Tag Archives: cats

Christmas Traditions

24 Dec

Since I don’t have pictures of snow—and besides, many of you have seen more snow than you wanted to this year (insert unrelenting snow-envy here)—I thought you might enjoy this picture of Mr. Cat in the tree!  Yes, while my sweet husband risked his wrists and busted out the oven mitts to extract him from the tree, I helped by taking this adorable picture.

For my Christmas post, I thought I’d talk a bit about the traditions we have in our family.  They seem normal to me, but of course, they’re probably not.  (Okay, so I KNOW one of our traditions is anything but normal…) I got the idea for this post from one Linda wrote a couple of weeks ago.  At the end of it, she asked us to describe our Christmas trees and holiday traditions.

Since I practically wrote a blog post in her comment section, I decided to just copy and paste it here for you guys to read:

Every year, my grandmother gives my sister and me a new ornament (and now, she gives them to our husbands, too)—that means I have 28 unique ornaments decorating our (fake, but full and real-looking) tree. I usually add some bows made of muted gold ribbon and lots of berry-colored glass ball ornaments (tied on with ribbon, not hung with paperclips like at my parents’ house).

We always celebrate on both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, we eat an awesome meal (backstrap venison, twice-baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, red wine, and dessert), drive around and look at Christmas lights, and then open one gift each. (ALWAYS pajamas. And they usually don’t fit, though they are cute.) Christmas morning, we all take turns opening gifts (NEVER all at once).

Nothing says Christmas like an ugly Star Wars wind-up toy!

Oh, and my sister and I have what is quite possibly the weirdest Christmas tradition EVER: the walking Sebulba.

Yes. The walking Sebulba, as in Sebulba from Star Wars: Episode One. We have this plastic wind-up Sebulba toy (you wind him up and he—that’s right—walks!), and when my mom decorates her tree, she hides the Sebulba somewhere inside it. My sister and I compete to be the first to spot the Sebulba. (Winner gets bragging rights.) Oh, and you have to pronounce “The walking SeBULBa” with the BULB accented really hard, with this exaggerated, sing-songy British accent.

Yes, we are dorks. Told you it was weird. But that’s what we look forward to, so I’ll stand by it, haha.

So, that’s what we do.  I’m curious about you guys—I fully expect to be all on my own with the whole find-the-Sebulba-in-the-tree thing, but I want to know about YOUR traditions! Are there any quirky things your family does, or are y’all straight-up traditional?  Or, do you not celebrate at all?

And with that, I’m off to drink some eggnog, eat what’s left of the Ninjabread Army, and ready the oven mitts for when the meows inevitably curl up in the tree.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

You Say You Want To Edit?

28 Oct

"You say you want to edit? Oh, human – what am I going to do with you? You'll have to get through me, first. And, PS: this is payback for all those hugs you give me. Only villains give hugs."

Intricacies

28 Apr

It’s been a while since my last Project: Edit update.¹  I’m almost hesitant to write one, given my tendency to jinx myself whenever I’ve had a string of productive days, but whatever.  Update you I shall.

Things have been productive.

It took a while to get started on the actual editing of my second draft, but the ball is rolling on that.  I’m taking it scene by scene, doing my best to be all there when I write.  Somewhere, a long time ago, I wrote that the first and second drafts felt super rewarding, but for different reasons.  Already, the same holds true for my third draft.

For the first draft, I didn’t know where I was going, didn’t know what kind of characters I’d meet along the way.  What resulted was surprisingly coherent, but far from polished.  I added subplots, strengthened characters, bada-bing bada-boom,² the second draft was born.  With both of those drafts, I wrote to get the story down, not to make it pretty.

This time feels different.  It feels slow, calculated, intricate.  Not overworked — just worked.  It’s fun to focus on each scene, fun to make each one special, fun to know the whole story and strengthen its parts.  As satisfying as it was to know I could produce quantity, it’s a hundred times more satisfying to see the quantity morph into (what I hope is) quality.

It’s late, and it’s been a full day.  Time for a little Curb Your Enthusiasm (our most recent DVD fix) after a midnight conversation with my sweet husband and my little editing assistant.³

Project: Edit Update | The note card system is alive and thriving.  I’m still working my way through section one (of nine), but progress is progress.  Diligence is key, and that’s been going well.

¹If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click on “Challenges” at the top of the sidebar.

²And by bada-bing bada-boom, I mean, of course, that it happened overnight.  And by overnight, I actually mean that it took a while.  A long while.

³Also known as Mr. Remy Fang Richard Alpert the Cat, pictured above, hard at work.  He sits in my lap whenever I write, which is adorable until he decides my wrists are made for biting.  Always nice.

Sit. Stay. Write.

23 Nov

It’s a new day, a new week, and it’s time to get down to business.

No more getting sucked into marathons of Say Yes to the Dress.  No more allowing myself ‘just two minutes online’ that turn into twenty.  No more ‘that’s good enough for now,’ when I’m fairly certain I could double what I already did.  No curling up in my Snuggie and knitting all day¹, even though my poor throat is a little scratchy and my nose a little stuffy.  

This week’s only a two day work week for me, since we’re leaving Wednesday for Kansas City.  I hope to really dig in on these two days, and not just say, “Oh well…it’s a short week, next week will be a fresh start.”  Because, really?  I have a tendency to gravitate toward fresh starts.

While I’m thinking about catching up and making progress and all those sorts of things, let’s all give some encouragement to Melissa!  Melissa is still pressing on with her NaNo project, on which she caught up by 7,000 words in about a day.  Her subject matter is tough (Hell) so she needs all the support she can get to finish strong.  Click here to read about her awesome catch-up, click here to read about her more recent struggle with her book.  Keep it up, my friend, you can do it!  

All right.  It must take some kind of discipline to catch up by 7,000 words, and I’m inspired by this kind of discipline!  This number isn’t really a sustainable number for everyday purposes², and I’m aiming for more like half that today, but it reminds me that much more is possible if I’ll just stay at the table and keep writing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.  

In the meantime, watch this ridiculous Snuggie advertisement if you’ve never had the, uh, privilege.  Also, head on over to Melissa’s blog to read all about Blame it on the Weatherman!  And if you’ve done all that, and still want to procrastinate, you could always knit your kitty a sweater.  Just be warned, the kitty will hate you and destroy your decorations.

¹As for the Snuggie, we received two as Christmas presents last year.  Now we can feel warm and look like we’re in some wacky cult at the same time!  Yay!  As for the knitting, well, I’d like to be better at it.  My first project was in sixth grade, where I knitted a turtle-neck sweater for our cat as a Christmas present.  You can imagine how well poor Ginger reacted when I tried to stuff her head through the too-small hole.  (Short answer?  She ran up the Christmas tree.) 

²But for a one- or two- day mini-writing-marathon?  Very nice.

Finding My Moxie

23 Oct

You can’t see me, but I’m smiling.  Yes, despite the fact that I was going to sleep late (well, until 8:00) this morning.  Despite the fact that Dexter the Kitty ran across my face to wake me up, then started chewing on my glasses.  Despite those things, it’s going to be a good day, I can feel it.

Yesterday was a good day.  The days this week keep getting better and better…and thus, I bring you Update #4 in this Oktoberzest Project.

At about 2:00pm yesterday, I started to worry.  I’d tried – twice – to sit at my computer and write, but twice I ended up checking email and reading blogs and doing other such fun stuff.  I gave in at lunch and decided to indulge in a little Top Chef while eating my leftover sloppy joes.

But then…conviction set in.  I loaded up my laptop, grabbed my binder full of story-notes, and headed to Barnes & Noble.  I walked around the store, looking at all the paper-and-ink proof that this whole thing could be done.  

Row by row, I checked out author names, book titles, cover art, letting myself get carried away with how cool it would be to see my hard work packaged and condensed into something pretty you could hold in your hand.  I looked at my plain black binder and thought, “All of this info?  This, right here?  Could be right there.  Sitting on the shelf, between the Ns and the Ps, which is only a few letters away from the R of Rowling, you know.”

I found a wide black table and planted myself there, telling myself if I wrote 2,000 words I could reward myself and buy a magazine.  

It would have been easy to leave after 789 words, which was better than my Day 1 total.  This was also about the time my battery icon turned red, and there wasn’t a plug anywhere around.  But, no.

It also would have been easy to leave after 1527 words, when my sweet husband had been home for an hour and was ready to eat dinner.  However, I prepared a turkey-artichoke stuffed pasta dish a while back, and it was just waiting to be pulled from the freezer – so I stayed.

I did not reach 2000 words, and I did not buy my magazine.

These, however, were both choices.  I pushed myself to 1917, then made the decision to stop there, at the end of the chapter.  It felt good to stay when it would have been easy to leave, and I’m happy with this number.  This chapter was totally new, and for all the planning I’ve done, I did not see it coming in the least.  That’s such fun, especially when new ideas fit so seamlessly with everything else.  The events of this scene brought a necessary cohesion to some original ideas, as well as new depth to the characters and their conflicts.

Who knows what can happen today?  I’m ready to find out.  Oh yeah, and about the magazine, I just decided not to spend $4.99 on it.  I guess it was rewarding enough to accomplish that much last night.  

PS: I didn’t know what moxie meant until this morning, when I saw it in a Survivor recap, of all things.  It means “force of character, determination, or nerve.”  I think it’s funny that the sentence example in my dictionary says, When you’ve got moxie, you need the clothes to match.  For some strange reason, that makes me imagine most Angelina Jolie characters.  I guess I could wear a Lara Croft Tomb Raider outfit while I write my novel, but I’m pretty sure no one wants to see that.  And, it would be a little cold for October.

Breakthrough!

25 Sep

Confession: at an underwhelming 143 new words written on my novel this week, it’s safe to say this has been the worst week to date on my novel’s progress.  

Now.  I could hurl my computer to the cats and let them have their way with it, but that’s not really the best solution, I’ve decided.  I could scrub the baseboards with a toothbrush, but distraction doesn’t help much in the way of progress, either.  

I wrote the other day about the need for a peaceful place to write.  After reading the comments, it was increasingly clear to me from all of your experiences that words ache to get out if they’re in there, and ideas refuse to be silenced.  If words aren’t fighting to get onto the page, a change of location doesn’t work too well anyway – like Jennifer Neri said in her comment, “It’s got nothing to do with my setting but with head space.  If [the writing]’s not coming, it won’t come anywhere unless I figure out why.”

That resonated with me – I keep trying to find someplace clean, uncluttered, without distraction.  What I realized, though, is that it has less to do with physical clutter and more to do with the mental clutter. 

I sat down at the library¹ this morning, determined to make much-needed headway.  I opened an outline² I created back in June, just to evaluate my progress and see where I should go next, since it has been a week since I wrote something solid on the novel.

Then, a breakthrough:  I’m overwhelmed.

I feel like I know my characters, that I’m doing them justice in my draft.  Looking back over that outline, though, what I hope to write and what I’m writing aren’t exactly the same thing.  

I know that in a novel, what the reader sees is just the tip of the iceberg of the character’s entire personhood.  I’m trying to bring their entire story above the surface through layered action or dialogue, conveying much meaning, so that no matter how much face time my characters are given, they have a story.

What I have right now is decent.  Not incredible, but decent.  I’m trying to weave a lot of threads but while I focus on one, others are left dangling.  There’s a fine balance between a rich story and a story in which you are bombarded with way too much.  Obviously, I’d rather have a rich story, but it takes a lot of work to weave so many threads in a way that comes off as seamless instead of frayed.  

My story is frayed right now, and I need to tighten it all up.  Then, I remembered: hey, wait.  No one says I have to complete the draft before I go back and evaluate what I have.  Why not give it a read-through and see what needs tightening, or if I’ve introduced a piece of neon orange string in an otherwise earth-toned tapestry?  After all, isn’t that the very definition of editing?  

Ahhhh.  I have a LOT of work to do.  It’s tempting, like I said, to hurl my computer to the cats and let them go at it like they do my feet.  But…no.  As much time as this will take to evaluate what’s good so far and what’s not, I’m itching to get started.  Then I’ll continue to write the draft.  From day one, I’ve said I’d rather write an amazing novel than a quick novel; I’m not one for mediocrity.

Though I have a lot to think about now, I don’t feel mentally cluttered anymore.  That problem eluded me for days.  Now that I know what it is, I think I could work on this thing with both cats in the room.  Fighting.  Any time of day.  With a mess all around me, hungry, and without my morning latte.  

Okay, I lied.  I’d need my latte.

¹And, side note?  Why have I lived in this town for a decade and never discovered the city library?  I’ve been to the libraries at the universities, but never the public one downtown.  It’s quiet and there are a lot of great tables and outlets.  As far as peaceful places go, this may be my new go-to spot of the moment.

²The document is a major-conflict-by-major-conflict outline that details what my main characters feel at those big points in the story, and how that motivates them to act next.  It’s super helpful for creating cohesion, and I got the idea from Karen Wiesner’s From First Draft to Finished Novel.

Peace, Please

23 Sep

DeskThe peaceful desk you see here is where I normally sit down to write.  

There are times, though, when I cannot focus for the life of me while at this desk, or anywhere at home.  I get wrapped up in life’s infinite to-do list, distracted by dishes, dirty clothes, and other necessary tasks that beckon my attention.  It certainly does not help that over the weekend, we adopted a second kitty.  His name is Dexter, and he’s the most adorable three-month-old bundle of fluff who chases my feet, swats my curls, and runs around the room with a worn workout sock dangling from his mouth.  Cute, yes.  Also?  A fun distraction!

When I get in these can’t-focus-funks, I head to Starbucks or La Madeleine.  The problem with this, though, is familiarity.  Not only am I on a first-name basis with every Starbucks employee, but they’re my friends, as well.  Plus, it’s hard to focus when five chatty businesspeople take the seat right beside you – seriously, two feet away – even though it’s plain you’re trying to concentrate.

One day last week, I ended up writing 1,500 words from the passenger seat of my car, for lack of other private (or quiet) options. Rain splattered my windows the entire time, the sky was gray, and I parked in a place overlooking a green field lined with tall, green trees.  It turned out to be an amazing place to write, something I’d never tried before.  I’d go there now, except my battery is about to die.  

I don’t know what my problem is.  Some days, I can write until my wrists hurt in any location, no matter how loud, no matter how many chores are begging me to spend time with them.  Other days, I feel like I have to have just the right environment or else my productivity (in terms of writing, anyway) is doomed for the day.  Sometimes this depends on where I am in my novel.  Sometimes I just feel like life is cluttered; the clutter closes in on me as I sit in the midst of it, whether it’s noise clutter or chore clutter or too-many-thoughts-about-other-things clutter.  

When this happens, I either push through it, go elsewhere, work on a different project,  read, or succumb to the clutter.  If this happens, I try again later in the day, sometimes with better results, sometimes still under a fog of funk.  Today is finally getting back on track, after writing this blog.  Victory!  Hopefully that will translate to my ability to make necessary headway in my novel this afternoon.  

How much does location affect your ability to write?  How do you beat the clutter, the to-do lists, short of forsaking your writing time to eliminate them?  If you have no place else to go, do you have any tricks for setting your mind to work, and then getting it done?