Monthly Archives: May 2009

Fess Up Friday (the so glad to be done edition)

Let it be known that around 7:35 p.m. today, I finished my book and my first act upon said completion was to launch myself across Cheers, throw myself into Jamey’s arms and sob for about three minutes. And then she took me to Juan’s for some melted cheese and margaritas where I occasionally sighed with relief and randomly grinned and was generally goofy.

Just prior to this launching and sobbing and celebrating, B. came by and knocked on the window and made silly faces at me, to which I very meanly held up a finger and mouthed “ONE PAGE” and then made a rude gesture for him to leave me alone. But he’s forgiven me, so that’s okay. This is what happens when one finishes one’s masterpiece at a public venue.

At this point, my computer has threatened to die several times, my hands and wrists hate me and I am incredibly sleep deprived, but I never once had to consume an energy drink and I’ve slept at least four or six hours each night. I think we can surmise that my coffee habit is so much more pervasive and deeply rooted than the last time I pushed to finish a book (ha, also this one, but in a different version) that I had no need for energy drinks (Rockstar didn’t come through anyway).

But let’s rewind to where I left off with the last FUF. N. came into town and we assembled a motley crew for a bit of drinking and dinner at the local and the next morning, we recuperated with some yummy at Slim’s. Then, we hit Magazine and the Quarter for some fun shopping and indulged in the best candy in the city. And then, like a good girl, I stayed in to write while N. went out. Though, we did hit the local after that, so it’s a toss up how good I actually was. And then we recuperated again the next day with Slice and some Borders browsing before she went home. I spent the rest of Sunday doing some last minute hurricane research, which was pretty traumatic, but helpful. I watched a short movie (41 minutes) about the affects of storms on Louisiana’s coastal wetlands called Hurricane on the Bayou that’s pretty remarkable and I highly recommend it. It features some awesome local musicians and there’s a pretty amazing story behind it, but that’s for another time.

I finished a wonderful book called Cures for Heartbreak by a writer I adore, Margo Rabb. I managed to keep my (few) appointments and I did watch SYTYCD both Wednesday and Thursday, though I almost forgot about Wednesday and missed the very beginning. But largely, people knew to ignore me and I felt qualified to ignore them.

And so, some final word counts for you:
5/23: 68
5/24: 1,074
5/25: 4,118 (yeah, I know)
5/26: no new words, but lots of editing
5/27: 2,205
5/28: 1,688
5/29: 4,619 (whew)

The days got kinda strange there. For several days in a row, I was up till 3 and then 4 and then 5 a.m. I’d get a few hours’ sleep, address bills and emails (the least amount I could get away with), talk to Jamey and drink coffee, putter around a bit, then go home and eat. Around 7 or 8 p.m., I’d begin writing again. This morning, I was up till 7 a.m. and almost finished the book. I had ONE chapter left and had to stop because I was exhausted and had an appointment in the afternoon. Even after I forced myself to shut down the computer and go to bed, I was jotting down notes in a frenzy. So after the appointment and puttering around, I got back to work about 5 p.m. and by 7:35, I’d finished. Which brings us back to the beginning of this post.

Thank you to everyone for your support.

In parting, some links to things I’ve found interesting this week:

This person gives me hope for the youth of America (and also makes me sad about that status of education in America).

This is mostly a test to see if W. reads my blog. 🙂 Horror novels on toilet paper. What next?

Men love Twilight, too.

Yay for Louiethis is fun.

To bed, go I. My blog is a year old, my book is finished and I get to see my Papa Bear tomorrow. Life is good.

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Nine Lives

It’s research:

“Stop thinking of New Orleans as the worst-organized city in the United States, they often say. Start thinking of it as the best-organized city in the Caribbean.”

-Dan Baum, Nine Lives, Death and Life in New Orleans

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Fess Up Friday (Just Tell the Story edition)

I’ve been writing throughout the week and socializing like a fiend on the weekend. Big sigh. But how do you say no to drinking at new bars with visiting friends, 12-hour adventures with D. (a seasonal treat) that involve the recording studio, Elizabeth’s, Apple Barrel and the casino and then matching R. and B. drink for drink at the local after said 12-hour adventure (never, never, NEVER again)? Why are y’all colluding to make me have fun? Stop the conspiracy! 🙂 I need better willpower.

I wish I could say it’ll be better this weekend. But with N. in town and J.‘s birthday…that might not be likely. At least there will be less drinking…right?

And of course, with the t.v. I watched AI, yes, I did, and saw Kris win (very glad because though I love me some Glambert, I think Kris needed the positive reinforcement and we all know Adam needs nobody’s approval to be hisself). It was a great finale, with a lot of fun performances. Could’ve done with less Gokey and more Alexis and Megan, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Allison singing with Cyndi Lauper – AWESOME! And loved Megan and Michael with Steve Martin on “Pretty Flowers.” I agree that “No Boundaries” is The Worst Song Ever, but Kris did an admirable second go of it (I prefer his to Adam’s, and with a singer like Adam, that’s probably no accident) and it was really good to see him embrace his wife right as the show signed off.

But probably the worst news for my book – So You Think You Can Dance started again Thursday. I love that show. Like seriously love it. Cat Deely is The Best Host Ever – case in point, she went to congratulate a contestant and being profusely sweaty after his audition, he was wary of messing up her couture jacket. She grabbed him in a hug, crowing, “Dry cleaning!” Hysterical.

Finished The Song Is You and while the plot got a little weird for me, the writing was always incredible and, most impressive of all, Arthur Phillips managed to consistently convey those indescribable things that music makes you feel. Utterly personal things and yet somehow universal at the same time. I’m reading some new books now (I can never read just one), so look to your right for that.

I took a quiz on Facebook called “Are You a True Bengali?” The questions were in Bengali (I assume, I don’t know Bengali) and I used deductive reasoning and picked whichever answers sounded the best when I tried to read them out loud. Turns out I’m 100% Bengali. I thought perhaps the quiz was rigged, but one of my non-Bengali friends (lol) took the quiz and her result was of the “why, dude, why – why did you even bother to take this quiz?” variety. I feel like I have achieved something here.

Enough with that, my deadline is ticking ever closer, so the fun may have to be quarantined. Hands off Sunday! I have nine days left and I’m going to crush this sucker – just watch.

New words –
5.15: 183
5.17: 601
5.18: 1,714
5.19: 526
5.20: 637
5.21: 248
5.22: 710 (so far today, one monstrously difficult scene).

In a weird sort of reverse logic, it’s a good thing to see fewer words because that means I have less new writing to do (don’t worry, there’ll be some whopping numbers coming up next week). I’m making some real strides in understanding a few things that eluded me previously. But I made the mistake of going to read the rules for a contest I want to enter soon and that stymied me for about a day and a half. Bad idea – I need every day and a half I can get. And I have a few of these hard scenes coming up, so I’ve been floundering a little bit.

But, as the card I wrote and put on my desk says: JUST TELL THE STORY!

It’s a bit early, but on the 26th, I will have been writing this blog for a year. You won’t hear from me again till the 29th with the last Fess Up Friday this month, so I thought I’d say something now.

In parting, some links:

D. worked on one of these top Sundance films.

Longest running fictional character.

Green Day takes on Wal-Mart. Finally.

JUST TELL THE STORY, EMILIE.

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Guest blog

My friend Nick is so low-tech, but really funny and brilliant, so I kinda forgive him for it. He sends out an email newsletter to his friends and family all about his travels and adventures, which I’ve quoted from before. Well, it’s really hard to show how funny his newsletters are just quoting a little passage, so I asked Nick if I could just post the entirety of the latest one and call it a guest blog. That way, you get to know him a bit better and he has an excuse to read my blog. Ha! I’ll include one of the pics he sent, as well. My Fess Up Friday post will go up later.

If you’re in New Orleans, check out Nick’s poetry slam this Sunday at 8 p.m., at Dragon’s Den. It’s the Dead Poets Slam this week, so everybody should bring the work of their favorite dead poet, instead of their own. Show up at 7:30 to sign up if you want to read.

Here is the newsletter, with no further ado:

Hello everyone.

I’m playing hooky today. Was going to work a double shift with the mules, but decided to skip the first part of the double and write to all y’all instead. This was the best plan I could think of.

Well here we are at the end of the high tourist season in New Orleans. Jazz Fest wrapped last week, and the tourists who came down for the two-week shindig have gone their way back to their homes. In the next couple weeks, many others will follow them out. Everyone from wealthy snowbirds on their way back to New York and Chicago, to street kids who will hop the freight trains to the Pacific Northwest. Everyone is going to leave before the heat drops down on this city like a wet blanket and makes breathing feel like swimming.

I’m going to be doing some traveling myself next month (more on that in a moment), but for the most part I’ll be sticking around. Growing up in Florida, the thing I loved about the summer was that everybody left and we had the place to ourselves. I like that feeling. I’m looking forward to a summer in my new home, enjoying the peace and tranquility, even if I have to take three cold showers a day to keep my blood from boiling.

SATAN: The heat is conducive to a greater amount of sin.

Satan, do you actually need heat to generate sin in this town?

SATAN: …I see your point.

DICK CHENEY: The amount of sin in this city creates a haven that makes America less safe. I suggest—

Dammit, Dick Cheney! What the hell are you doing here?

SATAN: He’s my nephew.

Oh…

That explains…so much.

It’s a beautiful time in New Orleans right now. The light is soft in the evenings, the days aren’t too terribly hot yet, and everyone is in a kind of slow coma following Jazz Fest. Bartenders and musicians and everyone else who hasn’t stopped working for the last few weeks get a chance to breathe now. The city feels like it’s catching its wind. Even the River looks like it’s on its back as it continues downstream.

But I think I’m seeing a lot more beauty these days, and that has a lot to do with where I am right now internally. I finally started writing again. I wrote about five poems last month (first drafts, anyway), and am moving forward, very slowly, with the novel.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: I wrote five books last month.

I also started working out, which is also helping me find my center.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: I shot and field dressed a Cape Buffalo.

Ernie, this is not a competition.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: I’ll wrestle you.

Wrestle Dick Cheney.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: Done.

DICK CHENEY: Ow! OW! Get your terrorist beard off of me!

I’ve been having a really good run of late. The writing is coming along and the work is still highly enjoyable. I’ve been playing the guitar for almost a year now and am having fun with it, and twice a month I run a poetry slam here. This Sunday will be Dead Poetry Night.

JERRY GARCIA: Groovy!

By which I mean, you can only read the work of dead poets.

JERRY GARCIA: Oh. I was thinking of something else.

The last month has been a blur. I’ll try to cover everything as best I can. But I’m in a good place, and the last stretch of time has been very good to me. Here are some highlights…

MUSIC, MUSIC EVERYWHERE:

French Quarter Fest went down in mid-April and Jazz Fest took us into May. I actually prefer French Quarter Fest, because it’s in the middle of the Quarter, it’s less crowded, and it’s free. All local acts, too. There’s something to be said for being able to walk through a massive music festival on my way to work.

This town is an embarrassment of riches for a music lover. On any given night, you can hear music that sets your head on fire. I can tell you about standing on the stairs at the Saturn Bar, with Debauche ripping through a set of Russian hooligan songs (see photo), the crowd in the small room stamping their feet in time, and the guitarist being so buried in his song he doesn’t even notice he cut his finger and is spraying blood all over his guitar. At the end of the song, he tapes his finger up and keeps playing until the Zydepunks come on and launch into a punk rock version of a Mexican wedding song and the whole room bounces like it’s on springs.

And I can tell you about going out on a Friday night and seeing three bands that blow my mind, one after the other, from the Jazz Vipers on Frenchman Street to Zazou City and their gypsy jazz/tango fusion at Mimi’s, to local blues legend Little Freddie King, swinging a whole crowd of sweat soaked dancers in a funky little bar called BJ’s Lounge, five doors down from my house.

And I can tell you that there’s no way to stop any of this. The Spotted Cat, my favorite live music venue in the city, closed its doors last week. It will reopen shortly as Jimbeaux’s, though no one knows exactly what to expect. The club closed with a big second line parade to send it off; a jazz funeral for The Cat, with the Treme Brass Band leading us around Frenchman Street while the crowd sang “I’ll Fly Away” at full volume and the grand marshal waved the umbrella and Uncle Lionel pounded the bass drum and danced with a woman in a red dress at the same time, and you just knew that when the place reopened, it was going to be okay. The music was always going to have somewhere to go.

VISITORS:

There have been plenty of tourists here lately, and since I make my living on that, I’ve been more than happy with it. They come down, and maybe they don’t tip too much because the economy has them on their heels, but they do take the rides, and they do feed the mule carrots, and I get to spend my day at work outside, far from a computer screen or office lights.

I had a realization recently that all of my favorite jobs have had one thing in common: I was working outdoors. I’ll need to remember that.

I’ve had other visitors, too. People who give me an excuse to show off the city some more, and even to see things I haven’t seen since I moved here. My friends Joel and Beth came down from Chicago and treated me to a tour of the Honey Island Swamp.

There’s something about having people visit. They become these little time capsules. When I haven’t seen someone for a while, I immediately go back to where I was the last time I saw them and observe the distance between then and now. A few weeks ago, my old friend Suzy visited me from Austin. I’ve known her almost eight years. The last time I saw her was August of 2006. It’s staggering to look at what’s gone down between then and now, and yet, there we are, having dinner and still close, and it occurs to me that each friend I have is a bridge, something that holds another part of me together, that keeps me from shaking loose who I’ve been, and reminds me that, whatever I may not like about who I was at the time I met them, I was good enough to find a way to bring this person into my world.

I think these are the things that hold us all together. They do for me, anyway.

PRESS STREET:

I want to share a moment from the last month with you. Press Street is the street that separates the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods. It has railroad tracks running along it, and when a train goes by, it can make me late for work, or make me wait to go home. That’s part of the deal. But for some reason, I find Press Street impossibly beautiful. It is more beautiful than it has any right to be. Train tracks. Vacant lots. Warehouses, empty and otherwise. But I love how it’s this big empty expanse in the middle of a city, this strange little no man’s land where you can stand in the middle of nothing and talk to someone you’ve run into while the train makes you wait to go home.

Here’s the moment. I’m coming home around sunset, and I get to Press Street and the ice cream van goes by. I buy an ice cream and sit and eat it under a tree by the railroad tracks in this big empty space, with the river and the Huey Long Bridge in the distance to my right, while the soft light plays with the church ahead of me on Dauphine Street.

I have moments here, almost every day, where I’m so happy I can hardly believe it. That’s one of many.

TRAVELS:

I’ll be hitting the road for about a month starting at the end of May. I’m headed down to Florida to pick up my grandparents’ car, which I will drive up to Ohio for them, stopping to visit some friends in North Carolina, then spend a few days in Dayton. From there, it’s up to Detroit, then out to Boston, around Maine and Vermont, and over to Cape Cod for a few days of relaxing at my friend Lili’s family home on the far edge of the country. From there, drop down into New York and New Jersey to see friends and family before flying to Chicago to catch up with everyone in my old home. Finally, I’ll take a train called The City of New Orleans back to my new home.

If you are in any of these places I’m going, I’d love to see you.

For now, I’ve got a couple more weeks of working, writing, and enjoying my city. And it does feel like my city now. I recently figured out that I’ve moved somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-five times in my life, but this is the first time I’ve lived anywhere and not thought at all about where else I’d like to be. This is Home. I expect to be here for quite some time.

I think that’s a good note to close on. I’ll send all of you some dispatches from the road. Maybe traveling will light a fire under me to make these updates a little more frequent.

Until then, I hope you are all doing as well as I am, and I look forward to crossing paths soon. Thank you for being part of what holds me all together.

All the good songs,

Nick

Debauche

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Fess Up Friday (the short hair edition)

That’s right, I have chopped off my hair for Locks of Love, the official summer hair cut. When I get a pic I like, I’ll maybe switch it out so everybody can see. I’ve gotten “Amelie,” “retro,” and “babydoll” as comments, if that gives you any idea.

Wasn’t sick at all this week, but I did somehow lock myself out of my bedroom while I was in my pajamas. Thank goodness for those painters and their paint knife after my letter opener broke.

So, I’m doing better with cutting down on my t.v., though I did watch AI and I have to say that, all respect to Danny Gokey, but the voters got it right with Adam and Kris. And Kris! He totally showed Adam up, which I didn’t think was possible. I had just been saying that though I love both “Heartless” and “Blame It on the Alcohol,” both songs were pretty silly performed live on AI. A lot of posturing and rough negotiating with all of the synths or whatever. And as if he heard me, Kris performed an acoustic “Heartless.” Whoa! Freaking whoa! And not only was it just a freaking great arrangement, it also demonstrated how amazing the lyrics are (that was clear in the original, but with a stripped-down version, they just jumped out at you). So even though I was unfortunately wrong with the top 3, I was spot on about the top 2. And you know what? Kris could win this, he really could. And Adam’s gonna have an amazing career no matter what, so it’s all gravy.

But you know what I’ve been overdosing on this week? Reading! I read 3 young adult books in like 2 days. The last, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, I read pretty much straight through last night/this morning. Thought I’d read a chapter as I was trying to fall asleep and got so consumed with the story, just had to know what happened, that I read until I finished at 5:31 this morning. And of course, it’s the first in the series and of course the next isn’t coming out till September. Oh, how will I ever wait to find out what happens next? Somebody send me an ARC! So even though my site says I’m reading, The Song Is You and that is true, I’m usually reading like five or six things at once. But The Hunger Games. Seriously, read this book. It is inventive and brutal and gorgeous, about a future society in North America that sends 24 “tributes” from its 12 districts to fight until only one survives. I love how some of the best characters in these brutal future-society books (think John Marsden’s Tomorrow series) are kick ass girls like Ripley and Barbara.

The socializing – I’m still doing quite a bit of that. Drove up to Baton Rouge for an “Electric Ladies” lunch celebrating David Madden (see pic) and went to Bud’s Broiler for the first time and the Insectarium. Overall, however, I’m doing pretty good at saying no to invitations (sorry!!!! I promise I’ll be less of a hermit soon!!!).

But that’s enough about how I’m failing to use my time wisely. Let me update you on all the progress I’ve made.

New words:

5.10 = 1,547 (3 scenes)
5.11 = 3,179 (2 scenes)
5.12 = 613 (1 scene)
5.13 = 558 (1/2 scene)
5.14 = 599 (2nd 1/2 scene)

But it’s not all about new words. I actually generated a significant amount of new words and scenes since last October, in preparation for filling out the parts that needed more. I have one complete draft and lots of loose material to work with. So the greatest part of the work I’ve been doing has been splicing the new work and the old material together, or editing. So, how’s this for linear thinking – I made an enormous jump and I have about 180 pages “done.” I’ll continue with my splicing and hope to have a few days or a full week at the end to do one more pass to make everything connect and work the way I’d like it to. Makes the book sound like a machine, doesn’t it?

During all the test runs I’ve taken it on, the book is performing well. Just like a top-end sports car, purring and growling enthusiastically, just revving up to show off what it can do. A friend recently asked me how the writing was going and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t sigh and shake my head and offer a lot of excuses. I grinned and chirped, “Great!” And meant it. That feels so good.

Toni sponsored a book-giveaway on my blog. Someday I’ll be more democratic with my book-giveaways, but this time instead of making y’all work for it, I gave the books to people I knew would love them. So the copy of Allison Brennan‘s Sudden Death went to Pam Gauxtreaux and the copies of Toni’s first two books (they’re gonna be re-released this summer under new titles) went to Kristin Sanders.

So, to conclude, a few items that grabbed my attention this week:

This is a GREAT idea (Amazon to reprint books).

This makes me incredibly sad (Coconut Beach).

And this is fascinating (Dan Baum, New Yorker, a story told on Twitter).

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Fess Up Friday (First)

So I decided I just couldn’t NOT post at all this month. I’m going through blog withdrawal and that’s a bad thing for me to focus on instead of the book. Therefore, I will do a Fess Up Friday edition through the month and let you know where I’m at with the book and with my promise to give things up in order to focus.

I’ve been doing very badly with the less t.v. and socializing, first off. As you will see below when I post pics from Bustout Burlesque last night (I’m updating on Saturday, though this post will be dated Friday). And I watched the season finale of Dollhouse, am completely wrapped up in that (Mr. Whedon, I understand everything and I’m STILL confused. Can’t wait for that DVD with the “Epitaph One” episode). Though, it will probably help that most shows are going to be on hiatus soon. And willpower, there is always that…

So for the first two days of the month, my intense period of work, I was insanely sick. A stomach virus or food poisoning, that was never officially determined. So, I didn’t get much writing done and that was pretty disappointing cause I’d been all geared up to attack. It lingered, even after I felt much better, for quite a few days.

However, I’m doing very well with the book. Have been writing the new scenes I needed, getting a handle on the new edits and I made a major breakthrough with a specific major character who’s been bugging me for a few years.

Also, I came up with a great answer for the, “So how close to finished are you?” question. Wanna hear it? Okay. Ahem. Ahem. “The writing process is not a linear one, so it’s difficult to say how close to the end I am.” I’m working every day and I still feel like I’m closer to done than I allow myself to believe on a day-to-day level. We’ll see what my answer is next Friday, if it will be a more linear-minded one.

And now your pictures. Bustout Burlesque is a regular show that will next be at House of Blues July 10th (though I didn’t see it on the calendar yet when I just looked). I definitely recommend going, it’s good old fashioned vaudeville. And yes, nudity. But also jokes and magic. And no matter your take on girls getting nekkid, it’s really hard not to appreciate their personalities and athleticism. I was lucky enough to sit practically on the stage at a reserved table and can I just say (i.e. rub it in) that backstage at House of Blues is pretty fun and interesting. So you see why I gave up working for the night to go. Forgiven? I forgive myself.

I’m pictured with Foxy Flambeaux and Praline DuPree in one picture, then with Athena.

Somehow, I missed my photo op with Kitty Twist, who also performed last night.

Last is the featured performer, Sugar from last season’s Survivor with Foxy and Praline. Enjoy.

Now, back to work.

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