To quote Avenue Q, the world is a big, scary place. And of late, much more so, I'm afraid. While I could spiral into depression and a nice bottle of Two Buck Chuck (well, technically Three now), I'm choosing to focus on some fun stuff today (might still drink the wine). Here are recommendations for various things I've enjoyed lately.
TO WATCH Signal: This was a runaway hit on the Korean drama scene early this year, and deservedly so. The premise is a time paradox: a police profiler hears someone calling his name over a radio transmission and he finds an old walkie-talkie and starts getting messages from the past to help solve cold case crimes, from a detective who, in the present, has been missing and presumed dead for over a decade. It's part murder mystery(/ies) and part thriller, grounded in profound emotion. It's about the human connections we make, the decisions that change the course of history, the lifelong regrets about the things we never said. Top-notch acting and gut-wrenching in the best way.
TO LISTEN The Comedian's Comedian Podcast: Anchored by British stand-up comic Stuart Goldsmith, who is both easygoing and penetrating as an interviewer, this podcast delves into the creative processes that drive different comedians' work. I love behind-the-scenes kind of stuff and learning how things are created, as well as many of the comedians interviewed, so this ticks several entertainment boxes for me. Even with comedians whose performance style aren't my cup of tea, I often find their interviews funny and thoughtful anyway.
TO DO More Love Letters: Everyone has crap to deal with, and some shoulder more crap than others. More Love Letters' mission is to make sure they know they're not alone. People from all over the world contribute letters to share their support and love, and it's a beautiful illustration of the simple kindness of strangers. Check out the founder Hannah Brencher's TED talk here, and if you feel so moved, write a letter.
After watching a lot of Dan and Phil raising a Sim recently, I've discovered a latent hankering to be an overbearing parent and have downloaded the free Sims app on my tablet. So far I've created Jimothy Crumbcake and Freddie Seagull; they're only acquaintances right now, but I'm going to see if I can make them fall in love later. As you do. Here they are getting to know each other better, by way of Jimothy using the ol' buzzer in the handshake trick. He's old school.
I say, corking to see you again, old chap
That's Jimothy there in the pointy newspaper hat and yellow slippers. Suave, no? He's also an avid fisherman and just this morning was eaten by a giant fish, which eventually spat him out. Thank goodness, or my matchmaking scheme would have gone a lot sideways. Freddie likes to cook (he seems to add a ton of salt to everything without a care for his blood pressure levels, what a renegade) and lives in a studio apartment next door to Jimothy that is neither wallpapered nor furnished because their benevolent god hoards Simoleons and doesn't want to spend it on his basic needs, so he's over at Jimothy's a lot, eating his food, using his bathroom, and sleeping on his couch. Love will inevitably blossom, I'm sure.
I think this puppet master vocation quite suits me.
Besides that, because Sim tasks can take a while (for example, making either one of them go to work at the fire station takes 9 actual hours and feeding the ducks at the park 15 minutes), I find it's a good way to keep myself entertained and yet have space to write at the same time. You know, write for a few minutes, check on Sim, write a little more, make Sim clean up the dirty plate they just left on the floor, Jimothy, you slob.
Anyway, I'll keep you posted on where Jimothy and Freddie wind up -- I anticipate overwhelming popular demand for this. Yes. I'm also close to leveling up to birthing another Sim, which should make things infinitely more interesting!*
Friends, Romans, countrypersons, and whatever else you are or choose to be because it is not my call to label you, lend me your ears and also please don't stab me, because Rook & Izzy has been out for a couple of days, and I WAS NOT PREPARED. By which I mean, first, that I did not have the foresight to draft a blog post beforehand so I could announce it on here as soon as I hit 'publish' for the book, and second, that I realized this only after I hit 'publish' for the book, made myself really crabby and tired, and went and did other life things instead of writing the blog post.
Let us, however, choose to ignore most of that and focus instead on the part where Rook & Izzy is now available in ebook and paperback! FIRE THE CONFETTI CANNONS! (You guys can help me clean that up later, right? Guys?)
That there is the first proof copy of a brand new book by yours truly. We're going to ignore all the corrections I have to make for now (like, I don't know, not having page numbers... d'oh) and celebrate the fact that after three long, wretched, bookless years, I finally have something new to offer. Hooray!!
It is, as you can see, titled Rook & Izzy; it's about an angel sent to avert an apocalypse and the demon assigned to sticking out his foot to trip the angel over. Things get complicated along the way for both of them, of course (not that dealing with the potential End of Days isn't complicated enough already) -- stuff gets stolen on the regular, feelings are had, bribery ranges from supermarket chocolate to world peace, more feelings pile on, and at least two people are punched in the face.
I'M SO EXCITED FOR YOU GUYS TO READ IT. I'M SORRY I'M YELLING. IT'S A BIG DEAL.
My aim is to get this up and running by the end of the month, at which time I will make a proper announcement, set up a super cool giveaway, and most likely yell some more. Be prepared!
Hello, my lovelies! Did we all do our civic duty and save our share of endangered daylight yesterday?
I recently attended a conference, during which the participants were invited to share some of their greatest grammatical pet peeves. Very cathartic. I didn't share mine because speaking in front of a room of people makes me sick and sweaty. Also it would have been a long, tedious list, as many things irk me. This is not to say I don't make grammatical mistakes; I do, regularly. There are likely several littering this post. And as persnickety as I can get about it, I do understand that some grammatical rules are fusty and out of date, and language is an ever-evolving being. But there are some things that are just so wrong that the soul has no choice but to shrivel in horror.
In written language, the whole your/you're, than/then, their/they're/there, to/too confusion irritates me to no end, and improper dialogue punctuation stirs an entire swarm of bees all up in my bonnet -- last year, I read a bestseller in which it appeared the editor had taken an extended leave of absence halfway through the book, leaving giant swathes of dialogue punctuation errors in his wake: "Blah blah blah." He said. GOOD LORD, NO. NO NO NO. I mean, I try not to wish ill on others too often, but I hope someone got publicly shamed for that, Hester Prynne-stylez.
The one that's most recently been giving me minor coronary episodes is when people use the term hone in when they really mean to say home in. Colloquially, it's gained too much traction for me to ever hope the tide will turn back and we all use the term in the proper fashion, but I still can't help the spasms when I hear others hone in on something. To hone something means to whet or sharpen it; one may hone or sharpen a skill, par example. But just as one does not sharpen in on something, neither does one hone in on it. One might, however, home in on a target, just as a missile or homing pigeon would.
And that, friends, is my current grammatical pet peeve. I have a dozen more waiting in the wings, but let's hear some of yours. What grammatical errors have you encountered that crush your dreams and suck joy from your soul?
With many pardons begged for the intense navel-gazing about to follow. I swear I have a point.
Eleven days into the new year, I came home exhausted, having driven all over creation for meeting after meeting after meeting, on top of my regularly scheduled work, clocking a ten-hour work day I wouldn't get paid overtime for. My job duties had just changed, and my stress levels were snowballing. I slouched into the shower and spent most of that time slumped against the wall, scarce of the will to move, thinking Gob Bluth thoughts, spiraling. Hello darkness my old friend. The thing is, I'm unhappy. The thing is, I've been unhappy for years.
When the economy tanked several years ago, I went unemployed for well over a year, exponentially more convinced of my worthlessness as a human being with each passing day. I wrote fanfiction to fill the time; it was something I was decent at, and it gave me a purpose, small as it was, other than wishing really hard I could magically disappear into an alternate universe where I didn't suck at life. Quite by accident, I stumbled upon the idea for my current profession -- it was relatively interesting and, more importantly, seemed doable. I didn't have the right credentials for it yet, though. I'd have to go back to school. First, a year of post-baccalaureate courses to fulfill all the prerequisites, and two years of graduate school after that. Doable. Less horrifying a prospect than being permanently unemployed.
I finished my first novel just a few days before grad school was to start. Writing a novel had always been something of a pipe dream, something for other people with scads more talent than I to do. But I wrote it and I finished it, and it felt amazing. For the first time in my life, I thought, maybe this can be my job, maybe I can actually have a job I love. My foray into graduate school, the thing I was spending so much time and effort and money on, it was a means to an end; it was to get a job that I could work at until I could afford not to do it anymore. I hated the idea of it, as much as I was tantalized by the idea of the opposite. My best friend had to talk me off the ledge and make me be responsible and go to school.
A lot is said about reaching for one's dreams, living one's passions, doing what the heart wants. I get that. I want that. But I also get the need to be financially stable. And have medical benefits. Short of winning the lottery or being the surprise benefactor of a heretofore unknown, eccentric billionaire great-uncle's will, that's not going to change. The lights have to stay on somehow.
Twelve days into the new year, I called in sick. I was tired to my very bones. I wanted to go back to a time when I didn't dread waking up in the morning -- and actually, I didn't have to reach far to find it. It had happened only a couple of weeks ago during the holiday break, it had happened over a summer three years ago when I was writing The Other Guy, and it had happened in the long interim as I continued to contribute little stories here and there to fandom. It had happened while I was writing. I'd bound out of bed at seven, make a cup of coffee, forget to eat breakfast, let the coffee go cold, and write. I'd shovel lunch into my mouth only because I got lightheaded, and write. I'd write and write until it was time to go to sleep, and I'd head to bed, excited that I'd get to do it all over again the next day.
By contrast, the first thing out of my mouth when the alarm clock goes off during a regular work week? Fuuuck. Or on less dreary days, nooo.
I had been here countless times before, knowing perfectly well I didn't particularly enjoy what I was doing, knowing there was there was something else I'd much rather devote my time and energy to, and could, but I was terrified of it. What if the thing I loved to do didn't love me back? What if everyone did have a novel in them, and I'd already met my quota and had nothing left? What if everything I'd ever written was actually pure garbage dressed up as prose? But also... what if I never got off my ass to find out?
Normally, when beset with these thoughts, I'd journal them, wait for the worst of the feelings to pass, and trudge on as usual. But I was getting sick of writing down the same old crap; my journals have literally at least five years of the same damn thing, pages and pages of how I wished my life could be different. And I'd reached a saturation point. Instead of journalling, I went to YouTube and searched for motivational speeches. I needed someone to yell at me and slap me in the face and tell me I could do better. I don't know if I can even find those videos again; I went through four or five of them largely indiscriminately. It didn't matter, because boiled down, they all said the same thing: it takes work.
I'm not disciplined. That's why I don't go on diets or make resolutions. Failure is foreseeable from the start. What I am good at is throwing confetti showers of excuses at myself. I'm too tired. I don't have time. I don't have ideas. I'm stuck. But as it turns out, I'm also a tad full of shit. My life won't change unless I change.
Which is not to say I'm going to run out and quit my job right now. Like I said, I have to keep the lights on. But I can also make time to get happy. That means working at it every single day, whether it's doing research or writing ten words or a thousand. That means not waiting for the stars to align with my muse's schedule as she flits in and out at will (mostly out). If I want to reach a point in my life where I can wake up on a daily basis and not groan like a dying beast at the thought of the next twelve hours, I have to put in the work.
It's possible I'll never reach that point. My fears may all be true and I may not be good enough a writer to ever get there. But the difference between trying and clinging to the status quo is that the latter is iron-clad insurance that I will never be happy with myself. If I try, at least I have a fighting chance.
So this is an open invitation. You are all invited to hold me accountable. Demand daily word counts from me, tweet me in all caps, remind me Tumblr will still be there tomorrow, send me pictures of squishy baby animals. (The last one probably won't help with motivation all that much, but who doesn't like pictures of baby animals? Give them to me! They are so cute.) Be my cheerleader, be my drill sergeant, be my motivational speaker. If you want it, I will do the very same for you.
Three hundred and sixty-five days into the new year, I want to look back and see a difference, if not in my life, then at least in me.
Some of you have politely inquired when the next book might be out. The short answer: I don't know. The long answer: [cue hysterical weeping]
Lots of writers and other maker-uppers of cool things are acquaintances, if not full-on chummy, with Crippling Doubt and his best pal You're-Not-Good-Enough. These fine gentlemen paid me a visit about, oh, nine months ago, and have since settled into my life as inextricably as a seventeen-year-old wine stain the middle of the carpet. Our days pass in a haze of backspace button abuse, blank documents, cursors that wink in and out of existence right alongside my writing abilities. We huddle together in the warm, blue glow of my laptop, listening to the gentle rhythm of the desk repeatedly meeting my head.
Crippling Doubt showers upon me an endless confetti of advice.
You're-Not-Good-Enough is solicitous and full of endearments.
It is... a challenge. And that, kids, is why I don't know when the next book will be out. The best I can do is: eventually. (Sorry.)
Cary, in real life: Did I ever tell you guys about my shapeshifting superpowers? It's only specific to certain situations, but happens without fail in scenarios like, oh say, job interviews. That's when I turn from a reasonably well-adjusted individual into a panicked, rambling mess, splattering word-vomit all over the floor. As usefulness goes, it probably ranks somewhere between Aquaman and the Wonder Twins. So that's where I am in my life right now; how are you all doing? Good?
Writing is hard: The good news is that I have about 80K written of a new story, and I don't excessively hate all of it. The bad news is that half of it doesn't quite work, and needs major reconstruction, and the thought of going through all those words makes me want to swandive into a vat of boiling grease. Okay, fine, it's not that bad. But it's still a damn lot of work. Unnnggghhh.
Nerd alert: Everybody should play the board game Pandemic (with expansions). It's a cooperative game where everyone strategizes together to save the world from disease, and I promise it's a lot more fun than I make it sound. Wil Wheaton and friends will tell you:
"A game where the players are the only thing that stands between life and horrible, shivering, puking, bleeding, miserable death" about sums it up
A darling friend of mine has been recommending Bill Bryson's books to me for ages and ages. I finally managed to pick up a copy of Notes from a Small Island at a used book sale (tread lightly, friends; it's a dark, dangerous place that saps your willpower and replaces it with fifteen books you don't need), and what do you know -- she's right and he's hysterical.
There's a passage in Notes about W.J.C. Scott-Bentinck, an eccentric recluse who has since become my role model. He communicated with his servants entirely by written notes, had food delivered to his room using a miniature railway system, and, if a servant saw him by accident, froze like a statue until they passed. After his death, his heirs found a room stuffed to the gills with "hundreds of green boxes, each of which contained a single dark brown wig." He sounds amazing, and I want to be him when I grow up. Failing that, the Simpsons version of Thomas Pynchon.
In other news, I hope you're all having a brilliant holiday season! If that is not your thing, I hope you are enjoying a regular week of the month! Whatever you're celebrating or not, I wish you all light and love and no end of good books to keep you company. ♥