Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Life: NaNoWriMo 2013

I'm doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I just decided this about an hour ago.

I'm a glutton for punishment.

The timing for it is right, though. That was a major factor in my decision. I just completed a second draft of a novel I'm working on and need to let it "cool off" AND I need to work on doing a "white paper" draft of this other novel.

Yes, there are a lot of novels flying around. Whatever.

Doing NaNoWriMo is a guaranteed way to get a first draft or "white paper" draft done. It's punishing, exhausting, and an emotional roller coaster ride but still worthwhile.

This will be my fourth one. And, yeah, I'm going to make 50,000 words in 30 days just like I did THREE TIMES BEFORE. It'll be a pain, a slog, and all kinds of euphoria.

Definitely worth my time.

November is coming up in less than 2 hours. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Clothes Revamp - Project 333

I don't usually write about clothes but I reached a major milestone today. Inspired by Janice over at The Vivienne Files, I decided to take on her version of the Project 333. Project 333 is living with 33 clothes for 3 months then doing a switch out. The concept was started by Courtney Carver in 2010 and was/has been embraced by many fashion minimalists.

Today I got a bee in my bonnet and just decided to go for it. I used one of Janice's articles as a jumping off point. Her article is very helpful as it takes the reader step by step through her version of the process. Janice writes extensively about Project 333 and how to adapt according to the season and how to switch things up with accessories. I highly recommend hanging out there if you want some ideas.

The 33 items includes clothes, outerwear, shoes, jewelry, and accessories but I didn't stick to 33 items. Instead, I ended up with 46 items not including outerwear, shoes, jewelry or accessories. I also gave myself unlimited numbers of yoga pants/sweats, camis, and my black, gray, and white layering t-shirts. I was over at JC Penny the other day and found a bunch of layering t-shirts on sale for $2.99 each so I bought all the ones in my size and replaced my old stained ones. And I let myself keep two dress up tops which I hardly use but am ever so grateful to have when I need them.

I may attempt to pare my clothes down some more but we'll see.


Here's what I ended up with:

2 black blazers both with schoolboy elements (one velvet, one heavy knit)
1 pair plain side zip stovepipe pants (which should probably be snugger fitting)
4 pairs of slender leg cords (1 red, 1 navy, 1 black, 1 black ankle length)
3 pairs of skinny jeans (1 black, 1 very dark wash, 1 medium dark wash)
1 pair of dark wash bootcut jeans
1 pair slender cut maroon pants
2 pencil skirts (1 black, 1 with small black/white checks)
1 short navy tencel jean skirt
3 pullover sweaters (1 black cashmere with collar, 2 dark gray)
1 short-sleeve black top with puff sleeves (may replace this with something else)
1 deep v-neck longer black sweater
5 cardigans (1 regular black, 1 v-neck black (which is very warm), 1 regular red, 1 regular navy, 1 looser gray)
3 hoodies (1 black cashmere, 1 sweatshirt black, 1 sweatshirt gray)
2 white button down shirts (1 from Lulu, 1 "work" type shirt)
2 flower pattern button downs (1 red/white, 1 multi red/blue/green/yellow/white)
1 dark denim button down
1 black plaid button down
1 red plaid flannel shirt
1 plain black button down
1 black turtleneck
1 short sleeve, peasant style button top in black with white/tan pattern
1 drape neck dressy knit top in burgundy with leaf pattern
1 olive button top with military elements
1 fuchsia t-shirt
1 cobalt knit top
1 black t-shirt with red/white graphics
1 navy wrap knit top
1 oversize fleece pullover
1 black sheath dress

This is still an amazing revelation for me even with 46 pieces instead of 33. I was able to fit all my clothes on one side of the closet, including pants and jeans, and I cleared out one drawer. I still need to do a bit more laundry but will likely either do a switch out instead of adding to the 45, save for later, or toss. It will be interesting to see if I actually end up wearing everything.


Editing my shoes will be a problem. I don't have a zillion of them but I do have plenty which I'm loathe to part with. Many of my shoes are too small on the left foot so I have to take them to a cobbler to be stretched, such as a few of my Cole & Haan shoes: black with red accent patent leather loafers, neon yellow loafers (don't ask), black leather with patent leather accent flats.

There's also my high-end shoes which I won't part with:
Tods black patent leather driving moccasins so shiny I can practically see myself in them
Gucci black leather driving moccasins
Giuseppe Zanotti silver/gold almost gladiator style sandals
Tods cognac colored lace ups that I found at a Goodwill for $30, barely worn

And my first pair of Gucci's: black leather work-style ankle shoes with lug soles - these shoes are trashed but I want to take them to a cobbler to see if they can be refurbished. I've worn them hiking at Castle Rock State Park, while leaping from tide pool to tide pool at Fitzgerald's near Half Moon Bay, running on 5th Avenue in NYC in the pouring rain, standing in the surf at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, and while taking care of penguins when I used to volunteer at the aquarium. They still fit but they squeak and they look like hell.

And there are other shoes I won't part with:
My seven pairs of black boots (3 ankle, 1 cowboy, 1 knee high, 1 with buckles and straps, and a pair of Frye Harness boots)
My three pairs of chucks (black/white, purple, all white)
And my "aquarium" shoes, that is, my second pair of black/white chucks and black/white vans I used to wear while volunteering. I'm keeping them for sentimental reasons. They have bleach stains, pureed fish stains, salt water, fresh water, fish scales, squid ink on them, and who knows what else.

Yep, I have a feeling I won't be getting rid of many of my shoes.

Accessories will be easier but not the jewelry. I'll probably end up keeping everything in my jewel box. I have some good stuff in there. Going through my outerwear should be fun. Maybe I'll do that next.

This has been a really good exercise. I can see myself having to do more laundry but loads will be smaller. I'm hoping that paring down my closet will make my mornings easier.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Writing Life: Angels

"You seem more comfortable lately."

"Work is better and I'm writing regularly again," I say picking up a cupcake and peeling back the paper. There's a small jolt and a few chocolate crumbs drop to my shirt.

"Sector 7. Australian desert habitat," announces a mechanical sounding female voice.

I nod towards the glass dome. "So what's your fancy? Do you want to hang out down under?"

"Nah, let's keep going. I'm in the mood for a safari. Okay with you?"


He leans forward, looking at the hovercraft console then punches in some numbers into the keypad. There's gentle surge forward.

Mr. Gryphon and I are sitting in a large hovercraft having tea. There are no teacups or teapot, instead we brought along small thermoses of hot water and a selection of tea bags for each of us. We have the usual assortment of tea sandwiches and small cupcakes and we are sitting at a table built into the hovercraft, facing each other.

We are on the Ark, a massive spaceship which is part of a huge fleet. The Ark is a setting for one of my stories. I haven't finished it yet but Mr. Gryphon and I really like to come here and hang out.

The fleet houses every living human being, all in cryogenic sleep, while the Ark houses every earthly habitat and every species of animal. Each Sector is a different habitat which has been spatially shrunk down to fit inside massive domes. When you look inside the glass, they resemble snow globes, but when you go inside, each habitat is experienced as realspace and many are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of square miles. When I say "glass" I mean a transparent substance which is only a few atoms thick but is virtually indestructible.

The largest habitat is the ocean. All of it. The dome is so large that it sits at the very top of the Ark, the glass jutting out into space.

We are riding along one of the "boulevards," huge corridors for transport. Each corridor averages about a mile wide, are hundreds of miles long, and snake through the ship.

No one else is around. Everyone is still asleep. The ship's sensors don't detect our presence.

"Can't you write another story for this setting?" says Mr. Gryphon. He drinks some tea and picks up a cupcake.

"I suppose I could," I say, looking around. "I have grown fond of this place."

"The current story is such a downer, Miss Turtle."

"No spoilers."

"It's true," he says, waving his feathery hand. "All this is fascinating yet you tacked it on like an afterthought."


He puts his thermos down. There's a slight breeze of filtered air. "What's wrong? You're distracted." He is looking at me carefully, his ears twitching.

I'm getting a bit warmer, blushing. "Angels," I say.

"What about them?"

"They always appear, Mr. Gryphon. You are one yourself."

"And they always leave, Miss Turtle. Except me."

"That's true but I created you so you wouldn't leave."

"I'm not complaining."

"Sector 9. Black Forest," intones the mechanical voice. I look at the glass dome at the lush dark trees. Shafts of sunlight illuminate velvety green carpets of wild grasses and other underbrush.

I lean forward. The hovercraft picks up speed. We are on a long stretch between domes. "When I need someone and all seems dire and lost, an angel appears. It's the third time it's happened so far."

Mr. Gryphon blinks his great yellow eyes slowly at me. "Consider yourself lucky."

"And yet, I am doomed to never express my gratitude eloquently enough. I can never repay the favor. It doesn't seem fair."

"Maybe this is an exercise in accepting gifts."

"I always muck it up, Mr. Gryphon. I can never be elegant or restrained about it."

"That's because you always fall for your angels. Maybe not in a forever way but in a magical way."


"You know, all brilliant imagination and the like. You want them to catch a glimpse of your inner world."

"I just want to share a little."

"Will you immortalize this one too?"

"I don't know. There's a bunch of other things to write."

The hovercraft is moving smoothly along. Ahead of us the lights begin to dim. I nod at him. Mr. Gryphon turns around. I focus forward, waiting as the hovercraft moves closer to a fork in the boulevard head of us.

We take the fork to the right and a few moments later the ship seems to vanish, and it looks like we are out in space. The number of stars is dizzying. Above and below us is nothing but the shock of endless space. We can see a small planet to our left, far off in the distance.

This part always takes my breath away.

We are still on the boulevard but this section is all "glass" and was built as an observation "road." It will continue this way for at least 10 miles. When the people are around, this section is a very popular place for walking, running, riding bikes, and driving, of course. The only thing you really can't do is walk your dog on it or ride a horse. The animals freak out when they see vast expanse of space.

It takes some getting used to when walking or running on the road for the first few times. You can't see the road so it feels like you're running in mid-air. Instead, you have to get used to the focusing on the small, bright red signs placed at regular intervals. Sometimes people get disoriented and run into the glass walls. It's easier if others are there so you can follow each other.

"I think you're immortalizing him now, Miss Turtle."

"Yes," I say absently. "I suppose this post is for him."

"Do you think he'll like it?"

"I have no idea. I don't even know if he's going to read it's here and that's good enough for me."

Mr. Gryphon sits back in his seat. The hovercraft continues forward. I ponder my own gratitude for the current situation and hope I don't muck it up too bad.

"It will be all right, Miss Turtle."

"I hope so."

There's a bright light appearing on the planet edge to our left. Dawn is coming and it will be a new day in that world. I relax, taking a sip of tea.

Write. Good. Shit

So I've been wandering around lately looking for posts on how to work the social media and I see articles (formatted into lists) on how to effectively blog, and I keep running into the "write good shit" mantra. That is, write great content. Because, these people say, if you write good shit you can break almost every other rule about blogging.

Rules. About blogging. Yeah.

I guess I don't follow rules. This is why I have a very small readership.

Setting aside my feelings about "blog rules," I can't help but wonder exactly what is good shit? There seems to be a kind of consensus that writers need to write "good shit" but I have yet to find anything that explains what that could be.
How about this?

It was cold but the chill in the air appeared to be standing in the room, a small entity in itself. She raised her hand, feeling for a breeze or the indication of a crack or some breach in building structure but there was none. Just the cool, slightly damp of a large basement with a single column of cold right in front of her.

The lights flickered, not that it was very bright in the first place. They'd installed old lights overhead that gave off a tired glint. The kind of artificial light that drains your energy if you stand under it too long.

She sighed. The smell of moldy, damp earth filled her nose. She shouldn't be surprised about that. She might be in a basement but she was deep enough under the building to be standing on dirt.

A sound. Scratching. How cliche, she thought. She looked down at her feet. Always the same, never different. She thought about how people are so wrapped up in themselves, how easy it would be for someone (or something) else move around you without your knowing. Someone could be standing right next to you or right behind you if you're wrapped too much in your own head space.

Head space...  She tried not to think about that. She tried not to think about how she hadn't looked around herself in the last five minutes or so, and that if she did now, there might be someone or something standing right outside her field of vision.

Something brushed the back of her hair. She glanced to her right, perfectly still. Sometimes these things don't jump out at you like a guy with an ax in a horror movie, she thought. Sometimes they don't jump at all. Sometimes they're just standing there, waiting.

She took a breath and then slowly turned around.

Sorry about that. Definitely NOT good shit but having written this little pathetic missive makes me wonder some things. Could good shit be about telling a story even if you're trying to sell something? Is good shit a story and is it possible that stories, told well, are one of the best ways to move people?

Okay, how about this?

Ice plant flower. An invasive species scattered along our California coastline. Taken at Gazos Creek State Beach along Highway 1. Who might consider this good shit? My mom? She loves my flower pictures. A botanist? A beachcomber?


Or what about this? The fabled formatted-into-list post which appears to be everyone's, and I mean EVERYONE'S favorite type of post. Apparently, blog stats show consistently that if you want to increase the chances of having your post shared, you write a listed post. As in:


These tips are in no particular order, I've just numbered them so Google will pick up that this is a list when it crawls through my little corner of the web.
  1. Pay attention to the light (and by extension, color). Whether you're outside or indoors, pay attention to where the light is coming in and the angle. For outside pictures, it's widely said the best light of the day is at sunset but even if it's high noon, you can still get a decent shot if you pay attention.
  2. Move around. Or better yet have your subject move around. If you're taking pictures of people, don't just settle for everyone standing in front of something and smiling. Watch what people are doing, and see if you can get some group shots where they're interacting with each other or with some landmark. And try running, jumping, walking, dancing, any kind of movement pictures, especially if the light is good and you're in a nice location. And definitely do this is you're photographing kids.
  3. Vary the perspective. As in, zoom in, pull out, get low to the ground, or high above your subject.
  4. Explore your surroundings. Keep looking for a better background, a better angle. Sometimes it's all about standing, watching and waiting for the light to shift a little. An obvious situation would be during a sunset but this tip applies to all photography.
  5. Experiment. Keep shooting and trying different techniques, equipment, places, ideas.
Good shit? Naw, just the usual list of tips, right? Plus, it's too damn wordy.

Round two of the fabled bulleted list post:

(even though this is posted on Blogger)

  1. Consider how you're using the site. Are you showcasing your photography? Selling something? Blogging? There are a zillion themes that tailor to whatever your objectives are so take a look around.
  2. Ease of use. Do you know nothing about website building and need something you can just upload and start blogging on? Do you know CSS? Do you have a web designer and/or webmaster who will be maintaining the site?
  3. What's your learning curve? Are you planning on getting in there and learning how it all works so you can do it yourself? Will you hire someone to help you? Or do you just want to throw money at someone or a team to do it all for you?
  4. What's your budget? The possibilities are endless. You could go with the free Wordpress theme 2013 and do just fine for the most part or you could pay a yearly license for a Premium theme that allows you drag and drop functionality and flexibility.
Still not making it. Sigh.
One of my friends occasionally writes these great little posts with useful links. If I post a bunch of links about writing good shit, does that make the post good?

Write Epic Shit by Corbett Barr. Barr states you need to write posts that make people think, that are useful, and inspiring. Okay, that makes sense. He also says epic doesn't mean long. Uh oh, I think I've already screwed up there with this post.

The Number One Secret to Growing Your Audience: Write Good Shit by Ricardo Bueno. I'm not sure if this a good article on writing good shit but it's a nice list of tips for writing in general.

How to Write Great Shit and Own It by Kristy Gardner. I have to say I kind of like this post, particularly her number one suggestion.

The Most Important Lesson I Ever Learned by Steve Pressfield. Um yeah. This is a GREAT cold water splash of a post. Definitely worth reading.

Aright. I'm tired and I don't think I've gotten any closer to figuring out this epic shit thing. The cure for that is to keep writing. At least I think so.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Hummingbird by Wilco

"Remember to remember me..."
In this video, Jeffrey grows up and stops drawing his funny little bird, leaving his childhood behind.

When I was getting ready for my wedding one of the things on my list was packing away my stuffed animals.

I'd been avoiding this task because I was packing them up and putting them away in my parents' house, not taking them with me. I was a grown woman, an adult, so there was no place in my life with my new husband for old stuffed animals in various shades of pink.

I finally bit the bullet and did it. I cried the whole time.

And they are still in boxes in the rafters of my parents' garage.

I wonder about that idea, that there's no place in an adult person's life for childish things. We put our toys away when we outgrow them. Or in the case of the video, we stop doing childish things such as drawing funny birds having adventures. What is the point of that exercise? Why can't there a place in our lives for these things?

I'd promised all my stuffed animals that I would come back for them, that they would continue to have their parties, wild ones, tea laden ones, at night when I was sleep and when no one was home. If you've read this blog even a little you will know that those childish things continue in my adult imagination and in my writing life.

There's a whole entire world out there and in me where these things still live and grow. Maybe it was necessary for me to put away those childish things to come back to how important they are. Or maybe they were always important.
I listen to this song all the time, it's in my top 25, but this video always makes me misty-eyed especially when the bird whispers "Jeffrey..." It's a fitting reminder of those old, pink friends still in those boxes.

Edit: Okay, I lied. Watching this video makes me bawl my head off...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Counterpoint: The Honest Scarecrow

Since I posted Chipotle's The Scarecrow recently, I just had to post this parody, The Honest Scarecrow, which suggests that this video is a mere tool of manipulation from a large food corporation.

Here's an article from The New Yorker about it.