Jeopardy, Day 3: (Tape: Nov. 20) (Air: March 10-12)(AND BEYOND(minus Arthur))

I suppose I’ve been dreading this post. I want to create some kind of denouement, something that ties it all together, but life goes on, and now it’s ten days after Arthur lost, and if I don’t just lay down some word-spackle my whole Jeopardy narrative edifice is going to tip over.

It seemed pretty clear that he was not going to make it the whole day from the beginning. He was tired (that infamous Podium Lean became more pronounced), strung out, not nearly refreshed enough from the sleep that he’d managed to snatch from jet lag and sheer emotional burnout. His strategy, while excellent and efficacious, required a level of intensity that was very hard to maintain. He started getting beaten to the buzzer more, buzzing in on clues he wasn’t sure of (and getting them wrong), losing tons of money on Daily Doubles.

The last couple games of his run were brutally long. In one, a single light of the eleventy billion festooning the grid over the set died and one of those lifting machines had to be brought in (stage hands laying rugs and ramps carefully before it lest it smudge the perfectly shiny floor) and the bulb elaborately changed, a process that took upwards of ten minutes. In the last one, Diana, who I’m sure is very nice but came off as kind of excitable and fragile, nearly passed out a couple of times and had to be fussily attended by various contestant wranglers for long periods where she got to sit, relax, drink juice, etc. while Arthur and the other woman stood and sweated and fidgeted. All this stuff gets edited out of the final episode you see on TV, and so his collapse seems even more precipitous than it actually was. By the end of the last game it was past lunchtime, everyone was exhausted and irritable, and we decided to just go home once he’d been released from Jeopardy’s clutches.

Which took a long time. I don’t think I fully understood the historic nature of his run until after we were back in Ohio. Arthur’s mom and I got to meet the producer, who introduced himself and shook our hands, which clearly wasn’t something he did for every contestant’s audience supporters. And he was held back in the bowels of the studio for a long time while we sat outside on the front steps, waiting and gossiping and watching one of the tech crew take a smoke break. When he finally emerged he said they had interviewed him for the website and posterity.

Arthur’s mom and her friend and Arthur and I all made our way out to the friend’s car and sank into our seats. Arthur was wearing a Jeopardy baseball cap with the words “GET A CLUE!” embroidered on the back. He had a small swag bag with all the pink carbon-paper receipts for the money Jeopardy owed him now, totals and dates written out neatly. I thought it was funny that, in this day and age, a physical invoice was still necessary. We went to lunch. I remember exactly zero things about that lunch; I couldn’t tell you where we went, what we ate, or anything that was said to save my life. Arthur could have stayed on and watched the final two games of the day, but he was so wiped out he looked ready to faint. We went back to his mom’s house and lay the hell down again.

Then it was just a matter of keeping the results under wraps until now. Which I’ll admit was incredibly hard sometimes. Our immediate families knew pretty quickly (Arthur waited until Thanksgiving to break it to his side) and I caved and told a couple of friends and cousins, after swearing them to secrecy, as January 28th approached. Nobody ratted on us and spread it all over social media, for which I’m intensely grateful.

Our whole family purposely kept the results a secret from my grandmother, a religious Jeopardy watcher, so that she could experience the joys and sorrows in real time, and also so she wouldn’t tell every single person she knew. I called her a few times during his run and we talked about how she was a minor celebrity in her own right at the assisted living home because “that’s my grandson-in-law!!!!”

Arthur was in New York City the night of his loss because Good Morning America had signed some kind of NDA with Jeopardy that allowed them to learn when his run would end and schedule an interview for the following day. He had a pizza party in his hotel room with NYC friends while I watched with my parents and little brother at home. It was painful, but not as bad as I’d thought it would be — for one, Arthur’s fanbase on The Twitters had grown enormously over the weeks, beginning to drown out the haters for which he had originally taken to social media. The upwelling of support and love and good wishes from total strangers was heartwarming.

How he became a media darling is a complex question. America likes disruptive young innovators who burst in and shake things up, and despite all his protesting and explaining he was repeatedly shoehorned into the “Moneyball” role by writers and interviewers alike. The story began with his witty and rapid-fire responses to the haters of Twitter, one part sincere, one part self-effacing and one part swagger. He was the Jeopardy villain people seemed to love to hate. Afterward was the backlash to the backlash, people purposely stepping forward and declaring their approval in order to go against the prevailing narrative. Through all this he and I stayed as on top of the story as possible, though I’ll admit my involvement was minimal after the first couple days. Nobody wants to interview the Jeopardy Wife, and I’m fine with that.

Whether it was Cold War anxiety or a hidden strain of OCD running through the population which reacted hysterically to the idea of taking the categories out of order, I think what kept fans and media types coming back was Arthur’s articulateness, his humor, his earnestness and willingness to explain exactly what he did, how he did it, and who he took his tactics from. His liberal sharing of credit brought the mechanics of the game itself, and its dedicated community of fans and hobbyist analysts, into the spotlight, and America looked at one of its favorite fusty old syndicated shows in a different way.

I could try to do some kind of massive link roundup, but the internet being what it is, half of those are going to be dead in a few years, anyway. Arthur won the third largest amount in regular play in the game’s history, and the third largest number of games, and spawned what I’m pretty sure were hundreds of articles by the end, though many were scraped and reprinted. His presence on the internet in this three-month period couldn’t be fully erased if someone tried.

SO WHAT ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO DO WITH THE MONEY, SAID A LOT OF PEOPLE?????!!!!!??????

I dunno. What do you do with a huge windfall that isn’t going to make you regret all your decisions in ten years? In one sense it feels like back pay for the lives we almost lived, the ones we expected, making up for the period during our entire twenties when we felt like the world had promised us good jobs and satisfaction if we only worked hard enough, tried hard enough — and then didn’t deliver. But the recession screwed just about everyone our age, and most people aren’t going to get that lost income and complacency back, not if they wait their whole lives. We are always going to be an entire generation scarred by this struggle that still hasn’t ended, might not ever end for us. So I’m not being flippant when I say that the best place for that money is “the safest goddamn investments we can find, until we come up with a better idea.”

I am haunted by the constant feeling that it could all vanish at any moment, the way the bottom dropped out of the economy just as I was beginning to search for a job, severely disabled by pain and fatigue. I don’t know if Arthur feels exactly the same, but I know he struggled horribly with the worthless feeling that comes from being overeducated and unemployed in freaking Washington, DC, a city that was supposed to be bursting with jobs at the time. We are both excessively cautious, excessively cheap (ask me about the cool chair I fished out of someone’s trash, or the argument we had to have last fall before Arthur would let me buy him new underwear) and excessively reluctant to commit to a mortgage or other large purchase.

We don’t even know if we’ll stay in Cleveland, though as a low-cost city with a lot of amenities it lends itself nicely to our cheap-chic lifestyle. The addictive joy of money for us is possibilities — the idea that we can drop our lives here and go zipping off to something completely different, the way we shook D.C. off our boots and transplanted to the Midwest; the idea that instead of worrying constantly about whether or not I’m contributing to the family coffers right now, I should shut the hell up and finish my novel; the idea that, we are at last exactly as prepared for life as we always thought we’d be at this age. We are an unstoppable power couple of awesome, ready to take on our thirties with the brass knuckles of optimism and hard work and the dragonbone plate armor of knowing we won’t go broke. And the sword of, uh, eloquence? Work with me, here.

Jeopardy, Day 2 (Tape: Nov. 19) (Air: February 24-28)

I can finally post this! Hooray! A WEEK OF JEOPARDY IN ONE DAY, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE:

I’m writing this one a couple weeks after the fact. It feels like it’s taken that long just to rest & recover from our little adventure.

I flew to LA on Monday, November 18th to see Arthur play some more Jeopardy. Last week we thought we couldn’t afford it, as TWO cross-country round-trip flights would make him barely break even if he came in third in the first game. (We shouldn’t have been so pessimistic, when he’d been studying and practicing for weeks.) This week, well, we suddenly could, even if we’re not going to see any of his winnings for months and months.

His flight sold out just a little while after Jeopardy bought his seat. I got another one on another airline for around the same time. Various misadventures meant I landed an hour late, but Arthur was waiting for me at the gate, and his mom picked us up and took us back to her house in the ‘burbs. We went to bed almost immediately, since we’d have to get up early to drive back to Culver City and the studio.

We didn’t get up early enough. Arthur’s mom’s friend, who I’m sure is very nice, offered to drive us. Which was very nice of him. We were nicely 20 minutes late, but as the “returning champion” Arthur didn’t have to do all the morning orientation stuff so it wasn’t a giant deal, though we were very stressed the whole way over thinking they might somehow boot him off the show. I spent the next hour & a half in a nearby coffee shop, waiting for them to start letting in audience members, hanging out with Arthur’s mom and her friend. Who was very nice. I told him he really didn’t need to drive us tomorrow if Arthur needed to come back, we could definitely find our own way, but he insisted because he’s a great guy. Arthur’s mom also insisted. I drank a “chocolate chai latte” which is a mistake I will never make again.

We drove back to the Sony lot and parked in the designated garage. A security guard scanned our driver’s licenses and we were directed to sit on some green benches in a special “audience zone” inside the parking garage. I’m guessing this is to keep us from wandering around the lot, but it was kind of dark and exhaust-fumey and uncomfortable. We endured. I made awkward small talk with a nice older woman who was there to support a contestant family member as well. It was hard not to brag about how great Arthur is, but I managed to keep the conversation general.

Eventually they set up a folding table and handed out wristbands or special “Contestant Guest” stickers to everyone. Arthur’s mom came to see him last week, so she was already a pro at this. They led everyone who needed a bathroom to a bathroom trailer. Then we were finally ready to head into the lot for reals. There was a bottleneck halfway to the studio building where everyone had to get their bag cursorily examined and walk through a metal detector, but that went smoothly. We lined up outside a studio that looked like every other studio (basically an anonymous warehouse) except there was a huge Jeopardy poster/mural on the wall with a 30-foot Alex Trebek looking benevolently down on us. We all got our pictures taken with him while we waited.

After a few minutes they let us file in, “Contestant Guests” first. Inside was a set of three podiums and a cardboard stand-up Trebek where guests could get their photos taken. Behind that was a glass display case full of Emmys. Behind THAT was a wall that was the back of the movie-theater-style seating inside the studio itself. Contestant Guests entered from the right side of the house, general rabble from the left. The two seating areas were separated by the recessed doorway through which, I imagine, they drive the cameras.

We were seated on the same side as the contestants, but weren’t allowed to talk, wave, gesture, or even really make eye contact with them. The studio is super strict about this, as well as making sure everyone’s phones are off and nobody looks at them during the show. As we came in, three soon-to-be contestants were up at the podiums, practicing using the buzzer. (I’m glad they let people practice – otherwise the returning champ would have a huge unfair advantage!) I could see Arthur sitting across the aisle but couldn’t do anything other than elbow his mom and point as subtly as possible. He was soon called up to prepare for the first game. I started quietly having a nervous breakdown. I held hands with Arthur’s mom, who was also nervous but handling it way better than me.

Johnny Gilbert, the 1,000-year-old immortal mummy who announces the show, came out and gave a quick talk about how we’re not allowed to make noise or even whisper answers to ourselves because the mics they use to pick up audience applause are always live. One of the Clue Crew was there and he made her stand up and wave. She had recently run an Iron Man Triathlon. We applauded. The crew started counting down. Twenty seconds. The contestants were already at their podiums. Arthur was on the far left, as befitted the returning champ. Johnny Gilbert assumed his position at the back of the studio.

Showtime. “THIS! IIIISSSS JEOPARDY,” said Johnny, sounding like a much younger man who was much more excited than he could possibly be after saying this 10 times a week for 30 years. We clapped. Arthur was introduced last, before Trebek, and the crowd oohed and aahed at his $100,000 running total. Other contestants and family members of other contestants started to look more nervous. We clapped.

Alex Trebek paced out from behind the facade, smiling. The music played. We clapped some more. The crew handed out little cards to the audience telling us when the episodes taped today would air. I realized these were several weeks after his first four – there must be tournaments in between, though I didn’t know which ones at the time. (Answer: A week of the Tournament of the Decades: 80s, and then two weeks of the College Tournament.)

Arthur came out swinging, but so did another contestant, a short brunette woman with a serious expression. She was really good, and started building a lead on Arthur that I wondered if he could catch. But she bet big on a Daily Double, got it wrong, and seemed to lose all her confidence and focus in one big rush. Arthur caught up, blew past her, and was so far ahead by the end I think it was a locked game – one where even if the other contestants bet everything they have on Final Jeopardy, they can’t catch the leader. (Unless the leader bets big and gets it wrong, but Arthur hadn’t spent weeks thinking about his strategy to be caught in a dumb maneuver like that.) A lot of Jeopardy, I’ve learned from Arthur, is the mind game – you can’t let yourself be thrown by a big mistake, or intimidated by a long-running champion. You have to stay focused on the clues and the buzzer, and nothing else matters. It’s a baptism by fire for every new set of contestants, since they’ve never been on the show before and never will be again, once they lose.

Each commercial break, while the tech crew bustled around and the writer-judges conferred, Trebek would come to the edge of the set and peer out into the audience, answering questions. The questions were mostly prosaic and sometimes repeated themselves from audience to audience – who’s your favorite musician, how’s your leg, when’s the last time you played hockey, do you watch sports, have you ever actually competed on Jeopardy, when are you going to retire. He gave answers that were one part informative and one part funny, working the crowd. (“Can you tell us about your personal life?” *LONG PAUSE* “No.”) In all my years of watching off and on, I never knew that part of his job is to provide live entertainment for the audience so they don’t get restless during the frequent pauses. Johnny Gilbert also came out and did this a couple of times when Trebek was busy.

Commercial breaks were also used to re-record any clues he had mispronounced or that he thought sounded bad. There was usually one, sometimes two. Even when you’re as practiced as Trebek, you’re still reading an awful lot of text that you only saw for the first time that morning. Sometimes he snarked about the way the clues were written and added his own little flourishes.

Anyway: Two more games, with only a few minutes of break in between. What they don’t tell you at home is that the show is filmed over the course of a couple days every week, and only part of the year, five shows a day. When Alex says something happened “yesterday”, what he actually means is “twenty minutes ago”. The contestants are told to bring changes of clothes to help maintain the illusion. It’s really weird to watch this simple deception in action, but of course it makes sense. The show’s continuity has to match the viewer’s continuity, and the viewer only sees one game a night. And it would be ruinously expensive to actually only film one show a day.

Anyway. Three shows down. They all started to blur together almost immediately, so I can’t remember the particulars. I was so anxious for Arthur that my memory is hazy after the first one. I do remember Trebek saying something to Arthur, who pointed at us in the audience. I cringed, waved, cringed again. “I SEE YOU, WIFEY,” Trebek called. “OH MY GOD HE LOOKED AT ME,” I whispered to Arthur’s mom. (Spoiler alert: This is the closest I got to actually meeting Alex Trebek. I did get my photo with the cardboard stand-up one in the lobby later on.)

Everyone broke for lunch. Contestants ate in a cafeteria somewhere on the studio lot, but because we weren’t allowed to even be in the same room as them, we had to walk a block down the road to where a coffee shop, a Subway, and a juice bar squatted at an intersection. The day was slightly overcast and in the high 60s. It was warm compared to Cleveland, but I hung onto my coat.

I got a peanut butter smoothie at the juice bar and sat in the Subway with Arthur’s mom and her friend. The woman from the first game who had started so strong was there, too, sitting with some family and/or friends. As we all got up to leave I overheard her saying that she wanted to go back in and watch the last two games of the day in case Arthur got knocked out, because it would be gratifying to see him fail.

“I completely understand the sentiment, even if I can’t agree with it,” I said. “I’m his wife.”

“Oh. I feel like a jerk now,” she said. I demurred. We all laughed a little and walked back to the studio in a big group. (Note: This was Sofi. I couldn’t remember her name until I saw her episode on Monday.)

Two more games. A different general audience filed in. I think this one might have been a school group, where the first had been a senior citizen group? Or was it the other way around? The contestants who came on now had watched Arthur handily win three games, and whether or not they allowed themselves to feel just a LITTLE intimidated, Arthur plastered ‘em. It became almost a routine – he would build a big lead and rarely had to worry much about Final Jeopardy at the end. By the end he had something like $260,000 in winnings, and Trebek had busted out a couple of teasing Ken Jennings comparisons.

I ran out just before the last game of the day because the huge smoothie was doing things to my insides. When I came back before the beginning of the game, a camera guy was camping out in the aisle next to our row of seats. “Uh oh,” I said to Arthur’s mom. She just laughed. Arthur’s anecdote for that “day” was a plug for my novel, and I didn’t know ahead of time, so my two seconds of national TV fame as an adult were me pressing my hands to my face. I texted my mom afterward to tell her what had happened.

“I hope you brushed your hair,” she sent back.

“I was all sweaty and disheveled from running back from a huge dump in the bathroom,” I told her.

“Ah, life,” she responded.

When the carnage was over, we filed out and ran into Arthur outside. We walked to the bathroom-trailer together, away from most of the audience. As soon as we were nominally alone he looked at me and started laughing hysterically. I hugged him. An old lady from the audience approached us and asked if she could have her photo taken with him, and left satisfied. The contestant wrangler called and set up arrangements to change his plane ticket to Thursday. (They had bought him one for Wednesday as a matter of course, but now he would not need it, thank you very much.)

We all walked back to his mom’s friend’s car and began the long drive home. His mom’s friend dropped us off and said his goodbyes, promising to return the next morning. We all went inside and lay down for an hour, too utterly stunned to talk or do anything much but rest.

Later we went to a restaurant where Arthur’s mom knew the staff. She explained my gluten issue to them in Chinese and for once I got to eat Chinese food without worrying about flour or soy sauce contamination. :) :) :) Poached fish, squid, green beans, all sorts of good stuff.

We went home and went to bed. It was 7:30 pm. Even as exhausted as he and I were, and the three-hour time difference, it was hard to get to sleep after being so amped up all day. We lay there for a long time and talked disjointedly about nothing, but eventually we drifted off.

Ah, life. If Arthur called this the best day of his life, better than his wedding and/or (one day) the birth of his first child, I would not begrudge him it. There was a clue somewhere in the middle of the day of taping, maybe the third or fourth game, that was something like “Five-Letter Words”. The clue itself was, I paraphrase, “Recess in a wall, or one’s proper place; we hope you’ve found yours.” The answer, or the question, I suppose, was “What is niche”. Arthur got that one, as he should have. He found his niche on Jeopardy, and went home beaming and shaky, having performed heroic feats of stamina and brilliance. After watching him struggle for so many years, I was so happy and proud I could just about have jumped over the house, if I weren’t also completely wiped.

Jeopardy, Day 1 (Tape: Nov. 13) (Air: Jan. 28-31)

I should probably have blogged about this sooner than COMPLETELY AFTER THE FACT, but sometimes I forget that I have a blog at all. Apologies.

My beloved husband Arthur tore up Jeopardy last week and became a polarizing figure on the internets. This spawned multiple internet articles about him.

Arthur flew to LA right after work (he left early, in fact) and arrived late at night. He had to be at the studio in Culver City at 8 am the next morning. I was not a fan of this “miss as little work as possible” plan, but he could not be dissuaded.

I texted him to wish him luck in the morning, but he didn’t reply. I spent the whole day chewing my nails and shitting bricks, trying to focus on writing, waiting to hear from him. (I did get some novel work done.) Finally, around 8:45pm EST, he called me.

“I have some bad news,” he said, but it was in his “I have some good news” voice. I wasn’t fooled. “I have to spend another week ignoring everything to study for Jeopardy because I’m coming back.”

I don’t remember what I said but it was along the lines of “OMG YAY”. What he said next kind of made a little blank space in my memory.

It was, “I won a hundred thousand dollars.”

My brain shut down for a little while. A hundred thousand dollars in one day of taping. They hadn’t even brought him on until the second game (of five). He’d been studying for weeks, lurking forums of die-hard fans of the show and former contestants to glean strategy tips, and watching every single episode of Jeopardy he could find on the internet, back to the 1980s. (The episodes are posted illegally but Sony seems to turn a blind eye to a small amount of infringement as long as the eps aren’t recent.) We’d even bought a pair of rabbit-ears for the TV to pick up the show as it was broadcast every weeknight. It seemed like there couldn’t be a better-prepared person in the entire world.

And yet to see it pay off so fantastically well boggles the mind. I laughed and hyperventilated and told Arthur he’s awesome. (He is.) I hung up and called my parents. We yelled a little. I texted him an hour later to ask him to repeat that figure because my brain kept telling me I’d misheard. He confirmed it.

I said I was flying to LA with him next week because, hell, we could afford it now, and I wanted to see him kick ass in person. It turned out to be impossible to get onto the flight Jeopardy had booked him, but I found one with only one stop that left a little earlier and landed a little later than his. This was happening.

Then I just had to keep mum for another week about what the hell was going on. I’d already locked down my social media and told Twitter that I wouldn’t say a word about Arthur’s success or failure from the moment I dropped him off at the airport. I’ve been addicted to Twitter (and, before that, blogging) for ten years. Sometimes the inability to yell about how proud I was felt like a physical pain. But I soldiered on somehow.

There’s three weeks of tournaments before Arthur comes back on, I believe, February 24th. I’ll be tweeting my little fingers off over at @elizaeffect during the airing. I won’t post my Day 2 rundown until it’s appropriate, but stay tuned as I travel into the bowels of Hollywood and become part of a live studio audience!

#teamarthur #chuchutrain #kingarthur #swaglordarthurchu @arthur_affect

Milestones

I crossed 100,000 words a while back. Then I crossed it going the other way, cutting out some garbage, and then crossed it again, barely.

Then I got stuck. Then I got sick. Now I’m back, having not looked at the book in many days.

Maybe it’s a good thing. I’ve been making notes on what to do next every night – the minutes just before falling asleep are especially fertile, when I’m too tired to actually get up and commit cool scenes to paper, but can at least make notes on my phone – and I never go more than an hour without thinking about the damn book.

It’s a mess. It’s supposed to be a mess, this is the normal process of writing, but never having actually crawled out of such a mess before, I’m flailing. I think what I needed most was just a little time away. Not guilt-free time, no. I wanted to have a full draft zero by the end of August, back in the halcyon days of July. And we’re over halfway through October and I don’t even have all the bits I need to make a coherent story out of this huge bolus of words.

But I’ve been taking care of kittens – the current crop is very cute but only one of the four has been adopted, and now they are slowly aging out of their adorability window, and I’m biting my nails about it. I’ve been reading – nonfiction, fiction, stuff about dogs, stuff about cavemen, who are not quite what I’m writing about but similar. Game of Thrones, for the hell of it, since that’s the enormous epic fantasy olivaunt in the room. I’m about a third of the way through A Clash of Kings and enjoying it well enough, though I know it’s going to just keep breaking my heart. I’ve been living, in a sort of limited, quiet way, which is all I can manage most days.

We saw Sweeney Todd downtown a couple weeks ago, and we’re leaving in a bit to catch Richard III. Every piece of media I consume is vacuumed up through my eyes and carefully turned over again and again, considered, weighed for its applicability to my own story. I don’t understand writers who say they can’t read while they write. This book will have a thousand influences by the time I’m done.

Write-A-Thon Triumph!

The Clarion Write-A-Thon ended last night. I actually hit my goal on Thursday, crossing 30,000 words, but I was so tired and burned out that I waited to post about it, and then Bluehost went down, so I don’t think my site was even accessible. That’s okay, Bluehost, you’ve done a great job otherwise with my shitty little no-traffic site.

I want to thank all nine people who donated to make up the $200 I raised. Well, eight people, since I put up the seed money. Also one of you was my mom. But the point is, $200 for Clarion! Yay! That will go into a scholarship for the next SFF superstar, just you wait. [Ha ha, just kidding, the next SFF superstar is me. But the one after that, definitely.]

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Cajun Sushi Hamsters! And write-a-thonning.

So here’s that cool news I promised last week or whenever: I got into the Cajun Sushi Hamsters! They’re an ongoing science fiction & fantasy workshop group that meets right here in Cleveland (and has been doing so continuously for something like 20 years). My first meeting is this Saturday. I’m pretty frickin’ excited!!!!

I’m also in the Clarion Write-A-Thon this year, for the first time ever. I’ve raised a little money, but would love to raise more! The money goes to the Clarion Foundation, which being entirely volunteer-run puts almost all of it into scholarships to Clarion itself. And scholarships are so, so important for people whose writing is “ready for prime time” when their wallet isn’t. Here’s my page – check it out.

I’m still making novel progress, though I just threw out a couple drafts of a story I’ve been trying to get right for months and months. I stumble every time a kitten gets adopted. (Annie went to her new home on Sunday.) I think there’s just something about the first cat and the first litter of kittens – I bonded so strongly with these three kittens, and now Abed’s the only one left. I bet I’ll ugly-cry whenever he goes.

Blogfail + good news + mixed news

I’ve been remiss. There is no other word for it. Adding a mobile option did not actually encourage me to post more, because I’m too tired to generate extra non-fiction words on an average day. But I will continue to update as I can.

1) First, the mixed news: Baby Troy, the black kitten from my last post, got adopted last weekend. I cried. He was by far my favorite out of the three, and it seems cruel that he would be the first to go when the other two didn’t even get any applications. But I think it’s a good home, and if I adopted every cat I bonded with I would be a cat lady.

2) The next day the group called me and said someone had found a starving kitten of roughly the same age as my other ones on a softball field and could I take it? So now there’s a painfully skinny girlkitten in our hall bathroom. I gave her a flea bath, which I hope got them all. Whenever I see a flea I spend the next three days wracked with psychosomatic itching. I’ve been feeding her pretty much continuously and she’s already filling out a little after two days. She’s desperate for love. I’m very angry that someone probably abandoned her to die and very happy that she was rescued. I’ve posted a few pics on Twitter. Her name is Britta. I think it fits.

3) I went to Wiscon – god, was it a month ago? It was amazing. I might do a whole rundown post just of that, but so many of the things I loved were intangibles – meeting up with something like two-thirds of my Clarion class in Madison, merging right back into the Hive Mind as if we hadn’t been separated for months. Seeing Cassie Krahe, my fellow Dell Award kid, in person for the first time in…seven years? Augh! And then I ran into Anthony Ha, too, not even knowing he was going to be there! So it was like a mini-Dell Award reunion, too. Seeing two of our instructors again (Ted Chiang and Delia Sherman) was sweeeeeet. Delia was incredibly busy launching the new interwebs magazine Interfictions Online (interfictions.com, eh, eh, check it out) so we didn’t see her much, but Ted came to dinner with us once! We Clarionauts went walking along the lake, reunited a baby duck with its family, ate at the same Lao/Thai restaurant twice, the food was that good, went thrift shopping for costumes for Genderfloomp, went to Genderfloomp, were total dorks the whole weekend. I tried to keep the fanslime in check. May never stop being a huge idiot around cool writers I admire. My only hope is to also become a cool writer so I can explain it away as writer quirkiness. I need to go back next year. I hope Clarion 2012 can make these reunions a recurring thing.

4) I’m over 50,000 words into the novel. I’m guessing editors aren’t going to want anything much over 100k, though I could have so much fun with a larger limit. I’m trying not to psych myself out, since this is the Muddle in the Middle, the place where so many people get bogged down. I was bogged down for two weeks recently due to another Death Cold, and I’ve been bogged down the past three days just from exhaustion; last weekend contained a picnic expedition to see Arthur in Two Gentlemen of Verona, followed by a cast&friends drinking expedition to celebrate same, an all-day adoption fair, the kitten rescue, a showing of Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and a very belated anniversary dinner. It’s been one year and two months. I was just about dead Monday morning.

5) I’ve declared comment bankruptcy. If you said something somewhere in the 4,000 spam comments in moderation, sorry, it’s gone forever. I’ll try to stay on top of it better in the future.

I have other stuff but I’m going to put it in its own separate post tomorrow! Tonight I need to get some gosh darn sleep!

And then a month happened

black kitten

This is a test. I realized that one of the reasons I don’t blog more is because I want to include pictures, but all my phone pics are impossibly annoying to get off the phone onto my computer, manually resize, and then upload to the site. So since I’ve gotten pretty good at phone-typing, I’m going to try blogging from the WordPress app for a little while. It should both get me to post more AND make my posts more concise.

Anyway. So a month happened. We moved into our adorable convenient house – actually I’m gonna go out and take a pic right now to show it in its springtime glory – there. Half a duplex. Which I love in spite of its faults.

my house

The roof, electrical and handyman work required to bring it out of the 1960s continued for a few weeks after we moved in, greatly traumatizing the cat. I bought him a new cat tree for the bedroom window and he is recovering.

Mycroft

The novel is not proceeding as quickly as I would like, but it is proceeding well. I stalled during the disruptions of the move and other recent stuff but am back on track now.

I drove back to DC for my friend J’s bridal shower, sleeping on my other friend M’s couch. It was a very quick visit for this one purpose and I told almost nobody I was coming. Sorry if you wanted to hang out. I will certainly be back, though 11-12 hours in the car is not something I can do amazingly often. My writing & energy level suffered for a damn week.

But only a week! The amazing thing about getting huge amounts of sleep and not being depressed about my job all the time is that I don’t feel horribly ill 24/7! And while it still takes longer for me to bounce back from energy-intensive stuff, and I’m still pretty low on the strength/stamina scale, and the chronic pain never actually goes away, I feel pretty great. Life is great. The world is great.

And that’s even before I bring up the kittens.

female tabby kitten

After many delays and as of Wednesday, I’m finally fostering with a local group! These babies are a little over six weeks old and were abandoned in a bag on a church stoop. They’re receiving medicine for the sniffles but are otherwise healthy, if a little undersocialized. One of my jobs is to give them as many mandatory cuddles as possible before they go up for adoption so they’ll be extra-friendly. We’re on Day Three and they’re already basically there.

There’s a fluffy black male, a fluffy gray tabby male, and a shorthaired brown tabby female. Arthur wants to name them Troy, Abed and Annie, so we’ll see if those names are already taken. The black one is so sweet and friendly and cuddly, even at six weeks, that I know he’s going to make a better-than-average pet for someone (NOTMENOTMENOTME I SWEAR). The other two are adorable and sweet, too, but don’t have the same charisma.

Anyway. Arthur’s in a play about AIDS that’s opening tonight, and apparently it’s gotten better since I saw last weekend’s slightly lackluster dress rehearsal, so I’m going to go see it again! With my parents! A good time will be had by all, except I guess the characters who find out they have AIDS. Which is most of them.

Here is one more kitten picture to counteract the AIDS.

gray tabby kitten

Book update: Cookin’ Along

Last week I made it to Sunday down 2,000 words. I was really mad at myself for falling short, but in retrospect I know I was just exhausted after three late nights in five days trying to keep up with Arthur.

On Monday the 18th, we headed off on a whim to join a round-robin reading of Shakespeare. A bunch of strangers gathered in a hipstery wine bar in Ohio City to read aloud and discuss The Taming of the Shrew? A few years ago you wouldn’t have caught me dead! I had a fantastic time and want to go back every month. I believe April’s will be Two Gentlemen of Verona. All the people there were cool and nice and I want to be friends with them.

I have terrible stage fright and can’t think of worse torture than going up in front of people and trying to entertain them, but Arthur has no such problem. On Wednesday (a little over a week ago) Arthur and the rest of his standup comedy class did five-minute sets at the Cleveland Improv down in the Flats (by the Cuyahoga River). Arthur’s was the funniest by far, to the point where audience members/comedy club staff were coming up to him afterward and telling him how great he was. I hope he pursues this.

On Friday we went to a dance hall in an area of the outskirts of Cleveland I don’t know at all, because a woman who is in a play with Arthur (see above about loving the stage) was running a monologue contest. I didn’t know the area or anyone there & would have felt a lot weirder if Arthur weren’t friends with the hostess, but everyone was nice. It was a pretty small operation – there were only five or six contestants – but she’d lined up a panel of judges and there were probably 30+ audience members. It was a tough crowd, and the judges were not exactly merciful, but surprise, Arthur won! So basically I’m married to Stage Superman and I was perfectly happy to make last week all about him.

Things accomplished in fiction last week: Oh, I barely remember anymore. I made it to 20,000 words, then rewrote the one Clarion story that I’d thought I could incorporate because the tone didn’t match anymore (this might be the chapter that begins the entire novel, it’s kind of important!), so I only crossed 20,000 again yesterday.

This week has been much quieter. We’re gearing up to move into the Convenient House (it really needs a better name) as early as this Saturday, but the movers who have all our furniture won’t give me a hard date for when they’re coming, so I’m going to spend maybe the next week waiting for the 24-hour warning call. Luckily we haven’t worn out our welcome with my parents, yet.

Things accomplished in fiction this week so far: Put more into the aforementioned rewritten chapter. It’s running long and I think I might need to back out and rewrite half of THAT. Grr. A protagonist has a near-death experience and a life-altering epiphany. Another protagonist does everything she can to avoid a suitor. Lots of background/infodump on the nature and habits of dogs, since they’re the book’s most immediately obvious deviation from the (pre)historical norm. The background to a bromance is somewhat explained. I think I accidentally gave a throwaway character a much larger part than originally intended, so we’ll see where this goes.

This week I started off very strong after my inadvertent rest weekend, and got a day and a half’s worth of words “banked” ahead of schedule. Then I crashed yesterday (Wednesday) and hardly got anything done. These energy swings aren’t good, and I need to get better about managing them, but it was so gratifying to slam out over 2,200 words on Monday! Monday is becoming my favorite day, now that I’m out of the office. It’s when I’m most rested and raring to go, writing-wise. But I’m still within budget for the week, as long as I don’t have any more total crash days. And with that, I’d better get working on today’s installment, as soon as I figure out what it’s going to be.

State of the Book

WORDCOUNT: 15,600. There. I said it. I’m pretty sure all of them are going to have to be rewritten at some point. I only incorporated one of the Clarion stories, as enough details have changed that the other is now unusable. And the Clarion bit is probably the first part I’m going to rewrite because the voice doesn’t sound the same as the rest of it.

But augh. I lost two solid weeks of productivity to the Death Flu/Cold. This week was the bit where I proved that I could make 1000 words a day (on average) all week if I just pushed hard enough. Unfortunately I was proud of very few of those words. But that’s what all the other drafts after this one are for, right? I feel like I’m floundering because (beyond my basic energy problems) there are a few structural/plot details that I haven’t worked out yet (okay, a lot of them, as well as, well, a COHERENT ENDING) because I’ve been resisting making a firm outline. So tomorrow, my optional rest day, I will either a) rest if I turn out to be too tired or b) try really hard to make the first real outline I’ve ever done, or c) work on something completely different as a mental break. But that outline’s probably gotta happen before I get too much farther in.

Stuff accomplished in fiction: More disjointed scenes. A heist begins to come together. A protagonist returns home to find a nightmare. The mythical origin of dogs. I wrote a couple of close scenes one day and knitted them together/expanded them the next. Slowly a tissue of fiction is grown from scaffolding and agar.

Stuff accomplished in real life: Arthur and I went to a reading by three local authors in a bar. We got there late and had to sit among the locals who were all ignoring the readers and shouting over them. We couldn’t hear very well, didn’t speak to anyone, and left immediately afterward. Socializing is hard. We also had some tickets my parents bought ages ago and then couldn’t use to see a four-piece subset of Apollo’s Fire, the best baroque orchestra in the US. They played a number of Bach and Telemann pieces. I like Telemann more than Bach (UNCULTURED!!! SHUN HER!!!!!!) but they were all great. I don’t care if the music is my “thing”, I love seeing talented musicians at the top of their game really shred on cello and harpsichord and stuff.

We’re housesitting for my parents while they visit my aunt & uncle & adorable little cousins in England. When I agreed to do this I forgot it would involve watching two neurotic pets who can’t be left alone for too long and can’t be in the same room, either (the pets being Mycroft and my parents’ dog, Ollie). But it encourages me to not do that thing where I write/internet in bed and never leave our room all day, so that’s good, I guess.

Man. I plowed out 2,000 words today to make that average wordcount, and I was completely drained afterward, but it did feel pretty great to get so much done. If I could write 2,000 every day, I’d be sending this novel off to agents in three months. I may up the daily goal again someday, but only after at least a couple weeks of no medical upsets or other stupid bullshit that gives me entire days of zero productivity. Today I wrote a TON, spent lots of quality time with Arthur, watched a Justice League movie & two episodes of Archer, and cooked dinner. Maybe someday this could be my life without crushing fatigue dragging me down at every turn. Maybe every day could be like this, or better.