Friday, August 31, 2012

Roadtrip Soundtrack

Well, it’s time for me to hit the road again. Only for a long weekend this time, though. I don’t think I’ll have to go through the Five Stages of Vacation Withdrawal again. At least I hope not. Day four is a killer.

Roomie and I are embarking on an eleven hour road trip to go visit a friend. Which really means only one thing, it’s showtunes time. It has been said by some that our choice of belting tunes makes car rides with the two of us insufferable, but I’m pretty sure those people just hate fun.

And in the interest of fun, in case you’re stuck in an office today and not barreling down the open road in a car filled with junk food, I figured you should at least have some showtunes. So here are the ten songs during which the Roomie and I are most likely to halt conversation. You we can sing in a manner that could burst both lungs and eardrums.

1. Defying Gravity (Wicked)

2. Footloose (Footloose)

3. All For The Best (Godspell)

4.  I Want to Know What Love Is (Rock of Ages)

5. Walk Through the Fire (Buffy, "Once More With Feeling") 

6. I Dreamed A Dream (Les Mis)

7. King of New York (Newsies)
8. Happily Ever After (Once Upon A Mattress)

9. Cell Block Tango (Chicago)

10. Suddenly Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors)


Okay, so technically, number five isn't a showtune in the sense that it's been performed in a staged production. (At least not that I've seen. If you have, pretty please tell me where.) But I think the idea behind it is the same, so it gets to stay on the list.

All right folks, have a great weekend! And for all of you who feel either indifferent or rageful towards showtunes, I hope you spend the day listening to whatever music makes you feel like this:


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not-So-Guilty Pleasures: The Lauren Baratz-Logsted Edition

Welcome back to Not-So-Guilty Pleasures! (Just as an FYI, in my head that comes out in a reality show host voice.)

Today's confessions come to us from Lauren Baratz-Logsted. I had the opportunity to hear Lauren give the keynote speech at the 2012 Backspace Conference. Her message that a happy writer is one who takes joy in every step of the process was one of my favorites. But today, we look at some of the other things in life Ms. Baratz-Logsted takes joy in:

My 5 Guilty Pleasures

1) Lime Diet Pepsi. Outside of wine and water, it's the only thing I drink. This becomes a downside on vacations because while I can always find regular diet soda in hotel vending machines, it's never Lime Diet Pepsi.

2) Shipping Wars. I love this reality TV show about truckers taking on loads to ship. OK, really, it's Roy I love. In fact, I think I might have a crush on him. Every time he leans out the window to yell at someone he's just cut off in traffic, "Why, yes, I do own the road," it cracks me up.

3) Sudoku Puzzles. I do them in bed at night before going to sleep to sharpen my mind, such as it is. I buy a particular collection at the grocery store that contains 100 puzzles. A new edition comes out every so often and each edition is numbered. Sometimes, my husband will buy me one to be nice and he'll say, "I hope you don't have this edition already." Sometimes, I already do have it. But like it matters? Like I'm going to start doing them and say, "Oh, shoot, I remember Puzzle #77. I did that one just two weeks ago and it was a bear."

4) ABC Soaps in Depth Magazine. I buy it every two weeks, because the fake captions on the pictures make me laugh and so I can read about my soap, which leads me to...

5) General Hospital. I've been watching on and off since 1979 - 33 years! - and I love that show. I love it so much that when the character in one of my books, THE BRO-MAGNET, is advised to watch GH to attract women, he becomes so obsessed with it that he and his best friend start talking about it all the time. I love GH so much, I mostly don't care what crazy stuff they throw at viewers although I do think it's beyond insane that they had it turn out that Johnny's sister is really his mother. I mean, in real life, the actress is older than him...but only by four years.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of 26 books for adults, teens and children. You can read more about her work at or follow her on Twitter @LaurenBaratzL 
Pursuing the Times 
Check out Lauren's most recent book, Pursuing the Times, on Amazon!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Giving the Mind Some Breathing Room

Blank pages can be daunting.

I love to write, but there are times where nothing comes out right.

Depending on the day, I may keep my head down and push through, throwing elbows in the faces of distractions. Sure, sometimes the result of this is akin to that of a kid smashing her hands into the keyboard. But letters get on the page. And sometimes, in rare moments of kismet, they form words!

Sometimes, though, I need to amp up the ol’ creative energies before I can take on the great white beast. There are a few tried and true activities that I fall back on when I need to give my brain a little more running room.

  1. Art
I’m a big fan of making artsy things on canvases. Sometimes I use them as big scrapbooking pages that get hung on the wall. Other times I try to actually paint something more complicated than the turkey handprints I used to do. Now, I’m not a great painter, but for me that’s kind of the point. It takes a lot of focus for me to make something that’s not macaroni art. So much so that I can’t focus on both the canvas and the story.

  1. Movie Game
From time to time, when I need to distract the old brain pan, I ask the Roomie to give me the names of two actors who have never been in a movie together. Once I am so armed, I must connect those two individuals using an ACTOR A was in MOVIE 1 with ACTOR H who was in MOVIE 2 with ACTOR B formula. Depending on the randomness of the main two actors, this can go on for awhile. It’s not necessary that I discover the shortest possible route between the two, just that I manage to connect them without looking anything up or using a movie or actor that I can’t quite remember the name of (No “you know, the guy who looks like that other one, but isn’t, but was in the movie with that girl,” allowed).

  1. Casting Call
Roomie and I are musical geeks. As such, we have whiled away many the moments by casting entire productions using our friends. A lot of discussion goes into who is going to play which character. Sometimes we go for the obvious choices, other times we cast against type. Regardless, it always prompts me to think about friends I’ve known for years from a new perspective. And has led to some Voila! moments when I’ve found new ways to view my characters.

Each of these activities forces me to give them the bulk of my attention and energy, but a tiny part of my creative mind always manages to sneak off. She army crawls into the darkness, breathes a sigh of relief, says “Finally. I can’t get anything done while she’s hovering over me,” takes out a large broadsword and starts hacking away at the Gordion knot that is my story. And then when I’m all done with whatever nonsense I’ve been focusing on, she sits back smugly and says, “I fixed your problem. Boomsa.”

So, what do the rest of you do when you need to get out of your mind’s way?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

They're Watching Me....

You know that moment in pretty much every suspenseful movie or television show, where the character is in the parking structure and you just know that the bad guy is about to jump out?

Well, I’m not worried about assassins or super-spies rolling out from behind the concrete pillars as I walk to my car. No, the threat to me is much more terrifying, though albeit of a less imposing stature.

The squirrels have escalated their surveillance.

Going into this crusade, I knew that my anti-squirrel message would draw attention from the rodent overlords, but I will admit, I did not think they’d up the battle quite so quickly.

Alas, my naïveté is now gone.

As mentioned in previous missives, when I began communicating this message of resistance, the squirrels quickly set up shop in the tree outside my apartment. They’ve followed my sister to work. And they may or may not have recently deposited one of their fallen comrades into my parents’ chimney. Reports on this atrocity are still coming in.

And now they’ve bunkered down in the parking structure across from my office. When Roomie and I went to lunch yesterday, we found three of them waiting at the entrance. They were positioned strategically, two above, one below.

As we walked by, they did not flinch from our stares. They held their ground, their tiny heads shifting slightly as their cold eyes tracked our movements.

I’m not ashamed to say that I fear the beasts. It would be the height of hubris not to maintain a healthy degree of caution. But this is not to say that I surrendered to their advances.


Roomie and I did some reconnoitering and found that they’ve set up their war room in an opening in the parking structure ceiling. We will continue to monitor their actions.

Before closing, I must give you this final warning: The squirrels must have realized that we know their troop categorization because these new surveillance squirrels appear to be a combination of the CSOF and Ninja Squirrels. And their starting them younger. These were no hardened, embittered, old-General squirrels. These were young squirrel babies. Do not, under any circumstances, allow your guard to drop when you see them. They may be rookies, but they are highly skilled, acorn-throwing machines.

Be well.

Fight on.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Character Inspiration

My Roomie is a male gargoyle.

At least on the page.

She’s the inspiration behind a tertiary character in my most recent story. A stone beast with a poor memory and an (only mildly irrational) animosity toward birds.

In real life, Roomie’s very different. She’s a human female with a poor memory and a slight wariness regarding birds.

See? Worlds apart.

When I went to the Backspace conference this past May, I had the opportunity to listen to several talented authors discuss the different ways they come up with characters. I was particularly interested in the conversations regarding how much they drew from the people around them. Some felt they based a lot of character developments on their friends and family. Others tried to avoid this as much as possible.

I’m not solidly on either end of this spectrum.

I don’t think I’ve ever written any character that was entirely modeled after any one person in my life, but I definitely have made choices based on specific traits or relationships of those around me. Roomie and my immediate family are the sounding boards for a lot of my initial character development. I will occasionally ask them all the same question and then see if any of their answers fit with the character I’m working on. Or sometimes I’ll just see a friend or family member react to something and think, That’s perfect for what’s that one character’s going through or That’s exactly how those two characters need to interact.

But there are a couple rules I try to hold myself to.

I take the good stuff from the people around me. The moments that inspire me. The most kick-ass traits and quirks that my loved ones possess. Those make it into my characters. My characters’ negative traits? Those come from me, from news stories, and from whatever happens to be the most frightening to me in the moment I’m writing.

And if I’m mocking someone on the page? Then I must be mocked too. It’s only fair.

Which is why, in the story, I’m a male gargoyle too. His memory’s great and he doesn’t have any issues with birds. But he is clumsy, out of shape, and has a tendency toward the dramatic.

Together, they are snapshots of the Roomie and me at our most buffoonish. The mythical equivalent of “bros.” And make me smile every time I think of them.

 A peek into my creative process.

How about the rest of you writers out there? Do any of your nearest and dearest ever make it on to the page?

Friday, August 24, 2012

King Of New York

I’m always interested to see translations of stories, whether it be from book to screen or stage, or from screen to stage, or stage to screen. Each medium allows for the audience to experience the story in a new way. There are always changes, whether they be in plot, character, or both.

I particularly like to look at story movements between stage and screen. There’s more of a contest for me as to which I’ll prefer (between book and anything else, I almost always choose the book).

Over the years there has been a lot of back and forth between the two mediums and I’ve seen a number of them. But seeing as I just saw Newsies on Broadway a week ago and am a big fan of both versions, I thought I’d compare some of my favorite characters and relationships from each story to see which one truly is (in my eyes) The King of New York.


Jack Kelly

-          Our young hero. Both the movie and the play show Jack as both a fighter and a dreamer. He’s a little desperate to get away from a lifestyle that’s weighing on him. In the play they go a little bit more into his different escapes. It’s not just dreams of Santa Fe. He also is an artist. This storyline showcases Jack’s wistfulness much like the storyline involving Davey’s family did in the movie. He takes failures to heart. He’s torn between wanting to do what he believes is right and wanting to ensure a better life for himself. There are small changes here and there from screen to stage, but overall, he’s still the character everyone wants to win. Point: Tied

Katherine Plummer

-          Katherine is a character unique to the play. She takes the place of the movie’s Sarah Jacobs and Bryan Denton. Sarah doesn’t exist in the play, which is okay with me. Not because there was anything wrong with the idea of her, but because she was never really given anything to do. She was primarily there for Jack to love. No idea what she wanted out of life or if she had any goals for herself. Katherine, on the other hand, has a life going on before she meets Jack. She's a young reporter who is trying to get the paper to allow her to cover something more than fluff pieces. Sure, Bryan Denton, the former war correspondent, had greater credibility as the character who was covering the strike, but what personal stake did he really have in it? Mostly he just appeared to want to help the boys out of interest and altruism. Katherine is interested in helping the boys, but she also wants to help herself. If she and Jack fall in love, that’s great. But it’s not the sole reason for her existence. Point: Stage

Spot Conlon

-          Spot Conlon may have been one of my absolute favorite characters of the movie. He was just so damn cool. (Plus, he's kind of what my sister and I picture my dad to be like as a child.) The play focuses on slightly different subplots within the overall story than the movie does. As a result, some subplots from the movie are cut. Spot is discussed more in the play than he appears. Point: Screen

Joseph Pulitzer

-          Like Spot, Pulitzer’s scenes are trimmed down in the play. He still looms large as the antagonist, but the audience just doesn’t spend as much time with him. And while he certainly seems like a jerk, I was always partial to Robert DuVall’s slightly manic portrayal. Of course, that might just be because Roomie and I like to yell, “Go home! Go home to your mothers and your fathers! Go home!” when we’re stuck in traffic. Point: Screen



-          Davey and Les’s family doesn’t have a great deal of bearing on the play's storyline, other than their father's injury being the reason they've become newsies. No scenes of Jack wistfully watching their relationships. Because of this Jack in the play has less off the clock time with the other two. They come across more as coworkers who like each other and have a common goal, than the brother-like figures they became in the movie. Point: Screen


-          Here’s where the play gives Jack his “brother.” He and Crutchie are much closer here. Sure, Jack and Crutchie got along in the film. Jack defended him and tried to get him out of the Refuge, but I always felt that Jack would have done as much for any of the Newsies. In the play, Jack and Crutchie have a special bond, with Jack even going so far as to try to talk the other boy into going to Santa Fe with him. It makes Crutchie's eventual stint in the Refuge even sadder. And makes me want to yell "Soak 'em for Crutchie" even more. Point: Stage

Jack/Katherine vs. Jack/Sarah

-          In the movie, Jack was immediately attracted to Sarah and she to him, and it was very sweet. But that’s it. Jack and Katherine’s relationship develops. The audience sees how they challenge and help each other. Ultimately, there’s more to root for. Point: Stage


-          I loved watching all the dancing in the movie, but there’s something kind of incomparable to watching a group of people fly across the stage in unison and knowing that’s it. There are no second take if someone screws up. The show just keeps on going. And again, I must ask, HOW do people go from what looks like a fairly stationary position into a midair flip? As someone who can not even do a cartwheel, it's pure magic to me. Point: Stage

Okay, I could go on like this forever and this is already an obscenely long post. So, I’m calling it.
As of right now, I’m deeming the stage production of Newsies the current King of New York, by a thin margin of four to three.

But, I may have to go see it again. You know….just to make sure.

And maybe to do a little seat dancing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And the World Will Know....

Everyone’s life has little mysteries, you know? Small events and oversights that never quite make sense when you look at the whole picture. Here’s one of mine: I didn’t see Newsies until eight years after it was released. More than that, I’d never even heard of it until 2000.

It’s totally baffling. An avowed lover of musicals from the first time I saw Wizard of Oz. A big fan of Disney movies. How, in the name of all things good and holy, did this film slip through the cracks?

To be honest, it’s a little embarrassing.

Thankfully, though, this is why I got my parents to give me that little sister I wanted. So, that she could inform me of any possible oversights I was making in life. Sure, it took her a little longer than it should have, but I’ll cut her some slack. She was only four when the movie came out. And she did eventually rectify the problem.

She came to me whilst I was sitting in my parents’ bed (their room had a TV) with some kind of ailment I can’t remember (I do remember that I was watching the season one Buffy episode “The Pack” though, so clearly my memory has its priorities straight). Holding the movie in her hands, she told me that she’d just seen it at a friend’s and immediately borrowed it because she knew I would love it. She threw that bad boy in the VCR and climbed up next to me, risking whatever germs (probably extraterrestrial) that were infecting me.

Those fellas started singing about their days carrying the banner and I thought, You know what? It’s true. This is what has been missing from my life.

In addition to enriching my existence, however, this film led to a continuing battle against my urge to yell, “Soak ‘em for Crutchie!” at inopportune times.*

Last week, thanks to my brother and sister-in-law, the fam got to go see the Newsies flying across the Nederlander stage. I sat next to the sis and we were both beside ourselves excitement wise. Our fourteen and eleven-year-old selves were in rare form. The sis blanked for a second while she was singing “Carrying the Banner” and ended up singing it to the tune of “Gary, Indiana.” Which, in addition to being a great musical nerd moment, actually fit pretty well. Seriously, try it.

Then the show started and it was pretty much magic from start to finish. Some changes from the movie, which worked really well for the show, but more on that tomorrow. Today, suffice it to say, I continue to be baffled and amazed by people who can go from a standing position into an air flip. I mean, how the hell does that happen??

*The biggest obstacle to my stifling this urge is the fact that I don’t want to. Still haven’t figure out how to handle that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

To Be Embarrassed...Or To Not Be Embarrassed...That Is My Question

The Not-So-Guilty Pleasures have returned! After Lauren joined me a couple weeks ago, another brave soul decided to step up to the plate. Author Peter Mackey is here today to share both guilty pleasures and, for the bonus round, guilty displeasures. Enjoy!*

Guilty (dis)Pleasures Exposed!

A short while ago it seemed that I had reached a milestone of sorts. I had pretty much stopped being embarrassed about anything. Such liberation! I had finally reached so complete a state of inner satisfaction that I cared neither jot nor tittle about what other people thought about me.

Then Kelly challenged us with her piece about Not-So-Guilty Pleasures, and zap! The spell was broken. I had been lying to myself. Of COURSE I am still capable of abject embarrassment, especially over things I secretly enjoy. (Just please don’t re-post this. Ha ha.)

1. Dog, the Bounty Hunter. As a writer, the whole concept of reality-TV as a substitute for well-crafted storytelling just grinds sand in my eyes. And this series is among the longest-running examples of that. So, why oh why am I so darn fascinated by the sad, often meth-addicted outcasts who Dog rounds up every week? Or maybe it’s his team – a broadly-drawn comic book with such characters wouldn’t sell a single copy. Yet there they are, famously popular in certain districts, which yes includes my living room.

2. Oooky chocolate desserts. OK, this isn’t a particularly unique G.P. But for me, this is a complex embarrassment with numerous non-parallel vectors.  It lies just south of hypocrisy, just east of shame. It summons masochistic death-wishes bathed in sparkly sunshine with cute little bluebirds flittering around. (Enough with the conflicting metaphors, already?) All through a meal, I’m skipping the carbs, putting chemicals instead of sugar in the iced tea, pushing away the butter dish, and then ordering the quadra-choco-melt-decadence cake. (But I do have them hold the whipped cream and sprinkles.)

3. NASCAR. Hey, you wanna go sit in some bleachers in 95-degree heat for five hours and watch a bunch of juiced-up cars painted with corporate logos drive around in a big circle a couple of hundred times? No, but I’ll sneak a peek on my big screen at home, until the family comes in and I have to feign dignity. (Clearly, I need to seek help.)

But wait… Every Yin has its Yang, and frankly I’ve also got Guilty Displeasures – things I’m ashamed to admit I DON’T like. Let’s face it, when you’re mixed into a group of people who are gushing about some Thing that you personally can’t stomach, all you can do is smile and hope they don’t ask your opinion, right? I’m enough of a hermit already without admitting that some primary aspect of popular culture just doesn’t resonate with me. For example:

1. Vampires that aren’t killed by sunlight. I mean, come on, people! This stuff has RULES. You can’t just cast out a century of tradition because you don’t want your novels to be Too Dark. You might as well say Superman’s taking a pill now so he’s not vulnerable around Kryptonite anymore.

2. American Idol and it’s clones. A huge part of this program seems to be about bad singing. This to me is not entertaining. And also about judgement, with truckloads of arbitrary critique. What pleasure can one derive from the failure of others? This does not lift my spirit. But I DO give tons of credit to the producers who could rename a simple Talent Show (We had those in high school. Hello?!) with a title that rings of both of patriotism and pagan worship rituals.

And finally my most secret Guilty Displeasure…

3. Babies. (I’d better say “most” babies, lest my two young grandsons get their hands on the Internet one day.) If you show me your baby, I will make the appropriate noises, raise my voice an octave, declare it cute, give him or her a little tickle, and congratulate you. This will be acting. Unfortunately for me, I see right through the ruse nature has thrust upon us. What I most likely will be thinking is: “You, sir or madam, are a stronger person than I, to tolerate the fluids and the noise and the disdain this fresh creature will bestow upon you. Show it to me again when it acquires language and self-control, and I will give you my honest opinion.” There is a lot of preprogrammed human behavior around babies. This is good for the species, but generally not for me.

In sum, quoting some crew member of the HMS Pinafore: “I am but a ganglion of irreconcilable antagonisms.”  What fun!

--Peter Mackey


Tiny Bio:

Once an executive speech writer, scriptwriter, and multimedia software developer… now a Professor of Digital Arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Still a coder. Still a writer, currently with Dissonance, a science-fictional thriller in search of a publisher.

Ranting at
Twittering as @memebuster

*Oh! And Peter? The whole abstaining from whipped cream and sprinkles on your dessert? Will of steel.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ghosts in the Machine

My sister and I had a walk-in closet growing up. It was a great space my dad built over the garage and attached to our bedroom.

It held many an awesome thing, but what really made it special was that it had no windows. If you turned the lights out in there, it was pitch black. Which was fantastic. You see, the sister and I would bring groups of friends in there, sit in a circle with a flashlight, turn off the lights and tell ghost stories.

Unlike the sister, I was never much for the great outdoors. The bugs were the main turn off, but there was also a high creepy factor to being out in the middle of nowhere in the dark. So, no camping for me, but I still really liked ghost stories. Which made the closet perfect. All the necessary darkness from the safety of home.

Sometimes we’d make up stories. Tales of horror and woe that had us shaking in our Rainbow Bright stirrup pants. On other occasions I would read stories from the books that I had picked up in different places. Whenever we went to a historic site with the family, I always tried to get a book of ghost stories from the location.

My interest in ghosts did not wane over the years. In fact, when I was considering colleges, one of the things I put on Gettysburg’s “pro list” was that it seemed to have an abundance of ghost stories.

Now, I've yet to encounter a ghost, but see no reason to give up hope. One day when I finally own the haunted house I have always dreamed of, I’m fairly confident in my ability to make some spooky friends. And then once I’m ghost myself, I’m really hoping that the job my dreams have been training me to do pans out.

In the meantime, though, my sister has been kind enough to give me a spectacular gift: a vintage Polaroid camera. Seeing as nobody has used it in awhile, it wasn’t very surprising to us that some of the doohickeys (technical term) need to be cleaned. But the thing is, we couldn’t really figure that out until we’d taken a couple pictures. And once we put a packet of film in, we didn’t want to ruin it by opening the camera up to clean things. All of this has led to something wondrous. Faux ghost photos. Both creepy and awesome. Enjoy.

After a tragic accident involving a banana peel, a kerosene
lamp and a lot of hay, a young bride and her father now 
haunt the barn where she was to be wed, posing for 
wedding pictures that never took place. 

The Siren of the Sea. She haunts a small coastal village,
luring many young men to watery graves. Not because
a young man had anything to do with her own passing.
Just because she thinks it's fun.

Known as the Murderous Maniac, this ghost reveals
himself every 14.5 years on either his birthday or
his half-birthday. Legend has it, he's fairly friendly.
Just really loves yelling "Surprise!" and "Happy Bday!"
Nothing murderous or maniacal about him. Apparently,
the person naming ghosts that day was prone to hyberbolic
statements and an avid fan of alliteration. 

And now, for the most terrifying ghoul of all...

The towel bunny. Nobody knows his story. But everyone
knows to stay the hell out of his way.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It May Take A Few Days....

Greetings all!

I have returned. Victorious, of course. I was quite successful in my vacating. However, being the experienced vacationer that I am, I know what's coming next – I’ll be going through the Five Days After Vacation. Here’s how it’ll likely shake down:

“Man, that vacation was awesome. I mean…I kissed a dolphin! And totally shot some arrows. Not at the dolphins! Just at targets. And it was awesome. Oh! And I saw a play! And ate my weight in dessert almost every day! Absolutely fantastic. I feel great. Going to be keeping this glow for a while. Sure, I’m back at work, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to lose my vacation shininess. Not a chance. I’ve turned a corner. Holding on to this sweet relaxed mindset for life. Hmmm, 10:13. Sounds like it’s time for second breakfast! And what time did I schedule today’s massage for?”

“Are you kidding me?!? You people expect me to do work for the WHOLE day? How am I going to have time to get to the buffet? THERE’S NO BUFFET?? This is so unfair. Why does everything happen to me? This is totally your fault. That’s right, people who worked steadily during my week of vacation, I’m looking at you. What were you thinking including me on all these emails that I now must catch up on?? All. Your. Fault.”

“Okay, okay. I get it. I’m being unreasonable. But we can work something out. How about this, I’ll read most of my emails and then I get four days off for a short snorkeling trip. No? ALL my email and three days, no snorkeling, just some sitting on the beach. Wow, you’re really playing hardball here. Fine. All my email, one substantial assignment in exchange for two days off, no traveling, just hanging around the apartment. Oh, come on! Still no? No, wait, wait! Don’t walk away. Here’s the new plan. You’ll love it! All my email, two substantial assignments, one day off so I can unpack. No? Really? All right. I guess if anyone needs me, I’ll be under my desk. I mean, at my desk! Of course. Doing all my work. I promise. Hey….would it be okay if I took a long lunch?”

“I’ll never get back on top of things. It’s just not possible. But that’s fine. I’ll just live my out the rest of my life at this desk. No more vacations. After all, what’s the point? They can’t last forever. I just end up back here. Having to do work. I don’t know what I was thinking in the first place. Oh, look, another meeting in fifteen minutes.”

“Would you look at that. All outstanding emails have been addressed and I finished those assignments? When did that happen? Guess it’s not going to be that hard to get back in the swing of things after all. That’s nice. And I really did have a wonderful time away with the fam. Well worth a few rough days back in the office. But, I am back now, and it’s time to buckle down. Other people should get to go on vacations, too. I can pick up their slack while they’re gone. After all they did the same for me. See? Things aren’t going to be that bad. Just back to the normal routine. Oooh, check out this Living Social deal for a weekend getaway. And I am still packed…Yeah, so totally back to the norm….starting Monday.”

Friday, August 10, 2012


Roomie has told me that my vacation packing habits are ridiculous. She has described them as “elderly” and, harkening Aladdin, “big cosmic powers, itty bitty living space.”

I’ll address the “elderly” claim first. I can’t really dispute this as Roomie’s grandmother and I once had an extended conversation about the fun of early packing, but I will say that I think there’s also a child-like element. Basically, I’m this kid:

I try to hold off packing, really I do, but eventually the anticipation gets to me.

I leave for this summer’s vacation this evening. I managed to suppress the packing urge until about two weeks ago. Then I was just too excited and had to start throwing things into a suitcase. Which leads to Roomie’s second issue with my packing style.

I don’t believe in the boundaries set forth by suitcase dimensions. I see them more as guidelines.

As a chronic over-packer (how do I know for sure that I’m not going to need twelve different dresses on a five day trip??), I slowly build teetering piles of belongings in the base of the luggage. I don’t stop until I am absolutely positive that I am prepared for any ensemble situation that I might run into. Then I sit on the suitcase until it closes. Which, admittedly, sometimes takes a while. But the struggle is well worth it when someone on the trip says, “It’s a little chilly tonight,” and I can respond, “I have a lovely collection of cardigans for you to choose from. What color did you have in mind?”

Plus, here’s a little secret I’ve discovered: Clothes get a lot more compact when you weigh them down with books. Sure, my suitcases tend to weigh upwards of a billion pounds, but that’s why you can get them with wheels, right? Also another reason I continue to enjoy traditional books. I just don’t think an eReader would provide as much packing heft. 

So, I stand by my packing choices. (And, maybe...just a little bit...judge the fact that Roomie doesn't pack until the morning of a trip and is rarely prepared if the journey suddenly gets extended by a month or so.)

But enough about preparation, now is the time for action. To that end, I'm off to cruise the high seas. I’ll be back on the 20th. Hope to see you here!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Setting Priorities

My goodness, this is a busy summer.

We’ve had the Olympics and the Mars landing. Campaign season is in full swing. And now Shark Week is almost upon us.

It’s enough to make your head spin.

Something that I have found to be helpful in dealing with times of overload such as this, is having your priorities straight.

Take this time last year. Shark Week was a’comin’ and I was, quite naturally, thrilled beyond belief. You know...because of the sharks. But sadly, life’s little details don’t always treat Shark Week with the proper amount of respect and continue to badger at you. In this instance, the little detail that wouldn’t leave me alone was that we had run out of toilet paper in my apartment. Generally, no biggie. This time, though, running out to pick some up was taking precious moments away from shark watching.

Still, I soldiered on.  

Out I went to the grocery store across the street. It was going to be a quick trip, I was sure. Once in the story, I quickly made my way back toward the toilet paper aisle. On my way, a colorful box caught my eye. Shark Bites! (shark shaped fruit snacks*)

I was beside myself with excitement. What could make this evening better than shark themed snackage? Needless to say, I quickly picked up a box and skipped merrily to the register, giving passer-bys enthusiastic high fives.

It wasn’t until about two hours later, when I was happily chomping on my fruit snacks, that I realized I’d forgotten the toilet paper.

So, you see….priorities.

Now, as you get ready for whatever epic lengths you go to for your own Shark Week celebrations, I leave you with this video (sure to chill you right down to the marrow):

*Side note: I never called them fruit snacks growing up. Still don’t. Bothers Roomie to no end. They were always fruity bootys. Not sure why, but I’m guessing it had something to do with my lifelong desire to be a pirate.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Opposition to White Walls

I read this post today and it got me thinking about the things I keep around me while I work.

Regardless of what kind of work I’m doing, I find that I like to be surrounded by objects that inspire me to create. Even if I can’t get to that “creating” until a later point.

I really can’t stand white walls. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I love white walls when I move into a space, because of all the possibilities. I can stand in the blank space, envision what I want it to look like when it’s done and then get to work on making it happen. Buckets of awesome.

But if I don’t do anything with them? Then they drive me crazy.

It’s like being surrounded by nothing but blank pages, knowing the story you want to write, but not having access to any kind of pen, pencil, marker, crayon, stick with your blood on it…

Madness quickly overcomes me.

So, to avoid all this shenanigans, I do my best to keep some color around me. Now, I am not at liberty to paint my work office, so some creativity came into play.

Here’s an inventory of the things I can see from my desk:

-          Pictures upon picture upon pictures
o       Family, friends, pets, and all the places I’ve been.
-          Canvas
o       One of my attempts at art. Moderately successful. Definitely brings more color to the room.
-          Drawing done by the big bro circa ‘91
o       A circus lion who’s just finished eating his tamer. Perfect for work. Some days I’m the lion. Some days I’m the tamer.
-          Tin lunch boxes
o       Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. Classics.
-          C3PO Kooky
o       Because of the awesomeness.
-          Framed postcards
o       One from Paris, one with the Love This Life manifesto.
-          Small pile of pennies
o       Saving them for a rainy day. Or until I get sick of having them on my desk and decide to hide them randomly amongst Roomie’s belongings.
-          Cake Vs. Pie chart
o       Peanut butter pie wins forever.
-          Random doodads from staff parties.
o       Valentine’s Day puppy and heart erasers
o       Leap Day leap frog
o       St. Patrick’s Day rubber ducky
-          Notes left on my desk by Roomie
o       One states, “Drank some of your soda. Ha.” What a jerk. This is why I hide pennies in her things.

And finally, with a little Tennessee Williams action…

-          Glass menagerie
o       Damian (green frog)
o       Melvin (goldfish)
o       Edgar (pink & green turtle)
o       Cecily (clear swan)
o       Hugo (blue hippo)
o       And growing…..

So, even with white walls, I’m surrounded by funzies. Making it that much easier to hang on to what is left of my sanity.

What about you? Anything you need in your workspace to keep your creative brain from going off the deep end? That is…if you’re so inclined to put effort toward such a goal. Maybe you like feeling bonkers. I’m not here to judge.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Not-So-Gulity Pleasures Redux

Not long ago, I wrote about some of my not-so-guilty pleasures. I can happily report that given the increased number of page hits on that post, I’m not the only one with some marginally embarrassing weirdness in my closet. Always a lovely thing to find out.

Even better than this, though, is that there are people out there who are willing to share their own bizarre proclivities. Case in point, Lauren Grimley, (author, blogger, and teacher extraordinaire) who I had the pleasure of getting to know at the Backspace conference. Here’s what she had to say:

My Not-So-Secret Guilty Pleasures

  1. Reading Kelly’s post on guilty pleasures I realized that apparently my first guilty pleasure is revealing too much. As I started to rattle off a list of the dorky things I love in life, it occurred to me that I’ve never bothered to keep such things secret. When I wanted to be a greaser from S. E. Hinton’s Outsiders, I dressed like Ponyboy, rolled t-shirt sleeves and all.  When my obsession switched to Harry Potter I created t-shirts with sayings like “I believe in Nargles,” which I actually wore out in public. When my seventh graders starting talking about Pretty Little Liars, I jumped right in, without even considering the fact that I could have, and maybe should have, pretended not to know what they were talking about.

  1. This brings me to my next guilty pleasure: teen television shows. My DVR recordings more closely resemble those of the thirteen-year-old girls I teach than those of an average educated thirty-two-year-old woman. Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game–I love them all. What’s really sad is that these are a step up from what I used to watch when I first started teaching. The Suite Life, anyone? I thought I was becoming a sophisticated viewer when I moved from Zach and Cody to Damen and Stefan. Or maybe I’d just developed a stronger liking for eye-candy.

  1. Candy. Another place I lack sophisticated tastes. Out of all my food favorites, the one I’d consider a somewhat embarrassing guilty pleasure is my love of Sour Patch Kids. Most people above the age of fifteen lose their enthusiasm for shredding their taste buds with sour crystals. Not this girl. I can polish off an entire package of these gummy goodies in one sitting and have been known to lick my finger so that I can dip it in the bitter crumbs. Sour, sweet, gone. Yum!

  1. Guilty pleasure number four is all about tactile gratification. If that sounds dirty, I promise you it’s not. I just love all things fuzzy. While most women trawl the local T.J. Maxx with an eye for fashion, I walk through the aisles running my fingers along everything I see. If it’s sexy but scratchy, forget it. Frumpy but soft and fuzzy, I’m likely to wear it. I’ve even been known to delay washing new sweatshirts long past the first or second wear just to retain the maximum fuzz factor. Okay, so I guess it is dirty, in the unlaundered sense.

  1. My last guilty pleasure (at least the last one I’m posting on the internet) I alluded to in number one. I love to eavesdrop. As I child I would hide in the dark corner of the living room so that I could listen to half of whatever telephone conversation my mother was having. As I teacher I pretend to be checking email during study halls, while I secretly snoop on my unknowing students. I listen to people at the grocery store, in waiting rooms, on the beach. I’m so nosy, I’ve been known to pretend to listen to who I’m with while really listening to the couple two tables over. Hey, I can’t help it if my friends and family aren’t that interesting to me anymore. Besides, as a writer, I chalk this one up to “research.” 

Actually, I suppose I could claim all of these pleasures are merely research for my writing. But that would be a lie. I love what I love. And I’ve loved being a geek long before Kelly got me to confess here like a Catholic schoolgirl. Still, it’s nice to know that when the dork parade marches through town, I’ll have plenty of company. So thanks, Kelly!

When Lauren Grimley isn’t sharing her quirks with the world, she’s writing or teaching in central Massachusetts. If she finds free time beyond these activities, she’s likely to spend it on a beach with a book and bottle of wine close by. She’s recently published her first novel, an urban fantasy entitled Unforeseen. The second book in the series, Unveiled, is off to the publisher, while the third is being dragged, kicking and screaming, from Lauren’s imagination.

Links to learn more about Lauren and her projects:

Personal website:

Twitter @legrimley: - !/legrimley

Links to Unforeseen and “Unknown” (a short from later in the series)



Barnes & Noble

Monday, August 6, 2012


I go through periods where I have particularly bizarre dreams and I appear to be smack dab in the middle of one now.

It began the other night with a doozy about Michael Phelps asking my sister to swim one of his races for him. She did swim the butterfly in high school, so he could have made a more illogical choice – me, for instance. Much like Fezzik, I only doggie paddle. – but still, it was strange.

She took gold though, giving her the distinction of being the most winningest athlete in my dream Olympics.

Anyway, since then, it’s been weirder dream after weird dream. There have been murder mysteries, close encounters with the third kind, track & field events, and one instance where I’m pretty sure I got stuck in a TV set.

I could be wrong, but I think my subconscious might want me to sleep more and watch the Olympics and Mars landing less. But since that’s unlikely to happen, I’ll just have to embrace the bizarro dreams.

To that end, today I present five fun dream related TV episodes:

  • Nightmares (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – It may not be one of the standout episodes of the series, but the scenes between Xander and the clown make it well worth a look.
  • Sleepless (The X-Files) – Creepy super soldier program leads to man who can kill with dreams. You’d think after Bruce Banner’s issues, people would realize these “building a better warrior” experiments always go sideways.
  • Conscious (Alias) – Possibly the trippy-est episode in the series, but at least you start to get some answers as to what the frick frack is going on in season three. Plus there’s an awesome scene between Dixon and Lindsey. Plus Will Tippin!
  • Noche de suenos (Eureka) – Dream sharing may be horrifyingly awkward…but it’s also pretty funny. Except, you know, for the part where it might kill you.
  • Chuck Versus the Tooth (Chuck) – The Intersect may be slowly killing Chuck’s brain, but as a consolation prize he get’s to have terrifying dreams with real life implications…so, there’s that.

On second thought, maybe I should be listening to my subliminal messages. If there’s one thing that these shows illustrate, it’s that if you tick off your subconscious, it will most likely use dreams to kill you or those in close proximity.

Guess I need to get more sleep…for everybody’s sake.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Bad Movies/Good Party Themes: From Justin to Kelly Boating Soirée

Remember when American Idol first started?

It was a strange time. Those fuzzy years before Ryan Seacrest was named the Grand Pooba of all things that need hosting. He wasn’t even flying solo on Idol yet. Brian Dunkleman, who I knew better as the guy who tried to buy the engagement ring Chandler was going to get for Monica, joined him in this duty.

And viewers watched the battle unfold between the lady from Texas and the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

Ah, yes. The good old days. Sometimes I still miss them.

Of course, when that happens, I just put From Justin to Kelly into the DVD player and all is right with the world once again.

Now, not everyone has as sophisticated a palate as I. Case in point, this conversation with a friend before movie night:

FJtK Hater: I hate that movie so much. I remember watching it with you all the first and only time I've ever seen it thinking, "I love bad movies- this will be awesome."

Me: You'll get to give it a second chance next month AND LOVE IT.

 FJtK Hater: And it was not awesome, Kelly.  IT WAS NOT AWESOME.

Me: You just didn't know enough of the songs and dances. We'll hold a tutorial beforehand. No worries.



FJtK Hater: You can't make me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Me:  I totally can AND WILL.


Me: It's gonna happen. We will watch it. You will be there.

FJtK Hater:  No.

Me: Don't fight it.
FJtK Hater: I. just. can't.
Me: YOU WILL. And you know what? To commemorate this viewing I'm going to make you your very own tie skirt, a la Kelly Clarkson.

FJtK Hater: No.. -please, just no.

Me: Already picking out the ties.

FJtK Hater: It's just too awful. It's too terrible. And too bad.

Me: It's going to look great on you. I think you can really pull it off.

FJtK Hater:  ............

Despite my friend’s clear descent into madness, this movie is absolutely awesome. Particularly when you pair it with a boating theme. As you will find upon viewing this cinematic masterpiece, the fastest way to show that you are a tried and true boat-er is to wear outfits made up only of differing shades of white.

It should also be noted that the scene in which this is hammered home is the one my friends and I dubbed, “From Justin to Murder.” Check it out and you’ll see why.

Crackerjack dialogue to look forward to:
-          “God, how could you curse me with the perfect body and the gift of persuasion?”
-          “Heck, yeah. I mean, hell, yeah. I say hell all the time. Hell, hell, hell.”
-          “Girl, my hair won’t even fit through there.” “I’m from Texas, I’ve seen bigger.”
-          “Yeah. Five and a quarter an hour, scraping beans off plates and filling urinals with ice.”

For a From Justin to Kelly Boating Soirée of your very own, here’s what you need:
-          From Justin to Kelly (2003)
-          Volunteers to call out every time they see something that was stolen directly from Grease or Dirty Dancing.
-          Lots and lots of white clothes. Large brimmed hats are a bonus.
-          Appropriate boating food (we went with shrimp, scallops and crab cakes, followed by cream puffs and dainty deserts in fillo shells).
-          Group of American Idol diehards and/or individuals who live for pointing out continuity errors and/or folks who you can trust to yell funny things out when there is an awkward pause in the on-screen dialogue.

An added tip: When you get the DVD, watch the Extended Version. Pretty sure this takes the movie from 80 to 86 minutes and you get two additional songs. Two of the best in my opinion. Can’t remember their actual names, but we refer to them as “Summer Lovin’” and “Stranded at the Drive In.” Of course, the “drive in” is actually the world’s longest jetty and some hovercrafts, and…no, you know what? I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Just go watch it.

You can thank me later.