Monday, July 31, 2006

My Adventures (and some news)

I'm home! I actually got home yesterday, but I spent most of that time collapsing before having to go out and see a show last night.

I don't have a lot to report about the conference because there's not a lot that remains fascinating in retrospect that would be interesting to anyone who wasn't directly involved. I didn't pick up on any real publishing news other than it seems as though publishers other than Avon have started looking for more historical romances and that particular market slump appears to be over. I didn't go to any industry sessions about chick lit, so I can't say what's going on with that market, but it did seem like we were recognizing a lot of first sales at the chick lit chapter's party, which makes you wonder how big the slump really is.

I survived the big mass autographing Wednesday night and even sold out of books for the second year in a row. The first four times I participated in that event, I maybe sold a few books each year, so it was three hours of futile sitting there while my self esteem shrank to earthworm levels. That makes me even more appreciative of the thrill of running out of books long before the end of the evening. Even when I wasn't signing books I had people coming up to say how much they enjoyed my books. For a while, the checkout line went right past me, so I got a few impulse purchases from people who stared at the covers long enough they had to come over and see what the books were about.

Thursday the luncheon speaker was Meg Cabot, and she's even funnier in person than in her books. I loved the reason she gave for wanting to become a writer: the movie Romancing the Stone. Not because of the adventure part or the Michael Douglas part. For her, she loved the part where Joan Wilder is working at home in her pajamas, then she finishes a book and celebrates by drinking a little bottle of vodka. She said that's when she thought "I want that job!" She also described her adventures in attending the movie premiere for The Princess Diaries.

Friday was my crazy day. In the morning was the publisher booksigning. They do these events where they give away books, and people line up for hours to then get into this reasonably small room filled with authors to grab free copies and meet the authors. I call it " pretend to be a bestseller time" because it's the one time I get to experience the thrill of having people lined up in droves to get my books. I guess the secret is to give the books away for free. The other secret is to not be a big bestseller so that your line is shorter and then people jump to get in that line because their odds of getting a book improve that way. I also got to experience bizarro upside-down world at that event when people like Mary Jo Putney, Patricia Rice and Suzanne Brockman were asking me to autograph books for them.

That day I also met with one of my new editors and had lunch with my agent. It looks like my idea for a title for book 3 is the current title to beat, and it sounds like they are interested in more books in the series. At lunch, I brainstormed book ideas with my agent, and she kept pushing me to raise the stakes. She threw out an idea that I HATED -- until just before I fell asleep that night and it snapped into place. The way I'm thinking of using it is totally different and is a twist on it, but she was right about that being the element needed to intensify the story. I hate it when she's right like that, and not just because it means I get no sleep. We did our workshop on Jane Austen that afternoon, where I got still more ideas. I hope the audience got something out of that workshop because I know I learned a lot just giving it (and I may do a whole post on that topic later). That night was my publisher's party at the Ritz-Carlton, after which I went back to my room and collapsed.

Saturday I went to the best workshop ever, a two-hour session by screenwriting guru Michael Hauge that may just change my life. Again, there's subject matter for its own post, but I can't wait to play with the ideas I got in that session.

In general, I spent too much time wearing high heels. I grew addicted to the orange-infused water they kept in the hotel lobby. I didn't get nearly enough sleep or food (at least, nutritious food), and the whole week is now a blur, but I'm wired and inspired.

Finally, remember that big news I mentioned a while back? My agent sort of outed me at the conference, so I guess it's safe to post. In journalism, this would be called burying the lead, but in fiction it's called building suspense. Drum roll please ... Enchanted, Inc. has been optioned for a TV series!! Now, before anyone gets excited, this is just an option. It doesn't mean they're going to make a series. A lot of stuff gets optioned, then they pitch a lot of stuff to see if they can get financial or network backing for a pilot, then some of those things actually get made into pilots, and then a few pilots get picked up as series, and we all know how few series really get a chance to build an audience and grow -- two series last fall that were based on books were cancelled after just one or two episodes. So I'm not holding my breath or counting my money yet. But it is a first step and it shows that someone in Hollywood is interested enough to put money into the option. I was going to buy a new TV to celebrate, but I'm getting that for my birthday so I'll have to come up with something else.

And now I must go buy some oranges so I can make my own orange-infused water. I guess I need to get other food, too. The cupboard is kind of bare at the moment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Jennifer Barnes

I'm having one of those days when I realize I need to start removing things from my to-do list before I go crazy. I leave in the morning for Atlanta and I have soooo much to do.

I got to "meet" my new editor yesterday. It turns out we met last year at the RWA conference (she remembered my red shoes). I think she'll be really fun to work with, and she seems pretty jazzed about my series, so yay!

Based on the results of my survey, I think I'll do some wrap-ups about anything interesting that happens at the RWA conference but without doing any kind of detailed day-by-day reporting. It will probably mostly be about interesting people I meet, cool books I discover and anything interesting and/or funny I do. If there's any really hot publishing news, I'll share it, but I tend not to pick up on that stuff. I have this bad habit of discussing hair-care products instead of business when I get in conversations with editors and agents (it's funny how many editors and agents have curly hair).

If anyone is in the Atlanta area, there's going to be a big, huge, mondo booksigning for charity Wednesday evening. Something like 450 authors will be lined up in a hotel ballroom for people to wander by (or throw peanuts to -- I feel like a zoo animal at times), chat with and get books from. The books are donated by the publishers, and the money from the book sales goes to support literacy efforts, which is a very good cause. You can also bring books of your own to get them signed by your favorite authors (though I think they have a cap of five books now, since in the past people literally brought in suitcases full of books to be signed, which monopolized the authors, and the idea is to SELL books to raise money). This event is free and open to the public (you do have to buy the books, but you get in the door for free). It will be from 5:30 to 8:30 Wednesday evening at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta (near Peachtree Center). For more info, here's a web site with the details and a list of participating authors.

And now I leave you with an entry from the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit. My guest this time is Jennifer Barnes, author of the new young adult novel Golden. Jennifer sounds pretty golden, herself. For one thing, she's a fellow native Oklahoman. For another, she just graduated from Yale and is now off to study at Cambridge. Her research on animal and child cognition has been featured on ABC's World News Tonight and Animal Planet. Whew!

About the book:
When Lissy James moves from California to Oklahoma, she finds herself in the middle of a teenage nightmare: a social scene to rival a Hollywood movie. And if understanding the hierarchy of the Goldens vs. the Nons isn’t hard enough, Lissy’s ever growing Aura Vision is getting harder and harder to hide, and if she’s not careful, she’s going to become a Non faster than you can say “freak.”

But it’s becoming clear that Emory High has a few secrets of its own. Around the halls, the term “special powers” goes way beyond one’s ability to attract the opposite sex, and there may be something more evil than the A-crowd lurking in the classrooms. Lissy can see a lot more than the average girl, but she’s about to learn the hard way that things aren’t always as they appear and you can’t always judge a girl by her lip gloss.

And now the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
In general, I've always been fascinated with the supernatural, and most of my books definitely tend to incorporate paranormal concepts. When I sit down to write a book, I generally start with that concept and go from there. With Golden, I knew I wanted to write about a girl who could see auras, and to me, it made a lot of sense to throw my aura seer into a situation in which her power would be both an advantage and a major pain. Since I transferred schools right before my freshman year in high school, I'm no stranger to having to navigate a new teen social scene, and I decided to throw Lissy into a similar situation at a school where the social hierarchy was a million times more well defined. The rest of the book just came out of those two ideas.

Describe your creative process.
I don't do much plotting up front. Generally, I start with a very small number of things -- a character's name, any supernatural powers he/she might have, and the corresponding aspect of teen life that I think really goes with those powers in some important sense. For Golden, I knew that Lissy saw auras and that she was transferring to a new school. For my second book, Tattoo, I knew that it was about a group of friends who got super powers from a batch of mystical temporary tattoos, and that was it. Once I know the general concept of the book, I just start writing, and everything else- character, plot, etc just falls into place. I write each draft straight through, and in general, I try to write in large chunks (at least a chapter per sitting). Once I make it through the first draft, I set a manuscript aside for several months and move on to a new project before I start revising the old one. For me, it really helps to have some time and emotional distance between me and whatever I'm revising.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I almost always write very late at night. In college, this was kind of a necessity. I didn't want to miss out on having a normal college life, so I generally wrote after everyone else had fallen asleep- usually between two and four in the morning. As for music, I usually pick one or two songs per book, and listen to them on repeat the entire time I'm writing. That way, when I go back to revise, all I have to do is turn on that book's song, and instantly, I'm back inside my main character's head.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Lissy and I actually have quite a few things in common. I didn't realize it when I was writing, but she kind of resembles me physically- she's on the tall end of things, and we both have thick, somewhat unruly brown hair. Personality-wise, I think we both have a tendency to sound a lot more sarcastic inside our own heads than we do when we speak to other people- we both definitely have a constant inner monologue going on. At the same time, though, we're also very different- I think I'm a lot more chilled out!

How have your studies in cognitive science influenced your writing -- either in character development or in the special powers your characters have?
Actually, it's hard for me to think of a specific way that my background in cog sci has influenced my writing. Most of my undergraduate research concentrates on primate and child cognition; I spent a lot of time working with monkeys and lemurs in the wild, and a good chunk of time in preschools, working with three and four year old kids. It's a pretty far cry from writing for teenagers!

(I don't know ... my dad the retired high school teacher would say that "monkeys and lemurs in the wild" sounds a lot like teenagers.)

How did you manage to fit in the time to write a novel while you were studying such a challenging field at such a challenging university? (I guess I'm trolling for time-management tips because I write full-time and don't seem to have enough time.)
I actually wrote the first draft of Golden over a nineteen day period the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. At the time, I was doing a summer workshop at the USC school of cinema, so I'd have classes in the morning, I'd work on my film all afternoon, hang out with friends for a while, and then come back at night and spend a couple of hours writing. Since Golden, I've written a variety of novels while actually at Yale, and generally, the same kind of system works for me. No matter how busy I am, most days I can manage to take a couple of hours at the end of the day to write. For me, it's relaxing. If I go too long without writing, I get kind of twitchy. And, as weird as it seems, I get a lot more writing work done when I'm at school, and following a really hectic schedule, than when I'm at home doing nothing. The busier I am, the more compelled I am to create, and that makes writing a whole lot easier.

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Actually, I'm one of those strange people who doesn't like chocolate at all. I absolutely abhorred it when I was little, and I'm still not a fan, but I dislike milk chocolate less than other kinds.

(I'm in shock here! This may be the first writer I've known who didn't have a minor chocolate addiction! But hey, that leaves more for me!)

What are you working on now?
I've got my hands in quite a few projects right now. I just finished up final edits on my second book, TATTOO, and turned in two sets of revisions- one on the Golden sequel (coming in September of 2007) and one on the first book of a new series about cheerleading secret agents (The Squad, January, 2008). I'm getting ready to submit my first middle grade novel- a character-driven mystery, and I'm probably going to start on the second Squad book next month. In the meantime, I've given myself July off from writing- which basically means that I still write, but I don't try to finish anything, so right now, I'm about a fifth of the way through a bunch of different novels!

For more info, check out her web site or her blog.

And now I'm off to tackle the to-do list. See you all next week!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shameful Confession

Shameful confession: I spent hours last night watching the live coverage of an ongoing police chase. It was kind of like OJ, but in this case some guy hijacked an 18-wheeler and forced the driver to drive all over the area on most of the major highways. It went on for hours, with the police having to try to block off roads ahead of the truck (since the guy didn't seem to have a problem with running into anything that got in his way, and he had an automatic weapon). At times it got to be an incredibly slow chase, and by the end the truck had no rubber left on its tires. The TV station helicopter followed it all the way, though they did back off with the helicopter and return to normal programming once the DPS shot through the engine block to force the truck to stop on an isolated stretch of road, and then it became a hostage stand-off. The hostage was later released safely and the guy was arrested. It turned out this had been his third hijacking of the day. He carjacked a guy, then wrecked that car, and when a doctor came upon the wreck and stopped to make sure he wasn't hurt, the guy carjacked the doctor (that has to be some seriously bad karma to carjack someone who stops to help you) and drove to a truck stop, where he hijacked the 18-wheeler.

Even more shameful confession: I wasn't watching all of this because of any kind of morbid fascination with the breaking news or the action or even to see how it turned out. I watched all of this because I have a serious crush (going back at least four years) on the weekend news anchor, and this was an unprecedented chance to spend hours with him instead of just little 30-minute newscasts. Plus, this guy has a tendency to come out with snarky remarks when he's on live and unscripted (one of the major reasons for the crush), and this was hours of him live and unscripted. He didn't get too snarky, but it was very cute how worked up he got about all the idiots who rushed to line the freeways and stand on the overpasses along the way to watch the chase. He kept saying that they were tracking this as a public safety issue to warn people away from these areas, so it was stupid to go there, and if you did, you were putting yourself in danger and possibly interfering with the police. I actually read while this was on in the background because I didn't much care to see the chase. I was just enjoying listening to him talk and admiring how well he managed to juggle all the input coming in from the various reporters in the field. It was the longest "date" we've had so far.

I'm so very sad and pathetic. I have e-mailed this guy -- to comment on something in the newscast, not to tell him I want to have his babies -- and he responded (yes, I saved the e-mail. See the part about being sad and pathetic), but when I responded to his response, he didn't write back. Alas. The even more sad and pathetic thing is that this crush has gone on longer than any real relationship I've ever had has lasted. It's also outlasted any celebrity crush or crush from afar I've ever had (I'm so terribly fickle in my celebrity crushes -- I may continue to like or admire someone, but usually my crush-like obsession is very short-lived).

I haven't yet decided if this counts as a celebrity crush or a crush from afar. He is on TV, and that's how I "know" him, but he's also local and we even got the same degree from the same program in the same journalism school, just a few years apart (I think he was a freshman when I was a senior), which brings it more to the realm of remote possibility than your typical celebrity crush. Hey, there's even the odd chance that I might one day be interviewed on that station when I become a bestselling famous author. And then our eyes will meet and all that stuff.

So, go out there and buy books and tell everyone you know about them so I can become famous enough to get to meet my anchorman crush. :-)

See, sad and pathetic. But the "get a life" project begins when I get this book totally finalized and turned in (and my editor's revisions on book 3). Then maybe I can meet real-life people who can distract me from my strange obsession with weekend newscasts.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Still Recovering

I'm still recovering from finishing the book. I guess it didn't help that the first day I had a very busy day, even though I'd taken the day off, and then yesterday I had another busy day with a meeting in the morning and then a booksigning in the afternoon. Today I have absolutely zero energy. I'm pretty much devoting the day to reading.

The temperature finally dropped. It's still hot, but it's a normal hot for this time of year, and the lows in the early morning are low enough not to be hot. I was joking about needing to put on a parka when the temperatures dropped by more than ten degrees, but Saturday morning I almost got a little chilly outside. It's been in the upper 80s even in the morning, so the 70s were almost a jolt.

Unfortunately, it seemed to have affected the turnout for the booksigning. The people at the store said it was really quiet for a Saturday and their sales were down. I guess it was the first day in ages when you could actually go out and do stuff, so people weren't thinking about books. The store really tried. They'd decorated in a beach theme with grass skirts on the signing tables and some pink flamingos and beach pails lying around. But the customers who were in the store seemed to think there was a force field keeping them away from us. People would practically cross the entire store to avoid having to walk past us down the main aisle. Fortunately, some of my friends came by to keep me occupied. Otherwise, I might have been bored enough to be tempted to take the grass skirt off the table, put it on and start hula dancing in the aisles. There, um, might have been a very small hula demonstration behind the signing table as it was (really just based on my Cardio Hula workout video -- I don't know how authentic it is, but I can make it look good).

I've figured out my wardrobe for the RWA conference this week. I'm going for the "packing light" award this time by being really efficient instead of bringing lots of changes of clothes. I didn't want to deal with the huge suitcase this year. I guess I'll also have to be selective about which books I bring back with me. I used to have an Australian boss who was the kind of guy who'd travel around the world with just a small backpack, and on business trips he'd mock anyone who brought more than necessary. I remember being very pleased with myself for having a small tote bag on an overnight trip, especially since the other women going had the regular rollaboard suitcases. My boss had his computer bag with a toothbrush, a clean shirt and a change of underwear and socks in the side pocket. There was no way to beat him at that game. For me, going to this conference with a smaller suitcase will be a real achievement. Usually I bring the big suitcase I nickname "the steamer trunk." It's hard to pack light when you have a lot of evening events, so you need a couple of outfits per day. This year, I don't have as many evening events that require formal clothes, which helps.

I'm also being pretty daring by planning to wear slacks to the big awards ceremony. They're dressy tuxedo slacks, and that night I'll be wearing them with a dressy top and my red heels. My legs usually end up freezing in the ballroom during the ceremony, so we'll see if this helps. Now watch this be the year that the air conditioner breaks and we all sweat our way through the ceremony.

I won't be taking a computer, so I won't be posting live from the event, but I may do a wrap-up when I get home. I know not everyone who reads this knows or cares about the RWA conference, but let me know in comments if there's something you do want to hear about. I may even be inspired to make phone posts to Live Journal.

Friday, July 21, 2006


It's amazing how draining writing a book can be. I always seem to go into a big slump as soon as I'm done. But instead of being a slug today, I made myself get out and about.

I think I have a new favorite mall. I hadn't been to this mall in more than ten years (it's one of the nation's first enclosed shopping malls), but it's now been totally redone and added to, and it has all the stores I want, right in one place. Even better, it has a huge movie theater, and the first show of the day on Fridays is a super-bargain matinee. So, I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean, and when I got to the mall the shops weren't even open. It was just me and the mall walkers, which meant I got a parking space in the parking garage, right by the entrance. Then after the movie, I did a bit of shopping.

I enjoyed the movie. Basically, if there's a barroom brawl and a swordfight, I'm so there, and their fight choreography was really quite creative. The people who leave the moment the credits start did miss a fun bit at the very end. I had a feeling there would be one, so I waited, even though they were cleaning the theater and seating people for the next show (very annoying). I was glad I was vindicated for my waiting because I'd have felt like a dummy if I'd sat through all the credits for nothing.

Then I wasn't really too jazzed about shopping, which is odd for me. I got some new makeup and a killer pair of mid-height black stiletto pumps, but I didn't see any clothes I even wanted to try on.

Remember the booksigning Saturday at B&N in Lewisville, Texas, 2-4.

And now time for my Sci Fi Friday slumber party (the TV only seems to work for half an hour at a time, so it looks like I'll be watching in bed tonight).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

News Update

A few updated news items:

I talked to my editor this afternoon, and I feel much better. It doesn't sound like I'm being left out in the cold.

My TV came back to life this afternoon. I was able to watch the evening news on it and got a full-screen picture. Even so, my parents have declared that they're giving me a new TV for my birthday, and they'll even come over to help me transport it from the store and then into my house. Yay! I'm not sure how much longer the current TV will hold out, but I still have my little dorm room TV in my bedroom, and if all else fails, I can turn Sci Fi Friday into a slumber party.

And finally, the big news:

I FINISHED THE BOOK!!!! It's done! And I like it! I LOVE the ending, though I may need to tinker with it a bit to get the maximum impact. I usually end up rewriting the ending a few times before I even go back and work on the rest of the book.

Finishing a book is kind of bittersweet. There's the huge relief that it's done, but also some sadness because it's over. There's no more discovery. I know what happens. There may be editing and revising, but I'll never again get to see this story unfold for the first time.

The next book I write most likely will not be part of this series. I do want to write more stories in this series, and I have at least one, maybe even two, that I really must write (even if the publisher doesn't want them, I'd probably feel compelled to write at least the last book and find some other way of getting it out there). But I also do want to do other stuff, and now's the time to start proving to the publishing world that I can do other stuff. I also think that writing something else entirely different will help me write the series books better because that will stretch me. I'd like to do kind of what Sophie Kinsella seems to be doing with her Shopaholic series, where she alternates a Shopaholic book with a standalone book.

But for now, I'm going to take a break from writing (other than polishing chapters and sending them to Mom) until after the RWA conference, when I'll get this book to my agent to look at while I work on edits on book 3. Tomorrow, though, is Pirates day!! Yo ho ho and a bottle of Dr Pepper!

(Sorry, I get a bit giddy upon finishing a book.)

Abandonment Issues

I am so very close to finishing this book that I can almost taste it (it tastes a lot like dark chocolate M&Ms). Just a chapter and a half to go (I think -- you never know). I even know most of what will happen from here on out. If I'm very, very good and don't let myself get too distracted, I can finish this draft today. Then my plan is to catch an early show of Pirates of the Caribbean tomorrow morning and do some shopping at the big mall across town that's recently been totally renovated so that it now includes all the shops I could want, plus a movie theater, under one roof.

Not being too distracted could be a challenge today, though. Although I got to bed kind of late and had a little trouble getting to sleep, I still set my alarm to get up earlier today so I might get to work and finish the book. It was a good thing, because less than fifteen minutes later my agent called, and if I hadn't set an alarm, I'd have still been asleep. She had the bad news that my editor is moving to another publisher. I loooooove my editor. We're on such the same wavelength and seem to have a similar outlook on life. In fact, I've often found when randomly browsing bookstore shelves that a lot of the books I end up buying turn out to have been edited by my editor (and then I figured out I could snag them from her for free -- woo hoo!). So now I don't know what will happen to me. I'm trying not to panic, but the last time I had an editor leave me, the result was an eight-year publishing dry spell. This even comes at at similar time for me, when I'm finishing up a contract and am therefore between "jobs," so to speak. But I have an agent in my corner now, and I'm not writing for any particular "line" that's about to go away, plus I think I've done well enough and have a good enough reputation among people at Random House (I send cookies) that I doubt I'll be a hot potato with all the other editors saying, "No, you take her!"

The best comparison I can think of to this situation is if you have a wonderful boss, someone who totally gets you, who supports your career ambitions and makes sure you get to work on the projects that are best suited for you and who generally creates a pleasant working environment, and then that boss announces that he's leaving the company. You can't help but wonder what will happen next. You could get an even better boss who gives your career a real boost. You could get a jerk. You could get someone who wants to reorganize things to fit his own vision so that your role changes -- and that could be to a new role that's even better for you or it could be to something that makes your life miserable. Most likely, things will more or less stay the same. You'll keep doing your job the way it was set up and only the more emotional and interpersonal aspects will really change. But there's a lot of uncertainty while you wait to find out how things will go.

Unfortunately, that analogy isn't too soothing to me because I had something like that happen in my last job. I had an incredibly cool boss who was so supportive of my writing career. He let me work out a deal where I cut my workload to semi-part time (with a slight pay cut) and telecommuted, and I was able to create my own job where I did the stuff I really wanted to do and was best at. For almost two years, I was happier than I'd ever been in a job. And then he left. His replacement was someone I'd worked with before in another job, someone I knew wasn't entirely ethical or above-board. He was also one of the few people I'd ever had hallway screaming matches with in the workplace. He was hired over my intense objections and warnings, and I was laid off a week later (though he insisted he had nothing to do with that decision). And gee, wouldn't you know, a few years later, after that office nearly tanked, lost most of its clients and a good percentage of its workforce, that guy was caught in an ethical lapse and fired.

So, yeah, it's a good thing I have a fantasy world to escape into today. I think I'll be zapping some evil wizards.

But that wasn't the end of my morning fun. Very soon after I spoke with my agent, my TV went on the blink. The picture shrank from a full screen down to a narrow little line across the middle -- very Outer Limits-looking. That set is about 11 years old, and it gets heavy use, so I guess it was time. It was just bad timing -- that final straw for the morning to add to my abandonment issues. I guess I'll add shopping for a new TV to my list of things to do after I finish the book. I'd been wanting to upgrade eventually, and I think I will go for something nice instead of cheap -- not plasma screen HD nice, but nicer than my little 20-inch screen. It's actually kind of appropriate for me to treat myself to a good TV right now (oops, did I drop a hint?). The only problem with getting a good-sized TV is that I can't carry it or fit it in my car, so I'll have to have it delivered, and finding a time when I'll be home for delivery in their sort of wonky schedule (I've yet to find a place that promises "overnight delivery" that delivers in less than a week or that delivers when they say they will), so I guess I'll be watching Sci Fi Friday on the little dorm room TV in my bedroom. Wouldn't you know, I lose my TV just when I'm finishing a book and have time to watch it.

But enough of my whining. It's time for a fun Out of the Blogosphere book, Susan Grant's Your Planet or Mine (LOVE the title).

Think the grocery store is a great place to meet men?

Hunky interstellar fugitive, aisle 5.

With outrageously false accusations piling up against her famous political family and an ex-fiancé in hot water determined to take her down with him, the last thing Jana Jasper needs is more trouble--especially man trouble. But when she heads to the grocery store for an ice cream fix, not only does the muscled hunk in the frozen foods section ranting about spaceships and invasions look crazy, he looks... familiar.

Cavin of Far Star has never forgotten the girl he met during his weeks spent on that quaint little world, planet Earth, the girl who didn't believe he was real. And now he'll risk his future to save her. All she has to do is take him to her leader. Simple enough plan--although Jana isn't so easily convinced. Hell-bent on charming his way past her defenses, he's determined to stay one step ahead of the galaxy's most feared assassin--and may just capture his favorite Earthling's heart in the process.

Here's what one reviewer said about this book:
"Veers uncomfortably close to our actual plans to invade your pitiful little planet. Pull this book from the shelves immediately or I shall have it vaporized!" -- General Neppal, Supreme Commander of the Coalition fleet

Sue has one of the coolest day jobs of any writer I know. She flies 747s on international routes for United Airlines. For more info, check out her web site. Her blog tells all about her piloting adventures, including the time she had to play "terrorists storm the cockpit door" during a training exercise -- on a day she wore a skirt. Check it out.

Now I'm going to finish a book and maybe whimper a little over the phone to my soon-to-be-ex editor.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I'm Melting

The weatherman lied to me yesterday. We didn't get our promised cold snap of only 104 degrees. Instead, it hit 107. Now they're saying it will only hit 104 today, but I'm not ready to believe them yet. The good news is that this weekend we may get thunderstorms and highs only in the upper 90s. I'd better make sure I have plenty of firewood to deal with the sudden burst of cold.

The heat is really getting to my brain. I keep having this urge to stand on the sidewalk in front of my house and do my imitation of the Wicked Witch of the West: "I'm meeeelllllltinnnng!" It's so hot that I don't want to drink hot tea except for my morning cup (and me not wanting hot tea is one of the signs of impending apocalypse). Thank goodness for Dr Pepper! Otherwise I wouldn't get my recommended daily caffeine intake for optimum book production. I am finding ways to cope. I've got my patio umbrella angled to shade one of my living room windows to help keep the house cooler. Then I brought in my old Roman shade from the garage. I had it from my first apartment, where I had a huge window facing due west that made summer afternoons utterly miserable. Blocking even a little sun helped a lot then. Now I have a huge window facing east, and the shade fit perfectly, so I put it up. It's still bright enough to read in the living room in the daytime without a light, but I think it cuts the heat a little bit, and since I get my sun in the morning, blocking the light in the morning helps keep the house cooler all day. This is the time of year when I tend to get seasonal affective disorder because it's too hot to go out in daylight, which amounts to not seeing much daylight. Winter days may be shorter, but I can usually at least go for a walk in the afternoon.

How long until October? Hmm, I know someone who lives in Iceland. Might be time for a visit. Or I could drop in on the relatives in Norway.

I'm closing in on the end of the book, only about two and a half chapters to go, unless the book surprises me (again) by being longer. I don't think that will happen because I've got the rest pretty well mapped out. Today I should be writing the big, climactic action scene -- the big finish. That is, if I can get my sluggish brain to cooperate.

Fortunately, the book I'm reading now isn't tempting me not to write (I'll deal with it in a later post). That wasn't the case Monday, when I was reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman. It was such a beautiful book, and I couldn't bring myself to put it down. Then when I was through reading it, I couldn't make myself write for a while because I felt like such a hack in comparison. I couldn't imagine ever writing something so lovely. It was also one of the most romantic love stories I've ever read, probably because it was allowed to grow organically. My main problem with the romance genre is that there are all these externally imposed rules on how a love story is supposed to progress. One of them is that there has to be some kind of strong, instant attraction. The couple may hate each other, but they're still drawn to each other even if they hate being drawn to each other. They also have to immediately notice each other as sexual beings, right from the start. Yeah, I guess that does happen, and it can be fun to read about, but it's such a shame that the genre pretty much rules out other ways a relationship might develop. In this book, the couple barely notice each other as male and female when they meet. They're both entirely focused on other things. It's only gradually, as they share adventures, do simple acts of kindness for each other, come to each other's rescue and really get to know each other along the way, that their feelings start to develop, so that when they do fall in love, it's incredibly sweet and satisfying. This book is now out in mass market paperback, but it looks like a nice trade paperback edition will be published in August, and I think I'll buy that one because it's definitely a keeper. I imagine it will be one of my "comfort food" books that I read when I need something to make me feel good. It's the kind of book you close with a wistful sigh when you're through reading it.

I just checked the long-range forecast for Atlanta, where I'll be next week, and they're looking at highs in the 80s! Now I'm excited.

And a quick reminder that I'll be part of a group booksigning this coming Saturday at the Barnes & Noble near Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville, Texas. Last I heard (and I need to double check), it will be from 2 to 4. Even if you already have my books and don't care about an autograph, feel free to come be my designated nerd to give me someone to talk to about interesting stuff so we can lure unsuspecting store patrons into our web.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Lauren Barnholdt

We're getting hit with a freak cold snap today, which means the high will only be 104, down a whole degree from yesterday (now, where did I put my parka?).

Last night, I wrote something I never thought I'd ever write: a car chase. I didn't even realize I would be writing it until I was in the middle of it, which made it even weirder. I have actually been in the middle of a high-speed car chase, of the type that involves dozens of police cars. No, I wasn't the one being chased. It was in my TV news days, and I was out in the news truck with a photographer doing the round of fluffy weekend festival stories with lots of shots of cute kids when word of a high-speed chase came over the scanner. It was approaching the area where we were, so we pulled off the highway, turned onto the next street, and next thing we knew, we were in the middle of dozens of police cars with sirens blaring. The chase came to a stop a few blocks later and the police held us back because the guy they were chasing had a car full of guns. My photographer happened to have a bullet-proof vest in the truck (a gift from his wife), so they sent me back to the truck to get it, and as soon as I did, one of the cops pushed me down on the ground behind a police car, but our photographer was able to be in the middle of the action when they pulled the guy out of the car (I watched it between the tires on the car). Later, I got to interview the police. It was my first (and really only) TV news exclusive.

The car chase I wrote last night is a lot funnier (I hope). It involves gargoyles, which improve any car chase scene.

I'm about to go for an eye exam (and good timing because I tore my last contact lens last night), so it's a good time for a Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry. Today's guest is Lauren Barnholdt, author of the young adult novel Reality Chick.

About the book
Going away to college means total independence and freedom. Unless of course your freshman year is taped and televised for all the world to watch. On uncensored cable.

Sweet and normal Ally Cavanaugh is one of five freshpeople shacking up on In the House, a reality show filmed on her college campus. (As if school isn't panic-inducing enough!) The cameras stalk her like paparazzi, but they also capture the fun that is new friends, old crushes, and learning to live on your own. Sure, the camera adds ten pounds, but with the freshman fifteen a given anyway, who cares? Ally's got bigger issues -- like how her long-distance bf can watch her loopy late-night "episode" with a certain housemate...

And now the interview:
What inspired you to write this book?
I tried out for THE REAL WORLD once. (I know, I'm a dork.) I didn't make it, and all of my friends were like, "It's because you're too normal!" And I was like, "That's why they should have picked me!" I thought it would be cool to see how a "normal" person reacts to living in a crazy environment like that. So I decided to write a book about it.

Describe your creative process.
I don't really plot. I find it's easier for me to figure out how things are going to go when I'm actually writing. I try to revise a bit as I go along, but sometimes it helps me to just get the draft down and finished before going back to revise.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I work best in the mornings, and I have to have Diet Coke with Lime. And for some really strange reason, I tend to write better when Dr. Phil's on TV. I know, weird.

(Hey, I find Dr. Phil to be a wonderful characterization resource.)

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Ally tends to overanalyze things, which I definitely do.

What do you see as the appeal of reality TV?
I think there's something fascinating about knowing that the things going on have actually happened -- the drama isn't made up.

(Hmm, still doesn't do it for me, but I'm one of the weirdos who wants my TV as UNreal as possible -- spaceships, vampires, other planets ...)

If you were going to participate in a reality TV show, which one would it be, or is there a concept they haven't used yet that you'd like to do?
I'd like to be on THE REAL WORLD, just because I'm lazy. They get to live in a fab house, have a fab job, and they don't really have to do anything except create scandals.

Chocolate: dark or milk?

(I really need to tabulate these results someday, but that will be after this book is done.)

What are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on a tween novel called DEVON DELANEY'S SECRET IDENTITY which will be out in May of 2007. It's about a thirteen-year-old girl who goes away for the summer and lies to the local girls about how popular she is, only to be left scrambling to recreate her "secret identity" when one of them shows up at her school. My second YA novel, ROAD TRIP, about a girl who gets stuck driving cross country with the boy who just broke her heart, will be out in June of next year.

For more info, visit Lauren's web site or her blog.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Home Stretch

It's so very hot, hot enough that your brains are in danger of melting and leaking out of your ears, so hot that I want to do nothing other than lie under the ceiling fan and drink something cold. The low temperature this morning was 85, and it's going to top 100. I guess I was spoiled by the relatively cool first week in July. It's supposed to be "cooler" later in the week when the high is only in the upper 90s. How much longer is it until October?

I am now more than three-fourths of the way through the book, so I'm on the home stretch. I should finish the first draft this week, which will give me time to give it a good read-through before I go to the RWA conference in Atlanta next week. Then after the conference I can read it through again and send it to my agent to get her feedback. It looks like if I'm good and diligent and if my agent doesn't get swamped, I'll meet my September 15 deadline. (I'll actually have to beat it because that's when my high school reunion weekend starts with the homecoming game.)

My neighborhood Target sold out of my book. Okay, so I bought the last copy, but it still shows up on their records as selling out. I really wanted a copy with that "Breakout Book" sticker, and they're bad about not restocking once something sells out, so when I saw only one copy left Saturday night, I went ahead and bought it. They had three copies to begin with, and there were still three copies of the books on either side, so I don't know if they ever replenished and just try to keep three copies on the shelf at one time, or if they just had those three copies. As of this morning, the shelf spot for my book was still empty. I hope they do restock it. I've heard reports of it selling out in other areas, which is nice to know. It would be really sad to finally get a book in Target and then not have it sell very well. Then it would be nearly impossible to get another book in Target. Now I just worry about missing potential sales because they can't keep it on the shelf.

I'm so tempted to spend part of the afternoon reading and/or napping. I've got a few books from the library that I really want to get to, including the new Marian Keyes book. I know better than to start reading that one until my book is done because I know I won't be getting anything else done once I pick it up. So, if I'm very, very good and get the book done, then I can have guilt-free uninterrupted reading time later in the week. My local library has a summer reading club for adults. I remember doing those when I was a kid, and I'm having just as much fun now filling out my reading log. Prizes for adults include Target gift cards. Woo hoo! The more books you read, the more entries you get in the drawing for prizes. I wonder if I could get away with listing the book I'm writing. It should count too, don't you think? I read it at least three times through while I'm writing it.

Hmm, maybe if I'm very good this afternoon and reach my goal for the afternoon with some time to spare, I can take book time out later.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Sci Fi Friday

Today's t-shirt: Terry Fox Run 2002, the year I ran instead of volunteering.

I don't have much to say today, and I need to be getting to work, so this will likely be brief (for me). I've been reading a lot lately, so I've got a good book report building up, but I have a theme going and a potential rant, so it will have to wait. I used to not read much while I was writing, but with this book I've been inhaling books -- three novels in the past week. It seems to spark my creativity. I just have to be careful not to let it eat into my writing time. I'm trying to be better about saving the reading for bedtime and not letting myself sneak pages during the day, because a few pages will quickly turn into a few chapters.

I'm deliriously happy about Sci Fi Friday kicking off again tonight. I have pizza and root beer, and I'm all ready for a night of couch potato bliss. It's not true Sci Fi Friday for me without Battlestar Galactica, but that's not starting up again until the fall, when this book will be done, but I can still enjoy the Stargates, with the added benefit of the fact that they don't really take over my brain in the same way, which means they won't interfere with my writing. Speaking of Battlestar Galactica, the book So Say We All, which is a set of essays about it (including one I wrote), is scheduled for publication this fall, around the time of the season 3 premiere.

I'm still not quite ready to announce my big news. It's in the "pinch me" category, so I'm waiting for a good pinch before I say anything publicly. It would be just my luck that I'd announce something, make a huge fuss, and then discover that there's a misunderstanding. I should be more certain next week. Yes, I'm being a bit of a tease about this, but hello, you've read my books (and if not, what are you doing here?), so you've seen how I end chapters. You should know I like building suspense. I torture my own mother by making her read a chapter at a time.

In the absence of me having anything substantial to say today, I've got another Out of the Blogosphere book to tell you about, Michelle Rowan's Angel With Attitude (appropriate for Sci Fi Friday, huh?). Falling naked into the killer whale tank at MarineLand is always bad news, but it's a real bummer when you've just been kicked out of Heaven. Former angel Valerie Grace is determined to reverse her banishment -- Earth's just no fun.

Her best friend is a slightly perverted human-turned-rat, and she's being tailed by a sexy Tempter Demon named Nathaniel, who's trying to lure her to hell with kisses that are almost worth the trip. With the talking rodent sneaking peeks down her shirt and Nathaniel getting more irresistible every minute, this ex-angel has only one hope: find the stolen Key to Heaven and go home.

Then the oddest thing happens -- Nathaniel starts to show signs of loyalty and love. And soon Val is asking herself if it is such a bad thing to have the hots for a demon.

And now I'm off to write.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Target Success!

I finally saw my book in Target! They were putting books out on the shelves when I was there, so they must have finally got their shipment in. I think I scared the poor kid who was doing the shelving. He noticed me staring at the shelf (as I admired my book) and asked if he could help me. I told him I was just admiring my book on the shelf. He gave me a really funny look. I picked up a copy and said, "I'm the author. I wrote this book, and this is the first time I've seen it on the shelf in Target, so I'm really excited about it." He seemed a little stunned. I guess when you're the guy who puts stuff on the shelves in Target, you don't expect to run into the author of the book you're shelving. They had three copies, and since all the books around it also had three copies, I'm assuming that's standard for that store. I shall have to visit the store again later in the week to see if any have sold. I also want to buy a copy that has that "Bookmarked" sticker on it because I am a huge dork.

As excited as I was to finally see my book there, I may have been more excited to find that they had the Levi's "Signature" jeans in stock, and they were on sale, and they had two pairs in my size. Those jeans seem to fit me better than others I've tried, and I like the cut of the mid-rise jeans -- not "mom jeans" high, but not scary low. I bought both pairs they had in my size, so now I've got a suitable stockpile of jeans.

I'm starting to think I have some kind of issue with keys and locks. There was the incident last summer when I couldn't open my front door, in spite of unlocking it (the latch wouldn't work). Then there was the incident where I locked my keys in the car during a booksigning. Today, I had a scary moment when my car key wouldn't go into the ignition. I'd managed to unlock my trunk with my key, then I'd unlocked the door. I went to start the car, and my key wouldn't go in at all. I double checked to make sure it was the right car, and it did have the red stiletto air freshener, which was a pretty good sign, in addition to the fact that I'd managed to unlock the door (though there have been a couple of incidents where I couldn't unlock the door, and then I realized I was trying to open a car identical to mine or identical to the rental I was driving at the time). While I was fighting with the key, I remembered an errand I was supposed to run at the store next door, so I went and took care of that, came back to the car, jiggled the steering wheel around a bit, and then eventually the key went in and the car started, and there was much rejoicing. I suspect it may have had something to do with the heat. My car really doesn't like being hot, and it was around 100 degrees (not good for being stuck in a car I can't get started). There are days when Owen would really come in handy for stuff like that. I'm sure he could unlock the door or get the car started with the wave of a hand.

I have the rest of book 4 more or less outlined -- until something else comes up to surprise me and derail things again. I'm planning on a marathon tonight to help me get my momentum back. I've stocked up on Dr Pepper, and I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow, so the way is clear for me to get some work done.

Soon I'll have some very big news to announce -- yes, even bigger than the Target news. I just want to double check a few things because I'm a raving paranoid and would hate to announce something only to have it fall through. When I'm entirely confident that it really is a done deal, I'll announce it here first. I suppose I should use this as a way of building my mailing list and say that I'll announce it there first, so you'd better go sign up, but I figure if you're bothering to come here on a regular basis, you don't need to be on any mailing list to know about important stuff like book releases or booksignings or any other big news.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Escaping Mimi

Today's t-shirt: A "nice" solid color fitted T, since I had to run errands this morning and have choir practice tonight.

I went to Target today to visit my book, and I was greatly disappointed. The little tag with my title was on the shelf, but there were no books to be found. I would love to claim that they've sold out already, but since that entire endcap was practically empty, with copies of only three books there, and the rest of their bookshelves looked rather depleted, I suspect that a lot of their book shipment for the week hasn't arrived yet. That, or there's a plague of book locusts swooping into stores and snatching up every single book (or maybe rampaging hordes of book clubs -- now, there's a mental image). I'll try again tomorrow and see if the matter is rectified.

Last night I got to visit with a book club that had read Enchanted, Inc. One of the members is a former client from back in my PR days, and she actually knew my "Mimi." In fact, when someone in the group was asking about what inspired the various characters and if they were based on people I knew, I said the only characters who were consciously based on or inspired by specific people I know were Gregor and Mimi. My former client immediately said, "Oh my God! I know who Mimi is!" And she was right. It was really funny (and we got in some great gossip). I actually heard from "Mimi" a while back. The day after I wrote her cameo appearance in book 3, I got a call from her (and immediately thought, "EEK! I summoned her!"). She wanted me to do a project for her, but as I am now a terribly busy and important author-type person, I sadly had to decline. And then I promptly did a Dance of Happiness and Victory.

Do you know how incredibly good it felt to be able to turn down work from someone like that? I've been able to do that a lot lately, including turning down projects from the agency that laid me off. So, keep buying those books so I can keep saying no to the Mimis of the world.

Anyway, even though I never imagined my books being book club material, I'm really having fun meeting with groups who've read them. I like chatting with people who love books and hearing what it is in my books that seems to resonate with people.

Let's see, in other news ... I need to take some time out on the writing to outline the rest of the book. I did have it all outlined, but with the story having changed so much along the way, the last quarter of the book the way I planned it no longer fits the story. Not that I'd really pinned it down that much. The synopsis I gave my publisher had a lot of handwaving at that point, just something along the lines of, "And then they beat the bad guys, save the day and live happily ever after (until the next book)," with no detail of how, exactly, they go about doing that. And now I've come to the point where I need to know so I can write it.

I forgot one important little detail about Joshilyn Jackson yesterday: She's met Dick Francis!!!! I'm so jealous because he's one of my favorite authors, but it's probably for the best that I haven't met him in person because I'm sure I'd have a massive dork attack and run screaming away from him for fear of sounding like a drooling idiot if I tried to speak to him. I can't seem to convince myself that I should now count as a peer to these famous authors, that I have the same job in the same industry, just at a slightly (okay, majorly) different level.

One more thing: Can anyone come up with a crossword puzzle clue and answer relating to me and my books? It's something one of my writing groups is trying to put together to help people be familiar with our members' books, and even though I'm a major crossword puzzle addict, I don't have a clue (in more ways than one) of what to do to represent me. My understanding is that it should be something pretty general and not requiring in-depth knowledge of the nitty-gritty details of my books. I'd try to offer a prize, but until I can find something suitable (or find my frog pins again), I'm at a loss as to what I could offer. They seem to have some kind of software that will take all the clues and answers and create a puzzle (I'm drooling at the thought).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Joshilyn Jackson

Today's t-shirt: Souvenir shirt from New York, with a stylized rendering of the skyline (pre-2001) in silver and gold puffy paint.

I'm back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, this time with Joshilyn Jackson, suspected terrorist and author of Between, Georgia.

And before anyone goes nuts, I should explain right away that the "suspected terrorist" thing is JUST A JOKE. Joshilyn is on book tour right now. She's one of those "lucky" authors who gets a real tour involving airplanes and nice hotels, with her publisher making all the arrangements. Unfortunately, when they made the arrangements, they made them in the wrong name. She writes under her maiden name, and that's the name all the travel arrangements were made for, but all her ID is in her married name. These days, the airlines aren't inclined to let stuff like that slide. She was able to get the ticket staff to change things by showing a copy of her book, complete with author photo, and proving that she really is that other person, but apparently changing the name on a ticket flagged it in the system, so now she's getting the special security groping treatment every time she goes through a checkpoint. I can relate. For some odd reason, I always seem to be the one who gets "randomly" picked for the extra security screening (which isn't so bad on a Sunday at O'Hare because that's a separate line that's a lot shorter than the usual security lines).

Because she's on tour right now, I decided not to add to all the stress and pressure by subjecting her to an interview. I thought it might be even more fun to put together something based on a past interview and some things borrowed from her own blog. Incidentally, her blog, Faster Than Kudzu, is one of my daily treats. Read it and you'll want to read her books. Her last book, gods in Alabama, was a #1 Booksense pick for the month, and won the Southern Independent Book Award for 2005. It also kept me up all night. Her new book, Between, Georgia, is the #1 Booksense pick for July.

Between, Georgia tells the story of Nonny Frett, who understands the meaning of the phrase "in between a rock and a hard place" better than any woman alive. She's got two mothers, "one deaf-blind and the other four baby steps from flat crazy." She's got two men: a husband who's easing out the back door; and a best friend, who's laying siege to her heart in her front yard. And she has two families: the Fretts, who stole her and raised her right; and the Crabtrees, who lost her and won't forget how they were done wrong. Now, in Between, Georgia, population 90, a feud that began the night Nonny was born is escalating, and a random act of violence is about to ignite a stash of family secrets. Ironically, it might be just what the town needs...if only Nonny weren't stuck in between.

Here's what Joshilyn said about what inspired this book:
It's based on a real town---Between, Georgia---that lies at the midpoint between Athens and Atlanta. I used to drive that route all the time, and I always wanted to stop and look at this place. As I recall, they had this population sign that read something like "111" and one day I came and it said, "Population 110." Someone had died and they had rushed up to CHANGE the sign...I got even more interested.

I started imagining the town and populating it on my drive. It kept me entertained... Now I have set an entire novel in a place I have never been, but have imagined so extensively that I never want to go.

I love the way she describes her writing process:
I spend 10% of my writing time drafting a big, ugly, mutated, unruly, repugnant pile of crap that is SO HUMILIATINGLY AWFUL I want to DROWN myself.

I spend the other 90% revising. This is the part I like. I take a MESS and start flensing away the extraneous crud and excavating the themes that drove me to tell the story in the first place. I have no idea what the story is ABOUT when I start---I just feel compelled to tell it. I get interested in the people or a dilemma. I don't examine it then, I just write it. Then I take the sweaty, uncrafted heap I pulled out of the back alleys of my brain and find the important images in it and figure out why this writing about this particular set of people, telling this story, felt so urgent to me.

Now, here are some random things I know about Joshilyn:
We discovered that we're about the same age when we realized we both have class reunions this year. Hers was last weekend and mine is this fall (which means I have more time to transform myself into something that looks more like the author photo I submitted as my "now" photo).

She read her own book for the audio version of Between, Georgia. That's because she has a background in theater and can do different voices for the various characters, and stuff like that. I'm very impressed.

Although she's an incredibly lovely, funny person, she does have some mortal enemies. One has gone down in infamy as "Eeyore," the person who was of absolutely no help in her quest to get chips from a hotel vending machine late one night during a book tour (though I think the hotel shares some blame). Read the whole story here. (Caution: Beverage on keyboard alert!)

Then there's the Evil Bookstore, that invited her for a group signing with other authors, then forgot to order any of her books, so that when she showed up at the store for the signing, they treated her like some deranged person who'd wandered in off the street and tried to barge in on the signing. Eventually, the store's events manager did confess to the store manager (after letting the wrong impression linger for far too long) that yes, she was invited, and no, they weren't able to get any of her books, and yes, they forgot to tell her this before the signing. I live in fear of this kind of thing happening to me, and though I'm generally pretty laid back, that's the kind of situation where my temper tends to go nuclear in an instant, so I'd have been plotting the death and destruction of the store and its employees. They would be going DOWN! I'm doing my part on Joshilyn's behalf by relating the story. Read it here.

Joshilyn and her kids keep getting interesting pets, most of whom seem to have gender identity issues. In all fairness, though, it can be hard to tell a girl newt from a boy newt. Even girl gerbils and boy gerbils aren't that easy to tell apart, but when the boy gerbil starts popping out baby gerbils, it's a pretty good sign that he's not as masculine as you thought.

Now you see why I want to meet her in person (her e-mails are hilarious). Unfortunately, she's on book tour when I'll be in Atlanta (I'm starting to get a complex about my friends who all seem to flee town whenever I'm in their city on business).

And, finally, Joshilyn hosts and runs Blogging for Books. This month, you can win all sorts of prizes, including signed copies of Between, Georgia and gods in Alabama and even the audio version of Between, Georgia. Here's the scoop on how to enter.

If all that wasn't enough to convince you to check out the book, take a look at her web site for more info and lots of rave reviews.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blue Eyeshadow Day

Today's t-shirt: "WARNING: What you do may appear in my next book." It's from one of my writing groups. I wear it often when I'm in the middle of a book because it is only fair to warn people that everything is fodder for the wacky writing brain.

I made next to no progress over the weekend. I think I need to avoid including weekends in my writing schedule because I really do need the break. I went out a couple of times, to go for high tea with some friends and to see Mamma Mia, but otherwise I was a couch potato. I had a minor stomach bug that hit Saturday night and lasted through mid-day Sunday, and I almost suspect my body of conspiring to make me take a break. I watched way too much HBO and OnDemand. I had the somewhat surreal experience of reading the book Must Love Dogs while the movie was on in the background on TV.

My editor is about halfway through reading book 3, and she reports that she really likes it so far, so that's a relief. It looks like that one will be coming out at the end of April 2007 (with book 4 following in the late summer or fall). But there's also a possibility that they'll hold it and do a back-to-back release with book 4, which might mean that book 3 would be maybe in late summer and book 4 would then come a month or so later. They've had a lot of success launching series and authors like that in mass market, so it's an option to really make a splash with these books. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. I know y'all are dying for book 3, but I also know that after book 3 you might be really glad to get book 4 right away. I'm kind of glad it's not my decision to make.

After seeing Mamma Mia last night, I have this weird urge to put on blue eyeshadow and dig up all my old ABBA albums. Unfortunately, most of them are on vinyl, I no longer have a turntable, and all my albums are at my parents' house since they do have a turntable. I have one CD and two cassettes. That was the music of my junior high years (except for The Visitors -- one I have on CD -- that came out when I was in high school and that I discovered my junior year, and it's very different from their usual sound) and conjures up memories of roller skating in the school parking lot on weekends with my friend's boombox playing. I was living in Germany then (early 80s) and ABBA was huge there, with posters everywhere. The scene in the show where they're singing "Dancing Queen" into hairbrushes really gives me flashbacks because I did that more than a few times.

And now to get to the chapter 12 I spent the weekend outlining but not writing.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Booksigning Karma

It doesn't look like the book is yet in Target. I checked the Target web site last night, and they don't have it listed. I guess they just placed the order last week. As often as I seem to be in Target, I'm sure I'll spot it when it gets there.

I went to Emily Giffin's booksigning last night, and it was a rather humbling experience. If I hadn't had the Target news, I might have ended up deeply depressed. For starters, you had to check in with the info desk and get a numbered ticket. You had to either have the book you wanted signed already with you, or you had to buy it up front. Then you had to tell the person at the info desk who you wanted it personalized to. She wrote that on a Post-it, then stuck that to the title page (which is actually a very clever idea, better than my "and how do you spell that?")

Once I had my book, I wandered through the fiction section on my way back to the events area, and there were no copies of my books to be found. I consoled myself by reminding myself of all the sales they'd be eventually losing to Target. There were about 30 people gathered there, almost all young women. They were right in the middle of the market I want to reach but don't seem to be reaching. It's probably a good thing I didn't find my books, or I might have been tempted to start waving them around while we waited for the event to start.

Emily did a short talk on the ideas behind the book, then took some questions from the audience. The very first person to ask a question asked something about the ending of the new book -- then seemed to realize midway through that she was giving away the ending of the new book. After the Q&A, they called us up to get in line to have our books signed in groups according to the numbers on our tickets. I was almost at the back of the line, so I did get to mention I'd see her at the RWA conference, and from there managed to get in who I was and didn't get an entirely blank look, which was nice. I'd also chatted with one of the booksellers while waiting in line, teasing her about the store not having my books. She said some authors get mad about that, then I shrugged and said I figured it was their loss because people would be buying it elsewhere. I was actually teasing, but now I worry that I sounded like a jerk because I have a kind of deadpan sense of humor, where I say stuff like that with a totally straight face, and the only way you can tell I'm joking is that I go overboard with the deadpan delivery -- like extreme deadpan.

I was browsing the front tables on my way out, and what do you know, I saw a whole stack of my book, right at the front of the store, so I took them to the info desk to sign them, and the bookseller there said it must be doing pretty well to still be out on the front table months after release. I then went back and told the other bookseller I'd been talking to that all was forgiven, since the book was right up front (though I think it might be a good idea to put at least one in alphabetical order in the fiction section). I joke about booksigning karma and how I go to other booksignings since I want people to come to mine, but this time I got a more immediate payoff.

I dream of one day having that many people show up to see me. I'm not sure about the numbered ticket thing, but a crowd would be nice. I also need to figure out ways to reach that young female audience. These were groups of girlfriends, some of them were law students -- kinds of people I seldom even see in bookstores when I'm there. I'll have to think.

But first I have a book to get written, and tomorrow's going to be a busy day, so I have to make up for it today.

Friday, July 07, 2006

On Target

Today's t-shirt: Information Week magazine's 1997 road tour, a relic from my technology PR days. I had this whole long story to tell associated with something that happened the day I got that shirt, but it turns out it was the wrong year. I guess that means I have two of these shirts, or else I have my years all mixed up.

I have really big news today that has me very excited. I've found out that Target will be carrying Once Upon Stilettos. It's an odd dream, but I've dreamed of having a book in Target. That exposes me to a whole new audience of impulse purchasers. It also means something when Target decides to carry a book, since their book selection is so limited. Plus, they keep titles around for a long time if they're selling. So, if you know someone who still hasn't been hooked on this series and who might not have gotten around to visiting a bookstore, you can now tell them they can find it at Target. I don't know when the book will start appearing in stores. I guess that means I'll just have to visit Target regularly for a while. Bummer.

I reached the halfway point in book four yesterday, and there was much rejoicing. It's a really good twist that comes at that point. One sure way to avoid a sagging middle in a book is to have something major that totally turns things upside down happen at exactly the middle of the book. It's not quite the event I'd planned for the middle, but I think it'll work and make the last half of the book a real roller coaster ride (or else I'm going to have to cut a lot from the beginning, which does happen far too often).

I had a huge Twilight Zone moment while writing last night. I realized that I'd come really close to pinning down approximate birthdays for both Owen and Katie, and giving a definitive age for Owen (so far, as far as I can recall, we just have Katie's estimate that he looks like he's around 30). It's nothing that really matters in this book and happens in throwaway lines that might not even make the final edit, so I wanted to be sure this was the way I wanted things to be before I set it in stone. After all, I wouldn't want to mess myself up for future books if I decide that something in particular should happen on Katie's birthday, or if I discover that Owen's under a curse that will turn him into a frog when he turns 30. So, just for curiosity, I pulled out a couple of old horoscope books that I got back when I was writing romances (they're good for helping you find areas of conflict between people).

And then I got shivers. Until this book, I hadn't even thought about when these characters' birthdays would be or what their signs would be. I just created characters. And then when their approximate birthdays came up in those throwaway lines in this book, it was more to do with timing in relation to the story. But the descriptions based on their signs were eerily accurate, and the description of their relationship possibilities pretty much mapped the way I've been writing their relationship. I don't know much of anything about astrology or horoscopes, so I generally can't even tell you what the major characteristics of each sign are supposed to be (other than to know that I may be the least Leo-like Leo there is, aside from the hair), so I don't think I could have been doing it subconsciously. I guess I was really on target (hee! Pun intended).

In case you're interested, it appears (unless I change it, but now I probably won't) that Katie is a Taurus and Owen is a Cancer. If you're into astrology or have any of those reference books, check it out and let me know what you think. During the events of the first two books, she's 26 (as stated in Once Upon Stilettos), and now it seems that Owen is 29. She probably guessed him as being older because he's kind of an old soul. He would have been one of those 14-going on-40 kids.

I'm going to another booksigning tonight, this time for Emily Giffin, bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Something Blue. I finished reading Something Blue last night, and I plan to get Something Borrowed tonight. I'll do a full book report when I've read both books (they weave together in what looks like it will be an interesting way).

And speaking of books, I've got another Out of the Blogosphere entry, this time another fun chick lit time travel from Marianne Mancusi, author of A Connecticut Fashionista in King Arthur's Court. Her new book is What, No Roses? TV reporter Dora Duncan is facing yet another Valentine's Day Massacre when she has to travel in time back to the Roaring Twenties to stop her ex-boyfriend (who stood her up last Valentine's Day) from messing up the space-time continuum (gee, ex-boyfriends ruin everything). More more info on Marianne and her books (she also has a vampire series for young adults), visit her web site.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Grab Bag o' Stuff

Today's t-shirt: Terry Fox Run 1991. The medical center where I worked at the time was the beneficiary that year, so we were "strongly encouraged" (required) to volunteer, for which we got a t-shirt and all the leftover bagels we could carry home. I actually ran it in 2002, but that's a different shirt. There's a misspelled word on this shirt, which my boss the super-editor flipped out over when she saw it (we had no say or control over the shirts).

Book status: Chapter nine is done. If I keep the pace I've had going this week and write a chapter today, I'll be halfway done with the book tonight. Well, halfway done with the target length. I'd worried that I wouldn't have enough story to fill the book, but it seems to be filling out more than I expected, so it may run longer. This book is turning out to be very weird. I normally have things pretty well planned. It's like I've seen the movie in my head and am just transcribing it. There aren't many big surprises. But with this book, I'm being surprised left and right. My planned book-level villain turned out not to be, a minor antagonist is turning out to be the villain, a major antagonist is turning sympathetic and may end up being an ally. I'm also learning new things about my characters. For instance, Owen turns out to have a very sarcastic sense of humor when he's in a bad mood. The grumpier he gets, the funnier he is. He's generally been my straight man, the one who reacts to Katie's jokes, but now he's the one making the jokes, and she's reacting (while keeping an eye out for things bursting into flames or blowing up -- making a wizard mad is not recommended) to him. It feels weird not knowing for sure what's going to happen when I sit down to write, but I guess I might as well go with it and see what happens. At least this book doesn't have a particular writing time. I can write it whenever I have time to write, unlike the last book, which refused to cooperate unless it was the middle of the night.

I realized last night that while I've been getting so much writing done and have been managing a bit more exercise, that evil old clutter demon has been sneaking up on me. It seems like I can't juggle too many things at once. It's not as bad as it was, so I think a little effort will set things straight and fend it off for a while longer until I'm done with the book and have time to do some more serious organization.

I have made the dangerous discovery of the Barnes & Noble University. These are free online classes (based around books, of course) and book discussion groups. Joshilyn Jackson is doing one for Between, Georgia next month, and I discovered all the others when I was signing up for it. Also next month is one on Love and Laughter, which seems to be mostly quasi chick-litty books, including the new ones from Marian Keyes and Jennifer Crusie, plus Curtis Sittenfeld's latest and one other author. I signed up out of curiosity because I suspect some chick lit bashing will take place, probably to the effect of someone arguing that even though many of these books contain all the usual ingredients of chick lit, they can't actually be chick lit because they're good. I'm checking Curtis Sittenfeld's book out of the library, as I refuse to buy her books after her infamous book review of another author's book in the New York Times, in which she said that saying an author writes chick lit is like calling another woman a slut, and then she proceeded to bash the author she was reviewing as having written a book that could be called chick lit (which I heard from within Random House was a big PR gaffe they were cringing over, and I made sure to let them know that I was certainly boycotting her because of it. It's not like I'd ever have got a cover blurb from her, anyway).

Speaking of the library, can we give the person who invented the Internet-accessible library catalog a Nobel Prize? Seriously, that has been so life-changing for me. I can browse the library from my desk. If there's something I read about on a blog or message board, I can just pop over to the online catalog, see if the library has it, put a hold on it and have it delivered from anywhere within the system to my local branch, where I can walk over to pick it up. Genius! I still love a good session browsing the shelves at the big downtown library, but that's usually something I do in the fall when kids are in school (in theory, I love the idea of kids hanging out in a library, but in practice, I don't want to be there when they are), and when it's cooler so that after the library I can get a takeout lunch from a neighborhood restaurant (Arby's, since there isn't one near me and I enjoy the treat) and then sit in the gazebo in the downtown park and eat and read. If I really want to make a day of it, the library is adjacent to the train station, and I can go to downtown Dallas, do some shopping, get my hair done, maybe see a movie, then go by the library on my way home. But for now, while I'm holed up in my cave and working, I love the convenience of the online system.

And while I'm giving out prizes, I want to give a medal to the guy who was mowing around the post office this morning. I try to walk for most of my neighborhood errands, within reason, depending on weather, weight, distance, time constraints, etc. (In other words, I don't try to carry a gallon of milk a mile and a half from the grocery store in 95-degree weather), but I have the odd ability to always be walking exactly when people are mowing along my route, no matter what time of day or day of the week it is, so that the freshly mown grass blows right into my face and I get an allergy attack. It's like they've got a network and send out a signal to converge on my route whenever I step out the door to walk somewhere. But the guy at the post office today actually killed his mower both times I walked past him rather than showering me with grass clippings. What a sweetheart!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Book Report: Monica McInerney

Today's t-shirt: Shirt for "The Ticket," the local sports talk radio station, that I won in a sports trivia contest. Yes, in spite of the fact that the only sports I pay any attention to are figure skating and University of Texas football, I somehow managed to win a sports trivia contest at a professional association meeting. I just happened to know all the answers, probably because of reading the newspaper every day and watching the local news, which includes a sports segment.

Book progress: I wrote chapter eight yesterday and got started on chapter nine. That time management thing must really have worked because I managed to go to a movie and then later spend the evening watching House and the Boston Pops, and I still wrote 23 pages. Plus, I got exercise from walking to and from the movie theater. I set an alarm again this morning, but lost some time in a long phone call with Mom, but that sort of counted as work because we were talking about the book. It seems that I somehow managed to perfectly capture my great grandmother in a character I created, in spite of the fact that she died when my mom was a child (so obviously I never met her). I decided I might as well go with it, and Mom told me some things about her I never knew that might end up working in the book. I think I'm still ahead of the curve timewise for the day, as I've done almost everything on the to-do list other than the actual writing.

My July 4 was pretty low-key. I watched the local parade on the city access cable channel, then watched the Boston Pops and the Boston fireworks on TV. Whatever happened to the A&E special they used to do that showed the whole concert and then the fireworks? This new one-hour version was pathetic. I guess A&E really has hit bottom, since they were showing "Dog the Bounty Hunter" instead. What happened to the network that gave us Pride and Prejudice? I'm all sad now at the thought of what we've lost. I really missed seeing a live fireworks show. I love not only the lights but also the sound that you can feel. It's a very thrilling, visceral experience. Maybe next year I won't feel so swamped and I'll be able to carve out the time to fight traffic to go to a show.

There's a book I've been wanting to talk about since Christmas, but was waiting until it was released. I discovered a few days ago that it's already been released. That's the hazard of getting an advance copy. This was one that I picked up on my last trip to visit my editor in New York, when I was shopping her bookshelves. The description mentioned it having something to do with leading a group of senior citizens on a tour, and since I'd ended up sitting in the middle of a senior citizen tour group on my flight to New York (they were a lot of fun), I added it to my stack. I then picked it up to read while I was at my parents' house for Christmas, and those who were around here back then will know that was a very difficult time for me (here's the story for the newcomers). It made me laugh, which I needed, and it also made me cry, which was good and cathartic for me.

The book was Family Baggage, by Monica McInerney. It's about a young woman who works for her family's travel company. She's leading a group of senior citizens from Australia to England on a themed tour to visit locations from a TV series that ran briefly on the BBC but which gained a huge following from reruns in Australia. Her sister is supposed to meet her in England to guide the tour from there after having made all the arrangements, but her sister fails to show up and seems to have mysteriously disappeared. Our heroine has to take on the tour by herself while also trying to find her missing sister, and doing that means uncovering some family secrets. A few years ago, this book might have been packaged and promoted as chick lit -- it has a young female main character, a snappy, witty voice, a little romance and a lot of humor. I hesitate to say that there's more to it than in your average chick lit because I don't think that chick lit is necessarily shallow. I guess if your idea of chick lit is limited to "single, shopping, bad job, cosmos with gay best friend" then yeah, there's more to it than chick lit. Now they're promoting it as "women's fiction."

I also recently read her previous book, The Alphabet Sisters, which is about three Australian sisters who've had a serious rift and haven't spoken in years. Then their zany grandmother comes up with a wacky scheme to force them to come together again and overcome their differences.

The best way I can describe these books is that they have heart. They're warm and funny, and they're about the good and bad sides of family. The author is also a lovely person. After Christmas, I sent my editor a gushing note about how much I'd loved Family Baggage, and then I got an e-mail from Monica (from Ireland), thanking me for the kind words. My editor does these books, so you know she has great taste. :-)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Movies and Motivation

Happy July 4th, everyone!

Today's t-shirt: I actually left the house today, so I'm wearing a "real" shirt. But later today I think I might change into shorts and a t-shirt from the Freedom Run 5K, which is held around Sept. 11 to raise money for families of fallen police officers and firefighters (5K races were my grand plan for meeting men in the fall of 2002, so I collected a few shirts during that phase).

Book status: I wrote chapter seven yesterday, and I suspect it's one that will have to be rewritten later once I get a few chapters deeper into the book and solidify a few things. I also did some brainstorming for chapter eight, which looks like it's going to shape up to be fun.

As part of my grand time management scheme, I've decided to start setting an alarm in the morning instead of lying around in bed until I feel like getting up. I'm still getting plenty of sleep, but I'm getting an earlier start on the day, which automatically frees up extra hours, just because of the way the extra time falls. Today, I used that extra time to hike up the hill to the movie theater (now that it's reopened) and see a movie. I was able to get home in time to eat lunch, goof off a little, and still start writing at my usual time. See, if I schedule accordingly, I can manage time to have fun and get my work done.

I went to see The Devil Wears Prada, mostly out of my admiration for Meryl Streep and my curiosity from reports that people were liking it better than the book (plus, they used the building across the street from Random House for something in the movie, so my editor reported on how she could look out her office window and see Meryl Streep across the street when they were filming). I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the book. I had big problems with it structurally and just plain didn't enjoy it, to the point I was kind of baffled by how much a lot of people seem to absolutely adore it. I did think that the movie was much better than the book. Meryl Streep really is amazing, and I think they fixed the plot structure problems to make the story flow better than in the book.

One of my main problems with the book was that I thought the motivation of the main character was flawed. If you're going to put a character in an extreme, difficult situation that the character stays in, despite the disastrous effects on her life, you have to convince readers that the character had no other choice in order to reach her goal. This character's goal was to be a serious journalist writing for magazines, so I could never believe that her only option was to take a job picking up coffee and dry cleaning for the editor of a fashion magazine. Every time she was in a difficult, painful situation where she had to make some personal sacrifice to keep the job, I kept thinking, "Well, there's freelancing to build clips, there's moving out of New York (gasp!) to get a job at a smaller magazine or newspaper and gain experience ..." I know that the book was loosely based on the author's experiences and she really did do all this, but fiction has to make more sense than real life does.

But I realized while watching the movie that the writing wasn't to blame and the motivation wasn't bad. It's just that the main character has no real personal integrity. You can't be honest with others until you're honest with yourself, and she was deceiving herself throughout about what she wanted and what she was willing to do to get it. She was looking for a fast-track shortcut to what she wanted, and she was willing to sell her soul to get it. And that's just not something I enjoy or can sympathize with. I had a lot more sympathy for the other assistant and even sometimes the evil boss because at least they were doing something they truly believed in, they were going after something they cared about and wanted, and they knew what they were willing to do to get it. The story is about learning the hard lesson about personal integrity along the way. This just isn't my cup of tea as a reader or viewer, and that's okay. That's why they publish thousands of books, because not everything likes the same thing. I guess I either like characters with integrity who still have lessons to learn, or I figure if you're going to have a character who needs to learn about personal integrity, you might as well go all-out and make her a real bitch, then give her a good come-uppance to teach her a lesson and transform her.

My, I sound very Old Testament, don't I?

My preference if you want to read a fun book set in the fashion magazine world is Fashionistas by Lynn Messina. It was laugh-out-loud funny and had a good plot.

I did really love the makeup job they did on Anne Hathaway. I think I need to go play with eyeliner before I start working for the day.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Time Management

T-shirt of the day: Pink shirt with "Write brained" on it in white. It's from one of the writing organizations I belong to. I initially bought it with the idea of using it to sleep in, but I discovered (as mentioned in earlier entry) that I don't like sleeping in t-shirts. My nightwear is all satin, silk, microfiber or (in winter) flannel, and the t-shirt wasn't as comfortable. Now it's mostly my "hang around in the hotel room" attire when I travel since it's bigger than the shirts I like to wear as shirts, but that also means it covers my behind in leggings, which is good for the exercise class I have this evening.

I made excellent progress on the book this weekend. It seems as though I can reach my daily page count goal in about three hours of work if I don't fiddle around too much. It's the fiddling around that kills me. When I start tracking my time, it's amazing how much time I can't account for. I'll feel like the whole day went buy in a flash and I was terribly busy, but then when I try to determine how much time I spent on what tasks and what my results were, I have nothing to show for it. I know I also get sidetracked easily. For instance, I spent a good hour Friday night researching and planning that vacation I want to take when I get this book done.

I keep feeling like I don't have a life and don't have time for a life, but at the same time I want to work more, to get more books written, do more promo work and really make a go of this career. In order to do that, I need to learn to make better use of the time I've got. I think I'm going to try using the kitchen timer approach, though I think I'll actually use the alarm clock on my cell phone because I find the ticking of the timer highly distracting. I'll set aside time slots for certain tasks, and use the timer to make sure I don't let time get away from me. The faster I write, the better I write (there's more energy in it), so if I can make myself write more in less time, then that gives me (theoretically) more time.

Then after this current crunch is over, I want to try to get myself organized so I can save time that way. Then, maybe, I can have my life set up so that I can mix in quality free time with efficient work. I'll never be an efficiency expert, but I'm motivated to make time for all the things I really want to do, and I think that getting more balance in my life will make me a better writer.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Practical Matters in Movies

New feature: I've noticed that many bloggers do some kind of little thing with each entry that gives a clue about what's happening with them that day. For instance, my agent always puts what's playing on her iPod at the start of her entries. I've decided to demonstrate what I meant about my wardrobe of t-shirts that I wear for writing by describing the t-shirt of the day.

Today's t-shirt: A GTE shirt I got at a trade show back in my telecom PR days. It was just a ratty old t-shirt, but it's something of a relic now that GTE no longer exists (it's part of the company now known as Verizon). There's no particular reason I picked this one today. It was just on the top of the stack.

I am now one-fourth of the way through book 4. Yay!!! I managed that by being fairly diligent on Saturday. Friday wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped for because I got sidetracked by researching and planning the vacation I want to take after I turn this book in (a cabin by a lake with a stack of books, maybe some hiking and canoeing). I feel like I've hit my rhythm, and Mom says the first couple of chapters are pretty good. It looks like I won't be doing anything particularly special for July 4 since the things I normally want to do eat up huge chunks of time and I do need to be working. I think I'll give myself comp time for working weekends and holidays during this phase (and thus the vacation).

The rant for the day: Why is it that characters in movies always live in cute (even quaint) old homes or apartments? Does nobody in movie-world ever live in anything built after WWII? Even in the areas where the majority of apartments are the "garden apartments" built from the 1960s onward, the characters still mostly live in quaint old buildings with wood floors, crown moldings, claw-footed tubs and interesting architectural details. One notable exception was Office Space, where the characters lived like most apartment dwellers in this part of the world live (they even had the same kitchen cabinets I have). I guess I'm just as guilty because in one of the unpublished (planned for a major rewrite someday) books I have that's set in Dallas, I had my characters live in one of the maybe five old apartment buildings in the entire area. I guess those homes just have more visual character than mass-produced modern housing.

Not that I'm really complaining because I'm a total sucker for old buildings. I was watching Must Love Dogs last night on HBO (I was eating dinner and brainstorming the next chapter, okay, Mom?), and I almost missed most of the movie because I was too busy drooling over the heroine's home, which was essentially my dream home, mentally redecorating it (she used red and white in the kitchen, but I'd go with blue and white, with maybe some Delft pottery on display) and mentally arranging my furniture in it. I'm assuming she got the home in the divorce settlement because I've watched enough Property Ladder and Flip This House to know that a cinder-block box in California can run around $800,000, so there's no way a preschool teacher could afford a two-story Arts and Crafts bungalow in California with hardwoods, a working fireplace, claw-foot tub and updated appliances.

And yeah, I do get too easily sidetracked by practical stuff like that when I'm watching a movie. Timelines also get me. I spent most of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood trying to work out the timeline in my head. If Sandra Bullock's character was supposed to be in the general ballpark of Sandra Bullock's age in the "now" part of the story, how could she have grown up in the 1950s? Sandra Bullock isn't much older than I am, and if you do the math, that character would have had to be born nearly 20 years before I was (her parents were adults during WWII, and my parents were babies during the war). So either her character was really well-preserved, or the "now" part of the movie should have taken place in the early 80s. But they made no effort to use visual cues like clothes, hair, cars or technology to set the movie then. They used cordless phones that weren't the size of bricks and talked about thong underwear, and that doesn't exactly say "early 80s" to me. That drove me INSANE through the whole movie.

As for the movie itself (Must Love Dogs), it wasn't a bad romantic comedy. It didn't hit one of my pet peeves -- the one about me wanting to tell the guy to run away while he still could -- because the heroine was actually a nice, decent person, but it did hit another major romantic comedy pet peeve, the "I don't need an explanation" contrivance to keep the couple apart a little longer. I hate it in books and movies when one person sees something out of context, the other person offers to explain, then the first person says they don't need an explanation and storms off and then generally acts miserable and brokenhearted. It seems to me like if you're that miserable and brokenhearted without that person, you might be willing to listen to them to find out what was going on before you cut your own nose off to spite your face. I guess people do really act like that at times, but I find it equally annoying in real life. It created a rare situation of me thinking that the hero didn't deserve the heroine -- an especially rare feat considering that the hero was played by John Cusack. Imagine what it would be like having a long-term relationship with someone who refused to listen to your side of the story whenever there was a misunderstanding. It's probably a bad sign that I was more focused on drooling over the house than I was on drooling over the hero and hoping for the couple to get together. If I ever hit a bestseller list or otherwise have the income where I can actually afford to spend money, I am so getting a house like that. Now I want to read the book to see how Hollywood messed up the plotting and characterization. I'll give the author benefit of the doubt and not assume the contrivance was hers.

Now back to work.