Archives for March 2009

100 Things – 65-70

65. Spiderman is my favorite superhero. I loved the Spiderman shorts on The Electric Company as a kid (and yes, that’s Morgan Freeman as the vampire). Something about his silence is appealing and comforting.

66. I don’t like chunky peanut butter. J does. I vaguely remember losing a tooth while eating chunky PB as a kid, and I always associate the chunks with teeth. For awhile, I compromised by buying chunky ever other time. Finally, I realized that life is too short to suffer through the chunky stuff, so I buy us separate jars.

67. I hated the ending of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. I think it should have ended about 25 minutes sooner. Sometimes less is more.

68. In my first apartment, the landlord shut off the gas line to do some maintenance and forgot to tell me or relight the pilot when he turned it back on. I grew up with an electric stove and didn’t recognize the smell as gas. Thankfully, when I got a headache, I started craving fresh air, so I went outside. The landlord’s wife saw me sitting on the step and all of a sudden it dawned on her that they didn’t relight the pilot on my stove. I think she looked worse than I felt. The color just drained from her face when she saw me. That was almost 12 years ago, but I still can’t go to bed or leave the house without checking the stove.

69. I always double knot my shoelaces.

70. In second grade, I thought it would be cool to memorize the poem Jabberwocky (you can see why I was never one of the cool kids) by Lewis Carroll. I can still recite the whole thing.

An Interview with Fiona Robyn

I love author blogs. It’s so interesting to read about what other writers go through in their process. It’s also a great way to find new books to read. If I hadn’t stumbled across Fiona Robyn’s blog, I might have missed out on reading The Letters and missed the chance to connect with a fellow writer. That would have been a shame.

As part of her blog tour, Fiona stopped by to answer some questions.

1. I love your main character in The Letters. She’s really not a people person, but she’s a very likable character. How did she come to you? In writing the book, did she evolve much from your initial ideas of her?

I’m glad you thought so, Allie – not everyone has liked Violet, and I can understand that! My characters seem to appear in a vague, shadowy way – I think Violet first appeared as a lean, brusque woman in leggings and a long flapping cardigan. I do get to know them gradually – both before I start writing, by wondering what kind of music they might like or how they lost their virginity, and then during the writing process by watching what happens to them and how they respond. It’s as if she already exists somewhere, fully formed, and it’s my job to uncover her character piece by piece.

2. How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first poem at the age of twenty, and started writing novels about five years ago. I’ve been a professional reader for many more years!

3. What is your writing space like?

I have a very tiny office attached to the bedroom – I can touch both walls if I stretch out my arms. I’m a minimalist and I try to keep it as empty as possible – empty rooms help me to keep my head clear. I have a snowglobe with a cat inside, a candle holder, pens and paper, and not much else.

4. Do you have any rituals associated with writing time?

I light my tea-light when I start, and blow it out when I’m finished and I’m allowed to check my email!

5. Where were you when you found out your first book had sold?

I was in bed with my lap-top – terrible habit! I couldn’t quite believe it and had to read Anna’s email about thirty times. I had known about Snowbooks for some time – I’d been attracted to their site and their philosophy – so I was over the moon.

6. Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting out?
Get plenty of support (from groups, colleagues, books etc.) – writing can be lonely and disheartening if you go it alone. See publication as a long term goal, and keep writing. Enjoy it if you can!

7. You have a new book coming out. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

The Blue Handbag is about Leonard, a 62 year old gardener who makes some odd discoveries about his wife after her death. Accompanied by Lily, his wife’s old school friend, he becomes a reluctant detective and tries to get to the bottom of her secrets. There are a lot of plants, a bit of Johnny Cash, and a smidgeon of Leonard’s dodgy sense of humour.

Thanks, Fiona!

It’s so darn hard.

I went to the library to work today. I needed to get out of the house so very badly. The dogs were driving me nuts and the walls were closing in on me, and the cat was puking in the hallway, and I just had to go. So I packed up and left. I found a yellow vinyl armchair that looked like a prop from That 70’s Show at the end of an aisle of books and sat with my headphones on, listening to my Stay playlist and editing. It was sheer bliss.

Until school let out and the library flooded with kids. I started off thinking, ‘good for their parents taking them to the library after school,’ but switched over to ‘get me the hell out of here’ shortly after, when a little girl in the aisle lost interest in looking for books on pets and started farting and trying to blame it on her sister.

When I got home, our next door neighbor was out (not Mrs. Gnome, the neighbor on the other side). We chatted for awhile. She told me that little Mr. “Hi Argo’s Mom!” came home from school and said he was writing a book for every kid in his class. He came over to chime in that it was 17 books he was making out of paper and drawing the same pictures in every one. She told him that I was writing a book. He said, “Like me!” He looked up at me and said, gravely, “It’s so darn hard.”

It was almost as good as the time last summer when he saw a pile of Argo poop in our back yard and yelled out, “Who pooped in your yard?” It took everything I had not to tell him J did it.

Good Fences . . .

Well, we got three quotes on a fence, the highest being twice the lowest. We had the same thing happen when we needed a new roof. This is why at least three quotes are a necessity when it comes to hiring someone to do home repairs. I am shocked that the cost can vary so much, especially in this case, when we are talking about the exact same type of fencing.

Fortunately, the lowest price was from the person I like the best. He didn’t try to talk me into fudging our property lines to put the fence on the drainage easement that’s on one side of our property like the other two did.

Several of you mentioned putting up your own fencing. I admire you. I am sure it would save us a good chunk of change . . . on fencing. But, I have learned that most DIY projects around this house usually result in increased medical costs. Most significantly, the bathtub caulking/plumbing incident that resulted in a herniated disc and a lost year of my life. I am in far better shape now than I was then, (and don’t spend my days teetering around on high heels and sitting in a crappy office chair anymore), but with all the work I have ahead of me, I’m not taking any chances right now. I’m accident prone, and Jeremy has been working so much that he just doesn’t have the time right now, so we’re going to leave it to people who know what they are doing and have the proper tools.

Last Thursday, I went down to the town hall to get a permit. Hopefully, that will come through this week, then I’ll send in my deposit. Weather permitting, we could have a fence up in the next three weeks. Oh, that would be lovely.

Stella has been doing okay with going out leash-free to do her business (as long as Argo is with her) but she won’t go if Mr. or Mrs. Gnome are outside. If she sees either of them, she just stands there barking, with the grey patch of fur on her back puffed up at attention. So, in order to get her to pee outside instead of inside, I have to keep an eye out and take her when Mrs. Gnome goes in her house. As the weather gets warmer, the window of pee time will just get smaller and smaller, because Mrs. Gnome spends all summer rearranging The Crap Garden and raking leaves out of the woods. Hopefully, the fence will keep Stella from noticing her presence. Hopefully, Stella won’t just turn around and develop a fear of the fence. Since I’ve observed Stella’s sudden fearfulness of a random spot on the kitchen floor, or a cardboard box, or a gust of wind, I know fence-fear is well within the realm of possibility.

Stella is such a colossal pain in the ass sometimes, but my love and devotion for that little dog is limitless. I don’t know if I see myself in her – the weird fears, the insecurities, the optimism she seems to employ when starting each day – or if I just have a need to root for the underdog (pardon the pun). Either way, I’m really glad she found us and vice versa. Now, I need to figure out how to get her to stop trying to eat the coffee table.

Great Gaiam Giveaway Over at Allie’s Answers

Gaiam is giving one lucky Allie’s Answers reader a rug made from recycled soda bottles and valued at $84 dollars. Chances to enter here and here.

Here, there, and everywhere

– I’ve been busy editing my book as per my amazing editor’s suggestions. This doesn’t just mean I’m putting commas in the right place. I’m taking my book apart and putting it back together again to make a better book. I really enjoy editing (because I am strange), but it requires me to keep an entire set of “rules” for this story in my head. Move a scene, and you have to remember to adjust the impact it will have throughout the book. For example, you can’t have a character drive away in their car if they didn’t drive to that destination in the first place. I’m finding that I’m very happy dealing with all things book related right now, but super distracted when I try to deal with anything else. This too shall pass, and it’s not like it matters if my socks don’t match each other, right? Thankfully, J is just fine eating soup, salads, and sandwiches for dinner for the next few weeks, because I’d most likely burn the house down if I tried to cook anything right now.

– We’re considering putting up a fence in the backyard. I’d rather move, but that’s not going to happen instantly, and in my current state of work, the last thing I need is to start a project of that magnitude. I can, however, manage to interview a few contractors and see a fence is an affordable option. I hope it is, because I am totally dreaming of a summer of sitting on the patio and writing while the dogs play, without the neighbor kid yelling, “Hi Argo’s mom! Hi Argo’s mom!” over and over and over again before he rides his scooter through my strawberry patch. If we get a fence, I want one of the stockade fences with no gaps between the boards so the neighbor kid can’t even see me when I’m outside. And I think it might be easier to sell our house eventually if the backyard doesn’t have a view of The Crap Garden.

– It’s so windy today that our garbage can blew from the side of our house to halfway down our driveway. When I first moved up here, I was amused by the “high wind warning” signs in the groceries stories, reminding people to corral their shopping carts. But I can assure you, high winds are no laughing matter. If I never post again, it’s because our house blew away with me in it.

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