Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Blue Screen of Death

The Blue Screen of Death. See it over there? That's what happened Wednesday afternoon.

Believe me, this is not what you want to see when you're struggling to finish a book that doesn't want to be finished. I'd had a funny feeling for a few days that I was heading toward trouble: the laptop was making garbage truck noises, hanging up for no reason, generally laughing at me behind my back. Thank God I paid attention and kept the book in progress backed up or I would be writing this to you from a rubber room somewhere and I've been told it's not easy to type when you're in restraints.
Anyway, I lost lots of addresses, some files I loved, lots of time and the money it'll cost to buy a new laptop but all in all I guess I escaped without major damage.
Still, I have to ask why on earth do I seem to kill a laptop every single spring? It's starting to freak me out. Is this some odd neo-pagan ritual, sacrificing a major piece of computer electronics to BIOS, queen of the ethernet? It certainly hasn't saved me from subsequent computer disasters. They happen as regularly as clockwork. Our guest room looks like the Electronic Boneyard. Clearly our house is the place where laptops go to die.
Anyway, this is coming to you from Roy's laptop and yes, he's holding his breath until I hand it back to him all safe and sound. Can't say I blame him. When it comes to laptops, I'm Freddy Krueger's older sister . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Natural Look?

I really wish I hadn't seen Kirk Douglas on Regis & Kelly this morning.

The man is a wonderful actor. He was an extraordinary-looking man in his prime and well into old age. He would probably still be an extraordinary-looking man at 90 (his current age) if he hadn't gone the Bride of Wildenstein route and mugged a plastic surgeon.

Why? Why? Why? Oh, I know all about the fear of aging, the fear of being pushed out of the arena because you have a few extra rings around your trunk, but what in the name of all that's holy is wrong with going out with the face you came in with? I'm as vain as the next person but I can't imagine letting someone with a scalpel carve up my 56 year old face and turn it into a 56 year old face that's trying to look 45.

Is there anyone else out there who intends to keep their old face until the bitter end or am I the only one? I try to imagine what it must feel like to look into the mirror and not recognize the woman staring back at you but I come up short every time. For me, that's too scary a concept to linger on.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Wherein I Start Stalking Alpaca

(also posted at Romancing The Yarn)

A few years ago I started playing around with a book idea. (Someone Like You which came out in 2005)) I knew it would be about two sisters (I love to write about sisters and big families; probably because I am an only child and my family could fit on a postage stamp!) and that one of the sisters would be a knitwear designer up in Maine who raised sheep and alpaca and had a community of like-minded knitters working with her. It wouldn't be a major plot point (meaning the book wasn't about knitting in any way) but the love of knitting would filter through the plot and help define who Catherine was.

Now I've told you before that I'm an all-or-nothing kind of woman. When I throw myself into a project, I throw myself head first and I don't come up for air until I start seeing that white light beckoning me home. Now how could I write about a woman who raised sheep and alpaca if I didn't learn something about the raising of sheep and alpaca? I remembered seeing signs locally for alpaca farms. I Googled. I discovered I lived practically within walking distance (assuming I was the athletic, energetic type and not the lazy sedentary book-readin' knittin' sloth I am) of a few alpaca farms. (I've already told you that when we first moved to this town it was Sheep Central.) Anyway (how many times can I say anyway??) one thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a 4" binder filled with information on alpaca breeding, feeding, shearing, spinning, dyeing, knitting, wearing. I learned a wonderful new word -- cria -- and fell totally in love with alpaca.

I read story after story of middle-aged couples who threw aside their normal suburban lives to become alpaca farmers (ranchers?) with nothing more than a dream and some acreage. I started leaving pin-up photos of alpaca all around the house. On the bathroom mirror. On the fridge. On Goldisox's pillow. "We could do this," I told him. "We could sell everything, buy a rundown farmhouse with land, use our 401Ks to buy a pair (or two) of breeding alpaca) and live on the land." (Oh, shades of 1970!) I could see it now: I'd quit getting my hair straightened and colored and became serious and earnest and personally organic. I would grow my own vegetables (assuming I stopped shrieking every time I saw one of those hideous tomato-eating horned monsters that lurked in my veggie garden), pump water from a well while Goldisox chopped our own firewood (my next blog -- no joke, unfotunately) and walked around humming This Land Is Your Land.

No more worrying about deadlines. No more sleepless nights praying somebody out there who isn't related to me actually buys one of my books. (I have a small family, remember? Not too many sales to be had there!) No more days spent praying that my sad and sorry brain would be able to spit out one more story.

I'd be an alpaca farmer!

It was a lovely fantasy while it lasted. I gathered all of my info. We dreamed the dream for a month or two. And then I typed the magic words The End. (Not really. I've never actually typed The End but I've told you that before, haven't I?) No more writing about Catherine the knitwear designer and her merry band.

You see, I'm fickle. Most writers are. We're faithless scoundrels who will abandon our first love the second our new love comes along. I waved a fond farewell to alpaca and started stalking Episcopalians for my next book. (Just Like Heaven which is out now.) I briefly considered converting last year during the writing process but, fortunately for Episcopalians and Anglicans everywhere, I finished the book before I could take the leap.

Right now I'm deep in deadline demetia. I am so close to the end of the book I can taste it but I'm. Not. There. Yet. At this moment I am alternately an aging Rod Stewart-esque rocker, a fancy cake baker, a blue-collar attorney, and an oceanographer. I have a stack of books next to me on how to turn a slab of baked goods into a work of art and have become quite proficient in forcing a blob of fondant into a seamless sheet of sugary goodness.

There are days when I really do love my job.

But every time I see one of those adorable alpaca faces I can't help wondering what it would be like to start all over again doing something completely unexpected before it really is The End.

Once upon a time I wanted to sing backup for Gladys Knight and The Pips. I still do but there are no more Pips and Gladys doesn't really need me. Talk about a dream job.

What's your dream job? Logic and reason be damned! What would you like to be when you grow up?

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