Rules: list the first lines of your last 10 published stories. See if there are any patterns yourself, or have other people say what they notice.
FYI: I excluded one of my last 10 because it was in response to a challenge where everybody had to start a story with the same first line, so it's not indicative of my style.
1. Her laughter rings throughout the cottage. - The Magic of Destiny
2. From the edge of the training field, the clang of sword meeting sword rang in five year-old Arthur's ears like the clarion song of birds first thing in the morning. - Picking Up the Sword
3. Percival stands at the door, knowing he should knock, scared of what will happen when he does. - Leave My Heart At the Door
4. The email from Morgana came with a link and three words. - Let's Get Personal
5. "You can't be serious." - Simple and Grand
6. As the day progressed, Merlin felt the back of his neck get redder and redder. - New Kid
7. For the most part, Arthur excused Merlin's tardiness. - In Return
8. Though it was hardly the first time he’d gone out since Gwen’s death, something about Gaius’s retirement party put Arthur into a maudlin mood, almost from the moment they walked through the hall’s doors. - Sharing the Same Truth
9. Icy water sprayed across Arthur’s trousers as the taxi rolled past, soaking him to the skin before he could jump back away from the street. - Like a Song
10. “I think you should come in.” - Count Me In
I already knew what some of my favorite ways to start fics were. I like short lines of dialogue without tags and visceral imagery - sound or touch most often - that lead into something else. Six of these do that. Two of the others convey an emotional effect to set a mood, which I like for shorter fic.
We've spent the last two nights bingeing "Good Omens." I never read the book. Though Terry Pratchett is Craig's favorite author, I wasn't as entertained by him with the couple of titles I read. And I'm embarrassed to admit that aside from admiring him in his social media and being aware of how well-received his books are, I've never read Neil Gaiman, either.
That has to change. Because I flippin' LOVED "Good Omens."
So...last week, electric_heart posted about interest in a Buffy bingo community, and since it's been something I've been thinking about, I jumped in to help do it. Clearly, I'm insane because I'm so damn busy already, but honestly, I'm soooooo excited!
Buffyverse Bingo is a low-pressure prompt challenge community for fans of BtVS and AtS. Sign up to participate, and you will get a bingo card with 24 prompts for you to fill. Prompts can be filled by a wide variety of fanworks, such as fics, icons, gifs, meta, picspam, videos, drawings, etc.
I had my first shift at the library yesterday. Mostly training and paperwork, but it went very well. I think I'm going to end up loving it there. It's also got me thinking if I want to pursue further education in library sciences if I want to work more hours. With Alex graduating next year, it would be nice to have something that gets me out of the house more, and the library is the perfect environment for it.
More of my time this week has been spent working with electric_heart in creating a Buffy bingo challenge. We're creating mirror communities at LJ and DW that--fingers crossed--will be ready to go by July 1. I have to say I'm really excited about it. I've been wanting something like this for a little while, and when she posted at DW earlier this week about whether they would be interest in it, I jumped at it. It won't just be for fic, either. We're allowing a lot of other types of fanworks, including fanart, vids, poetic, and meta. The goal is to attract creators so the fandom as a whole has more to enjoy.
Other big events this week...last night, on the way home from dinner, Craig ran over something that looked like a twig on the road. Turned out, it wasn't. Almost immediately, there was this horrible grinding sound, so he pulled over and discovered it was something metal and it had completely torn through some pipe on the undercarriage. It wasn't fuel, but it was leaking badly, so he took it into the shop and left it there. He went back this morning to get it on their docket. The pipe was part of the A/C system for the back seat. It cost us $300 to fix (not replace, that would've been $900), but we also needed an oil change and new tires. Altogether, the bill came to $1200. Not what we were hoping for this month, let me tell you.
Today was vet appointments for two of our pets. For our Boston Terrier, it was just a check-up to see how she's doing on her arthritis medicine. It can have an adverse effect on her liver, so while she seemed fine in her physical examination, I'll have to wait a couple days to get the results on her bloodwork. We also took in our senior cat. One of his dew claws had become ingrown, but he's also lost weight in recent months, so I wanted to have him checked. A few years ago, he had a tumor on his thyroid that caused the same symptom. He underwent radiation then to get rid of it and recovered great. The odds are very slim (in single digits, percentage-wise) for a recurrence, but they did bloodwork so we can see if something's going on or if he's just old man thin. He's never been a fat cat. At his healthiest, he was barely 12 pounds, all muscle. He's definitely underweight now, but he's also 15 years old. It's a waiting game there, too.
Tomorrow is another busy day. I have to be at the high school at 7am to work graduation, then we're off to a graduation party in the afternoon, before heading out to see "Whose Live Anyway?" in the evening. All of this while I feel less than 100%. I'm not sure if it's just my allergies going overboard (because I've been without my prescription Flonase for a month now, and OTC doesn't do it for me) or if I'm catching a cold. Either way, I spent most of today sneezing like a madwoman and partially blocked. Blech. Hopefully, I can get some sleep tonight. I'm going to need it.
TITLE: Murder House AUTHOR: Jordan Castillo Price DATE FINISHED: June 4 BLURB: Few people would willingly spend the night in a murder house, but Victor Bayne is up for the challenge. He’ll do whatever it takes to get a look at his permanent record, including going undercover in a townhouse where a recent death took place. Why not? There was no foul play involved, and as a psychic medium, he’d know if a ghost was creeping up on him. The whole “murder house” claim is just a product of a kid’s overactive imagination, and he’s confident he has the situation under control.
Until he gets a load of the smell.
Turns out, undercover work is a lot tougher than it looks. Vic misses Jacob something fierce. The subject of his assignment is a real piece of work. His partner has definitely got something to hide…and then the investigation takes a truly bizarre turn.
What happens if the murder house reveals itself to be more than just a schoolyard rumor?
TITLE: Americanah AUTHOR: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie DATE FINISHED: June 1 BLURB: Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.
I have had a busy week. Craig and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary over the weekend by going to LA with the kids and doing the VIP Universal tour. It was made a little more special by the presence of good friends who joined us for the day. The weather in LA wasn't the greatest - 60 and cloudy all day long - but the ten of us had an absolute blast. It all perfectly embodied what Craig and I have been spending the last twenty years doing - building memories that we will always treasure. Our marriage isn't just about us. It's about our family and our friends and everything we've worked to create. This was an excellent celebration of all that.
I ended up getting the directing job at the theater, but as a co-director with the gentleman I know from the festival. We talked for three hours this morning, getting to know each other, and I actually think it's going to be a great fit. We have very similar approaches and temperaments, and our experience complements each other. Auditions will be the beginning of August, and his son is getting married this month, so we won't have to start working on it in earnest until July.
Our board elections were tonight for the band boosters, and I am no longer on it. Thank goodness. I couldn't do it with the play commitment since our rehearsals are during marching season, but I'm still going to function as the communications coordinator and be heavily involved. For instance, I'm still working all three days of high school walk-thru.
I got through the background check for the library job last Thursday, so now I'm just waiting to hear from the library about when I start. I hope it's next week. I have to work our graduation on Saturday. Where is all my free time? I haven't even had the chance to write a single word in over a week, and it's killing me. Maybe tomorrow. Fingers crossed.
My 20th wedding anniversary is in 9 days. Craig and I had talked awhile ago about going somewhere, just the two of us, but tonight we decided to make it a mini-family vacation instead. We don't have a lot of time with Alicia this summer, and our opportunities for family trips are getting fewer as the kids get older, so it really made the most sense.
So provided we can get someone to watch the dog, we're going to drive down to LA next weekend and do the VIP experience at Universal.
We did it last summer for my birthday and seriously had an absolute blast. We actually prefer Universal to Disney now that the kids are older, and the VIP experience was well worth it for us. We'll only be gone for three days, but it's going to be so worth it.
After working myself to death this past week, I'm now fighting a cold. My throat has been sore all day. I really don't need this right now.
On Friday, I had my interview about directing the first play of the 2019/20 season of the community theater I did the festival with. I'm supposed to know by Wednesday who's going to get it. I'm not holding my breath. There are five people interested, two of whom have amazing credentials but were lax about getting their interview scheduled at that point. One other is someone well known to the board. If I do manage to squeak in and get it, it will only be as co-directing, I'm pretty sure. I said I was more than happy to do that, which as it turns out, the other someone said as well. He is an absolutely lovely man who was so nice to me during the festival. I would love to be able to co-direct with him. I think we'd be pretty compatible.
Today was a long drive to Sacramento to hit David's Bridal with Alicia. She still didn't have her bridesmaid dress picked out for the wedding in July, and ordering online from them had proven disastrous while she was in DC. Lucky for us, we found three different dresses that would work, all of which could be ordered in time in the right color. The one we ended up getting was not one that had been on her radar, but the salesgirl said, "Let me just get it for you to try. You'll be surprised at how much it looks better on than hanging on the rack." And she was right. Alicia looked great in it. Even better, she felt comfortable and confident. So that is now all done, thank god.
I'm throwing a small graduation party next Saturday. R, the oldest daughter of the family we always have Thanksgiving with, has been living with us since last September as she finishes up nursing school. She'd been living at home, but her dad got a new job down in SoCal so we offered to let her stay with us so she didn't have to go through the hassle of transferring. She's also the one getting married in July, so I knew she didn't have a lot of energy or time to deal with anything for graduation. It's very intimate, only 15-20 people, so I'm just making lasagna and serving a few sides with it, and ordering a cake. I need to get the house ready this week for her family since they'll be staying the weekend with us instead of staying at a hotel.
I survived my posting day at Seasonal Spuffy, though my story is still a WIP. I feel pretty good about that, but now that the crunch is over, I need to start working on other projects that are due. I'm thinking I will write one chapter for that, and then work on one of my Fandom Trumps Hate stories concurrently. Then when I finish the SS story, I can go on to finish Razing the Veil over at EF. I will have written a lot of new fic this year by the time it's over.
I hate getting my picture taken. HATE. When the kids were little, I avoided doing it as often as I could. I regret that now. Life is too short, and I wish I had more memories to hold onto.
So when my friend T insisted she get a picture of me and Alicia at the concert the other night, I was more than happy to do it. I have very few pictures of just us, especially in recent years. There were other pictures taken that I absolutely loathe because I have so many issues with self-loathing body images, but I liked this one of us enough to share:
I've been insanely busy the past week, so let's play catch up.
I accepted the library job. Now, I'm in the administrative process of getting hired by the county which means background checks, fingerprinting, multiple levels of approvals, etc. I probably won't start working until June, but that's okay. Life is crazy busy right now.
Alicia is home, safe and sound. She was free for a few days, and then started her internship today on the peninsula. With Craig also commuting into work, it meant the house was very, very quiet. I forget what a force of nature she is when she's been gone for a bit, but when she's home and then not, there's a very definitive hole in the space she's left behind. It was startling today.
Yesterday was the huge spring concert for the band. Normally, that means I spend three days baking since nobody else seems willing to do anything about refreshments, but I lost last Friday and Saturday to period pain issues that pretty much flattened me. I mean, the first day or so is always pretty bad, but this was a battering ram to my entire midsection, from my sternum to my pelvis. I couldn't even be touched without wincing from pain. Then Sunday was Mother's Day, which was lovely for the most part. I got Harry Potter themed gifts, including this sorting hat snack server and a gorgeous luminary. Alicia brought me back the most delicate, most beautiful ornament from DC's cherry blossom festival. And then in the evening, I had other booster moms over so we could wrap 15 raffle baskets for Tuesday's concert.
All that means is that my normal baking happened in the course of one day. I managed to get 15 dozen cookies/brownies/bar cookies done on Monday. That might be my record, especially since one batch of brownies (and I did 6) takes over an hour and only makes 9 brownies.
Now, I'm in the throes of finishing up a third chapter of a new WIP for seasonal_spuffy on Friday. It's been so much fun writing Spike again. I needed the distraction today, too. The health insurance sitch is driving me crazy. Craig's new job covers COBRA costs for three months (since employees don't get their health insurance until they've been on the job for 90 days), but it didn't happen automatically. It won't be in effect until next week, which meant we had to pay the full price cost of two prescriptions so far. AND I can't even get a Flonase refill until it's in effect because my doctor literally can't prescribe it without being preauthorized by the insurance. I've been out for a couple days because I didn't know it was the insurance holding it up, and now I have to go back to that familiar choking feeling until I can get more. Hopefully soon.
About an hour ago, I got an email from the woman I interviewed with at the library. She said, "I have a question. Can you call me?"
So I did.
She opened with, "So you were our second choice when we were hiring, and we really wanted you, but we only had the one position. We've had some personnel shifting and now I need someone for about ten hours a week, Saturday afternoons and either a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Would you be interested?"
I might've exploded a little on the inside.
Seriously, it's so part-time it would just be about getting out of the house a couple days a week and having some spending money that I don't feel guilty about. But I want to talk to Craig about the Saturday thing before I commit, which she more than understood. I'm going to call her tomorrow with my decision.
But! I want it. I would get to live with books for ten hours a week. I hope Craig doesn't come up with a good reason for me not to take it. What a fabulous Mother's Day gift it would be!
I got annoyed by a book review this morning that disparaged a book I love as being unworthy of recommendation because it didn't meaningfully change the reader in any way. She then went on to say a book that simply entertained was worth less than one that provoked thought.
Well, screw that.
I love a solid literary novel, but I absolutely loathe readers/reviewers that denigrate genre fiction. Everybody reads for different reasons. Everybody has different tastes. To dismiss another person's reading pleasure is elitist and completely unnecessary. All it does is make the person making the statements feel superior. It's perfectly fine to say a book isn't for you, but if there is legitimately nothing technically wrong with it, I see zero valid reason to belittle those readers who do respond well to the book.
It's why I have such issue with a lot of academia. I've run smack dab into the same elitism and it infuriates me. Those books they think are such classics? Are completely unreadable to some people. And it's not because a person isn't smart enough. It's because reading is SUBJECTIVE. Your way of reading is not the only way. What you get out of it is not necessarily what I do. And you have no right to tell me that mine is ridiculous simply because it doesn't mesh with yours. It's called mutual respect. It shouldn't be such a hard concept to grasp.
The bulk of what I read is done so purely for escapism. There is nothing wrong with that. All people do when they act so superior about their reading material is make me want to avoid them at all costs. Which I do. And have done. That sort of elitist BS only shows how shallow they really are, and I would much rather have people of value in my life than any of them.
Miracle of miracles, the valve under the sink was fixed today!
I texted a friend who's a manager for a building company, asking her for a referral. She called me two minutes later and said she had a handyman (who happened to be her boyfriend's uncle) in the area and if I called him right away, he could probably get it done today. Needless to say, I jumped on it. It's done and the new installation date is scheduled for next Monday.
The guy was a character, though. He's got a band on the side, and when he walked in and saw my guitar and our piano, he started chatting away. When he asked about my guitar, I pulled it out to show him and he went a little nuts, lol. Next thing I know, he's playing and I'm getting serenaded with "Purple Rain." He was actually really good, but it made me laugh enough to call my friend afterward. I told her the story, and she laughed and said, "Yep. That's him."
He does a ton of different stuff, though, and at the end of the day, his rates are very reasonable and I liked him, so we're going to have him back for more work.
And oh! Thank you so much for telling me I wasn't being selfish about wanting a birthday party! I talked to Alicia this morning about it, and she's 200% on board. "All I need is a theme and a guest list," she said. We batted around a lot of ideas and settled on "Back to the 80s." Two hours later, she texted me and said, "I have a Pinterest board and a half dozen ideas for invitations already. Why did you do this to me right before finals?!?" She's just as excited as I am. :)
I can't believe it's Wednesday already. This week has just flown by.
Craig started his new job today. The office is in San Francisco, and parking is a pain there so he's taking the train into the city. The problem is, parking at our station is impossible after 6am because the lot is completely full. So I have to get up with him and drive him there. I'm out of practice. I am just *not* a morning person.
I was stuck at home today because our new dishwasher was due to be delivered between 10:30am and 2pm. Well, they showed up at 1:30. Nice guys. But when they got under the sink to take out the old machine, they ran into a problem. The water shut-off valve is broken and won't turn off. We need to get a plumber to come out and fix it, then call the delivery people again to try installing again. Except you know what? We've had a couple other jobs with that sink - we want a new tap, it needs to be resealed because there's a leak - but Craig called four different plumbers who all told him no, the job wasn't big enough for them to take it. Really?!? One of the guys is literally less than a mile away. It would be easy money he could do on a slow day. But no, the job's too small. So fingers crossed we can find someone who'll do this. I don't have high hopes.
Alicia is home in a week. I'm excited about that.
Back in February, Craig asked me if I wanted to do something special for my birthday because I turn 50 in July. Initially I said no. We have an important wedding a week afterward, and I didn't want to distract from her celebration. But then on Monday when I saw that John Singleton had died - at the age of 51 - I freaked a little. Life is short. Plus, I have never had any kind of party that was just about me. Never had a birthday party. No bridal shower. No baby showers. The closest I ever got was our wedding, and that was about both of us. Is it selfish I want this? It feels selfish.
It's been a busy few days. I went to a friend's birthday party on Friday night, and ended up talking with one of her work friends (someone I didn't know) for two hours. We just hit it off in ways I don't often with women I meet. We ended up exchanging numbers and friending each other on Facebook. It's just weird because that never happens to me. In fact, until she and I started chatting, I'd spent the first two hours of the party pretty much in the background. I only knew one other person there and she had to leave pretty early. Everybody else was already friends, so it was very odd man out for me until this other woman starting drawing me into conversation.
Then yesterday, we were out appliance shopping. Our dishwasher has been cranky for a while now, and Saturday morning, it finally died. The damn thing would not stop beeping and refused to run a cycle. Since it's obviously a computer issue, it was better to just buy a new one. That gets delivered on Wednesday.
I will not be seeing Endgame until after May 8. That's when Alicia gets home. Because we've seen all the rest of the movies as a family, she requested that we see this one together, too. I haven't been spoiled so far, but I'll admit I'm terrified something is going to slip through.
Craig had his annual physical on Friday, too. His blood sugar is too high, so the doctor has put him on meds and ordered him to lose weight. I threw myself into getting all the bad stuff out of the house and sorting through my recipes to focus on low carb alternatives to get his sugars in check. We know low carb works for us. When we met in '97, he was coming off his chemo and I was coming out of my abusive first marriage. We were both much heavier than we wanted to be. We did low carb together then (because my gyno suggested it as a way to help with my PCOS) and did marvelously. He lost 100 pounds, and I lost 45. So I know we can do this. Yes, we're 20 years older, but I know what to do. And honestly, fear for his health is the best motivator. Apparently, I'll move heaven and earth to ensure his prolonged good health much more readily than I will mine, lol.
TITLE: Redeployment AUTHOR: Phil Klay DATE FINISHED: April 21 BLURB: Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
In "Redeployment", a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died." In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened. A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel. And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming.
Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.
TITLE: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir AUTHOR: Ellen Forney DATE FINISHED: April 20 BLURB: Shortly before her thirtieth birthday, Forney was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Flagrantly manic and terrified that medications would cause her to lose creativity, she began a years-long struggle to find mental stability while retaining her passions and creativity.
Searching to make sense of the popular concept of the crazy artist, she finds inspiration from the lives and work of other artists and writers who suffered from mood disorders, including Vincent van Gogh, Georgia O’Keeffe, William Styron, and Sylvia Plath. She also researches the clinical aspects of bipolar disorder, including the strengths and limitations of various treatments and medications, and what studies tell us about the conundrum of attempting to “cure” an otherwise brilliant mind.
Darkly funny and intensely personal, Forney’s memoir provides a visceral glimpse into the effects of a mood disorder on an artist’s work, as she shares her own story through bold black-and-white images and evocative prose.
Craig and I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in San Francisco last night. I almost didn't go because I didn't feel well in the morning, but in the end, I'm glad I did. The show was more delightful than I anticipated. The young man playing Charlie was surprisingly good, and I even enjoyed Wonka. I was nervous about him in particular. My Wonka will always be Gene Wilder. But this one was different enough while still having some of the same spirit. I'm okay with that.
We did errands this morning, then Alex and I played games most of the afternoon, including two games of Buffy Legendary. I lost both games, but man, I love playing it. We had two set-ups - Buffy and her men (Spike, Angel, & Giles) and a Scooby set-up with Angel as a fighting back-up. Alex kept having questions about some of the pictures, so I described the episodes they were from. Tabula Rasa. Something Blue. Fool for Love. He kept laughing at the dialogue bits I'd share, but I still haven't convinced him to watch the whole show yet. Some day. For now, I just have to be happy that he knows all the words to Once More with Feelings.
Oh, and I finally figured out my seasonal_spuffy story title! I worked on the outline tonight, so it should be ready to start writing on Monday. That feels good. Let's just hope that feeling lasts after I actually start. ;)
This has been an up and down week. I spent yesterday furious with the world, for relatively silly reasons, then woke up this morning insanely anxious because I had a bad dream about a friend. I had to text her as soon as I got downstairs to make sure she was okay. She was, of course. It's just me being overly sensitive.
I managed to get some gardening done and finished edits on something that's been hanging over my head. I've also started outlining my seasonal_spuffy story. It's not going as smoothly as I'd like yet, but it will. My problem is that I haven't nailed down the title yet. For me, that's a huge deal. I'm a very linear writer. It's why I can't skip scenes while I'm writing and put in placeholders like "insert sex scene here." It's why I can't start writing a story until I know how it ends. So without the right title, the one that embodies the story in some way, I'm still on shaky ground. It'll come. Just not yet.
I decided a long time ago not to bother with the Buffy comics. I started the the first set post-series (Season 8, right?) as soon as they were available, and didn't enjoy them as they didn't feel like the characters I'd grown to love.
However. I'm now wondering if I have to, just for the sake of knowing canon. I just saw in a thread somewhere that supposedly Buffy was never even in Italy?!? That Andrew was lying for her to cover up some mission? Is that true?
Do I have to cave and read these comics just to get some flow even if I don't want to?
TITLE: Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology AUTHOR: Caroline Paul DATE FINISHED: April 12 BLURB: Caroline Paul was recovering from a bad accident and thought things couldn't get worse. But then her beloved cat Tibia disappeared. She and her partner, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, mourned his loss. Yet weeks later, Tibia waltzed back into their lives. His owners were overjoyed. But they were also...jealous? Betrayed? Where had their sweet anxious cat disappeared to? Had he become a swashbuckling cat adventurer? Did he love someone else more? His owners were determined to find out.
Using GPS technology, cat cameras, psychics, the web, and animal communicators, the authors of Lost Cat embarked on a quest to discover what their cat did when they weren't around. Told through writer Caroline Paul's rich and warmly poignant narrative and illustrator Wendy MacNaughton's stunning and hilarious 4-color illustrations, Lost Cat is a book for animal lovers, pet owners, and anyone who has ever done anything desperate for love.
TITLE: Signed, Mata Hari AUTHOR: Yannick Murphy DATE FINISHED: April 11 BLURB: In the cold October of 1917 Margaretha Zelle, better known as Mata Hari, sits in a prison cell in Paris awaiting trial on charges of espionage. The penalty is death by firing squad. As she waits, burdened by a secret guilt, Mata Hari tells stories, Scheherazade-like, to buy back her life from her interrogators.
From a bleak childhood in the Netherlands, through a loveless marriage to a Dutch naval officer, Margaretha is transported to the forbidden sensual pleasures of Indonesia. In the chill of her prison cell she spins tales of rosewater baths, native lovers, and Javanese jungles, evoking the magical world that sustained her even as her family crumbled. And then, in flight from her husband, Margaretha reinvents herself: she becomes an artist's model, circus rider, and finally the temple dancer Mata Hari, dressed in veils, admired by Diaghilev, performing for the crowned heads of Europe. Through all her transformations, her life's fatal questions---was she a traitor, and if so, why?---burns ever brighter.
Craig and I haven't started Buffy S5 yet because he's been a bit busy the past couple days. We have a booster meeting tomorrow night, so odds are I won't be able to get back to Buffy until Thursday. I miss it already.
But it means I've been embroiled in band stuff the past couple days. I'm just done. Burned out from volunteering. I've been doing this for three years now, and the lack of involvement from parents is really getting to me. We have elections coming up in two months, so I had to write a draft letter to send out to try and explain the situation to the parents. Everybody on the board has been involved for at least three years. Our VP has been involved for five. Our secretary hasn't been on the board before, but she's been a regular volunteer and come to most of the meetings for seven years. And our average non-board attendance at our meetings? 2.4 parents. And only one who has come regularly is a parent to a non-graduating senior. All the rest of those non-board attendees are parents to seniors and are done this year.
So we're chomping at the bit to get new blood in to teach them what we know so that all of our hard work isn't wasted. The letter has to be blunt without being off-putting, so fingers crossed the rest of the board thinks it's okay.
On top of that, someone who did volunteer for something important coming (someone who has proven unreliable in the past, but I tried giving another chance to) has yet to respond to any of my texts or emails about tomorrow's meeting. If she fails to show or follow through, I know the others are going to scold me for trusting her again. But what else can I do? We can't afford to alienate parents, and this woman has zero problem badmouthing people behind their backs. I cannot give her a reason to do it for me. She already does it for two other members on the board as well as our volunteer coordinator (who used to be her best friend).
Ack. Drama. Another reason why I'm done. I just hate it so much. It's why I avoid people for the most part. Life is too short to put up with such BS.
One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, turns 66 tomorrow. I loved her thoughts about every single thing she knows. Go and read. I guarantee at least one of them will resonate with you, another will make you think, and something else will make you laugh.
TITLE: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital AUTHOR: Sheri Fink DATE FINISHED: April 7 BLURB: In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs 5 days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and maintain life amid chaos.
After Katrina struck and the floodwaters rose, the power failed, and the heat climbed, exhausted caregivers chose to designate certain patients last for rescue. Months later, several of those caregivers faced criminal allegations that they deliberately injected numerous patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.
Five Days at Memorial, the culmination of six years of reporting, unspools the mystery of what happened in those days, bringing the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about the most terrifying form of health care rationing.
In a voice at once involving and fair, masterful and intimate, Fink exposes the hidden dilemmas of end-of-life care and reveals just how ill-prepared we are for the impact of large-scale disasters—and how we can do better. A remarkable book, engrossing from start to finish, Five Days at Memorial radically transforms your understanding of human nature in crisis.
We finally saw Captain Marvel tonight. No spoilers, but we enjoyed it, though it's not the strongest Marvel movie. We're all excited about seeing Avengers: Endgame, though.
I'm going to admit that I'm watching American Idol. And I'm going to stick with it as long as Alejandro Aranda is in the game. Because let me tell you, this boy is just stunning. He's so shy and awkward, but there's something so special and magical about it. Then that smile at the very end of this particular performance? So flippin' adorable. And the way he plays his guitar? Seriously. This guy is going to go far, even if he doesn't win.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 5am feeling unwell. An hour later, my insides were in turmoil. I spent the next five hours in agony. We had Chinese the night before, and I'm pretty sure the chicken I had was a huge no-no. Not food poisoning, but more my gall bladder-less body incapable of processing the fat in it. I was still feeling awful when I had to leave for the festival performance, but at least I wasn't locked in the bathroom. I couldn't consume anything until almost 6pm, when I felt like I could sip at some water without throwing up. It eased out a bit more so that I could have some dry toast and tea when I got home at 10, but it still wasn't great. Today has been about pampering my body because I'm still not 100%.
That was the bad stuff.
Good stuff? My play went off wonderfully. I got the reactions I wanted, and a ton of people came up to me afterward to tell me that ours was their favorite of the eight one-acts that were shown. I certainly think so, too, though I'm a bit biased, lol. Then, this morning, I got two wonderful emails from my cast that made me cry. This whole experience was so worth it.
As a result, I contacted the artistic director this afternoon and threw my name into the ring for directing next season. Not just for the festival that they're doing again, but for one of their longer shows. Fingers crossed. I've also decided that I'm going to write a play to submit for the festival. That's going to be so much fun.
Tomorrow's the big day. My whole day will be devoted to the festival. I have to get there at noon, and I can't leave until after we finish cleaning up after the second performance, which means I'm likely to be there until 11pm. It'll all be worth it.
However, I'm not looking forward to the post-show blues that always happens.
We had our tech rehearsal tonight, and it went very well. Plus...I'm not worried about our performance on Sunday any more. We watched three other shows tonight, and honestly, ours was the best. This is not my bias talking. At all. I got a wonderful email from the artistic director, telling us what a great job we did.
The festival is done black box, arena-style, which means shows need to be blocked to be viewed from every angle. That was one of my biggest priorities as a director. I watched rehearsals, walking circles around the set, so I can how it looks no matter where you sit. I did everything I could to make it as visually interesting and available without taking away from the story.
The first play we saw tonight is about a homeless woman who befriends a runaway teenager. For the first half, the two characters mostly sat on a bench in the middle of the stage. I only saw the back of the woman and the boy's reactions, and she does most of the talking. I missed a ton of important stuff she was doing in her lap. (The quilt she's wrapped in plays a big part of the story.) It was...very static.
The other two were mildly better about movement, but neither had much pace to them. When we walked out, my actors asked me, "Is ours so much shorter than everybody else's?"
It's not. They were all roughly the same length. But the others felt much longer - even though two of them are comedies - because of how badly they were paced.
Only one of the comedies is in our set on Sunday. I hope the other shows are better than what we saw tonight.
I lost a ton of writing time today, helping other people.
Alicia is a bridesmaid this summer. The bride is letting the girls pick their own dresses with a few guidelines - it has to be a specific color from David's Bridal, it has to be long, and it can't be shiny or lacy. Alicia picked a dress out, ordered it, and then when she got it, discovered it was poorly made and just awful. So she went looking for another dress on the site.
Turns out, 3/4's of the dresses in that particular color are not in stock and have to be special-ordered. Which means, a) they won't arrive until a week before the wedding and b) if it doesn't fit, she can't return it. DB only does store credit as refunds for dresses that were not final sale or special orders. It might not be as big of a problem as it is if she could walk into a DB store and buy one off the rack like 2 of the other bridesmaids did. She can't. The nearest store to her would cost her $60 to get to, and because she needs a larger size to accommodate her breasts, the odds of them having her size in that particular color actually in the store are slim to none. So we were scrambling for several hours this morning, trying to figure out what to do. It's still not sorted. I'm keeping my fingers crossed something happens soon because she is blaming herself for all of this and feels like she is letting the bride down, which is really, really, really not the case.
Then this afternoon, there were more interruptions as she wanted my opinion on some other things, then Craig needed a pep talk about stuff, so I'm probably lucky I got any writing done at all in the end.
The 2019-20 season was announced for the SHN - Broadway in San Francisco group that we have memberships to. I'm a little disappointed. They are only doing five shows with the membership instead of seven like this year, with the option to have early access to two shows instead of one. I'm not even excited about the majority of the shows they're offering.
HOWEVER, the second show is Sting in his musical, "The Last Ship." It was inspired by his album, "Soul Cages," which I have had memorized practically since it came out in 1991.
For the record, Sting is the musician I have seen the most in live performances, and I don't really do a lot of live concerts. I went to four of his between the ages of 19 and 25, because he was my absolute favorite artist ever for the longest time. He's still in the top 5. And I haven't seen him live in twenty years, so this would be WONDERFUL.
Craig says to just go for it. Especially since one of the shows we can get first access tickets to is "Book of Mormon" which is one of our favorite musicals. Craig's seen it three times now, but I've only ever seen it once. I'd love to see it again and have great seats.
A mostly good day. In list form because I'm tired:
1. Lots of words done. 2. Alex had friends over to play board games all day. The boys were amazed at how much I know about games they like and play, like games are unique to the teenaged male species alone. My cool mom cred went up a couple notches. 3. Followed a link on the su_herald to a post-Chosen, Buffy/Spike/Faith story that had some great insights in it: Death Is a Dance 4. I'm about to hit a ton of Holly's Spuffy stories on EF in my backwards reading mission, which were some of my favorites back in the day so that'll be fun. 5. Today was Craig's birthday. We didn't actually celebrate it today because he had to be in SF the whole day (tomorrow, too), but the day he was brought into this world will always be one of my favorites. 6. Found a yoga program on Prime that isn't too hard on my joints (even while it reminds me how not strong my legs really are). 7. The only bad thing about today is that I'm fighting off another cold. Ever since I went on the extra allergy medicine and Singulair, I can tell the instant some of my old symptoms come back. Right now, it's a little bit of a chesty cough and slight congestion (which is just enough for the breathing issues to come roaring back). Fingers crossed it doesn't become anything more.
Whoa, believe it or not, yesterday was the first day of 2019 that I didn't post here on LJ. I simply forgot because I got surprised with something at 8:30 last night that sucked away my next four hours.
No Buffy for me this week. It's too insane here. I had rehearsal today, then I have tech on Friday, and our performance is on Sunday. On Saturday is Alex's winter guard championships. And I have a deadline of Monday I'm racing to meet, so there's supposed to be writing happening in all the middle of that.
Which means I really, really, really can't play Two Point Hospital even though I want to. I bought it the weekend before last, and I'm seriously addicted to the damn thing. It's worse than when I played Theme Hospital way back on the PC. It might even be as bad as my Sims addiction in the early 2000s. But I find myself craving the escape, especially when faced with news like how Betsy DeVos wants to take away all of the Special Olympics funding but still get $60 million for her damn charters.
I hate that woman with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.
I'm falling deep into the Buffy hole, too, though. I've decided--and yes, I know this is insane--to start reading everything posted over at Elysian Fields. Starting with the oldest stuff. It came about just as I was falling out of the fandom so there's a ton of new stories I haven't seen. I don't even think I was the one who uploaded my stories over there originally. And of course, I won't read everything. I don't have time to read stories that aren't well-written or aren't my cup of tea. But I'm going to at least try all of them, one by one, and if a lot of them just being DNFs, well that'll just match my regular reading habits.
Life is too short to suffer through stories that either drive you crazy or you don't enjoy. I didn't learn that lesson until my 40s. Maybe my TBR pile wouldn't be as crazy today if I had learned it sooner.
A decade ago (!), I started a Buffy rewatch where I was recording my favorite lines, moments, and observations about the individual episodes. I have been sporadically going back to read those and realized I only did it up through S4, "Doomed." Since Craig and I have now reached that point in our rewatch, I'm going to pick it up again. Because it makes me happy and I'll feel better having a complete set...even if they are ten years apart, lol.
TITLE: The Immortalists AUTHOR: Kyle Mills DATE FINISHED: March 25 BLURB: Dr. Richard Draman is trying desperately to discover a cure for a disease that causes children to age at a wildly accelerated rate—a rare genetic condition that is killing his own daughter. When the husband of a colleague quietly gives him a copy of the classified work she was doing before her mysterious suicide, Draman finally sees a glimmer of hope. The conclusions are stunning, with the potential to not only turn the field of biology on its head, but reshape the world. Soon, though, he finds himself on the run, relentlessly pursued by a seemingly omnipotent group of men who will do whatever it takes to silence him.
Craig and I were supposed to be at a show in San Francisco tonight - Falsettos - but I gave our tickets to friends instead. Why? Because Craig hasn't been feeling well all week and this morning he finally went to Urgent Care.
His digestion has never been perfect. A year and a half ago, I finally got him to go to the doctor about bouts he kept having. He got prescribed omeprazole which helped even things out so he stopped taking it after a month or so. He hasn't had one of those episodes since.
This week, it was about stomach pain, the kind of pain that is worse when he moves. It's entirely different to his symptoms before. He hasn't had much of an appetite because of it, either. The doctor ordered a ton more blood tests and suggested he go back on the omeprazole with the bland diet while we wait for results. It's really the best we can do at this point, though it kills me seeing him in pain. It can really be anything. Pancreatitis. An ulcer. Something else entirely. That's almost as bad as seeing him in pain.
We finished the rest of season 3 today. Some notes:
1. The umbrella scene in The Prom will always make me cry. 2. All of the thoughts amongst the Scoobies in Earshot are brilliant. Cordy saying what she thinks. Oz being so damn deep. Wesley chastising himself about his reaction to Cordy. 3. Doppelgangland is in my top 5 as part of a duo package with The Wish. 4. While I like Tara, I will always prefer Willow with Oz. 5. Angel finally calls Buffy a brat in the first part of The Graduation. It's overdue. I love her, but her whole reaction/relationship with Angel bugs me to no end. 6. The Mayor is by far my favorite Big Bad. Harry Groener gets all that credit. I believe him, every time he opens his mouth, whether it's his chirpy facade or his cold threat to Buffy about eating her first or his anger/fear about Faith after Buffy stabs her. That's what makes him so effective as a bad guy. It roots his motivations in purely human emotions, which is always any villain's greatest strength. 7. It's why this is my favorite season and not 5, even though there's only episode with Spike in 3. Because I never watched Buffy for a single character. I love the ensemble. Yes, I have favorites, and while Spike is at the top of that list, he's not the only one on it. 8. I almost think that Angel finally feeding from Buffy on his very last episode on the series is Joss's way of giving back to Bangel fans for ripping away the happy ending they all wanted.
Four more eps of Buffy watched tonight - Helpless, The Zeppo, Bad Girls, and Consequences. These are so hard to watch together, for numerous reasons. I hate seeing Faith turn this way, even though her alliance with the Mayor is part of why this is my favorite season. I hate how much betrayal Buffy feels - first from Giles, then Faith.
But in a lot of ways, these episodes exemplify why I love Buffy so much. Even after everything with Faith, she wants to believe in the best of her. Yes, I understand it's somewhat because she fears that there's more truth in what Faith professes than she's willing to admit, and that if she saves Faith, she saves herself. But she loves so much and so hard. I adore that.
It's not all doom and gloom though. We get Wesley! Okay, the lusting after Cordy is a little creepy. But he's so damn funny, and the roots are starting for where he will eventually get to in Angel.
In other news, I found out Hamilton will be here over the summer, so I went ahead and got more tickets so Alicia can see it. Oh, and she got some good news today. She had applied to be an RA next year, but after all the interviews, ended up on the alternate list. Today, she was offered a position in one of the freshman dorms in Foggy Bottom for next year. She waffled for a tiny bit, because she was worried about the other housing arrangements she had made, but after finding out they won't be affected negatively if she bows out, she decided to accept the RA job. I always knew she was a rock star. :)
TITLE: Vortex AUTHOR: Julie Cross DATE FINISHED: March 19 BLURB: Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, after an accidental run in with Holly―the girl he altered history to save―Jackson is once again reminded of what he's lost. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents not only find themselves under attack, but Jackson begins to discover that the world around him has changed and someone knows about his erased relationship with Holly, putting both their lives at risk all over again.
I didn't do writing today. I spent all my free time brainstorming ideas for two Spuffy fics. I'm not sure I have a lot to show for it, but damn, it was fun.
I also found out we're only getting a single tech/dress rehearsal instead of the three we originally had scheduled, due to the venue change. That's a little nerve-wracking. I scheduled an extra rehearsal before it, which my actors were very grateful for. I hate not being prepared enough, plus it'll come right after we have our run-through with the artistic director who will likely have notes. I want that rehearsal to incorporate her notes before we hit tech.
Tonight's watching was The Wish, Amends, and Gingerbread. It's a very good thing I love The Wish so much because I really can't stand either of the other two. Gingerbread just makes me angry in all the wrong ways, and Amends is...icky and frustrating. The First was always a nebulous Big Bad, and it needs a stronger actor than David Boreanaz to make it believable. His reactions just never rang true for me, plus there's the whole magical snow and the lack of logic about locating the Bringers and Buffy's godawful bangs...just yuck.
But part of why I love The Wish so much stems from my love for alternate history. I'm a real sucker for the "what if this happened instead" scenarios, both in fiction and in fic. That's how Beg the Liquid Red came about. I could probably just write those and never get bored, to be honest.
Another pretty excellent day. I got to sleep in and have a lazy morning for a change. Then, it was rehearsal this afternoon, which went fabulously. We open in two weeks, and I'm so excited about the things my actors are doing. I have high hopes for how it's all going to turn out.
Then, this evening, three more episodes of Buffy - Band Candy, Revelations, and Lover's Walk. While I love Lover's Walk for obvious reasons, Band Candy remains one of my top five episodes of the entire series. Everything about it just makes me smile. Plus, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting Ripper. God, he's too damn hot in this ep. And Armin Shimerman is a genius.
I had thought that maybe Band Candy ranked so high because I have a soft spot for Jane Espenson, but when I checked to see who wrote the others in my top 5 (and I kind of cheat because I lump The Wish and Doppelgangland together), this is the only one she wrote. (For the record, Joss wrote three, Marti wrote one, and Doug Petrie wrote one.)
I have lots of brainstorming still to do, but this is going to be a productive week for me. Alex has the next two weeks off for spring break, which means I have zero school/booster commitments for the next seven day. The following week will be all about tech/dress/performances for the festival, so I better take advantage of the time I have until then.