Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just a Sample...

An excerpt from the novel in progress (not the beginning, not the end, just some random portion in the middle to tease and annoy you and make you want to read more...):


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Jenna made sandwiches for the beach. It began well, better than she’d expected considering the last thing she wanted to do on October 27th was go to the beach, but the weather was surprisingly warm, and Jack was downright jovial instead of exhibiting his traditional perverse behavior. Although she was used to working around his idiosyncrasies, it annoyed her that she had to make the sandwiches his way. White bread only, no condiments, crusts cut off, American cheese and honey ham, sliced diagonally in quarters, in zip bags as opposed to the less-expensive fold-over plastic bags. He wouldn’t even watch if she were eating hers cut the “wrong” way, so she just made her sandwiches exactly the same as his, but added catsup. That was a crap shoot. Sometimes her affinity for catsup disgusted him, and sometimes he didn’t even mention it. But she had to have something to make the sandwich go down easier, and the only other alternative in her little apartment fridge was a jar of mayonnaise that her friend Casey had left there a month ago, and mayonnaise disgusted Jenna more than catsup disgusted Jack, so that was out of the question. Even through her sandwich annoyance, Jenna was in an upbeat mood. Whatever Jack had planned for the beach today would be an adventure, since he rarely wanted to leave his house or her apartment when they were together.

He pulled up precisely at 9:45, precisely when he said he would be there. Punctuality was very important to Jack. Though he’d never been diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, he most certainly embodied all of the symptoms. Thinking of him that way helped Jenna to work around all of his idiosyncrasies because if she didn’t think of him as OCD, she’d simply think of him as an ass.

Sometimes she did that anyhow.

Jack honked, growing impatient. Jenna knew that was because she was walking out the door at 9:48 instead of standing in front of the apartment at 9:45. She also knew that there was no way he would refrain from commenting on it, and no way that she’d refrain from acting like it was no big deal when she opened the door of his little blue ’91 Corolla.

“You’re late,” Jack stated.

“Yeah, because we’re on an exact schedule for this mission.” She rolled her eyes, tossed the bag of sandwiches in the backseat, and lowered herself into the car. “Thanks for getting the door,” Jenna barked sarcastically.

“Your sense of independence would’ve been bruised had I gotten out to do so.” Jack backed out of the parking space and slowly pulled forward. “Do you have your keys?”

“Of course I have my keys. Why would you even ask that?”

“Because last time we left your apartment in my car instead of yours, you forgot your keys and it was a major pain. I’m just covering all our bases. Are you certain you have your keys?”

“I have my keys,” she assured him through gritted teeth.

“Where?”

“In my purse,” Jenna seethed.

“Where?”

“IN THE BACK WITH THE SANDW…” she began. Jack stopped the car, reversed, backed into the parking space, and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel while Jenna got out. After a few minutes, she returned, cheeks flushed, purse and keys in hand.

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I <3 Writing. That is all.

SJS

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Journey Continues...


It started off as "A Year of Reinvention". It became "A Journey of Reinvention". The problem is, there hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of reinvention. I throw around noble ideas sporadically and then don't really do much to gussy up my life. It's not like I'm walking around beating up nuns or anything, but there's a lot I could suck up and change if I would just... suck it up and change.

You'll have to pardon me, bleach fumes are messing with my head. After getting back from Vegas, I did a good sit-down-and-write-stuff list (because it makes me feel good to sit down and write stuff), and one of the things on the list was the remove the stanky mildew from the bathroom. We have no fan in there (which we should with a small bathroom and five people living here), so the humidity plus the extra hotness from the water, etc. really does a number on the bathroom walls and ceiling. I used Tilex with bleach, which wasn't that bad (it didn't do a perfect job, but pretty good)... the problem was, I got distracted by the non-whiteness of the bathtub and walls while I was doing the rest of the bathroom, so I moseyed into the utility room to get the bleach. I straight-up bleached the walls in the shower, the tub, and apparently the cilia inside of my nose. And maybe part of my brain, I'm not sure. If I ever have to have some sort of neurosurgery done, be sure and have the doctor check to see if at least one hemisphere of my brain is particularly crisp and gleaming.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Fixing myself. I spend a great deal of time thinking about fixing myself, talking about it, writing about it, praying about it, and most of the time not actually doing it. I have lofty ideas of how to fix myself (and how to fix most other people, too, if you ask me). But I keep forgetting the cardinal rule of self-improvement: I can't do it by myself. All the list-making, exercise, meditation, or working in the world will not improve me. Only God can improve me, and only if I want to be improved. Sounds like a cliche. (How many counselors does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really WANT to change...) (That reminds me, I have to buy a new light bulb for my night light. Yes, I have a night light. No, I'm not scared of the dark anymore. I like to read when I try to fall asleep. [Okay, sometimes I'm scared of the dark, but only when the dogs are looking up and in the corner like they see something there that I don't.])

I'm pretty sure I might be one of the most envious people on the face of the planet. And frankly, I'm sick of it. I don't really want to be anyone else. No matter how easy they might have it on the surface, everyone has their own problems. If I had millions of dollars, I'd probably screw up my taxes when I did them anyhow, and then get thrown in jail, and the IRS would take all my money. Yes, I would do my own taxes if I were a millionaire. Because I like doing them.

Today was the first day back at work. I kept as positive as possible, which, in the course of the day, certainly was more than before I went on vacation. The irritating people were seemingly less irritating, which was nice. I realize that's just a matter of perspective, and I need to have the right one more often. A positive perspective.

Some things that I really want to do:

Finish this novel (140 pages thus far) and publish it
Learn American Sign Language
Have a bonfire and roast hot dogs and make S'mores
Get a newer vehicle (or at least fix the evil wheel bearing in mine)
Re-do the basement (paint, carpet, ceiling tiles, another wall)
See Fright Night on Friday (the remake!)
Teach Steve's dog to sleep at the foot of the bed instead of with his butt against my face
Get my MFA in Creative Writing and teach at the college level
Have a baby (I'm pretty sure that goes without saying these days, but in case you haven't read anything I've written on here in the last ... three years...)

There's a nice bunch of random thoughts for you. Pieces of the puzzle called 'Stephanie'. I'm going to go take a hot bath and read. Maybe the bleach has cleared out by now...

Stephanie Jean


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas


It has been a wonderful week, it has. Why is that, you ask? Because I was in Las Vegas, Nevada, which I lovingly refer to in my head as "home". The weather: 96-105 degrees with 3% humidity each day until today, when it rained (a rare occasion on our trips out here). The week begins with such promise, and ends with that uncomfortable tugging on my heartstrings. I know it won't be long until we're able to move here if, in fact, this is where we're meant to be, but I can't help but be slightly depressed whenever we fly back.

We flew out of O'Hare in Chicago last Friday evening and arrived around midnight Vegas time, got our rental car and drove to Fitzgerald's hotel and casino downtown. Being frequent travelers to Vegas, we feel more like locals, so we bypassed the entire strip by taking I-15 North which is parallel, and we didn't have to fight the traffic or stop at any lights on the way. It's not that we don't love the lights and sounds and crazy nightlife of the city, it's just that when we've spent that long traveling, the only thing we want to do is crash in our hotel bed and sleep, and sleep, and sleep until we wake up on our own to the sunlight peeking in beneath the blinds. We were on the fourth floor which is enough for a pretty view of the city but not so high in the tower that it takes forever in the elevator.

There's always a routine that we establish when we get to wherever we're staying. This time, our stay entitled us to two free breakfasts each day (and they served breakfast all day, which was lovely). We got two eggs, potatoes, toast, and choice of meat, so the first thing we did was walk across Fremont street to get out Dunkin' Donuts coffee, then we brought it to the hotel so we could have it with our free breakfast. Vegas does not frown on your bringing whatever drinks you like into whichever hotel, casino, or restaurant you're at. They're just happy to take whatever money they can get from you. That's the beauty of the city. Well, that and the shininess, and the desert, and the mountains, and the weather.

This time we took a trek to Red Rock Canyon where there is a 13-mile scenic drive, and it was beautiful. Every thirty seconds, the view changed. There were some places where you could drive off and hike if you wanted, but we weren't equipped for that and it was pretty hot even after 5:30pm. We got a few pictures, though, and it was quite a nice little trip.

Also this week, we saw a few shows. "Nunsense", which I was looking forward to, was absolutely terrible. It was at the Hilton in the Shimmer Cabaret room (which, for those of you who don't know, is cool because my alter ego for years in college and after in online RPGs, etc, was Shimmer). The acting was terrible, the timing was no good, the choreography would have been lovely had any/all of the actresses been aware of what it was at the same time. It was definitely not worth half of what we paid to see it. However, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the Community Theatre performance of "Little Shop of Horrors" at the Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center was fantastic! We also saw a season preview of the Las Vegas Little Theatre season in which they had a few actors doing staged readings of scenes of all of their upcoming shows, and that was a lot of fun also. And it was free. I'm big on Free Stuff To Do In Las Vegas.

Also free was the three and a half hour time share presentation for Planet Hollywood Westgate Towers which was only supposed to last one and a half hours. We were also supposed to receive $100 free slot play each, a two-night stay in any of their resorts in the next 18 months, and free tickets to see the Beatle's LOVE Cirque du Soleil show. We paid a $15 each fee for taxes on the tickets, etc. When we checked out, we didn't receive any of those things, and were told that the Beatles show was sold out until Saturday night, so which other show would we like to see. We were livid. So livid, in fact, that I'm going to write a SWL (Strongly Worded Letter) to the company. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal had we not specifically said we would NOT do this unless we got those particular tickets, and they were supposedly booked three days in advance... but the worst part was, they were NOT sold out. We went right down to the ticket place the next day and bought tickets for Friday, so we saw the show. I'll be including a copy of our credit card receipt in the SWL so they can reimburse us. Jerkfaces. DO NOT BUY A TIME SHARE WITH ANY WESTGATE PROPERTY AND PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS! (I would make that a gigantic, annoying font, but I'm pretty sure the all-caps makes the point I wanted just fine.)

I also got to spend time with my oldest friend, the best friend I've had since 2nd grade, Christy! She and I still have such a great time together all these years later, and I appreciate her so much. We hung out a few times where she bartends, the Motor City Cafe, and we also went to dinner once at our hotel, hung out for awhile on Fremont Street, had Yama Sushi (all you can eat) with her and her husband, Kei (although I did not in any way, shape, or form consume sushi, I just had a nice water), and we saw a couple of bands for free at a local arts place (Artifice) and the Double Down Saloon. Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

If that's not enough, even the airport is lovely. Slot machines abound, and there is free wi-fi, not the kind that you have to pay for by the day, or have a membership to at the airports, or whatever. The bummer is that our plane is going to be leaving an hour later than scheduled, so we have to sit here for three hours instead of two. Meh. At least it's more time in Las Vegas!

The worst part about leaving is that 'real life' starts up once again. Work on Monday, kids start school this week, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, waking up at stupid hours with the dogs because they randomly decide they have to pee for no good reason, or they have to rendezvous with a rabbit under the deck. That sort of thing.

I have gotten a good deal of writing done on the novel this week, though. I'm on page 139 (still working on 400, for good measure...) My idea is branching out a bit, and something happened in the story I wasn't quite prepared for. But something super-cool also happened this week: I saw one of my characters in real life. I'm not joking. This guy at our hotel was working a booth next to the restaurant where we've been having breakfast, and he looked precisely like the description of one of the main characters in my book. So much so that I really wanted to get my picture taken with him, or ask him if he was, by chance, into acting because if it's ever a movie, I wanted to cast him in the role! It was very cool. I felt for a moment like I was in the movie "Stranger than Fiction"! (If you haven't seen it, see it. NOW.)

Well, that's about all I have for now. Things that will be good at home: seeing the kids, the family, the dogs. Sleeping in my own bed with my own pillows and blankets. Making money instead of spending it. That's about it. I'm already planning next year's vacation in the back of my head.

Hope everyone else had a nice week. I know we did!

Stephanie Jean