November 30, 2004

I just got back from a week in California today - I did work on the book as planned, but I also spent a fair amount of time wandering around outside taking pictures like this:

I will have more to say when I've had some sleep.

November 21, 2004

So by Wednesday evening I'd decided I was going to put this year's NaNoWriMo effort back in the incubator, and concentrate on completing the book from 2002. I have two bad reasons, one good reason, and one very good reason for this.

The good reason is that I need to produce a finished manuscript, and starting a new one every year while the other drafts sit around isn't going to get me there. And I have been racking up the editing hours - I'm finally starting to get a regular schedule.

I'm definitely not wild about quitting NaNoWriMo, , but really, even if I stubbornly mashed my way through the word count, I'd end up rewriting most of it anyway - I haven't even been to Las Vegas yet. Clearly a field trip is required before I can set a quarter of the book there.

Now Valhalla I'm content to just make up as I go along.

November 17, 2004
Where Ya Been?

Hey, wouldn't it be great if I vanished for a whole week only to come back and announce that I was over halfway done with the book?

Yep. That would be great.

As of 6:00 a.m. on 11/17 I have 11,546 words.

It should be terrible. And it was. But most of those new words were written in the last two days, so I'm actually feeling okay. I expect to go into panic mode any day now, which can only be a good (read: productive) thing.


Every city is somehow familiar, even if it's just because the man who walked down the street a minute before her doused himself in the same cologne her prom date used so liberally a dozen years ago.

November 10, 2004
Performance Enhancing Drugs

As of 2:35 a.m. on 11/10 I have 8,608 words.

Excellent. This was a very good day, partly due to the fact that the subject matter I worked on is much more fun, but mostly due to a glorious conjunction of quantity with what feels like quality.

Ever since I left my job I've been sticking with one cup of coffee in the morning, and maybe a cup of tea in early evening. I thought I would keep that up through NaNoWriMo, even though the last two years have been characterized by fiendish caffeine consumption. I figured that since I wouldn't be combatting sleep deprivation this time around, I wouldn't need the extra caffeine.

But hey, maybe it's just a coincidence that I nearly doubled my typical daily output and my caffeine intake on the same day.


She goes to her room and takes the emergency flashlight out from under the bed, and stares at it intensely, the way she imagines a psychic might. Nothing happens. She remembers Jake's smile, and the damn butterflies that flap around in her stomach every time she sees him. She thinks about her horrible embarrassment in French class, compounded by those flickering lights. She stares at the flashlight, waiting for it glow, preparing herself for the drowning sensation of having her worst fear confirmed.

Nothing happens. Minutes go by. All her focus is on the flashlight as she runs through every tumultuous teenage emotion at her disposal. And still nothing happens.

She drops the flashlight to the floor and falls back on the floral bedspread, grinning at the ceiling.

Thank God, she thinks.

[And then there's a scene of teenage trauma - not a Carrie-at-the-prom level of trauma, and certainly funnier (how hard can that be?). I'm not including it here because I think it will be too long to excerpt, and also I haven't written it yet.]

She arrives at home, breathless, and goes straight to her bedroom for the flashlight. She turns it on, and off, and on again. Nothing happens. She twists open the casing and pours out two C batteries covered in crystalline decay. So much for emergencies.

She runs into the kitchen, rummaging through the junk drawer, gathering up all the batteries she can find, but none of them are the right size. After throwing around old fuses and rolls of twine and take-out menus for restaurants that aren't even in business anymore, she realizes that she should just use the batteries in her portable stereo.

She walks back to her room and heads toward the stereo, but before she can get there, music surges out of it - Boy George is offering to tumble for her. She fights with the switches, trying and failing to turn it off, the music getting louder as her frustration grows. She finally bows to the inevitable and takes the batteries out. The silence doesn't make her feel much better.

She sits down on her bed, staring at the batteries in her hand, and thinks, Shit.

November 09, 2004
Another Internal Editor Bites the Dust

As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/8 I have 6,420 words. But the night is young.

Good enough. My internal editor is finally starting to break down (it takes a while), so the word count should be heading upwards soon. Quality, on the other hand...


Dahl is one of the best fraud analysts around. His colleagues think he's a little odd, a little grim. He has no apparent interests outside the data. He comes to work late, but he stays later. He's oblivious to office politics. He barely acknowledges his boss, and his very presence makes upper management uncomfortable. He burns through sick time, and often shows up looking like he hasn't slept in days.

But no one would fire him; his work is that good. He finds fraud the other analysts would miss. He's helped various banks recover $8 million in the last year alone.

"How do you do it?" one of his co-workers was bold enough to ask one day while Dahl was filling a paper cup with muddy coffee in the office kitchen.

He stares at the speaker for a long moment, as if processing how so much audacity can come out of a guy only as high as his own stubbled chin. "You have to be looking for something specific," he finally says as he walks away.

Dahl goes back to his desk, thinking that letting that sentence out of his mouth is the first mistake he's made in years, which only reminds him of his last mistake, and makes his mood more dangerous.

November 08, 2004

As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/7 I have 5,146 words. Even further behind quota. I, uh, cleaned a lot this weekend.

Still pretty good. I've the got the whole plot outlined, and it looks like the story is big enough to sustain an entire book - I was concerned it would be a little thin.


She takes her sharpened Number Two pencils into the SATs, unaware that this year the kids three counties over are piloting a computerized Scholastic Aptitude Test that would never be adopted. If she lived a hundred and fifty miles further east, she could be dealing herself five aces and a score she could use to pry her way into the Ivy League. Instead, she's filling in the little bubble under "C", which is, as it turns out, wrong.

She'll score just over the median - not high enough for Harvard or Yale, but good enough to get her into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which was her first choice, anyway.

November 05, 2004
Hey, Wasn't I Supposed to be Writing a Novel?

Overdue NaNoWriMo Update:
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/4 I have 3,702 words. Sure, it's below quota, but considering I was preoccupied on Tuesday and severely hung over on Wednesday, I think I'm doing okay.

Good, but so far writing a novel in the third person is less fun than writing in the first person. The omniscient narrator thing bugs me. I'd rather walk around in the characters, like a suit of armor or fuzzy footie pajamas or whatever they happen to be. I'd just switch, but this one needs the third person, and I need the practice. And I can always get that first person buzz by bringing on the dialogue, which I haven't really done yet.

Excerpt of the day:

It was easier to think the whirring blender or the roaring television made the baby cry, and not the other way around, so that's what they thought.

And when Maura learned to walk, it was easier to believe that keeping the appliances unplugged and putting covers on the sockets was simply childproofing the house, so they believed that, too.

As Maura got a little older, the appliances began to act up less frequently, until the trouble pretty much stopped altogether. So by the time she started preschool her parents found it easier to forget that sort of thing had ever happened at all.

November 04, 2004
Oh, Canada!

Dear Canada,

Thank you for your quick response to my earlier message. The brochure you enclosed, "So You Want to Be Annexed by Canada", was extremely helpful, and gave me and my fellow Washingtonians a lot to think about.

First, let me say that I understand your concerns about the Domino Effect - you let in one state, and then another, and another, and pretty soon New Jersey has been sleeping on your couch for eight months. And I know you think we're pretty chummy with Oregon, that we'll insist on hanging out, but I swear, passing that anti-gay marriage amendment was the last straw - you can count on us to lock down that border...right after we invade Multnomah County. We think we'll be greeted as liberators.

Look, there I go, getting all American on you. I'll work on that, I promise.

I know other states have flirted with going Canadian, and it's always ended badly. I only have Maine's side of the story, but I'm sure the New Brunswick had very good reasons for calling it off. And I'm really sorry it got so ugly, but come on - everybody knew North Dakota was just using Manitoba to make South Dakota jealous.

This is different, Canada. Washington loves you. Let's make it legal, baby.

Yours in anticipation,


November 03, 2004
Bright Idea

Dear Canada,

The election of George W. Bush has caused so many of my fellow Washingtonians to declare their intention of moving to your fine nation that I feel compelled to take a bold step and ask whether you'd have any interest in acquiring Washington as an additional province.

It would save my friends a lot of trouble, and as you know, we are already relying on you for inexpensive prescription drugs and flu vaccinations.

Washington has much to offer Canada. We make airplanes, and music, and software. We grow apples. We smell nice. We're fun to talk to. We'll laugh at your jokes.

And remember, it's not just a border we have in common - we also have compatible attitudes about healthcare, homosexuality, and pot.

I think we're looking at a win-win here, but you need to act fast, before the U.S. Department of Energy sends us more nuclear waste.

Please send me whatever paperwork we need to fill out to get the ball rolling.



November 01, 2004
Here We NaNoWriMo Again

First, allow me to express my gratitude to the calendar for moving so speedily to the end of October. At first I found the rapid slide of days incredibly nerve-wracking, but now I see the wisdom: let's just get it the hell over with and call the damn thing done.

The same goes for election season.

Anyway, here we are in November, a brand-spankin' new month, and if it's November, I must be trying to write a whole novel in thirty days. And so I am. I hadn't planned on it, but back in September I had what seemed to me a nifty idea, and I figure it's best to use the liberating power of NaNoWriMo to knock out a draft while the drafting's good.

Of course, the difference between this year and 2002 & 2003 is that I won't be trying to pull off this crazy exercise while holding down a full-time cube job. Instead, when I'm not writing this year's effort, I'll be editing the previous years' work. Theoretically. I'm not sure that I'll be willing or able to change gears as necessary. We'll see.

So, on to the update:
As of 11:30 p.m. on 11/1 I have a mere 572 words.

Excellent, because even though I'm only a hundredth of the way along, I spent the first eight hours of 11/1 researching and writing the last entry for 525 Reasons (credit to R for the Kerry section). So I only got three hours of sleep. But it means that my obligation to that site is done. Done done done. Done. R and I will certainly have a thing or two to say about the election results, but at last there's no meter on it. A seventeen-month commitment, done.

Words (this is cheating a bit, because I wrote most of this section back in September, but I did re-write it in the third person tonight, and it is the beginning of the novel):

Machines find her very persuasive. ATMs are particularly ready to believe anything she tells them.

This morning Maura's standing in front of one of those chirpy little ATMs, the kind that uses phrases like, "Hi there!" and "Hang on just a sec" and "Thanks for coming by!" She hates these kind, so she uses them most often.

"Hi there!" the screen says to her. "Please give me your card so we can get started." She pulls a stack of cards bound with a rubber band from her bag, and chooses one at random. Allen County Public Library. An old card, with a worn magnetic strip on the back and the name Diana Mooney on the front.

Maura slides it into the slot and thinks, That's a valid card from your bank.

"Great! Now I just need your Personal Identification Number."

You already have my PIN.

"Super! What would you like to do today? Withdrawal from savings? Withdrawal from checking? Transf-"

Withdrawal from checking.

"And how much can I get you?"

Sixty dollars.

"There you go! Can I get you anything else?"

No, just give me back the card.

The card slides out, and Maura slips it back into what she always thinks of as the deck.

"Would you like a receipt?"

There wasn't any transaction.

"Then we're all set. Have a nice day!"

Maura is having a nice day.

Give the next person an extra twenty.