Saturday, November 29, 2008

Please Pray for My Brother-in-Law

I know I owe you a book post, and there are at least three other posts I'd like to do, but today, I hope you'll forgive me. We've had a family emergency.

Last night, we got the late-night phone call everyone dreads. Our brother-in-law Larry (married to hubby's sister Susan) had been coming home from a hunting trip when he got in a bad car accident, fracturing his C5 vertebra (one of the ones in his neck).

He had surgery this morning, during which the neurosurgeon put plates in front and back of that bone, as well as relieving pressure on the other vertebrae. Apparently his discs were bulging on the C3, C4, C6, and C7 vertebrae (I hope I have that right). The doc relieved the pressure and found that as the surgery went on, Larry was getting a lot more nerve signal to his extremities. He had no brain damage and no other serious injuries other than his neck, but given the spinal cord injury, he's lucky to have survived.

After the surgery, as the family had been warned might happen, Larry was put on a ventilator (he had previously been breathing on his own). That was a tough setback for Susan, as I imagine it would be for any wife. I can't imagine visiting my husband in the ICU on a ventilator. Additionally, Larry has now developed pneumonia, so the next 24-48 hours are critical. They always tell you that, but it's so true. Larry really needs both his body and the medication to fight the pneumonia well, and quickly.

Larry and Susan have a son who is a senior in high school this year. Andrew is there as well, visiting his dad. Larry is responding to Andrew, even with the ventilator and the sedation.

I'll try to keep this post updated (or make new posts) as things change. I'd really appreciate the prayers and good thoughts of anyone who happens to be reading this.

Thanks, y'all.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Are We There Yet?

The answer, unfortunately, is no. Not if I want to win NaNoWriMo, which, of course, being the competitive geek that I am, I do.

While my co-workers were in town from Taiwan, I got behind in my writing, as I knew I would. To the tune of about 7,000 words.

Some people would give up. Those people do not have the mile-wide stubborn streak that I do. I will hit 50k by the 30th or die trying. Don't ask which I think is more likely.

Anyway, since I haven't posted in three days, I went back through my recent crap writing to see what was post-able. I have one scene that I wrote over two days -- the scene in which my main character gives birth. It WORE ME OUT, y'all. And it was 3600 words long. So I won't be posting it. And at this point I pretty much feel like everything is crap. On the bright side, today has been my highest output ever -- 3200 words -- putting me "only" 4000 words behind. My goal is to catch up this weekend so I can be on target to hit 50k over the holiday weekend.

The following is a scene in which my main character and her hubby have a rare argument. Hope you enjoy it. And hey, if you're sick to death of novel excerpts, let me know and I'll find something else to post. OK? OK.


When she got home that night, Anh was unusually tired. She took off her work shoes, threw her work clothes in the hamper, and put on her favorite, completely comfortable maternity sweats. “Aaaah. So much better,” she breathed.

She thought she’d take a few minutes to read a book on the couch before starting dinner. The next thing she knew, Greg was stroking her arm softly. “Anh… dinner’s ready, honey.”

“Whaaa?” she mumbled sleepily. “I was about to make dinner. I must have fallen asleep. She yawned and stretched.

"I guess you’ll have to settle for the dinner I made, little mama.” Greg smiled at her tenderly. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for this woman, carrying his child, he thought.

“You’re so good to me,” Anh smiled, still sleepy. “What’s for dinner?”

“Nothing fancy, just some chicken and vegetables. Good for you and our baby, though.”

“Sounds wonderful. Speaking of the little guy, we really should settle on a name. I’ve been looking through the baby name books, and there are a few I like. I think I sent you a list in email a couple of days ago when I was looking through it.”

“Yeah, I seem to recall something like that.” Greg served Anh’s portion onto a plate and handed it to her.

“Well, do you have any opinions? It’s not like we have forever to decide. We’re seven weeks out, if he’s on time.” They sat down at the table with their plates.

“I just don’t want to name him anything too trendy.”

“Trendy? Did I have trendy names on the list? I mean, I didn’t pick John or Matthew or Charles or whatever, but there’s nothing wrong with, say, Brandon, is there?”

Greg looked uncomfortable. “I was kind of considering naming him after me. You know, a junior.”

Anh sighed, trying not to sound too impatient. “Really? That just causes so many problems. You’re Greg. Is he Little Greg? Junior? Do we call him by his middle name? If he were going to be a third, we could call him Trey or something, but Junior just sounds so…”

“Yeah, I know. Not a classy name. I hadn’t really thought of what to call him. But I’m a dad, having a boy. I’m proud of him. I want him to carry my name.”

“And he will carry your name – your last name. But why carry all your names? It just makes life so confusing.”

“Can you at least consider it? Put it on your list as a possible name? Or do you hate my name that much?”

“I don’t hate your name, Greg. I just don’t want to end up calling my son Little Greg or Junior. Nicknames are fine, if we could find one that works. And I know a lot of people who raise their sons calling them ‘buddy,’ like, ‘hey buddy, it’s time for your bath.’ I don’t really want that either. I want to be his mother, not his pal.”

Greg looked affronted. “I’ve always looked at those dads calling their sons buddy and thought how sweet that was,” he admitted.

“Seriously? Who are you?”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I just mean it’s a stupid thing to call a kid. I mean, come up with something original, some nickname that fits your kid, not something that every other soccer dad is yelling at his kid on the field. ‘Go after the ball, buddy! Make a goal, buddy!’ It just sounds dumb when eight sets of parents are yelling the same thing, and I think it’s confusing to the kids. What are you supposed to think when some parent from the opposing team is yelling your nickname at you?”

“Apparently, that your parents didn’t come up with a very good nickname.” Greg crossed his arms.

“Well, exactly. Wait, why are you looking at me like that?”

“You’ve insulted my name and my nickname. Anything else you’d like to take a swing at?”

“Oh, come on, Greg. I was not. Be reasonable. So I don’t want to name the baby Greg. So what?”

“What do you mean, so what? I do! That’s so what!” Greg’s voice had risen.

“Don’t yell at me! It’s just a name, for crying out loud. Why don’t we talk about this later, when you’ve settled down.”

“When I’ve…? You want me to settle down? You’re the one ranting about ‘buddy this’ and ‘buddy that’!”

“I am not ranting. I was just saying that people should come up with original nicknames, that’s all.”

“Whatever you were saying, you were saying sarcastically and at high volume,” Greg sneered.

“Whatever,” Anh snorted. “I’m done with this conversation for now. I guess we’re going to have to pick out a name some other time.”

“Fine,” Greg snarled.

“Fine,” Anh sneered in return. They left their dishes, with half their dinner uneaten, on the table, and retreated to opposite ends of the house. Greg clicked on the TV and found a basketball game on ESPN, which he watched at high volume, and Anh picked up her latest book, as far from the cacophony of the TV as she could manage.

An hour and a half later, Anh came back to the kitchen and noisily cleaned up the diner dishes. She figured that Greg had cooked, so she should clean; it was their usual rule. She also wanted to give him a chance to say something. He never looked up from the TV though, so she finished up in the kitchen, got ready for bed, and went to bed alone.

You’re not supposed to let the sun set on your anger, she told herself. Yet here I am, going to bed with an unresolved argument. I should go and tell Greg I’m sorry for overreacting. Just as quickly, she thought, He was just as much to blame as I was. Why should I apologize? Why should I be the one to suck it up? They rarely fought, and it troubled her that they had this evening. It also troubled her that they hadn’t come to an agreement on a name for the baby. Surely once they sat down and talked reasonably, they could figure something out.

God, what’s the answer here? she prayed silently. Am I supposed to go to him? I really don’t want to. I know we shouldn’t be fighting, and I don’t want this fight to continue. What should I do? Although she didn’t “hear” a direct answer, she knew the right thing to do would be to humble herself, open the lines of communication, and talk to Greg. The trouble was that she still didn’t WANT to.

God, if that’s what you want me to do, help me to be willing. I love –You-, even if I’m not too crazy about Greg right now, she prayed. When she continued to feel as if she should talk to Greg, she sighed in resignation, pulled her bloated body out of bed, and went into the living room. Greg appeared to be still immersed in his game.

“Greg?” she started tentatively. “I’m wondering if we can talk about this.”

“Later,” he snapped.

She looked at the game. It didn’t appear to be particularly close, so she could only assume he was still angry. “Greg, I don’t want us to fight. I’m sorry for saying those things. We can find a name we agree on..”

“Can we?” He eyed her warily.

“Well… I hope we can, anyway. I’m willing to try. I don’t want to go to bed with us still angry at each other. That’s not right. And we’ve never done it. I don’t want to start now.”

At that he softened. “You’re right. I don’t want to be angry with you either. You’re my Anh. You’re the mother of my child. I love you with everything I have.”

“I love you too, honey.”

“Can you at least consider naming our baby after me?”

“Sure, honey. Can we talk about it tomorrow? I’d love it if you’d come to bed with me. I’m really tired, but you know I sleep much better when you’re with me.”

“Sure.” He turned off the game. “I’m not paying attention to the game anyway. I’m just stewing.”

“You’ve been stewing that long? How come you didn’t come and talk to me?”

“I didn’t want to fight anymore.”

“Me neither. So let’s agree: no more fighting about names. Talking ok, fighting bad.”

He laughed genuinely and hugged her. “Deal.”

“Oooh, that was nice. Do that again.”

He hugged her again, holding her longer this time, stroking her back softly, just the way she liked. She melted into him, her head on his chest, eyes closed, enjoying the contact.

“Um, Anh? I’m afraid something has come between us.”

“What? I thought we just cleared up this whole name business!”

He laughed and pointed at her basketball-shaped belly. “I was referring to our unborn son.”

She laughed and playfully socked his arm. “Such a kidder. Now come to bed so we can make up for real.”

“Now there’s a deal I can’t refuse!” He grinned.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 17

I've been terrible about posting here, I know.

Truthfully, I've been pretty bad about writing recently. Today's word count goal is 28,334, and I'm at a measley 23,275. Ouch! Plus, the likelihood of getting any writing done tomorrow is slim and none; I'm on a business trip and tomorrow is insanely busy. I'd hoped to do some catching up today, but I've only managed not to fall too much further behind. Not quite the same thing.

Anyway, the excerpt I'll post today is from Anh's teenage years. I want to visit her during her teen years, when she's in college, and after she's married. So far most of my writing has taken place after her marriage, so I need to go back and fill in some of the blanks (the order of the story can come later, as can the transitions). I won a writing class that's taking place in conjunction with NaNoWriMo, and it was pointed out to me that I needed to fill in Anh's relationship with her parents more fully. This will be one of several scenes that will hopefully accomplish that.


Anh, age 15

“Linh, really. Think about it. Do you not think it’s strange that we’re the only people we know who have to check in with our mommy every day after school?” Her mocking tone told Linh just how sick Anh was of this practice. It had been a rule as long as either of them could remember, but Anh was in high school now, and really? Who in high school had to check in with their parents after school?

“I hadn’t really thought about it, to be honest. It’s just the way it’s always been.”

“OK, I know that, but we were 5 and 8 once too. We’re not little kids anymore. When do we get to grow up? When do we get to not be the freaks in our class?”

“You know, in case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of Asians in our part of town. It’s not like I feel like a total freak, but it’s not like I feel like everyone else, either.”

Anh knew exactly what Linh meant. Her friends regularly griped about their blond hair, but Anh would have given anything to have blond hair and blue eyes – the all-American girl look. When she looked at her own long, dark straight hair, yellowish-tan complexion, and almond eyes, she didn’t see classic Asian beauty; she only saw that she didn’t look like the girls around her.

By the time she and Linh walked through the front door, Anh was a bundle of teenage discontent. “Hello, girls!” Mom greeted them with a smile, just as she did every afternoon. “How was your day? What did you learn today?”

Anh managed to keep from rolling her eyes as she went through the afternoon recitation of the day’s events and what she learned in school, but only barely. Linh delightedly launched into a long story of her teacher praising her work in front of the class. Anh tried to drift quietly away, but her mother pinned her there with a look, so she stayed.

“Do you have somewhere you would rather be, daughter?” she asked Anh in Vietnamese. “You seem quite anxious to leave the conversation. Do you not want to hear about your sister’s day?”

“Of course I want to hear about Linh’s day,” Anh replied demurely, trying to keep the sarcastic edge from her voice. Linh shot her a look anyway. Fortunately, Mom didn’t notice. She settled in like a caged rat waiting for release.

Ten minutes later, she politely asked for permission to study with friends. Again, Linh gave her a funny look; Anh had already told her she didn’t have any homework that day. No way would Linh tell on her to Mom, though.

“Sure, Anh. I think that’s a wonderful idea. I want to make sure you keep your grades up this year. I’ve been really proud of you and how you’ve been doing.” Anh felt a little guilty at her ploy to leave the house, even if it was just to hang out with friends, listen to music, and read teen magazines. She wasn’t planning on this speech from Mom. It was like Mom knew. Was it true she had eyes in the back of her head?

Shaking her head slightly to clear her thoughts, Anh put on her best smile and said, “Thanks, Mom. I’ll be home by dinner time.”

Mom returned her smile and patted her on the cheek. “Have fun too, Anh. Enjoy your time with your friends.”

“I will Mom, thanks.” And with unfamiliar emotions swirling (who was that and what did she do with my mom?), Anh walked out the door.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Links to other stuff, plus NaNo, Day 11

I figure some of y'all are probably sick to death of me talking about NaNoWriMo by now. Heck, I'm sick of me talking about it. Unfortunately, it's not even half over. Hubby has pretty well forbidden me to ever do it again, which at this point is fine with me. Crazy Christmas shopping season is looking like a cakewalk right now.

Anyway, I have a couple of links for you to check out if you're sick of my attempts at writing fiction. If you're not, I'll post another sample. Best of both worlds, yadda yadda.

Apparently when the economy went crash (is that what that loud noise was last month?) it took publishing with it. This excellent post talks about what you can do about it. Namely, buy a book.

Anne Jackson
is writing a book that I really want to read when it comes out. In the meantime, her blog is often thought-provoking, like this post, which asks if men and women can really be friends (and yes, someone quoted "When Harry Met Sally" in a comment). Lots of interesting feedback in the comments.

Last and least, I have a post up at Inspired Bliss talking about The Shack and other stuff.

So, here's today's scene from my, um, novel (that just doesn't sound right). I actually wrote it a few days ago, but nothing after this will make sense unless you read this. In it, Anh and Greg announce their pregnancy to her parents. It's long, so settle in with a drink and a snack.


“As always, Mrs. Nguyen, you’ve cooked an amazing dinner,” Greg complimented Mom. Anh had always hoped that she would correct him, asking him to call her Han, or better yet, call her Mom, but it had never happened. He preferred to remain completely respectful and call her by her married name. He was also careful to compliment her cooking at every opportunity, knowing she took great pride in her cooking skills. Phanh quickly translated for his wife.

“Thank you Greg.” It was the only time she ever really smiled at him. Anh watched the two of them carefully, but she was too jaded to hope that Greg would win her mother over with his charm on this visit. She had been disappointed too many times. It hadn’t mattered that Greg treated her like a queen, that he treated her parents wonderfully and respectfully, that he worshipped God in the same way as her family. No, the only thing that mattered to her parents was his background. His family was lovely and respected in the community, but they were American, of western European descent, not of Vietnamese descent. Her parents saw it as a betrayal of their hard work in bringing their family to America that their daughter should marry an American and dilute her cultural heritage. Anh simply followed her heart to the man she loved. Neither side understood the other; both sides were saddened by the divide.

Anh snapped out of her reverie as her mother was bringing Linh’s favorite ginger cookies, warm from the oven, to the table for dessert. Linh eagerly grabbed the first one from the top of the pile, knowing it was her privilege to do so. She broke it in half, took a moment to inhale the sweet scent with her eyes closed rapturously, then opened her eyes and took a large bite.

“Mom, why is it that I can’t make these cookies to taste like yours, even with your recipe?” Anh wondered. “I’ve tried over and over, but yours are so much better.”

“It’s because I don’t follow the recipe, daughter,” her mother replied in Vietnamese. “I always do a little something different.”

“What is it, then? Tell me!” Anh noticed that Greg had tuned out, since he couldn’t understand their conversation. Not that he would care; even if they were speaking in English, he would be bored listening to them talk about recipes, she thought.

“It’s not really something I can tell you. I just know when the batter tastes right.”

Anh sighed. “Ah, so I will have to come and watch you, just like I did when I was a little girl.”

“And would that be so bad?”

“No, Mom, not at all.” Anh smiled. “I would like to spend more time here anyway.” She nudged Greg with her knee to let him know she was leading up to The Announcement.

“Oh? Why is that? You didn’t lose your job, did you?”

“No, nothing like that. I just need to learn to bake cookies properly.”

Her mother shot her a quizzical look.

“Because I’m pregnant, and the mom needs to know how to make cookies.”

There was suddenly a lot of noise in the room: Linh whooped with glee, Phanh grumbled something unintelligible, and Han shrieked loudly. It was hard to tell what her mother’s reaction meant, Anh thought. Clearly Linh was delighted; now she was hugging Anh and Greg and congratulating them in English. Phanh had turned away so his face could not be read, and Han was holding one hand over her mouth, a look of shock on her face.

“Mom? Dad? What do you think?”

Dad answered first. “I think that you married someone that your mother and I didn’t approve of, and now you’re having his child. That’s what I think.”

Mom didn’t answer, just sat with her hand over her mouth. Anh thought she looked a bit like she’d gone catatonic.

Greg couldn’t understand the conversation, but he certainly could tell it wasn’t going well. “Do we need to go?” he murmured in Anh’s ear. She shook her head slightly. As horrific as this scene was, she couldn’t leave now, not with things like this.

“Dad, this is your grandchild you’re talking about. Your first grandchild. Mom? Do you have anything to say?”

Silence greeted her question. Her father refused to speak further, and it didn’t appear that her mother was currently capable of speech.

“Maybe you’d better go,” Linh murmured. “I’ll stay, and I’ll call you later.” She squeezed Anh’s hand reassuringly.

Anh felt slightly better knowing that one member of her family was excited about the new life growing inside her, but her parents’ reaction was as bad as her worst fears. She and Greg gathered their things and closed the front door softly behind them.

“Whew. That was brutal,” sighed Greg. “Worse than I thought. Not as bad as I feared. They didn’t throw anything.”

Anh was too shell-shocked to giggle; their reaction had been too horrible to joke about just yet. “That was bad,” she agreed.

“I’m so sorry, babe,” he said, pulling her into his arms by the car. He held her for ten seconds, stroking her back protectively. “I promise to love you and our child forever, no matter what.”

“Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work? Isn’t parental love supposed to be unconditional? Anh didn’t even try to stop the flow of the tears that slid silently down her cheeks.

“Come on, love. Let’s go home.”

“You talked me into it.” He walked around to her side, opening her door for her and helping her into the car. He made sure she was seated comfortably, kissed her tear streaked cheek, and closed the door gently before climbing in the driver’s seat and starting the car.

“What would the queen of my world like to do with the rest of our evening?”

“I don’t know, Greg. I’m so lost right now. What will we do if they keep on being like this? I mean, I could deal with it if they were a little chilly to you – polite instead of really warm – but what if they just write me off?”

“I really, really hope that doesn’t happen, Anh. But if it does, we will do what we would do anyway: we will raise our child with all the love we have for him or her. And we will love each other. And we will be our family. This child will still have grandparents. Don’t get me wrong; I want to include your parents in this child’s life. But that’s up to them, not to me. And if they count themselves out, it’s their loss. They will be losing out on the love of their first grandchild. That’s their tragedy. I hope it doesn’t happen that way, truly I do. But I’m not going to let their stubbornness stand in the way of my family’s happiness. If they want to be that selfish, that’s their business. I’m going to be a daddy for the first time, and there’s no way their attitude is going to get in the way of my joy!” He stopped speaking, breathing hard.

“Wow.” Anh was impressed with the passion her husband felt on this topic. She really wasn’t sure what else to say.

“All I’m saying is that they might abandon you, but I never will,” he said quietly as he pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

She reached over and took his hand, placing it on her flat belly. He glanced at her, then back at the road.

“The two of you, you are my life. You are my family.”

She smiled. “I love you, too.”

They rode in silence for a while, glad that they had found each other, even if it had cost the relationship with her parents. She wondered if there was any non-Vietnamese man who could have made her family happy. Not that it mattered. This was clearly the man for her.

At home, Greg unlocked the front door and turned on a couple of lights. Anh took a moment to let her eyes skip over the home they’d made here: the comfortable couch where they still liked to snuggle with a movie and popcorn, the homey kitchen with the warm, buttery wall color she’d envisioned playing off the neutral of the floor tiles. The play of colors and patterns that made her home feel so warm and welcoming to her, in contrast to her parents’ stark Asian décor. She was sure it was yet another reason they would choose to dislike Greg, although most of the decorating choices had been hers, not his. They would think it was his American influence, when really it was her own sensibilities that had created this home where she felt comfortable, loved, and hopeful, despite what had happened this evening.

“You know what? We’ve made a great home here. It’s not the fanciest, but it’s ours, and I love it. I can’t wait to bring our baby into our home.”

Greg regarded her thoughtfully. “I agree. There’s a reason you and I fit together so well. We don’t always agree on everything, but the important stuff? Like a hand in a glove.”

Anh sighed, and suddenly exhaustion hit her like a brick in the face. The combination of the pregnancy and the day’s events almost brought her to her knees. “Wow. I’m pooped all of a sudden. I vote we go to bed. Like, now. Or at least, I’m going to.”

Greg swept her up in his arms like she didn’t weigh anything and held her tenderly. “Let me carry you,” he told her. “You can just relax. I’ll take care of you.”

“That’s silly, Greg.” She yawned. “I have to wash my face, and brush my teeth.” She rested her head against his shoulder.

“Plenty of time for that in the morning, m’love. You’re worn out. Why don’t you just let me take your shoes off for you and go straight to sleep? You know you want to.” His tone of voice was slightly wicked. She had to struggle to hear him; she was only half awake.

“Mmmm. Mmmkay,” she managed.

He placed her gently on her side of the king sized bed, took her shoes off, and pulled the covers around her, tucking her in. He watched her face as she fell into a serene sleep.

“I’ll love you forever, Anh. They can’t stop me. I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered, too softly for her to hear, even if she had been awake.

Then he went around the house, turned out the lights, pulled off his own shoes and clothes, and slipped under the covers next to Anh. There were days he couldn’t believe his good fortune at having found a wife like her, even if he did have to put up with her family. In some ways it wouldn’t be all bad if they wrote her off. Simpler. Not that she would see it that way. And of course, he would do everything in his power to make this woman happy.

He reached out to hold her hand under the covers, but when she felt the contact, she instinctively turned toward him in her sleep, spooning around him. He sighed, releasing all of today’s tension from his body. He’d walk through fire for Anh. Hell, he did today. He’d do it every day for her and that baby.

Tomorrow’s another day, he told himself, just before he fell into a deep sleep.

Friday, November 7, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 7

Another writing sample for you today.

I guess I haven't really posted anything about what my novel is actually about, so here's the Reader's Digest Condensed Version.

My MC (main character) is a Vietnamese woman who moved to the U.S. with her family around age 8. She has a sister, 4 years younger than she. Her father is an engineer. Her mother is a stay at home mom who has never learned much English. Both her parents are very culturally conservative, and they'd like their daughters to marry men who are Vietnamese, or at least Asian, to preserve their cultural identity. They're not racist at all, only proud of their culture.

Anh (the MC) ends up falling in love with and marrying an American man (the aforementioned Greg).

This is a story I've seen many times in real life, but I've never seen it in a novel, so I'm writing it. The human angle of the stories is fascinating, as I've found by talking to all of my friends who have lived through it. Some details are taken from people I know, but in general, Anh and Greg are creations of my imagination.

Today's snippet is what I've written today. Anh is unpacking boxes at their house after returning from their honeymoon.


Anh sighed wearily. One more box, she told herself, and then she’d give in and get some sleep. She found the box cutters hiding behind a stack of mail on the counter and considered which box should be her last victim for today. You’d think that a single person wouldn’t have so much stuff, she told herself, not for the first time. Greg had given up and gone to bed a half hour ago.

She chose a box marked “Kitchen Stuff” and sliced it open. Such a satisfying thing, slicing open a box, she thought. She really couldn’t imagine what was in this box; all of her usual kitchen things had already been put away. That’s why she’d chosen this box; her curiosity had gotten the best of her.

When the flaps fell open, so did Anh’s mouth. This box wasn’t from this move; it was from much longer ago than that. These were things from Mom’s kitchen that she’d sent with Anh when she moved away from home. Most of them were things that Anh no longer used, but she’d kept them for sentimental reasons. She pulled them out of the box one by one, picturing them in Mom’s hands: the wooden spoons, the garlic press (both she and Mom had upgraded from this dollar store version), the cheese grater, the old pasta pot that her parents had had since they were married. Though many of the items had seen better days, they were Mom’s, and now hers, and she would move them from kitchen to kitchen, she knew. She looked around the limited cabinet space in the kitchen of the so-called starter home and wondered where her precious keepsakes would find a place.

While her eyes were wandering, they found the plain, contractor-white walls. Hmmm, she thought. We’ll definitely have to do something about that. Nothing like a little color to make a house feel like home. She always favored a creamy, buttery yellow in the kitchen; it just felt like home to her. Other rooms could have bolder colors, or a nice, rich neutral for the other décor to play off of. Since this was her first home as a wife, she’d have to give it careful consideration, much more so than the many apartments she’d called home. She wondered what Greg would have to say about her painting ambitions. Maybe I’ll bribe him to help me, she thought, and grinned to herself.

But for now, back to business, girl! She quickly found homes for the pasta pot and the utensils. The only thing left in the box now were some cheerfully colored dish towels, again from her mother. She found a drawer for them, putting them under her nicer, newer towels. Then she sliced open the bottom of the now-empty box, flattened it, and put it in the pile of empty boxes, noting with satisfaction how the pile had grown.

She yawned; it was after midnight, and she was really tired after a long Saturday of unpacking the house. She noted with satisfaction that there was only a handful of boxes left to be unpacked. Picking up the shoes she’d shed earlier in the evening, she slipped quietly into the master bedroom so as not to wake Greg.

He’d left her bedside lamp on so she could see. So thoughtful. Just as with every time she entered the room, she breathed in deeply. The candles she burned in the master bathroom spread the most lovely scents around the master suite: lavender, jasmine, and other scents she couldn’t identify but loved just the same. Greg didn’t mind the floral scents, saying he enjoyed having a woman’s touch in the house.

Looking around her new bedroom, she was grateful to Greg’s parents for passing along their old bedroom suite. She’d want to buy her own someday of course, but for now, this furniture was sturdy and at least not ugly. And it matched. Lots of newlyweds went into debt for furniture this nice, she reminded herself.

Tiptoeing into the bathroom, she brushed her teeth and hair and put on her pajamas, which she’d laid out for herself earlier in the evening when Greg went to bed.

She tried to get into bed carefully enough not to wake Greg, but he was a light sleeper. “Hey babe, did you finally give up?” he mumbled groggily, snuggling up to her.

“Ooh, you’re warm. Yes, I did,” she replied, settling into his embrace. Wow, how did she ever fall asleep before Greg was in her bed? She had no idea.

She relaxed immediately, and for the first time in her week-old marriage, she fell asleep before Greg.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today, History

For the most part today, I've been encouraged by the attitudes of the bloggers I follow on twitter. Many were vocal McCain supporters, and yet they twittered today of their hope for President-Elect Obama, for their prayers for unity for this country, and of their intention to move forward and mend relationships where they can.

There's a reason I admire these folks.

One well thought out post in particular I'd like you to read is from Brad Ruggles. He is a graphic designer extraordinaire, and I'm blessed to have a t-shirt designed by him and produced through Carlos Whittaker's blog that I love. Brad's post is what I would say if I were that eloquent, which I'm not.

So what are you waiting for? Go read it. That's probably the first and last time I'll talk about politics here, and that's really only because I think it has affected us spiritually. God, please heal our nation and bring us together!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 4

As of yesterday, I was 2000 words behind the target. Well, 1999, but why not round up? I had 3001 words and was supposed to have 5000.

Today I'm pretty determined to get over 5000 before I go to bed. I'm at 4775 now, making it my most productive day so far.

I've decided I'll post scenes from my novel here, but you probably won't get a real narrative flow from what I post. Ideally (hahaha), I'd like to publish this someday, so I don't want to throw the whole thing on the web as a first draft.

Anyway, here's today's scene. In this scene, Anh (the main character) and her roommate Liza are coming home after meeting Greg, who is clearly interested in Anh. I intend to open the novel at Greg and Anh's wedding, so it will be no secret that she's meeting her future husband. At this first meeting, Greg tags along to a party with the roommates, and this is their conversation when they return to their apartment that night.


Liza unlocked the door while Anh yawned and stretched exaggeratedly.

“Oh, don’t give me that!” Liza warned her roommate. “It’s not like you’re going to go to bed without discussing Greg with me!”

Anh giggled. “It’s not like I want to!”

Liza grinned at her roommate. “That’s m’girl! Tell me what he said when you met!”

Anh put her purse in her room while she though of a suitable reply. “I don’t think it’s really what he said as much as the look on his face. It’s almost like I was a painting. Or a math problem he was trying to figure out. He’s an engineering major. I couldn’t decide if he was confused or admiring. Maybe both.”

“Could be. It was definitely an admiring look that I saw. It looked to me like he’d never seen anyone so beautiful. And you are – don’t get me wrong. You’re gorgeous! But the look on his face was like he was going to follow you home like a puppy dog.”

“Well, he did follow us to the party…”

“True. And he didn’t really look like he wanted to go home. Too bad we went together to the reception on campus. You guys could have hung out for a lot longer if you hadn’t had me along.” Liza frowned.

“I dunno. I’ve never been one of those people who thinks you should stare into each other’s eyes and talk until sunrise. I’m sure I’ll see him again.”

“I was going to ask if he got your number.”

“What do you think?” Both girls laughed.

Just then the phone rang. Two necks snapped around to look at it, then the girls stared at each other and roared with laughter. “You don’t think…” said Anh, just as Liza said, “Is it him?”

Anh jumped off the couch to check the caller I.D. Sure enough, it read Greg Stanton. “Holy crap, who doesn’t wait two days to call?” she shrieked.

“Well? Answer it!”

“Give me a second to catch my breath!”

Anh fanned her face and breathed deeply while the phone rang once more – three rings total now – and picked it up before the answering machine got to it.


“Is Anh there?” My gosh, thought Anh, I don’t remember his voice being so deep!

“This is she,” said Anh, remembering the prim phone manners her parents had drilled into her from the earliest of ages.

“Hi, Anh! This is Greg Stanton, who you met tonight. I wanted to call and let you know I had a great time tonight. Thanks for inviting me to the party.” What, a boy with manners? thought Anh.

“Of course! I had a great time too, Greg. I’m glad you came along. It’s always good to bring some new people into that group.”

“They’re a fun crowd without me, I bet.”

Anh laughed. “Well, they are. But it was fun having you there, and I am glad you came along.”

“Me too.” Anh could hear him draw in a deep breath. “Listen, I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner sometime. Maybe next weekend?”

“Sure Greg, I’d love to! I have plans on Friday night…”

“Oh sure, of course you do. If you’re free on Saturday, that’s great with me.”

“Saturday is great.”

“Pick you up at your place at 7? 7:30?”

“Ummm, 7 is fine I guess.” She gave Greg directions to her apartment and hung up. She turned to face Liza, her eyes shining with excitement.

“So you’re going out next weekend?” Liza gasped. “And he didn’t even wait a day or two to call? What guy doesn’t wait? He must really like you!”

“Oh my gosh, I told him I was busy on Friday, and he clearly assumed I was going out with someone else. I didn’t get a chance to explain that we have a standing girls’ night on Fridays!” Anh dropped her face in her hands.

“There’s nothing wrong with that!” Liza grinned. “If he thinks there’s competition, he’ll have to bring his best game!”

“Did you meet him?” Anh gasped. “He’s gorgeous, funny, smart… he is the best game!”

“And that’s why there’s nothing wrong with letting him thing there may be someone else for him to have to compete against.” Liza smiled grimly. “Nothing like a little competition to bring out the best in a guy who likes a girl.”

“Wow, does that ever sound like the voice of experience!” Anh shook her head at her roommate’s logic.

“Trust me on this, Anh. Just let him think what he wants to think for a little bit. No harm, no foul.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Instead of posting a writing sample (of which there is far too little, frankly), I thought I'd post a little something else I've been writing, to avoid writing NaNoWriMo stuff.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, I present:

You Might Be Doing NaNoWriMo If:
  • You plan to drink 87 gallons of coffee during November.
  • Every snippet of conversation you hear or take part in is potential novel fodder.
  • You know the location of every coffee shop within a 30 mile radius – and which ones have free wi-fi.
  • You’ve noticed people staring at you as you mutter and scribble in your notebook, which is your constant companion.
  • You own an AlphaSmart.
  • You know what an AlphaSmart is.
  • You know people by their NaNo screen names rather than their real names.
  • You don’t know what date it is, but you can tell anyone what your word count goal is for the day.
  • You have regular conversations with the writing critics in your head. Maybe sometimes you win.
Feel free to leave your own additions in the comments... these are just the ones I've thought of in the last couple of days.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo, Day 1, etc.

So, to clear up a few things from the other day...

The dogs have survived thus far. No more beads have been spilled. Given that my dearly departed dog was mostly a lump, these guys are just a great deal more active; they take a little getting used to.

My kiln is no longer broken because my hubby is a hero and took it apart and fixed it. Yay hubby!

And the beads that had every right to break did not. Can't beat that.

Now on to NaNoWriMo... or at least a little explanation. After talking with Hubby the Hero and a couple of other people, I've been pretty well convinced not to post my entire novel efforts on my blog. There are a couple of reasons. One, to rephrase Anne Lamott, is that it will be a crappy first draft. I won't have time to revise like I'd like before posting each day. Secondly, if my entire novel is posted online, any (purely theoretical) chances of being published might be diminished if the whole thing can already be found online, even in "crappy first draft" form.

All that to say, I will post snippets, but not the whole thing. Somehow I doubt that anyone's disappointment will be life-altering.

I went to a Midnight Write last night and got a little over 1300 words down in an hour and a half. Not bad, but not a full day's output. Unfortunately, I've been lazy today, so that's going to be it for today. To hear friends tell it, I should write like I'm already "seeing" it in my brain, or like a movie is filmed: one scene at a time, with no real regard for what goes in what order until later when editing occurs.

After all those disclaimers, I'd also like to say that I really haven't named any of my characters. I'm currently calling my main character Anh Nguyen, but I know her first name will change, and I think her last name will change as well. Other characters haven't been named at all. I have a great deal of research to do that isn't done yet. I also haven't named the novel.

My premise is that Anh moves to the U.S. with her family around age 8 from Vietnam. Her parents are very traditional and want to raise their children in a very traditional manner, but Anh and her sister become westernized because they are raised here. I don't want to tell too much, but I want to visit Anh in her teens, in college, and in adulthood.

I want the novel to open on Anh's wedding day, but I'm not happy with that scene as I wrote it last night. Here is a snippet of a scene from Anh's teenage years.


“Hey Mom, I’m home!” Anh called out in Vietnamese, her usual greeting on arriving home from school. She tried not to show her irritation. Of all her friends, she was the only sophomore who had to check in every day after school before she could do anything else. Most of her friends’ moms worked, and if they didn’t, they realized that it wasn’t a big deal if their daughters went somewhere else after school without coming home first. She hoped her mom would come around to the standard way of thinking, but so far, she was still the 10th grade freak.

She plopped her books down in her room and wondered why the house was so quiet. Mom was always home to greet her after school. The TV was off, as usual, but there was no music playing, no piano tinkling softly from the front living room, no sign of her mother in the kitchen. “Mo-om! Where are you?” Anh called. Silence greeted her.

As she trotted through the house looking for her mom, Anh noticed odd little things out of place: the breakfast dishes still unwashed in the sink, her mother’s embroidery left out by her chair. Mom was the world’s most fastidious housekeeper; this clearly was not right.

She picked up the kitchen phone and dialed Dad’s office phone line, jiggling the cord impatiently while it rang one, two, three, four times. When the voice mail picked up, Anh growled into the phone and hung up. She called the number Dad had given her for reaching the secretary for his group. One ring. Two. Then, “Engineering group, Mrs. Littleton speaking, how may I help you?”

Thank God, Anh thought. She’d been starting to think she was the only human left alive anywhere.

“Hi, Mrs. Littleton. This is Anh Nguyen..”

“Oh, hi Anh! How are you? And how’s your mom doing?”

“My… mom? I was trying to reach my dad, and –“

“Well, hon, your dad left a couple of hours ago to take your mom to the hospital. It sounded pretty serious. I thought he would have called up to school. I’m sorry, sweetie. Did you just get home?”

“Um, yeah, and no one’s home.” Anh was trying to breathe carefully, trying not to cry while Mrs. Littleton was on the phone. “Do you know what was wrong with my mom?”

“I’m sorry Anh, I don’t. I know they were headed to Memorial, though. Do you have the number? I can look it up for you.”

“Yeah, that’d be great.” This came out in a squeak. The “not crying” thing wasn’t working so well, Anh noticed. How was she going to get hold of her dad in that huge hospital?

Mrs. Littleton put her on hold while she found the right number. Anh found a box of tissues and tried to clean up the mess she’d made of her face.

When Mrs. Littleton came back, she offered to call the hospital and find Mr. Nguyen for Anh. “No thanks, Mrs. Littleton,” Anh managed. “I think if I had to sit here and wait for the phone to ring, I’d go crazy.”

“OK, Anh. I can understand that. Please let me know if I can do anything, OK?”

“OK. Thanks, Mrs. Littleton. Bye-bye.”


That's all for today, folks... hope you enjoyed it!