Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Like a lot of people, I find myself deeply affected by a tragedy that literally has nothing to do with me. I am, of course, talking about the massacre at Virginia Tech. It's almost too much to comprehend. The deranged state of mind the killer must have been in, the fear and panic that gripped those students and faculty who came face to face to a gun, the pain of bullets ripping through one's body, desperately wanting to live, but experiencing that split second of fear just before drawing that final ragged breath, the soul numbing, heart wrenching pain that mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends, and lovers are suffering through as they come to grips with an unexplainable loss....

The motive (if there was one.) the lack of university response in those crucial hours following the first two killings, who jumped in front of bullets to save friends and students, who died immediately, and who gasped and hemmorhaged for what must have felt like hours but was only a matter of minutes before finally passing--some or all of these questions will be answered in the days and weeks that follow. Families need closure, and the public has to satiate it's lust for the perverse and macabre.

If anything, this, like the death of Kurt Vonnegut and the illness of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, has just made it painfully clear to me that I have to keep telling the people I love that I love them. It might sound goofy, but I literally cannot let Dave leave the house in he morning without telling him this exact same thing: "Be careful. Drive safe. Call me when you get there. I love you." Odder still is that if he has to come back into the house to get something (cell phone, meds, CDs,) I have to tell him the same thing again. I'm just terrified that I might jinx him or something. And, even stranger, is that I never erase messages left by friends and family until I have a newer one. After watching 28 Grams and the scene where Naomi Watts listens to the last message her husband and young daughters left on her cell phone over and over while sobbing on her bed, I've been unable to let messages go until I'm sure that I have another one.

I also don't hold grudges against friends and family. Not since my grandfather's death when I was in high school, at least. I'll never forget my aunt screaming and sobbing and crumpling to the ground in the middle of the road after he died. They hadn't been on good terms for months, and he passed unexpectedly, depriving both of them of the chance for reconciliation. She's never been the same since, and I realized that it's just not worth it. Have my parents done things that have hurt me? Yeah. Have I done things that have hurt my parents? Sure, I was a teenager, after all. But you know what? It doesn't matter. I know that whatever my parents may have done, however bizarre or painful their reactions may have been, that they did it out of LOVE.

Most of the ridiculous things that spark disagreements, grudges, and feuds between people aren't done purposefully, with malice or spite. Usually, they're spurred by love, but inevitably are skewed in delivery. But that's OK. It happens. People aren't perfect. We make mistakes. I accept that people make mistakes, and if they give an apology, I let it go. Hell, there are some things I'll never get an apology for, but it's just not worth making a scene over, you know?

I've let all of those old issues go, and I strive for peace in all of my relationships. I refuse to be consumed by the guilt of knowing that I let some ridiculously insignificant action ruin my relationship with anyone. I'm a better person than that, and the people I love deserve better than that. Anything else would be--well--senseless....

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So It Goes...

If you're well read or ever took part in literary criticism, you've probably already guessed what this post is about based on the title, an iconic phrase that was often used by a certain author to describe death, particulary the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Kurt Vonnegut has died. I can't even begin to explain my sadness. Yes. I never actually met him, but I've devoured all of his books, most of them multiple times. Through his brambly prose and altar egos like Kilgore Trout, he allowed his readers a view into his incredibly sagacious mind, sharing not only tidbits of his life's story (Slaughterhouse-Five) but also his political and personal views on issues such as war, death, the environment, conspicuous consumerism, and religion. (Anyone else remember The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent?)

He was an irreverent iconoclast who discarded the rules of grammar and accepted verse structures in order to freely transmit his feelings to the page, and a literary activist who used the written word, carefully masked as fiction, to positively influence young minds and spur debate inside and outside the classroom. He was, in my humble view, a true "writer's writer." He was a man who captured the complexities of life in wildly humorous and entertaining tales not for money or recognition but simply because he had something to say. He wanted to share his truth--and he did.

I have to say that this has not been a good week for my favorite authors. Not only has Kurt Vonnegut passed away, but the author who breathed life into Latina fiction and taught me to embrace my style of writing, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez author of the hugely successful The Dirty Girls Social Club, has announced that she is cancelling Chica Lit Festival 2007 for health reasons. She has struggled with bulimia for some time, but the effects of the disease have finally caught up with her. She has been forced to confront her own mortality, and in some strange way, it brings the issue to the forefront of my mind.

Except, well, I'm not really worried about it. No, I don't want to die. I'd very much like to live to be 100, but this is reality folks. Women on my father's side live into their late 90s, early 100s, but on Mom's side, there's not a lot of good news. Women rarely see 65 in her family. Yeah. Not good. Add to that the following: I'm overweight. I'll probably develop Type II diabetes b/c of family history and my own bad lifestyle choices. I also have two mild, normally unproblematic heart conditions that are only problematic if, you know, I decide to get pregnant when the odds of me having a heart attack, embolism, aortic dissection, etc, skyrocket. Of course, that doesn't stop relatives from refusing to accept that we'll probably have to adopt, but what can you do, right? You don't want people to get their hopes up about pregnancies b/c not only do you have heart conditions, but you also have PCOS, so you tell people, "Hey, we're probably going to adopt." And what do you hear? Something along the lines of, "Oh, don't worry about it. Lose a little weight and your reproductive problems will fix themselves." Sigh. I know. As if my PCOS is really my biggest worry....

Anyways. Where was I? Oh, yes.

We all die. End of story. Truth be told, I'm more frightened by the prospect of loved ones dying--namely Dave, my siblings or friends. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles--well--their deaths don't really faze me. No, I'm not some cold, callus bitch. I'm a pragmatist. They're older. They have health conditions. They've lived great lives. If they were to pass away today or tomorrow, people would mourn, but they would also find comfort in the idea that the deceased had lived. You know, experienced life, fell in love, suffered heartbreaks, fell in love again, raised children or grandchildren, laughed, cried, sang, made love--all the important things.

But my siblings, my friends, and Dave--well--I'm not ready for them to go yet. They all have so much to accomplish, so many things to experience, that if they were taken from me, I would be seriously, seriously pissed. That kind of dragging-Polydegmon-out-of-Hades-for-some-serious-ass-kicking pissed. I want everyone that I love to outlive me. It's selfish, I know, but that's what I want. Yes. I know what you're thinking. "If wishes were horses...."

Now that I'm slighlty depressed, I'm going to bury my despair in a pile of Oreos and some Spongebob Squarepants. I'll leave you with the last entry in Vonnegut's final book of essays A Man Without a Country. For time's sake, I'm only using the last few lines of the poem "Requiem."

When the last living thing
Has died on account of us
How poetical it would be
If Earth could say,
In a voice floating up
From the floor
Of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done."
People did not like it here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Slogging Thru It

It's, like, 0120, and I've been taking a break from writing to read some weekend blog updates. One of my favorite blogs, Star Captains Daughter, is written by a fellow writer who is very active in the blogging writer community. Today she blogs about the frustrating (and sometimes soul crushing) path to snagging an agent. It brought to mind my search for an agent, and I realized that maybe it was time to chronicle my journey.

I've been writing since I first learned how to string together words to form sentences. Before that, I was always telling stories to entertain my younger brother or even my stuffed animals. I devoured books, and often re-wrote the endings to suit my tastes. I always knew that I was going to be an author. It was just a matter of getting my big break. I wrote seven complete manuscripts between sixth grade and my senior year of high school. Most of them are in the 85 to 110 thousand word range, and while not masterpieces of literature, they served an important purpose: they allowed me to grow as a writer and refine my craft.

The first two years of college, I hardly wrote anything at all. Sure, I was constantly jotting down ideas for future projects, and I would write the occassional erotica story to amuse myself, but I didn't work on a single novel. In 2004, I decided that I needed to make time and started working on a historical romance. It was a hulking manuscript of behemoth proportions, and while the concept was one that would be considered "high concept" the story was just too long. There were too many characters, too much description, and it dragged. Realizing it needed a lot of work and having already lost interest in the characters, I shelved the manuscript.

I sat around for a while, trying to decide what I would write next. I had two stacks of spirals filled with handwritten synopses for some sixty stories, but they were all fantasy or romance. I wanted to write something with teeth, something real, something organic.

During the summer of 2005, I was at home with my family and sifting through some old high school papers and awards. I found a handwritten letter from Elmer Kelton (the acclaimed western novelist) who had graciously read and critiqued a historical manuscript I sent to him during high school. He said the writing was strong and the story interesting, but he wondered why I was writing a story set in Venice. He gave me the severely cliched line that makes a lot of writers cringe. "Write what you know," he said.

Sitting back, I thought about his advice, and finally, it was clear. Write what I know. So I did. In a little over four weeks, I completed A Bourgeois Existence, a book that chronicled a group of friends as they navigated through the quagmire of college, searching for the meaning of life, love, and ultimately happiness. It was a story that mirrored my life at the time, and when I was finished, I felt as if I had really accomplished something.

But, as often happens in this business, none of the agents I queried felt the same way. I had a few requests for partials, two requests for fulls, but they all ended in rejection. I won't lie. It hurt--a lot. I cried. I cussed. I vowed never to write again. But I couldn't stop writing. Something about that story had changed me. I realized that despite the painful rejections, I wanted to try again, to put myself through it all over again, just on the off chance that I might finally succeed.

I started writing Sangre in the January 2006 and by March had finished the novel. I started querying agents, and out of 21 queries, I received eight requests for partials and one enthusiastic request for a full. All of the agents who requested partials rejected me, but every single one of them added handwritten or personalized rejection letters, many of them telling me that they felt my novel was more suited for the literary market rather than the commercial market. The agent who requested my full liked the story, but felt the manuscript needed extensive revisions. She sent me detailed pages of advice and thoroughly marked my manuscript, pointing about passages that were far too lenghthy, places where I should elaborate, etc. I revised the manuscript during the fall, and by the end of December, Irene, my future agent, was reading it. On New Year's Eve, I received an email offering representation, and now my manuscript is making the rounds of editors' desks.

Sure, I've received a handful of rejections from publishers, but hey, it only takes one yes. And even if Sangre doesn't sell, I'm confident my next novel will. It's that confidence, that unshakable belief in one's self, that leads to success. In any career field, you're going to hit a few walls, but you've just got to slog through them. As my friends and I often tell one another: Cowboy up and deal with it.

That said, I'm going to slog through another chapter and then it's off to bed. Until tomorrow....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Got My Nuts From A Hippy

Yeah, the title's weird, and no, there's no tie in with the rest of the post. I'm just listening to The Fratelli's Costello Music album, and the song playing right now is, you guess it, Got My Nuts From A Hippy. Now onto the post....

For the last eight hours (minus a one hour dinner/Jericho break,) I worked on wedding invitations. I'm not even close to being finished yet. Sigh. I still have to punch holes, thread ribbon, address the inner envelope, stand in line at post office, apply postage to invites and reply envelopes, stuff in order, and drop in mail. This doesn't take into account the twenty plus hours of design, cutting, glueing, etc, that I've already put into them. I'm really depressed about the handpainted Indian paper that I ordered, too. It was supposed to be the accent paper for the invitations, but when I put together my test run invite, the Indian paper was just too dark of a pink and clashed with the petal backing. I considered ordering a different accent paper, but considering they're handpainted and take weeks to come in, it wasn't a viable option. Plus I've already gone over budget with the invites. Granted, it's only twenty bucks or so over, but still. I'm a stickler for budgeting so I can't excuse the extra expense. In the end, I had to scrap the Indian paper which makes the invites look sort of plain, but apparently, Dave likes them better this way. He's into the laid back, organic, minimal look. Go figure.

As I sit here typing and cringing, it's occurred to me that paper crafts probably aren't such a great idea for a girl who makes a living writing/typing. My fingers are all covered in glue, covered in razor nicks and paper cuts. Ouch! Seriously, folks, next time I get the brilliant idea to make invitations for more than ten people, somebody please deme un putaso. Or threaten me with a chancla. Sometimes I need to be protected from myself--especially my over-achieverness.

Anywho. The plan for tomorrow is to head to the post office, pick out a Quince outfit and a package of clear bra straps (mine have disappeared) from Lane Bryant, and stop by the grocery store for some last minute Easter dinner must-haves. Not that we're having Easter dinner, but still. Dave works Sunday so we're doing it Saturday. I think Alison will be in town so maybe she'll stop by and partake of my tasty spread. Note to self: Call Alison!

Oh! Yes! Alison news! So Alison is attending pharmacy school in Austin and recently received her internship assignment--and guess what? It's here! In Bryan! Yay! That means that when she's not chipping away at her forty hours/week of work, we can hang out! I'm so excited b/c I've really missed Alison this past year.

Lauren, too. And Ash. And Sara. But the summer is coming up and the wedding which means we get to spend some time together. I've just got to make more of an effort of sending out those emails and making phone calls....

OK. I've got laundry, dishes, and a kitchen to clean. And, of course, a chapter to start. Must get more caffeine!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Disaster Averted

Taking a break from wedding jazz to update the blog. Life is hectic, but as I seem to thrive on stress, I'm doing OK.

First, let me say: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!! He's the big 47 today. Yeah. That's right, my mom married a younger man! Only three years younger, but back in the eighties (before Demi Moore set the new standard), I'm sure that was like cradle robbing....

Oh, and for all the other Jim Butcher fans out there: White Night is in stores today! Run out and get your copy! (And yeah, I realize the title lends itself to visions of the KKK, but I promise it couldn't be farther from it. It's book 9 in the amazing urban fantasy series The Dresden Files. And yes, I realize there is a somewhat stinky SciFi show loosely based on the books, but believe me, the show has only captured may one half of a percentage point of the gripping storytelling and awesome characters, namely wizard Harry Dresden, that Jim Butcher created. Don't believe me? Read the first novel. You'll be hooked.)

I had my first huge wedding disaster on Friday. Wouldn't you know it concerned my dress? Sigh. So my parents are paying for my dress b/c that's what parents do. When I couldn't find a dress near my hometown, Dad handed me a wad of cash and told me to go crazy in Houston until I found THE DRESS. As I've chronicled below, it tooks days of searching, but eventually, I found THE DRESS at David's Bridal in Spring. I pay the deposit, put the dress on layaway, and ask my bridal consultant, G., about the store policies. Specifically, I asked about the due date of payments, payment methods, alterations, and housing my dress in-store until close to my wedding date. I was told, and I quote, "The balance is due March 30, 2007. You can pay in store or over the phone with a credit card. Yes, we do alterations in-store, and of course, you can leave your dress here until it's closer to your wedding."

Brilliant, I think happily. I go home, email Mom the info on the dress, and she says that she'll take care of it. So I'm going blithely along, dealing with flowers, stationery, napkins, catering, etc. March 30th rolls around, and I log onto my laptop, ready to get some writing done. I open the calendar and get a message alerting me to the deadline of paying off the dress. Hmmm, I think, I wonder if Mom got around to doing that. Sure that it had been taken care of, I call my house, and no answer. OK. No biggie. Mom's a busy person. I call her cell. No answer. I call Dad's office. No answer. I call Dad's cell. No answer. Now, I'm panicking. I mean, full on hyperventilating. It doesn't help that I get a weather alert telling me that my hometown is being pummeled by vicious storms. Of course, this explains the phone issue. Living in the west Texas boonies storms equal no power or phone for extended periods of time.

I do the only thing I can do. On the verge of tears, I call Dave who is in the middle of a 24 hour shift. He answers, and I can tell that he's in the ambulance because there are radios blaring in the background. Since I don't hear sirens, I'm cleared to babble for a few minutes. He listens, and in his usual calm, collected manner, says, "Let me get a pen. Give me the phone number and layaway number, and I'll call over there, make the payment over the phone, and you won't lose your dress or deposit."

Five minutes later, Dave calls back. I've been pacing and chewing my nails during all of this. He tells me the manager at David's Bridal says they no longer accept over-the-phone payments and we'll have to come pay in person or lose the dress and deposit. Fuck beans! Now I'm really panicking. But realizing there is no alternative, I decide to accept the inevitable. I'm going to lose my dress and deposit. Not wanting to make Dave feel bad about a situation over which he has no control, I hang up, crawl into the bathtub, and start crying. (It's the only place that I allow myself to cry. I know. It's weird, but it's one of my quirks.)

Half an hour later, the phone rings. It's Dave. He tells me that his supervisor understood completely and let he and his partner hop on over to Spring (from The Woodlands) to visit David's Bridal. The dress is paid for. It's mine. It's OK! Well. Almost.

Dave tells me that the manager no longer allows sold merchandise to be housed in the store so even though my dress needs alterations and pressing, I have to bring it home, then take it back to have all the work done. Oh, and did I mention that he wanted Dave to take the dress with him. In the ambulance? Yeah. Not going to happen. So Dave talked the manager into keeping the dress an extra day, then he stayed in Spring the next morning until the store opened, picked up the dress, and brought it home. As he's driving home with my dress on the front seat, he calls me. I hear him munching and ask what he's eating. A breakfast burrito, he says. Because he's gone out of his way to fix the wedding dress snafu, I squash the urge to snap at him about infusing my gorgeous wedding dress with bacon grease and eau de egg.

My mother calls me the next morning, crying because she's just realized that she totally forgot about my dress. She jotted it down on her calendar and someone (Dad, Joey, Marcos, Tricia--take your pick) piled crap on top of the calendar. She's so swamped with Tricia's Quinceanera (countdown: 18 days) that it slipped her mind. I accepted her apology, told her not to worry about it, and to concentrate on Tricia's Quince.

But somehow, I don't know. It sort of hurt. I know. I'm a big girl. I understand how conflicting priorities sometimes get in the way, but--well--it's hard to explain. I guess in a very childish way, I'm jealous of my younger sister. Yeah. Pathetic, I know, but still, there it is. I also feel sort of abandoned in this whole wedding thing. Besides Dave and Ash, no one else has made much of an effort to pitch in or lend an ear to my gripes, concerns, desires, dreams. Obviously, I realize that my grad school buddies are up to their eyes in coursework so I'm not realling talking about them. It's--well--never mind. It's not a big deal. It's just life, I guess.

To recap: Dress situation is solved and dress is hanging in our closet. Napkins have been ordered. Invites are just waiting to be addressed, stamped, and dropped in mail. Photog contract is out of the way, but we still need to sit down and fill out the schedule and pick inspiration photos. Once invites are in mail, we enter a holding pattern for a few weeks which means that I'll finally, FINALLY, have time to write.

Tomorrow an update on friends! Especially the good news from Alison's camp!