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1113Friday is the first day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a program which challenges writers to barrel through the first draft of a novel (50,000+ words) in thirty days. I’ve done it once before, back in 2009. What I wrote that November morphed and grew over the next three years, eventually transforming into “The Complicated Geography of Alice.” With the book and it’s freshly re-written proposal sitting on someone else’s desk now, I thought I’d turn my attention to a project that’s been waiting quietly in line for some time – a story I call “Dancing The Macarena With Jesus”.

The story came about because I wanted to write a happy ending. Specifically, I wanted to write a happy ending for this particular kid (with his perpetual deer-in-the-headlights expression, limbs always somehow akimbo and every teen-angst marker imaginable. I am never not going to love this kid. I am never not going to see a ghost of Ashlie in him.) I’m writing him a happy ending because I can’t give him one just as I couldn’t give her one. It’s not much, but it’s something.

I’ve spent three weeks preparing for the NaNoWriMo challenge with the help of Bullish and Bliss. I’m outlined to the hilt and seriously structured. I’m not used to working within a solid framework, but it should help me get from the beginning to the end in less than three years, so it’s a good thing.

I’ll try to keep you updated along the way, to be more present than I’ve been as of late. Also, if by chance you’re NaNo-ing too, feel free to hook up with me on the site. 

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friendsGreat live music is one of the (few) things that I love about my hometown. Last month, a group of local musicians released a CD titled “My Friends & I”, showcasing Modesto’s vibrant music scene. The project was the brainchild of Earl Matthews who fronts both The Cryin’ Shame and The Poorhouse Millionaires and whose big badass blues voice turns me into a giggling fangirl every damn time. The collection is a mix of acoustic blues, contemporary folk and americana. 

In an effort to promote this local talent on a wider scale, and make some art of her own in the process, my ever-brilliant sister Ruth (aka Bullish) organized a group of fiction writers and put together a collection of stories inspired by the songs on the CD. 

You can find out more about the song/story collaboration at Bullishink.com or check out the original Kickstarter for “My Friends & I”. The CD is available on Amazon and at CD Baby, while the e-book is at Smashwords for free and Amazon for 99-cents. And the next time you’re passing through California’s Central Valley, stop in and check out our superb live music scene. You won’t be disappointed.

The following Modesto area bands and artists collaborated on 13 great tracks: The Poorhouse Millionaires, Ryan Russell, The House of Orange, Heaven Lindsey-Burtch, The Rob Hill Band, Cole Thompson, Sommer Cooks, Patty Castillo Davis, Christine McGrew, Bethany Joseph, Nathan Ignacio, Lovecore Singing Telegrams, Bob and Chandler 

And the 13 writers who donated 1,000 words apiece to the cause are as follows: M.L. Gammella, Ruth Long, Sarah Aisling, Lillie McFerrin, Jenn Monty, Jeff Tsuruoka, Lisa Shambrook, Lizze Koch, Samantha Geary, Nick Johns, L.E. Jamez, Jeff Hollar, Bradley Richter

Now GO! Follow the links!

READ, LISTEN  AND PASS IT ON :)

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It’s a Book Meme. How could I resist? Feel free to link your own version in the comments.

Author(s) You’ve Read the Most Books Of:

Charles Bukowski, Louise Erdrich, Agatha Christie, Elmore Leonard, Chuck Palhinuk, Alison Bechdel, Sherman Alexie, Brendan Halpin, Michelle Tea, Anne Rice, Ivan e. Coyote, Diane Wakoski and of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Best Sequel Ever:

I’ve always thought that Memnoch The Devil was head and shoulders above Anne Rice’s other vampire tales.

Currently Reading:

Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni and (despite my agnosticism) A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Water with ice for chomping unless it’s Bukowski and then it’s whiskey.

E-Reader or Physical Book:

Both, though I prefer an actual paperback book.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School:

Mouse from The 18th Emergency.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance:

The Last Temptation of Christ

Hidden Gem Books:

The Joys of Yiddish – Leo Rosten

Silk – Alessandro Baricco

My First Kafka – Matthue Roth

Important Moment in Your Reading Life:

Woman At Point Zero by Nawal El Saddawi changed everything Read the rest of this entry »

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nemesisMy first nemesis was a bespectacled fellow in his mid thirties who worked as a cashier at the U-SAVE liquor store on Mission Street in Santa Cruz. In the two years of ringing up my Slim Jims, Red Bulls and Smirnoff, he refused to make eye contact and only spoke to me when absolutely necessary. Something about this behavior, which was in stark contrast to that of his coworkers, a friendly and gregarious lot, always made me feel lousy, guilty, less than.

And so, at some point I began to think of him casually as my nemesis. I began to challenge him with bits of conversation, a joke or two, even a question now and then that should have forced him to at least glance in my direction while answering but nothing would break him. When we moved off campus and up into the mountains, we were forced to leave U-SAVE Liquors behind and I had to admit that I’d been bested.

My next great foil came in the form of a girl at the coffee shop downtown. She’s maybe twenty-two and her mouth is perpetually askew. This creature replaced lip-ring girl at the coffee-shop counter last year and despite the fact that she has taken my order three times a week for the last twelve months, she looks at me each morning with the same stabbing lack of recognition.

With her pen poised over the order pad, she asks, “And what can I get for you?” in such a polite voice that i don’t dare to be rude. “And your name is?” she finishes off with, utterly oblivious to the fact that I’ve told her my name approximately one hundred and fifty-six times. It’s not this, not just this though that makes her my foil. No, it’s also that time she wrote my name down wrong, completely wrong, and the boy who prepared my coffee stood at the counter calling “Daffy?” over and over until she pointed to me and said, “There’s Daffy, right there!”

Daffy. Yeah.

But it’s difficult to think of this girl as an arch-rival, a true nemesis. After all, a possible hearing problem and lack of short-term memory are hardly the well-honed superpowers of a worthy opponent…a true nemesis.

Enter Rex Mantooth.

To be fair, I did not know his name was Rex Mantooth when I first encountered him at the bank where his cover is that of a mild-mannered bank teller. He was merely a lanky boy with a high forehead and a mess of dark curls. And I didn’t know his name was Rex Mantooth when I next encountered him out on the street, walking casually from the clocktower to Zoccoli’s. Still, I didn’t like him and when he smiled, either from recognition or merely that “hi, i’m cute so you should smile at me” thing, well I flat-out refused and I gave him the very same disinterested passing glance that the coffee girl gives me.

Now, on my weekly visits to the bank, I invariably end up at Rex Mantooth’s window and nine times out of ten, he has to call a manager over to sign off on the amount I’m depositing because he hasn’t clearance for more than ten thousand dollars(office money, not mine). He’s ever so polite, which of course, I hold against him, refusing to be swayed by nemesis niceties.

My brother-in-law says I should go into the bank, lay both palms on the counter, lean forward and hiss menacingly “So Rex Mantooth, we meet again.” I’ve considered it, but I’m a secret kind of superhero and for now, I think it best that the supervillans don’t know who I am.

(from the Lily White archives 06.2003)

better

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betterI’ve been doing nice things for myself these last few months and little by little but they’re adding up. I eat pretty damn healthy. I quit smoking, all but gave up drinking and got serious about exercising. These are healthy things. I should feel good about doing them. But this little voice in the back of my head says I don’t deserve to feel better – to do better. This grief-guilt shows up with a vengeance whenever I try to move forward – to make progress.

I’m thinking that if I out this insidious self-loathing – if I can bring it into the light – I can shove past it. There are still days when I don’t want to be here – left behind. There are plenty of times when I feel psychically stuck and have no idea how to move forward. And I don’t expect to ever feel joy again, but there are good moods, happy moments and times when I want to accomplish things. Doing so requires that I get stronger, healthy and well, better.

So I’m doing it. No matter how lousy it sometimes makes me feel.