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« June 2009 | Main | August 2009 »

11 posts from July 2009

Straight TalkJuly 30, 2009

Whohoo!

Now, normally I wouldn't discuss medications on my blog. I'm gonna get all kinds of crazy hits on my site from people looking for drugs from Mexico. Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

But you, my friends, know my struggles with migraines. I'd been to see a neurologist five years ago-- she didn't do much but throw handfuls of triptans at me and wish me well. They didn't work. I've tried narcs and acupuncture. I've changed my diet and my sleep patterns. I know the migraines are driven by hormones, and I've tried supplements, both synthetic and natural. No dice. Every year it gets worse.

I went to a new neurologist the other day, and I think I have been given the miracle drug. Really. It's called T0pamax, and I think it might wash my dishes if I train it to. It's an anti-seizure med (thank god! No more seizures! Not that I get them anyway!), and it's used for depression, too (I'm a little weirded out by that. Definitely don't need need anti-depressants. Will I get even more chipper? Ick). Also, it decreases the desire to drink alcohol (couldn't hurt) and the desire to eat (COULDN'T HURT). The most common side effects are tingly fingers and mouth with no ill effect, bad taste when drinking carbonated beverages (which I don't drink anyway), and weight loss (HELLO!).

I think it might make me taller someday and maybe give me the brown eyes I always wanted. AND my doc says it really might help with my migraines.

OH! And it helps you sleep! Me, insomnia girl, is sleeping! What the hell? I love this stuff.

And my darling chickens, of course I've read the literature and I know the other side effects and watch to watch out for, yes, yes, yes. But I can't help but be excited. I'm so tired of the thrice-monthly pain, excited that maybe this might help. YAY!

AccomplishmentJuly 28, 2009

A lovely paragraph from Annie, who takes care of her mother who has Alzheimer's:

Last night Mom and I were getting ready for bed. We were standing at the bathroom sink, and Mom was washing my hands. I've discovered that this is much easier than me trying to wash her hands. In the end, we both have clean hands, and I think Mom gets a sense of accomplishment out of it.

From her blog, Maple Corners.

Back in the SaddleJuly 22, 2009

Hoo boy. Sleepy Rachael checking in. I've just spent eight hours, ass in chair, working. God bless Mac Freedom -- I'd log myself off the internet for an hour at a time, then when the time was up I'd check to make sure the internet was still there, send emails and tweets, and then I'd hop back on for another locked-out hour.

I got a hell of a lot done today, which is exactly what I needed.

Also, I worked listening to the sound of rain, as suggested by one of my PensFatales, Gigi Pandian. I like noise to cover up the sounds of the house, dogs walking, cats falling off stuff, cars going by, but I can never find exactly the right soundtrack, and personally, music can affect the mood of my writing.

But rain? Thunder? It was awesome. I just worked and worked, until the very last minute, ALMOST four o'clock, my preassigned quittin' time, when my eyes got heavy, and I dragged myself out of my tall chair and into my soft chair and then took a little nap.

It felt great.

Now, yoga tonight with sister Christy. Vacation is officially over tomorrow, so back to work I go, but that is good, too. Getting up at 3:30am? Not really looking forward to that. But I can do it!

RWA 2009July 19, 2009

I want to tell you EVERYTHING. But there are so many high points of this year's national Romance Writers of America conference, that I'll just enumerate a few of them and let you finish your coffee in peace.

HIGH POINTS:

* Figuring out the true motivation for Book Two with my agent Susanna Einstein after we attended a mind-blowing workshop by Jenny Crusie on turning points. I admit, I entered that workshop with a level of I-Have-An-MFA-itis. Craft... Surely I know craft, right? But I left the workshop with oh-shit-I-have-so-much-to-do-itis. It's going to require another major rewrite, but dude, I love that. I'll eat that with a spoon and then have some more.

* Learning again that I have the greatest agent in the entire world. She is no less than totally awesome, and a kick-ass brain-stormer. I love it when she gives this half-grin and looks up to her left and says, "What if..." And ninety-nine percent of the time she's right, especially when she prefaces it with "This might be totally off the mark. Feel free to throw this right out." Then she's ALWAYS right.

* Having a push-up contest with Sophie Littlefield while singing "I am Woman, Hear me Roar." I can't explain it, but it was one of the best things that happened all weekend. (She won, by the way, but only by three. I got 16, she got 19. And yes, they were "boy" push-ups.) Wine might have had something to do with the contest, but I'll never admit it.

* Hanging out with Bella Andre, whose levels of joy and excitement, I swear to God, are completely infectious. She's also SO willing to share what she knows (and that, my friends, is a lot), and she's so much damn fun that I just love her.

* Seeing the cover of my book up on the screen at the Avon Spotlight:

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What, you want to see it better? I know, but all I have is the prototype, and I don't want to wing it at you without checking with my editor. But I will. You have got to see it. I love it so much. (Admission: I squeaked and might have clapped a little when I saw it. May Chen, my editor, didn't even know I was in the room until I did that. Ahem. I am so cool.)

* Singing "Don't Cry For Me Argentina," off the balcony with Kristan Higgins. (Really. Wow.)

* Spending time in the suite my fabulous pensfatales and more were sharing. That felt like home base, and it felt like just the beginning of something much bigger.

* Having breakfast with Barbara Freethy while at the same time discovering her latest release was in the swag bag given to all conference attendees (along with Kristan's).

* Seeing Sophie Littlefield SIGN HER FIRST BOOK, A Bad Day For Sorry. (Hi, crime fiction, hardcover, St. Martin's. Nice.)

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I say first book because not only do I mean debut, but this was also the first time Sophie had seen her book at all. Can you imagine?

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We are so proud of her. Isn't she radiant? (That's half of Martha Flynn, by the way. I almost got her in there.)

Best embarrassing moments:

* Realizing that the invite to the HarperCollins cocktail party might actually be invite-only. Asking my editor about this. Misunderstanding her answer. And the subsequent super-cool UNINVITING I did of my agent. Hey, Susanna, new plan, the party is for authors only, can we meet another time?  I waited nervously for her return text. Her response, It'll be fine. I was invited. AUGH! Classy me, yeah. But at least I cleaned up all right for the party:

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You can't tell by the crappy camera phone picture (sorry, Lala has the real camera in Korea, something about a new nephew), but that dress also sports black fringe. I love that one.

* Kristan Higgins meeting a friend of mine who was wearing NO PANTS. Or a bra. But the no pants part gets me every time. She shook hands and everything. HAHAHAHA. (It is not my best-ever embarrassing story to tell, even though I told it so much at the conference to anyone who would listen that I'm still a little hoarse. If the owner of that story tells it, I'll link to it for DAMN sure.)

BEST PART:

* Reaffirming to myself again that romance is the bomb. Romance is where it's at. Romance sells more than science fiction and mystery combined. Nora Roberts sells more than Stephen King and John Grisham. And as Sarah Wendell said when asked why feminists should read romance: 

It’s a 50-plus-year-old industry comprised mostly of women writers operating their own businesses and producing a genre about women’s self-actualization, pursuit of autonomy, and acquisition of sexual agency for an audience made mostly of women, who buy over $1.4 billion dollars worth of books a year. No, no, nothing feminist or even subversive about that.

I flipping love that. I keep intending to memorize in order to be able to lay it on the next person who mentions any bosom, heaving or otherwise.

And I have a strong theory that this might have been the very best conference I will ever attend. I am completely willing and happy to be proved wrong, but this year, I got to wear the ribbon that proclaimed to all that I had sold, the ribbon that made people grin at me in the elevator. I was allowed to freely wander the book signings where, next year, I'll be behind the tables, signing my little hand off. This year, I have all of the joy and none of the angst.

I savored every single teeny-tiny moment of it. Especially the weensy little pigs-in-blankets at the HarperCollins party. I was networking, yes. But I was also dunking wieners in mustard, and that made me very happy.

(Good grief, I was wondering why I felt so tired when it's only 9:30pm. I just realized it's because I've been awake since 1am Pacific Time, with only a couple hours of sleep! To bed! Yay! And tomorrow is nephew-getting day! Like Christmas only with a baby and no tree!)

SurprisesJuly 14, 2009

When I write a post over at PensFatales, I write it, save it, and push out the publish date until it's my day -- we're on a strict schedule! I wouldn't want to screw that up!

But that means when I click sleepily through my Google Reader feeds, suddenly I'm looking at a picture of myself without seeing it coming.

Kinda feels like yesterday when I opened the window for Pandora, then clicked away to do something else while it loaded and then ALMOST FELL OUT OF MY CHAIR when it started blasting. Took me that long to forget what I was doing.

But I'm not forgetting what I'm doing today, nope! Packing up to go to DC for RWA*. And the funny/weird thing is that Lala is going to Korea today, and we've got to be at SFO at about the same time, which is nice, because we can BART over there together. (Why is she going? To help my sister-in-law back to the US with our new nephew who was born over there! SO EXCITED to meet him!)

Before I close the computer and pack it in my suitcase (don't worry, I'm a carry-on only gal), I just want to give a big thanks to Dad, who got my birthday so right! I received a box from him in the mail, and you never know with my Dad. He could be a founding member of There, I Fixed It. But inside was the softest, nicest, most beautifully prepared llama fiber I've ever seen. I can't wait to spin it up. Nicely done, Dad. Thank you!

Okay! I'm off! Follow me on twitter (yarnagogo) to keep up with my week! xox

* Lala packs differently than I do. I think she may have trouble with the airport screeners.

For My LocalsJuly 12, 2009

Hey, Bay Area Knitters:

I need a flavor, as Lala would say. I need help with a project that must remain Unnamed on the blog. It might or might not involve yarn (okay, you got me, it does) and it might or might not be something that we can get done together in an afternoon (I think we can, with your help).

I can say this much: What we'll be doing will make someone else feel better when we're done. It's important and lovely, and I'd be so grateful if you were part of it.

So wanna come over to my house and have a knitting party? Bring your knitting for when we're done with the Super Secret Project, but bring a crochet hook -- don't be scared! Just a simple chain stitch is all that's required. We'll teach you.

Sunday, August 9th, Chez Hehu (email or drop a comment for the address and relevant details).

Please come? xox

Just The BeginningJuly 11, 2009

Isn't that true of many things? But in this case, it's the start of my vacation. HOORAY!

And already good things have happened today. I wound 1675 yards of Ellen's 1/2 Pint Farm Silk/Merino into three big hanks, and I've cast on for Cold Mountain:

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Isn't that sheen delicious?

Now, you know how I feel about lace (fiddy! Droppy! Non-intuitive, not like cables or colorwork!), but this looks like just the kind of lace I like: regular, predictable, lovely. I'm hoping it will be a good travel project as I get ready to head to DC for the Romance Writers of America national convention. Have I perhaps mentioned HOW EXCITED I am to get to go to this?

Last year, I went on a lark. I hardly knew what RWA was or how huge and impressive it is, and I didn't belong to a local chapter. I'd never been to a meeting. Then I went, and my mind was blown. I learned SO much, and I met women that I wanted to be someday. I didn't have an agent then, and I certainly didn't have a contract. I felt like a sponge, absorbing up knowledge and excitement and hope. (I still feel like that, actually.)

This year, I'm having lunch with my editor. My agent and I are going to the Avon cocktail party and then out to dinner. And I'm going to be spending time with an incredible group of women writers whom I know now through my local chapter, women I'm proud to call my friends.

What a difference a year makes.

I leave Tuesday for DC. (And my DC-area darlings, every day is BOOKED. I want to see my girls, to see YOU, but this isn't the trip for it. Next time? xoxo)

And today: I get to go watch the Girl's Rock Camp showcase, and then we're going to a party way out in the back of beyond with friends I went to college with a million years ago. And I made the BEST potato salad, based on this recipe: Salt and Vinegar Potato Salad. (I used less oil, but followed the recipe for the most part.) Highly recommended. Lala and I both just ate it for breakfast and it was wonderful.

Birthday Treasure Hunt! July 7, 2009

I've had a great weekend. First off, it was my birthday! Last year's birthday was so close to Mom's death and I was out of town for work and it just sucked. I was worried that last year broke all my future birthdays, but I am happy to report my birthday mojo is back.

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(Have I mentioned I LOVE BIRTHDAYS? Everyone gets to be really special for a whole day -- or a week if you're doing it right -- and everyone deserves that.)

Lala started things off Saturday night by having the house full of things I love: sweet apricots, orange tulips, buffalo mozzarella, fresh bread and more cheese (chevre), and prosecco. And she vacuumed. That's love, people.

The next day I had artichokes from the garden and a caprese for my birthday because I could and IT WAS SO GOOD.

Then to the Big Scavenger Hunt! Sisters Bethany and Christy went ALL out making it for me. It was so damn cool. A run down of how it went:

They put up a webpage that they sent with the Evite which had  a picture of a mural and a google map with no identifiers. I didn't know the mural, but I know Lake Merritt, so I was right on time for the magnificent picnic.

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After we all stuffed ourselves silly and directed the people who were lost to our blankets, they handed out a knitting puzzle, one in which we finally figured out that the YOs stood for letters, which directed to us a cafe down the street.

I loved this one: It was a flier on a window that was advertising lessons for Sexy Knitting (I was sad none of the little slips of paper at the bottom hadn't been torn off). There was a url of a youtube video on it. How freaking clever is that? RachelO's iPhone to the rescue: The video led us to the library across the street which was closed, but in a pile of donated books I found a copy of How to Knit a Love Song (they'd made the cover and wrapped it around a Harry Potter book).

Inside the book was a picture of this mural:

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If you click to make it big, you see that in chalk is written Smith 3339. Didn't take us long to figure out that it meant Smitty's, a bar down the way, at 3339 Grand St. Yay! Break time!

But no rest for the wicked. Bethany had knitted me the most awesome scarf of the alphabet, the letters in different colors (will show photo when she's woven in the ends, still not quite done). The scarf was the decoder for the next clue which the bartender gave us (after giving us a nice G&T). Using the colors of the letters, we worked out the clue which led us down the street 45 paces and up three steps to find this:

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Ooh! Gelato at Michael Mischer down the street. There we found some needles:

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After a bunch of puzzling, Bethany finally had to give us this one: the Kingsman Lucky Lounge, down the street.

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Celia, Maia, Nate, and Sara working out the next clue (which was a bracelet of row counters acting as a decoder ring -- that one was AWESOME but too convoluted to explain. We cracked it, though!).

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Me'n'Bethany

The clue there led us down the block to Walden Pond Books, where in the knitting section we found:

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No, Thoreau didn't write a knitting book (it was funny that several people checked the section without noticing this). Inside was a photo of another mural:

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Me with the photo. That led us to the Grand Lake Theatre, where one guy nicely agreed to hold the clues, and the other douchebag later ripped them up and threw them out. Thanks, Grand Lake Theatre douche! You are now immortalized on The Blog! (But thanks, first guy who was nice.)

But that didn't matter! Bethany fished out the pieces of Sarah Palin and Ralph Nader charted for intarsia (HAHAHAHA) and figured out as a group that it was a clue for the Seranader lounge down the street. The clue there led us to another cafe, where I found a scarf with a sign that said Frog Me.

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You really want me to frog it? Okay?

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If you click for big, you can see me frogging away. See the blue yarn? And the boys in blue? Dude, I totally hemmed them in as if the yarn was police tape. They didn't say a word. Smart.

Down the road, the yarn ended:

Frongend  

At sushi!

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How freaking GREAT is that? I had the best time. Thanks, sisters, and thank you to my guests who made my day fantastic (and to Maia for the photos!).

And yesterday I fixed our leaky faucets and started learning the fiddle. Today I'm off to take the dogs out and then to continue with the last day of my birthday weekend. But it's only a 3-day work week starting tomorrow, and then I'm on vacation, so this summer thing is working out way better than I thought it would. YAY!

Summer Book RoundupJuly 4, 2009

I've been reading, and I keep forgetting to tell you about it, so here you go! A dump of book thoughts!

Charlaine Harris, the Sookie books
First of all, I think Charlaine Harris is a doll. Don't you? I adore the fact that she sold the first Sookie book for $5,000 after publishing 20 or so other books before it. I love that she was able to hire her best friend as her personal assistant. There's a wonderful picture of her here. And her books are just fun. I'm not a big vampire gal -- the Twilight books never grabbed me at all. But I love the HBO series True Blood that is based on her books. Granted, I skimmed the first one, Dead Until Dark, because it was similar to the TV show, and I wanted to get to what happens next. But I loved book two, Living Dead in Dallas. The writing is snappy and funny and fast-paced.

Jodi PicoultHandle with Care
About a child born with bones as fragile as glass, this book got stuck in my head and hasn't left it yet (which doesn't happen often; books slide in and out of my memory so quickly). At its core, I think it's really about what a mother is and what a mother can bring herself to do. I loved it. Rich and deep.

Deidre Knight, Butterfly Tattoo
I don't know how to begin telling you about this. I should just leave it at this: if you like romance of any flavor, you should read this book. I can't explain the premise behind it and make it sound at all like something you want to read. But I'll try. Okay, Hollywood star scarred by stalker falls in love with man who is mourning his dead (male) partner and trying to raise their pre-teen daughter alone. I KNOW! That's what I said! But it was wonderful, tear-jerking (and my tears, believe it or not, are NOT easily jerked by prose), and I think you should read it. Digital only (I know. Still worth it, even if you don't have an e-Reader. I swear).

Jan Hanff Korelitz, Admission
Has anyone else read this? I don't know what to think. I have never been so ambivalent about a book I liked so well. Does that make sense? No? Okay. Let me try it another way. Korelitz's language is gorgeous, pitch perfect. The story, about a Princeton admissions officer and a familial secret, was fascinating. But every time I put the book down, I wasn't exceedingly moved to pick it back up, even though when I did, I very much enjoyed reading it. I've never felt this way about a book, and I'm not sure what caused it. The narrative was mostly internal reflection, and it's certainly possible that I'm a vapid enough reader that I lose focus when there's not more dialog. But even with that said, I would still recommend it.  And I'd love to hear what you thought about it.

Kristan Higgins, Fools Rush In
Pure fun! Wacky hijinks! The best kind! I eat her books up with a spoon. This one had a premise I wasn't sure I could get behind, but I did, and I adored the characters, especially the leading man who, in my mind, looked like a cross between Aidan Quinn and Sam Shepard. And with that last sentence I realize I am perhaps older than I thought I was. My idea of sexy is still rooted in early 90's movies. Huh. That's kind of surprising. That and Johnny Depp. And the guy that plays Eric in True Blood (creepy yum).

Marisa de los Santos, Belong To Me
Did you read Love Walked In? This is its sequel. I'm not done with this one, but I can tell you right now, it's even better. It's one of those books that I can't stand to be not reading, but I'm trying not to read it too fast, because I don't want it to be gone. (Also, it's her second book and I'm busy being WILDLY jealous that this is her sophomore attempt. My sophomore attempt is in the hands of my wonderful agent (who suggested this book, actually), and although it's apples to oranges, I can't help but wonder what the author's process was like.

(Amazon links provided for convenience, but please support your local bookseller.)

And Lala appears to be as verbose as I am today. Go read her Rah-rah-Summer entry (and get a look at that good-looking new nephew of ours!).

Book Two SweaterJuly 2, 2009

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You like? It's new! It's a little pattern I whipped up (that took two tries -- the moss stitch would NOT behave).

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Detail of the easy-peasey crocheted edge.

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And dudes, it's probably closest to this color on my monitor. It's BRIGHT. But I love it.

It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sport, in Firefly, and it is SO SOFT. So, so, so soft. I'm thinking of adding little pearl buttons, but I'm not sure yet. I kind of love it like this.

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Pattern? Well. Ahem. Darlings, it's not going to be out for quite a while. It'll be the pattern for book #2. But you can wait a bit, right?

I love it. My new summer in San Francisco sweater.

Bad DreamsJuly 1, 2009

Oh, MAN.

I woke up with all sorts of clever, interesting things to tell you, and since I emailed Revision Three of Book Two to my Fabulous Agent yesterday, I have free writing time in the morning before work (HELLO FOUR AM WHY AM I UP AGAIN?) for a few days, and you were gonna reap the benefit of that. Now, however, I'm sleepy and  I can't remember anything but a dream I had.

(Yes, the commonly accepted rule is that other people's dreams are boring. However, this is my blog, and I will do my best not to bore you, how's that? No promises, though.)

I was in a large train station. I found a stack of money (a lot of fifties and some ones- - WOOT) along with a bunch of checks. The checks were all made out for specific amounts, but the TO line of each was blank. 

For about as long as I would have been in real life, I was tempted to keep the money; that is to say, I was tempted for about forty-five seconds. And then I was just PISSED that in my dream I was going to be honest. (It was one of those annoying dreams where you know it's a dream but can't control it.)

It's one thing to know that in real life you would be honest. Sure. Whatever. Hopefully we all know that. But in a dream? You want to be wild! A rebel! A crook! I wanted to put the money in my pocket and head to Morocco, not trudge up to the ticket window to turn it all in. Sigh.

That, my friends, is too rigid. BO-ring. I shall work harder at being a daring criminal in my dreams.

(The next dream was about traveling with my sister Christy in Borneo, except I'd made the small mistake of bringing all three dogs and four cats. And they got out on a wild plain above the ocean. And I realized while trying to wrangle Harriet into a cat carrier that I'd forgotten to buy any souvenirs. That was not a good dream.)

PS - Almost forgot, Sile of KnitOneOne wanted me to mention for you locals a good spinning class coming up: HERE.