SLOWED to a crawl? How inaccurate.

I’m trying to decide if I should dust the cobwebs off my blog or allow them to stay as festive Halloween decorations.
Probably dust them… I don’t do scary.
Last time I wrote that the twins were starting to crawl. At that point it was *wobble, wobble, move a few inches, beam at me.*
Now it’s ZOOOOOM, CLIMB, STAND, FALL, WAIL – in the same amount of time.
Plus, The Wild Imp is stubbornly convinced that he can stand unassisted.  He SO can’t. He also believes it’s a brilliant idea to hang from the top of the babygate and then fling himself backward.
I spend much of my day diving across the room trying to prevent traumatic head injuries. As a result I wear the bruises instead of him. Many, many bruises.
But, there’s bedtime and naptime and my writing stays alive in these snatches of time. SEND ME A SIGN’s revisions were approved and it’s been moved on to copyedits (HOORAY!) and I just finished revisions on my second book as well. (Lots of Revision Skittles were consumed in the past two months. LOTS).
And my work in progress is a thing of love. I adore it. Everything about it. Even its writing playlist, which I have to stop myself from listening to when I’m not working on it.
The song I play most often is this one:

And while I won’t tell you what it’s about just yet, a HUGE hint is that this band’s name would be a fabulous title for the book.

Procrasti-baking

These are too fun to be the product of Stress-Baking.  
Rice Krispie Cake Batter Treats – recipe found HERE
Maybe they’re Procrastination Treats? We leave for two weeks of vacation tomorrow –- a working vacation for me, since my revision is due at the end of the month – and I’m not packed. I haven’t packed for the boys yet either.
Every time I look around our house, I can’t help but feel like they twins need All The Things. And then I look at our car and panic.
Did I mention we’ll be spending about 20 hours in that car over the next few days?
*panics*
And my head is totally in the Revision Cave and doesn’t want to stop and think about whether or not we’ve packed the boys’ sound machine or laundry detergent.
It’s such a good thing I’m married to a saint. He not only remembers these things, but also that I have library books due before we get back, the boys’ vitamin prescriptions needs to be refilled, and the memory card on the camera needs to be emptied.
AND, he went and photocopied my line edits last night. Because, let’s face it, it’s me – things just happen, and a backup copy never hurt.
So, nope, I’m changing my mind again. They’re not Stress-Baking, or Procrastination Treats, they’re Gratitude Goodies. I am so grateful his head’s on straight when mine isn’t.
***Also, I’m noticing a decidedly sugar-y theme to my posts lately – I swear I eat vegetables, too. Pinky promise***

Someone Please Hide My Ove-Glove

 I must not make muffins. I must not make muffins. NO MUFFINS, TIFFANY.
I’m meeting my stroller posse in about an hour for our 8:30 stroll, and I really, really, really want to mix up a batch of muffins. Maybe chocolate chip. Or apple cinnamon. Or, I know, blueberry using berries from the bushes in our backyard. They’d be delicious.
But I won’t.
*sigh*
Hi, my name is Tiffany, and I’m a stress-baker. * Give me some anxiety and I will feed you food made from sugar, love and angst. But mostly sugar.
In the past month, while waiting to announce, waiting on CP notes on my WIP, and now waiting on my edit letter I have made: 3 coffee cakes, 1 peanut butter pie, 1 angel food cake, 2 batches of cinnamon buns, and 2 types of cookies. ** Then I force fed everyone around me.***
Thank goodness for baby food. Steaming, pureeing, and packing up pint-sized portions of fruits and veggies is almost as good as mixing up a batch of snickerdoodles.  I spend so much time cutting and peeling and planning baby meals that I should probably add it as a hobby on Facebook. And, I’m not going to lie, I get an absurd amount of satisfaction out of opening up my fridge and freezer and admiring all the neat rows of colorful glass containers. If the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow, the boys will still have an ample supply of organic peaches, carrots, zucchini, acorn squash, sweet potato, avocado, pears, apples, banana, spinach, beans and peas.****
Mmmmm, stress tastes like spinach. It’s delicious!
Which will come in handy when I begin revisions and naptime becomes Sacred Writing Time instead of What Shall We Cook Today? Time.
Until then I will (try to) resist the urge to make play with sugar and butter. I will hang up my apron, stopper my vanilla and have St. Matt hide my cookie sheets.
NO MUFFINS, TIFFANY.
What do YOU do when you’re waiting? No, seriously, leave me a comment and tell you what you do – I could use some alternatives since we’ve run out of freezer space for baby food.
*St. Matt suggests I amend this to impatient-baker, but I say NO. Impatient-baker doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly so well. Some people were just not designed to wait. If God decided to include a half-dose of patience when he created me, who am I to question that?

**And for some unknown reason, my baby weight hasn’t just melted right off

***I haven’t heard any complaints.

**** Please note that in my version of the apocalypse, we still have electricity. Also note that I am not asking for the apocalypse, I’d prefer that waits until AFTER I get to see SEND ME A SIGN in bookstores.

Revisionland

Confession: I love revising. Love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love drafting too – the suspense of becoming acquainted with new characters and the surprise of figuring out what they’ll say and how they’ll react. ª

I get the whole Girl Scouts’ song “Make new friends…” but I’ve never had a problem with “but keep the old.”

Revisions *contented sigh* are like going home to my friends-since-elementary-school, sitting on a porch and drinking apple cider while we chat and chat.

It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. And it’s engaging. Uncovering new layers, ambitions, motivation. Tightening and interweaving. Discovering threads of nuance I’d already included that need to be enhanced.

Give me colored pens, a large bag of Revision Skittles, and a quiet place to work and I’ll stay happily sequestered until St. Matt or the puggles demand some attention or life intervenes. Emerging for bathroom breaks and refills of my mug and Revision Skittles, pausing for Inspiration Walks, Inspiration Workouts and Inspiration Bubble-baths, my mind is full of beloved characters and trouble spots in the manuscript.

And even when I’m away – 26 sixth graders demand a lot of my attention and energy for much of the week – there are scenes and scenarios bubbling away on the back burner of my brain.

So when I’m lacking on Twitter, slacking on my blog and being a delinquent about returning phone calls, don’t worry. I haven’t been kidnapped by pirates, gotten lost in the woods or come down with an incurable strain of porcine flu.

I’m just ensconced in my revision-cave, sugar-fortified, ink-stained fingers, scribbled-across pages and a smile.

Be back soon.

Virus Scan Wars

You know the moving walkways at airports? And how if you walk against the motor, you make no progress? Welcome to my day.

It started when I tried to open a file. I just wanted to peek at yesterday’s revision. The file wouldn’t open.

So I tried another file I’d work on last night: a friend’s MS that kept me up way-too-late. It wouldn’t open.

I tried everything I could think of, but neither file would cooperate. All my other Word files were fine. Not the end of the world, but it was a waste of a night’s work and a good *nudge* to update my virus software.

Updated. Easy-peasy. Started a scan.

While I was waiting, I figured I’d open the latest version of LUCKY MIA and re-do the chapter numbering since I had two chapter 31’s and no chapter 3.

Only, when I opened the file, it didn’t look like my story. It was a dense mess of text.

All the formatting was gone: Single spaced. No indents. No italics. Nothing centered. Hard returns deleted. Comments gone.

A chaotic block of words.

*PANIC*
But not horrible, I figured I’d just open the file from the day before – I resave my MS each day as a separate file.

Clicked on LUCKY MIA 8-11: A chaotic block of words.

*Super-sized PANIC*
And thus began my adventures with online virus scan support, because when I looked in the scan log, it showed the software issuing ‘violation reports’ and ‘denying’ parts of Word*. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found double-spacing so offensive that it should be banned. And while I may overuse italics, that’s hardly a reason to revoke my emphatic privileges.

Off to ‘tech chat’ I went. First I had Jordan, who based on his syntax and creative use of the English language, is probably not really named Jordan Carter.

Jordan was confident he could fix my problems. Until I followed his instructions and they didn’t.

Jordan: Please proceeds by restarting the computer.
Me: Will this fix the problem & restore my formats?
Jordan: I recommend that you restart the computer.
Me: But won’t that end our chat.
Jordan: The chat session will be terminated.
Me: But what if it’s not fixed?
Jordan: (who I imagine is now doing a gleeful dance that he will be rid of me). Please contact online support if you require any more assistance. Refer to chat #844671
Jordan: It was my pleasure to work with you. Have a nice day.

I restarted. It was a mistake. Upon attempting to log-in, Huey-the-laptop informed me that “Unauthorized Changes had been made to Windows.” He then told the changes would “Limit Windows Functionality” which was particularly scary since it had been less than functional before.

Forty minutes and an entire stress-eaten jar of macadamia nuts later, I was logged in. The problem was NOT fixed (darn you, Jordan!). I scurried off to online support again and was paired up with “James.”

“James” has even less understanding of the rules of English, and he also might have been cooking lunch or mowing his lawn or something, because he took for-ev-er to respond to my pleading requestions.

After reading the transcript of chat#844671, James told me to do the same thing Jordan suggested.
Me: I’ve already done that.
James: Re-read my directions. This is for the VirusScan Program not to scan the Microsoft program.
Me: I followed your directions. It takes different steps, but both you and Jordan instructed me to add Word.exe to my exceptions list. It’s there. I checked.
James: Is the problem fixed?
*I visualize a kid in an elevator here – you know the one that repeatedly presses the same button like that will make it travel faster*
Me: No.

James: I will send you instructions. You open up Wordpad or Notepad and copy them incase we get disconnected.
Me: Ready.
…. Long wait while James stirs his soup or clips his toe nails.
Me: All set! James?
James: *directions* including: Press the Firewalls and Security Options button on the left side of the screen.
Me: I don’t have that button.
James: Then do not press it.
Me: Um, done?
James: Please follow the directions to exit the program.
Me: Okay, I’ve exited the program.
James: I will send you direction to exit the program.
Me: It’s okay, I right clicked and exited. I don’t need directions.
James: *sends directions*
James: Let me know when you are ready to proceeds
Me: (wondering if he read my last messages and why James and Jordan both struggle with ‘proceed’ Are they really the same person? If I start a new chat, will I get John or Jacob or Joe?) All set. What next?
James: Does the problems still occur?
Me: *checks… chaotic block of text* YES.
James: The problem is not with our software. Contact Microsoft for assistance.

This is where I went into oh-no-no mode.

James: I recommend you uninstall the virus scan, system restore, reinstall.
Me: Will that fix the problem?
James: I will send you directions.

I uninstall.

Me: It says that I need to restart the system for the changes to take affect. Should I do this?
No answer.
Me: James? Also, last time I restarted, I had real problems logging back in. Will those be fixed?
Loooong pause. Perhaps James is walking his dogs. Maybe he could come walk the puggles, b/c they’re getting a little impatient with my crazed computer staring.
James: Proceeds to uninstall the virus scan.
Me: I did. It’s uninstalled. It says I need to restart.
James: Yes, restart.
Me: But what about the systems restore and reinstall?
James: Restart first. I will send you directions.
Me: So will this fix it?
James: Follow the directions.
Me: After I do the systems restore, it should be fixed, right? So then, when I reinstall, is it going to recreate the problem? Should I ‘exclude’ Word right away.
James: I do not recommend that.
Me: But last time, when I started a virus scan it messed up Word.
James: I recommend you try it first.
Me: And if it recreates the problem, I’d have to uninstall, restore the system, reinstall.
James: I recommend this.
Me: Is it worth the risk?
James: Yes.

Clearly, James is willing to play fast and loose with my files.

I save his directions. And restart…. you may have noticed that James never answered my question about whether or not I’d have problems logging-in. That was an artful dodge my tech-help friend. Crafty.

Log-in screen: “Unauthorized Changes have been Made to Windows”

Thus commenced a 45 minutes of a loop where I put in my password, it give me this message & restarted. Since I was out of macadamia nuts, I ate blueberries by the handful and paced. The puggles trailed me in my stress-induced game of follow the leader.

To switch things up, Huey began warning me that my version of Office may be counterfeit. No. It’s not. It’s the same version I had last night. The same version I’ve had for 2 years. Unless sneaky software bandits crept into my house between the hours of 3AM and 6AM, it’s authentic.

Finally! Success. And Word works too! Only, Huey tells me he has updates he needs to install and he wants me to restart…

40 more minutes of me pleading… really, it is authentic, I haven’t made unauthorized changes, I love you Huey, work with me… I’ll try not to abuse italics, I’ll use those special screen wipes you like… Sleep mode? You’ve got it!

Six and a half hours later, I’m back where I started: the same two files still don’t work. And my virus scan is now, not only out of date, but uninstalled.

I could reinstall it like James recommended… but then I’d have to restart.

*I do not want to identify the company for fear that they will send me ALL of their viruses, since surely they have plenty.

Write the Rainbow…

I have a tendency to develop little routines. You could call them traditions – St. Matt calls them obsessions. But they’re just little habits that help me get stuff done.

For instance, I’ve listened to DMB’s “Dancing Nancies” on the first day of school for the past 13 years (since my sophomore year in HS). Before I serve in tennis, I have to bounce a few times in place – not the ball, mind you, I bounce me. Every night before I go to bed I have to check that the closet door is shut so I don’t get sucked into another dimension, Poltergeist-style.

Completely normal little routines.

With writing I have many of these. My latest one is Revision-Skittles. I’m not sure when it switched from being that’s-fun to that’s-necessary, but at some point between January and now I started the habit of allowing myself one Skittles Core per page revised.

Skittles really are the perfect candy for revision –besides being made of rainbows, creativity and inspiration – they’re small. Individually they don’t pack much of a calorie wallop, and if I ate enough to have a detrimental affect on my sugar-level, my worry was overshadowed by the thrill of knowing I’d had an excellent revision day. Plus, Revision-Skittle sugar-high carried me through a couple of extended elliptical hours.

Somewhere along the line Bruschi became a Revision-Skittle addict too, and now he will gladly curl up next to me during late-night revision sessions and wait semi-patiently for his loyalty to be rewarded with a circular piece of sugary goodness. And if I’m taking too long with any individual page, he’ll let me know this with a wet nose to my calf or an impatient paw on my arm.

Last week I finished up my second pass on my WIP (currently titled TBALMCSAP, but I seriously need to come up with something better soon). In a minor revision-miracle, not quite as impressive as Chanukah’s 8-days of light, my last bag of Skittles lasted to the final page of TBALMCSAP. I ate the last one as I pressed *SEND* on the e-mail to my first reader & did a happy dance. Tra-la-la!

After church today we stopped at Wegmans to do our weekly shopping. I smiled through the Wonka-esque candy aisle and skipped over to the shelf where Revision-Skittles wait for happy lil’ people like me.

It was empty.

Panic didn’t set in immediately, but it didn’t take longer than 5 minutes either. There are many other revision passes that will need to be made on TBALMCSAP! What about the WIP I began outlining last night. I WILL need to revise again. Soon. The rainbowful flavors began to fade from my memory, my head began to spin…

Before we were even home from Wegmans I was Googling the number for other supermarkets and calling out the digits to an indulgent St. Matt.

As I whimpered, “What if they’ve stopped making them?” He patted my leg and tapped the numbers on his keypad.

“Hello, I was wondering if you had Revision-Skittles in stock?”

Panic = Gone!
Laughter = Extreme!

As I giggled and tee-hee’d St. Matt shot me you’re-in-trouble-looks, corrected himself and managed to ascertain that Giant did stock Skittles Cores but only in large bags. “Oh, that won’t be a problem. Thanks so much.”

So now I’m stocked up. I’m good to go. And someone just sent me something awesome to revise… I don’t know who’s more excited, me or Bruschi!

Hijacking the NTB

We had an addition put on our house this fall. They took the roof off our Victorian and turned our not-quite-walk-up attic into a third floor master suite. We did some rearranging of the second floor bedrooms during the process too. My one request during the whole ordeal (okay, I had more than one request, but the one thing I was truly adamant about) was that I get built-in bookshelves and a writing space.

 
Up until that point I wrote in our living room which, since there are people and puggles ‘living’ in it, is not a convenient place to write. I would also occasionally take Huey-the-Laptop and write in the dining room, or if it was nice out, write on the patio. Since most of my writing time occurs while other living things are sleeping, the living room was not the worst place to write – but it’s far from ideal.

So, bookshelves and a writing area. St. Matt agreed. The floor plans cooperated too; the front of the new bedroom has a dormer that’s 10 feet wide by 5 feet deep. It’s all windows and has an amazing view. If the blueprints were treasure maps (which St. Matt told me repeatedly they were not, despite all the X’s and dotted lines) then this would be the area pirates would be fighting over. St. Matt gave it to me. I set to work designing my desk – six feet long with room for a window seat on the end. He said sure. I added drawers and bins to my drawings. He said sure. I asked if we could make the surface out of one of the antique doors that had been removed during the process. He said sure. I asked if he was capable of building all this. He said sure. I got excited.

The contractors left and we moved into the addition on 12/23. St. Matt has been busy. I still have no desk. My bookshelves are framed and exciting, but the shelves aren’t in yet. (This has not, however, stopped me from piling books in them and having endless conversations about which books I’m going to select to come upstairs).

Have I been nag-y, pest-y, or whiney about this? Nope. I know, shocking isn’t it? Before you decide I’m lying, here’s why.

I have hijacked the room-that-will-be-a-nursery-if-we-ever-have-kids. Since that’s a long title, I’m just going to call it Nursery-to-be or NTB. Why this room? Because I had a brilliant idea while painting it post-construction.

Like most of my brilliant ideas, this one has an aspect of fortuitous accident. We were in Lowe’s (Home Depot?) AGAIN and St. Matt was doing something boring. So I did what I always do when I’m bored in a hardware store: go visit the paint guys. And that day someone was asking the paint guy about blackboard paint. I decided to eavesdrop. Having purchased his blackboard paint, the other customer left and I chimed in: “That’s pretty cool. If I didn’t hate blackboards with an unnatural degree of loathing, I’d get that.”

Paint Guy: “You hate blackboards?”
Me: “Yup, and I’m a teacher, go figure.”
PG: “So what do you use in your classroom?”
Me: “I have blackboards, I just won’t use them. I have the kiddos write the date and we stick stuff to them with magnets. I also have a Smartboard.”
PG: “Do you hate whiteboards too?”
Me: “Nope. Those I like.”
PG: “Well, they make Expo whiteboard paint too, you know.”
Me: mouth open.

We left with four containers of it.

St. Matt: What are you going to do with that?
Me: Paint, duh.
St. Matt: What are you going to paint?
Me: Don’t worry, I have a plan. (It should be pointed out these are the same words I used to reassure St.Matt when I dropped tweezers in the toilet, when I also did NOT actually have a plan. I wonder if he realizes when I say: Don’t worry, I have a plan, he should actually immediately become very, very worried).

Back to the NTB… In typical my typical insomnia productiveness, I painted it while St. Matt slept. Boy was he surprised in the morning! It has light green walls, a mini-mural in the closet, a blue clouded ceiling, and yes: the clouds climb down off the ceiling and become white boards on the walls. This is my childhood dream come true: walls I can write on without getting sent to the naughty chair.

These walls are where I storyboarded TBALMCSAP and this is now where I like to write, curled up on the bed in the NTB and facing my color-coded-by-character walls of awesomeness.
If we ever have a reason to use the NTB as an actual nursery, I’m in big trouble. Maybe we could put the not-yet-an-issue-baby in another bedroom. Or maybe, just maybe, St. Matt could finish my writing desk…

… And the still-in-the-distant-future-baby could sleep under that while I continue to hijack its room.

Headphones?

As I drove to work on Monday I slipped a new CD in the dashboard stereo – the car speakers haven’t played anything else since. For four days of commutes to and from the school, I listened to the song “Sunrise” from the In The Heights soundtrack. If St. Matt reads this he’s going to roll his eyes, and offer a prayer of thanks that we do NOT carpool.

I do this frequently. Find a song that embodies an aspect of my WIP and play it exhaustively until that scene is finished. The first time I listened to this song I wanted to pull over and shout: “Eureka!” The issue I’d been having with my ending – resolved by a show tunes duet.

Only, I couldn’t resolve it because I’ve been in my self-imposed WIP separation period. So instead of opening my writer’s notebook and scrawling or opening a computer file and going tappity-tappity-tappity, I’ve listened and listened and listened.

By the time I allowed my fingers to fly across the computer keys this morning, the scene was mentally written, revised and fairly polished. I listened to the song on loop as the words bled onto the screen, and then another five times for good measure once my fingers stilled. (Thank God I remembered to get the CD from my car, St. Matt took it today ‘cause I was out of gas). Now “Sunrise” can be retired until I reach that scene on my next sweep through TBALMCSAP.

Musically I’ve already moved on to my next TBALMCSAP theme: Thriving Ivory’s “Angels on the Moon.” This one doesn’t go with a particular scene; it embodies a relationship between two characters. As of right now, its play count on iTunes is 37 – and I only downloaded it Wednesday night.

Does this surprise me? A little. It probably shouldn’t since St. Matt turned to me with near frenzied eyes last night and begged: “Headphones, please, headphones. Or a new song.” And that was probably after only repetition 18 or so. (Wimp). It surprises me only because I stop noticing what’s playing around me. I’d notice if the music stopped or changed, but I don’t tire of or flinch away from monotony of my choosing. I love it.

Even better? Twenty days, weeks, or years from now, if I hear “Sunrise” or “Angels on the Moon,” I’ll be brought right back to that scene and how much I enjoyed writing it.

Do you care, about all the little things or anything at all?
I wanna feel, all the chemicals inside, I wanna feel
I wanna sunburn, just to know that I’m alive
To know I’m alive
Don’t tell me if I’m dying, cause I don’t wanna know…
Play count: 43

Maybe we shouldn’t talk to each other for a few days…

Were you good at maintaining a post-break-up cooling off period? If you had a spat with a friend and she hung up on you, did you wait for her to calm down and call you back?

I failed at both of those things: over-anxious to go from kissers to companions, I’d want to call and hang out while battle-scarred heart tissue was still exposed; I’ve never handled tension well either, I want things resolved and reassured before the fight’s begun.

Mostly, when I love someone, I want him/her near me.

Granted TBALMCSAP is not a best friend, boyfriend, or even human – but the two weeks of self-imposed separation have been hard on me.

I’ve missed my WIP; missed the characters, had songs I wanted to share with Gyver (we’ve got similar taste in music), and comfort I wanted to offer to my conflicted MC. My finger’s twitched on the mouse, itching to click the ‘open’ icon; I’ve wandered into the spare bedroom and stared longingly at my storyboards, written in color-coded marker on whiteboard walls. In a show of impressive self-restraint, I’ve steered my mouse away and refrained from paging through print-outs.

It’s not permanent, I’ve told myself. It’s better in the long run. I need distance to gain perspective and clarity. I’m not ready. Strangely enough, these words would apply to post-break-up scenarios as well – is that why they’re familiar?

Two weeks – they’ve passed in a blur of insomnia, Jace-flavored Distraction Fairy’ness, caffeinated mornings, midnight workouts, and catching up on grading.

I’ve got big plans for tomorrow. Plans that include not changing out of my pajamas or eating anything that requires cooking. Plans that include turning the ringer off on my cell phone and selectively answering e-mail (so if you’re curious about if I really love you, tomorrow’s a good day to drop me an e-mail).

Before you write this off as a self-indulgent waste-away day, let me correct you; It’s a self-indulgent day of all-consuming revisions.

It’s rare that I can find a whole day without commitments, interruptions, or company – and this one’s timing is fortuitous. It’s been two weeks since I finished the first draft of TBALMCSAP, I’ve suffered through my forced separation from the MS, and now I’m ready and able to belly flop in – purple pen at ready.

My first revisions are brutal – they’re comprised of amputations, reconstructions, and -dectomys of all sorts. There’s a reason I don’t use red pen – I can feel my WIP’s non-anesthetized pain – I don’t need a bloody visual.

So while St. Matt’s at work, while the puggles are snuggled in sunbeams (*please, please, puggles – feel like sunbeam snuggling tomorrow*), I’ll be pajama’d and purple-pen-prepared to tear down and build up.

Let me at TBALMCSAP – I’m ready. I’ve missed you.

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