Eldorado on Ice

This was yesterday.

We hung this suet feeder on the portal post, because a ladder-backed woodpecker had taken a liking to this spot and was hammering away at it. The Wild Birds Unlimited folks thought he might like this suet. He hasn’t been back, that I’ve seen, which is also a solution. But for two days in a row now, this flock of little birds descends on the suet like flies. We think they might be bushtits. They appear suddenly, feast for a few minutes and disappear again. Spooky, too, which is why I had to take this picture through glass.

It kind of reminds me of the twitter/blog bruhaha over the iPad, Amazon and Macmillan. Jackie Kessler, who’s a lovely person and who writes really fun books, has a good summary on her blog, if you want to catch up. I think it’s just the latest fat-rich tidbit and people are getting quickly hysterical over what will likely be nothing, but what do I know?

We had fog last night, so when we walked this morning, the moisture had condensed all over everything and left it frosted. Fog still hung heavy in the valley.

It’s funny to me to see the cholla cactus covered in frost, but they don’t seem to mind.

Maybe I’m saving words to finish the novella today, because I’m mostly just wanting to share photos from our walk.

These are worth thousands of words anyway, aren’t they?

After this, we went to eat breakfast. As we left, the hostess said “Thanks for starting your day with us!” It’s a new neighborhood place and David says they’re still trying to find their way to be part of our community.

But I thought it was funny, because my day already felt so full.


I don’t believe in writer’s block so much.

But there are certainly days when the words flow and days when they don’t so much. I don’t really understand why.

Some mornings I wake up knowing what I’ll write in the blog — down to particular words and phrases. Other days, like today, my brain doesn’t seem to have much in the way of thoughts, much less words. Sometimes, like today, I’ll plug in the camera and see if I took a picture I forgot about, which is often the case. This was sunrise on Wednesday. A subtle rose and gold one, full of promise. Of course, that day the promise turned out to be full-on meetings, so I never did get to sit and write. What was on the camera got lost in the busyness of the day.

Which was okay. Consulting is a feast or famine gig and the beginning of the year tends to be lean. More work is always better. As it is, people in the company are sniffing around the corners of the hallways (this is completely metaphorical since many of us, like me, work from home), searching out crumbs of work. The fear level is higher this year, with the backdrop of financial uncertainty. (I would make an extreme promise to scream the next time I see or hear the phrase “in this economy,” but since I know it’s likely to be in the next hour, I must be Zen. See my serene smile?)

Cynthia Eden, a fine writer and a really lovely friend, says she’s sneaking out of town this weekend, in the hopes that a change of scenery will perk her up. She lives in Florida, so I imagine her heading to the beach, which sounds really wonderful.

I suspect we all need perking up this time of year. Whether it’s the low light or, for those of us in winter, being stuck indoors a lot, January is just a long and unperky month.

It seems inescapable that our moods cycle. I think often of people who are chronically ill and how their caretakers will always refer to “good days” and “bad days.” David, who likes to find a reason for everything, says that something must affect people to make some days good and others bad. Okay, maybe. But whether it’s biorhythms or the chemistry of what you ate last night or the barometric pressure or whether you produced enough endorphins from running or whatever, it remains that we all have good days and bad days. Those of us lucky enough to be healthy just experience this as feeling up or kind of blue.

We just don’t get to be perky every day. Not without chemical assistance.

The challenge is to salvage what you can from the non-perky days. Take the time to rest. Forge ahead anyway. Do like Cynthia and find a change of scenery.

The perky is out there. Even in this economy.

Hungry for those Good Things, Baby

Yesterday was our anniversary — 19 years now.

And yes, I’d planned this blog post for yesterday, but I had an early meeting in downtown Santa Fe that expanded ever outwards and kept me there until 4:30.

So, January 27 for us, which was Superbowl Sunday back in 1991. It’s hard for me to see how nearly twenty years have gone by, how it’s possible that the 90s aren’t recent years.

I’m very lucky to have found him and spent these years together.

The night before last, we watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. I love that David doesn’t complain about watching movies like that with me. Of course, anything with some comedy and lots of pretty women is generally good for him.

I recall a few years back, David went hunting with a divorced bachelor friend. They were up in the mountains for a week, doing the guy thing and came back all scruffy and pleased with themselves. We saw on the patio in the warm Autumn sunshine and they told me about the week. The friend said that he was amazed that I didn’t pitch a fit about David taking off for a week like his ex-wife would have. And how, when he’d mentioned it to David, he’d said “I do what I want to.” I expressed surprise that anyone would think I’d try to stop David from doing something he enjoyed. (Besides, a week to myself to write? Sign me up!) Then David asked me what I wanted to do that night and I said “Oh! Wimbledon is at the movie theater — Paul Bettany! I want to see that.” David said okay and the friend starting laughing, slapping his knee. “Oh yeah!” he says, “you do what you want, all right.”

And, I thought, you just don’t get it.

After Ghosts of Girlfriends Past was over, we sat and sipped some brandy and talked about love. This is another thing I love about David. We talked about the theme in the movie — and this is a Spoiler Alert, if it’s possible to spoil a plot as pat as that one — that somehow the childhood love is purer and more meant to be than any other. Which I just don’t buy. I don’t like it in romance novels, the instant mate bond/fated love kind of thing. I much prefer when strangers come together, have to learn each other, have to learn to accommodate each other and earn the love.

David told me that Osho, one of his current favorites, says that the sensation of falling in love, of the irresistible passion, the Meant for Each Other, instant mate bond kind of thing is all unconscious. That people should aspire to upward love, which is about conscious choice.

When people ask me our “secret,” our special formula for our happy relationship, this is what I want to explain to them. It’s about being happy doing what makes the other person happy. It’s about making conscious choices to be together and enjoy each other.

It’s about upward love.

Nostalgic? Not So Much

I had a little Twitter/FaceBook fit the other day.

Really the ensuing conversation was on FaceBook because nobody answered me on Twitter. This is not unusual. It could be because I’m either not interesting or not important. Both things are equally true. I’m at peace with that.

Also, with Twitter, you have catch people’s eye right at that moment, or it’s gone. The Twitter stream tweets and, having tweeted, moves on: nor all thy hashtag or Google shall lure it back to show you half a line, nor all thy cut and paste remove a word of it.

I’m thinking Omar Khayyam would have loved Twitter. (Are all the classicists out there choking on their coffee in horror?) The first stanza of the Rubaiyat is only 39 characters over the requisite 140. He could have totally fit the structure. I just tweeted it in two parts, for grins.

Some people tweet the same thing multiple times each day. And not all of them are geeky annoying people. Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) does it and he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would think “I know! I’ll just tweet my blog link five times a day and annoy the hell out of people!” I feel sure some social media expert at the Sun-Times told him the correct frequency. Hell — I’m an idiot — probably some social media intern does it for him. I can’t quite bring myself to advertise my own blog more than once, but I’m a humble gal like that.

At any rate, I digress.

This post is really about friendship, but as it relates to communication.

My little fit was sparked because I received a letter from a friend. A LONG letter, on PAPER. I felt truly put upon. I complained about it on Twitter/FaceBook, in my snarky way, and asked the world at large why my friend couldn’t update me in 140-character bites like everyone else. Amusingly, my cohorts — people from my HS and college days — chimed in to agree. And several motherly friends sternly reprimanded me to remember the value of a letter. I expected them to have me writing thank-you notes next.

I understand why she wrote me a letter. She even said she thought letters are nice because they take you away from the computer. She wanted to tell me about the difficulties she’s faced in the last few years, and why she disappeared for a little while. It was a story that took time to tell.

The irony is that I read it propped on my keyboard, while discussing on FaceBook whether it’s a gift or an imposition to send someone a long letter these days.

Because, while it took time to read her letter, and I try to focus my reading time to maximize what I most want to read, the worst part was the onus that I had to write her back. On paper. By hand. And I had to do it right away because I know myself and if I didn’t do it then, it would languish on my To Do list and eventually never quite happen.

And, despite, how I probably sound, I really wanted to communicate with her. If she’s not going for electronic media, then I have to go to her.

I wrote the letter. As one of my sorority sisters predicted, my hand totally cramped up. She’d been there, too. I thought of all the authors who wrote their novels longhand. Worse, revising them longhand! (Do you suppose they cut them up and literally pasted them back together? I love this image.) I thought of my friend who has to read aloud her mother’s handwritten letters to her son, because they’re written in cursive, which he’s never learned to read or write. I thought of how I used to type my college papers directly on the typewriter, rather than writing them out and transcribing — to everyone’s horror.

Now we all do it. Erm, most of us. Keyboarding away at rapid speed.

And I’m totally at peace with that.

Found Art

Let me know if you get sick of rain chain photos.

Over the last stormy week, I’ve been fascinated by the pattern of melting and freezing. The resulting designs are like sculpture.

It’s interesting how things come together sometimes. How overlapping events create patterns. It’s like evolution — when people complain that no one could possibly know that, say, finger webbing could turn out useful later for making wings — it’s not that there was a plan, per se, but the symmetry of nature weaves together so that patterns do emerge.

Like in Twitter, for example.

Yes, I just compared evolution and the beauty of nature to Twitter. Hang with me here.

I use TweetDeck, which is an application you can download to your laptop and shows tweets from people in various columns that you can sort. So my left hand column is for the people I follow. There are about 175 of them or so. Some tweet more than others. I can mark them so they disappear after I’ve read them. New tweets pop up on their own and people post them. Some are interesting, some not.

The other columns are for people specifically talking to me and for people mentioning “Jeffe” in their tweets, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, last night we were watching Food, Inc., which was really good and is worth the time, and I was reading a story for a friend. TweetDeck had been popping up the usual chatter, a fair amount of it, it turned out, from people watching the football playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. As the game progressed, the tweets became more frequent and intense. And it became clear to me that I follow an approximately equal number of fans of both teams.

I knew it the moment the game went into overtime.

What emerged was a microcosm of the game. I didn’t need to see it to know how it went. So I saved the tweets. This is the exact order of them. There were intervening non-game-related tweets that I deleted. These are tweets from about eight different people, none of whom were talking to each other.

At least, not directly.

Football Twitter Poem

me thinks the Vikings are trying to give this game away. I dont really care who wins, but would like to see a Colts/Saints superbowl.

Oh yeah!!!! Who dat? Who dat gonna beat dem Saints?

In essence, it’s a brand new game. Can the Super Bowl possibly be a better game than this? (Though, it’s been messy & Favre’s been slammed.)

Sorry, kitteh. Mama’s lap is NOT a good place during a game this important. Geaux Saints!! Kitteh still glaring at mama. Oops!

I’m not sure which is more streesful: watching the #Vikings in OT or watching Mr watch the Vikings in OT.

Percy Jackson starts 2/12 w00t

The #Vikings can’t catch a break with the refs. that was not a first down. not not not not not

And that was not pass interference. not not not not not

Why don’t the refs just put points on the board for the Saints and call it a game?

::sob:: please miss the field goal, please miss the field goal…..*holdsbreath*


We are going to the Super Bowl!!!! OMG Saints are in the freaking Super Bowl!!!! Shriek!!!!!!!!! Thank you Thank you Bayou Boys!

Beautiful kick. Good luck in the Super Bowl, Saints! I’ll be rooting for the Colts.


They were all looking at the same game, so of course that formed the structure. And I brought the point of view, since I selected these people to “listen” to. The pattern that emerged, though, becomes something all its own.

Just like the rain chain is a skeleton for melting and freezing water, allowing a sculpture to emerge without an artist.


No, I have no idea what I was doing in this picture. My mom took it of me on my birthday and it cracks me up.

It’s apropos of nothing, really. Except that I’m clearly telling a story.

For those of you not on Twitter, there’s this deal where you can use what’s called a hashtag. People can add the hashtag to their message (yes, part of the 140 characters) that makes it searchable. So, if you go to Twitter.com, you can enter the hash-tag #queryfail and see all the posts related to that.

What you’ll see is primarily agents snarking about bad queries. It can be useful, especially for very new writers who have no idea how an agent sees things. One agent has started a new hashtag #thingsIshouldnotseeinaquery. Some examples:

“I am really quit unremarkable in all ways.” #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

“I needed a new creative outlet.” #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

“I am positive that it will be a colossal seller.” #thingsishouldnotseeinaquery

See? It can be really amusing. It can also get pretty snarky in the way things can when only one side of the interaction gets to be snarky. We all like to bitch about the annoying aspects of our working lives. I certainly do. But I have to be exceedingly careful about it. I’m not one of these writers who goes bananas that agents are parasites and we don’t need them. I really want to work with an agent because I believe in what they are able to do. But agents hold a lot of power over writers, so I sometimes have issues with the condescension.

One day an agent, intent on showing how pressed and busy agents are, tweeted that agents do reading for new clients almost entirely on their own time. I really wanted to reply that any of us whose jobs involve recruiting new clients and building new work have to do that on our own time. I know I do. That’s how business works. Selling to new clients isn’t billable and work for existing clients must be prioritized. Of course, I thought better of saying this because I didn’t wish to antagonize her. I’m still a supplicant in that world.

I have issues with a system where I feel like I’m not supposed to speak truthfully.

Last night I received a rejection on a query that truly took me aback. The agent took the time to tell me exactly why she was passing, which is kind of her, but I ended up wishing she’d given me the standard “not for me” because her reasons seemed so, well, foolish.

She had three points, in essence (the numbering is mine):

1) I like to see the relationship between the hero and heroine develop pretty quickly in a romance, but the beginning of this partial read more like a thriller or romantic suspense to me.

2) I also don’t love the use of the dream sequences as they can take the reader out of the narrative.

Okay, these first two are very standard romance formula “rules.” I must say it’s the first time an agent has quoted them to me rather than a contest judge. And this is definitely a choice on my part. I’m not much for rules. I don’t like lighting-fast relationship development and I think my heroine’s dreams are crucial to the novel, because it’s part of the movement between worlds. I can give her these though, even if it makes me wonder that she’s so wedded to these rules. It’s entirely possible they’re just a standard reason to throw out, to back up that she just doesn’t love it.

But then,

3) Finally, I was a little surprised that Jennifer’s profession was the same as yours, mostly because it didn’t seem to add to her character or to the plot in any major way. It seemed coincidental, and yet nothing in fiction is really coincidental…

Jennifer is my heroine and she’s a neuroscientist. It’s important because, when she becomes a sorceress, her scientific approach and way of thinking affects the magic. I mention that I have a Masters in neurophysiology, by way of giving my credentials, that I can write a woman who thinks this way.

I’m not really sure what this agent is implying, but it seems she thinks I’m lying somehow. Maybe I really *am* a neuroscientist who’s traveled to Faerie and become a sorceress and this is all really nonfiction that I’m dressing up as a novel???

And it kind of bothers me that I clearly told her my profession is environmental consulting, which means she really didn’t read closely. Which is also fine; it’s the Blink thing, whatever.

It struck me as an unprofessional response, however. Kind of a #queryresponsefail. I’d really love to tweet it, which I don’t dare do, since I’m a supplicant.

I’m taking a risk writing this blog post, really. I almost didn’t do it. But I don’t feel like I don’t dare speak up.

I won’t advertise it on Twitter this time, however… My bravery only goes so far.

Living the Dream

It’s one of those dreamy snow-globe days.

As the week has been, full of snowfall, hot tea and time by the fire.

I’ve been sleeping well. No dreams of starving cats. Instead I’ve been having the long and deep questing dreams I love. Just before I woke, I dreamed that Isabel was sleeping in the arms of a black bear cub. I laughed at how adorable they looked.

This is a quiet time at work. The early part of the year is always slow for our project, which is welcome after the hysterical push of the end of the year. I don’t travel again until the end of February, which means I’m caught up and am keeping up with everything right now. I have fewer than 15 emails in both my work and personal In-Boxes. My In-Box used to serve as a sort of To-Do list, so an In-Box that wasn’t empty meant I had things to take care of. Over the course of last year, my In-Box swelled to over 2,000 emails at times. The oldest one was from 2/9. Just as we’re now unpacked, I’ve now dealt with most of my email. The oldest is now 11/11 — for a contest I want to enter.

It occurs to me, this is what it feels like not to be stressed.

I watch the tweets go by. The news and opinions. I watch the snow fall.

There are so many people to save. So many causes to take up. So many things to become outraged about. Then I think about the idea that, if you want to change the world, first change your own life. I like to think I’m doing my part by not contributing to the hysteria. I’m solving problems, making positive contributions, finding ways to feed people.

It might be trite to quote John Lennon, but this lyric hit me with unexpected force the other day: I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go ’round. No more riding on the merry-go-round — I just had to let it go.

I’m watching the snow fall. And I’m feeling fine.

The World Turns

It’s always difficult for me to picture things as different than as they are right at this moment.

I mean, while I know in my head that the seasons change, whatever is in front of me seems to be all that’s real. I look out my office window at the frozen rain chain and remember when it was rain, not icicles. But the rain is no longer real to me.

We’ve been talking about that, with our luck in choosing this particular house. With the recent heavy snow, David’s been pointing out how some houses sit low on the hill, with long driveways sloping down towards their garages. Those people have been shoveling snow like mad. At first David didn’t get it, since the snow melts so quickly here. Then he got it. Our driveway snow melts through the gravel into the ground; theirs runs down the hill, into the garage and the house.

We are grateful we didn’t pick one of those, though it was not due to any foresight of ours. Though we moved from a cold and snowy climate, in the dazzle of Santa Fe’s desert summer, it’s difficult to imagine deep snow.

We were lucky.

People laugh at me, when I mention I have this limitation. I try to stretch my imagination all the time this way. To picture what I see in a different light, a different season. The thing is, I’m not convinced that other people are much better at it.

The big news yesterday was Amazon’s announcement that select ebooks for Kindle will pay authors up to 70% in royalties. Everybody picked up the story, so there’s lots of versions of that news. I just picked that one for its detail. I find the blogger in it who rambles on about Amazon’s deep fear of Apple kind of irritating. It makes me wonder who’s paying for his supper, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is interesting to me, and is to most authors, I imagine, is that percentage. If an author is lucky enough to receive a royalty of 15%, which is the high end, that means that for a book that sells in the store for $23.95, the author gets $2.16. (Bookstores buy books typically for 40% off the jacket price.) If that same author sells that book for only $5 as an ebook on Kindle, at 70% royalty, she gets $3.50 per book. Most books available as hardbacks list at $9.99 on Kindle, which would give the author nearly $7 per book. For 100 books, this becomes a $500 difference.

There has been, of course, much wailing and gnashing of teeth over how the publishing industry is changing. Authors are worried about ebook piracy. A reader on Twitter yesterday was blasted for talking about buying new releases as ebooks. Authors “taught” her how only the paper sales matter in the first week and how, if she wanted to support them, she’d buy those.

That’s the thing about change. It takes a while to adjust your thinking. To accept that a change might be a positive thing.

All it takes is being willing to see that things aren’t always as they are at this moment.

The Price of (Non-) Fame

I suppose we all know that the writers life is not glamorous.

Gone are the days of the glossy literati, if they were ever real. No Dorothy Parkers and Truman Capotes rule over social circles. If you want to be a rock star, well, you pretty much have to be a rock star.

Or a wealthy young woman with plenty of cash to spend on clothes and time to spend clubbing, but that’s neither here nor there.

We all also know the writers life is solitary, with long hours at our desks, in our heads, thinking about people who don’t really exist. And when our stories do go out in the world, they go without us. Maybe they have a little photograph of mom or dad, to show where they came from, but really, readers experience books without the authors. The author is incidental, in the end.

If any of us nurse ideas of being recognized, of red-carpet celebrity, we should give them up now.

Neil Gaiman, who is arguably closer to being a rock star than most authors, went to the Golden Globe ceremonies the other day, because he was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Coraline. Neil was accompanied by his fiancee, Amanda Palmer, who is actually a rock star.

(If you read this blog regularly, you know I’ve become recently attracted to this couple — don’t worry, I’m sure the crush will fade soon.)

The best part is, when Life.com posted the Red-Carpet photo of them, the caption said:

Musician Amanda Palmer (L) and guest arrive at NBC, Universal Pictures And Focus Features Golden Globes After Party held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 17, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California.

I actually didn’t post this link right away, because I thought they’d fix it, given the chorus of corrections showering them. But no.

So it goes.

At least we’ll never worry about the paparazzi.

Snow Day

A heavy, thick snow fell overnight, the deepest we’ve had so far in our new house.

Santa Fe doesn’t cope well with snow, so schools and state offices were declared closed by 7am. It’s a good day to tuck in.

Of course, for me it should be no different than most days. I work from home, for both the writing and the day job, unless I’m on travel. I don’t have any meetings in town today, which is good. I had one yesterday and the one tomorrow morning — I might just call in, since the storm is predicted to keep going. Most of the people “at” that meeting are on the phone anyway.

But for today, I feel only like curling up by the fire with a book.

I don’t know what it is about a deep snow that leads me to feel like it’s not a work day. Perhaps it goes back to childhood programming, when a big snow meant no school. Just as David’s school is canceled. He’s off-routine already, talking to classmates about whether school would be closed. Asking me to speculate. Asking me if I’m writing on my blog, which I am, just like I am at this time every day, but he’s usually too busy getting ready to be bothered that I’m not engaging in conversation with him.

So, some of it is being off-pattern. Not the usual day at all.

Maybe there’s something to the hibernating, as well. My atavistic animal spirit is tucking itself into its den, sleepy and satisfied to nap it out.

But the internet window is bright and full of sunshine and busy activity.

Hi-ho, hi-ho!