. In a couple of weeks, the Spouse Thingy and I plan on heading into SF, where I will spend a couple of days walking to rack up the 40 miles I wasn't able to do for the Avon Walk in July. I'm hoping the city will already be decorated for the holidays, because it would be spiffy to be out walking under some twinkling lights.

It will be fun!

In other news..or a February the Boy is again jumping into cold, cold water to raise funds for the Special Olympics. His team is doing a Super Marios Brother theme and he's set to jumo as Luigi, BUT, if he reaches his $2000 goal, he'll go as Princess Peach.

< -- Princess Peach

This has to happen!

In about 10 days (I'm not 100% sure of the exact date) one of his donors is going to win a Kindle Fire HD. For every $5 you donate, you get a shot at it! With the holidays coming, it's a chance to win a really sweet gift for yourself, or someone you want to make squeal with delight.

The money goes to a really good gives Special Olympians the things they need to compete, from equipment all the way to the costs associated with participation. But mostly...I want to see my kid dressed like Princess Peach...


13 November 2012

In spite of a few hiccups—like the less than ideal hotel and the ethereal client—we had a great time in Vegas. We did a lot of walking—just a tad under 40 miles—and a little gambling (slots still hate me), and we saw almost everything we wanted to see. There are some things on the north end of the Strip we didn’t get to, but I doubt those things will vanish anytime soon and we can see them another time.

The not so good: the writer I was supposed to meet never showed. Never contacted me. Never answered messages. Now, this would almost be forgivable if it wasn’t the first time…but it’s the second time and in this game there’s no third strike. My rules; you’re out at the second strike. If we hadn’t turned this into a family vacation, I’d probably be going after her to recover expenses (and then wishing we’d stayed in a much nicer hotel…)

Never again...
The hotel sucked, too. We weren’t looking for anything 5-star and expensive, just something centrally located, comfortable, and fun. Harrah’s in Las Vegas is centrally located on the Strip, but that’s about it. Our irritations began from the time we tried to check in until the night before we left.

On check-in…look, they know people are traveling to get there, and sometimes the travel arrangements have them arriving before the 4 pm check-in time. But instead of being accommodating to people who spent a not-so-tiny sum of money to stay there, they give you three choices: pay $28 for each room to get early check-in, get a Player’s Card (which thereby gives them a lot of your personal info, like an email address to spam the ever-loving frakk out of), or stand there in the lobby and wait until 4 o’clock.

The rooms were ready. They were obviously ready. But let us in? Not without cash or info. We opted for the Player’s Cards, because those at least had the small benefit of minute discounts on food and drinks in the casino. But we were not happy, not in the least. Harrah’s in Reno? They let us check in early, no questions asked, no extra cash required.

I don’t get the logic behind that. Hell, people are there early and the rooms are ready? Let them in, then entice them to the casino where they’ll blow far more than that $28. Don’t tick off the customers from them moment they arrive.

The rooms were all right. Older, but not in a bad way. They were clean, and the beds were reasonably comfortable…right up to the point where we realized that the bar wedged between Harrah’s and next-door Imperial Palace has a live band every night. And that live band plays loudly until well after 2 a.m. which made sleeping a damn near impossibility.

I don’t even hold that against the hotel. It is what it is, and unless they remodel with some better sound proofing, it’ll be an ongoing problem.

What I do hold against them, in addition to the check-in extortion… Thursday night we got back to the hotel late and decided to eat in The Café, a restaurant in the casino that doesn’t even open until 11 pm. It was 11:15 when we got there and there were already a few other people there eating, and we were shown a table right off the bat.

This was a fun place...that's a 64 oz drink
But then? We sat there until 11:40, having never even seen a server. Not even so much as one going by to say she would be right with us. We gave up, and on the way out let the manager (I’m guessing…he was wearing a suit) that we’d never seen “Marjorie,” our supposed server, and we were leaving. An apology? Phhfft. Kind of a halfhearted “sorry” but barely even that.

The next night we decided to give KGB Burgers in the hotel a try…but we stood there at the entrance next to the Please Wait To Be Seated sign, and never saw a hostess. We didn’t wait as long this time…we bailed and went elsewhere.

To top it all off, the dealers on the floor were rude; the Boy decided to give a new game a try and mentioned to the dealer he was unfamiliar with it. Instead of getting even a cursory explanation of the rules—something he’s gotten every other place he’s played—he pretty much just got “Tough.” He took his money to the Bellagio instead, where they were more than happy to be nice.

All in all, we felt like we were intruders there and not guests…we won’t be going back. There are a dozen other options in Vegas on the Strip, and I think next time we’ll avail ourselves of something a little better, even if it costs a bit more.

White tiger at the Mirage
Still, we had a good time. Out of the hotel, it was awesome. We walked up and down the Strip, spent a little too much in the M&M Store, saw a Monet exhibit in the Bellagio’s Fine Art Gallery, saw tigers and lions and dolphins at the Mirage’s Secret Garden, and wandered through 3 malls. Having a river with gondolas on it in a mall, pretty cool, even if the stores are so high-end you don’t really want to set foot in them.

Highlights had to be going to see Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles tribute LOVE—that show was jaw-dropping amazing—and Lewis Black. Black was funny as hell, but LOVE was one of those extravaganzas that you pretty much have to see more than once to take it all in. And it’s a show that makes you want to see all the other Cirque du Soleil shows…all nine of them.

In front of the Bellagio Fountains...yep, with my back toward them

I did have some issues with fatigue—Thursday afternoon was spent sleeping instead of wandering around—and once home it’s taken me until today to feel even halfway human. But the fatigue didn’t take away from the fun, and my feet and back held up for all the walking. (Oddly enough, 40 miles over 4 days, when you’re doing a lot of meandering and not just walking, is about as tough as 60 over 3 days.)

Now, I was not drinking on this trip and the Boy said he would drink my share, but I don’t think that happened. None of us drank our way across Vegas, and we didn’t even eat our way across it…which means we have to go back, because there’s booze still to be consumed, and I’m pretty sure there’s a few desserts I missed.


2 November 2012

Okay, let's say I finish NaNoWriMo, finish my book, edit it, polish it, and publish it. What's the best thing I can do in order to drive readers to it?

Write another book.

No, I'm not being a smartass. The best way to drum up readers is to get another book out there; while you want readers finding your first book before your next is available, the numbers with multiple books available work in your favor. If you have more than one book in distribution, the more likely it is that readers will take a chance on you.

There are a lot of things you can do to publicize and market yourself, definitely. Make use of social media without being an attention whore about it; send out advanced reader copies; solicit legitimate reviews (and don't take offense at the bad ones. Everyone gets bad reviews...and never reply to a bad review someplace like Amazon. It freaks readers out.)

But mostly, you need to build your audience, and the best way to do that is by getting your next book out there.

My two cents.


1 November 2012

November 1st...that means it's the start of National Novel Writing Month--NaNoWriMo--during which writers around the world will make the attempt to cough up a novel in the span of 30 days.

Some will make it; some will give up; some will keep trying right until the bitter end. It sounds easy enough--just sit down every day and write 1700 words, and by the end of the month you'll have over 50,000 words written down, good or bad.

It's not as easy as it sounds, though, because your inner editor tends to kick in and you start over thinking things, worrying about the quality of your story and whether or not it will be worth the effort at the end of the month, much less whether anyone will ever want to read it.

Take my advice: tell your inner editor to shut the frak up. Quiet that annoying voice with chocolate or cookies, popcorn or rice krispy treats, whatever it takes. Just sit down and write, and come December you can take put your editor hat back on and get to work of fixing the massive volume of mistakes.

Oh yeah, there will be a metric ton of oopsies, but that's all right. Just get the story out on to virtual paper; it doesn't matter if it's wonderful or the biggest pile of suck ever created. All that matters is that you write.

You're creating a habit; that's a good thing. 

Just as important as sitting down and getting the writing done is insisting that the people around you respect the time you need in order to get it done; you really only need a couple of hours a day, make sure you take it and that everyone knows that they have to leave you alone during that time. Make sure they grasp that this isn't just a "thing" you're doing, but that you're actively engaged in actual work. Work that may later become income-producing.

Your work deserves respect.

Keep the NaNo flowing…in 30 days you’ll have the bones of your book done, and then can flesh it out, fix it up, make it longer, and make it awesome.

I’m not doing it this year—again—because I already have two projects going on and I started working on one long before November. Technically I could turn the other one into a NaNo project—all I’ve done on it is some character outlining and bare bones plot descriptions—but I’m deep enough into the first one that I need to focus in it.

It’s Max’s book. If I work on anything else…poop on my pillow, toothy death to things I love. You know the drill.

So I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, but I am working along with you guys, and I’m paying attention to my daily word count as if I were doing it.

Write on, peoples. Just 48,000 more words to go, right?