Friday, December 12, 2008

This and that

So, I won NaNo! Yay for me! I finished a day early with 50,030 words. My first victory! I even did it in way less than thirty days, considering my cruise.

I am still working on my time travel piece, and I am gathering tips for revising my NaNo piece. Meanwhile, here is a picture or two from the cruise.
Sunset in Cozumel

Dune buggies buddies

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

update on NaNo

I know that is all I have been doing here lately, but I can't help it.

Besides, this time, my word count is a fan-freaking-tastic number:


Isn't it lovely?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

(wipes sweat off brow)

I just passed the halfway point of NaNo.


That means I have 24,844 words left to write in 10 days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

i am so pumped

i am so pumped i didn't even capitalize this first sentence.

Actually, I am having a terrible day so far. It included all the regulars: no clothes to wear, had to scrape the ice off my car with the lid of a plastic container, late to work, tired as all get out, and to top it all off, I have a full body scan at my dermatologist's today. So I get to get naked in front of other people so they can make sure I don't have any funny looking freckles. Whoop-freakin-eee. The joys of being a pale person.

Buuuuuut, I am excited because it's November, and I am chugging along with my NaNo novel. 17,800 words or something like that. Last year, I only got to around 23,000, so this year is going phenomenal. Shout out to Andy who, despite his complaining last night a little, has been relatively tolerant of my reclusiveness this month as I spend as many waking minutes as possible in front of his computer.

Also, Stella ran away on Halloween, but she came back at 4 in the morning. Bad dog. I still love her.

Oh, and I submitted my application for MVNU...even though I'm drop-dead poor, I'm going to school. (Yay school!)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And the race is on

November has begun and is almost halfway over, which means that so is Nano. I'm WAYYYY behind because of the cruise. Not that I'm complaining, because I had a blast on the cruise (photos to come later), mosquitos and all.

My other novel came pretty far. I got to over 32,000 words before the end of the October. Our writer's group is turning into a revolving door. One week, certain people will be there, and then the next week, different people will come. Last week, I didn't go. Who knows if they even had it. I'm excited for this week :) I've missed everyone.

So I've begun a new novel for Nano, and so far, my word count is around 3,000. Plus, I handwrote about five and a half pages while I waited in the airport and on the plane. I'm waiting until the end to enter those into my word count, just sort of as a last hurrah.

50,000 word novel in fewer than thirty days, here I come.

Pages 4 & 5 of my October novel.
Uncle Henry wasn’t around, so I skipped dinner and headed straight for my small eight foot by eight foot bedroom to work on homework. My room was similar to my office in that there were more books than anything else in the room. I did have a small desk with an ancient computer and printer for homework, and my twin bed, which I made every morning before I went to school. The rest of my room was filled with books. I had them categorized by subject, and my favorites were organized neatly on the bookshelves I had. The rest were stacked neatly and accessibly.
I made my way over to my desk and plopped down in my chair. It was time to attack calculus.

I didn’t work at the library on Tuesdays. Instead, I pedaled my bike over to the hospital to visit my mother.
“Hey, Janey,” I walked up to the receptionist window.
“Good to see you, Anna. Your mom is doing well today. She had her hair curled yesterday, and she’s still talking about it.”
I smiled and nodded and picked up the pen to sign the register.
That was all that ever passed between us, and I was content with that. Janey was chatty, but she had long ago gotten the message that I was not a talker.
Janey buzzed me through the security door, and I gave a little wave as I walked past the metal bars. My mom’s room was the third room on the right after the small reception area. Some days, the reception area was eerily quiet, with some people staring idly off into space or at the television in the corner. Others played card games silently at a small table. Other days were chaotic. It only took one person to set everyone else off. I had walked in on several occasions when orderlies were doing their best to restrain the more jubilant patients, and once, I had even seen an orderly jab a patient with a needle, whereupon the patient collapse almost immediately, out cold. I believe it had been the ornery Mr. Johnson, the man who believed that the mice in his closet were slowly eating away at everything, and soon there would be nothing left in this world except mice and their feces. Mother told me one day that there wasn’t even a closet in Mr. Johnson’s room. Nobody had closets.
Today, the reception area was nearly empty. I like it best when it was like that. Plenty of chairs for my mother to choose from if she decided to get out of her room.
I knocked on her door even though it was slightly ajar.
“Come in, Anna.” The voice from the other side of the door was soft and even. It was the voice that had sung me back to sleep as a child whenever I had nightmares. I swallowed. No matter how many times I visited her, it was always hard to see her like this.
I sat down on the bed beside her. The room smelled like disinfectant and old people, but it was clean and straightened—stark, bare of any decorations—very dark. I couldn’t understand why she liked it that way here. Our house had always been so light and airy. She couldn’t stand a summer day with the windows closed. The fresh air, warm breezes moving through the house and shutting doors unexpectedly. But her room at the hospital was always dark, the shades drawn over the closed windows. I felt closed in, claustrophobic almost. And definitely tired.
“Hi, mom,” I said as I gave her a hug. She did not hug me back.
“Don’t ruin my hair, please, Anna. They curled it for me yesterday.”
I smiled faintly. “It looks lovely.” It did look rather nice. Her hair had once been a glorious golden chestnut that fell in waves down her back naturally. She had never used an ounce of product or any tools to shape it. Her hair had turned dull in the hospital and had been cut to just above her shoulders. It was flipped out at the bottom, as the last of the curl clung to her hair. I had inherited her hair, only mine was less wavy and a little darker. We also had the same almond shaped brown eyes and the same high cheekbones and round faces. The only thing I had really inherited from my father was my long, slim nose, which turned up just slightly at the end. I only knew that I got it from him because my mother’s nose was small and dainty. She said she didn’t have any pictures of him, which was fine by me, because I harbored just a smidgeon of a grudge toward him for leaving like he did.
We sat in silence. The light had gone out of her eyes a month before they admitted her. She never really talked anymore, which was difficult for me because she had always done all of the talking. I struggled to come up with something to say.
“I’m almost a third of the way through organizing Mr. VanWauld’s collection,” I said as brightly as I could fake.
Mother shook her head. “Please don’t talk about the library. You know it upsets me.”
Well, I hadn’t until that point. I’d never really talked about the library before with her. Not since I had gotten the job. The only reason I was hired was because my mother had worked there before everything went wrong.
I changed the subject. “I got another ‘A’ in English,” I said.
No response.
So I plunged forward again clumsily, “I’m still having some problems in calculus, but that’s only because I didn’t figure out until two days ago what a derivative was.” I was no good at this small talk thing.
We sat in silence, I was lost in thought, and I had no idea where she was mentally. She seemed okay, smiling slightly, as if she knew something the rest of the world didn’t. I didn’t watch her for very long. It made me feel sick to my stomach to see her so different than the mother I knew and loved. I still loved her, but it wasn’t the same as before, sometimes, I think because there was a bit of pity mixed in.
As much as I loved my mother, the days with her often depressed me, and I went home feeling morose and sorry for myself. It didn’t make the dumpy brown house any more inviting.
As I trudged up the walkway, I noticed the lights were on. My step father, Henry, was home.
“Someone called for you,” he said to me as I rummaged through the refrigerator. “It was a boy.” He walked in and settled himself into a chair at the tiny kitchen table.
I froze. “A boy? Called on the phone?” I frowned slightly, puzzled. “Are you sure he didn’t have the wrong number?”
“He asked for you, Anna. Said his name was Ethan or Edward or something.” Henry pulled a small vial of alcohol out of his pocket and took a sip before screwing the cap back on and slipping it back in his pocket.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The First Three Pages of my October novel

“May I help you?” I asked, finally finding my voice. I could feel the familiar heat rushing to my cheeks, and my armpits broke out in a sweat.
He gave no indication that he heard me, so I cleared my throat and said it again, a little louder.
“May I help you, sir?”
The stranger turned from the shelf and looked at me, a little surprised. He was no older than twenty. His dirty blond hair was cut short, and there was a splash of freckles across his nose.
“No, thank you,” he said and returned to examining the books on the shelf.
I faltered. I had no experience in how to handle this situation. I considered going back downstairs and pretending like I didn’t even know that there was anyone else in the library. But policy is policy, and drat that Crudley for being nowhere in sight.
I licked my lips and started again. My voice came out weak and shaky. “I’m afraid I must have you fill out a card before you can handle any of Mr. VanWauld’s collection. If you’ll just follow me, please.” I turned and started for the front desk, glancing over my shoulder to see if the stranger was following me. The sooner this was over, the better, and I could return to cataloging.
With a smile on his face, he dropped his hand from the shelf and followed me to the front desk, arms behind his back, as though he were enjoying himself.
I handed him a card and a pen. “We’ll also need some form of collateral, should you choose to borrow a book.” The words came out in a rush, and he lifted a bemused eyebrow.
“Very well.” I watched as he wrote his name down on the card. His penmanship was impeccable, not at all like the chicken scratch most boys scribbled down, and he scrawled each letter with finesse. E-D-W-A-R-D. Next line. V-A-N-W-A-U-L-D. I gulped.
“Oh,” I squeaked pathetically. I stood there dumbly as he finished filling out the card, too surprised to say anything, and too dumbstruck to stop him and tell him he had access to anything he wished, my apologies.
“Now,” he said, handing me the card, “You were saying something about collateral?”
“I didn’t realize—Crudley said you were—I mean, not that I know where you go, or anything—I just didn’t expect…” the words stumbled over themselves in a rush to get out of my mouth, and all the while, my face grew redder. Inside, I was smacking myself on the head with a hardcover book. Idiot! Dolt!
Edward interrupted me. “It’s all right. You couldn’t have known.”
I stopped my babbling abruptly, ears and cheeks on fire, wishing I could sink through the floor. If my calculations were correct, I would have landed on top of my desk, or somewhere in the vicinity, somewhere safe.
At that moment, Crudley appeared by Edward’s side. He had a habit of doing that, vanishing and appearing out of nowhere. It was surprising considering he was a portly fellow, who didn’t look like he could move anywhere in any sort of hurry. He poked his glasses a little higher onto his nose and said, “Ah, the young Mr. VanWauld. I’m pleased to see you have arrived safely back from the Wakhan Corridor. Come, you must tell me all about it! I heard some explorers were eaten alive by the inhabitants several years ago.”
Edward smiled apologetically to me as Crudley took him by the elbow and led him to the back office. I sighed and let my shoulders droop. The moment was over; I could return to my work and not do any more talking.
As I sat in my cramped office, surrounded by stacks of worn, dusty books, I couldn’t concentrate on the list of books in front of me. I had to reread several titles before they sunk in. Focus! I told myself. I was in my element, for crying out loud. I could deal with books. They didn’t talk; they didn’t require verbal conversation, and yet, I felt that I had a…well…relationship with each one. Each book was different. They spoke to me in a way that nothing and no one else could. I could focus on what they were trying to say, and even though I kept my responses to myself, I was given time and space to formulate them.
But the encounter with Edward VanWauld lingered in my mind, and I could not shake it off. It replayed itself over and over in my mind, like a record that had gotten stuck on the worst line in the verse. I imagined that I looked like a bafoon, bumbling and blushing like a lovestruck teenager. I hoped with all the hope I had in me that he did not interpret it like that. I tried not to think about the things I had noticed about him. His sandy blond hair and easy smile. I shook my head. I was such an idiot.
There was a knock in my doorway, and I looked up. My door had been removed from its hinges long before I started working at the library, but it never bothered me because nobody visited my office anyway. My office was the home to Mr. VanWauld’s under-the-radar-yet-highly-controversial collection on the unexplained, but I had since been assigned to organize the stacks of books into some semblance of order.
I froze. Casually leaning his forearm on the jamb was Edward. Panic time. I opened my mouth, but all that came out was “uhn—.”
He didn’t seem to notice. “I apologize for interrupting your work. It’s just that, well, I didn’t catch your name upstairs.”
I pulled myself together as best I could and choked out my name. “Anna.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Anna. I didn’t realize we’d hired anyone new. It’s been a while since I’ve been here.” Edward looked at me as if it were my turn to speak.
Nothing came to mind and an uncomfortable silence hung in the air. Well, it was uncomfortable for me, anyway. Edward seemed completely at ease gazing over the stacks of books from his spot in the doorway. I thought for a moment that I should invite him in, but decided against it. There was nowhere to invite him into. The room was almost floor to ceiling occupied by books, leaving only a small pathway to my oak desk and antique chair. Besides, if I invited him in, that would obligate me to have a conversation with him, which I was hoping to avoid.
Edward spoke again. “By any chance, have you come across a leather-bound book, where the title is a tree? No words, just a tree?”
I thought for a moment. I had a knack for remembering detailed information about every book I laid my hands on. Nothing popped into my mind.
“No,” I said, shaking my head for emphasis.
“Well, if you do, would you mind setting it aside for me and giving me a call?”
“Sure,” I said. I felt the end of our brief conversation approaching. Edward dug into his pocket and pulled out a slip of paper, which he handed to me.
“My number’s on there if you need to reach me. Thanks. And, again, it was nice to meet you, Anna. I’ll see you around.” He gave a little wave before turning and heading toward the spiral staircase that led to the ground floor.
I collapsed in my chair. What was wrong with me? I wished that I was like every other sixteen-year-old girl who could talk to boys—or anyone for that matter. I wished that my cheeks wouldn’t turn the color of Washington apples anytime anyone acknowledged my presence verbally, be it with an attempt at conversation or even a casual hello. I was cursed to live a lonely, lonely life. As much as my books kept me company, I sometimes felt like I was missing something. But that was only sometimes. Awkward conversations, like the two I’d had with Edward, reminded me how much of a social klutz I was. I dropped my head into my hands watching my brown hair brush the desk. Time to get back to work. Focus. I picked up a book. The title was in some language I did not recognize. The symbols were short, choppy, and boxy, and I’d seen them on only a few other books in Mr. VanWauld’s collection. I placed it on the stack of books that were similar. I still had not figured out how I was going to categorize them without knowing what the heck they were about.
I did not notice the time passing by, and before I knew it, the cuckoo clock on my wall chimed eight o’clock.
“Crap,” I mumbled to myself. I had skipped the dinner I had packed myself on accident. Oh well, Uncle Henry might have made dinner and had leftovers. I grabbed my jacket off the back of my chair and slung my backpack over my shoulder before I rushed out of the office. I still had calculus homework and an English paper to write.
My bike was locked to the railing that led the way up the steps to Mr. Van Waluld’s library. It was an old racing bike with bullhorn handles and spots of rust on the body. I didn’t mind it because it got me from point A to point B, but I often got looks of disdain from my classmates.
The bike home was quick. Eight blocks north, five blocks south. I drove past million dollar estates, which gradually gave way to smaller homes, which gave way to apartment complexes, which gave way to abandoned lots and liquor stores with bars on the windows. I parked my bike in front of the small brown house. One of the shutters hung at an odd angle and the front yard was overgrown with weeds and dandelions. I sighed. Home at last…if you could call it that. My Uncle owned the liquor store at the end of the block. The house was flanked by condemned houses, so Uncle Henry didn’t bother with keeping up the house. It wouldn’t make a difference in the property value, so there was no reason to waste the energy was what my uncle always said whenever I sighed as I looked out the window. It was a good thing I didn’t have any friends, otherwise I would have been mortified to have them over to my house.
When I lived with mom in the house on Baker Street, she always had the yard beautifully landscaped with hostas and dahlias and a veritable mix of other colorful plants and flowers. She used to work in the garden when she was stressed out. If I closed my eyes, I could still picture her kneeling in the garden with a floppy hat on her head, working methodically and tirelessly pulling weeds and spreading mulch.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Images from the photo shoot in Newark.

Alexis being cuuuuute :)

I think I'll hang a copy of this in my bathroom.

After he wrote this, Andy wrote "POOP" in the sand.

The deceased horseshoe crab

Such a tragic story...looking out to sea, where he wishes he was. Tear.

Oh, and just as an update on the word count...23,436 as of right now. I'm taking a quick break to post this. My goal is 25,000 by the end of the day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Return of the Queen

I love fall. I've eaten about three bags of candy corn so far, and it's not even November. I have a bag and a half waiting for me in the cupboard, too. I'm mad I can't find my Halloween decorations, but I'm not willing to brave the spare room in search of them. (As much as I love Halloween and all things scary, I HATE HATE HATE spiders.)

I got a new job. I'm a Suicide Prevention Coordinator. No, I do not take phone calls from people who are suicidal. No, I do not do counseling. My job is to educate, advocate, and something else I forget. But anyway, I like it so far. My schedule is flexible, I get to dip my toes in teaching now and then, and my coworkers are pretty cool.

In my next post, I'll put up some pictures I took of downtown Ne'rk. Sarah and I had a photo shoot and it was fabulous.

Oh, and I've reached 19,000 words in the novel I am working on. My goal is 50,000 by the end of October, but I am being flexible with that deadline, because I do not want to exhaust myself before NaNoWriMo. I'm already cooking up some ideas for November. The only thing I am not looking forward to about NaNo, is that I will be out of town the first week of November, which is going to mess with my schedule a bit. On the bright side, I will be in Mexico. So I'm not complaining in the least.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Photos: Round 1

I took Stella for a walk today. It's the first one we've gone on since her surgery last Thursday. On the plus side, people walk on the far side of the path from us because she looks like a rabid raccoon (the area around her eyes is shaved and she slobbers worse than Beethoven). On the minus side, my beautiful shar-pei dog looks like a freakin rabid raccoon. 
These are some of the pictures I took with my point-and-shoot digital camera. It makes me really excited to get a digital SLR, whenever I may get that lucky. Ahem, Andy ;O)

I was completely entranced by the funky bubble seedling things on these trees.
And the fern (I know it's not a fern, but I like calling it that) that was bigger than my NEWARK! How vedy, vedy interesting.
Okay, so they're all out of order on here. This is an older one of my Stellykins cuddling on the couch with me.
Take that PETA. Ugh! That group has good intentions, but boy does it just grind my gears that they think killing pets is a good way to "free them from their misery". Take a look at Stella, and tell me that she isn't completely one hundred percent happy. (you'll be lying if you ever do tell me that, by the way.)
Ahhhh, and back to the funky seedling things

And below, I was messing with the exposure settings on my camera. The purple turned out rather nicely, don't you think?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

P.S. This movie is great

***WARNING***This review is in the prewriting stages. We'll see if I ever get back to it. Part of me wants to be a movie reviewer when I grow up, so I'm giving it a go. But it is harder than it looks, so I've decided to move on.
I always have to roll my eyes when I find on the back cover of a movie "Heartwarming tale that will make you laugh and cry," or any other variation on the expression. Ninety-nine percent of romantic comedies boast their ability to evoke these emotions. Last night, however, I watched a movie during which I did BOTH AT THE SAME TIME! Even my trusty rarely-laughs-during-a-romantic-comedy sidekick Andy really enjoyed the movie. It will make you laugh and cry, and probably both at the same time. 
In the opening scene, the dynamics of their relationship are summed up in the fight they have. Holly, played by Hilary Swank of Million Dollar Baby fame, is the stressed-out worrisome responsible wife, matched with the funny, easy-going Irishman Jerry (Gerard Butler with the remnants of his smoking hot 300 body). Holly cannot exist without a plan, and Jerry never has one. Despite their differences, they are very much in love. Jerry is smitten with Holly, and Holly cannot live without Jerry's ability to put humor into life. And then he dies, leaving Holly to try to live her life without him, a feat she finds impossible with everything left behind, his clothes in the closet, his voice in her head. Holly holes herself up in the apartment she hates until her friends arrive on her thirtieth birthday to cheer her up. Arriving shortly after them is a message from Jerry. Her friends, played by Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon, each have their own humorous sidestories. Kathy Bates is excellent as always playing Holly's tough-as-nails mother, whose own husband left her.
It is a movie of beginnings and endings, layering Holly and Jerry's life together with her mourning process. Jerry stays with Holly after his death by leaving her letters in an attempt to help her get over him. It really makes me excited to read the book, which will be different enough from the movie, partially because it takes place in Ireland rather than New York City.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Here...have some graham crackers... this is my first blog post, and I think I'm just going to do a general welcome. My name is Brittany. I am engaged (love you, Andy). I was born in New Mexico, raised in Ohio, but my roots are in the wonderfully cheesy state of Wisconsin. I have several projects, art and otherwise, which I hope to bring nearer to completion (true art is never "finished"). The biggest of these is the house project Andy and I have undertaken. Maybe I will post before and after pictures sometime. I can't get enough cereal. I'd eat it for all three meals every day if I could. I'm trying to go green, but that's difficult since I live about an hour away from where I work.

I don't understand this: I love my job. I don't mind going to work in the morning, and even though I count down the hours and minutes until I get to leave, I don't have that heavy feeling weighing on me that I had at several of my other jobs. However, it is the most mind-numbing repetitive job I have ever had. I change peoples' addresses and perform maintenance on investment accounts. So here is my dilemma: do I try to find a better, more challenging job with the chance that I may hate it and may want to tear my hair out with the stress, but also with the chance that I may grow or expand my horizons? I stay at my job and hope that I get hired on and move up at a place of employment that I really don't want to work for the rest of my life, even though I enjoy the safety and comfort that it affords me? Decisions, decisions.

On another note, Andy and I watched The Illusionist with Edward Norton on Sunday May 4.
I saw that it was based on a short story and looked the author up during my break at work. I decided to read some of his work that was published in The New Yorker. It turns out that I really really enjoyed reading this guy. It was kind of a throwback to my college days--it seemed like it could have been pulled out of a college textbook because it was a work of fiction in which I could actually pull out arguments and a thesis. Steven Millhauser is his name and weaving intricate narratives is definitely his game. He begins with the observation of a small event, which leads him to recall a slightly larger event, which leads him to recall an even more significant event, all of which seem random, yet nagging at the back of the mind is the thought that these are going to be connected somehow. I think the character in his novel feels the same way at some point. I was inspired by the story's main point, and it gave new meaning to my concept of the English language. Someone once told me that language is the currency of thought, which gives words value and weight. Millhauser argues the opposite, that words diminish the meanings of things, that the sun becomes less when we try to describe it, that words do not have the power to compete with the beauty of nature. In this, I could see why Wikipedia called Millhauser a Romantic. It reminded me of William Blake and the rest of the British Romantics who called for people to turn to nature to find peace and understanding.

I could go on for hours, but it is time to snuggle with my one and only favorite dog, Stella, who is curled up on my side of the bed, snoring softly, and waiting for me.