Okay, what the hell’s up with the Bachelorette?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Y’all are probably looking down your noses at me just for posting this. But, let me just inform you–I don’t have cable. Remember the PSAs warning “if you don’t have a digitally-tuned TV by February 2009, you may be affected by this change?” Well, hubby and I were affected by the change. One digital converter box later, we are still happily ensconsed in our luddite ways. Hey, it’s free. And generally, we agree about what to watch without the scourge of choice. So I admit it–I watch the Bachelor, the Bachelorette, and any permutation of the aforementioned franchise.

So, naturally, this douche-o-riffic guy named Bentley is her favorite. Bentley. I dunno. People have got so trashy lately, that children named after cars may be the norm after awhile. But a dude who’s pushing thirty? Um, red flag! As if to prove my point, he’s bragging to the camera how he’s not into her at all, and is just using the show for his own nefarious gain! What are the chances?

So, two freakin’ episodes after Bentley “came clean” and broke her heart… and she’s STILL hung up on the guy! Seriously, she talks about him enough that I feel like I need to start a drinking game–a shot every time she mentions his name. Except I’d end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.

The problem is, she still hasn’t had “closure.” Yeah. I know. She’s all “but I love him…” while he’s like “dude, she is not that hot.” I feel cheapened even typing this. But, do we cringe because it’s true? Because it reminds us of the times we’ve behaved similarly (though possibly not with a network tv tie in and/or guy with a car name)?

If I ever encountered this in fiction, I don’t think I could stomach it. I’d be screaming “YOU HAVE ALL THESE DUDES TRYING TO GET YOU! THAT GUY IS A DOUCHE! GET OVER YOURSELF AND SAVE US ALL SOME TIME!”

I don’t think I’m alone in this. So in fiction, readers love conflict–but is this type of conflict beyond the pale? But are there any stories where this pays off believably? I’m really not sure.

High Class Problems

I’m not sure what it says about me that I break my months-long blogging hiatus with a bitch session. Well, not a bitch session per se, just an update on the writer’s journey–“writer” sounds much nicer than “wanna-ba author,” no?

Ah, the writer’s journey. That long, long road to publication. Contests are exit signs along this highway, enticing me and my fellow writers as we progress, one mile marker at a time. These exits could take us anywhere from a shortcut to Awesometown, Published Author Land, to–in some cases–an abandoned rest stop. For my friend Beth’s hilarious take on this matter, check out the link: http://ourmshelf.blogspot.com/2011/05/burning-of-judges-score-sheets-on.html

Most of the time, contests are just detours. You might see some nice scenery, do something fun. Or you might think you found the shortcut, and catch a glimpse of Awesometown’s majestic skyline just around the bend–only to find it’s a billboard that reads Visit Fabulous Awesometown–only 800 miles. This happened to me recently. I finalled in a writing contest–the top score in the first round (toot, toot, that’s my own horn you hear). But in the final, editor-judged, round? Honorable mention–didn’t even place (pfff… I think my horn is busted). So am I seeking sympathy? Nope. Why not? You see, what I have is a high class problem.

High class problems are the ones you’re lucky to have. “It is so hard for me to find a bathing suit. My hips are a size two and my chest it s six!” “My husband is always cleaning up the house. It’s driving me crazy!” “You want to take me on another trio to Europe? Okay. <sigh> as long as it’s what you want.”

You get the idea. And the road to publication is potholed with high class problems. The nastiest critique, or the tersest form rejection–high class problems. How? Because all writing problems are high class problems. Writing is a luxury. We are lucky to be able to do it–to have the vision, the desire to tell a story, the follow through to get it done, and the balls to put it out there–good, bad, or ugly. Not many people can do that–possibly fewer people than the size two ass/size six boobs subset, but I’m not really sure how the numbers break down there. And (un)fortunately, in writing, one high class problem leads to another. Like so:

1. You final in a writing contest, but you don’t win.

2. You win the contest, but the agent judge still doesn’t want to sign you.

3. You sign with an agent, but she can’t sell your manuscript.

4. You sell your manuscript, but the advance is tiny (or nonexistent).

5. You get the big advance, but your book doesn’t sell enough to earn out.

6. You earn out your advance, but you’re still a mid-list author.

7. You reach the bestseller’s list, but you are still not a Famous Author.

8. You are a Famous Author, but people think your books are the work of the devil.

9. That sex tape you made before you became a Famous Author leaks online.

10. The sex tape makes you an Even More Famous Author, but the angles are really unflattering.

So, what to do? I, for one, am going to cheer myself up–probably paint my nails, enjoy a cocktail, and listen to some New Order (the world’s finest band). Then, I’m back on the road, going to get myself some more high class problems.

What about you? What are your high class problems, writing or otherwise?

There’s No Day Like a Snow Day

Nothing like six inches of snow glazed over by a sheet of ice to slow things down in the Carolinas. Luckily, I’m right where I want to be, with a cozy fire in the fireplace (I have to imagine a woodsy crackle in place of the hiss of gas), poodles on either side, and a laptop at the ready. Ye Olde Day Job is shut down, and may be tomorrow, too. In other words, nothing’s standing between me and my current WIP for once.

All too often, writing gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list, trumped everything but the giant cobweb on the bedroom ceiling. And then there’s the guilt–guilt for writing when you should be doing something else, and even more guilt for not writing enough. But today, it’s all good. And hey, if I’m off tomorrow, I may even get around to sweeping that cobweb.

How do you make time for writing?

Holiday Hubris

Right now, I’m listening to: Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (natch)

It all started innocently enough with the gingerbread mini-cupcakes. In a spasm of goodwill and the residual glory of some damn fabulous Thanksgiving pies, I volunteered to do the cupcakes for Ye Olde Day Job’s Holiday luncheon. Why not do something better than the tray of frosted Wal-Mart cookies, or that weird stuff someone makes with melted butterscotch chips and cereal? My recipe would be from scratch, using fresh grated ginger, even. I efficiently filled the cups with batter using a pastry bag, I decorated each one with a snowy swirl of  vanilla icing sprinkled with red sugar, and topped each one with a green M & M–all six dozen of ’em. They turned out beautifully, they tasted delicious, and I basked in the compliments. I should have stopped there. Instead, I became a monster.

Next was the homemade toffee–the delicous alchemy of turning butter and sugar into better-than-Heath Bar-goodness! I was on a roll. What next? What couldn’t I do? Visions of a homemade mid-century modern gingerbread house sparkled in my mind. In these visions, I think I was wearing an apron and perfectly applied red lipstick too… Then, I found the answer, and my eventual downfall: the pecan log roll.

My dad loves these, so what a perfect surprise to bring down to Florida, right? And I got a great recipe, not just anything from online, but a super-authentic one from the Old Virginia Cookbook that’s been in my family forever. And, I’ve got my own peacns from my own tree, lovingly cracked by Hubby. So here’s how it went:

Me: Ooh, this is going to be so awesome!

Hubby: Aren’t there supposed to be chopped fruitcake cherries in there? Wal-Mart’s out of them.

Me: Those are gross anyway. We don’t need the cherries–this recipe doesn’t call for them. This is going to be way better than some crappy Stuckey’s pecan roll.

Hubby: That’s an awful lot of sugar. Brown sugar, too? Isn’t the inside supposed to be white?

Me: It’s not the Stuckeys recipe! And what do you know about making pecan log rolls?

Hubby exits the kitchen.

Me, muttering to myself: Okay, so that was a lot of sugar. And this is really runny–like caramel sauce. Tastes good, though. Ah, it says knead in nuts with powdered sugar. More sugar? Great.

So I add powdered sugar to the mixing bowl until the consistency approaches something that could be considered “firm.” Two bags later, I have something like six pounds of some type of nougaty substance–and enough pecans to cover maybe a third of it. Whoever heard of a six @#%ing pound pecan log roll? This thing is now the size of an actual log. All I can do is to cut it in half and freeze part of it for some other ill-fated endeavor, possibly to dilute it with cream and frost a sheet cake the size of a pickup bed. What the hell is wrong with me for thinking I can just whip up a pecan log roll with some random, untested recipe? Even cut down to size, it’s a monster. I carefully place the pecans over the surface, trying to hide as much of the goo as I can, though I’m still about three hundred nuts too short. The finished product is slightly overwhelming and depressing at the same time. Lumpen, sparse, and bigger than my freaking arm. Hope my dad’s hungry.

So tonight, I’m throwing in the towel, wrapping up the log, and putting everything in order for our merry trip down I-95 to see my family and friends in sunny Florida. I know it will be full of great company, plentiful food and cocktails, and that indefinable essence of home. The rest of this season will be about spending time with family and friends, and appreciating the good things in life. But rest assured–there will be no more show-offy candy making. Got any holiday-goodie disaster stories to share? I’d love to hear them! 

Have a wonderful holiday, and all the best in the New Year!

The mystical journey of the glitter cones

Well, it’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving is over, Black Friday and the visit to the in-laws are just memories. The only turkey around the house is… well, Turkey, my flea market refugee and free-ranging yard buddy (more about him in another post). Time to pull out the Christmas decorations.

I’ve gotten it down to a fairly painless process–pine boughs in containers, favorite ornaments, and my super-favorite vintage silver aluminum tree. Damn, I love that thing. It just makes me smile–and no prickled fingers! And the ambiance wouldn’t be complete without the glittery pine cones. Several years ago, I bought a super-size tub of them at K-mart for a cheap enough price that I managed to overlook the fact I was buying something I could have picked up off the ground. So I’ve got enough silver, glittery, bedazzled pine cones  to fill deorative platters, to add to wreaths, basically enough to pine-cone everything in the house. And right there on the tub, it says Made in China. Pine cones. From China.

That made me wonder: are these pine cones from Chinese trees? The biologist in me is still debating picking up a reference book and keying them out to know for sure. Or, are these North American cones, shipped around the world to be spray painted and glittered–and then shipped back? My mind boggles at that just a little bit. Just imagine–right now, on a container ship somewhere, there’s a pine cone travelling farther than most people ever will. Weathering storms, escaping pirates, even. Of course, that can be said of almost anything that enters our homes these days… but, still. A pine cone?

On a related note, I’ve been riveted this past week by Rose George’s beautifully written account of her time as a passenger on a container ship.  http://www.slate.com/id/2274626/entry/2274818/

I’m seeing so many ideas for stories here. Does this mean a voyage on a container ship as research is in my future? I’d like to think so.  After all, if a pine cone can do it….

The Vampire Nobody Wants to Have Sex With

Right now, I’m listening to: Industrial Estate–The Fall

It’s Nosferatu!! Whether it’s Murnau’s original that set the bar for creepy awesomeness, Klaus Kinski’s1979  version, or even Willem Dafoe in Shadow of the Vampire, I defy anyone to get turned on by this guy! He doesn’t have a marbly six-pack. He does not sparkle. Maybe he’s super-strong. Maybe he has special, sexy powers. He may even have a super-huge member, but nobody knows. Nobody wants to know. Nobody’s tappin’ that.

Seriously, I’m hard-pressed to come up with another horror film quite this atmospheric. Simple, effective, and so very creepy.

Happy Halloween, ya’ll! Hope any vampires you meet tonight are of the sexy variety 😉

Gratuitous, retro man-candy!

Fellow blogger Diane Vallere http://www.dianevallere.blogspot.com/  calls these time machine crushes. I love the term, and it gives a name to my disease. Ah, the time machine crush: it doesn’t matter if these men are senior citizens, raging addicts, married, or even dead. The time machine crush is eternal, unsullied by the downer that is “real life.” Bring on the obscure, bring on the mod suits, the crazy hair, and oh, yes–the TMC staple–the Tight Pants! I could make a whole satellite blog on this subject alone….ahem.  I swear I wasn’t this bad before YouTube. Anyhoo, here’s my short list:

  • Bowie, Ziggy Stardust era. Of course he’s the super-influential musical genius and style icon, but he also originated the mullet while wearing a leotard. That alone should get him on anyone’s list. 
  • Donovan, sweet folk boy. Catch the Wind is a total tear-jerker.
  • Eric Burdon, mid-sixties. Oh, I’ll bring it on home to you, Eric–any time!!
  • Bernard Sumner. I was twelve when I first heard New Order and it changed my life. Then I saw what Barney looked like–’nuff’ said. This gig is the Holy Grail of  time machine goodness!
  • This one’s a little more obscure–A Certain Ratio. Simon Topping’s the singer–he even sounds yummy.
  • Phil Lynott and Gary Moore–best buddies, so lovable with the hair, the expressions, the costume changes, and tight pants ahoy!

I could go on, but you get the idea–and I’m thinking this will be a series. So what are yours?

Old-Skool Chinese Restaurants

Right now, I’m listening to: Natural Selection–UNKLE

Aside from Halloween Parties, another thing I’m missing these days is the old-skool Chinese restaurant. In Gainesville, Golden Lights was the best, with hot & sour soup to die for.

What makes a Chinese restaurant old-skool? It’s a sit-down kind of place, with an actual menu rather than a buffet trough, traditional decor, paper place mats with the Chinese astrological signs (I’m a tiger)…and a menu of Tiki drinks with the original ceramic barware. Bring on the Suffering Bastards and the Volcano Bowls! Where did they all go? There are some great modern Asian places I enjoy, but the old-skool tiki style restaurant is a dying breed. If I knew of a place in the Charlotte area, I’d be there!

Anyone have any favorites?