Milton

Milton ate all the buttons off my duvet cover.

Milton

At least, I’m pretty sure it was Milton. It might have been Veronica who was the one I found inside the duvet cover, but it’s so much more likely that she waited until someone else did it for her that my money is still on Milton. Milton is living proof that being brainless makes you happy. I’m sure someday he’ll grow up and be very smart, but at the moment, Milton has no fear and no boundaries, which pretty much makes the world his oyster, which he would eat, along with the edge of my post-it flip chart, the pizza I had on the nightstand, my antique wicker side table, and those duvet cover buttons. Milton also chases the cat after being told many times not to, leaps from everything he stands on including the floor, and runs through leaves that are bigger than he is with wild abandon. I need to be more like Milton: the only way through it is to do it, so you might as well enjoy the ride.

On the other hand, a little self-control is a good thing. He sat on my laptop and did something that froze it. He managed to climb up on my sideboard and then tried to jump off (I caught him). And he continually gets himself lost under the duvet. One thing about having four of one breed, you really notice their quirks. I knew that Wolfie was a burrower like most dachshunds because they were bred to go down badger holes, so squirming into dark places under things is the best thing ever for them, but I didn’t realize what I’d gotten into until I had four of them crawling under the covers. Lucy the beagle mix just looks at them, rolls her eyes, and goes back to sleep.

In the afternoon, when the sun’s out, they each pursue their own interests:

Milt & Others

That’s Veronica languishing, Pink looking for somebody to beat up, Lucy pretending she doesn’t know them, and Milton making his move on my laptop in the foreground. He’s a happy dog.

Thank God I’m out of duvet buttons.

The Dogs Ate My November

Yes, I know I’ve been lax in posting. November was fraught with dogs.

It began down in SC where Bob and I were working on Wild Ride and my girl Petal turned into Mary Imogen who had a dog named Al, who I discovered in my pictures folders, one of the Chinese Cresteds I’d found in Google Images during the D&G image search. I love this dog:

Al

so I put him in Wild Ride as Al, named after:

Albert

(Check out the matching tongues.) Bob said, “That is one ugly dog,” but I thought Skylar (Al’s real name) was darling so I went back to Google Images to see where I’d found him to see if there were more pictures on that page. And it turned out that he was on a rescue page for Crest Care, the Chinese Crested Rescue group. Yes, folks, Skylar was available for adoption.

I’d explain what I did next, but you already know. My application was processed, my references were checked, and while I waited on the home visit, Bob and I finished the first two scenes in Wild Ride with Al playing a vital role, and sent the proposal off into the black hole that is publishing in November and December.

Then I moved on to Dogs and Goddesses with Lani and Krissie because we came to realize that if we didn’t get a proposal together, it would take us eight years to write the book because we always dropped it for contracted books. So for two weeks we worked on getting the scenes we’d already done into tighter shape and wrote some new ones so that we had a complete first act. Thirty thousand words of scenes, actually. That’s 120 pages. We did it by using the conferencing site, Campfire, and keeping it open all day so that we were virtually in the same room with each other. Occasionally we got a little punch drunk, but we finished that proposal at midnight on the 26th.

I did go home during that two weeks for one Sunday afternoon for Thanksgiving because my brother was cooking and he’s terrific, so we had a classic family dinner with “Please pass the rolls” and “No, not that way,” and while I was there, I happened to mention Al/Skylar, and they printed out his picture. Also in November, Kyra Kirkwood from Dog Fancy magazine called to interview me about the rescue dogs in my novels, and asked me what I was working on now, and I said, “Well, Dogs and Goddesses, and then a book called Wild Ride that has a dog in it I’m in the process of adopting.” And I sent her Al/Skylar’s picture and she loved him, too, and said, “Tell me when you get him.” And in the middle of all this, the generous woman who was supposed to do my home inspection and who had already traveled more than a thousand miles that week for Crest Care, hit a deer on her way, and those of you who are familiar with deer-meets-car accidents know how dangerous that is. She was fine, she said, but I knew from sudden impact accidents of my own that she’d feel horrible for at least a week so I knew it would be awhile longer until Skylar got to Cincinnati. I told Krissie and Lani, who were also waiting to hear about him, and we all said, “Darn,” and Lani said, “Well, send me his measurements when you get him so I can knit him a sweater,” and then we got back to work.

On Monday the 26th, we sent the D&G proposal off to the agents to read and I was settling in to Always Kiss Me Goodnight again when Crest Care e-mailed and said they were ready to re-schedule the home inspection, but that Skylar had been adopted. It was just like in the movies when the background music is playing happily and then you hear the needle scratch across the record. My first reaction was to say bad things, but these are lovely women who rescue dogs, for heaven’s sake; no beating up on good people. They told me they could show me other Chinese Cresteds after I passed the home inspection, but at that point, I was so fixated on Al that I said, “I’ll get back to you.”

So I told my parents, and Kyra at Dog Fancy, and Lani and Krissie, and then I sat on the bed and thought, “Be mature. You want a Chinese Crested, and there are other wonderful dogs out there that need a home.” And then I thought, “No, I wanted Skylar, damn it, he’s in my book.” I know. Sometimes I’m amazed at the four-year-old that is me. While I was sitting there being immature, Wolfie crawled into my lap and said, “Cookie,” or words to that effect (I’ve been writing Dogs and Goddesses a long time), and I picked up my laptop and typed in Dachshund Rescue Ohio” and found the site for the place that had given me Wolfie seven years ago. (The pet rescues are linked under PetFinder.com, so if you’re looking for a particular breed, go there and it will direct you to that breed’s rescue sites.)

And there was Milton.

Milton

So I e-mailed the rescue and sat back to work on Always Kiss Me Goodnight since it was going to be days if not weeks until I’d completed the adoption process, and five minutes later, the coordinator e-mailed me back and gave me the phone number of Kathleen, the woman who ran the rescue. I called her, ready to fill out the application, get my references checked, and wait on the home visit, but she said, “I remember you. You write. You have Wolfgang.” And then she told me about Jake and Abby,and a few of the others, discussing all of their personalities, and I said, “They all sound great, but I think Milton . . .” and she said, “I’ll bring Milton and Oscar and a couple of the others, and we’ll see which one seems right for you. How about day after tomorrow?”

Dachshunds. They’re speed demons.

Then Wednesday didn’t work–it turned out that Milton’s last people hadn’t given him his shots–but on Thursday, Kathleen brought nine dogs out, and my backyard looked like the Sprint commercial which brightened my day considerably. And in the middle of the pack was this little blonde longhaired dachshund who looked frightened, so I picked her up, and Kathleen said her name was Gorgeous, and she and another dog from the same house, Tinkerbell, had just been given up to the rescue by a woman who was dying, in fact she’d just picked them up. So I stood there patting poor trembling Gorgeous and thought, “I don’t need two dogs.” Meanwhile Milton, who is the most cheerful dachshund since the breed began, had stolen my heart. But Gorgeous had her head on my shoulder, and then Kathleen said, “We really don’t want to split up Gorgeous and Tinkerbell . . .

I know, I know. But as Lani pointed out, they’re all under ten pounds so all of them together really make one dog. And Wolfie liked them.

I just adopted three dogs.

So here’s Veronica, formerly Gorgeous, and if you’re an old movie fan you’ll know why it’s Veronica now:

Veronica

But here’s a hint if you’re not:

Veronica Lake

And then Tinkerbell, who I renamed Pink, was too independent to pose but I got her and Milton on the bed, watching the deck door, so here’s a candid:

P & M

I mean, really, which one would you have sent away? Veronica is an English Cream long-haired dachshund, Pink is a piebald dachshund, and Miltie is . . . Miltie. He’s a long-haired dachshund whose hair isn’t all that long, but it doesn’t matter because it’s Miltie. And now I’m thinking maybe Miltie is in Wild Ride. And if I ever do a sequel to Fast Women, Veronica is a shoo-in.

Which brings me to what I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving: Petfinder. If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet, please go look there even if you’re sure you don’t want to adopt a rescue. Most of the breeds have puppies available, and the rescue groups have the dogs checked out by a vet and treated for anything that’s wrong, and do any basic training that the dog may have missed from being in a neglectful home. The foster parents can always describe the dog’s personality, what kind of home life he’ll do well in (alone or with other dogs, gets along well with children, quiet or needs a lot of exercise, etc.), and will do everything he or she can to make sure you’re the right fit, something you’re never going to get at Petland. And while everybody wants puppies, older dogs who are already house-broken and through the I’ll-chew-anything stage can be a much better experience for most people. All my dogs have been rescues and every one of them has been an absolute joy, even weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues. Especially weird little Wolfie with his overbite and his issues.

So what with Al and Wild Ride and Dogs and Goddesses and Veronica and Pink and Milton, I had a damn good November because the dogs ate it. Go cruise the PetFinder.com site and maybe it’ll happen to you, too.

What I Learned On The Road

After spending most of 2006 crossing the country promoting a book, I have some deep insights on hotels and airports and painting your bedroom. For example, I knew the San Francisco hotel we stayed in was a good one because there were two separate bottles for shampoo and conditioner. Any hotel that cheaps out by trying to tell you that shampoo/conditioner in one bottle is a viable option is not a Good Hotel. I have many tips like this, which I hope will never be useful to me again.

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Because all that is behind me now. I’m so glad to be home that, two months later, I’m still kissing the floor. When I can find it. I was making headway on getting back to normal, unpacking, doing laundry, walking from the office to the kitchen without an American Express card, and then I decided that after a year of somebody chanting, “Living the Dream!” in my ear, I needed to Zen out, which meant my bedroom had to become a retreat. It had been painted in a blue called “Cloudscape,” and decorated in violet and gold, lots of beads and tassels, flowers, candles, mirrors, which had made it pretty much your basic Ohio seraglio, definitely not serene. So I dragged everything out and bought new paint, soothing greens this time, for my bedstead, the walls and the ceiling. Om. Because the best thing to do after a stressful year on the road is to move everything in your bedroom out into the hall and open a lot of paint cans.

Paint colors. I don’t want to get on an airplane again any time soon, but I miss the shopping in airports, especially here in Cincy because Cincy has Toto and I love Toto. Coming home the last time, I saw this serene gray-green angel figure and bought her. I should mention, I’m not an angel person. I routinely spit on sparkly unicorns. If I see a tiny pink fairy winking at me on the path, I kick her into the underbrush. But this angel looked so calm, and I’d been so not, so I bought her and she’s what I based the gray-greens for the bedroom on. I saw her in a catalog the other day. She looked serene there, too. It was only when I got her home that she turned on me with the colors.
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I wanted an elegant iron bedstead, but money was an object, so I started with an old blond wood bed I had in the attic that was so eighties that every time I looked at it I heard “99 Luftballoons.” I picked out this fabulous earthy metallic dark green, gorgeous paint chip, which I chose to coordinate with the wall and ceiling color that matched the airport angel, just a Zen symphony, HGTV would be proud. Well, maybe not a symphony, a string quartet. Or one hand playing, I don’t know, I’m still getting the hang of the Zen thing.

The great thing about painting is, it gives you time to think. And I began to get really philosophical about all that time on the road. Well, it was over, so I could. And truthfully, there were many, many good things about it. Like the people in airports. A woman sat down beside me at LaGuardia talking on her cell phone. “I want to be closer,” she whined to whoever was on the other end, “but she’s just not a warm, loving person.” I thought, Boy, do I know you, lady, and sent all my sympathy to the non-warm-loving-person who was probably holding this wench off with a cattle prod. You can do a lot of character research in airports if you listen.

And of course I was traveling with my writing partner. He used to find the free newspaper for that community and read the personals to me. I remember one he read in Madison, the guy was looking for a woman. That was it. “Open-minded,” Bob said. “Good.” He has this theory that in any city’s personal column you’ll find some guy looking for some woman to do something strange, detailed and perverse, and at the end of the ad it will say, “No smokers.” Bob says, “Somewhere in that town is a woman who will do those things. But she smokes.” Yes, these are the highlights, folks.
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What with all the remembering and some additional thinking–I was trying to figure out how to finish a book I’d started awhile ago–the first coat went on pretty smartly, and then I stood back and looked at it from a distance and realized I’d painted my bed Army green. That was not the serenity on the paint chip, so I went back to the can to see what the hell color it was. “Rough Terrain,” it said. I’d painted my Zen bed “Rough Terrain.” You know, I’m sure somewhere in Montana, there’s a survivalist who’s saying, “Hey, Fred, here’s the perfect color for the rec room, ‘Rough Terrain,’ now all we need is a nice area rug and a lifetime supply of MREs,” but aside from him, exactly who were the paint-color-namers hoping to attract with “Rough Terrain?” Morons. I put three coats of a silver glaze called “Sparkling Stone” over it and now it’s . . . interesting. Yes, fine, go over there in the corner and snicker about how my Zen bed is painted in Rough Terrain. I don’t care. I am at One with the Universe. Damn it.

So I quit for awhile and watched a DVD to return myself to a meditative state. Here’s what I learned about movies on the road: Stick to animation. Animation rarely makes you want to kill yourself. I am helplessly in love with the bunnies in the BunVac6000 in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. If you get the DVD, stick around for the end credits because they have floating bunnies. Floating bunnies are Zen to the max. I kept referring to Curse all the way through The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and they kept telling me I had to explain the allusions. “You mean everybody doesn’t know about the Anti-Pesto logo? Well, they should.” Yes, I know if I were an intellectual it would have been Von Trier or at least Wes Anderson, but Nick Park does it for me. Best quote: “The bounce has gone out of his bungee.”

After some Bun Vac therapy and some sleep in my Zen Bed which was now sitting alone in the middle of my echoing bedroom, I opened the paint for the walls and checked the color in the sunlight. Gorgeous. Nothing military about it. Very peaceable. So I rolled it on the walls while I went back to thinking about the book I was working on, and just as I finished the first coat, I looked around and realized it was hideous. Zen it might have been in the can, but on the wall, it was avocado green, if the avocado had been with us for a while. I tried to give myself a pep talk—“No, really it’s lovely, very calming”–but it looked like a refrigerator my mother had had during my more unfortunate years. So I checked the can to see what color I’d bought this time. “Withered Moss.” No, honest to God, “Withered Moss,” just the color every fifty-seven-old woman wants in her bedroom. Or as my sophisticated New York agent put it when I told her, “Old lady’s hoo-ha.” (For those of you who are saying, “She’s making this up,” I swear to you, it’s a Lowe’s Signature Color.)

And I started to think about the morons who name these colors and I could imagine them, probably the same jerks I went to art school with in the seventies, sitting around some cubicle, blowing the same dope they had back then, going, “Oh, crap, another green, what’re we gonna name this one?” “I don’t know, how about ‘Old Lady’s Hoo-ha?” (Snort. Snort.) “Nah, we’ll never get away with that. How about, hey, I know, ‘Withered Moss!’” (Snort. Snort. SNORT.) “GOOD one!” (Phone rings. Picks up.) “Dave’s not here!” (Hangs up. Snort. Snort. Snort. Snort. SNORT. Hyperventilation followed by death.)

No, I’m not bitter. Why do you ask?

At that point, I quit to clean off my laptop, and I found a folder with about a dozen e-mails in it marked “Blog.” I thought, “Oh, good, I’ve salvaged something insightful from last year.” Turns out Bob had e-mailed me to tell me that Disneyland was fifty years old and I’d e-mailed back, “I’m older than Disneyland? Jeez.” He e-mailed, “Well the Parthenon is older.” I told him it was really better when he didn’t try to help. So he wrote back, “Then there’s the Coliseum.” Followed by another e-mail that said, “The statues on Easter Island. The Sphinx. The Great Pyramid,” and then another that said, “The Great Wall of China, Vlad the Impaler.” I wrote back, “Vlad is dead,” and he answered, “The Rolling Stones are older than you.” That was the last one. I guess when you get to “Vlad the Impaler and the Rolling Stones are older than you,” the conversation is over. Why I saved these e-mails, I’m not sure, but they’re a testament to what a tragedy it is that I lost the rest of them from last year. Clearly, deep thinking was happening, 24/7.

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Then I went back and looked at the bedroom again. The Old Lady’s Hoo-Ha was definitely clashing with the Rough Terrain, so I painted the walls again, this time with many coats of Sparkling Stone, all by hand because it turns out you can’t roll that stuff on evenly, but the good news is that silver glaze will fix about anything. So I moved on to the ceiling. Cautiously. I opened the can. Beautiful, pale, creamy green. I checked the name of the color: Fennel Splash. Not Zen, but not Withered Terrain, either. I poured it out into the pan. Still beautiful. I rolled it onto the ceiling above the angel, where it looked like the dirty cloud that gathered over the penthouse in Ghostbusters, right before Sigourny Weaver says to Rick Moranis, “Are you the Keymaster?” It’s lovely pale green in the pan, Cloud of the Keymaster on the ceiling.

At this point, I gave up. I could not face putting six coats of Sparkling Stone on the ceiling by hand. Into each life, some Fennel must Splash, and mine was hovering over my Zen bedroom. My bungee completely bounceless, I went to take a bath with peanut butter cups. Hey, you find Zen your way, I’ll find it my way.

One thing traveling did do was convince me of the need for a Great Bathroom. Hotels in general are wising up to this. Well, I’m finding that a lot of hotels are wising up in general. Like the Hampton Inn next to the convention center in Columbia, South Carolina. Great beds, Jacuzzi tubs, hot chocolate chip cookies in the lobby which you can then take INTO the Jacuzzi tub with you, and the nicest staff you could want to meet (NOT into the Jacuzzi tub). Only drawback: the weird wallpaper in the bathroom that looks like it has giant beetles on it if you squint. Not a place to be drunk in. Not that I was, it was chocolate chip cookies all the way. But the front door had “Hello” etched on it, so much friendlier than “Welcome,” although why, I do not know, and the rug inside said, “We’re glad you’re here.” I forgive them for the wallpaper. Also they had separate shampoo and conditioner and we all know what that means.

But the best hotel was the Hotel Metro in Milwaukee (which Bob says is an old Indian word for “Land without Road Signs” but he was just bitter because there were no road signs). It’s an old art deco hotel that’s been restored and it’s absolutely stunning and comfortable and the room service was amazing and there were separate bottles of shampoo and conditioner in a bathroom that was ohmygod gorgeous. You’d think after weeks on the road, any hotel with clean sheets, a comfortable mattress, and a lock on the door would be fine, but you get so tired of hotels that when one turns out to be a work of art, you pretty much roll in it. The Hotel Metro. I might get on a plane again some day if I can stay there.

Where was I? Right in the tub with my peanut butter cups in my Great Bathroom, which I put myself in debt forever to remodel because I was seduced by hotel bathrooms. Except I haven’t quite got the hang of bubble bath and air tubs yet, so I put too much bubble stuff in the air tub and the bubbles foamed up over the edge and buried me and the peanut butter cup I had sitting there. But I think that’s pretty much the definition of “high class problem” and also, while it was frustrating, it was also pretty damn funny, so I took a picture of it and sent it to my friend Krissie who was looking for a laugh about then. Always a Sparkling Stone lining, that’s what I say.
I ate the peanut butter cup anyway, but I was still feeling put upon. My Zen angel had steered me wrong and now even my bubble bath turned on me. And then I remembered. I wasn’t on the road any more. I was home. Cheered me right up.

Which is when I also remembered that I’m one of the luckiest women in the universe, and that if I didn’t stop bitching about the little stuff, Karma was going to kick my ass, and if the worst that ever happened to me was a Withered Hooha and a Roughly Paved bed, I could count my blessings in my bubbles. And then the next day I found curtains in Sparkling Stone with gold dots the size of silver dollars, and when the furniture was back in and the quilt was on the bed and the lamps were in, the bedroom looked . . . well, I’ve still got Cloud of the Keymaster on the ceiling, but I don’t look up that much, except, you know, when I’m in bed, and the walls gleam quietly with Sparkling Stone, and best of all, I’m home where the shampoo and conditioner are always in two different bottles.

It’s very Zen.

And now for 2007 . . .

Last year I made five resolutions on this blog. I said, “I’m going to make a public record, thereby opening myself to ridicule and pity if I don’t follow through.” So . . .

  1. In 2006, I will finish at least one novel and one novella. No, really.
    The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (with Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart, started out as a novella anthology and became a collaborative novel, in stores July 2007)
    Agnes & The Hitman (with Bob Mayer, in stores August 2007).
  2. In 2006, I will lose twenty pounds. I’ll still be overweight, but twenty pounds is doable. And I’ll be healthier.
    I can’t remember how much I weighed when I made this resolution. But I’m nineteen pounds down from my highest weight, so maybe?
  3. In 2006, I will get my office cleaned.
    I’ll discuss this one in January. No, really, I’ll do a whole blog on offices. Let’s call this one a draw for the time being. Yes, I cleaned the office. In fact, I moved the office. And now that office is kind of . . . I’ll show you pictures in January.
  4. In 2006, I will be a kinder, gentler person, even while on the road.
    If you’ve read the He Wrote She Wrote Blog, you know I failed miserably at this one. I won’t even try to say, “Well, part of the time . . . “ Just cross this one right off.
  5. In 2006, I will stop trying to do everything at once. Patience, grasshopper.
    Yeah, this one went down in flames, too.

So, I got maybe two and a half? Sigh.

Let’s try this again. New Year’s Resolutions, 2007.

  1. In 2007, I will write a solo novel. All by myself. Just me.
  2. In 2007, I will get the revisions done on at least one of my last two old categories so that if the publisher finally decides to reissue them, they’ll be ready to go.
  3. In 2007, I will lose twenty pounds which will put me at the weight of a plus size model which will mean I’ll be healthy.
  4. In 2007, I will clean my office, making sure there’s a place for everything in it, and keep it cleaned. No, really.
  5. In 2007, I will post to Argh Ink at least twice a month. Because it’s good for me to think about things here.

That last one is really important. This used to be the place I came to think, and then my life went completely out of control and I started running so fast the landscape became a blur and I forgot to stop and smell the vultures. Worse than that, I became incapable of stopping to smell the vultures. I forgot to how to laugh there for awhile. That was very bad. I don’t regret anything I posted here (Miss Snark had it coming, although looking back on it now, that post needed cut by about a third), but I regret things I didn’t post, like the bizarre time I had painting my bedroom (I may return to that one yet), or my meditation on hotel bathroom shampoo (not nearly as deep as I’d hoped so you’ll never see that sucker), or my post on “Plastic Alligators: Why?” I started them all and then life came and grabbed me by the sense of humor and I got lost again. But the one I regret not posting the most . . .

I have this daughter. Incredible woman. Everything she does is magic. She’s designed all my websites, all my blogs, the CherryForums—have you see the CherryForums? most amazingly warm and welcoming forum on the internet—she’s my partner in Argh Ink and runs the business like a Swiss watch, but what astounds me is that she has managed, in spite of having me for a role model, to create a beautiful and fulfilling personal life for herself. She’s found a great guy and kept a terrific relationship going with him for eight years, a solid, steady relationship built on trust and love and friendship that has grown deeper over time. And when they were ready to get married, they found rings they loved, and she bought a beautiful white dress and a brown cardigan like her grandmother had worn, and he got a killer blue pinstripe suit, and she put on her favorite shoes, and their two good friends came in from out of town to be witnesses, and they took the subway in from Brooklyn and got married at City Hall in Manhattan and then bought ice cream before they took the subway home. And it was a perfect day.

I can’t write love stories that good. Nobody would believe them.

Congratulations, Mollie and Josh. The best thing that happened in 2006 was your wedding, and the best thing that happened to me ever was you.

Happy 2007 to everyone. Nothing but good times ahead.

Flamingo Jill and the 2007 Indulgences

Another cold has laid me low, a gift from the universe that has forced me to stay off the roads and away from my family for fear of giving them the plague for Christmas, and it’s turned out to be a very good thing because it’s given me a day of complete quiet to look back on 2006 without thinking of my 2007 resolutions. Those would be the resolutions I have to make later this week along with sauerkraut and hotdogs (my German family’s nod to the gods for a good new year), the resolutions that will make me a Better Person in 2007. But tonight I’m just curled up, staying warm, blowing my nose and contemplating 2006 and my Christmas gifts, among them Flamingo Jill.

Jill is supposed to be Cerise, the flamingo from Agnes and the Hitman, but as you may have noticed, she’s not pink, nor is she cerise. She’s a pretty violent purple, not quite Magenta (although I wouldn’t turn down fishnets for her if I could find some to fit her skinny legs). So I named her after the lovely woman who gave her to me. Just as wonderful as Flamingo Jill herself are the nine outfits that came with her. She’s wearing her Santa costume as you can see, but there’s also a witch outfit for Halloween that will come in handy for promoting The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes, and you’re not going to believe the bunny costume for Easter. However there are omissions. There is no Valentine’s Day. There’s no back-to-school for September. There is no Miss June. If Easter doesn’t fall in May, there’ll be no Queen of the May for our Jill. So of course, I began to plan to make them (maybe a fuzzy wig with a little apron and cap . . . sorry, it’s just once you’ve said, “Magenta,” it’s hard to go back).

Where was I? Right, making little flamingo costumes.

Which was when I realized I could. I will have the time to waste on ridiculous fun things. Because for 2007, I will not be working 24/7, criss-crossing the country like an insane person, trying to collect a Dasani receipt from every airport on the continent. The Year From Hell is over. Of course, that doesn’t mean that 2007 might not turn out to be just another flavor of infernality, but at least it’ll be a change of taste. I will be driving to the very few conferences I’m doing. (Except Australia and New Zealand. I would if I could but I can’t. They don’t have a ferry yet.) I can pack all the liquids I want. I can take one of my dogs if I want; Wolfie loves to travel. I can take Flamingo Jill if I want. But mostly I am staying home. I am writing a solo novel in which all the conflict will be on the page. I can do frivolous blogs here about painting my bedroom and the zen of purses and the latest addition to Flamingo Jill’s wardrobe. Honest to God, I want to wriggle all over like Wolfie does when he hears the lid to the dog biscuit jar clink open. Nothing but good times ahead.

Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

And that made me start to think. I’ve got the serious resolutions coming up next weekend, the ones where I promise to cook more and take a yoga class and do all that stuff, but it’s Christmas and I want to be good to myself, so what if tonight I made kind resolutions, the things I really, really want to do but never get to, the stuff that I’d kill to do but never get to because it’s too ridiculous and I have to be Serious About My Life and Career, what if I made my Five Indulgences of 2007? (I decided to limit them to five so I wouldn’t feel greedy.)

Well, that seemed like an excellent idea. I decided they had to be specific so I’d actually accomplish them (not that “Go back to painting” or “Start sewing again” garbage) and after much deliberation, this is what I came up with.

Indulgence #1. Do the paintings in one of the books I’ve done, The Cinderella Deal or Faking It or Nadine’s book that I’ve been thinking about. I’ve always wanted to do that and always meant to but . . .

Indulgence #2. Sew the collage kimono tops I’ve been collecting fabric for. I’ve got the perfect pattern for them, and I’ve got a fabric stash that’s ridiculously gorgeous. Plus I’m a collage freak. It’s time.

Indulgence #3. Draw or paint or collage every day. Remember why I used to love it. Remember what it used to be like to create things just for the joy of creating them.

Indulgence #4. Spend a week in New York without working on anything. Go to museums, plays, see my daughter and my friends, walk through the Village, and not write a novel.

Indulgence #5. Take a course in something with my daughter. We took an art glass class together several years ago that was terrific and billards lessons that helped me write Welcome to Temptation. I’d love to do that again. I don’t even care what kind of lessons, as long as we take them together. Of course this depends on her cooperation but she’s a good person and she lives in New York so there must be a week-long course there in something we could take.

There, that’s pretty good. All things I’ve been wanting to do and putting off because there have been deadlines and a million things I had to do, a million things that were more important than selfish pleasure. Now that I’ve made my promises to myself, those things are more important, too. Along with reading for pleasure which I can justify because it’s really good for my career and making more outfits for Flamingo Jill because . . .

Uh . . .

Because she’s good blog material which is good for my career because . . .

Oh, hell.

Indulgence #6. Make outfits for Flamingo Jill because I want to, that’s why.

Make your 2007 Indulgences today, people. Because tomorrow, you’re going to be stuck making those damn Resolutions and after that it’s all diet and exercise and no flamingo bunny ears in sight.

More Neighborhood

No, Spike and Drusilla did not come back.

Pat wrote and said, “What are you naming your vultures?” (Yeah, it was Gaffney who provided the wonderful “They pee on their legs” details.) I said, “Either Luke and Laura or Frick and Frack.” She said, “Well, you don’t know them very well, then, do you?” I was going to say something snotty about them having only dropped by for breakfast and death, but then I looked at them again, and they really were lovely birds with very lost, soulful expressions, sitting there on my deck rail, close together, waiting for something to die, so I said, “Spike and Drusilla,” and if you look at the picture again, there’s a definite resemblance. These are birds that clearly deserve respect. And distance. That’s Spike and Dru.

So I named them immediately and they flew away and never came back. Maybe that’s all they wanted. Names.

So I started another blog about beginnings in books which I’m continuing to work on because it’s a subject that needs cogitation, but in the meantime, life goes on and I went out onto the deck to cut parsley and found more neighbors (see right):

I’m calling them Veronica and Duncan. They look like they’re together, but clearly it wasn’t meant to be. Because when you look at the big picture you see . . .
(look below):

Yes, there to the left of Veronica and Duncan is Logan. I fail to understand why Veronica cannot see that she is meant to be with Logan. Okay, he’s a loner and his father tried to kill her, but they’re caterpillars. Nature red in tooth and . . . whatever it is that caterpillars fight with.

So does flat leaf parsley have a natural predator, or are these guys on vacation from my Roma tomatoes in the next pot?

Or are they just waiting to turn into butterflies, after which Veronica and Logan will fly away together and Duncan will hit on the cute leaf-destroyer on the Romas, knocking her up and then when she meets with an unfortunate accident, stealing her larvae and making a break for Kentucky? Or are Veronica, Logan, and Duncan planning on a three-way on the reeds by the river? And why must I see twisted romance in everything that flies, skitters, or crawls across my deck?

Don’t get me started on the woodpecker that keeps threatening the chickadees at my birdfeeder until this cardinal comes along and kicks its ass. I love that cardinal. Of course it’s probably just trying to get the sunflower seeds and doesn’t give a damn about the chickadees, but leave me my illusions.

I see George Clooney playing the cardinal in the movie.

Note:
For anybody worrying about the fate of anything in the neighborhood: Don’t. It’s a serious No Kill Zone here. Veronica and Logan are fine, hanging out in the parsley. Duncan seems to have departed, but I suspect he’s taken the larvae to Kentucky. Spike and Dru are likewise not on deck, but it’s very warm here, and Gaffney assures me they’ve probably found somewhere cool in the woods and are happily peeing on their feet together.
Ah, nature.

There Goes the Neighborhood

I walked into my bedroom this morning and there, through the glass door to my deck, was a big bird staring back at me. Big bird. Not the fluffy yellow one whose voice hasn’t changed yet, this was a big gray and black sucker with an insolent stare. Darth Turkey. And behind him was another one, equally non-endearing. I’m thinking, “Nature is supposed to be afraid of humans,” but this guy didn’t blink. I went and got my camera and took a picture. With a flash. He didn’t care.

I went and got a better camera and took two more. He moved to the deck rail so I could get his better side. I think he and his pal sneered. It was disconcerting. And threatening.

So I e-mailed the first not-very-good picture to this friend of mine who’s usually very up on death. He was a Green Beret. Danger, if not his middle name, is at least something he nods at in the street. So I sent him the picture and said, “What is this?” He e-mailed back, “I think it’s a crow.” Right. It’s a forty pound crow. A crow on steroids. A crow that ate its Wheaties. I’d forgotten that he was a Green Beret from the Bronx. Nature kicks his ass regularly.

So I e-mailed another friend of mine who not only lives in the country, she wrote a novel in which the hero was an ornithologist. Or whatever you call a bird guy. She wrote back, “Looks like a turkey vulture. Charming creatures. Yours don’t have red heads, tho, which the adults do. Maybe you’ve got TEENAGE turkey vultures! The worst. Watch out for graffiti, vomit in the yard, mailbox bashing, condoms strewn all over. Damn hoodlums.”

Scientists. I’m surrounded by scientists. But I’m starting to think she’s right, they’re teenage vultures. Which leads me to wonder, what the hell are they doing on my deck? Do they know something I don’t know? Are they out there talking in ROMAN CAPS like Death in the Terry Pratchett books? “SHE’S GONNA GO ANY MINUTE,” they’re saying to each other. “PASTY FACED AS ALL HELL. SHE’S NOT GONNA LAST THE NIGHT.”

Meanwhile my pal keeps writing me. “Oh yeah, and they pee on their legs. I love that about them. They throw up when they’re scared, so they can fly lighter. I’m sure part of what they throw up lands on their feet. But they pee on their legs on purpose. They’re just so darn cute!” Now I know why nobody eats vultures. I don’t see anybody gathered round the table, fighting over the drumstick.

So now I have The Birds of Doom on my deck, peeing on their legs and throwing up–not while I’m watching, but they will– strewing condoms and bashing my mailbox, waiting for me to die. Unless they’re crows on steroids. And you wonder why I haven’t blogged lately. Between my neighborhood and my friends, I’m afraid to make a move.

If anybody out there knows what these things are, and they’re something BETTER THAN VULTURES, let me know. If they’re something worse, leave me with my illusions of mailbox trashing, leg-peeing carrion eaters, please. It’s been one of those headline weeks— Adorable Aging Dog Goes MIA, Returns to Grateful Owner; Epic Battle With Collaborator, “Why Do We Do This? Contrite Combatants Say; Glowing Toxic Blue Mold Consumes Basement, Bleach Saves Day and Health of All–and I don’t want it to end with “Giant Winged Mutant Alien Life Forms Carry Off Romance Writer, Film At Eleven.”

Really, I’ll take the teenage vultures.

Cheerful and On Wheels

So I went to DC, alone, which I do not like because I’ve gotten used to traveling with Bob “Let Me Carry That Bag For You” Mayer, although I coped because it’s only a three day trip and I have my bright new cheerful red Vera Bradley carry-on and it has wheels. I’m thinking that may be my new criteria for what I will let into my life: Cheerful and on wheels.

For example, when I got to the hotel, I had Chinese food delivered because Chinese food makes me cheerful–my potsticker obsession is well documented–and it arrives on wheels, or at least I don’t have to go get it or, god forbid, cook it. Then there’s Tivo, the greatest invention since the internet; because of Tivo I can watch My Name Is Earl (cheerful) any time I want (on wheels). And of course there’s great reading in portable paperback, like Terry Pratchett. My favorite character from Pratchett is Susan, I would very much like to be Susan, but if I’m being completely honest here, the Pratchett character I’m most like is The Luggage, described at the L-Shaped Space website as “probably the most homicidal travel accessory in the world . . . . Philosophers at Unseen University have for some years debated the point of whether the Luggage actually thinks, or whether it merely feels. The remainder of the University long ago came to the conclusion that it simply eats.” Since I began my diet on January 1, I’ve gained six pounds. I simply eat a lot.

The day of the speech, I left the hotel early so I could scope out the Smithsonian because somebody wanted a picture of the puffy shirt, and the day was so gorgeous and the architecture was so amazing that I thought, “Well, I’m loving DC,” and then right in the middle of it all, while I’m walking through this pretty little park, I look over and see an obnoxious shiny black limo surrounded by guys in black suits and sunglasses with little earpieces in their ears. Well, it’s Washington, so no big deal, but I started thinking, if I lived in DC, I’d buy a shiny black car and get my friends to wear black suits and sunglasses and put one earbud of their iPods in whenever i traveled. I have friends who would do that, no problem. Gaffney, Brooks, Ramsland, Saul, Stuart, Dreyer who would insist on being armed, and Mayer who refuses to go armed. Doesn’t like guns. Always cuts himself on knives. So I’m thinking maybe that’s what all these guys are, just some goofball and his pals playing games, and then I turn around and I’m in front of the White House. Which doesn’t mean it’s not a goofball and his pals, just that it’s probably an official goofball and his FBI pals. And you know, they have wheels but they don’t look cheerful. So I discarded any plans I had to go into government work.

The White House itself was a disappointment, small and kind of shabby. Plus I’m househunting again and I have a real eye for windows, and I’d swear those puppies were single-glazed. Maybe not, maybe they’re bullet-proof, but it looked cold in there. And I decided if they put the White House up for sale, I wouldn’t even call the realtor to inquire. Congress, on the other hand, remains impressive. Well, the building remains impressive, and wouldn’t you think the people inside would try a LITTLE harder to measure up to the architecture? And then there’s the Washington Monument. Every time I see it, I think that if it was the Clinton Monument, the jokes would never stop.

Where was I? Right, crossing the mall toward the Smithsonian which is freaking amazing, by the way. The American History museum has, besides the puffy shirt and the ruby slippers, Julia Childs’ kitchen, and I’m pretty sure Cousin Russ had eaten there. Before it was in the Smithsonian. Anyway it’s a great kitchen, no granite, no cherry wood, just warm and bright and well-used. A real kitchen. Cheerful. And evidently on wheels since it was moved to the Smithsonian. My kind of place. Then I went through the sculpture garden–they have a station from the Paris Metro there, my absolute all time favorite piece of Art Nouveau RIGHT THERE, and then a couple of yards away Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser, so I had to pause for a few minutes while my head exploded with pleasure–and then I went on to the National Gallery and let me tell you, that’s a nice little art museum the country has there.

I wandered through it without a plan which was perfect for that kind of day. The Cezanne exhibit is up–every time I think of Cezanne I think of what he said about Monet–“He is only an eye, but what an eye!”–and wonder if anybody will ever say, “That Crusie, she was only dialogue, but what dialogue!” and then I realize I’m being conceited again–and you know, Cezanne just does not do it for me. He paints like literary fiction. So I wander around in the nineteenth century because that’s my century, both as an art major and a lit major, and hit this huge painting called “The Favorite of the Emir” by Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant. And I thought, “My God, that’s Liza and Min!” Turns out I write like a nineteenth century painting. Well, here, look for yourself, although this is not a good reproduction because the colors in the original are really electric, gorgeous rich cadmium reds and golds and deep ultramarines:

I love the look on Min’s face, particularly given the title of the painting. You know exactly what she thinks of the Emir.

I stayed until the museum closed and I had such a great time just walking around discovering things, and the day was so beautiful and it make me think that maybe sitting in front of a computer screen making things up was not a cheerful, moving way to live. Of course, that’s how I pay for dog food for the herd, so I can’t give it up, and I wouldn’t want to give it up, but I thought that maybe what I needed was to lift my head up now and then and participate in the positive and portable, the things that keep me happy and moving and light on my feet. I figure this is right up there with “fluid and unpredictable,” my former mantra and one which has led my near and dear to refer to me as erratic and irritating, but hey, it’s my life.

Where was I? Right, the Smithsonian. So I went and did the program, answering the softball questions Pam Regis lobbed at me (and what a sweetheart she is) and met some lovely people, and then Kathy Seidel said, “Come on, I’ll drive you to dinner,” because I was eating with a bunch of WRW people and I love that chapter so everything was good. Except Kathy couldn’t remember the address of the restaurant. (I’m skipping over the part where she made me walk across a field in kitten heels because it would be tacky and ungrateful of me to mention it.) So for the next hour, Kathy and I crisscrossed Washington while I made wisecracks and laughed really hard and she made wisecracks and illegal U-turns that put us in mortal peril (“They’re legal in DC,” she said, “Was that a cop?”). At one point I said, “It’s all right, I’ve lived a full life,” and she said, “Oh, good, shut up,” and then I said, “It would have been nice to see my grandchildren though, assuming Mollie ever has any,” and then she said something cruel and started to turn the wrong way down a one way street, and I said, “NOT THAT WAY, NOT THAT WAY!” and then laughed until I cried. Shortly after that, I started to sing about Charlie on the Boston Transit and Kathy, of course, joined in because she is a woman after my own heart, and I have to tell you, getting lost in DC with Kathy Seidel was the most fun I’ve had since I went to Cocoa Beach and saw the clams. Dinner was great, too, we did finally get there, but driving through DC laughing with a pal is the best.

I’m telling you: Cheerful and on wheels. That’s my next tattoo.

Random Sunday

I wrote an entire post on You Again, hit “Publish Post” and lost all of it. It was a great post, too. Well, probably not that great. But I liked it. So here’s a Random Sunday. I’ll get back to you on You Again again later.

I’m playing the Spamalot cast recording. That was a good afternoon in the theater. Bob even laughed. Right now they’re singing, “He’s Not Dead Yet.” Story of my career.

I currently have four WIPs (Works in Progress) some of them more IP than others. I think that’s three too many, but I’m learning to be flexible because I love all of them.

There was a post-it note on my desk when I cleaned it off. It said, “getting caught” and under that “Goddess” and under that “Hawaiian shirts” and then up in the corner “Flying Bowl” with the symbol for woman under that. I’m sure this is vastly important but I don’t know what the hell it means.

South Beach Diet Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are delicious and come conveniently packaged in 100 calorie packs, which is great because all I have to do is count the pile of crumpled packs to know how many thousand calories I’ve inhaled.

Sara Ramirez is genius. She really earned that Tony. The Lady of the Lake and her Laker Girls. Plus she does a perfect faux Andrew Lloyd Weber heroine. I LOVE “The Song That Goes Like This.” “Once in every show, there’s a song that goes like this . . . They’ll all hum along, we’ll overact like hell.” In the Phantom boat, no less. “That’s the trouble with this song, it goes on and on and on.” I can’t wait until “The Diva’s Lament.” My fave. Well, that and “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.”

You really should go read Chris Merrill’s blog (http://doublecheese.livejournal.com/). My fave entry is the one where James does the Supreme Court poster at 6AM, but they’re all good.

I love “My Name is Earl.” It’s such a sweet show, and God Bless Jason Lee for that. Also Jaime Pressly is amazing.

Agnes, the heroine of the Crusie/Mayer WIP, bakes cake. Lots of cake. This was a mistake. But the chocolate raspberry is delicious.

Sara’s singing “Find Your Grail.” Very inspiring. I think she’s doing Whitney Houston but it’s hard to tell. Very pop princess power ballad. Sara can sing anything while being anybody. Yes, I am Sara Ramirez’s bitch. Deal with it. Ooooh, and now Tim Curry’s joined her. Best Broadway Musical duet EVER.

Some guy was nabbed a couple of weeks ago for stealing $200,000 worth of Legos. I thought for sure there was a short story in that, but it turns out that once you’ve said “$200,000 worth of Legos,” you’ve pretty much said it all.

If you put Peeps in the microwave, they get very big. Strangely, this is not the thrill you’d think it would be.

I have poker-playing clams. Better than Xanax are poker-playing clams.

Tea is the most comforting drink in the world. Especially peppermint tea on a cold night. With very small crispy cookies, because tea, unlike milk, does not lend itself to pigging out.

“Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.” Genius song.

Great buttons are underrated as a mood lifter. I have a jacket with retro flowers buttons, and every time I look at it, I feel happy.

Bob has a new watch. It’s big and black and has huge numbers and is also a barometer, a stop watch, and a compass. It even tells the altitude. Do you have any idea how tired I’m going to get of hearing what altitude we’re at?

Michael Lutin is the world’s best astrologer.

Oh, good, the Diva’s Lament: “Whatever happened to my part? It was exciting at the start. Now we’re halfway through Act 2, and I’ve had nothing yet to do. I’ve been offstage for far too long . . .” Every female character in a male-dominated story knows this song.

We have an alligator mascot for the road (my idea, of course) and when I realized that the figurine was genderless and our Moot is female, I glammed her up a little bit. Then I put her on the desk and looked at her for a couple of days and decided her hair was too long and trimmed it. Now I’m thinking it needs to be fuller, especially on the right. I don’t spend this much time with my own hair, but by damn, Moot’s gonna look good on tour.

Moot’s also going to see the Puffy Shirt at the Smithsonian next week. Assuming I can find the Puffy Shirt at the Smithsonian.

My cousin Russ Parsons, the famous writer (why, yes, I am bragging) says that the Smith family cranberry recipe is one of the most-requested holiday recipes at the LA Times. I vaguely remember this dish, mostly because it was one of the few my family did not cover with gravy.

Potato chips are a vegetable, right? Just checking.

Sara and Tim Curry are doing the reprise of “The Song That Goes Like This.” One of the great romantic ballads of our time, sung by two divas. Does it get any better? I don’t think so.

When I was home for Christmas, I bent over to get something, and my shirt rode up in back and my mother said, “Why, Jennifer, that almost looks like you have a tattoo.” Eagle-Eyed Jo is seventy-nine but she can spot the top curl of an antenna at thirty paces. I said, “That is a tattoo, and what are you doing looking at my back, huh?” She said, “I’m your mother,” which makes no sense but it’s worked as a justification for anything for fifty-six years, so I let it slide. Then she said, “How is it that you get the tattoo and I’m the bad one?” I thought, “Because it’s my world, the rest of you are just local color,” but I didn’t say it out loud, I’m not that dumb. Then she said, “Well, now you have to show the family,” at which point my nephew Jacob, who had been trying to snicker quietly, gave up and snickered out loud. I said, “Let me think. No.” She said, “Well, then you have to show me,” and she’s my mother, so I did. Then to pay her back, I said, “When you get one there, it’s called a trailer trash license plate.” She said, “Jennifer!” so my work was done, but then my dad said to her, “Well, I guess if Jenny has one, you need to get one, too.” And I thought about taking my mother to Mother’s Tattoo and Piercing in Covington and saying, “Give her a nice red heart with a banner that says ‘Born to Vacuum in High Heels.’” But she said no. Another fantasy shot to hell.

Then my niece wrote my daughter and said, “It was the best Christmas ever.”

I love the end of Spamalot. They sing “I’m Not Yet Wed,” and everybody gets married. To perfect strangers. Kind of like a bad romance novel, except this is really good, what with the big “Find Your Grail” wedding number and the even bigger finish with the confetti–I had the BEST time at this show. You just leave it smiling all over the place. Bob practically skipped down Fifth Avenue afterward. Okay, he didn’t, if you didn’t know him you couldn’t even tell he’d been there.

I might have skipped down Fifth Avenue, though. I LOVE THIS SHOW.

Okay, next week a real post, swear to God. In the meantime, always look on the bright side of life.

And if you ever get the chance to see Sara Ramirez in ANYTHING, go.

Mare 12: Well . . .

So it’s the last day of Mare and I wrote exactly 0 words. Must be a new world’s record. But we got the book plotted and I know what the last scene is (that’s HUGE in fiction) and we all had a wonderful time. And now I’m heading south to Doom Boy and image coaching, and not a moment too soon for the image coaching.

Must go pack. And get my speech notes together. And finish the laundry. And find out why the cat is sitting on the basement steps, staring at me malevolently. Bob looks at me like that. So does Eileen, for that matter. Hmmmm.

Oh and Mare is due in April, so you’ll be hearing more. But for the next week, I’m going to be over on He Wrote She Wrote correcting Bob’s interpretation of things. It’s a full time job.