Nano: Day 1

Day 1: 1,089 words.
(Already under goal! Not a good sign!)

Part of the problem is that I’m doing things now that I really should have done before the starting line: things like character names, broad plot outlines, a title! Whether to write in the first or third person, and other trivia. Why yes, I am an idiot. Nice to meet you!

I expect that the first few days will be, as the immortal Paula Abdul never quite said, of the “two steps forward, one step back,” variety.

On the bright side, I do have a working title: The Basilisk’s Egg. Also, I think I have most of the plot and characters outlined now; the main challenge from here on out will be stuffing all those crazy suggestions into that framework (I knew that would come back to bite me!).

I put up a new status page, as well as a running word count on the sidebar, for those interested. Thanks to the always brilliant LKT for the super-cool tracking chart code!

And Eglantine, dear 12-step sister: sorry I wasn’t around earlier to provide moral support. I mean, I was on a plane, so it would have been difficult for me! but still, I feel bad.


Really bad writing

Day 2: 1,943 words.

This is what happens when you have to write 2,000 words a day, and damn the torpedoes:

Regan carries in her head a mental dossier on just about everyone she has ever met. Having a quick and accurate memory is one of the indispensable tools of the espionage business, and hers is unusually good. Some would call it photographic, but it doesn’t really work that way; instead, when she recalls something from her brain’s deep storage, it jumps into her head as if sung by Joan Sutherland. Sometimes, she will remember a name or a place, but the consonants will have become unaspirated. This is Joan’s fault, not Regan’s.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Question of the day: is there actually interest in reading the work-in-progress? Is anyone actually that masochistic?


Notes from the city

Day 3: 343 words.
(Ouch. A victim of the airline industry.)

I was looking forward to eating persimmons today, but I forgot to take them with me before I left New York City!

Spent a very pleasant weekend, helping B. with schoolwork and churning out bad prose. Struggling a bit to keep pace with the word count, and I suspect that it’ll only get more difficult to sustain that output as the month wears on. Especially alone, and in Seattle. Sigh.

On the bright side, in outline form, Regan’s character and story are solidifying nicely. If I can just get over the need to constantly revise the actual novel-in-progress, it should make for a fun ride.

E! TV just called the O. J. Simpson murders “the crime of the century” in a commercial. Good christ. Then again, this is the network that just renewed The Anna Nicole Show for a second season.

And speaking of abominations, United’s in-flight entertainment has stooped to this level, complete with a Satanic, bald-pated and soul-patched version of Casey Kasem for a host. It was the most frightening thing I’ve ever seen. They ran a feature on Count Basie, who must have been rolling in his grave.


Nano: Day 4

Day 4: 852 words.
(A long day at work bit into my writing, but that should be over for awhile, at least.)

The flashing light on the answering machine momentarily caused a slight heart-flutter, before she realized that any kind of recall to Section would probably be carried out by another slip of paper in the pocket. Certainly not the telephone; too insecure, but also: Regan couldn’t recall ever having seen a telephone in headquarters. It was always contact-by-paper, contact-by-radio, contact-by-shadowy-figure. It was the last one that always got on her nerves; there was nothing like gearing oneself up to kill a possible attacker, lurking just behind the soda machine, only to discover that the sneak was only trying to recruit for, say, Caitlin-who-does-explosives’ baby pool.


Nano: Day 5

They had been paired on a mission once in Toronto, some seven years ago, to recover a stolen nuclear device en route to the Middle East. Regan had gone undercover while Arianna ran the operation behind the scenes. The whole thing hit a very large snag when they realized that the man who was escorting the weapon was a former Soviet agent, an emotionally sterile cad with whom they had both once been romantically involved. Her cover blown (quite embarrassingly, in fact), she had been hog-tied and stuffed into a small barrel. When Arianna, like the proverbial cavalry, pried the lid off of it an hour later, Regan learned that she shortly would have joined the ranks of the many daredevils who had perished at the base of Niagara Falls.
One could always count on Alexei to come up with a crappy plan. Whether in the name of love or death, it was his standard modus operandi.

Nano: Day 5.5

Day 5: 826 words.

Ok, I said if I didn’t hit 5500 words last night I would cry. I’m crying!

Impediments to success:

  • A good day to be a fan of Sports Night (looove Sports Night) doesn’t necessarily make for success behind the keyboard.
  • The double shot of Oban probably didn’t help, either.
  • This one is for Eggy: Bad us! Bad us!


Nano: Day 6

Day 6: 604 words.
Well, there’s always the weekend.

Today, while walking through a blizzard of falling maple leaves, the world appeared, for in instant, to be infinitely more alive. The grass, beyond the dancing reds and yellows, shone bright green in the rain. Then, just as quickly, it was over, and I was back.

I love Autumn in Seattle.


Nano woes

The litany of pain continues:
Day 8: 254 words.
Day 7: 218 words.

An arm emerged from underneath the fabric, a sealed letter grasped in a gloved hand. “You are required, if you are willing and ready.”

Those words, right out of a bad spy serial, always sent the adrenaline rushing through her system. Perhaps it was the whole “We’re needed, Mrs. Peel” shtick, but Regan was undeniably fond of clichéd taglines, and was secretly glad that Section chose to use one. If pressed, she would deny, though not convincingly, the idea that she had always wanted to be Diana Rigg.

I’ll post the work in progress for all to see soon, if I can get up the gumption to do so.


Nano: Day 9

You can now read the current work-in-progress on the status page. Your eyes may bleed. I warn you.

The first major switch in perspective gives us some more insight on a major character. It’s fun getting into the head of someone you thought you knew.

The one area where Arianna’s fearlessness did not extend was Regan. In reality, she’d always had a secret crush on her friend, ever since Toronto; so secret, in fact, that it was often a hidden even from her. There was the ghost of it, a phantom which popped into her mind in moments of extreme vulnerability, or the inevitable comparisons whenever she found herself in a relationship with someone else. On that first mission together, she had sensed the vitality that had filled Regan when on assignment, as if a force of nature, the very essence of espionage, had made her its vessel. It was no secret that Arianna loved her job, but Regan was the job.

Head case


Aaargggh!! Writers’ Block!!


Nano: Day 11

Day 11: 1221 words.
Day 10: 707 words.
Day 9: 884 words.

Falling, falling, falling. Also, I suspect the “artwork” yesterday has scared off my readership. I am laughing! Laughing at my folly.

This one’s for rosebaby:

There was a clatter at the window, as if something had struck the glass. Regan fell immediately to the floor, yanking the plug of the torchiere lamp from the wall to kill the light. She crawled, on her belly, around the bed to the wall next to the window, grabbing her pistol from the nightstand drawer on the way. Peering through the glass, she knew that she wasn’t going to get a good view outside, so she grabbed the blouse off the top of the bed and waved it in front of the window. The baiting brought no reaction, so she figured it was safe to take a look from a direct angle; a quick scan of the alley revealed no person, but wait: footprints below, in the snow cover. Was he on the fire escape? She unlatched the window and leaned out, the bitter wind washing over her nearly naked body. Feeling idiotic, she made the quick scan and immediately drew herself back in. Nobody.

Hopping around with her arms crossed, trying to get rid of the chill, she ducked under the covers and promised herself that she would buy pull-down window shades. It was Werner, of course. It had to be. She had seen the bastard’s calling card in the snow, four stories below, penned in what appeared to be urine.

“I love you,” it had read.


Nano love sheep

At the moment, he was enjoying the services of an inflatable plastic love sheep in the comfort of his bedroom. With others overseeing his business interests, his life had become an endless series of one-night trysts with air-filled livestock, a habit so consistently returned to that at one point, he had been single-handedly responsible for keeping the manufacturer in business. It was no different now, but the circumstances had changed: he had liked them so much, he bought the company.


Twenty-eight candles

Twenty-eight candles. What’s my wish?


28 + 1

I’ve given myself a new creative outlet, discovered while I was out shopping for birthday party paraphernalia. Not sure if you’ll be familiar with “Square Stuf” notebooks by Mead, cute little hardcover 2.5” x 2.5” notepads with 200 sheets or so of unruled paper within, with very girly covers but to my surprise, the perfect medium on which to doodle or jot notes. Also cheap!

It’s small enough that you don’t feel like you’re committing to a long-term relationship when you start drawing on the page, but big enough to cram a lot of stuff in (at least with my beloved Sakura .20mm graphic pens). The size makes it easy to tote around for moments of sudden inspiration, while the hardcover makes it quite sturdy and gives the feel, if not look, of a keepsake. I have to admit a growing fondness for this particular design, though!

I’ll try to post scans if anything particular interesting ends up in the thing.

I’ve been noticing a trend when browsing the blogs of friends and acquaintances who are also doing NaNoWriMo. The word counts and optimism of early November have given way to a kind of desperate avoidance of the topic entirely as diminishing pace and writers’ block catch up to the dream. I’ve been there too, late nights with burning eyes, trying to type and having nothing but tears well up. The last two days have been really difficult, with little or no progress, and I almost thought about quitting the thing entirely. Remember those cold sweats back in college, when you knew you had a 2000 word paper due the next day but you hadn’t even done the reading yet? I’m starting to get those chills again. It’s not a good feeling.

It’s getting difficult to ignore the signs, but I’m still going to try and stick this thing out, both because of the promise I made to use all the fantastic suggestions I received, but more, because I’ve really had a lot of fun with these characters and story ideas in my head. Besides, I can’t end with less done than last year. If I’m going to go down, there’ll be some dignity involved.

Thanks to everyone who sent birthday wishes! Yesterday was a good day, a very good day. Today, though… Now I feel old!

Direct quote from a birthday email:

Be happy, be healthy, be prosporous, be productive, and be reproductive. Love you always. Dad(with help from Mom in typing)

Also, since thoughts of aging and mortality go hand in hand (and thanks to Miranda), I took TheSpark.com’s death test. Looks like I have a good forty-two more Novembers to try and get that novel done!


The rake’s progress

Old age has apparently set in, as one full day of raking leaves seems to have been enough to cripple my body from the neck down. And blisters! Blisters on both hands. But the lawn, the sidewalks, the driveway… all gloriously clean!

Right about now I wish I had some of that noxious Chinese wonder ointment that inexplicably works miracles on muscle pain. Brute-force aromatherapy, if you will. In the meantime, no racquetball for me.

Have given some thought to the absurdity of attempting to write a novel when the number of books I’ve read since graduating from college amounts to only about one a year. Formulating goals… more soon!



Note to self: Do not try to eat the chocolate whipped cream body lotion. Do not try to eat the chocolate whipped cream body lotion. Do not. It would be a bad idea.

Additional birthday bounty:

  • 1 bar of (mmm!) persimmon bath soap
  • 1 soft, fuzzy elephant
  • 1 guide to aging gracelessly
  • 1 xbox game (Shenmue II)
  • 1 dvd (Men With Brooms)
  • 1 cd (conjure one)

Warm gratitude to everyone for the gifts, and extra special thanks to Rav for the unbelievably yummy Chinese strawberry cake which accompanied dinner.


Viagra, viagra, viagra

In chilly Chicago, visiting the parents, just as an autumnal weather renaissance seems to be occurring in Seattle. Yesterday was brilliant, blue, sunny, warm — no jackets required. I hear similar things about today, but only from a distance; here, it’s cold and miserable.

Dad’s a doctor, so each new trip home carries with it a treasure hunt in the pile of new promotional product from various pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer seems to have been very generous so far this year, so without further ado, I present to you an abridged tour of the weird, wonderful world of Viagra merchandise:

  1. A Viagra watch. Okay, next.
  2. Stylish Viagra neckties. Note the little blue pills, subtle but obvious. I’m going to take these and create a decorative wall ornaments, or maybe stylish belts.
  3. Yes, Virginia, that is a Viagra racing car mouse. It comes with a snazzy matching mouse pad, too.
  4. Viagra. Pump. Viagra. Pump. Is this hand soap, or something… else?

Probably most distressing of all, and not from Pfizer, is this:

That’s right, a squeezy stress toy in the shape of… a cutaway prostate gland. Talk about your conversation starters.


Judith and Holofernes

Bathed myself in the works of the great Florentine masters today: Michelangelo’s David/Apollo, sketches, and studies for the Leo X chapel in the Duomo, as well as works by other artists from the Medici court. Every time I go to the Art Institute, there’s something new and beautiful to experience. In recent years: Monet, Renoir… Favorite pieces include a vibrant Judith and Holofernes by Allori, and Bronzino’s hyper-real portrait of Eleanora of Toledo.

Also, admired a few fascinating bronzes by modern sculptor Juan Munoz, and spent some catch-up time gazing at the Chagall windows. Afterwards, stared longingly at the aisles at Utrecht, perhaps hoping to catch some glimmer or inspiration from the shadows of those who had stood there before me.

Mommy, I want to be an artist when I grow up.

Ah, Sports Night, the mirror of my life:

Casey: What’s the problem?
Dan: I can’t write!
Casey: No, exactly what’s the problem?
Dan: Exactly? I! Can’t! Write!

November is ticking away.

Oh, and by the way! Snow! Snow! Snow! Though I shall leave it all behind soon, too soon. Farewell, Chicago!


Despite everything

Another chilly morning found me a little sick (again!) and a little achy (still!). In spite of all that, it’s been a very good day.

Had lunch with Eglantine, too-spicy cafeteria Thai (mea culpa, was a tad too liberal with the Sriracha); it was tasty, though. Made the trip in part to deliver a birthday gift but, unexpectedly, came away with a set of secondhand Staedtler-Mars graphic pens, a package of instant gom-tang noodles, and a ton of ink bottles (thanks Eggy!). Started off the day with a lovely touch of whimsy.

More shopping in the evening, and dinner with Nonours and Meklar. Good food and good conversation; felt like an early Thanksgiving.

The dangers of gift shopping became apparent last night, as I ended up grabbing a couple items for myself: The Elements of Typographic Style, by Robert Bringhurst, is a beautiful volume which promises to be a fascinating read (am I a font geek or what?). Also picked up a set of Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils in a nice wooden case, on sale at Utrecht. I blame Michelangelo.

Flying out to New York City again on Thursday for T-day proper and to take care of B. (who’s sicker than I am at the moment), which will be nice. In the meantime, it’s work, work, work. Sigh. That’s tomorrow, though. Today’s still a good day.


Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you, to B., for everything, for warmth, for understanding, for being a rock in stormy waters (and you are, rest assured, though I know you’ve felt otherwise). I love you.

Thank you, to my friends, new and old, for connections and reconnections, for quality time and shoulders to cry on, for comforts familiar and new adventures. I love you.

Thank you, to my family, who I don’t see nearly often enough. Last weekend was fun! I love you.

In the short term:

Happy birthday today, to Eglantine!

Happy birthdays tomorrow, to Mom and LZ!

I hope this Thanksgiving day finds everyone happy and warm.


Injury and renewal

I am a walking disaster. So far today, I’ve collided with a concrete planter, a brick wall and a low-hanging slanted ceiling (three times!). Needless to say, hard unfeeling object: 5, soft human: 0.

A very odd but generous breakfast this morning at chez B., consisting of pork buns and what was apparently about a hundred dollars’ worth of bird’s nest. Never had bird’s nest before, a substance literally made of the nests of sea swallows, all seaweed and saliva and nutritional gunk. To make things a little less appetizing, after soaking but before consumption, hundreds of tiny feathers had to be picked out of the mass. All told, it surprisingly tasteless by itself. The consistency is not unlike shark’s fin or coconut jelly or fine tapioca.

Of course, the reason why anyone eats bird’s nest is for its supposed restorative powers. Keep an eye out in this spot for news of miraculous recoveries!

Well, it’s white flag time on the NaNoWriMo front, with the meter stuck at just under 14,000 words. Seeing as how that’s fewer words than last year, the trend doesn’t appear to be promising, but rest assured you’ll see me at it again next year. Hope springs eternal, after all. Thanks to those who offered moral support, and profuse apologies to everyone whose suggestions I never got to. Sigh.

As for Regan and Arianna, well, we may revisit their stories again in the future, after I take a lengthy break away from my keyboard and spend a blissful month or two in the wilderness.

After all, it can’t be a good thing that my left arm has been drifting in and out of numbness for the past week, can it?

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