26 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 26

It's Day 26 of NaNoWriMo, and last night a little after 10:00 I hit my 50,000 word mark, which means I WON.

The story is far from over, though. I'm more than halfway done, and I expect to top out at about 80,000 words. The second half is coming together less organically than the first half, but that's often the case for me. I think it'll pick up steam and get stronger as it goes. And revising will be fun.

My goal is to hit The End by December 15. That will give me a few extra days, since work gets crazy for me around Thanksgiving. But if I keep up writing 2,000 words a day I will hit the end before I know it!

The last time I tried NaNo was 2009 - five years ago! I've developed a lot more discipline since then, if nothing else. I like to think I've become a better writer, too. But more than anything, learning to let go of perfection and just write has been the biggest gift that NaNoWriMo has given me. It doesn't have to be brilliant yet - it just has to be on the page.

I am looking forward to finishing and seeing where this story goes.

25 November 2014

Borderline by Allan Stratton

I really wanted to love BORDERLINE. I really did. A high-concept thriller about the intersection of national security and civil rights, a look at the stigmatization of people of Middle-Eastern extraction who follow Islamic beliefs, all told through the eyes of a teenaged Persian boy? This sounded like an amazing novel to me.

And in some ways, it was. The thriller part of the story captivated me. It was intricately plotted, kept me guessing, had me on the edge of my seat in several places. That part of the novel succeeded.

But the part that was most important to me fell flat. As the son of an Iranian father, I hoped to see myself reflected back, at least a little bit. And there was nothing. It felt like Sami could have been any "brown person."

Maybe my own experiences are atypical. Maybe my large extended Persian family - and the even larger circle of friends - is outside the norm. But I don't think so. There was nothing in BORDERLINE that I could identify with. Nothing that said Ah ha! That's me, too! And that was immensely disappointing.

Actually, that's not true. There was one point I wholeheartedly understood, and that's when Sami talked about how hard it was to fit in, how he changed his name to assimilate with his friends better. That, at least, was familiar. As a child I wished I fit in better, too. But it never occurred to me to go by my middle name.

I was a stubborn child.

It's hard to put into words what was missing. None of Sami's relatives entered into the story, but when I think of my own Persian-ness, family's the first thing that comes to mind. I am defined by my relationships to my family. My closeness with my ammeh, my father's sister. How his brothers are all different and all alike, too. The way we'd gather around and have tea together most any time of the day. How all the men would sit around a table and play cards at the drop of a hat.

There are a thousand smells and sounds associated with my Persian identity. Sumac and saffron. Onions sautéing for dinner. A pinch of cardamom in the teapot.

People speaking in Farsi. That was one of the strangest things about BORDERLINE to me: not once did anyone ever say anything in Farsi. That, more than anything, left me feeling empty. I don't speak the language (technically, I speak enough to tell people that I do not speak it well). But I recognize the sounds. I know the affectations and terms of endearment. I know a few choice insults. Even if I don't know what's being said, I recognize the language it's being said in. It's a strangely comforting thing.

I applaud Stratton for his bravery in choosing to write about Sami. But it didn't work for me. I didn't feel like my culture had been misrepresented, I simply felt like it hadn't been represented at all. That you could have dropped a pin on a map of the Middle East, said the main character and his family were from there, and nothing in the story would have changed.

All of us - readers and authors and publishers - need to do better.

23 November 2014

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2012


Australia is a wine region I have very little experience with, and I have been slowly trying to remedy that. Penfolds is one of the most recognizable names in Australian wine, while remaining one of its finest producers as well. Their Grange frequently tops best-of wine lists all around. I've yet to taste Grange but hope to some day.

Meanwhile, this Cabernet Sauvignon from Adelaide was an affordable bottle and a good entry point.

It was inky purple in my glass, with a heavy, robust body to it as I swirled. Its nose was decidedly tart, with notes of dried cranberries, vanilla, cinnamon, and toasted nuts. A surprisingly complex nose for such a young wine. This boded well.

The taste was dominated by red fruits, young and bright and sharp. Boisterous, even. The tannins were a little underwhelming, a bit green, and I was a bit disappointed, because more tannic structure would've tied it together nicely. The nose wrote a check that the taste failed to deliver.

Ultimately, it was a decent wine, but it was very young and very front-heavy. Would I get it again? Actually, I probably would, to see if age would do it any better or if my bottle was a typical. Or if my mood was simply uncharitable. That does happen!

20 November 2014

The Endless River

I've been listening to Pink Floyd's The Endless River quite a bit since I bought it last week. It's been bittersweet, getting this new album after all this time, but knowing it'll be the last.

It's been touted as a tribute to Richard Wright, and his presence is all over the album, his haunting keyboard work there but not there, as always.

The name of the album couldn't be more fitting. It truly is an endless flow of music, and it's great to write to. I haven't had the chance yet to listen while not doing other things - sit lay on the floor, play it full volume, and really listen. But I hope to soon.

Meanwhile, I've enjoyed it immensely, and it's been great to NaNoWriMo to.

I was going to embed the official music video for "Louder Than Words," but Pink Floyd hasn't posted it on YouTube yet.

19 November 2014

Peep Show by Joshua Braff

Okay, this was interesting. I don't even remember at what point I added this to my library list, but I decided it was high time I actually read it. I reminded myself what it was about from the book jacket cover: 17-year-old David's parents are divorced. His mother has converted to Hasidic Judaism, while his father is areligious (though one could argue, still culturally Jewish) and runs a burlesque in Times Square in the 1970s, just as live peep shows and adult films are edging out the old burlesques.

PEEP SHOW was told from David's perspective, and while that makes it sound like a YA novel, after finishing I have to say it was as much a YA novel as EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE was a MG novel. Rather than focusing on David's experiences growing up, PEEP SHOW seemed to me focused on the relationship of David's parents, their destructive tendencies towards each other and their children, as seen through David's lens (both the metaphorical one and the literal one - he's a photographer).

We saw David's relationship with his mother implode as he rejected Hasidism, a rejection his mother took personally, and as she saw him as siding with his father. PEEP SHOW was full of the kind of parental selfishness that makes you crazy. You wonder how they can be so full of themselves and ignore their kids like that - and yet, you know it's totally realistic, that people are that selfish, that they do inflict that amount of harm on their children.

PEEP SHOW was named not only for the peep shows David's dad was forced to install in his theater. It was also named for the private glimpses into a family that was crumbling; into the inner lives of two parents, and the secret histories they kept from their children and, ultimately, from themselves; and for the unique understanding you can get about someone when they think they are hidden by a veil.

One chapter in, I wasn't sure if I'd like PEEP SHOW. But the second chapter drew me in (far more than the first), and I actually read it really quickly. I rather enjoyed it.

17 November 2014

Aviary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011


This was the second bottle in the pair of Cabernets I received last month from my wine club, and was by far my preferred of the two.

It had a dark, inky color and a heavy body, much more so than the Koyle. It had a meaty, smoky nose with leather and coffee notes to it. Powerful and potent.

The nose belied the amount of fruit in the taste. It wasn't a fruit bomb, not by a long shot, but it did have voluptuous dark fruits to it, with a backbone of cedar planks. That bit of woodsy flavor tied the wine together.

That being said, it was still overly tannic for my tastes, and very, very young. It would probably improve with age. For all its youth, though, I still enjoyed it more than the Koyle. So I guess I'm a California Cab drinker through and through.

But I'm always eager to try new things.

---

In other news, NaNoWriMo continues to consume my time, and with a couple of loooooong days at work last week and my sleeping a lot this past weekend, I've missed some days on the blog. I have not, however, missed my writing goals. So...yea me!

14 November 2014

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Oh man. I'm still reeling from this book.

GOLDEN BOY's flap copy says it all: it's the story of Max, an intersex teenager (who identifies as male) who is betrayed by his friend in a turn of events that risks exposing his secret, and forces him to confront questions of his identity he's never faced before: who does he want to be, how does he want to live?

All that made me think it was a YA novel, and had me in the mind of some sort of high-school-rumor mill-gone-horribly-wrong type of plot. But I was fascinated with the premise and gave it a try anyway.

To start, it's not strictly YA. Many chapters are written from Max's point of view, but not all; his younger brother Daniel, age nine, narrates, as does his doctor, his mother, his friend-maybe-girlfriend Sylvie, and eventually his father.

Second...it's definitely NOT a rumor mill type of story. The betrayal referred to on the jacket is far, far worse, and it happens in the second (third?) chapter. And it was the most harrowing thing I think I have ever read. I didn't want to keep going but I couldn't put it down.

And that set the tone for the novel. Over and over, GOLDEN BOY left me shattered, unable to continue but unable to stop until I reached the end.

I don't think I've ever read a multiple-POV novel that pulled it off as well as GOLDEN BOY. The first chapter was from Daniel's POV, and I could not believe how exquisitely Tarttelin captured the inner voice of a nine year old boy. He could have been me at that age. I've always felt kids are a lot harder to capture the interiority of than teenagers and adults, but Daniel's inner life was just...incredible. And it speaks to the incredible bonds of brotherhood, and the indelible ability of young children to love and forgive, that of everyone, he seemed to me the one who most loved Max for who he is.

Max and Sylvie's POVs were spot-on, too. I don't know what well of empathy Abigail Tarttelin found, but I could not believe how achingly poignant Max was. And Sylvie was, too, as she tried to figure out the mystery that was Max, as their friendship slowly developed despite the barriers they threw up between them.

And then, there were Max's parents. For the first half of the novel, his mom, Karen, was a focal point of narration. For a long time I thought we'd never hear from Steve, Max's dad, at all. Both adults were vivid, real people, full of heartache and worry over whether they were doing the right thing. But I didn't like Karen. I thought she was incredibly selfish throughout, and some of the things she did were unforgivable. Steve, on the other hand, I found I could sympathize with more, even if I found him incredible weak at times. He, at least, seemed to admit his failures and try to make up for them.

I wonder how much of my interpretation is due to my own gender bias.

More than anything, GOLDEN BOY was a story about taking control of your own story. Max struggles with who he is, what he is, what he wants to be, and who gets to have control over his life. He makes mistakes - everyone does - but he tries his best.

In its characters, in its execution, in its overwhelming humanity, GOLDEN BOY was a transcendent read. While I was in it, I knew I loved it, but it was so painful at times I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to read it again. But now, having made it through to the end, I can't stop thinking about it, and I know that I will return to it.

12 November 2014

Schizo by Nic Sheff

This was a total impulse purchase from the last time I was at Rainy Day Books, my local independent book store. I've been fascinated by schizophrenia for some time, and would like to write about it some day, so when I saw the book and read the jacket copy and the first page I decided this was for me.

SCHIZO tells the story of Miles Cole, a teenager in San Francisco who experienced his first schizophrenic episode the same day his brother disappeared at the beach, in what was either a kidnapping or a drowning. Two years later, the case is still unsolved, with drowning considered the most likely outcome.

Now, Miles is managing his symptoms, though with occasional rough spots. He sees a doctor, he takes medicine, he does okay in school. But there's always the crippling guilt of what happened to his brother, and what it did to their family.

Miles's voice was so clear, heartbreaking, funny and honest. He wasn't foulmouthed, but he wasn't afraid to swear. His vernacular was spot on, caught in that place between eloquence and teenage rebelliousness. His yearning for a normal life came through loud and clear, even as he struggled to be himself and not be defined by his diagnosis.

I REALLY can't say more without delving into spoiler territory, so stop here if you don't want to know what's what. Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone. The We Need Diverse Books movement is making great strides, but neuro-diversity is something I haven't seen a lot of yet. This book is sorely needed. Everyone needs to know that people with mental illness are, above all, people. And those who suffer need to see that they're not alone.



Okay, now, for those who want to know more, read on. But there's spoilers.



I really mean it.



Okay. As long as you're sure.



In a book about schizophrenia, it was pretty much inevitable that the narrator would be unreliable. There are clues peppered throughout the book of what might or might not be real. Miles himself knows that he might not be accurately perceiving the world outside him. But what he never considers, even from the start, is that his internal reality may be compromised as well, and that's a truly terrifying though.

Halfway through the story, Miles decides to stop taking his medications. And from that point on things get even weirder, but it becomes more obvious to the reader that Miles is having trouble. Nic Sheff kept repeating this phrase - A cool breeze blowing through my mind - which was so evocative, it told me all I needed to know about what it felt like to have schizophrenia. I was there with Miles.

I actually did guess the twist early on in the novel, but the thing is, the twist wasn't the point of the novel. The heart of the story was what happened after the twist, after Miles hit his lowest ebb and had to move past it. The book jacket said (I think in several places) that the novel was ultimately hopeful, and that is exactly right. Miles finds hope that he can coexist with his condition. And in one of the most joyfully heartbreaking scenes, he finds hope that his family can be whole again.

I truly loved the ending of this book. I highly recommend it to pretty much anyone.

11 November 2014

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Well. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I loved Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. How could I not?

SKY is Nelson's first book, and readers of the blog will know that her second, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, pierced my heart so badly I still haven't recovered from it. I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN might just be my favorite book this year.

SKY is full of the same things that made me love SUN so much: amazingly beautiful writing, heartbreakingly honest characters, an intensely artistic sensibility, and the most breathtaking, insanely awesome metaphors ever.

SKY tells the story of sixteen-year-old Lennie (Lennon - her parents were hippies), a girl still reeling from the death of her older sister due to a fatal, undiagnosed heart problem. The novel picks up just as Lennie is returning to school from her bereavement. She's cut herself from everyone - Gram, her grandmother, who raised her; Big, her absent mother's brother; Toby, her sister Bailey's boyfriend; and Sarah, her best friend.

And so begins Lennie's journey toward healing. I have a soft spot for this kind of narrative. I don't know what it is about me. I've never experienced the sort of tragic loss Lennie has, but I empathize with her so deeply. I like to read about healing and I like to write about healing.

Part of that healing is Joe, the new boy in school who capture's Lennie's interest (and she captures his, too, as quickly becomes apparent). It's easy to see parallels between Joe and Oscar from SUN - the foreign air, the painful earnestness, even their looks seem a bit similar (or at least they were in my imagination). And you can see in Lennie's family echoes of what will become Noah and Jude's own family.

Anyway, Lennie and Joe. Nelson writes their romance with so much sweet innocence and passion, and a frank understanding of how it feels to be young and in love, to experience your first sexual longings even as you're not sure you're ready to give in to them.

Then there's Toby. As it says in the book blurb, Lennie is torn between Joe and Toby, because Toby represents such a strong link to her sister. At one point Lennnie even says: if you put her grief and Toby's grief together, it's like it recreates one whole Bailey. Paraphrasing, I know. Forgive me.

Anyway, you can see the train wreck coming from a mile away, it's a nail-biter. I had to put the book down a time or two and take a break (never a long one!) just because I was so worried about what was going to happen. SUN was like a thriller at times; SKY was suspense. I so desperately wanted things to come out okay, and I was so scared they weren't.

THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE was lyrical and warm, devastating and redeeming, and I can't wait for my own personal copy to arrive from my local independent bookseller (I read a library copy - don't know why I bothered, I knew I would love it, but policy is policy if I don't want to bust the bank buying books).

I really hope Jandy Nelson comes to Kansas City some time for an event so I can get her to sign my books.

I also want her to write a crossover between THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, because I like to imagine them taking place a few towns away from each other and, in the immortal words of Liz Lemon, I Want To Go To There.

10 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 10

My life is consumed. I spend most of my "idle thinking" time thinking about WITH RANDOM PRECISION. I think about it when I am boxing and when I am driving and when I am sitting around waiting for appointments.

I think about it all day long. It feels good to be so in love with my work. I hope that love will come through in the writing.

I finished Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE today. It was every bit as lovely as I expected. I imagine Jandy Nelson's photo is in the dictionary next to the definition of metaphor, because it seems like she invented the technique herself and I am blown away over and over and over again by how beautifully she captures every thought, every feeling, that her characters experience.

I am super jealous.

I will hit 20,000 words before I got to bed tonight. I'm already 5,000 words further than the only other time I tried to do NaNo. I didn't have the discipline then that I do now. I am going to win this thing.

And you know what? I think I am going to have a good story coming out of it. Definitely not perfect, but good. And malleable enough that it can become great.

That is my conviction.

09 November 2014

Power Play by Catherine Coulter

In some ways I think I'm still digesting my latest read, Catherine Coulter's Power Play. It's the latest in her series of FBI Thrillers. I'd never actually heard of her or her series before, but it was new and looked interesting, so I thought: why not? Before NaNoWriMo began I was working on a thriller (at least, it might be a thriller - still not sure), and once I finish WITH RANDOM PRECISION, I am going to return to it. I've been exploring the genre as able.

Power Play has quite a cast of characters, and a very deep sense of history between them, none of which I had been exposed to. I felt very lost, jumping in so late, but at least the hook was intriguing: an assassination attempt on a US Ambassador.

What intrigued me was the element of the paranormal in the book: one of the FBI agents apparently has The Shining, while the madman he was pursuing was able to hypnotize people at a glance. I imagine there was all sorts of backstory to both of these things, but without having read it, I actually found it ever so slightly preposterous.

The answer to the book's mystery was so obvious that I actually completely discounted it, and was therefore surprised when the big reveal occurred - actually kind of a brilliant technique. I learned so much reading Power Play, even if I didn't really love it. It took me ten days to finish - an eternity, when I usually finish things in a day or two.

A lot of the things I've learned I haven't really quantified yet, but here are a few of my takeaways:

The importance of deeply-held secrets: most of the big reveals came out of some secret that one character or another had hidden from everyone: their family, their friends, everyone. And they always seemed to come out of left field. Sometimes they had even been playing the opposite the whole time.

Throwaway comments become important: This was another thing that was intriguing to me. In mysteries, every comment can have import, but the craft of mystery seems to rely on either emphasis (when the protagonist finds a clue) or misdirection (when he/she finds a red herring). Instead, in the thriller, pertinent information is overshadowed by the life-or-death stakes. Characters (and readers) don't realize a clue has been given because they're too busy running for their lives.

Deep betrayals from supposed friends: This one was perhaps most interesting to me, but also one I had been planning anyway. In the case of Power Play, it was a life-long friend who betrayed one of the other characters, and I definitely didn't see it coming, because it was so left-field.

All in all, Power Play was useful, and I'll have to check some of the earlier books in the series. By all accounts, The Maze and The Cove seem to be highly regarded, and as I understand it they introduced the characters.

07 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 6

Yesterday was day six of NaNoWriMo and I'm still on-target. My hope is to get ahead of the curve a little bit in the coming days, so as to make up for the days next week when I might be working 16-18 hours a day and unable to write. Or for Saturday the 15th when I have all-day game day (and night!) with friends.

My sleep has definitely taken a hit, though thankfully not a big one, since starting NaNoWriMo. I normally aim to be in-bed and ready to sleep between 8:00 and 9:00 PM, but since NaNo began it's been more like 10:00 most nights. Since I get up at 4:30 (or, more realistically, 4:45) that's not nearly as much sleep as I like. By nature I'm kind of an 8-9 hours a night person.

Anyway, some lost sleep is worth it for a new novel. For the most part I'm still very excited about where my novel is heading and the opportunities I am having to push my characters in new directions. The characters themselves are borrowed from earlier work and it's great to put them in a new context and see how they grow.

Also, I have a lot less brainpower for this blog. But I did (finally) finish the giant thriller I was reading, which took ten days. That's kind of a long time for me. But I'm starting Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere and that should go a lot quicker, if my experience with I'll Give You The Sun is anything to go by.

06 November 2014

Move Over, Bacon

Okay, I have a confession to make.

I have discovered a pork product I like even more than bacon.

GASP! Scandalous, I know. But hear me out. Two words.

Spanish. Chorizo.

This delicious substance is my new favorite thing to cook with. I put it in stuffings, I put it in frittatas, I put it in soups, I put it in just about anything I think it will go in. It's at its best when you render it in some olive oil or other fat for a while before adding other ingredients.

When I use chorizo I don't bother with other seasonings besides salt and pepper (and bay leaf, in the case of soups). The flavor of chorizo is so rich and complex that it infuses the whole meal and I don't need to add anything.

Today for lunch I had a chorizo-and-broccoli frittata. It was amazing and made everyone around me jealous. I plan to have more chorizo in the future.

My next goal is to make some Chorizo Cardiac Care Mac & Cheese.

05 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 4

Yesterday was Day 4 of NaNoWriMo and I have so far kept to my goal of 2000 words a day (with an exception for the day before Thanksgiving and the day of Thanksgiving since I will probably be working crazy-long hours those days).

It can be hard to keep moving forward. Sometimes I have to go back to remember what I've done (for example, what I named a place), and it's hard to resist the temptation to start changing things. But I must resist!

Another difficulty: getting stuck. I have a very loose outline of what I want to do, but by nature I tend to write by the seat of my pants. That's fine when I can sit around and play with things endlessly, but when I'm in a time crunch I've learned the best way to get unstuck is just to change the scene.

Seriously. Just end the scene, however you can, and get to the next one.

Usually I can come to some sort of decent conclusion to a scene, but not always. Sometimes I can seamlessly transition to the next, sometimes I have to just put a hard chapter break.

And sometimes - only very rarely - I just leave myself a note to finish the scene later and move on.

That's allowed. The goal is 50,000 words of a novel. They don't have to be contiguous and the novel doesn't have to be coherent.

I feel fine about bailing out of scenes when I have to. I'm on track to finish and I'm going to keep at it.

04 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 3

Well, yesterday was Day 3 of NaNoWriMo and so far I am meeting my goal of 2000 words each day. It's early still but I'm feeling good. Hopefully this feeling will last.

I wrote previously about how tea is a great aid to my writing. Another is music.

In my experience there are two types of music listening habits: listening to songs piecemeal or listening to entire albums. I fall firmly into the latter category. Over 95% of my iTunes library is full albums.

When some authors talk about their playlists for their novels, I'm always stunned to see music from all sorts of artists. My playlists aren't really playlists at all. They're albums.

For my NaNoWriMo novel, WITH RANDOM PRECISION, it's Pink Floyd. Most of their studio albums. And three of their live albums. And David Gilmour's solo stuff too, especially On An Island and Live in Gdańsk. In fact, the latter probably gets the most play.

So, in chronological order of release, my "playlist" for WITH RANDOM PRECISION.

Atom Heart Mother
Meddle
Dark Side of the Moon (Immersion Edition)
Obscured by Clouds
Wish You Were Here (Immersion Edition)
Animals
The Wall
Is There Anybody Out There: The Wall Live 1980-1981
A Momentary Lapse of Reason
A Delicate Sound of Thunder
The Division Bell
PULSE
On An Island
Live in Gdańsk

My playlist for STAND AND DELIVER is a matter for another post...

Happy writing and happy listening!

03 November 2014

Koyle Gran Reserva 2011


This month, the wine club offerings were both Cabernets from 2011. The first came from the Colchagua Valley in Chile: Koyle's 2011 Gran Reserva.

I haven't had very much Chilean Cabernet. In fact, this might have been my first. Usually I have Carménère if I'm drinking Chilean wine. But this was quite drinkable.

It was a deep plum color, and the body seemed much lighter than Napa Cabs. Granted, usually when I drink Napa Cabernet it's of the big, bold variety. But even so, this seemed nearly as airy as Pinot Noir.

It had a herbal nose that put me in the mind of lemony thyme. The nose didn't have a lot of fruit in it, but the taste revealed plenty of inky black fruits, positioned against a ton (really, it was a lot!) of oak. The tannins were a bit too harsh, and the wine came off overly dry to me. But I bet a few years in the bottle would mellow it just fine.

02 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 1

So technically it's Day 2, but I'm recounting my Day 1 of yesterday because I would rather work on NaNoWriMo than agonize over a blog post.

I got off to a good start yesterday, shutting myself in the Sensory Deprivation Closet and cranking out my first day's words.

I thought it would be interesting to consider my writing aids. Namely, tea. Well, tea and music.

Tea helps me write. I used to drink it while writing but now, since I write in a darkened closet, I have my tea before I write. Since I usually write in the evenings, that means green or white tea usually.

Certain teas put me in certain moods. Or, perhaps, I associate certain teas with certain stories.

For Stand and Deliver, the work-in-progress I have on hold while I do NaNoWriMo, I tended toward Harney & Sons' Love Life tea, a blend of Japanese sencha, dried strawberries, coconut, and popped rice.

For With Random Precision, my NaNo novel, Steven Smith's Jasmine Silver Tip is the thing. The aromas just transport me straight into the story. Probably because the main character has jasmine shrubs outside his house.

Well, that's it for now. I will talk about music some other time.