Batting my Lashes

leglampawardIn August I will be the recipient of an award from the local business newspaper – The Business Examiner.  Each year, The Business Examiner, holds a Top 40 Under 40 event celebrating business persons under the age of forty in Tacoma.  This year, my business partner and I are among the recipients!  The event includes a photoshoot for all the recipients and the resulting images get shown on the website and at the event. So of course we did what any sensible business owners would do when on the receiving end of a MAJOR AWARD (careful, it’s fra-jeel-ay)– we put eyelash extensions on the business account.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, eyelash extensions are individual fake lashes that are applied with careful hands, tweezers and glue to your real eyelashes.  The effect is that you have somehow magically grown giant cow length eyelashes.  Unlike a standard set of fake eyelashes that glue on to the eyelid above the lashline, these look integrated into your own lashes.  Basically, your eyes now look like every mascara commercial on TV.

The Stats:  In my neck of the woods they cost about $100 (plus tip) and last about two weeks.  At two weeks you can get a “fill” appointment that can cost $50, but wait until three weeks and that will cost more.  They take about an hour and fifteen minutes to put in and you must be ok with having your eyelids taped in place and have someone poking around on your lash line.

The Pros: As I said, your eyes now look like a mascara commercial ALL the time.  This is great when you just woke up and have no make-up on.  Somehow, I look delightfully rumpled instead of my normal slightly dead.  Since one of the rules is that you can’t wear mascara on them (impossible to clean without taking them out) there is less make-up time involved in getting ready.  And for the most part, people really can’t figure out what you’ve done to look so smashing.

The Cons: My eyes were a bit red and others report a stinging sensation on the first day.  For me, I just felt like I had grit in my eyes for the first two days.  Also, every once in awhile one of the falsies twisted around and stabbed me in the eyeball. Youch! They do have to be treated GENTLY.  If you’re a side sleeper, be prepared to lose a few early after they get ground into your pillow overnight.

Conclusion: If you’re looking at a week with multiple events, particularly ones where you’ll be featured in photos, eyelash extensions might be the way to go.  My business partner had the awards photoshoot, a family picture photoshoot and a high-school reunion in the same week – that’s the kind of week that makes the cost and effort worthwhile.  I probably didn’t need them for one photoshoot, but I’ve enjoyed batting my giant lashes for a few weeks.

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Cranking (Toddler) Tunes

Many things change after having a baby.  And I have to say that one of the things that I’m the most sad to see change is the amount of music I listen to.  Baby nap times seem to encompass the whole dang day! I used to have iTunes running almost constantly.  Not that it wasn’t a battle with my husband over what to listen to.  No, I don’t want more Phish.  And there’s only so much hip-hop and Grateful Dead I can listen to before going insane. (Yes, my husband is a hippy with a secret love of 90’s R&B.  He compensates for this deficiency by being ruggedly handsome and having the miraculous ability to open jars and kill countless spiders.)

The interesting thing is that, aside from the specific bands, where my husband I deviate in our musical tastes is an actual love of music.  He loves music.  Phish, Dave Matthews, the Allman Brothers, and the Grateful Dead all have one thing common.  OK, take a toke and make that two things – they’re jam bands.  I hate jam bands.  It’s just giant swaths of useless music that take away from the important thing – the lyrics.  I love the words. (Surprised?  Probably not.)  For me, music is like poetry with half the pretentiousness and way more shake-your-bootiliciousness.  And I like to play it ALL the time particularly when I’m working.  I find that music helps put me in the zone for writing and for design.

But with an in-home office and a baby, it’s become a lot more difficult to crank the tunes through the work day.  I was excited when the baby hit two and it became easier to send her to daycare/babysitting and there’s only one nap to contend with, but it has also meant that she’s tons more verbal.  With a toddler in the house, I don’t feel quite so comfortable cranking up a few of the songs I love, like Don’t Shoot Me Santa by The Killers.  I am perfectly prepared to explain that boys have a penis and some people are in wheelchairs and sometimes boys marry boys and girls marry girls.  But… I am not at all prepared to explain why Santa is shooting that guy in the song.  I’m pretty sure I see headphones in my future.

 

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Originally posted on 7.27.16 at The Stiletto Gang

Mascara Meh

I was going to say that I was in an on-going search for mascara that gives my lashes the appearance and silkiness of toddler, or one of those ridiculous boy who have won the genetic jack-pot of eyelashes, but don’t have any use for them. But to be perfectly honest, after the last debacle of a mascara purchase I’m simply looking for mascara that doesn’t leave my face covered in speckles of black.

This month I moved on to Scandal Eyes Show Off by Rimmel.  It had a fancy looking brush and exciting packaging design. I base many of my purchasing decisions on packaging design.  My theory is that if you’re the kind of company that can hire a decent graphic designer and then ALSO pay to get their design printed, then chances are that you make a decent product.  Surprisingly, this works fairly often.

However, in this case I was disappointed.  The mascara was clumpy.  It was flaky.  The weird ball brush tip actually got in the way when applying.  Either I needed to use only the ball tip or I need to cut it off so I could use the rest of it.  None of it was so hideous that I threw it away and ran out to buy a different tube; it was just mildly annoying.  And for these reasons, Scandal Eyes does not receive the Carrie Mae seal of approval.  On to the next mascara!

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My Toddler Works for James Patterson

My dad says he invented the skateboard.

He says that he had never before seen or heard of a skateboard when he put a plank on skate wheels. Of course, his invention went no further than a backyard of summer fun, but he still likes to claim his invention when some youth sails by on a long board.

Well, now I feel his pain.  James Patterson, Mr. Prolific himself, is in the process of releasing what he’s calling “Book Shots” — novella length works, penned with co-authors, that cost less than five dollars.

You have no idea how annoyed this makes me.

Because it was MY idea.  This month I’m releasing Wild Waters, a novella length paranormal romance (sex scenes!) story.  The genre is outside of my usual brand, but I thought the structure and topic were interesting (reporters, SEALs, Vietnam!). I also thought my readers might enjoy something at a lower price point, but in my style of writing.  I examined the options.  I had the thoughts.  I came up with the plan.

And then James Patterson stole it out of my brain!  How dare he use his larger amounts of money, time and fame to launch my idea!  It makes me want to march right over to his house and give him a toddler.  Let’s see how fast he can type then.  Toddlers should be like weights for jockeys.  If Vegas gambled on writer’s turning in manuscripts on time, I’m sure that they would have developed some sort of toddler distribution system by now.  Fortunately, for Mr. Patterson and for me, there’s plenty of room in this world for novella’s and writers of all kinds, with or without toddlers. Good luck to both of us with our tiny books.

 

Originally Published at the Stiletto Gang on 06.08.16

Now is the time…

Late in the month, it seems like almost everyone suddenly wakes up and realizes that the deadlines that seemed so very far away are now, like, almost here, man.  Cue panic.  Cue sudden uptick in workload for yours truly.  The problem is that I’m exactly like everyone else.  I’ve been noodling over several pieces of writing and now the deadline is like, almost here, man!

Now is when the marathon of writing becomes a sprint. Just how fast can fingers type?  We’re about to find out.

Now is also about the time when back pain and carpal tunnel set in.  Time to start juicing writers!  No, I mean literal juicing.  It’s important to stay hydrated – prevents muscle spasms.  Although, I personally prefer copious amounts of tea, liberally applied, at regular intervals.

Now is the time when the tiny proto-human you’ve been carefully nurturing like a hot house bloom looks up from a coloring book and says, “Sorry mom, work. Four more minutes.”  Gee, wonder where she got that?

Now is the time that my face looks like this:

stressed face

So wish me luck as I sprint to the end of the month.  And wish my family luck as they get abandoned for fake people that I made up.

 

 

Originally published on the Stiletto Gang 05.25.16

A Mascara Massacre

When I received the usual fistful of useless bits of dead tree along with my receipt from Walgreen’s I almost chucked the entire lot in the trash, but decided to do the environmentally responsible thing and chuck them in the recycling at home.  Imagine my surprise when, once home, I realized that one of the coupons actually had value to me. That never happens. It’s always twenty coupons for spam and baby food or spam baby food. I read and re-read the coupon, checked the fine print – it really was a coupon for a FREE mascara.  But, but, but… I love FREE.  And mascara – I love mascara!  This can’t be right.  I read the coupon again.  Yes, it definitely said free mascara.

The next week, I trotted in, picked up my mascara, handed in my coupon and waited for the other shoe to drop. Nope, still free.  I walked out with a tube of Revlon Ultimate All-in-One mascara and floating on a cloud of euphoria that can only be generated by free make-up products.

A week later that cloud had evaporated under the wilting heat of real life testing. This mascara is possibly the worst mascara I have ever used. At first glance it looks OK, the formula seems a little thick, but hardly unsual.  But two hours after applying I look like the member of Our Gang known as Freckles.  The mascara leaves a nuclear dust cloud of black particles strewn across my face and clothes. I would have less mess on my face if I simply threw the mascara brush at myself.  This more than any other product I have ever owned has caused people, including strangers, to say, “Um… you’ve got a little… something?” while tapping awkwardly at their face.

Conclusion: Yes, I got free mascara, but I got what I paid for. Definitely NOT Carrie Mae approved.

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There’s a Double Meaning in That

In Much Ado About Nothing Beatrice and Benedick, the worst of rivals, are set up by their friends to fall in love.  So that by Act 2, Scene 3, when Beatrice says, “Against my will I am sent to bid you come into dinner,”  Benedick believes that Beatrice is madly in love with him, while Beatrice believes him to be an ass.  After she exits, he says in all smugness, “Ha! Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner. There’s a double meaning in that.”

Someone I know once asked an English teacher how he knew the author intended the symbolism the teacher was accusing him of.  The teacher replied, “It doesn’t matter.”  As an author this makes me want to poke him in the eye just a little bit.  But in the end he’s right; stories mean something to a reader independent of the writer’s intentions.  Each reader brings their own experiences to a book and a writer can’t predict them.  So how can an author prevent his readers from pulling a Benedick and seeing double meanings where none are intended?

It’s a very secret and advanced technique called (wait for it): educated guessing.  And good beta readers.  As an author I try to learn about other points of view, so that I can write stronger more realistic characters and then I rely on my writers group to read through a piece and throw up flags around text that might unintentionally carry a subtext that’s either offensive or poorly thought out.  It’s hard to think that something I’ve written could be construed as offensive, because after all, I am I and I’m awesome and I have only the best of intentions.  But we all have prejudices or periodically spout unexamined notions that have been fed to us by society.

An easy example is “pink is only for girls”.  This statement is both observationally false (been to the mall lately?), and historically inaccurate (pink used to be a boys color). Color is a product of light bouncing off a surface or being absorbed (we see the portion of the spectrum bounced back); any deeper meaning has been assigned to a color by humanity. So unless my character is a sexist and I need him or her to say total nonsense about gender roles, I probably shouldn’t write that and a good beta reader should flag it as a problem.  With any luck I can keep the unintentional double meanings to a minimum.  I don’t want to be a Benedick.

The Accent Mark Goes… Here

You know how Madonna now talks with a British accent?  And everyone kind of mocks her?  It is annoying to have someone you know grew up in Michigan try and sound all posh, but at the same time… I would be the same way.  I once realized that I had been watching twenty minutes of a cooking show with an Australian host and I had no idea what was being made.  I’d spent the entire time watching her mouth trying to figure out how she was murdering pronouncing her vowels that way.  I sounded like a monkey on the couch as I clenched and unclenched my teeth trying “ehhh-oooh-uh” my vowels.  I was two seconds away from throwing a shrimp on the barbie when my husband came home and gave me the look that implied that while our marriage was a joy and a blessing, it was also occasionally weird.

The unfortunate thing is that, just as I’m addicted to copying other people’s accents, I find that I’m also prone to picking up the language of whomever I’m reading.  I’m sure my writing/reading group can tell when I’ve been reading Regency Romances.  One cannot help but be addicted to the opulent turn of phrase.  And if I could work some sort of line about puce satin and a cravat into the paragraph all the better.  What if I’m reading fluffy chick lit?  Pretty sure that my character needs to mention her thighs and a cupcake in the next sentence.  Taut thrillers? Sentences get shorter.  Characters become brutal. And adverbs?  Kill ‘em.  Kill ‘em all.

The brutal snuffing out of “suddenly” aside, this habit does real damage to my narratives.  Characters don’t sound like themselves (why does that Texan sound English?) and plots can veer wildly off course as I spend a page (or three) describing clothing.  So when I’m writing I have to take a bit of a hiatus from reading unless I can find that wondrous book that matches the tone that I’m writing.  I think it’s incredibly unfair that my reading has suffered as a result of my writing, but currently it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  Of course, if I could just figure out how to retire with a million dollars so that I could segregate my year into reading quarters and writing quarters life would be awesome.

Author Diaries: Day 1

I was recently sitting with a group of friends discussing a book we’d all read recently (Perfect Likeness by J.M. Phillippe – group consensus: two thumbs up, funny and touching!).  But then the conversation turned to whether or not the author had left room for a sequel.  Some thought there was definitely going to be a sequel, while others read the slightly open-ended conclusion as the perfect metaphor for the books message about depression.  Since we happen to know the author, it was a simple matter of waiting until she returned from the bar with her cocktail, so that we could ask her.  But the entire argument reminded me of the very first public reading I did of my own writing.

I was 19 and I’d just won third place in a contest for Just Between You and Me, a short-story of a high-school girl who sells her English teacher a sense of humor.  There was an awards ceremony and the top three all read their stories.  I was incredibly nervous.  I’d practiced, but still read too fast and killed one of the jokes.  But by the time I was done, I felt triumphant.  I’d read, and people had clapped.  And not just people in my family.  Actual people.

And then the audience was allowed to ask questions.

Whoever invented audience participation was a sadist.  Who wants the audience to participate?  Don’t you know that when they participate they ask questions?  Questions that I had never considered in the entire breadth of my imagination that anyone would ever actually ask.  A few years later, I discovered that I might be a masochist, because audience particpation suddenly seemed fun.  But this was my Day 1 as an AUTHOR and I was totally unprepaTheCollective_Kobo-1126x1800red for THE QUESTION.  It was delivered by forty-something guy who seemed to have really enjoyed the story, but asked this doozy: “Did she really sell a sense of humor?”

But… but… that questions the very foundation of my story.  If you didn’t buy into the premise how could you like it? I left ambiguity on purpose.  Did you not enjoy the ambiguity?  Does this mean the story was bad?  How do I answer that?  What does this meannnnnn???!!! <- insert author confidence down spiral here.
A few years later, with more writing and more experience, I would have replied, “Yes, she did.  How did you enjoy your first visit to the Fantasy section of the bookstore? There are many more books like this out there – don’t be afraid to experiment.”  Instead, I sort of fish flapped my mouth for a second or two and said something vague like, “That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.”  Which, again, with more years and writing experience later, I’ve recognized as sub-conscious code for, “I wasn’t able to decide either, but I’m not telling you that, you impertinent person.”

I did eventually decide.  Ariana, the young person in question, really did sell a sense of humor.  You can read Just Between You and Me and more about Ariana’s adventures in my collection of Tales from the City of Destiny.  And as for the sequel status of Perfect Likeness?  Well, you will either have to read and decide for yourself, or follow the authors suggested solution – bribery.  Preferably with cocktails and cake.

Everybody Rotate

It’s almost time to change the art in my office.  I’ve had the same art since I moved in five years ago and it’s now covered in layers of other art.   It’s time to relocate, re-shuffle and change up.  Maybe you are not one of the people who feels that deep need to redecorate periodically, but I happen to have it in my genes.  Returning home to find my mother peeling wallpaper was cause for eyerolling, but not surprise.  It works both ways though.  On more than one occasion in my teen years I decided to re-arrange my bedroom after midnight.  My mother never once questioned these decisions.  Because she fully understands that sometimes life would just be better if the furniture were NOT where it is right now.

These are also good occasions for spring cleaning and decluttering.  Someone once said that clutter items are just decisions you didn’t make.  If you had decided where that item needed to go, it wouldn’t be lingering there on the desk or kitchen table.  Although, I suspect that the person who originated that idea never had children.  Because the garbage can is not lingering on top my desk; it’s hiding from my toddler.

The problem with decluttering art, is that I’m either removing my own work or the work of an artist I admire.  It’s unfortunate, but apparently, I cannot have ALL the art, ALL the time.  I’m not a Getty.  I don’t get to have my own museum.  This makes me infinitely sad.  My perfect house would probably look like a library mated with the Guggenheim and married the Orsay.  Unfortunately my current house looks more like the product of a library and a 1910 bungalow who married a carpenter in the 1950’s. Which means we have books in piles and art in piles and we had to remove the weird scalloped molding over the sink when we moved in.

So some art will have to go back in the closet and some new pieces will have to get matted for display.  And then, maybe, I can get back to writing.