Thursday, December 29, 2011


I'm marinating.

It's the best word I have for that period between books, soaking up ideas, letting everything meld together until it's ready. Or steeping, maybe. I'm waiting for some things on Happy Sauce, so I can't do anything with it, and it's not the right time to work on the (possible) sequel. To keep active, I'm brainstorming something Entirely Different. I've got the basics of the idea, but I'm not ready to put fingers to keyboard quite yet. I'm pondering the situation and the characters, doing research, working out the kinks in my head. Reading, watching movies, absorbing ideas and thoughts and what I want. Usually I do this for a while until I'm so ready I'm bursting with it--I HAVE to go to the page.

It feels slow, though. It feels unproductive, after the rush of sending something out. But I have to remember that it's an important part of my process.

And it's fitting, I suppose, with all the waiting and drip-drip-drip of time during this week between Christmas and New Year's. Fortunately I'm getting lots of good reading in.

I know many of my writer friends are spending this time frantically doing edits or copyedits. What are YOU up to this week?

If I don't talk to you before this weekend, hope you have a WONDERFUL New Year's. May 2012 be happy and productive for you!

Friday, December 23, 2011


Come Christmastime, like many people I crank up Pandora on the Christmas stations. I like to listen to the old classics, the carols, and the classical holiday music. But that last one I only do sparingly. See, that one comes with a little risk. They might play Nutcracker music. And Nutcracker music instantly swirls me into memories.

Oh, God, it came on just now, as I'm typing this.

I first saw Nutcracker performed by the Sacramento Ballet Company when I was 8. I'd taken little kid ballet in L.A., but nothing serious. It didn't matter. I told my mother I WOULD be in that ballet. I started lessons at a local studio the next year. I worked hard, I learned. I tried out for the show in Sacramento when I was 9, and didn't get a part.

I tried out again when I was 10, and I did. One of the easiest parts in the show--Marshmallow Child, 2nd cast. (There was a definite pecking order for casts.) But only 2 years after my declaration, I'd done it. I was thrilled.

I worked harder.

The next year I got in again, as one of the party children in the first act. 2nd cast. That year, for Christmas, I got regular lessons at the Sacramento ballet school, instead of the local school. It meant a 40-minute commute, and at first it was only a couple days a week. But I was serious now. Nutcracker auditions were in September, and from that point until December rehearsals got progressively more demanding. We did 2 full weeks of shows at Christmas, and I had to take off school. My whole class did a field trip once to come see me.

The next year, as a Sacramento Ballet school student, I got a party child part again--1st cast. And a lamb in the Sheperdess dance. I started taking more classes. By the end of that year I think I was up to 5 days a week, maybe 6. I tried out for the apprentice company, and I got in.

The next year, 1984, I got to be Clara.

If you don't know the show, Clara is the lead. She's in nearly every scene, at least on stage watching. She gets to be on stage entirely alone during the most magical part, when the Christmas tree grows. It's an amazing opportunity, and I was ecstatic. I had to share with two other Claras--I was 3rd cast--but it didn't matter. I was freaking CLARA. When I wasn't doing that part, I was also a flower, and a soldier in the battle scene.

The next year I was in the full company. I was dying to be Clara again, but our director said it was time for other kids to have a turn. I was going to classes 6 days a week now, three hours at least on weekdays and all day on Saturday. But I was also starting to get injuries. I had Achilles tendonitis, and shin splints. Politics at the studio were insane, and the driving time was ridiculous, and my parents were getting a divorce. I was starting to be unhappy. I was 15. I got Chinese ( a very good part), and a snowflake, and a flower again.

And the next year, when I was 16, I made the decision, with my mom, to stop.

I was immensely relieved. My injuries weren't getting better, and with my body type (really small, in case you're wondering--I'm 5'3"), it would be a very tough go for me to be a dancer professionally. I did acting at school instead, and went away to university, and discovered writing, and all turned out well. It was the right decision.

Except for when I hear Nutcracker music, and it kills me.

It's funny, because I LOVE Nutcracker, still. I know every beat of every part of that music. I  remember almost all the dances I did, for all the parts. I remember with vivid clarity being on stage as Clara, during a matinee performance, when one of the huge mice was sneaking out behind me and a child from the audience yelled "Watch out, Clara!" I remember paper snow sticking in my false eyelashes, and that tremendous swell of joy as the Christmas tree grew and I held up my candle to it.

But it hurts, too. I'm not sure why--I guess because it's part of the past, and I loved it so and it's over. Has been for many years. I don't regret the choice, but I miss it. And the music--that much beloved music--brings me back. Makes me feel it all, remember it all, just by listening.

I think I *might* be getting to the point where it hurts less than it pleases, though. Where the good memories win out over the loss, and I can be purely glad that it happened. I have my Nutcrackers--I got one as a gift every year--out in a row at home, and my daughter, who is 9, loves them.

Maybe I should go listen to it again.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Theme Song

Last night hubby and I were watching Stephen Sondheim's Birthday Concert together
(, and when this song came on I stopped and listened, rapt.

This is my theme song right now. Every word of it.

Of course I'm not sure how well it works out for the character--he finds the love of his life, but doesn't he die within 24 hours of singing that song?

I won't think of that side.

Could it be? Yes, it could. Something's coming, something good. If I can wait...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Getting there!

Finally, I feel like I'm getting a handle on the holidays.

We went away for a week's vacation (ah, San Diego, you were lovely as always) the first week of December, so I didn't start anything until the 7th. But thanks to a flurry of internet shopping last week, I've got everyone done except my husband. That one might take a while. :)

And yesterday we decorated! The tree is UP, there are lights out front, and all my Nutcrackers are standing in formation, ready for Santa. It makes me so happy to stand there and gaze at the tree, every ornament a story. (Mind you, I've forgotten some of the stories, but I'm sure I could make one up for you if you asked.) It made me happier when Child was heading off to bed last night, and she stopped at the tree and sang to it. Just because.

I've got a lot of work to do today, but I think I'll crank up the Christmas music and light my Christmas Pine candle while I go!

Hope your holidays are going well too. I'll send you a dose of holiday spirit today if you need it.