Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Back in the Swing

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, I made a quick trip to Chicago over the weekend to get together with friends. In spite of it being a relatively lazy weekend, I managed to come home exhausted. Travel in general tends to tire me, but I always thought it was because I usually overdo it. If I'm in a new and different place, I want to explore every inch of it that I can. Now I'm starting to wonder if part of it is due to my extreme introversion, where forced proximity to people -- as when you're shoved together on an airplane for hours with strangers invading your personal space -- drains me. To make matters worse, on my return flight I had an aisle seat, but it was across the aisle from the flight attendant's fold-down seat, and there was turbulence that required the flight attendant to stay seated for much of the flight, so it worked out that in effect I had a middle seat since I was trapped on one side by the flight attendant.

Then again, the fact that we stayed up until around three in the morning both nights and I have a harder time going back to sleep when I wake up early in a strange place could have something to do with the travel exhaustion.

I should use the scientific method and alter individual variables to see what causes the travel exhaustion. That means that I need to take a trip where all I do is laze around and be pampered, and then I need to take a trip on a private jet where I have personal space while I travel. Then I can see what, exactly, makes me so tired after a vacation that I need a vacation to recover from a vacation.

But I'm now back in the swing of things. As I was falling asleep last night after yet another late-night writing session I realized that I needed to fix something earlier in the chapter. I'm coming to learn that if I don't know what should happen next, it's probably because I missed something that should have happened earlier.

One thing I did while traveling was get a lot of my Rita book reading done. I don't really have a new writing pet peeve, just something I've learned about my personal reading taste. One of the categories I'm signed up to judge is romantic suspense. I'm a big mystery reader, and I love spy and action-adventure type stories, so it seemed like something right up my alley. Except I forgot about the psycho stalker serial killer books, which for some odd reason seem to be very popular in romantic suspense (I guess serial killers are hot in general, given all the flavors of CSI on TV). I must be an anti-serial killer bigot because I really don't like those books, especially the ones where the killer is obsessed with one of the main characters (usually the heroine, but I have read one where it was the hero, and that was actually even freakier).

For one thing, they really freak me out. I'm a wimp. I don't like to be scared. And because I tend to be rather solitary, the idea of a crazed stalker killer guy getting into my house or following me around can really wig me out. I saved my psycho stalker serial killer book to read on the airplane when I was surrounded by people because reading it at home alone would mean no sleep for me that night.

But another reason I'm not crazy about these books is probably the difference between mystery and suspense. In a mystery, the big question for both the reader and the main character is "who did it?" In suspense, the reader and sometimes even the characters may know who did it and the question is how (or even if) they'll stop him. In a mystery, the reader usually doesn't have any more or less information than the sleuth has (one reason a lot of mysteries are written in first-person or in a single point of view), and part of the fun is matching wits against the sleuth. Can you figure out who did it before the detective does? But these suspense books actually put a good amount of the story in the villain's point of view, so you know who the killer is, how he's doing it and what his motives are. In the psycho stalker serial killer books, you also get a little too much info about how this person's mind works and quite often a good dose of kinky, deranged, sadistic sex (the villain often gets more sex scenes than the hero and heroine, even in a romantic suspense). I don't really like having to be in a villain's head. Plus, when you know exactly what the killer is up to, it's easy to start seeing the heroes as idiots. It may be a case of vivid hindsight, but knowing the killer and his motives and methods sometimes makes the solution to the problem and all the clues painfully obvious to me as the reader, so I get frustrated when the heroes don't see what I'm seeing. I guess that makes me a mystery reader more than a suspense reader.

Even though I avoided most of the wig-out by reading the book in a public place, there were some residual effects. I got an unexpected UPS package yesterday from a gift company, and it was quite obviously a Valentine's gift. Given that I'm not dating anyone, that made me instantly a little apprehensive (the psycho stalker serial killer always seems to start by sending gifts to the object of his obsession). It turned out to be from my editor. She'd found these really cute frog prince chocolates and couldn't resist sending them to me. They may be too cute to eat, but they're dark chocolate truffles, so I imagine I'll get over that pretty quickly.

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