Monday, November 28, 2005

If You Look to The Right...

... you will see what I did today. I passed the 50,000-word mark at about 6 pm this evening, and uploaded my novel for validation at the Nano site about ten minutes ago. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself, especially considering that I had been feeling hopelessly blocked for the last day or so. As is often the case, once the blockage was removed (ew), the proverbial floodgates opened, I've written more than 6,000 words so far today. Pretty amazing.

Of course, the novel isn't actually finished -- I think there is probably about 5-10K words left in the story, and I'm going to keep working on it as though I'm still working against a deadline or else I might never finish it. That would be less than satisfying.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Today I Wrote 1300 Words...

... which is amazing considering all the things I did to avoid writing, including but not limited to:
1) Draining the spa, giving it a scrub, cleaning the filters, and refilling it
2) Raking up millions and millions of leaves in the front yard
3) Sweeping the front porch and all the walkways in the front yard
4) Taking Enthusio to his play rehearsal, which lasted almost two hours, and sitting there with my laptop on and sometimes even open and on my lap, but not being typed on a whole lot because I was watching the rehearsal and also talking to anyone sitting near me who would distract me from writing
5) Putting up Christmas lights
6) Running out to Rite Aid for more Christmas lights
7) Putting up more Christmas lights
8) Helping Mermaid work on her book report about My Teacher Is An Alien
9) Baking lemon bars (from a mix)
10) Watching two solid hours of crime dramas

The Christmas lights part was the really egregious part. It's not even December yet. It was a pretty day out, and I was out there doing the spa, which was really months overdue, so I didn't feel bad about that, and then it turned into lots of yard work, and then I convinced myself that if I put the Christmas lights off till next week, either it was going to rain or I was really not going to want to do it, since really, I'm only willing to do a lot of outside work maybe two or three days a year.

Then I got into the plastic bin marked "Outdoor Lights," and guess what? Not all that many outdoor lights in there. I found the mesh ones for the bushes in front of the house, and "swag" ones I bought last year that I'm not all that fond of, and I put those up, but as for the strings of multi-colored lights to go around the door and all -- nope. I looked in the other bins (the ones not marked "Outdoor Lights," but they weren't in there either. So I decided that last year when I took down the strings of lights, I must have gotten disgusted with them and decided to throw them all out and start fresh this year. As I told Reasonable Man, this sounds like exactly the sort of thing I would do and promptly forget about. Or maybe not so promptly -- it's been 11 months, after all. I should have known I would have no idea what the hell happened to the stupid lights after that long, and left myself a note in the box or something, but no.

It's not like this sort of thing is unprecedented in my family. My own father accidentally put the same crappy lights meant for outside on the Christmas tree two years in a row when I was growing up. I have a very distinct memory of him disgustedly ripping them off the tree as he told me that, in order to prevent this from happening a third year, this time he was going to put them in a bag and write "Idiot!" on the outside of it. No one ever laughs when I tell this story. I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, I went to Rite Aid and bought a couple of strings of lights to put around the front door and front window. That would be colored lights, because I just don't care for the white lights so much. It's nothing personal -- I just don't think they're as festive. I was very happy with what I brought home. They're the cluster lights, so there are three of each color kind of bunched together where there would only be one on a regular string of lights. You don't have to worry about pulling them tight to get them straight, and hey -- there's more lights! More lights has to be better than fewer lights, right? And then I felt very smug as I was able to quickly put them up, utilizing the hooks I've installed for this very purpose. It took me about 2 minutes -- honest to God.

Do you have your Christmas lights up yet? You don't, do you? Ha ha! In your face!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lazy Day

I am booking along in my novel. Sure, I'm not exactly sure what is going to happen in the next few scenes, but last night I hit 42,690 before I went to bed at 1 am (very late for me). If I were to sit down with my computer and just write my butt off today, I could easily hit 50,000 words by the end of the day. I'm not going to, because I have other stuff to do today, but I could.

I'm going to take the kids to the Harry Potter movie later this morning, and then we'll come home and I'll do some writing and help Rachel work on her book report for a while and maybe go running at some point. Yeah, that sounds good.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Two Reasons I Don't Think I Want To Be a Famous Writer

1) Saturday night, our neighbor who recently published a book about the first Olympic games in Greece had a book-signing and author event at Borders, and I went to it. The whole thing made me uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong -- they had a nice-sized crowd and they handled everything very nicely -- I was pleased for them that there was a good turn-out and I hope they sold some books. But that's the kind of thing I know I would have to do if I published a novel, and the idea of having that kind of event terrifies me. Seriously -- I'm too chicken to have a garage sale because I worry no one will come. I can't imagine sitting in a bookstore to do a reading and worrying that no one will show up. I find that kind of thing just mortifying.

2) There is a website I occasionally read where a group of writers provide detailed recaps of select TV shows. I don't read it as often as I used to just because the recaps are pretty long, and I never really participated in the forums there because for one thing, they seem to have a lot of rules about posting and I didn't want to get in trouble for making the wrong kind of comment about "Six Feet Under" or something, and second, I've gotten involved in online communities before, and you know, I waste too much time online as it is without that, you know? (Speaking of wasting time, I did my first Sudoku puzzle today. Like I need another time-sucking addiction in my life!) So yeah -- maybe the people who produce this particular website are a little overly pleased with themselves, and maybe they are kinda over the top about their moderating duties on the forums, but you know what? It's a big wide web out there, and if some website is harshing your mellow? Don't go there anymore. I mean give me a break.

So I was chagrined but unsurprised to discover today that there exists out there a (name of aforementioned website) that consists entirely of forums where you can shred the recappers at this TV-show-recapping website and the people who post on the forums. Two of the recapppers whom I've read most frequently seem to the most popular targets. The main descriptor I saw on the threads about each of them seemed to be "bitch."

Now, both of these women are probably pretty thick-skinned, and if you're going to put yourself out there, I guess you're leaving yourself open that kind of thing, but you know what? If I was to discover that there were entire threads of discussion out there online consisting of nothing but nasty, mean-spirited comments about what a bitch I was, written by people who only know me by what I wrote online, I would probably drown in an ocean of my own tears. Seriously. Who needs that? If that's the price of online fame, I'd just as soon stay relatively anonymous.

So anyway. Do I sound like a wimp? So be it. I am a highly sensitive person -- deal with it.

Adventures in Parenting #926

Today, I explained the birds and the bees to Enthusio. To be more precise, I read him a book called Where Did I Come From? that has been around for quite a while -- in fact, I remember my 5th grade teacher reading it to us when we did our Family Life unit, which is why I bought it for my kids. It's full of cartoon drawings, and it makes me happy that illustrated mom and dad in it are far less attractive than Reasonable Man and myself, naked or clothed. I don't need to see some woman with Barbie-doll proportions when I'm already tackling something stressful.

Anyway, the reason this came up today was that we dropped some stuff off at the SPCA Thrift Shop downtown, and I was explaining why I like to donate our extra stuff there and a little bit about how animal shelters work, and this led to a discussion of things responsible pet owners do, like spaying and neutering their pets. Enthusio didn't understand why the boy dogs and cats would need to have an operation to help prevent babies too, and since we've had a number of these kinds of questions over the past few months, I decided the time was right and we sat down and read the book.

I don't know what I was expecting, but Enthusio was completely undaunted by the facts of conception. He was interested enough, but none of it seemed to gross him out or embarrass him, so that was good. I was a little nervous when we got started, but managed to read the whole book in a pretty matter-of-fact way, and he sat there and looked at the pictures and asked the occasional question. After we were done, I asked him if he had anymore questions, and he said he didn't and then announced that he wanted to take the book to school. I explained why that probably wasn't a good idea but said that if he if wanted to talk about any of it again, he could talk to me or his dad, and then he went to play on the computer, and that was that.

So yeah. I've now explained the facts of puberty to one very bored daughter and how babies are made to one very earnest son, and no one has died of embarrassament or, if I'm reading things right, even realized there is anything to be embarrassed about. I guess I'm doing okay.


I don't know if I've detailed my patented Tracie Bezerra Film-Movie-Flick Scale of Excellence or Lack Thereof in Cinema in this space. It's pretty simple, really -- if it's great, it's a Film; if it's okay to pretty good, it's a movie, and if it's leaning toward utter suckitude, it's a Flick. Pluses or minuses can be applied as warranted. These ratings are based entirely on my personal enjoyment of the work in question, which usually takes the quality of the writing and freqently the acting as well into consideration, but not the amount of money spent to make it, the number of Oscar nominations it might have received, the awesomeness of the special effects, or how much the general public might have liked it. For instance, I don't give a rat's rear that "Titanic" is expensive, beautiful to look at, or adored by millions. That bloated piece of crap is a Flick in my book.

Yeah, I'm a total snob when it comes to the movies, and I have no problem admitting that.

Anyway, I've taken in a lot of cinema in the last few weeks, and I've been meaning to post about what I've watched, so it seems like a dust off the old system and give her a whirl...

"Garden State" - I watched this on DVD last weekend in a desperate attempt to not work on my novel, and I loved it. It was funny, and Zach Braff and Natalie Portman were both wonderful -- I'd seen him in "Scrubs" and her in several movies, but I would never have suspected that he was capable of such a strong dramatic performance, or that she could be so adorably goofy. I laughed the entire way through her first scene. I had heard that Zach Braff's performance was flat due to his character being on medication, but that it hurt the movie -- I disagree, and thought he portrayed someone who was slowly coming out of the fog of everything he'd been taking for years and years really well. The chemistry between the two characters was also very well done, and Peter Sarsgaard, as the stoner friend they hang out with, was great too. Rating: Film -

"Pride & Prejudice" - Well, I knew I'd go see this one, being kind of a Jane Austen junkie. The first time I saw the trailer, I had mixed feelings about it, since it appeared to be a very movie-fied version, in contrast with the 1995 six-hour A&E version with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy that I absolutely loved. But this new one surprised me by being, in many ways, better than the 1995 one. I think that the older one was probably more what Jane Austen pictured when she wrote the novel -- very prim and proper and elegant, with all the grime of 18th century life edited out. In the new version, though the story is obviously condensed to fit in a shorter running time and some of the scenes are staged more dramatically (Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet happens outside, where they are sheltered from a huge rainstorm by some sort of stone monument, rather than in a small, quiet drawing room), there is also a warts-and-all quality that lends it more authenticity. Hair is messy, skin is greasy, pigs and geese roam the Bennet estate, and their house is filled with the clutter that you would find in a real house where a family with five daughters lived. Keira Knightley plays a different kind of Elizabeth, who really seems like a 20-year-old girl who hasn't quite figured out what she wants, and the new Mr. Darcy, who doesn't seem like much to look at in the beginning, actually seems kind of hot by the end. Loved it. Rating: Film

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - This was one of my favorite books of the series, and the previews for the movie looked awesome, but I didn't think it would probably be as good as the third HP movie, and I was right. I enjoyed it a lot -- everything in it was very well done, and the way the ginormously long story was whittled down to fit into the 2+-hour running time without cutting essential plot points from the book (which was my only quibble with HP3) was admirable to say the least. There is never a dull moment in "Goblet of Fire" -- it moves from event to event at a breathtaking pace just because it has to in order to fit all of the action in. As a fan of the books, I wasn't disappointed, but maintaining that breakneck pace does come at the expense of things like character development, and think I would have felt a lot was missing if I wasn't well-versed in the HP universe already. Then again, how many people will go see this movie without having read any of the books or seen any of the previous movies? "Goblet of Fire" has a more humor than the three previous HP movies, due largely to the increased presence of twins Fred and George Weasley, who are homely but awfully amusing, and the whole Yule Ball subplot. Rating: Movie +

"Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" - Our copy of the DVD arrived from Netflix the other day. I realize I probably missed a lot by not seeing it in a theater with hundreds of SW fanatics -- in fact, I probably should have watched it when Reasonable Man was home -- a lot of my enjoyment of the series comes from his worship of it. Anyway, I didn't like this one. I could see how it was better than "Attack of the Clones" (never saw "Phantom Menace"), but the script was still awful, and the only good acting was done by Ewan McGregor. The special effects were good, but I couldn't care less about the storyline. The Jedis totally lost me with that whole "caring about someone enough to be afraid to lose them makes you weak" thing, and the Anakin-Padme relationship always made me want to barf, so it was pretty hard to root for any of the characters to win the battle for Anakin's soul or whatever that crap was about. I do like the CGI Yoda a lot, and did I mention Ewan McGregor? I didn't even mind his facial hair so much in this one. Still, overall it was a disappointment. They should have stopped making these movies after they finished the first twenty minutes of "Return of the Jedi." Rating: Flick +

"The Wiz" - I suspect this is one of those movies, not unlike "The Wizard of Oz," that it helps to have seen for the first time when you were a little kid. I can totally appreciate that a lot of people think it was just a big mess. It's too long by probably an hour, a lot of the acting, especially that of Diana Ross as Dorothy, is shrill and weirdly overwrought, and there is no excuse for the amount of Nipsey Russell in this movie. Still, having seen it the first time when I was around 10 years old, and having watched it often enough growing up to know learn the words to a lot of the songs and that kind of thing, I have to say, this one is a favorite. Here are the things I like about it:
1) Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow is fabulous. His singing, dancing and, surprisingly, acting are all first rate. I have the song he sings in his first scene, "You Can't Win," on my iPod. His performance in "The Wiz" is a huge part of the reason I was a big fan of his once upon a time.
2) Ted Ross as the Cowardly Lion and his song "I'm a Mean Old Lion."
3) The dancing
4) The songs (except the two Nipsey Russell sings)
5) The gritty urban sets
6) The scary scene in the subway where all kinds of weird stuff chases the main characters
I found this movie on DVD for $5.50 at Target last week. A bargain at twice the price! Rating: Film -

"Spanglish" - I'd heard mixed reviews of this movie when it came out , but was intrigued by the previews, and I'd heard good things about it from several people I knew. So I was excited to come across it on HBO last night. I really enjoyed it. I always appreciate it when a film has that quality where you're not sure where the story is going or what kind of resolution is going to be satisfying, and this one was so full of unique characters and situations that I felt that way throughout. Paz Vega, Tea Leoni and Adam Sandler all give their characters complexity, and I liked how none of them came off as purely saintly or villainous. I remember reading in reviews that Leoni's character, Deb was such a monster that she ruined the whole movie, but I disagree with that. Deb is a monster for sure, but I found her both believable and very, very human, and while I could certainly sympathize deeply with Adam Sandler's John for being married to her, I liked Deb enough to want John to stay with her. Sandler's performance as John has both the quick you expect from him as well as a sweetness and real likeability. He's is really transcending the whole goofball comedy guy thing and becoming an interesting actor. Both of the young actresses who played teen daughters Bernie and Christina were excellent. My only quibble about with movie is that Flor learns English much too quickly and easily. Rating: Movie +

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Halfway Point

Every day I sit down to write, think about where I am in my story, and go "I can't do this." Then I put my fingers on the keyboard and crank out a one or two thousand words. Sunday afternoon I knew I was behind and that I had a couple of hours and that I really needed to get to work, and I ended up writing almost 2,500 words.

Today is the 15th, which means I'm halfway through the month of November. Usually by now I'm cruising along, far ahead of the 25K point where I need to be. Usually my story is popping along by now. But there's not much that's usual about this year.

This year I feel like I'm doing well to hit my this-is-where-I-need-to-be-if-I'm-averaging-1700-words-a-day mark each day and playing catch-up on the days I don't make it. The story is still moving along, although I'm afraid to read through it for fear of discovering what a mess it is and not having the will to go on from there. In all likelihood, when I do sit down to read it from beginning to end, I'll discover it isn't as bad as I thought. But that's for December. For now, I'm just taking it one day at a time and trying not to worry about how quickly November 30 approaches.

I'm on target to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month.

I am following my usual pattern of charting out a summary of what will happen in the first half of the novel, writing that first half, and then needing to lay out the remainder of the story as I head into the second half.

And most important, every day I ignore that voice that say "I can't do this," put my fingers on the keyboard, and begin to type.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I am having the weirdest cold. Saturday afternoon I knew I was starting to come down with it -- I was snuffling and sneezing and I had a sinus headache, and I was blowing my nose till it felt kind of raw and I was just thinking, damn, this is going to be ugly. We went out to dinner with friends that evening (lucky them!) and by the time we left the restaurant, I had that whole brain-floating-above-your-head feeling that that one cold medicine commercial illustrated so well a few years ago, and I was talking with that by-dose-is-stuffed-ub voice and everything. It turned out we only had half a dose or so of Nyquil at home, but I slammed it, and went to bed expecting to have a miserable night.

At some point during the night, I woke up and realized I wasn't really miserable, and that in fact I'd been sleeping peacefully for several hours. In the morning I awoke feeling... just fine. Not 100% or anything, mind you -- I didn't feel like going for a jog, and my sinus cavities had that dried up-scooped out kind of feeling you get when you take a heavy antihistamine. But I was well rest and feeling healthy enough to go about my day, which included going to the movies, writing 2,400 words, and going out to dinner with some different friends from the night before.

Toward the end of last night, once again, I was feeling snuffly and sneezy and headachey and just generally crappy. We didn't have any Nyquil in the house and I hadn't bothered to buy anymore because I thought I was well, so I drank some lemonade with a shot of vodka and later I took some Sudafed and some Tylenol, and then I went to bed. And it was the same story as the night before. Soon as my head hit the pillow, I fell into a pleasant, restful sleep, and I woke up this morning feeling well rested and ready to start the day. I even went to the gym.

So, I don't know. It's 7:30 and maybe that snuffly feeling will be hitting me soon. I should probably go fix myself some lemonade and vodka just in case.

Friday, November 11, 2005

At Last: Photos!

Yeah, I know you were waiting with baited breath and all that...

The kids on Halloween:

I think this is one of my favorite costumes Mermaid has ever worn. The ruby slippers were too big and gave her some trouble, but that hasn't stopped her from wearing them out to play every day after school since then. I like Enthusio's costume too, of course, but I loved his Harry Potter costume last year so much that it was hard to top that. In any case, they both had a blast, and you should have seen how much candy they got!

Enthusio's school picture:

This will probably be one of his nicest school photos. I love it!

Mermaid's school picture:

Well, you can't win 'em all, right? She looks like she's being coerced to put on a happy face. I wanted her to do retakes -- she insisted her picture was beautiful and replaced last year's photo with the new one in the frame on the mantle when I wasn't looking. She obviously felt strongly about it, so I backed off. Please note the extremely cool tee shirt!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Not Dead

Yep, I'm back. I was way busy last week, and this week I've actually had plenty of time to post, but I couldn't out of guilt, because I was supposed to be writing my novel but I wasn't doing that. All I can tell you is that this blogging thing is sick thing if it's both something I end up feeling guilty for doing and for not doing. Anyway, so much has gone on lately and I"m going to attempt to just condense and write short bits about lots of different things.

1) I'm having a hell of a time writing this novel, and I don't mean that in a good way. My main character is someone I can't really relate to in any way. She was a blast to write about as a supporting character -- she'd basically enter a room, say a few bitchy things, and then flounce off. I believe I actually used that word -- "flounce" -- to describe how she left the room a number of time. Now I have to get inside her head. Okay: think of the person you went to high school with with whom you had the least possible amount of life experience in common. Then imagine sitting down and trying to write 50,000 words from that person's perspective. I'm writing it all right -- I passed 18,000 words earlier this afternoon -- but I have no idea if I'm getting it right. But that's a problem for December. For now -- don't get it right, get it written!

2) Last week was my week from hell. I spent so much time thinking about how busy I was that I started to bore myself with it. Suffice it to say that I: co-chaired the book fair at our school with 4 other moms, did all the paperwork for the school pasta feed happening the same week, did the whole Halloween thing solo, as Reasonable Man was on a much deserved fun trip to Washington DC for 4 days, hosted my Bunko group at my house, started my novel, and flew back east for a 3-day writing weekend. It was a lot of stuff, and some of it was more fun than stress, but I'm still glad it's over.

3) Chairing the book fair was fun, and it made a buttload of money for the school library. I hadn't been a chair before, but I've taken a shift as a cashier almost every book fair since Montgomery opened, and one thing that always drives me crazy is how all the kids come in with their wadded up dollars and greasy change, and instead of buying books, many of which are, admittedly, outside their price range, they waste their precious pennies on all kinds of plastic crap disguised as "school supplies." There's always one hot item in particular --usually these little space-age looking highlighters that come in all different colors. All the girls come in and buy them in every possible color -- first, the pink and purple ones disappear, then the blue and the green, and eventually, there's only orange left. And I just think, what the hell do second graders have to highlight. Well, I'm happy to say that a) the other chairs and I were so disgusted with some of the crap we were supposed to put out for these kids to buy that we just took a bunch of it and hid it. I mean, terry cloth wrist bands and rock and roll necklaces? Give me a break -- it's a book fair!); and b) the hot items this year were fuzzy animal print pencils and eraser. In other words, things that elementary school kids actually use in school.

4) Reasonable Man did something that was awesome while I was gone over the weekend. He bought tickets for opening night of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and he got a babysitter! In the past, he and I have usually ended up going to see the HP movies seperately. I guess they always used to come out near the end of the quarter when we'd used up most or all of our respite hours or something. Anyhoo, this year we're both going on opening night! And I'll take Enthusio sometime after that, once we've previewed it. We watched a little 15-minute "making of"-type preview for it the other night and it looks like it's going to be awesome :-)

5) Tonight I'm saying the hell with the last two weeks' worth of "Survivor" I have taped and just watching the one that's on. I pretty much hate everyone on it and can't remember who's allied with who anyway. I don't even know if they merged yet or not. Whatever.

6) One show I find time to watch every episode of, even though it's on five days a week, is "Starting Over," which is this reality show where six women going through difficult times come to live in a house and work with a psychologist and two life coaches to break their negative patterns, heal themselves, and basically fix themselves so they can go back out into the world happier and healthier. I know, it sounds kind of lame. Trust me, it's riveting. Right now, in addition to the girl who is former stripper and escort, there's a woman with ADHD, dyslexia, etc. who is learning how to connect with other people (as opposed to just being completely obnoxious), a 40-year-old who is still supported by her parents who is learning to grow up, a woman learning to live after breast cancer and a complete hysterectomy, a very large woman who is there to lose weight and also "eliminate chaos" who just learned that she has a fibroid tumor that weighs about 40 lbs and has to be removed very soon even though she has no health insurance, and finally, a girl who is there to finally grieve her mother, who died in the attacks on 9/11. Naturally, they don't all get along all the time; naturally, they screw up their assignments and their life coaches read them the riot act; naturally there's tears and drama and I can't stop watching. Check it out.

7) Last but not least -- my kids are AWESOME. There's been so much going on lately and they've really just rolled with all of it. The night I had Bunko at my house, Reasonable Man was still out of town, so I let them play on the computer till everyone arrived and then I sent them upstairs to watch a movie. We barely heard a peep out of them the rest of the evening, but my favorite part was when they trotted downstairs at 9 pm in their pajamas, got themselves their vitamins, gave me a kiss, and went on up to bed. I was so proud that I made them pancakes the next morning. I love those guys! (I have school and Halloween pictures that I will post as soon as I can figure out a way around the problems I'm having with my photo-editing software.)