May 3, Houston: The big one -- the Inprint reading -- occurs at the Alley Theatre on Monday, May 3. Do not miss it or you'll be sorry. I'm not kidding -- I'm going to say the craziest, most intellectual yet hilarious stuff I can think of, and I'll be sharing the stage with the ultra sexy Oscar Casares, too.
June 24, Houston: I'm one of the peeps scheduled to read at Poison Pen, at Houston's famous Poison Girl bar. Besides me, everyone there will be ultra, *super* sexy. Come see me and drink!
June 26, Washington, DC: I'll be reading at the American Library Association conference. Come on down.
My other blog: Go read my the Houston Chronicle parenting blog (or my ChronMomBlog, as I like to call it) and make sure my kids won't resent me more than other kids resent their own parents.
Buy my new novel, Lone Star Legend. Already did? Well, buy a few more for your friends, then. :)
Monday, December 22, 2008Merry Christmas to my cats, who don't know anything.
Yesterday we gave the cats a new, expensive scratching post. They weren’t as grateful as you might imagine. But that’s how cats are – it takes a while for them to appreciate new things.
Last night I was petting Toby on my bed and I realized that, not only was his fur kind of oily, but he also stank. He stank like greasy fur and the cat litter lodged between his toes.
“Let’s just give him a bath right now, I guess,” I said to my boyfriend/fiance. My boyfriend was happy because he always wants to give the cats baths, but I’ve been telling him no for the past month because it’s been too cold.
We took Toby into the bathroom and closed the door. My boyfriend turned on the water and began to fill the Cat Bathing Bucket. Suddenly, Toby realized what was happening and began to cry.
“OW,” he said. “OWR!” Really loud and vibrate-y, like a siren. I hate it when he makes that noise. It breaks my heart. But he needed a bath.
He ran and hid behind the toilet while we prepared the water. When I went to retrieve him, he clawed at the tile floor, trying to hold on. “OWR!”
I felt so terrible. We washed him fast, and he cried and tried to scramble out of the tub. Usually he doesn’t hate baths that much, but for some reason, he was scared as hell this time. Clumps of dirty hair rolled off his body. We shampooed twice with Jonathan Frieda’s shampoo for blonde women and rinsed him as quickly and thoroughly as we could. I squeezed him dry. He cried. We rubbed him with two towels and swaddled him with a third. He stopped crying. He didn’t want to admit that he enjoyed the swaddling, but he always does. We let him go and he shook like a dog, then ran to hide in the laundry hamper.
(I’m lying to you. What I’m calling a “laundry hamper” is actually a laundry basket filled with and surrounded by dirty clothes, all mounded under my antique walnut vanity.)
It was Starbuck’s turn, and she knew it, and she wasn’t happy. My boyfriend had to push her from under the bed with our broom. She didn’t make any noise – just stood there looking like the saddest person on Earth while we washed her with the same blonde shampoo. (It was the only shampoo I had without excess fragrance or body-building properties.) She also liked the swaddling but pretended not to. (They make sad faces, but their ears are no longer pressed back.)
No matter how hard they licked themselves, they couldn’t get dry. So my boyfriend and I hauled them back into the bathroom prison and turned on the blow dryer. Last summer, the blow dryer scared the crap out of them. But now, in winter, they liked it. They didn’t want to like it, but they did.
They didn’t speak to us for the rest of the night.
This morning, though, they meowed at me when I woke up. Later, I sat down to put on my tights and they swarmed to get petted.
I swear to you, they had these attitudes like, “Pet us! Feel how soft and not-greasy we are! Feel the difference! We’re clean!”
I want to believe that they understand, in the end, that taking a bath makes them feel better. But I’m a realist, so I know they’re probably too dumb. They probably just think they got clean by licking themselves a lot after all that torture.
Some people celebrate Spring, instead.
A fellow carpooler asked us, “Do y’all celebrate Christmas? Have you got all your shopping done?”
And I thought it was nice of her not to assume that we all did celebrate Christmas – a carful of Caucasians in Texas. It was considerate of her, or at least polite. It probably looks rude or nosy in print, here, but I promise you the way she said it sounded perfectly friendly and polite.
So the other day, I asked a rider the same thing. “Are you celebrating Christmas this year?”
“Yes,” he said pleasantly.
“Have you got all your shopping done, then?” I asked. Just making conversation.
He exhaled audibly. “Actually, I don’t really celebrate Christmas.” He told me his ethnicity and the country where he was born. It was one where they don’t do Christmas. He explained that, as his wife and kids were American, he was obliged to do the secular stuff that everyone else in our neighborhood does. But really, Christmas wasn’t a real holiday for him.
“Oh,” I said. “So… Do you do Ramadan, instead?” I pronounced Ramadan two or three times, all wrong. I’ve seen it written but don’t often hear it aloud.
“No,” he said. “That’s the Saudis. We celebrate….”
He didn’t say the name of what they celebrated, but he explained it. Spring solstice (equinox?), for two weeks. With fire and symbolic colors and baskets of things that start with the letter C. And visiting friends and family. And that was their major holiday for the whole year. It sounded nice, but he sounded sad. Of course, because he can’t really celebrate that holiday here. He can’t take two weeks off work, even though his boss would probably be empathetic. There are always meetings and things that he can’t miss. And even if he could take two weeks off, no one around him could. He said their celebration was supposed to start on a Wednesday and progress with different activities each day. He said, “I try to do most of it, in small ways, on the Saturday nearest the Solstice.”
I said, “That sucks.” I tried to imagine living some place where no one celebrated Christmas. I’m sure I could swing it, if I felt like I was making a better life for my spouse and kids that way. But of course, I’d still be a little sad each December.
Because I’m self-centered, I made him change the subject and tell me about the food of his people. I like food a lot, and I’m always on the look-out for new food to try. He described his cuisine in detail and told me which restaurant in town was his favorite. As he was an educated and well-traveled person, he was able to describe things pretty well and find comparisons within our overlapping experiences. He was polite and candid, and I asked him if it’d be okay for me to show up at his people’s restaurant dressed as I was. He said yes, that all flavors of people went there and no one cared. In exchange, I gave him directions to my favorite Turkish restaurant in town. He’d been to Turkey and loved the food.
You think I’m going to end this section with some smarmy conclusion about people bonding across ethnicities. But I’m not. I just wanted to share with you that I learned about a new kind of food, and that I’m always down with other people who like to eat.
Some people celebrate Santa Claus.
Last night we went to my sister-in-law-to-be’s house for her yearly Thai food dinner and gift opening. (She’s not Thai, but her mother-in-law is, luckily for all of us who love curry.) So we were there, me and my fiance and all of his family and a few family friends, and I was sitting next to someone who happened to be a Catholic, and she turned to me and said, “So what are your boyfriend’s parents doing on Christmas?”
I said, “Nothing. They don’t celebrate Christmas.”
She gasped. “Why not?”
Me: “Because they’re not Christian.”
Her: “Yeah, but they still celebrate Christmas. Right??”
Her: “Why not?”
Me: “Because they’re not Christian.”
Her: [blank look]
Me: “You know – they don’t believe in Christ. So they don’t celebrate Christ’s birthday….”
Her: “Yeah, but still… Santa Claus. Hello – SANTA CLAUS.”
Me, quickly, mercifully deciding not to explain that Santa Claus doesn't exist where they were born: “Okay. This is their Christmas, today. They’re celebrating Santa Claus right now.”
Her, with audible relief: “Oh!”
Really, they’re going to celebrate Santa Claus Day by crossing the state line and gambling. But I didn’t want to confuse the issue any more. She changed the subject, then, to my uterus and how soon she could expect to see a baby pop out of it. That conversation was just like the one portrayed above, but longer and with more in-depth explanations. 6:14 AM # (8) comments
Thursday, December 18, 2008After typing the section below, I see that we’re a bunch of “ironic” people.
We went to Hobby Slobby last night and, man, were there a lot of shoppers in a bad mood. I felt bad for them – why in gosh’s name do people do things that make them unhappy for Christmas?
We went to get packing for the baked goods we will make in our Seasonal Elf Bakery Sweatshop. My kids wanted to look at ornaments. They pretended they wanted to h8 on them (“Black ornaments? What’s this for, an emo tree?”) but then I realized that they secretly wanted a Christmas tree. (“Mom, if we don’t get this for our tree, then I’m gonna buy it and put it on the end of a stick and use it for a weapon.”)
We have a yearly tradition at my house. Everyone says they don’t want/need a tree. Then, I have a burst of nostalgia and/or plant fetish, and I buy a tree, anyway. Then, I force everyone to get off the video games and help decorate the tree. Then, I totally OCD out and yell at everyone for decorating it wrong. Then, I end up decorating it, myself, while everyone else watches TV. Then, I turn on the tree lights and demand that everyone bow down and pay homage to the pagan shrine I have erected. Then, the kids go back to their video games.
So, see me sniping, three paragraphs up, about people doing stuff that makes them miserable?
Every year, I force myself to admit that I’m not a very pleasant tree-decorating-mate, and I tell everyone it’s okay if we don’t get a tree.
But, every year, the kids subtly hint that they want or expect a tree.
I can only conclude that they like having me yell at them, and like watching me get all perfectionist/insane, and like seeing the lights and the eventual presents.
My boyfriend is the one who doesn’t want a tree this year. But we’re overriding his vote. He just doesn’t understand the mysteries of our rituals. Neither do we, apparently. But it’s okay.
Don’t laugh at my weakness, Cold Hardy Types.
It got cold for a couple of days and everyone who grew up in Houston was sad, and everyone who grew up elsewhere rolled their eyes at us. But it’s okay. I found a new way to mini-bond with strangers – just walk up to sad, shivering people and say, “You were born here, weren’t you?” And they were, and so was I. And we’re all cold and sad together, and we can take comfort in the weather-related misery that loves company. And we can draw a line in the sand – not a Mason-Dixon line, not a Tree Line, but a Parka Line. Sand Truck Line. Snow Tire Line. I’m on the side of the line where we don’t like to have that stuff. We like it warm.
Two days later, it’s warm again. Of course. Our gods only give us as much burden as we can carry, right? The return of the warmth feels, to me, like the first hour your nose is unstuffed after weeks of sinus issues. You know that feeling? The extreme relief, accompanied by promises that you’ll never again take the default state for granted? And you’re just talking out your butt, because you’ll go right back to taking it for granted within a day? Yes.
I don’t have anything not-cloying to say.
I’m all like “Yay, I love the birds! Ooh, it’s warm! Yay, a restaurant! Ooh, the parts of Christmas that I don’t dislike!” Sorry. I’ll go back to complaining and ranting soon.
I have to censor myself very firmly right now, because I’m really bad at keeping secrets, okay? You know how, when you have vertigo, you avoid standing on a cliff’s edge because you’re scared you’ll be unable to keep from accidentally jumping off, despite your self-preserving instincts? That’s me right now, with the secrets. I’m like “Oh man, I better not type anything, because I might type what I got everybody for Christmas and then put it into my blog editor and hit Publish and then hit Yes, I’m Sure I Want to Publish and then I won’t delete it, and then everyone will know and the surprise will be ruined! Yikes!”
I’ve already almost-ruined it two or three times, now. In fact, I’m pretty sure everyone knows what I’m getting them and is just pretending not to, to be nice. *Le sigh.*
Let me go ahead and hang up with y’all, then. Let me go ahead and talk at y’all later. Happy December 25 if I don’t talk to you before then. Happy other days that you consider special. 6:12 AM # (1) comments
Tuesday, December 09, 2008this weekend
I’m going to be at the Edward James Olmos 6th Annual Houston Latino Book and Family Festival on Sunday, at noon, on their children’s stage in the George R. Brown Convention Center, reading my first book for kids, Growing Up with Tamales. Last chance to get a signed copy before Christmas. It’s a free event. Not only will I be there, but they’ll most likely have lowriders, food samples, and people dressed as Clifford, the Poky Puppy, or other characters. You should check it out. It’s Saturday and Sunday, and it’s fun. Oh, and sometimes Edward James Olmos, AKA Commander Adama, shows up, too. I’ve met him three times now, at various points in my life, but he never remembers me. However, I like that, every time I meet him, I’m more successful than I was the time before. Hopefully I’ll see him Sunday, then, and I’ll be like, “Hi, Commander Adama! I have five books now! Last time you met me I only had one! The time before that, I had zero but I was playing Anita in West Side Story! I loved you in Blade Runner!” and he’ll be like “Hello, nice to see you,” and he’ll smile while my boyfriend snaps a photo of us, and the photo will come out with me in mid-blink, so that I look high or developmentally delayed, and I won’t be able to post the photo on my Flickr and no one will believe that I ever met Edward James Olmos at all, much less three times.
So you should come to the festival and see me. This Sunday.
Welcome to the (Publicity) Machine.
I had a meeting with my publishing peeps the other day and we wrote a bunch of dates on a bunch of pieces of paper, and now I have to do a lot of work to make the dates come true. I have to research stuff and email people and ask my publisher to mail books to people and write press releases and coordinate schedules. It doesn’t sound like hard work, and it’s not, but it is a lot of little details to manage.
Doing publicity for yourself is like a whole other job, in addition to your writing and to your day job, if you have one. And in addition to your parenting and your household-running and your girlfriend-being.
Most writers don’t like that part of the job very much. (I think it’s because most writers are introverts. Do you agree?) I’m not complaining, because I’d rather have something to publicize than not. But the publicizing isn’t my fave part, either.
Things I like about publicizing my work:
- Doing readings, making people laugh during the readings
- Meeting readers
- Exercising my creativity by thinking up new ways to describe my own work
- When they have free cheese and wine
Things I don’t like about publicizing my work:
- Needing to remind people about my work constantly, which makes me feel gauche
- Feeling like I’m bragging about myself
- Feeling frustrated that I could do more/better if I had more time
- Receptions where I feel pressured to “mingle,” instead of just eating free cheese and drinking free wine and chilling
- Putting my work and myself out there (like, say, on a Web application for sharing and rating books), inviting random strangers to criticize my stuff at will, as opposed to simply writing my stuff (like, say, on a blog) and letting interested people read or ignore it as they choose
But I’m getting over those petty peeves, with the help of self-directed cognitive therapy and the daily horoscopes of Mr. Rick Levine. Like I said, I’m not complaining. I’m just telling y’all how I feel so that you authors can empathize, and you aspiring authors can know what you’re in for. Some of you are reading my list of publicity dislikes and saying “What? That sounds like fun!” And to y’all I say, boogie on, reggae extroverts.
(That’s a take on a song by Stevie Wonder. “Boogie on, reggae woman.” Sorry – I’m kind of obsessed with that song ever since I saw a drunk guy try and fail to sing it at karaoke three or four years ago. So he danced, instead. Drunkenly and heartfelt. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wrote about it, here on this blog, back when it happened, but I think that entry’s been deleted. But I still think about that guy and that song all the time, especially when I think about people doing what they want to do, despite the laughter of friends and strangers.)
(The subtitle of these paragraphs is my take on a Pink Floyd song. Yes, half my blog entries are actually just classic rock song lyrics, altered slightly.)
There are these birds migrating through Houston right now.
Andrew told me that the grackles are very smart, for birds, which I already knew. I know this because they steal sugar packets from local restaurant patios, forcing restaurants to think harder. They take the Sweet n Low first, a waitress told me. The pink packets are their faves, basically. Even if they’re generic, I imagine.
Andrew told me that grackles go under parked cars and climb into the radiators to eat the bugs that gather there. Can you imagine?
People here have been commenting on how awesome the birds are for lining up on the electric lines, all spaced two bird-widths apart. I agree that it’s beautiful, and not just because I wish humans would keep two people-widths from me at all times, either.
Male grackles are iridescent black, kind of like black Infiniti G35s in the sun. Female grackles are dark dove-brown and always defer to the male grackles when it comes to food. No matter how many times you throw ciabatta pieces at female crackles, they’ll have to let the male grackle have them, if he shows up and wants them. Even if you yell at the male grackle, “Hey, you get out of here! Those are for her!” They have entrenched patriarchal inequality. But, besides that, they’re awesome.
One of my winning-the-lottery fantasies is that I’ll throw a masquerade ball on New Year’s Eve. For my costume, I’ll fly to Venice and have them custom sew me a (male) grackle costume. It sounds weird, but I have it all planned out, and it’ll be better than you’re thinking.
Don’t tell anyone I told y’all that, though. It’s kind of private, my grackle masquerade fantasy.
I wish PBS would do a show about city birds and their behavior. Maybe there’s one already? I wish someone would do a whole documentary about city birds in Houston. No, I wish someone would fund me and a team of ornithologists to do a documentary about the birds at three or four Houston establishments. Probably Empire, La Madeleine on Shepherd and West Gray, the zoo, and any random Jack in the Box. I wish it was my job, to make that documentary.
I’ve never understood elderly bird-watching hobbyists, but now I’m obsessed with grackles. I still don’t understand them, though, because they travel around, seeking out various species in the wild. I wouldn’t do that. When I’m too old to do anything else, I’ll totally go to different restaurants and name the grackles, pigeons and wrens. I’ll be like, “Here, Julio and Veronica, I bought you an almond croissant. But you have to share it.” And people will be like, “Oh, that’s so sad. Look at that old lady with ‘90s hair. She thinks those animals are people.”
I wonder if I’d even like grackles so much if they weren’t named grackles. If they were just crows or ravens or blackbirds.
Yes. I would.
Okay, don’t tell anybody anything I said about birds today. I’m starting to think it’s a little crazier than I knew. 6:13 AM # (14) comments
Thursday, December 04, 2008Now I have time to be stressed out.
I haven’t written here lately because I’ve been under some stress, and I never feel like talking on the blog (or to anyone) when I’m under stress. But now it’s all over, thank goshfully.
If I were in an airplane crash (God forbid; knock on wood), I already know exactly how I’d react. Cool and alert as hell, I’d put the oxygen mask on my face then put masks on everyone else. I’d pull out the floatation device seats, hand them out, calculate the distance, count it off “3, 2, 1, inhale!” and then swim everybody to safety. Then I’d go back for the more valuable plane cargo. Then I’d help with the rescue/recovery. Then I’d clearly and cogently debrief to the authorities.
Then, I’d go home, where I’m safe. Then, I’d go to the bathroom and throw up. I’d climb into bed, trembling, and cry. I’d cry for two hours, probably. Then I’d fall asleep and have a nightmare or two. Then I’d wake up and be ready to start a new day.
I’m guessing I’d do all this because that’s how I usually react in less major catastrophes. Except that I rarely throw up afterwards – it’s more like momentary nausea and retching.
Last week I finished my second novel and turned it in the night before deadline. (Extended deadline, actually, but that’s okay.) Also, last week, I had extreme Family Court drama that magically resolved itself on the same day that I turned in my novel.
And now I feel… relieved, right?
No! I feel stressed! I feel all knotted up and uptight and downtrodden. I feel crazy and unsafe. I feel scared.
I’ll probably try to cry a little bit tonight, before I go to sleep. But there’s hardly any time. I have a lot of stuff to move on to. I think I’ll just move on, instead, then. Sometimes I find that stress is the best distraction from my stress recovery. :)
(This is what you call Type A personality. This is what it takes for me to succeed. Don't feel sorry for me. Be happy for me that I'm this crazy, because the sickness is what makes the dreams come true.)
shout out to Carl Jung
Do you ever have a recurring bad situation that makes you question your existence and your karma and all that? And you think “Why does this keep happening to me?” because you believe everything happens for a reason, but you can’t think of one single reason for this crappy stuff to keep happening to you over and over again?
And then, finally, you find the one silver lining in the crappy thing, or you realize the one lesson it’s taught you?
And then, the moment you have that realization, the crappy thing stops happening?
Yeah. That’s happened to me a few times. It happened just the other day, in fact. And I’m very, very relieved that the crappy stuff seems to be over.
Thanks, Carl Jung!
I’m excited about this weekend. Here’s what I plan to do:
- Go see that movie Milk
- Go to the Turkish restaurant with the super fabulous dolmas that are not called dolmas in Turkish
- Start shopping for xmas presents for my brats, since they’ll be at their dad’s house and therefore unable to see what I’m buying them
- Go to an Indian restaurant in my neighborhood that a real live Indian person from my neighborhood said was good. (I totally, gauchely but desperately, hit up an Indian stranger during a carpool ride. I was like, “I’m sorry to be rude, but are you Indian?” He was like, “Um… yes.” I was like, “Can you please tell me if there are any good Indian restaurants in our neighborhood, because the only one I’ve found isn’t very good.” And he was like, “Oh! Yeah, sure.” And then he told me where two of them are. Thank gosh, because I was starting to have the Butter Chicken DTs and I can’t be driving all the way instead 610 for treatment all the time.)
Despite my irrational feelings of discomfort, which are probably only Seasonal Affective Dysfunction, anyway, things are pretty awesome.
Even the carpooling has been awesome, lately. I’ve been talking with a lot of nice/cool/smart people, and that restores my faith in humanity and makes me happy to be alive. The other day I met a geologist who seemed like a really decent person. Another day I met a guy who’s sort of obsessed with ballroom dancing and he told me a lot of fascinating stuff about that scene. I met a Republican precinct judge’s wife and a former Democrat activist precinct judge on the same ride, and that was a good chat.
I continually meet legal secretaries who have hilarious or shocking stories to tell. I often talk with older peeps who have insightful viewpoints on local issues. Sometimes the people are witty and we laugh, and that’s good, to laugh with strangers.
Today a transplanted Floridian and I gave a woman advice on what to buy her grandkids for Christmas, and I felt like we did some serious good. Usually, if I’m driving, I just drive in silence. Especially with men, who don’t care if you talk or not. Also, I like to concentrate super hard on my driving, so that everyone is comfortable. I’m currently obsessed with learning to brake my van as smoothly as possible, because my van has annoyingly tough brakes. Sometimes, though, I’ll get yakky with people and talk away the miles. Either way, it’s good. I don’t mind my commute anymore, now that I’m doing the HOV all the time. Even when I’m not talking to people, there’s always a lot to see out the window. I love my city, despite its flaws, so it’s good.
Some of you might consider this big news.
My boyfriend (fiancé) is moving in with us. I feel like I already told y’all that, or like most people reading this assume he lives with me, anyway. But...
(saying this next part knowing, and knowing that you know, and knowing that you know that I know, that plans like this are likely to change and shift and grow)
we’re thinking about eloping now. Or just going to the courthouse or whatever.
See, we’ve never been as worried about the wedding as we were about the marriage, and particularly about the physical love nest. So we set a long engagement, and kind of set the timeline around the housing market. Because we didn’t feel we could be married until we’d secured a house in a certain area. And that’s not feasible until at least two years from now. So, while we were in deep talks about that, people around us were asking about the wedding. And we’d be like, “Um… two years from now… string quartet, samba band, and DJ.”
But now, the stars have aligned such that it makes more sense for us to live together in my house. And, now that that’s happening, we’re like, “Wait, why do we need a wedding, again?”
It’s kind of like: living together was the final step, so why do we need an expensive middle step? You know?
It’s kind of like: why spend on a wedding, money that would be better spent on, say, a trip to Europe? Where we could hire an Italian homeless person to pose as a priest for a few photos to send back home? You know?
So, that’s where it’s at right now. In case anyone’s interested in that aspect of this eleven-year-long narrative. Plans subject to change, of course. Subject to Pricing, Funds, and Comp. Everything on Earth is subject to change, right? Even rocks, albeit very slowly.
(Every time I write “soon” for a subtitle, I think of the My Bloody Valentine song of the same name. Do you?)
Pretty soon, I’m going to announce dates/times/locations for readings for my novel, Houston, We Have a Problema, which is coming out January 9th.
I’ll go ahead and tell y’all right now that there aren’t going to be many physical readings. I feel guilty about this, because every time someone’s asked me in the past, I’ve been all glib, “East Chickenfoot, Arkansas? Yeah, sure, I’ll do a reading there in January or February.” But it’s not actually like that. My publicist peeps have done the math, and they think online and media efforts sell more books than physical readings around the country.
So… if you’re a book blogger or media peep who wants to review my book or interview me or otherwise be involved in some way when this book comes out, now is the time to tell me, so I can put you on the list or put you on the calendar. Actually, tell me also if you’re hosting any literary events or own a bookstore and would like to have me visit. I’m not supposed to invest a lot of time/energy/$ in readings out of state, but I am going to do a few, even if it’s only for the excuse to travel around a little and write it off on my taxes. :)
So, yeah. Contact me now. Our operators are waiting to take your call. Buy my product. Get a giant one for her pleasure and doesn’t leave you. All systems go. See you soon. And thanks.
Gwen 6:08 PM # (13) comments