Drop Me a Line Sometime

David asked me to stop at the grocery store after the gym this morning.

This is easy to do, because the gym is just up the road and the grocery store is right across the street. On my weight-lifting days, David usually stays home and does his own work-out. Apparently shapely thighs are not a high-priority for him.

Go figure.

Oh! And many of you have asked why there haven’t been Crazy Gym Lady stories lately. At first I stopped telling them, because I thought it wasn’t healthy to take notes on how much she irritated me, just so I could regale you on the blog. Then she got fired. Yes, she did! There has been much rejoicing in Mudville ever since. Incredible difference for us. We go to the gym, work out, nobody bugs us, we leave. Ah, blessed peace.

At any rate, this morning I paid my dues to the Gods of Shapely Thighs, then stopped at the grocery store. This woman was walking in who looked very familiar. This is our local store and we’ve been here two years, so a lot of people are looking familiar now. I knew she was out of context, wearing a shapely black skirt and jacket. But she’s very tall with tousled curly hair that’s quite distinctive. So I’m studying her as she walks in, trying to place her. She stops, just inside the door, at the greeting card carousel and starts flipping through them, frowning.

In trying to place her, I’m thinking she usually looks relaxed and happy. This morning, she was anxious, stressed. It was a bit after 7 and she looked like she would be heading into town, but had to stop to buy a card first. As I did my shopping, I thought about who the card might be for and how pleased they would be to get it. Or she was dressed to attend a funeral and the card would be for sympathy and would likely make the person weepy to read it.

Regardless, whoever gets that card likely never will think about the effort it took for my familiar lady to stop, pick one out and buy it on the way into town. A matter of minutes, but it cost her a bit of stress.

People in our lives do so many things for us, large and small, daily and annually. Some we expect. Some we don’t. But they all feed into the vast blood supply that supports and nurtures us.

I’m giving a bit of thought to that today.

If I Can Make It There…

Crazy Gym Lady: He’s a lawyer, so he doesn’t do things like Excel.

I haven’t been doing Crazy Gym Lady quotes lately, because I’m trying to practice tolerance. Which, for me, means not paying attention to her. But I couldn’t resist this one.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the RWA National Conference coming this summer. Mainly people being aghast at the costs. It takes place in New York City, so prices are higher. The hotel rooms are $211/night for double occupancy, which seems to be shockingly high to many people. The registration fee is higher, because the hotel costs are higher.

At this point, people start working their budgets. They look at outlay and profit. Investment and return. I see a lot of people discussing whether they’ll sell enough books, or get a high enough advance to justify the outlay. If you’re responsible about your finances, this is what you do, you weigh your cost versus your benefits.

The problem is, attending a convention like this brings mainly intangible benefits.

The success gurus all say that, if you want to be successful in your field, you should hang with the very successful people in your field. They advise to do whatever it takes just to be in the same room with the millionaires and billionaires. Now remember, these are usually people giving advice on businesses like real estate, investment banking, stock brokerage, entrepeneurial ventures. They regard the opportunity to get a 30-second piece of advice from one of the giants as invaluable. From being around them, you learn the realities of their lives and their business. So you actually know whether a lawyer uses Excel. Unfortunately for aspiring folks in these fields, it’s very difficult to get near the giants. They are simply not accessible, much less willing to give even less than a minute of their time.

It seems to me that people don’t recognize the opportunity RWA offers this way.

The millionaires in our field? They show up. They give keynote addresses. Susan Elizabeth Phillips gives an annual workshop on the secrets of writing a bestseller. I sat in the bar next to Nora Roberts while she had drinks and discussed the business. She also offers a seminar where people can ask her anything at all. Linda Howard chatted with me in the elevator. These are our millionaires, hanging out in the hotel bar and offering advice freely.

This just doesn’t happen in other fields. Even other genres.

I met Annie Proulx six or seven times, easily. She lived near my town and occasionally attended literary events. Every single time she was reintroduced to me, she acted like she’d never seen me before in her life. And this was not a big town. My friend, RoseMarie, and I were working up a great idea for an anthology about bars in the West. I asked Ms. Proulx if she’d be interested in contributing. She laughed in my face. Then glanced at some of the people she considered to be “real writers,” sneered and walked away.

Yeah, she’s a cantankerous type, but she wasn’t the only Big Name Writer to behave this way. When people get to be Very Important, they can become this way. Wanna-bes in their field are only so much dirt beneath their feet. They’re not going to help you.

Not like in RWA.

I included the photo above from two years ago at the convention, because these two fabulous authors, Jeri Smith-Ready and Cynthia Eden, became my friends. They’re not in the millionaire crowd yet, but they’re headed that way. They weren’t the Mean Girls, hanging only with the successful authors. And I know they never will be. They received help along the way and they offer help. Which is what it’s all about.

This kind of thing? It’s beyond price.

Counting Trespasses

No Crazy Gym Lady today!

She’s off to Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving. (Sorry Danica.) But I saved this one from last week.

“Normally I love to cook, but I hate cooking for Thanksgiving because my mother’s kitchen is so…Limited! It’s very frustrating for me.”


This year my mom and stepsister, Hope, are doing all the cooking. I don’t recall if I mentioned that. Despite my NoNaNo words about Thanksgiving being about lots of prep, things worked out so that we can’t get to Tucson until tomorrow midday. For those keeping score at home, that leaves little time for cooking, even though we do eat later in the day.

They’re both so lovely about it, they’ve said not to worry and I can cook at Christmas.

So I’ll waltz in and be fed. Pretty glam.

We’re lucky to have a place to go for this celebration, with people we enjoy so much. I’ve been having a lot of conversations this week with friends dreading their Thanksgiving obligations. The same themes rise over and over again. Families who don’t listen to each other, who are so busy judging who’s living the more correct life that no one can relax and take pleasure in the day. The gathering of family becomes a gauntlet for some, an annual performance review that almost always comes with a stamp of “Did Not Meet Expectations.”

Never mind that those expectations are rarely anything the person agreed to.

People have been saying a lot this week about thankfulness, gratitude, counting blessings. That’s to be expected for this holiday. It’s important to me, to count the ways I am so fortunate, so rich. Perhaps, though, we might spend time thinking about the demands we lay on the people we love, who we expect them to be, how we expect them to behave.

I think often of this quote, which I’m sure I’ve quoted here before, by Jim Morrison:

The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.

He’s talking about those expectations. I imagine we can all think of ways our families have asked us to be someone we’re not. David and I have been trying to turn that around, being diligent not to be the smiling murderers ourselves.

That’s my small bid for change. Sending along my wishes and hopes that you who are dreading the gatherings find joy in some part of them.

If not, you can all come to my mom’s house!

With that, I’ll leave you to at least enjoy the time off. Have a lovely holiday!

Stocking Stuffers

Crazy Gym Lady (to a guy leaving the gym): “You won’t relax. You’re high energy like me. I keep myself busy.”

“Manic,” I mutter under my breath.


I dream sometimes about missing holidays. I know I’ve mentioned this before from time to time.

It’s one of my standard anxiety-dreams, along with the one about taking a final without having been to class all semester. (Why is it always Calculus?? It wasn’t as hard as Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry. Yet somehow I have this lingering idea that there’s one semester of Calculus I still “owe” somebody, somewhere. And of course I never have studied for it…)

The other night, I dreamed that I forgot stocking stuffers. Everyone was at our house; everything was ready. And I realized I had no stocking stuffers for anyone. Off I went to buy some, which segued into the long dream of the strange and endless store which morphs into some kind of haunted Victorian mansion with a boat at the dock I never seem to reach.

You guys have this dream, too, right?

Anyway, the stocking-stuffer deal is pretty much mine in the first place. I suspect the rest of the family would drop it if I let them. Which I won’t. I love the touch of magic in it. Playing Santa. I like that we have to sneak around, trying to avoid each other late on Christmas Eve, or early Christmas morning, to tuck little gifts in the stockings. Generally they’re silly things. We each find three per person. It can be stuff like lottery tickets, candy, mini-screwdrivers, and iTunes gift cards. Sometimes someone gets frisky and does a more expensive small something – jewelry or tech devices.

It’s fun and a challenge to see what people come up with.

But, because they have to be small, require inventiveness and because they’re low-key, people put-off acquiring the stocking-stuffers. Then you have to keep track of them without nametags and keep the unwrapped things hidden. Just a bit more effort.

Every year someone asks “are we doing stuffers this year?” hoping we can drop the tradition. Always I talk them into keeping the magic for just one more year. Let’s not let it slide just yet.

Last night someone said to me on Twitter that her family is thinking about Denny’s for Thanksgiving dinner. I’d been teasing someone else about whether Southerners knew how to to a “real” Thanksgiving and passed her when she assured me they have pumpkin pie, not sweet potato pie. This other gal jumped in to tweak me with her Denny’s deal. I obliged her with crying blasphemy and she said she knew – that’s why they like it.

But is it really being iconoclastic? Breaking tired traditions for the freedom and energy of it can be a terrific thing. Sometimes though, we just don’t feel like putting in the effort, so we dress it up as being rebellious.

I usually find the results are worth the effort. It’s tempting to let things slide, to let competing projects, like crying baby birds demanding to be fed NOW, take priority. But it’s not always the loudest, most obnoxious thing that deserves our attention. It’s up to us to choose.

And, to whomever I owe a semester of Calculus, I swear next time I’ll study.

Frosty Moon

Crazy Gym Lady (as I walk in the door): “Let’s see, she’s got on her red coat and teal headband – she’s all ready for Christmas!”

Me: “Um, but it has nothing to do with Christmas.”

Crazy Gym Lady: “Well, I’m very visual.”


This moon is from Saturday evening. I would have liked to catch it last night, but I foolishly scheduled an FFP board meeting at the same time as moonrise. But, since the moon was technically fully full at 10:27am Sunday morning, the night before is pretty much the same as the night after.

November’s moon is the Frosty Moon. It’s also called the Full Beaver Moon. I am not Tawna Fenske, however, so I decided to stay away from that one.

Saturday wasn’t frosty at all. In fact, it was fully and gorgeously warm. Doesn’t that picture look like a summer sky? We went hiking and sat on the patio for cocktails. But, as if ushered in by the Frosty Moon, cold weather hit last night. The wind roared in, freezing rain pelted the windows. Between the bright, full moon and the turbulent storm, we and the animals woke several times during the night. This morning shows a dusting of our first snow.

Seems appropriate for Thanksgiving week to me.

Which, um, has nothing to do with Christmas.

High Drama

Overheard from the Crazy Gym Lady: “That wasn’t sugar. It was honey. Honey isn’t sugar.”

This morning, the Jeep was completely frosted over. A heavy fog had settled in overnight – indeed a wind-driven fog bank was still whipping by overhead, foaming and turbulent like those old paintings of horses boiling out of the surf – and froze onto every surface in a thick coat.

David turned on the defroster, to the second-highest setting, then got out to scrape off the windshield. Once he was out of the car, I turned the defroster up to its highest setting. He won’t do this. Something prevents him from using the “high” setting on anything. Even boiling water in the tea-kettle, he’ll put it on just a notch down from high. Or, much more aggravating, he’ll put it on somewhere around the low side of medium.

Not particularly wanting to wait half an hour for the water to heat, I’ll sneak into the kitchen and turn it up to High.

“Why is the tea kettle on High?” he’ll ask.

“So the water will boil,” I tell him in my soul-of-patience voice.

“It’s already boiling.”

“No – it’s just hot. I want my water hotter than that.”

“You just like to superheat everything,” he tells me.

He tells me that a lot. I like to put the take-out pizza in the oven to keep warm while we eat the initial slices. Yes – “superheating.” I bring pasta water to a rolling boil. I like baths hot, not tepid.

Oh yes, it’s a problem sometimes. I’m impatient, so I nearly always start a skillet or pan on my favorite setting, start the oil, maybe the garlic, and dial down from there. Sometimes I might, um, get distracted, too. I really do try not to let this happen often. The getting distracted part. I’m still quite fond of High.

That’s the intensity in me. The drama. I like things bold and decisive. Dithering drives me up the wall. While David rarely dithers, he’s for the careful approach. He likes to ease into something, take it slowly. Wait and see.

We’re fire and water. It actually works for us.

Though I’m forever turning the dials up, he’s there turning them down. He hesitates to take action, but I’ve already bought the tickets. When I’m running too hot, he tells me to settle down.

Are we attracted opposites? I think it’s more the balance.

Honey isn’t sugar. Except it is.

Smell Me a River

So, today Crazy Lady at the Gym – who works there every morning but Thursdays (ah! how I’ve come to love Thursdays…) – stops us just as we finish running on the treadmill.

“Now that it’s winter,” she says, “I’m asking everyone to wear deodorant to the gym. And to wear fresh exercise clothes everyday.”

We stare at her in disbelief.

“Because we’re all closed in here,” she explains. “I’m asking everyone.”

She added this last, in case we thought she was making a personal remark about us.

Yeah, this one annoyed even my mild-mannered David.

“It’s a freaking gym!” he exclaims as soon as we walk out the door. “People sweat in gyms. If you don’t want to smell sweat, don’t go in a gym!”

He also started in on a rant about adequate ventilation systems. I just smiled. Usually it’s me complaining about Crazy Lady, while he pats me on the head and makes sideways remarks about how I’m not always the most tolerant person.

I know this is just her little deal, since she seems to view the gym as a cross between her personal exercise area and her living room. This “rule” is, of course, not in the contract. Never mind that a good proportion of people around Santa Fe don’t use deodorant at all because of health concerns or sensitivity to perfumes.

Have I mentioned Crazy Lady is from Louisiana? She probably thinks women glow.

The subject of smell is a sensitive one. Or not, depending on the person. In our refined, technological society, we’ve been taught that the smells of the human body are bad. We scrub our teeth and mouthwash our breath. We use body-washes, lotions, powders, anti-perspirants, perfumes, deodorants, and shoe inserts. All to keep us from smelling like human bodies and more like a pretty object in a parlor decorated in chintz.

I’ve noticed it’s rarely men who complain about how someone smells.

On the other side, it’s becoming far more common to ask people to refrain from wearing heavy perfumes and deodorants. I’ve noticed it on several conference flyers now, reminding people that many around them have allergies. Physiological reaction to aerosols is somewhat more grim than not liking a natural smell. Allergies and sensitivities are different than dislikes.

This is like the shades up vs. shades down battle. People who like shades down think it’s only considerate for the shades-up people to lower the shades if a shades-down person complains. Similarly, people who don’t like certain smells feel free to tell other people to correct it. Rarely do they seem to realize that they don’t have to have things the way they like them all the time. I don’t like small children being disruptive in restaurants, but I would never ask someone to leave. I simply put up with it.

With perhaps a bit of grumbling, but still.

If I go out to a restaurant, I run that risk. If I walk into a perfume shop, I expect to smell perfume. If I walk into a gym, I expect to smell, well, sweaty people. In fact, I’d wonder about a gym that doesn’t smell like that.

I’m trying to decide now if I want to complain to management, or simply wear the same clothes over and over for weeks on end…

Time It Was

Overheard from the crazy lady at the gym: “None of the clocks in here are right. They had to come in last week and reset them all – but that doesn’t mean anything.”

I should note that she said this before the time change.

Yes, due to popular demand, I’ve started writing down what the crazy lady at the gym says, in my little notebook where I keep track of weight lifted and distance run. On those occasions when I don’t have the solace of my earbuds, I sometimes catch what she’s saying to some other poor soul she has trapped in conversation.

Clocks and time have been on our minds this week. At least, for all of us in places who embrace the antique custom of Daylight Savings Time. For the record, we just went off DST and back to real, actual, dictated by the cycle of the earth’s rotation time. Amazing to me how many people don’t know which is which.

Yes, it does so matter! (This message brought to you by the People In Favor of REAL Time, aka PIFORT.)

People have been feeling the pain of the time change for the last several days, complaining of lost sleep, children awaking early, pets being a pain. It seems that we shouldn’t feel the impact of the autumn change (back to REAL time), because we get to sleep an hour longer in the morning. Well, yes, this would work great, except that we’re staying up later.

Instead of acknowledging that we feel sleepy and ready for bed earlier, we look at the clock. Hoo boy, no! we chortle. It’s *way* too early to go to bed. But our bodies know, regardless of what the clock says.

Changing our clocks reminds us, rather brutally, of our circadian rhythms. Otherwise we tend to ignore our animal selves in favor of our tech selves. We stay up late, with our lights and our TVs and our computers, working into the night and ignoring the sleepies.

In the morning, the alarm sounds and we force ourselves from bed, to meet our carefully detailed schedules.

It’s not really what Ben Franklin had in mind at all. We’re not taking advantage of shifting the pattern of our days to take advantage of the light so we can work in the fields more effectively or save on artificial lighting. And yet, our representatives in the House and Senate voted to expand DST as an “energy-saving” measure.

Yes, our PIFORT lobbyists are working on this.

The truth is, I think, that we’ve made the clock king. The digital readout, not how we feel, runs our lives. Sleep science has long shown that we spend more time in healing Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) in the early part of the night and more time in REM sleep (Rapid-Eye Movement or dreaming sleep) in the morning hours. You can really witness this if you sleep during the day at all. Sleeping in late into the morning produces lots of dreams. Afternoon naps are heavy and dreamless.

So, if we don’t go to bed until late at night, guess which kind of sleep we miss out on?

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to live a non-electronic life. I think people must have slept long hours in the dark of winter, which is what my body wants. Once black night fell and you fixed and ate supper, you wouldn’t sit around by the fire knitting or whittling or reading for all that long. Even if you woke at dawn to feed the chickens and milk the cows, you’d still be sleeping maybe ten hours a night?

I think about this sometimes, when I look out the windows and see the slanting glare of our electric lights spill into the night.

Then I go back to whatever brightly lit thing I was doing. I reset the clocks, but that doesn’t mean anything.


Quote of the Day from Crazy Lady at the Gym (spoken to David while I’m using a weight machine with my blissful earbuds in): “She’s wearing two of my favorite colors: red and turquoise.”

So, this is the view from our hotel room this weekend, at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort at Santa Ana Pueblo. We went down for the Barenaked Ladies concert hosted by the Santa Ana Star Casino. We decided to make a mini-break of it and stay over Saturday night. That way we could have some drinks and not have to drive home.

We had the best time.

David and I drove down midday Saturday. We passed the Santa Ana Star Casino which, quite disconcertingly, has large signs on it that say “this is YOUR casino.” Past the bright lights and big signs of the casino, the road wended deep into the countryside, to the Tamaya resort. Beautiful, gorgeous, you so should have been there.

We ate lunch on the patio, enjoying the gorgeous blues skies and golden afternoon. I took that pic with my camera phone, so it’s all wrong. But I thought it was worth posting, just for the blue. While we ate, a guy came in with a tote bag from the BnL Stunt tour and sat down to eat lunch. We speculated whether he was a fan or with the band. Then the waiter asked the guy at the table behind us how everything was and he declared that everything was beautiful! I laughed at his broad-voice enthusiasm, then realized he was Tyler Stewart, the band’s drummer.

Yes, we *are* that cool.

After a fab lunch, which included drinks and brushes with celebrity, we went to hang at the pool. Isn’t this photo somewhat reminiscent of Darynda Jones’ cover for her upcoming debut? Totally not on purpose.

The hotel shuttled us over to the casino for the concert. This was the third time I’ve been to a BnL concert and the smallest venue by far. I loved being in a smaller room. The casino also provided a bar for the concert-goers, with beer, wine and margaritas. We queued up to get our drinks (note the Canadian vibe permeating the experience) and I noticed the guy in the scruffy black sweatshirt talking to some people nearby was Ed Robertson.

While we waited for the concert to start, I saw this couple, reading to kill the time. These are classic BnL fans: the geeks of the world. I mean that with all the greatest affection. They’re probably my readers.

So the question I know you’re all asking: are they as good without Steven Page? (He left in February 2009.)

Yes and no. The interplay between Steven Page and Ed Robertson is legendary. The two enjoyed the amazing synchronicity like the kind that made Steven Tyler and Joe Perry so great together and so much weaker apart. Yeah, that’s missing. Page brought a major presence to the stage. He and Robertson wrote many songs in a style that allowed them to bounce back and forth off of each other.

I missed that.

However, an interesting thing is happening. Because the songs require it, the other three members of the bands are stepping up more to provide that interaction for Ed Robertson. The show came out quieter in some ways, deeper and richer in others. Old songs received a new spin. The humor still comes through. In the mandatory rendition of “If I Had $1,000,000,” Robertson asked if we’d come to the treehouse and bring OUR casino. Because after all, if it’s OUR casino and the House always wins….

The also talked about flying into Albuquerque on Southwest Airlines and riffed about seat-lottery strategy.

This was not the arena-event of their Stunt era. The one where I couldn’t hear anything because of the teenage girls screaming in my ears. This was a group of tremendously good musicians sharing their art. Are they wounded? Oh yes. And it comes through. For an encore, Robertson took the drums and Tyler Stewart sang a vicious, prancing parody of “Alcohol.” Though Page left the band amicably, I wonder about his 2008 cocaine arrest. The remaining four guys sing songs that remind of dysfunctional relationships and what it’s like to live with an addict.

Like all good artists, they’re using that pain and turning it into something extraordinary.

Waffles for Breakfast

Quote of the Day from Crazy Lady at the Gym: “This frosty weather is messing with our gardens – it’s not natural.”

I had no words. Which is saying a lot for me.

My spooky Halloween decorations look cool at sunset though, don’t they?

Clearly I’m feeling quite rambly today. I’m looking at my list of potential blog topics and none look interesting. My writerliness might be getting sucked into this new story I’m working on. It’s called (right now) “Sapphire” and it’s an erotic contemporary romance. An editor requested to see it, so I’m getting it all finished up. It’s interesting how, because it’s contemporary, I seem to be getting more into the thoughts and emotions. My modern career-gal, Taylor, has far more neuroses and hang-ups than virginal Amarantha did. Of course, they both get ravished just the same. Some things transcend era.

The big question is what to write next. I’m trying this schedule of spending three months drafting a long work, setting it aside for a month to “cook,” writing something short, then spending a month revising, then another short. October sees the end of this “writing a short” month. (Okay, I’m running about a week behind -have been since July. You can dock my pay.)

What this means is: time to work on the next big project. And I’m not sure what that will be. Oh yes, I have a list. I have several manuscripts in various phases from a jotted-down idea to one that’s 36K complete. Allison asked me which is tugging at me and I confessed it’s still The Body Gift. I haven’t quite cut that umbilical cord.

Of course, if I get an offer on it, I’ll almost certainly be diving back in with revisions. That’s pretty much inevitable. I know that, so that might be feeding in.

At any rate, I’m contemplating going back to a nonfiction project. Part of me thinks that, since I don’t have any other strong tuggings, I should pick the project that’s most marketable. Then I think, who am I kidding? If I was good at picking marketable projects, I’d be Nora Roberts. KAK has a vote in for me to finish the 36K one, which I might. It’s also probably the most unsellable project under the sun, so I’m waffling…

See? I warned you I’m in a rambly mood today. Say, I don’t solicit comments often, but let’s play Vote on the Next Manuscript!

Here’s the list: (I’m keeping each description brief, so as not to unduly bias my judges.) (And, no Marcella, none of these are good loglines, I know.)

The Daughters (36K done) – Fantasy, lots of sex magic, about girls being manipulated by a cult

Writers Group story – Nonfiction, 12 intertwined stories about women in my first writers group and how they ended up

St. Johns love story – contemporary romance, a woman travels to St.Johns because she falls in love with a singer’s voice

Wendy story – literary fiction. 30 yo woman living in small-town Wyoming with parents

Sorority book – Nonfiction, intertwined essays (yeah, it’s my thing right now) about women from my sorority, then and and the ensuing years, what sorority life was like

Papa book – narrative nonfiction, from the divorce scandal that banished my grandparents from theater mecca to the ashes of alcoholism

Post-apocalyptic vampire story – could be expanded?

Okay! What do you all think? Feel free to say you hate something, too. All suggestions welcome!