Saturday, September 30, 2006

TV Talk

It's a weekend (though I'll probably end up working more than I do on an average weekday), so let's take a little time out from all that business and work stuff and talk about leisure time. It's TV Talk day!!!

I caught the repeat of the premiere of Heroes on Sci Fi last night (for some weird reason, I didn't feel like watching it Monday night on NBC), and I think I may like it. They seem to be going with a theme similar to what I use in my series, that everyone may have something special about them in some way, some reason for being. At the moment, this show may take itself a little too seriously, and a bit of humor would be welcomed. I'll give this one a shot, but I'm still not sure if I'll just make it part of Sci Fi Friday or if I'll bother watching on Mondays.

I've been watching Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip mostly because I get the feeling that I should. It's the show that's getting all the buzz. I'm just not sure I care. I do enjoy the glimpses into the creative process, and I'm intrigued by the fact that they have an explicitly Christian character who is portrayed as being nice, talented, smart and not the usual range of ignorant/bigoted stereotypes. I have a feeling that this one will go the way Lost did with me, where I forget to watch or tape one week and realize I don't feel like I missed anything so I just give up on it. I've also been watching Standoff because it comes on after House and because it has both Ron Livingston and Gina Torres in it. It's kind of fun, brainless background noise for writing radio scripts.

I taped Ugly Betty but haven't watched yet. I may give Friday Night Lights a try while Fox is off playing baseball. I adore Kyle Chandler, but I have a sinking feeling the show will focus more on the pretty young people instead of on him, and I'm much less interested in that. I at least want to see Mack Brown trying his hand at acting by playing the town's obnoxious athletic booster. When I first heard he was going to be on the show, I'd though he'd play himself as the UT coach, but him actually playing a character is unexpected. And that's pretty much it for me with the new series. They don't have a lot that intrigues me. And does every show on ABC's schedule have to have something to do with strangers whose lives interconnect in surprising ways?

Now, I've heard that one of the secrets to blogging is to be controversial. I'm not normally big on controversy and conflict, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and make some controversial and probably unpopular statements:

I like Lorelei and Christopher getting together on The Gilmore Girls. Her relationship with Luke was perfect for the ongoing will they/won't they witty banter with occasional romantic moments TV relationship. He was surly and she was peppy! He hated people and she got along with everyone! But when they really did get together, it sucked the life out of both characters, and I couldn't even see why these two people would want to be together. Meanwhile, it's always seemed like Christopher just got her. They have a lot in common and seem to see the world the same way. Yeah, he's been immature and a jerk, but he has been growing up over the years. It's just taken him all this time to be worthy of her. And maybe I'm a traditionalist for liking the idea of her eventually ending up with her daughter's father. It would have been a disaster when they were sixteen, but now, who knows? I kind of feel like the one person in America who sees it that way, though. I tried looking at the Television Without Pity message boards, and it was page after page of "Christopher must die because he's keeping Lorelei from her one true love Luke." So, that saves me from one potential time sink. I guess I won't be posting much there.

And for my second controversial statement, I think I like the Tenth Doctor more than Nine on Dr. Who. I might even be a little in love. Yeah, so he is pretty much my type (except with brown eyes instead of blue, but I think I can let that slide). But also because his type is so unexpected with the kind of character he is. I love juxtapositions of things that shouldn't go together, and I think it's funny that this cutely geeky guy (especially when he puts on the glasses -- swoon!) is actually this ancient and powerful being. Nine looked a bit powerful and scary, but this one looks more like someone you'd want to protect. It's like the graduate student teaching assistant in your college history class turns out to be the baddest badass in the galaxy. Him being so young and cute also brings up some interesting issues in his relationship with Rose. She truly loves the Doctor, enough so that she was willing to die to save him, but I'm not sure she yet had reached the point where she fancied him, where she thought about him in quite that way. Now, though, this guy she loved enough to die for and who loved her enough to die for her happens to look closer to her age, and he's someone she could easily fancy. That adds a layer of tension and potential conflict that will be fun to explore. I may end up buying the DVD set of this season.

Okay, now you can all hate me for being so terribly wrong. Or you can discuss and argue with me. But I have to get to work since I changed my mind about a very crucial element of this book. I hate it when I do that, but it will make it better. It just means more work.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cover Blurbs

I'm past the halfway point on revisions, but in a phone conversation with Mom this morning I came up with a killer idea that adds a whole new layer to everything and makes it all make even more sense. I don't think it will take much reworking of stuff I've already gone over, but it is going to take some work. It might also be a little risky, but by now, I hope y'all trust me to know what I'm doing, even if it seems a little odd.

Meanwhile, I've been reading manuscripts for blurbs. By "blurb," I mean that quote on the cover of a book or on the first few pages that goes something like "Best book ever! I laughed! I cried! Read it now! -- Bigname Bestselling Author." My agent's been blogging about the issue this week as I've been reading, so it's on my mind. I've got a varied perspective on the topic as a reader, as someone who has asked for blurbs and now as someone who is asked for blurbs.

I noticed that a lot of comments at my agent's blog said they don't consider blurbs at all when buying a book. My experience has been that my eye might be drawn to a familiar name on a book cover that leads me to at least look at a book. Or if I'm on the fence, an endorsement from an author I like might help me make a final decision about trying a book. It's especially helpful for cross-genre works that I'm not sure about if there are quotes from authors I like in both of the mixed genres. Sometimes, the author quotes merely do a better job of describing what's special about a book than the cover copy does, regardless of who the quoted author is.

As an author looking for blurbs, it's an experience almost guaranteed to send you over the edge into insanity and insecurity. With Enchanted, Inc., I did all kinds of research to try to determine the authors I thought would have the readership most likely to match mine. My editor sent out a number of books to these authors. We were only able to get two blurbs, one from an author who's a personal friend of mine and another from an author my editor had worked with before. That had me absolutely panic stricken before the release of that book because I was sure it meant all those people had read the book and didn't want their names associated with it. I was afraid that meant readers would hate it, too, and my career was doomed. It was easier with Once Upon Stilettos, since the authors who gave blurbs had actually contacted my editor about loving the previous book, and they then were eager to get a look at the next book. I guess it's about the time I should be thinking about finding people to blurb Damsel Under Stress, and I'm at the point of just not wanting to deal with it. By now, I've got tons of good review quotes and an established readership. Will an endorsement blurb really do me much good? I'm sure I could get a number of people in the fantasy and paranormal romance arenas, but chick lit authors have proven very unresponsive to blurb requests in the past, and that's the audience I need to reach out to more. Heck, I even got turned down by one whose name is on almost every chick lit book, and she's someone I know personally! (And thus the insecurity, though supposedly it was a deadline issue.)

So, here I am getting requests to blurb other people's books, and that's made me a little less insecure because seeing things from this perspective shows me that there's a lot that goes into the decision. Giving or not giving a blurb may not have much to do with how good a book is. There are a lot of other factors at work. One of those is what the blurbing author gets out of it. Yeah, there's some pay-it-forward stuff at work, helping others the way other authors helped us, plus it's cool to help promote something you really believe in, but there's also the fact that giving an endorsement blurb is a lot like buying advertising space on someone else's book, especially when you're someone like me with a small but devoted fan base who's moving gradually from the bottom of the midlist to the middle of the midlist. Yeah, there are a few thousand people out there who might see my name as a reason to pick up a book, but there are a lot more people out there who've never heard of me who might be exposed to my name by seeing it on another book, especially if the book is by a hot new author who's going to be more heavily promoted than I am, or if it's an author's likely "breakout" book that's going to get a big push.

That's when you have to think like an advertiser and consider whether or not the book in question fits your "brand." Are your target readers likely to find this book appealing -- or might they be turned off by it? Think of TV ads and how the products are associated with the content of the series and with the demographics the series draws. I doubt there were too many airline ads aired during the pilot for Lost, which prominently featured a plane breaking apart in mid-air. That's not subject matter an airline would want to have associated with its brand. You're also not likely to find the various Disney princess DVDs advertised during something gritty, dark and adult like Battlestar Galactica. I'm very conscious of the subject matter of the books I blurb, since my books are cross-marketed to the young adult audience and I get lots of e-mails from people talking about sharing these books with their daughters and granddaughters. I feel like it would be sending mixed messages for me to have my name as an endorsement on something that's got NC-17 content. That doesn't mean I don't like or enjoy more adult stuff as a reader (though I'm really not a fan of the steamier erotic books) or that I don't think any of my readers might enjoy it, but it does mean that's not my brand identity, and I'm not going to do something that confuses my brand identity.

Another thing that came up in comments on my agent's blog was the suspicion that the author blurbs are like qotes from movie reviews that show up in ads, where they pull out the good stuff to use. If an author doesn't like a book, he or she won't provide a blurb, and it won't be used on the book. It doesn't work at all like the way reviews are used. If an author responds to a blurb request by saying, "This book stinks to high heaven!" you won't see a quote from that author on the cover saying, "Heaven!" In fact, I've had publishers ask my permission to change or remove one word in a blurb I've given so it will better fit in the space they have. I've even had a blurb I gave rejected. The one I sent was probably pretty generic. I could have told you in a conversation what I liked about the book, but I was at a loss for putting it in a few pithy words. They asked if I could come up with something a little more enthusiastic. At the time I was fighting a lingering case of bronchitis that was probably on its way to becoming pneumonia, and the constant coughing was keeping me from getting any sleep. The only things I could get enthusiastic about were breathing and sleeping. I guess if I'd really been wowed by the book I might have been able to come up with something, but the way I was feeling, the manuscript could have been delivered by angels, and it could have shone with a glory so bright I had to wear shades to read it, and the most I could have mustered would have been, "A really cute book." As a result, my name didn't go anywhere on that cover.

Now, there are some reputed "blurb sluts" whose name is on the cover of every book ever printed. Some of those may be genuinely nice people who like helping others and who do read everything they endorse, but there are also a few who are known for giving a quote based on a summary or a few pages without reading the whole book. As a reader, you start to recognize the names you see all the time, and they cease to have much meaning. I'd also be less inclined to trust a blurb from a relatively new author because it's so overwhelmingly exciting just to be asked when you still feel new and insignificant that I probably would have given a quote for any book that didn't make me physically ill (though there are very specific things that linger in my mind as special from the first books I blurbed, so I doubt I'd change anything even now).

One other thing to be aware of is that the author giving the blurb may not have had the same reading experience you'll get. The author probably isn't reading the final version of the book. The book is most likely in manuscript form and hasn't gone through final copy edits or proofreading. That could mean that if the author was able to overlook any errors or clumsy wording to be able to endorse it, the final book is even better, but I know I tend to automatically think of something in manuscript form as something that will likely be improved, so I might cut it more slack. There are things I can accept in a manuscript that would bother me in a typeset book I'd bought. And that's another thing -- you might have different expectations of a book you paid for than you have of a book that someone sends you for free.

Now that it's become less of a rare thing for me to be asked for a blurb, here's my pledge to you, my readers: If you see my name on the cover of a book, you can be assured that I have read the whole thing. I treat an endorsement blurb as the next best thing to me standing in a bookstore and telling everyone who looks at my books to give this book a try. I take it very seriously as a responsibility to my readers. While I may endorse books that are a little more adult in content than some of my books are, I probably won't veer too far away, since my tastes run to the sweet side. I would hope that readers would have the sense to be able to tell from the book's packaging and shelving if this is something suitable for a younger teen or pre-teen. I try not to steer someone horribly wrong, but it's not up to me to decide what's suitable for your kids to read.

Because I do take this so seriously and will be very selective about what I choose to blurb, I prefer to only take blurb requests through my editor or agent or through the other author's editor or agent rather than directly from the author. It's a lot easier to tell an editor or agent "I'm sorry, but this isn't for me" than it is to say that directly to an author, and it's still really, really hard to make myself do (and then I worry that I'm making a powerful enemy for life who will blackball all my books in the future). If I had to say it directly to an author, I'd probably just go into hiding. The exception might be if the author is someone whose work I already know who's also a personal friend. Then I know up front if I'm probably going to like the new book, and I feel more comfortable saying something like, "You know I love you, but hello, your character had a threesome with an otter in chapter three! I can't blurb that when my books are sold to teenagers! I don't care if it's funny and has magic in it. And seriously, do you really fantasize about otters?" I'd also hope a friend wouldn't then get pissed off at me and then immediately start a "Boycott Shanna Swendson" web site if I didn't give her a blurb. When I get requests directly from authors I don't know personally (and that means more than just being on the same e-mail group), my response is usually that I'm on deadline and too busy.

And now I have to get to work on my book, since this is a big night of Dr. Who!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Random and Assorted Book News

I'm making good progress on the last (for now) draft of book 4. It seems to take me forever to get around to starting to write, then when I get going, I really get going. I'm glad I took so much time between drafts, because that's letting me really see objectively the parts that need to be fixed, and I can tell more easily where to put all the things I came up with during my brainstorming week. I'm about midway through chapter eight right now (and yes, Mom, I'll get chapters to you today).

An alert reader has let me know that Damsel Under Stress is now available for pre-order from Amazon. There's no info on the page other than title, author and ISBN, and I can't imagine any benefit from pre-ordering this early. In fact, it seemed like some people who pre-ordered the last book didn't get it until days after the release date. But if you're obsessive, there it is.

Meanwhile, So Say We All, the Battlestar Galactica book, has a release date of October 28 posted, but the publisher said last weekend that it may be out in a couple of weeks. I've read some of the essays other than mine in the PDF I got for final proofreading, and it's definitely got some fodder for thinking and discussion. My season 2.5 DVDs should be arriving tomorrow, so that's incentive to finish this book so I can do a quick review before the next season starts next week.

For even more book-finishing incentive, I found out I'll be getting copy edits on Damsel in mid-October. If I don't finish book 4 soon, I won't get any vacation or break at all. I guess that means it's time to get to work, huh?

Finally, I leave you with photographic evidence of my fangirl dorkishness. Here I am gazing in awe and admiration at Alan Dean Foster. Though, actually, I think I was just listening attentively to his words of wisdom during our panel, considering that Jim Butcher is also listening attentively. (In case you couldn't tell, I'm the one in the middle.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Karin Gillespie

We're back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit today, with a book by our founder, Karin Gillespie. Dollar Daze: The Bottom Dollar Girls in Love is the latest in her series about the ladies who work in the dollar store in Cayboo Creek, South Carolina. This book explores the age-old question of whether it's ever too late to find love. The 60-something widows are sure their dating days are over, until they see an 80-something friend having a rather hot fling. Maybe it's not too late for them, after all, but the eligible men in town are as picked over as a garage sale at noon (boy, do I know that feeling). Then an old high school heartthrob comes to town ...

I asked Karin a few questions:
What was the inspiration behind this book?
I was in what I call "the hospice" stage of being single. I was in my mid-40s and after years of being divorced I honestly never thought I'd ever get married again.

There was this fellow named David I'd run into now and again but he could never remember my name and seemed utterly indifferent toward me. Then I checked out this fabulous book from the library called The Crimson Petal and the White . I devoured the 800-word novel post haste and when I got to the end, I discovered a receipt with the name of the last person who checked it out. It was Mr. Indifference himself! I ran into him again and mentioned that we'd checked out the same book. For the first time, ever, he finally took notice of me. We chatted enthusiastically, started dating, and yes, dear reader, I married him.

While our courtship was going on I was writing Dollar Daze: Bottom Dollar Girls in Love. My personal life kept bleeding into the manuscript. Everyone in the book was falling in love. It was like Cupid spiked the water of Cayboo Creek S.C. the setting for Dollar Daze. One of my characters, a proper Southern widow named Gracie Tobias, hooks up with the love-of-her-life via a library book.

Is there any aspect to this book that you identify with on a personal level?
I most identify with Elizabeth, who is struggling with being a stay-at-home-mom in Dollar Daze. When I stayed home with my son during the summers (I was a school teacher for many) I would get Blues Clues cabin fever and couldn't wait to get back to work. I admire moms who like staying home with the kids but I wasn't one of them.

As you write a series involving the same setting and characters, does it get easier with each book, or more difficult?
Definitely easier because you don't have to re-invent a universe. The tricky part is reintroducing your characters in a fresh way each time out.

As the "hype hag," you've certainly done a lot of promotional work for your books. Based on your experiences, what do you think has been most effective, and what would you not waste time on in the future?
I think an author should spend as much time as possible on finding ways to get print media or radio. I expend a lot of energy thinking of news hooks for my novels. Because Dollar Daze features the older Bottom Dollar girls, I wrote a trend piece called "Chick Lit Goes Gray" featuring my book and pitched it to lots of regional senior magazines and many of them published it.

I'm very particular, however, when it comes to author events. Often people will invite authors to do signings and then do very little to promote the event. That's a waste of everyone's time, particularly mine. There's very little value in doing a signing if there isn't going to be any publicity. If I have the feeling an event won't be promoted or attract media coverage, (as is the case with most book store signings) I'll turn it down.

What do you think is the most fun part about being an author?
Getting fan mail. Being able to set my own hours.

What are you working on now?
I co-wrote a novel with Jill Conner Browne (aka the Sweet Potato Queen) called The Sweet Potato Queen's First Big-Ass Novel: Stuff We Didn't Actually Do But Could Have and May Yet which will come out in January 2007. Then I have another novel that will be out in 2007 called Earthly Pleasures about a greeter in Heaven who crosses the dimension to be with her lover on Earth.

For more info on Karin and her books, visit her web site.

This is one of those weird times when real life and the subject matter for the tour merge nicely. I mentioned the other day about maybe dropping by the neighborhood retirement home for their art exhibit. It turned out that I may have been the only person from the neighborhood who came by (in spite of the publicity), and it was really quite an amazing exhibit. There are some very talented artists living there. It's like we have this lovely little art gallery right in our neighborhood. If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, try dropping in on a public event at a retirement home or nursing home. They'll be very glad to see you. This is one of those "independent living" homes that's essentially an apartment home for older adults, with meal service available in a central dining area and lots of scheduled activities. I could see a place like that being a hotbed of romance for the senior set. Hey, if I don't manage to get married in this phase of my life, I may be considered hot stuff when I need to move into a retirement home. It could still happen for me!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Strange Case of the Teleporting Sock

If anyone wonders where I get some of the supernatural wackiness that shows up in my books, well, my real life is a good source. Not that I actually think anything truly supernatural is going on. It's just that some things are odd enough that a supernatural explanation might actually make more sense.

Take socks, for example. There is a giant sock black hole in my house, and it really likes the socks I like or use the most. Socks always seem to go missing for me, to the point that the top of my dresser is sort of a lost-and-found department for widowed socks. I live in hope that the missing mates will return some day to be reunited with their loved ones. But that's not the weird thing. What's weird is that my socks can apparently teleport. When I went to visit my parents for my class reunion, I brought two pairs of one kind of sock. As I was frantically packing to leave Sunday morning, I only found three socks. I didn't have time to go on a quest, so I figured the missing sock was stuck inside a pants leg or bundled up with some other clothes and I'd find it when I got home. When I got home and unpacked to do laundry, I very carefully took one item out at a time, gave it a good shake, and then checked inside legs, pockets and sleeves. No sock. So, when I talked to Mom, I mentioned the missing sock, and she said she'd check for it in the guest room. She didn't find a sock. I checked other bags I had with me, in case maybe it got mixed up in my books, my tote bag or my computer case, but there was no sign of the missing sock. Yesterday I got a pair of shoes I'd brought with me that weekend to wear for the first time since that weekend. I picked up the shoes from my bedroom floor, where I'd put them after taking them out of the suitcase and checking inside for the missing sock. The missing sock was hiding under the shoes. How could it have hidden when I was taking everything out, checking inside and shaking it? Teleportation is really the most logical answer. It was hiding in my parents' guest room, then the moment Mom started looking for it, it teleported over here and hid under a pair of shoes.

Then there was yesterday's adventure with my season 2 DVD set of The Office. Due to whatever odd urge, I decided to straighten up the jumble of DVD sets on my coffee table and around my sofa. The new sets this season all seem to come with a cardboard sleeve around the fold-out case (which I hate), and the sleeves had become separated from the cases. When I went to put the Office DVD set up, I noticed that some of the discs had come off their little spindle holders, so I had to open up the case and snap them into place. That's when I noticed that there was a disc missing. I knew one was in the machine, but there were only two in the case. I knew I'd watched pieces of all four discs since I got home from my parents' house, so the missing disc wasn't in their DVD player. I went on a frantic search for the disc that must have fallen out of the case when it got loose. I searched under the sofa with a flashlight, checked every newspaper and magazine that had been on my sofa, cleaned off the coffee table and generally turned my living room inside out, to no avail. I even checked the case a couple of times to see if a disc could have slid between the plastic and cardboard and to see which disc was missing. Finally, in utter desperation, I checked the case again, removing each disc from its slot and putting it back in place. The missing disc turned out to be hiding under one of the other disks, so there were two in one slot. But how did I not see that when I had to put loose discs back in place earlier? The only logical answer is that the disc wasn't actually there when I checked the first few times. It teleported in from a remote location at the last minute.

I know I'm always saying I need to get my life in order and my house cleaned, but I'm not sure a clean house would have helped in either of these instances. I guess I might have noticed the missing sock sooner if I'd put the shoes away in a shoe rack instead of leaving them on the floor (unless the sock wasn't actually there until later), and if my living room had been pristine with no clutter whatsoever I wouldn't have had long to search for a missing DVD before realizing it just wasn't there, but I'm not sure I would have found it hiding any sooner (especially not if it just magically appeared).

So, if the simplest answer is usually the right one, I either have tiny, mischievous, invisible beings living in my house and messing with my head, or my possessions have the power to teleport.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Confessions of a Fangirl Dork

I had so much fun at FenCon over the weekend, and it appears that there's a direct relationship between amount of fun had and how tired I am afterward because I now feel like I spent the entire weekend doing heavy labor. I actually whimpered when I woke up this morning, until I realized that there was no reason I had to get up anytime soon. So I didn't. Now I'm more or less caught up on reading all the e-mail I got over the weekend (responding may take longer), and I've even caught up on all the various web sites I try to keep track of.

I'm not sure I'll ever grow out of being a big fangirl dork. I could be consistently hitting the top of the bestseller list, and I'd still start shaking violently and go into a complete panic about meeting one of my favorite authors. Never mind that every time I've met one of my favorite authors, they've turned out to be very cool people. Would I really be able to relate that well to books coming from the subconscious of a real jerk? There's got to be something in there I'm responding to.

So, this weekend it was Alan Dean Foster, who's probably my longest-term favorite author. I started reading his books when I was nine, and I'm still reading them. I'm not sure there's an author I was reading before him who's still alive that I would care to meet. Like many people of my generation, I got into science fiction through Star Wars. Back in the Dark Ages, we didn't have stuff like VCRs, DVDs and the like. If you really, really loved a movie, the only way to see it over and over again was to go to the movie theater over and over again. And if you were eight or nine years old and your parents were so totally unreasonable as to not be willing to drive you to the movie theater on a weekly basis so you could wait in line for an hour to see a movie you'd seen already, the only way to revel in your obsession was to read the novelization over and over again. My parents finally got tired of me reading that one book repeatedly, so they gave me a book they'd just read, The End of the Matter. They figured if I liked Star Wars, I'd like reading about the space adventures of another young orphan (we didn't learn until many years later that Alan Dean Foster actually wrote the novelization of Star Wars, in spite of George Lucas's name on the cover). They'd read Icerigger a few years earlier and had picked up this book because it included a character from that book. I was hooked, and I was soon reading all the rest of the adventures of Flinx and Pip. I got into the Icerigger books, as well, along with just about everything else taking place in the Commonwealth universe. When I was in high school, the Spellsinger fantasy series came along, and while my parents weren't as fond of it, I enjoyed it. I read a couple of Foster's short stories for prose interpretation competitions in high school, and I cited his development of alien cultures and ecosystems in a college paper for a course on the search for extraterrestrial life. Along the way, I started having dreams of becoming a writer, myself, and I even pictured having my own book with the little Ballantine logo on the spine (of course, they changed the logo, so I don't have the same Ballantine logo I dreamed about having).

So, yeah, it was kind of like meeting Superman in person for me. I went through most of the weekend just attending panels between my own sessions and going to the keynote talk without getting the nerve to approach him or speak to him. Then on Sunday, I had to actually talk to him because I was sitting next to him for a booksigning. EEEEEE! I think I was actually shaking, and the nerves meant I probably talked too fast and maybe giggled too much. During a lull, I got him to sign some of the books I'd brought with me. When some fans said they thought it would be cool to have some kind of cruise event with authors, I mentioned that I'd heard of the romance market doing that, and that Pocket books had sent some of their authors, and then we started quipping about needing to talk to Ballantine. But that was about all the interaction I managed. Then, though, I had to moderate a panel that included Alan Dean Foster and Jim Butcher. And ended up sitting between them (the fact that they both made remarks about sitting by the pretty girl didn't help the nerves). Ultimately, though, I managed to return to being somewhat professional and ran the panel in a way that I think flowed pretty well. I only managed one of my trademark rambling, drawn-out answers, one that earned me a pat on the back from Alan Dean Foster (EEEE!). Then I managed not to gush too much when thanking him afterward.

I have realized that I really need to work on that Get A Life project in case I ever reach the level where I get to be a guest of honor at something like that and am expected to speak for an hour just on my experiences. I haven't traveled the world, swam with sharks, been in a pen with a cheetah or had a flat tire when surrounded by lions. The craziest things I've done include wandering the Cotswolds alone and walking alone in Manhattan after dark (which isn't really all that scary, depending on where you are). I guess the point is to tell stuff about your own life that helps people better understand where your books come from. His stories about studying wildlife and visiting a variety of places show how he's able to build such vivid alien cultures. I guess I'd be talking about dating and working in an office.

Next year, the guest of honor will be Connie Willis, whom I've already met, gushed over and eventually managed to relax around. But still, I really want to be there again. Whoever plans the next Browncoat Ball, let's talk scheduling, please, so I don't have another conflict! Speaking of which, the folks at the Browncoat Ball this year sent me a photo with a banner they did for me. AWWWWWW! I'm so touched. I even got a bit teary-eyed. Seriously.

Now I need to think of who else is on my "would love to meet" author list. I guess Katherine Kurtz, but I think that would have been a lot more intense when I was in high school or college. I might be able to be sane now. JK Rowling, of course (I get the sense from her non-book writings that I'd really get along well with her), but I'd have to fight off the mobs and probably wouldn't get to interact much. Marian Keyes would be cool to meet. I probably wouldn't be able to talk coherently to Dick Francis.

I'd really love to spend the rest of the day collapsing and recovering, but I must go to the post office, and the retirement home I pass along the way is having an art exhibit by their residents this afternoon, so I may pop in and visit some. Then I must get back to work on the book.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Off for Now!

I have to head out to FenCon soon, so this will be short. At least I'm not as frantic as I was last year, when I was flying back into Dallas at about this time, after having been up all night with the Serenity premiere party. Maybe I'll be semi-coherent when speaking this year!

If I have anything fun to report after the weekend, I will do so.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Subconscious Themes

I finally had to resort to the allergy meds yesterday when the sneezing was getting in the way of my ability to get any work done. Of course, while that cleared my head in one respect, it made me loopy in other respects. I probably couldn't have driven or walked a straight line, but my brain got a really strange kind of clarity, to the point that I realized what this book is really about. Not the plot stuff, but rather the theme, the internal story I'm trying to tell that lies beneath everything else. I generally write to have entertaining books rather than anything to analyze in book clubs or to one day have students forced to write papers about, but I find that there is usually some kind of underlying theme.

The theme for this entire series is essentially about finding one's place in the world -- what makes a person "special," what it is that you have to offer the world that nobody else can really do, and what role you play in the lives of the people around you. Each book in the series explores a different facet of that. The first book is about Katie realizing she's more special than she ever realized. The second book is about her discovering that the thing that really makes her special isn't quite what she thought it was. I won't get into themes for books three and four, as that would be spoilery. Suffice it to say, I figured out what book 4's theme is. I guess it helps to shut off the conscious part of my brain and let the subconscious get to work. And now that I have all that, I need to get the conscious mind back and working to actually write it.

I do have new motivation to get this book done and get started on something else, though. There's been scary news in publishing land about authors who seemed to be doing pretty well who not only have had their option books declined, but whose next books aren't being published, even though they're written and paid for. When I finish this book, I'll be out of contract, which means unemployed, essentially, and while I'm pretty sure I can get another book sold, it's not absolutely certain. I'm not sure what else I can do if I can't keep working as a writer. I'm bad about keeping in touch with people, so I'm not sure what I'd do about references if I had to go job hunting. Would employers count references from agents and editors, even if the editors were the ones who decided I wasn't cutting it as a writer?

I think I really need to lay off marathons of The Office before I go to sleep because that does seem to give me anxiety about having to get a real job again. But it's so much fun! And season premiere tonight! We'll finally find out what happened with Jim and Pam.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I've just about finished the brainstorming to figure out the final touches on book 4. We've been having lovely weather, so I've spent the last couple of afternoons sitting on the patio with my notebook, scribbling ideas as they come to me. Now I just need to take all these random thoughts, pick the ones I want to use, and figure out how they'll fit into the book itself.

There may be some inherent dangers to trying to brainstorm while also taking notes on a cooking show, though. I hope I didn't get my notebooks mixed up. Otherwise, I may find that one of the things I have planned for Owen to do in a major confrontation is mince and then saute three cloves of garlic (which, I guess, could be a good strategy against vampires). Even more dangerous would be if I try to make spaghetti and meatball soup and see that I'm supposed to turn my enemies into toads before increasing the heat and adding the meatballs.

Hmmm ... there seem to be a lot of mystery series that revolve around cooking. Has anyone ever done a culinary fantasy? I mean, other than Like Water for Chocolate (though I think that was technically considered magical realism). More fodder for the idea file.

Speaking of the idea file, my brain is being very annoying right now. It's got an idea that it really wants to play with, much more than it wants to actually work on book 4. Characters and bits of dialogue keep popping into my head, and I have to shove them aside because they have nothing to do with the book I'm supposed to be working on. I guess that means I should work on it and get it over with so I can move on to the next thing.

Finally, here's the cover of the Japanese edition of Enchanted, Inc., thanks to "Carla in Austin" who found it online for me:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Calling all Fan Gals!

First, a little housekeeping/public service announcement:
I've heard from one reader who got a copy of Enchanted, Inc. with the last twenty or so pages missing. That makes me worry that there could be a problem with the latest print run. If you get a book with pages missing, blank or in the wrong place, take it back to the store where you got it so you can get a new copy with all the right pages and so the store can notify the publisher that there's a problem with the print run (and this applies to all books, not just mine). If it is one of my books, you can let me know, as well, and I will pass that on to the publisher, but you'll still need to take the book back to the store if you want to read the whole thing. And if you happen to be in a bookstore and want to check out the copies on the shelf, please alert a bookseller if the book has a missing ending, and let me know, too.

Incidentally, do you know how to tell which printing your copy of a book is from? Here's a nifty trick:
On the copyright page, down near the bottom, there's a number countdown that goes: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. If it goes all the way down to 1, that's a book from the first printing. On the second printing, it stops at 2. Third printing, it stops at 3. And so forth. These numbers may be in different places on the copyright page, depending on the publisher, so you may have to look for them. With Enchanted, Inc., the other way to tell you have a first printing copy is that it doesn't have an author photo on the bio page. It was omitted in a production "oversight," but subsequent printings have the photo.

So, there's your "business of publishing" fun fact of the day.

This weekend is FenCon, and I got my listing of panels yesterday. I'm really excited to actually be on a panel with Alan Dean Foster, one of my writing heroes. Fortunately, it's at the end of the conference, so maybe by then I'll have gotten over the squeeing fangirlishness and be able to breathe and talk like a reasonable human being and professional semi-peer. The panel is on series and how you decide when/how to end a series. It's kind of funny that I'll be there talking about my angst of where to go next with my little series that has two books in print and two more on the way alongside someone like him. I read my first Flinx book when I was nine -- and it was the third in the series -- and the series is still going strong. One thing he did do was wrap up the initial primary story arc in the first three books, then after a long gap and some standalone adventures he picked the series up again with a different main problem facing our hero, but with elements from the initial story coming into play. That's one way he's managed to keep the series going for more than thirty years.

I'm also in the same autographing session with Alan Dean Foster and Jim Butcher, so I'd better work up some comedy material for entertaining the people waiting in line to see them. I also need to decide which of my Alan Dean Foster books I should bring with me to get autographed. If I brought them all -- pretty much nearly everything he's written -- the poor man would get writer's cramp. I think I'll have to bring that first one I read, then maybe Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which is a bit of an oddity (and I have a first edition). Maybe some of the more recent hardcovers (which I got from Ballantine -- one of the perks of my job).

There's one panel I'll be on where I'd like to get some input from you fan-type folks. It's "Cruse, flirt, pickup and other social sexual strategies," aimed at discussing how these things should (or do) occur at a con, and how to get phone numbers rather than restraining orders. I suspect this was in part inspired by the infamous groping incident at WorldCon. I've followed some of the online debate about it, and was shocked to see just how many female fans talked about not seeing that kind of behavior as too unusual. Maybe it's just my industrial strength personal space bubble or the fact that I've mostly been at cons as a guest speaker, but I haven't dealt with anything too bad. I've been leered at by a big name who didn't seem to be able to make eye contact when talking to women (if you know what I mean), and I've had a drink or two spilled on me by someone trying to get a little too close for easy conversation. I'm more likely to run into the social skills deficient guys who seem to think that "Hi!" means "I'm crazy about you! Please follow me everywhere I go!" but they're mostly harmless. Slightly more annoying are the ones who seem to think that attempting to carry on a conversation and get to know them as perhaps a precursor to beginning something more means I want to go to bed with them immediately -- and they'd be doing me a huge favor in obliging me. That's actually more likely to happen to me at general writing conferences, but it's always fan-type guys who also go to sf cons who do it.

So, fan gals, any experiences you'd like to share or opinions you'd like to make known? Here's your chance to have me as a spokesperson for you. Names will be omitted, of course. You can comment in the blog or e-mail me at I can jabber about my own opinions all night long, but it would be nice to be able to back it up by polling my peeps, so to speak.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Time Traveling

Today's t-shirt: A new one! "Blue Out -- Lindale Eagles 06-07," which is apparently the spirit theme for the year at my old high school. My dad bought me one at the football game Friday night. Almost everyone in the stands was wearing one, so it really did look like there was a "blue out" in the stadium.

I must say that I'm really surprised at the results of the LiveJournal poll and the feedback in e-mail and comments. The big winner was discussion about my real life. I've been avoiding too many posts about my real life unless I had absolutely nothing else to say, for fear of sounding too "me, me, me, meeeeeee!" Good thing I did a survey, huh? So now I guess I need to get a real life to have something to talk about. The second most popular topic is behind the scenes info about the books. For that, I do try to share anything that occurs to me, but if you do have a particular question or point of curiosity about the books, please let me know, either via comment or e-mail. I can't guarantee that I will answer any and all questions about the books because I don't want to spoil future books, and there are some things that I still have to figure out, but I'll definitely see what I can do to answer any questions you might have. Other popular topics included the creative process and the publishing business.

So, since you apparently are gluttons for punishment and actually want to hear about my real life, I'll tell you about my class reunion weekend!

I'm from a pretty small town in northeast Texas. At least, it was pretty small when I lived there. The sign at the city limits said "Population 2180." Now it's closer to 3,000 and growing rapidly. That sign is probably from the last census and wildly inaccurate now because a lot has changed in the past couple of years. We moved there just before I started my freshman year of high school. Before that, my dad had been in the army, so we moved around a lot and I'd lived in a variety of places, including overseas. But we'd owned property outside this town since I was five, so I'd always sort of considered it my hometown, my home base, so to speak. We just hadn't lived there, and we didn't know many people there, other than the people who bought the adjacent land at the same time. It was weird to move there after having considered it home all that time, and then have people ask me where I was from, since they'd been around that town their whole lives and had never known me.

This is the kind of town where much of the life of the town revolves around the school. The whole town turns out for football games, even if people have no connection to anyone who's playing. Needless to say, the homecoming game Friday night was like the social event of the year. The first activity was the Rotary Club's hamburger supper before the game. My class was supposed to try to hook up to sit together during the game, but it was a mob scene, so I couldn't find anyone and just sat with my parents. Later, they made an announcement over the PA system that our class was sitting in what was supposed to be the visiting band bleachers in the end zone (the visiting band sat in the regular stands). When I got out there, at first it seemed like everyone had changed, but then after a few minutes, it was like a trip back in time, since I was back to sitting with a lot of the same people I used to sit near at football games back in school. Most of us were in the band back then, and that meant we always sat with the band during the games. I still can't seem to help getting butterflies in my stomach when halftime approaches, even though it's been twenty years since I had to march. I must say, it's a lot more comfortable watching a September game in a tank top than in a wool band uniform, though.

I should point out that I was not a "band geek." I may have been a geek in a lot of ways, but being in band wasn't one of those ways. We didn't really have the "band geek" stereotype at my school. Band was the cool thing to do. Almost everyone was in the band, including most of the "popular" crowd. Out of about 500 people in the student body, we had about 180 people in band. We marched about 150 during football season because we had a lot of football players and cheerleaders in the band. There were some football seasons when the main attraction at the games wasn't the game itself but rather the halftime show. Our band ruled (and still does). Literally. We never got lower than a first-division rating, won just about anything we entered, and we were state honor band my senior year, a tradition they're apparently continuing.

Back to the reunion ... our main event was a Saturday-afternoon barbecue at a bed-and-breakfast ranch. The kids got to take wagon rides (pulled by a team of Clydesdales) and play with the pet donkey while the adults hung out and talked. There was a lot of swapping stories about crazy things people did in high school. As a rather notorious goody-goody and as a teacher's kid, I generally wasn't included in anything truly crazy. I guess it says a lot about my high school years that there were a lot more stories being told about my dad (who was a really popular teacher) than there were about me. At the same time, there also wasn't anything really embarrassing being said about me, either. I don't feel like I have much to live down from those days, other than maybe some unfortunate hair and clothing choices, but it was the 80s, so there was a lot of that going around. I ended up spending a good amount of time hanging around with people I didn't know that well in high school, so in a weird sort of way, I managed to make new friends at a reunion. I don't know if we would have been friends back then if we'd connected, or if it had more to do with where we are in our lives now.

That night, we all got together for a casual adults-only gathering at the home of one of our classmates, where we just hung around and chatted. That was when I was really feeling the blast from the past. Jokes and stories that were told brought up things I'd long since forgotten, but as soon as they were mentioned, I was right back there. We all agreed that we wanted to do better about keeping in touch and took up a collection to maintain the class web site on an ongoing basis. I found out that a few of my classmates live in my general area, and we talked about trying to get together sometime. I'm really bad about letting "sometime" become "never," but I'm going to make an effort here, I think. I've found some pictures from the reunion (as well as a group "before" picture) that I may have to post when I get them cropped a bit and uploaded to my web space for hosting.

For now, though, I have a book to finish. My voice is raspy from so much talking over the weekend, and I'm starting to recover from all the late nights and early mornings. I managed to talk myself out of going grocery shopping, as I have enough food to live on for a little while and I don't really want to go out. It's a nice day, so I'll be taking a notebook outside for some book brainstorming.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Reader Feedback Time

I'm about to head out of town for my 20-year high school reunion (I still can't believe it's been that long). Since I probably won't be online during the weekend, I'm opening the floor to my readers to give me some feedback on what you want to see in this blog.

I've been keeping a blog for a couple of years now at various sites, and while I'm perfectly content to blather to myself, the whole idea is to give readers the kind of information they want.

So, do you want to hear about the business of publishing? How-to tips on writing? Behind-the-scenes scoop on my books? Book reviews and recommendations? Movie and TV talk? What about what passes for my "real life," including my efforts to get a life and maybe snag that cute anchorman? Or is there something else you'd like to know that I've never addressed?

If you've got a question or topic you'd like me to cover, please comment!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit: Super Mom in Paperback!

I got copies of the Japanese edition of Enchanted, Inc. yesterday, and it's soooo cute. The book is teeny-tiny, smaller than our mass-market paperback size. I guess they take "pocket book" literally. You really could put this book in your pocket. Although it's a paperback, it has a wrap-around book cover like on a hardback book. I love the cover art. It looks like they're marketing it more as fantasy because there are cute little drawings of things from the book and it just looks fantasy to me. I could see similar drawings being used on a Harry Potter book. Sam finally makes his way onto a book cover! They also have a map of Manhattan inside, with some things marked. Since I don't read Japanese, I'll have to cross-reference with an English map of Manhattan and see if I can figure out what they have marked. If they're marking locations from the story, I'll have to see if they got them right. Maybe next week if I have time I'll have to scan the cover and post it (or maybe see if I can figure out a way to search for an electronic version -- but I'm not sure if a search for the English title would give me a Japanese site).

In other news, I've been interviewed by The Word Nerd.

Now, for the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit ... my guest this time is Melanie Lynn Hauser, whose book Confessions of Super Mom is now out in paperback.

About the book:
Birdie Lee is an average hard-working single mother of two teenagers, PTA lackey, and mild-mannered grocery clerk at the local Marvel Fine Foods and Beverages. One morning, while getting ready for work, Birdie is sidetracked by a stubborn Stain of Unusual Origin on her bathroom floor. Unable to let the stain get the best of her, she tries to annihilate it with every household product she can find –to no avail. Angry, hot, light-headed (and forgetting to turn on the exhaust fan), she makes one final desperate attempt to eradicate this vile, dastardly stain: she loads her Swiffer Wet Jet with every household cleanser she owns, aims, and fires….

And passes out, overcome by the fumes. After regaining consciousness (and reminding herself to scrub the bottom of the toilet since from her perspective — flat on her back — it was looking a little dingy), Birdie realizes something’s amiss. Her ears begin to buzz and her senses are aquiver. Eventually, aided by Martin, her geeky thirteen-year-old son and trusty sidekick, Birdie understands that she now possesses extraordinary powers — superpowers, to be exact. Birdie soon learns, however, that, to quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility and she finds herself struggling to balance a new onslaught of challenges, both at home and in her community. While trying to keep her distant 15-year-old daughter’s heart from being broken (something not even a superhero can do), and dealing with her smug ex-husband and his over-achieving new wife, she must manage her job, PTA responsibilities and a budding romance– all the while trying to rescue her beloved town of Astro Park from an evil force that threatens its children.

Now, some interview questions:
What inspired you to write this book?
I realized, after two previously-submitted books that didn't sell, that I needed to break things open a bit, write larger, with more fearlessness. So I thought about how I could still write about the things that were important to me as a woman, a mother, yet write with that higher concept needed to break into publishing. So I thought, what's larger, more fearless, than a superhero? And that's how I began; the Super Mom concept then took on a life of its own and really shaped the book.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Well, I tell people I'm not a superhero......but....

Seriously, we're both short. We both have teenagers, although she has a daughter and I don't. Beyond that, though, we're not that much alike except for one important fact. We've both been extremely happy being full-time mothers, and are a little puzzled when other people in our lives don't think that's much of an accomplishment. Also, we're both wondering what comes next in our lives, now that we can see the time when we won't be full-time mothers. In her case, she becomes a superhero. In mine, I became an author.

If you could have a mom superpower, what would you want it to be?
I love her superpower of being able to "hear" what's going on with her children on the Internet, on their cell phone other words, her ability to know what's going on in their lives despite their best efforts to shut her out.

What kind of adventures have you had since the publication of this book?
I've been yelled at on the radio for writing a book about a family that didn't include a strong father figure (my heroine's a divorced mom), which was interesting. I was totally ambushed by the host. I've signed several Swiffer dry cloths and posed with lots of women and their favorite Swiffer products. I was approached by the producers of Wife Swap to blog about their show, specifically asking my readers to apply to be contestants. (I declined.) And the coolest thing, though, was being invited to attend a Hollywood party, thrown by Swiffer. It was to launch the Swiffer CarpetFlick, and it was in honor of the new Fox TV season. (This was last October.) A PR firm that works for P&G invited me out so I could blog about it all. That was awesome; I have a stalker-like crush on Hugh Laurie, but when I actually saw him I was way too chicken to do anything but drool. I did, though, swap carpet-cleaning tips with Robert Sean Leonard. And I discovered that I am taller than Frankie Muniz.

(Pardon me while I swoon. But as some of you may recall from my own Hollywood party experience, I totally understand the not being able to talk to celebrities thing. But still! Swapping carpet cleaning tips with Robert Sean Leonard!!! EEEEEEEEE!)

What are you working on now?
The sequel, called SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD, will be out in March. I just completed another manuscript about a week ago; I'm on pins and needles, waiting to hear what my agent thinks of it. It's non-Super Mom-related; it's something new and magical and very different and I love it a lot.

For more info, visit Melanie's web site.

We've just added some new members to the GCC, so look forward to some fun new interviews. I also need to come up with some new interview questions, so if there's something you've always wanted to ask authors about themselves, their work, or anything like that, please let me know!

With all the woman vs. woman stuff in the whole "this is not chick lit" hype, the GCC is refreshing as the polar opposite. We're a bunch of women supporting each other. Some write literary fiction, some write non-fiction, some write mysteries or thrillers. There are Southern writers, comedy writers, romance authors, and yes, even some chick lit authors. It's a good group, and I've discovered a lot of great authors and books by being a part of it, and I hope you've also enjoyed hearing about these authors.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Dating Game

I got to the last two chapters of book 4 and realized that these chapters depend on all that other stuff I'm going to be going back and weaving into the rest of the book, so now it's time for some serious brainstorming to figure out how things will go. Ack! All that thinking!!! Good thing I've got a road trip later this week. That always helps me think.

Because of my sadly perpetual single status and because I write chick lit, which focuses on the dating part of relationships, I'm a sucker for information about dating and relationships. Last night, I stumbled across a British show on PBS about scientific research into dating and relationships. I missed the first part of it, so I didn't get to see all of the set-up, but from what I gathered, a group of researchers who are studying attraction and relationships set up a dating service in London to try to apply science to dating, and to use the dating service members as part of their research.

One thing they were talking about was the things that people really believe are important to attraction vs. what they say they think is important. In their dating service interviews, almost all the women said that money and status wasn't important to them (as long as the guy actually had a job), and that guys who were too into money and status were a big turn-off. But when they showed these women the same guy dressed either in really casual clothes or in expensive "big shot" clothes, the women all rated him as more attractive in the nice clothes. The researchers concluded that even women who say they aren't into money can't help but choose a guy based on his perceived earning potential.

I'm not sure I agree with their conclusion (though the set-up for that experiment was in the part I missed). I would have chosen the guy in the nicer clothes over the more sloppy guy for a couple of reasons that don't have to do with money. For one thing, a thirty-something man who's dressing like a college student gives me the impression of immaturity, like he's desperately clinging to his youth and trying to avoid adult responsibility. He seems like a Peter Pan type (like the heroes of most of the romantic comedy movies these days). Meanwhile, dressing neatly and nicely is a sign of both self-respect and respect for others. One of my co-workers (who was also my college roommate -- small world) once set me up with a friend of hers, a lawyer who went to Harvard. For the initial set-up, she and her husband invited this guy and me out to dinner. It was after work on a Friday, and he showed up in the casual Friday uniform of khakis and a polo shirt, and he looked really nice. When he took me out for our first "real" one-on-one date, he showed up in baggy shorts, a polo shirt that looked like he'd picked it up off the bedroom floor, and grubby, no-longer-white unlaced sneakers that gave him the shuffle-clomp walk. We weren't exactly dining out at the Ritz, just at a moderate neighborhood Italian place, but they did have tablecloths and cloth napkins, and waiters instead of counter service. I wore a denim skirt, ballerina flats and a lace-trimmed knit top, so I figured I was appropriate for the venue. I was totally turned off when he showed up looking like he'd just jumped in the car after mowing the lawn, and I knew he had a high-status, high-earning job (the bag of Red Man in the car and the fact that he Would. Not. Talk. on the date didn't help -- you may recognize this guy from early in Enchanted, Inc.). Of course, the context does matter. I wouldn't be turned off by a guy wearing the grubby clothes while walking his dog on a Saturday morning, for instance, but in general, I'd probably rate a man as more attractive when he was well-dressed than when he was grubby -- even if the neat clothes were nothing more than good jeans and a plain white (ironed) shirt (yum!) and the grubby clothes were designer.

The researchers went on to use computer modeling to gauge people's preferences, letting both the men and women design the ideal body for a significant other. A few of the men basically designed Barbie dolls with anatomically impossible bodies, but when they averaged it out, the factor that seemed most important wasn't the enormous breasts. It was the waist-to-hip ratio -- the old hourglass figure with bigger hips and a comparatively small waist. In a way, that's good for me because that is the way my figure is, but my problem is that I can't get clothes that accentuate that, as they were showing one of their test subjects how to do. I'm long-waisted, so any dress with a built-in waistline or belt hits me in the wrong place, around my ribs instead of around my waist. It's been hard lately to find skirts or pants that come to the waist instead of sitting around the hips. Hmm, maybe that's why I'm still single. I can't show off my single most important asset.

Then they sent all their subjects into a speed dating situation to see what happened. One researcher had a theory that people are drawn to people whose faces are most similar to their own, so they'd done computer analysis on the photos to find the best matches there. They'd also had everyone do a survey to determine their compatibility. The survey was developed based on successful, long-term married couples. First they measured initial impressions. They just had to sit across from each other without speaking for 30 seconds, and then rate each other on appearance. After that, they did the talk for three minutes thing. As a wild card, they'd invited three guys who were members of the "London Seduction Society" who considered themselves masters of seduction and who gave seminars on picking up women.

The results were almost nothing like what the scientists had predicted. The men were more likely to rate attractive and ultimately choose women with hourglass figures, but the "ideal" body type chosen by women turned out to have nothing to do with what women chose. There, the key factor seemed to be height. The first impression was one of the strongest deciding factors. The compatibility scores and the facial similarity meant almost nothing. Only one guy from the seduction society got picked for a date, and he was only picked by one girl who basically had said she'd date almost any of them (so those other two seduction society guys must have been really awful). After the researchers passed out the matches from the speed dating to the separated groups of men and women, they brought all the men and women together for a more casual mixer, and then they let the various people know which ones the scientific theories had said they were most suited for. There was one couple that every single factor said was absolutely perfect for each other. She'd rejected him in the speed dating, thinking he was a bit of a jerk, but once they started talking in the more relaxed setting, they hit it off and decided to try going out. They had a great first date and a great second date, and then he told her that he didn't want to pursue a relationship. In individual interviews, he said that she reminded him too much of a relative he'd known as a child, and he couldn't get over that, then she said that after he told her the relationship wouldn't go anywhere, he'd made it clear that he was, however, still open to her coming back to his place with him for sex. (I guess her first impression of him was right.)

So, it seems that human beings (or at least the ones participating in this) are basically shallow, and there's no scientific way to predict who will and who won't be attracted to each other. I'm not sure speed dating was the ideal setting for that kind of experiment because it is hard to be yourself and show the kinds of things that prove compatibility in such a short time. Plus, maybe it's a cultural difference thing, but I wouldn't have wanted any man in that group. Only a couple were what I'd consider remotely attractive, but they weren't really the kind I'm drawn to, and they were total jerks. Even the not-so-cute guys were jerks. Most of the women seemed to be either really uptight and kind of bitchy, or else they were rather cheap and trampy. Nobody in the entire group struck me as having much class.

They're supposed to be repeating this show late night tomorrow, so I may tape it for further study and to see what the set-up was. I believe it was called "The Matchmakers," in case you want to look for it on your local PBS station. Not that the insight will do me much good, but it does kind of explain the pathetic dating results I've had.

So, that's been your fun with behavioral science moment for the day!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I'm not going to address the most obvious topic of the day because I can't think of anything to say that hasn't been said more eloquently elsewhere.

So, on to more frivolous things as life goes on ...

After spending four days struggling over one chapter, it finally struck me that the part that was giving me fits because I couldn't seem to make it more interesting wasn't actually essential to the plot, and the things that were being discussed could be inserted elsewhere in a more action-oriented scene. So I moved that whole scene over to my "cuts" file and moved on. Then I got through four more chapters in one day. If I'm good, I may get this round finished today. The next round will be more finessing and polishing, weaving in some emotional undercurrents and whatever subplots pop up in these last four chapters. I think I'll take the rest of this week "off" to catch up on stuff, brainstorm the things I want to add and how I'll add them, and maybe also do a little organizing and cleaning. Next week I can kick back into high gear. My goal is to finish by the end of the month, which seems more than doable right now.

The problem with getting recipes from watching TV cooking shows is that the amounts given are often kind of vague. That makes it harder to make a smaller amount the first time you try the recipe, until you get a sense of how it all comes together. As a result, I have enough of this one spaghetti dish to feed a small country. I've already eaten four servings of it, and the bowl is still full. It's practically a loaves-and-fishes thing. I almost feel like I could take this bowl to a soup kitchen, and they'd be able to feed hundreds without running out. Good thing it's good, and it's a good thing I don't have a problem with food ruts and don't mind eating the same thing a few days in a row.

I got my hair done last week in preparation for all the fall events, and it turns out I now have a celebrity hairstylist! My stylist has started being hired to do hair for various press junkets and local celebrity appearances. She got to do the hair for an Access Hollywood reporter who was in town to interview a Dallas Cowboy, and she got to do Morgan Fairchild's hair for a press event to promote her new show. That makes me feel all chick litty to know I'm going to a "celebrity" stylist. Actually, my whole relationship with this stylist (which may be the longest I've ever gone to one stylist) is like something out of a book. More than three years ago, I was getting desperate with my hair. I hadn't found anyone I really liked to do it, so I'd just given up. As a result, I had hair past my waist, which is pretty scary with very curly hair. There was an article in Glamour about styling curly hair, and one of the experts quoted owned a salon in Dallas. The salon turned out to be in the general neighborhood where my church is, so one afternoon when I had to be there for an event, I stopped by the salon to talk to the owner. It turned out that she was in desperate need for a model for a styling clinic she was having the next week. She was bringing in some big-shot New York stylist to train her staff, and since I had this mass of waist-length hair with no style at all to it, it was like a blank canvas.

So, I had this $200 haircut guy giving me a haircut while lecturing the other stylists. I learned a lot about the psychology behind the whole business, which was interesting. I also had a lot of people's hands in my hair. Best of all, the big-shot expert validated my belief that my hair works better long. He told me never to let it get cut above my shoulders. Sigh. After all those years I'd been told to keep it short "so the weight wouldn't pull the curl out of it" and as a result looked like a Brillo pad. The girl who's my stylist now was the one he picked out of the crew to work on me, and I've been with her ever since. That salon also hit celebrity status when it was the centerpiece of that "Sheer Dallas" reality series that was on TLC last year. My stylist moved to a different place down the street that's quieter and has less drama, so I missed all that, though I was surprised when I watched the show to find out that the guy I'd thought was a downtrodden temp working the front desk one time I was there was actually the salon owner's boyfriend, who proposed to her during that show. Boy, do I feel sorry for that guy, but he obviously knew what he was getting into.

Okay, I've discussed food and hair. How's that for frivolity? I guess I could have worked in some discussion of shoes, but I don't have anything to say on that topic at the moment, other than that I'm pondering the leopard print ballerina flats at Target. I've never been big on animal prints, but that seems like a way I might be able to deal with the concept, and they'd look interesting with jeans or black slacks. I'm pretty much a sucker for ballerina flats in any way, shape or form. Maybe when I go to Target tomorrow to get my The Office season 2 DVDs I'll check them out and see if they look as cute in person as they did in the ad in the September Vogue.

Now all I'm missing for hitting the frivolity home run is makeup. Has anyone tried the mineral makeup, like Bare Essentials? LOVE IT! It's great for people like me who don't really like looking or feeling like they're wearing makeup. You just look like you're naturally that flawless. Oops! Now I've given away my secret.

There, I've now successfully upheld the American way of life today.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Still Scattered

In spite of my best intentions, I keep managing to get nothing done. Well, not quite nothing, just no book-type writing. Yesterday, there were errands, and then some interview things I needed to do. Plus, I made all the arrangements for a trip to New York in late October, which meant checking with my editors about their availability (because it would suck to go to New York and have them be out of town that week). I also blame Megan Crane for getting me thoroughly and completely sidetracked with a book I'm sure you'll all be hearing a lot more about next year.

Then this morning, I hit the office with all sorts of good intentions, and my DSL connection went down! You'd think that would force me to do something else, like maybe write, but wouldn't you know, there was something that absolutely had to be posted online this morning, and there were also e-mails I was expecting and that I had to send. That meant lots of tinkering, shutting down the computer and DSL modem and restarting, then finally resorting to dial-up to get things posted. Even after that was done, I was so worried about the lack of DSL service, that I couldn't concentrate on anything else until it was fixed, so I was using dial-up to access the customer support site and get a phone number to call for help. Finally, a very cool customer service rep talked me through some things. We updated my DNS settings, and that didn't seem to work, and then we ran a speed test, and then suddenly, all was well. We joked that running the test cleared the clog out of the line -- sort of a telecom Drano -- but she did say that they'd had some outages that may have affected me, and they may have just happened to end while I was on the line.

But now my Internet is back (though doing all that reconfiguration cleared all my cookies, which means I'll have to remember my user IDs and passwords to a bunch of sites). Never leave me again, sweet Internet.

You know how I said I was taking this fall off after I got book 4 turned in? Well, looking at my calendar while planning the New York trip made me realize that I'm not really going to be "off." Next weekend, I'll be going to the parents' house to stay while I attend my 20-year high school class reunion. I can't believe it's been twenty years already. The following weekend is FenCon. Then I do have a few weeks free while I hope to finish this book and maybe get another proposal started.

And that's when the fun begins. I'll be back in East Texas to speak at a conference, then back to Dallas to sing in a cantata the next morning, with a library fundraiser tea that afternoon. The following Tuesday, I leave for New York, home again that Friday night. The following Thursday I head to Austin for the World Fantasy Convention, home probably Monday. Then back to East Texas the next weekend for a booksigning at the Junior League holiday carnival. Whew!!! If I manage to get my house in order during all of that (which was part of the plan), I may make my parents come here for Thanksgiving so I don't have to travel again.

I'm not sure where I got the idea that this fall would offer unlimited time for lounging around with books and totally organizing and redecorating my house, while also writing a couple of book proposals. I've been holding on to that fantasy for so long, imagining what it would be like not to be busy, that it's kind of sad to realize it never was true. Still, I don't think I'll be in the middle of writing a book during the holiday season. I probably won't even have an answer yet on any proposals I get written during the fall. I may have revisions, copy edits and stuff like that, but no actual book writing.

And now, I have to run to the post office. Then, really, honestly, I plan to work. I've also blocked out Saturday for work.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


A bunch of random stuff today because I'm feeling kind of scattered. I've had so many little things to get done this week that I haven't yet managed any "real" work (as in, work on a book). That's kind of frustrating. And I still have to do another errand today since I'm out of milk and all my autographing pens have died. I've decided against going to the event I had on my calendar for tonight because, oddly enough, I really just want to stay home and work.

During an earlier errand this week (in which I forgot a lot of the stuff I went for in the first place, and thus today's errand needs), I was in Target and, as has become my habit, I had to check the bookshelf to see how my book was doing. But they've changed out that shelf! It's not there anymore! I guess it was a special deal for only two months. Who knows, maybe it sold well enough that they'll put it on the ordinary bookshelves now that it's gone from the "Breakout" shelf. To add insult to injury, the THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT collection was one of the new books that replaced mine. You know, the book that will save America from all the terrible things chick lit is doing to the brains of women. Apparently, chick lit authors are letting the terrorists win. Whatever.

But I really only dropped by the book section because it was across the aisle from where they have stuff like knee and wrist braces. Someone obviously didn't think when planning that display. They have all the brace and support things lined up according to the way they fall on the body, with wrists, elbows and shoulders at the top and knees and ankles at the bottom. However, if you have a knee bad enough to need to brace it, you can't exactly bend down to get to those things on the bottom, while a bad elbow doesn't really hurt your stooping ability. I had to sit on the floor to look at what they had to offer for knees, only to find that they only seem to think men mess up their knees. They didn't have anything small enough for me. I bought an elastic bandage instead, and I can adjust that to fit.

Is January 18, 2038, one of those dates that Nostradamus has something to say about? Because most of the spam I'm getting these days has that date on it. It feels like an omen. Or maybe a sign that all this stuff originates from one computer set to that date.

Speaking of "out there" things, it's time for another Out of the Blogosphere book blurb. The latest book touring the Blogosphere is Slave to Sensation, by Nalini Singh. This book is about a world on the verge of war between the ruling Psy, who deny all emotion, and the Changelings, who seek out the sensations the Psy disdain. One Changeling has to infiltrate the Psy, and his ticket in is a Psy who's struggling to repress her feelings.

For more info and an excerpt, visit Nalini's web site.

And now for what I hope will be my final Target run of the week.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Book Report: The Outsiders

Boy, when that heat wave broke, it really broke. I haven't had my air conditioner on since Saturday (though will probably need it some in the next few days). I've slept with my windows open the last couple of nights, and even needed the big comforter last night. It was cloudy all day Sunday, and rained all day on Labor Day. Thus, it was the perfect weekend for the Chick Lit and Chick Flick celebration.

So, here's the report ...

Saturday I stuck with catching up on House DVDs, along with the University of Texas football game and the Wallace and Grommit movie on HBO. Sunday morning, Oxygen showed I'm With Lucy, which was one of the movies I watched over the phone with Rosa last year, so that was a nice nostalgia dose. I really like that movie, so I think I'll add it to my "get on DVD someday" list. I also caught Mr. and Mrs. Smith on HBO OnDemand. I was pleasantly surprised by that movie, though I'd have enjoyed it a lot more without all the tabloid hype that went with it. It would have been more fun if I could have forgotten about the actors' personal lives (the main reason I never saw it in the theater). I love things that throw wild events into "normal" settings. I also watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I think that's a really sweet version of the story. It's been ages since I read the book, but it seems to fit the book better than the earlier movie version. I do still love Gene Wilder's version of Willie Wonka, though. That evening I watched Sense and Sensibility on DVD, and it was a strange jolt to see Hugh Laurie in period costume and with British accent after all that House viewing, though if you've been watching a lot of House, Mr. Palmer seems rather sweet and cuddly in comparison.

I didn't really watch much on Monday because I was enjoying listening to the rain and reading.

First, I finished reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I think that will have to go on the re-read list for when I have time to really get all the jokes, because I thought it was such a clever story with many laugh-out-loud moments. Not a good book to be reading on deadline, though! I'll definitely read the rest of the series, and now I have this strange urge to re-read Jane Eyre.

After that, it was all chick lit, with an inadvertent theme of outsiders or outcasts (the books were chosen from my to-be-read collection strictly due to proximity).
The Grrl Genius Guide to Sex (with Other People) -- A Self-Help Novel by Cathryn Michon -- Something I snagged on sale at B&N because the title and the idea of a "self-help novel" intrigued me. From what I can tell, it's a fictionalized account of what really happened to the author, written as a sort of cautionary tale to illustrate what she learned along the way. She throws in things you'd see in self-help books, like factoids, charts and anecdotes. And the whole thing is laugh-out-loud funny to a "scare the neighbors" degree. The factoids are fun facts about chocolate, "at least you aren't this screwed up" tales from real life, mating rituals from other cultures, and comparisons to the animal world. The charts compare advice given by Cosmo, The Rules and the author's 4-year-old niece (guess who makes the most sense about relationships). The story woven in among the jokes is about the author's divorce from hell, her fixation on firefighters, her attempt to win a salad-making competition, and her efforts to get custody of her dog. I didn't know what to expect of this book, but I ended up loving it. My one complaint is that the edition I have received a very poor copy editing job. "You're" shows up frequently in places where "your" is the right word, and that's one of my pet peeves. But since I'd just been reading The Eyre Affair, I assumed that the bookworms must have eaten recently, resulting in some excess apostrophes.

Diamonds Take Forever by Jessica Jiji -- I got this in the goody bag at RWA. On the surface, it sounds like the stereotypical chick lit novel: young woman with a media job has just gone through a bad breakup, and she tries to recover from breakup with help of gay best friend while also trying to get a promotion at work. The twist is that the heroine is the daughter of a Moroccan Jew and a super-liberal, ultra-feminist artsy mother. Her father's family thinks something's wrong if she's not already married and popping out babies, and hey, that arranged marriage thing wasn't such a bad idea, while her mother thinks that the idea of marriage, white dresses, weddings and all that is part of the oppression of women in a patriarchical culture. The twist of the different cultural influence and how it affected the heroine's self-image was interesting, and the heroine works in feature-oriented radio news, something I used to do, so that was cool to see. But to be honest, I'm not sure this would have been published at all if it hadn't been for the cultural twist, and these days, as my agent says, the multicultural thing alone isn't enough to make a book high-concept enough to sell.

Emily Ever After by Anne Dayton and May Vanderbilt -- This was kind of weird reading for me, because to a large extent, it was my series without the magic. It's about a small-town good girl who moves to New York and finds herself feeling very out of it, culturally. There's even a hot co-worker from the East Coast upper crust, and there's a whole sequence in the book that's quite similar to a segment of Damsel Under Stress, although in this book it's Thanksgiving and in my book it's Christmas, and there's no food fight at a church social in this book. I was actually kind of surprised that this book was published by a mainstream publisher because the subject matter is overtly Christian, and a lot of the conflict in the book is the heroine trying to maintain her values in a setting where those values are mocked or ignored. At the same time, though, she's not quite as strict and uptight as some of the other religious people she meets, so she feels rather lost in the middle. I could certainly relate to the heroine's dilemma, and that was told with a great deal of honesty. The other thing I could relate to was the fact that it seemed that the publishing company the heroine worked at was based on Random House, and the description of the setting fit Random House perfectly, so I had a vivid mental image of the place where she worked, which was fun for me to read. This just isn't the book I would write about this subject matter, which I guess is good because it means I'm still free to write it. I wouldn't classify this strictly as "inspirational" fiction because it really doesn't have a lot to do with her going on any kind of spiritual journey or learning about her faith. It's more about the cultural and social implications of having a different value system than most of the people around you, and anyone from a more traditional culture -- whether just plain small-town mid-America or any kind of religion -- could probably relate.

The Breakup Club by Melissa Senate -- I featured this a while back on the Girlfriends Cyber Circuit, but hadn't found time to read it. Then when I did read it, I ended up staying up until two in the morning to finish it. I think this may be my favorite of her books. It's about a group of people who've all been dumped (or in the case of one person, she was the dumper, but doing so got her isolated from her friends and family) who find each other as a sort of support group. It's sweet and funny and at times sad and painful, but ultimately heartwarming. Not all the ends are tied up neatly, so I kind of wonder if there will be a follow-up book down the line to show what happens to the rest of the group. These are certainly characters I wouldn't mind seeing more of.

As for other news, it does look like we're set with January 2008 for book 4 (and I don't know yet if that means the last Tuesday in December or the last Tuesday in January). Their reasoning was that all the big bestselling authors tend to have their books come out in the fall, and they don't want me to be lost in all that. They want my book to come out at a time when it's likely to get more attention. And that's okay with me. As for the blogging around the release, I have an idea that might make that more fun and that might make the wait for book four easier. I'll have to talk to my editor about it to see if we can make it happen. Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to Work, and GCC Presents Anne Frasier

In yet another "alert the media" kind of event, I stayed off my computer for nearly 48 hours this weekend. I think I checked in on e-mail, etc. on Saturday afternoon, and then I didn't get on the computer again until Monday night. That was mostly because I managed to really mess up my good knee, while an incoming cold front meant my usual bad knee was aching, and since the computer was upstairs and I was downstairs, I decided it was a good time for a guilt-free couch potato session. I finally had to go upstairs Monday night when I ran out of books I wanted to read that were already downstairs. The knee is a lot better after all the rest, but I won't be running or doing ballet for a while.

Now, for a different kind of Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry. Anne Frasier, author of Pale Immortal, is trying to do a different kind of promo thing, getting 100 people to blog about her book today and post a link to her YouTube video for it. So, here goes ...

About the book:
Welcome to Tuonela, a sleepy Wisconsin town haunted by events of 100 years ago, when a man who may have been a vampire slaughtered the town's citizens and drank their blood. Now, another murderer is killing the most vulnerable...and draining their bodies of blood.

Evan Stroud lives in darkness. The pale prisoner of a strange disease that prevents him from ever seeing the light of day, he lives in tragic solitude, taunted for being a "vampire." When troubled teenager Graham Stroud appears on Evan's doorstep, claiming to be his long-lost son, Evan's uneasy solitude is shattered.

Having escaped Tuonela's mysterious pull for several years, Rachel Burton is now back in town, filling in as coroner. Even as she seeks to identify the killer, and uncover the source of the evil that seems to pervade the town, she is drawn to Evan by a power she's helpless to understand or resist....

As Graham is pulled deeper and deeper into Tuonela's depraved, vampire-obsessed underworld, Rachel and Evan team up to save him. But the force they are fighting is both powerful and elusive...and willing to take them to the very mouth of hell.

Now we'll see if this YouTube link thingy works:

For more info, excerpt, soundtrack and other cool stuff, visit the Pale Immortal blog.

Hmm, I wonder if I could get a hundred people to voluntarily say something about my next book in their blogs around the time it comes out. Let me know what you think of the video thing, too.

The funny thing about taking a real holiday and not doing anything that remotely counts as work, other than reading books in my genre, is that it actually makes me feel more charged up and ready to get back to work. Before now, I've never really had a job I loved, so this is a new feeling for me. While I enjoyed holidays and weekends, they were bittersweet because near the end I always got what one of my friends calls "the dreads" when I knew it would soon be over and I'd have to go back to work. I never really felt energized or re-charged from the time off, just more convinced of how much I hated going back to work. Now, though, I'm excited about all the things I want to do and work on, and last night I was looking forward to getting back to work. Cool!

I read a lot and watched a lot of movies and TV, and I'll do a post probably tomorrow on the new "book report," which kind of turned out to have a theme, even though the selection criteria was mostly "books I don't have to go upstairs to get." I also got caught up on watching my House DVDs, just in time for the season premiere tonight.

Now to finish wading through the couple of hundred e-mails that showed up while I was relaxing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Chick Flick and Chick Lit Weekend

Book 3, aka Damsel Under Stress, is now turned in. My editor says it will make good coffee shop reading for a rainy weekend in New York. Sounds lovely to me. After the last read-through, I've decided that I really like this book. It was hell, but it turned out great (I think). Oddly enough, the dreaded chapter five is now one of my favorite chapters, but that's in part because what used to be most of chapter five was deleted, and then I added a bunch of new stuff, then moved over part of what was chapter six. Now it's hard for me to even tell or remember what the hard parts were.

With that weight off my shoulders, I'm planning to more or less take it easy this weekend. I have a little bit of admin-type work to get done today, and then I want to do some house cleaning to set the proper stage for what I'm calling the Second Annual Rosa Vargas Memorial Chick Lit and Chick Flick Labor Day Weekend. Last year, I prepared for Labor Day weekend by buying a bunch of chick lit books, then spent the weekend on the sofa, reading. There turned out to be some great chick flicks on cable, too, and my friend Rosa and I spent most of that weekend on the phone, chatting about books (because wouldn't you know, she'd also read a lot of the same ones), and watching some of the movies together -- or at least talking on the phone about the movies after they ended. I think that was the last extended amount of time I got to spend with her before she got so sick. I've decided to do a similar weekend this year in her memory, though of course without the crazy phone calls, which I will miss terribly. I have several chick lit books I've been looking forward to reading, plus a stack of manuscripts to read for possible cover blurbs. I just got Sliding Doors on DVD, so I'll have to watch that. I may have to vary some from the chick flick theme because I also want to watch my House DVDs, but hey, good-looking, intelligent men make that qualify as chick-friendly in my book.

We're even supposed to get rain, which will be nice. Today may be my last chance to hit the swimming pool for a while, and my knees are really hurting today, so that may be my only way to exercise. After today, it may be too chilly for the pool for a few days, with temperatures only in the 80s (I know, that sounds warm to some, but to me, it's too cold to swim when it's below 90) -- and how awesome is that?

In all the excitement about the dog incident the other day, I forgot to mention the other shock that day. The TV news guy I have a huge crush on did a live shot from my neighborhood during the evening news that day, only a couple of blocks from my house! So close, yet so far! Even if I'd run out of the house at that moment, by the time I got there they'd have been packing up to leave, and chasing the TV truck down the street would hardly have left a positive first impression. If only I'd been out walking then and just happened upon the scene. And then if only the photographer on the story turned out to be one of the ones I used to work with, so I'd have an excuse to say hi.

Nah, that's a boringly realistic scenario. I should come up with a really good, chick lit/chick flick-worthy cute meet if I'm going to daydream.

I keep forgetting to post about this (I plead book brain), but I know there are a few Firefly fans around, and have you yet heard about the Browncoat Ball? It's a weekend of fun, dressing up, ballroom dancing and Firefly chatter in San Francisco, Sept. 22 through 24. I'm not going to be there this year because I had a previous commitment to spend that weekend stalking Alan Dean Foster and I haven't yet figured out either time travel or teleportation, but it will be so very cool and I'm so upset I can't do both events simultaneously (whoever holds it next year -- I'll wait to commit to anything else until you set the date). Visit the official web site for details. (And if getting to San Francisco is unlikely for you that weekend, you can always hang out with me at FenCon. Look for the little brunette a few steps behind Alan Dean Foster.)