Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Honest Query

Suddenly I can’t breathe. My lungs are closing up and I have a thick, gooey, sludge of panic blanketing the top half of my stomach. I am taking quick, alarming breaths while the muck pushes on the bottom of my lungs and blocks my ability to inhale enough air to fill them to capacity.

I know it is real now.

This is the final draft.

People outside my network of trust will read, judge and then print this manuscript.

I have never been so sure of anything yet so fucking scared in my entire life.

By this afternoon I’ll be so ready to take on the challenge of final preparations on this baby. My baby. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a baby. Interesting. Maybe that’s where the problem lies.

It is always the most difficult to let go of the first born, to watch them grow into a beautiful and mature being then set them free into the world. I’m like a nervous, overprotective mother sending my daughter off to the mall for the first time by herself; having to trust in the fact that I did the best I could for her in teaching her the ways of the world so she will come back, generally unscathed and more polished through life experience.

It isn’t like I discovered cold fusion or how to merge dust particles or something profound here. It is chick-lit. The 60,000 word story is your everyday girl tale of sex, friendship and career. The main character is the kind of Boston girl all of us know and love -- an early thirty-something, sports nut that loves her friends and hockey, wears sneakers, works from home as a writer, and drinks beer not martinis. She is just complex enough to be serious, but just light enough to be everyone’s best friend, and though girly, she can hang with the toughest of guys. Sara McCree. An Irish lass from good, if slightly neurotic, stock, and her three closest friends let you peek in on the couple months of their lives when their formerly easy-breezy days collide with the reality of life.

For all it is, I know that it is good. Like, really good. I am not one to wave my own flag most of the time, I prefer to wave other’s and I take compliments so terribly, but this time I’m giving it up for myself because I put together something that I am so proud of and believe in so much that I really want others to see it, feel it, too.

So why am I so nervous?

It’s that ever nagging thing that haunts all writers -- what if no one reads it? Or worse -- what if everyone who reads it hates it?

The fear is totally irrational, yes I know this, and as soon as it is out there with no way to turn back I will be so happy, but right now Draft 5 sits open on my desktop; I’m only five sentences in but every time I think of clicking over to work on it the lung slime rears its ugly head and reapplies the squeeze of doom.

I’m much like my character in a lot of ways -- a thirty something, writer, sports nut and beer drinker living in Boston -- but while my character plows through life with reckless abandon and is uber successful, I sit here and allow myself to feel this brief moment of insecurity.

It will pass.

And when it does I will take the pages turned teenager, that I have poured so much of myself into, and complete their crafting into the woman I know they can be.

My baby is finally graduating and it feels surreal, but I’m excited to finally set her free.

If only I could use this as my query letter. The only thing it doesn’t include is an excerpt. But it sure does show off my psychosis in glorious fashion. Any publishing house willing to work with me after reading this drivel is sure to market me to make millions.

Too bad they don’t have the e-Harmony equivalent for writers and publishing houses huh? It would certainly speed up the process not to mention reduce the bullshit Editors have to sift through in order to find that singular gem. Maybe I should work on creating that.

Or maybe I should just stop fucking around and start editing my book.

Monday, May 24, 2010

But I Got a Great Meal Out of It

Most of you know that I was a huge fan of the television show Lost. For six seasons I stuck through the weird twists and turns and I even tried to accept the (apparent) dissonance of last night’s finale, but something about it being over like that makes me more than a little sad. There will be no more answers to questions; the melody is unfinished and the lines do not rhyme. But, ah, that is classic Lost and I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now before I lose everyone with paragraphs of babbling about a series finale that many of you were not addicted to like me, I should probably explain what that show has to do with the title. Earlier this month my friend Ginger started up this new gig over at ‘Would You Like Fries With That?’ called The Dish. Each month she will post a recipe created in her very own kitchen and challenge readers to come up with their own version. So for last night’s finale that is just what I did.

Food was a huge part of the show as a whole -- how they hunted for it, picked it, where they happened to find a bunch of it, who’s food it was -- and two items in particular were frequently mentioned: boar and mango. Since they were deserted on a tropical island, it was fitting. My mom came over to watch the finale with us last night so we definitely planned to have some mango, but the boar? Well I picked up Boar...’s Head deli slices of course!

I knew I wanted to do something funky with the mango and suddenly it hit me -- The Dish! I knew that mango would be a perfect ingredient for Asian Inspired Noodles and I started pulling stuff out of the cabinet to create on the fly. When it was complete it had a Polynesian flair and I am calling it:

Sweet & Salty Fruity Noodles
1 package ramen noodles
½ a ripe mango
a good sprinkling of coconut
fresh cilantro
a sprinkling of dry basil
cubed meat (or other preference, we used pork)
water chestnuts*
bamboo shoots*
soy sauce (low sodium)
agave nectar
sesame seeds

(Sorry to say there are no measurements because I just kind of tossed it all together or in the bowl until it looked right and tasted good.)

*I forgot to get these but plan to do so next go round!

Cook ramen as directed, omit seasoning packet. Drain & run under cold water for a minute or so.
Chop, bake, dice, slice, open everything else. We kept all things in separate containers so each of us could add to our own liking.
In a shaker pour about 3 oz soy sauce, 1 oz agave then shake, shake, shake your booty until its blended well. Taste for yumminess (should be an even balance of salty/sweet).
Chill (preferably in the yard with a good book).
Mix it all together in your own bowl, pour a drizzle of sauce over and eat immediately.

Thanks for the challenge Ginger, if it wasn’t for you I never would have conceived of this yummy meal; it was a perfect compliment to our night of getting Lost one final time.

And in other news…

When my mom got here last night she came in carrying my manuscript. All of my “test subjects” have now read the book, given me their ten cents (and multiple pages of notes) on what could be further revised, edited, and what works well. Since I’m done painting for the time being, the next couple weeks are all about final edits, kick ass query letters and crossing of fingers that this baby gets picked up before I start writing the next one in November.

Wish me luck with the book and get over to The Dish for more Asian Inspired Noodle Bowls!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Astral Projectiles

Sometimes I wish there was a time machine, like in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure where George Carlin’s ghost walks up to me and says “Don’t worry about your astronomical cable and internet bill, just hop in this here phone booth and we’ll take you back to 1986 when the price of cable, as compared to your income, was actually way worse.”

Today I spent four hours and 13 minutes communicating in some way, shape or form with my local cable company, Comcast, in order to rectify three issues. Two of which, of course, involved the aforementioned exorbitant bill.

The bill is not even really that high when you consider it is for two services I utilize on a daily basis. Unfortunately the time I spent dealing with the situation is absolutely no exaggeration.

Back in March I received a paper bill from Comcast which brought up the first issue and, unbeknownst to me, became the catalyst for issues 2 & 3 today. You see I had signed up to receive only electronic bills as of last fall, you know, since I’m all tree hugger and stuff, so when the bill came in it had to be dealt with.

Funny thing was our promo rate had expired in January and the rate went to double what it had been. Matt ended up making a call when the dead tree arrived in March and there was an aura of awesomeness on the back indicating we were receiving a $32 credit for bundled service for six months! Outstanding!

Then a few days ago I got another piece of pressed wood pulp in the mail only this time there was no little happy minus sign. In fact there was a big indication that I owed money and that my bill was even higher than it had been after the promo expired.

Say what?

I tried to make sense of it all, I pulled up the bills I had paid and added it all up. I shouldn’t have owed anything and what happened to my favorite symbol; the minus sign? I got online with their chat support team at 9:09 this morning.

The first gal chatted my fingers off for roughly an hour and a half while she tried to figure out what had happened by “reviewing my bills”. Although I had made several attempts to actually tell her what had happened I can only assume she was busy testing out some kind of new hallucinogen as a monkey could have reviewed my bills faster.

In the end I was told she was the Internet chat support person and she would have to transfer me to the Cable chat support person if I had a problem with what the cable portion of my bill was alleging I owed.

Really Karen? You didn’t figure that out when I told you 57 minutes ago that I had a problem with my promo rate for the “Digital Starter” service being revoked? Well okay then I guess I’ll speak with Ann.

Ann, in online chat, looked suspiciously just like Karen. Both of their names were lit up in blue as if they were right there next to each other. Hey, I saw My Best Friend’s Girl, I’m quite sure they probably were.

Regardless, Ann was very helpful and over the next 45 minutes I think she did her laundry, washed her hair and took her dog for a walk between the time she posted anything to me. Most of which was to say “Sorry for the wait.” Though she never really said just what I was waiting for.

In the end Ann assured me that there was nothing she could do about getting my promo rate back for the Cable, nor could she remove the overage on my account and if I wanted to sign up for e-bill I should get online. But she sure could give me a discounted rate on my Internet service and would happily give a $20 credit for my inconvenience.

Really? Was Ann just Karen in disguise or was she truly authorized to talk about both sides of the business? Scandal!

She promptly gave me the local service center number to discuss the credit and I connected first with Richard, who took my number (so he could finish his Sega game no doubt) so he could call me back once he’d researched the issue. Then I got Lou who immediately talked over me without letting me complete a thought. When I’d had enough of his snippy attitude I made the magic request.

“Yeah I need your manager.”

Julie, a sort of good listener who’s propensity to utter m’kay at the end of every sentence reminded me of Mr. Mackey on South Park, took over the call after just five minutes on hold. I was impressed at Lou’s ability to transfer the call in such record time. He even came back on the line to tell me it would just be a minute.

I had furiously scribbled a million notes from my various conversations and even saved the chat transcript because, well frankly, I’m no dummy when it comes to this kind of stuff. I’d come that far, no way I was backing down until all was said and done.

In very patient terms Julie explained how the “new people” weren’t used to the system yet (read: they will be reamed out later for telling the client the wrong thing so the client almost gets to save an extra $34 a month) and that she was truly sorry for the mix up but that I really did owe the previous balance and what my new bill would be once the Internet credit was applied.

In the end Julie’s numbers did add up to the correct figures, even if the situation didn’t, but rather than continue to argue, fight it, or whine about it, I figured it was far better to pick my battles, let this one go and know that the $42.96 they shouldn’t be, but are, getting out of me for the next 4 months will somehow come back to me three fold.

I’ve already got the cheap ass television and remote, wonder if I can pick up a phone booth for $515.52? Maybe I can get a bundled service for cable and internet in there. Excellent.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It’s not You, it’s Me. Wait, never mind, yes it is You

“I’ve got eight things in the air and the phone’s ringing off the hook…”
Crack the Mirror ~ Melissa Ferrick

So we went off and traveled the country, saw family and friends, went to sporting events and all that other happy crap I told everyone we were planning to do a fracking month ago when I last updated my blog (!!!!!!) which got me thinking… Clearly at least one of those eight things has got to go.

I began evaluating all the stuff I do, or want to do and realized that up until a year or so ago I was getting along just fine without two daily interferences -- paying my bills and Facebook.

Although they have come to make a home in a corner of my living room, unfortunately a person is only allowed to file bankruptcy once in a six year period so the bills are here to stay. It isn’t an ideal situation but I’ll just toss a shoji screen up in that corner to hide their piles of laundry or something and go on with my day as if they don’t live here. We can co-exist just fine as long as we only have to see each other once a month.

Facebook on the other hand…

That evil bastard not only moved into the house, he took over three quarters of the bed, my sofa, ate all the food in the refrigerator and left his dirty laundry in the middle of the floor. I’ve known for a long time that our relationship is slightly dysfunctional but I thought I had enough effort to give for the both of us.

I was wrong.

The time that Facebook sucks out of my life is time I can never get back again and really I could find such better use of that time. For example, I could visit my old friend Random Lunacy who I have seriously neglected over the past few months in order to spend time with the new boyfriend. I’m so very sorry RL, why I ever gave up on you I have no idea, I guess I felt as if there might be something better out on the horizon but it turns out I was wrong. I hope you can find it in your virtual heart to forgive me.

It also wouldn’t hurt to spread a little joy to a few of my other lovers, like my drum kit (yes a real live one finally purchased), treadmill, or sewing machine. Heck even my paint brushes are feeling slightly left out in the cold and they’ve seen the light of day in the past couple weeks.

What I’m really trying to say, Facebook, is that I have no problem having lunch occasionally, or maybe a morning cup of coffee, but I just can’t hang around and play Scrabble with you at all hours of the night anymore and share links with you for stories that you never even read. I’m taking a break from you and focusing on the things that matter again. I’ll miss you a little bit I’m sure but we’ll find a way to make it work.