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Drill, Baby, Drill!

Last week, as part of ongoing efforts to transform our second bedroom from a room-where-we-keep-stuff-that-doesn’t-fit-in-other-rooms into a bona fide Guest Bedroom/Elizabeth’s Home Office/Craft Room (and still have it hold all the stuff that doesn’t fit in other rooms), I ordered some casters for my ArtBin Super Satchel Cube. When I went to install them on Friday, I realized that they required drilling of holes.

Luckily, drilling is no problem around here. The Leading Man is excellent with tools and enjoys using them to show off his not-inconsiderable manliness. He agreed that on Sunday he would drill the holes and install my casters. w00t. By Sunday, however, I had come up with a better plan: do it myself.

Now, I know how to swing a hammer, but only in the literal sense. I can put together IKEA furniture pretty well, and I can do your basic household jobs like installing curtain rods, but I leave all the power tool work to the LM. He’s a trained engineer and I sometimes walk into walls by accident, so this is mostly a matter of safety.

But Megan, leading lady in this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, is a woodworker. She specializes in restoring old furniture, buildings, etc. She’s more than just an expert at her trade; she’s an artist. This seemed like a great idea when I first created her last year, but now I’ve realized that it’s not going to be enough to gloss over the scenes where she’s actually at her job, and it’s not going to be enough to read DIY articles on how to refinish hardwood floors. I need to get my hands into it, and today I started with learning how to use a drill.

I’ll admit that I was a little terrified, but the LM assured me that I would do fine and he could totally play Wii golf and supervise me at the same time. Turns out he was right. I don’t think I’ll be refinishing old furniture any time soon, but I got three of four casters installed without any problems besides dropping screws on the floor, and I would have gotten the fourth one done if the drill hadn’t lost its charge. By the end of the day, I’ll have a stowable storage chest, a new skill, and a little more insight into Megan’s daily life.

The LM has informed me that the drill has finished charging, so it’s back to work I go. Wish my fingers luck! I’ll need them in November.

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A Secret Message

This week, I discovered that the previous tenants (or someone else, I suppose) left us a SECRET MESSAGE when they departed. They wrote it in magnetic poetry on the bottom of the freezer door. Quite clever, because at first I assumed it was part of one of the magnetic poetry sets I owned. Then I realized it was in Spanish, which meant it couldn’t be mine because I don’t speak any Spanish except for names of food and words associated with Semana Santa (Holy Week). That was an interesting spring break trip, btw.

The message? “lugar.”

Based on my research (i.e. gchatting my sister, host of the aforementioned spring break trip), this means “location” or “place.” It’s a somewhat dadaist sort of message, then: this is the place where this message is. No urinal on the ground, but I like it.

Or perhaps it’s more like “x marks the spot.” Could there be something hidden in our freezer? Could it be the separate freezer temperature control that we had previously decided didn’t exist?

In a novel, that’s what it would be. The beginning of a treasure hunt, a mystery, a serious of funny moments that lead the hero and heroine into each other’s arms. The message was really left by the spirit haunting our linen closet, by our cat (who can secretly read and reach the freezer), by a spirit who has possessed our cat (this one seems quite likely, some days…). Somewhere, a lonely woman is trying to write magnetic poetry and she’s one “lugar” away from brilliance and a HEA. If I peel away the magnetic backing, I’ll find the Declaration of Independence written out a hundred times with lipid dip-pen nanolithography.

In this case, I suspect it actually means that someone wasn’t as fastidious as I am about their magnetic poetry, but that’s why I write novels and not biographies. Not autobiographies, anyway.

John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt

First of all, I must digress (can one digress before beginning? but I digress from my digression…) to note that the song from which this entry takes its title makes no sense to me. If the narrator’s name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and he goes out with his friend named John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, why don’t people shout something like “There go two guys named John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!” or “There go those two guys with that stupid name!’ or ‘Hey, it’s John and Schmidty!” (because when you have multiple friends named John, at least one of them has to go by a nickname).

Anyway.

I have problems naming characters. This is generally a mystery to my non-writer friends and family. “How hard can it be?” they want to know. I take this question as a sign that I can text them in the middle of the night when I’m desperate for suggestions for a barista’s name. My problems tend to fall into these categories:

1. I name characters after famous people. I get excited about a name because it sounds like it could totally be the name of someone in real life, only to realize after 1-6 months that that’s because it is the name of someone in real life. Three years ago, I wrote a main character who went by the pseudonym Amy Adams. In last year’s NaNoWriMo manuscript, my hero is named Jason Jones. Also, I like alliteration.

2. I love J names, especially for men. Jacob, Jason, Jeremy, Joshua, Jonah, Justin, Jeremiah. I want to use them over and over. This would make for a confusing story, and it’s going to be a while before I can claim it’s a quirk of my brilliant best-selling author brain.

3. Along the same lines, I get in a rut during a story and later realize that everyone’s name sounds the same. Amy, Stacy, Tracy, Darcy, Casey… if I write a story about a pop group, it could work to my advantage, but otherwise I don’t think it’ll fly.

4. I go completely blank. Think Mulan: “I have a name. And, it’s a boy’s name, too! Uhhhhhh…” The only names I can come up with at all are the names of people who are in the room with me. Since my cat’s name isn’t a person’s name and the man in my life has a J name, I’m generally out of luck there.

Non-writer friends, as noted above, aren’t sympathetic. “Why didn’t you name the baby after me?” my dentist asked when I tried to explain the problem I’d had naming a heroine’s firstborn (answer: my dentist’s name is Joseph). And of course it’s not hard for them to come up with ONE name, but they should just TRY to write a whole novel full of people with names, and THEN they should try to write lots of novels, and THEN they should come over and wash my dishes while they’re at it because those dishes are not doing themselves while I write this entry, I tell you what.

Honestly, I think my biggest problem is the sense that if I can just get the perfect name, it will imbue the character with that elusive spark of life, and the wrong name can tank a story completely. Until I shake this fear and break my bad habits, I’m doomed to surf baby-naming sites for hours at a time and draft conversations between Unnamed Best Friend and Hot Firefighter’s Brother.

PICTURE : 1000 WORDS :: LOLCAT : x BLOG POSTS

Where x = ….?

Just moved to a new apartment. About to leave for vacation. Watching a lot of the Tour de France. Not writing. Bleaaaaaargh.

The Impossible Dream

Uninteresting confession: I really, really love bookends. They accessorize one of my most favorites things: books! And there are just so many possibilities! For instance, these ridonkulously nerdy Limited Edition Star Wars Bookends: WANT. Super cute and tasteful Jonathan Adler Flower Lavendar Bookends: WANT. $1.99 IKEA bookmarks that I could probably make out of paperclips stolen from my desk job: WANT. Restoration Hardware OMG THEY WOULD TOTALLY MAKE MY APARTMENT LOOK LIKE HOGWARTS CRYSTAL BALL BOOKENDS: WANT!!!1!11!!

Here’s the thing, though. Bookends are designed with the idea that you have two things: book(s), and at least one place at which your books end before the shelf does. In my life, this is not the case. Exhibit A: Read more…

I totally LOL’ed

I love it when a book makes me laugh out loud. I read everywhere — busses, trains, airplanes, walking down the sidewalk, walking down the hall — so it means I’m sometimes that person laughing awkwardly to herself in public, but a laugh-out-loud book is totally worth it. I don’t think of myself as a comedic writer, but I would consider it a high compliment if I succeeded in sneaking a few LOL lines into my novels.

This passage from Diana Wynne Jones’s Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories made me LOL, then read it out loud to my man, then laugh again:

All this time, the Vicar’s voice kept coming over the loudspeakers saying, “One. Two. Three. Testing,” mixed with howls and squalls. As we came out of the tent, he said “Ninety-nine!” followed by a noise like God eating celery and the band started to play outside the beer tent. The Fat Wizard’s large shiny Bentley was bumping slowly across the field toward the Vicar. Auntie May got quickly to the back of the crowd.

“I’m sure CRUNCH CHOMP needs no introduction from THUNDERCLAP,” the loudspeakers said as the car stopped and George sprang out dressed as a chauffeur. “We are delighted SQUASH welcome CLATTER once again to TEATRAYS RUN OVER BY LORRY our little Fete.”

(note that, like many Americans, I find British words like ‘lorry’ inherently funny, but I still think this section is pretty great)

Parenting Your Novel

I love analogies. I love to think of everything in terms of something else. Making connections between seemingly disparate ideas and translating concepts from one field to another serves me well in my day job, and it’s one of my favorite ways to tell a story, as well. Since the analogies always make sense to me, I sometimes don’t realize that I’ve gone too far when I realize that everyone in the room is staring at me as though my speech has devolved into Thermian. Here’s one, though, that I’m almost sure isn’t crazy. It came to be as part of a conversation with Lynn about when our novels were going to grow up and start writing themselves, if I recall correctly.

When you start writing a novel, it’s like (I imagine) when you first have a baby. Everything it does seems new and special and exciting, even if those things consist mostly of pooping and crying. Everyone you know is just delighted to hear that you’ve had a baby and they shower you with gifts and say that it’s just absolutely beautiful even if it’s actually a strange pink color and its head got a bit smushed on the way out. This is the part where your family and friends and strangers at the grocery store are all wonderfully supportive, either because they truly think that writing a novel is very exciting or because they think you’re a complete spazz and know you’ll need all the encouragement you can get. You know in your heart that your child will be a doctor-slash-lawyer-slash-astronaut-slash-movie-star, and that your novel will make all of the best seller lists and you will be able to retire from your day job and become a crazy cat lady like you’ve always wanted.

After a few years (or chapters), you’re still fairly excitable when it comes to your child’s milestones. Your closest friends and family are also happy to learn that your child has taken its first steps or is off to its first day of kindergarten or can write its own name, but they’re perhaps not that interested to know that it has yet another dance recital this week and complete strangers don’t want to know that you’re trying a new cream for its butt.

And then you get to the point where you don’t really have time to tell people about what’s going on your child’s life because you’re too busy driving it to this and that, and the years start to line up neatly one after the other, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade. Your novel is giving you some grief at this point, but you feel like you’re getting the hang of things and you’ve more or less established yourself as the boss of the story.

And then you get toward the end-ish. Not the actual end, but the part before the end, where you can vaguely imagine that in a few more chapters your novel will be complete, except you have absolutely no freaking idea how to get it there. You don’t really care whether it grows up to be an astronaut, you would just like it to stay out of jail.

This is the part where, as I said to Lynn, all your novel will say to you is “I don’t WANT to” and “that sounds BORING” and “I want to date inappropriate men!”. My novel is at that stage, and I spent several hours last Tuesday wandering aimlessly around the apartment taking things out of closets, grumbling under my breath, and generally driving my poor boyfriend crazy.

Full disclosure: I haven’t actually had any children, so this could be complete bullshit, but I like it anyway. Also, I’ve never actually finished a novel, so I can only assume that at the end, your novel turns out perfectly and your child does become an astronaut and everyone lives happily ever after. With Lynn’s help, I got past the scene that I was fighting with, so I’ve survived to write another day and get another few hundred words closer to finding out.