While I am waiting: lessons of the-not-so-patient kind

I’ve been waiting to see the cover of my book for 39 days, 4 hours, 15 minutes, and 37 seconds by the time this sentence is done. I’ve bitten all my nails off, rehearsed my dance of joy about five hundred thirty times, and refreshed my e-mail every two-and-a-half minutes while awake.

I am still waiting.

They say good things come to those who wait so I’ve decided to adopt a zen attitude. I now refresh my e-mail every five minutes and I’ve resisted adding extra steps to my dance. And instead of doing a cover reveal in this blog post, I’ll be doing a painting reveal. Which, incidentally, I’ve been painting while waiting. Can you guess why I called it ‘Imagine’? You cannot see it but she is holding a book.

Imagine

You are required to like it. Why?

Because it’s my blog and I am cranky from all the waiting.

People-that-can-fuck-off series: Flakes

This will have the first-world-problem stamp all over so if you are feeling especially righteous this morning, stop reading. Then go take a bath and chill the fuck out.

The rest of you may proceed.

Long ago I’d thought I’d become immune to flaky people. You know, the kind that promise you the world, volunteer to help you get it with the enthusiasm of a puppy dog off the leash, and then either disappear off the face of the earth or forget you exist. I spent years training myself to spot those people and to either stay the fuck away from them or to ignore every single syllable that came out of their mouths.

But, alas, even the best professionals make mistakes.

So in the interest of public service, I’d like to alert you to the exact trajectory of how you too can get caught in the web of lies, manipulation, and human turdiness that is flaky people.

(1) You’ve been struggling with something for a very long time:

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(2) You’ve almost lost hope:

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 (3) Then you meet this guy:

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(4) Your hope does this:

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(5) And then this:

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(6) Until days, weeks, and months pass and it goes back to this:

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(7) And then some new-age wisdom asshole tells you this:

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Like you didn’t know.

Be careful, people.

And you are welcome.

Sleep, where art thou?

When I cannot sleep, I do one or two of the following:

  1. I listen to the sounds of my dog licking Mr. Me’s forehead while Mr. Me produces a racket that can only be described as angry Mt Vesuvius meeting Eyjafjallajökull (for the record Mt. Vesuvius is angry because it cannot either pronounce or remember Eyjafjallajökull’s name and how else could two volcanoes be friends? On unrelated note, it turns out Eyjafjallajökull has a neighbor named Katla so what the hell, Iceland? You couldn’t come up with an easier name for Katla’s next of kin?)
  1. I turn from one side to another testing which one of my shoulders goes numb faster.
  1. I live the internal struggle of sending all sleep to hell and peeking into my phone to check on my Facebook likes.
  1. I write up stories and paint pictures in my head. And sometimes I come up with something good. Something like this:

An Opportunity

Or like this:

The Big BangThis last one doesn’t have a name yet (DO NOT SAY BASEBALL).

  1. I suffer extreme sleep-envy towards Mr. Me and I fight the desire to wake him up to tell him about my day.
  1. I finally fall asleep.

Dogs vs Humans: a superiority study

Although most of the data for this study comes from observing my dog in his natural habitat, a.k.a. my house, I’ll go ahead and claim that it’s representative. Because it’s my blog. And because I have far more important things to do than study other dogs. Like write this post, for instance.

But I digress.

Over the course of the last six-and-a-half years that we’ve been sharing the house with Pushkin, our Maltese and a namesake Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 6.01.33 PMof a Russian literary giant, I’ve discovered that dogs outweigh humans on superiority scale by a wide margin. (Unless, due to his name, our dog has been channeling the said giant which will make this entire study null and void).

My reasons for thinking that dogs are superior to humans are as follows (and I am sure that once you read through them you will agree with my conclusions):

  1. Dogs know how to convince humans that pooping merits a reward. Pushkin has been getting a biscuit after each walk ever since he learned that his bathroom includes all of the outdoors as opposed to a limited square footage of the indoors. When was the last time you’ve treated yourself to a sweet delight after visiting a toilet? Clearly dogs are ahead of us in matters of celebration of the most mundane of daily actions.
  1. Dogs know that a bed is yet another place where they can take a snooze or retire for the night. Occupying the middle of the bed assures they get enough space from the pesky humans who mistakenly think they are the primary owners of the bed. Pushkin has been allowed into our bed since he turned one even though I protested it tirelessly. But Mr. Me — who normally spends at least a year in front of a supermarket shelf considering all expiry dates before picking the latest one he can find and who never touches a piece of fruit unless its skin looks as perfect as if it’s been painted by Floris Van Dyck – insisted. He had no issues with hosting traces of, first, all of Miami, and now all of Madrid in our bed. You think if another human relieved himself outside, sniffed urine-covered corners, and licked himself, Mr. Me would allow him even close to our sleeping quarters, let alone our bed? Not in a million years. So another superiority contest goes to dogs.
  1. And then there is the snoring. By humans, not dogs. When Mr. Me snores, my most effective solution is to kick him. This shuts him up but usually only for a few minutes after which he begins to snore again. Sometimes we spend the whole night going through this routine and in the morning I am in such a foul mood that approaching me holds the same amount of risk as, say, teasing a hungry shark. Pushkin’s method, though, seems to be more effective. At the first sounds of snoring, Pushkin climbs onto Mr. Me’s pillow, gets comfortable, and begins to lick Mr. Me’s forehead. Since licking of the face is where Mr. Me draws the line of intimacy with our dog, the licking wakes him up and stops the snoring. If he starts again, Pushkin either licks him again or relocates to lie on his chest or his head. In the end one of these approaches works its magic and I get a good night sleep.

See? Dogs are superior beings and I just proved it to you. You are welcome.

Things-I-don’t-understand-but-feel-ridiculous-to-ask-about series: winter attire

This series deserves its own blog, if not its own Internet. Because there are so many things I don’t understand but feel ridiculous asking about. Like quantum physics, for instance. It fascinates me to no end, I love reading about how it can explain everything from cosmos to bad luck, and yet whenever I get to the part where the writer attempts to clarify its most basic concepts, my brain decides to take an extended nap like the one induced by Kazakhstan’s mysterious sleeping illness.

Not from the same category but equally as puzzling is American football. Mr. Me has tried to enlighten me every year for the past 20+ and I still don’t get it. So a game that takes an hour yet lasts three-and-a-half, causes a human stampede every five seconds, and uses an oval object, which it stubbornly dubs a ball despite its obvious non ball-y shape, can actually qualify as sport? And be interesting to watch?

The latest, though, in this series is the phenomenon I’ve been observing the last three winters in Madrid, Spain. With temperatures hovering anywhere between 0C and 13C (about 33-55F) and everyone around wearing either pants, tights, leggings, or some other piece of clothing that covers the legs, little boys of 3 to 5 years of age are outside in shorts and socks. Yep. I am seeing this:

Winter shorts

And I am dying to know why. But until now I’ve stopped myself from accosting their fur-coat-clad mothers.

Because, obviously, I have far too many manners.

My 2014 in a nutshell

It’s a popular thing nowadays to go over your accomplishments before the end of the year so that you can be proud, pat yourself on the back, and celebrate with a gift no one else bothered to give you. I have my share of pride-inducing moments like the time I ate a 150-gram — about 5 oz for those still in denial about the metric system — container of raspberries by myself. Or the time I managed to sleep for eight hours without waking up. Or the moment I signed with my publisher, sold an essay to a major publication, or held a solo art show.

But by far, my most pride-worthy achievement this year has been the realization that it’s time to give up any and all hope that at some point my husband will actually have a similar to mine thought pattern. That his thinking one day will, in fact, make sense. And that I will no longer have to explain the basics, point out the facts, or exercise my eyeballs with an excessive rolling routine every time he says something. I give you three examples that helped me achieve this breakthrough realization:

Our conversation about dog poop bags:

Mr. Me: Why doesn’t anyone except for me ever pick up doggie bags?

Me: What are you talking about? There are like 143 bags in a drawer next to the door.

Mr. Me: Yes, I know, but why am I the only one always getting them?

Me: Huh?

You see what I mean? Why would anyone care who gets the bags if we have the bags – a whole 100+ of them?

Our conversation about designer shoes

Me: These Valentinos are 40% off.

Mr. Me: Do you need another pair of shoes?

Me: Did I say need? I am saying they are 40% off.

Mr. Me: Why do you need them?

Me: Never mind. *cue in cash register sound*

How can anyone seriously not know that when you see Valentino shoes at 40% sale you buy them whether or not you need them?

Early morning in our house

His alarm goes off.

Mr. Me presses snooze button. Goes back to sleep.

Me — Wide awake. Begin attempts to get back to sleep.

Snooze goes off.

Mr. Me presses snooze button again. Goes back to sleep.

Me — Rage growing. More awake. Not a chance of going back to sleep.

Rinse and repeat the above process 5 times.

The guy has known me for 25+ years. Has slept next to me for about the same time. Knows that I am a light sleeper. Also knows I have trouble falling asleep. Whyyyyyyyy cannot he learn that snooze is a dirty word in my vocabulary? On the plus side I’ve known how to get in touch with my anger ever since I started sleeping next to him.

Just in time for Thanksgiving: pet peeves and snide gratitude

In the spirit of Thanksgiving – the holiday where many American families get together to devour a carcass of a dead bird and sneer behind the backs of relatives they didn’t want to see – I’d like to offer some snide gratitude. What is snide gratitude, you ask? And how can the words snide and gratitude even go together in the first place?

Glad you were wondering.

I am defining snide gratitude™ (note: trademarked as of today) as the gratitude you feel for learning about things you actually never wanted to learn. But since you’ve learned about them, you now know to stay the hell away from them and, thus, in the spirit of our times of personal growth and Tony Robbins, you are expressing gratitude.

Now that we got that tricky definition out of the way, I’d like to share the three things I am “grateful” to have encountered in my life:

Going to a club to interact with people. Unless it’s the kind of club where most patrons are out on the dance floor, you’ll probably find yourself trying to converse with your friends while sustaining both eardrum and vocal cords damage simultaneously. If you cannot hear the words leaving your own mouth, what makes you think you can maintain a conversation? And how much fun can you actually have sipping a drink worth two pairs of shoes, wistfully looking at people who – unlike you – have summoned enough courage to dance, and occasionally exchanging grunt-like sounds with your companions? Seriously. Take me to a Starbucks anytime. Even if I cannot tolerate their coffee, I can at least tell you about it.

People who think their opinion matters to you even though it totally doesn’t. Because you either barely know them or you don’t know them at all and only occasionally interacted with them on social media. Still they believe they are well within their rights to ask you questions about your choices and then express their opinion about those choices in a manner worthy of Simon Cowell, Dr. Phil, and Deepak Chopra combined.

“I am sorry you feel this way” apology. This is just some first class passive-aggressive bullshit right there. Anyone who delivers this kind of apology even once deserves to have their Thanksgiving flight diverted to Russia where they can spend the holiday – and the rest of their life — dancing to the new, famous tune “Go hard like Vladimir Putin”. Yes. It’s real.

Enjoy:

The-laws-that-govern-our-universe series: law #3

I am not the first one to tell you that law #1 is gravity.

I am also probably not the first one to suggest that law #2 – The Murphy’s Law – is the most observed law after gravity. I hope Mrs. Murphy is still collecting royalties.

But I’d like to think that I was among the first few million to notice and define law #3 — shit happens when you least expect it. Good shit and bad shit.

I’ve been studying this law since before internet became a thing and from what I can tell it works just like gravity. By which I mean to say — all the time. So if you want something, make sure that you DO NOT under any circumstances, beyond any reasonable doubt, and as surely as marzipan in Spain during the Christmas season EVEN THINK ABOUT IT, much less expect it. On the other hand, if it’s something you don’t want, go for it. Think it, expect it, talk about it. It won’t happen.

My recent empiric evidence comes from Twitter (doesn’t all evidence now come from Twitter?). About three weeks ago as I was doing what I usually do at midnight – browse my writers’ groups on Facebook – I saw a mention of #AdPit. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, #AdPit is a pitching orgy that takes place on Twitter several times a year. It involves writers abridging their manuscripts to 140 characters and agents/small publishers stalking the hashtag. It’s like an elevator speech on steroids in an elevator that fits all of the internets.

I’ve never before taken part in these mostly because they happen when people in my time zone are either drifting off into dreamland or getting ready to go out (I am in the first category). But this time at least one of my eyes was still awake. So I decided what-the-hell, quickly keyed in 140 characters on my phone, pressed the tweet button, and then let my melatonin do its work.

I woke up the next morning to a notification. Someone favorited my tweet which in the world of #AdPit meant they wanted to see my query and the first five pages. So I sent those off and then I had a cup of coffee. An hour later I had a request for a full manuscript in my inbox. I sent that off and had some chamomile tea. Obviously because at this point I needed to keep my hands from shaking while compulsively checking my e-mail every ten minutes for the response.

The rest is history. I can now report that the painful query process is over and my novel will be out next year with a publisher I met on social media. Stay tuned for a future publication announcement where I’ll probably be looking like this:

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And until then I encourage you to take law #3 seriously. Also try Twitter for all your querying and pitching needs.

Guess that song

I belong to a writers’ group here in Madrid. It’s not your usual writers’ group — or at least my usual-in-the-past writers’ group — where you sit around, listen to people read their work aloud, and then try to critique it without sounding like a complete asshole. No, in this writers group we actually write. We get together on the second floor of a Madrid bar, nurse our cañas, and create masterpieces in response to various prompts and exercises. Then we read them aloud. There is no critiquing although depending on the kind of nods you get from your subgroup, you either keep what you’ve written and develop it further or you hide it in the same place where you’ve stashed your adolescent love poetry (full disclosure: I’ve destroyed mine years ago).

I never post what I’ve written during those meetings on my blog because I either think it’s complete crap or I am delusional and I am hoping to develop it further into a publishable story (so far I’ve developed one and since that one ended up being shortlisted in a contest I think ratio wise of stories-developed to stories-published I am doing exceptionally well).

But today I am going to post what I wrote last night. The prompt was fun and I think it makes for an interesting game. So, ready?

Prompt: Write something that’s inspired by a song — any song — and then let your listeners guess the name of the artist and the name of the song

He’ll make it dark, he decided. And he’ll make it stormy. He’ll make it so that anyone looking at it would step back afraid of gushing water and rising tide. The boat, reddish in the light of a blood moon, will protrude far enough to make its intention of escape real. And the woman — the dark-haired, green-eyed woman in the boat — will stare out as if this frame and this canvas were her last frontier.

He didn’t have much time. The museum wanted the piece in two months and oil dries slowly. The exhibition, they told him, was about run away realities, worlds in oblivion, and pieces stuck in limbo forever. A boat with a woman, who wanted to flee but never could, would fit right in.

(This is my first draft, everyone. Completely unedited. So no sneering please).

Post your guesses in comments. Your prize for being the first to get it right is a first class ticket to Spain, a night in a royal palace, a dinner with either Real Madrid or Barça, and the sweet feeling of knowing that you won.

Just kidding. You only get the sweet feeling. (And maybe a caña if you ever make it to Madrid Writers Club).

The inventions-that-can-just-fuck-off series: sculpt yoga

It always mystifies me how often people decide to take a good thing and ruin it. Consider pizza, for instance. A food item that’s beloved by many and eaten in quite a few countries around the world. Sure the quality varies and what you get in a small town in Italy isn’t the same as what you get in a Chuck E. Cheese’s in the US (are they still actually calling that pizza?). But this isn’t about the quality. It’s about cheese-stuffed-crust pizza. And hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza (yes, it exists). And bacon-stuffed-crust pizza (because we want bacon on everything, right?).

I know. Disgusting. And absolutely unnecessary. Because, really, if you know how to make good pizza, why would you stuff the crust?

Another example are high-heel sneakers. A shoe that looks like a sneaker yet features a high-heel platform. In case you are at a party and suddenly need to run a marathon, right?

But the latest – at least for me – is sculpt yoga. I tried it a few days ago and I walked away convinced than an uglier baby hasn’t yet been born (despite what that Seinfeld episode may have convinced you of). Sculpt yoga seems to be a mutant spawn of aerobics, weight training, and yoga when the three became intimate with each other either while high on meth or on Game of Thrones.

This is how I usually feel when I am doing yoga:

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And this is how I felt while doing sculpt yoga:

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But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst started two days later when sitting down became as painful as eating a hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza. Why would anyone, a-n-y-o-n-eeeeeeee I ask you, want to feel like this after exercising:

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I just cannot with it.