Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Who out there has resolutions in place for 2012?

I asked a dozen or so people yesterday whether they were making resolutions for the new year and every last one of them said no. There seems to be a negative connotation to the word for many people, but for me, the new year is a chance to reevaluate and wipe the slate clean. It's a time for renewal and to set goals.

Here were my 2011 resolutions:

1. Write some stuff.
2. Stop using smiley faces. :)
3. Continue to workout to those horrid Jillian Michaels tapes. I love/hate her.
4. Continue drinking coffee in abundance, but spend less money (i.e. less Starbucks)
5. Don't fall asleep in my contact lenses or on a bus.
6. Get Chris to workout by any means necessary.
7. Read as many books as I did in 2010, even if I find full-time work.
8. Say no every now and then just for practice, so it's not awkward when I really need to say the word (this will be fun).
9.  Come up with a bad-ass pen name so that I can write vampire erotica without anyone knowing. (I'm open to suggestions.)
  10. Blog regularly.     

So how'd I do?


1. Done
2. Working on it
3. I did this until May, when I pulled a tendon and had to modify my workouts
4. Utter failure until, rather recently, my car battery died in the drive-thru of Starbucks, which I took as a sign to man up and renew this goal.
5. Only a few misses here
6. Utter failure
7. Sure enough read as much as possible. I'm currently reading The Marriage Plot and will have a lot to say upon its completion.
8. Did it, and yes, it was fun
9. This may or may not still come to fruition
10. Semi-regularly

Okay, so I didn't hit on quite a few of those but I'm in no way, shape or form discouraged. In fact, I feel like I have all the more resolve for the new year. After some reflection and reevaluation, I'm ready to begin again.

2012

1. Tell the best possible story each time I write
2. Do not write to publish but simply write, then publish
3. Vary my workouts and avoid backbend push-ups, no matter what
4. Eat just a little better than last year
5. Don't fall asleep in my contact lenses or on a bus (this one is worth the carry-over)
6. Make trips to see my family despite finances 
7. Be patient with my loved ones--let them make their own resolutions
8. Pay outrageous student loans without cursing, stomping feet or looking up to the ceiling and screaming, "Why?"
9. Find either a) an agent and/or b) a fellowship that will bridge the gap between the larger literary world and my working life
10. Smile more (this one's weighted)
11. Get in the habit of turning my cell phone off at work and on when I get home (a biggie)

If you have resolutions, I'd love to hear them. 

Photo credit: Sarunyu_foto

HAPPY 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Is it Possible to Recreate an Experience?

I've had a wonderful holiday season with my husband; we've had a lot of laughs and a lot of fun, but nothing has gone the way we planned. Because I started a new job in late September and we've been kind of low on funds, we weren't able to travel. So, we decided to make our holiday season romantic, to recreate an experience we shared when we first moved to San Antonio.


Shortly after moving to here, Chris and I planned an evening on the Riverwalk that included staying at a historic hotel, which was chosen primarily because we read many positive reviews online, it was right next to the Alamo (which I had yet to see), and the hotel allows dogs, which meant we wouldn't have to find our Blue Heeler a sitter.

We went to the hotel restaurant without expectations, hadn't even planned on eating there. We sat at the bar and received two long menus with few but promising options. I ordered soup and a mixed green salad with goat cheese and sweetened pecans. Soup and salad doesn't usually excite me, but the food was amazing! I savored every bite. The server, a woman in her forties, was attentive and kind; she welcomed us to the city and gave us some good tips about where to go and not go in the city. Our energy levels were high, and we were ready to explore our new city, the promise of our new life together.

The list we compiled thanks to our waitress was invaluable; it felt as though we now had a sort of treasure map to the city that included warning signs and places to avoid at all costs. If this woman could have only foreseen our experience this year, she might have said, "Oh, and don't come here again, expecting the same." Because that is exactly what we did--we went back to the hotel this year expecting the same. And we had an entirely different experience, one that would be equally as memorable.

This year, we decided to recreate our night at the hotel. We got a room on the 14th floor. This time, we were familiar with the Riverwalk and so we had an agenda. We even planned to play tourist and so Chris bought a Riverwalk boat ride. But when we arrived, I came down with a horrible headache and had to rest awhile. Chris waited patiently as I took a short nap, trying to shake the pain before a beautiful evening. We were looking forward to unwinding, eating good food then taking a romantic boat ride.

When the sharpness in my head finally settled into a dull ache, I said I was ready. There was a holiday buffet set up, so we were excited to sample more of the restaurant's memorable cuisine. We dressed up and positioned ourselves at the hostess stand, this time wanting the entire restaurant experience, a nice table, perhaps a bottle of wine... We stood a long time. When we were finally seated, the hostess announced that she would be our waitress as well and the buffet was $$.$$ per person. We asked for menus and were told that we were not supposed to get menus. "I'm really supposed to push the buffet," the server said, "but fine." We smiled, said we'd check out the buffet. Chris ordered a bottle of wine, and the server said they were out, but they had the more expensive version, which was a little better. We declined. She returned and said she'd found the original wine we'd ordered, but it would not be chilled. Hmn.

As we went to check out the buffet, thinking our upselling-happy server wasn't going to ruin our evening, we found food that didn't look as fresh as it could. The chicken and tilapia seemed to be melting into the metal trays that were set out, and there weren't very many diners. We decided to order off the menu. My husband ordered a White Russian, and it arrived incredibly light. He took a sip and his face puckered.

We waited to tell our server, we watched the ice melt and started to talk about our evening. We still had the boat ride and a night on the Riverwalk to look forward to. We had a nice bed and easy day tomorrow. We would relax: heaven. I tried to ignore the fact that my head was screaming again.

The waitress never appeared, so I took the drink to the bar and asked the tender if he could put some Kahlua in it. "My husband says it just tastes like milk and vodka." He said he'd look for Kahlua but had used the last drop in the drink, so I returned to the table. Soon after, too soon after, my salmon arrived complete with a frozen middle and the waitress, who seemed annoyed that I didn't wait for her to return the drink, rolled her eyes and asked if something was wrong.

My husband never got his Kahlua, and the salmon was still frozen on a plate in front of me, and my husband's food wasn't good, he said, so we decided to just get out of there. What followed was an incredibly long wait for the check and an aloof goodbye. We heard the bar tender laughing with another server, as they "sampled the wine."

We went back up to the room, ready to get going, but there on the 14th floor was a roach feasting on what looked like a graham cracker. I was jealous he seemed to be enjoying his meal so much. "Let's get the hell out of here," I said, still eager to walk along the river and get out of the hotel for a while. But, when we arrived at the front desk, planning to mention the lackluster service we received at the restaurant, we were rudely told that the ticket my husband purchased for the river tour was invalid.

"We don't do that anymore," the clerk said. They must not have updated the website. "Whatever money you paid won't show up on your bill. Rest assured."

"Why was it still on your website?" my husband asked.

"I don't know." We figured now wasn't the time to discuss our restaurant experience, since this man didn't seem too helpful.

After a few conversations with other hotel guests, Chris and I realized that our service was nothing personal. Many of the people staying there seemed rather unimpressed, and one that had tried the buffet told us to be thankful we hadn't tried it. A lady on the elevator, who said she was in love with our dog, told us that the hotel was haunted, which might explain the inconsistent service. "This place used to be a hospital, so now it's just riddled with ghosts. Maybe they're messing with you." What did she mean? The workers were possessed by spirits? Another man, who I met outside the exercise room, said he was getting rather shitty service, and he figured it was just because it was a holiday.

Whatever it was, the night proceeded in much the same way. My head ached to the point that I didn't want to do anything more. My stomach growled, my husband paced the room saying he wanted his money back. I just wanted to sleep. We ended up spending the evening watching a reality television show about restaurant cleanliness as a well-fed roach rushed around somewhere outside our hotel door.

Ultimately, the night was laughable. It was the sort of night that might make a family vacation movie plot starring Chevy Chase, but it was hardly romantic. Perhaps our trouble wasn't so much bad holiday service, a headache and a haunted hotel but the fact that our expectations were so high. What we'd wanted, to recreate an experience, might have been misguided. After all, there's so much out there to see and so much to experience, so what's the point in trying to recreate the past? After laughing about our effort, the trip we'd been looking forward to for weeks, we wrote the hotel to no response and decided to merely move on.

This wasn't the first time that I've failed miserably at recreating an experience. It makes me wonder if it's possible. Perhaps the secret to a good time--a time worthy of sealing itself in the mind--is an utter lack of expectation. After all, when there's no pretense, there's only the full experience. And there's still so many treasures out there to find. In 2012, one of my resolutions is to have as many new experiences as possible. For now anyway, the memories aren't going anywhere.

I wish you all a Happy New Year. Time to add to those resolutions!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays, everyone!


This year has gone by quickly, and it has been filled with its share of challenges and opportunities. I can't believe it's Christmas time. Already! I wish everyone out there has a magical holiday, one that is filled with hope and love. 



I made a video message here, but as you'll see the audio quality is rather lacking. I probably need to upgrade something. Anyway, the sentiment is what counts, right?  -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa5s0vxkDmw

Saturday, December 17, 2011

2011 - Rough Writing

It's been an interesting year. Not too prolific on the blog here, I must say, but I've done my fair share of writing. I've pounded out quite a few words over various projects, but unlike other years, when I've found or made the time, 2011 has been a tough year to write. In fact, it proved damn-near impossible.


- June 2011 -
Between a slow-healing hand and wrist injury to a tendon that still lingers to this day if I have pen in hand for too long (typing is far easier, but still with its limits), a robbery, and a bout of unexpected underemployment that lasted right up to September at which point I became hyper-employed (needfully, thankfully) and began a 40hr/week copy editing job on top of teaching, my writing presence (especially online) has been suffering. Yet, I have continued to write. Because no matter the loss of use of a hand or time or resources, we writers write. We're a touch crazy like that--addicted to making the intangible tangible. So, I wrote a sentence here and there. Here's how: I used voice recognition software, I wrote with my left hand, on breaks, in the in-between time, the waiting-in-line time, any time I could for as long as I could. 

Writing is something I always took for granted to be there for me. But after this year's obstacles, I've reevaluated the value of my writing time. I've realized what a luxury it is to write. And though I'm not yet where I'd like to be in the literary world, I've recently remembered why I truly do what I do: I love being part, if in some small way, of the literary conversation that occurs between writer and reader. I enjoy being on both sides of it, exploring this insane world through a series of strings of words. Clinging to this urge, I'll continue on without taking anything for granted. 

And if I get a break here and there, I'll aim to be more active on this blog. I plan to post about a forthcoming story soon, and as for book three... I'll post again in the new year. 





**I received a beautiful thank you note from http://www.1800runaway.org/, for the donation from the sales of Musical Chairs in September. I plan to donate any royalties from the sales of this book again in January. I'd love for the amount to be higher this time. In fact, this time I will match my royalty sales and donate that amount. If you're interested in buying the book, please purchase it from Amazon, either in Kindle or paperback. If you purchase it from Barnes & Noble or outside of the U.S., notify me here as these sales post later with my publisher so that I know to count the sale toward the total.     

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