Friday, March 16, 2012

The Move From Hell Part 2--In Which We are Not Robbed, and Bed Bath and Beyond is My Best Friend

We spent a largely sleepless night on the air mattress in what will eventually be our bedroom. Because I had not figured out how the thermostat worked (or where it was, for that matter) and we only had a fitted sheet and a regular sheet that had been in my laundry bag to put on said air mattress, it was a chilly night. So chilly that at some point I sat up to the husband grumbling incoherently while throwing our coats on top of us for extra warmth. The cat, for her part, was hidden in the laundry room, which she had decided was where she was going to wait out all the noise and unfamiliarity.

We finally got up at some early hour and I spent a terrifying ten minutes looking for my house keys (I just moved here! How did I lose the keys ALREADY?!) only to open the front door....and find them hanging in the lock. Where they had been all night.

(Keep this image, and all its implications in mind, because it makes what happens later all the more funny, in a bizarre "jeez woman what's wrong with you?!" sort of way.)

We stumbled out into the (brilliantly sunny!) Saturday and I all but dragged the husband four blocks to Bed Bath and Beyond, because I was not--repeat not--sleeping under my itchy winter coat again. We went in for a blanket and maybe some hangers, and left with...more than that. Much more. We also went to Walgreens to get much-needed detergent so I could wash the contents of my laundry bag and the sheets...and then the husband went back to buy the detergent again because we forgot the detergent and then lost the receipt. Sigh.

We finally got back to the apartment and set about trying to figure out where everything was going to go once it got here. I did laundry, put the freshly cleaned sheets and the NEW WARM FUZZY BLANKET back on the air mattress, and tried to work on my paper, which I had mercifully remembered was due soon and was kind of worth a ton of my final grade. When we did go to bed that night, with our new blanket, I also discovered the where and how of the thermostat. Naturally. That was basically our Saturday.

Sunday was unremarkable: I worked the whole day, then came home and we worked on a puzzle of a castle in Germany until it got too dark to see.  Dinner was had, and we settled in for another, hopefully more sleep-filled night, as the movers were coming the next day. We snuggled down in the air mattress, the cat finally decided to grace us with her presence and curled up on my feet.
Things are looking up! I thought as I drifted off to sleep around 10.30.

.....and then was jolted back awake at 11.45 when the front door burst open and two men barged into the apartment.

(And no, the keys weren't in the lock this time. They had their own.)

Because I am a light sleeper (read: paranoid), I was out of the mattress and charging into the hall before the sound of the door opening had faded away. The husband, who is blind without his glasses, followed a second later, sounding very much like a bear angry at being woken from his hibernation.
I genuinely thought for a few seconds that we were getting robbed, or worse. I distinctly remember thinking but there isn't even anything to STEAL!

As it turns out, they were not there to rob us of our non-existent television. They were the building's overnight maintenance team, and had been called up because the unit next to ours had water leaking into it. Water which was likely coming from our unit. Our unit, which the maintenance team had thought was empty, hence the entering-at-almost-midnight thing. They looked about as alarmed to see us as we were to see them, and apologized profusely but they had to come in because really, miss, we need to check your bathroom because SOMETHING is leaking.

Naturally, they couldn't find what it was, so they said someone would be by the next day to take another look, and left. Needless to say, neither of us slept much that night.

Monday morning the husband left for work and I waited for the movers and the maintenance. During that time, I managed to lose an earring down the bathroom sink and was seriously starting to hate moving. The cat had stuffed herself back into her shelf in the laundry room, watching the people stomp in and out of the apartment with wide-eyed alarm.

Finally, though, the maintenance men found the source of the leak and cleaned it up (plumber coming to fix it today) and, in a stroke of good luck, also managed to rescue my earring from the drain. The movers got everything into the apartment, more or less in the spots I wanted them, and cleared out.
New apartment, plus cat. Not shown: ALL THE BOXES
And voila, we were moved in. It only took 3 days longer than it should have and shortened my lifespan considerably, but we are here and it is lovely. Even the cat has decided it's not so bad.

The moving part, though, I hope we don't have to repeat any time in the near future.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Move From Hell Part 1--In Which We Get the Brilliant Idea to Move!

Anyone who knew me growing up knew that my family moved a lot. I lived in two countries and had been to three different high schools in three years by the time I graduated. And with the exception of the last high-school move, I was pretty positive about the process. I liked to travel, to see new places, to meet new people, etc etc etc.  My husband, by contrast, lived in the same house his entire life and his first move was clear across the Atlantic from Europe to the U.S., which--if I understand him correctly--was a bit of a disaster wrapped in trauma and topped with a dollop of frustration. In other words, he wasn't too keen on moving after that.

Old apartment, Christmas 2010
The apartment that I had been living in for the past three years, and my husband with me for the last one year of those three was a pretty comfortable 1 bed-1bath deal north of the city. For a woman living alone with her cat, the place was downright spacious, and with the two of us it was still pretty cozy. It WAS an older building with all its old-building foibles, but those aside it was a pretty nice place.

Then, this past year, we decided that we should probably start thinking about moving. It was a pretty ephemeral idea at first--more space? Better parking? Shorter commute to work/school? Hmmmm.
And THEN over the winter circumstances occurred that led us to an irresistible offer: a 2 bed-2bath apartment right in the heart of downtown, with garage parking, for unbelievably affordable rent. Were we interested? Hell yes, sign us up!
This past week we boxed up all of our things with a plan to move on Saturday, with help from my parents and siblings. That is, until we got a notice from this new building that we could not move in on Saturday, that the building did not allow move-ins on the weekend. Okay, we said, we will move in on Friday. One day earlier, a bit more frenzied packing, but that's cool, it will give us the weekend to unpack and sort everything, right?
Right. Except for the fact that we ended up not moving in on Friday, either.
What ACTUALLY happened was we moved OUT of our old apartment on Friday, got to the new place, got told off and scolded for being too late to move IN to the new place, and basically told we were out of luck til Monday. In the meantime, all of our stuff was stuck on a moving truck and we had a bag of dirty laundry, an obscene amount of wine, and an air mattress (but no pump) in our car to tide us over til Monday.
To say we were frustrated was an understatement. We were both supposed to work on Monday, so I called my boss, who was kind enough to work some schedule magic that allowed me to close Monday night, rather than work my midday shift.
We went to Target to pick up some things we knew we would need over the next two days (air mattress pump, cat food, popcorn--yes, we needed it, SAYS ME) then went for dinner, picked up the cat (who we had left at the old place under the assumption that it would be easier for her if we unloaded the moving truck first and then came back for her that evening. Alas) and went back to our new, very empty abode.

And that was when things took a turn for the truly annoying.

More on this tomorrow! For now, sleep must happen so I can get to work on time tomorrow morning.


Let's Pretend February Didn't Exist This Year

Oh my heavens, this is embarrassing.

The only thing more embarrassing than admitting I've basically abandoned my blog for the better part of a month is admitting that this point won't have much substance to it (I'M SORRY!) because I'm currently half-buried in boxes.

Yes, boxes. Oh, did I not mention that we moved?

And that it was a disaster of proportions only slightly less epic than the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius?

Yes, about that. I will be writing about that VERY SOON.

But first, I must go finish unpacking the boxes.

And then, after the boxes are unpacked and the cathartic, key-smashing rant about how I AM NEVER MOVING AGAIN NOPE is written, we will (hopefully) return to our regularly scheduled program (that is to say, if past posts are to be believed, never).

Until then, I can only offer my apologies for the silence. I am sorry. And I WILL be back. *famous last words*


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Description- vs. Action-oriented Plots (also, Hurry up, Spring!)

First, I would just like to lodge a complaint with the weather gods: you couldn't be bothered to give us a white Christmas this year, and now you're cruelly jerking us around with two days of blissfully mild, sunny weather, only to plunge us back into sleet, gray skies, and freezing temperatures. Not fair. JUST SEND SPRING ALREADY.

/end complaint.

The WIP continues to chug along slowly, much like a steam engine but one with a really bad head cold (in other words, slowly and lethargically). The quarter's schoolwork has picked up steam, as have work at the store and at the newspaper. Finding time to write has become as hard as finding the Fountain of Youth--I've heard it exists, but have yet to see it myself.

As a result, when I DO have time to write, I'm noticing that it's getting increasingly spare. Sentences are shorter, more to the point. Dialogue has basically disappeared but for the stuff essential to moving things along. And action--holy cow my characters are flying from one action-packed moment to the next, with no time to sleep, eat, or even breathe in between.

If it sounds awful, trust me, it is.

I've never been one for heavy description. It's one of the few things that drove me nuts about Tolkien (and I love Tolkien) and other writers like him. A certain amount of description is needed, obviously, to anchor your characters in a time and place, but pages and pages devoted to the exact shade of the sky, the shimmering beauty of a river, is overkill, in my opinion.

Unfortunately, I suffer the opposite, especially now: my descriptions are complete MIA.

I can visualize my setting perfectly in my head, as vivid as if I was standing in it with my characters, but for some reason that's not translating well onto the page beyond a cursory "rock wall" or "dense foliage". Well, what kind of foliage? Are we talking rainforest dense or Black Forest of Germany dense? THERE IS A DIFFERENCE, KATHERINE.

(For the record, it's "Black Forest of Germany" dense.)

Part of this, I know, is a time thing. I have almost none, so when I do steal a few minutes I'm slamming down as much as I can to actually get the plot, the story arc, on paper. Descriptions can come later! I tell myself, as I ALWAYS tell myself.

But of course, the descriptions never come "later". I only have to look at my draft from over the summer to see how very sparse it is in terms of world-building. And that story was set in a place that really does exist!

So how to inject more color and texture to a story, particularly when a. you're not very good at it and b. you suffer a time crunch? This is something I do genuinely wonder. Is description something best left for the rewriting/editing process? Or am I just going to have to resign myself to getting less 'plot' down per writing session, but a more complete world in the first draft?

Dilemma dilemma.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Staying Faithful to the Project At Hand (Or: When Plot Bunnies Attack)

When I was a kid, I was a serial cheater.

That sounds much worse than it is.

I would become slavishly attached to a character, a setting, a plotline, devoting all of my time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to this fixation for days or weeks or however long the infatuation ended. But it almost always ended before the story was finished, and the next thing the poor thing knew I had abandoned it to my desktop and was pursuing another newer, shinier idea with the same single-minded determination.

As a result, there is a disgusting number of unfinished projects scattered all over notebooks, hard drives, and various scraps of paper.

I worked hard through high school and college to tame that wandering mental eye and finish the project at hand for chrissakes, and was dutifully rewarded by several completed manuscripts that did NOT require five years to finish. I felt productive and motivated--not only was I starting ambitious writing projects, but lo! I WAS FINISHING THEM!

And then I started graduate school and once again discovered that I have the creative attention span of a chipmunk with ADHD.

I love my current WIP. It's gaining so much complexity and beauty, the characters are starting to show some real spunk and depth (the youngest one most of all, surprisingly) and with more than 50k under my belt, we were establishing the rhythm and flow of a well-connected, long-term relationship.

And then the plot bunny came along.

It's so pretty! So shiny! So YOUNG and full of promise and excitement! Suddenly my current WIP looks dull, old, and boring by comparison! I am BORED I need something NEW that will stimulate my CREATIVITY etc.

And before I know it, I am sneaking a half hour here and there, time when I should be doing homework, or working for the paper, working on this shiny little plotlet, while my WIP languishes in a folder, waiting for me to return to it. Poor baby.

I always tell people who are worried about whether a new story idea is worth pursuing to write the idea down. There's no such thing as a bad idea, in my opinion, and if you write it down, you won't forget it, and you can revisit it later and see if you still like it. I take my own advice, but a bit too far. I should amend the advice with the following: don't abandon what you're working on now, no matter how good an idea the new one is. It'll still be there when you finish.

This might seem a bit over-the-top, and perhaps it is. Plenty of terrific writers probably had pages of manuscripts that they abandoned to pursue something else. But there is something to be said for training yourself to be disciplined in writing. If I careened off into a new story idea as often as they came to me, literally NOTHING would be finished past three chapters. Nothing.

I just need to remind myself of this every time my imagination strays away from the task at hand. My writing time has been whittled away to almost nothing as it is--I can't compromise it further by indulging in literary affairs!

How do you stay with the project at hand? Or is it easier for you to jump from project to project?


Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Start, New Project (Or: Well Jeez, December Was Anti-Climactic. Take Two, Shall We?)

Dear Self:

This month was pathetic. Get thine arse back into gear.

With Love,


My goodness, has it really been almost a month? At what point did December 6, 2011 become January 1, 2012? This is terrible!

What makes this worse is that today is usually the day the bloggers come out of hiding with their list of resolutions, with "BLOG MORE DAMMIT" somewhere in that list. So, I'll get this part out of the way:

Resolution #1: BLOG MORE DAMMIT!

Actually, I have a whole laundry list of things I want to do with 2012 that I wanted to/meant to/should have done in 2011 but either couldn't, didn't, or simply didn't have the time to do. I won't bore the world with the non-writing related ones, but for anyone who is interested, the writing ones will be located in a tab to the left of this post.

The one thing I can safely say I DID do since my last post (which, seriously, was technically not only last month but last YEAR. Good lord I suck sometimes!) is keep working on my WIP. Some days are infinitely better than others, but the story continues to move forward with far less protest/whining/writer's block/general foolishness than I feared. Christmas and my birthday came in very quick succession over the last month and I was gifted a terrific keyboard for my tablet AND a new netbook computer, so I now have absolutely NO EXCUSE to not have mobile writing capacity. I also received the album from which this great song came, and as I suspected, it has effectively become the soundtrack of choice for writing.

In other words, there is absolutely no reason for me not to press on, finish my WIP, meet my writing goals for 2012, and finally stop being dull around here!

But, seriously, I need to write here more, dammit. I need widgets. And alarm reminders. Maybe an alarm widget on my phone that screams "BLOG!" every five minutes until I do so. But then I would need that alarm in other places too, like my watch. And my music player. And probably my teacup.

Perhaps I should just tattoo it to my forehead. Then I won't forget!

What are your writing resolutions for 2012? 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming! (Or: Okay, vacation's over, GET BACK TO WORK!)

It's been a very nice few days.

After the 28th, I wrote a few more paragraphs of my WIP, and then gently put it aside so I could, you know, rejoin the real world for a while. In terms of writing, it's been a relaxing few days.

And now, it is time to return to the schedule.

I am terrible--terrible!--at holding onto a story if I walk away from it for more than a few days. Scenery fades, the characters voices become quieter in my head, the whole plot gets kind of fuzzy and vague. After putting so much effort into the past 30 days, the last thing I want to do is let post-Nanowrimo letdown (read: laziness) destroy my ambition to finish the dratted thing.

So, back in the saddle I go! When I left off at 50k, I had about 8 chapters and a fair portion of the conclusion written. Hopefully I can pick up where I left off and continue in a nice, chronological way towards the conclusion :P I'm not sure how many words this project is going to be ultimately, but it feels like a doozy :)

How do you keep writing after the frenzy that is Nanowrimo? How much time do you take off before approaching your writing again?