Fantasy Train Rides and Reading Nonfiction

Today I feel like a fussy child.

I am exhausted and cranky, and I could burst into tears at any given moment.

I spent my workday pretending I was elsewhere, alternating between my Darjeeling Limited fantasy (a current favorite) -- where I'm taking a long train ride across India, stopping for spice markets and desert shrines and marigold chains -- and my home fantasy, where I'm wrapped in a cozy blanket with a cup of jasmine pearl tea, and I'm just . . . closing my eyes.

Just for a minute. Or two.

But then I'd be interrupted by some library patron asking where are the badminton books and my daughter needs to learn the Nicaraguan national anthem and will you please show me how to move all of these pictures of battleships onto my flash drive?

I mean . . . HONESTLY.

It's like they think I'm sitting behind the circulation desk to help them. HA!

(Wait. That IS why I'm there? NO! Oh, man. This is really going to cut into my daydreaming time.)

So you know the story. I'm deep in late night revisions again, but -- they're going really well right now! And I confess: I'm in love. I want to give my novel a naughty back rub and bathe it in goat milk. I want to take it on a gondola ride, sing Shakespearean sonnets to it in falsetto, and propose to it with a scandalously large pink diamond.

It's just that other job that's suffering. You know. The one that pays.

But I'm enjoying restructuring the confusing bits, expanding the happy bits, and axing the lame bits. (WRITING TIP: If you have to ask, "Is that line cheesy?" then the answer is most assuredly yes. Delete the sucker.) My characters -- who I LOVE, who I MISSED -- are strutting and chatting and lounging around in my mind's front display window again.


My body still needs some time to adjust to the whole sleep-deprivation thing. This past week it's given me all sorts of strange fits and stops and wails of agony. ("Nooooo! Please tell me we're not doing this again!")

Sorry, body. We totally are.

And my sweet husband is taking even more of the brunt. Once again, Jarrod has become the Head Cook, Head Cleaner, Head Launderer, and Head Dog-Walker. He is also the Head Mocha Latte-maker.

The suit doesn't lie.

Making mocha lattes is Jarrod's most important job. Because without my nightly fix, my brain shrinks into a crusty hard rock and hangs up a sign that says, "Closed. Wake me when you decide to go to the movies. That Waltz With Bashir looks pretty sweet."

(And yes. Mocha lattes! The way I see it, if I'm going to drink coffee, it might as well taste like dessert.)

So, once again, I've given up my favorite things to make room for writing. Friends, films, television, and yes . . . novels. Of course, that doesn't mean I'm not reading anything.

I'm reading nonfiction!

Fascinating stuff, but it won't keep me glued to the page in a what's-going-to-happen-next panic, the way a novel would. ("OH MY GOD! I THINK THAT HITLER GUY IS ABOUT TO START A WAR!!!")

I've got two great ones on my nightstand: Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin and Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman.

Eat Me is the strangest cookbook I've ever read, made all the stranger by the fact that it's the ONLY cookbook I've ever read cover-to-cover! If you aren't familiar with him, Shopsin is a NYC restaurant owner famous for being difficult and curmudgeonly. Every day, he kicks out customers from his shop, and he has very strict rules (no parties greater than four, one meal per person minimum) that must be obeyed.

He also has a nine hundred item long menu. Nine HUNDRED!

The book is smart. Hilarious. And incredibly profane. There were soooo many parts I wish I could share with you -- lines that made me burst out laughing -- but, alas, I try to keep things clean-ish here. But you can still get the idea from this:

"Anybody who is tempted to question my use of frozen pancake batter might want to stop and think about what pancakes really are. They are flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. They're crap. As far as food value, you might as well take Crisco, whip it up with powdered sugar, and spread it on your face."

(There's also a documentary about him!)

I loved learning how he taught himself to cook, how his restaurant began, and how he deconstructs classic dishes to turn them into something that makes HIM happy.

There are also lots of weird pictures of stuff he bought on eBay.

And, of course, the recipes. Great recipes. If you consider yourself a foodie -- and if you aren't offended by obscenities -- then this is required reading.

Prince of Stories is one I've been browsing. Very cool, but for hardcore Gaiman fans only. It's a nice (and HUGE) breakdown of his work, and it's stuffed with interesting quotes and interviews, not only with him but also with his frequent collaborators, like Dave McKean and Charles Vess.

Neil Gaiman, by the way, JUST WON THE FREAKING NEWBERY!


This is the sort of news that restores my faith in humanity. The Graveyard Book is brilliant -- basically it's The Jungle Book set in a graveyard -- and it was one of my favorites last year. Which you probably already know, because I talk about it a lot. Which you would definitely know if I had posted my Best Books of 2008 list.

(Which I will! Soon-ish!)

Neil is so talented that I want to climb inside his books and snack on his delicious, crunchy little words. And The Graveyard Book is clever and funny and beautiful and creepy -- the rare kind of story that's enjoyed equally by children and adults. If you've never read him, now is a good time to start.

Incidentally, now is also a good time for bed, and for another train ride through India.

I'll meet you by the spice merchant's stall. I'm the one with the orange shoes.


  1. I'd love a train ride through India, but watch out for the Delhi belly.

    The Graveyard Book is on my TBR list. I'm reading Coraline now.

  2. Your post cracked me up (as usual)!

    I've had a hard time adjusting to the all-work-and-no-play mentality too (fortunately, I haven't cracked under the pressure...yet). I used to have time for lunch dates, and leisurely trips through Target, and, you know, showers. Now I sit in my robe and write, and edit, and remember makeup and hairdryers, and when we had food in the refrigerator. Ah, those were the days!

    Now, I'm just livin' the dream, baby. Livin' the dream....

  3. I hope your train ride was lovely. I usually go to my beautiful, modest home, complete with an office. WITH LOCKS ON THE DOOR.

    Jarrod is awesome. What a great husband! I've just finished my first edit and realized how horrifically far behind on cleaning I've gotten.

    Umm, can I join you on the train? I'd really rather not clean the sink.

  4. I loved so many things about this post that there are too many to list. But just know that you rock!

  5. In my small little world of laptop, tea cup, the Wiki and my thesaurus, the man of my life wear's a crown of thornless, apricot roses and rides a back horse in full battler gear. He vanquishes interruptions, organizes castle jesters to entertain the kids, stops the mail, and mutes the phone. Seriously. I sometimes wonder how we'd do it without them.

  6. Oh my. I must read Kenny Shopsin's book.

    And enjoy your train ride through India. Can't wait to join you . . . someday . . . when I READ YOUR BOOK!!
    Can't wait.

  7. First of all, don't those library patrons know about GOOGLE???? I mean, if you needed to find the Nicaraguan national anthem, would you go to a library in North Carolina, or would you google it? I'm just saying. (Not that your library doesn't have the information, but really.)

    Train rides in India: yes. I love train rides. Looking at the window, writing in a journal, trying the doors shut with a belt so an Italian sneak thief can't get in in the night to pillage all the sleeping people's luggage. Sigh. (Once, on a train to Venice, I woke to such a thief reaching through the belted-shut crack in the door to try to steal, and he ran away but I just went back to sleep, and the next day I met people who'd been robbed. I felt really guilty, like maybe if I'd screamed and woken the whole train he wouldn't have gotten away with it.)

    SO glad you're loving revisions. I feel the same way. Revisions are dessert after a long and difficult meal of. . . not-totally-edible things you might find on one of those food channel adventures in 3rd world country shows. You know?

    I have Prince of Stories on hold at the library; the Kenny Shopsin book sounds awesome. I know a couple foodies who might enjoy it:-)

    Get some sleep!

  8. You know what I love most about this post AND the comments? The fact that there are tales of men supporting their amazing writers to get their books written. It should surprise me, it should be just how things roll. But mostly it isn't and I'm just so happy that sometimes it is.

    When I need a break from my day job I take a moment to enjoy my fantasy life as the woman who made the banjo cool again. Wait, was it ever cool before? Maybe I'm the woman who made the banjo cool?

  9. Eat Me sounds fabulous. I'm putting it on hold, stat! And I'm absolutely dying to get my hands on The Graveyard Book. I might have to make an exception and actually buy it. Yay for Neil!