Viva! Happy! Fun!

Not an elaborate blog post today.

Really it’s just a Las Vegas recap. For those following along, you know David and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary last Thursday.

I’d always kind of thought we’d have a big party for our 20th, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Because David has gone back to school for his Doctor of Oriental Medicine, our funding isn’t what it used to be. So instead of hosting a beach-party celebration of some sort, we just scooted to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Yes, we had a lovely time.

We’ve discovered over the years that we’re happier if we stay at a new place, instead of recapitulating something we enjoyed before. We never seem to like it as much the second time. This time we stayed at the Paris resort and casino. We didn’t get the priciest room, but had a decent view and a nice spot at the end of a tower.

The highlight was our anniversary dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant, overlooking the Bellagio fountains.

We had a late dinner, after the Criss Angel/Cirque du Soleil show Believe. Sadly, we did not believe. The show was criminally disappointing. Alas.

But this seafood bonanza for two was beyond words.

Followed by the best chocolate souffle I’ve ever had in my life.

Everything about the Eiffel Tower Restaurant was perfect and lovely. They treated us like royalty.

Which was most welcome, because lunch at Mon Ami Gabi earlier that day was quite the fiasco. For a hotel where every single person smiled, said hello, and welcomed us from housekeeping to the pool attendant, the hostess for outside seating at Mon Ami stood out for her everlasting bitchiness. She screwed with us, made wait over an hour while she seated people who arrived later than we. Perhaps we were supposed to tip her to seat us at an outside table. After an hour and ten minutes, when she tried to seat us inside – at a table we could have had with our reservation when we arrived – I pitched a fit and the manager got involved. Amusingly, as we stood in the dining room next to the inside table I didn’t want, Carrot Top, walked by, twice. It was kind of a surreal moment. And yes, he looks exactly the same in person, with the same boyish grin. At any rate, the manager made it good and we finally got to sit outside and recapitulate the meal we had on our 15th Anniversary.

Hard won romance, there.

We did a lot of walking around and looking at stuff. David commented how amazing it is that the money in Las Vegas allows for such spectacular experimental architecture and frivolous art. Best, it’s accessible to anyone who cares to walk around and see. This wall of fountains (above) at Aria is a must-see. They pulse the water at various speeds and volumes, then it falls over a textured wall, creating gorgeous patterns. The resort is beautiful beyond belief. If we can afford it, I’d love to stay there next time.

I loved these heat lamps that look like table lamps. If you all feel like chipping in to get me a present, I want one for my patio, okay?

A big change in Las Vegas in the last few years is all the outside seating available now. Lots of places had decks and patios, with very fun heat lamps making it possible for year-round use. We also ate lunch at Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina and Tequila bar. Great deck, fab music and really wonderful staff, too. The margaritas were excellent, too.

We saw Blue Man Group and they were as amazing and inventive as I’d heard. Well worth the ticket price.

All in all, it was a terrific celebration and a very fun time together.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about the Guy in the Pink Suit and what I learned about rejection from him.

First Grave on the Right

Tis the season for debuts.

I’d like to introduce you to another young lady new on the scene.

Next Tuesday, February 1, marks the release day for First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones. I know you’re wondering how a glamorous young novel gets ready to hit the scene. I’ll give you a little peek.

This gal is acutely conscious of her figure. A good work out starts the day off right.

A healthy (and slimming) breakfast.

A bit of beauty rest for our gal.

Then it’s time for a trip to the salon! A facial is just what a girl needs.

A new hairstyle, to wow the paparazzi.

Dress rehearsal! Trying out her new spot at the book store.

I think she looks amazing, don’t you?

Thank you to Kimberly Hull and Larry Redlin at Skinplicity, the most exclusive spa in Santa Fe, for donating their services. (And yes, I totally told them I’d say that, since they indulged me in my picture-taking.)

As a special bonus, I will give my ARC away to the first commenter who can identify five ways that my ARC cover is different than the final cover (top photo). There are audio book excerpts included!

Platinum (!) Anniversary

Apparently it used to be the anniversary for gifts of China, but that’s passé. We’re platinum now, baby! Ironic that silver and gold come later, but you can hit platinum at 20 years.

There’s a moral in that somewhere.

At any rate: today is our 20th Anniversary!

(cue screaming crowds)

In honor of this special milestone, I thought I’d share the title essay with you from my book, Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel. It’s about our first date, the one that took place 20 years ago today.

I wrote this some time ago and a lot has changed since then. Still, it’s a fun read.

Wyoming Trucks, True Love, and the Weather Channel

David warned me about the truck when he called for our first date. “I’ll have to pick you up in the race-beast, you know,” and he hesitated. I wondered what response he expected from me as I sifted through his deep, slow telephone voice for clues. Unaccustomed to being phoned up and asked to the movies in the first place, I felt on very uncertain ground reassuring him that the (“race-beast” did he say?) would be fine. The implication seemed clear that I knew about his car well enough to make an informed decision about riding in it and that any refined female might have reservations on the subject. The previous summer David had played on our co-ed softball team, “The Science Nerds,” and so I supposed that I had seen him come and go on wheels, but I hadn’t tucked away the sort of mental image he seemed to expect. I did suspect him of womanizing ways, a new divorcé out preying on tender young grad students, and so in my mind the race-beast took the shape of a sleek and sexy sports car, screaming seduction in every line and curve. Well, he had warned me and I would be ready.

Maybe not entirely ready for a brown ‘79 Ford pickup. Opening the front door to David, freshly shaven and handsome in his button-fly Levi’s and leather bomber jacket, I smiled, said hello and craned to look over his shoulder for the sports car I was to be wooed in. In the chill post-Super-Bowl party evening, the truck idled with the quiet and grace of an irritated water buffalo–ah, now I understood the “beast” part. David must have seen me eyeing the putative racing vehicle as he escorted me out to my sporadically choking and roaring chariot. Or he anticipated my reaction. “I did warn you,” he grinned down at me.

That grin proved to be my eventual undoing. My friends refer to David as “that man with the intense blue eyes and gorgeous smile.” Behind my back, I believe they discuss him as the reason I’ve never left Wyoming. He’s certainly the reason I now find myself occasionally navigating the race-beast around town.

In my early days in Wyoming, someone told me that there are more trucks registered in Wyoming than there are people living here. Taking into account that dozens of people around don’t own pickups, this implies that some people own dozens of trucks. Granted we do have the smallest population in the Union — as of the 1990 census we beat even Alaska — so we’re not talking millions of trucks. You do have to factor in the ranch concept — lots of ranches with many trucks. But it’s still an awful lot of trucks. When I called the Albany County Library to check this out, the reference librarian gently suggested that my pet statistic might be a popular myth. And she is correct. There were only 175,000 trucks registered as of July 1, 1996, which leaves 300,000 of us truckless.

* * *

“I would never move to Wyoming!” my college roommate yelled out her proclamation as she sat on the ratty couch in our St. Louis apartment, watching a tourism commercial for the state.
“And why would that be, Rachel?” I called back from my desk. I knew she had no personal experience farther west of the Mississippi than the city outskirts and she knew that I was considering graduate work in Wyoming. More than considering — I had pretty much decided upon it.

“Because once you move to Wyoming, you’re stuck. You never get out.” After ten years and a Master’s Degree, I have yet to escape.

* * *

David is not a cowboy, as many of my East Coast friends refer to him; actually he’s a fish pathologist. But his truck means as much to him as any trusty steed. The first vehicle he bought himself, the only real material good he salvaged from his divorce (except his traps and his stereo), this eyesore remains a source of pride and affection. He claims the annual elk hunt would be impossible without it — although he now uses my ‘82 Honda, Flash, to scout through the Snowies, as it consumes much less gas. Certain the truck becomes indispensable when the winter blizzards snow us in sufficiently David always happily turns the hubs in for four-wheel drive and barrels through the drifted streets, cackling manfully. He enjoys acting the part of the macho womanizer ever since I foolishly confessed my first-date thoughts. No one would guess the man fills his spare time reading Taoist philosophy and physics texts when he hollers out, “This shur is a fahn truck, w-man!”

Without the truck, our border collie, Cayenne, wouldn’t have her primary obsession. Riding in the pickup supersedes all other temptations for her, even food. She waits, almost patiently, by the front door, carefully not looking at the truck, unable to stand the anticipation. When the “OK” command releases her, she barrels at top speed, a black and white weasel shape burning through the two cottonwoods, arcing to the right (I won’t let David park the truck directly in front of the house we share) and flying in a single leap over the side, ready for the slower humans necessary to make it go. A dog in a truck — sometimes a gun too, but always bullets or empty shells rolling around — links a man to his heritage. It’s what his dad had up in Cody. Oh, and your girlfriend riding in the middle, so you can pat her on the thigh as you shift gears. That part is kind of nice.

* * *

For the true Wyomingite trucks (and other lesser autos) are an extension of the individual. David can recognize anybody by their vehicle. “Joe’s down at the Ranger again,” he’ll inform me. When I ask how he knows, he looks at me funny and replies, “Well, I saw his truck.” And woe to me if I happen to drive past the Red Buttes Environmental Station without noting who’s working. After all, it’s only a quarter-mile from the highway, and you can see the small dirt parking lot plain as day. As we drive down the street, David waves to passing cars. “Who was that?” I ask, spending more time looking back than forward. He always knows.

I think that I must not look at cars and trucks the way David does. I grew up in Denver, a place Wyoming people dread to motor through, and I know city traffic. In fact, I pride myself on being an excellent driver. My mother taught me, and she’s an excellent driver, too. We like to drive fast, decisively and efficiently. I have contempt for the hesitant motorist and no patience with the oblivious. Instead of looking at cars, I see spaces. Opportunities. I watch the gaps open and close, widen and lengthen. The people in the objects around me become less relevant than their speed and vector. I think this ability to focus is part of what makes me alert and confident behind the wheel. And it’s important to me to feel that way. At least, up until recently.

* * *

There’s an old saying that in our strengths lay the seeds of our downfall. Always reliable and with a spotless motor vehicles record, in high school I worked for a law firm as a runner. Zipping around the city in my little ‘76 hatchback — Folly, the Accord that preceded Flash — I could go to any address in the metropolitan area, usually by the fastest route. When I drove from college in St. Louis to New York for a wedding, my friend said not to worry about the city traffic because I would fit right in. This may not have been a compliment. I have navigated Chicago, Atlanta, LA, San Francisco, Boston. Black ice for 50 miles through northern Colorado couldn’t keep me back; and I’ve driven over Vail and Rabbit Ears Passes through blinding snowstorms. But I can’t drive that damned truck.

Occasionally I have no choice. Between us, we have three vehicles. But Flash’s battery died of neglect last winter and I put off buying another, afraid that a more severe problem would emerge. And the new Accord, Allan, that David and I bought together from the Allens who could no longer afford him, has to take David down to Greeley for class on Mondays. His truck guzzles too much for distances, and doesn’t handle all those curves fast enough through icy Telephone Canyon.

So one stormy evening last March, I had to drive the monster. Even though it was brutally cold out, I would have walked to workshop and wouldn’t have minded walking back through the snow at 10 pm. One of the things I like best about my town is that I can walk anywhere, even by myself, and at night, too. But I had errands to run; I grabbed the rented videos, my notebooks and critiqued stories, shouldered my purse and strode purposefully out to the beast.

* * *

A certain amount of bravado seems to help. Like a horse, this sort of truck senses fear. Carefully inserting the worn key in the eye-level door lock, I slowly turned it against the cold metal. David has warned me that the slightly twisted key could break off in the lock, especially in the -20 weather. Closing my eyes, I sent a brief supplication to the truck spirits, who I knew were awaiting the smallest error. It worked; the key emerged with only slight protest. After wrenching the door ajar, I tried to keep it propped open with my shoulder while levering my things up, pushing them as far as my arms could reach, to clear enough space to climb in. Usually the door closes over me, hopefully not too hard, and holds me up against the frame as I scrabble about. Fortunately I was wearing my black wool slacks, so I didn’t have to hike my skirts up to my crotch to make that first big step up. But as I stretched my right foot up to hip height, grabbing the steering wheel like the monkey bars at my grade school, I could feel the seam split down the back of my pants. Fine. My leather duster is long, I would just wear it for the next three hours.

If I sit on the very edge of the seat and stretch my left leg fully, I can just get the clutch down far enough to shift. The seat, of course, doesn’t come forward. No worries about seat-belts; they don’t work either. I gently revved the engine, tenderly attending to its every snort and growl. Apparently I tend to “wrap it up” too much, and so I have to work to balance letting the idle die or bringing the drive shaft through the floor. David assured me that this is not only possible, but very likely if I don’t lose my attachment to driving a working machine like it was a Honda. Perching forward, my chin practically on the steering wheel, I realized I looked like a little old lady. “There goes Ma Kettle, out for her Sunday drive,” my mother would exclaim impatiently as she passed the Impala hovering in the left lane. She never liked driving to my grandmother’s retirement community, because the traffic would slow so measurably as we approached, with “Little grey heads everywhere!” I felt for those little heads now, as I slowed for the stop sign half a block ahead because the brakes are so soft.

Shall I reveal the further banal details? How the gutter below the video return box sloped with ice, so I could maneuver my peevish tank only within two feet — too far to reach through the window, too close to open the door fully enough to get out. How the engine died as I crossed Third Street, forcing oncoming cars to wait as I nursed the brute back to life. That truck brought me to tears as I wobbled and hesitated down the icy street, and for the first time in my life I felt like a fragile female.
I broke my nails to the quick scratching a mugger in St. Louis and never thought to be afraid. I’ve traveled alone through a blizzard in eastern Colorado when they closed the interstate around us, stopping only to help a gal who had pulled over, too afraid to continue. I followed her into Limon and got us both hotel rooms. I am strong, capable and confident, but that unnameable truck brought me to my knees.

* * *

On my knees, the perspective is different. The small defeats in life take on greater proportions. Little choices, brief moments reverberate with endless sound and color. Feeling helpless and defeated, especially in, let’s face it, an exceedingly ridiculous situation, can be very useful to the efficiently arrogant. I find it interesting that it’s not necessarily the challenges we choose that teach the lasting lessons.

Living in Wyoming was never my intent. As a “greenie” — a local term for Coloradans with their green license plates — I had never given the state a specific thought. In fact, it seems that very few people give Wyoming a specific thought. I amuse and irritate myself now and then by watching the weather channel to see if the forecasters ever say the word “Wyoming.” I don’t have abundant free time for this dubious activity, but I have never once heard it. They say Great Plains, the Rockies, Denver, the Northern Plains. I’m sure I’ve heard the Dakotas discussed, Montana mentioned in passing and always ski reports in Colorado. I have heard Jackson Hole bandied about and sometimes Big Piney or Pinedale wins the national overnight cold spot award; but I remain unconvinced that anyone knows those places are in Wyoming.

It’s odd, and sometimes difficult, to live in a place that does not appear on the cultural map. Our department head once called Chicago to reserve Cubbies tickets for his upcoming visit. When giving his mailing address, the operator asked, “Now, Wyoming — Is that in the United States?” He replied that the sale to Canada had not yet been finalized.

We love to tell each other these stories. We share a mixture of delight at remaining undiscovered and righteous anger at the negligence of our countrymen. I have come to think a lot like a Wyomingite. I relish the difficulties of living here; I savor the beauty that strikes my heart and weakens my legs. I don’t like Senator Al Simpson, but I take a perverse pride in his obdurate methods. I work with people like him. If nothing else, they seem more alive, more rooted in the earth and daily living somehow, than the folk of other places. Some of us fight for the wilderness, some for improving our woeful economy through the energy industry, but to live here is to develop a deep love for the sere land and the challenges it poses, even when the challenges take the form of intractable trucks.

David became the immediate reason for me to stay and it seemed like a small choice at the time. A matter of a few months and a fling. But I’ve come to know this man as I’ve come to know Wyoming over a decade of my life. Yes, and the truck, too. And now I find that I like who I am here. A place that has brought me to my knees in both despair and wonder must have something to teach me. I am profoundly happy here. Growing, too.

I don’t drive the truck unless I have to. But I can do it. Mostly I enjoy insulting it whenever possible, while David sings its praises. When I argue that it is not a “woman-getting machine,” as he fondly calls it, David smiles equably and murmurs, “It got you, didn’t it?”

Uncool Beans

I thought my neighbor’s tree looked really neat in this light, with the storm advancing behind it.

I’d like to offer a shout-out this morning to Abby Mumford, who is a sometime commenter and frequent pimper of this blog. She passed along the Stylish Blogger Award. It’s a lovely thing, to have someone recommend your work to others. I don’t much like to play the blog badge game, because it reminds me uncomfortably of chain letters. And I’m old enough to remember when chain letters actually came in the mail. Which arrived on exhausted ponies. In ten-foot deep snow.

At any rate, I won’t post you a list of my secrets, because I pretty much spill everything here anyway. But thank you, Abby – I greatly appreciate the nod!

Last night David commented that the waitress in the movie we watched didn’t look old enough to serve drinks, and that it was the second time we’d seen that in a movie lately. I said, either that, or we’re just getting old enough that they look really young to us now. It’s an interesting thing about age-perspective. The people around your own age look “right” and everyone else is lumped into older or younger.

The other day I saw conversation between two twenty-something agents on Twitter. A lot of publishing professionals – especially the ones really using social media – are twenty-somethings. They’re fresh out of college, interning and starting at the bottom level. They make terrific agents because they don’t have extensive client lists yet and they’re full of energy and enthusiasm. Both of these gals rep Young Adult books, so their own perspective is arguably much closer to that of the readers than an older person’s would be.

One said that she feels awkward correcting outdated slang in manuscripts.

The other said, Oh, I know, right? I just took out “cool beans” from a manuscript.

And all I heard was Mom! You’re embarrassing me!

Okay, sure – we all retain an unnatural attachment to the slang of our youth. It dates us, as surely as mentions of paper chain-mail letters and stories where the girl actually had to stay at home when she waited for a phone call from a boy. The words and phrases that make us superbad as teens render us hopelessly square twenty years later.

(I’d like to insert here, however, that “cool beans” was never a serious slang term. Hint: if the Urban Dictionary’s main citation for a term is Cheech & Chong, it was never more than tongue in cheek. We didn’t really smoke Labrador, either. Erm, most of us, anyway. The fact that it was picked up and used as a running joke in Full House, well, I can’t help that.)

These gals are doing their jobs, updating the language for today’s savvy youth. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that what’s hip today is lining bird cages tomorrow.

(How many old slang terms can I trot out in one post? This is more fun than a barrel full of monkeys!)

It’s kind of like fashion: beware the fads. Go for the classics. That black jersey knit skirt can last decades with proper care and always looks in style. Those black rubber Madonna-wannabe bracelets? The hot pink half-shirt that says RELAX in neon green? Not so much.

I suspect the answer is to avoid slang as much as possible. I don’t write YA, so I don’t labor with trying to sound nifty keen to the youth of today. The classic curse words though? They’ve been around, doing their dirty work for centuries now. Serious staying power there.

Besides, you don’t want to embarrass your agent.

Chain letters? Weren’t those invented with email?


Back in October, I took you through a day in the life of a brand new novel, featuring my friend Allison’s ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of A Brush of Darkness.

Today is her debut.

There she is, gliding down the grand staircase in a white gown, blushing with youth and hopefulness. Who will be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to take her arm and lead her into the world?

Actually, knowing Brush of Darkness, she’s more likely to hike up her skirts, climb on a bar stool and order a double.

Regardless, the party starts today at Bitten by Books, where you can win an enchanted iPod, just like Abby’s – only without the seven-year contract to a fairy princess who may or may not be draining your life energy.

So, help a girl out – stop by Bitten by Books to wish her a happy birthday. She’s here, dressed up either as a mass-market paperback or in a slinky electronic Kindle outfit, on Amazon (or likely in your local bookstore).

Give her a whirl, buy her a drink. Take her home and have your way with her.

I promise she’ll put out.

First Time’s a Charm

When I was in school, lo these many moons ago, the common wisdom was to save time at the end of the exam to review your answers.

I don’t know if that’s still the advice these days. But it never worked for me. I found that, if I went back and changed my initial answer, I nearly always changed it wrong. Seriously – the questions I’d miss on the test would be the ones I changed upon review.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I’ve noticed it in other areas of my life, too. The first time I try a recipe, it comes out perfectly. After that, not so much. When I try to photograph something, inevitably my first shot is the best. This generally works out fine for me. I prefer to be decisive – make a decision, commit to a course of action and have done – so my experience that my first attempt is usually the best reinforces that preference.

The downside of this is, I really don’t like revising.

In fact, I’ve become superstitious enough over the years about “changing my first answer,” that I fret that revising makes my story worse.

I know, I know. You hear that noise, like marbles clattering around in a jar of olive oil? That’s my critique partners rolling their eyes at me.

Revising is necessary. I understand that, here in my head. It’s my heart that gets all nervous about it.

I once had a John Irving quote that I cut out of a magazine somewhere, that I recall as being “I have learned to have no fear of revising.” I’m almost certain he said it about Cider House Rules. However, the closest I can come online is this one:

No, this isn’t religion, there’s no fear in changing the text.

Superstition and religion. Do I detect a recurring theme?

At any rate, I’ve nearly completed the revision of Act I of The Body Gift. I’m tossed between the exhilaration of seeing how much better the story flows now and genuine terror that I’ve ruined it forever.

(Yes, I know I can change it back – this isn’t rational.)

But, when they’re not rolling their eyes at me, my CPs are reading it and pronouncing it much better.

I don’t know if I get an “A” on it, yet, but at least I haven’t changed it wrong.

Extended Architects

This is the sunset from the same night as the Wolf Moon rising photos. Really good show that night. The cast hit every note perfectly.

One of my writing friends and fellow Word-Whore, Laura Bickle, attended a panel last night. She was invited to a university, along with a “literary” writer and an art-gallery owner, to discuss Making Money from Art. Laura was described in the publicity materials as a pulp-fiction writer.

Been a while since you heard that term, too?

She says she didn’t mind, but the term is really a slam. It derives from the days when certain, more disposable stories, were printed on cheap, pulp paper. Not like the good stuff you’d want to put in a library. If you’ve ever been to a discussion like this in an academic setting, then you’ll know how the conversation went. The literary writer had one book to his name, but he’d clung to his Vision. Laura has published four urban fantasy books with Penguin in the last nine months, in two different series.

The art-gallery owner was gracious to her and even suggested a collaborative with a fantasy art show and Laura’s books. Of course, a woman like that knows something about selling art, or she wouldn’t be in business.

At any rate, afterwards, Laura and I discussed Vision. She said she’d learned something, a glimpse in the mirror we both shared. As writers, we sometimes let our Vision get in the way of delivering what the reader wants.

I ended up dragging out my new extended architect analogy.

I know: you can’t wait.

Things Writers Can Learn from Architects

1) An architect can have a Vision, but people have to be able to use the building. Don’t let your writer’s Vision be more important than engaging the reader. Without people to occupy it, a building has no purpose.

2) An architect can design anything they like, but they are bound by the laws of physics. There must be a foundation and bearing walls. They can’t just throw in a window in any old spot. Stories have traditional structures for a reason – kind of the physics of the imagination.

3) Originality is great, but if an architect puts the master bedroom next to the front entrance, no one will want the house. People expect certain things in a home, based on how people like to live. They also expect certain things from a story. You can have lovely twists and surprises, but don’t turn it so upside-down that they’re miserable being there.

4) Architects start with a dream and turn it into a solid reality. So do writers. Our readers occupy our realities. Make those worlds places they want to be.

5) Architects make a living from their work. This means putting as much fervor and art into designing a warehouse as a skyscraper. Not all jobs are big jobs. If you want to make a living at it, get good at designing warehouses, too. No newbie architect gets handed a skyscraper right off the bat. Don’t disdain the warehouse jobs.

6) Now, if an architect doesn’t care about making a living – say, if she works as a lawyer for her day job and designs buildings two hours before work every morning – then she can design all the skyscrapers she pleases, however she wishes. Whether someone invests in building them is another thing altogether.

7) If an architect sets out to design a house, they don’t add on skyscraper and warehouse elements. Writers should know what they want their story to be. It doesn’t have to be everything.

Seeing as how this is my new favorite analogy, I could go on forever. I’m also guilty of all these sins. But it helps me to think of how architects work. Yes, all houses are essentially the same. They all have the same elements, the same general lay-out, but within that pattern is an infinite array of ways that houses have unique, gracious and vibrant charm.

Sure, I fantasize about building a landmark skyscraper, one that defines the skyline of a city. Nothing wrong with a little beach cottage though. Simple. Straightforward.

So, what did I miss – any other architect analogies you all would like to add?

Wolf Moon

I’d like to take you all on a little Santa Fe vacation today. Come sit on my porch. It’s a bit chilly, but we have a heater. Here, you can sit next to it.

Sit with me and watch the full Wolf Moon rise.

I made sure to check the time and paid attention to where the moon rose the night before. Still, at first I wondered if I had it right. Then the sky began to lighten with that silver blue light that can be only moon.

Finally a sliver of moon peeked above the hillside.

This part seems to happen so much more quickly. Even though I know in my head that we are turning faster than it’s moving, it still seems like the moon hurries.

Full of light, it brightens the hills.

And the clouds above.

Nearly free of the hills.

And here is where I didn’t do so well. Hopefully you’re not feeling moonrisus interruptus. See how the focus is already blurring? The moon was so very bright, it took over the lens. All subsequent photographs look like a big white circle in a field of black.

Too bad, because my eyes could see so much more – the subtle shadows of the face of the moon.

I’ll get better at this, I swear.

Why I like writing? If, in the morning, the ending looks unfocused – I can always fix it.

Jumping Up and Down

I’ve never been all that good at parties.

Oh, I sometimes have fun. And I like them, I really do. Love to host them.Hand me a glass of wine or champagne and a few snacks and I’m a happy kitty cat.

But I don’t do well with competing conversations. Part of it’s because I’m a Western girl. The pauses in East Coast conversations go by so fleetingly that, by the time, I’ve heard the opening, someone else has taken the reins and run with the topic. By the time I get a chance, the moment is gone and my comment no longer relevant. It’s like I’m forever running behind the big kids, jumping up and down, shouting wait for me!

It’s a funny thing, because I’m generally an assertive person. I think it’s more that I don’t like competition. I don’t like struggling for the conversational ball. If someone talks over me, I’ll back off rather than fight for it. I easily fall into my preferred writerly habit of listening and putting together the stories behind the people.

It only occurred to me the other day that I have a lifelong pattern of avoiding competition. David and I were talking about our childhoods and how we were both kind of sensitive kids who were shocked to hit the bigger world of school, where people yelled at each other and did mean things. We grew tougher hides over time, but I realized that my dislike of sports (please don’t yell at me because I ducked instead of catching the ball) all the way up to my avoiding the rest of the Pre-Med crowd in college (no, I really don’t want to tell you my grade on that exam) reflect that I don’t like competing.

I’m sure many would say this is a fear of failure.

But it feels more like I just don’t like being in the mosh pit.

I’ll hand you the conversational ball before I elbow you in the eye-socket to keep it.

Sometimes the social media world feels like this to me. It’s a great big cocktail party and I love the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made. The support network is a fundamental part of my life. But sometimes the party gets really loud. Some people are trying to stand in the middle of the room and talk over everyone else. Others are gathering people around them, relentlessly counting how many there are, yanking them back when they try to wander off. Some spend the whole time trying to get people to go off to their private blog-party room. Have you been there yet? Lots of people like it. Go there and see!

I find myself standing on the edges of the room, retreating to the comfort of listening. My mother taught me how to make social conversation by asking people about themselves, but then I sometimes get trapped near the potted plant with the guy who wants to tell me how much money he’s made self-publishing.

I think the trick – as with all parties – is to mingle freely and find the people you want to talk to. I find myself avoiding the loud talkers, the big groups, the ones running around, flailing their hands in the air yelling Look at Me! Look at Meeee!!!! I want people to read my books because they enjoy them, not because I talked them into it. I don’t want my writing to be about competition, any more than I want the rest of my life to be about it.

Yeah, I know this means that the bigger boys, who throw the ball hard and sneer at my timidity will rule the game. This is why the James Frey’s of the world not only get away with their shit, they profit from it. Nice guys might not finish last, but they don’t necessarily finish first either.

Still, what it comes down to me is not that I have a fear of failure, but that I don’t think winning is all it’s cracked up to be. It certainly isn’t worth sacrificing happiness or what I believe to be a generous and loving way to treat other people.

If you want to find me, I’ll be over on the sofa in the corner, sipping my wine.