Counting Thoughts

nailed-it-hedgehog-cake

I had a plan, but lately my plans are a little mushy, missing important connections, with jello for transitions. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because my fiction world is pushing into my real world. Maybe it’s because I’m not sleeping enough, again. Or maybe I’m just getting dumber.

This week is my best friend’s ___th birthday, and I will have the rare pleasure of seeing him near it. My PLAN was to bring a sentimental bottle of Goldschläger (shout out to my Swiss homies) and bake him something. Ideally, it would be a chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, but I will be travelling to meet him and such a confection might not last the journey. He likes brownies, though, and I’m a pretty good brownie baker (it’s true! I won’t make many positive claims about my kitchen skills, but I have some specialties that always get rave reviews, and brownies are one of them).

But tonight, I failed. The only Goldschläger to be found was sold in a three gallon bottle, or whatever the metric conversion is. I’m happy to bring him that much, but skeptical such a bottle would survive the flight.

gigantic bottle

THEN when I was baking, my mushy brain tried to do math while I was also trying to think of everything I need to do for my trip in the morning. I had to halve the recipe and I halved everything but the salt (and judging from the taste, I MIGHT have doubled the baking soda). I can still taste the cloying bitterness. That had to be the baking soda. There may have been a little charm in chocolate and sea salt, but not chocolate and sodium bicarbonate. I had to eat four or five before I could tell for sure. What? They’re brownies. I’m not made of stone.

I thought about bringing them anyway, maybe it’s not that noticeable? But John is so nice. He mightn’t tell me and then he would have to choke them down. I would be giving him a chore, instead of a gift. I thought about making another batch, but then I would be giving him the gift of a cranky, exhausted visitor

Now, aside from a card and my meager self, I have nothing to offer. I will buy him a drink, of course, and find him a cake in our travels. But I’m bummed, because he is so special. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a friend like John. But (and I apologize) I don’t think so, because he really is one of a kind.

He is funny and smart, brilliant actually. But he is also kind and compassionate. I was life-changingly fortunate enough to have him as a friend during one of the most difficult times of my life. We worked together, and on one of my very rough days, I came into our shared office. It was crowded that day, and there was no chance to talk, but amid the chaos, he came over and stood next to me so our shoulders were touching. It was a little covert hug, a secret message of support, And I was so grateful.

Another time, I came right to the office after spending the night in the hospital, and he gently dragged me back out to buy me breakfast. I remember always being dazed at that time, and I might have stared at the menu a little blankly. He ordered for me, trying to pick things that were high in protein and vitamins. Those days, I was terrible at asking for help and terrible at making simple decisions about myself, and what a relief it was to have someone who showed he cared in that way.

That all was years ago, but in the time since, that is the kind of constant caring he has showed me as a friend. The thing about John is that he is so honorable, that anyone who is lucky enough to know him can’t help but become a better person. I know I’m a better person because of him. Never as good as him — that is an impossible goal. But I am so grateful he lets me love him.

Shit. I think I should go bake some more brownies.

Happy Belated Birthday John, from your empty-handed but fiercely loyal and mushbrained friend. I can’t wait to hug you!!

Other things about John I hope he doesn’t mind me telling you:

He knows every word to every Smith’s song and every word to all the song in Les Mis, and you would be surprised how hard it is to tell the difference between the two.

He loves to play with words, and is a deadly punner.

He loves the color blue, especially aqua, which is fitting because he has beautiful blue eyes.

He learns languages and steals words from them to supplement his English.

He is very modest and this post might make him a little uncomfortable if he ever finds out about it. So shhhh.

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What’s on Page 45

I was going through my WordPress feed today (something I don’t do as often as I would like, but I do more often than I should when I’m supposed to be revising) and I found this post by T.A. Munroe. She’s taking part in ChikLitMay, and a bunch of writers are posting content from page 45 of one of their works. Please do check it out.

My genre is Magical Realism, at least for my current series, not ChikLit. But I kind of like the idea of this exercise, even as I find myself a little nervous about it. As a reader, I sometimes find getting a piece of the story out of context a little disorienting or even off-putting. And I’d hate to off-put anyone. As a writer, I’m a wimp. 🙂 Ah well.

Page 45 of Bright Aster is when Tess officially meets Liam, the owner of the corner store and the one who makes the best coffee in the entire city (possibly in the world). If I ever meet Liam in real life, I’m going to make him make me some coffee.

coffee steam 1

Source:©waferboard coffee steam 1  Coffee break. 120512-55 Original Image

Here goes – Bright Aster, Pg 45:

He was one of those people whose ages are difficult to pinpoint. Older than thirty, younger than forty-five, was her best estimate. In a way, he made her think of a young sea captain. He had a kind of orderly wildness about him. She sensed a slight accent that she guessed was Irish.

As she finished her tea, Liam started to fidget with his cup, turning it methodically in the saucer. Twice, he opened his mouth as if to speak, then he closed it again without a word.

Finally, he said, “So tell me.” He leaned in and caught her eye. “Do we need to contact the police?”

Tess had thought it was nerves that made him tongue tied, but when he finally spoke, she heard anger. The question and the anger confused her. Did Liam know about Alex? Then her eyes widened, and her face felt hot. She shook her head emphatically.

“OK.” Liam blushed but some of the tension left his face, and the fire behind his eyes went away. “Can I ask, how do you communicate? Sign language?”

She shook her head and mimed writing, but the truth was, she didn’t communicate.

“All right. Do you want to talk about it?” He got up, as though to look for a pen and paper. She put her hand on his arm to stop him and shook her head. He sat back down looking relieved.

“Understood. Look, ever since you’ve become…friends with Walt, I have been kind of watching you.” Again, Tess raised an eyebrow at him. He continued, “That wasn’t meant to sound as creepy as it did. It’s just, you’re nice to him, and I appreciate that. I think he’s a good person, so I think you must be a good person. And pardon me for saying this, but you seem kind of alone. I’ve got three sisters back home. For their sakes, I would like to make sure you are safe, at least. Could you just give me a number where I can reach you if I don’t see you for a couple of days?”

Tess was touched by his concern, and she could tell he was being sincere. She dug her phone out of her pocket and opened up a new contact. She typed “Liam” and realized she didn’t know his last name either. She handed it to him. He struggled a little with the unfamiliar contact program but managed to add “Nolan” and his number in the cell field.

She tapped the new contact, began typing, and tapped send.

A chime sounded from Liam’s pocket. He took out his phone, and glanced at it.

Hello Mr. Nolan. My name is Teresa Gilbert. Please continue to call me Tess. Thank you for protecting me that day, and for today. I think you’re a good person, too.

He grinned, and the corners of his eyes crinkled in a way that made him seem boyish. “Please, call me Liam. I am happy to help.”

She typed again: And thank you for the tea. You were right. It was a better drink for a crisis. I’m sorry I fell apart in your store.

He laughed. “You wouldn’t be the first person I made cry down there.”

—-

So that’s it. I hope your not off-put. Well, of course I hope you’re thinking, I MUST know more. 🙂

If you MUST, Bright Aster is available on Kindle

I Didn’t Know it Was Called That

Have you ever seen something so often you took it for granted? You didn’t know what it was called or that it even had a name? Phineas and Ferb, a show I insist is for adults and not children, did an episode on the little plastic thing on the end of the shoe-lace. Turns out, it’s called an aglet. It has a name. I have been educated.

That was startling to discover, but not nearly as startling as my discovery years ago that this feeling I had about how girls and women can do anything was called “feminism.” Or how frankly offensive some people feel that term is.

It is so offensive, apparently, that when a young girl wore a shirt that said “Feminist” to her school picture day, she had it censored by the administration. It’s so offensive, that when I do a google image search for Feminist, it breaks my heart a little, and scares me more than a little.

I wonder if people have feelings this intense about aglets now that they have a name? What the fuck are these little tips trying to get away with, anyway? Helping guide laces through holes in the top of shoes. They don’t know their place.

I was raised by my mother. My dad was there, too, but he was in the Navy and away a lot during my formative years. I don’t want to minimize his contribution to my bringing up, but in things parenting, he deferred to my mom. I think he was frankly baffled by us.

My mom worked and took care of us. My mom managed the finances. My mom fixed things and put things together. My mom painted and tinkered. She worked retail in the hardware section. Then she worked as a jeweler. She had five kids, and she kept us in line without spanking or yelling. One look was all she needed to quiet us down. To disappoint her was to disappoint ourselves.

I didn’t grow up thinking my choices of career were limited by my gender. I didn’t grow up thinking I had to get a husband. I didn’t grow up thinking power tools were only for men.

I always knew that women were smart and strong and funny. I always knew women were problem solvers. And I always knew women could be real forces of nature. I have three brothers, and they certainly think women can do anything men can do (except pee standing up.)

When we settled back in New England near the end of my dad’s time in the Navy, my mom put herself through college while she worked one full-time and one part-time job. Then she got her Masters degree while she worked the same jobs. She became a teacher, and a damned good one. A sought after one.

She was always a little disappointed, I think, in how little we kids marveled at her accomplishments. We didn’t marvel. Poor mom. We didn’t because we were completely unsurprised. Of course she did it. My mom can do anything.

In my life, I’ve tried things and succeeded. Except for having a kid, I’ve never thought of one accomplishment as having to do with my gender. I’ve tried things and failed. Except for not being able to pee standing up (tidily), I’ve never thought of one failure as having to do with my gender.

The feeling I have that girls should be able to have the same opportunities, safety and rights as boys came from having a mom who took on the world. It has always been there inside me. If that makes me a pants-wearing, nonleg-shaving, foul-mouthed aglet, I’ll take it.

The Hedgehog goes to School

I feel panicky and twitchy at the thought of being in school and having HOMEWORK. This Hedgehog is braver than I!

The Hedgeblog

schoolhedgehog

Today I began an online fiction writing course run by the Open University.

It’s only an eight week course, and it was free. Yes, FREE! So of course, I signed up for it!

Even though I have already started writing two different novels, I don’t have any journalistic training at all. And I think it shows. So I jumped at the chance to do this. Only one three-hour session a week. Do-able. And… did I say free?

So… as I haven’t made a blog entry for a while, (life/boredom/lack of inspiration) I thought I would try to blog at the end of each week’s session; it might be interesting to chart my ‘progress,’ she says, optimistically! 🙂

Well, here goes…

wrting.

OU Fiction Writing Course – Week One.

Log on. Watch intro… blah blah blah di blah!

Introduce yourself… Here I am folks! Feel free to dismiss me as a…

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