Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Whatever it takes...

Today I got something crossed off the proverbial To Do List…and it wasn’t even officially on there! Woo hoo!

About noon, I innocently go out to my car to go to lunch. A rather mundane, ordinary thing. Nothing too exciting about that… And notice that the back tire is lookin’ mighty darn low. Drats! (and yes, you are right…this is not quite the word I used…)

Now you have to understand…I have this thing about checking my tires…all the time…Ready for another: when I was a little girl story? Tough! When I was a little girl, waiting for the school bus in Palo Alto, every morning we would watch the guy across street as he performed his morning car check before going to work. He would come out in his shirtsleeves and place his jacket and briefcase on the back seat of the car. Next, he’d climb behind the steering wheel and start the engine. Get back out of the car, go to the rear tire and look at it a second. Then he’d bend down and stare at it, stand up and kick it, and proceed around the back of the car to the other tire. Perform the same check. Move to the front tire. Glower, bend, peer, rise, kick. Finally tire number four’s turn… Then he’d get in and drive away.

Being an impressionable pre-teen, this stuck in my mind…Oh whatever…I check my tires regularly…not that religiously…none of that bending, peering, kicking nonsense, but I do keep an eye on them, always thinking about Eileen K’s dad and glad I am not as obsessive as he! But getting a flat on the freeway or at some other inconvenient time (and any time a tire goes flat is inconvenient in my book!) is not my idea of fun…

So…anyway! The tire was fine yesterday…it was not fine today. Double drats. What to do…what to do… Well, the first thing to do was to ask one of the machinists if he’d kindly put some air in it so I could get to either Costco (where I can have it fixed for free…) or to dealer where I could also get the oil changed, the tires rotated, the 30K check done at the same time…all things I’d been putting off cuz one cannot take a disgracefully dirty car to the dealer… I opted to suck it up and took my poor dirty baby to the dealer.

A few hours later, I picked him up again…the most expensive tire repair in the world! But hey! They threw in an oil change, lube, tire rotation, 30K check and a CAR WASH! My lucky day!

And tomorrow morning…I no longer have to think: hmmm…I really need to get you washed, baby, so we can go to the dealer and not feel like shmucks. Ah…life is good…

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Time to take a stand...

As a young girl, one of the things my parents took great pains in teaching me was that to gain respect you had to earn it. You had to deserve it. It wasn’t one of those things that “just happened”.

For years now, decades actually, the romance genre of the literary world has bemoaned the fact that even though they have a commanding share of the reading market, they “can’t get no respect”. Romance Writers of America (fondly known as RWA) was established to promote the genre and its authors. It has spent countless of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars defining romance in hopes of building a respectable image. Thus far, success seems to have been minimal. The battle is one that is uphill, and the mountain just keeps getting steeper.

I have long been thinking that perhaps I am the one who has outgrown romance, and that my career really needs to be defined as “women’s fiction”. Even before the turn of the century (yes! this century!) I felt that perhaps I should be “looking outside the box”. Today my writing partner took a stand and declared herself a women’s fiction writer. Good for her!

So, while the romance genre continues to wonder why it doesn’t garner respect (uh, maybe a good place to start would be by taking a hard look at the book covers…), and RWA continues to spend money trying to buy it, I am going to go out and earn it. I will be defining my career in a way that I can be proud to say that I am a writer.

From this day forth, I write women’s fiction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Tuesday: Take Two!

Yesterday was one of those days where I should not have bothered to go to work. I knew from the second I stepped into my office and peeked over my computer monitor that I was in big trouble. There were no less than eight pieces of paper strewn across the desktop…the same desktop that I had so painstakingly cleared off the night before…

Oh well, I say to myself in a cheerful, positive manner…they can probably all be dispatched in a lickety-split type of fashion… Eh, eh, eh…six of the eight snicker back…”that’s what you think, ol’ girl!” And so the day began!

I started out with four things on the “To Do” list that I really wanted to get done. By 9AM, the list had grown to seven…with none crossed off. By 10AM, we were up to nine…and still none crossed off. If that phone rings one more time…I let my threat dangle in the air. BRRR---ringgggg! it goes, knowing that dangling threats are idle ones… Time: 10:01 Items added to the list: two more…

Then I ticked off a co-worker. I asked her if she were still going on her maternity beginning the date we’d discussed. And I asked her if she could please give me a date when she was returning so I could make arrangements to cover her position while she was gone. I even told her I didn’t need to know until next week. Man, you’d think I’d asked for the exact minute she was gonna deliver the baby… The rest of the day, the department was in an upheaval because of this request. Silly me. Needing to plan for staff coverage…

So, there I sat at my desk at 8PM…when I had planned on being home by six, completing one of the tasks on the list. Now see…If I had stayed home all day…I would have accomplished a lot more at the office! And it would have been much more relaxed.

So, let’s just do Tuesday over. Ready? Lights! Camera! Action!! (Lead actress enters office, stage left and peers tentatively over computer monitor… What will she see?)

Thursday, May 12, 2005

How many others don’t care…

Okay…after three days I am still stewing. I agree with my writing partner that to “attack” on the board where this occurred is probably not the best course of action. Yes, it would uphold a principle of sorts, but other than potentially causing strife, the parties involved are not gonna change their ways…or even care.

Here’s the deal:

Last year I decided that I would like to get involved in writing contest judging. Which I did. I was quite surprised at the amount of time that judging an entry consumed. A minimum of an hour and a half or more depending on the length of the entry. And since most contestants enter because they want feedback, judges are expected to make tons of comments not only on the score sheets but also on the manuscripts themselves. This takes time…especially when you are very conscious that feelings and emotions are involved. A good judge does not, will not, cannot, must not hack away at somebody’s baby.

Okay, here’s another part of the deal:

Entrants are supposed to be submitting publish-ready material. Now I don’t know what that means to some people, but to me it means that an editor can take those pages and send them to typesetting (or however they do it these days…god, I am dating myself no doubt!) and turn out a professional book. And yes, I realize that someone entering a contest is probably not gonna have this level of perfection otherwise they would be sending it to said publisher…for modern day typesetting… And yes, it is a well-known fact that many brand new writers submit to contests honestly thinking they have publish-ready material, their friends and family told them so! Also, equally important, is that entrants also guarantee that they have a finished manuscript to go along with these 15-50 pages they are entering…just in case they final, they can then immediately send the rest of the manuscript to the final judge (usually an agent or editor).

And finally, here is what happened that has me still stewing three days later:

Two members of a critique group that I am involved with entered a contest that my writing partner and I were judging. It is one of the more prestigious contests and quite large. I received three entries to judge and immediately recognized one of them as being written by a member of the group. I had seen the chapter a couple of times…and I was rather surprised to see that even after a number of crits, it hadn’t changed much…including some typos. I turned it back in since I could not judge it.

Finalists were announced last week, and Member Number One was thrilled to see that all three of her entries finalled! Woo Hoo for her we all cried! Member Number Two was also ecstatic to learn that two of her entries finalled including the one that I turned back in (of course, she did not know this…). Woo Hoo for her we all cried!

Thank you, they said! Member Number One then went on to say that she needed to scramble to get her entries ready to go…that she had just prepared the pages needed to enter the preliminaries. Now she needed to get some more ready for the finals…and who knew what she’d do if she actually had to submit a manuscript.

Nothing ready? Nothing written??? And yet…part of the bargain was that a manuscript was complete??? Is this ethical? Is this fair? Not in my book.

Then the question was innocently asked: will you have time to see your scores before you submit so you can make any tweaks?

Member Number Two says: She doesn’t give a damn what some (implying: dumb) judge says about her work. That she doesn’t enter for feedback. That as a matter of fact she heard via her writing partner that some judge had written on an entry “Get a critique partner”… She found this very humorous...she has a crit partner...the one who saw the comment! Seems to me that both the writing partner and she should be giving this another thought…(remember the typos in the submission?)

Okay…I am not some dumb judge. I guess I really resent this whole deal because it felt like a direct slap to both my writing partner and me since both these gals knew we had judged in the contest…and how did they know that we hadn’t unknowingly judged one of their entries…that we were a large part of their success. It almost happened except I recognized the submission. I could have spent a couple hours of my time judging her entry, cheering her on, hoping when her score came out high and that I loved the entry that I would see her name on the finalist list. As it turns out…the two entries I did judge both finalled.

This whole experience has left me wondering…are most contestants as apathetic as these two gals? I hope not. I much prefer to think that the world is still somewhat sweet…that writers are sending in their lovingly prepared entries and eagerly awaiting them to come back with details of what someone thought. Then again, my rose-colored glasses are currently pretty smudged at the moment…

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Perfection has a price...

Well, it took it took almost four months to get the roof fixed. And normally when I call the guy that I called to fix the ceiling (currently known as Ceiling Guy…imaginative, huh!) it takes him about three weeks to come and see me. He is very busy…very popular…very good at a very reasonable price.

This time, however, I was surprised. He was able to come for the initial estimate the very next day after I called him. Business must be slow! After arriving most promptly, he looked over the job to be done…quoted a price far below my expectations (don’t tell him that!) and we set up an appointment for this week to begin the work. Four visits…we want it done properly.

Visit number one: he arrived right on time. Right at 3:30 as promised…not a minute late. After doing his thing, he asked me if I was still picking up the ceiling paint (which yes, I had volunteered to do during the estimate because while it is not a special color…I do really want the same paint…) and I said yes. I would do it this week. He then said I should pick up some TSP and scrub the ceiling.

WHAT? Scrub the ceiling? Why?

So that he can repaint the entire ceiling so it will all match…. Oh, I say…

Visit number two: occurred yesterday. Well, the day before yesterday now…cuz I see it is after midnight already (and I really should be in bed…keep reading and you’ll see why…) And Ceiling Guy arrives right on the dot of 3:30 again (of course, I had no doubt that he would! He has yet to be late…) Does his thing again…which this time is sanding the areas that he replaced and mudded last time and applying a second layer of mud that is really smooth this time… It looks great! But then he inquires: have you picked up the TSP and paint yet? Uh, no…not yet…but I shall! Do we really need to repaint the whole ceiling, I ask? Well, yes, he says like I am some kinda dork. Okay…I say… thinking I kinda had plans for this weekend that did not include standing on my head scrubbing down the ceiling…

So, today I pick up the TSP and a bucket and the paint. (My old bucket is about ready to fall apart and I certainly did not want to risk the TSP that I carefully mix running all over the floor and asphyxiating me before I have a chance to scrub the ceiling with it and let it asphyxiate me then…did I mention that the sliding glass door needs to be replaced because something horrible happened to it during the storm that ruined the roof and allowed the waterfall in the kitchen to ruin the ceiling and it won’t open or close? That shall be the next home improvement saga…trust me! But I digress…) And in a few short hours, I’ll be standing on a step stool scrubbing the ceiling…trying to make it match the “dullness” that he has around the areas he did for the new ceiling sections…

Ah, the price we pay for perfection. It is rather amusing when you think about it…I want perfection…it is so hard to find someone who still take pride in their work…and yet I am bemoaning the fact that here I have found someone who wants to make my ceiling perfect. Funny how we can always find something to complain about…and yet…while I am not happy about spending my Saturday (cuz I know me…it will take a lot longer than a few hours in the morning…) cleaning my ceiling because yes…I want it to be perfect.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The pressure is on…

Yep…as soon as I decided to turn my blog into writing-related topics, my idea well dried up. Not a drip…not a drop…instead it became: What to blog…what to blog...that is the question. And so…nothing was blogged (for nine days and counting! I understand!). So forget that idea. We are returning to our original babblings of life with a few writing topics thrown in here and there for fun!

Haven’t been up to much mischief this past week but here are a couple of updates.

The roof does indeed appear to be fixed! It never rains in Southern California after mid-April…but Mother Nature finally decided that I deserved a break. It rained (and I actually welcomed it even though driving was a nightmare…took me two hours to get to work and I won’t even regale you with the bus experience!…well, maybe down below!) twice in the last week. We got over an inch and a half…and no sign of water in the house! Woo Hoo! Next step: getting the ceiling fixed. Mr. Ceiling Guy is scheduled to start the work next Wednesday. It will take four trips…ugh… but with any luck, that nightmare will soon become a trauma of the past. Then we can see if the microwave still works and either get a new stove or just a new knob, and finally move on to getting the sliding glass window replaced… and then begin the repairs on the yard drainage…it never ends, this home ownership responsibility…

A new batch of baby spiders hatched this past week, and they are merrily spinning new webs on top of the old cobwebs. And the dust bunnies still rule! They are ignoring the latest eviction warning they received a few weeks ago…and with good cause…since booting their butts is still on the ever growing list of things to do...without fail...someday.

I signed up for Charlotte Dillion’s writing challenge…and have only written a couple of pages. Not good. Not good at all when one (hmmm…me…) committed to writing 25 pages a week. Can we say “schmuck”? Yes, we can…just kinda hate it when we are saying to “me”…

Have some things to say about The Runaway Bride, crit groups, the erotica-romantica-romance controversy beginning to move from a simmer to a boil, oh, and the bus story, but I really need to switch the laundry to the dryer and straighten the kitchen and turn on the dishwasher and pay some bills… See! Now you know why I haven’t blogged in nine days!