Monday, November 30, 2009

The lure of leftovers

If you don't know me, you will probably think I sound strange and if you do know me, well, you'll probably think I'm a lot stranger than you already do.

I hate having food in the house.

Weird, huh?

I also hate furniture.Okay, see, I have this fear of settling down, of staying in one place too long, of not being able to pack up and leave at a moment's notice. Buying furniture - and painting the walls and putting up pictures and decorations and generally making an apartment more comfortable and personal - means you're stuck. You can't put all of your important belongings in the car and drive off.

I know, I know. I've been in this same apartment, same town, for ten years (10, oh my god) and it doesn't look like I'm about to leave any minute.

But I could. I can. I can leave what's here and start new somewhere else. I can put my husband and my ballet slippers and my laptop in the back of the car and just go. Well, maybe Mo doesn't go all the way in the back.


What exactly does this have to do with food and my distaste for having it in the house? You're probably asking yourself. And then quickly following that with, "man, Leigh is seriously deranged."

How could I just leave - or go away for the weekend or shake up my world - if there is food here? It means I can't do what I want when I want or the way I want. Food in the house, like furniture, requires me to make plans and decide where I'll be for a while. Most of the time, I do like plans and I do enjoy a routine but I like the feeling that I don't have to if I choose not to. In other words, I want to choose to be routine, not feel forced to have one.

Is that so strange?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Is it already Thanksgiving?

Oh my...where has the time gone? This means we're just a month away from Christmas, and while that doesn't really mean a lot to me since I will continue to write and teach throughout the New Year without much of a break, I know the "holidays" and its attendant "spirit" will soon be in the air.

You know what I'm talking about: big sales!

Tomorrow, Black Friday, marks the official start of the shopping season and though I hadn't intended to be part of it, my Mom and Dad apparently had so that's what we will be doing at least some point during the day. Mo with Dad at Costco, cuz that's manly shopping, and me with Mom at (hopefully) some non-mall discount stores.

I already have a headache just thinking about it.

I will probably sound anti-American (and supremely non-thankful) but I hate consumerism with a passion. I hate the accumulation of material things. I hate the idolization of acquisition. I don't want to own things. I don't want to covet my neighbor's new car. I don't want to feel like less of a person because I don't have a house, a boat, a giant television set, or a closet full of designer clothes.

I don't begrudge other people the right to purchase whatever their heart desires but I do hate the media and big business for exploiting and encouraging it above real values, values of friendship and family and honor and honesty. It's almost as if - could it be true? - that corporate America doesn't want its citizens to live fully, to make choices based on need rather than want. Especially during the current economy! It's unconscionable to foist false dreams on the American public.

Recently I watched the movie "Food Inc." which is an excellent documentary about where our food really comes from in this country. The section on cows and E. coli included discussion about how the potentially deadly bacteria gets into our food. Eric Schlosser, who wrote the book Fast Food Nation on which the doc was based, said that cows could easily be rid of 80% of their E. coli if they are taken off a corn diet and fed grass, as is their natural evolutionary wont, for 5 days.

Rather than take this "natural" step, the beef industry chose instead to create an additional, even more unnatural step of washing the meat in an ammonia bath. In other words, rather than move in a more positive and humane direction, the industry took drastic steps to maintain the status quo.

Apply this to our economic situation: big business is not seeking new solutions to old problems but is desperate for ways to continue doing things the way they always did. It continues to push consumerism on us - it's merely seeking new ways to cut costs so that we can more readily afford what it's selling. Close US industries, open factories in Guam or some other small island nation where the employees can be exploited, keep costs down - but sell, sell, sell and earn even more profits for its shareholders.

This isn't real change. This isn't helping the American economy. This isn't giving families what they truly need. On this Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for being allowed to speak my mind, thankful I have good friends and family and a loving husband, thankful I'm able to live in an apartment and buy healthy food. It's what I wish for all people in this country.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Moon thoughts

No, I haven't seen the movie yet and likely won't until it comes out on video. I did see Twilight and laughed so hard I thought my spleen would explode. I have heard this is better - better script and director, better SF/X - but I just can't bring myself to do it. I even know 2 people connected to the film (Rachelle Lafevre who plays Victoria is a former neighbor; one of the editors is a dancer in a class I take) and I wish them all the success in the world. I hope every Titanic-loving tween girl attends three times and puts money in the pockets of all the people who made the movie. Uh-uh. I appreciate the storytelling in the books - they were absolute pageturners a la Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" - Uh-uh. I read all the books, okay? Don't make me see the movies too.

HH is going to see it. With a male friend of his. Without me. Weird, huh?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday breaks

Over at the fab blog, YA Fresh, a whole slew of amazing YA writers weigh in on their plans for the holidays, specifically whether or not they will get any writing done. Some, like Tina Ferraro and Melissa Walker, use the time to take a break from their work to enjoy some relaxation with family and loved ones or just catch up on reading. Others, like Stephanie Kuehnert and Heather Davis, say they will continue to write, either out of habit or simply because they don't have a house full of relatives visiting!

This made me think about the importance of daily writing in my life. As it is with dancing, I think I physically and mentally suffer when I'm not writing every day. For the past six weeks, for instance, I haven't been writing anything - only outlining - and it was brutal. I felt crabby and anxious and just plain out of sorts.

Now I'm at the start of a new book and it's - fitful - heaven. I'm excited to get to my computer every day, excited to think about words or phrases or scenes I will use. It's fitful, though, because I have to ramp up my speed. I normally write between 2k and 2.5k a day when I'm in the throes of a book but I have to get there! I can't jump in at that pace.

So, while I will take a very short break over Thanksgiving when my parents are in town, I won't over the Christmas holidays. I will keep working, keep writing, keep dancing every day. Maybe dancers and writers are strictly creatures of habit and that's the only reason we get anything accomplished!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday the 13th

Things I Used to Be Afraid Of

1. Spontaneous combustion - not just the sudden conflagration of a pile of newspapers in the closet but of my own body. As a kid of maybe 8 years old, I was seriously worried I might spontaneously burst into flames. I must have seen this on an episode of "Wonder Woman" or "Six Million Dollar Man."

2. Getting stuck in purgatory - I was a good Catholic kid so naturally I was concerned I would go to Hell if I was bad (forget about Santa not giving me presents, I feared the Devil). Worse was learning about purgatory or limbo. To assuage my worries, my mother assured me that would not happen to me since I had been baptized. So naturally, I became worried for all of those babies who had not been baptized.

3. Botulism - in the 70s there were some outbreaks of botulism linked to canned mushrooms which marked my psyche forever. To this day, I still examine every centimeter of a can of anything and refuse to purchase or use a can that has even the slightest indentation. So technically, this is one thing I am still afraid of.

4. Dolls coming to life - not to terrorize me a la "Chucky," nor for adventures a la "Toy Story," but to chastise me for not taking them into bed with me. For this reason, I would tuck all of my stuffed animals and dolls under the covers each night and make sure that they each had a turn to be next to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rachel Olivier's new e-novella!

"The Holly and the Ivan" (Drollerie Press) is a delightful holiday story with elements of magic woven into the romance and mystery. Rachel Olivier is a master at using just the right word. Every sentence feels chosen, not merely written. She makes me want to tether myself to a thesaurus!

Holly is a pretty barista cum girl band singer who meets 2 very different men in her coffee shop and invites both to be VIPs at her concert that evening. Mike is blond and cheerful while Ivan is dark and brooding. She feels sparks with both men and wonders how she got so lucky to meet two cute guys in one night. Her friends and bandmates remind her that she hasn't been so lucky in love lately - in a word, her love life is a train wreck!

Mike and Ivan, however, are not who they appear to be, as we soon learn. Ivan is following Mike and trying to save Holly for reasons that are known only to him. Holly, unfortunately, learns the hard way - yowch! First, however, there's a charity performance of Holly's band, Canto Sybilla, where the showdown between the men occurs - where dark meets light and Holly is the casualty. Will she survive to meet either man and if so, will it be her choice?

I love how Rachel Olivier adds touches of fantasy to our everyday, mundane lives: the bottomless pocket that holds the right change for a tip - or a gorgeous silken dress! A magical blessing over a crowd that makes the night more special for everyone that the real reason we have such a great time at rock concerts?

(You mean it's not the contact high?)

I often find fantasy cold and suffering from pretension. Too many characters have weird names. The dialogue is often stiff and faux Olde English, the prose overwrought and overwritten, the plot convoluted. But Rachel's stories are immensely entertaining and readable and I enjoy them as much as I enjoy stories from the best urban fantasy writers like Emma Bull, Melissa Marr and Holly Black (well, those are my favorites!).

For just a couple bucks, you too can delight in Rachel's story. Check out the link here to Drollerie Press and download a copy for yourself. And ignore the "erotica" tag. This story is pure romance.

This was a new experience for me, reading an e-novella. I don't have an e-reader so I had to download the novella to my desktop as a pdf file. Fortunately, my computer is a tiny notebook so it was quite comfortable to read while laying down. The graphic design was beautiful, the font easy-to-read and unlike a real book, it was simple to make the typeface larger or brighter as the sun faded and I had less light to read by.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big bargains on all things LEIGH-related at Amazon!

Another big sale at Amazon: LOVE, MEG hardcover for less than 5 bucks! Wowsa!

Check it out here.

And ALL ABOUT VEE still has a separate bargain price: less than 4 dollaroonies, yo.

Here's the VEE link.

I wonder if I should take these markdowns personally. Don't you like my books, Amazon gods?

So get a jump start on your holiday shopping. Tell your friends. Buy a copy for your school or library. Add it to your Amazon cart and be sure to get the free shipping!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The winner is...


Yay, Miss Page Flipper! Congrats on scoring a signed hardcover of LOVE, MEG from the In Bed With Books' contest. Just in time for the holidays - I'll sign to you or someone else if you want to give it to a friend.

Ah, I love giving things away. If only I could give away some of the chocolate-frosted Devil's Food cupcakes I made yesterday so they're not tempting me with their devilish-chocolate-y scent...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A total bargain!

Ever want a copy of my book, ALL ABOUT VEE, but you said to yourself, "Aw that's too much money. I want to pay much less!"

Well, now you can! For a limited time only, ALL ABOUT VEE is less than 4 bucks at Amazon! Just click over to this link and you'll find the bargain paperback.

I have no idea why it's being sold for such a low price, but I say, take it while you can get it! Cheap is good...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hidden costs of freelancing

When you decide to work for yourself, create your own business, live life on your own terms, there are certain costs involved. For one thing, you have to pay yourself. You have to pay your own taxes - no withholding or worker's comp taken out each week by an employer. You have to pay for your health insurance (yowch!), office supplies, electric bills, computer costs, etc. No more paid holidays or sick time or vacation.

But you know all of that. After all, you're smart enough to be working for yourself, not THE MAN. If you're starting a new business, you've probably saved up some money to live on while the business builds and you've budgeted rent and food and Netflix too so you're good to go.

Wait. Did you know about some of these other costs?

1. Coffee - my former employer had a well-stocked break room which included all manner of coffees, teas and hot chocolates. There were plenty of bottles of name-brand spring water too, plus the occasional treat someone would bring in or the company (in its flush years) would provide. On your own, YOU supply the break room. And it can't be a trip to Starbucks every morning either or you will quickly go broke.

2. TP - you're in an office environment for 8-10 hours per day. You're gonna use the bathroom. That's toilet paper, paper towels, and soap five days a week, fifty weeks a year. Now YOU have to provide the bathroom supplies. And the more time you spend in there, the more you have to clean the sink and floor and wash towels. That's added expense too unless you have a cleaning person and since you're on a budget, I'm thinking NOT.

3. Gas - when I worked in Burbank, I would park my car in the company garage for free and walk to do all my errands at lunch, thus saving gas and time that would have been spent after work. Now I have to drive to the bank, drive to the pharmacy, drive to the doctor, rather than walking. So that's gas I must use and parking I must pay for.

4. Birthday lunches, holiday parties, special occasions - without co-workers and an employer, YOU are paying for your own birthday lunches and YOU are spending your precious money to have a party at the holidays. No, it's not a big deal and honestly, who needs to see the guys from accounting wasted and Xeroxing their naked butts in the copy room? But these are social opportunities you could use to blow off steam or vent about the new memo policy...then again, you're working for yourself so you shouldn't need this!