Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Casino

Today I wandered through the Casino of my torched love life. It's still there, some parts of the building are black with soot, but everyone just stays on the side that's still good. It's warm outside this evening (it's always evening) so the sheared off parts of the building don't bother anyone.

It's crowded here, but not because I've had a lot of lovers. It's crowded because the angels and demons of my psyche like to come here for recreational purposes. You do know that they like to gamble, don't you? I often wonder why they don't repair the place, but I realized they don't care at all. So much for divine intervention.

Various characters and monsters also show up. On Thursday nights, everyone gets a real 100% bonus so the place is packed. Sometimes it looks like the occupants of the Cantina scene were transported here (there is no Han Solo even though I've wished for it often enough).

The Casino looks like the Bellagio or some facsimile of it complete with fake Chihuly flowers. All day and all night the tables go on. The sounds of video poker, slot machines sounding everywhere. Bells and whistles. There are cushion chairs that look like overstuffed tomatoes (reference to E.M. Forester), the people who work there are running two and fro. They all know me and nod, but no one smiles.

A brawl breaks out approximately every hour on the hour. For some reason, angels and demons get petty hotheaded while they're gambling. The fights can go on for hundreds of years which is why security's first priority is to get them out of the building as soon as possible. Every once in a while there's a full scale fight that half the Casino takes part in. The tables are smashed, chips fly everywhere, holes are punched in the walls, the sound of unearthly screams and shouts are everywhere. We've learned that it's best to move to the other side of the building (the side that isn't fighting) and wait it out. The last one lasted about a week. Group fights are always shorter. Afterwards, everyone apologizes profusely and they clean up the place. I figure when they finally brawl on the side of the building that's burned out, it will finally get repaired.

Big gaudy flower displays, lots of overpriced restaurants and, of course, the wedding chapel. I try to stay as far away from that place as possible. There's even huge Ferrari dealership, the largest ever seen by human eyes (several floors). I never get to drive them or even ride in the cars. Too expensive. At least there's a world class art museum, but I'm the only one who visits.

I don't know how to gamble. I'm too shy to try my luck at the tables. Hell, I'm even too shy to try to learn how to play. The employees always ask me if I want a lesson or two. I shake my head, saying nothing.

On the other side of the building, I see Mr. Gryphon in the poker room. He's a little difficult to spot since everyone in there is immortal and sporting feathery or scaly wings. He's a great poker player, has offered to teach me several times, but I always decline. I've always been bad at bluffing.

Tonight with the sounds of the games playing on, I decide to stop and sit on the floor in the middle of the wide thoroughfare. Everyone steps politely around me. It's my place, after all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 50,179 Words!!!!!


(with apologizes to Mr. Ali)

Yes, Dear Reader, I officially crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. I can run around my apartment shouting and dancing my jigs, but it does feel a little lonely because there's only me and my dog. It's a bit late to start making phone calls so I can't do my Ali imitation over the phone right now.

Still, I was working so hard at getting to the right word count that I didn't realize what I achieved until after I scrambled my novel (all 147 pages of it) and prepared to have it word counted at the official NaNoWriMo website. As I browsed for the "Final Lament Scramble.txt" I felt a faint glow which grew brighter and brighter. When I got the web page that said "WINNER!" I almost couldn't believe it. Then I started to giggle. And then laugh. And then belly laugh.

My only wish is for a significant other to share this victory with. Oh well. Perhaps I'll get my wish next year when I do this all over again.

Tomorrow I'm sending out a huge email detailing my victory and then me and my friends are going out and CELEBRATING!!!

NaNoWriMo Update: 42,648 Words So Far

So they put up their automatic word counter over at the NaNoWriMo website and since they mentioned that word counters can differ from one another, I decided to scramble my novel according to their instructions and submit it to the word counter just to see far off it is from my counter in Word.

The very good news: Yes, folks, Miss Turtle has officially gained 2,641 words without doing any more work this evening. That's almost 10 pages of writing. Amazing!
The bad news: I fear when I reach 50,000 words, my novel will not have the obligatory "The End" written at words 49,998 and 49,999 and I'll have to continue to do some writing after November 29th until the first draft is finished.

I guess I'll just have to start writing leaner and meaner so everything ends at 50,000 words or thereabouts. How I'm going to do that, I don't know. Like everything, I'm going to have to figure it out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 40,007 Words so Far

Yes, I'm going to reach my goal of 50,000 words by November 29, 2006. Why by November 29th and not November 30th? Because I'm going to a concert on November 30th that's why.

Actually my hope is to finish the last 10,000 words tomorrow. Whew! I'm completely burned out from spending the entire evening writing that I don't know if I can handle writing all day tomorrow, but we'll see. We'll see.

I'm babbling, I know. Sorry about that. I'll be doing "real" posts as soon as I finish this 50,000 word monster. I've got a backlog of posts to do for this blog, but I don't have the strength or mental capacity for it since I've been doing NaNoWriMo. I can't even update the 5-7-5 space.

More later. It's time to for bed.

Oh and I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: 20,112 Words

I had hoped to make it to 25,000 words today, but doubling my word count is still good progress. Total number of pages written is 63.

Once again, I spent all day writing. I was having a tough time of it. I kept getting distracted by the charms of Wikipedia, figuring out what to eat, trying to decide if I should look for more classical music CDs, pondering the history of drug use in the 19th century, and I kept reading plot spoilers for movies (most notably Saw II and Saw III).

My story still wants to write itself with very little conscious input from me. I was trying to decide how to I was going to introduce several important elements, but while I was trying to figure it out, I found I had already written said elements down without paying much attention to what I was putting down.

The plot still has holes and lacks some fundamental character development, but I've made notes of all that and will take care of those flaws when I do the re-write.

I'm very tired. It's almost midnight again and I have to walk the dog before I go to bed. I hope to have 5,000 more words by Wednesday, but I won't be surprised if I decide to take Monday and Tuesday off again.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Picnic Table

"Miss Turtle, you're supposed to be writing your novel, not sitting here with me."

"I know, but I've missed you. It's been forever since you've made an appearance on this blog," I say. Gryphon and I are sitting at our picnic table. In the forest paradise of my own psyche, the picnic table is a place where we meet often. There's a plastic red and white checkered tablecloth, fine cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, upscale crackers I've never heard of (forget Saltines and Ritz), some fresh grapes, stuffed marinated olives, truffle pate and some pears. The usual beverage accompaniment would be a soft white wine or a medium red, but since neither Gryphon or I hardly drink alcohol, there's Martinelli's.

I pick up a stuffed olive and bite into it. Yum. "I was just thinking that when NaNoWriMo is over, perhaps I'll start up The White City again" (a blog I started for about week which featured Mr. Gryphon and I in adventures).

"That would be fun, Miss Turtle, but we have regular adventures already," he says. He is picking up an upscale soda cracker and delicately spreading a very soft brie on it. The forest is life affirming. Everywhere the trees are lush and sustaining.

"Well, yes, of course we do, but those are personal adventures that I can't really share with anyone," I take a sip from the flute of apple cider, "Don't you get tired of being my protector and savior during my nightmares?"

"Never. I welcome it. I don't like dying, by the way. I just wanted to tell you that," Gryphon suddenly looks up through the trees. His wings open just slightly, the tips of his claws just show. I look at what is making him uneasy. It's only the T-Rex crashing through the trees. I wave him over, but he only smiles his killer smile and waves back before moving on.

"Mr. Gryphon, you might not like dying, but you only had to die once. I died at least two times before being scattered as part of the Universe."

"That sounds painful," said Grphyon. He is completely unconcerned.

"It wasn't. It was wonderful, in fact."

"I know," I wince a little at that. The way he says it reminds me of someone. This makes me think of something. "Mr. Gryphon, aren't you at all curious about who you're based on? Don't you want to know?"

"Not really. Does it matter? Besides, I get the feeling I might have started out based on someone, but I think I'm different now," he says. He stretches his long legs out under the table. There is a life-changing warm breeze. The kind of breeze that makes you want to weep with joy.

"You're different, but some of you is the same. I think I've taken the aspects I needed for a companion like you and kept them with me."

Gryphon smiles at me. He yawns. "I'm feeling very relaxed, Miss Turtle. Thank you for joining me here."

"You're welcome," I reply. As he turns to pick up a bunch of grapes, I look at him longingly. "I love you," I say so softly that he doesn't hear. But it's not him I'm telling that to, it's someone else. Perhaps this is my way of finally moving on. I thought I lost everything, but I still have my dearest Gryphon, my dreams and wishes, (painful) personal growth, this blog and the belief that love is (still) everything.

A trio of frogs dressed in tuxedos come around the bend. They are carrying their musical instruments and take a moment to set up. We watch them in silence, eating and drinking. The forest is awash with colors from a Van Gogh painting, all brights and yellows. The frogs start to play Mozart, of course. I look at Gryphon and smile. The forest is alive with birdsong to enhance the musical experience.

Things have changed, yes, but I have no doubt that all the questions rolling around in my head will be answered sooner rather than later.

The Coffee Table, Tiny Fry and Mindfulness

It's hard to think of three beautiful things right now. There are many, but my state of mind doesn't want to go look for them. I scratch and dig anyway. It's good to challenge your sadness and lethargy.

1) The Coffee Table - Biologist #1 at the Aquarium found and placed a coffee table in the middle of a four-cubicle space. We talked about it, discussed board games that we can put underneath it, talked about the flowers Biologist #4 had put on top of it, Biologist #6 said he would bring in a carpet (it's sitting on bare concrete right now) and we ate our lunch around it. Biologist #1 outdid himself even more by setting up his self-spinning disco ball above it.

2) Tiny Fry - Since we'll be moving into the new aquarium in the process of being built, biologists have been setting up temporary holding areas in any place they can. The temporary space we're in is very small. Tanks are everywhere, especially in the basement. The "Holding Room" has new racks of fresh and salt water tanks. We've been lucky to hatch out many tiny fry (baby fish so small that sometimes it's hard to see them) and many of them are growing up healthy in large numbers. Good thing because we're going to need them all.

3) Mindfulness - I spent time practicing mindfulness today and I was amazed at how beautiful the world is. This prompted me to start conversations with people I wouldn't have normally tried to talk to: families lost in Union Square, couples on MUNI, men and women. From the polished worn out door to the elevator in my building to how it feels to slowly pet my dog while sitting on the floor with my eyes closed to watching the bus lights flash and shadow on black asphalt, I felt like the world was open to me somehow and thinking about revealing its secrets.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: Total No. of Words - 12,697

That's a total of 40 pages so far.

This week has been tough. I've been stomping my feet and talking about how my novel is crap. Last week's disappointment keeps showing up and getting in my face (I'm alternating between anger and lots of pain). Work has become politically annoying.

Today I got home and felt like throwing things around. A writer needs a notebook or something to take quick notes on and even though I have a basket full of mostly blank books I was incapable of making a decision as to which notebook to use. I started to cry from the frustration, but boiled some water for tea and decided to go back to my old habit of taking notes on three-by-five cards. Problem solved.

According to "No Plot, No Problem," the NaNoWriMo website and the emails I keep getting from these folks, feeling like your novel is crap during week two is very common. It's also common to feel like your story has no focus and that your characters are as two dimensional as cardboard. And I guess most people quit during week two.

I finally sat my butt down on the chair with some fresh tea and opened my novel. I started out by reading it, you're not supposed to read it because it will only depress you, but I did anyway. Then I began filling in some back story and fleshed out some of the scenes which adds to the word count. As I read it, it didn't seem all that terrible. What seems pedestrian turned out to be a skeletal draft: the crucial bones are there, but the possibilities are endless.

I picked up at the end and wrote on. The story unfolded easily, almost languidly. I was surprised at the turn of the events even if the basic outline of the story is known to me. Things are starting to come together.

I'm feeling all right. Good even. Even in my pain and loneliness, I was able to crank out over 2,500 words tonight and none of those words were filler. The story actually moved along and now there's some real character development happening. Best of all, I don't really know how this is going to end. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update: Total No. of Words - 10,004

I've made some progress, thank goodness. Today I wrote a total of 23.5 pages. There are many things to blog about, but since I spent the entire day writing it's going to have to wait. The target for the first week is 11,669 words. I'm hoping to surpass that tomorrow and Tuesday so I'll have a built in buffer if the going gets tough during weeks 3 and 4.

Since my Palm and Mac are finally talking to each other, I'm planning on attending some of the many writing gatherings that are going on here in SF next week.

The more I thought about the previous excerpt, the more mortified I felt, but then I decided that crappy posts of my first draft shouldn't deter me from posting more of them. What the hell. I gotta get some fruits from this labor, right?


Outside the snow was magical. Paul was feeling thankful about Stiggs and Annabelle, but bittersweet. He felt he would never find a wife of his own. He quickly put those thoughts out of his head since they made him sad.

Ahead of him, Kasper walked lightly on the ground. They were climbing a slight rise that Paul knew would give them a nice overview of the gardens and the hedge maze. The wind blew gently around them sending the snowflakes into white swirls. They reached the top of the rise and looked out together. All over the garden were the quiet drifts of snow. Snow formed as clumps on the naked trees. The tops of the hedge maze were crowned with white. All around them were the gentle rolls hills of the estate and all the “rooms” each section of the garden represented (note to self: elaborate on the “rooms”). Just beyond the hedge maze, they could see the small bridge and frozen little river that Joseph had drowned in.

Paul glanced at Kasper who was blissfully unaware. He looked peaceful and happy. Paul watched the swirls of snow blanket Kasper’s curls and then looked out at the view once more.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

NaNoWriMo Update - Total No. Words Written: 2,500

There's a story in here about how I was thwarted at every turn from starting this novel, but I'm back and things are up and running again. I'll relay the story in the next day or two. I wasn't going to post an excerpt, but I posted one on the NaNoWriMo website and I'm surprised at how good it felt. Keep in mind this is a very first, rough, dump draft and is in dire need of editing. With that warning, here it is:

A Lament for KP (the title will change later)

“Hey! Hey!” both men heard a familiar voice. Joseph was running into the stable, out of breath.

“Where’ve you been, anyway?” asked Paul. He couldn’t help but smile for Joseph was grinning from ear to ear.

“I’ve been in the house. The main house, Paul, and I saw him,” he said grinning even wider.

“What?” Paul stopped smiling.

“I saw ‘em Paul. The mysterious boy, in the flesh. He caught a glimpse of me and smiled,” said Joseph, relishing the looks on their faces.

“You did not! You’re just bragging! You didn’t see him at all,” said Stiggs.

“What did he look like? How tall is he?” asked Paul. Earlier he had told himself he didn't really care about this guest. His lordship had many distinguished guests and this one was the same as the others.

“He’s about you’re height, Paul. Brownish curly hair, like mine. Blue, blue eyes. He’s a little fragile looking, but dressed very fine. He has big eyes,” Joseph folded his arms across his chest and smiled. He was very satisfied.

“Excuse me,” said a soft, cultured voice. All three young men turned to look. Joseph stared and then quickly bowed. Paul and Stiggs bowed too.

The young man, undoubtly the man Joseph saw, ignored their bows and walked towards them. Although Joseph had said the mysterious boy’s eyes were blue, they were unlike any blue he had ever seen. They were the color of the bluest sky in the summer, clear and open. His clothes were made of the finest materials, very ornate. Paul watched as the boy stepped thoughtlessly into the muddy parts of the stable, apparently not caring that his very fine shoes would be ruined.

“I want to see the horses,” the man said simply. He looked them expectantly.

“Of course, Sir. Of course you may see the horses. Would you like to see one in particular?” Stiggs took over since the stable was his domain. The young man linked his arm in Stiggs and led him down the stable. Stiggs stiffened and then relaxed. They stopped in front of Thunderbolt, his lordship’s prize horse. Paul watched Stiggs answer the young man’s questions. He slowly went back to brushing the mare in front of him. Joseph nodded to him and then went back to the main house.

Paul continued to work. He could hear Stiggs talking to the young man and he felt envious. He peeked at them. They had moved on to another horse, and were absorbed in conversation. Paul turned back to his work. A little later, he took another peek and this time the young man glanced at him. He and Stiggs were coming down the stable row, arms still locked. The young man had looked back at Paul in open curiosity. Paul started sweeping the mare’s stable when the young man stopped in front of him. He unlinked his arm from Stiggs’ and openly stared at Paul.

“Can I help you, Sir?” asked Paul. He glanced quickly at Stiggs. The young man did not reply, but continued to look at Paul. Paul stood steady and openly met his stare. He waited.

“What’s your name?”

“Paul Winslow, Sir.”

“My name is Kasper Hauser. Do you know who I am?”