Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*







Happy Wednesday! I managed to get here a little earlier this week. 

What I'm Reading 

Still reading Zadie Smith's NW. There hasn't been a lot of reading time this week. 

What I'm Writing 

Finished the latest revision of my MG manuscript! Huzzah! This was a reconstruction round. There will be a lot of cleaning and polishing to do on the next round, but for a few days, at least, I am letting that one simmer. Which means I spent yesterday outlining a new project, of course. It's actually a manuscript I started last year, that is still a collection of ideas and a few rough chapters. Now that it's all sorted out, it's time to jump in and turn it into something. 

What Inspires Me Right Now 

Open windows! We have pretty extreme seasons here, normally. Shockingly cold winters, brutally hot and sticky summers. But this year has been cool and breezy. Lots of sunny days with all the windows in the house open, enjoying the scents of the flowers under the living room windows, the sounds of birds and kids and puppy dogs in the neighborhood. Usually we have to wait until fall to get perfect weather like this. 


What Else I'm Up To

Making sea slugs to send to France! Never thought I'd get to use all those words together in a sentence! 
One of my favorite things to make for my little Etsy shop are nudibranches, or sea slugs, though they're not entirely slugs. They live everywhere, they are shockingly colorful, and they are surprisingly fun to make into plushies.  And the people who are in the market for sea slug plush are a very fun bunch to know. Divers, sailors, museum curators, little kids with big vocabularies, and my most plentiful customer - boyfriends of marine biologists. Happy to help, guys ;) 
This is a real animal, Felimare californiensis. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*







Happy Wednesday! Let's jump right in, shall we? 


What I'm Reading 

NW by Zadie Smith. I read On Beauty last year, and loved it. Just started NW, but so far, it's the same kind of wonderful. There is a lot of experimental formatting in this one, but Smith is the kind of writer who crafts sentences, and makes you want to note the construction, so she gets a pass. Otherwise, that kind of thing can get a book permanently stuck at the bottom of my TBR pile.  

What I'm Writing 

Last 10k of my MG revisions. I've been attempting to set deadlines on finishing this, but I finally realized that self constructed deadlines don't work for me. I don't need motivation to sit down and write. I love writing. And this revision has been pretty intensive. It's not just clean up or line edits. There has been a fair bit of rewriting, and brand new chapters. So far out of the original 60k, I've cut at least 5500 words, and added back 7500. There is no need to rush, and I'm liking the result, so while I'd like to have it "done by x date", if it doesn't happen, there's no need to panic.  

What Inspires Me Right Now 

Livin' the dream. No, things aren't perfect.  But when it comes to the average day in the life, I really couldn't have it any better. Cute house, adorable son, gorgeous and talented husband, sunshine, flowers outside my window, books to read, books to write. Cat on my lap while I work on my manuscript. Playing video games with the kid in the morning, doing some gardening with him in the afternoon. Glass of wine and a movie with the husband at night. I am completely spoiled. 

What Else I'm Up To


Being the hipsters that we are, we made homemade marshmallows. Chocolate, mint and lemon flavors. I am the queen of screwing up recipes, but these basically me-proof. Turned out great. You do need a candy thermometer, and it does make a hell of a sticky mess, but it all cleans with warm water. And if you are a peeps fan like myself, and miss the peppermint stars that are only out for Christmas, then homemade minty marshmallows are for you.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*







Happy Wednesday! Already! Again!
See, this is how I end up missing a week or so. It's summer, and days of the week are fairly meaningless around here, and I just sat down for some legit writing time when the computer clock happened to note that it was, in fact, Wednesday again. Thank you, computer clock. 

What I'm Reading 

Did some beta reading for a critique buddy, on a very early draft of a very fun story. 

What I'm Writing 

The MG revision is humming along. Really, really happy with it so far, even the middle chapter that had me running in circles for two straight days. It's much better now.

What Inspires Me Right Now 

Polar Vortex Summer. Seriously. It's been cool and rainy here, where summer is normally a scorching wasteland. So kid is happy inside reading books with me, and I don't feel tremendous mom guilt that I'm not making every summer day some kind of pinterest wonderland for my precious angel. (Which you shouldn't feel guilty about ever anyway, but I know moms, and any time you think you *should* be spending time with your kid - even if the kid doesn't even want to - feels like some kind of motherly betrayal. We should all work on that.)


What Else I'm Up To

I moved into my "new" office, which is the spare bedroom in our house, and is now my writing room and etsy store headquarters. I even have my own bathroom, which I have to share with the cats, but hey, most offices have co-workers after all. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Night with the Cool Kids

That's right. You know who you are, staying up late to read blogs. You like to live dangerously, just like me.
For instance, I was just sitting down with a fresh cup of home brewed hazelnut coffee. That's right. Coffee at nearly 10:30 pm Central Time. I made that coffee in a purple Soviet era economy class coffee maker, that was probably marketed for girls' dorm rooms, based on the aforementioned color and that it was a billion percent off at the Gordman's.

 We have well water here, of a tart and hearty stock that seems to take special pride in annihilating coffee makers, toilet tanks, and any light colored clothing that dares breach its foul depths. We blow through four or five coffee makers a year. So I buy the cheap ones, and when they burn out, I shed not a tear. I simply put another notch in the Well Water vs Coffee Maker tally column, say the traditional rites over the garbage can, and consign the poor sacrificial device to ye old local landfill. (only the non recyclable parts, of course)

Our previous machine, Mr. Coffee - he preferred to be addressed by is professional name - got an extra two months of life with the cunning use of pouring near-boiling water over the grounds manually. But alas, eventually that too ended, when the glass cracked, and the carafe began hemorrhaging all over the counters and down the side of the cabinet.

It was only after assassinating twenty or thirty odd mechanical coffee makers (30 Odd Mechanical Coffee Makers - the original name of Russell Crowe's band?) that it occurred to me that perhaps my hipster brother was on to something, and there was more purpose to the old fashioned french press style coffee maker than simply looking very pretentious while using it.So I set out to find one. Though many were available online, for a house that drinks two pots of coffee a day minimum, the waiting time, even with overnight shipping, simply would not do. The french presses I found in store were lovely, and either the size of a thimble, or three times the price of the lowly purple machine on infinite clearance in the back of the third store in which I attempted to procure my new machine. So Violet Beauregard (stage name) came home with us. Which is fitting, as we have a purple kitchen.

So, where am I going with this? Well, I just now sat down with my laptop, my mug of coffee (with a big L for My Mug, Not Yours stamped in the very earthenware of the vessel) prepared to spend a few hours of my quiet evening revising my current manuscript, and feeling quite content indeed, when the thunderstorm began. Driving, pounding rain, with a customary howling wind and rumbling thunder, which was all fine until I remembered The Umbrella.

We have the cutest patio umbrella. It's rainbow. It's got a little scalloped edge. And it loves to escape and roam the neighborhood. Especially in wind storms.
Mr. is not home. He's still on his way back from Chicago, where he was shooting a spot for Pop Tarts or something, and I am alone, listening to soothing summer rain and realizing that I will have to go out in it to close the damn umbrella before it launches itself to freedom and does some legitimate damage to the house. Or someone else's house.

But all is well. The umbrella is safely closed and secured. I just spent five minutes wrestling with a metal pole in the middle of my yard in a lightning storm, but, like one glorious Gloria Gaynor, I have survived. As I said at the beginning, I like to live dangerously. Happy Saturday Night, you wild and crazy kids.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - Welcome Back

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*







Happy Wednesday! 
I've missed a few, and there's a lot of catching up to do! 

What I'm Reading 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Love the pace. It does have one element that always throws me, and it's the Immortal Figure that Looks Like a Teenager But is Really Much Older But Falls in Love with a Human Teenager Anyway. I enjoy a good paranormal romance, but as a person in my mid thirties, who remembers very well being a teenager,  I cannot imagine dating someone who's 16 or 17 at my age, let alone when I'm 50, or 150, or 500, even if I still looked 17 on the outside. No thank you. (although my dear husband has plenty of friends who won't date anyone less than 10 years younger than them, so I don't think it works both ways) I also don't recall thinking of way older guys in a romantic manner at that age. That always kind of lingers in the back of my head when I'm reading these kinds of romances. Falling in love with a vampire, swamp beast or ghost seems more plausible than a 100 year old soul having a romantic connection to a 16 year old soul, and making that work at all. Still a very fun book. 


What I'm Writing 

My MG adventure story is almost, ALMOST complete. Yesterday I had a blissful 8 hours of writing time. With a few more days like this, I should be able to complete this pass by the end of the week. YAY! And then it can go back to Fabulous Agent. 

What Inspires Me Right Now 

Momentum. I made some really solid progress on the WIP this week, and with a few days of writing time still reserved ahead of me, I'm ready to keep right on rolling and see this to the end. It's the middle of a long jog, and I've got the heart rate up, and the pace is comfortable and even, and it's now one smooth flat grade to the finish line. 


What Else I'm Up To

Oh boy. Well, it's not entirely what I've been up to, but more what's been going on around me since the start of summer.  
- my brother co-wrote on a song that is featured in the new Transformers movie.
- my cousin was selected by the 49ers in the third round of the NFL draft, and he is likely to be a starter next year. (Still hoping he ends up in Green Bay someday!)
- my husband's short film screens this weekend in Chicago. Yay! One of his feature length films is in consideration to be an art installation at a major museum. Fingers crossed.  And another film he edited is about to make its film festival debut. 
- my etsy shop had its best non-holiday month ever in June, and July is looking to be even better. Which is fantastic and nerve wracking, because last year August-March were BUSY and if it's even more this year, I might have a hard time keeping up. But I welcome the challenge!   
- my son made it out of third grade, and this summer he's started going running with me. We're scouting for a fun 5k to do as a family in the fall. Right now he's on a road trip with his brave grandpa and cousin. Just Papa and the boys :) 
And there were other less fun happenings as well, but why drag those out, right? This is about inspiration, motivation and fun. So, what fun things has summer brought your way so far? 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

"What's Up Wednesday" is run by Jamie Morrow and Erin Funk, and is an awesome weekly bloghop that gives readers and writers a great venue to keep in touch through the magical world of blogs. Come hop with us!*







Happy Wednesday Hoppers! 
I have been participating in this blog hop for a few months now, and I notice I always seem to be the last or near the last one to get my post posted. How the heck is everyone else so on the ball every week?? We're writers, people. How do you all keep so organized??   

What I'm Reading 

I'm going to modify this one for this week. Instead of What I'm Reading, I'm going to let you know What I'm Watching ;) 
Jim Jarmusch has a new film out, in limited release, which finally made its way to our neighborhood. 
It's called Only Lovers Left Alive, and if you have the chance to see this in a theater, do it.  I've written way more about it in my previous post, which you are also invited to read if you want to know what the heck it's about. (hint: technically it's a vampire picture. But of course, not really) 


What I'm Writing 

I'm supposed to be finishing a revision. So of course, I wrote a short story this morning, and started notes on a brand new YA idea that sort of finally congealed for me over the weekend. I've tried YA before, with disastrous results, but this one is a bit different than my previous attempts, and I think it may have legs. But I can't do any real writing until I get the revision finished. 

What Inspires Me Right Now 

Jim Jarmusch. See below. And above. It's been a while since I've seen a movie or read a book that I truly loved as much as this one. It's one of those films that I wish I could watch again for the first time. 


What Else I'm Up To

Mr. Cate and I have started putting together actual material for our podcast project. Last night we recorded a test toast that was super fun and completely unusable, as first drafts often are. 
The tentative title for this one is I Can't Believe You Made Me Watch That, which I realize is way too clunky, but it describes the concept perfectly. 
We've seen a lot of movies. A LOT of movies. It's the thing that got us started on the path to being an Us in the first place - late nights watching movies, and then going out for coffee and pie and talking about those movies until dawn, when it was time to go start watching movies again. 
I love reading movie reviews. (actually, I love reading good movie reviews. See: most of the discussions over at the A.V. Club.) I really love reviews with give and take, point/counterpoint banter. But I've never seen one with a couple before, and this project gives Mr. Cate and I the perfect opportunity to A. Make each other watch movies we would never usually agree to watch. and B. have it out with the other one when we pick something truly awful, and have to own up to it. 

What's going on out there in the rest of the Wednesday World?? 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Yes. This. Exactly This.

Jim Jarmusch made a vampire picture. And it's kind of perfect.
Set predominately in Detroit, partially in Tangier, and entirely at night, Only Lovers Left Alive stars Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as an immortal couple navigating through the centuries in the most impossibly cool manner - as the most perfect couple ever to walk the earth. Of course, lots of vampires are cool. Or they've seemed that way, before we encountered Swinton and Hiddleston's Eve and Adam, who have been around for an undisclosed amount of time, perhaps centuries, maybe more. One of the few things we know about their lives is that they've spent them together, in spirit if not always in the same physical space.

 The film opens on Adam and Eve apart, each living secluded but seemingly content, on opposite sides of the world. He resides in a crumbling mansion set in the deteriorating landscape of Detroit, where he writes music, collects musical instruments and technological gadgets, and from them builds a world strictly for his own entertainment, to distract him from the frustrating world outside, and the impossible humans that unfortunately run it. She enjoys her solitude in a flat hidden away in the rambling corridors of the old world, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, where she luxuriates among her vast collection of literature and spends occasional evenings in the company of poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt, who, it seems, not only was the true author of Shakespeare's entire body of work, but also did not expire from a knife wound to the head during a bar fight, as history has led us to believe. He has instead spent the past 450 years in quiet seclusion among the artistic elite of the literary world. After an undetermined amount of time apart, Eve reaches out to Adam, perhaps sensing his isolation and need for reconnection, as indeed when she calls, it is at exactly the right moment. He does need her to come to him, and she does so without the slightest aggravation or hesitation. There's no explanation for their separation, and none needed. In a life that reaches into eternity, a few years apart probably equate to a weekend away from home. Adam and Eve live their lives at a casual pace, as if they have all the time in the world, because of course, they do. There's absolutely no rush to be anywhere, except in each others arms.

The true tone of the film is revealed in the early scene in which Adam and Eve reconnect. Adam spends nearly all of his time secluded on the upper floors of his dilapidated house, going to the window only when summoned by the doorbell, and only answering it for his form of personal assistant and sole connection to the outside world, a musician named Ian, played by Anton Yelchin. Adam not only rarely leaves the house, he rarely leaves the second floor. But when Eve arrives, tired from her overnight transatlantic flight, Adam leaves at once to greet her. Their reunion is both familiar and comfortable, yet new and exhilarating, the way love can hardly ever be after so much time together. And yet, after hundreds of years, this is how Adam and Eve spend their time, curled up together on Adam's sprawling antique bed, or upon an ancient sofa, surrounded by the towering clutter of the life Adam has tried to construct for himself on his own. Everything there is his and for his own amusement, and yet Eve fits right in, as if every part of her life connects effortlessly with some aspect of his. He invites her into his intensely private existence, and she obliges in a respectful and completely comfortable manner.

Conflict arrives, but only externally, in the form of Eve's sister Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska, who turns up not unexpected but definitely unwanted, and disrupts the lovers lives in a way that is both slight and yet has repercussions that will affect the momentum of their entire future.

In both settings, Detroit and Tangier, Jarmusch depicts the world much different and much more realistically than traditional vampire films, dropping the artifice of covens and the hedonistic night life of the human world as backdrops. Nothing external is needed to amplify the coolness of his ultimate vampire lovers. Instead Jarmusch illustrates the ideal world for a pair of introverts as pathologically introspective as Adam and his Eve. The streets of their towns are deserted, quiet, and barren, both in the former heartland of the US, where Adam takes his fair lady on a driving tour of the desiccated urban landscape, and the balmy Mediterranean where Eve brings Adam in an attempt to ease him out of his intense solitude and back into the tiny corners of the world where he is comfortable, as long as she is there with him. In one of my favorite scenes of the film, Eve leaves Adam alone on the streets of Tangier, only for a moment, where he finally finds something external that arouses the slightest bit of hope and interest in him, as he observes a singer perform in a Tangierian version of an after hours club. He watches transfixed and completely absorbed until Eve returns, resting her chin lightly on his shoulder, and he turns at once, excited to see her again, and share this experience with her.

The film includes a rapturous soundtrack provided partly by Jarmusch and his musical partner Jozef Van Wissem, and obligatory nods to the rich and delightfully nebulous source material of vampire lore. There is plenty of blood drinking, and revelations about the dangers for vampires in the modern age, and the logistical problems of living in such a condition without foreseeable end.

Of course, this isn't a story about vampires. This story is about something far more mythical and unattainable than immortality. This is a portrayal of possibly the most perfect long term relationship ever described in literature.This is the story about a couple that has come to love everything about each other, so much so that they find all the rest of the world more alluring just because they enjoy each other's company. In the end, the real ecstasy of living forever is not in the triumph of cheating death, or of the gift of eternal youth, but in the security of a true partner during the journey. And cool sunglasses.

I do have a single caveat, and it involves the Marlowe subplot. Clever as it may be, I just don't dig the modern fashion for ascribing Shakespeare's work to some contemporary of his or another. Sorry Jim. Loved your movie, but I have to back up my man William on this one.