Thursday, July 31, 2008

I am freeeeeee!

Finally! I actually know now what it means to bleed all over the page, and I've done it, and I had one last read-through and only wanted to fix minor typos or repeated words. And when I sealed the envelope after addressing it, all that obsession with this essay just disappeared.

It is SUCH a good feeling.

Even though I can tell my brain is already whirring away on solutions for revising the first chapter of the novel. Again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Revisions Continue...

oh MAN. The more time I spent on this essay I'm writing, the less it looks like something anybody else would get something out of reading.

Also working on it is really taking it out of me.

And yet I can't let it go. I'm beginning to think there's something very wrong with me. Or maybe it's just a serious ice cream deficiency?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Footstool Syndrome

I think I mentioned here a while back about my dad wanting to play guitar and getting sidetracked by the need for a footstool to hold his knee at the right height.

Well, it really must run in the family because the piece I've been working on, which is keeping me from many urgent household matters, has led me to two pieces of music my brother used to play on his guitar. To check the titles of these tunes I went to YouTube, only to find that other people just butcher them. So now I want to hear his versions again, just to prove to myself how talented he was, and that means digging out the tape I have of him playing them. Which means remembering where I put it, or hunting through the house. And then I'll have to find a tape player, which probably means a trip to the gym because I have one in my locker there. And if I go to the gym, I should probably get on the elliptical trainer...

And so on, and so on, and so on...

Monday, July 28, 2008

I work best under pressure

Okay, I've been on vacation which means tons of prep ahead of time and tons of cleanup after and tons to do while on it, but I can't seem to stop working on a measly 5 pages I want to submit to a creative nonfiction competition at the end of the week.

I do mean that - the postmark on the envelope has to be this Friday. I've probably spent more time per page on this thing than on most short stories I've written, and it's still not there, and I've never had so many distractions as I do right now which makes it hard to keep going. But I'm driven. I'm thinking about my piece all the time and stealing back to the file whenever I get three minutes.

I'm hoping all this energy for something so impractical means it's worth something, and not that I'm learning the art of backwards procrastination.

Though I suppose that would mean, at least, more fodder for this diary...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Paying the Piper

Well, I survived months of armchair marathons while I took the first writing course, and I lost weight while I did Book Camp, but man. One week of vacation and I'm a wreck.

So, off I go to the gym right now, and this time it's not procrastination! But don't worry, I'll be doing that again soon now that I've realized I can download podcasts to listen to on the elliptical trainer. So many choices, and many of them from back issues of The New Yorker still sitting unread on my counter. Mmmm, New Yorker.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

what can YOU do in just three days?

You can tour a city or learn to cook or unwind at a spa or host a convention or canoe into the wilderness or get married and celebrate or get wasted, the latter of which is a popular choice on long weekends in summer.

Any of these things would be more sensible than trying to write a novel in three days, but there's a contest to do just that, and I'm tempted. I mean, people have been doing it for thirty years now, so it can't be that bad. Hard, yes, but that's not the same thing. And in three days you can't procrastinate. It would be like stretching myself to the limits of physical possibility... though training for an Ironman is probably a more productive way to do that.

Check it out at and tell me I'm crazy to take a second look. I dare ya. Bet you're tempted too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

TripAdvisor is my Friend

I love TripAdvisor. If it weren't for that site and the fine people who post there, I would have booked a room this summer in a hotel with a bedbug outbreak. And I might have forgotten what a fine hotel the Minto Suites is (think about it, if you're going to Canada's capital any time soon. And why wouldn't you be?)

I mean, right now I'm sitting at a dining room table in a one-bedroom condo in the business core that's costing me $10 less than I spent two days ago on a bland Hilton hotel in a much less interesting city. Room service last night was super and breakfast is on its way. If I ever actually bothered to post on TripAdvisor myself, I'd be queued up with all the other people who rave about the place. But doing that would mean, you know, taking time away from other important things.

H'mm. Maybe I should set up a TripAdvisor account...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monkey Wrench

Lions, cheetahs, baby giraffes, rhinos, and what do people on a safari tour bus go berserk for? Monkeys. They steal the show, along with weather stripping and the plastic covers off the lights of any vehicle that takes their fancy.

Depressing as it is to think that wanton destruction is such an entertainment for my fellow humans, the experience was gold for my research into sock monkey cuteness. Sock monkeys have all the cute, without any of the scary.

And speaking of unexpectedly scary-cute things, may I say the words Butterfly Conservatory? Go figure--butterflies in volume are different from the two or three that might flutter past in a walk through the meadow. And you have to pay attention where you're putting your feet, too. Stepping on an ant is one thing, but you sure don't want to step on one honking huge butterfly as it mates with another.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sun Patch

HA. 40-60% probability of precipitation my hat.

I'm sorry I didn't post yesterday while moving between Normal and Vacation, a less instant transition than usual. Today I am going on a sort of safari, assuming the lions and tigers and... rhinos? have enough umbrellas between them to hang out in plain view of the tour bus.

If that sunny patch in the clouds can find its way to follow me and the lions for the rest of the day, I'll be all set, and if not, I'm going to be hunting SERiously for vanilla fudge.

Monday, July 21, 2008

So this is what it looks like over here

Usually I am overwhelmed with guilt because I have been given a block of time in which to write and spend it reading tabloid gossip because I don't know what to put on the blank page. Not today. Today I have just a short time in which to take care of a huge number of chores that cannot be put off, and keep sneaking off to write because the words are flowing so fast.

It can't last. I mean, it really can't, unless I hire a cleaning lady. But I doubt I will need to do that. Either the words will dry up or they won't, and if they don't, I won't even notice the army of dust bunnies.

Not that this helps me today. So off I go and wish me luck!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Rain Rain Go Away


Yay, it's raining and it's going to rain all day!! I don't need to water the plants!

I could have used some of this rain while I was at book camp and couldn't nurture the garden through the hot dry days we had. On the other hand, I would have been sitting through lectures in wet shoes. And now the plants are happy, so it's all good. But it does make me kick myself for still being so immature, wanting a nice garden to look at but not look after. The ol' cake-and-eat-it switcheroo.

And even more than that, I'm kicking myself for still not having a pair of summer shoes to get wet in comfortably. And yet not kicking myself... mmmmm, shopping.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

This is Mary on Fish

I'm quite pleased with myself for liking sardines, after everything I've been reading lately about eating foods at the bottom of the fish food chain.

But I'm even more pleased with everything I've learned at Book Camp. I didn't just get fish (the delicious teriyaki top-of-food-chain salmon notwithstanding)--I learned to fish. I got so many fabulous writing tools in just a few days, I shouldn't have any reason to procrastinate for months!

I'll still do it. I mean, this is me we're talking about. I bet I have a lot more fun when I'm actually writing though.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Today's The (last) Day!

I will never, ever understand weight loss. All that sitting, all those cookies and cakes and brownies and squares, and I lose two pounds???

I know I'm learning a ton but how many calories can a brain burn?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Things to Know about Peer Pressure

Yesterday, almost first thing, the friend who 'encouraged' me to read in public read to me what she was going to read in public. It started off very nicely--a compact little story, well written--and then somebody had a moment and I thought, oh, what a nice, moving piece. And then she kept going. And the nice piece became something outlandish and hilarious.

And as I was laughing I thought, wait a minute.

I signed up right after her? I have to follow this?

As it turned out, I was the second person to follow that and I had to feel for the first one as well as myself. And I learned a good thing about 50+ people reading for less than 3 minutes each: once the next speaker has uttered three words, everybody's forgotten the reading that came before.

At least until later. I'm still laughing about Grampie's nose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Camp Day What?

Okay, I'm still reeling from the exact amounts of butter and sugar in my cousin's amaaaazing chocolate brownies (I ate how many of those things??) but also from the prospect of

The Reading.

Which is tonight, but I've practised, and even with lots of pauses I can do it in 2 minutes 45 seconds. Factor in nerves and I'll be done in maybe 1 minute 20 seconds, and then I can relax.

The recipe for the brownies is directly below. I recommend making them only for a crowd of people with lots of elbows. You don't want to eat that much butter on your own in one sitting and they are waaay worse than chips for trying to stop at one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bombshell Brownies

Man, I'm not kidding about the Bombshell part - no wonder these are the most amazing brownies on the planet!
Compliments of my cousin Susan, and her daughter Michelle

1 cup butter, melted
3 cups white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat overn to 350 F. lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish
  2. Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Remove and cool pan on wire rack before cutting.
makes 24 brownies.

Book Camp, Day Three

I laughed, I cried, I ate cookies.

I also succumbed to peer pressure, which usually leads me to buy shoes, but this time was so powerful I actually signed up, along with many, many other people braver than I, to read from my writing for three minutes to maybe seventy people. In a word, ACK.

Expect a sharp increase in cookie consumption on the day I have to do it, is all I can say.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Going into Day Three

The girl with the Bazura Bag got it on the street in NYC! Does that make me hip?

Also: yes, thought about socks for much of yesterday. And mittens and hats. I am soooo not used to air conditioning.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Writing Camp, Day Two

Day One was really good and so enthralling that I must say, HA Kathi and Karen, do your worst: I didn't think of socks for one moment (even when I got really cold and started kicking myself for not bringing a sweater.)

You know the drill at these things, I'm sure - fun people, great speakers, pleasant surroundings, a couple of deeply embarrassing foot-in-mouth moments, a pretty darned yummy sandwich at lunch. And as a bonus, a Eureka! moment when one panelist shared something from her experience that put a great big light bulb over a scene near the end of the book that will make it a ton better.

PLUS: I saw a girl carrying a Bazura bag. More on this breaking news as I get it.

p.s. I wonder how badly I'd screw up socks, and whether any patterns allow you to use regular needles?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sock it to me

I am a recovering knitter (yeah, knitting and soap operas, I know.) I loved knitting--the original productive procrastination technique--but I just had too many failed projects in a row, and then I got carpal tunnel, and I really need to save my wrists for typing.

I have friends who knit and talk about it--they're in my blog list below Delay Tactics. Kathi is so far out of my league I can just enjoy her entries about spinning... but Karen. That bad Karen has been writing most alluringly about socks. And if there's one thing I've been dreaming about since I caved and bought myself a pair of Blundstone boots when my own boots gave out last winter with 4 more weeks of cold and snow to go, it's unlimited pairs of wool socks. Wool socks in Blundstone boots are about as bliss as you can get.

So as I pack up my bag to start my writing camp today, I am wishing I had a sock project to bring along with me. And when I say wishing, I mean I will be lined up at some wool store about 10 seconds after I put this draft of the book to bed.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Writing Camp

H'mmm, that title sounds more interesting when you think of camp as a style, rather than as a place, which was what I had in mind when I signed up for a summer course that begins tomorrow.

Yes, tomorrow. After a week of really working hard and barely procrastinating at all and finally getting into the flow with the current draft of my current project, I'm taking off to Not Write in the big leagues, with other people who write and won't be writing for a week either! in theory at least.

My goal is to come home next week feeling relaxed, positive, and hopeful. There is a good chance, however, that I will come home stressed and in despair and absolutely sure that I will never again write anything worth publishing. Such is the nature of writing, which makes choosing to pursue it sound crazy, doesn't it? Until I listen to people comparing the terror factor of various roller coasters while drool trickles out of their mouths. Then I feel downright sensible.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

RIP Rhododendrons...

First the fish, now the rhododendrons. I have to start paying closer attention to the non-human living things in my midst.

The problem seems to be spider mites, and apparently I could plant onions, garlic, cloves, or chives to act as natural bodyguards. I can also spray with some sort of soap-based insecticide. Or I could peruse the plant tonic recipes of Jerry Baker, America's Master Gardener! (aka Master of Alliteration! and Exclamation!) I'm thinking that for once, speed is King, so I'm going for door #2.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Target Range

I'm kind of in shock to find that you can buy Fit to Die (which contains, among other fine things, my first published crime story) at It came out in 2001.

Should I be shocked by this? or just have another fudgsicle?

Oh, right, I already ate them all. Shocked it is.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Too Much of a Muchness?

Or not? I can't decide.

On the one hand, I never bring out more than two or possibly three of these Bazura bags at once... but on the othger hand, I did just buy myself three more. Aw, c'mon! two of them are rice bags, and the third is woven from strips of juice boxes, so they are a little different. It's not as though they aren't super cute and highly functional.

Mistakes Have Been Made

In today's class, we'll be learning about dry ingredients and the importance of keeping them separate from non-dry ingredients until the moment of near-baking-readiness.

Take a look at this quinoa, class. Technically it is a dry ingredient; you buy it that way in the store. However, when converted into a rinsed and boiled fluffy cooked grain, it is transformed into a dry-looking thing that has a lake's worth of water lurking inside it. As you will discover if you add it to the dry ingredients when preparing a muffin mixture the night before you desire fresh-baked muffins.

See the difference? Here is the way the quinoa should look when added to the dry ingredients: a bumpy white sandlike substance. Here is the way quinoa looks when you leave it in the flour overnight: a giant, golden brown lump. Start again, class; start again.

Quinoa muffins are an acquired taste but not in the terrifying SPIT IT OUT!!! way associated with blue cheese, and they're also full of protein, so I posted the link in Delay Tactics. Don't miss the next class, when we learn to make quinoa muffin slices by mixing the quinoa into the dry ingredients and leaving it overnight.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Things to Ponder when Painting

Why does cedar oil repel mosquitoes when cedar trees attract them?
Procrastinator says: apparently the oil (at least, for Alaska Yellow Cedar) has a compound in it called nootkatol that's a repellant. Mosquitoes like leafy places to hang out in the middle of the day, which is clever because people are also attracted to leafy shady places in the middle of the day. So not only do the bugs get to relax, they get lunch delivered. They're not exposed to the oil that would repel them unless the branches break, and that would take an awful lot of overfed mosquitoes.

How do you get paint off flagstone?
Procrastinator says: grind it off or buy yourself a present from

How long can a certain chocoholic go without another of her cousin's amaaaaazing chocolate brownies? Procrastinator says: an embarrassingly short time. And Procrastinator will also share the recipe when she gets it.

Topcoat #1

Before I head out into Day Two of painting bliss, I'd like to say two things:
Eureka, I found solutions for a couple of huge problems in the plot of the current book and
Mosquitoes love biting unsuspecting people with paintbrushes in their hands.

but Ha! I had the foresight to purchase (if not to apply in advance) bug repellent from my local health food store and darned if the stuff didn't work! and no DEET in it or anything.

MQ7 Mosquito Repellent Lotion, if you're interested.

Which leads me to note a terrific place for productive procrastination: the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, linked in Delay Tactics. Not only can you check to see how likely it is for your shampoo or skin cream to give you cancer, you can find safer (and in my experience, way cheaper) alternatives, and then spend even more time sourcing them. It's win-win.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Prime Time

It may not be the 4th of July (have a good one, Stateside friends!) in my heart, but this is still a day highly anticipated every year in this house. Preparations are made, schedules cleared. There's even some cleaning. Sadly there is a near-total lack of food, friends, or fun.

Yep, it's time again to paint the porch. I love the porch, but at this time of the year - and when the first chips begin to flake off the steps in the fall - I so wish I had never thought of it. Or that I had thought of it little sooner in year so the building permit came in before September, and the first paint before October, which is not a smart time to paint unless you want to go on painting every year. Or maybe that I had waited a year, because opaque stain came out six months later, and stain seems so much easier.

The grossest part is the prep, and the prep is done, so that's something. And something else is: I'm at an impasse with the book, and painting often gets more ideas percolating. And with this metal jabby thing on the inside of my tooth, it's not like I'd be eating.

Have a more-fun day than this, everybody! a more-fun weekend, too.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Orthodontic Diet, Phase Three

I got braces a couple of years ago and my orthodontist told me not to be surprised if I lost weight because it would be such a hassle to eat. Ha.

When I was done with them, he sent me off to have my teeth whitened which meant wearing trays for 3 or more hours a day at the time when fudgsicles are at their most beguiling. Again, ha.

But yesterday while eating a carrot (no, really!) part of my permanent retainer came loose and now there's a sharp metal prong sticking into my tongue every time I talk, which is pretty much always. owEEEE. And my orthodontist can't see me till Wednesday. The short term fix: shoving a glob of wax over the metal. It works beautifully until I eat something. Then it falls off. I don't think even chocolate is fabulous enough to justify going through that.

Someday somebody's going to figure out how to market the metal prong idea and make a fortune. It can't be worse than the lemon juice diet, can it?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reading vs. Writing

It's such a beautiful summer day I can't help remembering being 10 or so and enrolling in a summer reading program at the Grimsby Public Library. The arrangement was that you read a book, then told a librarian about it, and she (it was always a she) gave you a bookmark. I think the library was hoping kids would read five or ten books over the summer and become good library customers.

Well, like many other nerds in the making, I made the library the cornerstone of my daily routine. I'd have breakfast and walk to the library, tell the librarian all about--and I mean, ALL about--the book I'd read the day before, get my bookmark, and head off to the stacks for that day's reading material. Then the next day I'd start all over.

It can't have been much more than a week before the librarians would see me coming, thrust a bookmark at me, and send me on my way. Anything to avoid having a breathless kid retelling a story in minute detail.

Now if only I'd used that summer to write as well as read, I could be outside right now, cutting up branches. Ooh la la!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So many books, so little time

That's the slogan on my favourite pair of mugs, which are decorated with uncharacteristically cheery Edward Gorey art.

Today the problem is not so much too many books - or even too many magazines - but too many interesting or productive or at least sensible things to do and only one Canada Day in which to do them.

I have decided to write this morning... and then this afternoon I might reset a brick flowerbed edge, and lay out the rest of the mulch, and cut up the pruning pile for compost, and clear out the really lumpy closet (no, wait, there's no way I'm doing that. That closet is evil), and go through more stacks of paper for keep and toss festings.

Boy, I really know how to have a good time! But it's only for another four weeks. By August if I'm not done a really good solid draft of this novel, I will turn into a pumpkin. And pumpkins do know how to light it up.