Thursday, October 31, 2013

Long Beach, California, Part 3

After the excitement of the first four days, there really isn't a whole lot to say. For the past two days, I've kind of settled into a routine. Still there are a few highlights:

1. The Long Beach Used Book Store: Woah. That is not the name of it, but I can't remember the actual name. But wowza. What a store. I was there for at least two hours, possibly longer, and I still didn't make it through every shelf. Every book in the store costs $1, and I swear the store was the size of a grocery store, and every nook and cranny is filled in a moderately organized fashion. It was beautiful. The stack of books in my hand grew steadily larger and larger, but I had to thin it out again before I left, because there was no way to get all those books back to Maine. In the end I bought six books...and two of them we already own. (Oops.)

2. Public transportation: It took a little bit of time for me to work up the courage to use the free bus system. But it turned out to be fun. I met several people, including one elderly woman who was bundled up in a coat, gloves and hat, who told me about how there used to be a real roller coaster that went across the street in the spot where the bridge that looks like a roller coaster is now, and how her sister used to use it, though they took it out before this woman was a teenager.

Public transportation opened up my life. I mentioned in my last post that I had hurt my hip. It isn't terrible, but the muscles do seize up after a mile or two of walking, and most of the places I want to go are a ways away. So now, I can take the bus part way or all the way one way-- I still end up walking six or seven miles a day, but I am getting so much more accomplished, and I'm not limping (quite so much) during my evening walks with Roger.

3. The ASDWA convention always tries to have a dinner somewhere cool, and this year, they had dinner at the Aquarium of the Pacific. We were able to tour the whole building after hours, and then had a lovely dinner. It was nice, though the conversation at my table was too filled with words like "parts per billion" and "capacity" for my taste.

4. Yesterday, for example, I finally found the beach. It's a weird thing. No one mentioned it. When I would ask people where the nearest beach was, they would all give me directions to Huntington Beach, or Seal Beach. I was beginning to think that Long Beach, California had no beach. Maybe they named this city Long Beach because they Longed for a beach? But it was right there, about half a mile from the Aquarium, past the marina, and completely unlabeled. I spent the afternoon there yesterday. It is in a deep harbor, plus there is a breakwater, and so the waves were very small. While I was walking through the water, I had one of those rare moments when I feel like the two extremes of my personality meet in the middle and I feel utterly relaxed. The world seems so clear and simple in those moments, and every thought I have seems so profound. Why don't those moments last? Perhaps it takes an ocean.

5. Last night we went back to that Spanish restaurant, this time with most of the people who are here from New England. There was no flamenco dancing this time, which is just as well, because our whole group was utterly focused on the baseball game on the television screen. It was the last game of the world series, and I had a ball. There were no mentions of the EPA or new regulations or parts per billion last night. It was all about the Red Sox, and the final game in the World Series. (We won!)

The man who sat across from me regaled me with stories of growing up in the Bronx and knowing the Yankees players. His sister learned to ride her bike in the halls of a hotel they would stay in, and once she even got to babysit for one of them--an important one, one whose name I even knew, but I can't think of him now. After his stories, I was half a Yankees fan myself. (Shhhh. Don't tell.) Luckily her wasn't the kind of fan who rooted for the Yankees and anyone playing the Red Sox. We were all on the same page with cheering. We weren't in a sports bar, so the restaurant was very patient with our cheering. I think they were bemused by the whole event.

6. Roger mentioned to the woman next to me that I had just published a book, and she promised to buy it, and then she told me about her boss's new book. As she spoke, I realized it was the very same book whose advertisement had caught my attention on my kindle this week. It is the winner of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel General Fiction contest. She said he wrote it on the commuter train into Boston on the way too and from work, and that no one even knew he was a writer until he won this contest. What a small, small world this is. (BTW, the book is called It Happened In Wisconsin. I plan to buy it when I get home.)

7. Finally, I am missing my children, and I won't be sad to get home tomorrow. When I used to go with Roger to an occasional conference, the break seemed absolutely necessary for my health and sanity. But I'm out of that intense parenting phase, and although I'm having a good time, being here doesn't feel critical, and being with my kids does. But I'm glad I came, for two main reasons. First--I got to meet Sabrina, which was so incredible. Second--too often my relationship with my husband is the last thing on our priority list. Although he's been gone a lot, we've still had a lot of time together too. So it is absolutely worth it. (I am still so sad about missing Halloween though).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Long Beach, California, Part 2

1. On Sunday, I took a taxi cab to church. It was only about five miles away, so I was absolutely flabbergasted when the fare came to twenty-five dollars. Holy cats, that's a lot of money. I was busy texting when I first got in the car, so the fare was already up to fifteen dollars when I finally looked up. After I finished coughing and sputtering, I managed to ask how much longer it would be before we got there. We were almost there, he said. Still, those last two miles seemed to last forever as I watched the fare creep steadily higher.

2. The congretation was Spanish speaking. I didn't hear one word of English the entire time. It was awesome. I've often heard people say that you can still feel the Spirit in sacrament meetings, even if you can't understand the language, and it was definitely true for me. It is very comforting to recognize the pattern of the meeting, even if I didn't understand the language. They did a confirmation and (of course) the sacrament. Then they did the children's presentation. In LDS congregations, once a year the children ages 3-12 do a presentation about what they learned that year. They sing songs, give talks, and have speaking parts. So I recognized all the tunes to the songs. And kids are adorable to watch, even if I don't understand the language. I was moved to tears more than once.

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP 3. Luckily I didn't have to take a taxi back to the hotel. Instead (drum roll please) Sabrina West picked me up. Yes, THE Sabrina West, famous author and ornithologist. She picked me up and we went to the Cafe Crema for lunch. I had this amazing panini with roast beef, mozarella and jalepenos. It was, by far, the best food I've eaten for a long time. Then Sabrina took me to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in search of the elusive coastal sage brush. Not just any sage brush. It had to be the exact right kind, because our next book is set in Carlsbad, California, and I need to know what it looks like there. Luckily, Sabrina is an expert. We also saw an incredible variety of birds, and Sabrina knew ALL their names. (I'm hoping she'll send me a list, because, as she knows very well by now, I have a memory like a sieve.) There were terns and pelicans, even a harrier falcon and a several plovers. There were some curlews and merganzers...I know I'm forgetting a bunch, but it was a beautiful place to get to be in as I got to know this woman who has become such an important part of my life. Actually, it didn't feel like I was getting to know her at all. Her personality shines very authentically through the internet, and I feel like I've known her for a long, long time.

4. Did I mention that I got to meet SABRINA WEST? I'm not certain I'm giving this part of my trip the weight that it deserves. We talked plot lines for quite a while. It was a blast.

5. All too soon, our visit ended. I had to be back to the hotel by 5:00 because the board members at Roger's conference were all going to the Queen Mary for dinner. We went, and it was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for us to be aboard the boat. The dinner was good, and the company was wonderful. Roger works with some awesome people. When it was over though, I think we both felt like we'd made a mistake. It was still the Sabbath, after all, and it felt like we'd missed something important.

6. Monday I went to the fitness center, where I must have done something painful to my hip. I spent the rest of the day shopping, which entailed miles and miles of walking, and as I walked, my hip got more and more tender. I tend to ignore stuff like that though, or to attribute it to the aches and pains I wouldn't have if I was in better shape.

I spent way too much money and probably need to return a few things, since I have a very limited amount of luggage space. Afterwards, we went to a reception, and then watched the Red Sox win the fourth game of the world series!!!!!!!! It is so much fun to watch those games on the east coast, because it isn't after midnight when they end. So then Roger wanted to go for a walk, and how could I say no? He'd been at work while I played all day long. Besides, I got to try out my new shawl.

7. We walked to a section of town I hadn't seen yet, and I've GOT to go back there today. It was beautiful, with walking trails and the ocean (but no real beach. Is there a beach in Long Beach?????) And there was a HUGE used book store, and all the books were just a dollar each. I may have to buy some more luggage. :)

But as we walked, I became more and more aware that this pain in my hip wasn't just some phantom ache from exercising more than usual. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was limping pretty badly. I took some aleve and went straight to bed, where I tossed and turned and finally got back up. I got in the bathtub and put the hottest water I could stand in, and it helped to relax my muscles, and made me very sleepy, so I was able to get some rest, even though my hip was still sore.

I'm about to go sit in the hot tub for a while, and then I'm going to go ask for some ice. I'm hoping to get in a lot of fun stuff today, but I might have to explore the wonderful world of public transportation instead of trying to walk everywhere today.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Long Beach, California Part One

I am with Roger at a conference in Long Beach, California. On the one hand, I've been looking forward to this trip for a long time, but it was also really hard to leave my kids. I see this world through their eyes, not mine, as a quick glance through the pictures on my camera attest. Why else would I have taken picture after picture of billboards? But I am glad I came. My relationship with my husband is nearly always the relationship that I let slip when life gets crazy, and I'm so glad I've had this time with him.

We've been here since Thursday, and here is a quick run-down of some of my memories.

1. Motorcycles on the freeway. Sabrina tells me what they are doing is perfectly legal, but that has got to be the scariest thing I have ever seen. Sheesh.

2. Billboards. There are very few billboards in Maine--I'd like to say none, but I might be wrong. I'm pretty sure they are illegal though, because if you are looking at a billboard, you might not notice one or two of the trees, and wouldn't that be a tragedy?? There are plenty of billboards in Utah though, and many of them shock the socks off of me. I haven't seen many pictures of bikini-clad women here, which is a lovely thing. Instead, I see billboard after billboard advertising movies! And TV shows. It is so cool. Ender's Game! Catching Fire! Once Upon A Time In Wonderland!

3. We went to the LA temple on Friday. It is huge! I haven't been to the temple since May, and such a feeling of peace overcame me as we drove onto the temple grounds. The funny thing is that it is on Santa Monica Boulevard. The only things I know about Santa Monica Boulevard come from that song, and they are not at all pleasant. Such a contrast. Afterward, we drove down to Rodeo Drive. Even though I hate to shop, I got filled with adrenaline just driving past all those incredible stores. I can't imagine what it would be like for someone who is addicted to it.

4. The next day we drove back to Santa Monica and went to the pier, which is a little like a carnival. The most memorable thing that happened there was that we watched the fishermen. One of the cormorants ate the bait from a fishing pole, and the fisherman had to drag it through the water, and then pull it up onto the pier. It was awful! He didn't seem phased by it though. He grabbed the bird by the head and gently tugged the hook out, and then let the bird go free.

5. It was pretty cold that day. We decided against getting into our swim suits, and instead walked along the beach for a long, long time. I should have known that eventually I wouldn't be able to stop myself from getting in the water, and as we walked I slowly got deeper and deeper until by the time we returned my pants were soaked. They also got a rip in them, dangit, I am hard on pants.

6. That evening we went to a restaurant with the ASDWA board members. It was a Spanish restaurant, and I had the paella. The amusing thing is that it was decorated for Halloween, and the waiters and waitresses were dressed up for Halloween, but it was such an eccentric little restaurant anyway that I didn't notice. I thought the scary looking monster over our heads was just part of the decor. Finally I noticed a waiter in a pumpkin suit, and it all came clear. I spent the rest of the evening readjusting my impressions of the whole restaurant. It was a noisy place, especially when the flamenco show started, but it was a lot of fun. Between the show and the TV with the Red Sox game going, I never ran out of things to be interested in.

7. I forgot to mention that Albertsons's sells our favorite kind of taffy--the kind we can usually only find when we go on vacation to Utah! My kids will be SO excited.

8. Also, that night I lost my phone somewhere. I keep hoping it will turn up. I'm going to call the restaurant today. But yesterday I had to walk to Walmart and buy myself a cheap phone, just to tide me over.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Editing Two Books Back To Back

Next week, I will officially be a published author. Alchemy comes out on October 11!

Today I have been up to my eyebrows in edits for another book that I hope to publish in January (Hidden Magic. SO EXCITING.)

It's crazy, but I feel like I've forgotten how to live my life.
I used to be so much better at balance than I am these days, and yet I was never really very good.

 Next week I'll be starting to write the sequel to Alchemy, and I hope it is the only writing project I'll have for a while. I've got marketing and formatting and blog posts to write, but I've also got rooms to clean and children to enjoy and meals to prepare and gardens to get ready for winter, and garages to clean and the inside of a windshield I've needed to clean since LAST WINTER, but I only ever think of it when I'm driving and the sun shines just right and nearly blinds me.

I know this post feels like one great big run-on sentence, but it's a metaphor, see? For the editing process, which you should never do with two books back to back. That's a sure-fire recipe for insanity. Hopefully temporary insanity, because I'm almost done. Wish me luck! And forgive me for this bizarre post. Next month will be much better. Oh wait. That's Nanowrimo. Oh no...