What Happened When The Kaspersen Brothers Met Myrna McGee

My approach to National Novel Writing Month consists of five main components: 1. A catchy title (see above).  2. An enticing synopsis (see below) which gives me a plot arc to follow but plenty of leeway to veer (way) off track as necessary.  3. My NaNo coffee mug.  4. My Safeway-brand NaNo peppermint white chocolate coffee creamer.  And 5. My “Write On” t-shirt, which was gifted to me by my very best friend, himself a writer, on the eve of my first NaNo and which, when all else fails to inspire, can crank up my word count like nobody’s business.

This year’s story, as you will see, is about Hawaii.  More specifically, about a tourist’s-eye-view of Waikiki from the cheesy (and ever-so-awesome) Food Court Oasis that is the International Marketplace, where my cousin and I once decided would be a perfect place to open a wedding planning business.  Everything you’d ever need for a wedding — leis, muumuus, gift items, cheap local food, heck, even Live Entertainment — is available on-site, all under one banyan tree.  I don’t plan to examine authentic Hawaiian culture, naturally, but rather to use Hawaii, the Tourist’s Paradise, as a setting for a story about family, friendship, and getting a hold of yourself.

In years past, I have blogged my novel as I’ve written it, allowing a rollicking, day-by-day glimpse into my Creative Process and spamming Facebook with almost daily updates, no matter how horrifying.  Last year, though, I had to quit publicizing my output about halfway through, the better to allow myself to smear the page with the disaster that became necessary to drag my story across quite a few rough plot holes to stick a satisfying ending.  I started with a strong idea and some delightful characters, and who knows?  Properly edited, something could yet come of it.  But mostly it served as a reminder to me that the whole point of the exercise is to take loads of time off work, sit down, and make it happen, for better or for worse.  I might post excerpts this year; I might tweet funny quotes or particularly embarrassing dialogue; I might write the entire Masterpiece in secret.  But write it, I shall, and if you want to be super proud of yourself in thirty days, and maybe get out of doing the dishes in the interim, I’d encourage you to join me.  It’s hard, it’s exhausting, and it’s more fun than I know how to have with a cup of coffee in one hand without spilling it.  I’m born again as an artist every November; can your favorite Safeway-brand product promise that?

About this year’s novel:

When a long-forgotten uncle of her long-dead first husband shuffles off this mortal coil, Myrna McGee inherits a Waikiki condo and a stall at Honolulu’s International Marketplace, and along with them a ticket out of Saskatoon and a crack at a fresh start. With help from capricious local cutie Lio, she runs the Wiki Wiki Wedding Chapel and Hawaiian Honeymoon Clearing House, which quickly becomes a favorite fixture of the giant tourist trap. When the three Kaspersen brothers and their B-Movie Mom find themselves with a gay wedding to plan, Myrna and Lio sign on to deliver the perfect party on the cheap. But when opposition arises from an unexpected corner, the wedding is the least of the things they’re called on to try and save.

We start tomorrow!  Sign up at nanowrimo.org

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You Should Write a Book

One thing I like about my job (and you knew there had to be something): it’s a big hit at parties.  You tell people you’re a writer, and they look at you like, Yeah, right.  “I’ve never heard of you,” they seem to say, “and you’re obviously not a millionaire, so you must not be a very good one.  I have to… turn this way now.”  In other words, as Geena Davis said of Lori Petty in A League of Their Own, go pull someone else’s leg; mine are long enough already.  But people perk right up when they get a hold of a flight attendant in a social situation.  Some people say, “Oh, I always wanted to do that,” and others say, “Yikes, I could never do that.”  But everybody’s got an idea about what this job is like — some more realistic than others — and everybody’s got an opinion.

The first order of business (alas) is usually to hold the flight attendant personally accountable for one’s last airline-related travel debacle.  (I especially love when people carry on about the absurdity of their latest mechanical delay.  Cuz they’d presumably rather fly on an airline that doesn’t fix their airplanes when they break?)  And then come the questions: “Why are flight attendants so old?”  (Cuz they’ve been doing it a long time.)  “Why are flight attendants so cranky?”  (Probably cuz people are always asking them “Why are you so old?”.)  “What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on a flight?”  And that’s the fun one.  Partly because the answer is always refreshing itself.  Only one thing?  How do I choose?  Continue reading

City Code Snapshot: IAH

I haven’t featured a City Code Snapshot in a while.  What little flying I have been doing of late has been of the straight-to-the-hotel-straight-to-bed-straight-back-to-the-airport variety, which is generally pretty efficient, and helps me maximize my time at home, but offers precious few snaps worth shooting — how many Airport Marriott rooms are you really hoping to see?  (If you’re like me: not that many.)  Our Houston layover actually falls into this same category, with the added Boredom Bonus that the hotel is attached to the airport — we don’t even get to stand around and complain about Where’s the Van? for ten minutes, which is usually quite a popular layover activity.  Especially late at night.  Especially when there’s snow.  Here we just walk from the plane to our room and back again, fingers fervently crossed that there will be time on one end or the other to stop and grab some Popeye’s.  (Note to America’s airports: you wanna start winning awards, travel magazine reader’s polls, and acclaim on misterstewardess.com?  Get you a Popeye’s.)

Everything’s Big in Texas (Hey, Boys), and Houston — the fourth largest city in America, behind only New York, L.A., and Chicago — is no exception.  They have a Ballet.  They have a Fine Art Museum.  They have a house sided with beer cans.  We get to see none of these things, because they also have two airports, and we stay at the giant one, way out close to nothing.  But what we do get to see, besides runaway electric carts, cute boys at the E Gates Starbucks, and the occasional Emirates A380, is this giant cow in a cow-patterned space suit planting a Texas flag on the moon.  Conceptually, there’s kind of a lot going on here, what with Houston’s connection to the space program, and cows jumping over the moon, and if there’s a companion sculpture of a dish running away with a wooden chili spoon, it hasn’t been installed yet, but I still feel like this cow deserves her moment in the spotlight.  I work for a conservative, business-oriented airline, where touches of whimsy are few and long-and-lonesome-Texas-highway far between, and I’m a sucker for a good non sequitur.  For all that I love to complain about airport layovers and painstakingly enumerate the reasons I’d rather go downtown, if you’re gonna give me Popeye’s chicken, hot guys pouring coffee, and zany public art?  Houston, we got no problem.

Closets are for Clothes

Today is National Coming Out Day.  One of my favorite holidays on the Queer Calendar, although I traditionally celebrate it from the sidelines.  At 40, I’ve been out of the closet for more years than I was in it, and the door on my closet hung half-open all askew on its hinges at its most secure.  I was Raggedy Ann for Halloween when I was in Preschool, for heaven’s sake — I never got to surprise anybody!  Starting on the literal very first day of high school, I was bullied for being a big fag — physically never, verbally every single day, and mostly by guys who grew up to be big fags — until I had the sense to transfer to a public school.  I told almost no one there that I was “gay,” although I would wax like a drooling idiot with cartoon hearts for eyeballs about the boys I had crushes on to anybody who would listen (or to passersby, whether they listened or not).  When I was 19, out to dinner with my parents and my sister, my mom turned to me over chips and salsa and said, “So, you’re gay, right?”  I confirmed that I was.  My dad asked if I was safe — this was 1991, mind you, when we still kind of thought that gay sex was a short, slippery slope from a bed to a coffin — and I confirmed that I was that, too.  The food came, we ate it, and poof, I was Out. Continue reading

My First Novel

Not, of course, to be confused with my debut novel (which comes out next month), I cranked out the launching pad for my eventual literary career in 1987, when I was a freshman in high school.  Banged painstakingly out (I still can’t type with more than three fingers) on the dernier cri electric typewriter for which I begged when I graduated from the eight grade, “M.J. Horne’s” Bermuda Triangle predates my first National Novel Writing Month by nearly 20 years, and thus must be counted as my “first novel.”  You know, to the extent that 33 numbered-in-pencil pages can be considered a novel. 

My original plan, for scrapping which you can thank me later, was to publish my Masterpiece in its entirety here.  Like in a series, ramping up to Kiss Me, Straight‘s release, portrait of the artist as a young man, that sort of thing.  Continue reading