Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gobble, gobble...

While our turkey is cooking and I'm enjoying a James Bond marathon on SciFi, eggnog and rum in hand, I wanted to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays besides Valentine's Day (yes Valentine's Day) and this year it's even more special since it'll be the last one I'll have to spend in Washington DC! (Insert uproarious applause here.) I suppose it's too early to reflect on 2009 just yet -- that sort of thing comes with New Year's -- but in the spirit of cliche here's what I'm thankful for:
  • Even through the hard times J and I can still laugh, at ourselves and at each other.
  • My family, friends, Lola and MoneyPenny.
  • That I'm healthy and all the people I care about are healthy too. (Well, except for my good friend John, who contracted a gnarly jungle parasite on a recent hike to some hallowed waterfall in Hawaii, but he's on a penicillin regiment now so no worries. He won't become a Discovery Channel statistic after all.)
  • Lou "The Dentures" Dobbs finally left CNN, and hopefully television for good. Immigrants everywhere (legal or otherwise) breath a collective sigh of relief.
  • Chipotle.
  • That J wakes up to make me cappuccinos and breakfast on the weekends.
  • I won Nanowrimo. (w00t!)
  • That Facebook finally lets you hide those annoying girls from high school certain peoples' updates so you don't have to hear about how they're pregnant again with their second/third kid, or how cute it is when their baby burps/sleeps/walks/crawls/takes a poo. The sad truth is I never cared about you back then, and therefore could care even less about your baby's current bowel movements.
  • That my sister graduated college and is back up in the Bay Area -- for good. Also that my bro is considering staying in the area for college. Love them. Us three musketeers together are a force to be reckoned with.
  • That even though money has been incredibly tight these last few months, and sometimes the idea of it gets me down, most of the time it's an afterthought. I'm writing everyday and for me that's enough. (Although owning a villa in Tuscany and/or a vintage 1963 230SL convertible Mercedes does have its perks...)
  • The dollar menu at McDonald's. For those few times a month when we treat ourselves out to a night on the town.
I'm curious: What are you thankful for this year?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 3

Well, I did it. 50,000 words in four three weeks. I guess the only way to sum up how I feel is ...


And now with that out of the way, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, kiddies. While I may have technically won Nanowrimo, I'm still not finished with the book. It'll probably end more between 70k to 75k words, so I still have a bit of a ways to go, but nothing I couldn't whip out in the next week or two.

What I learned in Week 3:
  • Mark Twain once said, "Adverbs are the tool of the lazy writer." It's the truth. I don't think all adverbs are the devil's work -- a good adverb has its place like a guilty pleasure reality show on TLC ("Say Yes to the Dress", anyone?) -- but many are redundant and often weaken what you're trying to say.
  • I'm not the kind of writer -- well, not yet -- that does well listening to just any music when I'm typing. I envy those that can listen to disco while composing. Anything with words (at least for now) distracts me because I start singing along, reminiscing about what memories the tune dredges up, etc. (So Uncle Rico of me.) But silence can get tedious, so I've found an in-between. Big band from the '30s and '40s. I know what you're thinking but it's not just for your grandparents. My favorite iTunes channel at the moment is KCEA, and when I'm not listening to big band, then I'm listening to Bossa Nova cocktail lounge music from the '60s. Swingin'! My favorite station is Illinois Street Lounge. It's like iTunes' version of a good stiff Tanqueray martini, to be enjoyed at any time of day.
  • Coffee is still your friend, but sometimes a glass of red does wonders.
  • The closer you get to the finish line (aka 50,000 words), the lazier you become. Which is bad. Especially when you're ahead and know you've got some extra time. Keep at it, Grasshopper. The truth is there is no finish line.
* - Though I use these photos in jest I have nothing against Tom Cruise, even when he was going through his ... phase. I adore him, especially when he: flies fighter jets, sleeps with prostitutes who steal his parents' glass egg, gets tied up in a corrupt law firm, is an arrogant sports agent, or becomes a samurai. Love him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Everybody Wang-Chung tonight

"My favorite color is magenta." -- Valley Girl, best '80s movie of all time

So good news -- I got offered a freelance writing gig! This is amahzing (per Rachel Zoe), and lit.rully couldn't come at a better time. Lately J and I have given new meaning to the words "frugal living." Quite embarrassing, some of the lengths we've gone to recently, but he made me promise to never mention nor blog about our little escapades, and so they shall go unnamed. Sometimes we don't know whether to laugh or cry in the throes of our absurdity. Thankfully we can still laugh.

I don't want to reveal who I'll be freelancing for yet, but it's a news site for stock market investors, which means I'll be writing financial news articles, profiling publicly-traded companies, the broader stock market, etc. It basically sounds exactly like what I was writing on at my last job, except this time I'll be able to do all my writing in my fluffy pink bathrobe at home. Score.

My contact there is a good friend, and he also made it sound like they might have a need for a freelance editor soon. Double score. It's nothing close to what I was making at the job I left, but it's more than what most publications pay nowadays for "latest headline" articles and, well, money is money, right?

So, pros to taking the job:
  • Don't have to deal with annoying co-workers in an office. Oh there were a few gems I worked with at my last job, but most irritated the hell out of me...and the rest of my office. Back then I savored in the days when I could telecommute and not deal with the petty office drama.
  • I can take the work as I want it and not for eight fixed hours per day (which I wouldn't do anyway, as financial news writing is not a priority right now).
  • Will keep my portfolio updated with current clips.
  • Did I mention the fuzzy pink bathrobe? Yeah, it's even more appealing when it's pouring/snowing outside and I get to watch everyone else trudge to the apartment shuttle on their way to work. Muwahaha.
  • I love following the stock market, and I love investing in stocks. Sometimes, though, writing about finance can get a little stale (especially if mutual funds are involved). At my last job I was given lots of artistic license to be as creative as I wanted in my writing, but I'm not sure if they'll like that at this new gig. Then again, we need money. Bad. I think I can throw my qualms out the window for some pocket change. At least it's still writing and I get a byline, and not, say, ghostwriting/marketing/PR, which is what my last position quickly turned into.
You heard it here first. Now go celebrate and Wang-Chung for me.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Encouragement for the frustrated writer

Keep at it, wildcat. If you do (and you're lucky), you might some day give an interview like this:

It would be payment enough. Just make sure to write your novel in an "obsolete vernacular," wear an eccentric cowboy hat and silently stare off into space a lot when people are waiting for your response.

Writers like Cormac McCarthy Eli Cash never fail to warm the cockles of my heart.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 2


My clip this week for Nanowrimo has slowed a bit compared with Week 1, but I'm still ahead of schedule by about 9,600 words.

What I learned in Week 2:
  • If you're going to write at a coffee shop, make sure said coffee shop does not play ear-piercing, annoying music that miraculously even masks (gasp) the continual grind of coffee beans behind the barista counter. If I wanted to experiment writing at the clurb I would have just lugged my laptop to the nearest Coco Bongo and ordered a red bull vodka, thankyouverymuch. If you're like me and cannot tune out The Noise easily, perhaps it's best to remain hunched Gollum-like over your solitary desk at home, sporadically talking to yourself to fill the silence.
  • That being said, red bull vodka coffee is still your friend.
  • No matter how appealing those Golden Girls reruns sound, no matter how tired/bored/uninspired/drunk/arthritic you are -- keep writing! Was Rome built in a day? No. Was it built in 30? Quite possibly, and procrastination was definitely not one of the building blocks. I'm continuously amazed this month at how much I'm capable of writing daily, even on the off days where I feel like pulling my hair out, hurtling my laptop across the room in frustration, or just "taking a break" for an entire weekend watching old movies on TCM. Taking breaks (within reason, i.e., an hour or two) is permissible; giving up is not. Understanding this will set you free.
  • Aside from accomplishing stellar daily word counts, also amazing is how much time you actually have during the day once your writing is finished. Procrastination, as accommodating as it feels in the moment, does nothing in the long term. The sooner I finish my self-imposed daily word count, the sooner I can click my laptop closed and go enjoy a glass of red wine with J, stress-free. No word count hanging over my head.
Word count breakdown by day:

Nov. 6 (Friday): 2,533
Nov. 7 (Saturday): 1,994
Nov. 8 (Sunday): 2,648
Nov. 9 (Monday): 3,122
Nov. 10 (Tuesday): 2,205
Nov. 11 (Wednesday): 2,993
Nov. 12 (Thursday): 3,219
Nov. 13 (Friday): Currently in progress

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living like an artist, Part 2

When you're on a tight budget, there are two areas in your life you pray don't go down the pooper: Cars and computers. If anything goes even remotely wrong in either of these two areas, nine times out of ten you end up on the verge of tears, standing across from some smug mechanic/smug IT guy who's obviously getting sick pleasure out of telling you how expensive the repair costs will be.

Enter my hoopty, a tomato-red 2000 Hyundai Accent. It's come to my attention that we need new tires as the tread looks to have worn down to the slickness of a Brody Jenner pickup line. I pointed it out to J and he agreed, which means I nearly had a hernia when I saw how expensive these suckers were.

The only alternative I can think of to buying new tires would be attaching on snow chains to my old tires for year-round driving fun, which would -- if nothing else -- definitely give them the teeth they need to take street corners at 70mph. Then again, I imagine the clink, clink, clink on asphalt through downtown Washington, DC in the three seasons that don't have snow would just attract unnecessary attention. Not for the type of whip I'd want to ghostride, at least.

Unlike swapping in a subpar replacement for a coffee filter, me thinks we have no other option than to scrounge for coupons and bite the theoretical bullet. Unless any of you all have creative ways to bandage the problem. Otherwise, new tires it is.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's start the week off right

Must keep the momentum going through November, people (currently at 20k words), so here's the theme for this week (be prepared to dance):

GOLDFRAPP - Ride A White Horse (rUmPeLsTiLtSkIn)

rUmPeLsTiLtSkIn | MySpace Video

A few quick thoughts:

- I die for her
- Why is this song so infectious?
- The world would be a better, more peaceful place if we each had four choreographed men in tightie whities dancing backup for us.
- I am so making a toilet paper roll microphone.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Nanowrimo Update: Week 1

Just as I suspected. If Billy S. could write a classic in one fortnight, imagine
the possibilities in 30...

Week 1 was a success. Though I missed the first day of writing because I was in transit from NYC back to DC, I made up for it in the following days and have been a writing fool ever since. I'm currently at 12,529 words, or 25% of the way there.

What I've learned in Week 1 of Nanowrimo:

1.) 50,000 words in 30 days is surprisingly less painful than I thought it would be. According to the Nano Gods we're supposed to write 1,667 words per day to be on track. The idea of it seemed daunting, and I'll admit that I was quite intimidated in the final weeks of October in anticipation for the race to begin. I didn't know what to expect as this was my first time. Would I have time to blog at all? Bathe? Read? Keep up with the Kardashians? Usually I write at my own pace and I don't -- by any means -- crank out pages like a robot unless I've been hit by my muse (who, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Olivia Newton John in Xanadu). But I knew that for the month of November I'd have to turn into a writing machine. I would eat words for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? Because I need to win. It's in my blood and I won't accept anything less. (A word of caution: You do not want to play dodgeball with me.)

2.) Ok, so 50,000 words will be as easy as cherry pie. (Watch, now I've jinxed myself.) Word count aside, the hardest part for me is going to be finishing my story, making sure it's got a beginning, middle and end by November 30th and not just a beginning and middle in 50k. I would still be dubbed a "winner" by the Nano folk, but to me that's not winning -- I would be left with a half-finished 1st draft. According to agents a 50,000 word manuscript isn't even a novel, it's more a novella and I've got a sneaking feeling that to wrap up my story it's going to take more than 50k word anyway. Hence why I'm writing as if my keyboard is a bed of hot coals. Must keep moving phalanges!

3.) Coffee is your friend.

4.) An outline is the golden ticket. I don't know how people finish a somewhat cohesive 50,000-word first draft in one month without having an outline. Though I'm past 200 pages on my first book, I can now see why it's been a lot more slow-going than my Nano manuscript. I didn't really outline that first book, and it's costing me. Not to say that it's crap, but it makes it harder to focus, stay on track and crank out pages when you're meandering through your storyline, feeling out which direction to go. With my Nano book I had a 10-page outline I'd worked on in October in anticipation of "staying focused." This outline is my Godsend. Could I write a Nano book without one? Yes, but it would be more scattered and all over the place and make it easier to take frequent breaks to catch up on Project Runway or bake cookies or churn my own butter or do anything other than work on my story.

Word count breakdown by day:

Nov. 1 (Sunday): 0
Nov. 2 (Monday): 3,778
Nov. 3 (Tuesday): 3,407
Nov. 4 (Wednesday): 2,473
Nov. 5 (Thursday): 2,871
Nov. 6 (Friday): Currently in progress

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween in NYC, or How I spent more money than I should have and stopped worrying about it (at least for the weekend)

Did someone lose a button? Anyone?

Got back from Manhattan on Sunday night and had a fabulous time. Since I'm on a NaNoWriMo kick and don't have a lot of time to post, here's a rundown of what we saw/did:
  • Times Square
  • Empire State building - There was nothing more I wanted than to kiss J at the top of the Empire State building. So many countless movies and films have captured the top of this hallowed building so perfectly. Remember that I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel pretend to be aliens up there to scare tourists? Or An Affair to Remember when Deborah Kerr is supposed to meet Cary Grant at the top? I'm not even going to mention Sleepless in Seattle. Anyway, it turns out it's $40/person to enjoy the view. Pass! I kissed him in front of the entrance instead for free. There will be many more opportunities to go to the top when we aren't sacrificing grocery money to do so.
  • Bryant Park
  • Les Halles - The French restaurant Tony Bourdain was head chef at for years before his No Reservations fame. *Heart flutters* Love him. To me he will always bear an uncanny resemblance to Marcello Mastroianni. Well, a very tan Marcello. With many more wrinkles. And a former heroin addiction. Moving on ...
  • Rockafeller Center
  • Had a pumpkin spice latte at the giant Macy's on 34th Street
  • Madison Avenue - No Don Draper sighting. Sigh. I'm such a tourist.
  • New York Public Library - Me with camera in hand: "Suh-weeet. Do you remember the scene in The Day After Tomorrow where the wave came crashing down the street toward the front of this very marble lobby?" J: "No, but I'm sure once we get home you will find the DVD and show me." Me: "Wow, you know me all too well, my love. All too well..."
  • Dinner at Momofuku in Greenwich Village on Friday night - Tres expensive -- dinner for five was over $200 and $12 cocktails did abound -- but the food was excellent. Have you ever had fried Brussels sprouts in fish sauce vinaigrette, mint and delfino? Didn't think so.
  • World Trade Center ground zero - It goes without saying it was a sad 10 minutes we spent here, but on the upside a man with a Guatemalan flute was playing an instrumental rendition of the BeeGees' "More than a Woman" across the street. Score.
  • Chinatown - We were looking for good Chinese food and Panda Express has just not been cutting it lately (I don't care how good their orange chicken is). We found what we were looking for in this little hole-in-the-wall noodle place just off Canal St. I had sweet and sour chicken with wantons in noodle soup. I don't think I need to even point out that it was amazing.
  • Halloween in Soho - My friends and I went to three separate parties for a night of general debauchery.
  • NY Marathon in Central Park - Hot damn, those people (to quote the unnamed man in the cafe who sees Forrest Gump run by after his leg brace falls off) were "running fools." I was highly impressed. We had a prime view near the 24-mile mark. If I ever made it to 24 miles (I'm laughing out loud at the hilarious absurdity of that scenario) I would definitely be puking up a lung. Or two.
  • The Met
Oh and I took a picture or a hundred:

Me in Times Square. I felt like I was in the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, except there was no twirling or hat throwing.

"I'm a little concerned but...make it work."

My friends' adorable dog Frank. And his lip.

"Exits are located on either end of the aircraft."

Ah, there's my pilot.

Me, J and my good friend Sedona riding the subway. The whole time I was in NYC I didn't touch one subway pole. Instead, I clinged to J's arm as he held on the for the both of us.

This cup. No words except where I can buy a lifetime supply?

Being all artsy at the Met.

J at the Dupont Circle metro stop on our way back home.

For only being there a total of 2 days and 2 nights I would say we saw the bulk of what NYC had to offer. Wish we had more time (and more money!) but we'll definitely visit many times in our life. It is the inspiration for Mad Men, after all. I mean, c'mon.
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