Wednesday, October 26, 2005

They're ALIVE!

When I was a kid, my mother wanted to have me taken to a psychologist because I used to tell myself stories.

And change voices for each character.

Thankfully my grandmother told her not to break my spirit and to encourage my imagination.

I've noticed whenever I talk about writing with people who don't write, inevitably I come off sounding certifiably insane. Sad, but true. Because for each character that lives in the confines of my head, there is a different voice. Gods and goddesses, demons and angels, housewives, teachers, students, doctors, lawyers, and vampires (yes, there is a difference between those last two), all live in my head. For each character, there is a different voice -- and the voices don't go away when I stop working on a piece. My head is like an ever-expanding boarding house. Old characters from unfinished stories mingle with new characters from current works. They network -- sometimes the old characters come to me after a long time and I realize they'd fit perfectly in what I'm working on now.

But imagine what kind of looks you'd get if you freely admitted that the people in your head talked to you.

Other writers' methods are a mystery to me; for me, it's most fun when a character just... appears out of the ether and starts whispering in my ear. It happened a couple of weeks back, actually. I was getting ready to go out somewhere when I felt that little spark in my mind. Wet hair wrapped up in a towel, I stopped what I was doing and went to the computer just so I could get what she was saying. She has nothing to do with my current, constant project, and nothing at all may come of her, but she was interesting enough for me to want to get to know her better. And so, whenever she deigns to speak to me (which, inevitably, will happen when I'm rinsing shampoo from my hair, or when I'm stuck in traffic), I will do my best to record what she has to say, because you never know when a character has a truly interesting story to tell.

I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I wonder if a fertile imagination will someday be labeled as a variety of mental illness. Is "hearing voices" indicative of mental illness if you acknowledge those voices to belong to entirely fictional characters?

Or is this a can of worms best left sealed? ;)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wilma has come and gone. We were only without power for five hours, total, which was nice. I overprepared, which is typical for me, but if the post-apocalyptic world I was clearly envisioning came to pass, we would have been able to use cereal bars as currency.

The funny thing about storms like this is the emotional wear and tear you undergo -- in addition to the physical wear and tear. You get a week to prepare, it's true (lucky for me I stocked up early, back when it looked like we were going to get hit by Hurricane Ophelia), but something about that pre-hurricane period is unfathomably draining. Your life becomes filled with watching the local news for updates, or checking the NOAA site for different storm tracks. And, eventually, it gets to the point where there's nothing you can do but wait. It's a breeding ground for anxiety.

Waiting out the storm isn't much better. I love a good storm like anyone else, but it's still much of the same: waiting. Rain is pounding the roof, slamming against the windows, wind is knocking down tree limbs and howling. For hours it does this, and there comes a point where you just wish it would stop. Calling it monotonous doesn't seem right, and yet it is. It doesn't matter how many diversions are available -- books, handheld video games, in my case a notebook -- the storm is still raging, still demanding attention.

As for myself, before we lost power I had my laptop open and was working on some editing and rewriting. I didn't get much done -- couldn't concentrate. Once we lost power, I kept plugging away but with little success. Eventually I shut down and went to the bedroom, which had the best natural light. I tried writing, but got no better than two paragraphs, horribly written. I tried reading, but grew irritated with the author's narrative voice. I tried sleeping, but without luck. By the time the storm had passed, I was exhausted. Today wasn't much better; I had difficulty focusing my attention, and I hope to hell that the edits and revisions I made weren't complete disasters. By four o'clock, I was tired, and what I thought would be a fifteen minute catnap turned into nearly an hour.

I think tomorrow will be better. Hopefully my system will react properly to caffeine, instead of simply ignoring its effects. That's most irritating.

I also hope that tomorrow will bring better-behaved characters. At the moment it feels like a troupe of spoiled, unmotivated actors living in my head.

Monday, October 24, 2005

At least it's not a dark and stormy night...

No, it's a dark and stormy morning instead. Wilma is passing overhead and a bit to the south.

Wilma hasn't been too bad, so far -- at least not where we are. Last year was a different story -- we happened to catch the brunt of Hurricane Jeanne, and it was an experience unlike any I've ever had. It's been said before, but the wind sounded like a freight train. The windows rattled in their panes. In the distance we could hear the hum and pop as a nearby transformer struggled before giving in. (I remember that it sounded a bit like a light-saber duel. Odd.) It was terrifying and thrilling at the same time. I was afraid, because I'm human. But a tiny, dark corner stood in awe at the sheer force that Mother Nature wielded.

It puts me in the mood to read Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Nature of the Sublime and the Beautiful. It's been a while since I've read it, and my writing is always significantly darker when I do, I find. I'm tempted to find the book now, but the lights are off (off as opposed to out) and turning on any light right now would kill the mood.

I know it's ridiculous to mention mood when there's a storm raging outside, but it's true.

I'd planned on working on doing some revisions, but after five hours of sleep, I'm not sure how good of an idea that is. There may be coffee involved and possibly a nap later, because my head feels like it's full of lukewarm oatmeal.

*looks up at the TV for a moment*

Good grief, what do these newscasters think they're proving by going out into the storm and standing there? If winds are strong enough to put a lean on a twenty-foot palm tree, a scrawny newsman is going to be blown around like Forrest Gump's feather.

Must idiocy be dramatic?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Cigaretiquette

I was at a birthday get-together recently, celebrating the day my S.O. (here named "Tiger" -- not because he's a huge Spiderman fan [though he is] but because... hey, we've got a theme working here and I'm going to continue it) came into the world. And it was a fun little shindig, aside from the fact that we were the only non-smokers there.

Okay, okay. I know that a lot of non-smokers have the reputation for being self-righteous, arrogant, and generally unpleasant to be around. I know this. I've seen the self-righteous non-smokers, and, personally, I find them embarrassing. Kind of like when a member of your preferred political party makes a mortal idiot of himself and you wish for a second that you'd had the foresight to register as an Independent.

That said, I wish smokers would consider for a second how unpleasant it can be when surrounded by your least favorite smell, ever. Think about being trapped in an elevator with someone whose perfume gives you a headache. It's not necessarily a bad perfume; you just don't like it. I also hate the Yankee Candle Company "lilac" candles for the same reason: the scent gives me a migraine (though, thankfully, actual lilacs don't affect me at all).

I think this is the case with a lot of non-smokers. Cigarette smoke isn't a moral issue; it's an issue of (dis)comfort. A lot of non-smokers complain that the scent of cigarette smoke sticks to a person long after they've left the company of smokers. Okay, that's true, and I'll admit it's annoying; however, other unpleasant smells stick to a person, too. I, for one, hate frying food because the "fried" scent sticks to me, particularly my hair. The movie-theatre smell is another one that sticks; yeah, everyone loves the smell of popcorn, but who wants to smell of it three hours after the movie's over? Diesel exhaust, barbecue smoke, boiled cabbage... smells stick. And sometimes those sticky smells cause more than just passing annoyance. Sometimes they create a situation that's rife with discomfort.

For example, we were hanging out with partygoers for about two hours before I started getting a wild headache that would only temporarily be tamed by Tylenol. It started at the bridge of my nose, right between the eyes. A dose of acetaminophen beat back the beast for an hour or two, but not for long. Whether it was the same headache that came roaring back with a vengeance, or an entirely new headache, the result was the same: cranky Bunneh. The problem was it was too early in the evening to excuse ourselves gracefully, particularly since Tiger was the guest of honor. I didn't want to take another dose of Tylenol, which in all likelihood would have opened up family discussion for the frequency of my headaches. (I can tell you right now that, for me, headaches fall into three categories: stress headaches, eyestrain headaches, and olfactory-related headaches. I was in no mood to hypothesize about brain tumors.)

In the end, I tried not to think about the pounding in my skull. I told myself it was a case of mind over matter, and that my head hurt because I was allowing it to hurt me.

Did it work? Hell no.

Compounding this, my contact lenses started to itch like mad. (I know there are smokers who wear contacts, and I'm constantly baffled that they can and not get irritated by the fact that the light-as-air bits of plastic clinging to their eyes transforms into something that feels like onion skin.) Lenses that I usually never even notice started to feel like a layer of sand on my eyes, moving across my cornea every time I blinked. It's now three days after the party. I've been wearing glasses, letting my contacts soak. I wore them yesterday, and they still felt pretty uncomfortable. I'm hoping I can get them back to normal without tossing them out (they're disposables) and opening a new pair. I've only had this pair for about a week.

It's hard when you actually enjoy the company and it's all made unpleasant by the fact that when two non-smokers are hanging out with five smokers in an air-conditioned room (living in a tropical climate does not make going outside for air comfortable or practical), there comes a point where the non-smokers actually have to breathe less.

Yes, really. No, that's not an exaggeration.

It would have been rude to leave the party early, as I already said. But we were outnumbered, I think, three to one. It's always difficult when the non-smoker is invited to the smoker's house, because the smoker then loses home-field advantage, so to speak. We don't really have an option aside from not-going (not an option) or going outside (also not an option in a mosquito-laden tropical climate). So, Tiger and I sat there, taking shallow little breaths and trying that adapted "Thinker's" pose that allows the non-smoker to cover his or her nose and/or mouth in order to get a decent breath. It doesn't work, by the way, but whipping out one of those nifty little medical masks made popular and chic during the SARS threat would have been inexcusably rude.

Funny, but rude.

It may sound like an overstatement, saying I couldn't take a breath, but that's really not the case. I suffered a few particularly bad bouts of bronchitis in my younger days, and it's left me, for lack of a better term, bronchially fucked up. Basically every time I took a breath, my lungs were like, "You're shitting me."

So let's paint a picture here, shall we? Outnumbered and flanked by the enemy on every side. There's a blue-grey cloud hovering above the dinner table. Bunneh has, at that point, an army of angry, mutant miners pickaxing inside her head; all the sand from the Hawaiian Islands in her eyes; and the lung capacity of about a thimble. At what point is the non-smoker justified in her ire? Etiquette dictated I stay. Mosquitos and a tropical climate dictated I stay inside.

Was I cranky? Damned right I was.

Of course, Bunneh's manners outweigh just about everything else, so on top of the physical discomfort, I swallowed my frustration as well. I was pleasant, smiling through gritted teeth, all the while watching the clock for the moment we could vacate the premises with an iota of grace. Sometimes, yes, there are annoying, self-righteous non-smokers. And sometimes there are those of us who just want to breathe, dammit.

Several days have passed and both Tiger and I are still sniffling, wheezing, and congested. The simple solution, I realize, is to avoid the company of smokers. I'm sure it's what anyone would recommend. There's only one problem.

The smokers in question were his parents and their friends.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I think I might be a masochist.

I know I'm a compulsive revise-hound.

*considers*

They may well be one in the same. I have been known to spend weeks revising things, tweaking syntax here and there, switching words around like the old shell game, and let's not talk about the question of word choice. I think and overthink scenes and dialogue: Do the words flow naturally? (I usually read it out loud to test it.) Does the conversation follow a logical (or as logical as circumstances allow) course?

And do not even get me started on the quest for the perfect, quippy one-liner.

But tonight -- tonight I started... okay, last night I started a new chapter, and didn't get much writing done today (fiance's birthday: there was a lunch date, there was cake, there was Bunneh returning home to the warren with a blinding headache that I think has to do with the front moving through the state, because the pressure in my head is unreal). So after some tea (a lovely Keemun, the package to which I threw away and I don't think I could buy it again if my life depended on it) and some General Tso's chicken, I figured I was ready to write.

But the head, it pounded.

There were analgesics. Three of them.

And still the head, it pounds.

Feels like it should be a Poe poem, doesn't it?

Once upon an evening stormy,
While I revised a plot-hole -- thorny,
Slaving over many a silly typo I'd never seen before;
While I fixed them, softly swearing,
Suddenly came a headache blaring,
Pounding forth with a vengeance I could not ignore.
"Take some Tylenol" I muttered, to quell the deafening roar;
Three I took, and nothing more.

Or something like that. The rhythm is off, I know. I have a headache.

The fact remains that I want to write, but rather than getting my mind off the stupid pressure in my sinuses, trying to think of words that rhyme with "swearing" is just making things worse.

Should just call it a night, I suppose.

I can't even take comfort in the knowledge that it's a cold front (change in pressure, blah blah blah) doing this to me, because in Florida, an October cold front means temps in the 80's rather than the 90's. Or, ooh, if I'm really lucky, we'll drop down into the 70's!
Writer's block on other projects leads to senseless ramblings that will, hopefully, jar something loose.

Case in point:

Several years ago I underwent the messiest, most painful breakup of my life. In the time since, I've made an effort to avoid my former beloved, but each time the opportunity comes up, I give in to temptation. It doesn't matter how filthy or weak I feel afterward; I simply can't resist. See, we had such a good relationship while it lasted. But there came a point when I had to end what had become an unhealthy relationship.

In 2002, in the middle of my second year at graduate school, I was forced to give up coffee.

Yeah, I thought it was bad timing too. But at the time I was working on my thesis, taking classes, working at the uni writing center, studying for my MA comprehensive exam, AND working on PhD applications (which entailed studying for the GRE Lit alongside the comp exam). Add to this the fact that I was living in a post-9/11 D.C.

Is it any wonder I got an ulcer?

Since then, I started drinking tea, which works out all right for me. It allowed me to sound intolerably high-end and pretentious when going out with friends, and that's always good for a laugh. Something about having tea when everyone else is having coffee feels wildly sophisticated; I can't explain it any better than that.

The only problem is most places out there serve really awful tea.

No, really. There's more to it than a nifty paper bag filled with leaves and twigs and whatnot. There's a difference between good tea and bad tea and, god help me, I think I've come to a point in my life where I can recognize the difference.

Not long ago I was staying at a very nice B&B in the heart of a sickeningly cute beachside town. While packing for this trip, I had a moment of weakness and tossed a canister of one of my favorite teas (a loose Earl Grey with lavender) in the bag. As an afterthought I grabbed a few packets of pure peppermint tea. I felt like the biggest geek that ever geeked (and maybe just a little like an addict in need of an intervention), but I still packed the tea.

Did I use it? You bet your tanins I used it. (All they had was Lipton. LIPTON. No. Just... no.)

The sad part (sadder than packing my own geektastic tea and using it) is despite the solid, happy relationship I have with tea -- and it is excellent -- I cannot be entirely faithful to the darling little leaves. I love them with all my heart: Earl Grey (yes, with lavender), Oolong, jasmine, Irish Breakfast, Gunpowder Green -- and the Darjeeling (can't forget the Darjeeling).

Despite the surge of righteousness that warms my breast when I drink tea, despite the snuggly comfort of a cuppa on a drizzly, depressing day; despite my limited-edition tetsubin and the $7-an-ounce Oolong in my cupboard that is like an orgasm in a cup -- despite all this, I stray.

It takes a woman stronger than I to resist the Siren call of the latte.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's nice to have a tiny corner of the 'Net where I'm not known to anyone -- not even to my circle of online pals. Not that I don't love my online pals, because I do. But sometimes it's nice to have a room of one's own, so to speak.

I am Bunneh.

You may be asking, "Why 'Bunneh'?"

Well, the first answer is: "Because 'Bunny' is way cuter than I am." And the word (as a name or handle) brings up mental images of perky airheadedness, and while I am seldom perky (but occasionally airheaded), I could not make myself adopt "Bunny" as an online name.

The second answer is, because I was born in the year of the Rabbit. As for which year, that's my business.

What do I do? I write, mostly. I've yet to get paid for it, but I write nonetheless. I'm also taking MBA classes part-time, and for some reason (possibly because I am a free spirit with a creative soul) I'm not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Ah, well. I shall persevere. And write. Oh, yes -- and read.

What do I write? Whatever strikes my fancy, usually. I have a great deal of fun with literary nonfiction, but fiction is my first love because creativing worlds and people satisfies my God complex. At the moment I'm working seriously (more seriously than I've ever worked for a job at which I got paid) on a novel.

What do I read? Nearly anything I can get my hands on. Austen, Bronte (Emily), Wilde, Sayers, Gaiman, Pratchett... Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is lovely, and Kelley Armstrong's Bitten was a great deal of fun as well. I've recently been introduced to Jennifer Crusie's writing, and once I take a breath, I'll probably keep reading her as well. I don't read in one genre; if the writing is good, I'll read.

What should I be doing now? Writing. Err... and laundry.