A Thousand Words A Day

A writing journal _____________________________ PROFESSORBLOG@HOTMAIL.COM

writing: _ Christian Writers _ _ NaNo _

reading: _LibraryThing_ _ BookCrossing _ _ My local library _ _ Another nearby library _

blogs: _ Lorie Rees_ _Itinerant Iconoclast_ _ Rita's Ravings _
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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Reader, writer, podcast listener, and TV watcher. And real nice guy.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year
Well, it has been a pretty good year for me, all things considered. Especially in the writing world, which is of course the focus of this particular blog. During this year I worked on 3 works of popular fiction (well not popular yet, but that of course is another story for another year, another day, whatever), worked on some academic writing relating to my job, and explored the glorios world of blogging. I will spend this last entry of 2002 discussing and exploring and considering these various aspects of my life the last three hundred, sixty five days. Did you know that that is right around nine thousand hours? Or that that is just over half a million minutes? Which of course is about thrity million seconds. But this blog is supposed to be about the world of words and not the worlds of numbers, so I will end my digression and return to the main thrust of this evening's symposium.

During this year, I worked on three of my works of popular fiction, if you will. I did the least amount of work on a novel about a graduate students who discovers chat rooms and online relationships and take his interest (or is it an obsession? I have not yet decided how far to take it and how dark to make it) in the online world a little too far. Themes of anonymity online, issues of community, and what makes for strong relationships are addressed. Well, they are not exactly addressed yet, but they will be once the work progresses more. I have about three thousand words written and just a few more scenes specifically outlined. But I have done research, I have a passion for the story, and look forward to geting back to it to some degree over the next year or two. I think it could be good. So far it is called L O L, but I am leaning towards changing it to A S L. It will have some humor, but L O L sounds too much like a comedy, while A S L specifically anchors the work in the chat world.

Secondly, I worked a little on my novel about life in a small country church. This novel is written from the persepective of the young pastor and four of the parishoners. It has gotten up to about twenty seven thousand words and although I do not have much specifically outlined yet, I know where the story is going and have some scenes planned out in my mind and I just do not know what order and how the action will work. I lie this story, but I think I will get to the one above first. This is more of an evergreen, a book that I can get back to any time. Of course if I never finish this, I can't get to the other two books in the series, about life in a city church and life in a suburban church. So there is some motivation to get on with this, but it is not the passion that A S L is for me, so it may sit on the back burner, somewhere deep on the shelf, for quite some time. I know, there is not a burner on the shelf, but just humor me, okay?

The third work I worked on this year is te Na No Wri Mo novel, which got to just over fifty thousand during the magic month of November and which is now up to fifty seven thousand words or so. I have about another ten or fifteen thousand words to go, which I hope (plan? I like plan. That sounds so much more positive than hope. Sort of like a New Years Resolution, except that I expect to actually keeip this one) to have finished by the end of January.

The master plan is then to spend February to May revising the first novel I have written, a thriller that is three years old. I have done some research since then, and am ready for it to be better than it is now. I am ready to get on the revision bandwagon. After that, June to September is for revising the second one, the Na No Wri Mo novel, the one that will be finsihed in a month. That will give me October to think about, plot, plan, outline, and research next year's Na No Wri Mo novel, which will of ocurse be written in November. And don't even let me think now about what I am going to do next December. That is a little too far away and as much as I believe in planning, planning that far in advance is just plain crazy.

I have an academic paper that I am also in the revision stage of, which has been accepted at a pair of academic conferences and one journal. So if that gets published in August like they promise, I will have at least SOMETHING published in 2003! Not exactly literature, of course, and it won't help me get any fiction published, but a publication is a publication. And of course it will help my career prospects tremendously, which will help me find time to write. So in the long convoluted way, it will help me with my writing. So it counts.

Of course this year I also started my blogging. I must give credit where credit is due, and the first blog I ever found (or even heard about) was the political blog of Andrew Sullivan, who is a tremendous writer and commentator on social and political issues. A writer for the New Republic, Sullivan is a conservative, Catholic, homosexual Republican. As you can imagine, his blog makes for fascinating reading. Well, anyway, after spending months on his site and reading about the explosion of blogging, I just linked to Blogger from Sullivan's site just to see how easy it really was, and there I was. Then, I read a book by Carolyn See in which she recommends that writers do a thousand words a day, five days a week, and then there I am.

It's been a good year for blogging and for my writing, and I look forward to a productive 2003. Take care, all.

Monday, December 30, 2002

I felt more prepared for this seminar than the last one. I had done a self-study course on the topic, then spent two full days preparing. For a ninety minute seminar, this might seem excessive, but we were fixated as a firm on satisfying Canterbury. The acquisition had gone smoothly, and I was part of a team analyzing other homes that would be good fits for the Canterbury Corporation. It was exciting work which brought me into contact with lawyers, bankers, and other financial professionals.

But there was still customer service to perform, that "personal touch" we had to still offer our clients. So I was at the home again giving another seminar to the residents. The firms had tapped Casey Toomer to do similar events at the newly acquired facilities. I had to beg off of these opportunities, citing travel concerns. With Gwen gone, my ability to travel for work was severely hampered. I feared it would hinder my career advancement prospect at Phares and Barnes, so I oversompensated by pouring all of myself into work at the home.

Casey was present in the crowd to see me in action This would give the firm a chance to demonstrate some service and expertise to those other facilities in the Canterbury family She sat next to Annie in the third row. I ran through the seminar materials relatively competently and even fielded a few questions from the two dozen residents in attendance. Afterward, both Annie and Casey approached. We chit-chatted for a few minutes before Annie excused herself. "I'll stop by when we're done here," I said to her retreating form.

When I spun back to face Casey again, she was eyeing me suspiciously. I tried to stare her down but I broke first. "What?" I asked.
"I don't know," she answered slowly, "I can't tell if she has it bad for you or if you have it bad for her."
I pleaded ignorance. "It's okay, Brian, you're single." She paused, then went on quietly. "How long?"

"Six months."

"Well, maybe it's time to get back in the game again.

I shook my head. "I can't believe we're having this conversation."

She ignored that comment. "Is she married?"

"I think she is."

"She's not wearing a ring," Casey offered helpfully.

"Then maybe they are separated."


"Look, we're friends, we talk. She is separated, okay?"

Casey nodded, as if some point had been proved. "You're friends?"

I crossed my heart. "Friends."

"Nothing else going on?"

"In what alternate universe are you living where this is any of your business?"

She rolled her eyes. "A smidge defensive, aren't you?"

"She's friend."

"Nothing is going on?"

"A friendship is going on, if you must know."

She finally gave up, but still eyed me like she knew something else was going on. I think I covered well enough, and my exaggerated outrage may keep the rumors down. Good thing about Phares and Barnes is that there were enough men who worked there most rumors from running too far out of control. We finally talked for a few minutes about the seminar and I answered some of her questions about content and delivery before she headed back to the P&B office. "Check in on your friend now," she reminded me as she departed.

"And all of the other accountants," I called out after her. Casey's back was to me, but I swear I saw her shoulders move as if she was laughing.

I stopped by Conroy's office, and schmoozed with her for a time. She asked some questions about the merger operations, and I was able to answer them. "We won't know for sure how this is all being integrated until the audit, of course."

Conroy nodded and looked a bit worried. "We'll be doing our end-of-year work with out fingers crossed."
I chuckled and added, "We will, too." I continued to make the rounds in the department before wandering nonchalantly into Annie's office. After my conversation with Casey, I hoped it was a nonchalant wander.

"Good job," she greeted me.

"Thank you," I said, sitting down.

She slid a piece of paper across to me. I flipped it open. "A shopping list," I said. I was hoping for something a little more romantic.


"Not at all."

"Good," she said with a smile. "Flip it over," she whispered.

I did. It was a brief love note. Now that as more like it. I puckered my lips and kissed the air. She winked. It was so cool to be in love.

Not just to love someone, but to be in love with someone.

"See you soon," she said, giving me a little wave and another wink.

I tried so hard to walk out of the accounting office coolly and professionally, but it was hard. I wanted to sing and skip and dance. I wanted the world to know that I was in love. I loved having the key to her apartment. This was an honor she had bestowed on me a few weeks ago. Once I told her I was getting to be a decent cook, and all of a sudden I had the key to her place and was fixing us dinners. Whatever her secondary motivation may have bee, I didn't care. I had her key. It was cool.

Erin was with her dad for the evening and Natalie was having an overnight with a friend from school. I set this up because I did not know how long I'd be with Annie this evening and I did not want time to be a factor. I called Natalie from Canterbury before going on to Annie's. They had just gotten home from school and were ready to get playing, so I did not keep her long.

I got the fixings for a good dinner and got them going in Annie's kitchen. She did not like the kitchen in her apartment, but it was functional. Annie had the distressing habit of comparing every aspect of her living situation to her marriage, and more importantly, to her house.

She had invested a lot of herself in that house. Annie came from blue collar roots and probably saw that home as a solid life achievement. It's a shame she had lost, and a greater shame that she could not seem to let it go.

Annie arrived as I was getting the casserole into the oven. "Smells great," she commented upon entering. When she found out how much time was left until it was done, she announced that she was going to take a shower. I gulped and nodded at the thought of her naked and dripping wet.

While I set the table, I kept wondering whether she wanted me to join her in the shower. She was beautiful naked, and even more so wet. But I kept it just in my fantasies and let her be.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Well it was nice to get back to the hard work of this blog. Not really hard work, of course, that is just writer self-loathing blather. As the great Todd Rundgren said once in titling an album, "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect." That is what I am going through when I whine about the hardship of writing a thousand words a day, five days a week. But I have committed to do it thanks to a book I read a few months ago now, and have done it. Well of course I have missed a few days, but with Christmas shopping, the end of the football season, vacation at the parents, hey . . . it's not my fault. It can't be. Unless it would aid my filling my neccesary quota of self loathing. Then bring it on, it is my fault. Completey, totally, one hundred percent.

I got back to my Na No Wri Mo novel this last week, and got about five thousand words done. I have another few days to transpose into the blog next week, then I need to decide what to do next. Write more on this, or start revising something else? I committed to finish this current novel by the end of January, seeing as any work in December is forsting on the cake. I had not originally planned on penning any more of this novel on the theory that I needed to take December off after the nuttiness that was November and Na No Wri Mo. But I found that I still wanted to write some about these characters to get them progessing in their relationship, and so I got the bug and kept writing for a bit. With the holidays passed, I am ready to take up the pen in earnest and with full dedication.

I enjoyed the holidays, and they were a good antidote the craziness of November. I am so glad that I did Na No Wri Mo, and am even glad that I met some of the people from my city that are doing it, as well. I met once with them, though they have met twice. We have another meeting coming up in just over a week, and I hope to attend that one, as well. There is a short story assignment that I need to give some thought to. I am not sure I am going to participate in that exercise yet, and of course if I don't then I have to decide if I am going to the meeting. I think I am going to the meeting either way. For one thing, if I go without doing the assisgnment, that will give me a chance to see their reaction to an incomplete assignment. It may get me an insight into how serious / casual the group really is, and then I can decide if that is where I want to go. This would be my first writer's group, and I want to make sure it is a good experience. Of course, half of me also says to just damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

I have the rest of this work outlined, maybe 12 to 15 more scenes left, so there is a good chance that I can finish it by the end of January. That would be great. That would give me 2 completed novels. Well, 2 completed first draft of maybe potential novels one day down the road. But if you have to write a million words of crap to get to the good stuff, this would get me that closer to getting to the good stuff. I look forward to getting to the good stuff. I feel like I have written a little bit of good stuff, but have a long way to go until I am satisfied. The real long term goal is to get one of these manuscripts in good enough shape to begin submitting in 2004. So 2003 is to revise, revise, revise. If writing is rewriting, I am ready to write this coming year. I am not a believer in New Years' Resolutions, so this is not one. Maybe we can call it a plan, maybe we can call it a promise, maybe we can call it a dedication, or maybe we can call it a solemn oath. And this blog is part of the plan, part of the process of keping me honest, part of my self-discipline process.

I have written a few scenes for another work in process, the one about a small country church. I have a little bit of this book outlines, and have poked around a scene or two from that existing outline. I doubt I will outline any more. Because outlining more would lead to writing more, and the last thing I need is ANOTHER first draft. Two will be enough in a month's time, thank you very much. Please, man, please, please, please, no more first drafts. So I think I have one more scene planned out in that work, and I am sure that some time I will write that scene. But that is not what the next 12 months are about. They are about polisihing two manuscripts that will be completed in the next month or so. Well of course one, the thriller, is already done, and has been for a few years. The second is the relationship novel that this blog has been working on so far.

Now that I think about it, this is the 3 year anniversary of my 1st finsihed novel, the thriller. My plan was to finish it by the last day of the year 1999. I made this deadline in August of 1998, on the theory that I could do 1500 words a week! Now I am doing three times that. What a concept. Anyway, I finished the last word of the first draft of the thriller on this date, 1999. I finished two days early! How about that. So I wish myself a happy anniversary today of my first completed novel. And so three years later the end of the second one is within sight. Wow. I just thought of that happy coincidence while I was writing this. Composing at the keyboad, as it were. Very good. Thank you for reminding me, blog.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

I tried to not kick the bags of stuff we had purchased. They surrounded us at the small table. I watched Brian take out his credit card and lay it on the plastic tray. He seemed so proud. It reminded me of a conversation that we had had before, before Gwen had passed.

"I feel bad about having you pay for things," he had said then. "It is like Dennis is paying for us to date. It makes me feel uncomfortable."

"I make my own money, so it's my money that's paying, too," I tried to argue.

Brian then explained that he and Gwen had a joint account, and she would notice extra money coming out. "I'd feel bad about having to lie to her about that."

I did not comment that he felt worse about spending his wife's money than he did making out with another woman. Maybe it was his born and bred accounting nature. Money trumped everything. I represented some tension between freedom and control. Whatever it was, he seemed very proud to be taking out his own credit card today and paying for our first date. This would give him some sort of permanent record of our being together here today. All of these facts pleased me. It was kind of cute in a weir accounting sort of way.

"I really enjoy this, dating," he said at lunch.

I agreed and we toasted this, our first date. "I like walking with you, having you hold me." It was a nice feeling of security. Brian was not a big man, not a strong man, but having any man's arms around me was a comfort. It was a little like high school, and I thought that any minute he might slip his hand in my back pocket. That might be pushing it a bit, but he had played the whole day just right. Brian seemed to know things like that. It was all part of that "fit" we talked about so often. It was comfortable being with himself at this point in my life. I needed comfort. "I wish we could do this more often," I said softly.

He nodded. I knew this pressed on him, but he tried to not make a big deal of it. Usually. "There's no judge that would deny you custody of Erin because you were dating. It's not like we're living together or anything."

"I know," I said, "but it's just that I don't want to risk anything, financially or emotionally."

"And to keep it from Erin," he said with a nod.

I agreed. "I doubt that Natalie is ready for you to have a girlfriend yet."

Brian nodded. I don't know if he really thought I was right or if he was just not in the mood to argue about this right now. Either way, he moved on to other subjects. Small talk mostly, until he took my hand and eyed me steadily. My heart raced, because of the contact. And maybe because of that intense look in his eyes.

"Annie," he said, "I'm a numbers man by temperament, a numbers man by nature. But I recognize the importance of words, too. Words mean a specific thing of course, and I try to not say things I don't mean. I think that's a very important principle for someone." He sighed, or maybe just took a deep breath to gather himself. "I would like to tell you things that I think, things that I believe, and that I hope mean something coming from me." His eyed flitted away from me, then returned. "I think you are a beautiful girl, Annie. And I love you."

I nodded, smiling. "This has been a great day, Brian. Thank you." I stood and walked to him and kissed him. "I love you, too. I love you so much, Brian."

We cut our shopping off early, right after lunch. We made a slow circuit of the mall, my head on his shoulder. We drove back on a state route instead of the interstate. It extended the day and made for a peaceful drive back home. We held hands, and we talked a little, and I snuggled into him as we walked. Mostly we were just together.

Damn our schedules. There were a number of spots outside of our town that I though would make for good "public dates," but we had not been able to get together for a long enough day to go out together. We got the kids together a few times during the summer. It was very gratifying to see them enjoy each other's company.

The day of our first public date ended in the parking lot of my apartment. We made out for a few minutes, but I did not invite him up. It was too much of a real date and I was still on an emotional high from when he said he loved me. It was just too risky to ask him up. We had not talked about sex for a while, certainly had not agreed that it was time to have sex. So I didn't ask him up. I just don't know if I could have controlled myself. Had I made a move, I could not have expected him to stop me. That was not a fair thing to ask any man to do. So I kissed him one last time, thanked him for the date, told him again that I loved him, and then headed up to my apartment. I headed up to my quiet apartment by myself. Alone.

The next six weeks found us meeting for lunches mostly. There was something different about that, that did not make it a date. It was too closely related to work, there were plenty of co-workers and associates eating with each other who were not on dates. Somehow, this was different. Brian gave me a silly look when I explained this all to him. He just shook his head and looked at me. I felt like he was patronizing me, but he did not express his thoughts.

We figured we could get together for some time when he came to the Home for another seminar. This one was on Medicare and insurance reform. It was an afternoon seminar, and he was going to leave right after and make dinner for us at my place. It was an erotic thought, somehow, and it gave me something to look forward to while I finished my work day.

In the meantime we had the telephone. Since we both lived alone, speaking on the phone was a possibility. It was working well. We spoke to or saw each other probably three times a week. It was a nice variety of contracts, phone, at the office, our homes, the park, and lunches. It was smooth, it was going well. Dennis had no idea that I was dating, and I wanted to keep it that way. I don't know what Erin was saying to him about spending time with Natalie and Brian, but he had not said anything to me. He was being cool. So far it was a good separation. Good as separations go.

Friday, December 27, 2002

I dropped Natalie off at a school friend's house. Over the summer she had gotten to know a few more kids in the neighborhood. She was in various summer programs, through churches, the county, and the school system. Work was light in the summer for accountants, so shuttling her off to these was not the unmanageable burden I had expected. Natalie was an easy maker of friends, and Gwen's situation had become well enough known in the local area that plenty of neighbors and friends offered support and help.

Today she was at a family a few streets over that Nat had met through a soccer camp. The girls had gotten together four or five times before, but this the first all-day affair. I think they had a visit to the Disney animated feature on the plan, but the rest of the day was a total unknown to me.

I swung by Annie's apartment and picked her up at ten. This was her version of a compromise of our public/private dating thoughts. I thought she was being overly concerned about the consequences of being saw with me and I told her so. "Dennis would be crazy to fight you about custody or a settlement. You're already being generous to him."

"I know," she said, "but I have to keep Erin at all costs. I'd give up anything and everything to make sure I keep her, and I don't want to have to fight with Dennis." She then quoted something that some psychologist had told her. I did not catch it all; I was still chewing on the fact that she had a psychologist. How long had that been going on for? Anyway, what she said was something to the effect that it is not a divorce per se that hurts children, but rather it is the fighting that divorcing parents often engage in that hurts children. It is the bitterness and arguing and fighting she was trying to avoid. "I am sure that I want a divorce so now I have to make sure that we have a good one."

It sounded a bit too modern to my ears, a bit too academic, but there was no need to argue with Annie about that now.

We got on the highway and seventy-five minutes later we found ourselves at the outlet mall. It was far enough away that Annie felt safe being in public with me. We agreed that this was our "first date." It was somewhat odd to be going on a first date with someone you have already seen naked and received a variety of pleasures from. Maybe that a was a bit too modern, too.

It was a revelation being with her. I put my arm around Annie's waist as we walked throughout the mall. It was so awesome, she was so stunning and I was with her. She was with me. With me. People saw her and they saw me with her. Men looked at her, hell, men leered at her. I always thought I'd be the jealous type with a hot chick, but evidently I am not. Men ogled her, then when they got around to looking at me I just nodded and smiled. I was with her. For all that they knew, I was getting her. I was getting enough from her, no complaints about that.

We spent some quality time in the children's clothing store. We dug through stacks of shorts and jeans, piles of sweaters and socks, and racks of dresses and blouses. I had never spent so long in one store to purchase so little. We each ended up with one bag, maybe sixty bucks spent between us. But it was fun. Annie was in her element being the good mother. She did not have a list, like a would, but she found three items on three separate racks that together made a great little outfit for Natalie. I pleaded my own fashion ignorance and was able to convince Annie to pick out a dress and matching shoes for my daughter.

"Matching shoes?" I asked in fashion shock. "I knew that shoes were supposed to match one another," I deadpanned, "but now they have to match her clothes, too?"

Annie laughed and kissed me on the cheek. "I'll help you pick out clothes, honey. I like Natalie too much to leave her fashion future in your hands."

We browsed a music store and a men's clothing store next. I did not buy anything at either, but it was a chance to get to know Annie's tastes in men's clothing. Again, I saw her in fashion action. She proposed a number of shirt and tie combinations to me, all of which were unfortunately beyond my sense of what I ever wore. Nonetheless, they were all very nice looking combos and tried to make mental notes. Even though I passed on buying anything myself, I did remind her that Christmas was around the corner. "If you're willing to dress me, I am willing to be dressed."

"It's been a great day," I said over a glass of water at lunch.

"To our first date," she answered me and we toasted.

"I like doing this, dating you." I smiled at her and winked. "This wasn't so bad, was it?"

She said no, it was not.

"But do we have to go out this far from home to do it?"

A wave of sadness darkened her face as it passed over, a wistful look coming and going. "I 'm afraid so."

"I understand." I didn't like it, but I understood. We were quiet over the rest of lunch, just a little chatting here and there, small talk this and small talk that. We were at a nice joint, big sandwiches and quality salads. We split an order of fries. As we hung out in this place, having a low-key day together, a realization sprung up in my mind, complete and fully formed. I rolled it around my head as we finished up and I paid the bill. Then I resolved to do it.

Taking Annie's hand in mine and smiling softly, I said, "I really try not to say things I don't mean. I try to be careful and precise in what I was." I smiled softly, just to ease the tension that had suddenly appeared. "I want you to know two things, Annie. Things I've not said to many people. Things that I mean precisely and exactly."
I took a deep breath. "One, you are a beautiful woman."

"And two, I love you."

Tuesday, December 24, 2002


"I would like to talk about us, Annie. About our relationship."

I looked at him carefully, trying to gauge his meaning. Most men never said things like this, and when they did it was usually not a good thing. Three weeks had passed since I told him that I loved him, and maybe he was finally reacting. I braced myself and said this was okay.

"I feel," he started, "that since Gwen passed away, and since we started up again we haven't talked as much. It's like the first phase of our relationship just ended." He dropped his hand down like a guillotine. "Boom. And after that six-week break or so, we started up again and it was different. Good," he assured me, "but different."

I took a deep breath to collect myself. After all that I had done, it had come to this. Another man was deciding to stop being with me. God, why had I told him I loved him? Men hate to hear that. I could have kept him longer by just letting him screw me. But no, I thought Norton was different and I thought this would be different. I'd had hopes, high hopes, very high hopes. But of course reality often falls short. "What do you mean?" I asked coolly. I didn't want him to sense my unease and just react to that.

"I did not know how to have an affair," he said, "but we started, and in its own weird way it worked. I don't know what the end result would have been from that, but I was comfortable with the development of the relationship, with where things were going." He smiled, and it put me a little at ease. If he was letting me down easy, he was doing a good job. I felt hope rise, but I kept my emotions in control while he went on. It was a grand struggle within me.

"But when Gwen passed away, whatever straight line we thought our relationship was on was over. You were so great in that time. I've said that before, but I want to say it again. So we got back together, but it's different again, different from where it was. "Sexually," I put in. He was a guy, and I just assumed this was what he was getting at. Might as well just cut to the chase.

He stopped and stared at me. "That's part of it, I guess," he hedged, "but that flows from the rest of the relationship, like we've talked about before."

"And you think we've stalled," I said, trying to mask my disappointment.

He leaned in and put a hand on my cheek. "I'm not saying these things well, obviously. That's not at all what I'm saying. Let me start over with this. I want to see you, and I want to keep seeing you." He paused. "Is that what you're worried about?"

It was. "A little," I downplayed.

"I am so sorry for whatever I've done to give you that impression." He stroked my hair slowly, running each finger individually across my head. It felt so good. "I don't know what to do. I don't know how to behave."

"What do you mean?"

"I knew what to do back when I was single and dating a single woman." He chuckled. "Well, I sort of knew what to do. I was not
exactly Mister Super Stud or anything."

This comment made me laugh. "Oh come on, with your hair parted down on the side and those thick glasses of yours, you were a real dreamboat." This was a running joke between us. He had gotten much more fashion-conscious and even better-looking as he aged. "The great thing about being a man," he once called it. I mean, you could probably pick Brian out of a police lineup as an accountant, even today, but if his high school and college photos were any indication, he had come a long way, baby.

But he was back in serious mode as he picked up his thought where he had left off. "I sort of knew what to do when I was a married man and dating a married woman." He spoke plainly and sincerely. "There were rules that we both understood about each other's situations, and we could be supportive of each other as we made moves in our relationships. But I don't know how to be a widower." He looked down, sucking in some emotional response he did not want me to witness. "I am a different person, obviously, my life had changed. There has been loss, and of course for Natalie, a huge loss for her. So my role as father is completely different than it was, and all of these things affect me and change me. And with you, I feel like I almost, umm, almost cheated on you in some way." He was fighting a losing battle, trying hard to stay composed. "You made the hard decision to leave Dennis, and I had not gotten that for Gwen. You took that big step and started the twelve-month countdown to your freedom, to when we can be together publicly, no consequences." He took a deep breath and shuddered as he let it go. "I feel like I jumped to the head of the line, like I didn't have to do make the hard choices like you did, but I'm free and you're still not. And I don't know how to talk about it with you and if you're mad at me or if you feel I cheated and got out of my marriage without having to leave and publicly state our problems." This entire last sentence was a babble of blubbering, as he buried his face in my shoulder.

I patted him on top of my head, my hurting and vulnerable little baby. I was shocked more than anything that he could feel so comfortable with me that he would let this part of him show. He was expressing exactly what my psychologist had guessed was going on with him, what Dr. Alba called some sort of "survivor guilt." I would have to make another appointment with her just to tell her that she was right. I was not always comfortable with what she said about me, but she was certainly dead-on with Brian. Maybe I needed to reconsider my attitude towards her.

He snuggled himself into me, dampening my shirt sleeve for a few more minutes. When he was finished weeping, I told him how much I appreciated and respected him for his openness. Then I told him that I did not know how to date a widower, either. "I can't go public," I explained, "before the divorce."

Brian said he understood, but it was clear to me that he wanted to be able to actually date me. He wanted to take me out to dinner and a movie, that sort of thing. I said I had some ideas we could talk about later and we set up a play date for the kids. Then we made out for a while on my sofa. I sent him home felling like we had made progress.

Monday, December 23, 2002

We started over again, in private again. It was a lot harder to get a schedule set having all of the responsibility for Natalie. My parents and Gwen's had been faithful in visiting for extended periods, but that seemed to add as much responsibility to me as it relieved. But this week my parents volunteered to board Natalie at their place for a few weeks, here in the middle of the summer. I took advantage of that schedule to see Annie every day that Erin was with Dennis. It was vary complicated, very modern, very twenty-first century, but we gave it a go.

On Saturday we watched another movie together. It was Annie's turn to select, and she chose "Memento." I had heard of the film and even knew a little bit about how the movie unfolded. Despite that, I was totally blown away by it, especially the ending, which was really the beginning. "Never saw that coming," I muttered as Guy Pearce hopped into his car with no memory of what he had just done.

Along with our eclectic musical tastes, our movie choices gave us a variety of entertainment options. We were not as congruent in all of our tastes. Meals were a bit of a challenge for us, as we had narrow palates that did not often overlap. "If we just went out to a restaurant, this would be much easier," I said. Annie agreed in principle, but was worried about being seen in public. I tried not to take it personally, but it was hard not to. We solved the problem by ordering food for delivery. It gave us a chance to have "dates," without the possibility of being "outed." It gnawed on me, but I was able to let it pass, at least for now.

On Tuesday, I went over to Annie's place with boxes of Chinese food for us. Chicken cashew for m and beef and broccoli for her. Of course it was beef for her. It was amazing she was so slim consuming that much red meat. I suppose her cholesterol and blood pressure were raised, but I never mentioned this. Well, I never mentioned it any more. I smiled at the memory of when I made an offhand remark about the hardening of her arteries from all of the beef she consumed. She was indignant. "Everyone in my family only eats real food, real meat, and we all live long. Don't worry about me, buddy. I'll probably outlive you!" Wow. I had just meant it mostly as a joke, but she certainly had not taken it that way. I don't think anyone in her immediate family was either a rancher or farmer, but she certainly had healthy respect for both professions.

We ate together again on Thursday. This time, she cooked hamburgers and boiled potatoes for us. I brought along a bag of salad. After dinner, I brought up the subject of our relationships. "Annie," I said slowly, "can I talk about the two of us?"

"Of course," she said. I sensed her hesitancy.

"I am so glad we started up this relationship again, and you willingness to do it. Your tolerance and understanding of my situation has been unbelievable."

She took this in with a sigh. "Brian, you needed to do what you needed to do."

I nodded. "But you didn't have to understand that, Annie. You didn't have to hang around for me."

Annie looked at me with piercing eyes. "But I did have to wait for you." She had never seemed as serious as she did this exact moment. It reminded me of that first time she expressed her feelings for me. She stood and walked to me and kissed me on the mouth before kneeling on the kitchen floor. This brought her head below mine. Looking up at me, I said nothing. This was her moment. "I had to wait for you, Brian," she repeated. "Because I love you."

I stared into her lovely face once again, her round eyes awash in vulnerability. "Annie," I started.

She put her hand over my mouth. "Please, don't say anything." I tried to mumble my response to her profession through her fingers, but she pressed in harder, smothering my comments. "Please don't say it," she pleaded, "please don't say anything.

I nodded and Annie tentatively removed her hand from my mouth. She was serious about me not responding to her. It made me wonder what had gone on in her past to bring her to this level of fragility. "Thank you, Annie," I said, kissing her forehead gently. "You honor me with your words." I pulled her up from the floor and she found the chair nearest me. Our knees touched.

"I told you I loved you because I wanted you to know that I love you. I didn't say it to coerce you to say it to me. I don't want you to say it out of some obligation, to put it mildly, or out of emotional blackmail, to put it harshly."

I was impressed. She had obviously thought this through. Annie was certainly an emotional woman, certainly a feeling woman, but she seemed to run her emotions through some sort of internal editor first. The end result was that you knew that what she said was what she felt, and she knew exactly what she felt. Nothing she ever said was said carelessly, nothing was ever just blurted out. It was a cliché, but Annie Bainbridge said what she meant and meant what she said. "It is refreshing," I said, "to be in a relationship with such a clear-thinking woman." I began to speak again, but considered my words carefully. I owed her the same specificity of word choice and clarity that she gave me. "I really respect you, Annie. I want you to know that."

She stood and pulled me to my feet. She buried her face in my chest and I ran m fingers through her flowing red hair. She looked at me, her eyes red. "Men have said a number of things to my in my life, Brian." A tear fell out of her left eye and trailed down her cheek. "But no one has ever said that to me."

Thursday, December 19, 2002

I've Been Sick
Do I need a note from my doctor to get an excused absence for missing a few says this week? Please forgive me. I don't think I'll get my 5 days a week in this week, but it is the thought that counts, right? I spent the whole night Tuesday not sleeping, taking trips to the bathroom, throwing up, blah blah blah. The whole kit and kaboodle, as it were. But I got no sleep, and it took its toll on me the next day. I spent yesterday sleeping. The cats were very friendly and took good care of me. They were very nice. I do not know exactly what the process is, but animals, and cats specifically, seem to know when their owners are feeling unwell, and take extra good care of them in those situations. That is what I have found in my life and conversation with others. Either that or they want to sleep all day, and when their owner spends all day in bed they figure that gives them carte blanche to do the same! I don't get the whole "Pet Psychic" phenomenon, and I'm not even so sure about human psychics, but there is something about cats and their owners, and some weird connection there. It is just beyond me, but I know it is there.

The worst thing about getting sick is the toll it takes on the rest of the body. My abs are killing me, and have been for the whole day. Maybe I just need to work out more on my abs and the stress of retching won't be as harsh next time. And my shoulders hurt, too. That one I can't figure out. Maybe it is just a matter of the stiffness that comes from being so darn tired. I slept all day and slept hard. So I think my stiffness is a result of that. But wow did my head hurt last night. That was unbelievable pain. But I slept well last night and I think that is the key on my road to recovery. I feel pretty close to fine today. The worst thing is not being able to eat. Yesterday I had that weird feeling of having a tender tummy but also having an empty tummy! So I wanted to eat, but wondered if I could keep anything down. I spent all day eating a banana. Not all day eating bananas, plural. But I spent all day eating a banana, a single banana, one banana. Then I got crazy and ate a waffle for dinner! Crazy, huh? Bold and decisive move on my point. Today I had a small bowl of cereal and milk for breakfast. Lunch is up in the air. I need to figure out some triangulation between what I want, what we have, and what I can stomach.

I have had my flu shot, and do not think that this was the flu. I did not have all of the characteristics of the flu, but instead seemed more like I ate something that disagreed with me. This is very possible, because I ate a whole bunch of crap over the last few days before becoming ill. I think this is a very likely explanation. I have changed my eating habits over the last 6 months or so and dropped about 15 pounds, but I fell into my old habits this past weekend. As a matter of fact, I purposely ate bad stuff on Monday. It was a silly move, but it made sense at the time. I went to the doctor in the morning, and "celebrated" with junk food afterwards. I think this was all part of becoming sick. It was kind of nutty, I admit, and maybe now I realize that I have to keep with my good habits or risk getting sick again. Maybe I have changed my body chemistry enough that I can no longer tolerate the junk I used to eat. That, and getting older, probably both contribute to this. There are some drawbacks to growing older, but it does beat the alternative.

I actually don't get sick very often. The only other time I can remember getting sick to the point of vomiting was maybe seven or eight years ago. Those are the only two times that I have gotten this sick as an adult. Of course, the fact that I don't drink probably contributes to my lack of vomiting. I can't understand trying to vomit, or drinking so much that you vomit. I just don't get that. Of course, I respect my brain cells too much to drink anyway, but that is another subject for another day. I have never drank alcohol, and God willing I never will.

I am not very good at being sick. Some people are good sick people, but I am not one of them. I am cranky and my personality changes completely. I am a gregarious, joking, happy go lucky sort of guy, but when I am sick I am just a miserable person. My family was great to me, they were pleasant and did not take anything I did or said in the wrong way. They do not have a lot of experience dealing with me being sick, but they handled it brilliantly. Of course I owe them BIG now and so I have to go out today and get more and better Christmas presents for my family members. Oh well, it was worth it.

Hard to belive one could come up with a thousand words about being sick. But the point of this daily (or almost daily) site is to get me into the habit of writing a thousand words a day about whatever, about anything. So I guess this is a success!

So again I apologize for not being here the last few days and I beg your forgiveness. But I feel better now and hope to get back on the ball soon. Maybe some more writing tomorrow. Thanks for your support and I hope to see you soon.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Back Back Back
Well vacation is over and I am back at the grind. I did not keep my promise to write EVERY day, but I did probably half the days that I should have. As I transcribe them on to the end of the novel I am writing, I will post them here as well. Anything to get my thousand words in. Today is a Monday, so the new week of writing begins today. Back to 5 days a week, a thousand words a day. Without the crush of Na No Wri Mo, I have slack on keeping up with the pace. Of course, this pace is only about half, really a little less than half, than the November pace. But even so, I have had some trouble getting back into it. This is of course balanced by the fact that I originally planned to let Soulmates set for at least a month until I finished it, but could not. I found myself unable to let it completely sit, and have written some. It is very nice to feel the motivation, to feel the creativity surging. So, I am back at the writing place, in here, whether creatively or narratively, we shall have to see that on a day to day basis.

It was a nice vacation I have to admit. Slightly warmer weather than the great American middle is offering. I was South of my current location by a few states, which was nice. Family is doing well. I did have to put up a pair of Christmas trees, one for the folks and one for me and my family. I am not a big fan of lots and lots and lots of ornaments, but my folks are, so I spent way too long trimming their tree. Fortunately, I did not have to spend as much time trimming mine. There were pictures to hang and some outdoor lights to put up. Just one string of those, white bulbs, those hanging down kind of icicle things.

Most presents on the list for family and friends are purchased, even though there are a few still left on the list. I am hoping for last-minute deep discounts to knock out the last few items. I know they say the economy is still poking along slowly, but the lines at Best Buy and Target tell me that people are out there spending. Maybe that is a good thing. Only time can tell on things like that. I am a writer, not an economist. And what good are economists anyway. President Franklin D Roosevelt once quipped that he wanted only one-handed economist in his cabinet, because the ones he had always countered every sentence with "on the other hand . . ." I once had an accountant friend who needle his economist friends with the joke that economists are "people who are pretty good with numbers but do not have the dazzling personalities it takes to be an accountant." Okay, enough economist jokes.

I enjoy the holiday season. I am a fan of red and green, a fan of the carols, a fan of both Mannheim Steamroller and the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I am not a big fan of the egg nog. I just do not get that particular indulgence. I know that it is high in fat, which is usually a good thing as far as I am concerned. But egg nog seems to be the exception to the rule that if something is high in fat it has to taste good. It would seem that egg nog is BOTH disgusting tasting AND bad for you. It's the twin killing of beverages. No wassail on the other hand is a legitimate seasonal beverage. Especially with a few red hot candies tossed in for good measure. They give the cider / cinnamon / orange concoction a kick. As Emeril would say, it kicks it up a few notches. And of course the cookies. Christmas is right in the middle of the "five months of fat." This is the time of year beginning in late October that covers Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and New Years Day, Valentines Day and Easter. All of these are high food holidays, high intake of calories and fat. Any holiday that encourages the consumption of either sweets or gravy, or both, in large quantities, is a holiday worth celebrating.. That say that holidays are the rackets of the greeting card companies. But I am sure that some how some way the food industry is involved. It's a plot, it's a conspiracy. Where are agents Scully and Mulder to investigate a strange case when you really need them?

Christmas music, as I mentioned above, is also a highlight of the season. Now of course this is a mixed bag, but I maintain that the good outweighs the bad in this area. For every "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" there are dozens of wonderful versions of "O Holy Night" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel." And others, as well. I like Christmas songs that have sort of a haunting quality. Bruce Cockburn's Christmas album is tremendous, by the way. The "Very Special Christmas" series of albums, now up to six, I think, also contain a number of good songs. A great CD would be the best 3 songs or so from the prior "Very Special Christmas" albums. That would be a compilation disk worth having. One of the great parts of "About A Boy," both the Hugh Grant movie and the Nick Hornby novel on which it is based, is that the lazy good for nothing single guy gets to be lazy and good for nothing because his dad once wrote a silly Christmas song and he (the son) is still living off the royalties. A very funny twist in an altogether funny book.

Well, I rambled, but that it is OK, because I managed to ramble on for a thousand words. This means that my work for today is officially, finally, and completely done.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Vacation Alert
I am going to a conference, then vacation, so I will not be posting for the next 10 days or so. I will keep my notebooks and do my thousand words a day, 5 days a week. When I return, I will post what I have written, so there is a record of it. Thanks. Enjoy your own vacations when they occur.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Writers' Group
About a dozen or so Na No Wri Mo participants showed up to a writers' group meeting. I missed the pre-November meeting, but I figured I knew most of these folks from the emails and forum posts. It was a very fun group and I have an open mind as to how this will all develop. I have no experience with writers' groups, so have no clue whatsoever what to expect from this. This was predominantly a social affair last night, which was fun. The amazing this is that something like 10 out of the 12 from this city finished! That is absolutely amazing. I scanned the results fro some other cities and areas I used to live in, and they had very few winners. So there is something about the people in this group and the way we communicated during the month or something that helped us all succeed. So on that account alone I am hopeful for this group.

It seems like the people in the group write from a wide range of genres, which should be a strength of the group. Fanfic, fantasy, romance, erotica, mainstream, there are a wide range of writing styles and subject matter being explored. I guess I am a little worried that the group may break down into similar interests, smaller groups, I don't know. Of course, maybe subgroups is a good idea. I am trying to keep an open mind and a laid back casual Na No Wri Mo style attitude, so I am not too worried. I am hoping to get out of this someone who will hold my feet to the fire and make sure I stay on task and do not let my goals and deadlines go by. Maybe this is about quality, maybe quantity, but I want someone or a group who are there to hold me accountable.

I have a 2-day meeting tomorrow and Friday, and I am going to bring my Na No Wri Mo notebook with me. Not that company meetings are complete borefests, but I am sure there will be a few sessions that are shall we say less thrilling than others. So I expect to get some solid work done in that time.

After the meeting, I am going on a week long vacation at my parents. As a matter of fact, I am heading on vacation directly from the second day of the meeting. This time at my folks will be more quality time to do some writing. I hope to make more progress on the Na No Wri Mo novel. I would like to finish it as soon as I can. There is little that is more discouraging than a two thirds completed novel. I do not want to have an incomplete novel hanging around for long, mocking my otherwise noble November efforts.

But I am convinced that the momentum will not flag. It is the fourth day following the end of the month, and I have the itch to get back to creative work. It is similar to what I experienced after graduating from college, the first time. I vowed "I'm done with school" and "I will never go back to school" and crap like that. Then I got the second degree and again vowed "I'm done with school" and "I will never go back to school." Then I got the Masters and again vowed "I'm done with school" and "I will never go back to school." I kept going back and going back and going back, even after I said I would not. The burn was there, the desire was there, so I kept going back. So of course when the Na No Wri Mo ended, I vowed to not do an creative work for a month. But I could not do it. It is no longer that I "have to," it is that I want to. It is such a cool feeling to have that desire to write. I cannot explain it, but I want to ride the wave as long as I can, and keep my good habits going.

The writers' group gave an assignment about writing a short story (one thousand to five thousand words) for the next meeting. I am not a short story fan, either of writing them or reading them, but I will give it a whack. I am more of a novel reader, and I hope, of a novel writer, but I will think about participating in this one, for the good of the group. The assignments is to write a story that includes (or at least is based on) a fortune from a fortune cookie. The group met at a Chinese restaurant down the street from the local Borders. I did not keep my fortune, but now I realize that I probably should have. Is there an Internet site that issues fortune cookie messages? I need to find one so I will have an inspiration for a short story. Not that I am committing to write one, mind you, but I am committing to
thinking about it. For me, that is a pretty big step as it relates to short fiction.

So over my conference and vacation week, I will be doing creative work, then I'll have a few weeks at the end of the month to do my academic writing. This is critical to accomplish. I need to get this done, but the calendar is conspiring against me. So, I will take my notebooks and outlines with me on vacation and to the conference, so at least I will get some work done. I am looking forward to it. I will also do some reading. That was the worst part about Na No Wri Mo . . . I had my notebooks with me at all times to do writing, but I read almost nothing. This was not enjoyable. So the lowered daily quota and less manic approach may free up time to do some of that, as well. It is crazy to think that 1,000 words a day for five days a week seems like light, do-able work. It is slightly under half what I proved I could do, so maybe Carolyn See was right about this quota. I resisted quotas most of my life, but now see their value.

Maybe we are all (me) growing up.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Deep Deep Breath
Well, the National Novel Writing Month is done, and I got 50,000 words done. I must admit in all honesty that I did not completely write a novel, although I did write the first 50,000 words of the first draft of a novel. The novel itself when it is completed will probably clock in at about 75,000 words, putting me at about two - thirds finished Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did it, and I am convinced I will knock out this novel (the first draft of it, I mean) very very soon.

My writing plans for December are of an academic nature. I have two papers that have been accepted to conferences in the Spring. The two papers are right now too similar (O K, I admit they are identical) so I need to do some extra work to get two different papers. My plan is to do that research and writing this month, and to get two different (and good) papers ready for those conferences by the end of the year. I have most of the data I need already, so it is just a matter of number-crunching more than actually legwork. So it is a writing job more than a research job, but it counts. I will keep up my regimen of 5 days a week, one thousand words a day of creative work for this blog. I made the commitment, then came this crazy Na No Wri Mo thing, but now that we are back to normal, I am getting back to my commitments. So I am getting back to my blog.

I liked the experience of writing 50 K words in a month. It made me be committed to write EVERY day, something I have never done before. The quota was excruciating, and I would not want to do it again any time real real real soon, but I am convinced that it was good for my writing. And I am psyched to do it again next year. And I will wear my T-shirt with pride! As I expressed in the brief post yesterday, it was an extremely fortuitous set of events, just the right dominoes falling at exactly the right times, that introduced my to Na No Wri Mo. And I am grateful for the kick in the creative pants that I got from doing this.

I will rest in December from creative work per se, and do other projects, as I said above. But I will get back into them in January. My plan now is to get back to Soulmates at the first of the year and finish it, then let it sit and revise my prior novel, then revise Soulmates, then prepare and participate in 2003's Na No Wri Mo. Am I nuts to have the muse planned out so specifically. Probably, but that is a bridge I will either cross or drive off or blow up when I get to it. But I think being organized and planning will work for me.One of the keys to successful planning is to recognize that planning is not a strait jacket but is the guard rails on the side of the highway. They keep you on track, but are not the end all and be all. Good planning includes the recognition that the plan can change. So I submit the above plan (if that is even what that can be called) with the understanding of planning that I above expressed.

Another thing I appreciate about my Na No Wri mo experience is the nice people I my town that I have met. Met in the cyber meaning of the word, that is. There was an in person meeting right before the month started that I could not make, so some of these folks have actually met I R L. But I have just communicated via e-mail with these folks, and it was very pleasant exchanges. I am going to the meeting with these guys tomorrow night, and am looking forward to it. I have never been in a writing group, so maybe this will turn into one. Of course we have no idea where this little group will go and what it will morph into, but the possibilities intrigue me. Whether we end up a critiquing group, an encouragement group, or some other type of group, I am willing and excited to give it the old college try. At this point, we don't even have a set schedule, we do not know how often we will eventually meet or when we will eventually meet or even a final answer as to where we will eventually meet, so it is extremely up in the air as of this writing. I hope that tomorrow's meeting will help us nail down a few of these answers. My impression is that the meeting tomorrow is mostly a social and decompression meeting, which is good. Personalities are an important part of the writing group dynamic, of course they are an important part of any group. So tomorrow's meeting will be important in determining the feel of the group, as well as the specifics and the what, where, and when questions.

That was a long paragraph, but one of the rules of this kind of blogging is that lack of editing. This is about the habit and the practice of getting thoughts done on paper. Writing is rewriting, but you can not rewrite unless something is first written. This is very congruent to the Na No Wri Mo philosophy, with its quantity over quality mantra. So this blog right now is not about grammar and spelling and formatting, but is instead about getting one thousand words on paper. My thoughts about my writing, and writing in general, and other writing topics. At least for the time being. When I am back into a specific writing project of a creative nature, either writing or rewriting, then I will focus on that in this blog. But for now, what you see is what you get.

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Public Thanks to Olga
I sent Olga an email yesterday after finishing my NaNoWriMo novel. I was surfing her site, which by the way is very cool, at the end of October and found her reference to NaNoWriMo. It was based solely on her comments that I found the site, then after finding the site I signed up, then after signing up I started writing, then a month later I finished. Thank you, Olga. Check out her site, it is one of the cooler blogs I've seen.

Have I mentioned I love the internet?

When I get my first book published, she is going in the dedication.