Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Running Late

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to hit deadlines, even really short ones. But lately I’ve been slipping a bit. This past year, I’ve had to scramble a lot more to hit deadlines. I know it’s a combination of things, particularly my daughter and the full-time job, leaving me with a lot less free time. I’ve also been a lot more tired at night, since I spend all day working in an office (which really does seem to be more grueling than working at home where I can take breaks if I want to) and then try to keep up with a toddler in the evenings. And, since I have to be at work by 9, which means leaving the house at 8, I can’t stay up until 1 or 2 the way I used to, either.
Last night was a perfect case in point, where I found out the dangers of our recent furniture shuffle. I went upstairs to do some work at around 9:20, worked for maybe an hour, but found my eyelids drooping. Realizing I wasn’t going to get much more writing done while that was happening, I figured I’d take a break for a few minutes. So I got up from my desk and sat down on the futon, now conveniently located in my office just feet away. Next thing I know, it’s midnight. I had fallen asleep on the futon for over an hour! I felt really stupid, esp. since I was still tired enough that I knew I should just go to bed for real.
I know I can still do the work—that’s not a problem. And neither is my writing speed—if the past few weeks are any indication, I’ve actually gotten even faster, and I was already a bit scary at the keyboard. It’s just finding the time to sit down that’s harder.
It’s a tradeoff, of course. I’m thrilled to spend time with my daughter whenever possible, and with my wife as well. And I’m happy with my job. And I am still getting my projects done. I’m just pushing the deadlines a lot more, and occasionally having to ask for short extensions, and that I’m not happy about. It just feels like I’ve fallen off my freelance game a little, and I’m not sure I can fix that. The funny thing is, I can still manage rush projects just fine, because I get all fired up and just sit down and do them. It’s the longer ones, that have more lead time, that are proving harder to schedule.
Not that I’m going to scale back, by any means. I’m actually hunting around for more late-year projects right now, actually. I just need to be more careful with my time, I think, and I need to be sure I’m using my writing hours as efficiently as possible.

Monday, January 24, 2005


Friday, my friend Jeremy came up to visit, which was very cool—he’s never been up here before, and it was great to see him and great to show him around New York a little. We didn’t have anywhere near as much time as I’d have liked, but he felt the same way and assures me that he’ll be back. He’d better.
He showed up Friday, and he and I and Lois went out to lunch. Then they came back and I gave them an office tour and introduced them to a few people. My dad showed up during that as well. The three of them went over to MOMA while I did some work. Then they came back and we went home. My dad headed out, and the rest of us rolled up characters for Wassail the next day.
I should explain Wassail (which we often say like those obnoxious "Whassup?!" commercials from a few years back). It’s a heated alcoholic drink, basically, made with rum and apple cider and cloved oranges and other spices. Five years ago we were playing Amber and decided that it would be fun to have a day-long banquet/gaming session. So we made Wassail and turkey and lots of other food, and had a great time. It’s been a tradition ever since. And this year we timed it to coincide with Jeremy’s visit, so that he’d get to hang out with some of our other friends as well.
But this year we’re in between games. So we needed something to play. I bullied Lois shamelessly until she agreed to run D&D, but then we all agreed that it had to be cheese-monkey-style, with high-level characters. And then we got the bright idea of making it anime-style. So my wife and Jeremy and Lois and I had dinner Friday night and built characters for everyone.
Saturday the gang started showing up around 2. The turkey was ready at 3. Of course, it had started snowing at around 11. A few of our friends chickened out (and I don’t blame them, especially the one friend who would have been driving from NJ), but we still had seven of us, which was cool. We ate a LOT (turkey, stuffing, salad, cannolis, and pies), drank a lot of Wassail, and played a very, very silly game (complete with requisite silly Anime-dubbed voices). And admired all the snow.
Peter had to leave at 7 to go to another event. The rest decided at around 11 that leaving wasn’t a good idea anymore, given the foot or more of snow outside. So we put everyone else up for the night.
It was really really nice, finally having a place where we could seat seven around the dinner table comfortably, and where we could put five of our friends up for the night.
We played until about 1am, then sorted out sleeping arrangements. Everyone got up at around 9 or so, and we hung out a bit more and ate a bit more. People started wandering out at around noon, including Jeremy, who spent the day in Manhattan with Lois. My wife and I stayed home with our daughter, did dishes, straightened up, and took a much-needed nap.
We had a great time. I’d definitely call this one of our better Wassails. And it was a great way to further break in the house and the furniture. Now, after New Year’s and Wassail, it really feels like our home.

The Longest Couch Trip Ever

Sorry I haven’t posted in a bit. Here’s why:
My dad came up on Saturday the 15th. He visited with us for a day, and then he and I drove a rented minivan down to NC on Sunday. Our plan was: get there Sunday evening, pack up all my books and comics and papers (basically everything I still had in the house in Greenville), load it all into the van along with a couch and a table, and then drive back up Wednesday.
No problem, right? Well, almost.
The drive down actually went perfectly, which should have been our first warning. It normally takes about nine hours, and we managed in just over eight. Had dinner with some of my dad’s friends, and then went to the house. Which, thanks to a temperature change a few weeks ago and the fact that all the windows and shades have been closed for months, was filled with mold. Lovely. We spent Sunday night cleaning and surveying, and getting things moved about in my room so I could reach the wall of books and comics. It was a question as to whether the couch would fit in the van at all.
Monday we took the day off and drove up to Chapel Hill to see my youngest sister. That was great—she had just gotten back a few days before from her trip to Israel, and we got to see all the pictures and hear all about it. I’m so jealous—apparently this trip existed when I was her age, but I had no idea. We came back and had dinner with a few more of my dad’s friends, which was nice. Then I started boxing things up.
Now, while visiting my sister my dad had made a fatal mistake. He pointed out to her that, considering the house had been basically unoccupied for two years, it was really doing surprisingly well. No major problems, no appliance failures, nothing. You can see where this is going, right?
So it’s 1am on Monday/Tuesday. I’m going to bed. Dad’s just taken a shower, but the water’s gone from hot to warm halfway through. He figures he’d better check the hot-water heater in case the pilot light’s gone out. Five minutes later he yells up that I’d better get dressed and come down. I find him standing near said heater. And my shoes squelch as I walk over. Because the floor is sopping wet.
Yep. Dead hot-water heater. Very dead.
And here’s the problem. The hot-water heater was installed in a small room in the house’s garage. But when my parents bought the house they decided they didn’t need a garage as much as they needed—a library. So they bricked it in, carpeted it, and installed bookcases everywhere. And since then the aisles in between have also been filled. By boxes. Of records and books.
So my dad and I spent the next three hours moving boxes out of the way, emptying soaked boxes, wiping off soaked records and books, and spreading them all over the kitchen, living room, and family room. We finally got to bed around 4:30.
At 8:30 the plumber showed up with a new hot-water heater. And right behind him were the maids Dad had called the other day to clean out the kitchen and bathroom (which they couldn’t do because there was no hot water), and the carpet cleaner guys to clean out the library carpet. I’m glad they were all able to come out so early, but at the same time, operating on four hours of sleep (and no shower, obviously) was not so good.
Spent the morning dealing with all that, and the afternoon packing. Turns out I have a lot more comics and books there than I realized. Forty-five boxes worth, to be precise. And that’s not counting all the ones I culled. Oy.
Had dinner with some more family friends that night—we went to a fun cafeteria-style barbeque place, which was quite good. Then went back and I finished packing.
The next morning we got up and got ready to go. The carpet cleaner guys were nice enough to carry out the couch and the table for us, and the couch really did fit—but once both of those were in, we didn’t have much space left for boxes. We only got about fifteen of the forty-five. But at least the rest are all packed and ready to go, so it’ll be easier to get them next time.
Then we started driving. We left at 11am. Should be a nine-hour drive, which means getting back home at 8pm. Instead we got home at 11pm. Why? Several reasons. First, the snowstorm we hit in upper NC and Virginia. Visibility was a few hundred feet at best—we were both staring out the front, searching for cars in front of us. Then, where 295 merges back to 95 outside Richmond, we hit an accident. A tractor-trailer had broken down, apparently, and was covering all three lanes. Traffic was backed up for FIVE MILES! We managed to turn off and take 1 North, which is slow and has traffic lights but got us past the accident. That delayed us enough, however, that we hit D.C. and Baltimore just in time for the middle of evening rush hour. And, although the snow shower itself was over, there was snow and slush everywhere, being kicked up by all the vehicles, so our visibility was as bad as or worse than it had been during the actual storm. Truly a lovely day.
We finally got home and collapsed. Oh yes, I’d also gotten a cold Wednesday, from the combination of cold temperatures, mold, and dust. Made the drive that much more exciting, let me tell you.
Thursday I dragged myself to work despite my cold. And that night Mook came out and helped me carry the futon upstairs to my office—we wound up having to go around the house with it, because it was just a hair too wide to fit up the basement stairs, and almost didn’t fit up the second-floor stairs either—the table into the dining room, and the couch into the basement. We also pulled the boxes out of the van and put them in the garage, and put the seats back into the van (we’d pulled the back rows out before we’d left, to give us more room). Then we went out for dinner, and then went grocery shopping. Then back home to collapse again.
That was the end of the trip, but not the end of the long week. More on the rest of it later. The trip actually wasn’t that bad—I got to spend time with my dad and my sister, see several family friends, pack up my room, sort through my things, and get a couch and a table for the house. It was just really long, particularly from Monday night to Wednesday night. We were very glad we’d rented a brand new minivan, though. We’d thought about simply driving my dad’s van back up instead, and that thing doesn’t have working windshield washers—without that, the front windshield would have been completely obscured by grit and mush in minutes, and we’d have had to give up and pull over for at least a night before trying again.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

And the Cycle Begins Anew

It’s 2005. Man, it felt like 2004 went by fast! Especially the latter half.
I hope everyone had a great New Year. We had a nice time—we invited some friends over and had a low-key evening chatting, hanging out, eating, drinking, and turning on the TV just long enough to watch the ball drop. It was fun.
It was also nice to have a few days off from work, especially since several days were really mild and we took my daughter to the nearby playground (she loves the slide and the swings). And of course seeing my dad, my youngest sister, my cousin and his family, and one of my oldest friends and his wife during the last week of the year was a great way to end things out.
I’ve never been much for New Year’s resolutions. I do like to set goals for myself, though—some very do-able, others a bit challenging, and some that are utterly blue-sky.
I also often do a recap at the end of the year or start of the next one, summarizing events for friends and family. I thought about doing that this year, but realized that I did that for my birthday in October, and only a few things have changed since then.
Instead, I saw this on a friend’s blog, and it amused me enough to lift. Hope you don’t mind, G.

1. What did you do in 2004 that you'd never done before?
I got a full-time job and I bought a house. I also signed a contract for my first full-length novel.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
See above—the question for me is whether I met my goals or not. I met some of them, but not others. I'm pleased with what I got done last year, overall.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Several people, yes, including my sister-in-law.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
My mother, and we all miss her constantly.

5. What countries did you visit?
Alas, not a one. 2004 was not a good travel year for me.

6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004?
More money would be helpful, certainly. I seem to find myself in a career, which is something I haven’t had before, so that should be interesting. A bigger TV? I’m not sure.

7. What dates from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
February 28—the day my mother died (or at least the day we all found out).
September 6—the day we signed on our house.
November 6—the day we closed on the house.
November 13—the day we moved into our house.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See #1—it’s a toss-up between getting a real job, signing a novel contract, and buying a house. Probably the house, though.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not getting a new Clockworks book out—the first year that’s happened.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing major, just a cold or two.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our first home.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My daughter, for being so cheerful. Most people say that babies are cranky a lot, but she is usually all smiles and giggles.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Things among my immediate family were a bit strained in March and over the summer, for obvious reasons. I think we’ve gotten past that now, though. I hope so.

14. Where did most of your money go?
The house. And my daughter, who eats like I do.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
My friends and family are probably shaking their heads right now, thinking “when does he get really excited about anything?” Okay, so I’m low-key. I was thrilled about the novel, and about the house. And about both baby-namings—our cousin’s and our daughter’s—because we got to see a lot of our relatives and for happy reasons.

16. What song will always remind you of 2004?
“Our House,” maybe. Or "My Father's Chair," by Rick Springfield--it's a beautiful, haunting song.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Not sure, really
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner, much to my wife's chagrin
c) richer or poorer? Poorer, but I own real estate!

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Spending time with my mom. Spending time with my wife and daughter. Hanging out with friends.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Putting off starting projects until I had to scramble to finish on time. Getting stressed about money. Arguing with my wife, or my sister.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Visiting my wife’s family in NJ.

21. Did you fall in love in 2004?
No, that happened ten years ago.

22. How many one-night stands?
Continuing my record of “not a one.”

23. What was your favorite TV program?
That’s a toss-up between Carnivale, Deadwood, and Lost.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
There are very few people who have earned my hatred—and they have certainly earned it forever. Do I dislike anyone now that I either liked or didn’t know last year? Yes—my former landlady.

25. What was the best book you read?
Read? Who had time to read last year?
Seriously, I only got to read a few books in 2004. I know I read at least one new F. Paul Wilson novel, and tons of books at work of course, but I can’t remember what else.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

27. What did you want and get?
A house. A novel. A bunch of cool DVDs.

28. What did you want and not get?
Want, hope for, and not get? Not much—okay, a comic book deal, but that looks like it’s fallen through. Want but not really expect to get? A G5, a plasma-screen, a new sword.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?
Spider-Man 2, probably. Actually, it’s one of the only ones I saw this year—or was that the year before?

30. What did you do on your birthday?
Nothing, actually. I kept meaning to do something after the fact, but didn’t get the chance, and my daughter’s was the week before mine so we were busy celebrating hers.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having my mom still here.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004?
Again everyone is shaking their heads. What, jeans and a T-shirt aren’t a fashion concept? College Student? But I don’t get to wear T-shirts much any more—really I’m stuck in Business Casual now.

33. What kept you sane?
My daughter. No matter how rotten my day has been, coming home and seeing her smiling at me brightens me up. My wife and friends do, as well.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
? No idea. I don’t remember fancying any of them, much.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
None—I avoid that stuff like the plague. Bad for the health.

36. Who did you miss?
My family and my best friend—even though I got to see them a few times, it wasn’t often enough to suit me. And yes, my mom tops the list.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
My co-worker Steve. Good guy, and together we’re the office vaudeville team from hell. Thanks very much, try the veal.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004:
Useless to me now, but: if you’re thinking of ever buying a house, do so as soon as you can. Every month you pay rent instead is a mistake.
Also: tell your loved ones that you love them. Don’t wait. You may not get another chance.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up the year:
That requires me to know song lyrics, which my wife will testify I don’t.

Well, I hope that amused everyone, and gave you an idea of what the year was like for us. Here’s hoping that 2005 is a happy and healthy year for all of us, and that we all get what we want but don’t let it go to our heads (or our thighs).