Archive for December, 2010


Alright. So based on the searches that are leading people to my blog, y’all want to know what it’s like working retail for Christmas. Fine – I can tell you of that. So here goes.

Working retail for Christmas doesn’t suck tremendously. Maybe it’s because I’m selling booze instead of toys, but it doesn’t completely suck. I figure it would suck selling toys, because toys seem to have a weirdly short shelf-life, so that there’s an Important Toy That Every Child Must Have every holiday season – if you’re the parent who failed to acquire the toy, you have become a Bad Parent. Boo to you. Also, I’m sorry, because I think a lot of guilt gets tied into failing to acquire the popular toy every year. 

I sort of think it’s a combination of this particular toy factor and the fact that I like sleeping that means I have yet to reproduce. I’m not in the sort of frame of mind that would convince me that it’s a good idea to get up at 4am to fight someone at a Walmart for Toy of the Season. Screw getting up: I like my snooze button.

Whereas with booze, well, like, Muscato is really popular right now – like it’s the wine that everyone used to sneer at that got a straight-hair makeover and bangs and is suddenly hot in the eyes of the school jock or something. It’s a fad and is flying off the shelves. At the same time, I’m pretty sure that failing to acquire Muscato for the holiday party does not automatically turn you into a pariah with 20 years’ worth of Toy Acquirement-Failure Guilt – like, one person might notice, but his life won’t end, her party won’t be ruined. What I’m saying here is that the substance I sell is in some ways of significantly less life-or-death importance than the toy that could make or break your child’s childhood memories.

On the other hand, like I said, I sell booze. That means that I sell the substance that many people look to to survive their families (or lack thereof) every holiday season. Fundamentally, this means that anyone over the age of 21 is generally happy to see me, which in turn means that I miss out on the customer craziness that turns so many holiday retail workers into complete misanthropists. The biggest problem I have during the Christmas retail season is dealing with the endless quantities of Christmas music. I’m not going to lie: that’s painful. PAINFUL. Like painful in a “I miss listening to Smooth Jazz” type of pain.

But the people are fine. They’re stressed, they’re tired, they’re not always happy, but they’re fine. They don’t yell or scream or throw weird fits or anything else that I’ve heard consumers are wont to do. The entertaining difference between four days before Christmas and any other time of year is that I’m much more likely to see someone walk in wearing an embarrasingly ugly Christmas sweater for a theme party. Beyond that, the only thing worth mentioning is that I see roughly 10 times as many people per shift now as I did 6 weeks ago. As this sort of influx creates the type of business that creates the money that funds my paycheck, I’m happy to see them. I like my paycheck.

So really, that’s it. That’s retail during the holidays. It’s spending a bunch of time dealing with people who all look at least semi-sincere when they say “happy holidays” to you while trying not to claw your eardrums out due to hearing “Daddy Looks A Lot Like Santa, and Santa Looks A Lot Like Me” for the fourth time that day. Except for the music, it’s not bad.

But like I said, I haven’t had to deal with any toy stores, either.

Endings and such

I don’t know if it’s aftereffects of the blarg or numbing effects of too many hours of chippercheery Christmas music or dulling effects from too many hours saying the same things over and over and over, but I keep thinking of things I should write or desperately want to write only to sit down at my computer hours later and think “fuck it. I’m tired. Imma read instead.” So I do.

My brain, meanwhile, goes wheeling off in weird directions at the worst times. Question: when is a good time to come up with a fun backstory idea for one of the worlds in the novel? Answer: not while in the middle of cutting dividers to stick between wine bottles so that they don’t clink. And not when in the car driving (though this is inevitable, I think), nor when some customer is regaling me for twenty minutes about why education is important (though that was a fun character study), nor when I’m in the shower (again, probably inevitable), nor when I’m attempting to fall asleep (*definitely* inevitable). I’d be fine with all of this if I could just remember it when I got the computer so that I could scribble notes down. I have three files open at all times: the main novel file, a file of notes on the world/characters, and a file of plot notes – theoretically, all I have to do is click to the write file and start babbling. So if I could just get the timing better, I feel like things would be working out a little more than they are.

I have figured out that I have a problem with endings. Like, I’m not really sure how to get them to function correctly. It’s basically like this (I should stop using the word like!): I’m all ready and raring to send the characters off on Final Rollicking Adventure, but I got to thinking about it. What, exactly, is the point of Main Character finding out the information she finds out at the journey’s end? And I’ve thought through it and thought through it and thought through it, and I’m not sure. Like, I’m not sure exactly why what she’ll find out is a big deal to anyone but her – it would certainly change her, but it wouldn’t drive a plot so much.

The result of my angsting over endings is that I’ve decided to complicate a whole bunch of stuff to see what happens. Like MC is the subject of a prophecy at the moment, which makes her Object of Interest to the Powers That Be. But prophecies and Chosen Ones only work if done right (seriously, I just mistyped that as “write” – I NEED SLEEP) and I don’t think I figured out enough backstory on that before plunging into NaNo. I’ve been thinking through it and thinking through it and I know I’ve had all kinds of glimmers of ideas but no idea if I’ve gotten to the right one yet. And I’ve let things be way too easy for MC – she’s generally been able to find people when needed, had no problem getting around to find info, whatever, which is unacceptable. It’s not that I think she needs an unmanageable level of hell to deal with, just that I’ve let her deal with some situations far too easily.

And I think that writing in First Person Present Tense really works beautifully for one major scene. The rest of the time, anything that’s happening could just as easily happen in past, so I need to flip tenses on the rewrite.

To sum up: I need to figure out a bunch of stuff so that I can finish the draft so that I can tear it apart and rewrite the vast majority of it. However, I refuse to rewrite (edit, dare I call it?) until I’ve finished a draft all the way through. I think I need to have a completed draft so that I can remind myself, when in the middle of rewriting and all that, that I really can get through it.

So I realize it’s been rather quieter around these parts in the past month and a half and that I haven’t been springing random hedgehog nail-trimming tip videos or recipes or silly mouse games on you people in a while. Sorry for that. The reason is that I haven’t honestly had much time to procrastinate.

I haven’t been on tvtropes in over a month. 😦 😦 😦

During November, I was pretty much entirely either at work or working on my NaNo project. Now that it’s December, I’m mostly at work or drinking beer for work or finishing Battlestar Gallactica with Tony or staring at the NaNo project, wondering why the hell I’m so stuck and why writing has been so difficult lately.

And I’ve spent far too much mental imager hating the hell out of Christmas songs.* It’s not the fault of the Christmas songs that pop and country singers like to cover them in hyper-sentimental, for-profit styles. But they suck, and I often wonder why they’re on constantly in so many retail outlets when I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually *likes* hearing Mariah Carey screech out “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” or whatever the hell she’s covered lately.

I think I hate these songs so much because I feel like I spend the day listening to a bunch of already-famous people covering songs they didn’t write so that they can earn money for their recording studios by preying on the wallets of people who are trying in their fashion to get into the holiday spirit. It’s like the postmodern-commercial side of Christmas made blatantly obvious – no originality even while we pretend to see meaning in it all or something like that which I’m not articulating well because it’s 1:37 in the morning and I’m trying to learn how to feel tired.

What I’m saying is that heavily commercial Christmas music is trying to make me hate Christmas. One would think working retail during the holidays would be enough to do this, but I find that I actually kind of like the retail part: being in the booze arena, I’m dealing with one of three types of people. Type one is the family cook coming in for alcohol for some recipe they only make during the holidays – they always have stories about what they’re making, and that’s fun. Type two is buying a ton of booze in order to make sure they throw a good party for their family – it’s something they’re invested in and seem genuinely happy about. So they’re fun. Type three is buying a ton of booze in order to make sure that they survive the family party – it’s pretty clear that they’re not looking forward to anything coming up and are trying to make sure they’ll be properly medicated. They’re bitter, but they’re typically funny as hell.

So it’s been busy, basically, and I miss having tons of time to play around online and find all kinds of random nonsense and then post it here with some kind of “um, my brain just borked” type thought. And I miss the novel-writing time. I’ve been so tired from work and everything that I’ve gotten really hung up on some plot points and haven’t had the time to sit and stare at my keyboard and just THINK until something pops into my head. So I’m stuck and hanging and have left Aurora hanging in an awkward conversation that I’ve recently deleted in hopes that making her life more difficult will help me move things along better.

We’ll see. Probably in January.

*Exception: the Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Song, which is and always will be awesome, and which should be played with much greater frequency on these otherwise torturous stations.

Mountain Dew Cake

So. This exists.

I have yet to be able to wrap my head around the existence of Mountain Dew Cake. It’s been hours since I first learned of such a travesty, and I’m still stuck.

Bacon vodka. I can handle that.

Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancake-Wrapped Sausage On A Stick, I can laugh at that.

Mountain Dew Cake is beyond my ability to comprehend. Part of me is thinking some variation of “only in America” (which is not a compliment to my country, I have to say), and the rest of me is thinking “NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.”

And some little part of me wonders if this was originally a Sandra Lee recipe, because it does sound pretty Semi-Ho. If only there were an accompanying Mountain Dew/coconut rum cocktail.

I have a blarg

This week in blogging, Cleolinda has been dealing with an illness she has named the Death Blarg. I think I’m dealing with a cousin of the Death Blarg. I don’t feel like I’m dying yet – I really just have an annoying amount of post-nasal drip and nowhere near enough energy (YAY TMI ON THE INTARWEBZ TIEMS YO!). But “Blarg” of some variety sounds roughly like what I have, so I’m borrowing her term.

At some point, I really need to buckle down and finish the draft of my NaNovel. I’ve been slacking hardcore this month on the writing because I’ve been trying to get back up to speed on my beer reviewing and because I’ve been working a ton and haven’t had the energy to write. I keep reminding myself that I managed to make time for it in November, so I should just get off my bum and get the energy back now, but it hasn’t really happened. Who knew just how powerful artificially imposed deadlines could be?

So. To do:
– get over Blarg
– make reservations at appropriately kickass restaurant to celebrate Brownie’s book deal
– write last 20K or so of novel (in the faint hope that with perseverance and many revisions and much editing I may one day have my own book deal to celebrate)
– Christmas shopping
– get car radiator serviced before Kansas winter kicks in full-full blast (as opposed to tonight/tomorrow, where it is kicking in only full blast)(read: full blast = high in the 20s versus full-full blast = high in the 1’s)

Great moments of SQUEEEEEEEEEE

Because I can’t wait to share the news any longer: my awesomesauce husband just got a book contract! It’s an academic book for an academic market coming out at some not-yet-determined point in the future. We heard about a month ago that he’d been given peer-review approval, but didn’t know until late this afternoon that the editorial board had approved publishing it (because, well, the editorial board didn’t meet to discuss it until this afternoon).

So at this point they’re mailing him a contract and he’s giving them a date that he’ll have the manuscript ready to proof by and they’re moving from there. Meanwhile, awesomesauce husband is away, meaning we can’t even celebrate until Monday (when he’s back and I’m not working until 11).

So. YAY!

Beer and writing and stuff

So yesterday, by the time I left work, I had a winter sampler pack from Sam Adams to review for work for the monthly beer special and 6 bottles of cider from a rep from the cidery (if I am not, in fact, making up that word, which I may very well be) given to me for free to review on el beer blog. Meaning that I actually *am* now writing for beer – like they provide, I drink, I write. And I’m loving this. I’m also sort of reeling because I never really thought that I’d actually be getting freebie beer to review, like, you know, ever.

But somewhere in the past month I started writing the beer reviews for the monthly beer specials at work. And then they gave me a weekly spot on the store website to review more beer. And now freebie cider because I was talking to a rep because none of the managerial-type people were around and somehow Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout came up (a beer that I desperately want but have yet to get ahold of) and then my blog came up and then somehow I ended up with a bunch of cider that I am working my way through in hopes of reviewing by, say, early next week.

So the upshot of posting all of this is that I’m sort of figuring out that I’m actually building a bit of a portfolio of my writing. And it’s writing about a subject that I’m pretty much over the moon about. So this is all good and lovely. Really.

So why sit here and post about it? Other than being excited, I mean.

The answer is basically that academics had dropped my self-esteem down to a sub-microscopic level, and I’m pretty much shocked to find that something I’m doing is going well. But it is, you know, going well.

THE POINT – to those of you in academics who desperately want the fuck out but don’t know what the hell to do with yourselves, I say unto thee: THERE IS LIFE OUTSIDE THE IVORY TOWER. And that life can be fuckawesome. It’s scary at first, but it will work itself out and things will get better. So for anyone who reads this who finds themselves in that horrid limbo place, a million hugs from me to you. It’s hard, and it’s hard to find the strength to believe in yourself or your talent, but you’ll get through it. And if you’re like me, you may someday find yourself in the surprising position of learning that someone actually *wants* to read your writing.

Things and stuff

So I’ve decided, should I find myself with large swathes of downtime at some point in the not it’s-the-holidays-while-employed-in-retail future, it might be really fun to do a Paradise Lost recap. Like, figuring out what the hell is going on and translating it so that the awesome can be readily available to people who want to know what the hell Milton was actually on about (and how awesome it can be), but who can’t/don’t have time to wade through the density of the language. Because it seems to me that between His Dark Materials, the upcoming Paradise Lost action! movie, and various references to it that keep popping up in my reading, Paradise Lost is still pretty current. I also don’t know anyone whom I didn’t attend grad school with who has read the whole thing, so it might actually be helpful. Meanwhile, I have read it several times, written papers on it, talked about it during my Ph.D. exams, etc. Plus I find parts of it really funny and parts of it fairly fucked up and think it could be really interesting to recap it.

So. If I can find the time to do this, and the energy, and the appropriate style for such a project, would anyone out there be interested in reading it?

Beyond that, I’ve got a homework wine that I need to do a quickie review of and have been putting off because, well, I’ve been at work more than I’ve been around an internet, a few beer reviews I should write up, and so on. All of which I should be doing right now because I’ll be spending the next six days at work, mostly closing, and won’t have much in the way of an internet nearby.

NaNo-ers out there: who all has still been working on their novel? Anyone else look at December and think “shit, I’m really busy” and not get anything new done? I have a huge scene I need to get written out, but I haven’t actually touched the document since I confirmed the win. Also also: does anyone use Scrivener? Do you like it? Is it worth getting?

How’s life?

I think I lost it right about now

Now that I’m not writing a million words a second every time I sit at my computer but am still in  primed fiction crazybrain mode, I’ve had a really odd thought pop into my head.

Those of you who are my facebook buddies have seen this pop up in status form, so feel free to ignore me and my redundancy.

See, there’s another book-type meme going around facebook, this one focusing on 15 characters that have strongly affected you in some way or other. The thing is that it’s actually book/film/tv characters, but me being me I stopped reading the rules at book, and only realized after about ten minutes that I could throw in tv/film characters too. Even had I realized it was all three media right from the beginning, it still would have been mostly books, so, you know, me dork or whatever.

Anyway, I listed Hamlet as one of the most me-affecting characters. But then I thought about it. I didn’t list Hamlet because I like him. I don’t. I think he’s a whining, ineffective twit. And he angsts a ridamndiculous amount of the time. And so, apparently – I haven’t actually read this book yet – does Holden Caulfield. (YEAH YEAH I KNOW I WILL READ THE CATCHER IN THE RYE SOMEDAY)

So. Were Holden Caulfield put in a ring with Hamlet, who would win the fight? Would they box? Would they angst over the possibility of boxing? Would Hamlet angst about having to box, and Holden angst about how inauthentic boxing is? Would Holden finally swing at Hamlet, and Hamlet then spend four minutes sililoquy-ing over whether or not to punch Holden back?

Your thoughts, please. My brain should be applying this sort of creative nonsense to its longer, unfinished, post-NaNo novel.

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